Bowstring

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This is an example of fan fiction – a story written by a fan (me) using characters and situations from a book or TV show. Writing this stuff is one way myself and others “share and enjoy” a particular work. In this case, the work is Elfquest, a fantasy comic book series about a group of elf-like beings.

I first stumbled on Elfquest while looking for something new. The Marvel Comics reprint of Elfquest, issue 17, was one of about four comic books I purchased on a whim, never having read comics before. The art was impressive, the story captivating. Within a few months I had the entire original series, the novel, and the colour volumes. I don’t even remember what the other three comics were. I have not found later material to be as powerful as the original story, but I highly recommend that story to anyone who enjoys fantasy fiction, even if they never read comics. The original story and much more is available online at the Elfquest Web Site.

Fan fiction is subject to a number of limits and conventions. For example, this story had to respect the style and narrative conventions of the original material, as well as the setting, narrative arc, and characters of fan group. If you are not familiar with Elfquest or fan-fiction in general, you may find this story confusing, boring, or both. This story was originally published in the fan club newsletter Windsea, 2nd Scroll, in 1998 (ten years after the first draft was prepared, and a little too soon after reading the Illiad.)

On reading this several years later, there is much I would like to change, but I am going to let it stand as printed. Dec 2011.


Acknowledgments and Copyright Information:

Elfquest, its characters, situations, logos and their distinctive likenesses are trademarks of Warp Graphics, Inc. The Elfquest-based material presented here is not intended to infringe upon any Warp copyrights. Go to the Elfquest Web Site.

This story originally appeared in Windsea,newsletter of Windhowl and Bluereef Holts. These Holts are registered with the EQ Fan Club. Thanks to Windsea editors Susan Woolard and Annette Pschirrer for their thoughtful editing and suggestions.

The character “Blooddance,” the “Coldwind Holt,” and the “Coldwind Elves” were created by Dana Evans and were used with her permission and kind assistance. Thanks to Dana for this permission and her assistance with the story.

The drawings are by Linda Tam, and reproduced here by her permission–thanks. Linda has a great Elfquest site with more of her art and stories. Go to Linda’s Elfquest Site.


 

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Blooddance teaches archery to Thawrat. Copyright Linda Tam.

BOWSTRING

The fire burned brightly and the elves gathered around it were cheerful and loud. Rend had just finished a popular story, and he laughed as loudly as the others, despite his old age and frail figure.

“But how could a troll be so dim as to fall for that trick?” asked Shade.

“Most trolls have more wit than poor Polythick,” explained Rend. “Besides, the adventure happened a long time ago. Trolls were not as quick in those times.”

Glow, Shade’s shorter, slighter, younger, and less serious sister, teased the old story teller. “The old elves were not so quick either.” This brought a chorus of jests and mock insults, and finally requests for another story.

“Not tonight,” Rend replied. “I’m worn out from talking. Perhaps some music? I can still talk with my hands, and if you listen closely you may hear a story in the music.”

A respectful hush quickly settled around the fire. Most of the gathered elves recognized the music Rend began to play, but it was new to Thawrat. Recently come to the holt, he only knew simple tunes. The music now was richer. Thawrat thought of seeing other eyes besides his own, two small amber fires reflected in the still quiet forest pools; of hearing other voices besides his own, echoing from distant hills in the night when he sang his songs to himself.

There was a story in the music, and Thawrat realized it was his story. He wondered briefly what the others heard, but then forgot the others. He remembered, as if it were Turns ago instead of a few eights of days, wandering for ages after the death of his parents. The notes spoke of hunger, of almost lost hope, before quickening to a more cheerful tune. Thawrat recalled the morning he saw the holt, and the first nervous encounter with Darkstone and his wolf-friend, and then meeting all the others–and Blooddance.

Thawrat looked across the fire and saw her, but did not meet her eyes. He realized he had not looked at her for several days, and now he remembered his first impression of her: A fine-featured face which was a welcoming mirror of his, but with a hard edge that said beware.

* * *

“I think we are of the same holt,” Blooddance said, greeting Thawrat without joy. Darkstone commented that Blooddance and Thawrat looked alike enough to be cub mates, and the other elves who had come to meet the newcomer agreed. At first Thawrat thought Darkstone was very pale, but he soon realized that all the elves at the holt except Blooddance were light skinned. Thawrat could tell them nothing of his birth holt, for he had no memories of it. “Mother said only that she left with me at her breast, father at her side, and a cold wind at her back.” Nor could he tell much about their travels or how they lived in the early days. “But in all your travels, through twice eight turns and more, you met no other elves?” Blooddance asked.

“Humans and trolls we saw, and avoided, save the cursed trolls who killed my parents. No other elves. You’re the first I’ve met.” Thawrat was puzzled by a slight smile that flickered across Blooddance’s hard face, like a deer crossing a rocky clearing, but said nothing.

