Artemis coiled her long, brown hair over the strip of fabric and tucked it in. Golden brown wisps stuck to her neck as the sweat cooled. Like her namesake, she loved to hunt. It was her guilty pleasure; if her father or brothers ever found out, she would never be allowed near another bow.
The spring morning was fresh and clean, bright sun streaming through the thick canopy of ash and alder. Her horse stepped tentatively on the leaf-strewn forest floor, twigs and dried detritus echoing against the sparkling bird-song. If she was ever going to find a buck this morning, she would have to stay the horse and take off on foot. Artemis dismounted near a young oak tree and led the horse for a few more steps off the narrow path. No one save she and her father hunted this area of the woods and with him off to Tranwyn for ten days, she would have it all to herself. She smiled as she tied up the horse and unslung her bow and quiver from the saddle.
Artemis’ mother died in childbirth with her younger brother, Justinian. Artemis smiled when she thought of the little boy. He was now ten and not nearly a little boy any longer. While her father doted on his two elder sons (and the heirs to his vast estates), he all but ignored Artemis and Justinian. All of Justinian’s care fell to Artemis; as she approached 18, she felt far more the mother than the elder sister. Soon, Justinian would have to go on his first Blood Hunt and her father would not be able to ignore him any longer.
Artemis sighed and tightened her bootlace. After the Blooding, she would be left alone in the vast halls of Kethwin. She was lucky that the kitchen staff appreciated her kills and the time she spent with them learning their trade. In some of the other halls, she had heard of poisonings and other nastiness when there was no wife, no estate mistress to maintain the order. She never liked the idea of maintaining order. She flicked a leaf off her boot. Of course she didn’t, the thought, as she picked up her bow and quiver and took off in search of dinner.