The Solitary Arrow Ch. 10bymack_the_knife©
The next morning was rainy, and the lowering thunderclouds did little to improve that, drowning the countryside in sequential torrents of heavy summer rains. The dark mood of it sank into Harlen's heart. When it was like this, he could not work, and his work was him. Or, at least it had been. He sat in his little workroom at midmorning when Hyandai entered, dressed in one of his mother's old work dresses. She was carrying a large bowl of fruit, all pre-skinned and cut into little chunks. She asked about the various stages of tanning and preparation of skins as he worked, and popped pieces of different fruit into his mouth as he talked. She was slightly disturbed at some of the more gruesome details of tannery, such as where one obtains ammonia for sterilizing the skins and killing all the meat still attached.
"I never knew where the tanner's got their base materials." She said, eyeing the vat in the corner of his tannery dubiously.
Harlen chuckled and said, "Perhaps elven tanners get theirs from another source." He picked up another half-done skin and dropped it into the large vat before closing the airtight lid. "Though I wager they get it the same way but don't tell anyone."
She curled her nose at that thought, then fed him a chunk of 'bananana.' She enjoyed saying it so much she figured she could get away with an extra 'na' in there. Trevir was in and out grabbing this implement or that, then retreating to the back courtyard, he was taking advantage in a break in the rain to work on something. Harlen was curious what he was doing, and Hyandai was as well, but he had asked them to not peek, so they did not.
Harlen offered to let her try her hand at scraping, but she balked at the sharpness of the blade, and said, "I would cut through it or ruin it, and those pelts are worth much to your people." She added, "I will try my hand at small things, when you get rabbit skins or something, where I can make up to you any mistakes I may make in a single night."
He smiled and nodded at that, wishing fervently that she would ruin a very good skin if she were planning on 'making up for mistakes' in the way he was thinking. He watched her deft fingers, though and figured she would not make such mistakes at all, her manual agility was amazing. He often watched her idly performing tricks with those tiny fingers that he could barely manage with precise tools crafted for the purpose.
The thing he most enjoyed was when she found his records. She had seen the dismal state of his financial and transaction records and had flown into a near rage. Apparently, scribes were wroth to let people keep poor records. She had immediately taken his entire chest of small documents and a few hand-penned ledgers and sat down at his second work bench. She wielded quill and ink like a master swordsman, ripping through his shabby accounting like a troll through a goblin camp. Three hours later, she presented him with a single ledger. When he opened it, he gasped in dismay, the records were all now in elven, and used elven arithmetic, as well.
"What in blazes am I to do with these?" He asked, trying to stifle a laugh. "And when the Duke's assessor comes by he will surely throw a fit when he must retain a translator to decipher my records."
She smiled. "Elven math is easier to do, actually, and the assessor probably already knows that." She showed him the finely-drawn characters. "Your people have yet to fully accept the concept of zero, which is amazingly useful. I will one day teach it to you." Harlen nodded with suspicious eyes, but folded the book closed. "And what is the verdict, my love, am I wealthy enough for your tastes?"
She grinned, her secret having been found out. "I did not wish to inquire as to your wealth or lack thereof, but if put to it, I would say more than." She opened his ledger back up. "According to your records, you have over a thousand marks in the ducal vault, as well as the near thousand you keep here."
He nodded. "The duke does this for his people, to ensure against robbery or accident." He smiled. "He is not a bad man, despite what you think from my welted back."
She touched his wide back. "I know. I have spoken to Trevir about him, and the lad says he's something of a hero."
Harlen chuckled, "I wouldn't say hero, but a decent enough man. Unlike some nobles, he does not get overly involved in the day-to-day events of the Duchy. He mostly leaves us alone and we prosper...and send him taxes."
She smiled. "That is a very elven way of governing." She said. "I suppose the proximity of Windir to this land has had some influence, even with our sealing the borders."
At noon, the two broke from the workroom and went back into the common. Trevir was just scampering through, with another load of tools in his hands. "I am almost finished, Miss Hyandai!" He said excitedly as he ran through.
"Do you know what he's doing?" Harlen asked her.
She shook her head slowly, but smiled at Trevir's exuberance.
