"Shards and shit!" With a grimace, Thornbow rubbed at the pink lash mark on his right cheek. He so rarely swore, believing it to be a supreme lack of control, but... Well, that stung! Far more than he thought such a slim length of bow string could. He looked around to see if anyone had witnessed his embarrassing, novice slip. Thankfully, the surrounding woods remained silent but for the soft trilling of night birds and the rustle of the wind through the crisp, dying leaves. He sighed with some measure of relief. He hated being the butt of a joke or laughter even if he knew it would only be good-natured. It was a fact of life that some of his tribemates were natural pranksters, born with laughter on their lips. He was not one of them, though. Not naturally. Of course, he had a sense of humor and took pleasure in jokes and romps, but there was also a time to listen and be quiet and learn and work.
Now was one of those times. Despite many other offers, Thornbow chose instead a handful of moments to devote to himself and his new craft. His talent and his skill and something that he planned to do better than anyone else in the entire tribe. Even better than Sunlight someday.
Sitting back against the broad oak that supported him, the young elf studied the curve of wood in his left hand. It was beautiful, he thought, and seemed to sing with movement. It wanted to be a bow more than anything else in the world. This he believed. He was no plantshaper but he knew wood. Some elves possessed the talent of music, able to draw out rhythms and melodies from any number of instruments. Some showed a natural skill with leather or metal or stones. Some could create perfect images with dye and paint. For him, it all flowed through the supple wood and into his fingers. He knew wood.
Not as a plantshaper might know wood, no, but he could not deny the smile that came to him when he touched a piece that spoke to him of bows. If he had been given to poetry, Thornbow might have been able to describe the sensation better. Perhaps even explain it. Part of him was tempted to ask Sunlight or Cloudfern how it felt to talk to the wood, to convince it to take shape and grow. He never could bring himself to find the words, however. In the end, it seemed enough to know even if he did not quite understand how he knew.
The important thing lay in how the wood told him, in some subtle way, when it wanted to be a bow. The suppressed energy and potential in the natural curve or the flexibility of the piece. The promise of a sharp return to shape or the smoothness of motion. Already his bows had achieved notice despite his young age. An elf knew they had a hold of the right part of a stinkbear when Blacksnake himself delivered a compliment!
He looked at the string in his left hand and sighed, the smile leaving his face. If only the lengths of bowstring talked to him just as readily, he thought. For all that he could smooth and shape his bow stocks with hardly a conscious thought, the strings required his full attention. He set the unfinished bow down and took the string between both hands. Squinting a bit, he rolled it carefully between thumb and first finger. After a moment of study, he began drawing his hands outwards as he rolled, stretching and checking for any imperfections. If there were spots thinner than the rest, they would prove weak and could snap at an inopportune moment.
Of course, he still found his bowstrings snapped quite happily when he was simply stringing them already. It was enough to make an elf spit.
However, this particular string looked sturdy enough, smooth enough, and well wound. Taking one end in hand, he checked the loop there for any fraying or loosening. Then he checked the other. No, both sound as anything he had previously tied. He ran sensitive fingers over the notches cut in either end of the bow stock to find them smooth and deep. That just left one thing — his grip.
So, in the end, it was elf error, he thought with a new, faint smile. He decided he preferred that answer than any doubt in his woodcraft or string turning. It meant his skill had promise and what was coming naturally still lived in his hands. Stringing a bow was the easy part, really. It just took practice. Lots and lots of practice.
He rubbed his fingers hard along the leather of his pants to dry them thoroughly. He only had to grip hard and tight and move quickly to loop the string. Then willing wood would take the weight and the strain and he would have another good bow. One end of the string slipped around a notch and caught under a quick movement of his fingers.
Taking a deep breath and focusing, Thornbow shifted until he could brace the supple wood and bend it downwards to accept the other end of the looped bowstring. This time, it took and, with a growing smile, he eased the wood back into its natural curve. The string held. With a finger, he plucked it. The resulting noise, sharp and sweet and slightly vibrating into silence, sent relaxation flowing through the tense muscles in his shoulders. He slumped back against the oak behind him once more with a contented sigh and brought the newly finished bow down to lay across his lap. Tipping his head back, he watched clouds skirt through the rustling leaves above and allowed the smile to become a toothy grin, full of pride in a job well-done. Now, he thought, there was only the final test of the bow. He had to see if the wood had told him truly, if it would sing for him or anyone with the skill necessary to draw the string.
That would be later, though. For now, he felt the pure and simple pleasure of completion and overcoming a small, temporary annoyance. He was on his way. One day, he thought, I will make the best bows in the Holt and shoot the straightest, truest arrows. Knowing the wood, knowing the tool... It would all end well on his target and that pleased him more than he would ever admit.