“It’s too small,” Kalavai complained. She, Legolas, and Ianithiel were at the archery field, which was actually a large clearing. Once there, Legolas had given Kalavai a bow and with Ianithiel’s help, had taught Kalavai the basics. Now Kalavai was practicing with one of the smaller practice bows, and she was quite fed up with it. It was the last practice bow left, for she had tried them all out to see which one fitted her best. Exasperated, Legolas just told her to use the last one after she turned down all of the practice bows. So she did, although unwillingly and with many dark glares and grumbles.
Through the whole thing, Ianithiel had to cough several times to stop herself from bursting out laughing. On the whole, she thought that the situation was quite hilarious; both Kalavai and Legolas were completely overlooking the only plausible answer.
“Do I have to use this bow? It’s way too small!” Kalavai complained to Legolas for the umpteenth time.
“No, you don’t!” Legolas shouted back. “As I’ve told you a bazillion times, you can use any of the other three hundred and thirty-four bows!”
Ianithiel couldn’t stand it any longer. She doubled over, laughing loud enough to shake the birds out of their trees, which she did.
Legolas and Kalavai simply stared at Ianithiel as if she was out of her mind. Then they both said in union, “What’s so funny?”
“You two!” Ianithiel said between laughs. “You’re both hahahahah! Ignoring haha!” she stopped to get her laughter under control. “Excuse me. What I was trying to say was that you two are both overlooking the only answer that would satisfy you both.”
“And that is?” Legolas questioned stiffly, eyebrows raised.
“Teach Kalavai to make her own bow, of course” Ianithiel replied as if she was stating the obvious. “What else would you do? Argue half the day away and give your father another reason to send her away?”
“You know very well that that was the last thing I meant, Ianithiel,” Legolas glared at her. “You could have told me sooner.”
“Sorry, but I found it hilarious.” She grinned. “You two should have seen yourselves.”
Kalavai opened her mouth, but shut it in and a thoughtful look came upon her face that slowly spread into a grin. “You’re right,” she admitted. “We must have looked very funny, arguing about like that.”
“Humph,” Legolas muttered. Then he sighed. “I suppose you’re right, too.”
“Of course I am,” Ianithiel grinned. “What did you expect?”
“Never mind,” Legolas said and turned to Kalavai. “I would teach you, but it would take many days and I have to go on patrol tomorrow. I won’t be back for two score days.”
“Then who’s going to teach me? I’d teach myself, but I haven’t the faintest idea of where to start,” Kalavai said helplessly.
“Well, I’m certainly not,” Ianithiel said. She was still grinning. “But I just so happen to have a friend who is Legolas’ better when it comes to the making of bows.”
“Ianithiel,” Legolas said, rather crossly. “You seem to be enjoying making me feel inferior more than usual today. And while we are discussing that matter, which elf is this that you claim to be my better in the making of bows?”
“A friend of mine,” Ianithiel replied easily, clearly enjoying Legolas’ obvious humiliation. He did not like being made fun of, particularly in the area of his expertise. “If you wish, m’lord,” Ianithiel grinned wickedly as Legolas turned red around the ears, “I can take you to see him now.”
“Well, I suppose that would be a nice change from sarcasm, so lead away, O fair one,” Legolas said tartly.
“Right away, m’lord, only I’m afraid that you’ll have to endure my sarcasm, for it is quite a habit and habits are very, very hard to stop!” Ianithiel replied, and walked off. “Right this way, your lordship, to your better we go!”
Kalavai doubled up with gales of laughter when she saw Legolas’ furiously blushing face.
* * *
Haldir glanced furtively around, once, twice; looking for unwanted eyes. Finding none, he clutched his small brown bundle and hurried soundlessly off; leaving not a trace that he had left this way. For his Master would be quite mad if his hideout in the depths of Mt. Mûr-Eirdor, the darkest peak in all of the Mountains of Mirkwood, was discovered.
* * *
Legolas’ “better” turned out to be a quiet elf with a hesitant smile. Dayarvon had uncustomary black hair and dark, deep green eyes. At first glance he appeared to have a thin, weak build, but in all actuality he was as strongly built as Legolas. He was also, as Kalavai quickly found out, an elf of few words.
