harry = 51 TA 2927

Arathorn II = 54

"That's it. Bring your sword up into the fifth position now and hold it steady."

Marcaunon trembled slightly as he held the training sword over his head, with the blade parallel to the ground and his knuckles facing upwards. While the blade was beautifully balanced and weighted absolutely perfect for his slight form, he had been training with Arador for several hours now; solo instruction on forms and movement as well as intense spars against Arador's son, Arathorn II. And he knew full well that his training was far from over with, as the moment that Arador declared himself satisfied with the day's progress, he would be turned over to Gildor to practice his archery, then, after a quick, but thorough, wash-up on his part, he would be allowed to partake of a bit of dinner before it was time for his first night time tracking lessons, given to him by Elrohir and Elladan with Gîltass as the one being hunted. And all of this was after a morning spent on book lessons with Erestor.

"Very good," Arador finally said. "You may lower your weapon and place it away for the day. Make sure that you spend some time this evening going over the blade checking for any nicks as well as taking the time to sharpen the edge again after the sparring you did today. A dull edge is one of the most dangerous things possible on an edged weapon such as a sword or an axe."

Marcaunon nodded his head easily in assent. He had been told such before by several of his other trainers and it was driven home further one day a few years before when he was watching a practice spar involving one of the guards, Aradion, and a visiting Rohirrim warrior. The two had gotten their weapons hung up during their fight just before tripping over each others' feet. The resultant wounds the fall had caused had clearly demonstrated the difference between a dull edge and a sharp edge as Aradion had required a great deal of care and still had the heavy scar tissue to show off while the Rohirrim was simply stitched up and released from the healing rooms the next day, with the notification that he would barely have a thin line to show off within a few weeks.

Marcaunon walked over to the benches and grabbed one of the soft rags that were piled near the end, using it, as it was intended, to clean the most immediate grit and such off of his blade, before sheathing it in the scabbard at his side. Letting out a soft groan, he straightened his back fully before twisting it sharply from side to side. A firm thump on his back had him looking back over his shoulder, then up almost a foot, and smiling at the tall, dark-haired, and young looking man behind him.

"An excellent bout," Arathorn II said with a smile. "And it was an honor to cross blades with you, as it is every time I am allowed the chance to do so. Now then, I think perhaps that I shall retire to my assigned room, clean myself up, then see to the care of my own blade; I do not wish to tarry long and keep you here talking, as I know that you have more training yet to do and under such ancient, harsh, and brutal taskmasters who will, no doubt, work you to the bone, then thrash you most completely for every failure. But, perhaps, if you live through the horror, we shall meet again at supper, where I might join you and partake of some thoroughly engaging conversation."

Marcaunon stifled his giggles and tried to school his face into an appropriate expression of seriousness as he caught sight of Gildor and Merilin, a lovely elleth with the most amazing blue eyes he had ever seen and a fiery temper who was helping to train him with the bow as she was the best marksman dwelling within Imladris. The two had silently glided up behind Arathorn II, both giving a vastly amused looking Arador polite nods of the head as they passed him by, just in time to hear Arathorn's comments.

"Well then," Merilin calmly stated almost directly into Arathorn's ear, causing the taller male to jump and spin around, a hand clutching his chest, "as we are nothing but ancient, brutal taskmasters, according to this young puppy here, perhaps we should assign him some extra tasks that he could fail at? I am quite sure that he has no true desire to retire to his comfortable room and see about cleansing the drying sweat that is probably beginning to dry and itch like crazy on his hide. Or perhaps we should just bring him along to archery practice so that we may see how well he is able to shoot with his limbs trembling in exhaustion, then beat him for every arrow out of center?"

"Oh, um, well...," Arathorn II stuttered and blustered, a sheepish look on his face, before seeing the twinkle in her eye and drawing himself up. "I thank you for your offer of further training my lady, but I am sure that my worthless hide is unworthy of having such an honor bestowed upon it. Therefore, I shall stick to my plan and withdraw myself from the present, august company I have so brilliantly and fortuitously found myself in. Farewell!"

On that last word, Arathorn II gave a dramatic bow and made his escape.

"That boy of mine," Arador gave a quiet laugh. "It has been a pleasure to train with you today, Marcaunon, and you have come far in the time since I was last here. Hopefully it will not be another year or so between visitations, but for now: If you will excuse me my lady, gentlemen?"

Arador gave a gentle nod of his head, before taking off in the same direction as his son.

Marcaunon burst out in laughter, finally unable to contain his merriment any longer. He did not protest in the slightest as a hand was laid on his quivering shoulder and used to steer his laughing body away from the bench and out of the bladed weapons' training area. They were halfway to the archery range by the time he had regained control of himself. He inhaled sharply through his nose, let it out through his mouth, then turned his brightly shining eyes towards Gildor, who was the owner of the hand on his shoulder.

"I thank you for that. Truly. The look on his face was spectacular. Now then," he continued on, "what are we going to work on today in archery practice? Arador really put me through my paces today. He led me through stretches and warm-ups, then basic forms, coached me through some slow sparring before turning his son loose on me, then had me do basic forms once again as a cool down."

