I’ll bet even Ethan Hunt couldn’t do that, but maybe we can do the impossible here. (Not that the submitted piece this week is impossible to critique. Just go with the joke.) 🙂
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Windsong – by Anna
A jagged knife flashed before Crow’s eyes. A man lowered it, slowly, giving Crow a good look at its razor-sharp, serrated blade. Then the man’s twisted smile caught his attention.
The man spoke one word.
The silver flash jabbed down, bit his cheek, tore down his body. He screamed.
“It’s a dream!”
Crow flopped backward onto the ground. His head landed in a patch of slush. He grimaced, sat up again, and shook the wetness out of his hair. What a way to wake up.
He took a deep breath and shook his head again. “It was a dream. Calm down.”
He wiped the sweat from his forehead. The back of his hand brushed a rough spot on his right temple. He scowled. Touching the scar was no way to forget the dream.
He took a deep breath and looked around. Night still lay over his quiet forest clearing. Shadow was the most visible thing there. Even when she was dirty from head to tail, the white horse stood out against the dark trees. It looked like she was still asleep. Not surprising; his nightly fits rarely disturbed her anymore. He was the only thing there that was awake. Good.
Crow stood up. No point just sitting around.
He gave a low whistle. “Shadow.”
She stood still, head down. Her tail flicked to her hindquarters, then back to center, probably to ward off a fly. But she didn’t need to be awake to do that.
“Shadow.” He walked over and stood in front of her, hands on hips. “Wake up.”
Still, she didn’t respond. He sighed, walked back to his sleeping spot, and picked up his bow and a large bundle of pelts. “You have got to wake up, Shadow. It’s festival day. The townspeople will be up early.”
A hoof thumped against wet ground. Shadow said, “Oh, drat.”
Crow smiled. “Good morning.”
“Morning?” There was a pause. “No, it’s night.”
Crow glanced up. The moon was well past midpoint. “No, it’s morning.”
Crow turned around. Shadow glanced back and forth, ears flicking around, then put her head down and ate a clump of grass.
“Let’s get going,” Crow said.
He sighed. “Fine. I’ll give you a minute. But I want to get in and out early today.”
“It’s festival day.”
She lifted her head and chewed for a moment, a piece of grass hanging out of her mouth. “Is it?”
“Are you sure?”
“I’ve been watching them prepare.” He slung his bow and quiver over his back, set the pelts on a patch of dry ground, and bent to inspect last night’s fire. “I know a celebration when I see it.”
He pulled the last bits of meat off the bones of last night’s meal and chewed on the meat. “Ready?” he asked around it.
“If you are.”
He scooped up the pelts again. “Let’s go.”
Crow left Shadow just inside the forest. There was enough grass there to keep her happy while he got what he needed.
He slung the bundle of pelts over his shoulder. There were more than enough; he’d had good hunting this winter, between rabbit, deer, and bear. And even though spring was here now, the townspeople would take his wares.
He stepped out of the tree cover and stopped. That always felt strange. He glanced back to the short, scraggly trees at the edge of the forest. Nothing was near him, and Shadow could take care of herself.
He started forward again, padding barefoot across hard dirt. Here, out in the open, the snow had been gone for days, leaving the salt roses free. And it was a good thing, too; it was tough going to get down the hill path in the winter. It was easy enough now; the slope wasn’t too bad. All Crow had to do was choose his footing carefully, to avoid knocking stones loose or leaving footprints.
At the bottom of the hill, the narrow footpath joined a worn road. Crow walked in one of the ruts. A cold breeze brushed his face, bringing with it the scent of salt; below, down another slope, the sea pounded against the rocks. The town, though, was straight ahead. Its squat wooden houses showed up clearly in the moonlight.
Crow slowed as he approached the town. Just before he reached it, he left the road. He slipped between rose bushes and behind each house until he came to the weaver’s place.
He edged out from behind and looked around. No one was nearby. He glanced up and tightened his jaw. The clothesline between the weaver’s house and the storehouse was empty.
He stood there a moment, the pelts dangling from his fingers. He should have known they would do something like this. Townspeople were still smart people, people who didn’t like to lose their things. There was only one thing for it. He’d have to get into the storehouse.
He padded over to it and slowly set his bundle down. He pushed on the door. It didn’t move. He pulled a knife from his belt, glanced over his shoulder once more just to make sure, and slipped the blade between door and jamb.
Crow slid the knife upward until it stopped. He smiled. There it was. He stuck the knife blade into the wood of the bolt and jiggled. After a few tries, he got the bolt free. He withdrew his knife and pushed the door open.
The hinges squealed.
Crow whirled around, knife at the ready. That was brilliant.
No one came tearing around the corner of the weaver’s house, but he heard a noise inside. He’d have to be quick. He snatched up his bundle of pelts and slipped inside.
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