Melsin Narcwar grimly stared straight ahead. He pulled back his bow, and let loose.
The arrow made a clanging sound as it bounced off the edge of the wooden target about a hundred feet away. He winced.
The boy next to him, Urin Ingar, chuckled. "One of your better shots, Melsin." The two boys were standing on the Range, a green expanse to the east of Shawshakilo Village. Several girls nearby carrying buckets of water from the well laughed.
"Here, let me show you how it's done." Urin took the bow and picked up an arrow off the grass. He loaded it in, drew the bow back, squinted his eyes for a second, and released. The arrow sailed toward the target and hit it a few inches left of center.
"You got lucky."
"Nope. I actually got unlucky, or else I would've hit the bullseye."
"Let me have that back." He took the bow back and rapidly took another shot. This time it missed the target completely and hit the tree behind it.
"Come on, my grandmother can shoot better than that."
Melsin knew that archery wasn't exactly one of his skills. With Urin, however, it seemed to come naturally. Even when they were little kids, Urin had been better than him in not only archery but at just about everything else, too. Regardless of that, they were friends. They were alike in a lot of ways - they both liked the outdoors, and they both craved adventure and excitement.
They both had dreams of entering the Hylian Army when they were eighteen. Now that they were eighteen, however, they might not have a choice. With the centennial only days away, talk of a draft hung through the air, Link or no Link. In these strange times, Melsin thought, you never know what may happen.
The boys walked over to the target to retrieve their arrows. They then walked over to the bridge over Ador River that led back to their houses.
On the way, Melsin asked, "Urin, what do you think is gonna happen on the centennial? Do you think this Ganon or whatever actually exists?"
"I dunno. But I do know this: whatever happens, I'm gonna be ready for it. I'd love to serve on the army. I'd sure be a lot a lot better than staying here picking crops out of the ground."
"Do you think there really is some Link guy?"
"Who knows? But if he's out there, he'd better not go hogging all the glory."
Melsin stopped for a second, and Urin also stopped and looked at him quizzically.
"Urin, are you worried about this whole centennial thing?"
"Naw, man. The way I see it is, whatever happens, happens, and you can't let it worry you all the time."
To this, Melsin nodded, and they continued on. He looked up at the sky. The sun was starting to set, and it reflected an orange glow through the trees as they walked down Lockheed Road. Ten minutes later they reached Urin's house, a stout wooden farmhouse near the southern end of Grendem Woods. A stable was on the far side, and a wheat field was behind it.
"Well, bye. I'll be seeing ya tomorrow." Urin walked over to the door and opened it, letting out the delicious smell of warm apple biscuits.
As soon as the door closed, Melsin began walking again. The sky had now faded into twilight, and an eerie glow fell over the forest. The silence was broken only when Mr. Greflem, the local thatcher, walked by. "Hello, Melsin," he said.
Melsin said hello back and walked down the road. A few minutes later he saw the telltale plume of smoke and quickened his pace. Finally, his house came into view: a single-story farmhouse not unlike Urin's but with an apple orchard.
He walked up to the door and was about to open it when his mother opened it right in front of him. "Well, there you are, " she said. "I thought you'd never get back."
"Don't you sorry me, young man. Now get in there and do your chores. You know Feldie hasn't been fed yet."
She closed the door, and Melsin trudged over to the stable on the opposite end of the house, away from the road. It was encircled by a wooden fence. Nearby was a small pond that Melsin had played in as a child.
Melsin walked into the stable. It was dusty but warm. There were many little hidden crevices in the shadows, so he and Urin had used the stable for playing hide-and-seek as children.
Melsin got the feed out of the bureau in the corner and opened one of the stable doors. Feldie, their brown-gray horse, whined in delight.
"Here, girl," Melsin said as he emptied the feed out onto the floor.
Melsin also filled the water trough, and as Feldie was lapping it up, he exited the stable. As he was opening the fence he heard a noise.
He stopped and listened.
The night was quiet except for a few birds chirping in the distance.
You're hearing things, he told himself.
He realized that it must be past seven-thirty already, and he hurried toward the house. Suddenly he thought he heard a noise again, and he twisted around. In the process, he twisted and tripped over, hitting the dirt hard.
You're being stupid, he told himself. There's nothing out there.
He picked himself up and finally reached the house. He went inside to find his family eating dinner. "Hey, when were you gonna wait for me?" he asked.
His father looked up. "We were hoping to eat sometime before the centennial." His mother piped in, "Look, just get a plate and start eating. And be sure to finish your vegetables."
He grabbed a plate and loaded it with sweet potatoes and roasted fish. After taking a seat next to his annoying little sister Relia, he asked, "Dad, did you catch these today?"
"Sure did. Beautiful day, it was. What is that you boys been up to the last few hours?"
"We were practicing archery down at the Range."
"Come on Melsin, we all know you couldn't hit the ground if you fell out of a tree," Relia quipped.
This brought brief chuckles from his parents. "Hey, come on, I'm getting better," Melsin said defensively.
"Sure you are, but why do you keep practicing that stuff anyway?" his mother asked.
"Well, we gotta be prepared, what with the centennial coming up and all."
Relia snorted. "You don't really believe in that myth, do you?"
His father immediately fired back, "How dare you say that, Relia? The attacks of Ganon are well documented-"
"Don't say that name, dear," mother said. "You'll frighten the children!"
"Yeah, well, maybe they should be frightened!"
At this, the table was plunged into silence. Relia nervously slouched back in her chair. Melsin cleared his throat.
"Um, Dad, do you really think that there's gonna be a draft?" he asked.
"I'm not sure. I talked to Delifar today, he says that the word is that the king might order some sort of army reserve."
Delifar was one of the merchants that regularly passed through Shawshakilo Village, and was a good friend of the family.
"But of course we wouldn't need any extra army, what with Link reappearing and all - right, Dad?" Melsin asked.
"We can only hope, son," his father replied with a grim look on his face. "We can only hope." After dinner was done and the table had been cleared, Melsin went up to his room. He looked out his window. He could see Lockheed Road as it twisted and turned it's way through Grendem Woods. Past the woods was the heart of Shawshakilo Village. He could see lights turned on in the windows of the houses. To the east of the town was the Range, and to the west was Filkirk Road, which lead into the heart of Hyrule. To the north was the Ulkiri Plains.
Melsin looked out into the distance, and off in the horizon there was the faint outline of a mountain.
Melsin knew of the mountain's significance in all the tales of Link, and he wondered what it would be like to actually stand on Death Mountain. Of course, the mountain was so steep that no one could ever possibly reach the top, maybe not even Link. What's more, that was where Ganon had supposedly built his base the last time he invaded.
On second thought, Melsin thought, I'm glad I'm right here. After all, the outside world is no place for someone who wants to be safe.
Moving away from the window, he sat down on his bed. He estimated that it must be past nine o' clock.
He picked up one of his arrows from the floor and examined it. Simple wood, solid construction, with a stone point.
Certainly not going to stop any evil monsters, he thought. He chuckled to himself. "Get a grip on things, Melsin," he told himself. "Just pray they're not stupid enough to draft you."
With that, he lied down and closed his eyes. In less than a minute, he was fast asleep.
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