By mid-morning, he had earned a rest. Ned dropped his bag on a carpet of pine needles and he noticed some blackberries. Scavenging handfuls, the boy ate and drank water. He leant into the river to replenish his leather drinking flask. Moving back toward his gear, he heard wood pigeons above. Dappled sunlight broke through the branches. He was tired, but there was something important to do.
Ned picked his gear up and walked into the forest until he came to a clearing. At the edge, he put everything down and looked for targets. He selected a series of pine trees for practice. He spent some time throwing his dagger at the trees. He was accurate at a short range. The short sword was heavy, but he needed to arm-up. Ned took some time to feel the balance of the weapon and moved his feet in a fluid motion. He put it back into the scabbard.
He picked up the bow and fed an arrow to the string. This had almost caused his downfall. If his left aim had been straight, the situation yesterday would never have happened. Focussing on a nearer tree, the first three arrows neatly hit its bark. After retrieving them, he looked at a thick pine tree about the same distance away as the soldier the day before. He drew the string back and held still for a moment. It missed and hit a tree to the right. He looked down, then closed his eyes.
Several more arrows flew, but still pulled to the right. He walked over and collected them up. Back by his bag, he breathed slow and steady. Looking at the tree again, he pulled the arrow back for a last-ditch attempt. Ned lifted his right elbow higher. Aiming left of the tree, he held his breath and let go. The arrow thwacked into its bark.
After a few more tries, the arrows grouped closer together. He continued to practice some more until he looked further back at a fallen tree. This would be a real test. He moved deliberately slow and fed another arrow in. Allowing less time for aiming, he felt the string leave his fingers in a clean movement. The arrow hit its target. Four more arrows did the same. When he collected his arrows up for the final time, they were no more than two fingers apart. The boy was happy. There was no room for more mistakes.