Stupid forest. Stupid right of passage requirements. Stupid bow and arrow.
So I’m not your typical elf. Yes, I’m tall and can pretend to be a willow tree if I really try. And it’s dark. And you’re half blind. I can stomp through the woods without making the kind of noise that draws attention, even if I want to call attention to myself. I’m pretty smart, though I don’t think I’m really old enough to be considered wise. I mean, who’s wise at nineteen?
My people have a rich culture mired in our history, and no one clings to tradition and history like elves. I mean, I have some cousins, on my dad’s side, who still work for Saint Nicholas, despite the fact that their great, great, great, great grandparents fulfilled the terms of that indenture contract. This might sound great, if you’re the sort of person who prefers stability to uncertainty, and custom to progress.
I’m a philosopher by nature. My brother would say I’m argumentative, but that’s just not true. I feel it’s healthy to question everything. I mean, just because something worked well five hundred years ago, doesn’t mean it’s still the right choice today. But nobody listens to me.
So here I am, tromping through the forest trying to kill some poor defenseless animal to prove myself a contributing member of society. I proposed the much harder, and more interesting, coming of age challenge of creating and maintaining a garden for an entire summer, but the elders completely shot that down. I don’t even eat meat. This whole thing is barbaric. Ugh.
Through the trees I see movement. Great. It’s a deer. Rolling my eyes in disgust, I knock an arrow and pull back, aiming down the shaft. I feel sick. I let the string slide off the tips of my fingers and the deer bounds away into the low shrubs.
“Holy fuck!” My eyes widen as I hear the loudest, and most interesting string of profanities echo through the trees.
Have I mentioned that I’m an impressively awful archer?
“Oh Aelfwaru,” I whisper, wincing. I’ve hit someone. And she’s really unhappy about it. Instead of running away, which is what most of my kin would do, I dart toward the shouts. “Are you okay?” I call. I shake my head as I realize she won’t hear me anyway. Stupid magic. “Oh my alder, I am so sorry.” I push my way through the sumac to find my unintentional victim.
She’s bent over to the side, clutching at her upper arm, her eyes pinched tight and her breathing shallow. I see my fletching protruding from the back of her shoulder. I drop my things and rush to her side. “It’s going to be okay,” I whisper. “Here, sit down.” I have no idea what to do about this, but I have to make it right.
Her head snaps up in surprise, and the front of my jerkin is clutched in her fist before I have a chance to step back. “Who the bloody blazes are you?” she demands, giving me a rough shake.
“I’m Högni,” I answer automatically, which is weird, because I’m never that forthcoming with strangers. I reach out and try to peel her hand off my clothes. “Let me help you, please.” She’s older than me, but not by as much as I would have expected. But then again, she could just look young. If her face wasn’t contorted in rage and pain, she’d be very pretty. Who am I kidding? She’s pretty even with her twisted expression. Her skin is the red brown color of oak leaves in the fall, and her eyes are almost black. Then I catch sight of a necklace peeking out from under her tunic. She’s a wizard. I am in so much trouble.
“How do you propose to do that?” she demanded, giving me another shake.
I can no longer meet her eyes. “In any way that you wish. I’m so sorry. Please don’t turn me into a beast. I wasn’t trying to shoot you. I didn’t even know you were here.” Aelfwaru, my mouth runs over. “Please let me make this right,” I beg.
She releases me and I flinch, expecting the worst.
“You shot me?” her voice is quiet now. Somehow reminiscent of a deadly snake.
I reluctantly nod. “I’m supposed to be proving myself a capable adult, but it’s barbaric. And I’m terrible at archery. I swear I was aiming for a deer, and I didn’t really want to hit her either, but I missed anyway, and I guess I hit you. Because that’s definitely my arrow, and I’m really, really sorry.” I only stop when forced to take a breath. “Please sit down. You’re in pain, and it’s my fault, and I want to help.”
Prompt: I’m an elf with really bad aim, so while hunting I accidentally shot you in the shoulder with an arrow. I’m so sorry, can I make it up to you in any way? Oh shit. You’re a wizard. Please don’t turn me into a frog; I’ll do anything you want me to.