“I do not know. The twins of Rivendell believe you are a goddess or an angel of the Valar in human form. I have stayed and I will continue to stay until we discover our purpose here. For now let us enjoy it while we can.”
He took me to a cliff above Rivendell where one of the waterfalls streamed out. It was covered by a soft meadow of grass and nearby rested a lush green forest. I could see the entire blueness of the sky before me and the beauty of Rivendell beneath me. He also packed a picnic, and I instantly knew that elven food I could easily learn to love. We lay upon our backs our heads against each other after we had eaten and watched the clouds. I had not done that since I was five. We even shouted out the shapes we thought they looked like. Orlando softly stroked my hair with a gentle hand.
“We will come back again,” he said.
“I love it here, Orlando. I’ve always wanted to live in a place like this. It’s quiet. I have time to think, and time here seems to last forever. I would not mind living forever. Think of all the wonderful things you could do. Well…perhaps not forever but living a good chunk of time would be nice.”
“I have never lived very slow. And the hustle and bustle of Hollywood makes time go faster, but I’ve gotten used to it.”
“I don’t think I could.”
He nodded and turned onto his stomach to face me. I smiled at him as he brushed a hand across my cheek and leaned into kiss me. It seemed even more beautiful to kiss upside down, and a wave of sensations passed through me, and I soon began kissing him back. My hands raised to encircle his neck bringing his lips closer to mine if that were possible. Finally his lips left mine and found their way to my cheek, to my eyes, and finally my neck. I closed my eyes as he trailed kisses down my neck until finally stopping at my collarbone. I then sat up and hugged my knees to my chest as he smoothed my strands of hair away and gave my neck one last brush of his lips.
“Not yet,” he sighed.
“No, not yet,” I replied.
He smiled and took my hand raising me up. “We should get back to Rivendell. It’s getting late.”
It was. The sky was already beginning to darken, and I wanted to do one last thing before going to bed. So after Orlando escorted me to my room, I changed into my light transparent shift, took a mantle with me, and made my way down to the pool which elves could use to bathe in. The water was cool and fresh being refilled every single day. I lay aside my mantle and slipped into the water releasing my hair to its embrace. I realized it has grown longer nearly to my waist, and I dipped into the pool loving the feeling. I had never skinny dipped before, but it felt wonderful.
Suddenly, I heard a voice. I knew it instantly and I lowered myself back into the water from fear. He stood on the opposite side of the pool clothed in black his white pupils gazing at me. Slowly he stretched out his hand.
“Kyla, come with me.”
“Who are you?” I said in a mere whisper.
“Your new teacher. Your new master. Your new lover.”
I widened my eyes as he stepped into the pool drawing closer and closer until he was inches from my face. In my mind, I expected this was a dream like the others, and he would fade away into the darkness, but he didn’t. Instead, his lips touched my own and his hand felt my neck. I felt fear at the cold touch and stepped back.
“Soon,” he replied. “Soon, when you are truly alone.”
I wondered what he meant by that and then realized Orlando was standing behind me. I looked again at the figure before me but he was gone.
“Kyla,” he held up my mantle. “What are you doing?”
I shook my head. “I was…bathing,” I replied.
“Well, here,” his face was turned towards the wall, and I slipped into the mantle and thanked him. “Come,” he took my elbow. “I’ll take you back to your room.”
“Why were you watching me?” I asked.
“I didn’t mean to. I heard you cry out from upstairs. My room is right above the pool. I saw something dark cross your path, and I hurried as best I could. What was it?”
“Nothing,” I shook the thoughts away. “Just a shadow or something. It was nothing.”
He escorted me into my room, and I embraced him thanking him for the wonderful day. When he had gone I loosened my mantle, took off my shift, and crawled into bed bare too tired to put on the nightgown and fell asleep.
When Kyla awoke, the sun was streaming through the windows, and she knew it would be a beautiful day. At least she had hoped so. As she slipped on yet another beautiful elven dress and washed her face, a knock was heard on her door, and a very haggard looking Eladdan issued into the room.
“Prince,” she asked. “What is wrong?”
“I have just received news from Minas Tirith. My sister has been taken.”
“Arwen? Taken?” she widened her eyes.
“Yes, taken by the Easterlings. They came swiftly in the middle of the night. They simply took the Queen. She even sleeps in her son’s room, but they did not take the heir of Minas Tirith Eldarion. They simply took her.”
“For what purpose?”
“I believe for a prize. The Prince of the Easterlings wants a beautiful prize for his harem. This is worse than when my mother was taken by orcs, Kyla. If he commits evil upon her, my sister will die of a broken heart. However, I think we have some time.”
