“Pack . . . dagger . . . noteboooo –” Arylieth’s voice trailed off from her checklist as she turned in a circle. Scuttling over to her small desk in the corner she dropped a pile of papers on the chair and rifled through a stack of books. Her stomach sank. Where on earth was it?
The notebook wasn’t anywhere in the house. Picking up her skirts she ran outside, her long black hair billowing behind her as she padded down the front steps into the yard. She found a pencil by the gate but not her notebook.
“By the Valar,” she groaned, slapping a hand to her forehead. Glancing up at the sun she yipped and hurried back inside. “Curse it all, I’m gonna be late!”
Throwing her pack over her shoulders she snatched up her saddlebags packed with food and blankets from the common room. It had to still be at the Archives, she assured herself as she locked the door behind her. Gliding down the road towards the stables she suddenly scooped up her skirts and leapt into a sprint.
“A map! I cannot forget a map!”
__ __ __ __ __
“Are you sure you won’t stay?”
The young, rugged woodsman looked up at her as he stuffed his last shirt into his bag. “The whole family is going. You know father’s talked about going south for years.”
Huffing a stray hair out of her eyes Amiraen pushed off from where she leaned against the wall of the cabin. “Forgive me if I prefer forests of trees to those of stone.”
The man narrowed his eyes at her as he righted himself, fitting the strap of his bag over his shoulder and across his chest. “Gondor isn’t all that bad, sister. It would be a new adventure and you might even find someone.”
Amiraen scoffed, waving an idle hand at him. “I will find my own road, thank you. And I will not let father tie me down to some stuffy merchant’s son. If I end up in Gondor some day it will be my own choice.”
Her brother picked up his bow and walked over to her, tousling her hair like she was a child. “What am I going to do with you,” he sighed. She hated when he did that, but she knew she would miss it every day after he left. “Here, take this then,” he said, handing her the weapon.
“But — but you will need this!” she stammered, carefully holding the bow in both hands.
“You goose. If the war reaches us then I have my swords, and Gondor is full of fighting men. You are the best archer in the family. It’s only fair that you take it.”
Nodding, she clutched the weapon to her chest as she walked with him to the door. “Safe travels then. I will write when I figure out where I end up.”
“Love you,” he chuckled, planting a kiss on her forehead. “Take care of yourself Ami.”
“Mira, you oaf,” she corrected with a smirk, giving her brother a playful shove as he turned to walk away. “Love you too.” She would see them again, she reassured herself. Life was funny like that. Securing the cabin she fixed the prized bow on her back, watching him confidently stride away.
He waved back at the turn in the road, and then he was gone. In the silence the Black Woods came alive as raindrops began to patter down through the evergreen canopy. Binding her soft curls in a low pony-tail a smile curved up Amiraen’s face as it was kissed with each cool drop of water. A crisp wind whispered down through the branches of cedar and pine and, turning north, she let it sweep her away.
__ __ __ __ __
Risalra strolled down the path, a staff crossing over her shoulders and she rested both hands up on either end. Her first day away from the forge in two weeks, she nearly skipped down the path with joy. Nodding in greeting to the constable she turned down the left fork in the road, heading for Chetwood.
“Today could not get more perfect,” she hummed, stretching both hands up into the air, still holding on to the staff.
“Why can I not hit it!” sounded a man’s voice from up the hill, a quieter stream of curses following.
Looking up, Ris stopped as she saw a man facing down a tree, dagger in one hand as the other rubbed his shoulder. Smirking, she raised a hand to cup around her mouth and shouted up, “I think it’s already dead!”
The man jumped and quickly looked at her, startled. He smirked slightly to hide his embarrassment. “I um. . . yeah. . . my arm is not fully healed,” he sighed. “Just practicing.”
Glancing down the road to the woods Risalra turned to look back up at the man. “Maybe you should let it heal a little longer before getting mad at it for not doing your bidding.”
“I guess I am just eager to get better. I can’t help anyone if I’m injured.”
“You won’t do anyone much good if you’re a dead hero,” she replied frankly, watching him pick up up his daggers. He was tall and built. And with ideals like that he was the kind of man she might have pick-pocketed just to get close to without fearing repercussions. But she’d given up being a petty thief so she promptly put the thought from her mind. Shrugging, she offered a slight wave as she turned to be on her way.
“I am no hero miss,” he said as he walked down the hill to the road. “I never want to be. I just believe every child should grow up innocent.”
Risalra stopped and looked back at him, dumbfounded, unable to decide if she should stay or continue on. “That is a noble sentiment. Too bad there are more children in the slums than you can handle.” What a fool.
The man shrugged his broad shoulders and Ris locked her gaze on his face. “Why is that a reason to give up?” he asked softly. Looking to her with a small smile he added, “My name is Ranthier, by the way.”
Arching a brow she studied him, but did not respond to the question. “I’m Ris. A pleasure to meet you, I suppose.”
“Well Ris, if you would excuse me I have work to do. Will . . . will I see you around?”
Bema save me, Risalra smirked. Rolling her shoulders she turned and walked away. “It’s a small world, so I suppose you will. See you around, Knight Ranthier,” she called over her shoulder, her eyes twinkling as she felt rather proud of her quip. He did not respond, but as they walked in opposite directions she could have sworn he’d called her a smart ass.