Malcolm’s eyes inched open sluggishly as he saw a flickering shadow move down the hallway. A light grew brighter as a shadow moved down the hallway. A light grew brighter as it neared him, then dimmed as it bobbed away. A creak on the staircase snapped him out of his slumber and he became extremely aware of his surroundings. The faint smell of vanilla lingered in the air. Malcolm’s mouth split into a grin. Aria was going hunting.
Malcolm slipped out of his bed, silent as an owl, and changed into his day clothes: a rough, fawn-coloured shirt, brown leather breeches, a brown waistcoat, and a thick green belt. He pulled on some socks and laced up a pair of old, weather-beaten boots. He silently exited his room and made his way down the staircase, stepping past the fatal areas that would groan if he stepped on them, giving him away.
Malcolm paused by the wall and locked his eyes on his sister’s tall, lithe figure. With eagle eyes he watched her finish a hunk of cheese and slice of rye bread, before she slung a pack over her soldier and marched out the door, her long hair swinging behind her.
Malcolm picked up an apple and started munching on it, a crisp, sweet flavor tingling on his tongue. He washed the remains down with a glass of water. Peeking out of the window, Malcolm checked Aria’s position. She had finished the long walk from the house to the edge of the forest. He watched her look over her shoulder before she disappeared into the woods.
Grinning, Malcolm plunged further into the forest. After Aria stepped into the foliage, he had tiptoed out of the house and quietly scurried after her, taking care not to be seen. Mother and Aria had strictly forbidden him from venturing too near the forest, but he liked to anyway. Besides, it was not as if he was alone; he stayed close enough to Aria for her to remain in sight, but far away enough so that she would not see him.
This was not the first time he had followed her. Malcolm found it intriguing how the small animals caught in the delicately intricate traps could end up as a magnificent roast. He watched Aria skin and gut the kill before putting them in the sack slung over her shoulder. Her fingers were stained red with blood. Popping a plump berry in his mouth, Malcolm watched her wash the blood from her hands.
Malcolm savoured the tangy, sour taste of the wild blueberries and breathed in the cool, pine-needled scented air. Watery sunshine filtered through the thin clouds and stiff branches. He leant against a hard tree trunk, grinning mischievously to himself with pride. He was too clever to get caught, or so he thought.
His sister appeared out of nowhere, and grabbed his wrist. His mouth opened in shock. How had she caught him?
“I know you’ve been following me for the last few weeks,” she spoke, looming above him. Her face was set with disapproval and disappointment, anger flashing in her eyes.
“I thought you might realise your mistake and stop, but I guess not. Go home. We’ll deal with your punishment later, but I imagine you’ll get a mouthful from Mother once she finds out. Hurry along. I’ll see you in the evening.”
Malcolm hurried home. The expression on Aria’s face both worried and scared him. His fear sharpened his memory and he found his way home easily. When he got to the edge of the woods, he looked towards the house. Mother was standing at the kitchen door frowning, one hand shading her face from the sun.
As she saw Malcolm her scowl deepened, and he could tell what she meant from her expression: Get yourself over here now, young man. You are in serious trouble. He sighed deflatedly and trudged towards the cottage, his head hanging dejectedly.