Biggeron 'the sharp shooter' opened his eyes from his ritual show meditation. His large, balding, 7ft, pasty white frame had been working for hours now, with the Gods-day festival well and truly in stride by the hazy and warm afternoon. Amongst the numerous festivities of the day, his regular job of being the carnival archer was one he'd carried throughout the years with pride, a custom carried down from his family and something he happily decided to continue. During the regular calendar year he would provide a service for the Court, teaching young bowmen their trade, although this part of the year was equally important - it fell upon him to provide the archery show that was a family tradition for the Gods day festivities, something that had never failed to be a hit. Made sense. He was a Prime Archer, after all.
Biggeron pulled himself up from his large chair, and pinned his theatrical red and gold cape on, before equipping his quiver full of arrows and large engraved wooden bow. This was the grand finale stage of the show, it needed something special as was required each year. He had just the thing in mind. Smiling to himself, he prepared to exit his rest hut to head out into the main auditorium. Soon after taking a swig of his strongest milk (fresh from the magical cows of Hmumner), his wife came rushing in from behind the curtain. Short but more tanned than her giant spouse, deep concern was etched on her pretty face, which was matted by her long blonde platted hair.
"Liza!" glowered Biggeron, "what's wrong?"
She looked up at Biggeron, her big blue eyes twinkling. "Biggs… I know this may seem a bit strange, dear, but I think… I'm… "
"Come come, the crowd is expecting me soon, what is it?"
"Biggs, something is wrong…"she whispered closely. "There have been accidents all around the festival…maybe we've really displeased the Gods this year…"
"Nonsense, " came the reply. "What Clarence did to those chickens was a one off - he knows not to pursue such a foul activity to relive his frustration in the future. He has been punished eno-"
"No, no, not that… it's everyone. Things are going wrong that shouldn't be…Stranglor the Brave lost his winning streak in the wrestling competition - he hasn't been beaten ever before… and- "
The crowd's content mumble began to fan into a curious burble, at the lack of the archer's presence onstage.
"They're getting restless, dear - don't worry, it'll be fine. Trust me." With that, Biggeron kissed his wife's forehead gently, pushed back the curtain and strolled into the centre stage. Rapturous applause boomed around the large sand-floored circle arena as the crowd welcomed back their giant hero stepping into the middle of the ring, waving to his appreciating fans.
"Thank you, thank you, you are too kind as always. Now, some of you may be wondering just how good an archer such as myself can be, after just merely shooting a few moving magical targets as I did earlier." Biggeron swept back his large cape in a majestic gesture. "Well, my friends, today I will attempt something that only a Prime such as myself would attempt, such is its danger. But for this, I will need a brave soul to volunteer. Who will be that trusting person? Who will be the lucky one to take part in the trick that everyone will be talking about to all their friends for years to come?"
Several hands sprung up from the crowd, mostly from the young children, some of which quickly shot down again due to parents unwilling to risk their child, even for something that was virtually guaranteed success. One teenager garbed in a green archer's hat and clothing (waistcoat and tights), without the presence of an adult to quell his enthusiasm, remained persistent in his volunteering, however, and was gratefully spotted by the grinning Biggeron.
"Well, ain't he just the brave fella! Come on down, young one!" waved the giant.
The youth, smiling akin to a hapless puppy who thought it was going for a nice walk in the field rather than suspecting it was being taken out to pasture, ran down from his wooden seat into the main auditorium, with just as many of the viewers looking for his not-present guardian as there were clapping in happiness that their child was spared the opportunity of being fired at. Ushered into the centre of the stage by Liza (who had made her sudden appearance with calm professionalism), Biggeron stooped to his fresh young apprentice. "What's yer name, son?"
"Robin!" piped the lad, his eyes brim with deer innocence.
Biggeron turned to the crowd again, sweeping his hand in another grand gesture. "Robin, ladies and gentlemen!"
The crowd clapped on queue, some clearly worried for Robin's safety. The eagle eyed Biggeron decided that now was the ideal time to address this unusual taste of fear that had rippled around the usually jocular audience. In the meantime, Liza gently took Robin to a large circular target that had featured at the back of the floorspace.
