Chapter Four

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Hamish glanced up from checking his bowstring. That hadn't sounded like a promising shot. Putting aside his half-fletched arrow, he ran a scrutinising eye over the archery range.

All three of his nephews stood before him, they had the range to themselves this morning and took advantage of that by spreading across its width. He leant against the low stone wall separating the area from the rest of the castle's training ground.

His niece was meant to have joined them, but Sorcha was content being tucked against one side of the range, at the end farthest from her cousins where she could sulk in peace. She was well past the point of needing lessons from her uncle, but Gordon refused to let her hunt alone after the lethal fate that had befallen her mother and sister.

Hamish wouldn't typically be here either, but he had promised his sister that he'd keep an eye on them to ensure they didn't do something foolish like shoot one another in the foot. Which now seemed like less of an issue than Nora had led him to believe.

Bruce might've been just shy of a dozen years old, but he followed the rest of the family in being quick to master the bow. And Ethan, having only a year's difference between them, would catch up to his brother sooner than Bruce likely thought.

Mac, however, was another story. With the boy being only eight years old, the weapon was new and unruly to him. Unlike the toy swords he had waved about since he could stand. But as Hamish's mother was so fond of saying, a prince who relied on one weapon was a fool.

Hamish had heard snippets of the boy's brothers trying to teach him the lessons they'd learnt, but Mac was too busy sulking to take in their words.

Watching the older pair try again reminded Hamish of his childhood days in this same range, when Gordon or Nora would attempt to correct him. He hadn't been much for listening to his older siblings either.

"I cannae do it!" Mac roared, although the sound was far less fearsome than he likely intended; a bit like a puppy yapping next to the baying of a boarhound. He tossed the bow to one side and aimed an inefficient kick at it.

Shaking his head, Hamish dropped off the stone wall and strode towards the trio. "Is that any way to treat your bow?"

"I cannae hit the target," the boy continued to wail. "I'll never be good enough." He glared at the abandoned weapon sitting in the grass. "Thing's a bloody menace."

"Language," Bruce murmured, casting a covert glance at Hamish.

"There's your problem," Sorcha bellowed from her place beside the left wall. She waved a hand in their direction, pointing with an arrow that she gripped almost daintily between her middle and index fingers. "You cannae use your bow if you're nae holding it." Giving a decisive nod, she nocked the arrow, drew her bow full and loosed to the muffled thack of the target.

Shielding his eyes, Hamish peered down the range. The girl's arrow had met the target about a few inches shy of centre. Given a year or so of training, and a good deal more hunting trips than she was currently allowed, she'd a fair chance of becoming more skilled than her mother. Just the sort of tale for a future queen.

But her abilities weren't the ones currently being contested.

Scooping up Mac's discarded bow from the dew-damp ground, he turned back to his nephews. "She's right, you ken," he said to the sulking boy.

"What does it matter?" Mac muttered. "It willnae shoot straight whether I'm holding it or nae."

"He's shaking all over the place," Ethan said with his older brother nodding over his shoulder.

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