General Disclaimer: I own nothing that comes from Tolkien. Nothing whatsoever. Anything that looks familiar, therefore, is not mine. Don't think it is.
That said, most of the characters you'll run into—as far as I know so far—will be mine.
I try to update stories at least once a week, but I have no internet access when I'm not a school, so breaks will always be utterly silent. Sorry—it isn't nice for me, either. Should you have a question, you can either review (preferred) or e-mail me. Either way I will get back to you within a few days, unless the unthinkable should happen and I'm flooded with reviews and e-mails, which isn't likely, considering my highest number of reviews so far has been fifty-nine. Still, keep beaks and finals in mind if you aren't responded to in reasonable time.
As ever, ideas or corrections—grammar, tense, spelling, etc. are appreciated and encouraged.
A little about this story: It is narrated by a rather confused elf… for reasons you will understand before long. Everyone's favorite elf prince is known to the narrator only as Leaf. Together they made up a band of nine elves who played their youths away in the woods. I think that's enough background, at least for now. Enjoy!
Sparks flew from the red-hot metal as I pounded it slowly into shape. The long, thin, curving blade was to be as thin and light as any other elven blade, so I had a good bit more work to do on it. Still, it was coming along nicely.
After a few minutes the blade to be began to cool too much, so I set it back in the fire, moving to sharpen one of my completed blades. It's owner had dropped by yesterday to see how it was coming, and would return on the morrow to claim his sword.
Hearing a voice I hadn't through the striking of hot iron, I glanced up and stilled. I studied the golden head for a while, let the voice rush over me, triggering millions of memories even as part of me denied it was him.
A faint smile twitched his lips crookedly, and he glanced around the smith shop my master owned and minded, save come lunchtime. It was him. He caught me staring, and arched a brow while looking at what of me he could see.
I rescued the blade and set it aside, sweeping back my face guard.
He blinked, tilting his head slightly to the side. Stepping forward, he began to smile. "Hello," he murmured softly, leaning against the doorframe that led to the labor section of the building.
"Leaf," I murmured, nodding slightly. His smile widened, and in an instant our forearms crashed together, holding tightly as his free hand clasped my shoulder.
"My dear friend," he agreed, joy sparkling in his bright blue eyes. "It has been much too long—it took me a moment to place you."
"My mind was half-sure my ears were deceiving me," I admitted in turn, before I looked him over as he swept an equal glance over me. "Are the halls as stuffy and boring as we always imagined?"
"Worse, sometimes," he grinned. "And are you the budding smith we have heard such wonders about?"
I laughed a bit ruefully. "That is doubtful. My father got me this place with Haradan when we left the wood, seeing as how I was useless anywhere else."
Haradan snorted from his place in the other room. "Useless," he grumbled. "He needs to have his head examined! Useless indeed!"
Leaf and I shared amused looks. "As you can see, being my master has in no way biased Haradan's opinion of my skills."
Leaf chuckled softly, before his sharp eyes spotted the cooling blade I had pulled from the fire. "I'm keeping you from your craft," he murmured, half apologetic. He nodded at the blade and walked slightly away from the spark-zone as I replaced my mask. He aimlessly studied examples of work that hung on the walls until I had finished, setting the rough blade aside. "Are these all yours?"
"Yes—Haradan's are in the other room."
"As would be expected," he agreed. "This blade," he murmured, pointing to one fairly intricate but extremely function dagger, "I saw it's mate by the door."
"Yes. Haradan made one, and I have made the rest." Haradan's, in truth, was a bit too ornate to be of use. I had trimmed the excess metal to lighten and balance the blade a bit better, and had received several orders for them.
"Then I should have brought my thanks to you," he murmured quietly. "It is the finest blade I have carried in many years," he praised, sliding one of my daggers from the sheath at his waist.
I took it with a slight smile, flipping it quickly around my fingers to test it. "Already seen a good bit of use, hasn't it?"
"I don't know whether or not I should say unfortunately to that. I am glad to have had it…"
"But the circumstances for use have been lamentable?" I offered, able to read in the shadows that flittered over his face the cause for his hesitation.
