Month: April 2014

The Day Before Departure: Reasons (part 2)

Eruviel felt relief at seeing the streets fairly empty. The few people who walked it’s length were either too busy to notice, or simply did not care. Setting the man in the cart she cut open a bundle of pelts to cover him and guided the mare who pulled it out of the South Gate. The town watch on post smiled and waved back at her, shaking his head at the sight of her bloodied dress. All those times coming home from the road covered in dirt and blood suddenly came to good use. Once safely to the homesteads the man gave her directions to a house two hills over from her own, set against a cliff and hidden by tall trees. The man made no sound of pain as she helped him up the steps, though what she could see of his face looked pale.

“Thank you,” he said with a sigh of relief as he let her help him inside. It was a modest home, not much larger than her own, though she noted with amusement that all the walls had been painted black.

“Think nothing of it,” she said, smiling slightly as she tore her attention away from the house. Exio would approve of this place, she thought with a chuckle. Rolling up her sleeves she turned back to the man. “I need hot water, and clean linens.”

“It’s all there,” he said, pointing to the dining table.

Moving quickly to gather what she needed she set a small cauldron of water over the fire to boil. She could feel his eyes watching her from where he stood, assessing her as she tore the clean cotton sheets into long strips. “Do not worry. I will replace these.”

“After these last weeks, and through all of this . . . I do not even know your name,” he said, his voice low.

Eruviel smirked wryly as she walked back over to him. Reaching behind him she pulled out one of his daggers and proceeded to cut the bandaging off his shoulder. “Take your shirt off,” she said mildly as she turned to retrieve the steaming water from the fire.

The man slowly did as he was instructed though he kept his mask on. Turning back to him Eruviel could see a scarred burn mark stretching down his toned chest.

She hesitated mid-step, keeping her expression controlled as she carried the cauldron over to the table. “Are you sure there are no other wounds . . . whatever your names is,” she said, muttering the last part with amusement.

“Arathier . . . my name is Arathier, and no I have no other wounds . . . .”

Eruviel arched a brow at him, inclining her head. That I can see, she thought grimly. “Take a seat, please, Arathier,” she said, testing his name, her elvish accent surfacing for a brief moment.

Arathier moved to sit in the chair by her and leaned back from exhaustion, clenching his teeth in attempt to abate the pain.

Having soaked the rags in the steaming hot water she knelt beside him. Inspecting the still-seeping wound she began to clean around his shoulder injury. “I am Eruviel.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” he replied calmly. She noticed a hint of color creep up his neck as she worked. Ed’ i’ear ar’ elenea! The man really hasn’t been to a healer much if he gets embarrassed by a female patching up his careless wounds.

Eruviel succeeded in concealing a smirk but the tips of her ears still turned pink. Casting a bloodied rag over into the fire she picked up another, doing her best to not irritate the torn skin further. What he needs is stitches, she thought sullenly. “You never answered my question earlier . . . not really, anyways.” She instantly regretted saying something, remembering his reaction when she had first posed the question.

“And what was the question?”

“Why you do what you have been doing in Bree? What was your promise?”

Arathier’s gaze moved to the fire. “Killing the men who took my mother from me.”

Eruviel stopped for a moment before pulling back, unable to look at him. “You had mentioned her before. It was wrong of me to ask. I will speak no more on the matter,” she said quietly as she rose gingerly to her feet. Emptying the contents of her pockets onto the table she frowned at the handful of empty vials. Of all the things for me to be thoughtless about.  “One good thing has come from you ruining my dresses; I finally have to empty out my pockets.” Dropping clean rags in to the cauldron she brought it, more linens, and a little glass jar back over to Arathier.

“I — um . . . ,” he stuttered, the parts of his face that she could see turning red.

It took all of her strength to to keep from laughing and simply pretend not to notice. “After all the trouble you’ve caused me, I cannot believe you have me playing healer,” she muttered quietly. Dipping two fingers into the salve she began to dab it on the puncture wound. “You are fortunate that I do not listen well to my own healer.”

“For that, I thank you,” said Arathier, smiling warmly in spite of his hurt.

Unable to keep back a smile any longer she glanced at him, making an effort to not let her eyes linger on the scar on his chest. “I suppose you are welcome,” she quipped good-naturedly. Motioning for him to sit forward she unraveled a long dry linen strip and picked up a tightly folded compress.

Arathier leaned forward at her command. “I would be dead if it was not for you,” he said, his voice low and serious.

“Of that, I have no doubt,” she said simply as she wrapped his shoulder. Finishing, she moved to set the jar down but paused, looking from the burn scar up to meet Arathier’s eyes. “Do you mind if I . . .” she held the jar up slightly.

“Leave it. I want it there as a reminder of–” Arathier cut himself off, flushing slightly in what she thought might be frustration as he looked away from her.

Washing her hands, Eruviel set into bandaging his leg. It was a shallow puncture wound on the outside of his thigh. Frowning as she pressed a second compress on it she had him hold the square of cloth in place as she began to wrap it.

Arathier winced slightly. “I was surprised . . . when you saw me there half dead. You did not turn me in.”

Eruviel threw another rag into the fire. Securing the loose end of the linen she smirked slightly up at him. “I had thought about it. Why were those men shooting arrows at you?”

“I ah . . . dealt with their leader.”

Eruviel ‘hmmed’ quietly as she started to clean up her mess. “I was wondering . . . .” her voice trailed off and she simply chuckled, shaking her head as she sat back with a sigh. “I ask too many questions.”

A smile turned up Arathiers mouth as he shook his head. “I think it’s c — I do not mind,” he corrected himself.

Eruviel pursed her lips as she smiled, glancing down. By the arrows of Orome, stop doing that, she though vehemently as she rose to her feet and turned away to hide the flush in her cheeks. “If we were in my own home I would feed you. You lost a lot of blood and need sustenance.”

Arathier nodded over his shoulder. “There is food on the table . . . I can get it myself if you prefer.”

Eruviel stepped in front of him to sweep the clutter of vials and paper on the table into her basket. Turning back to Arathier she smiled slightly, her face again composed. “It is your home, and you’d better be on your death bed if I am ever to feed you. Just eat some meat and drink a lot of water. I leave tomorrow and would be very disappointed to not have my life threatened when I return,” she said with a good-natured wink.

Arathier smiled but a look of worry passed over his face. “You are leaving?”

Eruviel nodded, clasping her hands in front of her as she leaned back against the edge of the table. You were out of it when I told you before . . . but why do you care? “For several months, unfortunately.”

“Where are you going?” asked Arathier, steeling himself as he stood and walked around the table to retrieve a white shirt from a chair on the other side.

Eruviel watched him, not caring to hide her perplexed look. “To the East. I have a friend to protect.”

Arathier nodded rather sullenly as he carefully pulled the shirt down over his torso. Eruviel caught his amused smirk as she looked away.