“Dayarvon, this is Legolas and Kalavai. Kalavai, Legolas, this is Dayarvon,” Ianithiel said, introducing the no longer blushing Legolas and Kalavai to the silent Dayarvon.
“Pleased to meet you. Ianithiel, I appreciate the visit, but why are you here?” Dayarvon asked. He was sitting in front of a vine-covered wooden shelter; it was well camouflaged and if she was expecting something of that sort Kalavai would have missed.
“Kalavai is a new arrival here, and Legolas and I were trying to see how well Kalavai could shoot and then teach her according to where she was,” Ianithiel explained. “But she didn’t like any of the bows in the practice yard, so I thought-“
“That I could teach her to make her own bow,” Dayarvon interrupted. In response to Ianithiel’s stunned look, he gave her one of his rare grins. “You’re easy to read.”
“Thanks,” Ianithiel said tartly. “You are impossible.” She turned to Kalavai. “Kalavai, Legolas and I would love to stay and help but we’ve patrol duty tonight, so you’ll be staying with Dayarvon.” Seeing Kalavai’s apprehensive look, she grinned. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite. Well, at least not most of the time.”
Dayarvon only rolled his eyes and turned to Kalavai. “If you’ll bring me that branch over there, I’ll teach you the basics.”
“We’ll just let you guys be then,” Ianithiel said and she and Legolas took there leave. “Now, Legolas, about that bet you owe me for . . .”
“This branch?” Kalavai asked, picking up a slightly flexible beech branch about the size of her.
“Yup. That’s going to be your first bow.” Dayarvon replied, reaching behind him for a leather pouch.
“But . . .” Kalavai protested. She really wasn’t sure about this strange new elf. “Isn’t it a little big.”
“No, not really. You want to leave some room so that you can shape the bow, and some of the wood will have some bad spots that you’ll have to cut out.” Dayarvon turned his dark eyes on her. “Don’t worry, I really don’t bite. Come here, and we’ll get started.”
* * *
Dayarvon watched the new elf- no, Kalavai, he reminded himself, through half-closed eyes. The pretty elf maiden was actually quite talented with carving, but every time she made a mistake she sort of, jumped, like she was afraid he was going to slap her or something. And from what he had heard, it sure sounded like she had a good reason to be like that. But what he had heard were only rumors, maybe she would tell him if he asked . . .
With a start, Dayarvon found that he was watching Kalavai and not what she was doing a little more than he should have, and abruptly turned his attention to doing what he was supposed to, making sure that Kalavai did not make any serious mistakes. He was not ready to face his conflicting emotions regarding her, and besides, she probably disliked him any way because of his looks and if she every learned the truth he might as well drown himself and save her the trouble.
“Excuse me, Dayarvon? How’s this?” Kalavai held up the beech bow she had been working on for the past few hours.
“Let me see it,” Dayarvon said. Kalavai handed the bow to him, but avoided his hand as if her life depended on it. Putting his emotions aside, Dayarvon regarded the bow with a critical eye. All in all, it was pretty good, if a little rough in texture and shape. “Not bad, not bad at all,” he said, and handed the bow back to Kalavai. “You’ll be beating Legolas soon.”
“Really? You’re not joking?” Kalavai’s face lit up for an instant, and then became shadowed again. “Back at the keep,” she said quietly, as if speaking to herself, “nothing I ever did was good . . .”
Dayarvon decided to try a question. “What was it like?” he asked gently.
“Forget it.” she said flatly. “You wouldn’t care, anyway. After all, how could you understand? Nobody does, not even Legolas. Nobody knows what its like to . . . to-” She turned away and buried her head in her knees, thin frame shaking with sobs. Dayarvon’s heart ached; he wanted to comfort her, but how could he? Then a wisp of an idea occurred to him.
“That’s enough practicing for one night, Kalavai. Here,” he tossed her a clean linen handkerchief. “Get yourself together while I make us some diner. I don’t think Ianithiel and Legolas would be too happy with me if I let you starve.” He strode to collect some wood for a fire; it was getting dark, and besides, it was clear to him that Kalavai needed some time to pull herself together.