Blooddance assumed responsibility for Thawrat, and they spent the better part of his first day in the holt together. She introduced him to the others, showed him where stored food was kept, where water was drawn from, the various lookouts, the path the humans used on those rare occasions when they passed through this forest, and so on. Apart from her brief explanations and his odd question, they neither spoke nor sent to each other. Thawrat was busy absorbing details of the holt, and Blooddance was busy with various thoughts she kept to herself. As the day’s shadows grew long, Blooddance suggested some archery practice, to keep in good form. Thawrat agreed and followed her to the designated area.

They joined a group of four already practicing. Unlike many other activities around the holt, this one was done in silence, and Thawrat could sense the concentration of the archers. All, including Blooddance, consistently hit a thin dead tree, propped up against a rocky bluff. Thawrat managed to hit the tree once, and also shattered two arrows against the cliff face. He blamed his poor bow and asked to borrow Blooddance’s, but shot no better. Soon shadows obscured the tree, and the archers prepared to leave. Thawrat felt a need to look better in Blooddance’s eyes. As they walked away from the practice area, he said, “I shoot well enough to feed myself.”

“If you eat then you shoot well. Do not measure yourself by us–we are the best archers in the holt. Many others do not shoot at all. You just need practice…maybe someone to show you a few things.”

“Things such as?”

Blooddance stopped, and turned to face Thawrat. “Would you like a lesson tonight?”

“The sooner the better.”

“Then we begin.” She turned away, and Thawrat followed her back to the practice area. Once there, she gave her bow to him, then stood as if preparing to shoot. “The first thing is to stand properly, like this.” He stood beside her and attempted to copy her stance. “No, that’s not right. Here.” She moved to stand close behind him, and molded his body into the correct stance. “See? This arm is slightly curved.” Thawrat noted the position of his arm against hers, and that her skin was the same rich shade as his. “Stand sideways to the target. Just turn your head. Keep your body straight.” Her breath warmed the back of his neck, and he suddenly noticed her whole body was warm…he could even sense the heat where she was not pressing against him. She stepped back and around to face him.

“Good.” Now, moving only your draw arm, pull the arrow back.” Thawrat glanced at her, imagined her hand pulling an arrow back across her chest, and wondered how she compensated for her shape. “Look at the target, not me,” she reprimanded, but Thawrat thought he saw a smile. “Bring this finger back all the way to here.” She touched her second finger to his on the bowstring, then traced her finger along his arm, up his neck, and lightly across his lips to the corner of his mouth. “Good. Now hold the arrow there. Hold tight. Feel the tension?” Thawrat nodded, staring at the target. Usually he released the arrow as soon as it was drawn. This time he waited, listening to Blooddance, as the string bit into his fingers. “The tension you feel is the power of the bow.” She spoke slowly and deliberately. “You have to respect it, and understand it, to use it, to make it do what you want, so you can finally–” Thawrat gritted his teeth as he strained to keep the bow steady and the arrow pulled tight “–Release,” Blooddance sighed.

The arrow flew true to the center of the target. Seven more soon followed. Only when all the arrows were sent did Thawrat put down Blooddance’s bow and relax. His arms ached and he was panting slightly from the effort. He thought Blooddance also seemed tired. She moved forward and kissed him lightly. “Good.” He could not think of what to say. “It’s getting darker. Enough practice for today?” Thawrat managed a “Yes,” and tried unsuccessfully to put more complicated thoughts into words. They walked across the clearing and gathered the arrows. “Your arms might be sore if you are not used to shooting like that. I have an ointment I can rub in, to soothe you.” Thawrat was not sure if she was asking a question or giving a command. He tried to send, but could not form a clear message from his jumbled thoughts any better than he could speak, so again he mumbled “Yes.” He looked at her, but her face was in shadow and he could not read any expression. The daystar burned on the horizon behind her and her red locks glowed like embers. Impulsively, he moved forward to kiss her lightly, as she had done moments ago.

Years ago, as Thawrat and his parents walked along a creek, a flash flood caught them by surprise. He was separated from his parents, spun and tossed about in the current for what seemed like days, and then flung ashore. When he recovered his wits, he realized he was only a few minutes walk from where he had been before, and his parents were nearby, but now intertwined with Blooddance he was back in the endless rushing chaos again.

*Hold tight,* Blooddance sent. *Feel the tension?* When they stepped apart, both were panting lightly like wolves after a short sprint, knowing the long hunt and feast is still to come. “Come back to my furs,” said Blooddance. “I’ll cure those sore arms.” Thawrat managed to send *Yes,* a statement of agreement, and submission, but forgot his sore arms, reveling instead in many new sensations, including the taste of Blooddance.

* * *

The fire seemed warmer now, and Rend’s music had a strong beat. Some elves pounded the ground to the rhythm, while others danced. Thawrat saw Blooddance dancing, her muscular legs and arms in and out of the shadows, sweat glistening when it caught the firelight. He remembered the salty, musky taste of her sweat some nights ago, when the heat had come from fire within, when he had held tight and the tension had been unbearable. The beat of the music became faster, almost frenzied. Rend’s fingers flew across the pipes, and he sweated with the effort. Once a pleasant tune, it turned harsh and hard to listen to, like Blooddance’s words when she said, “Not tonight, Thawrat. If you come here every night, your own sleep furs will miss you. Or find another, if you cannot sleep alone.” That night, as he left, looking back, he saw Darkstone climbing her tree.