Harlen watched as he went through the bathing room door, dropping a small file as he did so, then recovering it with a hand shot back through the crack in the door. "He is a good lad." He said. "I am glad I could help him, at the least."
Hyandai hugged him. "He will be a good man, too." She agreed and kissed his cheek. "Like his mentor."
He looked down at her, so small beside him, but she controlled him as surely as a puppet master at the fair. If she chose to pull a string of his heart, he would dance to the tune she set. She was looking up at him, as well, thinking similar thoughts. He wondered what he had done to earn the love of a woman, especially an elven maiden. That, he knew from legend, was no small task, for they were not wont to give their love to a human, short-lived and clumsy things that they were. But he had managed it, and was not sure how, for if he knew, he could grow truly wealthy in advising other hopeful men.
He squeezed her narrow waist, and she pressed to him. "On the day following tomorrow, the Sorceress said." She whispered to him. "I will be sound again." Then she looked up at him a second time. "Then you can make me hurt a few days, no?"
Harlen chuckled at her boldness. She went through bouts of that, he was noticing. One moment she was a shy child, then the next a bold and wanton woman. He supposed it had to do with the 'fey,' as she called it. It was part of her, and he had to accept it. It was what helped her make statements like that, but it was also what guided her to terrify and offend Trevir the other morning, as well. He kissed her brow and sighed.
Trevir came back in, carrying a large armload of Harlen's tools and said, "It's done!" And went into the workroom to put them away. The couple looked at one another and awaited his return. A moment later he did so, quivering in excitement. "Come see!" He said and went through the bathing room door.
The couple followed, watching him scamper ahead and passed through the large bathing room, with its huge wooden tub. Hyanda had become enamored of the tub, with its scalding water and its luxurious depth. She bathed nightly, if time permitted, after Trevir had gone to bed.
They entered the back yard behind him, and he pointed to the corner of the court, under a particularly large oak that was wedged between a willow and a elm. The three trees formed a sort of cul-de-sac between them, and he had built his little project there. Its construction was crude and rudimentary, but Hyandai recognized it right off. It was a prayer shrine, an elven prayer shrine. She gasped at it, and held her hand over her mouth. Then she had to fight back the tears she wanted to weep for joy. The lad had built this for her and, obviously, no one else.
She walked up to it and looked it over. It was crudely built, indeed, but it was sturdy, and was in no way disrespectful of the elven religion. Careful attention had been paid to its dimensions, and its orientation, as well. Due east, toward the rising sun and moon. She smiled as she touched the top. "Thank you Trevir." She said, and looked at him and Harlen standing nearby. "How did you know how to build this?"
Trevir jerked a thumb at his mentor and said, "Harlen showed me from a book." His face was so bright and guileless. "He said that you were going to be staying a while yet, and would need a place to practice your faith." Then his smile widened more, which was impressive, indeed. "So I built one."
She wiped a wayward tear from her eye and walked to stand in front of the youth. It always amazed her how large humans are. This boy, not even beginning, yet, his final growth to manhood, stood as tall as she, and even more broadly built. She put her arms around him in a mighty hug, and he squirmed, but hugged her back. "You are a wonderful man." She said to him as she pressed her head to his shoulder. Her eyes were on Harlen, and her lips near Trevir's ear. Both knew it was him being complimented and they both beamed.
She looked at it some more, fussing over some of the details he had put within it, and pointing out one small mistake which Trevir immediately went to run for tools to fix. As the house's door slammed she said. "How did you know I was missing my practices?" She asked Harlen. "I had not mentioned them."
He shrugged. "I would be, were I in Windir." He replied. "So, I figured you missed yours, and borrowed a book from one of my friends that had a picture of a shrine, the book said elves were inclined to pray at such, and I let the nimblest hands I control take over from there." He said, grinning as the lad bolted from the house with a small hammer and saw in his hands.
After he finished, she declared it now perfect, and promised she would use it very soon. Trevir was beside himself and asked when that might be.
She looked at him seriously. "Do you wish to participate?" She asked him.
He looked at Harlen for guidance. His mentor smiled and nodded, then Trevir repeated the gesture, grinning. Then he stopped. "It's not unclad, is it?" He asked, looking frightened.
