(I'm an archer in real life, so I'm attempting to bring some of the realities of shooting into this-MH's treatment of the bow is shockingly good, but for those that haven't shot as much as me, maybe you'll get a feel for what it's like to release the string.)
Chapter One: Ring Lost and Ring Received
Jochi awoke with a start. Every inch of him ached. He felt like a single bruise covered his entire body. He then noticed he was in a strange bed, in a strange house. Also on the list of strange was the man standing over him with a look of relief on his face.
“Well, I was beginning to wonder if you would wake up. You took a nasty shot on the way in from Minegarde, didn’t you?”
“Uh, I think so? How did I get here?”
“You’re the one the Guild sent to us here at Pokke, correct? I was the one sent to guide you in, but that Tigrex got to you first. I heard him bellowing and got there as fast as I could, to find no wyvern and you passed out in the snow. I dragged you back here and put you up in this bed. Which, as it happens, will probably be yours anyway.”
Jochi shook his head to clear the cobwebs. He really couldn’t remember how it happened. He must have hit his head pretty hard. He felt there was something wrong, though. His hand went to his neck, to find that the thong was still on him, but the thumb ring threaded through it was gone. It could only mean that it had been shattered in the attack. His face fell.
“I take it something important was on that necklace.”
“Yes, there was. The only thing I had to remember the man that taught me everything I know about hunting.”
“I’m terribly sorry, son.”
He thought about the armor he had worn in. “And my armor?”
“Ruined. He got you good. No weapon either, but I’ve left you a large selection here. See, I’m the retiring hunter of this village. You can see why.” And he could-the man’s left arm had a huge swelling at the elbow where the bone had been crushed. It must have been difficult to even get dressed. No way could he wield a weapon any more. Everything started to fall into place.
“Then I’m extremely thankful to you, Master.”
“I hardly think I’m a master of anything now, but I thank you. The elder wishes to see you, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want to be left to wait all day. We had a set of the traditional armor of the village made for you. When you’re dressed we’ll go meet her.”
And so, Jochi got dressed and went out into the brisk morning air. He almost tripped over the elder-a short ,stooped woman, she was roughly half his height. She was standing next to a fire with her companion Felyne, simply enjoying the day.
“Ah, yes, Jochi. I see you’re truly made out of tough stuff to be up and about so soon after an incident like that. I’m glad the Guild sent you to us. We need someone like you. We’re sorry to lose the man behind you to injury, but we’re happy we still have him with us-and don’t worry, we’ll take care of him. A man who has protected us like that will not want while we have anything to say about it.”
“Good, I was worried. I owe him my life. I honestly don’t know much about this village-I hoped that people would help him out.”
“We aren’t much for bothering others, but we take care of our own. And now that you’ll be our new hunter, we’ll be taking care of you as well. Which reminds me, I should give you this. It’s not your old equipment, but it’s enough to cover sundries until you get on your feet again. The Master told us about how he found you.”
He was stunned. Here was this woman who he had never met handing him a rather decent purse of zenny, and he was unsure how to take it. “Are you sure you can afford this, Elder? I plan to work for my keep, but I didn’t expect an advance. I’m still very capable of gathering for myself.”
“My, what manners! We have quite a bit more of that money-look at this!” She tapped the boulder behind her. A massive chunk of solid Machalite ore, its glassy blue glinting in the sun. “We have a lot of this here, you know. And besides, if you still feel bad about it, as of now I’m just Granny, and I’m spoiling my grandson. Now I know you lost a lot of equipment, so get going-I know you’ve got a lot to get organized.”
“Yes, Eld-I mean, Grandmother.” He almost forgot that he didn’t know how they shot here, if they would even know what his thumb ring was used for. “Can you tell me who would be able to answer my questions about replacing my bow and related?”
“Stars yes, child. If you need to buy, the crafter and the cat will help you, but if you need to brush up or work your arms back into shape, I’d recommend visiting the Training School we have here. Our instructor is very, very good in my opinion. He traveled a lot in his youth hunting.”
“Thank you again!” Jochi ran back to the house to search for a bow. Sure enough, he found one-a massive folding bow as tall as he stood. It was certainly bigger than his training bows, but everything worked the same. Now, he thought to himself, to sort out whether they know my draw.
The training school was just where it was supposed to be, but it was deserted. A sign said, “If in need of training, simply shout ‘I seek your wisdom, Esteemed Teacher!’” Subtle, that.
“A student seeks your wisdom, Esteemed Teacher!”
Behind him, a voice replied. “I am here to instruct the willing! Will you give it your all?”
He knew this exchange. “All that I can give!” He was a teacher much like his old master. This looked good for him.
“Then yes, I will teach you, Jochi. We all know who you are. What do you seek of me?”
“Teach me how the hunters here shoot. My equipment was destroyed, and-“
“You have no ring to draw with. I see the callous very clearly. Sit, and I will make you one, but you must shoot for me in return.”
He did as he was bid. All the teacher had was a block of wood, but it would work with this light a bow, he thought. He wondered why with that kind of knowledge about hunting that he wasn’t hunting now.”
“Teacher, why don’t you hunt?”
“That’s a simple answer. This.” He raised the leg of his greaves. Underneath was smooth white bone-an artificial leg! “Lost it years ago, but I didn’t lose my knowledge. I’m still strong, but not fast, and ha hunter needs to be both. Now here, try this out. I’ll get you an arrow.”
Jochi put the ring on, and adjusted its fit with the knife until it fit perfectly. As he finished the last scrape, the Teacher said from behind him, “You’re certainly an archer. You’ve done that many times, haven’t you?”
“Yes, yes I have. I still need to learn how to carve my own, but without materials I’m stuck. I thank you for your wisdom. What do you want me to hit?”
“Sure of yourself, huh? Good. Do you see the single red leaf on that tree? See if you can hit it.”
Jochi grunted in affirmation. He drew the arrow back, the thumb ring protecting him from the string as always, and fired. The arrow hit the Yambug that had landed on the leaf to rest and pinned bug, leaf and self to the tree. The tip stuck out the other side. “It’s pretty good. Wood will take some getting used to.”
“Yes it will, but I believe you won’t have anything to fear. You shot with stone, right?”
“Yes. But it’s gone now. I don’t think you have our stone here, either.”
“No but bone, horn, tooth or claw can make excellent substitutes. When you kill something, that is.”
Yes, and I should be about that. What do I owe you?”
“Keep an old hunter company, and come see me every so often. We’ll see who’s better with that bow.”
“That I can do. Thank you again!”
As he turned toward his new home, Jochi started to feel like he could enjoy life here. Even the cool air suited him. But the real test, of course, would be in the hunting. A task for tomorrow, he thought.