Ioreld’s Tale: Into The Northerlands (part 15)

As we rode silently north along the desolate Greenway, Shadryn was quiet for a few days, even taking little interest in the ruins we passed. Elemir’s absence hung heavily in the air. She guided her horse alongside mine and said, with a depth in her tone that belied her words, “I’m sorry for losing your knife.”

“Perhaps just as well,” I answered. “The weapon did not suit you so well as that staff.” I gestured to the branch which she still carried, and had since carved into a sturdy walking stick. “With some training I expect you’ll be much more effective at defending yourself with it than with any sword, and the extra reach is a boon for a warrior of less stature.” She started to bristle at this term, so I clarified, “By that, I mean one who is not as tall.” She nodded, mollified. “Perhaps when we stop for the night, I could–” I had been about to offer to train her in how to fight with it, but my thoughts had found their way back to the night I’d offered to train her in knife-play, and how that had turned out. Hastily I changed my direction. “I could… take a close look at the staff and see how we could improve it. For instance, it might benefit from a counterweight at the cap, to give it more speed on the spins. Plus,” I added, “such an adornment would give it an air of nobility, if it were made with sufficient artistry. When we reach a city, you could even have a gem mounted in it.”

She glanced at the staff’s tip, and nodded, her eyes brightening. “That would be a fine improvement,” she said, and then, hesitantly, as if afraid to give away a secret, she added, “I even have a gem that would suit it well.” I was about to ask if she meant back in Dol Amroth, but her hand was slipping into her tunic, and drawing out a red gemstone, flawlessly cut and shimmering with light within it that seemed to shift like a stormy sunset sky. Indeed, as I stared at it, I was sure I saw within it a jagged line of white searing light, an echo of a lightning-fall trapped inside the jewel. Before I could ask where this stone had come from, she was tucking it back into her tunic. “It’s a lucky charm for me, I’ve been carrying it for… for some time,” she said in a tone that suggested she was not ready to say more.

When we made camp, I spoke to Radolf about it, and he rummaged about in the tools and spare parts he’d brought for repairing weapons and armor. Though he apologized that he could do more with a proper forge, within an evening he’d cunningly fashioned a simple cap, with four adorned crescents of iron rising from it, in the peaks of which the red gem was suspended; the jagged flashes of light within it were caught and reflected by the curving metal, making shimmering waves of light that seemed to dance amongst the crescents.

Shadryn seemed entirely pleased with it, and spent some time practicing with it, swinging it about herself in elaborate dance-like whirls. Remembering what had happened at the copse, Darrien, Radolf, and I all kept our distance. We all had enough bruises from the fight to not want any more. But after she accidentally gave herself a few, she came to me and, with a hint of timidity in her voice, asked if I might show her how to fight better with it. I was just as hesitant as I agreed, and very careful while teaching her to keep a respectful distance. By the time we turned in, I felt sure that she would exceed my ability with a staff in short order. Perhaps in Bree we would be able to find someone with more experience in staff-fighting to train her.

As I slipped into slumber I mused on how far we had come. That day, had it only been three months earlier, in Dol Amroth, sitting on the fountain playing the lute in the dark before dawn, had someone told me I would be planning where to get the Lady Shadryn training in staff combat, I would have laughed enough to wake the Prince.

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