II: The Way the Arrow Flies

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I’ve learned that there are few problems that cannot be forgotten while at the archery range – unless, of course, that problem is my faulty aim.

This past week was a tough one, fraught with mountains to overcome and monstrous beasts to slay. In fact, there’s still one pesky beast hanging around to be dealt with in the coming days, which I’m not exactly looking forward to.

Needless to say, my mind was worn out, my body stiff, and I needed a chance to unwind. So I forced my weary self onto my feet, grabbed a bow, and headed for the archery range. There’s nothing like shooting targets to provide stress relief.

It might be necessary to make a slight detour here, just to provide some background info…I’m fairly certain that I’m an adopted elf (although my parents maintain this is not true). A number of things point to this possibility, such as my ability to walk so quietly I accidentally scare people when I enter a room. Also my obsession with everything Tolkien. And, usually, my accuracy with a bow.

When I first picked up a bow, the skill came somewhat naturally to me. Of course practice is still necessary, but I’ve gotten used to just being lucky.

That didn’t happen today. As my arrows kept going wide, hitting to the side, and generally landing off-target, I felt my tension mounting. Why couldn’t I live up to my former excellence? In my mind I could hear the snickers of the younger elflings around me, although in truth they weren’t even paying attention to my “failure.”

It wasn’t until my time was almost up that I decided to let go of my competitiveness. After all, what was it gaining me? So instead of aiming for the targets within my skill level, I shot for the easy ones – and felt myself relax a bit as my arrows landed in the center.

There was no point in adding to my stress by holding myself to some self-imposed standard. Eventually I headed home with a smile on my face, even though my performance hadn’t been what I expected. I gave myself permission to have an off day.

But next time, those bullseyes are mine.

I: Mystery in the Garden

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Today, the weather is in one of its rare, perfectly glorious moods. I can’t bear to waste it so I’ve taken a break from my work to sit in the garden. The sun is hot, but the air is cool enough to counterbalance its effects.

A few young trees hide me from the view of the others enjoying the garden, but I can see the open-air council chamber a few paces away – empty now, for we have no crisis to avert.

A lone caretaker is working among the plants. I’ve never seen him before. Something about him seems…a bit odd. He appears to be placing new specimens in an empty corner of an old flowerbed. A perfectly ordinary task, I suppose.

Then again, I don’t remember that corner being empty before. And the caretaker seems awfully intent on his digging.

Curious, I stand from my bench and casually stroll by him, glancing into the bucket holding the new plants. He takes one out just as I look, and I can see that there seems to be a small bundle at the bottom of the bucket, wrapped in dark cloth.

He catches me looking and scowls. “Extra fertilizer,” he grumbles, snatching the bundle out and shoving it in one of the holes he dug in the flowerbed.

I nod politely and walk away.

Fertilizer. Yeah, right.