The Undying Lands - (chapter 81)

`Three days,' whispered Harma. Ariengil nodded happily and kissed Harma on the cheek. Harma was distracted then, by a friend who started discussing weapons with him. Harma became engrossed in the conversation, so Ariengil left to find Elladan. She saw him sitting with another elf in the shade. They were drawing something, and discussing it intently.
Ariengil walked up to them swiftly, and they automatically hid the drawing, to her disappointment. She did not dwell on it, however, and introduced herself to the elf. He had dark, straggly hair, which sat around his shoulders. His face was boyishly young, with
`I am Falquan,' replied the elf. `I have heard a lot about you, and I am very pleased to finally meet Elladan's best friend.'
Ariengil smiled and nodded in thanks and spent the rest of the day with the two elves. Falquan appeared to be a funny, outgoing and friendly person, and he made the two friends laugh all day. He was very kind, and pleased to help with anything. Ariengil found him easy to get on with, and they made friends very quickly.
The three decided to go riding, but just before they left, Ariengil asked Dînhith to join her. Dînhith smiled and threw herself on Ariengil, when she was asked, for she had always wanted to be included, but had never been asked.
The four set out and rode through the lands, laughing and shouting to one another. When they were leagues from the docks, Falquan started to show off. He whispered something to his horse, which then sped off so swiftly that the friends had no time to react. He quickly vanished from sight, and the friends looked at one another in surprise. They then laughed, and spurred their horses on. Neck and neck, they raced, their hair tossing in the wind and becoming knotted. Their fingers were getting cold, but they urged their horses on, faster and faster.
In the distance, they could see a horse coming towards them, though not galloping. The horse was dancing along smoothly- not too slowly, but not very quickly either. On it's dark back was Falquan. But he was not riding the horse. He was standing on its back, dancing around and laughing. The other three elves slowed their horses and stopped by Falquan, giggling as he pirouetted and jumped around.
Sliding back onto the saddle, Falquan turned his horse around. `Come on guys, I have something to show you.' Then he galloped off again. The others galloped after him, wondering where he was off to.
It did not take long to get there, and it was amazing- as was typical of the lands. He took them to a river, and they galloped through the shallows, heading downstream. They halted abruptly as they reached the end, which led to a waterfall. Falquan laughed and jumped off his horse. He always had a smile on his face, and it was contagious- Ariengil laughed too, and looked at her friends who were also smiling. They, too, jumped off their horses and led them to where Falquan was tying up his horse.
He finished, and then took off his boots, jacket, cloak and shirt so that all he wore was his trousers. Ariengil blushed and looked the other way, but then realised she was being silly, and just laughed.
`Come and join me,' Falquan called as he ran away. The three elves who were left took off their shoes and watched their new friend. He ran towards the waterfall, still laughing, stood on the edge and looked down.
`Careful,' called Dînhith. Then she screamed as Falquan dived off the edge. They quickly ran to the water, down the river and to the edge of the waterfall. They peered down carefully. It was a long drop, and there was no sign of Falquan in the waters below.
`Eru,' cried Ariengil. `We have to go and find him. How do we get down?'
They stood up carefully, and Elladan grabbed Ariengil's hand quickly, as she slipped slightly.
`Careful now,' called Falquan, `you wouldn't want to fall.'
`Falquan,' shouted Ariengil joyfully. `How did you get back up here? We thought you had perished.'
`Me? Not at all! I'm not one to perish,' he joked. `It's perfectly safe to dive down there- there are no rocks, and it is very deep. Then there is a nice climb back up here, which isn't particularly dangerous. Come and join me.' Then he dived off the edge again. Ariengil clenched her fists and flinched as she heard a splash at the bottom, but minutes later, Falquan had returned again.
After a bit of encouragement and a lot of shaking, Ariengil stood on the edge of the waterfall. Twice she was about to dive, but flinched and gave up. The third time, she dived gracefully off the edge, but screamed the whole way down. She landed in the deep water and her mouth immediately filled up with water, but she swam around a bit before she pushed up.
