Crafting Rynn's First Bow

A short story written by BlackWolf XIIIBlackWolf XIII.

"This is your best work yet."

Rynn was happy to hear this praise. For over two months he had struggled to learn the art of bowmaking. It was difficult work. Twice he had ruined his materials and thereby stunted his progress. Twice again his mentor had thrown away substandard attempts.

But the half-elf's smile fell as he saw his mentor scowl during inspection of the longbow.

"But it isn't good enough. Throw it away and start over."

"What? Arandur, why? Didn't you just say it was my best work?"

"Your best work so far, yes. And this is actually turning out to be a usable bow. But you need something better than just usable. A ranger needs a bow he can rely on.

"So get rid of this one and start over. Perhaps you can sell it to the orcs."

The rangers had made camp a few miles outside a small orcish village far into the dead lands. Rynn had been surprised that the orcs were only semi-violent; not as bloodthirsty as their kind was rumored to be, though still quite brutal.

Arandur had successfully made an arrangement with the clan's local leader so that he and Rynn could barter for items they needed. The chieftain had been pleased with Arandur's skill with the sword. Some of the orcs would chuckle and clap their hands roughly against Rynn's back as he passed through, but otherwise they enjoyed relative safety. Communication was difficult for Rynn as he didn't speak orcish, but he got by with a broken mix of the common and goblin languages.

Feeling rather discouraged, Rynn carried his latest failure and a large slab of animal meat into the village. There he sought out an orc named Skugg — the orcs called him the 'wood master' in a form of goblin, though 'junk master' seemed more appropriate due to the assortment of miscellaneous items the scarred old orc kept.

"You back again?" Skugg asked after a hearty laugh. "More wood?"

Rynn shrugged the slab of meat off his shoulder and onto a crude table. The orc eyed it as saliva built up around his yellowed tusks.

"Yeah. More wood," the half-elf replied. "And I want to sell you this bow if you'll take it. It isn't very good I'm afraid, but may be good for practice or something."

There was a long pause while the ranger looked at the ground, feeling dejected and pitiful. Finally he looked up to see Skugg scratching his head in confusion.

"Sell bow? Trade for wood?" Rynn asked more simply as he held out the weapon.

"Oh! Sell bow!" The orc took the item and examined it carefully. "You make?"

Rynn nodded.

"This not bad, but no blood."

"No blood?"

Skugg hesitated for a second, obviously trying to translate an orcish concept into words Rynn could understand. "All orc can fight. Only orc with blood — fire in blood — is great warrior. Same with makers. Only maker with fire in blood are make great weapon."

The half-elf gave a slight nod. He wasn't sure he fully understood what Skugg was trying to say, but somehow it had struck a chord with him. He thought about it in a semi-distracted state as he agreed to trade a few coins, the animal meat, and his bow for some new materials for another bowmaking attempt.

Skugg took the items and then wandered back a little later with a log of fine wood. It was darker and less splintered than what he'd received before. It looked stronger too, yet was fairly light for its size.

"You ready," Skugg pronounced. "Put blood in this one."

Over the next month, Rynn concentrated on his craftsmanship. It was slow and painstaking work, but he had gotten inspiration from the orc's counsel. He realized what mattered was putting his soul into it — Skugg had said 'blood' and that was not far from the truth. Rynn was familiar with the human expression of 'blood, sweat, and tears' and it fit his current endeavor. So although he still wasn't entirely sure what Skugg had tried to explain, it didn't matter. This was no longer just a task to be completed; it was a goal in and of itself.

Rynn often lost track of time in the dead lands — the days blurred together so easily since Pressen's huge form nearly always reflected enough light to see by. But now the days blended together more than ever before. The half-elf only took breaks from his work to eat and sleep.

Arandur spent most days hunting and exploring with Vanya, his blue-tailed hawk. This gave Rynn plenty of time to focus on the craft. But some days the elf would stick around to give pointers and guidance. The elder ranger was also working infrequently on a new masterwork composite bow; sometimes he would pull this unfinished work out and they'd work together.

With his newfound perspective, Rynn gained new appreciation for what his master was teaching him. Arandur had been working on his masterwork composite bow for months, carefully working toward his goal. The elf was a decent craftsman and could probably finish it much faster, but he was patient. Rynn realized that Arandur was sacrificing much of his bowmaking time to teach the many skills of a ranger.

Five weeks later, Rynn presented his new bow to his master. Arandur inspected it closely and then smiled — a rare thing to cross the elf's face. Then he drew an arrow from his quiver and tested the longbow. The arrow shot true, landing exactly where the elf had targeted.

"Excellent work, Rynn. This is a good bow. Now you can really begin to practice your archery."

Rynn sighed at the thought of a this new task, but his face was beaming with pride at his accomplishment.

"I think we've lingered here long enough," Arandur said. "Tomorrow we head northeast."