I watched as she nocked back the arrow, nodding in satisfaction as I eyed her form.

"Remember, one shot is all you get." I whispered, my eyes drifting beyond my daughter's brown hair to the deer just over the bushes we had hidden in. "One shot is all you need."

She hesitated for the briefest of moments, but her muscles stiffened in resolve as she held her breath, letting go and watching her arrow fly.

The deer let out a sudden cry of pain and shock, tripping on its own legs as it stumbled forward, collapsing to the ground in a heap as I let out a breath of relief.

"Excellent shot." I murmured, patting Svanni on her shoulder as I stood up, watching the deer as it struggled in the brush, climbing back to its feet and taking off into the woods, albeit with a severe lurch. "Let's track your prey."

It took time, as always. Svanni was quiet, meekly trailing behind me as I showed her different tracks the deer had left, with blood stains marking its path. The first hunt inspired a variety of emotions, and hers was silent contemplation.

"I'm surprised." I spoke after a short time of wading through the trees, looking back at her.

"About what, mama?" She asked softly, her brown eyes staring at me as I smiled.

"Your sister cried her first hunt. Hers was a good shot, like yours." I admitted, reaching out and patting her arm. "She sobbed for an hour."

"Astrid? But she never cries." Her eyes widened as she cupped her hand to her mouth.

"She has hardened, yes. But once she was like you, little pup." I grinned reassuringly. "One day, you will stand tall and strong as she does, much as she was small and meek like you now."

Hearing the rustling of brush in the distance, I turned my attention back to the hunt. Motioning for her to follow, I crept through the forest until I came upon a ridge, one that overlooked our prey.

Much as I'd expected, it had collapsed finally, its energy finally leeched away from its fatal injury.

"…That day comes with this rite of passage, little pup." I turned to Svanni, drawing my hunting knife and giving it to her as I led her over the ridge, beside the dying deer.

Kneeling beside it, I gently touched its shoulders and pressed its head against the grass.

"Rest in the arms of ancestors come and gone." I whispered, pointing out to Svanni where to finish the creature. "Drift into the night, not with pain, but with relief."

She hesitated, clearing her throat as I patiently motioned for her to finish.

"…And may your sleep be as warm and comforting as your mother's womb." Svanni managed to utter the words, clutching the knife tightly as she drove it into the animal's heart, finishing the hunt.

We sat in silence for a few moments, Svanni's heavy breathing the only audible noise even in the midst of the forest until I ran my fingers down the deer's head, exhaling as I retrieved the knife from my daughter, blood having caked her hands.

"You did good." I smiled, reaching out and drawing from the pool of blood forming at the deer's limp body. I painted a stripe across her forehead, cleaning my hand off in the grass. "My dearest little one…you're ready."

She smiled, pulling me into a tight hug as I let out a giggle.

"So many children, you might think I would be used to this by now." I laughed, wiping away a tear. "You will make me proud, I can already tell."

"I promise I will, mama." She squeezed me tightly, her smile wide and somewhat comical from the blood smeared across her forehead, just below her mussy brown hair.

"Good. Now, let us bring home our family's dinner, I'm starving." Eying the deer carcass with a hungry feeling, I winked at Svanni. "There will be much to celebrate tonight, my little pup."

OOO

Apologies for the seemingly random stops and starts in updating my work as of late. Work has proven to be…invasive to my creative life, but hopefully I may be freed up a little now for the foreseeable future.

I do hope this new little story of mine proves of interest, as I'll be updating it alongside A Shape in the Dark.

I may just request some OC bios, soon enough, so do keep an eye on updates!