Epilogue: Ahiga


Heat from the ovens below his attic room seeped through the cracks between the aged floorboards. Even at such an early hour, before the first twinkling of dawn brushed against the dark did only the Watch and a handful of yawning tradesmen wander the cobbled streets. His few things shoved into a weatherproofed pack, and borrowed linens left folded on the foot of the straw mattress, Ahiga quietly stepped out into the cold dark.

The warmth that had sunk into him from the stark living quarters was slowly pulled from his skin and clothing as he walked. Thin lips twisting, he welcomed the uncomfortable bite of the chilly air. Ahiga did not look to the trinket shop of the crazed woman, nor did he look to the quiet garden that, in the past months, he had found himself frequenting, if only in vain hope.

What was hope, but futility? He told himself he felt nothing. That feeling was weakness. He had not come to Bree-land to live in a warm attic and deliver mail for the witless flocks of Eriador. But his weeks of not caring turned into months of loneliness as he felt a fresh bitterness blossom deep in his chest. He had let himself get ensnared by the dark smile and verdant gaze that saw right through his pitiful charade only to wake up alone.

Swiping his mess of black hair back out of his eyes, Ahiga paid no heed to the few familiar faces he passed on his way to the South Gate. The revenge he had waited for so long had crumbled into aimless anger not long after the morning he had woken up alone. He had been so close, and he knew, he KNEW that the Elf had known he was there. Waiting for her in the dark with a poisoned blade and her name as a curse upon his lips, the Elf had stopped at the top of the path leading to the cabin beside the lake. She had stood there in silence, gazing down to the home of people who loved her, and her silent presence waiting patiently for Ahiga to do what he’d meant to overwhelmed him.

He hated her, hated her so much because he had to hate someone. And he had let her go. It would have meant nothing, taking her life then, and the next day she was gone — gone with purpose, just like the rest. He was empty, and aimless, and every child’s laugh, every whisper of a garden snake in the fields, and sweet summer rain fed into the anger that burned deep within his bones.

Ahiga did not stop as he reached the edge of the woods. He did not look to the trees where Leuca often lingered, or the gates of Durrow in the distance. He was going someplace, far away from Angmar, and Bree, and feelings he wanted to forget. The young man did not know where, nor did he think on it. For the time being, moving forward was all he truly needed.

Innocent Heart: My Dearest Friend


Dearest Lalaith,

Greetings! I apologize that a reply took so long to get to you. How is little Vana? I cannot get over how beautiful she is. I may have to beg for a sketch of the two of you one of these days. Has she been feeling and sleeping better at nights? I hope you have found a nurse to allow you more sleep. How have you been feeling?

Things here are as busy as always. I am living in the Ivory Tower now, did I tell you? My Lady has had so much on her plate, and there is ever so much to do, but I enjoy the work and it always helps the time pass more quickly. And I have had plenty to distract me with lately aside from work, teaching, fencing, and reading to the swans. Perhaps too much (but I will write you about boys some other time).

Tutoring is going well. With one having gotten a sponsor so he could continue as one of the few pages, and one of my girls in Pelargir for an apprenticeship I have had the freedom to take on a new student. We spend most of our lessons on the beach, or taking little field trips around the city. Dannert is still rough around the edges, but I have earned his trust, and there is a quiet understanding between us that wherever the group goes he is sure to help me avoid his brother. I hate the brother almost as much as I did Auntie. Perhaps even more so. He is the model for everything bad a human could be, everything vile brewing in this city, and I always fear doing anything that might trigger his abuse of Dannert. He makes me feel vulnerable and ill deep in my gut. Maybe one day he will bump into me atop the long city stair and accidentally fall of the edge….

Then there is my Lady. Lady Cirieldis is changed of late, especially after we’ve been staying in the tower, and I am ever worrying more and more. She has secluded herself, and it does not bode well. I brush her hair every night and it is like the world weighs on her shoulders. If I could take it from her I would in an instant. She should smile more. I try, but it feels as if it is becoming increasingly difficult. Nay, nigh impossible. Some nights I imagine the hair brushing might sweep away her troubles and stress. I imagine she was you and then I could sit with her and hug her till she feels better, or spirit her away for a walk like the one we took last year, where no one expects anything of her. I am fairly sure Sana still holds that against me, by the way.

How is Sana by the way? And Corden, and Orin, and his Lordship? Has the Haradic gentleman visited yet? I remember there being some speculation, but hopefully Pelargir is treating it’s foreign residents better than the ones here. Tell Orin I found another book he might enjoy, that is if he has not read it already. It is called ‘Heart of Nations’. The writer has a wonderful voice and cites very good sources.

I miss you terribly, and hope to have time afforded me soon to pay you a visit. Every time I visit the city seems bigger and brighter, and it makes my worry for Dol Amroth deepen. Kiss your darling girl for me, and tell her to be good to her mama. I have a dozen little presents for her, though they may end up being mailed, and will send some of Berests’ cheese your way when next I am able. With the regrettable state the city is in I cannot say when I may be free to see you next, but please do not worry for me.

Wising you every blessing,
Yours affectionately,

When It Happens


“But you don’t understand! She’s my best friend’s sister! We threw rocks at each other!”

