The Solitary Arrow Ch. 06bymack_the_knife©
Harlen excused himself to his work room so that, as he put it, he could try to keep an income, and left Hyandai in the common room. She went through her few belongings and cleaned up stuff as she found needed cleaning, which is not much. Restless, she went out into the front lawn. The sun was getting low in the sky and she figured that there is little left of that day. She walked to the road and watched people leaving town for outlying farmsteads and such. They, naturally, stared back. A few stopped and they chatted, light banter about it being wonderful to see an elf again, and how pretty she is, and such as that. The hour passed slowly, and eventually she tired of watching the people go by, as pleasant as it was. She walked the yard, looking at the various plants in the lush grasses, and at the two large willows that grew in front of the house. They were beautiful, and they comforted her in her disquiet.
She knew that soon she must leave these lands and return to her own, to face what she may. The feeling of impending doom had been growing in her heart for two days, and showed no sign of abating. She tried to sing to make herself feel better. Her voice lifted in lovely melody, filling the yard and the road before it with the ringing of her clear voice. It attracted a couple of passing youths, young, good-looking lads in their middle teens. They admired the sound and watched her as she moved through the yard. She smiled and waved to them, causing them to chuckle and blush. She enjoyed how the humans reacted to her, it's sweet, and very endearing. The song, however changed tone in the middle, and slowly descended into a rather alarming sound, a song of distress and fear. Once begun, it is unwise for an elf to end a song before it comes to its own close, and she did not. Songs follow their own evolution as they are sung, and they can sometimes turn on the singer, like a viper, and just as likely, they will uplift and go higher than the performer could have hoped. This was one of the former, she feared.
The yard seemed to darken as the syllables and words flowed forth from her. The sound was still pure, and clear, and beautiful, but the boys were now gone, disquieted by the general sensations they felt from the tones and melody. The sky felt darker, and the yard was crushingly small. A edge of panic set into her tones, and even the birds in the tree fled the sounds of this doom befalling them.
Harlen came out of the house, and looked around frantically. He ran up to her, and grabbed her arms, roughly, shaking her from the reverie in which she had fallen. "Hyandai, wake up!" He yelled, she could barely hear him over the discordant wail that filled the air.
She looked at him with terror in her eyes. "Harlen, what is that horrid noise?" She asked, and realized it was gone as soon as she started to speak. It had been her own voice that was causing the leaves to fall from the willows and the grass to wilt around her. The darkness left her and the light of late afternoon once again pierced the yard.
"What were you doing?" He asked, looking with intense worry into her face.
She looked back up at him, her golden eyes flashing. "I do not know. I was just singing, and that came upon me." Tears were welling in her lovely eyes, and starting to trail down her cheeks. "I am very afraid, Harlen." She whispered to him.
"I am too, my love." He replied, and pulled her to him.
She went willingly enough, not resisting, but neither did she return the embrace. She instead looked over his shoulder, panic still causing her eyes to flicker this way and that, watching for some unseen menace.
"I am going to die." She whispered into his ear. "It was my own dirge I sang."
Harlen stepped back and looked at her. "What?" He asked. "How can you know this?" He demanded. "So far as I know, even the foresighted cannot accurately tell one's future regarding death."
She wept into her hands. "I know not how, or why, I simply know it was so." She looked at him through her fingers. "When an elf sings another's dirge it is joyous and glad." She said, her voice muffled by her hands. "But when one sings their own, it shows them their limits, and brings to mind that even the elves have but a few years upon the world. She smiled bitterly. "Few wish to know how unimportant they are, ultimately."
Harlen said. "I know how very important you are to me, even if I am unimportant." Taking her hands and pulling them to his lips and kissing the fingertips. "You are important, and for more reason than just my opinion."
She smiled. "I am, in my own limited space on the world." She said. "But against the backdrop of time, I am just a speck of sand, we all are."
Harlen nodded. "I suppose that is true." He said, then grinned. "But nothing says two grains can't enjoy themselves when they wash up and sit on a sunny bank in the summer."
She giggled at that. "Your grasp of the banal is staggering." She said, and kissed him on the lips. "You make light of my woes, and make them lighter by doing so." She looked up at the sky. "I will not yet despair for myself or my clan."