Eruviel smiled, skewing her lips to one side. “Try not to kill too many men while I’m gone,” she said as she stood up, stepping towards the door. “I should be here to try and stop you.”

“I am almost done, Eruviel,” Arathier said as he walked carefully back around the table.

“What do you mean, you’re almost done?” she asked, frowning up at him.

“I am almost done my sweep of Bree. The number of the brigands I hunt are dwindling. I have no family here, so I will be leaving un–unless I have a reason to stay,” he said quietly, tucking his hands into his pockets.

Eruviel smirked as she studied him. Things were so much easier when you were simply a killer in the shadows. “If I understand you correctly, a complete stranger is asking me to give him a reason to stay?”

Arathier shook his head violently. “Not at all! I did not m-mean i-it like that!” he started, stumbling madly on his words. Taking a deep breath he brought his hands up to his face and slowly removed his mask. “Am I still a stranger?” The void between his blue eyes and short black beard filled in. He had a strong, rather handsome face.

Eruviel ‘s eyes widened slightly. “I suppose not . . . . You trust me to see you without the mask?”

“I trust you,” he said with out hesitation, nodding curtly.

“I am glad of that.” Though I hardly know why . . . . “What is your profession, if I may ask?”

“A woodsman,” he replied with a smile, a familiar gleam in his eyes.

A Ranger, she thought with satisfaction, relaxing her shoulders a she shifted her basket to her other arm. More pieces to his puzzle. Nodding, Eruviel beamed an amused smile up at him. “I suppose I should tell Watcher Arion that the masked man has left town. I cannot abide an honest woodsman being thrown needlessly into prison.”

“I would appreciate that,”Arathier said with a laugh. Stepping with her he opened the door before she could reach for it.

Moving forward into the door way she turned to look back at his bandages to make sure they were holding. “If . . . if you happen to be around if –when I return, I would like it if our paths crossed again. Without the knife or the mask.” Inclining her head in a small bow she stepped out onto the small porch.

“Eruviel,” Arathier called out as she descended the steps.

She turned slightly to look back at him. “Yes, Arathier?”

The man frowned, more to himself than at her. “Have a safe trip.”

Eruviel smiled back at him, her emerald eyes brimming with anticipation and confidence. “I will do my best. Safe paths to you, my friend.”

(All dialogue taken from in-game RP played out on 3/31/14. Some alterations have been made.)

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The Day Before Departure: Reasons (part 1)

“Have a safe trip, dearie!” called the cat lady of Bree.

“I will, Lady Bythia,” called Eruviel, If that is even your real name, she smirked. “May Iluvatar bless you,” Eruviel added with a smile as she shut the door quickly so as to not let the swarms of stray cats out onto the Stair. If the elven huntress ever desired a pet all she needed to do was visit the kind but odd woman’s home to expel the thought from her mind.

Hooking her wicker basket in the crook of her arm she started down the stone corridor. Since Anyatka had departed for Thorin’s Hall the day before, Eruviel had cleaned house and closed the last of her contracts. All that remained was to deliver a cart of hides to the tanner. Her armour had been to the smith, fresh arrows and spare bow strings filled her quiver, and sufficient provisions had been acquired for the long trip she and Eirikr had ahead of them. Sighing with an air of satisfaction she glided down a small series of steps leading into an alley only to have her senses suddenly assaulted.

She could nearly taste the smell of blood in the air and a feeling of anger and pain waft past her, riding on a humid, mid-day draft. Her gut twisted as she proceeded forward with care, her free hand moving instinctively to the dagger hidden in the folds of her skirts. A trail of dark red painting the cobbled ground showed the elf her path through the twists and turns in the alleys until it stopped in the darkness of a dead end. Leaning against the far wall a man sat drenched in blood, moaning quietly from pain.

Unclasping the strap that locked her dagger in place for the sake of safety she hurried towards the man sitting in a pool of blood, only to stop as she reached his feet. “What happened to you?” Eruviel asked quietly, sadness creeping into her voice.

The man did not respond, except for letting out another strained moan as he lifted his head to look at her. His eyes shone from behind the mask, burning with pain.

Eruviel rolled her eyes. You should leave him, she chastised herself. You know you should deliver him to the town watch. Stepping beside her masked man she knelt beside him, touching his arm as his eyes fluttered in a struggle to remain conscious. “You fool,” she said quietly. “What happened?”

The man drew a raspy breath. “I was attacked — by archers. I-I removed the arrows but. . . I passed out.”

She gave him a long, hard look. I should have known I’d see you once more before I left, but . . . . Reaching towards him she looked over his chest for entrance wounds. “Where did they hit you? And why have you not yet been to see a healer?”Eruviel scolded him, shooting the man a disapproving glare.

“My shoulder and . . . m–gah, my thigh.” He flinched as she reached towards him, attempting to brush her off.

Eruviel lightly slapped his hand away. “You did not answer my question,” she said sternly. “Why have you not seen a healer?” Pulling a towel from her basket she proceeded to tear it into strips. I cannot hand him over like this. Of all days to be unable to find Cwendlwyn. . . .

“I am wanted,” the man replied, his deep voice breaking as he drew a breath. “I do not want to get locked in a cell.” He looked up at her and tensed up as she drew close.

“You should not have pulled the arrows out,” said Eruviel, her harsh tone mixed with worry as she broke off a wicker braid from the edge of the basket with a little effort. “Bit down on this. I suppose we cannot have the Watch hearing you.”

The man clamped down on the braid, wincing as she began binding the wound on his leg. “W-Why are you helping me?”

Eruviel frowned as she tied a knot and moved to inspect the man’s shoulder. “Ask the Valar that. By all rights I should turn you in.” Pulling the collar of his jacket back she frowned at the wound. “You are fortunate. They are poor shots, whoever they were. If you give me trouble, I might ask about the amount of the bounty on your head,” she said, attempting a playful glare. She already knew how much he was wanted for. Threz would be disappointed that he missed out on a week’s worth of gold, she thought, smirking.

The masked man studied her as she worked, and catching his look she kept her own eyes lowered on her work. “I-I don’t get you,” he muttered. The fight had drained from him, for the moment at least, and in spite of her curiosity, she did not dare wonder what his gaze meant.

“I will be gone for several months. Seeing you like this puts me somewhat at ease.” A thought sprung into her mind and her eyes widened slightly as she plunged one of her blood-coated hands into her dress pocket. Rummaging, she pulled out a nearly empty vial. “I shall expect you to be grateful,” she grumbles, pulling the stopper out with her teeth. The last of Cwen’s concoction. Our trip better not end in tragedy because of this, she thought grimly. At least I still have Laerlin’s salve left.

“I am grateful,” he replied, his struggle to sound gruff obvious.

Eruviel noticed, as she poured the last few drops of ointment from the vial into the wound on his shoulder, that he held a soiled, crumpled piece of parchment in one hand, his thumb playing almost habitually over a tattered edge. “What is that?” she asked as she quickly bound up his shoulder. These wrappings will not do for long, and his wounds need cleaning, she thought ruefully.