Eruviel’s merry chuckle echoed about her yard as she watched Frank pace and throw out his hands in a dramatic display of frustration. “Frank! Frank. I punched my deceased in the face on — no, twice. It is not impossible for a relationship to mature beyond enmity.”

Frank scrubbed his hands over his face, and plodded over to lean heavily against the railing beside the Elf. He sighed heavily. “I saw her… two weeks ago? For the first time in years. She’s… She’s still Kimby, but she’s an entirely different person.”

“You both are,” Eruviel offered thoughtfully.

The young man shot her a little smirk. “Is… Is it okay? I mean, it’s been a while since Mag’s left. I just…. I don’t wanna jump inta something if I’m not ready.”

The Elf’s kind smile evolved into a smirk. “Do you want to be ready?”

Frank thought about it before an uncontrolled, boyish grin spread across his face. “Yeah. I really do.  I wanna know everything there is about her.” He then chuckled and blushed furiously as he hooked a hand around the back of his neck. “When she — an’ then I kissed ‘er back… it was like seein’ colors fer the first time in a long time.”

Eruviel chuckled, and slid gracefully off of her seat on the fence rail before dusting off her fitted trousers. “It can be like that.”

Frank braced a hand on a fence post before easily swinging himself over. “How was it for you this time?”

“How…? Frank, I’m not going to start telling you what it’s like when Eirikr and I kiss –”

“Oh, COR, please don’t! I didn’t mean it like that!” Frank insisted with a laugh. “That’s like my mom tellin’ me weird stories about her an’ Dad, and it’s so gro –!” He made a shudder and grinned as he unsuccessfully attempted to doge a swat to the back of the head.

They turned to head down the road, Eruviel composed but for a soft chuckle and blushing, and Frank grinned, rubbing at the back of his head. Several steps down the lane, the young man looked over to her once more. “… So, you think it’s okay if I try to go for it?”

“What do you think, Frank?” said Eruviel, her tone kind as she gave him a knowing smirk.

“I think… I think it will be an adventure with her if I do,” he started with a sheepish chuckle. “When some things happen… I think I would be missing out if I didn’t try.”

Innocent Heart


((A response blog to the brilliant and lovely Valael Valia Tia. The first two parts happened a year ago, and the third is a little recent addition.))

“And maybe a sketch with nothing. Just in case the portrait is not sufficient,” Alduial considered, looking herself over in the dress. “I am going to buy this. I like it. I can always wear something grey to dinner.”

Feira nodded as she slipped her arms into the mostly opened sleeves and adjusted the dress over her slender waist. The fluid grey dress swirled around her legs like a morning mist, the pre-dawn hue warmed by a sunrise glow that crept up from the hem, and somewhat unkindly pulling her away from the first successful distraction she had had in weeks.

Do you have a favorite color?

It took a second to steady her hands. Fastening the pale gold sash beneath her bust she smoothed her hands over her hips even as she nodded to Alduial. “Good! And I am sure your supper will be splendid, whatever you end up wearing. What is most important is him and you, and sharing such a happy occasion with your loved ones.”

“‘Loved Ones’ is a little excessive, but I suppose so,” Alduial said dismissively and looked over Feira, her expression turning to a beaming look of approval as she danced over and smoothed out the shoulders of the dress. “You look like the sunrise made flesh,” she said firmly and fixed a little wrinkle. “That is marvelous.”

Feira blushed, adjusting the delicate gold clasps that fastened the open sleeves over her elbows. “I’m worried it’s too young…. I feel like some seaside nymph.”

“I understand seaside nymphs are in fashion,” Alduial replied and bent slightly to look over the clasps. “You are a positive siren anyway. You could march down to the docks and have your pick of sailors in a heartbeat. But I would not dare call it young, you look bright, that is different.”

Feira’s almost genuine smile faltered at the mention of sailors, and for a moment she looked down at herself, self-consciously brushing at one sleeve and smoothing her hands over the bodice. “Bright is — is good. I do enjoy bright….” She found a smile again, though not one of her own, and nodded to Alduial. “I – It is fun, trying on dresses with friends. It has been a while. Was there anything else that caught your eye?”

“Oh all sorts!” Alduial exclaimed, suddenly far more chipper and bright, and she swept over to the door, calling in a sing-song voice for the tailor and leaning through the doorway to summon more distractions to the dressing room.


“If you are sure…. Remember, just four days a week. Any hour you can spare is welcome. Till next Monday. And thank you again, Miss.”

The headmaster hired by The Jays Ladies offered one last reluctant bow before closing the front door of the new, simple little school behind him. Cloak bound around her library books to protect them, Feria leaned back against the whitewashed wall of the building in Dol Amroth’s lower quarter, her golden hair slowly growing heavy from the blowing sheets of rain that fell, unhindered by the low-hanging eaves.

Not all of us can afford to be self-righteous.

For weeks she had hidden. At the estate, at the library. Even the errands she had to run around the city were done quickly and quietly. It had been far easier than she had thought, slipping back into her former ways of avoiding notice, and it was almost effortless, the way she stole about, smaller than before and entirely unassuming. Work filled her days, study her nights, and exhaustive training found it’s way into her free time. She covered as many shifts as she could, every time telling herself that each kind deed she did for those around her was a lie.