“Thawrat!” Blooddance’s voice cut through the music. He looked up as she came closer, and met her amber eyes. “Come dance with us with us.” Then softer, but still with the rough edge that never left her voice, “Dance with me.” The frenzied beat slowed to a more sensual pace, as Rend brought back a melody from earlier in the music. Blooddance reached out her hand to Thawrat. He looked down at her hand, like his own but with a power he did not understand; soft except on her fingertips where the bowstring had toughened her skin–.

“No,” he said quietly, then stood up, turned away from her and the others, and ran into the forest. The music and firelight quickly faded behind him, but he kept running by the light of the moons, not sure of where he was going to or what he was running from. Hours later, he stopped beside a small stream, drank, then rested and soon slept. Sleep brought him no peace.

He dreamed he was running through the night still, with both moons bright overhead, but the forest was silent. He could not even hear his breath or foot falls. He did not know what he was running from, but he knew Blooddance was ahead. Then he saw her, at the end of a clearing. She stood naked and proud, facing him. Her body shone in the moonlight like evening rain on rock, wet and dark. Desire gave him the strength to reach her, but just as he touched her she dissolved into a bundle of sleep furs. Now he could hear other elves from the holt, taunting him.

“Can’t you sleep alone?” “Your furs are lonely.” The furs in his arms became hot and bloody, as if just stripped from the kill. He could not put down the furs or move from the spot, and the other elves surrounded him. The bundle in his arms shifted again, and became Darkstone’s wolf friend, standing up, with front legs on Thawrat’s shoulders and bared teeth at his throat. Thawrat tilted his head up, looking for the moons–the one constant in his life for as long as he could remember–and felt Blooddance’s lips press tightly against his exposed throat. A thrilling fire raced through his body, and then the wolf’s fangs bit deeply into his neck.

 

Thawrat's dream. Copyright Linda Tam.
Thawrat’s dream. Copyright Linda Tam.

When he awoke the daystar was already above the trees, bright and warm. Thawrat could hear the brook babbling, birds, wind in the trees, and other forest sounds, but something was missing. Then he realized he could not hear any elves talking, or making any other sounds. After only a few eights of days living in the holt, the forest seemed empty. He munched fish berries from a nearby bush and pondered what to do.

To return to the forest? He knew that elves were not meant to live alone. But the holt was not an easy place to live. Blooddance had rejected him, and others might do the same. The forest was always challenging but never cruel. There must be a balance–.

*Thawrat.* He did not recognize the sender, so he did not reply. *Thawrat. I sense you now. I’m Glow. Where are you?*

*Why are you here?* Thawrat asked warily.

*You are a member of the tribe now–at least, I think of you that way. Are you staying with us? Are you by the creek?*

*Yes…there’s a wide area with two trees on a sandbar.*

*We’ll be there soon.*

*Who is with you?*

*Other friends.*

Thawrat heard them coming and looked across the creek. Blooddance was the first to come into view, with Glow, Neep, and Sliverhand close behind. Thawrat was not sure when he had become a member of the tribe such that he could not go into the forest without being followed, but he was pleased that the tribe would stand with him. He looked at Blooddance standing proud on the bank of the creek. She looked different than she had in his dream, an inner difference that had nothing to do with her fully clothed state, or the time of day. She was a member of the tribe too, whether she was lovemate or not.

Thawrat stepped into the stream and waded across. Just as he neared the other side, he felt the familiar feeling of slipping on a mossy rock, but even before he fell, strong arms grabbed his and steadied him. “Thanks, Blooddance.” She acknowledged him with a rare smile. He remembered her almost smiling when they first met, and at the archery practice, and remembered her advice. “Hold tight. Feel the tension. That’s the power…you have to respect it, understand it, use it.” This was the balance he sought. He would hold tight to the tribe, and know that would mean tension, but out of that tension came power and possibilities.

Sliverhand addressed Thawrat. “We’ve all spotted food to gather on our way back to the holt. You should bring something, too.”

“Sliverhand, you’re younger than me. Why do act like Rend?” Glow asked.

Neep, as usual, took Glow too seriously, and defended his son. “When Rend could hunt he was our best provider. Sliverhand is wise to learn his ways.”

“I only meant,” stammered Glow, “that, uh, –.” “There’s fish berries across the stream,” Thawrat said, and turned to wade back across.

*Don’t slip,* Glow sent, *Because I don’t think Blooddance will rescue you more than once.* Thawrat replied by sending an image of the slender Glow lifting him out of the stream with one hand, pulling him up by his hair, and thoughts of laughter.

“Why do you smile?” Blooddance asked Glow.

“Because the daystar smiles on us. Why do you not smile?”

“It’s too hot.” Thawrat, listening to them nip at each other like playful cubs, and waist deep in the icy creek, smiled to himself.

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Happy Thawrat in creek. Copyright Linda Tam.

Original material Copyright © by Tim Covell, 1998 All Rights Reserved.

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