“Wha–” the masked man’s question halted as his eyes flicked over to the parchment. Balling the paper up in his fist he shoved it angrily into his pocket. Even in the shadows she could see the faint glint of moisture that had gathered in his eyes.

Leaning forward to tie the temporary bindings she glanced once more at his hand before looking back, avoiding meeting his gaze. “May I ask you something,” she asked quietly.

The man nodded. “Yes?”

Sitting back on her feet Eruviel bit her lower lip in thought for a moment. “Why . . . why do you do it? Why do you kill them?”

Silence passed between them as the man looked away. “Because I have to . . . .”

“You keep telling me that. It is not reason enough.” Looking down at her blood covered hands she let out a small sigh before proceeding to wipe them off on the skirt of her wash-day dress.

The man’s shoulders trembled. Shocked at his response Eruviel averted her eyes as he raised his good arm to quickly wipe his face. “I made a promise,” he said quietly, his voice surprisingly steady, “a promise to my mother before she passed.”

“Do you need a moment?” she asked simply, her understanding smile genuine. And it all starts to make sense, Eruviel mused.

“I do not need a moment,” he huffed as he moved in a poor attempt to stand. A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth but quickly vanished.

Rising to her feet in one fluid motion, Eruviel hooked her basket in one arm and extended her other hand down to him. Finally meeting his blue, red-rimmed eyes she nodded, ignoring the moisture gathered in their corners. “Then give me your hand and I shall take you to your home. Your wounds need washing and you need rest,” she said matter-of-factly.

The man hesitated before taking her hand, giving her a hard look. “My house?”

“I just cleaned mine, and since I do not even know your name you can bleed on your own floor.” Nodding her head to the exit of the small dead-end she added, “I have a cart you can ride in. If we go now we will just miss the afternoon Watch.”

Setting his jaw as he leaned on her to help him walk he nodded sullenly. “Fine.”

To Dale: Departure from Imladris

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Imladris rested in the sun of morning like a peaceful Island along the East Road. She had left her room in the predawn hours and sat on a rock off the path to the Last Homely House to rest, and to listen. Now standing on the wide front porch Eruviel pulled her gauntlets on as she heard Eirikr emerge from the doors behind her.

“Aaye, mellon. I trust you slept well?” she asked as he walked up beside her, squinting in the sunlight.

He nodded silently, his eyes falling on the rushing waters. “Yes. Very well. I have not slept like that in years.”

A contented smile spread across her face as she took a deep breath of the sweet morning air. “It is good that we stopped here. I doubt we shall sleep half that well for the rest of our journey.”

Eirikr grunted in agreement. “How soon are you wishing to move on? And which path shall we take when facing the Mountains?”

Eruviel skewed her mouth slightly, the light in her eyes dimming as she looked up at the high, distant peaks. “The desire for haste tells me to go over the mountains, but we would have no safe house to shelter at by that road. There is a caravan of dwarves that intend to pass through Moria. That is the road I suggest we take.” Looking over at him she added, “But this is your journey. If you desire to take the high road than that shall be our course.”

“Moria is a better choice,” Eirikr said, shaking his head. “The passes over the mountains are not passes any more, by all I’ve heard. I went through on my way here.” He paused for a moment and then added, “I wonder how Anya got through.”

“I thought they had gone around . . . but I cannot seem to recall how she got though at the moment,” said Eruviel. Her shoulders relaxed, glad that he decided against the mountain paths.

“I can’t imagine her beneath the stones,” Eirikr said, nodding.

Eruviel smirked at the man, her mind thinking of Anyatka who, for the time being, lived at the homesteads in the mountains of Ered Luin. “She does much better under the open sky, does she not.”

Eirikr looked over at her. “Don’t you?”

Smiling thoughtfully, she turned her gaze back out towards the autumn-crowned valley. “I do indeed.”

Eirikr rubbed his beard and said thoughtfully, “You have been here often, haven’t you? You like it here very much.”

Eruviel chuckled slightly, nodding her head. “I have. I enjoy all the elf havens, though I have not been to Lorien since before the Battle of Fornost. The only one I have not seen was Mirkwood back when it was still Green.”

Eirikr bobbed his head slowly as he shifted his cloak around his shoulders. “Thranduil rules there still. His people are kind enough.”

Eruviel glances to the host as she shifts her sword belt over her hips. “I have not met him, though I wonder if our paths will take us through a different road?” She felt silly, asking about Mirkwood. She liked knowing where she was going.

Eirikr shruged. “If we intend to pass through the Mirkwood, the safest routes are along the Elvish paths.”

Eruviel shoot Eirikr an apologetic look. “I fear I will be no good when it comes to directions once we pass out of Lorien.”

Eirikr smirked, a pleased light passing through his eyes. “Good. Then I’m not a complete waste on the journey to Dale.” He looked over to her with a lazy grin. “I can’t stand being useless.”

“You are far from useless,” she responded, arching a brow her companion. “I would still be in Bree if you were not going back to Dale. And two bows are better than one.”

The edge of Eirikr’s mouth twitched at her comment. “Indeed, you would be in Bree if I were not going back to Dale. In fact, you should be in Bree now. While I agree that two bows are better than one, Eruviel, it does weigh on my mind that you mentioned another reason for accompanying me to Dale.” His eyes remain on the scenery as he adds in a light tone, “What is it?”

Eruviel pursed her lips in a moment of thought before replying. “My first reason is to keep you alive. I can only imagine at how devastated Anyatka would be if you should perish. Also, the simple matter of you being my friend is reason enough.” She skewed her mouth before adding, “And I am looking for someone. A favor for a friend back in Bree.”

Eirikr looked over at her and gave her a hard look. “Who is this person? Dale is a large city — how do you expect to find this person? We won’t be hanging about in the local taverns, you know.”

“Several years back a Watcher of Dale named Hallem was murdered,” she said after a long moment of thought. “A friend of his asked me to see if I could find out who did it. It is most likely a lost cause, but I hope to scrap something up for him . . . anything, really.”

Eirikr frowned as his brows knit low over his dark grey eyes. “You’re going to investigate a murder? What do you know? Dale isn’t like Bree…it’s a merchant’s town, not a seedy backwater trading depot.”

Eruviel took a step down the ramp, glancing back up at Eirikr. “The wealthy have their own crime just as much as the poor.” And they can be less honest about it, she thought grimly. “But as I said, I expect to find nothing, but hope merely for a whisper of something to put my friend’s mind at ease with his loss. Apparently the man had a son that went missing not long after the incident.” She shrugged, looking down the road. “But first we need to retrieve Ninim and Abi.”

Eiriikr grunted and started after her. “You suspect it was someone of the merchant class that committed the crime?”