Quickly, she climbed back up to the top and encouraged Dînhith to jump too. Soon, the four elves were in and out of the water constantly. They had a lot of fun, but they began to tire as they dived and climbed. One by one, they dropped to the grass at the top of the falls, drying in the sun. Falquan was, of course, the last to lie down. He jumped at least four more times before the friends called him over. He jogged up and shook water all over them, to make the girls scream. Elladan laughed, and together they grabbed the two girls and dunked them in the river.
Soon they were all having a water fight, but again they gave up rather quickly and lay down again. Falquan sat, watching the three of them, and then he jumped up and ran to the edge of the falls and dived again. Elladan looked at Dînhith and rolled his eyes jokingly; Ariengil just laughed. This time, the energetic elf took longer to return. Suddenly some weapons were thrown over the top of the climbing edge. Then a hand reached up, followed by Falquan, with a boyishly cheeky smile on his face.
`Guys, let's play with some weapons,' he called. Elladan looked up in surprise, but ran forward and grabbed a blade. The girls grabbed a sword each, and looked at the guys expectantly. `Can you fight?' asked Falquan. Then, quickly he lunged at Ariengil. She easily blocked it, and in reply made a swift move, and immediately had Falquan under her blade.
He laughed and nodded, and then fought with Elladan. The girls fought with one another, laughing as their blades clashed. They were well matched, and soon they were concentrating very hard to find their opponent's disadvantages.
The other two elves stopped fighting to watch- every second there was one, or more, clash of swords. Their eyes flicked from one elf to the other as the tempo increased and the maidens became more and more determined to beat the other.
Ariengil's sword nicked Dînhith's shoulder, and the maiden cried aloud, but continued fighting as though it were a real battle. Elladan looked to Falquan in worry- the other elf also seemed to notice the dangerous nature of the girls.
`Stop,' called Elladan. `Stop it, you are being dangerous.'
Ariengil put her sword down and looked at Elladan in shock, but then cried aloud as Dînhith's sword cut her leg. Dînhith then realised what she had done, and a fury in her eyes, which had been there seconds ago, now vanished. The girls looked at each other and their jaws dropped.
`I'm so sorry,' cried Ariengil.
`I didn't mean to,' said Dînhith at the same time. Then both girls laughed and hugged one another.
`That was really scary,' whispered Ariengil in shock. `I forgot that I was jesting with you, and I thought I was fighting for my life against some unknown elf. I'm so sorry.'
`I had the same problem,' cried Dînhith. `Maybe we should put down our blades for a while.' Everyone agreed, and as the girls went to wash their cuts, Falquan picked up a couple of bows.
`These are amazing weapons,' commented Ariengil. `But how did you come to have them?'
`I made them,' replied Falquan. Ariengil laughed, as she thought he was joking. `No, I'm being serious- I made them all.'
`Really? Wow, I am impressed! I thought they were too beautiful and perfect to be made by a normal elf. How long does it take you, and how do you do it?'
`Well, this sword took me roughly eight hours,' replied Falquan. He placed his bow on the floor, and picked up a long sword. The blade was an arm's length, and the handle was about as long as from his wrist to elbow. He playfully swished it around while talking about it. `The blade took a few hours to grind, then the handle is made from a chunk of wood with leather cord wrapped around it very tightly. Attached to the handle is a piece of metal, which makes the sword a `basket-hilt sword' as it guards the hand from the sword in a basket style. Can you see?'
Ariengil nodded, and looked at the sword. The piece of metal went upwards, away from the handle, either side of the blade. It was a one edged blade, but she picked up a second blade, which had two sharp edges.
