“Elarinya,” said Rinion, “I have chosen you because you have gained favor among our people. Maldor, the blacksmith’s son, has your portrait on display in his studio window. The prince has seen it and is captured by your beauty. He knows that behind your graceful figure burns a fiery spirit. He can tell by looking at a person what their personality is like. You have gained his favor as well.”
“Do you accept the King’s offer,” asked Habriston. Elarinya’s thoights raced around in her head. `If I agree to his offer, I will help my village. But then Maldor and I can never be together. If I don’t, I can be with Maldor, but my village will be in jeopardy.’ “I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it for a while.” She left the room and ran out of the house, her eyes wet with tears.
The soft pounding of her slippers on the dirt road echoed in her head as well as the pounding of her heart. She ran down the road to the blacksmith. The sound of a hammer pounding metal rang through the air. She walked inside the shop and found Maldor forging a sword. His skin glistened with beads of sweat as he pounded the white-hot blade. Strands of hair escaped his ponytail and clung to his forehead. “Maldor,” she said. Maldor put the hammer down and wiped the sweat from his brow. He wiped the ash from his hands and tossed the rag aside. “Alqua, my swan,” he said as he reached for her hand. He grasped it and pulled her close. He gently pressed his thumbs against her cheeks and wiped away her tears. “Don’t cry, Elarinya. I’m here.” Elarinya rested her head on his chest. “Now,” said Maldor, “tell me what’s wrong.”
“King Thranduril has offered an alliance with our village in our fight against the North. But-“
“That’s wonderful!” exclaimed Maldor, “You should be happy.”
“But,” she began again, “for the alliance to be formed, I must give my hand in marriage to Prince Legolas. I want to help my people, but I don’t want to lose you.” Maldor stroked her hair. “I don’t want to lose you either,” he said. “But, you know what you must do.”
“Yes, I know, but I fear that my love for you will be too strong and put my people in jeopardy. I wish this was all a lie.” Tears began to stream down her cheeks once more. “I don’t want to be a princess. I’d rather be a blacksmith’s wife, your wife.” Her mother’s voice called out her name. It was getting closer to the blacksmith shop. “Oh shoot,” said Elarinya. “Quick, hide!” She dragged Maldor behind a large pillar with her and waited until her mother passed by before emerging from their hiding place. “Maldor, I must return home.”
“I understand, Elarinya,” said Maldor.
“But, no matter matter what, I will always love you. I want you to always remember that, okay?”
“Okay,” replied Maldor. “One more kiss, for old times’ sake.” He took her in his arms once again and kissed her firmly on the mouth. Despite his sweet scent, Elarinya could feel his sorrow behind the kiss. Maldor’s lips left her own, but he still held her in an embrace. “I love you, Maldor,” she said.
“I love you too, my swan,” said Maldor, his brown eyes filled with grief. They released each other from the embrace and Maldor picked up a small wooden box off the table. “I made this for you,” he said as he opened the box. Inside was a beautiful choker necklace of black velveteen ribbon with a silver rose dangling from the center. “I spent hours putting together each individual petal on the rose. I wanted it to be as beautiful as you.” Maldor tied the necklace around her neck. Elarinya fingered the rose and felt the velveteen. “Maldor, it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed. “Thank you. Now, I have something to give you as well.” She drew from her sleeve a long white knife with the inscription:
I am Alqua,
The Swan of Mirkwood,
Slayer of dragons and friend of Man.
To Maldor I pledge my love
Forever and for always.
Maldor ran the blade lightly along his finger. “Amazing craftsmanship. Thank you, Elarinya.” He put the knife on the table beside the small wooden box and embraced her. “I love you.”
Aranethon walked down the road with a slip of paper in hand. His father had sent him to run an errand at the blacksmith’s. He read off the piece of paper that his father had scribbled his task on. “Let’s see,” he said to himself. “Ada wants me to get his sword and something else at the blacksmith’s, but I can’t read the last one.” He walked into the shop and saw his sister with Maldor. “Well, well, well,” he said leaning against the doorway. “Look’s like my baby sister has found herself a boyfriend.” Menelwen pulled away from Maldor’s arms. “Not now, Aranethon,” she said.
“I see,” said her brother. “I can see that you two are having your fun in this dark, cozy space.”
“I said not now, Aranethon,” said Elarinya, her voice rising in tone.
“Fine, whatever. You guys just keep on going. I’ll just grab my father’s sword and leave.”
“I believe she said that now is not the time!” exclaimed Maldor. He grabbed the knife off the table and held it in front of Aranethon’s face. “Now back off, or else!”Aranethon laughed.
“A little testy now, aren’t we?” he teased. “I just came to run an errand for my father. Is his sword ready?” Maldor put down the knife. “Yeah, it’s ready,” he mumbled angrily. He shoved a sheathed sword into his hands. “Here’s your sword.”
“Great. Uh, Ada wanted me to pick up another thing, but I can’t read what he wrote.” Elarinya snatched the note from his hand.
“Says here that he wants you to pick up his sword and…” Her eyes widened. “What!? How low can a man get before he hits rock-bottom?” She shoved the note back into his hand. “Tell Ada that I will return home when I choose to. Sending my brither to get me after Naneth has already searched? I am ashamed to call him my father.” She grabbed Maldor’s hand. “I am staying until I decide to go home. And you can’t do anything about it.” Aranethon reached for her arm. “Come on, Elarinya.” Menelwen drew Maldor’s sword and held to her brother’s face. “I said, I will go when I choose to.” Her eyes were filled with anger at her brother for trying to take her away against her wishes. Aranethon saw what might happen to him if he kept it up and stepped back in fear. (Just because she’s the youngest doesn’t mean that her older sdiblings fear her at one time or another.) “Fine, whatever. But Ada’s not going to be pleased.” He slung the sword over his shoulder. “Farewell, Elarinya. It’s nearly dusk and Naneth is making your favorite dish tonight.”
“Nice try, Aranethon,” said Elarinya as she lowered her sword. “That may have worked when I was younger, but it won’t work now.” Elarinya sheathed the sword. “Go, tell Ada what I have told you. If he is enraged, then so be it. What he has done has enraged me as my actions will enrage him.” Aranethon left the shop in haste. With a message like that and an angry sister behind him, he knew that he needed to get out fast.
Maldor laughed as he watched Aranethon leave in a hurry. “I didn’t think he would be scared of such a graceful swan,” he said. “I think if you’re going to use weapons more often, you should take this.” He held up the sword he had just finished earlier when she walked in. “It’s a katana. A friend of mine from the land of `Japan’ taught me how to forge this. It’s blade is so sharp that even if you draw it wrong, it will split the sheath.” Elarinya strapped the sheath around her waist. The sword hung just so at her side that she could still move quickly without tripping over it. “Amazing,” she said, her eyes full of wonder. “It’s probably strong enough to slay a cave troll in one blow and sharp enough to penetrate the skin down to its heart! I can’t wait to test its abilities.”
“Ah, but don’t forget about me while you’re slaying dragons and cave trolls left and right,” said Maldor. He kissed her cheek and hugged her. “You must return home. I don’t want your father sending out the army to look for you.”
“You’re probably right. I wish I didn’t have to leave. I wish I could stay with you. I wouldn’t have to deal with my siblings or my father breathing down my neck or my mother worrying about our relationship getting too serious.” She pulled away from his arms and headed toward the doorway. “I love you, Elarinya,” said Maldor. Elarinya turned toward him. “I love you too, Maldor.” Then she turned the corner and disappeared into the dusk.