Creating Talamh: The Beginning of Nora and Calafas

Talamh is the world of Faminelands. Beyond the needs of the world, I need Lark and Orin to be outcasts in their society. Orin especially would suffer. While  I also knew that Lark and Orin were siblings, I considered maybe Orin was a foundling or just he was the bastard while she was coddled.

Then I changed my mind again.  If she was a favorite, when Orin is cruel, the reader might think that he hated her. Rather, I wanted them to have a bond. Something that ties them together.

So I simply decided their parents love was so strong that they denied their families wishes and got married anyway. However the entirety of the village ignores their marriage and their children. While this story is reported in the Carp’s Eye, in my notes I had their whole love story written out in some detail. Here is the beginning…

*****

Journeyman Bowyer Calafas glanced up from his new design when the dark-haired lady and her silver-haired father entered the bowyers’ shop. He and his master fell to their knees. The young man’s mouth hung open; too dry to form words. All he could think was that her brilliant green eyes sparkled brighter than the ruby that lay upon her brow. She held her head high; her hands bore proudly the many scars of battle. He knew Lord Arna on sight and had witnessed the Ascension Ceremony. Still it took him a moment to recognize Nora.

Master Orodherth welcomed the nobles into his shop. As he moved towards them, he gave his former apprentice a sharp kick in the thigh.

Arna smiled kindly. “Hello Good Bowyers.”

Calafas slowly rose, but remained slumped forward in order not to tower over the Lady. He was only a few fingers taller then she, but felt too tall and gangly. As Nora purchased bow strings and five bundles of arrows, he wondered if his teeth were stained. Calafas nodded dumbly and marked her purchases with chalk. 

She asked Orodherth, “Can they be delivered within five hours? Hunter Brogan shall be loading the wagon near the stables and we make our way South.”

Orodherth grumbled in his typical fashion, “Of course, milady. We’re doing nothing else today.”

Nora laughed. Calafas thought her laugh was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. He blushed furiously when she tilted her head and looked at him. Calafas tried to think about his work. He did not know how much of his feelings Nora would comprehend; but Arna could read even the most fleeting thoughts. Calafas was sure if the Lord heard a hint of his desire, he would be cut down.

Nora smiled. “Son of Daria, I recently purchased this quiver from your mother. She does such lovely work. I hope she is well?”

Calafas found his voice, but felt his tone was too coarse. “Yes, milady, my mother is well. Thank you, with your permission, I’ll mention that you’re pleased. It’d please her greatly to know that her work…uh… pleases you.”

He wanted to pound his head into the cob wall. Orodherth and Arna frowned, but Nora smiled wider as she had heard his thoughts as easily as if he spoken aloud.

“Yes, send your mother my regards.”

Without speaking, Arna shot a warning into both of the younger elves’ minds.

Nora blushed.

Calafas stammered, “Milord, forgive my eyes for looking upon Lady Nora’s radiance. Once she was a child and now she’s the Goddess of the Hunt herself. My hope is that my arrows will serve the Ladies and Champion Hunter Brogan well.”

Arna allowed Nora and Calafas to experience discomfort, but said nothing on the matter. He settled on a price with Orodherth as was their practice. Nora waited patiently for her father and gave the men a nod as they left.

Orodherth frowned at Calafas, but the younger man didn’t see him. He was looking at Nora’s disappearing figure with his mouth open. Orodherth slapped the back of his head. “Wake up, Man! She’s a pretty one, no doubt, but she isn’t for the likes of us! Now if your heart is set upon being a suitor, go look at the Smithy Essaria. Get us a discount on arrowheads.”

“Yes,” Calafas mumbled, but his brown eyes still gazed outside.

Orodherth repeated the blow. “Did you hear me, boy? I don’t like to think I wasted two centuries training your sorry arse only to have you hung! Get on that order.”

Even without Orodherth’s words, Calafas knew he could not have Nora. When he was a lad, Lord Arna had given him the chance to be a warrior; he had chosen a different path. If he was a fighter, he might be able to win her, but alas, he was not. 

*****

Arna gripped his daughter’s arm as they walked along the wall. “If you wish to take a consort, you are of age. However, I beg you not to flirt so openly. You have been placed first among my daughters. It would destroy your mother to see you act as if you were a kitchen maid.”

“Sorry, my Father. He was just so uncomfortable, I felt I should say something.”

Arna knew his daughter had not lied, she just had not told the complete truth. She was attracted to his innocence. Calafas was a man who never had killed. A place where she might retreat when the darkness overwhelmed her. “But you like that boy?”

“He has a sweet temper. I feel that when I’m around him,” she said, “but his emotions are almost stifling.”

“He is one of the Cursed.”

Nora asked, “How can that be?”

Arna smiled at the innocence of the question. “Beloved, just as you and I do, he had an ancestor with the Curse. He is not strong in it, but in his adolescence, he was trained enough to control it.”

“You trained him?”

“The world did not start when you were born!” Arna replied, “Of course, I trained him. Once I learned his path, I introduced him to Orodherth.”

“You rarely take such a keen interest in the life of a commoner.” She read her father trying to find out if he held a secret. She could not sense one, but he was an Ancient and much more powerful than she.

 “Save that boy, they are rarely interesting,” Arna said.

*****

From the practice range, Calafas watched the nobles depart from the East Gate. Nora sat tall on her mount while her mother and uncle drove a wagon laden with burlap sacks. A flash of silver danced when she passed a torch. He fought the urge to run to the gates and watch until she disappeared into the forest. Instead, he restuffed the targets and bundled the old filling into faggots.

When he came back inside the hut, Calafas heated the last of the venison pottage for their supper. Orodherth counted their inventory in preparation for the Autumn Hunt and Festival. Though Calafas needed more rest than his ancient master, he felt fidgety. He stayed up to help him. Finally Orodherth yawned and went to his hammock.

Once the old man tranced soundly; Calafas looked over their stock of wood until he found what he was looking for: a piece of delicate white beech. He tested the wood for flexibility and moisture before he began to carve.

It would take him two weeks to finish. The bow was lightweight, fast, and powerful; he knew it would serve Lady Nora well. Five petal asters intertwining with knot work symbolizing of love and unending devotion curved around the handle to the bend in the top.

Knowing the weapon was worthy, but he was not, Calafas believed the weapon would never reach its intended. He considered putting it to the flame. He had not the heart to burn his first master-worked creation. He oiled the wood, carefully wrapped it in leather and hid it high in the rafters of the hut.

Orodherth pretended he did not know. He considered telling the lad’s mother, but unsure of Daria’ reaction, he thought better of it. He did not know who sired Calafas but one in ten were the unwanted bastards of heartless noblemen. He knew it was likely. He just didn’t care.

Before the young man had come to him, the Master Bowyer had been alone for centuries. His companion was long dead. He took no woman, even for a single night, in order to continue his line. He did not care about such things. He was old and needed someone to replace him when Death came for him. The lad had been an eager pupil; now he was a proficient bowyer. Their souls were entwined with the love to layer and carve the wood. That’s all that mattered.

Not knowing what else to do, the old man prayed to the Great Lady. He begged that his lad would refocus on his work and that if he desired a wife; he would find one within their station.

Orodherth felt it likely what Calafas thought was love was actually just a mixture of lust and admiration of a great heroine. He repeated this to the younger man until the Master believed that Calafas believed it was true.

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