The clouds above the city whipped and churned, chasing couples on the rainy Emeleth’s Day inside, and accompanying the gloom of those who would not celebrate it. A free hand rose to brush at the bare hollow of her neck, a motion that had become habit. She knew where it was, the distant memory of it breaking free played often when she thought of the locked, and Feira tried desperately not to think of it.

One part of her told her to slip down to the warf and check the Alshier if he was not there. Another told her to suffer the loss. And the maelstrom in her mind began to spin.

If he was there, what would he say? What would she say? She felt like a monster, fearing his cold look and reproachful tone as if it were wolfsbane. He must hate her. In spite of all her well meaning she had hurt him. Then he had walked away. Emeleth, he really did hate her. She hated herself, hated the mindset that trapped him, and the men that kept him there. Most of all she despised that she hated. It was a dark weight that held her down. It fueled her loneliness and sadness, trapping her in a hole of going nowhere in circles. Everything was empty, numb and grey. Every ambition nearly loosing it’s fire. She thought about all that was lost… what he didn’t know that had been lost, and the dreadful cycle pulled her down even further.

And then there was a third part of her. It told her to leave the necklace there. If he threw it away she would have to be fine with that. The sentiment and lessons that had come with that locket were not bound to cold metal, but to her. She did not dare to hope that he would come looking for her. Two years of Yule, holidays and birthdays and he had given her nothing. Then again, he had given himself, and his time when he could, and she would not deny that he had given the best that he knew to give. He had said that he had never lied to her, and while knowing full well that it could have been meaningless words spat out to make her feel guilt, she chose to believe him.

If she did not go now and retrieve her locket as the agonizing twist in her chest begged her to, she always had an excuse to sometime… some better time find the Alshier. An excuse to see Lhainan.

Hugging her bundled books to her chest, Feira walked out into the some what quiet street, avoiding a passing cart as she began the long walk through the city. For now the third voice held sway, and she did not mind the chilling rain.


“That is it for today. Bently, you will pick up where we left off tomorrow.”

The nine year old boy groaned, and rolled his eyes as he added his worn tome to the pile of books on the bench his tutor sat on. “Yes, Miss Feira.”

As the books piled up and the small flock of children gathered their things, Feira rose. Motioning to the oldest boy, Dannert, she stepped to the side of the courtyard of the little school. Concern written across her features, Feira opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the young man.

“Don’t say it, Miss Feira,” huffed the fifteen year old as he brushed self-consciously at the dark bruise beneath his left eye. “It’s nothing. I just got into another scrap, is all.”

Feira’s amber eyes narrowed. With a gentle touch she reached for Dannert’s arm, lifting it so they could both see the bruise the poked out from beneath the cuff of his sleeve. “And this?” she asked softly.

Dannert stiffened and withdrew a step from the young woman. His face twisted in frustration and a grimace. “It’s — Just let it lie, Miss Feira. I’m fine. I can handle myself.”

“Dannert, this is the third time in a month,”

“I said, let it LIE,” the young man shouted.

“Let what lie?”

The man’s voice that sounded behind her from the open doors of the school made the hairs on the back of Feira’s neck stand on end. For a second she caught Dannert’s eye, and behind his scowl she could see the same dread that she felt. Her expression steeled, and Feira turned around to face the regrettably familiar man.

“I was attempting to convince my charge to attend lessons tomorrow, but he insists he cannot miss work.”

The tall, muscled man known as ‘Bor’ looked at Feira in surprise, and then wicked amusement as a sly smirk turned up his rugged features. “Well, well, well. Little Miss Sunshine! It’s been a long time. I didn’t know my kid brother was getting his learning from you.”

“Not primarily from me, but yes. I tutor him. Dannert is one of my best students,” Feira replied, her tone crisp and professional, and yet it only seemed to make Bor’s grin widen.

“He better be.” Bor slung an arm almost roughly around Dannert’s shoulders.

Dannert shrugged the arm off and didn’t so much as glance to Feira as he began to stalk away. “Whatever. Let’s go.”

“Hold up there, big man!” said Bor as he caught the lad by the arm. “Me and the pretty lady are friends –”

Acquaintances,” Feira corrected briskly.

The look Bor gave her made her stomach feel sick just like it had two years before. “Close enough, right? If Miss Feira’s teachin’ you, then I don’t see why you can’t take a break to come to her lessons.”

Dannert rotated his jaw, gazed fixed on the floor. “Thank you.” The response was careful and automatic.

Feira felt a knot coil with a sickening tightness in her gut. She softly clasped her hands in front of her. The presence of the cruel dagger hidden in her sleeve was far more reassuring than she could put into words. “It is my pleasure. Master Bor, your brother works very hard. You should be proud of him,” she said in a collected, but sincere tone.

“You don’t say? Well, I’ll take your word for it,” said Bor as he ruffled Dannert’s hair with a scared hand. “I will have to check in to see how he is doing from time to time.”

At that Feira’s amber gaze fixed on Bor’s cold, hazel eyes. “If the doors are open you are free to do so, of course. But I should not be keeping you, Master Bor… Dannert. I will see you tomorrow.”

