Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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Lindir yelped and Glorfindel laughed as the younger elf’s arrow flew wide of the broad target to bury itself in the mound of earth behind.  “I would concentrate on your harp strings in future, if I were you.”

Lindir grinned at the jibe but examined his arm where the leather bracer showed a scar from a hit with the bowstring.  He was fortunate that past experience had taught him to wear a bracer and the leather showed evidence of many similar accidents.  “I am just not an archer.”

Glorfindel nocked an arrow and drew back the string, pausing for a moment to sight and then releasing.  The arrow flew straight and true, hitting the target dead centre with a solid, ‘thunk’.  He turned to Lindir with a tilt of the head.  “And that, my friend, is how to do it,” he announced smugly.

Lindir shook his head.  “You have had a few centuries longer than me to hone your skill,” he pointed out as he selected another arrow and set it to the string.  “I would like to see how you fare with a harp.”

“Oh, a harp string is far too inflexible to fire arrows,” Glorfindel replied with a smirk.

“Very amusing.”  Lindir sounded anything but amused.

Glorfindel shook his golden head and set down his bow.  “Alright.  Let me see your form.”

Lindir took up his position, nocked an arrow and drew back.  Then he waited while Glorfindel circled around behind him.

“Well, your stance is good but I thought you drew your hand back higher last time.  Pick a place on your face to draw to and always go to the same one.  I always draw so that my little finger is level with the corner of my mouth.  It does not matter where you choose but always use the same place if you wish to be consistent with your shot.”

Lindir waited patiently while Glorfindel ran a hand across his shoulder blades to check the muscle tension and then gently eased back his student’s upper arm.  “Now, sight along your arrow, take a breath, hold and then let it out before you loose.”

Lindir did as instructed and grinned with delight as his arrow hit one of the inner rings of the target.

Glorfindel slapped him on the back and turned to collect his own bow.  As he did so he spotted little Estel and his mother sitting quietly on a mound behind them.  “We have an audience Lindir.  Shall we give them a show?”

Lindir turned to smile at Estel and Gilraen.  “You may if you wish.  I doubt I could do much to impress with my feeble skill.”

Glorfindel drew two arrows from his quiver and nocked them both.  His draw and release was so quick that, to his audience, the arrows seemed to just sprout miraculously from the target.  Both shafts landed in the central point, forming a perfect triangle with his previous shot.

Estel clapped eagerly and the golden warrior turned to bow to his appreciative audience.  Gilraen chuckled and Lindir snorted, regretting it immediately when Glorfindel turned to him with a wicked grin.

“How are your nerves, Lindir?” he asked, with all the innocence of a spider eyeing up a fly.

“Reasonably good,” his victim replied a little hesitantly as Glorfindel rifled through the contents of his fletching kit until he produced a long grey feather.  Lindir accepted it with a sigh of resignation.  “How far away do you want me to stand with it?”

Glorfindel pursed his lips.  “About ten paces from the target, at a guess.”

Lindir’s brows rose.  “I had hoped there would be no guess work involved.”  Even so, he took the feather by the tip of its quill and moved to the suggested position.  There he held it out to the side and prayed silently that the Valar would miraculously lengthen his arm and provide him with steel fingers . . . very soon.

Glorfindel watched, twirling a grass stalk in his fingers, his grin widening.  When Lindir came to a halt Glorfindel turned to wink at a wide eyed Estel as he drew two arrows from his quiver.  Then he turned back to his quarry, pausing to drop the grass stalk and watch it flutter away before nocking. 

All the blood drained from Lindir’s face when he saw his tormentor nock two arrows.  The feather in his fingers trembled and he was certain it was not just from the action of the light breeze . . . unless the breeze was also responsible for the trembling of his knees.

He watched in morbid fascination as Glorfindel took his right-angled stance and drew back the string.  As he saw his friend breathe in and hold, he did likewise.  Before he had time to utter another prayer to the Valar a sharp tug sliced the feather a hairs breadth from his fingers and he sensed, rather than saw, the second arrow carry the remains of the feather onward toward the target.  When he spun around to look he found the larger part of the feather skewered to the central circle of the target by one arrow, along with the shaft that had cut it from his hand.  He looked down at the half inch of quill in his fingers and breathed out explosively.

Estel was ecstatic, jumping up and down and clapping.  Once again, Glorfindel bowed and then strolled toward his victim with a broad grin.  Lindir was still mentally counting his fingers when he arrived at his side.  Glorfindel took the hand, turning it this way and that before pronouncing, “It seems you will live to play the harp again.”

Finally emerging from his shock, Lindir narrowed his eyes.  “Indeed.”  He flexed his fingers.  “Perhaps, in celebration, I could compose a ballad to your modesty.”

Sitting at her son’s side Gilraen dreaded the question she knew would come.

“Do you think Glorfindel would show me how to shoot a bow, Mama?  I’d really like to be able to do that.”

Gilraen could feel Glorfindel’s gaze and she lifted her eyes to meet it squarely.  “You are still a little young,” she replied in a voice that would carry.

“But Mama, the other boys in our village were starting at my age.”  Estel stuck out his bottom lip and flopped down on the grass.

Gilraen sighed.  Elrond said all children went through this stage but that did not mean that she had to enjoy it.  “Pouting will get you nothing, Estel,” she pointed out firmly.

