Month: June 2014

A Belated Return: Angmar Part Two

This most definitely was not her brightest moment. They had been safe. Daran’s burns were healing, and Arathier and her had stopped in Tinnundir to rest their own wounds when news had reached them that Teryn, Arathier’s childhood friend that Eruviel had met only a week earlier, had been captured. Eruviel glared defiantly up at the Angmarim captain, bracing herself as his foot slammed into her abdomen. She glanced over to Teryn who was chained to the wall next to her through a haze of red, giving him a reassuring nod as he protected his face with his forearms from his own torturers blows.

Looking back she could not see a way around it, but she had been caught sneaking into the dungeon to free the man. While saving Daran she had been stabbed in the side with a dirk while Arathier had taken a bolt to the leg. There was no way she would have let him try to go after Teryn with such a handicap. The fast healing and high pain tolerance helped her out, but it wasn’t enough, and they had trapped her. The ache of dread in her gut did not come only from the Angmarim’s practiced kicks.

Teryn’s ruggedly handsome face had lost it’s color, but he smiled wickedly up at his captor and make a jest at the Angmarim’s expense. He got the reaction he wanted, but the beating only increased. Eruviel laughed numbly at the joke — it really was quite humorous — before the Angmarim slammed his fist across her face. Arathier said he would come, she told herself. If — NO! When she got back to Bree Anya would be sure to have her own lashings readied for her.

Spitting a mouthful of blood to the side an idea came to her. It was a bad one, she knew it, but they had to try something before they were carted away to Carn Dum. She would not go back there. Not again. Not like this. Dodging the second punch, her tormentor flew into a rage as his fist collided with the cold stone behind her. Teryn grinned over at Eruviel, even as his head was slammed against the wall. Spitting blood into the Anmarim’s face only made things worse for him and the twisted man drew out his knife, carving it through the muscle on Teryn’s shoulder. Teryn could no longer hold back a cry of pain.

Eruviel grunted, gritting her teeth as she took another kick to the gut. “Does this thrilling conversation have a purpose,” she asked hoarsely. She knew the beating had a purpose, but the silent, senseless torture grated on her nerves like fingernails on slate.

Teryn’s face darkened as blood trickled down his arm. “Well?!” he shouted as best he could, backing up her question. The Angmarim raised his knife to strike at him again and Eruviel could feel the panic rise. We BOTH have to survive, she told herself. In the blink of an eye Eruviel mustered what strength she had left and pulled herself up with her chains, sweeping her feet out. Tripping her captor, she brought the heels of her boots down with all her might onto the Angmarim’s face at the moment his head cracked against the stone floor.

Teryn watched in horror as his torturer and another from outside the cell rushed at her and pinned her down. Chaining her feet, they then proceeded to both whale on her. Everything began to dim. The excruciating pain filled her body and a harrowing cry clawed it’s way up her throat. Through the gap between her arms she could see that Teryn was being spared, but her relief was short lived when two more Angmarim entered and rushed at the man. She did not know how much longer it lasted, seconds — minutes, but a strange stillness settled over the room even as her body worked to numb the pain.

Blinking out of a bloody haze, Eruviel looked up at Teryn. Two new Angmarim sat next to them, quietly gazing towards the bars of the filthy cell. Teryn did not look as bad as she felt . . . and she hoped he was better off. They exchanged looks, both wondering how many days it would take till they could find a way to escape, if in fact they were not killed first. Then there was an echo of pounding feet making a mad dash down the hall. Teryn’s eyes widened as he looked over and Eruviel shifted her head to follow his gaze.

Arathier stood in the hall, panting for breath as his hands reached back for his knives. His eyes widened and Eruviel’s stomach sank, knowing he only found one. She felt like she would be sick when he did not look at her.

The Angmarim started from their day dreams and quickly moved to hold knives to the prisoner’s throats as Arathier and Teryn exchanged looks. “It’s all right, Arathier,” said Teryn quietly as his captors blade pressed against his throat.

Orome, Eruviel thought miserably, I know that look. Don’t you two make this decision! She ordered her throat to function; raged at her lungs when they struggled to do her bidding. She could not feel it, but her arms struggled against the chains that bound her none-the-less. “No,” she rasped, her voice finally reviving, “NO! Arathier — Teryn, I’ve lived far more than my share! You have hardly begun –” Her words were cut off as the cold bade pressed against her neck drew blood. Hot tears blinded her and she squeezed her eyes shut. Was this not what she was here for? To, if worst came to worst, take someone’s place? In the furthest corners of her mind she wondered if it was what she really wanted. Death. A noble one, a death that meant something, but death just the same.

Then it happened. As Eruviel’s eyes opened Arathier’s blade sailed over her head to sink into her captor’s face. The Angmarim’s knife fell free and she kicked it across the room and under the bars to Arathier even as the blade against Teryn’s neck did it’s work. Arathier’s face twisted in anguish as he dropped to his knees.

“We are not done!” she managed to yell as she fell over, unable to hold herself up. Her words snapped Arathier out of his sorrow long enough to pick up the knife she had kicked him, dropping the last Angmarim as he charged across the cell towards Eruviel. Tears stained the red painted floor beneath her face. Breathing became a chore as she watched Arathier break down the wooden cell door in a rage and crumple down beside Teryn’s now lifeless body.

“You — you have to burn his body,” she managed to rasp as her consciousness began to slip. The closer she drew to the darkness the suddenly more aware she became. She could sense somewhere in the massive citadel above them the presence of wights . . . and of something– no, someone far worse. “They wi-ill take it i-if you d-don’t.”

Arathier’s wide, sorrowful gaze finally turned and he began to move towards her. She felt his hand on her forehead as her lids drew closed. So heavy, she thought numbly. She wanted to apologize . . . to say something, but it escaped her, and she forgot everything else.

 _ _ _ _ _ _

She could feel it, every ounce of pain, every splintered and broken bone. Something else inside of her had broken as well. She could not tell what it was, but it’s shattered presence was beyond repair — a concept she had never been confronted with before, and it terrified her. In the darkness, lit with red flames she opened her eyes and instantly regretted it. A vast wall stretched out before her, hung with the corpses of her friends. This was worse than the dream she had had months earlier. Far worse. Eirikr, and Anyatka; Cwen and Threz hung in a line, followed by Adrovorn, Nillariel, Forthogar, and Rainion. Every face in Bree she respected followed. The Watchers of Bree decorated a row, followed by Wyllawen and her troop of friends, a dozen lines of Rangers, then halflings. A lifetime and more of friends and acquaintances filled the empty spaces as her eyes searched frantically for hope.

A tall, robed figure materialized from the shadows. She knew those eyes, and that wicked smile. Alagos stood before her, his head tilted like a viper waiting to strike. Then a wave of terror assaulted her. The massive, overwhelming presence approached her from behind and a scream of pain and fear was seemingly pulled from her lungs as the sudden sensation of her skin being torn from her body burned through her nerves.

The presence looked down upon her as she continued to scream against her will. Alagos dropped to a knee then prostrated himself before whoever it was that broke past her wall of defenses as if merely opening a garden gate. “My Lord, please receive my offering,” the Black Numenorian spoke, his voice filled with reverence and a foreign tone of humility. The gigantic presence bore down on her, drowning her in it’s rage and wicked pride.

But he couldn’t touch her. Suddenly something outside of her hell shook her. The call of her name, distant and filled with concern. And then she was falling. The hold they had on her slipped and it all faded away along with the wall of horrors and searing pain. 