“Listen carefully to me, Kyla. I know of your love for Orlando. He is a good friend to me, and he has agreed to come with us to Far Harad to rescue my sister.”
Kyla widened her eyes and walked toward the door. “He cant!”
“Nothing will change his mind.”
“Then, I’m going with you.”
“Nothing will prevent me either, Eladdan. Please.”
He nodded. “You will come with us as far as Minas Tirith. You can not go to the Harad lands. If the Prince were to discover you and by far discover you were immortal, he would think you are elven. I cannot bear to know what would happen to you.”
“I could disguise myself,” she replied. “I could disguise myself as one of their own people.”
“Perhaps, but I doubt Orlando will agree in you accompanying us at all.”
“I will speak with him.”
“You will find him in the armory.”
Kyla instantly walked out of the door and past the courtyards with their streaming fountains until she came to a small building on the left side of the city. Orlando was there as promised already gearing up for the journey. He turned to her and smiled, but she bore a glare upon her face and bravely struck him.
“Did you think you would send a message to me saying you were gone after you had left Rivendell?!”
“I was planning on telling you.”
“Oh yes, when on my golden birthday?”
“How did you find out?” he asked.
“Eladdan told me. What does it matter? And you are not going without me.”
“Kyla, I can’t let you come. It’s too dangerous.”
“After all we’ve been through, how can you say that? And I can’t stay here. I’m different from these people, Orlando. The only ones I can speak to are the princes. If I stay here, I will go insane. Whether you allow me to or not, I am going,” her voice was strong and resolute, and Orlando sighed rubbing his eyes.
“Don’t get into trouble, you hear?” he eyed her sharply.
“No, I mean yes, I mean I won’t get in trouble.”
“Come here,” he took her hand and ran it over a smooth metal blade of a sword. “You must get used to using this. We may meet with dangers on our journey. I know how to use this and the bow and arrow very well from working on the set. I will use my bow, but you will use both the bow and the sword. The rest of the day we will practice.”
“Hold the hilt firmly or you will drop the sword as soon as you come into contact with your opponents…in this case mine,” Orlando grinned holding Kyla’s arm in the exampled position. He continued, “We begin slow and learn the methods of fighting before moving into quickness. You must also train your skinny arms to be quick. Speed is your best ally in fighting. Attack me.”
She attacked as best as she could. She had never held a sword before, but she sometimes watched the fencers at the University. Kyla acted with a low thrust and a lunge. Orlando easily parried it and struck his sword against her arm, but the points were dull, and it did not break the skin.
“Make sure not to bare your body to your opponent. You must keep your form better. Then comes the footwork. When fighting, you won’t always have the time to think, however. Again.”
Orlando worked her hard from stretching and exercising to fighting. Kyla learned to run well and climb trees to strengthen her muscles. He showed her the collection of knives, and she fancied a dragon knife.
“You see the crystal hilt and the two rubies,” he pointed to the stones. “Those are the dragon’s eyes, and when you touch this one…”
He pressed it in and instantly keen points poked out from the end blade as if they were the spikes on the dragon’s tail. Small emeralds were also fixed into the silver blade.
“Now to learn knife fighting, you must have strength. If you throw the blades to lightly, the enemy can easily grab them and use them against you. Perhaps the Princes will give you one someday soon. I want to show you something else. Come here.”
The young man walked to a nearby tree and plucked a single brown leaf from it. He held it up before her face.
“Place your hands palms facing each other a couple inches apart. When I drop the leaf, I want you to catch it.”
“Simple,” she smiled and put her hands as he directed.
Orlando held her gaze for a moment and then waited for her to concentrate on the leaf. She did, and he dropped it. The leaf gently fell to the ground, Kyla’s hands not even touching it. Orlando performed the same exercise, but the girl still could not catch the leaf.
He sighed. “All right, now you drop it for me.”
Kyla took the leaf and held it up. He did not eye the leaf this time but only her eyes. Ever so gently, she let the leaf go, and it came perfectly into Orlando’s hands.
“How did you do that?” she asked.
“I watched your eyes. I knew when you were going to drop it. This is the same with fighting. If you watch your opponent’s eyes, you will know what he is planning and where he is planning on moving. That is what you must learn with the sword.”
“Good!” Orlando remarked as Kyla swept aside his blade with one thrust. “Now, dodging. Can you follow me with your feet?”
Orlando stepped to the right quickly and attempted to get behind Kyla, but the girl moved along with him with just as much speed and remained in front of him. They continued to perform this exercise for quite some time until even Orlando had to admit he was restless. She was improving very well. Yet, could she match him in archery?
“Are your eyes good?” he asked.
“Not very,” she admitted truthfully.
