The bowstring tore his cheek as the arrow flung to hit the hanging branch. He was trying to outrun the voices behind him, and every few paces he would turn and try to find deterrents to block their way. It was already getting dark and it was easier now to get lost in the woods. That served to his advantage. No-one knew the forest as well as he did. It was his home.
They called him The Archer. All they really knew about him was that whatever he stole, he would replace with something else. So, for example, if he stole a loaf of bread the one day, the next he would repay with a couple of fresh apples. He didn’t want to be considered a thief after all. And he always signed his name with a capital “A”.
But no-one had ever seen him. Despite the fact that he moved among them daily.
His mother was an Amazon, tamed by a Lord. Their marriage was a demonstration of how powerful love could be. But also of how profound. For when she got sick, he drunk his fortune away, and with it his son’s future. The boy was soon orphaned and left to fight for his own survival. All he knew how to do was use a bow better than anyone. He was very young when he was forced to discover the world, and the people of the village looked upon him with a mix of pity and fear. They would give him chores and various errands to run if they had any, but the pay was minimum, if at all, and the boy could not survive on that alone.
No-one seemed to care how he managed or where he lived. That was private business, or what they described as “personal issues”.
So the boy often disappeared as quickly and as easily as he appeared.
But no-one ever associated him with The Archer. He had become a legend, a sort of myth that made the forest and the nearby village an attraction. He became the terrifying story parents threatened their children with to make them behave. He had become a ghost despite still being alive.
He carved his own bows and arrows, made his own home, and by now knew all the places food could be found in plenty. He lived poorly but managed to gain all the necessities life handed abundantly and was satisfied with how well he fared. What he hated was the look in the villagers’ eyes. As The Archer phantom, he saw fear, prejudice, and loathing. So many negative feelings for a being they hardly knew. And as the boy, their eyes reflected sorrow, shame and sometimes compassion. But that is not what he wanted. All he desired was some kindness, someone to invite him into their home and share a warm meal with him. The boy, just like The Archer, simply wanted to be accepted. But in his own eyes, that was the most difficult feat of all.