Month: October 2014

SIFRP: Consequences of Haste

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Marisily rose from the bench as she saw Bergardi, the Lady Alisandre’s guest at the night’s feast striding down the hall back towards the palace. The Lady Regent was not with him.

“My lord?” she called out to him. He did not seem to hear. Hurrying forward a few paces, she called out again. “My lord!”

Bergardi glanced over his shoulder, having heard her call, but did not stay or hesitate on his course.

A knot twisted in her gut. I should not have sent Danica away. I should have thought to advise her not to drink so much. Running back into the gardens, Ris recalled the short time before when she noticed Alisandre slapping Bergardi. The Lady Regent was nowhere, but a guard paced over the spot, a frown creasing his brow.

“Sir, I –”

The guard jumped, startled. “Lady Thorne! Have you seen Lady Alisandre?”

The knot tightened. “No, sir. I was about to ask you the same thing. Has no one seen her?”

The guard’s frown deepened. “Lady Alisandre!” he started to call, turning away from Ris. Marisily pivoted and searched for the next guard. Finding him, she asked him to aid the first man in search for the Lady Regent. By the time she spoke with a fourth guard, more had joined in the search, a number of them pouring through the garden gates, all calling for the Lady.

“You,” said Ris, pointing to a strong looking soldier. “Come with me.” With a nod of approval from his superior, the guard followed. Scooping up her flowing crimson skirts, Marisily hurried through the maze and out to run down the hall Bergardi had disappeared down. All I have is my dagger, she thought sullenly, breaking into a run as she saw a man that matched the stature of Bergardi walk up the steps at the end of a courtyard. The one time I don’t have my bow. The ONE time.

“Is that him, my lady?” asked the guard who jogged alongside her.

“It looks like him,” she responded. She then broke into a run, the soldier actually struggling to keep up with her.

“My lord!” she called to the man ahead of her. The man glanced back and disappeared through the door.

A puzzled look crossed the faces of the guards at the doors at the sight of her fast approach but one motioned sharply to the door. “Go after him!”

Two guards disappeared through the door and the sound of a scuffle echoed out before the body of one dropped into the doorway, the clank of his armour echoing in the yard. Running up the steps, Marisily nearly skidded to a stop as blood pooled around the man’s body.

“He is dead, my lady,” said the guard that had accompanied her as he knelt and inspected the body. The sound of footsteps was heard from within and the young guard ran inside. Marisily’s breath caught as the scuffle that ensued beyond her sight ended rather swiftly.

Run, you fool! To Danica, your bow — What an idiot, only bringing one man with me . . .”  She stepped inside the door, hesitated, and walked further in, several bodies of guards lying on the floor.

“Lady Thorne,” said a man’s voice to her left.

It was Berstag. By the seven, you should have shot him that day! You had him in your sights! The Hunter gave you the perfect chance . . . ” Lord Tyrell, what is going on?” she asked as she moved towards him. Why in all of Westeros was she holding to the charade? She did not like the look in his eye and she stopped several paces away.

“You should leave, my lady,” said Berstag quietly, moving towards her as his hand drifted to his sword. “It is not safe here.”

Marisily frowned and nodded, retreating back to the door, though she kept an eye on the man as he followed her. The steel of his sword glinted as he began to draw, and Ris suddenly began rethinking every one of her choices in the past five minutes. A cry of pain sounded from back outside the door. Where else can I go?  She burst out the opening and she ran out onto the steps as the body of the last guard hit the stone floor below. A hand shot out from the side and she attempted to dodge her attacker, but a strong hand grabbed the soft folds of her skirt, keeping her from her flight. The cruel grin of the man she had orginally sought after peered down at her. Bergardi.

“Lady Marisily,” called Berstag from behind her.

With a strength only lent by her desperation, Marisily turned and wrenched her skirts out of Bergardi’s hold, the both of them looking to Berstag as he walked out of the open door. Bolting away, a sudden, hot pain unlike anything she’d ever felt before tore at the flesh of her shoulder and upper back. A cry of pain escaped her as she stumbled, barely able to keep her feet. Fear gripped her chest even as she felt the back of her dress soak with blood. Her blood. She could see the red splatters of her life fall to the stone beneath her feet even as she retreated down the steps.

“Get out,” she heard Berstag command even as she turned, willing – no – begging her feet to move faster.

How far had she managed to flee? Ten feet . . . ten paces? The yard seemed so much larger as she searched desperately for anything to aid in her self defense even as she felt herself grow weaker. A shield . . . a sword . . . anything! By the seven, does no bloody soldier carry a bow in this place?!