A cool breeze hit her. The sweet smell of the sea filled her nostrils and Eruviel suddenly realized that her eyes were clenched shut. Trembling, she forced them open and a whole new scene met her empty gaze. She was surrounded by the summer waves of a blue ocean, hovering several feet above the surface. Looking at her arms to see her fair skin whole and gleaming in the warm sunlight she felt where all her scars should have been. They were gone. The skirt of a white dress swirled around her feet as she sped forward through the air, her long hair whipping about her. The beauty and relief that quenched her soul brought fresh tears to her eyes.

In the distance through the blue haze and wisps of clouds a white shore shone on the horizon. Could it really be? Anticipation swelled in her chest even as doubt sat in her mind, it’s arms folded. Should she really be here? Her progression slowed and she alighted on the gleaming sands even as a crystal blue wave of water tumbled over her feet. In spite of the peace that lightened her heart, in a way it was wrong, feeling the warm sand beneath her bare feet. 

Miles away down the beach the silhouette of a massive pillared forum rose from the shore in swirled spires. She felt a pull to walk towards it, but after a moment’s hesitation she turned only to be greeted by the last face she expected.

“It is cruel, really, that I was the one sent to see you,” spoke Adrovorn in his rich, deep voice as he pushed off of the rock he’d been leaning against with a shrug of his broad shoulders. His voice rolled over her like the blue waves that tumbled up the white sand. He walked towards her with his ever-confidant stride and she hugged her arms around herself, fighting the heart-wrenching urge to fly into his embrace. They stood facing each other, hardly a foot apart, a thousand words and wishes silently passing between them.

“Walk with me,” he said quietly, tucking his hands into his pockets. A slight smile curved up the corners of her petal-pink lips at the gesture, realizing she had picked up that little human quirk from him.

They walked side by side down the beach, listening to the other’s footsteps, neither one touching the other. “What are you doing here?” she finally asked.

“You could say I’m in between destinations,” he replied thoughtfully. Looking down at her his dark blue eyes shone sadly. “The question is, what are you doing here?”

Eruviel pursed her lips. “I was killed, I suppose,” she said quietly.

“Yes and no,” Adrovorn said as he chuckled. After another moment he sighed. “You know you have to go back.”

She knew it. That was what felt wrong. As much as she longed to stay she was not quite dead on the other side, and it was not yet her time. Stopping, she looked out to sea for a minute before turning her gaze back to him as he stood a pace in front of her. She had lost the meaning of her purpose amidst the veil of grief since his death. A part of her had withered away when he had not returned, and it had perished in the flames that had consumed the letter informing her of his death in battle. “Forgive me,” she said softly, her brows furrowing. “I let myself despair after you left.”

“I know,” Adrovorn nodded, moving to stand beside her and gaze out over the waters. “You shouldn’t have. You are strong, and I’d rather you live happily in honor of my memory.” The man let out a long sigh. “You were right,” he said slowly, “I should never have left you behind. My regret grew worse with every step I took away from you.”

“You were only trying to protect me, and for the most part, you did,” she said. A bitterness lifted from her as she spoke those words, and she wondered if it had not been Milloth’s idea for Adrovorn to meet her here. “It will take a long time still. A fear has sunk it’s claws into me.”

Adrovorn bobbed his head. “I take the blame for that as well, but you are going to have to work past it.” A playful smile then lit his face. “I see you have found someone to fill the gap I left behind.”

Eruviel could not keep back the soft, merry laugh that trickled past her lips. “No, he has not filled the gap. As intrusive as he is, I have learned that I can feel such warmth again, though not for him, as he so ardently hopes.”

“Good,” Adrovorn said with a satisfied nod. “Be prepared, my love. He is going to cause you a lot more heart ache in the months to come.”

“I have feared that . . . Now I am reaping the consequences of loosing myself, I suppose,” she said with a sigh.

Adrovorn looked down at her with a warm smile. “He’s not good enough for you. At least you dodged his advances.” His eyes searched hers, and like it was before, she sensed that he could see right through her. “You are fond of him, aren’t you?”

Eruviel hesitated, then nodded, understanding that he spoke of another. “I think I am. It is . . . unexpected . . . refreshing,” she said quietly. Softly biting the corner of her mouth, she raised a hand to put it on his arm, but stopped. “Might I . . . .”

He shook his head with a sad smile. “I could touch you, but we both know that if you touch me you won’t go back.”

Her mouth quirked with a smirk as she nodded, lowering her hand. “It is tempting, believe me, but the others might not forgive me. And if I really am able to return, then I suspect they are waiting with waning hope that I will wake up.”

Both of their eyes turned upwards as the light breeze picked up, tugging her towards the water. Swallowing hard, Adrovorn suddenly stepped closer and cupped her face with both of his hands, planting a lingering, tender kiss upon her lips. “I should have given that to you before I rode away that day,” he said quietly. Hovering, he then pressed a second kiss on her forehead before stepping back. “Things will get better. Just don’t keep trying to do it all on your own, if you can manage it.” Giving her a bittersweet smile, Adrovorn bowed his head, tucked his hands into his pockets, and turned to walk down the white shore as the sweet ocean wind lifted her up and carried her away.

Ruby Beach, WA

(first half edited from chat logs for tense and exposition))

Advertisements

A Belated Return: Angmar Part One

ScreenShot00235

A messenger ran ahead of them as Eruviel strode over the greying boardwalk in Aughaire. Arathier followed close behind, a stern expression replacing his attempt at a smile. She felt she same dread that flickered in his eyes. She had not been back in the five years since slaying Alagos. Her thumb played over the black leather string bound around her hilt. It was the only memento she had kept of that battle. That and the memories that still haunted her. Glancing over her shoulder to her tall companion she convinced herself that it was for the best Arathier not know. Not yet . . . maybe not ever.

Approaching the hut set aside for the hunters, Eruviel ducked inside to face the small gathering of elders and aged fighters. The half-dozen men look up at her, their angered looks melting into ones of surprise and relief.

“Orome be praised,” sighed one of the elders, exchanging bows with her. “We are glad that you were able to come.” Glancing behind her the grey-haired hill-man gestured towards Arathier. “And who have you brought with you?”

Stunned, several seconds passed before he could manage,”I — I am Arathier. A Ranger of the North.” Bowing politely, Arathier shot Eruviel a bewildered look.

The elder’s hard look softened slightly and he nodded curtly. “The Rangers are always welcome here, and any friend of Eruviel’s is ours.” Looking back to the elf a shadow passed over his face. “We think we found Daran.”

She could feel Arathier’s questioning look on her back. Eruviel took a small step forward, clenching her fists. “Where is he?”

The hill-man crossed his arms over his chest as the others looked away. “Dun Covad.” He then chuckles sadly, “When the others found out you were on your way they knew they had better find out some information or you would raise the Abyss.”

Eruviel laughed dryly, “It is good that they remember. Daran is worth more than twenty of them combined. ” Moving back to the opening she paused. “My old hut, still?”

The elder nodded. “I will post hunters along the lower ridge near Fail-a-khro in case you need them.”

Bowing to the room Eruviel glanced up at Arathier and she stepped out of the tent. The small hut on the edge of the village had not changed at all. Well, there were more weapons and tools scattered about than when it was her quarters, but Daran had always been messier than she. Stepping inside the empty hut she moved past the low bed, and a chair with folded men’s clothes on the seat, walking to a long, narrow table covered with weapons. “Take whatever you might need,” she said as she picked up a crossbow and a large pouch overflowing with iron bolts.

Arathier re-filled his quiver with arrows, taking two sharp knives from the table, discarding his old dull ones. “Eruviel . . . who is Daran?”