Eruviel rolled her shoulders. “I hope not. If it was, I fear that could make the situation an even greater problem. A man held in such high esteem as I heard Watcher Hallem was, does not simply get murdered for no reason. I would wish him a more noble death, at least.”

Eiriikr hummed as they headed for the stables. “It would make the issue more difficult indeed. Everything is more difficult when money is involved.”

Eruviel glanced over as she falls in step beside him. “I definitely prefer villages and the wilds to cities. To be killed over money . . . .” she mutters quietly, not bothering to finish her sentence. The thought of being killed over the power of money left a sour taste in her mouth.

Falling silent, Eruviel smiled slightly, seeing their horses saddled and waiting for them. The ride today would be harder than the last leg of the journey, but now she felt assured that they were more prepared, for now.

 

 

Just For Fun

A friend got me hooked on this site, and it has been too much fun! I definitely suggest checking it out.

http://www.dolldivine.com/hobbit-and-lotr-dress-up-game.php

The children of Istuion: Milloth, Eruviel, and Ranion.

The children of Istuion: Milloth, Eruviel, and Ranion.

From left to right: Daran (Ge'bar), Eruviel (business), Eruviel (casual), Adrovorn, and Cade.

From left to right: Daran (Ge’bar), Eruviel (business), Eruviel (casual), Adrovorn, and Cade.

I have another post for today, but just wanted to share the joy. Also, for the those who keep up with Eruviel and her back story, leave a comment and let me know what I should write next!

Interlude: A Day Off

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It had been a long winter. The cold, icy months were a fickle mistress, but at last Spring, the bright-eyed child of Summer had driven  the insatiable, bitter season away. Sweet rain fell over the mountains even as rays of golden sun streamed through breaks in the clouds. Elated to be away from the town, Eruviel had stashed most of her attire in the hollow of an old tree before disappearing into Far Chetwood.

The legs of her trousers rolled up to her knees, she sported a short sleeved blouse that had been borrowed from Anyatka’s dresser. Eruviel carried only her dagger at her hip and her bow and three arrows on her back. The past few days had been a haze and she ached to find solace in the darker woods beyond the leafy forests.

Crystals of dew coated the fresh upshots of grass and kissed her bare feet  as she ran through the groves of oak trees. The scent of pine flowed down from the heights and she let it draw her forward and let it bathe and sharpen her senses. Jumping a stream she dodged a forgotten trap, throwing a rock behind her to spring it as she continued on.

She did not know how far she had ran, and it mattered little, for the more ground she covered and the more obstacles she vaulted, the faster she desired to go. Studying a cliff that loomed before her, a light wind picked up from behind and she began to climb. Higher. The wind wrapped its ethereal arms around her as she leapt up from her perch to grab the only available hand hold and swung herself onto a ledge. Higher. Her keen elven senses reveled in the beauty and danger of her surroundings. She loved the climb and the destination, but she also loved the thrill of the decent that came after. Even Milloth used to climb down with care.

A tremor of excitement rushed through her as she swung herself up, grasping at stones, roots and cracks in the granite. Though she had enjoyed the storms of winter, she had missed the wilds during the months she was bound to Bree or the long dangerous road. Danger; that was another thing she seemed to be unable to avoid. But the more she abandoned her care of survival, the better she seemed to survive, and the more she felt alive. Eruviel chuckled as she reached the top of the cliff and pulled herself up over the ledge, the faces of those closest to her flashing in her mind as she hung precariously. How they’d cringe.  She jokingly chided herself for binding herself to the humans she cared for, but always the answer was simple, and she felt almost as much joy at seeing them again as she felt when out on her runs . . . almost.

Standing on the edge of the precipice she drank in the scenery. Sunlight danced across the velvet quilt of the land below. Smoke rose now an then, and she could only imagine the feasts and battles that must have been occurring in the light of the fires. Clouds sailed the space between, and she let her mind wander to fancies as the whistling of the wind and sounds of the stone, forests and birds complimented one another in a melody she wished could be expressed through a harp and lute.

Eruviel sat on the ledge, her bare feet dangling freely in the space beneath her and leaned back. Clouds carried by the currents of air swept up the mountain to engulf her, leaving her glistening with dew in the warm mid-day sun.. Putting her arms beneath her head she closed her emerald eyes, wishing the perfect moment atop of the world could last forever.

Her First Love, And The Monster Inside

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Eruviel remembers.

 

Eruviel rode in the midst of the troop of fifty Rangers along the shore of Nenuial. Ignoring the murmur of discussion around her, she fixed her sullen, green eyes ahead of the riders. A new, younger captain named Terhun lead their march, and she and he did not quite see eye-to-eye. The rendezvous with Aloeer could not happen soon enough.

“Wipe that pout off your face, mellon,” Cade chided her as he reigned his horse in to ride beside her, “it does not become you.”

“I do not pout,” she replied flatly. Can I not go one afternoon without you making me smile? It was a rare day indeed when the elf maiden wanted to frown, or at least remain expressionless.

The handsome Dunedain Ranger shot her a sideways grin, his sea-blue eyes gleaming with more meaning than he dared to utter in the midst of their companions. Dark hair hung in waves just past his shoulders, his strong features made his six foot frame seem taller. “Still upset about not being allowed to go with the scouts?”

Eruviel nodded curtly, her eyes piercing deep into the forest around them. “I feel uneasy, as if there is a shadow that hinders my sight. Being upwind of whatever evades my detection does little to help the matter.”

Cade nodded slightly as he followed her gaze. “They should have returned by now, but it is a wide land, and they are some of the best we have.

“A man who’s optimism dwarfs my own,” she muttered, amusement trickling into her voice.

“You worry too much, Eru,” Cade chuckled. “What shall we talk about that will put your mind at ease?”

Unable to keep it back, her face finally cracked a smile. “Tell me again about your cabin, heruamin,” she said. Cade loved to tell her about his cabin up in the mountains, and she loved to listen to his rich-toned voice and the hope it carried. His home had to be the most perfectly quaint, hidden valley a man could have hoped to stumble upon. Late nights he would paint mental pictures for her of the crystal spring that bubbled out of the rock and flowed into a small lake. He told her of the groves of coniferous trees, the rolling green hill the house was built upon, and how the stars seemed to dance around the valley at night. He had mentioned it several years back, and from stories and suggestions there grew to be an understanding that after this last appointment he would take her there. His subtle excitement made her want to spur her horse into a run to get the journey over with.

Listening to him talk about how he found the valley, and how he’d built the house, fashioned with both human and elvish designs made the time pass with ease. After the battle when she had first found Ge’bar was when Cade had left for several years before returning, trusting the secret of his home to her with a serious reverence. They had always been like that. Not even Milloth knew of the affection between the Human and Eldar that had grown over the fifteen years that they’d been friends. They had never spoken of it. Not even had they touched except in the smallest of ways when brushing hands passing a pint or fighting back to back and the like. It was a quiet, mutual tenderness; a feeling of completion.