Once he had made his annual double round of his territory and collected a weighty armful of firewood, Dayarvon made his way back to his camp. Kalavai sat with her back up against a tree, starting into the dying embers of his old fire. His handkerchief lay in her lap. Dayarvon deposited his armful of wood on the ground and began building up the fire again. Only when it had become a good and healthy blaze did Kalavai speak.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I shouldn’t have broken down like that. That life is gone now. I hope . . .” She turned away, and then looked back at Dayarvon with fear painfully clear in her eyes. “They’re . . . they’re not g-going to send m-me back, are they?”
“I don’t think so,” Dayarvon said honestly, looking her in the eyes. And not if I can help it, he thought to himself. “Why? Was it that bad?”
“Why should you care?” she asked him challengingly. “And even if you did, you wouldn’t understand!”
Kalavai glanced up at him, obviously more than a little startled. Clearly she didn’t think any elf other than Legolas and Ianithiel would care about her. She stayed silent for a while, searching his face to see if he was just teasing her. Finally she turned, stared into the fire, and began.
“I was found at the edge of Lord Garrick’s land,” Kalavai began, still staring into the warm fire. “Lord Garrick was married to Lady Birrania then, and she took a liking to me. She was the one who convinced Lord Garrick to keep me in the first place. I wasn’t a servant then; instead I was treated just like any noble born daughter who had lost her parents. Lady Birrania gave me a room in the keep, toys, and clothes, and made sure that I always had enough to eat.” Kalavai stopped and smiled fondly. “Those were the best days of my childhood. But when I was nine, Lady Birrania died from a fever. She had been old, and the fever was just too much for her. And right after her death, Lord Garrick remarried to Lady Siddan.
Kalavai shuddered. “It wasn’t one day after Lady Siddan came that she stripped me of my rank and made me a servant. My differences, and the fact that I knew some elvish, scared her, you see. I was given the most menial chores, and often I was the one who had to go out in the rain or snow to fetch some trinket or another. Lady Siddan made sure that all I got to eat was table scraps, if that. Whenever I was bad and it was raining or snowing or bitterly cold outside, I’d get locked out. But that wasn’t too bad. I could always go to the stables and sleep next to Rowan, my horse.” Kalavai jerked a thumb in the direction of the gelding, who was eating nearby. “But most of the time the weather was clear, or whatever I had done deserved `a more fitting’ punishment. So they whipped me.” Kalavai grew very quite, and Dayarvon had to strain to hear what she said. “On my back. Lady Siddan always whipped my on my back, and her whip was made of rawhide.”
Dayarvon winced in sympathy. He had seen a rawhide whip once, and although he had never felt one, he had seen one in use long, long ago . . .
“Then Legolas and his elves came. I was serving breakfast, and I . . . made several mistakes. I stared, and then I started apologizing to my betters- I mean Legolas- and then I talked again. Lord Garrick and Lady Siddan were very angry at me; Lady Siddan all but broke my foot. Then . . . they whipped me again, but it was worse, so much worse. They had never whipped me that hard, or for so long. So I left with the elves and here I am.” Then she added quietly to herself, “And I hope I stay here . . . I can’t go back . . .”
“I’ve never been whipped myself, but I’ve seen it happen,” Dayarvon said quietly. “My mother and me, we were slaves. And one day, my mother got sick and she couldn’t do her work so they-“
“Whipped her,” Kalavai said softly. “I never knew a mother. What was yours like?”
“Her name was Evelynn, and she was strong and kind. When my father died and we were taken as slaves, she did most of my work. I was younger then, and I couldn’t do it on my own. So she did hers and most of mine too. She stole food from the kitchen so that I had enough to eat, and rags from the laundry so that I was always warm. She was wonderful.”
“You miss her.” It was not a question, but a statement.
“Yeah, I do,” Dayarvon said softly. It was still hard for him to talk about his mother, even though it had been ten years since she had died. He found that that there was a lump forming in his throat and quickly changed the subject. “Are you hungry? I can make something for dinner, though I’m not much of a cook.”
“If you’ll show me where the food and cooking gear is, I’ll cook,” Kalavai offered tentatively. “I’m good at cooking, and it’s the least I can do.”
