"Uhm… Thornbow?" Newt’s voice was soft and barely audible.
It was not much like the little fellow to be so shy and hushed. Maybe a part of him hoped his brother’s son would not hear him and he just could turn and go. Behind his back, he hid the slightly damaged training bow Thornbow had made for him.
In the dark, he had stepped on it because he had just dropped it beside his bedbowl after training with Otter and Longshot. To be honest, he had started bow training because Fadestar and Otter had. He was not really interested... and to be completely honest, he wasn't even good at it. The main reason he kept at it was that he wanted to spend time with Otter and Fadestar and because Longshot was such a nice and patient teacher.
Leaning into the den, he then cleared his throat. "Never mind… I’ll just … leave it here…" he whispered, still hoping to escape without having to explain to the archer and fletcher why the bow already was damaged.
Thornbow hadn't heard Newt at first, but the second time, he turned around. He had been focused on getting the grip of a new bow just right... which usually meant tuning out everything but a lock-send. "Newt?" he asked, and set the bow down on the soft leathers in front of him. Thornbow saw the bow in Newt's hands, and he was holding it in a way that hid part of the damage. "Does your bow need adjusting?"
Newt was tempted to curse under his breath but fought it. He forced a little smile. "Well… in a way," he started, and stepped from one foot to the other just like he used to do as a cub. "It’s just a little thing," he said, and slowly moved the bow from his back to his front. Both hands covered the crack. He couldn’t lie, though, so he gave a deep sigh and handed it to the blond archer with a guilty face.
Thornbow gently took the bow from Newt, feeling the pieces shift as he did. The look on the cub's face and the odd way he stood told the archer a lot. "How did it break?" he asked, looking at the wood for any signs of mistreatment. Thornbow was a bit protective of his work.
"I… somehow stepped on it," Newt admitted frankly and avoided direct eye contact.
Thornbow felt a small bit of smile cross his face. Accidents did happen, and Newt was still young. "I can make you a new one," the archer said, turning the wood over in his hands. "Perhaps a bit stronger even." He was already thinking of a branch in a nearby tree that curved just so.
"Can’t you just fix that one?" Newt asked waving toward the bow. "It’s just fine. I just stepped on it."
Thornbow looked up at Newt. "No, the wood will never be as strong again." Seeing his crafts broken by carelessness made the archer want to growl, but he thought back to being Newt's age, and restrained himself.
Newt gave another sigh and sat down. "I’m sorry it broke. I should have put it away. Cloudfern already gave me the speech about being more careful about my weapons and tools," the lad said, still looking guilty. It didn’t make it one bit better that it had been a gift.
Thornbow put a hand gently on Newt's shoulder. "He has a point, and learning to care for them is important." The archer set down the broken bow. "But you've grown, so perhaps it's time for a new bow."
Newt didn’t know if he really wanted a new one. He wasn’t really interested in archery and most likely never would become a good archer anyway. Maybe he could just borrow a training bow from Longshot or Otter.
"You don’t have to make the trouble and make a new one," he confessed. "I’m not even good at it."
"I thought you were practicing with Otter and Longshot?" Thornbow asked, fairly certain he had seen the three of them heading off with bows on their backs.
"That doesn’t mean I’m good at it," Newt pointed out.
"Do you want to be?" Thornbow asked as he picked up the tools and shavings from the bow he was working on. It was important that every elf be able to contribute to the tribe, but every elf was different and it took time for youngsters to figure out their strengths and their place in the tribe. "I can help..." Thornbow smiled. "I'm even pretty good at archery in the dark." He chuckled a little, remembering the night-time competition.
Newt shrugged his shoulders. "I try very hard and Longshot is a good teacher," he thought aloud. Newt had tried his very best, he frankly could say that. A part of him didn’t want to be behind Fadestar and another part really wanted to impress Longshot with a good shot. But his poor sight made it hard to focus. The greater the distance, the more the target blurred and even if that hadn’t been a problem, his aiming was terrible.
Newt was used to pushing his limits but this was bordering on being frustrating. Maybe it was because he did it for the wrong reasons. He didn’t really want to become a good archer because of himself but because of the others. His heart wasn’t in it.
"That's not really an answer to the question," Thornbow said as he stood up and brushed off wood shavings. He looked around and found a training bow he had been making, but hadn't decorated yet. Handing it to Newt, he waved for him to follow and picked up his own bow and quiver.