Riding over the next rise the troop of Rangers suddenly grew silent. They all finally sensed what had been plaguing Eruviel for miles. She noted that the scouts had not yet returned. Two groups of three were motioned to fan out ahead and into the woods on the mountain side of the main force as they continued forward. Eruviel and Cade pulled out their bows and the rest of the men followed suit.

Terhun stopped their advance and pulled out a folded piece of parchment that had been handed down three ranks before being entrusted to his hands. Their marching orders. “Aloeer should be here,” he said quietly. The men parted as Terhun turned his horse to walk back into the ranks, and that was when she saw it. The trap hidden beneath fallen logs and leaves.

“Stop!” she cried, lurching forward with an arm outstretched towards the captain. But it was too late. Terhun’s horse hit the trigger and a spiked branch flung out of the shadows, striking a killing blows to the man’s horse. Terhun fell to the ground and as the wounded horse let out a scream every horse panicked as a barrage of arrows whistled through the trees into the group.

Kaita, Marisily,” Eruviel ordered in a whisper as she ducked down to avoid being shot. In the chaos her horse quickly obeyed, laying down on its side as many of the other mounts fell or fled. Dropping to the ground she loosed volleys of arrows into the trees, hearing her arrows hit their hidden targets nearly every time. Cade knelt behind her, firing in the opposite direction. Nearly thirty of the original fifty Rangers remained alive.

Just as the arrows ceased to fly a shout rose from around them and brigands leapt out from the trees to fall upon the Rangers. Gauredain and criminals tore into their ranks, ten falling to every Ranger. No, even more. Having been in the middle of the troop when the attack began, Eruviel and Cade had the advantage of some cover, loosing their arrows quickly as if in one seamless, continuous motion.

“This must be Sickleaf’s band!” Cade shouted back to her.

“On your right!” she called back mid-shot. He redirected himself and loosed several arrows. “But where is the coward?” she asked. Only ten Rangers remained. Turning to shoot in the other direction her sight landed on the leader of the brigands as she dropped the man next to him. Bran Sickleaf met her gaze, pointing a crossbow back at her, his hand squeezing the trigger. In the distance the approaching thundering of hooves could be heard.

Her next arrow was almost out of her quiver when she was suddenly grabbed and thrown to the side. Hitting the flank of another fallen horse, the arrows that pierced its hide breaking beneath her, she rolled over the ground, scrambling to find her footing. Rising up, her eyes looked back just in time to see Cade deflect one bolt with his sword, and catch one with the arch of his bow as two others struck him, knocking him back.

Unable to draw a breath she ran back over the corpse-covered ground to fall by his side. One bolt jutted out from his shoulder, the other from his lower right chest. There was no doubt that the second had struck his liver, and bile rose in her throat as she pressed down on the wound in attempt to stop the bleeding.

“Cade? Cade,” she begged frantically, using one bloodied, trembling hand to move his long, dark hair out of his eyes.

“E-Eruviel,” he coughed, reaching a hand up to cup her face.

“Shh, shh,” she hushed him as she bent closer, the long, loose hair from her forehead dangling down to brush his face. “Tampa; do not speak, beleger. You must hold on.” Please.

Shaking his head he managed a garbled chuckle. “As long as you are alright, I am content.” His fingers combed through her hair and pulled her down to him, his lips meeting hers for a soft, brief moment. Releasing her he opened his mouth to speak but the air slowly whispered out of his lungs and he closed his eyes in one last, faint smile as his arm dropped limp by her side.

She could feel them watching her, those who were not fighting. She could feel Bran’s cruel eyes observe her from a distance as she crossed Cade’s arm’s over his chest. She could feel the beast that she had met in the Barrow Downs and who had shown itself the day she saved Ge’bar rise up from its slumber and take hold. Her limbs stopped shaking, her breath steadied, and her hand closed over the hilt of Cade’s dagger.

Whirling around her blade sliced across the gut of a Gauredain and came up to pierce under the wild man’s chin, the tip showing just above his wolf-head cowl. Pulling the dagger out she turned to meet the gaze of Sickleaf. Her green eyes darkened, turning nearly black, shining cold and bitter as she stepped gingerly over the bodies. She deflected another bolt from the brigands crossbow, turning just slightly to cut down a criminal that dared to get close with little effort. Half of the remaining brigands ran as she approached them, the other half ran when Aloeer and his men rode on to the scene.

“Eruviel!” Aloeer called out to her, jumping down from his horse as the others searched for survivors.

Stopping under the edge of the treeline she stared out, watching Bran Sickleaf run away, stumbling as he looked back at her. “Do not wait for me,” she said quietly.

“Eruviel, what happened?” the man asked, taking her arm as she stepped away from him.

“We were ambushed,” she said, looking back to Aloeer. “I assume that the orders Terhun received were forged.” Glancing back she whistled once for her horse who rose, careful not to step on any of the dead, and walked forward to stand beside her. “Cade is dead,” she said bitterly. “I am going after Sickleaf.”

A flicker of realization passed over Aloeer’s face as he released her arm. Understanding the rage that boiled up to fill the void in her eyes, he inclined his head to her. “We will meet you back in Tinnudir.”

Swinging herself up onto Marisily’s back the horse jumped forward, reading her mistresses emotions and the sense of urgency. Eruviel could clearly see the path Bran had taken. Bow in one hand she galloped through the dense forest, her sure-footed mount weaving through the maze of trees at Eruviel’s guidance. The black faded from her eyes to be replaced by a green as cold as the ice shelves of Forochel. She wanted to weep, and scream, and hide herself from the world.

A shout of alarm sounded from up ahead. You fools. Your spell has worn off and I can sense you a mile away. Bracing herself with her knees she sat up and knocked an arrow in her bow. She could see them. Passing one, three, then six tree she loosed the arrow, quickly following it with another. The two men running with Sickleaf dropped with a sickening thud. Shouting in horror and surprise, Bran turned to run up a steep rock slab that led up the side of the feet of the mountains.

“You still run from me, Bran?” she called up to his fleeing figure. Leaping from Marisily’s back, Eruviel shouldered her bow and sprinted up the steep slope with little effort and every grace of her race. She felt nothing; not pain nor exhaustion. The steep climb only seemed to invigorate her, and the only thing she did feel was the drive to catch the murderer and make him pay. She had been told of him before, and many had tried to stop him. His heritage came from killers, thieves and rapists. His family served the dark powers of the world with abandon; hunting down those who strove to live good, honest lives. Now she hunted him.

The slope was higher than she thought. The rock ended, extended in a patch of grassy earth before more stone stretched to the sky. Eruviel was ahead of him now. Her hands gripped her dagger in one hand and Cade’s in the other. I will not let him get away with this, she thought darkly. A small, cruel smile curved her lips as she hid just out of sight. I am a part of this world . . . of this war, and though I suffer as they do I will not flee across the sea. Looking up, her now-frosty green eyes saw Bran scramble up over the ledge, glancing behind him in panic. The brigand stood maybe an inch shorter than she. He was not a large man, but his lithe body was built and hardened from the harsh life he led. He will pay.

