If the archer had had more strength the arrow might have made a whistling sound and pierced through the tree, but as it was...there was a thump and then the arrow got stuck in the tree next to the one with the circle carved into its bark.
Sassa stood about 20 feet from the tree and took the next arrow from her shoulder bag. Feet apart, one step forward, arm straight, pull with your whole body...the instructions she was familiar with played again inside her head as she tried again. Her right arm and shoulder burned after being abused in excessive training, but Sassa was all too aware that a hunter who couldn't even shoot well was a disgrace. This time she managed to pull the large bow about a quarter of the way back before her bleeding fingers gave out and the arrow flew off in the general direction of the tree she was trying to aim at.
A real hunter's bow was not like those little things she had been playing at shooting with at all. This was an adult's bow, as large as Sassa herself and with enough power to take down deer or wolves. If one had the strength to pull it. And Sassa did not have that strength just yet.
Blood dripped off her fingertips, but Sassa did not give up. With determination she rubbed a paste of herbs on them, waited for a few minutes while she attempted to loosen her muscles, then washed it off. Her fingertips were a little rougher, had a thicker layer of calluses and haad healed perfectly. This level of Alchemy was something any child in the mountains could do, though it only worked on shallow wounds and merely accelerated the process. But expensive remedies would not have given her the additional calluses or scars she needed to pull her bow, so there was nothing better for this kind of injury.
Once she was ready she took the large bow once again and attemted to pull it using her whole body. Again, she barely made it a quarter of the way, but to get enough optional points upon level up she needed this kind of patience.
All she knew of the world were the first few instances of her Questline, a few happy memories with Granny and basic knowledge regarding skill trees and level ups. Granny was gone, but Sassa had never actually met her, not as a person with self awareness, so the memories seemed distant and artificial. No personality settings had been given to her, who was never supposed to live long either, not even one of the fifteen standard child personalities since, unlike other NPC children, the players could neither buy, kidnap, hire nor adopt her.
Since she had fled from her Questline there were only the wish to survive and the basics of character growth in her head. Since the player was supposed to find her Grannys nephew to ask about her there was also a setting that he had taught her a bit of trap making and archery. It was all Sassa knew.
So she pulled her bow over and over again until all the arrows were either stuck in the trees or somewhere in the bushes. Losing those arrows would be terrible, so Sassa pulled the arrows from the trees first, carefully counting them, before she searched the bushes bit by bit, getting scratches on her bare arms and face, but aside from all the arrows she also found a few berries and two edible roots in addition to a wild onion. That was good because it meant that there was no village close to her. Around villages such good things were found quickly. But here she found several edible things so close to each other no villager would have overlooked it.
Humming happily for once Sassa pulled out her knife and cut flexible twigs from the bushes, all of them longer than her arm. She might not know much about woodworking or traps, but a fish trap was easy enough even for a child.
When she had two arms full of material she went towards the big tree she had found, munching on the roots and onion and berries raw as she went. They were dirty, but since Sassa had never known of hygiene or cooking and never actually eaten anything except an apple before coming to the forest she saw nothing wrong with this.
Once she arrived at the tree that was wider and older than those around it she placed her twigs down on the ground and climbed up with her bow and arrows on her back. Halfway up there was a little hollow in the tree, just large enough for Sassa. She had cut a twig nearby off so she could hang her bow and shoulder bag there before she climbed back down to get the twigs bit by bit, like a squirrel going up and down repeatedly.
Once she had everything she needed she chose the longest and strongest twigs and started working on the outer part. It was a simple cone, bound together at one end, strengthened by weaving several thin twigs around between the thicker ones, ending in a circle she kept open for the moment.
Next, she did the inner part. It was merely another cone, but open on bot sides, which took her several tries. The narrow end wouldn't hold until she took all the thinnest twigs and made a mess of things, but it held well enough after it had been wrapped into a weird triangular shape. The last part was easy. Sassa placed the small cone into the larger one, wove a long twig around and around and then...made another mess of interwoven twigs until it looked very clumsy but held without shifting.
Maybe fish traps were not as easy as expected without good twine, a wheel and proper tools.
But she made it.
Happy about the result, Sassa climbed down and ran to the lively stream not far away. She wedged her trap between two large stones and put several more stones behind it to make sure it didn't drift away. She even pulled and rattled it a bit to make sure a caught fish wouldn't just push it out from between the rocks.
But it should hold. Rather, Sassa hoped that it would.
It had been her second day as an independent being and Sassa looked at her work proudly. Her stomach was full, a fish trap finished and her archery would surely improve soon, as well. Now she just needed to get her hands on a blanket somehow. The last night had been cold and this night looked no better. It was going to be her project for the next day to find a way to keep warm somehow.
But just then Sassa could feel her aching fingers and feet and muscles from shooting and climbing and making the trap. Determined as she was, she was still only Sassa, an 8 year old girl, level 1.
That was the last day of being that.
When she closed her eyes she could choose to level up. It was her first time seeing the options and Sassa had no idea what a hunter needed. Strength, agility and dexterity offered 5 points should she choose to improve them. Speed would give 3, just like mind and vitality. Assuming that more status points would be better, since she could only choose to improve three stats, Sassa selected strength, agility and dexterity.
She also found out about her own status values. An NPC child at the age of 8 had only 4 points in each stat, but she had gained 2 bonus points in mind, 3 in strength, 5 in vitality, 1 in speed, 3 in dexterity and 4 in agility. Sassa had no idea how.
There was no history to check and she had nothing but the most basic information, nobody to ask or any book to read up on how statusmpoints worked. But she did understand that somehow she managed to take the right path.
When she woke again her little body had changed. Sassa felt a rush of power, of excitement, as though she could take on the whole world. It faded quickly, but that first taste was enough for an emotionally inexperienced blank slate to form the feverent wish to feel it again.
Sassa wanted that high, that feeling that made her truly believe that if she just wished for it she could have flown up, high into the sky.
She wanted it, needed it, that rush that made her feel so alive.