"What is all this about your clan." Harlen asked. "Why is it your responsibility to do whatever it is you're doing for them?"
She regarded him a long moment, then said. "There is no reason to not tell you, it is not a secret. My clan has lost something, a weapon of great power and virtue." She explained. "The war between the Windy Isles and Ghantian City States has greatly reduced our warriors, and we have great need of defenders." She sighed and looked at the willows. Each clan provides for their own defenders and to the king during time of war. Many died on the Isles. The Ehladrel I seek to recover for my clan was stolen many years ago, and we only recently got word of its possible whereabouts. We need that weapon, if I can reclaim it, then it will help the wielder to train others, and we can rebuild our warrior caste." She shrugged. "We will do so, over great time, anyway, but we fear we may not have such time. Rumors have come from the Abian Empire having designs upon the now reduced Windy Islanders."
"Aren't the Windy Islanders men? How is it you concern yourselves so much in their welfare?" Harlen asked.
She looked at him. "The men of the Windy Isles are our allies, and we have had a hand in making their culture as it stands now. We are also responsible for them being as little militarily as they are." She sight again. "We have to help them defend themselves as they have weak defenses by our hand. So," she was concluding, "we must be strong for them, until we find a way to make them stronger."
"What about the Starre Island elves?" Harlen asked. "I have heard they will not help men, but you're elves."
"Who are helping men. They have already made clear they will not assist us in our projects concerning the Windy Isles, which they see as an experiment doomed to fail." She said automatically, as if it were well entrenched rote.
Harlen thought a long moment. "Since the seer saw you coming to regain your clan's heirloom in the company of a betrothed man, they arranged for your betrothal?" He said. "It seems somewhat cold to me."
"Yes." She admitted. "They felt that I should try with Eleean, who sought to become the wielder of that weapon. He was distant within the clan and our betrothal was sanctified by the priests of our land." She looked at him again, her eyes tearing. "But we never even reached the mountains where the thief of our Ehladrel lay."
"What was Eleean's profession before you set out on this misadventure?" Harlen asked.
She smiled a thin, sour smile. "He was a sculptor." She replied.
"And you, my love?" He asked, looking rather dazed.
She squared her shoulders yet her head drooped slightly. "I am a scribe." She said, giving him another wry smile. "My clan sent forth a sculptor and a scribe to recover an heirloom from an enemy known to be dangerous." She met his eyes. "We were that desperate. And Eleean and I volunteered when the call was made, no warriors could be spared."
"You were frightened?" Harlen ventured, already pretty certain of the answer.
She smiled at him. "Terrified." She said, and looked down at her hands. "I had never wielded my hyandai in contest before, and within three days, it was bloodied, and my bow sang deadly notes." She looked up at him. "I have never taken life before, Harlen, not the life of a being who could think, even the foul orcs think, and I had to kill them."
Harlen nodded. "I know, it is ever so for people who are kind and decent." He said. "They try not to become what they must kill out of necessity while preventing that evil from taking their own life."
She stood up and took his hands. "You have killed before, though, I saw that on the first evening with the orcs. You had a look." She said, looking into his eyes. "There was a resignation in them, of having a distasteful thing to do that simply must be done."
He nodded. "I had killed before that day." He said. "I killed a man who tried to kill me."
"Then it was self defense." She said, nodding.
"No." Harlen said. "It was vengeance." He looked from her eyes. "You've seen my scars on my back, I am sure." He said.
"Of course." She answered. "They are unsubtle."
He nodded. "Yeah. Well, those were given me by the sheriff of this land at the order of the duke, for the crime of vigilantism." He said. "I hunted the man down, the same fellow who showed me that cave, for trying to kill me and steal my pelts." His face looked distant. "I killed him right in front of his home, with his wife, and two children watching."
Hyandai gasped. "It must have been horrible."
