“No . . . no, no NO!” huffed Arylieth, crumpling up her page and casting it into the fire. It landed square on top a pile of fragile black husks of parchment, edged with embers that mushroomed up in a puff as the new reject joined the smoldering remains. Pushing her seat back in what might possibly have been the most docile display of frustration, the young elf snatched up a hair tie and twisted her raven waves up into a soft bun.
“It’s not right,” she muttered with a sigh as she scooped up her manuscript and began rifling through the stack of pages. “Nothing fits.” The first half had been the simplest. Plot flowed, intrigue and the weave of characters had fit so perfectly. The following chapters, though, had grown more difficult with each passing page. Now, when the most important and seemingly honorable of characters were about to win . . . she could not think of a way to kill them. She had intended for everything to be turned inside out and for the truth of the favored heroes to be revealed, but nothing she wrote fit. Nothing was dark enough. Nothing molded the amount of tragedy she hoped to convey. She had read nearly every book in the Bree-town Archives (which, admittedly was not that great of a feat), and none of it sufficed.
Dropping the stack onto the desk she tied up the pages with twine and packed her few things into her satchel. Eruviel’s books had only helped so much, and though the maps were nice, they did not help at this point in her writing. Aryl felt proud of herself for not reading the box of letters hidden in the guise of a thick, dully titled volume, and the most thrilling part of the whole day had been when a particularly petulant swan had chased her up the path to the house.
She needed experience. She needed inspiration that would give life to the last remaining chapters. Fitting on her thick cape, Arylieth closed the decorative iron grate over the font of the fireplace, and swung her satchel over her shoulders. “Maybe I should go for a ride and get captured,” she thought aloud. Eruviel had told her most of her own experiences, but it just seemed disrespectful to pry further than she already had. She wouldn’t really let herself get captured . . . that would be foolish! But if she could find someone with a more devious history . . . or better yet a book full of dark deeds who’s writer was already dead . . . .
“Yes! That would work splendidly,” she sang. Slipping out the front door into the crisp autumn afternoon, Arylieth locked up the house, hid the spare key, and scurried down the lane before the disgruntled bird could reappear.
_ _ _ _ _
Thamon stared at the target, weighing the throwing knife in his hand. “M-May I see you do it one more time?” he asked quietly.
The little brat, thought Ris, glancing down at her brother’s adopted kid. His first several throws had missed horribly, and by their accuracy she knew the boy to be a terrible liar. “Sure. Here.” Drawing out another dagger she took a step back and with a swift flick of her arm cast the dagger into the bullseye. “Like that, see?”
He looked up at her and his hand shook slightly in a feigned moment of nervousness as he nodded. “Okay, Miss Thorne.” Thamon threw a dagger and the hilt bounced off the tree nearly a foot below the target. “S-See? I am terrible.”
Risalra put a hand on her hip and considered him with a wry smile. “You do a very good job at missing,” she commented casually. Stepping forward she walks towards the target. “Care to go one more round?”
“Yes, Miss Thorne,” Thamon grumbled, watching her as he followed to retrieve his scattered knives. Walking back he glanced forlornly back at the target. “I just don’t get it! I-I am bad at this. Why do you insist I do it?” Flinging a hand out in frustration, a knife escaped the boy’s grasp and landed with a thud in the bullseye. “I-I . . . didn’t mean . . . .” His eyes widened and turned away.
Risalra chuckled, not bothering to look at him as she eyed the target. “Cause you were so excited for this when we left your house . . . and I enjoy a little competition.” She shot Thamon wink and threw her own dagger, sticking it in the end of his.
A smile flashed across the young boy’s face and for the first time that night Risalra could see him lower his guard. “Thank you, Miss Thorne.” Walking over to her, Thamon chose a blade, inspected it, and pointed out his target. He hit the corner of the branch with ease. “Guess you won’t be able to keep up,” he chimed.
Yup. You’re a brat. Risalra sighed. “I suppose not –” she said as she started to turn, casting her knife away. The blade sailed across the yard, skinned along the side of the boy’s blade, and sunk into the soft wood. Glancing back to him she twirled another dagger in her hand. “Your turn.”
Thamon blinked at the target but quickly put on a smirk. He picked up another knife but in his haste completely missed, and this time not on purpose. “Ugh,” he groaned, scrunching up his face. “Put me out of my misery while you have the chance.”
Risalra snickered and pointed to the corner of the box garden. “I figured you’d be good –” She threw the dagger, hit her mark, and offered another knife to the boy ” — but didn’t think I’d have to work at beating Rath’s kid. I think you might be able to match him in throwing.”
Thamon looked up at her, a new spark lighting in his eyes. “You . . . you really think so?”
_ _ _ _ _
Clear . . . clear. Feira glanced out the door, down to one end of the hall, then the other.
Okaaaay . . . gogogogoGo! she thought with an excited panic as she sprinted down the hall with only the faintest pattering of her feet sounding in the corridor. Slipping into the library, the servant girl narrowly avoided closing her blonde curls in the gilded door and stood for a moment with her back against the wall, her chest heaving as she caught her breath.
A heavy sigh of relief deflated her chest as she saw that the house library was indeed empty, and after waiting a minute, listening for the sound of approaching feet that never came, she stepped away from the entrance. Using a chair for a boost, she stepped up onto a sturdy shelf of a bookcase and reached over the top to grope blindly through the dust. Oh please no spiders, oh please no spiders. Ah-hah! Her hand found the three-foot dowel she had procured from the gardener and, glancing around the empty isles, jumped down the four feet to the floor. Her skirts swirled around her as she stuck the landing, and she curtsied with a flourish of the dowel to her imaginary audience.
Returning the chair and fixing the few books she had displaced, Feira sauntered down one row of books then another, her eyes grazing over the titles as a lady might have a closet of shoes or a lover a street filled with flowers. Finally she found the one. Plucking the leather-bound petals from the shelf she peeked back around a towering shelf to the library entrance, and quickly retreated to the back corner of the room.
“Page . . . ah, here we are,” she whispered as she flipped through the soft leaves, stopping on a chapter titled by a picture of two knights locked in combat. “Draw your sword before you engage,” she murmured, reading aloud as she extended the dowel before her. “It takes longer to draw a sword than it does to get hit.”
Continuing on, she relaxed her shoulders and set her feet, taking a moment to figure out just what angle to point her front foot. “There is no middle-ground nor compromise . . . .” Careful not to strike a marble likeness of a swan set up on the end of a bookshelf, Feira attacked forward at an imaginary Black Rose, the prized book on swordsmanship a shield in her off-hand.