tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Solitary Arrow Ch. 03

The Solitary Arrow Ch. 03

bymack_the_knife©

The next morning found Hyandai awake before Harlen again. She laid there a moment, enjoying herself being held. She smiled to herself, thinking that she would not mind waking this way many, many more times. His strong arms were wrapped around her from beneath and above, and she was pulled tight to him. She knew that they had not been thus all night, but were certainly in this very position for much of it. Her hand stroked the forearm nearest her face, and she watched the tiny hairs bounce back after her fingers' passage.

Harlen moved slightly with the touch and was suddenly cupping her left breast. Her golden eyes grew large at the jolt this delivered to her body. He simply held it and did not squeeze, yet it was causing her breath to come up short. Soon, however, she had become used to the touch and rather enjoyed the feeling of his strong fingers. The nipple on that breast was stiffening under the contact, and the nipple of it's partner was stiffening in sympathy. She moved slightly to cause some movement of her breast under that hand, and the hand reacted by grasping gently, this actually did cause her to moan very softly, her eyes squeezed shut. The buttons on the front of the shirt were large and widely spaced. In a fit of uncharacteristic naughtiness, she unbuttoned the top one and pushed the shirt down from under the hand. The cloth slowly slid between her breast and his rough hand. After a moment she had the soft flesh of her chest completely uncovered and her nipple was pressed into his worn palm. Again she moved it slightly, and he responded again by squeezing. She had to gulp to prevent herself from moaning loudly at the feelings the pressure excited in her.

Deciding that the game had gone on long enough, she gently pulled the cloth back up, and covered her breast again. She longed for when she could let him touch them openly, or when he would want to. She was far from certain that he fully wanted her, his reactions to her were somewhat confusing from time to time, but she did have the general idea that he was favorable. She was still afraid to try, though, his rejection would shatter her, especially now.

She stroked his arm a bit more and pressed gently back into him. He pulled on her, forcing her tighter against him and she actually had to put effort into breathing for a few moments before his arms relaxed a little.

Perhaps half an hour passed of her just lying there, and being held. Then she heard Harlen's breathing change pattern as he regained consciousness. As he made the transition, she gently moved his hand from her breast, not wanting him to be alarmed that he might have taken 'privileges' again. Then he was awake. "Good morrow." He said into her ear, very gently, in a whisper.

She squirmed a bit pushing into him. "And to you, pillow." Hyandai said.

Harlen chuckled at that, and loosened his arms. He brought the upper arm back and scratched his neck, yawning. "That was a wonderful sleep." He said. "I've not slept that well for many long days." She felt him fumbling with the leather pouch and suddenly light filled the small cave. She moved away from him a little and rolled over to face him. "You're so beautiful in the morning, even, Hyandai." He said, giving her a sleepy smile. "I actually cannot believe my fortune to see that face as my first sight of a morning."

Hyandai blushed at this very touching compliment. She had heard elven lords deliver clumsier and cruder lines. "Thank you, my pillow." She said, nodding gently, and closing her eyes for a moment. When she reopened them she locked them onto his. "Waking with your arms about me is my fortune. I wish I could express how secure and warm it makes me feel." The elven way is to give a compliment for one given to you, and she liked the rule.

Rolling out of the bed, Harlen stood and turned again. "Bread and cheese?" He asked.

She shook her head, sitting up. "No. I want my new clothes to break fast, after I bathe."

"You wish to bathe this morn?" Said Harlen. "Then I will go outside to check a trap or two of mine, perhaps we will eat meat today."

She smiled at his exuberance. Then nodded. "Very well, Quesset." She said. "It means pillow. And be very careful." She added when he tilted his head and raised one eyebrow. Harlen put on a shirt and boots and grabbed his bow and sword, and slipped out of the cave.

For the first time in days, Hyandai was alone. She was not at all sure she liked the feeling, and suddenly moved slower and did no longer smile. "Hurry back, Quesset." She murmured to the empty cave. She rolled out of the bed and walked gingerly to the little pool. Sliding his shirt over her head, she sat on the edge, then slipped in. She had stopped bleeding yesterday, and she wanted to make sure any clots were gone now. She bathed for a long while, just soaking and enjoying the feeling of buoyancy. She still longed for the company of the man who had saved her life, twice now.