Harlen chuckled. "I suppose, for them, it was." He looked at her. "He had been a terrible man to them, and she was not overly tearful at his passing." He said. "But he was their breadwinner, and without his hands to work, they had a bad winter." His eyes filled with tears. "One of the children, the younger, died and the widow was reduced to whoring herself to shepherds and soldiers for firewood and food." He finally let the tears fall. "Every month, I send a third of my money I have earned to them, not that it is sufficient, but I send it anyway." He now sat upon the bench and put his head into his hands. "No matter the amount, I will never get his blood off me, and I will never quit seeing that small girl, dying in a cold room, or the widow upon her knees servicing drunken soldiers in alleys for copper pennies."
She just stared at him. "That is much guilt to bear for doing only what would have happened if he had been charged, I deem."
Harlen nodded. "So I was told by the duke's lash." He said. "I was not charged with murder, as he was a criminal, and none contested that he would have been hanged for his crimes." He looked up with his blue eyes wet with tears. "It was that I did it without going through the trials and proper ways, and letters of the law." He said. "My crime was vigilantism for thinking myself as high as the law, and as wise." He pointed at his back. "These," He said, "are not my punishment, they were but a reminder. My punishment is seeing those children as I sleep, and passing the widow when I go to Winlow's Crossing, and seeing the gravestones in the cemetery there." He sneered at himself. "My punishment is living with what I had done to them, not to him."
"But it was not your doing, solely." She said, trying to defend him from himself.
"Please, spare me the justification and the explanations." He said. "I have heard them before, many times." He looked at her with haunted eyes. "The widow is still sucking shepherds, the child is still dead, and the man, who had been a friend, still molders in a shallow grave."
"I even tried to marry her, to bring her here, and take the family on as charge." He said, throwing his arms out expansively. "And she accepted, saying that one man is much like another to her." He laughed bitterly at that. "But the duke forbade it, saying that I had committed a most heinous crime, and not being able to fix all the woes I had inflicted was part of the punishment."
She gasped. "A stern punishment, I think." She said. "And most unkind."
"Perhaps." Harlen said, shrugging. "But it is what it is." He looked around. "I get along fine, I suppose, considering." He looked back at Hyandai. "But I still see them on the ocassion." He looked deeper into her eyes. "You know what bothers me most?" Hyandai shook her head. "She forgave me. Can you imagine that? The widow forgave me." He laughed again, and the laughter was frightening to her.
She looked at him with those golden eyes. "Maybe you should forgive yourself. You were young, and brash, and wronged." She said. "Maybe you did go too far, in killing the louse, a scoundrel who would backstab a friend. But you did not intend to hurt the family."
"Whatever my intent, it is what happened." He said. "But I go on." He stood and took her hand, not terribly gently. "Let us retire to the common room."
As they entered the room, his face changed, as if he left his woes at the door. She worried that he could shift his visage and apparently his mood so handily. She wondered what else lie buried under that idle smile. As they sat upon the long padded bench he asked. "What exactly did your seer say?"
She looked at him a long moment. "She said. 'The Hyandai and the Arrow will gather the Ehladrel to them in the mountains east, their betrothal fresh on their lips and their love in their hearts. She is the Mother Not, and He is the Father Not. They will face down the evil and come to their gain, gathering forth the weapon that was lost.'"
Harlen looked at her. "That's it?" He asked.
She nodded. "Yes. It's not long, foretellings are often is short and cryptic like that." She smiled bitterly. "I suppose its why we do not rely upon it for more mundane tasks."
Harlen looked at her. "It's worse than cryptic." he said. "It's downright confusing." He thought a moment. "I can't make heads or tails of it. What is that business of mother not and father not?
"We assumed it meant they were childless, which Eleean and I were." She shrugged.
"I don't think foretellings work that way. They don't point out the obvious." Harlen said. "If it was in there, and the seer saw it, then there was need for it." He thought a moment. "Also, from what you say, there was little actual love in either of your hearts for one another." He added
She giggled. "Like you and I?" She said, smiling and leaning into his waiting arms.
"Exactly like you and I." Harlen said, and embraced her warm, compact body. "We chose one another, not some fortune teller." He shrugged behind her, making her smile as he tickled her arms. "You can't go ramming the pegs into the foretelling, you mold the words around the pegs."
"What do you mean?" She said, looking up at him. "Mold it to the pegs?"
He looked down and kissed her forehead. "I mean, that you don't force it, you interpret it." He said. "It's not there to be kludged into a working reality, its there to be kludged around a reality that is."
