I had left the Diplomacy, confused. My mind was reeling at what Waien had told me. There was so much I wanted to ask him, but never would. Waien wasn’t the sort to blab about his business, he told you what he wanted you to know and nothing more.
When I finally returned to the shop, Maglor was fanning himself with a bit of parchment. He looked up and smiled when he seen me enter the door.
“Hot out there,” he said. “Too hot to do any work. C’mon we’re going to go swimming.”
“Swimming?” I asked. “Isn’t that a little inappropriate?”
“Maybe so, but it’s too hot for propriety,” he told me. “You’ll see what I mean.”
I follow Maglor down to the river just past the west gate bridge. . The banks were covered with people who were in nothing more than their under clothes. Maglor and I spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the river. It looks as if we weren’t the only ones who gave up the ideas of propriety that day. Delila and several other girls from the house, joined us. All of us screamed and laughed happily as we splashed each other with water. Maglor and Delila sat on the banks watching us with smiles on their faces. There were other townspeople, and children who join us in the splashing game. Maglor and Delila joined us moments later to get revenge for all of us splashing them while they sat on the hot stones.
Ten days passed, I had stayed up all night to make sure that I had finished Waien’s arrows. I was looking forward to being able to see the inside of the Diplomacy again. The air had cooled a great deal and the shop wasn’t nearly as stuffy as it had been the previous week. Maglor came to the shop early in the morning and began working on a bow almost immediately.
“Lyssa,” he said. “I have to make a delivery to the Ministry of War. They are training new recruits with bows and need some blunted arrows. I expect to be gone most of the day.”
“Okay,” I said while boxing up Waien’s arrows.
“I need you to break this bow in,” He explained, motioning to longbow that he worked on the previous day. “Work on it until it feels slightly loose.”
“I don’t know-” I began.
“You’ll do fine Lyssa,” Maglor said. “You’ve seen me do it a million times.”
“Alright,” I said. “I do it. How many arrows do you want me to fletch today?”
“Just cut the feathers to size today,” He said. “It’ll take you most of the afternoon to shoot that bow.”
Maglor left when the sun was up high enough to burn off the mist. I took the bow and a basket of arrows to the back yard. Carefully, I nocked the arrow, pull back and release. For a few short seconds, it flies through the air and then speared the ground. I repeated this process over and over again, each time the arrow fell short of the target.
“Yer late,” The arrow that released whistled through the air, as I jumped from the voice that startled me. “An’ yer holdin’ the bow all wrong.”
A few feet away stood Waien with his arms folded over his chest. He would a plain brown tunic and brown trousers. Judging by the smirk on his face, Waien had been standing there for a while watching me make a fool of myself with the bow.
“I lost track of time,” I explained. “Maglor asked me to break the bow in.”
“Yeah well,” he said as he stepped behind me. “That’s Mag fer ya. Didn’t have the time ‘r patience ta teach ya how ta do it correctly b’fore he left. That’s a bad thing fer a bow. Could snap in half, then he’d have ta start all over again.”
Silently, he kicked my feet apart . He placed his hand on my back and forced me to stand straight. Then he took my left hand and placed it correctly on the bow. Taking an arrow from the basket, he put it in place and stood so close behind me, I could taste the musky fragrance he gave off.
“Lift yer arms, keep your right arm in line with yer jaw,” He whispered. “Look down the shaft o’ the arrow an’ mark yer target.”
His hand wrapped around mine, my breathing increased as he did so. While there was nothing between Waien and I, this was the closest a man had ever been to me.
“Relax yer shoulders,” Waien told me. Easier said than done. “Let the arrow be yer guide.”
I tried to relax, taking a deep breath as I looked down the shaft of the arrow at the target thirty feet away. Waien drew my arm back, the bow tightened under my hand, creaking slightly with the pressure.
“Release,” He breathed into my ear.