When her son continued to pout and started tugging and throwing blades of grass she caught his hand gently.  “Do you want to spend time standing on the box in our room?”

Estel dropped his head.  “No Mama.”  There was a pause and then, “I’m sorry.”

“Thank you,” Gilraen replied calmly as she turned his face to hers.  “Can you promise me that you will be sensible and do exactly as your teacher asks you?  Arrows are dangerous things.”

Grey eyes widened in hope.  “Yes, Mama.”  He touched hand to heart.  “I promise I will be very careful.”

Out of the corner of her eye Gilraen caught Glorfindel grinning.  “Very well.  I shall ask Elladan if he would be willing to teach you.”

Glorfindel only quirked one brow and offered her a sweeping bow whilst Lindir tried to hide his amusement.  Rarely had he seen anyone put Glorfindel in his place.

-0-

Elladan fixed the string to Estel’s little bow and then unhooked it again, handing it to his new student.  “Your turn.”

Estel set the bow upright before him, bracing it with his feet as he pulled down on the upper point.  What had seemed so easy for Elladan was not so for his much smaller pupil but it was a task every archer needed to learn so he merely stood back to watch, smiling when he saw a tongue tip appear at the corner of Estel’s mouth.

The little edan tried several times to set the string but the bow sprang free of his hand or spun away to the left before he could drop the loop into place.  He sighed, looking up pleadingly at his big brother.  Elladan simply continued to stand, arms folded.  “If you have not the strength to string the bow you will not have the strength to draw it.”

His calm injunction was all the incentive Estel needed.  It took three more attempts but finally he managed to set the loop in the notches perfectly, proudly holding it up for Elladan’s inspection.

“Well done, Little Brother.  Now I will show you how to stand.”

Estel frowned.  “I know how to stand, Dan.  I hardly fall over at all now.”

Elladan chuckled.  “You have to stand a certain way if you are going to hit your target.  Do you see the target?”

Estel had been a little disappointed when he noted that Elladan had set them up much closer to the round target than Glorfindel had stood yesterday.  “Of course.  It’s there.”  He pointed with his free hand.

Elladan winked.  “Just checking.  Look down at your feet and place them so that they are sideways on to your target.”  When Estel looked uncertain he demonstrated, presenting his left shoulder to the target and his little brother followed suit.

Now Elladan stepped behind Estel and knelt.  “Can you tell the time using a clock?”

Estel nodded eagerly.  “Mama has been showing me.”

“Good.  Draw the bow as though you were going to shoot at the target.”

When Estel made to pick up an arrow Elladan stayed his hand.  “No.  First do it without an arrow.”

Estel made a valiant effort and Elladan helped arrange his arms and hands.  “Left hand behind the bow like this, or you will hurt your thumb.  Right elbow all the way up here so that you are using your back muscles to draw the string instead of your arm.  It will hurt less.  That’s it.  Now imagine that the bow is the two hands of a clock and place the tips so that they point at eleven o’clock and five o’clock.”  He tilted the bow slightly and Estel grinned as understanding dawned.  “Does that feel comfortable?”

His pupil’s arms were already shaking but he replied, “Yes.  Can I use an arrow now?”

Elladan chuckled.  “Not yet.  Gently let the string relax and shake your arms for a moment.”

Estel did so, unable to prevent himself from expelling a sigh of relief.  “That’s hard.”

“It is.  But you are doing very well so far.”  Elladan gently massaged his little brother’s right hand, checking that the finger guard and arm bracer were securely in place.  He did not relish facing Gilraen if her son cut or bruised himself during their first lesson.  Indeed, Elladan did not relish facing his father either in that situation.

“To make it a little easier this time I want you to hold up the bow but not to take hold of the string.  I would like you to pretend to draw and I want to see where you put your hand.”  He leaned around to place his brother’s fingers in the correct place on the bow again then watched as Estel drew his right arm back.  Once more he placed the elbow.  “Can you feel where your fingers are against your face?  When you draw the bow I want you to make sure that you always bring your fingers back to the same place.”

“Yes, Dan.  Can I use an arrow now?”

“In a moment.”  His teacher tried not to laugh at Estel’s eagerness.  “When you get the arrow in place I want you to line it up so that you can look along it at the target.  And when I say, ‘loose’ I want you to take a breath in, hold it, then breathe out and let go the string.  Do you think you can do all that?”

“Yes.  Now can I have an arrow?  Please?”

Elladan took one of the small arrows from its quiver at their side and showed Estel how to nock it into the string.  “Place the tip of the arrow to the left hand side of the bow, just above your hand like this.”  Once again he set Estel’s hands and fingers correctly.  “Now draw back the string.  Look along the arrow.”  He paused as Estel complied, once more helping to ease the right elbow and shoulder into place.  “Nice breath in and hold.  Breathe out and now, loose!”

Estel’s little fingers released and the arrow flew straight, hitting the outermost ring of the target.  “I hit it!  I hit it!  Dan, I hit it!”  Estel jumped up and down several times before turning to delightedly throw himself into Elladan’s arms.

“You did,” his older brother agreed with a chuckle as he tried to disentangle his hair from the bow which Estel had forgotten to drop before hugging his teacher.

 

 




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