He smiled thankfully. "Yes," he agreed, accepting his dagger, sheathing it fluidly. "So you do most of the work, anymore?"
"Unless Haradan is specifically requested."
"Hmm… then have you any double blades made?"
"It is beyond rare for us to get requests for them," I answered in a bit of shock. "Only the guard use them, and they—"
"Tend to allow the hall smith to make them," he finished. He looked down at the blade I was cleaning, lifting it from me delicately with two fingers at the haft, and two under the blade. "It is perhaps more convenient, but his gifts run towards designing filigreed ornaments… while his results are of course beautiful, they lack the perfect balance any one who would lift a blade in earnest would desire." In demonstration he placed two fingers at the place the blade met the handle, showing off the perfection I had toiled to create.
"And I am the only one you could ask?"
"No," he agreed easily, presenting me with the sword. "But you are the only one I've known since I wasn't even dwarf-sized."
"Our time in the wood means nothing when it comes to my skill here," I warned.
He gave me a fondly amused smile. "I can see where Haradan's training has let off," he murmured, "trying to scare away a paying customer."
"Trying to warn a friend not to place his trust in a task I have never attempted," I countered.
"Create a set," he coaxed softly, leaning in as if to keep this secret from Haradan—who I knew was already gone to lunch. "Send it up to the halls."
"And if it is below standard?" I challenged.
He smiled. "Then you will know how to better your skill for the next time, won't you?" He cast his eye around the room again, slowly nodding. "Send them up," he stated again, seeming quite pleased with himself.
With a sigh I considered for an instant the trouble he was bringing upon me. I would have to figure a design, decide on the way I wanted to create the blades, the handles, the sheaths… how ornate to make them…
"Wind," he whispered softly, drawing my eyes up. His were sparkling with the old familiar challenge. "When shall I expect them?"
"When they arrive," I countered, knowing I was rising to the challenge he had laid merely to get me to design the blades, but unable to stop myself. "Have you seen any of the others?"
Some of the laughter in his eyes—from having succeeded, and knowing I knew it as well as he did—faded. "I have not seen any of them since we left the wood," he murmured with a shake of his head. "I have been busy, of course—as I suspect we all have."
I nodded, accepting that. "We did guess that was how it would be."
"Yes," he agreed with a quiet sigh. "But it doesn't make it enjoyable."
After studying him for a while, I saw in his eyes what I knew he could see in mine—a longing for what had been. All of us had been so close, such friends as we might never be able to have again. Some part of me wanted to reach out to him, but too much was uncomfortable with that thought, so I looked at the blade I was finishing. "Perhaps in time we shall all meet again."
"Things won't be as they were," he countered, sounding incredibly morose.
"This is hardly like you, Leaf," I remanded, blinking at his shadowed eyes. He looked like life had dealt him a harsher blow than he had been prepared for when he left the wood with the rest of us.
"Yes," he whispered softly, "it is. But only seven other than you or I would know it… and they are no longer in a place to see it." He straightened and shook himself slightly. "I should head back," he murmured, "before I am missed." When his eyes lifted to mine I knew he was merely trying to escape the discussion, but I knew no other way out of it.
Instead, I held out my hand, clasping his forearm as he returned it, both of us holding on a moment longer than was strictly necessary. "Well, you know where I am, Leaf," I offered.
He gave me a small, crooked smile. "And I shall undoubtedly use that knowledge to the fullest of my limited capabilities." His hand rested on my shoulder for a moment, before he bowed his head ever so slightly and released my arm, stepping back. Halfway out the door, he looked back. "I'll keep an eye out," he called.
I rolled my eyes with a low growl, earning a chuckle from him as he stepped into the light. A moment after he was gone, I felt a smile curling my lips rather foolishly. I shook myself and turned back to the blades I was working on, each one in different stages.
"Damn," I muttered without heat a while later. "That stupid elf," I growled, looking around for my sketch book, knowing now that I would be unable to work on the average, every-day tasks before me when one of my oldest and dearest friends had walked in off the street and ordered my skills put to use for him.