Inside the kingdom of Noralica, the town bustled with excitement and joy. There was chatter all about, colorful banners hung up, flags waving with the wind, and carters advertising their wares. The rich and the poor gathered together in the courtyard as equals and without prejudice. Everyone was ecstatic for the annual sporting competition.
Walking through the cobblestone streets was a girl. One could only gaze at her dark black hair, and bright blue eyes. At her hip was a leather satchel containing the reason why the girl was here. In her hand was a bow that seemed much too large for someone that was only thirteen with such a slight build. Slung over her shoulder was a quiver of red and black arrows.
She skipped along happily, making as much noise as everyone else. A full skirt swirled around her ankles as she spun along to the music being played in celebration. Her wait length hair flew freely, carried by the wind and smelling of fresh flowers.
The streets became more crowded as she headed towards the center of town where the most popular of events was held: the archery competition. She was able to deftly skirt around the eager onlookers, making no contact with anyone. Something indescribable gleamed in her eyes, something that hinted at long kept secrets. A long kept secret that she was glad to be let in on was hidden deep inside of her. She slipped into an alley unnoticed by the large assembly of spectators.
In the alley, there was considerably less sun making it slightly colder. It smelled of week’s old trash and urine. Wooden crates were precariously stacked up against the buildings on either side. The path ended with a high wall made of hard packed, dirt bricks, almost ten feet in height. She tilted her head up to gaze at the wall’s top. The gleam of the sun peaked over the tip, shining brightly.
With the side of her slipper covered foot, she kicked aside a pile of crates to her left. Anyone who saw would be in awe at such a young girl’s speed and strength, but she made sure not a single soul did. Behind them in the wall of the building was a hole just big enough to fit a young girl. Under the cover of shadows, she slipped her bag and archery equipment through the hole. The girl followed suit.
Not long after, a genderless figure emerged in a black, hooded robe. The sleeves fitted loosely around slender arms. The unknown character melted into the crowd of the street carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows. It moved stiffly and with not a hint of the grace the girl underneath was capable of. Whispers were thrown back and forth about the mysterious figure.
“It’s Ann Archer…”
“That archer… she’ll win again for sure.”
“I wonder who she really is.”
The comments were ignored as the person under the hood made her way to the center of the town. People moved aside at the sight of her. Her eyes, hidden under the hood, flew around the area, assessing everything. The kindly old king regarded her with interested eyes. He was always fervent to see if anyone could defeat who they thought was Ann Archer.
Cheers erupted all around as another black and red arrow hit the center point fifty feet away, winning the competition. Her opponents were livid. Some snapped bows over their knees, others silently clenched fists at their sides, and some even screamed wildly at the sky as to how a girl could possibly beat him.
One was enraged enough to attempt shooting the figure with an arrow. She sensed it immediately and moved in a way that made the arrow seem to go through her and come out the other end. Gasps rang out around the crowd. Cleary they believed Ann Archer really was a spirit, as the legend went. She smiled under the hood.
Bow in hand; Ann Archer took the cloth bag of gold coins as she did every year. She had her reward, and now she would go. No one stopped her, but many openly stared. Some brave ones reached out a hand to touch her just to see if she was real. They were easily avoided.
In a few steps, she was back the way she came. As soon as she turned the corner, her gracefulness returned and she slipped back into the alley.