The brief glance Dannert gave her was a myriad of emotions, but Fiera was glad to see the hint of relief. “Yes, Miss Feira.”

Arm once more slung over his little brother’s shoulders, Bor smirked in smug satisfaction, and let his gaze wander freely over the young woman. “I’ll be seeing you.”

Feira didn’t remember to breathe till the brothers left the courtyard. One hand grasping the small, broken shell that hung from a gold chain around her neck, she moved to the front doors of the school to watch the bustling crowds flowing up and down the filthy street. There was no sign of the man, but there was no relief. She wanted to be away from the lower quarters, in the safety of the library or the estate with — Emeleth, with anyone who could take her mind off of that bastard.

Hands grasped at her indigo skirts, and Feira looked down in surprise to see Akiva suddenly clinging to her, and glaring out at the world. “I told ya tha’ you didn’t wanna meet his brother.”

Anecdotes: Where We Are

The glow of a new dawn crept over the wooden beams of the ceiling. It was several minutes of staring up at the warm hues before Jade fully realized that she was awake. For a split second she thought she might have been back in Bree-land, with Drew’s arm draped over her, but then the strong arm reflexively pulled her closer and she remembered.

Turning her head she watched Hazim as he slept, his dark hair tossed over their pillows. For several minutes she listened to him breathing, as well as the occasional stirring of Rafi elsewhere in the room. Thoughts filtered through her mind as she savored the heat that seeped from Hazim’s skin into her own. Regret for the pained look on Drew’s face, for the anger on Sadie’s. She missed Dorsett, and Jo fiercely. And Drew. In truth the wondering had come often in the early hours of the day. Would she regret it someday? Leaving a loving husband, and a quiet, secure home? She thought of the few friends she had, and the small vineyard behind the house. Of the flower bushes that hid her failures.

Careful not to disturb her lover, Jade untangled herself from Hazim and the sheets. The room she and the two brothers shared was simple, and modest, and, most importantly, cheap. Cheap enough for them to live comfortably till they got their footing in the city.

Quick to wash and dress for work, Jade regarded herself in the mirror as the grey light of morning took on a dull, fiery hue that filled the room. Yes, there were things she missed. Selfish decisions that made her question herself. But then a warm sea breeze stole past the curtains to pull at the fabric of  her dress, tease through her hair, and blow away her doubts. Jade drew in a deep breath, and a confident, impish smirk curled up the corners of her mouth.

Turning back to the bed as the tall fighter stirred, Jade stooped to press a soft kiss to his neck. His smell and warmth was almost enough to make her stay, but she pulled herself away and fixed the blanked over Rafi before silently stealing out the door. The sounds of Dol Amroth filled her ears before she even reached the street, and beyond the arch of the exit the glimmer of the nearby sea reflected in her blue eyes. Yes, this was where she was supposed to be.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You did what?!”

Feira winced as Nellie gaped in disapproval. “Please do not give me that look.”

“Oh, I will!” Nellie proclaimed huffily, tossing her brunette locks over her shoulder as the two maids browsed over the selection of fish at the docks. “I can’t believe you!”

Feira rolled her eyes and then gave the merchant a charming smile as she selected a fat salmon for purchase. “What was I supposed to do?”

“Uh, say yes? He’s gorgeous! And owns his own business, and is an actual gentleman,” Nellie griped, spelling it out for her friend with a hand set firmly on her hip. “You know, for as smart at you are, you can be an absolute idiot!”

“What? Because I know how to say ‘no’ to men and you don’t?” Feira retorted smoothly with no small amount of sass.

Nellie gasped in offense, but had no other response because, well, it was the truth. “That is not the point, missy, and you know it. Uugh, and I could have bought a new dress and gotten free treats, too,” she added with a pout as she watched her friend pay for the fish, and exchange knowing smirks with the grizzled but kindly-looking fisherman.

Fiera turned and motioned for Nellie to lead the way down the row of busy merchant stalls. “I am so sorry, Nells, that I am not getting married for your benefit,” she teased.

Nellie jutted out her lower lip in a disgruntled pout at Feira before checking her shopping list. “Why couldn’t you just do it for the money? And you know, since it’s so important, you could have at least tried to love him. You have to get over that silly sailor someday.”

Feira brushed golden strands of hair out of her eyes and cast a glance to the nearby sails at the docks. “Maybe, but Berest deserves someone who does love him, not someone who might.”

Exhaling a long-suffering sigh, Nellie hooked an arm with Feira’s and led her to another stall. “And maybe you’ll be an old maid and give all your pennies away to those little runts you tutor. Or, perhaps I should give that boy — Sully? Sally?”

“Master Sellion?”

“Yes!” Nellie snapped her fingers and pranced several steps. “Perhaps I should give him pointers on how to turn your head.”

Feira scowled at Nellie. “My students are not runts, Sellion and I are just friends, and you are impossible.”

Nellie giggled and squeezed Feira’s arm before dragging her another way, distracted by displays of Haradic jewelry. “I know!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The young recruit dashed in, so sure that his practice sword would find it’s mark. Peldirion had made the young man he sparred with work to get an opening, and waited as he took the bait. Then, without hesitation or mercy, batted away the driving wooden blade, and swung his free arm in to knock the man off of his feet.

