The Solitary Arrow Ch. 01bymack_the_knife©
The sun had set, and the high, wispy clouds glowed redly on the western horizon. It was the end of a early fall day, and a splendid one, by the standards of most men.
The thick growth of the forest obscured most of these details with nature's placid green face. This calm scene was shattered by a single word, a syllable that encompassed frustration, pain, and, most of all, annoyance. "Shit!" Someone screamed. Birds flew from their resting places in nearby branches, and a small deer bolted from the undergrowth in terror at the sound of thudding feet and snapping limbs.
Harlen of Morrovale was chasing the wolf he had just shot. He had managed to wound it grievously, and was gaining on it, but only slowly.
Several months ago Duke Anasper had placed a bounty on the heads of the wolves. They had reproduced out of control and grown too bold. Shepherds and even isolated farmsteads had been harassed, and a few people had even been killed, along with innumerable sheep and other livestock. The bounty was a silver mark.
People like Harlen rarely managed to have more than a few coins of such worth in their hands at one time, and that was with careful saving. So, understandably, Harlen was keen on catching the elusive beast.
His thick, powerful legs propelled him like a juggernaut. Pain lanced through his one leg, causing him to wince as he crashed through yet another tight bramble. These shrubs slowed the large man little, and it showed that massing eleven stone had its advantages. Glancing down as he ran through a relatively clear patch of the wood, he saw that his leg was slashed deeply, probably by a broken branch. Hardened by much punishment in his past, this wound barely qualified as a scratch.
He gritted his teeth and ignored the pain as best he could. Blood was now staining his linen pants. He could also see the trail of blood that his quarry dribbled onto the ground and upon low-hanging leaves on shrubs; this fed his will to maintain the pursuit.
The wolf's blood was black in the diminishing light, against the browns and grays of the woods at that hour, and not easy to see.
His heart lifted when he finally caught a glimpse of the wolf, leaping behind another clump of ground-hugging scrub. Harlen was nearly upon it. His fist of his left hand tightened upon the grip of the bow until his knuckles shined white. There was an arrow already pressed to the catgut string, ready to be fired quickly.
He smashed his way past this last obstacle, taking note of a rather wide clearing on the far side of it. As he left the clinging shrubs, he raised his bow and pulled back the arrow to fire. The tightly corded muscles of his bared arms flexed as they fed energy to the bow and the bow creaked quietly as it prepared to release all of that energy in a single, deadly note.
He took aim at the beast's torso when it presented him with a fleeting profile shot as it changed direction.
Suddenly, another crash sounded in the shrubs to Harlen's right. Just as he loosed the arrow, something hit him in the right side. Harlen fell to the ground, and watched in frustration as the wolf disappeared behind the small trees on the far side of the clearing.
He cursed the interruption but his colorful words were interrupted by a stray thought – What the blazes had hit him? He began to turn and reach for a hatchet he had tucked through his belt when he heard a voice.
It was a girl's voice, and it sounded afraid. She was yammering in a language he could not recognize as she picked herself up off the ground nearby with her back to him. Apparently she had rebounded from their impact and fallen against the tree, then to the ground. As he looked at her, he realized that it was but a girl, maybe eleven or twelve summers of age, judging from her height and build. Her voice was a very smooth soprano, though. The words she spoke were foreign, yet quite appealing to the ear.
His first thought was that she was lucky that she ran into him. Some of the other hunters out for the bounty were not as forgiving as he when their quarry is allowed to escape.
He regarded the girl as she reached down toward the ground, bending at the waist, and lifting her own bow out of the grass. She was scantily clad for a young lady, and when she bent, a goodly portion of her backside was visible. Only the middle covered by a loincloth, leaving two rounded lobes on either side. As she started to straighten up again there was another loud crash from the nearby shrubbery.
Harlen thought that if he had wanted so many people about, he would have stayed in town. He turned to face this onrushing newcomer and saw that it was not a single newcomer, but two. These newcomers, more even than the girl, were most unwelcome.
They were orcs – Foul and vicious creatures that resemble men only in that they had two arms and legs, and something of a small, ugly head. Their skin was deep green and scabby with warts and other malformations. As they charged toward him, they were screaming in their guttural language and spewing curses in the girl's direction.
