1. The Skills That Keep You Alive -by Gwynnyd
Why wouldn't the bead lay flat? Estel gave a vicious tug on the needle, trying to pull the loop through, and the sinew snapped, sending beads scattering. He heaved a disgusted sigh, and fingered the piece of leather with its crooked line of decoration. All that work gone and he hadn't even finished one of the lines. He had gotten the pattern wrong too; three blue beads in a row way back at the beginning, instead of blue, white, blue. Glorfindel had drawn the design and given him the colored beads but it was never going to look really nice. Why did a warrior have to know how to do this anyway?
"It broke." He dropped the project on his lap and looked up under his lashes at Glorfindel. Sometimes, if he acted helpless enough, they just finished things for him.
Glorfindel took the leather, tracing the crooked design and turned it over to expose a tangle of knotted sinew that Estel had not pulled through smoothly, and raised a quizzical brow at the boy. "You were not very careful, were you?"
"It's too hard to poke the needle right on the line. They said you would teach me to be a great warrior. How will this help?" Estel asked.
Regarding him steadily for a moment, Glorfindel asked, "What does a warrior do?"
Estel leaped up and snatched a stylus off the work tray. "He kills orcs!" He danced around the area poking the air with his improvised sword and slashing at the furniture. "Like this and this and this." It felt good to be up and moving. He ranged wider, avoiding the other people working around the big room, but miming a fiercer fight as they looked up from their tasks to grin at him.
"And what if you wanted to take an orc a prisoner and question him?" Glorfindel said as he charged back towards the work area.
The quiet question stopped Estel, and he lowered his arm so the stylus dangled down. He turned to eye Glorfindel. "I'd only hurt him a little bit?" he asked uncertainly.
Glorfindel shrugged. "Could you do that? It takes not only strength but skill to bring your sword against the exact spot to sever the tendon in an arm or leg with just enough force but not too much. You do not want your captive to bleed to death."
"I suppose I could if I wanted to." Estel squirmed and dropped the stylus back on the work tray.
Looking around, Glorfindel called out, "Elladan! Throw me your knife."
Elladan, seated at the other end of the hall, looked up to check the surrounding area, slid his knife out, and tossed it across the room. Glorfindel plucked it out of the air and flipped it from hand to hand. Reaching down, he picked his own knife off the tray and juggled it with Elladan's. In quick succession, he added the stylus, a knife sheath, and the needle case from the tray. Estel felt his mouth drop open in wonder as the objects flashed and twirled in front of his face. Glorfindel placed them one by one back onto the tray until only Elladan's knife still flipped back and forth.
"Elladan! Thank you." He tossed the knife back.
Elladan looked up just in time to casually snatch the knife as it flew by him. Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, he slipped his knife back into its sheath and returned to his task.
"The trick, young Estel," Glorfindel said resting one hand on the boy's shoulder, his other hand touched the boy's brow, eyes and hand in sequence, "is to train your mind and your eyes and your body to work together so that whatever you wish to do you can. If you truly wish to be a great warrior there should be no part of you that feels clumsy or unable to do the tasks you ask of it. Whether you find yourself having to sew a row of tiny even stitches to decorate your gear, or slice off an orc's ear, or smash your way through an opposing army, your hands should be able to do what you ask them to without thinking the task is too hard."
Estel swallowed hard and sat down again. He fingered the piece of leather and plucked at the tangled sinew. "May I start over? I can do better."
"Of course." Glorfindel sliced the tangle from the back of the leather and handed Estel a new piece of sinew to thread. "And when you learn to do this well, I will show you how to make your own beads and carve them too."
Estel sighed and bent to his task, carefully poking the needle in at the start of the design. Glancing up, he asked casually, "Will you also teach me how to catch a knife?"
Glorfindel let out a snort of laughter. "And how to control your sword so you can slice the buttons off a foe's jacket. After all, you never know which skills will be the ones that keep you alive."
Aragorn examined his face carefully in the scrap of polished metal and smudged a line of kohl under his eye. The noises in the street outside the booth, as well as the fitful breeze that flapped the awning, marked the end of the afternoon's rest period. As the hellish heat subsided, the crowds looked for entertainment. Much could be learned by listening. He gave a final polish to the balls of glass that he had carved to flash and sparkle. He held the clear one up to catch a stray beam of sun squeezing in where the canvas met the roof, and light coruscated around the dim, enclosed area. Satisfied, he tucked the balls into his spangled sash. After spreading a handful of oil over his naked torso and arms, he carefully washed his hands and wiped them dry on a scrap of cloth. Although his grasp of the local dialect still felt shaky for any deep discourse, he knew his cue well enough. As the sing-song call reached the right moment, he gripped his knife in his teeth, flexed his shoulders to their maximum width and leaped out onto the small stage with a fierce growl.
The barker droned, "See the giant of the north juggling the jewels of Feanor…"