A black mist crept along the floor, swirling up in soft, claw-like puffs as she ran down the corridor. The back hall of the Pony never seemed so long, but a dry laugh echoed out from behind her, urging her legs to run faster.
“That’s great that you’re sorry . . .”
Bounding off the wall to keep from crashing as she turned the corner the room changed. A wall blocked off her retreat and the way was now lined with cold, crudely cut stone. Orange light danced across the walls. Only the mist remained. Was this the dungeons of Carn Dum? Stepping forward it filled her with dread and a familiarity she’d rather deny. Where had she just come from? Why was she here again? She had escaped, hadn’t she?
“You made me believe . . .”
Her breath caught in her throat. Some unseen force sucked the air out of her lungs, but as she slumped against the wall a scream echoed from up ahead. I know that scream, she thought as a feeling of panic gripped her. Pushing off from the wall she stumbled forward into a run. Ninim? Anya? The scream filled her ears and each time it sounded it changed. By the Valar, who was it?! Eirikr? Torrin?
Before she knew it she was running from cell to cell, sparing only glances for the dead within as she searched frantically for the voice. The dry, emotionless laugh sounded again and as she skidded to a stop, so did her heart. Why were her feet wet? As soon as she looked down she regretted it. Instead of mist, blood swirled around her ankles, covering the floor. The harsh smell of iron assaulted her. Covering her mouth with her hand she suddenly wrenched it back, staring at her hands in horror. They too were covered in blood, and it was not her own. Bile rose in her throat.
Then she heard it. Not a scream or a laugh, but the quiet, desperate struggle of one wounded, gasping for breath to survive. It was from the cell beside her but when she turned it was too dark to make out the features of the person slumped against the far wall. Pushing open the cell door she stepped in. I need to help them, she thought frantically, I must get them out of here.
She stumbled back, but the cell door had closed behind her. Arathier’s mouth curled in a sneer, his hands hanging limp at his side. His mask floated just out of reach and arrows protruded from his chest. Blue eyes turned up to look at her, filled with sorrow and rage and confusion.
Eruviel shot upright, gasping for breath as she tore the sheets off of her that had wound around her neck. Coughing, she retreated to the head of the bed, pulling her knees to her chest as she struggled to control her violent shaking.
Minutes passed, and the sound of birds in the tree outside her window gently brought her back to her senses. The sun was fully up, and a late morning breeze filtered in through the windows she had left cracked open.
“Blasted bed,” she grumbled, swinging her legs over the side. His side. Her eyes misting over she rose to her feet, fighting off the blanket that still looped around her waist. They were over, and looking back over her shoulder at the ornate piece of furniture, it seemed more like a cage. Hastily throwing on her customary trousers and a shirt she studied the bed through narrowed eyes as she pulled on her stockings and boots. It had to go. Opening the front door and the rest of the windows to air out the house Eruviel rolled up her sleeves and began tearing off the soft silk lining of the bed’s canopy.
Collecting the sheets and blankets she rolled them into one massive ball and threw them off the porch into the yard. Angrily wiping a tear that coursed down her cheek she marched back inside and tackled the mattress. It was wide and awkward. Stumbling once or twice she finally managed to drag it through the house. Cutting a hole in the side of the taunt cloth to use she grasped the seams and struggled to squeeze it out of the door. Finally getting it out she heard her weapon stand fall over with a crash. Leaving the mattress leaning against the nearest statue she made her way back to the bedroom.
The rich, red wooden frame of the canopy bed never seemed intimidating before, but now the heavy wooden furniture looked back at her as if to say, “What did you expect?” Making her way down to the cellar Eruviel returned with a handful of tools. But it was no use. Try as she might the bolts at the corners of the posts would not turn.
“Please, please just work,” she begged as she fought with the tools one more time. Her efforts amounting to nothing she tossed the tools to the side, standing in the middle of the room feeling helpless.
“Hello? Lady Eruviel, how –” Bellethiell’s merry greeting stopped short as she saw the mess in the common room. Stepping past the scattered weapons and over the fallen maps and candle stand she poked her head into the bedroom, her golden hair swishing about her troubled face. “What in Arda . . . .”
Eruviel turned to look at her young friend, tears welling in her emerald eyes as she was unable to conceal how miserable she felt. “I-I can’t get it,” she managed.
Giving her a long, look, Belle nodded once. Not speaking a word she took up the tools and fought with the bolts, having no better luck at loosening them. The two Eldar stood side-by-side, hands on their hips, staring at the bed.
“Do you have an axe?”
“Downstairs to the left.”
Eruviel didn’t move till she hear Belle coming back up from the cellar. Stepping inside the frame, she positioned herself in the middle of the open rectangle.
“Should you break it or I?”
“You break it. I’ll hold it.”
Belle nodded and moved to the first corner of the bed, axe gripped comfortably in her hands. “This is a terrible idea.”
Eruviel lifted her hands up to brace against the wooden canopy roof. “I know. Just do it.”
The four supports broke easily as Bellethiell chopped through one, then another. The top dropped, and though Eruviel caught it the weight sent sharp pangs down her still-healing arm. Gritting her teeth she carried the top out, grateful that Belle let her do it on her own till she came to the door. One on either end they hefted the top of the canopy outside, then returned for the bottom frame, breaking off the post before dragging the rest out to join the growing pile.
Then it was over. Taking a deep breath Eruviel offered Belle a grateful smile as she stepped to go back inside but the young elf maiden snagged her left arm. “Let’s go.”
“What?” she asked looking back at her friend. Seeing the determined look in her eye Eruviel tried to pull away, shaking her head. “I’m fine, Belle, really. ”
“No. You can’t pull that with me. Get your bow, and let’s go. We can clean up the mess when we get back.”
Searching her face for a moment Eruviel finally nodded in consent. Snatching up her bow and quiver from inside she shut the door and padded down the steps, drying her tear-stained cheeks. “You’re right. Let’s go.”