“Sure,” Dayarvon pointed to the building behind him. “The cooking fire pit is in the middle of the floor; the embers should still be hot and the woods next to it. The meats and fruits are in the cold cabinet in the right corner, and the dried fish, nuts, flour and yeast are in the cabinet on the left of that. Fix whatever you feel like, I’m so hungry that as long as it’s edible I’ll eat anything. Well, almost anything.”
This comment drew a small laugh out of Kalavai, who went in and set to work with a will. Dayarvon followed in after her saying, “I hope you don’t mind, but we’ll have to eat in here because- what’s wrong?”
Kalavai was trembling violently, her back to a wall, staring at the corner to the right. “Wh-what is that?” she stammered, pointing to a brown-black mass that was lying at the foot of the cabinet. At the sound of Dayarvon’s footsteps, the huge beast raised its head.
“Oh, that’s just Ryvrien. He’s my Litharion.” Seeing Kalavai’s confused and frightened look, he explained. “He’s a type of dog, bred for guarding and protection. You see, I live so far away from the elven encampment that at night I need a guard against the random beast or orc that doesn’t know that I’m here. Once they do, they generally stay away.”
“Is- is it friendly?” Kalavai asked. Dayarvon could tell that she was still frightened.
Dayarvon grinned. “As long as you’re not an orc, and you are definitely not an orc.”
Hesitantly, Kalavai reached out and patted the great beast on its head. The dog leaned into her caress and its long tail began thumping the floor. Kalavai began to scratch Ryvrien with more enthusiasm and the hound looked like he would melt with pleasure. Finally, Kalavai drew her hand away and stared, awed. “Why, he’s so . . . gentle!” she exclaimed. She was going to say more, but at that moment, Ryvrien thrust his wet nose into the palm of her open hand. “Oh, Ryvrien!” she laughed and stroked Ryvrien’s thick coat.
Dayarvon watched for a moment or two, and then reluctantly decided that they had better get something together to eat. “Umm, Kalavai?” he interrupted hesitantly.
“What- ohhh, I’m so sorry, I said that I would make dinner, I just completely forgot . . .” she looked at him, fear in her eyes as she remembered the whippings such slips in the past had earned her. Then she pulled herself together and said, “I’m sorry I forgot, but I can make something now if you like . . .” Her voice trailed off as she noticed Dayarvon’s dark, shadowed eyes on her. “Did I do something wrong?” Kalavai asked. She didn’t know quite why, but for some reason she didn’t want to upset Dayarvon.
Dayarvon shook himself in surprise, he had been staring again. “No, you did nothing. I just spaced out for a bit, that’s all. And sure, if you still want to cook, go right ahead.” He managed a wry grin. “Besides, my cooking would probably poison you.”
Kalavai grinned in return, went to the cabinet and began cooking. Dayarvon turned away and sat down on the floor, staring at his hands. He was confused, and needed to sort out the tangled mess that his emotions had become. Until today, he thought, I was just a loner with a few friends. I didn’t like anybody, apart from Ianithiel, and she’s just a friend. Then his eyes slowly widened as he realized exactly what he was feeling. I want Kalavai’s approval so bad. I want her to like me, and I like her. He smiled wryly again. That’s an understatement. Then his face became shadowed, and a sorrow entered his eyes. But that can never happen. If she ever found out what I have done, why I’m an outcast, she’d hate me. And even if she didn’t know, why would she like me anyway? I’m just a worthless loner. His thoughts continued in their self-depreciating direction, but before Dayarvon had wadded too deeply in the lake of self-pity, a voice interrupted his melancholy thoughts.
“Dayarvon? Diner’s ready,” Kalavai peered, confused and hesitant, into his face.
“Hm, what?” seeing Kalavai, Dayarvon assumed an air of cheerfulness. Was that concern he had seen in her face, or just his imagination? “Sorry, I must have drifted off. Diner’s ready?”
“Yes, I made some bacon, bread and jam. Oh, I also baked some fish with some herbs I found and recognized. It’s all on the table.”
“Wow, sounds good. Actually, compared to what I usually make for myself, it sounds like a feast,” Dayarvon responded, following Kalavai to the low table she had set. Dayarvon noticed that despite their different ages, for he was about three years older, Kalavai was only a couple inches shorter then him, and he was no dwarf either. She’s pretty tall, he realized. And pretty in general too. Dayarvon shook his head to rid himself of his traitorous thoughts; he knew that if Kalavai found out the truth about him, she would despise him. No, he thought, I cannot afford to have a relationship. Not with my past.
