Similar Paths

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The Pony had been more busy this week than the last month combined. Eruviel leaned against the barrels in the corner by the bar, observing the other customers as she pretended to mind her own business. She had come with the hopes of finding Anya. As she exchanged nods across the room with Threz she wondered where her oselle had gone off to. She’s most likely with Morty . . . . Eruviel let out a sigh and took a sip of her cider.

Threz stood with two — no, now three other men whom she presumed were a part of his guild. She could not help but chuckle at seeing the way the mercenary carried himself as he talked business. A short ways behind him stood the Justice, Arion. He stood like a massive Gondorian pillar, arms crossed over his broad chest as he endured the questions of a younger man. Another table away the healer Laerlin sat slumped, pushing her food idly across her half-empty plate. Still further back two elf lords occupied a shadowed corner, quietly discussing their dislike for dwarves.

Eruviel’s attention had just moved on when the front door of the Pony swung open. The young elf maiden she had met a week prior jogged in, clad head to toe in in gleaming heavy armour. A brilliant smile lit her face when she saw Eruviel and she practically pranced across the room to stand beside her, the elves chain mail ringing with every step.

I cant remember ever being that enthusiastic. “Mae govannen, Bellethiell,” said Eruviel, doing her best to keep back a snicker. “You look like you are ready for a fight.”

The elves golden locks bounced as she nodded her head. “Suilad! And I am!” she chimed as she set her small shield down. Her eyes grew wide all of a sudden and she held up a hand. “Oh! Forgive me. Don’t go anywhere!” And with that she ran through the room to a vendor in the back. Half of the customers gave her queer looks and the others ignored her, but Eruviel just leaned back once more, hiding her chuckle behind the rim of her mug.

The elf maid returned quickly enough, this time walking, a happy smile lighting her face. “Shall we sit somewhere and talk?”

Eruviel nodded and set her empty mug on the bar. “What do you drink?”

Bellethiell licked her lips, taking a moment to consider her options. “I will have a hard cider please. Thank you for the offer.

Eruviel ‘s mouth twitched with a smile and she nodded to the innkeeper. “Make that two, Barliman.” Taking the mugs she handed one over to Belle. “How have you been since we last spoke?” she asked, moving to look for a place to sit. She had thought of her several times. Their conversation had intrigued her, to say the least and she half expected for Belle to have sought her out sooner.

“I have been well, thank you!” Belle followed her to an open table and sat down. Taking a drink she brought her head up in a quick motion. “Do you like hunting?”

Eruviel blinked, surprised by the elf’s frankness. Pausing mid-drink a merry laugh shook her. “Hunting is my profession, and some what of a passion.”

Bellethiell turned a bright red with embarrassment. “I’m so sorry,” she muttered. “In our last conversation I never asked what it was you did.” Belle then put her head down, almost as if she feared that she’d offended Eruviel.

Eruviel ‘s laughter continued at seeing her friend flush. It was a rich laugh. A healing laugh. “No need to look so ashamed, arwenamin. I did not ask you either.” She raised her mug in a slight toast. “Having said that, what is it that you do?”

“I am an armorer,” Belle replied excitedly. “I realized that when you have to fight, you should know how to equip yourself properly. True lady’s work.” She chuckled, shaking her head. “So many have doubted my skill simply because of my gender.”

Eruviel noded slowly, offering an understanding smile. “The concept of the ‘female warrior’ is still relatively new. Though wh–” she never finished, and even the words on her tongue vanished when she was interrupted.

Bellethiell did not seem to hear her, but leaned forward, a near-pleading look on her face. “Since hunting is your profession, could you teach me?”

“I could, but are you sure you want me as a teacher? You have not seen me on a hunt or in a fight. Surely you know other talented hunters, having lived here longer than I. There are scores of fighters flocking around Bree these days.”

Bellethiell smiled. “I have heard stories, and I trust my contacts here. They were quite insistent that we meet. I would love to learn whatever you are willing to teach.” The look on Bellethiel’s face remained hopeful.

Eruviel arched a brow at the elf maid, her eyes quickly glancing around the room. “And what have you heard about me?” she asked, leaning forward to rest her elbows on the table.

The elf maid seemed pleased by the question. “They told me we had similar paths. Though I knew you were not an armourer, they hinted of a profession similar to mine. A lady who can fight. One does not simply find that everyday. They said you had much experience in life. Experience intrigues me.”

Eruviel ‘s shoulders relaxed at the lack of specifics. “No, one does not,” she said more quietly, her face sobering some as she studied the young elf. She wondered what was in her past that made them similar. Much of her comings and goings was not public knowledge, but what was . . . “I will teach you,” she nods, “but I do have questions for you.”

“Please!” she said with exuberance. “Ask me anything.”

Eruviel snickered at her enthusiasm. “Why do you want to learn to hunt? You can already make armour. I can only assume you know how to use that shield you carry around.”

“I am a good fighter. I am not good at sneaking.” She stopped, the gleam in her eyes faded, and Eruviel saw a moment of . . . was it doubt? “My aim from a distance is less than proficient and maybe, if my fight included a bow . . . I could’ve protected my family better. But — but there is no time like the present to learn.”

Similar paths . . . . “Indeed,” Eruviel nodded.  She considered several other queries, but decided against it. Another time. A better time. “My other question was wondering if you had looked into the guilds and kinships before seeking me out.”

Bellethiell shook her head. “I saw no reason to. I take the idea of kinship very seriously. After loosing those I loved, I never thought I would be a part of something like that again. And then you came along.”

Eruviel did her best to hold back a small smile, though it was rather sympathetic. “I understand, my friend. I am the last of my kinship. Though the Dreadward are long gone, I do not see why we cannot give the name new meaning.” Two elf maids, when Mirthrost and Adrovorn had been loathe to let in one.

Bellethiell looked around her, glancing at the minstrel, the patrons, then down at her empty glass of cider. “I fear I have professed too heavy a burden on you. Let us stay light. Let us be merry. Let us hunt!” She pounded her fist on the table with her empty goblet, and wiped her mouth with her sleeve, bearing a brilliant smile.

Eruviel pushed her mug aside. And that answers my third question. “My life is nothing but burdens, and I gladly bear them.” As she rose to her feet she felt a twist of excitement at the thought of a hunt. She could bring some of her kill to Abbi and Anya. Abbi never complained of her cooking and fresh game might do him good. How long had it been since she’d run barefoot through the wilds and hunted for the enjoyment of it? She could not recall. Nor could she recall the last time she had a good run in a thunderstorm. Looking up at Bellethiel she saw the same anticipation she felt on the elf maids face. Like a mother picking a child up by his collar, Eruviel moved her fears, worries, and grief aside. She was tired of her soul drowning in sorrow and loss. She was tired of not enjoying the little things in life. She wanted to dance and laugh and fight without the fear that had burrowed into her heart. Giving Belle a smile and confident nod she fixed her bow across her back. “If you are ready, let us be off.”

(All dialogue taken from in-game RP and edited for tense and exposition.)

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