I need to start remembering to tell him these things, she thought sullenly. Arathier had not hesitated to say he was going with her when the news about Daran had reached her in Bree. Strapping the crossbow to her back she shot him a half-smile. “A very old friend. He’s a half Dunedain, half Angmarim. I rescued him from a battle in Fasach Larran when he was a child,” she says quietly, her tone neutral. Twanging her bow string she frowned and replaced it. “He must be nearly a hundred and thirty,” she said thoughtfully. Guilt stabbed at her. She should have returned to visit. He was the only family she had left from before.

Arathier offered her a slight smile. “As long as this man is good by you, I am fine. Being half Angmarim must have been difficult. I can respect that.” He examined the daggers he took from the table with approval. “These are very nice.”

Eruviel smiled with a hint of pride. “He got his taste in weapons mostly from me.” Shifting her sword belt she nodded. “Ready?”

Arathier nodded, though obviously unsure. “Where are we headed?”

Eruviel ducked out of the hut, her nuckles turned white as she gripped her bow. “To Fail-a-khro first, to see if they have and more information. From there we’ll take the back paths through Fasach Larran.”

Following her as she moved into a run down the hill a frown creased Arathier’s brow. “Lead the way.”

The grey land flew past them as they ran. Sprinting through the dark, her dropping a distant warg and Arathier cutting down an orc scout that tried to evade them, the emptiness that had overwhelmed her began to fade. Running in step brought back the same comroderie she had felt with Eirikr on their way to . . . . NO, she told herself as they charged up the path towards the outpost. There has been too much loss. I will NOT loose Daran too.

Eruviel slowed to a stop as they reached the first tent atop the hill. Her breathing normal, the only proof of their mad dash being the flush of adrenaline in her cheeks. “Bram!” she called out in a commanding tone to the Ranger standing guard with a few hill-men. “What news?”

Arathier came to a stop beside her, cleaning the blood off of his newly acquired daggers.

The scruffy man turned towards Eruviel, his face covered with a storm of emotions. “I was wondering when you’d arrive.”

Eruviel stopped in her tracks, giving the him a hard look. “What is it, Bram?” she asked, her voice faltering.

“They have him tied up on the wall,” the Ranger replied, not meeting her eyes as he glared to the north. “There is nothing we can do.”

Eruviel’s emerald eyes faded to black as she walked towards the Ranger, thoughtlessly brushing aside Arathier’s hand as he moved to comfort her. “And no one has gone up there?” she growled, her hand moving to her sword hilt. She could feel it; the rage boiling up like a beast inside of her.

“We have!” Bram replied solemnly, standing his ground. “Seven hunters died, Eru, trying to get him down.”

Halting, Eruviel clenched her fists. “What did they do, throw rocks?” she spat under her breath. “I’ll get him down,” she said quietly, gracefully pivoting to head out of the camp.

“You can’t!” the man shouted, giving Arathier a pleading look. “Eru, they are going to burn him!”

Arathier growled at the Ranger as he ran after her. “We are not going to let him die.”

His voice snapped her out of the rage that tinted her vision. Leaping forward into a sprint she dove off of the path into the shadows, Bram’s distant voice echoing behind her, “What are you — you five! Get the others and follow them!”

They raced over the dead earth, paving a path towards the dark towering citadel on the western slope of the mountain. In the darkness to her left she saw the line of hunters silently following, giving them cover. Motioning out to the closest man she cast her bow aside and pulled the crossbow from her back to load it. Arathier followed with a bit of effort as she led them down a narrow ravine to where a break in the wall stressed against the mountain side, a gap showing at the base.

Eruviel slowed as she squeezed through the hole in the wall. Glancing to Arathier she nodded upward as she slung the crossbow onto her back. Jumping up to grab a hand-hold on the crudely patched stone wall, she began to climb. Arathier shouldered his bow, quickly following Eruviels handholds and steps. She could sense the anxiety that surrounded him.

“You can still turn back, my friend,” she whispered down to him as they neared the top.

“Never,” he replied in a fierce whisper.

A wry smile curved up the corner of her mouth. About to reach for the  upper ledge the sound of heavy footsteps warned her in time and the two of them hugged the cold stone as a pair of orcs lumbered past. Counting steps she then reached up and pulled herself onto the top of the wall. Rolling, she pushed up from the floor and dashed up behind the second orc, slitting it’s throat. Arathier followed, killing the other before it could turn.

Running in a crouch to remain as hidden as possible by the shadow cast by the railing, Eruviel took the crossbow from her back and afforded herself a brief look into the darkness below the citadel. Having spent so many years with the hunters she knew where to find them as they fell into position. It seemed the older fighters still remembered how she worked. Speeding forward, they could see a wide balcony filled with Angmarim and orcs who half-encircled a tall pile of kindling, crowned by Daran bound to a stake. Fire sparked along the bottom edge of the dry wood, illuminating the man above.

Sprinting forward Eruviel shouldered the crossbow, a greater focus taking hold as the anger within her swelled.

Arathier followed her more slowly as he held his bow at the ready, nocking an arrow.

A small glint shone out from the dark beyond the wall. Good, they are ready. Letting loose her bolts into the fringe of the crowded enemy she shouted back, “Get down!” as she continued forward, cutting down one Angmarim, than another. A faint whistling carried through the air.

Either Arathier did not hear her or did not care for he continued on, charging into the enemy lines. He hit an orc between the eyes and then unsheathed his sword as he helped her carve a path towards the fire and the hill-man bound above it.

Eruviel dashed through the surprised and enraged mob, killing some and dodging around others, her eyes fixed on an Angmarim carrying a shield. Reaching her target she ducked under his attempt to shield-bash her and cut him down. Taking the shield she threw it back to Arathier as he neared her before running and jumping up the burning mound. Arathier snagged the shield and smacks an incoming orc with the front of it, stabbing it in the throat. He then raised it as he stood between Eruviel and the small wave of Angmarim that rushed him.

Eruviel could hear the whispered breath of arrows as she frantically tore at the ropes that bound the tall, thickly built man. His wide, pain filled eyes, grew bigger at seeing her. Cutting the ropes that bound him she grit her teeth to steel herself against the rising flames. An arrow fell from the sky and tinked off Eruviel’s shoulder guard.

“I will buy you time!” Arathier shouted up at her, stepping forward to parry an attack from the first Angmarim.

Nonono! she screamed at him as she finally pulled Daran free. “Shield up!” she yelled frantically after him as she grabbed Daran around the waist and hauled him out of the fire. Tumbling to the ground she landed on top and braced herself above her bloodied and battered friend, biting back the pain of the burns on her hands as the arrows shot from below rained down around them, bouncing off her armour and cutting down the enemy. She couldn’t see Arathier, but not getting shot by their own allies and keeping Daran alive overshadowed her worry.

“Well this is one way to be saved,” the man coughed with an attempt at a mischievous smile.

“No off-colored jokes,” she replied with a playful glare. “I brought a friend home, brother.

Daran arched a brow at her as he moved her like a shield to block an incoming arrow. “If we survive this I’ll–” He left his sentence unfinished as a coughing fit seized him and she could see blood on his hand.

A arrow grazed her cheek. “Augh!” she gasped, gritting her teeth and shooting Daran a look that ordered him to keep his concerned look to himself. From below she could hear the gate creak as the hunters broke through. “Can you walk?” Looking up she bit back a cry at seeing Arathier run towards them, blood soaking his pant leg at the thigh.

Daran’s amber eyes darted over to Arathier and narrowed as he nodded. “I want to live,” he said sternly, letting Eruviel help him to his feet. “I’ll crawl if I have to.”