Stepping out from her hiding place Eruviel stood there, staring coldly back at the man’s terrified eyes as she looked at her. “I have heard of your deeds. You should not have ran, Sickleaf.”

A cocky smirk awoke on his face. “And I have heard of yours. The Lady of Mercy. Come to kill me for murdering your friend?” The words were no sooner out of his mouth before Eruviel shot forward. She could feel his jaw bone flex and crack, and the skin of his face under her knuckles split. Unprepared for the force of her strike, Bran flew backwards to tumble down the smoothed stone slope. Not stopping, Eruviel followed, half running half sliding down the steep incline.

He hit the grassy lower ledge hard, crying out in pain, clutching his left leg as he stopped rolling inches from the edge of the lower slope. “You filthy elf,” he spat at her as she slowed herself and stopped several feat from him, standing with an unnerving air of anger and control about her. Pulling himself up with the help of a spruce sapling he glared at Eruviel. “I was aiming for you, you know,” he chuckled. “Though I might have wounded you more simply by killing him.”

Casting her dagger into Sickleafs good foot she pulled her bow off her back, deaf to his foul curses and screams. “You are disgrace to the great men who share their race with filth such as yourself.” Fixing her last arrow she slowly pulled back on the string, aiming the iron tip at the brigands head. “I believe the right of last words are customary.”

“You’re really going to shoot me from a distance?” he growled as he leaned back on the sapling for support. “The Lady of Mercy can’t get her hands dirty?”

She wanted to beat him to a bloody pulp. He had taken the one man she respected and cared for from her. She wanted to make him watch Cade’s funeral pyre from a noose. A dozen tortures and even more deaths crossed her mind as she stared at him. Her long silence made the man visibly uncomfortable, and it was then she knew. She had to be the master of the beast that tore at her from inside. There was little law out in the wilds. He answered to her justice and she answered to her conscience.

Relaxing her bow arm she set the weapon and projectile down. An emotionless mask covering her face she walked over to Bran Sickleaf. “My hands will not be clean till this war is over,” she said quietly, hiding her amusement at the confused look that came over his face. Reaching out she took his head between her hands and with one swift jerk, snapped his neck. “There is your mercy.”

Rescued from Himbar.

Eruviel remembers.

Tightly bound rope bit into the flesh of her wrists as two Angmarim priests tied the other ends to the pillars she knelt between. A small trickle of red ran down her arms and it surprised her, for she didn’t think she hand any blood left to bleed.

How many weeks had it been since her capture? Or had it been months? She had cursed herself for being careless, but not for the lives that had been spared. A gathering party, deep in relatively safe territory had been ambushed and Eruviel had been struck down as she helped the last Trév Gállorg woman to safety. She had been drug away by the enemy’s horses and thrown into a small, cold cell below the crypts of Imlad Balchorth. After three days without food or water, and only beatings to fill the time between, she had been led out, and had nearly escaped before they brought her to the general of Himbar’s tower. Only the cursed man was not there.

A Black Numenorean man stood unnervingly calm by the throne-like seat at the head of the long banquet table. Her stomach had sunk as every orc and Angmarim left the room. He is going to break me, she thought hopelessly. She sat in the seat he pulled out for her, and drank the water he poured her, but as soon as he spoke it took all the will she could muster to guard her mind from the venomous words that spewed from his mouth. The echo of his sorcery still reverberated through her limbs. Two days and nights they talked, bickered, and finally fought. It was her own fault for physically retaliating, being exhausted to the brink of collapse. The Numenorean Alagos, had touched her, hoping for a reaction. He had gotten it, and Eruviel was sure his healers had had plenty of mending to do. She was able to fight him off for a time, but in the end she laid crumbled on the floor, beaten and bleeding.

Since then sleep had come in short spurts. She had been questioned, tortured, forced to fight, deprived of rest, and the night before she had been the decoration for a feast. A small occasion to congratulate Alagos for finally capturing the elf maiden who had been a thorn under his foot for so long. The thought of death tempted her as she hung in the cage above their cruel laughter.

Twice she had nearly escaped. First from Himbar, and they moved her to Carn Dum, then two agonizing weeks later from there. It haunted her, the darkness and cruel hands dragging her back from the hope of daylight. Eruviel had abandoned trying to keep her strength, putting all her effort to withstanding the sorcery that threatened to engulf her mind. Enraged that she still resisted him, Alagos had ordered her to be flogged, and so now she knelt, slumped over, waiting, the last remnants of her dress that had been returned to her hanging from her like a wights’ shroud. Dirt and blood and bruises served better in covering her and gave color to her skin that had lost all of it’s glow.

He will come, she told herself without a hint of doubt. It was the one hope that she still clung to. It did not matter when. Either he will make it, or every one of them will die by his hand. He will be my wrath.

“Worthless scum,” growled the deep voice of the Numenorean that made her insides twist with fear and rage. Alagos crouched before her, moved her hair out of her eyes and grinned wickedly at the hate-filled glare that she gave him. “Still holding out, hmm? You will cave, Eruviel. You will be torn and then turned to serve our great master. Or . . . maybe I should hand you over to my brothers?”

The starved remnants of her shivered at the thought. Then a slight, fresh wind blew across the ruined courtyard. She felt it glide over her and she knew it would not be long. Finding a lingering wisp of strength she righted herself and pulled tight the ropes that bound her, staring the cruel man in the eyes. “Not before I rip the black heart from your chest,” she growled. How she hated him. She imagined it; her bonds snapping and her hand tearing through his black silk robe and the flesh beneath it. What a terrible, wonderful thought it was to envision her cold hands being warmed as his life drained away. There would be nothing left of him for them to resurrect.

Smirking, Alagos rose gracefully to his feet and motioned to the waiting orcs. “Flog her, but not too much.  When you’re through take her to my chambers. It is about time she is finally broken. And after? I suppose we can hand her over to the men for the night.” A sharp pang of fear twisted in her gut as Alogos stooped and kissed her cheek. Then his brisk, confident footsteps echoed down a side corridor in time with his cruel laugh. Orome, anything but that. All this time she had been spared that, the one failed attempt ending in four broken, throatless orcs rotting in her cell for… two weeks? In retrospect, any one else would have done that at the start. But not Alogos. He liked pain and feeling his victims break beneath him as his final triumph.

A light glinted in the distance . . . how far, she did not know. Raising her chin in defiance, she kept the ropes pulled taunt as two orcs unraveled their long whips and brought their arms back to strike.

One, two. They paused, then three, four, the whips cracked through the air. A pained cry escaped from her lips before she could catch it. Seven, eight . . . . eleven, twelve, she counted, hot tears trickling down from her blood-shot emerald eyes as she clung to consciousness. Where are you?