“Good! Your form has improved,” he said, expression stern as he offered a hand down to his gasping opponent. “Faster on the draw, and if you get knocked down, roll with it. I may not deal the finishing blow, but your enemy will.”

The training room had filled with young guardsmen eager to serve a new Gondor, and they watched with rapt attention. The Lord Calaer’s morning training sessions were known for being brutal, but every young man at the garrison was up each morning, eager to learn and prove their worth. The fit private stood at attention despite his struggling to regain his breath.

Peldirion looked back to his audience and was about to select two men for the next demonstration when the sight of Halethon in the near hall caught his attention. “Captain Matteson! Run the men through their paces.” One of the officers off to the side strode in and barked to the room as the men began to pair up.

“Woe to the fool who dares attack Pelargir,” said Halethon with a smirk as his friend drew near.

Peldirion’s eyes narrowed to show his amusement and fit on his tunic as he joined him. “Let us hope these lads do not have to see war so close to home again,” he huffed in response as he held out a hand to accept the sealed scroll Halethon offered up to him. His friend turning his wheeled chair, the two began to slowly walk down the hall to the terrace that overlooked the courtyard of the garrison. “Do you know how she is this morning?”

“I did not hear much, but I think your beloved had her breakfast in bed.” There was silence for several seconds, and it prompted Halethon to look up and read Peldirion’s frown. “Pel, she is well,” he assured quietly. “Morning sickness is common.”

Peldirion grunted, and kept his focus on the letter that was suddenly vastly insignificant. “What do you think?”

Halethon’s gaze narrowed as he watched his friend. “I think a lot of things.”

“Do you think it is a boy?”


“… What if it is a girl?”

Halethon blinked, and suddenly leaned his head back as he laughed. “Then you will be hopelessly head over heels for two women! You’re going to be the most ridiculously adorable father. Seriously. I don’t know if your men will fear you less or more after!”

Peldirion’s hardened expression cracked faintly, and only Halethon could see just how soft of a look it really was. “You think so?”

“By Ulmo,” Halethon huffed with a grin. “If you start crying on me I swear I will punch you!”

“I never cry,” Peldirion retorted.

“Horse shit.” Halethon swatted at Peldirion’s arm before turning to wheel himself away. “You’ll do great. Now stop grumping all over the place. We have work to do.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A log in the fire popped, sending a shower of sparks up into the wide chimney. A thick quilt draped over her, a steaming mug of cider rested on the end table, and Fletch slept, snoring softly on Eruviel’s bare feet. It took her a good while to fully concentrate on her studies. The common room of her little home in Durrow still echoed with the memory of laughter, and smelled of beef stew, buttered rolls, and winterberry pie. Even the feel of his final parting kiss lingered, warming her fair cheeks.

But soon enough Eruviel’s emerald gaze was fixed on the old tome as she studied her brother’s notes by fire and candlelight. There was nothing new for her to find, but still she read, possibly to glean what knowledge she lacked, and also out of hope that she could find something else to help the young girl.

She found it again. The recounting of similar cases. And if she thought about it, even from across Ruby Lake, she could faintly sense it. She had not told Eirikr, but it frightened her at first, the fear in Jaemy’s eyes when their hands first touched. The young girl’s pained, confused cries. At the same time that it broke her heart, a fury like blinding fire burned in her veins towards the people that had harmed the child. But she was with Varidia, and in truth, Eruviel could think of no better place for Jaemy’s sake. Both for herself and for her guardian.

Sighing softly, Eruviel closed the tome. One hand tracing over the intricate designs in the leather cover, her other reached to first take up the letter from Idlric, and then the hot mug to sip from. The warmth seeped through her, and the Elf settled further beneath the massive blanket. As prepared as she worked to be for the worst, Eruviel knew that the poor girl was getting the best medicine and magic she could. The logs in the fireplace popped again, and Eruviel watched the flames dance in the hearth. Very few things… if anything in the world were as powerful as true kindness and love freely given. Perhaps they were meant to rescue the young one. Then again, perhaps Varidia and even Durrow were simply the Hunter’s tools to guide Jaemy to an understanding that she could, indeed, save herself.

Innocent Heart: Mouths and Minds to Feed

“There she is!”

Feira looked up as the call rose from the gaggle of children sitting on the rocks rising above the warm shoreline. One… two… three…. And two boys. I’m missing two. Then all of them were running to meet her — well, except for Siyra who had gotten it into her fifteen year old head that running was beneath her.

“We’ve been waiting!” called one boy, sand flying in his wake.

“What took you so long?!” called another.

Jenna, with her hair freshly chopped short, sprinted ahead of the other girl, Akiva, and the three boys. The eight year old tomboy let out a jubilant whoop as she saw the covered basket hanging from Feira’s arm. “What did ya bring us? What did ya bring us?”

Feira laughed and reached out a hand to catch the young girl as she stumbled over her own feet. “Food that you will have to share!”

“But I get a bigger portion, right?” Jenna chirped, putting on a frown as Feira lifted the basket out of reach of the girl’s grabbing hands.

