“Melannuial! Where did you put my breakfast?”
The elf pauses on her way out the door, a quiver and her bow, Cúmîrel, in her hands. Melannuial’s expression remains neutral despite the heated glare coming from the three-foot high hobbit minstrel next to the breakfast table. Kynta stood with her hands on her hips, eyes narrowed and blazing with such seething angry that any orc from Mordor would have been quailing in terror. The elven hunter replies nonchalantly, unfazed by the hobbit rage she is faced with. “I put it away,” Melannuial stated.
Kynta’s mouth drops in horror as if the elf had committed the worst possible crime ever imagined. Both her arms fall to her sides as she slumps in disappointment. “You…put…it…away!? But I’m hungry!”
“You just ate an hour ago, Kynta,” Melannuial said as she walked through the main room toward the door, tossing her quiver of arrows over her back so she could grab the door handle. “Now, please finish packing. We’re leaving in an hour.”
As the elf walked from the small house, the hobbit glared at her, hands returning to her hips and eyes narrowing as if daggers could come out of them. As soon as the door shut behind the elf, Kynta slumped, pouting. “Damn elf,” she muttered. “That was my second breakfast.” She looked around the room a few moments before moving toward the pantry to see what she could cook up within five minutes before she started packing.
Yesterday, a letter appeared on the Kin House steps with an urgent message from the Rangers of Esteldin. It was addressed to the entire Kin of the Storm Crusaders stating that they were under attack and needed assistance right away, along with several other Kinships. After quick deliberation between the officers, it was decided that they would leave the next day to Esteldin, which was a three day’s ride from the Bree-land Homesteads. Night had been busy in Millshaw as well as this morning. Armorers and weaponsmiths were busy making sure everyone’s armor was ready for battle, others sparred in the courtyard to make sure their skills were not rusty. Morning light saw no difference to the hustle and bustle of the Kinships. Even from the secluded house Melannuial had chosen for her friends and herself months ago, she could hear the excitement as the Storm Crusaders prepared to leave Bree-land.
Cynthrya had already brought up the horses and ponies from the pastures. She was pulling the tangles out of Oreoh’s mane as the elf approached. “I swear this pony takes after Kynta more and more each day,” the Rohirrim girl muttered as she gave a hefty pull on the pony’s thick mane. “Just as stubborn and just as lazy.”
“What did you do to our poor hobbit minstrel this time, Melannuial?” Isilrien asked from behind the roan horse she was borrowing from the hunter. The lore-master smirked knowingly. “We all heard yelling. Kynta only, of course.”
Melannuial snorted. “I did nothing. A hobbit’s meal is none of my concern. We’re leaving within the hour and she was determine to eat…again.”
“Just because elves have no appetite doesn’t mean you have to make us suffer,” Venza, the hobbit burglar who was helping sort the food provisions into the packs. “You may be able to live of waybread but I prefer a good hearty meal six times a day, ya know.”
“Cookies do not count for a hearty meal,” Calnarya replied, packing the last stack of waybread into the packs.
Vezna waved her hand dismissively. “Only an elf would say that. Like I said, elves know nothing of taste.”
“Enough Venza,” Cynthrya sighed, running her brush through a section of Oreoh’s untangled mane that she had finally finished.
“Something is bothering you,” Melannuial noted as she set her bow on the pack she would carry so she could sling the quiver of arrows over her back. “What is it, Cynthrya?”
The champion sighed. “The horses are restless. Even your own Brannon will not be still. Nor did I sleep well. I feel like something is wrong.”
“There is,” Venza said between a mouthful of food – where she got it no one could guess. “We’re leaving our comfortable beds and well stocked pantries for a wild quest in the North Downs where we’ll have even less sleep and limited food.” The hobbit made a face. “That’s the biggest mistake ever.”
“If that mattered to you so much,” Calnarya asked, securing the last of her items, “you would have not have left the Shire, hobbit.”
“I had my reasons,” Venza retorted, glaring at the rune-keeper between mouthfuls of bread. “You elves think you’re so all-that just because you’re elves and live forever!”
Melannuial was about to intervene, as Calnarya lived up to her name and had a temper hotter than Mount Doom itself, when someone cleared their throat behind them. They all turned to see a hobbit, geared for battle and with several spears strapped to his back. The elf smiled at him. “Looking for Kynta, Alephnull?”
The warden smiled. “Yep. I expected her out here with the rest of you. Is she still inside?”
