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Deep in the forest, under a thick net of underbrush, a hunter and his daughter waited. The sun painted the ground with dapples as if it were spilling droplets of light onto the leafy floor. And all was silent. That is, until there came a rustle in the bushes.
“Papa, what was that?”
“A very fine catch. A wolf, perhaps, or a deer. But if we are quiet, Gwen, we might successfully kill it.”
Gwen wasn’t listening. She was staring at a glowing, golden yellow arrow in her father’s quiver. “What is this for?” she inquired.
“That is the Arrow of Destiny. If you steer it in the right direction, you might eventually hit that elusive beast we call success. Few have ever seen it, let alone taken it home.”
“I wanna try, Papa! I wanna try!”
The hunter sighed, but then handed her his bow and the arrow. He tried his best to position it correctly in her small hands. She pulled back and eventually let go. It was a very flimsy shot, but the arrow flew straight. It made it halfway towards the target, a doe that had just wandered into view with her fawn trailing behind.
“Stop, arrow! Don’t hurt them!” Gwen cried out.
The arrow stopped, before turning around and whizzing back to her. It hovered in midair a foot from her face, seeming to nod its tip in approval. Then it dropped back into her hands. The doe walked slowly up to her, bent down, and gave her a nuzzle.
“What have you done?” Gwen’s father flew into a rage. “You let our targets get away! Now I will be the laughingstock of the village.”
“But Papa, did you see the little fawn? If you shoot one, the other will feel sad and alone.”
“Sad? Are you daft? They’re only animals.”
“But they have eyes like us, and hearts like us, so why don’t they have feelings like us.”
The arrow started hovering again, close to Gwen’s cheek. It turned to her father and blew a raspberry. “Come on, arrow,” said Gwen. “Let’s go.”
As the years went by, many animals started disappearing from the forest. Some of them became cuts of venison or luxuriant pelts. Others took shelter in a makeshift hut that smelled of lavender and other wonderful things. And through all of that, the arrow followed behind her.
It was around this time that a hooded figure had stumbled upon this hut. He knocked on the door and bellowed, “GWENDOLYN ALEXANDRA GREENWOOD, WE NEED TO TALK RIGHT NOW.”
He was quite surprised to see nobody at the door but a scruffy fox and a couple of opossums. He tried again. “GWENDOLYN, WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU? IT HAS BEEN EXACTLY 8 YEARS AND YOU NEED TO FIND A HUSBAND NOW!”
Nobody answered. Not even Gwen, who disliked the smell of alcohol and old vomit wafting through her open door. “There’s nobody home,” she answered, trying to regain her composure.
“I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE NOW OPEN UP! AND GET RID OF ALL THESE FILTHY ANIMALS!”
“If I release them, then they’ll all be killed off.”
“Please go away. You’re scaring the animals.”
“I AM YOUR FATHER! DON’T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!”
More years passed. She caught, kept, and released many animals, took up herbalism, healed those who came to her house, married a wandering nobleman, had a child, expanded her shack, and did many other things, too many to fit on a page. And through all of that, the arrow followed behind her.
One autumn day, in the late sunset of her life, a great white beast wandered into her forest. It had the body of a horse with the head of a wolf, the antlers of a stag, the tail of a snake, and the talons of an eagle on all four legs.
“Hello, Success. I see you’ve come for me,” said Gwen, opening the door for it.
“So you have heard about me?” purred the creature, its eyes glowing.
“Father spoke of you.”
“You may kill me if you want.” The arrow pointed towards the beast.
She hesitated. “No.”
“Why? Is it because I am so beautiful?”
“Do you think I’m that shallow?”
“That’s a no, then. Are you still not happy enough to have lived a successful life?”
“I have gained my happiness from helping others.”
“Then why do you not shoot me?”
“Because you deserve to live, and to reach others. If you die, then what will everyone else live for? They will have nothing to believe in, and they will never know you.”
The arrow trembled, wanting to pierce someone’s heart.
“Take me instead,” she whispered.
The arrow pierced her through the heart. The blood seemed to seep into the arrow’s tip. The creature known as Success pulled it out of her chest and gave it to her son.
“Here,” it whispered. “Take this. It is the Arrow of Destiny. If you steer it in the right direction, you might eventually be led to me again. And when you come to the end, spare me so I can reach your children. Use it well.”
The arrow followed behind the boy, ready for the adventure ahead.