Anya peeked out the window overlooking the cliff above the small pond behind the house. She raised her hand to shield her eyes from the glare and smudged the smoky pane with vermillion. Swearing silently, she turned back to the table and grabbed her rainbow rag to wipe away the paint. Rubbing in small circles, she cleaned away the soot accumulated from a winter of constantly burning fires. Once one pane was clean, she couldn’t leave the rest and polished each glass until she could see through it clearly.
Peering through the panes, she turned her head from side to side to see if Eirikr was fishing off the cliff. He wasn’t. Anya huffed, fogging the glass slightly, and turned quickly on her heel to see if he was out front.
As soon as she opened the door, she heard the twang of a bowstring. Eirikr stood over near the fire pit aiming at several bales of straw he propped up on the low stone wall. The outline of a boar was painted in the side of the midmost bale and she wondered when he got into her paints as she descended the stairs.
The arrow had sunk into the bale far to the left of the target. It landed among several other shafts jutting out of the hay. Eirikr grunted and drew another arrow from the quiver on his back. His left hand raised the bow as he nocked the arrow, drew, and took aim in one nearly seamless motion. Before relaxing the three fingers that held the string, he hesitated. Anya saw the bow waver slightly and flinched as Eirikr loosed another arrow far left of its mark. He swore loudly.
“Eirik?” She tried to not to startle him, but he jerked around with a flushed face.
“Anya. I didn’t know you were there.”
Lowering her eyes because she didn’t want to appear to stare, Anya clasped her hands in front of her. “I was looking for you. I was wondering if you had spoken with Eruviel. To see if you knew if she was coming home tonight.”
He turned to retrieve his arrows as he answered. “No, I haven’t, but I would assume she is coming home. Why would she not?”
Anya raised her eyes to watch her brother yank each arrow from the hay and shove it back into his quiver. The muscles of his shoulders flexed beneath the thin cotton shirt he wore. He did not seem to feel the chill clinging to the afternoon. The last arrow he pulled out, he kept in his hand as he retreated to his firing spot. He took a deep breath and Anya could tell he was trying to calm himself. In another skilled, graceful movement, he loosed the arrow. Once again, it missed its mark.
“You’re pulling to the left.”
“You think I don’t know that?” he snapped at her. He shot another arrow and shouted out in frustration.
Wincing, Anya stepped forward and placed a hand on Eirikr’s shoulder. “Eiri, please,” she said softly, “be patient. You can relearn and adjust. Your aim will return, I know it will.”
His dark grey eyes fell on her and she took a step back in alarm. Cold fire burned deeply in each orb as he glared down at her.
“Anya. I don’t have the time to be patient. Ninim needs me now and every second I delay is a second she has to spend under Sven’s watch. I won’t let our father do this to her, to me. It is time he is stopped.”
A frown creased her forehead and she replied lowly, “Eirikr, what do you mean?” Her own grey eyes searched his eyes for meaning and her blood froze at what she saw behind her brother’s steely gaze.
“I will stop him, Anyatka. And he will leave us alone for good. I promise you, or I will die trying.”
Without waiting for a reply, he turned back to his target and took aim.