"We both feel that you have progressed enough to learn the trick for shooting in a prone position and how to get a full draw by doing so," Merilin calmly spoke up. "First, however, you may run on ahead of us and see to getting something to drink. Then I expect you to have your bow strung and be standing at the ready position, on the line, waiting for us. You shall shoot a full quiver while your arms and body are still feeling the full effects of a more vigorous workout, as you will never know just when you might have to shoot. Arador was cooperating fully with us in this, as we wished for you to see the difference shooting with tired, extremely worked muscles versus the light workout you have usually had before coming to shoot with us."

Marcaunon gave a sharp nod of his head in assent, then ran off, reaching the range in almost no time. He came to a halt at the enclosed building that housed the bows and arrows, easily opening the carved door that blocked out the elements. Entering the building that was only lit at this time of the day by the narrow windows that broke up the walls at regular intervals, he was gratified to see a heavy earthenware pitcher, its sides beaded enticingly with water, indicating that it was fresh and cold; several cups resided on the table just to the side of it.

Reaching out a slim, dainty hand, Marcaunon made short work of filling a glass, pleased to see that it was a mixture of juice and water that poured out as he found it quenched his thirst far more effectively than just water alone. He quickly drank that cup down and poured himself another, this one he sipped slowly as he moved about the room, retrieving his favored bow and assembling a pair of quivers full of arrows for him to use over the course of his training. Pouring out one last cup, he drank it normally, then strung his bow, hung one full quiver across his back and another from his belt. Grabbing his bow in one hand, he pushed open the door and moved to the line that indicated fifty paces from the target. While there were lines for targets both closer and farther, this was the one that he was training from. Gildor told him that at this point in his training, he knew how to draw the bow and how to aim and thus had no need for the closer targets, but he was not so accurate as to need to move up to shoot at the further targets for more of a challenge.

As he slipped up to the line and his teachers, Marcaunon found himself grateful once again for the growth spurt he had had over the past few years as his head was finally coming up to most people's shoulders, thus making his training far easier on everyone as finding sparring partners for someone of his extremely short stature had been very difficult. Not to mention, he was getting a lot more power out of the larger bow he was now able to use.

"Begin," Gildor calmly stated. "All arrows to be drawn from the hip quiver. Then step to the side and shoot the next target with the full contents of the other quiver. As quickly as you are able."

Marcuanon easily fell into the proper stance with the many years now spent training in archery. He exhaled fully while quickly grabbing an arrow, nocking it, and drawing the bow back to its full extent, then inhaled half while he focused on the center of the target, swiftly loosing the arrow and allowing it to fly and strike. He then proceeded to cast the rest of his arrows in the same manner, the only pause in his shooting was the brief moment that he had to take several steps to the side to shoot at the other target for this distance. The moment his last arrow had flown away, Marcaunon could feel the strain in his muscles that he had been holding off acknowledgement of by the skin of his teeth overtake him all at once. He almost dropped his bow as the hand holding it fell to his side and began to shake with fine tremors.

"Well done, tithen pen," Merilin was the first to break the silence that had fallen over the range after Gildor's instructions. "You were slightly shaky and unsteady in your earliest casting, when your muscles were still more used to the exertion and pull of a sword, and so your arrows were cast a bit wide; although still easily landing within the inner two circles. About halfway through your first quiver is when your muscles finally began to work with you on the new movements and so your arrows landed fairly within the centermost circle. Stepping to the other target took a bit more time than I would have preferred, but again, you were casting well and so the centermost ring was again the most hit. At least until we arrived near the end of your arrows. The last few shafts that you let loose were progressively under less control and so landed further and further from center. That last arrow barely caught the outermost ring by the barest of margins."

"I agree," Gildor chimed in. "We shall have to plan out more times where you will shoot directly after swordsmanship more often. Perhaps we shall even be able to arrange an opportunity to have you alternate: sword work, then immediately into shooting, then right back into a spar, followed by another bout of archery. Perhaps not this year, but by the next, most assuredly.

"Now then," Gildor continued. "Go and withdraw all of your cast arrows from the targets, give them a quick inspection, place any that do not pass back in the 'repairs needed' bin, replace them so that both quivers are completely full once again, and then get yourself some more to drink. Take your time with that and by all means, please take a cup back out here for yourself. We shall talk you through your shooting, offering our critiques and listening to your questions and concerns as we would normally do while you cool down somewhat and find your breath. Only then shall we work on the prone shooting position."

Marcaunon flashed his two trainers a wry grin as he stood there; huffing and puffing lightly, his arms trembling and fingers slightly numb at the tips, the sweat cooling on him in the light wind and conspiring with the shadows he was standing in to give him a small chill. Nodding his head at the instructions, he moved forward to begin collecting the arrows and looking them over for any sign of damage that would make them less than ideal for shooting immediately: such as, chips and cracks, or torn fletching, or a bend in the wood of the shaft.