As if hearing her desperate thoughts two bolts whistled through the air, cutting through her ropes and sticking into the plaster behind her. Her tormentors distracted, Eruviel took the split second advantage to reach back and wrench the iron arrows from the wall. Give me strength . . . just a little more strength. Lunging forward, she plunged them into the eyes of the two orcs and ran forward towards the tall figure that fought his way towards her. Daran!

Dodging an Angmarim who dove to tackle her, Eruviel used her falling weight to drive the man’s head into the stone floor. Rolling away from the body she scrambled forward, stumbling as she struggled to rise in spite of the pain that tore through her.

Killing the last priest, Daran dropped to his knees to catch Eruviel as she tripped over her own feet, her legs finally giving out. Red splatters covered his arms and his voice was filled with a mix of concern and relief. “I have you, dear friend,” he whispered as he set her down, pulled off his shirt and gently fit it over her head. “You’re safe now. I’ll take you home.” Scooping her up in his strong arms Daran set off in a run, leaping back over the broken wall the way he had come.

How ironic, she thought to herself. “A-Aughaire . . . is everyone safe?” she asked as she let him pull her close, clinging to his warm chest. She watched back over his shoulder, praying that she would not see the iron helm of Alagos appear over the rise.

“You have been in this wicked place for two months and you worry for us?” Daran inquired, his voice filled with amusement as he dodged through empty streets towards the lower gate. “The tribe is fine, though the hunters have been in a rage since you were taken. I have not seen them fight back the enemy with such zeal in a long time.”

“G-good,” she managed, weariness overcoming her. Everything hurt, and nothing hurt. Shock numbed  her limbs and she prayed that she would pass out before it wore off.

A commotion arose from the mountain behind them as Daran rounded the last ruined house on the outskirts of Himbar to take a hidden path south. “Sounds like we made it out just in time. I cannot deliver you to Milloth dead, now can I?”

Eruviel managed to raise her head to look up at him. “M-Milloth is back from Dale? When did he arrive?” She wanted to weep from relief. Between Daran and Milloth, she would be safe. Her brother could heal her, mend the fractured pieces of her mind and spirit, and set her to rights

“He was half a day’s ride south when I departed to find you. He has a band of men from Gondor with him, as well as a dwarf.” Daran ducked under an outcropping rock and pulled them into a shadowed corner in time to avoid being detected by warg riders. Tense minutes passed as the enemy ran by one way, then back from where they’d come.”I — I am glad that I did. If  . . . .” his voice caught and trailed off as he looked down at her. The gleam from overwhelming emotion that flooded his amber eyes caused her’s to widen.

“Daran, no-” The words were halted as he suddenly pressed his warm mouth against hers. She couldn’t stop him or even try to pull away. She had no strength to. Years of longing and months of rage-filled grief poured out of him through that kiss. He had told her once how he felt, but then kept it to himself. She loved him fiercely, but as a brother and a friend. He never complained, never protested, being a stern, hardened man, but she knew it tore at him. Bringing a frail, pallid hand up she cupped it gently over his cheek as she kissed him back, letting his lips discover hers. Since he had finally given in, and her being in no capacity to protest, she could at least give him this; only this.

Finally pulling away, Daran hung his head, unable to meet her eyes. “Forgive me,” he whispered, his voice weak. “I . . . .”

Looking up at him sadly, a hint of regret in her eyes she simply nodded, pursing her lips together. “I understand, Tithdaeron. We shall not speak of it. But let us be gone from here.”

A smile creeping up one side of his face, Daran peered out of their hiding place. Nodding that the way was clear he shifted her in his arms and set off on in a run.

To Dale: From Ost Guruth to Rivendell

A stagnant air hovered over Ost Guruth. Eruviel could sense the restless spirits from beyond the Red Pass, and the weight of their wickedness and sorrow made her skin crawl.

Eirikr walked up beside her and looked out as the sun crawled up over the horizon. “Sleep well?” he asked gruffly.

Biting her lower lip slightly, Eruviel fixed her cloak over her shoulders. “No, unfortunately. But it was sleep, I suppose.”

Eirikr turned his head only slightly to look at her as he started for the stables. “It was rhetorical. I didn’t realize Elves slept.”

“Some times,” she said with a small smile, shrugging as she followed him down the broken stone steps. How little the man knew of the Eldar. They did not sleep, not like the race of men did, but they required rest just as much as the other children of Iluvatar. How she delighted of visions of nature, of dancing beneath the tall flowering trees amidst the starlight. Her keen senses remembered the smell and music of elvish banquets, hobbit feasts, and the sensation of cool spring water caressing her skin on the first swim as the seasons turned. But not here in the Lone-lands, especially so close to the lair of the Red Maid.

Eiriikr handed Unni, the stable-master some coin and took the reins of his horse. “Fair enough,” he said. Arranging his things, he mounted his steed as Eruviel guided her own horse from the kindly dwarf and stepped into her saddle.

Nodding curtly to the man as she turned her horse around she nodded towards the East Road. “Let us be off.”

As eager to be off as their masters, the horses leapt forward into a run over the low hills towards the neglected cobbled road. Wargs roamed in the brush, forcing them to alter their course. Trusting her mount to guide itself, Eruviel took a few seconds as they crested a hill to pull her bow off her back and rest it across her knees. The man and elf dodged the occasional creeping spider and keen-eyed crebain as they charged over the dry earth and onto to the road.

“That Elf . . . did you stay up with her long?” Eirikr shouted back to her as they crossed over the Last Bridge.

Eruviel shook her head though she knew he could not see her. “No,” she called up to him, “not long at all.”

Eirikr smirked slightly, “She seemed hungry for company.”

“She was indeed,” Eruviel said, chuckling as her eyes took note of the wolves prowling beyond the treeline and bears lumbering too close for comfort. “I apologize, though, for the interruption to our conversation last night.”

Eirikr humphed, frowning slightly. “I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

Time flew by as they charged along the rugged road through the Trollshaws. She let Eirikr ride in the lead, following only several feet behind, keeping a sharp eye on the few predators that made rather lazy attempts to pursue the swift riders. Over the far rise Eruviel could see the gleam of the Ford of Bruinen drawing nearer. We will make it, she thought, more as a statement than for encouragement . . . or possibly both.

Eirikr reigned in his horse, stopping at the edge of the clear-flowing river. “The ford,” he said flatly. “It seems calm enough.”

Eruviel surveyed the land around them and the river with a stern, cold look. “We will be safe crossing the waters. I do not doubt that my kin know we approach.”

Eiriikr nodded to her. “You take the lead – I do not know the other side at all and I’ve heard the paths can disappear beneath your feet.”

Eruviel returned the nod. “It has been a long time since I have followed the path,” she said quietly. “Do not fall too far behind.” Checking their surroundings one last time Eruviel spurred her horse forward.

