By the next day, Lauren grew restless. There was simply nothing to do. Although Elrond had not told her to stay in the room, she wasn’t sure whether or not it was a good idea to leave. He had said it would take a week for her back to heal, but it was feeling so much better already. Surely it wouldn’t hurt if she stepped out for a little fresh air?
Having made up her mind to go for a walk, she looked in the wardrobe for anything resembling a coat, as it was winter. The closest thing she could find was an outdoor overdress, having nothing else, she put it on. Once outside she found the courtyard free of snow and the weather to be quite warm. “Probably elven magic,” she thought. As she gazed around the empty courtyard, she noticed a path leading away from the city and into the nearby woods. She had always enjoyed nature and didn’t see any reason not to take it. As soon as she stepped onto the path, it immediately became colder. The further she went into the forest, the colder it became and the path became covered with increasingly more snow.
After a while the path began to shrink and fork in many directions, but Lauren stayed on the original path, which ended abruptly by the side of a frozen lake surround by ice-encrusted trees. One of the trees had a branch, which ran parallel to the ground, just at sitting height. Lauren, kept warm by the heavily insulated overdress, sat down and took in the majesty of this world of ice and snow. She stayed there for hours.
Her passive mood was interrupted by a muffled `thump’ nearby followed by shrill chirping. She immediately left her seat to investigate. A little ways down the path she found a red cardinal, whose wing was trapped by an ice-encrusted branch twice the width of Lauren’s wrist. She moved the branch to set the bird free, but instead of flying away, the bird merely stared at her with its wing extended at an odd angle and a look of utter terror in its eyes. Lauren bent down to pick up the bird and try to help it. She was amazed to find that the bird didn’t hop away, it appeared to have given itself up to whatever doom would come its way.
With the bird in hand, she started walking back towards Rivendell and examined the broken wing. She felt an insuppressible urge to touch the wing, which she did gently. The moment she did, it was as though she was inside the bird’s wing, directing the cells in the healing process. She found herself thinking of producing more cells to mend the gap between the bones, and no sooner had she thought it then it was done. She then checked the tendons and ligaments to make sure they weren’t torn, and expelled the bacteria trying to seep in through a cut, which she sealed. When she was finished she found herself back in her body, one hand on the birds wing. The bird looked curiously at her with its head tilted to the side. It then nuzzled her hand, as though in gratitude and flew off. Lauren continued walking back, astonished at what had just happened.
Once she was inside, she put her coat back and decided to explore. She passed through many corridors filled with elves. They took no notice of her except to smile in greeting as they went on their way. After many twists, turns and smiling elves, she came upon a library with only a handful of elves immersed in their books. Closer inspection revealed almost all the books to be in elvish. The few that weren’t, were books that taught elvish. Lauren had always wanted to learn so she sat down in one of the big comfy armchairs and started to read.
The week passed with Lauren either by the frozen lake, in the library, or in the bedroom Elrond had asked her to move into. Her back was healing faster than expected and she didn’t need to stay in the hospital wing any longer. Lauren had thought about trying to heal herself, but she wasn’t sure how burns healed, and well, what if this was some sort of magic and she just made it worse? Or what if the incident with the bird didn’t have anything to do with her at all? She also had a feeling that she was already helping her back heal, but was doing it unconsciously.
Thialfir still brought her her meals and he always stayed a while to keep her company, so that by the end of the week, they knew each other quite well. Elrond also dropped in to check on her every other day. She began to trust Elrond increasingly more, and couldn’t help but think of him as something of a father to her. On his last visit, he had informed her that he would be away for the next few weeks in Lothlorien, to visit old friends, and discuss current issues. Aside from these two, she saw no one else, keeping mostly to herself.
Lauren was soundly sleeping on the morning of her ninth day in Rivendell when she awoke to the sound of Thialfir thrusting her door open.
“What the hell – ?” she jumped, disorientated for a second.
Thialfir just bowed and replied, “Your battle lessons await,” then added with a smirk “I’ve never heard a lady say such a word.”
Lauren, angry at being awoken so early and so rudely, threw a pillow at him and retorted “I can say much worse”.
Thialfir dodged the pillow.” I’m sure you can. Here’s your training gear and clothes. Get dressed, and have a little breakfast. Then meet me in the dining hall in ten minutes,” he stated, acknowledging her menacing glares with a smirk and left her to it.
Lauren considered going back to sleep and make him wake her again just to annoy him, but after a moment or so of fuming at the atrocity of the entire situation, (whoever heard of being able to function properly so early in the morning? The sun wasn’t even up!) she decided to heed his word, after all, she had always wanted to learn to fight. So, she pulled on the light, comfortable trousers, a white shirt and forest green tunic, then buckled on the sword and daggers provided, admiring each in turn. She then ran a brush through her hair, tied it, wolfed down her breakfast and ran down the stairs to the dining room. She did all this in under five minutes.
Thialfir had obviously not expected her to get down so fast, for he could be seen staring longingly at a group of elf-maidens when Lauren walked up to him. “Should I come back in an hour when you’re done drooling or can we start now?” she teased.
He blushed and replied “Let’s go.” Trying to change the subject Thialfir noted, “When I said ten minutes, I was hoping that’d mean you’d be down in less than an hour.”
“And what would I be doing for an hour?”
“Oh, you know, doing your hair, putting on makeup…” he teased.
“Ya and miss an hour of learning to fight? No way, I’m not exactly that type of person.”
“I’ve noticed,” he retorted.
With that hey ended their current conversation and quickly started another, talking amicably about any subject that came to mind. Neither was offended by the harshness of the previous conversation. Both rather enjoyed having someone to tease who didn’t scorn them for being impolite.