((edited from chat logs for tense and exposition))

To Dale: Selling Something

The people she past cast her curious looks, some of them even suspicious. Walking lightly, the creaking boardwalk hardly felt her weight as Eruviel navigated the maze of streets through Esgaroth. The beams of warm light shining through low windows were broken here and there by other pedestrians and the occasional stray cat. Ahead of her the murmur of multiple voices rose and she stopped at the end of the street that met the city square. A handful of vendors still had their stalls set up, a variety of colorful wares of human, elf and dwarvish make on display. More vendors were closing down and a chorus of shouts, laughs and threats wafted out of the taverns and inns along with the smell of food.

A weapons vendor started to call out to her until he got a better look at the bow on her back and the hilt of the sword at her waist. A jeweler beckoned to her with a hand full of necklaces, ignoring the woman he had previously been bartering with. A dozen other eyes turned her way, some drawing whispers or thrown elbows. Eruviel ignored the looks, walking with a relaxed gait and thoughtful air as she searched through the thin crowd. The women seemed to inspect her with curiosity and distrust, and the men inspected her with curiosity and, well, curiosity. She was glad for the months of dirt that darkened her cloak and diminished the usual spotless gleam of her armour to a worn tint of hard use. Her sharp green eyes caught the few shadows that studied her, assessing her monetary value above all else.

Avoiding tripping over a pack of filthy children sprinting between the legs of loitering adults, she could not help but smile in relief at the sight of a clothing vendor who had more shirts and pants versus dresses. Stepping up beside a woman who browsed the table Eruviel began thumbing through the piles of folded shirts.

“Good ‘evenin to ya!” beamed the man behind the table. “What can I help ya find?”

Eruviel returned the smile, shaking her head. “I need a moment more to look. Besides the young woman next to me was here first, I believe.”

The man turned to the lady but she stepped back, her eyes lingering on Eruviel’s bow, her quiet disposition shaken at not having realized the armoured elf had been standing beside her. “Oh n-no, I was merely browsing.” Setting down the folded cloth that had been in her hands she quickly picked up her small basket of produce and bobbed a precarious curtsy. “G’night,” she mumbled hurriedly before pattering away and down a street.

“Don’t mind ‘er. She’s always skittish,” rumbled the vendor before looking back to Eruviel. “Yer needin something other than you’re armour, I take it.”

Nodding her head Eruviel selected out a burgundy shirt with soft brown leather lining the V’d neckline and collar, two straps crossing the back at the shoulder blades for the aesthetic appeal of armour. “I have been on the road so long I am aching for something more suited to a slower pace,” she said with a half smile.

“Naw, m’lady, ya won’t be wanting that,” insisted the vendor with a charming smile. “Elvish lasses should be in something finer than a tailors leftovers.”

Eruviel humored the man as he began to rifle through a crate of dresses, muttering about what styles might best compliment her. He stood and turned, unfurling something grey and something green when Eruviel was hit from behind, nearly falling upon the table.

What in the bloody –” shouted the rough young man who had run into her, his hand clutching his shoulder as he turned. Seeing her in the lamplight he froze. She could tell she was not what he’d expected.

“Forgive me, mellon,” she apologized hurriedly, re-stacking the pile of shirts that had fallen over. “I did not realize I was in your way.”

The man gave her a lopsided grin, rolling his shoulder once as his equally rough looking friends stood like a gaggle of young girls . . .or vultures, watching from several yards away. Eruviel noted they all appeared to be mildly inebriated and wore daggers in one place or another. “Naw, miss. Yer just fine,” he said as he stood a little straighter, “I’m not in that big of a hurry.” This little fool knows nothing of elves, does he?

Eruviel followed his diverted gaze to the green dress the vendor still held up. By the Valar . . . . Thinking quickly she offered a soft, merry laugh, shaking her head. “Now sir, if I wore that these fine gentlemen would think I might be selling something.” The vendor’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment as he took a second look at the thin dress’s plunging neckline and the cocky grin that had yet to fade from the younger man’s face. She was indeed selling something, but that was her walk, her smile, and her carefully chosen words for the payment of the information to be gleaned by reactions of those around her. Information given freely without the risk of revealing her true intent. Looking back to the man who had collided with her, she made her seemingly innocent glance at her small coin purse in his hand obvious. The wry gleam in her eyes matched her soft smile perfectly as she offered a slight curtsey. “Forgive me for holding you up,” she said, her tone lowering and growing richer. “I will do my best to watch where I stand from now on.”

Chuckling, the young man stooped at the waist, bowing with a bit of a wobble. “It’s not every day a man get’s ta see a lovely maiden in armour. The fault’s mine.” He turned to rejoin his friends but stopped. Pivoting slowly he walked back up to Eruviel with a twinge of guild in his eyes. Standing uncomfortably close he took her hand and set the coin purse in her palm. She could smell the ale on his breath and pipe smoke on his leather jerkin. “I — er — ya dropped this. G’night.” And with that he retreated to his friends, one of them hitting him over the head and another clapping him on the back.

The vendor’s eyes followed after the group with a bewildered look as they entered a tavern. “One of them boys nearly stabbed a lady last night. I can’t believe he gave ya yer purse back.”

Eruviel glanced over her shoulder nonchalantly before turning back to face the man. “Do you have a grey cloak?” she asked before adding, “Those young men should be helping their families. The one here could not have been younger than sixteen.”

“He’s eighteen, actually,” huffed the merchant as he dug out a cloak and handed it over. “Them boy’s ‘er trouble, but there are much worse wandrin the streets ‘o Lake Town these days.” Studying her with a serious look the merchant reluctantly put the dresses down and picked out a black and brown pair of well made trousers. “I don think I can convince ya to buy a dress, but these are my best and should fit ye fine.”

Eruviel unfolded them and held them up, smiling with approval. “These will do splendidly.” Handing him what she owed him, the price being fair enough that she did not bother bartering, she surveyed the buildings that lined the square till she found the inn Eirikr had told her of. “If I could trouble you, mellon, what inn would you suggest?” she asked with a faintly torn look painted over her face.

Giving her a kind smile, the vendor pointed out the one she hoped housed her waiting friend. “That’s the best one, and they’re pretty reasonable.”

“Thank you, sir, for you services and for your help,” she smiled sweetly as she stepped away.

“Any time, m’lady!” he replied, obviously pleased with himself. “Visit again some time!”

Waving back to him she wove through the occupied square to the inn, her new clothes clutched to her chest. Taking the few steps up to the open door of the inn she ducked past several patrons exiting the building and quietly asked the first barmaid for a room to change in. Her smile, aided by the offer of a few coins procured her a lit storage room with the maid standing guard. Changing quickly, wrapping her armour snugly in her dirty cloak Eruviel stepped back out, sighing with relief to the amusement of the barmaid. The clothes fit perfectly, and Eruviel’s spirits rose with the comfort afforded by the loss of thirty pounds of steel. Ordering a drink she sat at an empty table to the side of the room, careful to slouch slightly in her seat. Following half a dozen conversations, she surveyed the darker corners of the common room, hoping to find the one familiar face, and praying that he had good news.

ScreenShot00276

To Dale: On the Shores of Long Lake

Their first destination . . .

in a world there lived a Woman

Mirkwood was as miserable as ever, but Eirikr took them north along the Great River and found the traces of the Elvish path so they did not have to cross through the forest the long way. Straight across, not horizontally from southwest to northeast, he thought. Besides, the Anduin was refreshing after such a long time in Moria. The sun on the rapids helped dispel some of the shadows that remained from the caves. The journey through the dark forest remained uneventful – the incursion of the Galadhrim pulled the attention of much of the evil in the woods and their path remained relatively clear. When they emerged on the edges of the forest, they could see far in the distance the outline of the mountain in the northeast; down the Forest River, the waters merged with the Long Lake and Eirikr could almost smell the scent of fish from…

View original post 885 more words

To Dale: Path to the Golden City

ScreenShot00156

“I am ready.”