She finally tired of the bath, and did not scrub her skin, if Harlen liked the cinnamon scent she gave off, she would wear it for him. Besides, the lye soap burned, and she did not want to use it more than she had to. She lifted herself out of the pool and dried with the blanket. Her head turned to look at the folded leather on the shelf. The doeskin clothes. She rose and walked to them. He had said she could wear them today, so she put them on. They fitted almost perfectly, though he had overestimated her breast size a little, it was not enough that pulling the drawstrings between her breasts a little snugger would not repair.

She wished she had a mirror, so that she could appraise herself. She looked over Harlen's goods on the shelves, and saw a rather shiny helmet among the items. She took it down and sat it on the bed, then stepped back to regard her reflection. Distorted as it was, she thought she looked quite presentable. She plaited her hair into two tails to the back of her head and bound them with some rawhide strips she found on another shelf. "Almost presentable" She said to herself. Then heard sounds of movement near the entrance. She snatched up her rapier and looked toward the doorway.

Harlen's head peeked in. "Decent?" He asked with his eyes squeezed shut.

"Yes, Harlen." She said, giggling. "I am clad." She quickly put down the rapier and stood back up, sliding her hands over the front of the skirt, smoothing it.

He opened his eyes and looked toward her. They went wide with surprise, as did his mouth, in a smile. "You are beautiful." He said. Then he stepped in with two rabbits, already gutted and skinned. "And these will be tasty."

She grinned as his non-sequitur, and walked toward him. "Thank you for these." She said, looking down at herself. "They are very finely made, and I am honored to wear them."

He looked her up and down, then did it again. Then he looked into her golden eyes. "You made my white shirt look good, so these were bound to look great."

She smiled at his return compliment, and took the rabbits from him. "I can move about today, I think, so long as I do not do anything strenuous." She explained. "So, I will earn my keep today." She walked toward the small fire-pit near the entrance.

"The fire must be kept small, and use only the dry wood." He said. "Else the smoke will fill the chamber or the smoke will be seen outside."

Hyandai nodded. "I understand." She said, and bent over to stack some of the wood.

Harlen did a rapid turn to face away from the view he had just been blessed with. When she stood, she looked back and realized her error. "Oh, by the spirits. I am sorry, Harlen." She said. "I did not mean to offend."

He chuckled. "Offend isn't the word I would choose, m'lady." He said. "Shock, perhaps, or maybe stun, or even possibly amaze."

She giggled. "I shall fix it at once." She said. "May I borrow your sharp knife?"

He held the requested implement out to her and she cut a cloth from the ever-dwindling blanket. He turned about while she placed it, folding the ends over the front and back of her skirt and the middle running between her legs. "There." She said. "I am now presentable again." She was blushing profusely. "I cannot believe I did that."

Harlen smiled to her. "I can honestly say I can't believe it either." He said. "But now, I'll have fodder for dreams for years."

Her blush deepened to near crimson. "It cannot have been that special, Harlen." She said, avoiding his eyes.

He looked at her, enjoying her minor discomfiture. "While the view may not have been that special in and of itself, the setting it was in made it all the more." He said, wondering if he had said that the way he wanted to.

She grinned. "You flatter me." She said. "But now, I wish to cook." She went to the small pile of wood and got it lit. Checking behind her every so often and only catching Harlen staring at her backside about half the time. She had to admit she enjoyed the attention.

Harlen could not believe what he had just seen, and was still trying to calm down his pounding heart. Hyandai was exquisite beyond any other woman he had ever seen, and to have seen her thus had made him hard enough to have driven nails with his organ. He spent several minutes trying to get his body under control, but kept looking back at her half-exposed rump. She even saw him a couple of times, which made him even more skittish, as she seemed to not mind him looking.

The smell of cooking rabbit meat soon started filling the little cave, and Harlen's mouth started to water a second time.

She rose from her rather exposing position with a half a rabbit impaled on his small skinning knife. "This portion is done." She announced, then took a healthy bite from its leg.

Harlen took the rabbit half from her and said. "It's missing a bit, just here." He said, pointing at the small missing half-circle.

Hyandai looked at it carefully, and then asked. "You want it back?" She opened her mouth, revealing the masticated meat.

He looked at her with mock horror. "No, you can keep that bit, then." Which caused her to giggle profusely and almost loose the morsel anyway. She returned to the small fire and turned the other half.