Nine year old Bently skidded to a stop beside them. “Stop being so greedy!” he shot accusingly at the girl.

Jenna hopped back, hands balling into fists. “Take that back!”

Feira stepped easily between them, and rested a delicate hand on Jenna’s head with a commanding weight. “You two can pick a fight some other time,” she resolved as her and Siyra exchanged amused looks. “Akiva? Ren? I see Tom is not here. Ready for your lesson?”

“You bet! Well, I sure am,” said Akiva with a haughty little bobble of her head. “Ren’s just been messin’ around.”

“Tom’s off getting ready to start his Page — And it’s called a job, ya dolt!” Ren shot back with a smirk. He snuck around Siyra to pounce on an unsuspecting Bently.

Feira chuckled, letting the boys tumble about, and turned to lead the small pack towards the smoothed ocean boulders nearby that were crowned by the children’s faded cloaks and jackets. “Danert is not here?”

All of the children frowned, and Ren and Bently ceased their wrestling. “He’s… runnin’ messages today,” Ren replied as he moved to fetch the small pile of borrowed books for Feira.

Akiva sat down by Feira and began helping the young woman unload the picnic she had brought for everyone. “His brother came home,” she spat under her breath.

Feira frowned and looked to the others that were sullenly taking their seats. “The older brother? I suppose it would not help if I talked to him?”

“Nuthin’ helps,” Bently muttered, selecting a worn volume from the stack.

Jenna cozied up beside Feira, and was all too willing to begin passing fat sandwiches to her left. “Best to steer clear of him. He’s mean.”

Siyra frowned darkly, and she held the sandwich she was passed close to her. “He…. Let’s not. What are our lessons for today, Miss. Feira?”

With a knowing look, Feira studied the five children gathered on the beach with her. She drew in a soft breath, and worry vanished from her fair features “Today? We are going over our numbers from yesterday, and Akiva and Ren will be reciting their passages. But first let us enjoy our meal, hmm?”

Ren, having not waited for the others, mumbled with a mouth full of food. “Mmmph! I’s gooo!”

The rest followed suit, eager to consume the meal, and forget the lingering concern that weighed on all of their minds. Breeze catching her golden hair, Feira listened to their chatter and offered over an old tone to Siyra when the girl finished with her food first. It had taken months for them to accept her, and several more for her to earn their trust. She only tutored them for two hours  three times a week, but much of her free time seemed to include at least one of them. Never had Feira felt so fulfilled and so challenged, and as the book was passed for the next youth to read, a dose of pride and concern swelled in her chest for all of her charges, those present and those not.



“… and we took of like cats from a cage! Should ‘a seen us. Damned birds. Gonna be shyin’ from the critters fer weeks!”

Eruviel blinked out of her thoughts, lifting her head from where it rested on her knee to look to the young weapon smith. “Hmm? Oh — yes, yes that would be incredibly frightening. Crows are far smarter than some people care to admit.”

Risala lowered her weighted arms, frowning at the Elf. “You weren’ listening to a word I said, were ya?”

“You were running away from the gravedigger.”

“Yer so full of it,” Risala snorted, lifting the training sword to continue going through her paces. “What’re ya thinkin’ about?”

With a little smirk the Elf rose to her feet and walked along the stone fence to where their training gear sat. “Nothing that need concern you.”

Risala grinned mischievously and pointed her sword accusingly at Eruviel. “You were thinkin’ about him, weren’t ya?!”

“No, I was not,” Eruviel replied, taking up a short sword and the wooden shield from where it leaned against the barrier. “And even so it is hardly any of your business.”

“Bull,” Ris shot back with a snicker. “Can’t fool me, pointy-ears.”

One corner of Eruviel’s mouth slowly curved up. “How is your wounded tail bone feeling?”

“What? What has that gotta do with –” Risala cut off and shrugged, shoving a swath of bright red hair out of her eyes. “It’s fine. Why?”

“Your footwork has gotten sloppy.”

Risala scowled at the change of subject. “It ain’t got sloppy, you jus — Whaaaiiie!”

Quicker than she could respond, Eruvil had dashed in and swept the human’s legs out from under her. With a yelp and a flail of her arms Risala’s legs flew up and she crashed down to the ground.

“Ayyee! Damned bloody elf!” Ris wailed, rolling over and holding her bottom. “What’d ya do that for?!”

Eruviel dropped the shield beside the young woman, and set her hand on her hip. “As payback for last year when you knocked me on my ass.”

“Eh-heh, oh yeah,” Ris responded, grinning as she rose to her feet and took the shield up.

“And also, because the further you go along your road, the greater the chance of you crossing paths with far more dangerous things than an ‘gaunt lord’ and his enchanted flock of carrion.”

Risala sniffed and frowned down at her hammer and shield. “Yeah? Ya really b’lieve in all tha’?”

“I have seen all that, my dear friend.”

“Guess… learnin’ from a two thousand year ol –”

“Fifteen hundred year old –”

Risala smirked and rolled her eyes, though her limbs tingled with an eager anticipation.”Yeah, same thing. Company ain’t gonna be in Bree long. Ya really think you can learn me all that before I go?”

