The Eastern Marches of Dorwinion, several years ago....
The dawn stretched lazily into the east facing window of Lys' room. He cracked an eyelid and saw a patch of blue sky framed in one of the glass panes.
'A dry day for riding, thank the Valar,' he thought. He then understood he was alone in his bed; Bardhwyn had left in the night. He scowled and bit back a curse.
There was no need for discretion; Dirk had seen them the night before. Everyone in the company would know of their tryst before the coffee was served. He swung his feet over and onto the cool floor, pulling a hand through his hair. The night he spent with Bardhwyn exceeded his expectations, wetting his appetite for an equally special morning, but it was not to be, not this morning. Faintly, in the distance, he heard an all too familiar sound, the thick thwack of an arrow sinking deep into a butt. Then another, and another, in quick succession. Lysandros understood he need only follow the sound to find Bardhwyn. He pulled on his hose and tunics, fastened a belt about his waist, sunk his feet into his boots and went out into the morning.
He found her in an empty horse paddock on the north side of the inn with a hay bale covered with a piece of linen serving as a butt. Her posture was superb, among the best he'd ever seen, thanks her rigorous training by elves, dwarves and her father's men - all building on her natural talent. Her right arm was thick and muscular, more so than her left, conditioned from years of drawing a bow and as for her gaze, when it focused on her target, it could drill a hole through stone. It was her speed that impressed Lys most; Bardhwyn could loose 10 arrows in under a minute. Put a knife in her hand and she was blindingly fast, and deadly accurate; she was better than Dirk, in truth, but he'd never tell the Laketowner that.
Her lovemaking, however,was slow and tender, and her laugh, melodic. Her scar faded when she smiled; he remembered how the betrothed of the Prince of Dale was described as a 'great beauty' and, though now an outlaw, she still was - especially when she smiled.
"Bardhwyn!" he bellowed. She didn't respond, loosening yet another arrow at her target. Lysandros called her name again, halting at the paddock fence. She lowered her bow and turned.
"Yes, Master Archer?" she replied in a cold voice.
He gave her a quizzical look, shrugging in silence. She returned his gaze, nonplussed.
"What happened? You left?" he finally sputtered.
"It's morning, Master Archer and with it our mission and our duty have returned," she replied. "Have they not?"
Lysandros felt his face screw up with anger; Bardhwyn dropped her head and spoke in a measured fashion.
"Last night was ... unexpected and appreciated but it won't happen again, sir," she said quietly. "I don't want to make things any more difficult than they already are."
"More difficult?" Lys spat. "This is, right now, is difficult!"
"I'm sorry," she whispered, turning her back. She pulled an arrow free from a line of shafts arrayed to her right and knocked it to her bowstring.
"Bardhwyn, no! No! You don't do this, not to me, not now!" Lys bellowed, vaulting over the paddock fence.
She loosed her arrow and it went wide, slicing off into a clump of ash off to the right of the butt. She cursed in Dwarvish.
"And why not?" she barked, spinning on her heel. "It's what I've been handed for weeks now, months! By you! Cold distance!" Her words pulled Lys up short; he stopped in his tracks. She was right.
"And now, now it's different because why, Lysdandros? Why? Because you say so? You want the truth?! The truth is that nothing's changed; here we are, in enemy territory, on the hunt, risking our lives - except, perhaps, you got a little bored? And as for me? For once I got very drunk," she cried.
"No, no..." he answered, almost pleading. "No, Bardhwyn!" Lys balled his hands into fists, willing himself to stay put, where he stood. "Truth? You want to know the real truth? I'll tell you: the real truth is I couldn't lie anymore. I couldn't lie to you or to myself. Cold distance? Outwardly, maybe. Inside - I can't stop thinking about you - I'm always thinking about you, I'm constantly concerned for your safety. And I'm your commander, ordering you into dangerous situations - it tears me apart sometimes. My orders could kill you and you could die never knowing how I..." Lys paused for moment, dropped his head and collected himself. "Ah... that you'd die not knowing how I feel. That's the truth," Lys announced, placing his hands on his hips. "And moreover, I didn't want to lose you to Dirk."
Bardhwyn shook slightly, physically rocked by Lys' words ; her faced flushed.
"I saw it," Lys said quietly. "Your mutual attraction. For a time I hoped for it, hoped you and he would fall in bed together and alleviate me of the burden."
"Burden?" Bardhwyn asked, icily. "You mean 'me'?"
"No, me! I was my own burden," Lys retorted, checking his anger. "When you professed your feelings to me, all those weeks ago, I didn't know what do to, Bardhwyn. I never expected you, this... " Lys pulled his hand through his hair, and circled in frustration, struggling for the words. He paused, facing the rising sun - the East - the direction in which they all rode, to uncertainly and danger.
"This was a suicide mission and we all knew it when we took it," Lys announced. "I didn't expect to live this long. We were sure we could uncover a few, key pieces of intelligence but we, all five of us, thought we'd most assuredly die in its delivery back to the King. So, to prepare myself, I became dead, Bardhwyn. Do you see? When I left Dale was a dead man with no future. Then you joined us, and the Scribe, Thenie, Menon... we saved the Dorwinion King, we're reclaiming his realm. The Gods favored us, are favoring us - favoring me, perhaps, with you." Lys turned towards where Bardhwyn stood, still and silent like some mute stone witness.
"I want to live again, Bardhwyn, please. And, yes, I've been unkind; I'm sorry."
The following few seconds of silence seem to stretch into an hour. Bardhwyn's shoulders relaxed and her glance flashed upwards, far up into the blue expanse of sky above them both, as if in prayer. She then leaned over and collected her quiver off the ground before pulling up the few shafts she'd arrayed, point down into the dirt, for target practice.
"Lose me to Dirk? Really?" she murmured, filling her quiver. "He's like a brother to me. " Bardhwyn then shuddered and said 'ew!' with a squirm, like a schoolgirl handling a muddy worm. She stood for a moment, appraising the Master Archer, mulling his words, before heaving a long sigh.
"You!" She pointed vigorously at Lys. "You made me lose an arrow in that copse and you will help me find it." Bardhwyn held out her hand and gave Lys a small smile. "Please?"
Lys smiled in response and walked to her, taking her hand. "What color the fletching?" he asked.
"It was dyed blue, like your tunic," she replied, leading him to the far end of the paddock. "Dale blue."
"Good color," he said, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "A very good color, indeed."