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.

 

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