The straw-filled beast used for target practice is nowhere near the size of the actual fire beast. The wingspan of the downed tree branches attached to the stuffed body made the imitation look frightening in the darkness of the early morning.
But now, hours after training began, the sun made its way over Mount Kondor, the tallest in the Border Range. The light beams hit the grassy field and gave Hosperan a second wind. The only darkness cast by the shadow of the winged replica. Straw and grass bleed from it's puncture wounds.
Hosperan brought five spears to the field. The weapons varied in length and weight. He liked to call these his fun days. When he arrived earlier that morning he had stabbed the silver spearheads in the tree stump located about three hundred paces from the target. Holding the first one like an oversized dagger, he began to focus his aim. The smooth body of the spear touched his outer ear as a deep breath filled his lungs.
"Hey Hasberoon," a voice screeched behind him. The spear flew past the target and stuck to a tree thirty yards its rear.
"What do you want, Agur. I'm training."
"Training? For what? Are you actually going to attack those weaklings in Ebeltoft.” Agur motioned to the South. “Ha! Can you see it guys, Hosperan using his toothpicks to actually do something good for our village." His cousin was three years older than Hosperan. So were Agur’s friends.
"Leave me alone," Hosperan said.
"You can't order me around. You aren't the chief yet,” Agur pulled an apple from Hosperan's bag and took a bite before continuing. “Anyway, mother says I would be a better chief than you. Most of the elders think that too."
"Good for them. I didn't choose this. I don’t know what I’m doing."
"You better figure it out, I bet the fire beast is on it's way right now."
"So be it," Hosperan dropped his head. "I can't be another chief who orders everyone to run and hide when the fire falls."
"You mean run around like a fool and die," Agur paused, "like your father did?”
"My father was a hero!" Hosperan grabbed a spear from the stump and tackled Agur to the ground. Holding the spear in both hands he held it against Agur's neck. "My father is a hero," Hosperan repeated before Agur's friends pulled him off.
"A coward. Like you," Agur said as he lifted himself off the ground. "And the prophecy isn't even about you. It could be about anyone. My father was the captain of the Kittla Seafarers. They raided more cities than we can count. And I'm as skilled with the spear as you,"
"Contest! Contest!" said one of Agur's friends.
"Yes, a competition," Agur said as he looked around. "Whoever can spear this apple off your stuffed target's head gets to be chief."
"And if I win, you leave me alone."
"Of course, cousin. Whatever you say."
One of the friends ran the apple out to the target. Agur picked up a few spears from the stump and tested their weight. He took aim after selecting one that met his standards. A slight breeze swept the valley and Agur waited until it ceased. He took a deep breath and held the wood to his ear. Seconds later the spear escaped his grasp toward the apple. The apple remained unmoved. No one said anything.
Agur picked up another spear, aimed, and released. This time pinning the spear to the tree behind with the apple pierced through. "Whatever. It's not like you can even hit the apple if you lived a thousand lives.”
The friend raced out to replace the deceased apple with the one he was eating. Hosperan had his spear in his hand from when he pinned Agur moments before.
He took aim.
The friend's hand was still placing the apple when Hosperan's spear cut through the top of the fruit and pinned it against the tree behind. The spear also pierced the apple that was pinned moments ago.
"You idiot! You could've killed me!" Agur's friend yelled across the field.
Hosperan grabbed his remaining weaponry and walked back to the village. There was no time for this child’s play. He was late for the last elder’s meeting before he would be named chief.
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