Eruviel nodded curtly as she nocked an arrow. Looking ahead to the rise she stepped forward, Eirikr moving with her. “Retrieve as many of your own arrows as you can,” she said quietly as they took advantage of the cover afforded them by the boulders and darkness of night. “It will not do to return the sentinels their arrows and leave our own behind.” She did not want to admit she felt a little bitter at them being initially denied access to Lothlorien. They have their reasons, and we would have had to fight the orcs anyways, she told herself. A dry smile curved up her mouth as her eyes pierced into the shadowed distance. Only ten arrows.

Ducking behind a small growth of trees Eirikr peered around the trunk at the nearest lumbering orc. Exchanging looks with her he slid out into the open, loosing his arrow to drop the dumb monster as he ran forward. Eruviel followed close behind him, sinking an arrow into the second guard to give Eirikr the second he needed to draw on the third. Running by their fallen quarry both human and elf retrieved their now black, blood-stained arrows. They are going down too easily, she mused.

The fourth orc caught Eirikr’s arrow in the mouth as it opened it’s filthy maw to raise the alarm, and Eruviel raced up behind the fifth, throwing it off its feet and using its own crude weapon to sever it’s head. She stepped to follow after Eirikr when a quick movement caught the corner of her eye. Eruviel had only a second to draw her dagger when a taller, more slender orc rushed her. Caught in the foul beast’s grapple Eruviel and the orc tumbled across the rocky path. The orc landed on top and a filthy, gnarled hand wrapped around her neck when a golden-fletched arrow pierced through it’s throat. Flipping them over Eruviel ripped out the projectile and stabbed her knife onetwothreefour times into the enraged orcs face. Not bothering to waste time on catching her breath she leapt up to run after Eirikr.

“You forgot this,” Eruviel whispered as they slowed to survey the road ahead of them, handing the elven arrow back to the man. She could hear the caravan begin to advance slowly a ways behind them.

“So that’s where it went,” he muttered with a hint of sarcasm. “But where are we going to find ten of these?”

“Over there,” she said quietly, pointing to the base of the hill from where the black plume of smoke rose.

“Yeah . . . I just see more orc guards.”

Eruviel rolled her eyes. Palming the top of his head she turned him to look ten degrees to the left. “Right where I am pointing, gwador.” Beyond the enemy sentries a festering pile of dead orcs could be made out, arrows jutting from their corpses. She could feel his glare hitting her though the darkness.

“Well, we won’t get there any faster by sitting here,” he grumbled with a smile as they moved out from their hiding place.

*     *     *

The vast canopy of mallorn trees took on a shimmering glow as the sun crested the tree line. A tall, elven guardian of the woods stood waiting for them on the road as Eruviel and Eirikr walked under the first of the golden trees of Nimrodel, the caravan close behind them. Two masked sentries flanked the ancient Eldar and Eruviel amused herself with the pride she felt at successfully keeping back a sarcastic smirk. The humans really were wearing off on her. Before the caravan could pull to a stop the Eldar trio turned with an expectant air.

Eirikr shot Eruviel an irritated look as they and the wagon train followed the elves and she put her hand lightly on his arm, shaking her head with a warning. “If we want to continue on in haste it would be best not to offend our hosts.”

Her companion shifted his jaw around before nodding curtly, calming his facial expression just as they rounded the path to a camp set up between the western arm of the Celebrant and headwaters of the Nimrodel.

The elf lord who had led the group glanced over at Eirikr before looking to Eruviel. Bowing slightly he gestured to a maiden standing at the back of the camp. “Celeguien is expecting you,” he said with a self-important air. Returning the bow Eruviel led the way. Eirikr carried the bundle of retrieved arrows and she sensed him stiffen when the tall elf lord and the two sentries followed.

“Suilad, mellyn,” chimed Celeguien merely giving the elves behind the duo a curt nod before offering her hand out in greeting. “I hear you have retrieved some of our arrows for us?”

Eruviel clasped her hand, speaking before Eirikr could. “We have. I did not realize the threat that lingered at the doors of the Golden Wood.”

“The danger has indeed grown more pressing in the past years,” Celeguien replied, the gleam in her eye betrayed her calm, soothing demeanor. She might hate orcs more than I do, Eruviel mused. Looking from Eruviel to Eirikr the elf maiden arched a brow. “But that is not why you are here. I presume you gathered your collective twenty arrows to earn passage through our land?”

A smug smirk curling across his face, Eirikr set the bundle down  and untied the leather wrapping, revealing nearly three dozen arrows. “We each got our ten, but it felt so wasteful, passing the dead orcs littering the last mile or so,” he said with a feigned thoughtfulness.

Celeguien’s mouth twitched as she kept back a smile. Peering over Eirikr’s shoulder the elf lord did not seem to share the maiden’s amusement. “You do yourselves credit,” he said mildly. “This is indeed a boon to our efforts.”

“Oh, you don’t get all of them,” said Eirikr. Stooping over he picked out three elvish arrows, sticking one in his quiver and two in Eruviel’s. “These are to replace the ones we lost.”

Celeguien quickly jumped in as both Eruviel and the elf lord opened their mouths to speak.  “That is of course, expected. By the black blood on both of you I can see the replacements are well earned. You are free, then, to travel through. The arrows will serve as witness that you have the right to be among us.” Shooting the elf lord a neutral glance of warning she bowed first to Eirikr then to Eruviel. Loborwen will have horses for you. May your paths be green and golden.”

Bidding Norlin a fond farewell and Eruviel making sure to wave back to the merchant Tannith, she and Eirikr quickly gathered their few things and headed off on the horses that had been saddled and waiting for them. Walking the horses till they crossed back over the Celebrant, they then took off at a modest canter down the road through the Lady’s Rest. Simply being in the Golden Wood itself revived Eruviel after the long road through Moria. The crisp air washed the dank from her lungs and her face soaked in the golden glow of morning sunlight.

They rode on, silent. There was nothing to say. Both Eirikr and Eruviel rode tall, relishing the lush scenery that they had been immersed into. The occasional elf they’d pass would regard them then go about their own business, very few visibly showing their distrust of the visitors. After a time the companions reigned in their horses at one end of a bridge that led across the little river towards Caras Galadhon.

“I remember walking though those gates once before,” she said in a hushed, reverent tone. Even if it was so long ago, she could still remember touching the gleaming arches and tasting the sweet waters that coursed through the city. From long forgotten memories she could recall the thrill of the first time she climbed one of the many soaring ladders, and the harmonious sound of a hundred elvish voices.

Eirikr stared openly at the golden city set in the ancient trees. Flowing bridges spanned one high platform to another and the faint gleam of blue, crystal lights lingered behind curving trellises and on the delicate cords of lights that blended in with the natural curve the grand haven. “We will see it on the way back,” he said with a slow nod, as if to talk himself out of staying longer.

“Yes, we will,” said Eruviel, forcing herself out of the cusp between waking and sleeping.

“It might be wisest to make the crossing under the cover of night,” said Eirikr as he turned his horse to the east, giving the city of trees one last longing glance.

Eruviel nodded, humming in agreement as she spurred her horse after him. “We can eat and rest at the Vineyards for the day.” Giving him a thoughtful look she then gazed ahead down the road, her thoughts still lingering on the golden city they’d left behind and not the long way they still had to go. “Are you glad to be taking the lead once we cross the Anduin?”

A moment passed before Eirikr rolled his shoulders. “I will be glad to be one step closer to Esgaroth.”

 

A Little More Time

Eruviel remembers.