She giggled at that. "No, Trevir. It is a clothed thing. Only boys birthdays are cause for the boy going unclad to the altar." Then she broke into full laughter as a look of utter dismay crossed his face.
"B...Birthdays?" He asked. "Why would they do that?"
She straightened up her face and said, with an almost serious expression. "Because everyone needs to see how he is coming along. Whether he is growing up to be a strong and healthy lad." She looked him over appraisingly. Trevir seemed very glad his birthday had just passed.
Trevir excused himself, saying that it was time to go buy the day's consumables, then ran off. Harlen looked at Hyandai suspiciously. "Do they really make boys come to the altar on their birthday unclad?" He asked.
She nodded. "Indeed, they do." She said. Then she smiled widely. "Actually, all ceremonies are traditionally skyclad, but it is not utterly required." She grinned at him. "I will keep my clothes on for poor Trevir, he has had enough surprises from me."
As they walked back to the house. "I sure wish an elven woman had 'surprised' me a few times as I grew up." Harlen murmured.
They entered the house again, and none too soon, as they sky began to fall again as they walked from the yard. Harlen declared he needed to speak to Tammer, and Hyandai begged tiredness and went to nap a bit in their massive bed, so he left off alone. As he walked the graveled road, the rain spattering off his oilskin poncho, he realized that they did not part company much at all, and he did not mind that with her. He smiled back at the house, and was already wanting to go back and be with Hyandai. He fought that urge and went on toward the core of the village. He had things to discuss with his old mentor, and they were best discussed during the day, when the tavern would be very sparsely populated.
"Ho, Harlen." Said the old man as he entered. "Back so soon?" He added, slamming down a large mug of beer in front of him as he sat at a stool.
He nodded. "Yes, Tammer, my old friend and master." He said, trying to sound respectful.
Tammer laughed. "Old, undoubtedly; friend, definately; but I hear few can master you these days, and your hunting skills are now regarded highly, indeed."
Harlen shrugged. "So they say, but I was bested by a mere few orcs, and Hyandai suffered for it most grievously." He watched the old man pull up a stool to his side of the bar.
"Don't be so rough on yourself, lad." He said, smiling at the hunter. "Orcs are not to be trifled with, they're powerful, cunning, and tough." He said. "I'd not cross one if I could help it. Besides, a good huntsman is not necessarily a good man of war." He looked serious now. "Fighting foes like orcs is a very different skill to killing a wild boar, or even a mountain bear."
Harlen agreed with a nod.
"But, something tells me you're not here to talk hunting with me, lest it be something about bringing down a wild elf." Tammer said.
Harlen nodded again. "There you have it, my friend." He said. "Exactly what I came to you to ask about."
The old man laughed. "Then out with it, lad. I've not all day to answer sad heart questions." He then added, "Also, be careful with my advise. Note that I do not have an elven bride on my arm this day, so my skill with the fair folk, especially the fair sex among them is suspect."
Harlen nodded. "I wanted to ask about the 'fey.'"
Tammer nodded slowly. "Told you about that, has she?" He asked. "She is decided on her part, then."
The hunter nodded. "I thought it might be something they didn't share with just anyone." He said.
"Well, lad," Said the old man, "Unless her fey is war, you're in good shape, relatively speaking."
Harlen chuckled. "No, it's far from war." He said, smiling.
Tammer leaned in conspiratorially. "Her sister's fey was thievery, if you can believe that." He said. "I spent most of my money paying for stuff she filched in those days." He looked at Harlen. "If you know her fey, then you know what to expect, though, and I was always ready with a quick word and a quicker purse when she would get cought."
Harlen looked down at his half full mug. "If only Hyandai's was so simple to work with."
The old man nodded. "I will not ask you, Harlen, what it might be, for some are rather embarrassing to bear." He said. "But know that it is core to her, and without it she would not be who she is." He grinned widely. "But I think I know what it is, for her behavior marks her with it. Her sister gave me no kiss by proxy." He said, smiling. "Her fey is love, lust, or romance, or I'm a wet-eared whelp."
Harlen nodded. "But it is just how she is then." He said. "Then I don't want to do anything about it, including make her behave against its nature."
Tammer's hand laid on his own on the counter. "It'd be like her asking you to stop being a man and wear a dress and squeeze out pups." He grinned widely again. "And, by the One, I'll shoot you myself if I see you in a dress."