“The target is not difficult. Simply fix the arrow in your bow and watch the target closely,” he motioned to the tree painted with a red circle about thirty feet away.
Kyla took the point of the arrow and notched it carefully into the bow. She fixed her eyes on the tree and pointed the tip of the arrow toward the bulls-eye. She released the arrow to fast, and resulted it breaking a tree branch ten feet above the target. She shrugged.
“Don’t worry. Practice makes perfect,” Orlando smiled. “Again.”
Kyla took the bow in her hand attempting to mimic the motions he had so deftly showed her before. She nearly fell over when he put his hand on her back and forced her to stand up taller.
“Posture is one of the key things when practicing archery. Keep your feet at shoulder length,” he instructed.
Kyla drew an arrow from his quiver and notched it carefully into the string. Orlando covered his hand with hers to keep it steady since this was only her second time. She had learned the crossbow well, but the technique of the longbow was very different.
“Look the tip of the arrow must rest on the top of your hand namely the index finger.”
He positioned her hand again, but she was startled by the contact again and released the arrow too soon. It glided onto the grass landing only a few feet in front of them. Kyla blushed, but Orlando would hear nothing of embarrassment or longing to quit. The girl drew another arrow into the bow, and Orlando demonstrated again how she was to hold the end of the arrow between the first three fingers.
“You see the feather ridge at the end of the arrow. You hold that between your first three fingers. I know it feels more comfortable with two, but three gives you more strength to pull back. Do not pull the string back with your arm or you will strain yourself. Use your shoulder. Now I want you to close your eyes.”
“Why? How can I see the target?”
“First we must get you accustomed to using the bow. You must feel comfortable with it and almost use it as your second arm. You are tense now, and if you are nervous with using the bow in the future, you will not hit the target as well. Your posture is also suffering because of your lack of comfort with the bow. Now close them.”
Kyla closed her eyes, but could not withdraw the feeling of discomfort still mainly because he was so close to her. She could feel his breath on her neck and the strength of his body against her back. His proximity unnerved her.
“The enemy will come close to you as well, and you could not tell him to move.”
“That’s why I like the sword better,” she wrinkled her nose. “With it, the enemy doesn’t get a chance to come close.”
She gave a piqued sigh and shut her eyes slowly. Orlando continued to hold the bow with her. Her nerves calmed, and she listened to the sounds around her. The whistles and chirps of the birds, the echo of the gentle breeze rustling her hair, and the sound of their breathing nearly joined together. Kyla almost thought she heard his faint heartbeat. He was trying to teach her a lesson. She waited taking a deep breath as she finally relaxed against him and slowly released the arrow. A dull thud reached her ears, and her eyes opened. The arrow was buried deep in the center of the target.
“Excellent,” Orlando praised her though she had not done this alone.
“Now can I try without you?”
Orlando nodded pleased that she was interested in continuing. Kyla repeated the steps to set up the bow and closed her eyes again calming herself. If she were too quick, the arrow would be in the ground again. If she were too late, it would hit one of the trees. Don’t try too hard to aim she thought to herself.
“Just be calm,” his voice soothed her. “I have had years of practice with this, and you will as well. Don’t think to hard on your task.”
Kyla breathed heavily and finally opened her eyes releasing the arrow. It sailed through the air and landed next to her former arrow with perfect accuracy.
“You have a gift, Gem,” Orlando smiled. “Someday, perhaps I will show you how to fire two arrows. But you must practice this every day as well. Now I want you to fire with your eyes open.”
She concentrated on the target and tried her best to relax, but as he neared her again, Kyla’s hand slipped, and the arrow landed with a soft thud on the grass.
“I can’t do this,” she rolled her eyes annoyed.
“You will not get anywhere if you let your anger to control you. If you keep thinking as a failure, then surely will you fail. Try again.”
“I can’t concentrate. You’re too close.”
“Pay me no mind. Watch the target.”
Kyla sighed long and forced herself to a calm. Orlando continued to wait until she took the proper stance and brought the bow up fixing an arrow into the string. She slowly pulled back and kept her eyes on the target. Ever so gently, she released the arrow, and it sailed landing on the outer edge of the target.
“Good,” he smiled. “You’ll get it soon,” his hand brushed against her cheek as she smiled.
Kyla’s heart fluttered as he inched forward until his lips hovered just over hers. Orlando’s hand sifted through her hair as their lips met. Her mouth opened beneath him drawing him in invitingly. He did not hesitate and began to explore her inner mouth with excitement and abandon. Kyla’s arms slipped around his neck, and she knew she wanted this more than anything, but still in the back of her head, she knew she could not do it so she pulled away slowly. He sighed.
She shook her head, and he nodded. “It is nearly nightfall. The Princes will want to leave.”