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A wall of silence pressed down around the hunter, the soft edges of noiselessness caressing his face as he inched through the undergrowth, eyes trained on the large deer some way ahead of him.

The animal hadn't noticed it was being watched yet, nothing betraying that its death was imminent. Pointed ears didn't hear any sounds creeping closer, perhaps filled with only the sound of the breeze and birds chirping in the trees. The wet nose that air huffed through only smelled the crisp morning and the damp soil. White tipped antlers rubbed against a nearby tree, the bark flaking off the trunk as the beast pawed the ground. It wasn't a restless movement, but one out of habit, the long, shaggy, brown fur clothing its body shaking to and fro. If it weren't for the green plants spattered across the ground, it might have blended in completely, as was intended by nature.

Unfortunately for the animal, nature had also intended for all life to end, and the MacDonald house had a need for deer meat.

Breathing evenly, the hunter raised his bow and arrow, fingers brushing alongside his mouth, tickling the hair there as he anchored himself for the shot. This was his favorite part of the hunt—the chase and climax gathered into one perfect moment, a second where the entire earth seemed to settle, holding its breath. There was the sweet sense of victory, a rush that made him fill with excitement and pride, and the bitter taste of death in his mouth, a sorrowful flavor that threatened to stop the entire action before it had even begun. Overall, though, it was an overwhelming thankfulness that filled him, for the life the animal was going to give so he and his family could live another day. The deer's sacrifice meant health, wellness, and security for the future. Its spirit would rest easy knowing that no part of the body would go to waste.

And then, in one split second, the moment ended. He released his hold, sending the deer's angel of death forward. The pointed tip of the arrow soared through the air, speeding toward its target with all the ease of a bird in flight. Striking true, it stuck hard in the side of the animal, just behind the front leg—a heart shot.

Jumping out of surprise, fear, and pain, the deer made a run for it, disappearing into the trees. However, the hunter knew it would bleed out quickly and crumble, making it easy to track and recover.

Rising from his hiding place, the man shouldered his bow and headed off in the direction his prey had headed, moving swiftly and silently through the brush. It had run up a small ridge, disappearing over the other side. As the man reached the top of the hill, he saw the animal laying at the foot of the hill, struggling in the last moments of its life.

Filled with compassion and thankfulness, he made his way to it, pulling a short blade from the sheath attached to his arrow bag. With the beast finally before him, he knelt down and placed a hand on its head, shushing softly.

"It's over now," he said softly, petting between its ears. "I do thank ye." Uttering the words of an old Gaelic prayer, he stated his thanks again in the traditional way, to both the animal and God, for allowing him to take the life in order to better his own. Lifting the deer's head up then, he drew the blade across its throat, ending its suffering.

Hot blood trickled over his hands, slowly spreading across the ground at his feet. The eyes of the animal stared up at him blankly, all life gone from the still warm body. Everywhere around them was quiet, even the birds silent now as the forest watched another of their kind leave the mortal realm.

Looking up at the sky, the hunter noted clouds on the horizon, the scent of the air warning of an incoming storm. Not wanting to get caught and delay returning home any longer, he quickly sheathed his dagger, took the arrow from the animal's side, and grabbed its antlers, pulling it up the hill some. Within a moment or so, the deer lay just a few feet up the incline, spread wide, as if it were in the middle of a jump.

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