Eruvel’s green eyes narrowed as she grinned, and the Elf whispered under her breath to ignite the oil along the length of her blade. “Shield up. I can do better than that, Miss. Thorne. I can teach you.”

Anecdotes: Everything We Love

It had been a morning packed with deliveries for twitterpated lovers and husbands that had forgotten. Ahiga’s hidden purse was twice as fat as usual. As much as he hated being at the beck and call for people who couldn’t just deliver worthless parcels and drivel themselves, he would not complain about the extra coin he raked in on these silly little holidays.

Sitting on a stone banister, the young man shoved his hair out of his eyes and took a bite of the steaming potato that was his lunch. He watched the Bree-landers below scurry to and fro with more haste than usual, buying overpriced candies, gaudy jewelry, and every passably limp flower in sight. It seemed foolish to him. A waste of resources on a day fabricated to boost the egos of the insignificant and lie about emotions that were good for nothing. 

Scoffing, he hopped down from his perch and shoved a hand into his pocket. Their happy chatter was beginning to piss him off. He’d go… to the garden. Yes, the garden. And even if he wasn’t there, at least Ahiga’d get some damned peace and quiet.


By the time he reached the top of the fourth flight of stairs, Peldirion had a newfound respect for the servants. Careful not to jostle the tea, he bore the tray arrayed with steaming plates of flat cakes, fruit, eggs and Valar knew what else was hidden beneath the silver dome (though it smelled suspiciously of toast and bacon).

Then there was the envelope. His surprise that he’d worked on for two months. That alone tempted him to leave the food and sprint down the private hall to wake her. But the tall, proud man walked calmly and with purpose, dismissing the attending servant before he quietly slipped into the suite.

The grand room was still, the only light coming from the hearth that added to a pale, pre-dawn glow from the windows. Resting the aromatic tray on the bench at the foot of the bed he walked around to her side. 

How soundly she slept. A part of him pulled away, not wishing to disturb his slumbering wife. Lalaith. Everything he loved, good that he did not deserve, yet there she was. Peldirion swallowed hard, the swelling of adoration in his chest not fading as he brushed back a soft curl of black hair and stopped to kiss her cheek. 

“Rise and shine, my love.”

Innocent Heart: Numb

“What are you doing all the way over here?!”

Feira’s golden head snapped up from the thick pages it hovered over. “You’re supposed to speak quietly in a library, Nellie.”

“It’s too quiet… and full of books,” the young woman huffed, pursing her painted lips. “But you’re never on this side of the place! Not as colorful here if you ask me.”

“It’s the law section, Nellie. There are no painted pictures in the pages.” Feira closed the heavy tome before her, and subtly wiped at a damp cheek. She knew what she had set out to do, what she thought had been a good idea. In truth, though, it had been but a fruitless attempt to try and find a way to fix the empty ache in her chest.

“… but oh no! Told them straight up. Really, it can be such a burden, being right all the time.”

Feira blinked her long lashes as she rose from her seat, only just realizing that Nellie had been talking. “Think you’ll go back?”

Nellie tossed her long brown hair over her shoulder. “No way! Got your books? Anyways, I got a date and — Hey, you okay?”

Feira tucked her single book, having nothing to do with ships or sea or sun, beneath one arm. She felt numb, having cried more than she ever thought she would. Her free hand lifted to brush at her slender, unadorned neck, and swallowed the miserable lump she had not felt rise in her throat. “I’m fine, thank you,” she replied, her voice soft and smile weak.

Nellie huffed and led the way out of the building that was probably the least interesting to her in all of the city (aside from maybe the temple). “Know what you need?”

Feira sighed, brushing at her neck again, missing the necklace that had hung there. “No. What do I need, Nellie?” She caught the library door, forging into the daylight after her fellow maid.

“You need to get laid.”

Feira balked at her. Cheeks flushing crimson she lifted her chin and strode quickly ahead. “Nellie –”

Unphased by Feira’s warning tone, Nellie sashayed dramatically down the stone steps. “Really! Gotta do the deed someday. You might like it! And it does wonders f –”

The faint memory of her gold note locket breaking free in the bottom of the Alshier flooded in and a crushing weight of several very different emotions bore down. Spinning on her heel, she stopped abruptly in front of Nellie.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to allude to it. He’s not one of your dozens of trash weekends boyfriends, and never is any form of such a suggestion helpful or appropriate. Do I make myself clear?”

Nellie stared at her in surprise. “I get you…. Sorry. I’ll try and be good about it as long as I can.”

Feira nodded weakly turning to start the walk back to the estate. “… The whole day.”

“A whole day?!” Nellie exclaimed, leaving Feira unsure if she was joking or serious. She looked to her golden-haired friend, studying her tired, red-rimmed eyes. “I’ll behave for two days… Then I’ll make a list of all the single guards for you!”

Feira sighed, shaking her head as the fastidious maid looped an arm with hers. “What am I going to do with you?”
Nellie giggled and very nearly drug Feira along. “Help me spend my pay, of course! I’m not a penny pincher like some people,” she said, giving her a pointed look. “And you need cheering up.”