“You know, I am surprised Anya did not talk Anric into following us,” Eirikr called up to her as their horses waded through the shallow crossing.

Eruviel skewed her mouth to one side at the thought. “As am I . . . or even that she did not follow us herself, with Anric in tow.”

Eirikr took a deep breath and held it for a moment. “I think she knows what must come to pass. She does not want to revisit our old lives.”

Eruviel glances over at him for a moment. “I do not blame her. It is for the best that she stayed behind for this . . . trip.” Reaching the far side of the river their mounts moved into a gallop. Making their way up the steep trail, Eruviel did not hesitate the as the road vanished, letting her memory and her mount plow the trail. She rode tall, one hand loosely holding the reigns, the other gripping her bow. Several wild cats made chase, but the pounding of the horses hooves discouraged the few that dared getting too close. A small wave of relief washed over her as she saw the road reappear beneath them. Following it around the bend they approached the narrow pass into The Hidden Valley.

Eirikr brought his horse up to ride beside Eruviel. “I still think it best if you sojourn in Imladris while I carry on.”

Eruviel shot him a curious look as she urged her mount forward. “Why do you keep saying that?” she calls over to him.

“Can’t I just want to keep you safe from harm?” he shouted after her.

Eruviel reigned in her horse at the top of the switch-back that lead down to the Hidden Valley. “I thought that was what I am doing here, keeping you safe from harm,” she said, eyeing the valley with a joyful familiarity.

Eirikr sighed heavily and let out a low growl. “Eruviel, this isn’t like battle. There is no honor in this war, if it be called that.”

An amused smile crept across her mouth. “I have a friend in Bree you might see eye to eye with. He held a knife to my throat twice for getting between him and his . . . vengeance.” Tugging lightly on her reigns Eruviel guided her horse back to the path. “I have made up my mind, Eirikr,” she sad sternly.

Eirikr sighed and reluctantly followed her. “Stubborn Elf,” he muttered under his breath.

Eruviel ‘s tilted her chin up slightly with a hint of pride, taking his grumbling as a compliment. Eruviel inclined her head to the view of the Last Homely House. “Shall we to the stables first, or to our host?”

Eirikr’s eyes followed her gaze. “You know best.”

Eruviel glanced between the two horses and nodded. “They need rest. We go left.” Walking their weary mounts down the lane carpeted with leaves a cool, sweet breeze combed through her travel-tousled hair. The bright green and orange leafed trees rustled their ancient songs into the wind, accompanied by the distant echo of the large waterfall across the valley.

Passing under the smooth stone arch leading into the stables Eruviel dismounted, bowing in thanks to Ladrochan the stable-master as he took the two traveler’s horses. Nodding to Eirikr she smiled and motioned to a secondary path leading to a graceful, sweeping bridge. “I suppose you have never been here before?”

Eiriikr shook his head. “No, I haven’t.” His eyes betrayed the wonder her felt as he looked around. “Tales cannot hold a candle to the true majesty of this place.” Stretching out her arms, her face gleaming with contentment, Eruviel stepped forward. Falling into step with Eirikr they strolled quietly out of the stables, abandoning words as their senses drank in the beauty and tranquility of the haven.

 

((Edited for tense and exposition from chat logs taken 4/3/2014))

To Dale: Waiting for the Dawn

“Behind you!” a muffled voice cried out. Whirling around, Eruviel narrowly missed the blade that whistled past her head. Her armour weighed her down, and her joints felt sluggish as she struck down the faceless Barding criminal. Who are these men? her mind wondered as she worked to keep herself from panicking.

Eirikr fought the swarm of faceless men who had attacked them as they had passed through the grand, stone city gates of . . . was this Dale? Glancing behind her, Eruviel let out a horrified cry as she saw Eirikr stumble forward with a spear stuck in his back. “Why will my feet not move?” her mind screamed. She had to help him! Anya would never forgive her. . . nor could she forgive herself.

Hardly fifteen feet beyond her reach an older man who could have only been her companions father, Kolrson, emerged from the clouds of dust that surrounded them. Eirikr raised his head, meeting Eruviel’s gaze as he pulled the spear out. Giving her a sad smile he turned away from her outstretched hand to face his patron. A cold hate radiated from the proud merchant as he threw a round sack to the ground at Eirikr’s feet. Long, soft hair tumbled out of the mouth of the sack. A harrowing roar of rage and grief rose out of Eirikr. Lunging forward he plunged the spear into his father’s heart, only to be pierced through by the elderly man’s sword.

All the air seemed to be sucked out of her lungs. “No,” the word brushed past her trembling lips. Her sword felt heavy. Looking down, her eyes glazed over from shock she saw the dead body of one of Kolrson’s brutes hanging from her blade. Releasing the blade she stumbled back, her chest heaving as the silence assaulted her ears. “It was not supposed to be like this,” she whispered miserably.

A soft wind stirred, carrying the dust and haze back out the gate. There was a body slumped against the stone wall. Seeing who it was Eruviel jumped back, tripping as she scrambled to get away. Alagos, the Black Numenorian who had had her captured all those years ago stood skewered by pikes a short distance from her fallen companion.  “By the Valar, what is going on?” she asked in a quiet whimper. Turning again her heart sunk she saw Arathier slumped against a far wall, sitting in a pool of blood, a ruined piece of paper crumpled in his limp hand. She tried to step towards him, to help him as she had before, but then she saw them. Beyond him was Sig, then Anric, Anyatka, Adrovorn, Cwendlwyn, and countless others who she had befriended, loved, and even those who had sheltered her and Eirikr on their journey. The streets were littered with bodies, and all of them were dead.

Glancing down, Eruviel stared at herself in horror. Her armour was gone, and she stood naked in the noon-day sun amidst the carnage. Her body looked deathly pale and her own life blood began to drain from her as every wound she had ever acquired began to reappear on her skin. Each stab, scratch, lash mark, burn, and bruise reemerged on her flesh. A thousand years of pain tore through her still-youthful body and she dropped to her knees, cupped her hands over her face, and wept.

Eruviel jolted awake, gasping for air. The building of healing in Ost Guruth was silent except for the soft breathing of its sleeping occupants. Wiping hot tears from her cheeks she took a moment to find her composure. Carefully climbing down from her bunk she stepped over Eirikr’s sleeping body and tiptoed across the stone floor. Glancing around the dark chamber she quickly stepped into her trousers, pulled off her sleep-shirt, and tugged on the padded shirt she wore under her breastplate. Scooping up her armour, bow and boots she padded barefoot out into the crisp night air. Finding a concealed corner beyond the courtyard she put on the rest of her gear, taking extra care as she cinched each strap and clasped each buckle.

Her moist eyes turned cold as she slung her bow over her back and climbed the battlement to sit watch. Watching the horizon she forced the images from her dream out of her mind as she waited for the dawn to arrive.