The air gets colder as I go deeper into the cave, and the condensation on the walls slowly turns to ice. With no other food to be had, I start eating ice chips to keep hunger at bay. They don’t help. I continue moving through the cave, always moving down…deeper into the darkness and cold.
I scream in pain as an arrow slams into my chest. I stumble backwards for a few steps, then fall on my ass, clutching the arrow with both hands. I can feel the blood trickling out from the wound. I pull it out, and hold it in my hand like a dagger.
“I got you, you fucking devil.”
I look up to see a flash of white hair, and suddenly a peri appears out of the darkness. He’s different from most peri. Instead of having very pale, almost milky-white skin, he has jet-black skin. He pulls another arrow out from the quiver on his back, nocks it, and pulls the bowstring back. He fires the bow, but I manage to half fall/half scramble backwards, and the arrow whizzes just over my head.
He reaches back for another arrow, but before he can get it ready, I jump up from the ground and leap for him. I plunge the arrow I pulled from my shoulder into his eye, and it’s his turn to scream in pain. He drops his bow, and falls backwards. I plunge the arrow into his eye over and over again, and then I jab it into his mouth, and down into his throat. As he dies, his good eye gets very wide, like he’s seeing a ghost, and with his last breath, he gurgles, “How did you do that?”
The light goes out of his good eye, and I strip him bare. I notice that the devil’s clothes I had been wearing are now way too tight for me, so I change into his black silk clothes and black leather boots. I use the devil’s shirt to bandage my wound, then toss the rest aside. I like the way the silk feels on my skin. I’m amazed at how well everything fits me…almost as if it were made for me. I sling his quiver over my shoulder, and take the bow in my hand. It feels right, somehow.
The only other things I find on his body are a small hunting knife, a waterskin, and some dried meat and berries. I don’t stop to think what the meat might be…I just eat it. I don’t worry too much about the berries, either, before eating them, too. I drink from the waterskin, and I am glad I don’t have to eat ice chips anymore. I put the knife in my belt, on the opposite side of the devil’s sword.
My hunger and thirst satiated for the moment, I go back to the peri’s corpse. I need to practice with the bow, and this corpse will serve as a target quite nicely. I take the corpse, and drag it over to the wall, and prop it up into a sitting position as best as I can. I move back a few feet, and nock an arrow. I release the bowstring, and the arrow bounces off the ground in front of the corpse. The next arrow bounces off the wall over its head.
Six or seven arrow later, I finally manage to hit the target. Then I miss a few more times before hitting it again. When the quiver runs out of arrows, I go over and pick them up. Hours pass, and I start hitting the corpse every time, so I move back a few feet, and start over. Eventually I get tired, and so I sleep. When I wake up, I put the body in a different pose, and practice some more.
Many days pass. By this time, I’m standing against the far wall, about a hundred feet away, and I’m hitting the corpse with every arrow I fire. Not only that, but I’m able to hit specific parts of the corpse almost at will. I can hit a hand, or the face, or a foot at my leisure…most of the time. I might miss the exact body part I’m aiming for, but I always hit the corpse somewhere. I realize that it’s going to be much harder to hit moving targets, but I feel more confident than I have since all this began.
I get ready to leave, but then I notice a rat gnawing on the corpse. I decide it’s time to start practicing on moving targets. I hit the rat on the first try, but it was sitting still, so I don’t count it.
I skin it with the hunting knife, and eat it raw. More rats come.
After many more days, I hit the moving rats more often than I miss, but it’s time to move on. I’ve broken a few arrows, and the corpse is starting to smell really bad. I gather the remaining arrows and my other belongings, and move deeper into the cave.