Newt looked at the bow, then after Thornbow. He stood up to follow him, the training bow close to his body. In his eyes this would already be enough for him. "Where are we going?" he asked.
"I'd like to see you shoot. See if I can help," Thornbow said. "Sometimes it's a tiny moment of concentration that makes a huge difference." The archer led the way to a clearing with a huge lightning-scarred tree.
Newt huffed. Either Thornbow was suggesting he didn’t do his best, or that Longshot didn’t make a good teacher. Either way, he didn’t like that undertone and it pricked him even more that there was a possible judgement of Longshot’s skills. He liked Longshot, very much actually.
Thornbow saw the irritation in Newt and smiled. "If I'm going to make the right bow for you, then I have to take into account how you shoot," he said. Actually, Thornbow would have loved to spend hours watching Newt, trying to design a bow that would help him overcome some of his vision issues if it was possible.
"Hmm..." Newt muttered. "This bow is fine. I don’t need a better one," he repeated. He really didn’t want to waste his nephew’s time.
Thornbow pulled out a training arrow and handed it to Newt. "Humor me?" he asked, pointing to a bare spot on the tree.
Newt chewed on his lip but then took the arrow and put it on the string like Longshot had showed him. A sheepish smile came to his lips at the memory but he shook it off. Focus. He had to focus.
With a deep breath he pulled the string and aimed. Well, he tried to. His pink-blue eyes went narrow when he tried to focus on the target.
Inhale and pull the string.
Exhale and let it go.
The arrow was free and hit something. At least it hit something. Newt narrowed his eyes some more to see if he was close to the target at all.
Thornbow smiled at Newt's form. It appeared Longshot had taught him well. The arrow hit the edge of the tree's bare spot, which wasn’t bad at all. Thornbow walked the few paces to retrieve it and twirled the shaft is his hand. "I think your new bow needs to be longer. It will balance better," he said, and handed the arrow back to Newt. "Try again, using just your right eye."
"Why?" Newt asked. "I already see badly enough with both eyes open." He couldn’t help but be a little know-it-all, especially since he tried that with Longshot already. Sometimes this side of him showed, almost out of nowhere.
"Well, does the tree just blur or do you see double images at that distance?" Thornbow asked. "If it's double trees then just use one eye."
"It blurs," Newt said and let his arm sink. "And my shoulders get sore. Holding the spear is way easier," he confessed. Then he took another breath and aimed the arrow again. He wanted to at least try. He didn’t have to become the best archer at all but he had to try his best.
The arrow flew and this time missed the target by some inches more.
Thornbow nodded at the comment about blur and watched Newt shoot again. "I can't do much for blur," he said when the arrow missed. "I think that would just take lots and lots of practice." The archer walked out for the arrow again, and when he came back he asked, "Which spot on your shoulders?" Thornbow was thinking if he made the bow a little harder to draw, it would help Newt build up the muscles.
"Right there," Newt said and pointed at a spot between his shoulders. "Longshot said it would get easier when I practice." Sitting down at the ground the pale lad looked at the bow. "Can I keep this?" he asked. "I only will use it for practice anyway."
Thornbow nodded again, "Longshot is right, but with a small bow that's going to take some time." He thought again about the bow he had in mind for Newt. "Of course you may, it's very plain right now, though." As Thornbow sat, he watched Newt, a lanky youth still growing into his limbs. "I'd like to make you one that fits better, though."
Newt looked at him then leaned over and wrapped both arms around Thornbow. "Not even the best bow you will make for me will turn me into a good archer," he said and let go, giving his older nephew a self-assured grin. "I guess we both have to accept that we have our limits." He backed up, looking over the bow again. "This will do just fine." He nodded and came to his feet. "Thank you so much and I’ll take better care of this one."
Thornbow was touched by the hug; it was hard to see Newt as his uncle at times. "You're welcome," he said, not sure of what else he could do. "If you ever change your mind, just say so. I would enjoy the challenge."
Newt laughed and waved the bow. "I will practice as hard as I can," he promised. "Maybe when I’m better, I’ll come back to you for a better bow to play with."
With that, he headed back to the Holt. He never would become a good archer, but at least he wanted to become a better one.