“What am I?! What am I?!” Artis begged, bouncing on her toes as she pressed her back against the door frame atop the kitchen stairwell.
“Right now you are a grasshopper. Hold still, Artis,” Nostariel chuckled.
The young eldar’s whole body heaved with a sigh as she reluctantly complied. “Yes, mother.”
A moment passed, Artis standing more still than she probably had in the past month, before her mother hummed softly.
“What? What is it?” asked Artis with bated breath.
Nostariel leaned over, smiling mischievously at her little girl, waves of golden hair falling over to frame her face. “Ah-ah, you promised to tell me why before I tell you what.”
Artistuion scrunched up her nose and made a sour face as she looked away. “Rainpromisedme,” she muttered under her breath.
“Huh? Really, tindomiel, elf maidens should not mutter,” teased Nostariel as she stood upright and set a hand on her hip. “What did Rainion promise you?”
“He . . . he promised me that if I was five-foot by the time he got back from Evendim he would take me shooting,” huffed Artis.
“Oh? Well you know that he arrived last night, right?”
“I KNOW,” Artis exclaimed disparagingly. “How tall am I, Nana?”
“Well . . . ,” responded Nostariel, drawing out each letter as she picked up the little eldar’s bow. “You should probably make haste then. You are five feet and one inch.”
Artis shouted with delight and dashed away, only to scramble in slowing herself and sprint back to her mother. “Thank you!” she cried, flinging her arms around her mother’s waist for a brief hug before snatching the bow from her grasp, her circlet from a nearby chair, and racing back down the corridor. “Thank you! I’ll finish my lessons tomor –” Her words faded out quickly as she vanished further into the house.
Nostariel gazed down the now-silent hall for a moment longer before picking up her skirts and heading down the stairs towards the kitchens. She could see bits of little Artis’s future, and much of it gave her hope. Glancing out a side window she could see across the yard to Istion’s study where the elf lord sat bent over his desk. Have grace with your little star, beloved.
_ _ _ _ _
Artis pattered down the long flight of steps as fast as her feet could carry her, one hand clutching her bow and skirts, the other pressed atop of her head to keep her circlet from flying off. “Rainion? Rain — ooph!” she gasped as she ran headlong into her eldest brother.
“Careful there, Moriquendë,” laughed the towering elf lord as he quickly took her by the arm to keep her from falling. “What is the hurry?”
“I didn’t want to be late! I had to tell you, I’m tall enough to shoot with you!” she said, her excitement more hushed as she looked up in reverence to the Eldar that fought under Glorfindel. If only she could be as mighty as he!
Rainion arched a dark eyebrow in amusement as he turned to walk with her down the hall towards the courtyard. “You do know I made that a condition to get you off my back?”
Artis frowned at him in disbelief. “What? You mean to tell me I could have been shooting with you years ago?!
“No. But you practiced harder as you waited to grow, did you not?”
Artis pursed her lips in a poorly faked pout as she pushed open the gate for them. “I . . . well, I did, yes. I’ve been practicing as much as I can, but Ada has been overseeing most of my archery.” She kicked at a pebble on the path, sending the stone flying. “He never lets me do anything cool like you and Milloth get to.”
Rainion hummed as he led the way along the back of the long training yard to where a servant arranged weapons on a wooden table. “That is probably for the best. Yes, I suppose some of what Milloth and I do can be considered as ‘cool,’ but we do more that is dangerous. Father does not always approve of our ventures, but we are also old enough to take the path that calls us away from home.”
“Do you think I can take my own path?” she asked quietly, swinging her light bow to bounce from one shin to the other, her eyes gazing longingly at the other weapons.
Rainion did not respond, and when she looked up his stormy eyes were fixed on the balcony overlooking the yard. “What path would you like to take?” he asked in a hushed voice.
Quickly looking back there was no one on the balcony, but her wondering about what he’d seen was pushed aside by his question. “I want to help. I want to fight to help others,” she said softly. “Father wants me to be a lady, to be educated and live a long peaceful life married to some lord . . . but what good is my living in peace if everyone else dies in strife? Long life, and all my abilities go to waste sipping tea and writing poetry behind flowers and hedges.” When her brother remained silent she looked up at him to see him gazing down at her with a warm smile, a spark in his eyes. “What?” she asked incredulously.
“Nothing, onórë,” he chuckled. Taking up his dark-hilted elven blade he dabbed two fingers with oil from a vial and motioned for her to follow.
Leaning her bow against the table Artis took one of the smaller short swords and went after him. “Are we not shooting today?”
“You learn archery from Milloth,” said Rainion. Glancing to her he nodding in approval at her choice of weapon. “From now on you will be learning swordsmanship from me.”
Without skipping a beat Artis shot him a smirk, flipping the sword in her hand. “Just swordsmanship?”
“Patience, Moriquendë,” laughed Rainion. Painting the edge of his sword with the oil on his fingers, Rainion muttered a spell under his breath and pivoted around to face her, poised to either attack or defend. Sparks of white electricity flicked along the blade’s edge.
“Hey!” Artis exclaimed, turning to face him. “That is not fair! Can I not have some?”
Rainion held his stance but shot her a wink. “Get a little taller first, then we can talk about it.”
Artis huffed and stet her feet, preparing to attack. “And stop calling me ‘dark elf’. Father says it is an unbecoming title for any high-elf.”
“Well father has no sense of humor. Not since Gondolin. Do you still sneak out at night?”
Artis made a face, and nodded.
“Then you are Moriquendë,” he snickered. “Now, onórë, attack me before I die of old age.”