His hand unwrapped from mine at the same my fingers released the bowstring. The arrow flew towards the target fast, and the bowstring made a resounding twang upon letting go. When it hit the target, it made a dull thump. I cried out in delight when it met the target. Waien stood back and smiled roguishly before taking his own bow off his back and loading an arrow. Without a word, he nocked an arrow, and released it. It hit dead center. Chuckling he nocked another arrow and fired it at the first one. I stood there amazed as the first arrow was split in two by the second.
“Whoa,” I said, very much impressed. “That was awesome.”
“I know,” he said smugly. “Takes years o’ practice.”
Waien spoke to Maglor about him giving me some time during the afternoon to practice. I would be able to get off work two hours early to practice learning how to use and care for a bow properly. It would seem from the way Waien explained, there was no room for discussion, he had wanted it to happen and made sure that it did. I learned about this agreement that evening when Waien show up to Delila’s and thrust a bow into my hands.
“Yer job to take care o’ it,” He told me. “You won’t get another for a long time if you break that one, you hear.”
I stared at the bow in awe then at Waien.
“You’re going to teach me?” I asked.
“Somethin’ like that,” He replied, running his fingers through his hair.
Delila had made her appearance down the steps, smiling at Waien, who openly stared at her heaving bosom. I rolled my eyes hard at the display.
“Going out Del,” I said, taking my hat off the peg and tucking my hair under it. “Shouldn’t be too late.”
“I’ll keep the door open for you, dear,” She said breathlessly.
“C’mon, before you get drool on her carpet, then she’ll have to beat you senseless,” I told Waien, taking his arm and pulling him out of the house.
“She can beat–” He started.
“Don’t finish that,” I finished. “I don’t want to know what sort of life my house mother has with my mentor.”
“Uptight ’bout such things are we?” Waien said jokingly. “Worried about yer own virtue?”
“Not that it’s any of your business,” I said firmly. “but no, I ain’t worried about my own virtue, thank you very much. Where are we going that we can speak without you drooling over Delila’s breasts?”
Waien sobered up immediately.
“I’m supposed to meet my mate at the pub ’round the corner,” He said taking my arm, leading me down the street.
“So you can get even more drunk?” I asked smartly. “How many have you had so far?”
Waien didn’t answer my question as we walked down the road. When we entered the door, we were greeted with loud chatter and clanking glasses when we entered the pub. The smell of ale and whiskey filled my nostrils as we walked through. Waien’s eyes looked around the pub for his mate. There were some men who were singing off key, painted women who draped themselves over those who were dressed richly. It was their goal to get the money before the client was too drunk.
“Waien!” A voice shouted above the crowd. “Over here!”
I recognized the man who was waving Waien over. He was the man that Toeryn and I had staked out. There was no mistake about it, his white hair glittered in the lamplight and his teeth showed with a cheerful smile that sparkled like pearls.
“Ah ha mate, got a date do you?” He said when we approached. I know that he recognized me. The amused expression on his face as he looked me over told me so.
“No, Lyssa, this is Mandrel,” Waien growled. “Mandrel, Lyssa.”
“Enchanted,” Mandrel said in a suave voice while he kissed my hand. “The pleasure is mine, seeing as I didn’t catch your name during our last meeting.”
I must’ve turned a deep crimson, for both Mandrel and Waien let out hearty laughs. I did catch Waien as he rolled his eyes and shook his head with a sigh. I was certain that Waien didn’t know about my brief run in with Mandrel and he had probably taken our exchange as something entirely different. I slumped into a chair and looked to my hands. This caused Mandrel to chuckle, and Waien leaned towards me whispering something, his eyes never leaving Mandrel.
“Watch yerself ’round tha’ one” He told me. His words would fall on semi-deaf ears as I watched Mandrel looking between the two of us. A red tint filled my cheeks when his eyes locked on mine for a moment.
I was grateful the barmaid had come over to get our orders. She was rather plain looking. Mousy brown hair that hung limply around her unremarkable face. Her apron was stained and turning an unsavory shade of gray, and the brown dress she wore look as though it had seen better days.
