Here’s the second part to the Stylo story:

 

     It was everywhere. The twang of a bow. An angry shout. A sword whistled just past Syth’s ear. He turned and swung his sword down hard on his opponent, but the boy blocked it. Syth spun around and attacked another kid, pinning him to a tree. And then suddenly, a searing pain broke into his arm. He looked down and saw blood dripping from an arrow wedged into his arm. It had spotted feathers, and he guessed the arrowhead was flint, but it was hard to tell through the blood. He fell on his knees, crying out. No one looked his way; they were all too busy fighting their own personal battles to worry about him. A yell was not an uncommon sound on the battle field.

     Syth struggled to stand up and stumble to the edge of the clearing. Here he was safer to address his wound. He ripped off a piece of his shirt and wrapped it around the arrow, catching the river of blood. He winced as he leaned against a tree. Never had an arrow found its mark in Syth. Usually the boys had terrible aim–and anyway, they weren’t supposed to actually hurt someone.

     Syth looked out at the battle field and smiled gratefully as everyone suddenly stopped, dropped their weapons, and flopped in exhaustion onto the hard ground. It was over. “Wonderful work, everyone,” a tall man said. He strolled into the middle of the clearing and smiled at his young fighters. “All of you did quite well, I see. No one is injured, I presume?”

     There was a murmur of voices that rose from the boys as they looked around at the damage. “This boy’s unconscious,” a small voice broke out. The voice belonged to a kid who Syth disliked, who excelled at the assignments but could be beaten by a six-year-old in combat fighting. “No blood, though, Acher.”

     Acher nodded and stalked over to inspect the poor boy. He motioned to the kid who had spoken up. “Bring Sounder back to camp. Ask for an elder to take care of him.”

     “Yes, Acher.”

     Acher turned to look at the group. “Any more injuries?”

     Mumbling broke out again amongst the boys, but everyone shook their heads. Syth called out with the little energy he had left. “Acher!”

     The tall man turned in confusion to the sound of the voice. He couldn’t see who had spoken. “Yes?”

     “I have an arrow injury.” Syth staggered toward Acher. He turned to reveal to dripping arrow.

     Acher’s eyes widened. Never had they seen such an injury. “Jaya!” he shouted. A girl, Acher’s assistant, ran over to him. “Please help Syth to the camp.”

     “Yes, Acher.” Jaya walked over and put Syth’s good arm around her. They slowly made their way across the clearing and toward the camp. Syth glanced around at the boys who stared at him as he stumbled past. None of the stares were kind. Only one pair of eyes, Stylo’s, had pity in them.

     Syth looked at the trees. They marked the boundaries of the camp. No one was allowed to leave. Something hard formed in Syth’s stomach. Was it anger? Of course I’m angry! Syth reminded himself. I hate this place! He let his mind travel to distant memories of family and laughter and a home. He used to have a sister. He still did, but now she was far away in a house that used to be Syth’s home.

     Everything in him desperately wanted to run off to find his family again. He gazed longingly at the trees that marked his limitations. Wait…what was in the trees? Animals were a rare find so close to the camp. As Syth looked closer, he confirmed it wasn’t an animal. Maybe it was a boy who had been fighting. This option was ruled out when he saw the long hair. What was a girl doing here? This side of camp was for the boys, with the exception of Jaya. Syth stopped walking when he saw what was on her back. Arrows. Syth looked at his arm and tried to see if the arrow in his arm matched the ones the mysterious girl was carrying. She was too far away for him to tell.

     Syth did a double-take at his arm. He gingerly touched the arrow. “Jaya?”

     Jaya pushed him lightly to get him to start walking again. “Yes?”

     “Can I see one of your arrows?” he asked slowly.

     “Um, sure.” Jaya grabbed an arrow from her quiver and held it out to Syth.

     He took the arrow–this one had brown feathers and a dull arrowhead–and put it next to the arrow in his arm. “Do all the camp arrows look like this?”

   “The practice ones do. There’s arrows that are for hunting and killing, but not many. They’re locked up to be used only for hunting. No one is allowed to touch them unless instructed.”

     “What do those arrows look like?”

     “They’ve got flint heads and most of the feathers are black with white spots.” Jaya looked at him. “Why do you want to know?”

     “No reason,” Syth said quickly. In all honestly, however, there was a very good reason. Jaya had just described the arrow in his arm. It had to be the girl in the trees who had shot it. But why? Why shoot a hunting arrow at Syth? There was only one answer, and it made him shiver. The girl had tried to kill him.

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