"I shall let you take a bit of my thigh." She said, pulling the rabbit from the spit, standing, then turning to see Harlen's face trying, and miserably failing, to be completely blank. She smiled and held up the half rabbit. "My RABBIT'S thigh, you scoundrel."

Harlen burst out with laughter. She let it wash over her. He did not seem the sort to laugh often, so she felt she had achieved something of worth when she caused him to. Finally, he stopped and asked. "Are elven men so crude?" The little crinkles at the corners of his eyes were still there, and his smile was wide.

She shook her head. "No, they tend to be cruder, and many of the boys I knew at home would have said something, rather than just look stunned." She held up her rabbit to let him take a bite, and he took one, a huge one. "Hey!" She exclaimed. "That was a larger portion than I took." She smiled at him watching him try to chew the huge mouthful. She looked at her maimed half-rabbit. "Anyway, I am glad it was not MY thigh."

Harlen's eyes started to water and she feared he might choke. Then he swallowed with great difficulty. He nodded his head and made a ring of his index finger and thumb. "Excellent timing, m'lady." He said. "Almost got me to blow rabbit meat out of my nose."

She forced her face into complete blandness. "Something to strive for, I am sure." She said, and then could not help but smile a little.

They finished their rabbit in quiet, only occasionally saying something to one another, mainly him complimenting her cooking. The rabbit was done without being burnt, but with just the right singing on the surface, he told her.

They extinguished the fire, and sat facing one another. "Well, what now?" Harlen asked.

She looked at him. "You do not have something you need to do?" She asked him. "You seem to always have a project or two."

"I do." He said. "But most of my 'projects' are at home, in Morrovale."

She nodded. "I see. You are wanting to go home." She said, her face growing slightly unhappy.

He looked on with alarm. "I wish it were otherwise, m'lady." He said. "But I only have a little more provision and people in town will be wondering at my absence before long." He looked almost panic-stricken. "I hadn't thought of this. But what are your plans m'lady?"

Hyandai had not thought of it, either. "I do not know." She said, suddenly worried. If she went back to Windir, she would likely never see Harlen again. If she stayed with Harlen, she may never see Windir again. She was suddenly torn between her people and the possibility that she was falling in love. "Harlen, please, sit with me." She said, sitting on the little cot.

Harlen looked worried, but sat. "What is it?" He asked.

"I was sent out from Windir for a reason." She said. "My family sent myself and Eleean to regain a lost heirloom of my clan." Her voice grew quiet. "According to the seer, Salanae. I am the one who must go recover it."

Harlen looked blankly. "Was that why you were with Eleean?" He asked.

She nodded. "My betrothal to Eleean was an arranged thing. He was training to become a blade dancer, and he was to earn the rights to the blade we sought. "But the seer said that only my betrothed would wield it." She shrugged. "I suppose we paid now the price of our folly in trying to force ourselves into a foretelling, rather than letting it happen naturally." She sighed. "Now, I should probably return to Windir, and let my clan know what has happened.

His voice had a slight quaver in it when he said. "Can I come with you?" When she looked, there were tears in his eyes, ready to fall.

Hers fell first. "No." She said. "They would never allow you to enter the wood." Her tears rolled freely now. "The few they allow are people they already know and trust."

Harlen sniffed a little. "Then we will go to my village until you are fully healed, then we will go to the border of your land and, there, say goodbye."

"It will probably happen so, then." She said, standing. "We can travel to your village on the morrow, then." She looked at him. "Unless it is very far."

"Only about ten miles." Harlen said. "It will only take us about four hours to walk there."

She nodded. "Very well."

They spoke little the remainder of that day, Hyandai was saddened at the thought of leaving this man she was just now beginning to know. Harlen was saddened because he felt he was losing the only woman he wanted to know. The evening was spent making ready to leave the cave. She looked around and it felt like home, as homely as it was. She really wished they could stay in the little cave, just the two of them, forever. She knew that would not happen, and eventually, she would have to give in to the needs of her clan.

She crawled into the cot that night and waited for Harlen to join her. He did not. Finally, she sat up. "Harlen? Are you going to sleep?"

He was sitting on one of the chests. "I will sleep alone tonight, on the floor, m'lady." He said.

Her eyes fell, along with her heart. "If you wish it so." And she laid back down.