When they reached the training hall, Thialfir switched to the tone of an instructor and asked “Have you had any previous training in self defence?”
Lauren thought back to the days when her father had taught her the means in which to block an oncoming punch, the memory filling her with despair and clouding her eyes with on coming tears, but only for an instant. Then she regained control over her emotions and concluded that what she knew wasn’t enough to count for much. So she shook her head.
Thialfir noticed her eyes fog over but it had disappeared so fast he was sure he’d imagined it. “Alright, draw your sword.” After she had done so he continued, “I am going to test your natural ability so we’ll know where to begin. I am going to strike at you slowly and I want you to parry the attack in the way that feels the most natural to you. Ready?”
She nodded her consent and no sooner had she finished then he brought his sword down to her left. She swept hers up to meet his with a loud clang. “Good,” he commented, somewhat surprised that she hadn’t fumbled the parry, most of his former students had, but then again this wasn’t the hardest thing in the world, and his other students had been stuck-up nobles. “Again,” he stated. This time he struck at her bottom right side and she again blocked it with perfect technique. This continued for a while until he had struck from every possible angle, thus determining the style that would benefit her the most.
“Now, time for a little studying,” said Thialfir sheathing his sword. “What we have just gone through was an exercise used to determine your fighting style. You seem to prefer one that requires speed and precise blows, as well as advanced technique. In other words, inflict the most damage with the least amount of energy. There are many combinations of attacks and parries that form a sequence. If used correctly, these sequences will disarm your opponent. You have shown a good aptitude for blocking but I will run over the general rules anyway. When a strike comes at you, you must parry from the opposite side, unless it is head on, in which case you would either block thrusting your sword forward vertically on an angle, or bring your sword down on top of your opponent’s.”
He then moved on to specify how to block an attack from all the different angles and named the sections of the body that it was divided into for a swordsman, pointing out all the weak areas to aim for. After that, he went into detail on a properly executed attack, explaining the point of each movement. Once he had finished explaining the theory, a sudden gleam caught his eyes.
“Ready to have some fun?” Thialfir winked at her. “On your guard!” he yelled and lunged at Lauren before she had chance to reply. She blocked him just in time and took up the attack position with swift accurate strokes, recalling the lesson before. She diverted every attack and foiled most of his sequences, by taking them apart in her mind and blocking in a different fashion then expected. “Looks like we’ve got a natural here, and a thinker too,” he commented with a smile, never stopping his swinging blade. ” What’s the matter? Don’t like talking while fighting?” he teased her.
“You haven’t taught me that yet,” she retorted. He came on with a new series of attacks and just as she was about to loose her grip on her sword, he relented.
“I think that’s enough sword fighting for today,” he stated, breathing heavily “You did very well. I’ve had people who couldn’t do as well after a year of training. You also gave me quite a workout.”
“Thanks. I like my instructors to be fit,” she teased, also out of breath.
He stuck his tongue out at her, not having enough air for a proper comeback but managed to cause her a laugh. She couldn’t imagine that gesture on an elf and now that she’d seen it, she couldn’t help but laugh, it looked so foreign and childish on such an elegant elven face. “Now we’ll rest for a bit, then we’ll move on to archery. Lets go to the kitchens to get re-hydrated”.
She consented and when they had had their fill of water they sat down in the dining hall to rest. Between meals, the dining hall was something of a gathering place for the elves of Rivendell. They came here to talk with friends or to meet that special elf of the opposite gender. Today was no different.
“So how come you’re teaching me?” she asked after a while, being a bit nervous around so many elves.
Thialfir just gazed across the hall where a group of elf maidens had gathered.
“Thialfir? Hellloooo?” she waved a hand before his face, regaining some of her confidence at her friend’s state.
“What? Sorry, did you say something?” he asked now focusing on her.
“Remind me not to try and have a conversation with you in public.”
“Because, you’re embarrassing. All you do is drool over elf maidens all the time.”
“I don’t drool!”
“Its an expression, anyway I was asking why you were teaching me?”
Thialfir still looked a bit agitated at being told he was drooling, but answered anyway.”I told Elrond before he left for Lothlorien that it might not be a bad idea getting you trained up a bit, what with orcs roaming around the forest, you should know how to defend yourself. I also remember you saying you had always wanted to learn. He agreed and asked me if I would be willing to teach you, and I figured, why not? I’ve got nothing else to do. Anyway, we’d best be going, we still have archery to get through.” With that he ended the subject and they headed back to the training hall, although to a different section.
Lauren proved to be a much worse archer than she was a swordsman. On her first try, instead of hitting the practise board, her arrow cut the rope that held a rather large piece of wood above the ground, used for strength training*, causing the wood to come crashing down noisily on top of the practise board. Luckily they were alone and no one was in the wood’s way.
“I take it you didn’t like the colouration on that board?” laughed Thialfir.
“What? I hit the practise board! Not with the arrow, but I bet if we checked, that piece of wood would be right over the bull’s eye,” she said, trying act as though this could happen to anybody, but only managed to send Thialfir and herself laughing even harder. Once they’d calmed down, Thialfir resumed the lesson.
“Ok, we have A LOT of work to do,” he commented with a huge grin and set about showing her how to do it properly. He had to guide her hands to get her to understand how it was done, which made Lauren very self conscious, as he had to partially embrace her to be able to show her properly. By the end of their session Lauren was able to hit the outside of the first circle by herself. After Thialfir had informed her that they’d work with daggers tomorrow, he sent her off for a shower, with which she complied, gratefully.
* author’s note: used for chin ups.