It was a quiet day. A lazy day. The soft mattress and blankets puffed up around them in soft waves and the shimmering mountain sunlight filtered through the thick glass window to chase away their late morning slumber. Groaning in protest as the light hit his face, Adrovorn turned his head from where it rested in the small of Eruviel’s back to hide it between her side and the bed.

“So you are finally awake,” smiled Eruviel as she rolled over onto her back and stretched out. She could not help but chuckle at the squinted glare he shot her as she abandoned him to the sunlight.

“No, I’m not,” said Adrovorn in a yawn as he stretched out his thickly muscled arms. Hooking a hand over her side he pulled her close and laid back down, his broad, lightly tanned shoulders draped across her hips. Pecking a kiss on her cool skin he set his head down on her stomach and tucked his hands under her back. “Did you rest well?” he asked, his voice low and thick from sleep.

Eruviel nodded as she fixed the pillow beneath her head. “I always rest well with you,” she said, offering a contented sigh, his head rising and falling with her breath. “I do not think I need to ask if you slept well or not.”

Adrovorn shook his head. “No, you don’t. I slept so hard I don’t even remember dreaming.”

“I am glad,” she responded, combing her fingers through his strawberry blonde hair. In the last months her own dreams were not as distant as they had been in the past. She did not escape to thoughts of distant rivers or white shores. No, she dreamt of the previous day, and the day before that. Of their wedding under the flowering trees of Celondim, and the blissful weeks that followed. They would fight, hunt and drink together with the dwarves during the day, and at night . . . .

“We will not be here much longer, will we?” she asked, interrupting her own thoughts as color trickled into her cheeks.

Adrovorn sighed, crossing his arms over her abdomen and resting his head atop of them to look up at her. “No. I think we have three or so more weeks. Then we head out to find the Tribunal.”

Eruviel raised her eyes to the stone roof of the bedroom, her eyes catching the glints of dust floating through the rays of sunshine. “It’s strange . . . thinking about how much will change.”

“You will miss it, won’t you?” asked Adrovorn as he propped himself up on one arm, tracing his free hand lovingly over the pale scars that wound around her torso.

“I will. Eriador is all I have ever known. I have never been east of Lothlorien nor south of Enedwaith.”

“Gondor is a wide land. When this war is over you may get lost exploring it all,” he said with a smile. Scooting up he pecked a kiss on her cheeks before resting his head on her chest. “And you will already have a head start on seeing the world after I am gone.”

“I will not be seeing much of the world at all after you are gone,” she whispered into his hair. “I meant what I said the other night.”

Adrovorn raised his head, sitting up as his dark blue eyes searched hers. A soft look replaced his natural sternness as he studied her. “I cannot ask something like that of you.”

“That’s why I am giving it to you. Besides, I would think the halls of Iluvatar would be more grand than those of Manwe,” she chuckled softly.

A mischievous smile curved up the corners of his mouth and Adrovorn was about to speak when a knock sounded from the front door. Letting out a frustrated sigh Adrovorn laid back down atop of her, burying his face in the nape of her neck. “If we don’t move they won’t know we’re here,” he muttered.

Chuckling, Eruviel wrapped her arms around his shoulders as the knock sounded again, louder. “Give them a minute and they will go away.”

The knock sounded a third time, accompanied by a muffled call of, “My lord?” The fourth time Eruviel and Adrovorn looked at each other, silently debating whether or not to actually answer the persistent visitor. Then silence. The two waited, their heads lifted and turned towards the door.

“Maybe he left?” Eruviel wondered.

“Good. We rarely get a whole day to lay around,” huffed Adrovorn as he rolled onto the side and pulled her against his chest. The calm returned. Nestling against him she laid there for a time, forgetting everything else. The two had almost fallen back asleep when a new, harder knock sounded against the front door, the thud echoing through the small home.

“Adrovorn?” sounded Myrthrost’s voice from the other side. His tone made Eruviel’s stomach sink. “I’m sorry, but I know you’re in there. It’s urgent.”

Letting out an irritated growl Adrovorn pulled himself away from her and slid out of bed. Quickly stepping into his trousers he leaned over to plant a warm kiss on her mouth. “I’ll be right back love.”

Nodding, Eruviel sat up as she watched him walk out into the common room. She heard the door open, and the low voices exchange words. She could not make out what had been spoken, but it was only a minute before Myrthrost departed and the front door shut. She waited.

“Adrovorn?” she called softly. No reply came. Rising from the bed she wrapped the large white sheet around her and padded softly out of the bedroom. Her tall Gondorian stood still as stone in the entryway, a tattered parchment stretched between his hands. Stopping beside him she rested a deceptively delicate hand on his forearm. “What does it say?” she asked simply, reading the dark storm of emotions that shadowed his face.

“It’s from Pelargir,” he said quietly, rereading the letter again. “The city has fallen into chaos, and a fleet of Corsairs presses hard against the navy. I am being called back.” Sighing heavily Adrovorn sunk down to the floor, leaning back against the wall. “This was sent months ago,” he said gravely. “My men and I are long overdue.”

Looking down at him for a moment Eruviel shifted the sheet around her and gracefully lowered herself to sit beside him. “Well, then we will leave for Gondor sooner than planned.” She tried to sound encouraging, but his unguarded expression of dismay made it difficult to even smile.

“I do not want you to have to fight,” said Adrovorn bitterly as he looked up to study her face, “and I was hoping that the ten years I’ve been away would see the end of this turmoil.” She could see the anger swelling in him towards whoever it was that wrote the letter.

A genuine smile played across her lips. “You know I do not mind fighting. It is what I’m best at.”

A pained look came into his eyes and Adrovorn handed her the letter. “No, Eruviel. I cannot have you come with me.”

“I do not see why not,” she said as she read over the orders. In spite of brevity, the page was filled with haunting details of the south being raided and burned. Osgiliath was overrun and a large part of the army was stuck in the west. And she’d thought things were bad here in the north.

“Eruviel,” Adrovorn cupped a hand on one side of her face to turn her head to look at him, “You cannot come with me yet. I will go and fulfill my oath, and when my lord releases me I will come back for you.”

No, my love. I am going with you. I am fully capable of facing whatever fate awaits us,” she said firmly.

“You really are an anomaly. What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

“I have lived and fought fifteen hundred years before you came along, and I do not intend to wile away the days here when you are down in Gondor risking your life!”

“You don’t get it,” he said in frustration, gripping her arm. “I know you can face anything! But you shouldn’t have to, not any more, not if I can help it. Eruviel, I will be leading hundreds of men into battle and if you were there I would put your safety above theirs. My love, I can’t allow it! Many of them will die anyways, but I can’t leave a hundred families without fathers because my judgement was impaired out of worry for you.”

Eruviel forced down the tears that threatened to appear. She did her best to keep her lower lip from trembling, and merely nodded as he gently pulled her over to sit between his legs. “I understand,” she said quietly, resisting the urge to shrug off his hand.

“I am sorry Eruviel, that this had to happen when we were just beginning,” said Adrovorn, tucking stray strands of hair behind her pointed ears.

Eruviel shook her head, ruining his careful work. Shoving her bangs out of her face she did her best not to show her disappointment, and worry — among a hundred other emotions. “Do you mind if I ride with you and the Tribunal for a part of the journey?”

“Not at all. I would prefer it,” he said with a small chuckle, running a hand up and down her arm.

Nodding, she leaned against his chest with a small sigh, relishing the feel of his skin against hers and listening to the strong beat of his heart. “How long do yo think you will be gone?”

“A year at the most,” he said with certainty. “And if my lord tries to keep me longer I will just leave. He can find another captain to lead his men.”

A few minutes of silence between them passed as his words somewhat calmed her and dried up the moisture that had gathered in the corners of her eyes. “Then we should prepare,” she said reluctantly.