She heard, very faintly, and would not have, had she been human, his whisper. "If my wishes were granted, you wouldn't be leaving me." She turned toward the wall, and wept silently. A few moments later, He pouched the light stone and the room was cast into darkness. She turned over and watched him. He sat on a blanket on the floor, and took off his boots. Tears were rolling down his face. She saw his sadness, and felt the clutching in her chest told her what he might be feeling. He did not lay down, he simply sat there and cried, for over an hour. Every tear she saw fall past his chin was matched by her own.

Finally, she said. "Harlen, please come to me." Her voice quavered and she hated the sound of it.

"Why?" He asked, and there was some venom in his tone. "So I can love you more before you leave?" His voice was a mix of anger and sadness. "So I can feel your body, and your touch, and your soul, then loose all contact with them?" The hostility in his voice frightened her. "No, thank you, m'lady, but I think I shall spare myself those kind gifts."

Her first reaction was to return the volley he had just delivered unto her. But then she realized that his anger was just. She had known her own course, and he had not. He truly was innocent, and she had toyed with his emotions. She rolled over again, and wept until sleep took her.

In the morning she heard Harlen moving about in the cave. The light stone was out again, and the room was full of harsh shadows. She turned to see him packing pelts and such into a backpack frame. He noticed her wakefulness. "We leave in half an hour." He said, his voice was cold and empty.

She sat up. "I will be ready, Harlen." She said, almost ready to begin crying again. She slipped out of the cot and began picking up the few items that were now 'hers.' It was a paltry assortment of goods, but she clutched them to her chest and looked about, lost.

A small leather sack flopped down on the cot beside her. "You can put your stuff in that." He said, his voice was also becoming uncouth. She wondered when he would begin cursing. She could feel the hostility emanating from him. It was almost solid, like a shield. She looked up at him, her eyes almost leaking tears. When he turned to regard her, the anger and hurt in his eyes terrified her. Were he not a good man, he would hurt me, she thought.

She packed her goods away, then belted on her rapier and slung her quiver. Holding her bow in one hand and her sack in the other. "I am ready." She said.

He picked up the heavy backpack frame. "Good, then we leave now." Said Harlen. He crouched and held the pack before him as he left the cave, grabbing the light stone and waiting for her. "Keep up."

She followed him closely and he exited the narrow entrance. He stooped and slung the pack on his back. Then put the stone in it's pouch. She was just standing. He turned, and without even looking at her, set off north.

He set a rapid pace, but not too fast. She kept up easily, and only had a few small cramps. His eyes watched all about them as they moved, and he stopped them short as a handful of orcs crossed a ravine a few hundred yards away. Soon, they were under the dappled canopy of the forest, and she felt slightly better.

He spoke little, other than to point out possible obstacles or pitfalls. There were clouds gathering overhead, and the possibility of rain became very likely.

Lightning flashed overhead a few times, then the sky fell on them. Harlen did not stop. The rain fell in heavy sheets, soaking the ground almost instantly, then running over it. Within a quarter hour, they were dragging their feet through mud up to their ankles. "Harlen, we should stop." She said quietly.

She stumbled in the mud, falling onto her hands and knees. Harlen stopped and watched her impassively, rain running down his face. He stood there a long moment, as she gathered herself up and stood again. She trudged through the mud toward him. Her face was burning from her tears now, but the rain hid them, and she cared not anymore if he saw.

Onward they plodded, and she fell again. When Harlen turned he saw thin blood running down one thigh. His eyes instantly lost their hardness, and his bland expression changed into one of immense concern. "By the One, You're bleeding!" He said, running to her and dropping his bow.

Hyandai tried to wave him back. "No, I will mend." She said, looking up at him. "We should get to your village before resting."

His hands were on her sides, lifting her from the mud, and they kept lifting until she was cradled in his arms, almost as a child. "No, Hyandai." He said. "We will find shelter now." He was weeping as well now. He stooped and she picked up his bow from the mud. She had the two weapons clutched to her chest, along with her bag of possessions. He walked through the mud sinking almost to his knees with her added weight, and he pressed on. Finally, they came to a tree with very heavy leaves, and a dense canopy. It was also on a slight rise, and was reasonably dry underneath. He sat her on the ground at its base, with her back against it. "I am sorry, Rapier." He said. "I don't know what to do or say about your leaving." His face was sad and worried. He fished out a cloth from his pack. "Here, for your hurt." He said. He rose and walked around the tree. She heard him take off his pack as she put the cloth into place.

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