`Ah yes,' murmured Falquan lovingly. `This is my favourite sword. It is like a rapier, but also like a sabre.' Ariengil looked confused, as she had no idea what all of these terms meant, but they seemed unimportant as she gazed upon the fine blade. `This one took me a few days as I wanted it to be utterly perfect. The blade is curved, and yet so light. The handle and the blade are perfectly balanced, and it is just perfect. See here,' he pointed to the middle of the blade, `I have written my name in runes. That part, alone, took a few hours. I love this one so much.'
Ariengil picked up a bow, which was crafted equally as skilfully. The slender wood was shaped into a perfect curve and smoothed so that it would not splinter or rot easily. Also down the front there were beautiful carvings, which had then been dyed with a dark brown pigment so that they were permanent. Ariengil plucked the string, and it made a loud `twang', then returned to its original position.
Carefully, Ariengil laid the weapon back on the grass, and looked at the other weapons. `What's this?' she asked as she picked up another weapon. It had a length of wood, with a lever and at the end a miniature bow that was on its side. Down the wood, there was a slit.
`Ah, that is a crossbow. I made a lot of designs, and then constructed this. If you slot an arrow right here,' he pointed at the slit, then actually put an arrow in it, `pull this backwards, and then press the lever, then...' he did all of this, and the arrow shot out at an enormous speed and lodged itself into the branches of a tall tree to their right.
`That is a dangerous weapon, to be sure,' gasped Dînhith in awe. `May I try, please?' She gently took the weapon and held it in her hands. Reaching for an arrow, she carefully placed it into the slot, examining the structure carefully. She followed Falquan's instructions, and then looked around for a target. A long way in the distance, there was a patch of toadstools on an old tree. Looking down the sight of the crossbow, Dînhith released the lever and watched the arrow fly. It struck the biggest toadstool, and pieces of mushroom flew everywhere. Then, slowly and with a loud creak, the tree split from where the arrow was, right up to its highest branches and right down to the roots. One part fell off, to the right, and the bigger part stood rooted, but other rotten branches fell down too.
Dînhith turned around with a bemused expression on her face. She looked shocked, worried and guilty, but she was laughing too. `I like this weapon,' cried Dînhith happily.
`You can have it,' replied Falquan.
`Really?' asked Dînhith in awe. She carefully put the weapon down. `I'm just going to get the arrow.'
`I'll make another one, so of course you can have this one,' called Falquan.
Dînhith turned and smiled, shouting her thanks, then ran to the dead tree. She found her arrow, and then had a quick look around. She came back a few minutes later with something cradled in her hand. `Look,' she whispered, and opened her hands gently. There was a small egg in her hands, completely whole and perfect.
`Dîndîn, you know you can't just take eggs. Do you not remember that incident a century ago, and you were not allowed to keep the egg? Put it back, before the mother misses it,' whispered Ariengil.
`I can't do that,' replied Dînhith. Ariengil looked at her with a stern expression, like a mother reprimanding her daughter. Dînhith just shook her head. `I can't do that, because the mother is dead,' she choked. Ariengil looked at the tree and noticed, next to the fallen half, a little blue bird. Its wing was broken, and it was not moving. `I will not leave this chick to death,' cried Dînhith.
`Very well, and I will help you,' replied Ariengil. Falquan quickly unwrapped the cloth from around his waist, which he used as a belt, and handed to Dînhith.
`Use that to keep it warm and safe. Come on, let's go back home and look after it,' he said. Then, gathering up the weapons, he started to walk to where he hid them before; but he trod on the end of one trouser leg and they slipped down slightly. Ariengil giggled slightly, but Falquan seemed not to notice, and he took another step, with the trousers slipping down a bit more. He started to work his way down to the bottom of the waterfall, with each step making the garment fall more. Then, suddenly, he tripped on them completely, and he threw his arms forwards. The weapons fell out of his hands and landed by the waterfall, and he flew sideways, into the water. Jumping up, he pulled his trousers up tighter and waved at his friends. `Well that was a quicker way to get down,' he laughed.
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