Marisily could sense Berstag as he drew nearer, but as she turned to face him, drawing her own pathetic dagger from a hidden pocket, she saw that he did not have his sword in his hand. She could have sworn he rushed at her as one might when attempting to save another. Phillip, Robert, Martin — my sons, forgive me. . . . Sable. A strong hand took her good shoulder and the other wrapped around her waist. A dagger plunged into her back and she felt herself fading in his grasp.

A wicked smile curved up her crimson lips, the blood spurting from her body merely adding scattered layers to her flowing gown. “Say hello to my husband for me.”

Berstag looked down at her. “You should not have gotten involved.”

With her last effort she attempted to stab up under his arm with her own dagger, but she knew she lacked the strength, as it only got tangled in the cloth of his tunic. I missed my target, and it has been my undoing. I missed them; all the clues and hints. I did not doubt enough. I did not suspect enough. No. No more regrets. You are a Thorne . . . Fear no fate. She fell back, wishing she’d have just a moment more of life as Berstag called out to the guards that ran for them. A small sigh crawled up her throat as she looked up at the Reach stars she knew so well, feeling weightless, before all light and life and pain faded from her.

So as we fall, do roses sprout,
And bodies littered all about,
Behold, must enemies shaken cry,
A Thorne may never die.
A Thorne shall never die.

When The Time Comes

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Slipping past the patrons in the common room Eruviel slid out the open door before it could close. There he is. She saw the top of the man’s red hair disappear down the street heading towards the West Gate. Skipping the steps, Eruviel leapt off the porch and ran across the cobbled square after him. “Anric!

When she’d caught up to him, Anricwulf was murmuring angrily to himself as he prepared his mount’s saddlebags.

“What has gotten into you?” she demanded coming to a quick halt by the man and reaching a hand out to him.

Anricwulf knocked her hand away. “If you’ve come to lecture me I won’t hear it. I should be lecturing you — standing by as that creature makes a mockery of the natural order.”

Eruviel batted his hand back. “And what, you were just going to kill her because the damned spirit confused you with someone else?”

Anricwulf blinked a few times. “Her? Wait . . . You think I speak of the spirit inside of Anya?”

“Of course I think that . . . Anric . . . were you meaning to be rid of Anya, not Faethril?” she asked, her voice quickly lowering. That was all there was, right? Just Anya and Faethirl consumed her thoughts and worries. Who else

Anricwulf reared back some. “Kill Anya? She’s half the reason I intend to put that thrice-damned grave-keeper back in the ground where he should have stayed from the beginning!”

Letting out a heavy sigh Eruviel took a small step back as all the pieces she’d ignored fell into her tunneled vision. “Morty. You were meaning to kill Morty,” she muttered. Of course. “Anric, he’s the only one who succeeded in bringing Anya back,” she attempted to reason. This is the second time now you’ve stood up for that cursed man.

“So? It’s no better than Faethril. Their time has come and they need to move on, and by word or by blade I intend to see they do, as with all those who linger in this world past their time.”

Eruviel narrows her eyes at him. He would do it now, she knew, if Morty chanced to walk by . . . or even came into Anric’s sights. “I hold no love for the gravedigger,” she said sternly, “but he is not as bad as I once thought, and he cares for her.” She then stepped forward, her eyes narrowed in a glare. “He is useful, if nothing else, so you will keep your ambition to slay him till after this is all over and Fae is finally gone,” she growled.

Anricwulf narrowed his eyes back at her. “And I suppose if my sword does not stay I will meet a quick end by yours, mmm?”

“Only if your aim moves to Anya,” she said quietly, standing her ground as she rose to her full height. For some reason Morty never left Bree, so she doubted he would come on the trip, but a horrible vision of Anya jumping in between the gravedigger and the blow meant to end him played over and over in her mind. Her tightly wound nerves finally began to unravel and she knew it would take the worst of the worst for her to actually take Anric’s life . . . but if he lost his cool like he had back in The Pony and acted on it . . . the whole prospect made her feel sick. “We need Morty, Anric. He seems to be the only one able to suppress Fae. So, I am asking you to stay your blade.”

Anricwulf stared at her, taking a moment to ponder her words. “I will agree to stay my blade until after Fae is gone,” he responded finally, “but once that spirit is put to rest, you will not stand in my way as I do the same to the gravedigger.”

Eruviel gave him a curt nod. “That is all I ask. I do not know yet if I will see fit to defend him or not in the future,” she said quietly, “but as of right now know that I will not attempt to stop you when the time comes.”

Anricwulf gave a swift nod of his own, exchanging a look with her. Saying nothing more as he finished prepping his mount to leave,  the man swung into the saddle and took off out the gate.

Eruviel watched him depart, her jaw squared. Pivoting, she strode back up the street, hand gripping the hilt of her sword.