“Ale, an’ milk for th’ girl,” Waien told her. Once again he wasn’t staring at her face. His eyes were glued to the generous amount of cleavage the woman exposed.
“Bottle of rum and a glass,” I corrected. Mandrel looked at me somewhat impressed. “I’ll pay for my own drinks.”
“Did ya wan’ a never endin’ Waien?” The woman asked him as she leaned down just a bit to give him a better view of her assets.
I looked away from the table, Mandrel seemed used to this sort of behavior from Waien and thought nothing of it while he took a drink from his glass. I noted some people who looked familiar to me, people I had seen in the city center. A man who had argued with his wife on the street after she had discovered his mistress in bed. A young girl who spent her days money in the pub, Delila had pointed her out to me. A lost girl as she put it, sells herself to the night, and drinks it away to forget.
When the barmaid returned with our order. I took the stopper from the bottle and poured me a glass of the rum. The spice burn filled my nose as I brought the rim of the glass to my lips. My eyes never once coming off the girl at the counter. You can only help them, if they want it themselves. Delila’s words lingered in my head a moment before I swallowed a mouthful of the rum .The strong oaky flavor lingering for a moment until the sweetness of caramel of it overcame it, the spices played lightly with my taste buds. Finally the burn, the one that scorched my throat all the way down before it settled in my stomach and the warm feeling that followed behind.
“Bloody hell girl,” Mandrel exclaimed. “Slow down a bit. You’ll be sorry in the morning you keep that up.”
I looked down to my glass and realized that I had just drained it completely without stopping.
“Sorry,” I said setting down the glass. “Lost my thoughts.”
“I’ll say,” Mandrel said with an impish smirk playing with the corners of his mouth.
To say he was good looking would be an understatement. Mandrel had a flare about him that made him radiate more. His well groomed appearance may have had something to do with that. Mandrel sat with his hand resting under his chin as he looked around the pub. I wasn’t listening to his and Waien’s conversation, rather lost in my thoughts with the stories my mind weaved around the people who came into the pub.
“What do you mean your her teacher?” Mandrel said, his voice pulling me back to reality.
“Just what I said,” Waien said taking a long drink from his ale stein. “Going to teach her how to shoot a bow.”
“I think you’ve been tapping into the keg a little to hard there, mate,” Mandrel said with a laugh.
“He’ll learn that I am a quick pupil,” I piped up in Waien defense. “He’s a brilliant teacher.”
“Oh ho, I bet he is,” Mandrel jested. Waien’s hand shoved Mandrel playfully and they both laughed.
“Mind yer manners,” Waien told him in a firm voice that dripped with sarcasm. “Missy here is very much worried about her virtue.”
My skin flushed again. Heat raising to my cheeks as Waien made yet another comment on a topic I wasn’t quite ready to discuss with either of these two.
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Mandrel said patting my hair gingerly. “It’s good for woman to have something to worry about.”
Being this close to him, I realized just how beautiful he really was. His sharp features softened with his eyes. I stared into them for a brief moment. They were the softest blue I had ever seen, gentle and playful at the same time. Mandrel’s skin was pale in comparison to Waien’s, giving him an almost ethereal glow. His lips were two thin pink lines that were permanently curved into a half smirk. I looked away from him before had a chance to notice.
“How long have you and Waien been friends?” I asked, forgetting to pour the rum into the glass and drinking directly from the bottle.
“Since we were kids,” Mandrel replied. Waien was busy downing another pint of ale. He eyed me carefully as I drank deeply from the bottle.“What made you want him as a teacher?”
“I didn’t,” I replied, when I set the bottle down. Both of them were looking at me with a shocked expression. “I don’t mind though, it will help me with work.”
“Which is what exactly?” Mandrel said, taking a drink from his glass. His voice was smooth, it left me feeling light headed. Though it could have been the rum. It would be hard to deny that I was very much attracted to Mandrel in a way that I wasn’t to Waien. Waien and I had more of a professional relationship, with Mandrel it was different.
