Corbin left the tent briskly, his emotions roiling under a thin façade of calm. He knew this day would one day come, and he was no better prepared for it now than when he first realized it was inevitable all those years ago.
“I thought I would have more time…” he muttered to himself. It was another lie. He’d known for years now that it was only a matter of time until Isabel swore her oaths and became an official priestess. Hell, the only thing that actually surprised him is that it had taken this long already. A small part of him had always hoped he could talk her out of it, but that would be like talking the trees into growing sideways instead of up.
So, he did what he always did when his emotions were too much for him. He ran away into the woods to gather things for the town. Hunting always calmed him. It allowed him to be alone with his thoughts in the cold uncaring murk of the forest. The forest didn’t care if he was happy, sad, scared, or furious. It simply was, and it always sang to its own rhythm and pulse. He could lose himself in that pulse; get swept up in the currents of the winds, in the trails of the game, and in the simple repetitions of scavenging.
Isabel taking vows had been a foregone conclusion. An inevitability he had been dreading, but by no means unexpected. Sophie Joining at the same time was a surprise, but only in that way that you are surprised the soup fresh off the fire is too hot to eat right away. They were both doing what they thought was best to help serve the town, and really, they probably were. They were not wrong in perusing their ambitions, in following the love within their hearts. And who was he to tell them not to?
He had already shifted his pace and posture and arrested his breathing before he’d even consciously noticed the freshly left pile of deer droppings. Judging by the size and texture, there was a buck nearby and upwind of him. The hunt was on.
Memories flooded his mind in the stillness of the forest. With each cautious step towards his prey, another story from his childhood played itself over again in his mind. Stories from his mother, about the dangers of talking too freely about the old ways and traditions. Names of relatives and friends from long ago who were persecuted and killed for their bonds to the forest and the ways of Vacatra. Warnings against going to those who wear thelion for help or trust, lest the whole family be put to death. Over the course of his entire life, he had never once seen a member of the lion faith harm a member of the circle in the way his mother’s stories recounted. Still, he knew the old stories to be true, and they haunted him all the same.
The buck was grazing in a small clearing just beyond the next bush. He leveled an arrow at the beast and aimed to shoot it in the neck. It would be a clean kill with as little pain as possible, and they would eat well tonight. His breath hung in his chest as he lined up the shot and held for just the right moment.
“That wouldn’t be Isabel though, right? There is no way she would ever hold his family’s connections to the spirits against him like that, would she?” he thought. His breath exhaled. The arrow loosed and smacked loudly into the great oak tree just behind the buck. The sound startled the beast who took off with a start and a grunt of fear. Corbin watched in dismay as his prey disappeared into the underbrush, likely never to be seen again.
“Yeah. I didn’t think so.” He muttered to himself.