“I don’t think so,” he said with a warm smile. Kissing her shoulder he wrapped his strong arms around her and held her close. “I say when we leave and we still have a little more time.”

To Dale: Small Progress

Eruviel sat leaning back against the stone pillar, twirling the arrow between her thumb and pointer finger with the fletching whisking against the pant of her left knee. She had already counted the stalactites hanging from the vaulted ceiling as well as the sparks that had floated up from their now smoldering fire. Several merchants and travelers still talked quietly a short ways away and she eavesdropped on their softly spoken conversations, wondering who best to join.

There were several dwarves headed to the Lonely Mountain, but few of them seemed . . . congenial enough for her to risk spending the time to earn their trust for them to open up to her. There was a stern, self-important merchant with a Gondorian accent who would be of no use to her, and then there was the Barding that appeared to be relatively new to the trade. Norlin had just bid the younger man good night and he sat quietly by his fire, staring thoughtfully into the flames. His accent was of Bree-land, and by the bits of conversation she had picked up, he had not been east of the mountains since he was an infant. This meant that all his knowledge would have come from his father.

Yes, he will do perfectly, she mused, sliding the arrow back into her quiver.  Eruviel thought of Threz, and wondered what sort of trouble he might have gotten himself into by now. Orome cover you, my bullheaded friend, she prayed with a smirk as she rose to her feet, pulling her plain woolen blanket around her shoulders. This might be her one chance to find out anything for the man.

Stepping over her bedding and carefully stacked armour she stopped when Eirikr grumbled and rolled over in his sleep. That was the tenth time in the hour alone that he had tossed. With their paced slowed, exhaustion was not so strong as to keep dreams from his sleep. A dark frown twisted the man’s face and his hands gripped at his blanket. She had only to guess at what haunting visage plagued him. Picking up a second blanket Eruviel draped it over him to ward off the cold and damp. Kneeling down beside him she gently placed her cool hand against his forehead. A wave of anger, hatred and fear washed through her mind as she touched him, but his uneven breaths soon steadied and his expression calmed. Pursing her lips as she studied him she wished for a moment that she were her brother. Milloth could have banished the nightmares for the night or reached inside Eirikr’s mind to speak as a reassuring voice of reason. She could only calm the storm for an hour or two. At least it was something.

Rising back to her feet she padded softly across the short distance to where the young merchant still sat, wide awake. Looking over at her as she drew near the man jumped to his feet, nearly tripping over his bedroll.

“I am sorry to startle you,”she said in a soft voice, smiling kindly a she offered a small bow. “My fire is nearly out and I did not wish to wake my traveling companion. Might I warm my hands over your fire?”

“By all means,” beamed the man with an embarrassed smile, rubbing the back of his head with his left hand. “I-I would be glad of the company.”

– – –

“Is it possible for us to move any slower,” Eirikr huffed under his breath.

Eruviel reigned in her goat, renamed in honor of the friend it ever reminded her of. “I will ask Brogur. Hopefully he has a satisfactory answer,” she replied, steering Falros around Eirikr’s mount to walk past Norlin’s wagon.

Eirikr nodded curtly, following. “Anything is better than standing here.”

Trotting past one wagon after another, seeing by the light radiating from the lanterns Eruviel raised a hand in a wave as they rode by the gentleman from the previous night. “Good morning to you, Master Tannith!”

“Good day to you too, Lady ‘Raviel!” he called after her, switching his reigns to one hand to better wave back.

Eruviel caught the look Eirikr shot her. “Do not be so swift to doubt me, my friend,” she said back to him with a small smile. Last nights dream must have been bad indeed for him to look this upset. Pulling Falros back to a slow walk beside the lead wagon she bowed at the waist to the old dwarf. “Master Brogur! What is it that holds us up?”

“Goblin scouts ahead. Or so our escorts tell me.” Hesitating, he looked from Eruviel to Eirikr, than back. “I might’ve asked if ye be willin to aid some, but yer a traveler this time my friend.”

Eirikr gave her an even look and the two nodded in synch to each other. “We will be glad to lend our aid, Master Brogur.”

Falros turned his shaggy black head to give Eruviel a disapproving look as she tied him to the back of the lead wagon. “Do not scowl at me, mellon. I will find you a pint of ale when we get to the Twenty-first Hall.” The goat’s golden eyes narrowed at her for a moment before he turned his head to face forward, walking along with an apathetic air.

Eirikr tied his goat next to hers, removing his bow from the saddle. Walking behind him as they outpaced the wagon train, Eruviel counted to make sure he was not lacking arrows. Pulling her odd one out she stuck it in his quiver and stepped up beside him as they moved into a jog. She preferred this, the running side by side.  Their footfalls were hardly the sound of a breath as they sped off into the dark of the stone gallery. Hearing the rumbling of dwarvish conversation ahead of them Eirikr was the one to pick their pace. Slowing into a cautious walk as the two nocked arrows to their bowstrings.

“So who is the merchant you greeted earlier?” asked Eirikr, looking to the right and her to the left as they passed through an intersection of halls.

“Jase Tannith,” said Eruviel quietly, her eyes piercing through the darkness ahead of them. “He has never been to Dale and is taking his wagon of goods to the Lonely Mountain. Everything he knows he learned from the family trade. His father moved their family west ten years ago.”

Eirikr arched a brow at her.

No,” she said firmly.

Eirikr skewed his mouth as his hand faintly tightened on his bowstring. “What did you tell him?” She could hardly make his face out in the dark, but his tone unsettled her.

Stopping, Eruviel reached out a hand and caught his arm. “I told him my amlisse, Eruraviel, which I have not gone by for seven hundred years, assuming I should take such precautions. I told him I had grown tired of fighting other people’s wars and wanted to see the world before I sailed.” Releasing him she moved to walk ahead. “I also told him that you tagged along because you felt sorry for me.”

Eirikr snickered, taking a small step before stopping. “Not in the slightest,” he muttered, drawing his arm back. Eruviel glanced over to where he aimed and nodded. Two sets of eyes blinked in the dark, one higher than the other. They loosed at the same time. A whispered thwap sounded from where her arrow hit, followed by a garbled growl and a heavy thud from Eirikr’s shot.

“Humph,” Eruviel muttered, blowing a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. “You knew which one was the warg, did you not?”

Eirikr nodded. “Took me a minute, but you talked long enough . . . .”

Eruviel smirked as they drew fresh arrows and continued on towards the light of the dwarf captains lantern. “I’m impressed,” she said simply.

“Now you are just patronizing.”

“Only because you cannot take a simple compliment,” she shrugged. “Either you are improving, or you were exceptionally good before your shoulder was wounded.”

Eirikr raised his right hand, flexing the fingers that not long ago had refused to respond to his bidding. “We will find out soon enough.”

To Dale: Durin’s Threshold

ScreenShot00134

The Hollin Gates closed behind them, the air reverberating from the thud echoing through the vaulted chamber. Eruviel had no intention of turning back, and though she knew it to be irrational she felt trapped in the dim light of Moria. The caravan moved further into Durin’s Threshold, and Eruviel pushed the ridiculous notion of claustrophobia out of her mind as she looked around the great space with a small, familiar smile. She had a number of positive memories of this place, and she chided herself for already failing to take her own advice.

“Are we going to walk the whole way, or are we able to procure goats to carry us through?” said Eirikr, smirking as his question snapped her out of her thoughts.

“Of course, my friend,” she nodded, being careful to conceal her lingering discomfort for the cave. “The week here would be more uncomfortable, and seem far longer if it were not without the favored beasts.”

