The afternoon is bright and crisp, under a large forest of red and yellow leaves: a sign that the year of always autumn has returned for a sixth time. The gentle breeze is steady and warm as the birds nesting over the tall branches chirp such sweet melodies seamlessly for one to hear their beautiful songs. Alysia is more than excited to join her father on his daily afternoon hunt around the woods. An eccentric little girl of ten, this is to be her third autumn in her whole life, and today is to be her first hunt.
In front of her is her father, Charlie James Franklin, a tall solemn man wrapped in leather and fur, his long strawberry-blonde hair whisked away by the wind. With his gloved hands did he pick up a handful of dirt, warm and dry, from what appears to be a fresh hoove print. He sniffed the dirt on his hand and his nose immediately scrunched up. Alysia is curious as she walks a little closer towards her father, to which he tosses the dirt aside and cleaned his gloves.
Charlie immediately turned towards where his young daughter was behind her. He has a closely trimmed beard around his chin, and his face has a slight faint scar across his left eye and cheek; it gives him such a daring and ferocious appearance, something that Alysia admires about him. They lock eyes at each other, both the father and daughter have eyes a dark shade of bronze, only that Alysia's is much brighter and more gold than bronze. Charlie smiled at his daughter Alysia as he is ecstatic to share his discovery to her, which only fueled Alysia's curiousity more.
"What is it, papa?" Alysia asked. "Did you find something?"
"Look here, Alysia," Charlie called to her. "These prints are still warm. Could you tell from the print what kind of animal this is?"
Alysia hesitated for a moment, skimming through memories of her father's many lessons about hunting just to get the right answer. "Umm... that of a great red deer, Papa?"
Charlie's face immediately beamed with enthusiasm as he pats Alysia on her head. "That's right, Alysia. You're beginning to learn a lot. Now, stay close to me and don't make a sound. Hmm?"
Alysia made an optimistic nod, followed by her showing her pinkie to Charlie as a way to enforce his promise. Charlie then peeled his gloves off to put into his pocket and held Alysia's hand gently but stern. They make a quiet turn over the dirt road and onto the lanky woods. During their walk across what appears to be a paradise of red hues and singing birds, Alysia's eyes were only fixated on her father who is taking the lead and their hands linked together.
Just looking at Charlie made Alysia reminisce about her father's bedtime stories about his past deeds as a great warrior from a distant land; he once wrestled a dozen bears singlehandedly and managed to take them down in less than two days, he once fought a malignant knight known for his cruelty and expertise in swordsmanship in a duel that lasted a hundred days, each clash of their blades screamed loudly for the kingdom to hear. Such stories of impossibilities made Alysia think that her father is no ordinary man and that he earned his titled bestowed upon him by his supporters as the "Terror of the Westlands".
Suddenly Charlie stopped in his tracks and Alysia followed suit. Alysia was initially dumbfounded by his instantaneous decision but by noticing his concentrated and menacing gaze towards the far distance that Alysia realizes that her father has found what they're looking for: prey.
In a blink of an eye, Charlie bolted towards the nearest tree with Alysia still in held tightly in his hand. To lessen his daughter's confusion, Charlie points towards the distance for Alysia to see. Alysia's eyesight is a little blurry while looking towards the distance but after adjusting her eyes, she found what her father was spotting from afar: at the distance was a large majestic red stag larger than a horse or a pony, its antlers were like large branches, peacefully nibbling on some berries being plucked from a fern. Alysia is enthralled spotting one for the first time, as she only saw still photographs and rough sketches from her father's study. Then Charlie gives her a small wooden bow hidden from his coat and a single arrow along with it.
"Go on, Alysia." Charlie whispered softly into her ears. "Your first hunt. Just be sure to take your time and concentrate on your aim before you release the arrow."
Alysia took her father's advice and grabbed the bow and arrow from his hands. She could feel her heart racing as she maintains a firm position just meters away from her father, grasps the string and the arrow together as she draws her aim towards the unknowing deer. She holds her arrow despite feeling her arm waiver with her strength it as she tries to get a clear shot on her frozen target. Feeling confident, she prepares to release the arrow only for her to inadvertently snap an fallen twig into two with a loud crunch.