That was the last bit of time he had to think or catch his breath. The moment he returned from placing away the three damaged arrows he had found, bearing a full cup of cool, watery juice, he was plunged into a rapid fire discussion and analysis of his shooting then immediately drug off afterwards into the surrounding brush as Merilin saw no point to teaching him how to shoot while prone without forcing him to deal with the obstacles that would cause him to be forced to do so in the first place.

Lucky him.

Gîltass had just sat down at head table with his laden plate, taking a seat just to the side of Arathorn and sharing greetings with the younger man as he did so, when movement in the doorway caught his eyes, drawing his attention away from his plate of food. Looking up, Gîltass saw that it was Marcaunon. A severely bedraggled, worn out, and weary looking Marcaunon. Gently nudging an elbow into the side of his table companion to draw his attention, Gîltass leaned over and quietly voiced a query into the ear of his extremely great-grand nephew.

"Do you know why my beloved, tithen pen, is looking like he has had to clean the entirety of the paths around Imladris, and had to do so at a run?"

Arathorn II looked over at the doorway, seeing the small, frazzled looking elfling being joined by Glorfindel, who was using one of his large hands planted against Marcaunon's lower back to steer the delicate elfling over to the heavily laden, serving tables that were the preferred methods of distributing food.

"Ah yes...," Arathorn trailed off as he began to laugh lightly at the sight of Marcaunon obviously saying something, then turn his pouting face fully towards Glorfindel, causing the much, much older elf to sigh and resign himself to filling a pair of plates while Marcaunon slowly moved across the floor towards them.

"I might have heard his trainers conspiring against him," Arathorn lightly stated with an amused gleam in his eyes as he regained control of himself before Marcaunon was even halfway across the partially filled dining hall. "It seems that they may have decided that today was the perfect day to put him through the "ordeal". It would also explain why I was asked to not hold back, just to be mindful of his years and his training."

"Oh!" Gîltass perked up at that. He well remembered his own day when his trainers had seemed to go insane and work him into the ground. "I see."

He snickered cruelly, then, seeing the questioning glance Arathorn bestowed on him, spoke again.

"Poor babe still has to undergo night stalking with the twins as his teachers and myself as his "prey" tonight. I wonder if this was planned out, or if his odd form of luck merely kicked in."

Both men began to snigger at that and were hard pressed to regain control over themselves before Marcaunon joined them at their table, taking one of the open seats across from Arathorn. Gîltass, pulling on his years of successful pranks and jokes, easily schooled his features to an appropriately innocent expression. Arathorn, not having the same type of background but well-schooled in controlling his expression to stillness so that none may read him at need, blanked his face and quickly lifted up his mug to help cover his bland expression until he had more control over the urge to laugh. Said urge was not aided in the slightest when Marcaunon sat down, then allowed his head to fall onto the table before him as he let out a heartfelt groan.

"My archery instructors, Gildor and Merilin, are sadists, of that I am quite sure," Marcaunon's voice came out slightly muffled as he was speaking into the thick wood. Turning his head to the side, he gifted Arathorn with a deep scowl, that looked more like a heavy pout if Arathorn were to be asked, then spoke again. "And you and your father are a like pair. I am truly grateful that I only have training in the afternoons, every other day, and that tomorrow I may relax and enjoy learning the healing arts from Lord Elrond, instead. While he is also driven, he gives me no reason to question his sanity."

Arathorn and Gîltass were spared from responding to that when Glorfindel arrived, placing a plate loaded down with Marcaunon's favorites before the elfling and causing his dark expression to lighten immediately as he sat upright and drew the plate closer to himself. Glorfindel set down his own plate, then lightly ran his fingers through the mid-back length, dark hair the Marcaunon sported, the elfling clearly having washed it before coming to dinner as it was still heavily damp and laying loose, as opposed to the tight braid he normally sported.

"Nín meleth, I shall fetch us something to drink and return in but a moment."

"My great thanks, nín aglared galu," Marcuanon looked up with love in his shining eyes and a look of happiness on his finely boned face as the tall, fair male moved gracefully away.

Gîltass decided, as he looked at the blissed out expression covering his god-son's face, that this was the perfect time to have some fun.

"So...ready for tonight? I know that I'm looking forward to it!" he brightly exclaimed, scooping up a bite of well seasoned duck with wild grains and popping it into his mouth, swallowing down the small bite quickly so that he could say more. "I mean, I remember how much fun it was when I was taken out for my first night tracking lesson. It took hours, and because I was out with my trainers learning something extremely important, I didn't get in any kind of trouble for staying up so late past my bed time! It must have been well into the earliest hours of the day by the time I finally tracked down my "prey" and then, Elladan and Elrohir insisted on going over everything again with my immediately so that I didn't forget it during sleep."

Arathorn watched Marcaunon closely while Gîltass blithly spoke: by the end, Arathorn was almost choking on the laughter that was trying to escape his throat at the elfling's expression and he had to hastily excuse himself from the table with a strangled, "Be right back. My apologies!" as he rushed from the room so that he didn't burst out in laughter right in Marcuanon's horrified face.

arad - day

ion - son

merilin - nightengale

elleth - elf-woman

tithen pen - little one

Nín - my

meleth - love

aglared - glorious

galu - good furtune, blessing