S. M. Stirling - Dies the Fire 02 by S. M. Stirling

S. M. Stirling - Dies the Fire 02 by S. M. Stirling

Author:S. M. Stirling
Language: eng
Format: epub


Dun Juniper, Willamette Valley, Oregon April 15th, 2007 AD-Change Year Nine The string slapped at Juniper Mackenzie's bracer, and the longbow surged and hummed. The arrow snapped out, rising in a smooth sweet arch, seeming to hesitate at the peak as the bright afternoon sun struck the honed edges of its point, and then plunged faster and faster down towards the mark. That was a circle drawn on the grass of the meadow with an eight-foot set upright timber at its center; a two-inch-broad white stripe was painted down the middle of the post. She could feel the connection between them, arrow and target, bow and archer, all one in a perfect harmony, like the wind and the blue camas flowers themselves.

Thunk! The sound echoed back, faint with distance as the arrow slammed into the massive fir-wood baulk two hundred and fifty yards away. Juniper's hand was already swinging back over her shoulder. It paused at the empty quiver; she stopped, blinked, looked around, jarred out of a centered focus that made her one with the world and her task.

"Forty-five shafts, two minutes forty-six seconds," Sam Aylward said loudly. A couple of people clapped. Juniper held her bow in her left hand and worked her right arm to get the strain out of muscle and tendon, then switched off to do the other. Shooting this far and fast and hard was strictly for battle drill.

When you went into the woods after venison the range was usually less than fifty yards, plus the target ran away if you missed-not towards you with shield up and a sword ready to spill your guts.

The thought was melancholy, but she sternly forbade herself much nostalgia about the peacefulness she'd known before the Change. That had been sheer personal luck. War had happened then too, just not around here, not on her doorstep. But wherever it happened was somebody's home, and the consequences weren't all that different whether it was AK-47s in Somalia or halberds in post-Change Oregon.

I knew I lived in a lucky country in those days, but not quite how lucky, she thought wryly. And this is a day for practice, not real fighting, sure.

Lighten up, girl!

Most of the folk of Dun Juniper were out this Sunday morning with their bows, and more up from Dun Fairfax, in clumps from the big truck gardens near the millpond at the east end of the benchland meadows to the beehives and tanner's yard at the west. There was a sweet smell of crushed grasses in the air, and underneath it the cool resinous scent of the great mountain forests stretching eastwards, together with smells she'd stopped noticing-woodsmoke both fresh and soaked into people's hair and clothing, manure, lye and tallow boiling to make soap, tanned leather, horse sweat, a whiff of charcoal and hot metal from a smithy inside the dun's walls.

Aylward handed her the gold watch he'd been using to time her; an oldfashioned oval type with a chain and a cover that snapped open to show a tiny portrait picture.


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