“Tell Me.”

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Jumping up to grab hold of the gable of the roof, Risalra pulled herself up onto the old tile with a practiced ease. Ducking behind a chimney she peeked out to watch one of the town Watchers ride past. Not that she was doing anything illegal, per-say, but she didn’t have time to get stopped. As soon as he disappeared around the corner she jumped up and ran down the valley of the roof and faulted across the short expanse of an alley to the next house.

Finding her way easily over the maze of Bree rooftops she finally clambered down a tree into an old, hidden courtyard. Honestly, she had considered ditching the afternoon lessons. But she needed to get stronger. Her skill with a sword was elementary and she had every reason to work hard to get better. Leaning against the trunk of the tree she crossed her arms over her chest, entertaining the thought of running her newly forged blade through her instructors heart.

Don’t loose your head Ris, she chastised herself. There are two sides to every story . . . . She chuckled dryly as the Elf clad in formfitting, black leather armour dropped down from the roof across the courtyard to the ground, landing with ease. But maybe I won’t give her a chance to tell her side. . . . A second individual, a young woman in her early twenties with a wolf pelt draped over her shoulders, stopped on the roof the Elf had come from and sat on the edge, watching.

“Good to see you showed up, Ris,” came the first’s flowing voice, soft brown hair tumbling out of her black hood as she pulled it back.

“Eruviel,” Ris grumbled in greeting, her grip tightening on her hilt. “Course I’d show up. This was my bloody idea, wasn’t it?”

Eruviel nodded and tossed her cloak aside. “Why don’t we start with a review then,” she said, not looking up at her human pupil.

Look at me, dammit, Ris fumed, drawing her sword. “That works for me,” she responded curtly. The Elf’s eyes did not rise till Ris had begun going through her paces. Pouring her anger into her practice, Ris got done with her practiced stances so quickly that Eruviel made her run through them again. Then she did them backwards, and after that was taught a whole new set of moves, this time with two blades instead of one.

Panting for breath, Ris was nearing the end of the new steps when her toe caught on a tuft of grass. Crying out in frustration she stabbed her dagger in the ground and stopped to catch her breath. The strange woman still sat on the edge of the roof, watching as her feet swung freely in the open space below. Looking up to Eruviel, Risalra could see the elf’s face was hard as a mask. Though not insincere, layers of minor emotions shielded something else. Ris felt her anger swell.

“That was well done, Ris. You — you look tired. We can be done for the day if you like,” said Eruviel, giving Ris a sad smile.

That was about all Ris could stand. Snatching up her dagger she turned on Eruviel. “Tell me,” she growled, her blue eyes flashing dangerously. “You need to tell me why.”

Her emerald eyes taking Ris’s posture and approach, Eruviel took a step back, a hand moving to the long dagger at her hip. “Please, Ris,” she responded quietly, her voice catching. “Not . . . not right now.” Risalra could see that she clung to her mask desperately, and it fueled her desire to tear it to shreds.

“You elf witch!” she cried, parrying Eruviel’s block and thrusting forward with her longsword. “You broke my brother’s heart!” Swinging wildly, Ris lost it, her vision blurring as she put all of her practice to use. Just one drop, was all. She just wanted to see her bleed.

Retreating one step at a time, Eruviel easily blocked and parried Risalra’s attack. “Ris . . . Ris! Please!”

Her sword was knocked out of her hand and in a flash the elf huntress had her wrist in a vice-grip. “Why?! How could you — ” Risalra’s words caught in her throat as she finally looked Eruviel in the face. The elf’s jem-like eyes glistened with tears, filled with misery. “E-Eruviel. Please. Please tell me why,” she asked quietly, drawing her arm back as the elf released it.

“I couldn’t Ris. I couldn’t give him everything.”

Risalra’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean? He’d give you everything!”

“And he deserves everything in return!” Eruviel shouted, turning away. “My love never lessened, but I loved him as a friend and brother. It was not the kind of love that one gives to another when they intend to bind their lives together. ” Turning back Ris could have been knocked off her feet at seeing tears coursing down Eruviel’s cheeks. “I — am sorry, Ris. I could not give him children. He told me we didn’t need to have any, but you know Rath. I cannot go off to fight wars he cannot go to when he is old and childless. I cannot keep bringing death to his door, endangering both our lives. Even more, I am not willing to give it up for him. He needs some one who can give him everything in return. Someone who can give him a full life.”

Risalra swallowed, her eyes narrowing. “Did you tell him that?”

Eruviel nodded ‘yes’.

“And he argued back, didn’t he.”

“He did.”

“And you still ended things.” Risalra gave Eruviel half a second to nod ‘yes’ before slamming her fist into the Eldar’s face.

The elf didn’t even try to stop her, stumbling a step back from the force of the punch. A small smile curved up her lips as a stream of blood trickled out the corner of her mouth. “For Rath?”

“No,” Ris huffed, shaking out her hand. “For me.”

Eruviel wiped the blood off on her sleeve, nodding. “See you next week?”

Risalra retrieved her weapons and shoved them back into their sheaths as she walked away. “Sure.”

 

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