“Nellie, I don –”

“Nope! No choice! It’s unnatural, you smiling less than me. But that reminds me! So Kelly told El, that Master Hanley to Baelen that the Lady –”

Feira tuned Nellie out as the flood of worthless gossip began. But it did make her smile, and that, for the moment, was probably what she needed most.

Anecdotes: Yule and Regret

“Can I show you anything?” The shop owner looked down at Jade, his patience worn thin by the wave of girls and women who had flowed in and out all day.

Jade did not care. She rested her elbows on the counter and her chin in her hands. “No.”

The man frowned down at the sulking young woman before shrugging and moving off to help someone else who was more likely to spend money.

“Misses Harlowe?”

It took Jade a second, but remembering that that was her, she lifted her head to see who had spoken.

A happy smile lit the Elf’s fair face, and Jade wasn’t sure if it was from having forgotten the lady’s name or the fleeting thought of wanting to look that good in hunting leathers that caused her mind to go blank for a moment. “Oh… Hey. You’re — How are you?”

“Eruviel,” the Elf offered kindly as she set a gloved hand on the counter and looked behind it to the wall covered in gold, silver, and shell necklaces, bracelets and clips. “And I am exceptionally well, thank you. You are here shopping? I should warn you away. I do not think gold is the metal for your husband.”

Jade scoffed, but that brought a little smile to her red lips. “Then maybe a comb for his beard.” She then shook her head. “I’m waiting for the barber to get done”

Eruviel raised her brows. “You are cutting your hair off?”

“Sure am,” she replied, nodding curtly.

“May I ask why?”

Jade glanced side-long at the Elf’s long, intricate braid woven with satin ribbon and pretty winter blossoms. “Feel like being petty,” Jade offered lamely, feeling childish. Lifting her chin, she smirked and tossed her bangs to chase the feeling away. “Don’t tell me you’re cutting yours off. Do Elves lose their powers if they cut their hair?”

The Elf gave an enchanting, silvery laugh. “Not at all! And no, it is one of my most prized possessions. One of the younger members of the guild braided it so nicely and I fear I do not have a clip to keep it from unraveling.”

Jade combed her fingers through her own soft, pale gold hair. “How’s one of your kind end up without anything?” 

Eruviel rolled her shoulders nonchalantly. “I gave it away.” Stopping a saleswoman, she motion to a set of combs and clips stuck to a display. “I don’t know what has you in such a mood at Yule, Miss Jade, but I hope you reconsider.”

Jade studied the display with a thoughtful air. “Oh, it’ll backfire. Reason is silly, but it’s just hair. It’ll grow back.”

“Hmm….” Eruviel picked up a delicate filigree comb. “May I?”

Jade blinked in surprise. “Wh — uhh, sure.”

Eruviel caught a pale swoop of the young woman’s hair with the brass comb, spun it and set it securely in place. “Petty reasons do not justify rash action. Neither are the small regrets worth it.” She hesitated, a warm, distant look in her green eyes. Adjusting the chain of a necklace hidden beneath her collar, Eruviel turned her attention back to Mrs. Harlowe. “And you do have lovely hair.”

The sick feeling that came from her feeling sick at the thought that haunted her lessened, and Jade flashed a charming smile up at the strange Elf. She really would regret it.  “Can’t argue with that.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You have a minute?”

Frank’s hammer clanked in an awkward strike against the tin. Hand gripping the handle tighter, he finished pounding the sharp bend in the metal. “What do you want?”

Cotton skirts swished, and he could almost feel her at his back though she remained several feet away. “I wanted to see you.”

You little — “You should go home, Maddie.”

“Frank, I –”

Without turning, Frank stepped away from the work bench and moved to the forge before her reaching hand could touch his arm.

“I heard you signed over the farm.”

“I did. I also signed your papers at the Town Hall,” he replied cooly.

Her silenced weighed down around them. “If… I didn’t know, Frank. Who I was, what I wanted –”

“Now we both do,” Frank interrupted sharply, meeting her soft, sad eyes with a cold, even look. “Go home.”

She looked wounded, sorry, but the now former Maddie Burns ducked her head in defeat. Picking up her cloak, she left the warmth of the barn for the frigid, snowy evening.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The little house was warm. Too warm. But she felt cold, and Feira shivered bodily, curled up in a quilt on the lightly worn couch.

Beside her several gifts sat, perfectly wrapped, bound with perfect little bows… except for Lalaith’s which was ready to be mailed in the morning. 

Then there was the tray set on the stool covered with several tea cups and a soup bowl. Torrin had not left her side all day, and his soon to be betrothed had even stopped in to see if you young woman was all right. Feira could feel better in the morning, or it could be a couple days, but she would be fine. 

Still Torrin doted on her as if it were her last day on the earth. They played games, and exchanged gifts, and when she fell asleep he sat and read at the foot of the couch to keep her feet warm. 

She didn’t think she could have had a better brother. 

Staring out the front window, Feira listened to him stumble through the kitchen in an attempt to make supper. The world was not as bright as it had been before. But in a day, or a week, whenever he showed up the two years would be over. She would cry and pretend to be fine, then eventually heal, but while she regretted not telling Torrin more about it, there was nothing, at least in that little moment, that she would have changed.