The hunter finished his beer, and payed Tammer despite his protests. He took his leave of his old friend, and headed back for his home. On the way he stopped to speak to a couple of the other hunters who were in town trading, they stood together under a porch that ran the front of one of the general goods stores, and they discussed more of the events and of how the orcs had grown more bold of late. It was decided that they would soon send an envoy to the duke to petition him to spare some troops to 'thin the herd.'
He arrived home just before the evening meal time, and smelled venison cooking, and vegetables, maybe squash, being boiled. He walked toward the kitchen to find Hyandai there, wearing an apron about her waist. His heart nearly burst at that image of domestic normalcy. "Did you and Tammer have a good talk?" She asked, smiling at him and stirring the small pot of squash.
"Indeed, we did." He replied, putting his arms about her from behind and kissing her neck. She wriggled in his grip, but did not protest, or try to move. "I don't wish to turn you into a normal housewife, my lover, but by the One, you look marvelous in that apron." He whispered into her ear.
She leaned back and kissed his earlobe. "Perhaps, tomorrow, I will wear just it, then." She whispered. Then she enjoyed the reaction, smiling softly as he pressed to her and she felt him harden. She was teasing him, she knew it, and she liked doing it.
Trevir walked in and said. "Ech. You two have a room, don't you?" His face registered mock distaste.
Hyandai turned slipped from Harlen and turned on the lad, she managed to grab his chest and she hugged him close, pecking him about the face with little kisses, making a huge amount of racket with her smacking sounds. He squirmed and giggled at her, and thoroughly enjoyed the attention, whatever the cause. Finally, she let him go and he pretended to wipe his cheek. "She's dangerous, that one is." He laughed.
The elf went back to stirring the pot and winked at him. "You know you like it." She said over her shoulder.
"No I don't." He said unconvincingly, mainly due to the deep crimson he had turned over the last thirty seconds. Harlen ruffled his hair and asked if he was done with loading up the wood boxes and the boy shuffled off.
He kissed Hyandai's neck. "You're going to give the poor boy some very strange ideas about girls." He said as he nuzzled into her hair.
"Like what, pray tell?" She asked, smiling and tilting her head to give him more neck to nuzzle. "That we like boys and we give them kisses?" She said.
Harlen shrugged. "And that they're all incredibly beautiful and mind-numbingly friendly." He said, kissing her shoulder.
"We are." She said, and picked up the pot and dumped the stewed squash into a bowl. "All of us are friendly if the man is worth it."
The three of them ate their dinner, and enjoyed some light conversation later. Harlen discussed his plans in the near future to start Trevir coming on his hunting trips into the wood. The lad seemed to be good enough with the bow now, and he was itching to actually try to shoot something, enough so that the neighbors were beginning to fear for their pets' safety.
Hyandai and Trevir did the dishes after the meal and she sent him off for the evening. She gave him a kiss on his cheek as he left, when Harlen was not watching, and he definitely did not wipe it off, she noted.
The rain continued into the night as the couple prepared for bed. Hyandai smiled as Harlen disrobed. "My lover, I would like to pleasure you tonight." She said, eyeing his manhood as he pulled off his pants.
"I'm not one to say no to a direct request." He said, his own mouth turning up in a wide smile.
She laid on the bed as he crawled up beside her. They began kissing and touching one another, gently exploring each other with their hands and fingertips and mouths. He loved the feel of her smooth skin and silky hair under his touch. She liked his coarseness of hair, and his tanned skin, she was even beginning to like his many small and large scars. Harlen had received a great number of injuries throughout his life, she saw. She wanted to kiss each of them as she found them. The elf wished she could make them forgotten and disappear.
As they moved about each other, Harlen had managed to find one of her small knees, and was kissing up her thigh from it. He was halfway to her groin when she said, "I was going to pleasure you." Her frown was utterly unconvincing and he grinned up at her.
"I guess you can do that." He said. "After I'm done." He added, and continued his exploration with his lips and tongue. As he neared her entrance, she touched his hair, and ran her fingers into it. She could feel his warm breath on her labia, then she felt the gentle caress of his tongue on them, then over her clitoris. She moaned softly and laid back, still holding his hair.