The hunter looked for his bow and saw it laying two paces from him. He quickly decided he did not have the time to retrieve and ready an arrow before they would be upon him. He lifted his hatchet from his belt and readied himself for a very ugly, very personal fight.
As the two orcs came charging out of the brambles, they yelled in triumph at seeing the girl, at last, standing still. So intent on their quarry were the orcs that they failed to notice the substantially larger man standing nearby with his brown leather jerkin and gray pants, blending into the background, just a few paces to her left.
The lead orc was so close to Harlen it was a simple matter to split his skull with the hatchet. His powerful muscles propelled the hatchet in a tight, deadly arc. The orc fell with a short squawk as the hunter's blade buried itself into the creature's brainpan.
The other orc, noticing the motion of Harlen's swing, not to mention his companion's rather messy demise, turned. He was armed with a crudely crafted, and very rusty, scimitar.
Harlen attempted to bring it down quickly, as he had his partner, with a blow to the skull. The orc nimbly stepped aside, though, and brought the scimitar around in an path that would have disemboweled Harlen had the orc managed to keep its weapon. As the blade swept toward the man's gut, the creature's hand separated from his arm, and there was a high, keening sound, almost like one of those tiny triangles that some minstrels played.
The orc screamed again, his face near Harlen's and blasting the man with a disgusting wash of its fetid breath into his face. He had never had to fight with orcs before, as he usually found them easily avoided. They were tougher opponents than he had supposed, though. They were shorter than a man by over a head, but broader, and seemed to be knit completely of muscle, attached to heavy bones, and with a thick, leathery pelt stretched over all.
As the hunter brought the axe back up and around for another swing, the orc lunged to tear into his neck with its jagged, yellow teeth. Harlen put his gloved left hand on the orc's face and pushed it away from his exposed throat. The orc stumbled back, but quickly recovered and was preparing to set upon him again.
The orc seemed to not care that its hand was absent, that fact seemed to simply make him angrier. Drawing a wickedly barbed knife with its left hand, the orc, once again, stepped in closer.
With a grunt, Harlen had already begun his swing. The orc, in his rage, had paid little heed to what the human was doing. The axe struck solidly into the orc's left shoulder, nearly severing that arm. The shock of the blow knocked the hatchet from Harlen's grip, and it stuck for a moment in the orc's flesh, then fell to the ground, alongside the orc's fighting knife.
Finally, the orc realized he was at a disadvantage. The creature was just turning to flee when an arrow came from the hunter's right and imbedded itself in the orc's barrel-like chest. The orc fell face down onto the ground, gurgling and twitching in its death throes.
Harlen was breathing heavily as he surveyed the two corpses. Then the girl's voice sounded again. "You are unhurt, I hope." She said in a lilting soprano. The voice did not sound right for a young girl, there was no high-end peal to it that marked most young women prior to their adulthood. He turned and discovered that it was also out of place on a girl of more advanced years.
It was no girl at all, but an elven maiden.
He stopped turning as soon as he caught full sight of her, and his limbs froze. He was literally too stunned to move. No elf had been seen in the Duchy for more than fifty years, or so the old-timers said. Harlen simply drank in the image of this legend made real standing before him and regarding him with large, golden eyes.
"This is the language you speak, yes?" She asked.
Her hair was the color of autumn, auburn with golden yellow, where the sun had bleached it, and bound into a pony tail, as he himself wore, displaying her elegantly pointed ears extremely well. She stood only to the middle of his chest, and could not weigh more than half his mass, and probably less than that. However, she was shaped perfectly, with gently curving hips and the swelling of small breasts beneath her clothing. Her arms and legs both were shapely with well-toned muscles for all their slenderness.
Her clothing, however, only seemed to cover as much as modesty demanded. It consisted of primarily a cloth half top that ended at her rib line at the bottom and had only two slender straps to her shoulders above her breasts. There was also a short skirt, which hung from her hips loosely and fell only about halfway to her knees. The front section of the loincloth she wore was visible hanging over the top of the skirt. For footwear, she wore boots that were only just taller than her tiny feet and seemed to be sewn from soft leather, probably doeskin. The whole of the outfit was gray in color, like rain clouds.
