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If at first you don't succeed

By Megan Wilding


If at first you don't succeed

Released from the taut string, the arrow flew freely in the air, heading towards the wooden target. The brunette Elf watched the flight with her breath held, which she released heavily when the arrow went wide of its mark, just like every single one before it. It didn't seem to matter how many times she tried, she just couldn't get it right…

She had watched the others so many times and they made it look easy, but even though she was careful to pay attention and emulate their technique, she still failed each time she tried. She practiced every day and had done so for months now and yet not even once had she managed to lodge an arrow in the target, not even the wrong one.

She longed to follow in her father's footsteps and protect the Woodland Realm but her mother was highly opposed to the idea since his loss. This left her little choice but to teach herself as best she could and while she could get along well enough with a blade, the bow was another matter entirely.

Unfortunately, she had to be adequate with both before she would be considered, and while normally this simply required proper training, Lethiel failed to have that luxury. Everyone knew her mother did not want her to follow that path, so she could not ask for the help she clearly needed.

Her mother's attempts at keeping her from protecting their people would not stop her however; there was nothing else that called to her, nothing else she wanted to commit her life to, so she would keep trying until she finally got it right.

After another failed attempt, Lethiel sighed and moved to collect the arrows, given her inability to hit anything, she was sure they were all still in perfect condition. The prince and his entourage would arrive shortly and she needed to be gone before she got in the way of their training, or thoroughly embarrassed herself.

The young prince was a natural with a bow and would no doubt be one of, if not the best, they had at archery. The flawless ease he hit his marks with only proved to show how poor her own attempts were. Despite that, he still continued to work hard to better himself for their people, just as she wished to.

Straightening her green tunic, she left the training area and headed towards her 'special hideaway' to stow her bow and get changed before returning home. She wasn't sure what would happen if her mother learnt she intended to disobey her wishes and wasn't willing to find out, so she had to be careful.

It wasn't fair that her mother forbade her, it was her life after all, was it not it her right to learn what knowledge and skills she wished to? It was her life to live and decide and it wasn't as though she didn't understand it was dangerous. How could she not, when it was the reason she was without her father?

The King did nothing to stop Legolas learning to fight; with the shadow upon the forest, it simply wasn't safe to risk leaving him vulnerable. All should know how to defend themselves, but that was a common sense her mother failed to acknowledge.

While she loved her mother dearly and had no wish to distress her, she wasn't willing to forgo her dreams either. No matter how long it took, she would become good enough to defend the Realm. Practice made perfect, apparently, so practice she would.

Day followed day in much the same way as those that came before. The predictable and routine nature of her life at least made it easy to plan, and avoid her mother learning things she shouldn't. Between chores, studies, meal times, sleep and free time, the simple schedule of each day wasn't exactly riveting, but she wasn't going to complain about stability or safety.

The Woodland Realm was a happy, peaceful place for the most part and she was grateful for that. It was for that reason she wanted to help protect it, because she knew that without those who risked their lives, there would be no safety. Lethiel had no wish to take it for granted; rather she wanted to maintain it.

Once she was left to her own devices for the day, she prepared to do more training. She still had yet to improve at all but wasn't ready to give up, no matter how hopeless it seemed. There was only so long she could get it wrong before she finally got it. Her wish would be made reality eventually…

She arrived at the training ground, bow in hand and stopped abruptly upon seeing a familiar blond-haired boy loitering, as though waiting for someone. Turning to leave, she halted when he addressed her and faced him again. Bowing in acknowledgement and greeting, she silently prayed that she would not be asked to join him.

"Is there something you require, my Lord?"

Legolas crinkled his nose slightly, which seemed to her to be in displeasure of her formal manner. It passed quickly however and he smiled, shaking his head in answer and she wondered from the sparkle in his eyes whether that was in regards to her silent plea, rather than her spoken question.

"You always come here alone, avoid everyone and seem disheartened when you leave, I wondered why."

Lethiel's cheeks warmed from the blush spreading across her features, that the young heir of all people had noticed her habits and failings… While she did not wish to answer him, nor feel her problems should take up any of his time, she knew well enough that she could not deny him.

"I am afraid I do not hold your talent, my Lord, or any at all."

"You have had no training. Why do you try to learn without aid?"

Lethiel sighed softly, she had hoped the matter would be dropped, but as an explanation was clearly desired, she had little choice but to provide one. "My mother does not wish me to follow in my father's footsteps, so I have little choice but to teach myself."

She had expected a reprimand for disobeying her mother, but he simply looked at her thoughtfully. "Let me watch your technique, perhaps I can figure out the problem."

Eyes widening and mouth dropping open in surprise, she offered no resistance when Legolas took her arm and led her to the targets. The idea of letting anyone see how awful she was made her nauseous, but she had admitted how bad she was and he was offering help, so swallowing her pride was probably for the best.

"I have never hit the target even once, I truly am abysmal, my Lord."

The uttered protest came when he motioned for her to take a shot, he merely smiled reassuringly and waited for her to take aim. Swallowing thickly, she did as she had been silently asked and readied her bow at the nearest target. Once she was sure Legolas was done checking her stance, she loosed the string and watched the arrow once again go wide of the mark.

"You are not without hope, you just need guidance and that I can provide. There are a few minor mistakes, which combine to make the outcome the same frustration for you. It will take no more than a week to teach you, if such is your will?"

She had always heard how friendly and helpful he was, but to offer such… "My Lord, I could not possibly waste your time so!"

"Do you wish to protect our people Lethiel?"

"Yes, more than anything."

"That is why I offer, because I can see how serious you are about this. How is that a waste of my time? Do you wish to learn archery or not?"

"I-Yes, my Lord, I do. I will do whatever I must to learn enough to be accepted."

"Then let us start from the beginning and before the week is through, you shall be a proficient archer."

Lethiel bowed deeply, hiding the tears threatening to fall. "Thank you, Prince Legolas, I promise I shall not let you down.

Finally there was a light that promised her dreams were attainable. Legolas would share his knowledge with her and she would finally be able to protect her home, and no doubt make her father proud in the process. Perhaps being found out and accepting aid was not such a bad thing after all, not when it let to the happy ending she had been praying for. Now she simply had to hope that her mother would eventually accept her decision and everything would remain well between them, for that, only time would tell…

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