And amused grunt was all she received in reply as Eirikr nodded, taking a moment to give the room a thoughtful look-over. Norlin had already unhitched his goat from the wagon laden with boxed goods and he waved back to them as he haggled with the Stable-master known as Fith for a replacement.

“Do not let Fith rob you. He does not adhere to the set prices other stable-masters do,” Eruviel chuckled as the two of them walked over to the happily squabbling dwarves.

“I know how to haggle,”Eirikr replied, snickering at her.

“That is why I will have you get a goat for me as well,” she replied in Sindarin, slipping Eirikr a small coin pouch as they stopped behind Norlin. Rolling her eyes slightly with a smile for the pleasure of the dwarves in front of them she added, “Fith doesn’t much care for the Eldar, but he thinks men are hilariously fascinating.”

Eirikr arched a brow curiously at her but as soon as she clasped her hands harmlessly in front of her and backed away several paces Fith’s face lit up. Diverting her eyes, Eruviel listened as Eirikr battled with the dwarven Stable-master for two large goats. Her restlessness finally settled when a laugh emerged from her human companion as Fith made a quip about her that she could not quite make out. Laughter was good.  A long road laid ahead of them; one that grew darker the further on they pressed. She sensed the weight that grew in Eirikr, and he needed to keep his spirits up. They both did.

“Do I even want to know what he said about me?” she asked with a smile as Eirikr led over two tall, thick Moria goats. She noted that he had gotten the best pair Fith had.

“No, not really,” he chuckled, rolling his shoulders as he handed her a set of reigns.

The sable-haired goat with brown horns stared at her with an amused glint in it’s pale gold eyes. Slowly chewing a mouthful of hay it followed her lazily back to the wagon train. The beast was strong, but looked as if it could care less as it glanced around at the duo and other goats. Eruviel almost swore that she smelled a hint of ale on the creature and as she stepped into the saddle a sharp laugh escaped from her. If Falros had been a goat . . . .

Eirikr shot her an amused look as if she were crazy, but then smiled and shook his head as he stepped into the saddle of his own hairy, walnut-brown mount. “Norlin, where is the first stop?”

“The Dolven-view, master Eirikr,” the portly dwarf rumbled as he hefted himself into the seat of the wagon, the springs beneath him faintly creaking. “Ya two better keep your eyes open. There ‘ll be goblins to be avoidin on the way.”

To Dale: The Gates

ScreenShot00221

 

The fires of Echad Dunann glistened in the distance as scattered rays of lingering sunlight colored the clouds high above them. A short ways beyond the manned elf ruin more campfires illuminated a caravan of wagons, and the large, hardy goats that would pull them.  Reigning in their mounts, Eruviel and Eirikr trotted the last hundred yards to the Stable-master. The elf maiden smiled kindly at them as they dismounted, taking their few possessions with them. Eruviel never questioned the capabilities of a horse that had been under her care.

“Suilad, Rocherves,” Eruviel greeted the maiden with a faint bow as she handed her the reigns.

“Suilad, mellyn,” replied Rocherves as she offered her own curtsey to Eruviel, then to Eirikr. “Your paths were safe, I hope.”

“They were, thank you,” said Eirikr, his gaze lingering on the towering peaks that looked down upon them. He stretched up to his full height and Eruviel bit back an amused chuckle, wondering just how sore her traveling companion was.

Rocherves nodded, giving the man a thoughtful look before turning to tie the horses to the hitching posts. “It is good to receive such news. The south-western paths have grown more dangerous. It was prudent of you to send a second, and might I say, horrendously vague message. The first never made it.”

Looking around Eruviel frowned slightly at seeing an elf missing from those gathered around a far table strewn with maps. “Is Glavroleth not here?”

“She went to Echad Mirobel,” said Rocherves as she shook her head, “but she instructed me about your arrival.”

“Very well,” Eruviel nodded. “When does the caravan depart?” Her question seemed to coax Eirikr from his thoughts and he looked up to glance between her and the Stable-master.

“They will leave in a few short hours. One merchant has yet to arrive but Brogur does not intend to wait longer than an hour past dusk for him.”

“That is understandable. We should catch our rest while we can,” said Eruviel as she fixed her satchel over her shoulder.

“You should be able to find Brogur at the front fire. Be well, and safe travels to you,” said Rocherves before turning her attention once again to the horses.

Exchanging curt nods with Eirikr, the two of them set out to walk the short distance between the two camps. Speaking with Brogur they were shown to a lone merchant three wagons back that they would be traveling with. The portly dwarf named Norlin was hospitable and Eruviel could not hold back an amused smirk as he took an instant liking to Eirikr. In spite of the sound of dwarvish laughter that relaxed her companions stern expression, a shadow remained. She entertained the thoughts that it might be the caverns that awaited them, the slower pace they would be traveling at, or the foul creatures that still lurked in the twists and turns of Moria that weighed on Eirikr’s mind, but she knew otherwise.It weighed on her mind as well.

Sitting by Norlin’s fire as he chatted away about the delights of being a traveling merchant, Eruviel only half listened. Her gaze drifted upwards to the ever-brightening stars above. She would miss them greatly. Though they would be in Moria no longer than a week, Eruviel doubted she would sleep the first few nights. The craftsmanship of the dwarves amazed her, and the company was good, but she never did care much for enclosed caves.

A call rang through the wagon train an hour later as the merchants or their servants hitched the goats to the wagons. Looking behind, three more wagons pulled up at the rear. Just in time. The caravan moved forward at an almost practiced pace, climbing the gradual slope of the wide trail. The Gate-Stream to their right was as dry as the last time she had passed this way, though in some distant memory she recalled water once flowing over the Stair Falls.

“When was the last time you were here?” asked Eirikr as they neared the top of their accent.

Eruviel gave him a thoughtful look as she continued forward. “Not since before I met Anyatka. Was your trip to Bree the first you had been through?”

“It was,” Eirikr nodded as the wagons crested the hill to look out across the Black Pool. “Though I did not pay much mind to it.”

“We will not be rushing at break-neck speeds for several days. I do hope you try to enjoy some of it.” She wanted to say that it would be a lovely thing to tell Ninim about, but she swallowed her words, unwilling to take the risk. An ache had begun to grow in her. A fear that they would arrive too late, or that something would go wrong.

“I’ll try,” said Eirikr, chuckling slightly as they neared the Hollin Gates.

Nodding ahead of them, Eruviel took joy at seeing the dwarven doorwards standing by the two lone trees that grew against the mountainside. Not since many years before her birth had there been doorwards at the West-gate. “Moria seems so much more grand when entering from this side,” she said quietly, a small smile curving up her mouth. Eirikr shot her a smirk but she merely pointed forward.

The moon emerged just as the guards turned and spoke to the stone while the caravan was still yards away. The runes set by Celebrimbor in ages past glowed bright in the moonlight, illuminating the rocky shore, and the heavy gates opened.

To Dale: The Shadow of the Mountain

The genius behind the Dale Trip!

in a world there lived a Woman

The sun bore down upon them as they stood on the cliff overlooking the Bruinen. Far below their feet, the river picked up speed as it veered southwest to join with the Greyflood. Eirikr had awoken to find the settlement of Gwingris full of purposeful activity and the sun hanging high on the verge of noontime. At first, anxiety grasped him as the first thought that entered his mind was a threat; could Eruviel have forgotten him in the press of an attack? Only when he saw her across the way speaking with the provisioner did his pulse slow and he was able to breathe again.

The provisioner, Thillosil, approached them holding a carefully wrapped bundle. Eruviel turned and accepted it with a smile and exchanged quiet words with her in Sindarin, shooting an occasional glance at Eirikr’s back. Though he could understand their words if he wished to do…

View original post 526 more words