“I fletch arrows and recently started to learn to break bows in,” I replied, suddenly I felt self conscious and took another drink. “I fletch the arrows for Waien’s orders too.” I continued trying to make it sound important.
“That’s impressive,” he said stroking my bruised ego. “Even the smallest menial job needs someone to work it. Take Waien for example.”
“Hey!” Waien piped up. “My job isn’t menial.”
“And just what exactly is your job title this week oh great one?” Mandrel said sarcastically. Though his tone was still playful. Something told me that this banter was common between these two old friends.
“What exactly is yer job this week?” Waien countered, draining his glass. I laughed as these two went back and forth.
As the night moved forward, my bottle of rum got lower and lower. The stories Mandrel told became more funny with each passing word. I was feeling loose, relaxed, perhaps a bit too much. I was becoming brave, bold even. Moving my chair closer to Mandrel, my fingers lightly pushing a few locks of his white hair away so that I could better see his face.
“Yer very pretty ya know tha’?” I said to Mandrel slurring my words, batting my eyes at him. A dopey smile on my lips. My face was only inches from his. Closing my eyes for a moment I inhaled his sweet smell. A scent that was very different from Waien’s. It was warm and sweet, with a hint of spice. And oh did it smell good.
When I opened my eyes again, Mandrel smiled, leaning over to whisper something to Waien. His response was a somber nod of his head. My brow furrowed slightly as I watched the exchange. “Tha’s s’not nice ya know”
“I think you had enough to drink, girl,” Waien said, reaching for my bottle. I quickly snatched it away and glared at him.
“Mmf I’m fine,” I replied I. “I’m not drunk.”
“M’dear, I think you are,” Mandrel chuckled, motioning with his hand for the bottle. There wasn’t that much of the dark brown liquid left in it when I placed it in his hands. He looked at Waien and laughed softly. “Only took her the whole bottle to get this way.”
They murmured back and forth for a few moments. I watched them, though I could barely make out a word they were saying. I did hear my name a few times, though.
“I’m schtill here you know,” I slurred, I looked at them out of the corners of my eyes. “An’ I’m not deaf.”
“We see that girl,” Waien said with snort. “We’re tryin’ to figure out what do to with you.”
“I’ll sit here,” I said, “At least until Mandrel agrees to-”
I don’t remember what happened after that, I barely remember someone lifting me up. I stirred slightly with a cool breeze. Footsteps on the cobbles filled my ears. My arms were wrapped around someones neck, and my head resting on their chest. Their hands were strong, cradling my back and just behind my knees as they carried me. I felt safe and protected. Two voices spoke softly, neither of them sounded winded.
“She can drink, aye?” I recognized the voice a Mandrel’s. It was clearer and I could make out his accent better.
“Don’t you start thinkin’ that way,” A more gruff voice said.
“Waien, whaddya take me for?” Mandrel said defensively. I’m no’ thinkin’ tha’. Jus’ merely she slammed back tha’ rum fas’ is all.”
“She could probably drink more, but I ‘xpect it were nerves.” Waien replied.
“Nerves ’bout wha’?” Mandrel asked. My body shifted slightly and I groaned a bit, wrapping my arms tighter around my personal carrier.
“Yer the one carryin’ ‘er.” Waien responded. His voice seemed far away as I sank back into the darkness of sleep. I didn’t have time to be self-conscious about Mandrel carrying me.
I stirred slightly as I was placed on something soft. My arms were unwrapped from around Mandrel’s neck, while someone worked wordlessly to remove my boots. I heard them hit the floor with a dull thump.
“How much did she have?” A woman’s voice rang out in a sweet soft voice.
“Almost a whole bottle of rum,” Waien replied. “If she doesn’t feel this in the morning, she’ll be one lucky little girl.”
A blanket was pulled over me and a soft hand lightly grazed my cheek, before soft footsteps retreated from my bedside.
“Should be careful of tha’ one, aye?” Mandrel’s voice said softly as the door clicked shut.