 

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

If It’s Worth It

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What had she been thinking? She should have been back home, hidden in the dark of her house, not standing in the common room of The Pony between the Mercenary and the Horselord as they challenged the others ideals. By the looks they kept giving her she should have joined in on the conversation, but she remained silent, focusing on their words to combat her slipping composure.

For nearly two days after she had received Daran’s final letter Eruviel had stayed locked away, not caring for food or drink. Then Exio had broken in, opened all the windows, drug her out of the corner, and forced her to eat something. She had come into Bree to ease his mind, promising to find a quiet spot to enjoy the sunshine, but of course that did not happen. Everyone wanted to speak with her, it seemed. She had done well at first, but each conversation grew too personal, and her enigmatic smile more distant and strained. Raigar had let it drop when she did not explain herself, and Eruviel felt certain he would not press her, but Threz, she feared, might not be so easily appeased.

I need to get out of here, she thought frantically as the two men finally came to an understanding. If it was Anya here I could let down my guard, but not here. . . not in front of them . . . .

“I would like to speak privately with Eruviel, if I may,” said Threz.

Raigar bowed his head. “Of course. I’ll leave you two to your privacy. Have a good night, my friends.” He stepped away and pulled his hood back up over his head.

Nodding after the man, Eruviel left their spot by the fire to follow Threz down the hall and out the back of the Inn. “What is it my friend?” she asked, rubbing the bridge of her nose. She felt weary.

Threz leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. “Eru, you ok? I’ve never seen you with such a lost look on your face as I saw before you entered the Pony.”

By the Valar. Eruviel’s shoulders sunk a bit as she shook her head, glancing around.  “I’m — No, I’m not all right,” she admitted quietly. It would do no good to lie to the man, and he deserved better than her half-assed excuses.”Though I’ve never been so bad at hiding it before.”

Threz pushed off from the wall and moved to put a hand on her shoulder. “That makes two of us I think.”

A deep breath. Eruviel’s expression wavered and she put her hand on his for a moment before stepping back half a pace. “None of that,” she managed to quip, “if you don’t want me to loose what little calm I have left,” she says, managing a smile. “And what about you?” she asked in attempt to divert the attention away from her.

“I came to ask for advice but,” Threz paused as his brow creased with concern, “I don’t think now is the best time to be asking you more deep questions about my own problems.”

Eruviel shook her head, a half-hearted smile curving up her mouth even as her brows knit together. “No, now is fine, Threz. More than fine. What is it that needs advice?”

Threz hesitated, still looking at her with concern. “Forming attachments.”

Eruviel’s breath caught in her throat, the corners of her mouth quivering. “And you want advice on whether you should . . . or should not form them?”

Threz nodded. “After all, When you can’t protect them . . . is it really a good idea?”

Eruviel ‘s lower lip trembled. So many lives. She felt her knees go weak and she moved to lean against the wall, shoving her hands in her pockets to try and steady herself. She saw their faces in her mind. Hundreds of years of people whom she respected and who respected her. And they were all dead. Would she do it over? Daran. “Y-yes,” she managed, moisture clouding her eyes. Leaning forward she quickly covered her mouth with a shaking hand, as the tears began to pour down her cheeks. “I-It’s wo-orth it,” she gasped between silent sobs.

Threz stepped forward and grabbed her arm. “Eru?”

Eruviel’s tears only increased as he took her arm. Shaking, she turned her face away from him even as she leaned her head against his shoulder, her hand still muffling the sound of her crying.

Unsure of what to do, Threz held her close. “Go ahead Eru. You’ve supported me and others so many times. It’s ok, let go.”

Eruviel shook her head in protest as she continued to weep, her face pressed against the shoulder of his breastplate, not phased by the armor. How long had she known Daran . . . a hundred an twenty years? So long in one of the worst places in Arda . . . and never would she take a minute of it back. Then she thought of Eirikr . . . and Abbi, and Exio, and Threz, and she cried even more at the thought of loosing them. You’ve gone soft, she rebuked herself. Several minutes passed before her sobs slowly quieted. Righting herself, she hid her reddened face behind her hands. “By the Valar, I-I’m s-sorry, Threz,” she sputtered as she wiped her tear stained cheeks with her sleeve.

Threz gripped her by the shoulders and looked her in the eye. “I never had an older sister Eru. But if I did, I think it would be ok for her cry once in a moon.” Giving her a long look he removed his hands and stepped back. “By the way. Did you mean it? About forming attachments?”

Eruviel ‘s ears turned pink and she nodded, choking on a small laugh as another sob gripped her chest. “I did. They will hurt at times, and can be confusing and happen in the worst of places, but every bit of it is worth it.”

Threz’s face twisted a little as emotions that echoed her own flickered across his face. “I . . . mark your words.” One half of his face curved up in a smile. “Will you be ok?”

