The miles that passed underfoot were but numb echoes in Eruviel’s limbs. She could still feel Ninim’s blood on her hands with every arrow she loosed, and see the life fade from the young woman’s eyes whenever her own closed.
It had gone all wrong. Try as they had, Ninim had perished as Eruviel cradled the screaming newborn against her chest. In the moments before Abiorn had taken his little nephew from her she had stared down in horror at the beautiful child, fearful that he might die as well.
Never, she had thought, never will I have children. She would not . . . could not. Not now.
Every night when they made camp her eyes would follow Eirikr as he’d take his leave to stand watch. The memory of his harrowing cry kept her from sleeping when he was gone, and she stood more alert when he would finally rest on a pallet beside his brother. When his dreams got worse she’d creep over and press her hand to his forehead, sometimes merely suppressing the terrors that plagued him, and other times exchanging his dreams for her calm.
The tranquility of Lothlorien had done little to lessen her guilt. And though it had raised her spirits, it was the look on Abiorn’s face as they entered Caras Galadhon that finally caused her to smile. No light shone in Eirikr’s eyes however; a look Eruviel knew all to well. He should never have had to suffer such a loss. She had promised herself she would prevent it, and her failure turned the evening meals to ash in her mouth. As their short respite ended she wished she knew what to say to him, but her words would most likely fall on deaf ears. So she walked and fought beside him in silence, and took greater care in seeing to Abi’s comfort.
Eruviel could not remember ever wanting to see Bree again so badly. As the road west once again became familiar she thought of Anya, whose gift hid awkwardly in her satchel, and of Threz, who’s letters nested in her pocket. But most of all she thought of the little boy they had left behind. Sighing, she fixed her gaze on the horizon. She would go back in a year or two. If Abiorn was up to it, perhaps they would go together. Deep within her she hoped that the boy grew to look like a little Eirikr. But, in truth it did not matter who had fathered the child. What mattered was that the infant born in the dark of Mirkwood would have Ninim’s eyes.