"It's all a bit much for me." She said. "I am just a scribe, as I have said."
"Yes, and I think we might should retire for the day, perhaps the morrow will bring more enlightenment to us and to those words." He agreed, and took her hand and led her up the stairs.
She stared at him as he disrobed and watched with a smile as he crawled between the warm-looking blankets. She then took off her clothes and slipped in beside him. "There is too much room on this bed." She said, snuggling next to him. "I do not wish to be so far from you." She turned to face him, laying one leg over his.
Harlen breathed in deeply and said. "Nor do I want you that far, either." He said, sniffing her hair. He smiled at her gently. "You said you would do that thing for me anytime I wanted?" He asked.
She grinned. "Yes, do you wish it now?" She replied, beginning to push down the covers.
"No." He said, smiling wider. "I just wondered if you were willing."
She kissed his neck. "More than willing." She said, and her hand slowly crept down his belly.
He stopped her hand with his. "No." He said. "I beg leave tonight, I wish to be able to perform that much better on the morrow."
She made a mock pouting face, but relented. "Very well, if you will have naught but my maidenhood, then on the morrow."
"I would." He said, and gave her a very long kiss. "And I hope to have it for a while after."
She smiled. "Perhaps, my lover, perhaps."
Morning found them entwined with one another, and Harlen wakeful. He had his arms about her, and she about him, a first. He liked the feeling of her belly against his, and the soft breath that tickled his nose. They were pressed together quite firmly, he noted, as if they had just embraced. Her legs were intermixed with his, alternating, and he wondered how that came to pass. He could feel her moisture on one leg, and liked that. He could also feel her leg with the soft skin of his organ. Not that it remained soft for long, the thoughts he was having would see to that.
She must have felt him move, as her eyes flickered open and she looked at him, with golden regard. "Good morrow, my love." She said and kissed him with barely any movement needed. "This is a happy waking." She added, then paused and giggled. "And growing happier still, I feel." Her leg moved between his and rubbed softly against his growing manhood.
Harlen, however backed up a bit, and smiled down at her. "Not just yet." He said and climbed out of bed and put on his pants. "We have all day to take care of that bit." He grinned, and went out the door.
Hyandai blinked a few times, wondering what she might have missed, then got up and dressed before padding after him. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she turned toward the kitchen and ran full-on into Trevir. The two went to the floor with a thud and fell in a heap.
Trevir gasped and apologized profusely at the giggling Hyandai. "I'm so sorry, Miss Hyandai." He said, straightening her skirt, then realized what he was doing, and blushed nearly violet. However, his young roving eyes noted the stitches in her shapely thigh and the dry skin along the old wound. "Those should come out now, Miss, I'll tell Harlen."
Examining the mostly healed wound, she nodded. "Very well, I will go with you."
They went into Harlen's little workshop and after a short look at her thigh, Harlen said, "It is healed enough. Trevir, you need the practice, you remove them."
The lad gulped deeply and said. "But..."
"Nary a butt will I hear from you today." Harlen said, holding up a interrupting palm. A pair of tweezers materialized in his large hand and he held them out to Trevir. "Use these, and cut the cords with your good knife."
Nodding, Trevir took the tweezers and fetched his knife out of a small wardrobe against the far wall.
Hyandai sat upon one of the work tables, leaning back slightly and lifting her skirt to reveal the wound. Trevir dragged a stool over and sat between her shapely legs as they dangled over the edge. Leaning close, the lad's breath was irregular and his fingers trembled.
"Trevir, calm down, else you will cut me anew." Hyandai whispered to him.
The lad gritted his teeth and squinted one eye shut in intense concentration. The knife's point lowered to her skin and slit the first stitch, then the second. He continued down the long line of over a score of tiny knots. Finally, they were all cut and he sighed in relief as he sat the skinning knife down. Trevir then picked up the tweezers and gripped the first fine thread between the thin blades.
Gently, he pulled the first thread out and Hyandai gasped as a electric jangle of nerves shot through her thigh and to her groin.
Trevir looked up with concern lining his young face. "Are you okay, Miss Hyandai?" He asked soliticiously.