“Most likely,” Melannuial said. “She’s mad at me for putting her breakfast away.”
Alephnull’s mouth dropped in disbelief, then he sighed, shaking his head sadly. “It is apparent you are indeed an elf,” he said. “Not knowing what second breakfasts are.”
“I know, right!” Venza cried, brushing the crumbs from her lap as she stood up. “I swear elves eat nothing except bread and water.”
“I believe it,” the warden chuckled. Isilrien giggled from behind her horse while Calnarya scoffed and left to her black stallion. Melannuial shook her head, rolling her eyes, unable to smile at the conversation. With hobbits it was always about food.
“She’s inside, I’m sure, Aleph. Why don’t you go see if she’s ready to go.”
“Tell her Oreoh is about ready, as well, please,” Cynthrya added as the warden trotted off to the cottage to find his friend.
“Venza, would you like to come with me to check on the progress of the Kin?” Melannuial asked. The hobbit’s face lit up. She jumped off the crates and ran to catch up to the elf as she walked down the hill. Isilrien followed towing the chestnut she was borrowing from Cynthrya, her pet raven flying overhead. Calnarya and Cynthrya also followed after the Rohirrim had Oreoh ready to go.
Once they were out of site, Kynta slipped passed the remaining horses.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Alephnull asked, peeking over her shoulder. “This could get you into big trouble.”
Kynta rolled her eyes at him. “Why do you have to always be the rhyme of reason in my ear?” she asked him in a whisper.
“Hmmm,” he said sarcastically, “let me count how many times I’ve had to save your butt because you wanted to do something stupid. This,” and he pointed to Kynta’s targeted object, “is one of those times.”
The minstrel gave him an exasperated look. “It’s just a bow, Aleph. Seriously.”
“And my javelin is just a javelin,” Alephnull countered. “Not. You touch my bow and I would hurt you.”
Kynta poked him. “Naw, you love me. If it wasn’t for me you would probably have died a long time ago. You need your partner in crime!” She smirked as he sighed in resonation.
“Okay, I wouldn’t kill you, but I would be so mad at you I…I wouldn’t cook you any more food for our quests!”
“You would when I start whining about how hungry I am,” Kynta countered, smirking as if she had already won the battle. “Besides, I love my meals just as much as that stupid elf loves her stupid bow. It’s equal payback.”
“Food and weapons are not equal,” Alephnull said, crossing his arms.
Kynta gave her friend a half narrowed, half eyebrow raised look. “Are you going to help me or not?”
“You know my terms,” he said with a partially defeated sigh. The minstrel grinned mischievously. With deft fingers, Kynta removed Cúmîrel from the provisions. Both hobbits disappeared back around the shed where they kept the horses and ponies. It would be a half an hour before Melannuial and the others returned to get their mounts. By that time, Kynta had managed to stuff her belongings into a knapsack, as well as some extra food as she knew Cynthrya and Melannuial would never pack enough, and had Oreoh ready to go with her belongings. She carried her small harp and her flute in the pocket of her scholar robes. Alephnull left to get his horse just as the others were returning. It was hard for the hobbit to not act like something was up so she kept her face adverted from the three elves (they all had a special sense to know ‘something was up’,) as she finished checking the saddle, straps and mounting.
“My bow is missing!” Melannuial cried, her face panicked as she searched everywhere it could have fallen. “I’m not leaving without my bow.”
“Are you sure you didn’t leave it in the house?” Calnarya asked, seated on the black mount. “The Kinship is already leaving.”
Melannuial glowered at the rune-keeper. “You may get by using rocks to fight but I am a hunter. I use a bow.”
“You have plenty of bows,” Kynta said as she trotted Oreoh out to the road where Alephnull was waiting for her.
As Kynta rode her pony down the hill, Tayrn appeared. To the minstrel’s dismay he held Melannuial’s bow in his hand, looking perplexed. “Dammit,” she swore under her breath, not even staying around to listen to the exchange between the two hunters. “Leave it to Tay to spoil my fun,” she muttered. She joined Alephnull on the road and the went to join the rest of the Kinship as they left Bree-land for the North Downs. “Next time I’m throwing that damn bow in a river,” she told the warden.
Alephnull only laughed despite her sour mood. Behind them, Melannuial (with Cúmîrel strapped to her back again), and the others filed out to join the others of their Kinship in the march to Esteldin.