By the fourth night, Ambrogio had found comfort with the bow. While the magic within it was strong, he still needed practice to focus its magic correctly.
It was not like a normal bow, where you view the target, adjust to wind and conditions then release. The magical bow required a different approach. He needed to locate the swan, take aim in a way that spoke to the bow, and allow the bow to shift his stance, tweak the power and let the bow feel its way to an accurate shot.
Then the bow told him to release.
It was a beautiful feeling.
For those first four nights, it took time to get the swan. Once dead the rest was normal. The single feather pluck was easy, then came the drawing of the blood, injecting the blood into the quill, then he wrote the poem he wanted Selene to read that morning.
He placed considerable effort into the poetry. Trusting his instinct to explore her, feel her mind, encapsulate her emotion. He could feel her reaching out to him during the day. The scent of Pythia’s room filled his nostrils. Her presence was near him all the time.
Each night he hunted a swan, his skills increased. He increased the difficulty each time. More distance, darker regions, more difficult terrain.
As the night closed, he offered the swan to Artemis.
Each predawn he lay his parchment of poetry for Selene to discover.
Then the rush to hide the poem and return to the cavern.
One time he caught a glimpse of her from afar, but he had to continue to safety. He had trialed standing in the sun a few times, Apollo was typically true to his word. It seared his skin like a hot pan to a steak. Even the sizzling could be heard. It was not a pleasant experience and the burns were painful for hours.
If he was going to complete the task, he had to stop testing the sun out as the wounds could become infected and kill him if he wasn’t careful.
He slept as best as he could. As the days stretched into weeks, he turned the cavern into a home. Softening the ground with leaves. A small fire for warmth and cooked food.
He pondered how likely he would be to steal the bow.
He wondered whether he should even try, that should Artemis be impressed with his offerings, that he might be better off asking her to speak with Apollo to seek forgiveness.
As the days went by, the number of arrows reduced. Some would break. Others would sink into the mud and water. He was careful, but the number of arrows still reduced.
His eleven became ten, and over time the number kept dropping.
The routine was the same each day.
Rest during the day, write his poems, feel her presence, her closeness.
As the sun fell, he rose to occupy the night.
Hunt the swan.
Kill the swan.
Pluck the feather, drain it, make the quill.
Write the poem on the parchment.
Deliver the swan as an offering then rush to the temple to deliver his love to Selene.
For forty-four days he kept the routine.
On the forty-fourth night, he only had one arrow left. While he was sure of the hit, he was concerned about losing the last arrow.
For all the effort, there was no sign of Artemis. No indication that she was even aware of his offering.
He found the swan. Another fine bird. He allowed the bow to work its magic through him. He was in tune with it now, second nature, and for over a week they acted as one.
Just don’t lose the arrow.
He released the arrow. It sailed through the air, cutting the air, then it shot passed the swan and into the distant night sky.
He had no arrows left.
No swan to offer.
No blood to write with.
He fell to the ground, defeated, and wept.
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