A slender sheath hung from a chain that looped her waist, with a shortish blade within, from the look of it. She also carried a finely carved bow with a great deal of ornate woodwork in its limbs. A few arrows protruded from over her shoulder, their fletching startlingly white.
He pulled his wits together and managed to blurt out, "Yes," after a long pause. He felt his limbs relaxing and was able to finish the turn. The elf was beautiful, as one would expect after hearing tales of elven folk. Even the males were said to be lovely. Harlen could not help but think that she was must be counted beautiful among her own folk, for he could feel grace and loveliness radiate from her, like a palpable thing. Something akin to the sense of power one gets seeing a bear. She smiled at him, and his heart missed a beat, so pleased was he to receive even that small gift.
"I chose correctly, and I am gladdened." She said. Her smile was wide, and very open. Her accent was melodic, precise, and smooth, almost like singing. She was not mocking him, but seemed to be truly happy that she had been correct. Her golden eyes flashed as she smiled and Harlen could have sworn that she was about to laugh, so light was her smile. "I am named Hyandai." She pointed to herself with her free hand. Then she bowed at the neck.
The hunter stood mutely for a moment. "I am Harlen of Morrovale." He said, finally. Then tried to impersonate the crisp head bow she had done but only managed to look like he was nodding in agreement with himself.
With that Hyandai did giggle. He might have been offended but the sound was so lovely that it simply left him feeling glad for having heard it. An image flashed in his mind of water rushing over small pebbles in a stream's bed after a small waterfall, it was soft, and glad, and it was without ridicule.
She stopped laughing after a brief moment and, with effort, straightened her face. "Well met, Harlen of Morrovale." Her eyes flickered over him briefly. "But you are hurt, Harlen." She said, looking at his injured thigh.
He took the invitation of her roving eye to look more closely at her, as well. His eyes moved down her form, taking in the slim torso and long legs, mostly bared, and the shapely, slender arms, also bared. The hunter had lain with women without ever seeing so much of their skin. It was very nice skin, too, free of blemish or mark and it was fair of color, only barely tanned by the sun. He let his eye linger over the feminine curves of the hips and the small, but nicely shaped breasts. Then his eyes tracked back to her thighs. She bore a wound similar to his own, just below the short skirt. "You are also hurt Hyandai." He said. Then he looked at his own wound, it was not terribly deep, but was painful. "My injury is a paltry thing." He looked at her injury, and blood was sliding slowly down her leg. "That one, however," he pointed at her deep cut, "is bleeding heartily, and you've not the bulk to take that sort of loss, milady."
She looked down and nodded. "You are right, and I should tend it." She said. "Sadly, my talents as a healer are lacking, and the best I can hope for is to staunch the bleeding."
Harlen looked about and spotted a largish stone protruding from the loamy soil of the forest. "Then, lady, sit upon that stone and I will tend it." The huntsman pointed at the rock. "I have some small skill at such things." He smiled lopsidedly. "It's a side effect of the profession I have chosen." He began to remove his pack.
She sat on the stone as requested. Hyandai was watching Harlen with those golden eyes. "If you can do more than I, then I welcome it." She said, lifting her skirt a bit higher to give him room to work, showing him more of that lovely, but wounded, leg.
From the backpack, Harlen produced a small leather roll, tied with rawhide straps. He opened it. There were numerous tiny pockets and pouches sewn into it. He produced a tiny vial from among the pockets and uncapped it. He then knelt beside her, as he held the vial over her wound, he noted a strong smell of cinnamon. He let a couple of drops fall into the wound and she gasped, her whole body tensing up.
"It will sting only a moment, Hyandai." He assured her, putting a hand on hers, where it rested on her other leg. "Then it will go numb, and the woundwort will also keep the wound from growing pustulant later."
He returned the vial to its assigned pouch. He then pulled forth a very small needle and a length of thread. He tried to thread the needle three times before Hyandai gently took the needle and thread from him and passed the thread through the eye as if the eye were as large as a finger ring. She smiled and handed it back to him.
Harlen looked at her tiny hands and slim fingers for a moment, then went back to his task. Stitching the wound shut, working from his left to right, he began to sew the rent in her flesh shut.