"Loyal people," started Biggeron, "my dear townsfolk. It has come to my attention that some of you are a bit… apprehensive this year. Fearful, some may say."
The crowd murmured uncertainly.
"Yes, I have heard of the accidents that have been happening all around this year's festival. How can I not, being one of the more steadfast features of it. This act, which was once my father's and father's father's, has been around since the start of the festival's conception. We, Liza and myself, are amongst the very pillars of the celebration itself."
A few of children in the crowd grew a bit restless, one yawned quite demonstratively only to be slapped into mannered obedience by her mother.
"And each year, we have put on a show that only the strangers have come to fear, while the rest of you have come to love - our magnificent archery show. Which we've aimed to alter each year to keep fresh."
By now, Robin had been tied to the target, a blindfold placed on his forehead while Liza had taken full attention to her husband's speech, a worry in her eyes dimming by his passing words.
"And this year, you may be worried that, like some of the freak occurrences during a few -and may I add, they have only been a few- acts already, that some poor accident will befall me or worse, this young lad here."
Robin, who was clearly not from this part of the planet judging by his continued smirks that this was all part of the show, was ready to burst with excitement.
"But, I'll have you know. Biggeron is not one to smear tradition at the drop of some foul luck. This is our Gods day. They smile upon us for today is when we worship Them in unison. Do not fear us, for today is the day They come down to us, sit amongst us, and say 'it's okay to be afraid - but today, we are NOT afraid.'" Biggeron smiled, his broad mouth and white teeth almost lighting the auditorium, offering his hands out in warm gesture to his watchers. "We, ARE NOT AFRAID!"
A dull roar of approval started up around the crowd, followed by cheers and eventually rapturous applause. The ringmaster turned to his wife, who smiled with deep pride in her spouse.
"Now," he trumpeted, "who wants to see a SHOW!"
The audience raised to their collective feet in appreciation. Biggeron turned to Robin, who had enjoyed every second of the pep talk.
"Now, children, ladies and gentlemen, you're people of distinct and obvious taste. It's likely that you've seen acts like this before, where a sharp shooter takes his trusty bow and arrow, and shoots something off the top of a volunteer's head. 'An apple, a pear, there is no fear'. But, that isn't a fitting enough challenge to a Prime. No, no, what you're going to witness here is something a bit more - and that means using something, a bit… well, less."
Liza's hand fiddled inside a pocket, before pulling out something so small no one could see what had claimed itself in her clenched fist.
"Today, my friends, you will witness the shooting - blindfolded, no less- of not a large fruit off this young man's head, but this!"
Liza theatrically opened her hand and lofted it high. There was a gasp and talkative murmur around the audience. In Liza's palm rested a solitary peanut. Salted.
"For those without the benefit of close seats, the whispers are true - I will attempted to shoot a peanut off young Robin's head, using but one arrow at a distance of 50 yards, blindfolded."
The crowd cheered in admiration.
Liza pulled the blindfold off Robin's head and gave it to her large husband, who started walking his 50 yards. She turned to Robin, who had almost seemed like his smile had been etched in unmovable stone. "Never fear - for this spectacle is guaranteed to be safe as long as you don't move," she whispered.
Robin nodded. Smile, nod, smile.
Liza took off his hat and placed the peanut on top of his head, slowly.
Biggeron took position. "Now, I'll ask you to make no sound please, until the arrow has reached its target, for the sake of concentration." He pulled his blindfold down to his eyes, while instinctively, from years of practice, took a steel tipped arrow from its quiver and drawing it in one smooth motion, his big arms poised.
The audience held its breath.
A child clasped his hands over his mouth.
One closed her eyes.
An old man snorted.
Liza stood aside from the target, hands behind her back.
Biggeron pulled the bowstring as far as it could stretch and held it there, a few seconds. There was something strange in his arms, something he'd never felt before. A tingle.
Then a shiver.
His arms stayed true to the target.
A bead of sweat trickled down Biggeron's forehead on to the blindfold.
Robin smiled eagerly.
The archer fired.
There was a sharp whistle as the arrow pierced the air at intense speed, followed by a wet 'swquellsh' and a dull 'thunck'.
The audience gasped.
Then several screamed.
Biggeron pulled up a small part of the blindfold and peeked through.