The meal she had put together was a good one, Kalavai knew that. She had tried her hardest to make it her best, and desperately wanted Dayarvon’s approval. But although he said he liked a lot, there was a mysterious sadness about him. Kalavai had caught him looking at her a couple of times, and was almost positive that deep within his shadowy eyes was a great pain. And when she had come around for the dishes, he had flinched away from her touch, yet the moment her back was turned she could feel his eyes on her, always watching. She was confused and hurt; Kalavai thought that he was staring at her because she had made some mistake or something when she was trying her best to please him. Finally she could stand it no longer. Coming to sit by the fire beside him, Kalavai stared in silence. After a moment or two she gathered her courage and spoke. “Dayarvon, did I do something wrong? Is something I’m doing bothering you?” she asked quietly. “Because if it is, I’ll stop.”
Dayarvon turned towards her in surprise, and Kalavai thought that for a moment she saw a faint blush cover his cheeks. But in the next instant he had regained his composure and turned to Kalavai. His dark green eyes held hers, and it seemed to Kalavai that he was searching for something. Then he turned away and said, “I’m sorry, it’s just I’m usually the only one who lives here and am not used to company. It is nothing you did.” He turned back towards her. “It is getting late. You can sleep in my bed.”
“But- but where will you sleep?” Kalavai asked. “I mean, I don’t want to kick you out of your own house . . .”
“I have what you might call a tree house just outside. I’ll sleep there. Ryvrien will stay in here and guard you. Good night,” Dayarvon said stiffly. He saw that Kalavai was clearly hurt and confused by his words, but he couldn’t help it. If he stayed, he might be tempted to get involved in something that could only end in a disaster. Picking up his cloak, he told Ryvrien to stay and guard and walked out into the cold night. Dayarvon sighed wearily. It had broken his heart to hurt Kalavai like that, but he told his heart sternly to get over it and that it had been necessary. But his heart didn’t listen.
Kalavai had fallen asleep easily; despite Dayarvon’s odd reactions, she felt that he was trustworthy. And she felt quite safe with the gigantic Ryvrien guarding her. So when she felt a cold hand clamp around her neck and saw the leering face of Haldir right before, she was taken quite be surprise. Kalavai managed to slap Haldir with the back of her hand before he had her successfully pinned down.
“Well, well, the wench can fight. Like a worm,” he hissed. There was a growl from behind him and Haldir turned with contempt. “Get away from me, you stupid mutt,” he snarled and struck out with his foot. The blow caught Ryvrien in his right leg, and the gallant hound went down. Other elves materialized out of the shadows and bound the fallen dog’s legs and mouth tight. Haldir turned his cold gaze back to Kalavai.
“What do you want with me, Haldir?” Kalavai growled. She knew nothing but contempt for her captor.
“You will not speak to me like that!” Haldir spoke, his voice deadly quiet. His hand drew back and he punched Kalavai hard in her stomach. Kalavai doubled over, gasping for breath. He raised his hand again to strike her, but at that moment another elf came and said something into Haldir’s ear. “It is time to go,” Haldir said, turning to Kalavai. “It is almost dawn.” He pulled Kalavai up on her feet and began dragging her out of Dayarvon’s home.
Dayarvon . . . Kalavai thought. If she could just regain her breath enough to scream, he would hear. Taking a huge gulp of air, Kalavai opened her mouth and screamed with all her might. “Dayarvon! Hel-” Kalavai did not have time to finish, for at that moment Haldir’s fist came down and she knew no more.
Dayarvon had just regained consciousness when Kalavai’s scream reached his ears. She was in trouble. He set off to his house at an awkward run; the large bruise on his head affecting his balance but desperation lending strength to his legs. He got there just in time to see the back of Haldir’s cloak fading away into the woods. Then he was gone. And he had taken Kalavai with him. Haldir, Dayarvon thought venomously. He did this. Dayarvon’s rage and anger and loss focused on Haldir, the one who had taken Kalavai. Kalavai . . . Almost mindless with grief and anger, Dayarvon threw back his head and howled. “KALAVAI!!!!!!!!!!”