"I am making the stitches as small as I am able." Harlen said as he sewed. "There should be little scarring that way. It would be a shame to mar perfection."
She watched as he progressed, her eyes flicking with his fingers. He gave off a slight smell of hard work, of masculine perspiration. Hyandai liked the smell; it reminded her of days when her father would come in from smithing, only somehow more so, with this human. She had always been disappointed when her father had gone to the baths, for it was then time for her bed in those days of her youth. But until that time of the evening had come, he had spoken and played with her, and taught her many things. So, in her memories, the best of her days as a child were when her father smelled of hard work. This human did not really remind her of her father, but the smell of his manhood made her feel safer, and yet, in the same moment, more vulnerable. Each time he dragged the needle through her tender flesh she felt a soft pressure on her thigh, just below her loincloth and she felt a mild current from there twining its way up her spine, like a serpent crawling up a tree.
Harlen was forced to lean close to bite the thread when he had finished his stitch work. As he did, his nose filled with the cinnamon-like odor. It was her skin that smelled thus, he decided, and he inhaled deeply as he bit through the thread.
He sat back and looked at his handiwork. He put a hand above and below the generally horizontal wound, not even realizing that he had part of his upper hand over her loincloth, and thereby over her maidenhood. He tested the stitches by trying to move the flesh of her leg around. The tiny knots held well. Hyandai held her breath to keep herself from gasping. There was, as promised, no pain from the wound, but the woundwort had not in the least deadened any other part of her body, including those delicate parts covered by the loincloth.
He nodded curtly, doing a better imitation, unconsciously, of the Hyandai's little head-bow than he had done when he tried. This caused her to giggle again.
He looked up at her quizzically. "That tickled." She explained, glad that the dimming light prevented him seeing her slight blush of embarrassment.
He put the needle and thread back into their little pouches and secured the roll. She noted that this man was meticulous, something that many elves were not, herself included. He stood up as he put the roll into his small backpack.
"That should serve." He said, smiling to her. "I wish I could promise no scarring. A leg turned so well on the One's lathe deserves to be free of blemishes."
She blushed at the compliment. "I am certain it will be minimal, due to your skilled hands." She said, smiling at him. "I am in your debt, Harlen." She added.
He took her hand and helped her to her feet. He began to reach for her bow when she turned to him, softly laying her hands upon his broad shoulders, she gently urged him to sit on the rock.
"It is my turn to do the mending." She said.
He let himself be seated. Her touch was electric to him, causing sparks to shoot from wherever her hands were, to his spine, to his mind, then radiating out from there to warm him all over.
Once he was sitting, Hyandai knelt by his side, placing her hands on his thigh almost as he had done when he had finished his work. She leaned forward and nearly kissed the torn flesh. A cool, soothing wash of air came from her lips and moved over the wound.
Harlen felt a sudden embarrassment when his manhood twitched, then began to harden. Her hands were on very sensitive skin to begin with, and the caressing puff of air simply made the situation worse. He realized with distress that one hand was directly in the line of his extending and swelling organ.
He tried to turn a little, to dislodge the hand, but this caused Hyandai to tighten her grip and say, "please, do not move," as she cast a playfully annoyed look at him.
Harlen made a forlorn sound deep in his throat, almost like a whimper. She looked up at him. "Do I pain you?" She asked, at about the same moment that her fingers were lifted from his thigh by his cock swelling, and extending beneath them, one slim finger at a time.
"I beg your forgiveness, lady." He stammered. "I tried to stop it from doing that, I promise." He had a look of genuine panic on his face.
"It is hardly an insult for my touch to arouse you, Harlen." She gave him a quick flicker of her golden eyes. "For I know that there was a sensation most warm when your hand brushed between my legs." She said and looked at his wound again, her hand still resting on his thickening erection.
She leaned back in and gently breathed upon the wound again. She did this for a minute or so, as Harlen watched in awe. The flesh and muscle of his thigh healed before his eyes, knitting and repairing itself. She finally stopped then kissed the newly healed skin. The kiss sent a bolt of pure, white-hot energy up his leg and caused parts of his mind to melt, he was sure of it.