The deer is alarmed by the sound and immediately looked at where it was coming from: Alysia. The young girl froze in a shock that she couldn't move nor could she release the arrow from her fingertips. All she can do at the moment is stare at the doe, and the doe back at her. It is in this timeless gaze that Alysia noticed something strange in the deer. Even as she drew her bow or even after she blew her cover, the deer stood frozen in the meadow unfazed by her presence.
"Magus..." an mysterious echoing voice whispered into Alysia's ear.
The random whisper took Alysia by surprise as she unwittingly released the arrow dangling from her fingertips. The arrow was swift, cutting through the air must faster than the falling leaves, until it lands a big blow on the deer's thigh. It roared in pain, scaring away the nesting birds hiding from the trees, as it tries to run away in terror. But the arrow is deeply lodged into its thigh, making the once majestic deer incapable of escaping. Alysia is frozen in shock with her eyes set upon the deer quivering in agony after noticing just how calm and unfazed it looked during their confrontation.
Her tumultuous train of thought is soon interrupted by a warm pat on her shoulder by her father, whose smile crosses the line between eccentrically proud and worrying fright. Nevertheless, he quickly takes the bow still on Alysia's cold hands and hugs her warmly on her first hunt on the woods with him.
"You did good, Alysia." Charlie reassured her. "I'm sorry if you weren't prepared for that but... you tried your best."
"Pa, the deer... It's in pain." Alysia said to him. "It's... horrible."
Charlie noticed the deer from afar, still squirming in its puddle of blood, and immediately understood what his daughter meant. "Oh no. I'm... I'm sorry, Alysia. I didn't noticed. Here, close your eyes for me sweetie. I'll put it to sleep."
Alysia did as her father told, and wrapped her hands around her eyes. It was too dark to see under her cupped eyes, but she could hear her father's leaf-crunching footsteps walk towards the suffering stag. He murmurs some words towards the deer, but Alysia couldn't hear nor understand what he was saying. What she did hear next was an unsheathing of a long blade. Alysia dared to peek through her tiny fingers, and saw her father brandish a longsword big enough to cleave a tree in one swing. She heard of this sword before once more in her father's stories: his blade that won him battles that other men couldn't. "Blazefury" was its name. Charlie then drove the sword deep into the deer's abdomen, giving it a quick chance of mercy. Now a lifeless husk of its former glory, the deer is then brought into Charlie's strong arms and onto his shoulders.
"You can open your eyes now, sweetie." Charlie called to her. "It's dead."
Alysia had her eyes peeking though her hands the whole time, but her father did not notice her. Instead Charlie had the deer on his shoulders as he walks towards her. Alysia, seeing her gigantic father loom over her like a giant, grasps his firm hand as they prepare on their journey home.
"Why didn't you release the arrow much sooner?" Charlie asked. "From what I've seen, you've already had it in your sights."
"I'm sorry Papa but," Alysia tries to answer his question. "The deer looked at me... but it never held back even when I had an arrow on him. It's like... it's not afraid of me. I was... scared."
Charlie smiled. "Alysia, perhaps I haven't told you about my first time I went hunting. I was just your age when I spotted my first prey: a small doe."
"Did you... kill it, Papa?" Alysia asked.
"... No, I didn't," Charlie replied. "I couldn't get myself to release the arrow even with a clear hit. I was just as scared back then as you are right there. First times are always the worst, sometimes we fail harder than we succeed because we're pulling ourselves back. But it gets better over time. Anything else you want to share?"
Alysia is a little distracted by such a speech from her father. "Oh. I also heard a voice while I was staring at the deer. It called me a... Magus. I don't know what it meant."
For a brief moment, Charlie's smile nearly broke apart upon hearing such a word leaving his daughter's mouth. It's as if he had forgotten what that word meant and only know did it return to him in the worst timing ever. But he maintained his kindred smile at his daughter to brush it off.
"Me too, sweetie." Charlie told her. "Me too..."
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