Eruviel nodded, and chuckled as she reached out and wiped the lingering tears from his breastplate. This time you’re to blame, she thought, a hint of amusement showing on her face. “I think so. I have to head out of town for a few days, but . . . Thank you, Threz.” She looked up, giving him a meaningful smile. “Is this all about who I think it is?”

Threz dropped his head. “Yes . . . it is.”

Eruviel wiped a hand over her eyes, the first real smile in days spreading across her face. “Why do you hang your head?”

Threz looked up. “All things considered . . . I’m afraid.”

Eruviel nodded, sniffed and wiped at her eyes with her sleeve again. Damned tears won’t stop. “I would be concerned if you weren’t. But what about it causes you to fear, if you do not mind me asking?”

Threz made an ‘I don’t know’ gesture with his arms. “Many things. Danger to her, uncertainty. But mostly I’m afraid of myself.”

Eruviel smiled kindly. “That you’ll mess it up, that you’re not good enough, or that you’ll push her away?”

Threz sighed. “Number one, number two, and that I’m too dangerous to be around.”

Eruviel snickered softly. “Well stop it. One is always possible in anything, but know that these things are two way streets. Two: I don’t want to ever hear you say that because it is not true. She is strong and capable and smart. I don’t know her too well, but I think she can discern that one for herself. She stuck around, didn’t she?”

Threz looked abashed. “Uh . . . she doesn’t know me as well as I know myself?”

Eruviel shrugged, smiling at him. “You may be surprised.”

Threz sighed and his shoulders slumped. “Maybe.” He glanced up. “Stay safe on your journey, ok? And remember that your friends are here for you. You were there for us.”

Eruviel nodded, giving his arm an encouraging squeeze before she stepped away. “You have my word,” she replied, turning to look back at him even as she walked. “No heroics from me this trip. Though if I did, I would need a younger brother to put me in my place once I got back.”

“Let me fit into one new roll at a time,” he chuckled. “I’m uncomfortable enough as it is.”

Eruviel grinned back at him, nodding as she untied the reigns of her horse. “All in due time, I suppose.” Swinging into her saddle she gave him a grateful look, her eyes red-rimmed, and bowed her head. “Thank you again. Have a good night Threz. I’ll see you in a few days.”

 

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

Rest

threzthemercenary

Threz woke, if you could call the way he’d spent the night ‘sleeping’.  He woke full of pain and weariness.  His wounds ached, his muscles ached, his head ached, and his throat was soar.  He shifted slightly and grass wet with morning dew brushed his face.  He shook as a round of throat stripping coughs rolled out, then opened his eyes and sat up.

The morning was gray and dismal.  The refugees lay scattered about the small park.  Not randomly, but concentrated near the latticed entrance across from the jail and spreading outwards, as if everyone had simply lain down the moment there was a free spot of grass for them.  Which likely was exactly what had happened.  Not that he could really remember much.  The last moments before he lay down were dark and blurry.

Pain rippled across his back as he rolled over and struggled to rise.  Most…

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A Long-awaited Rest

“Everyone has gathered, sir,” said the Trév Gállorg hunter as he stepped through the flaps of hide into the hut. “We are ready.”

Daran’s stern amber gaze darted up to the man for only a moment as he rolled up the letter and bound it with a cord. Scratching the address down over one curve of the parchment he then tossed it to the man. “Good. I’ll be right there. Have a courier send that out, will you?” Walking around the cluttered table he took up one knife after another to fix their frogs to his sword belt.

“Of course, sir,” said the hill-man as he caught the scroll and turned to leave. Stepping back he suddenly stopped. “I mean no disrespect, but are you sure you should come with us?”

“Why would I not,” grunted Daran dangerously, his sharp gaze glancing around the room for his bow.

“Well . . . you’re still recovering . . . sir. We can’t –”

“It is a scouting mission, Finnan,” said Daran coldly, cutting the man off. “We’re not raiding Carn Dum. Now go and send that letter.”

“To Bree, sir?”

Daran huffed. “Where else?”

Nodding a curt bow the hill man turned and obediently left.

“Blood and orcs,” Daran cursed under his breath as he rubbed a strong hand over his forehead and up through his shaggy hair. Did they really doubt him? No, his men would follow him anywhere, he knew that. He’d trained nearly all of them, and their skills rivaled the occasional Ranger that rode north to be stationed at the village. But ever since he had been rescued from the keep in Fasach-Falroid only a few short months earlier he had not been the man he once was. Even at a hundred and thirty . . . was it? . . . he had looked like a man in his late thirties, as strong and fit and sharp-witted as any man could be in their prime. But now the years had caught up with him and he had aged significantly, both inside and out. Though still strong and capable, he fought to hide the limp, grey had begun to show at his temples, and he tired easier than he cared to admit. By the gods, he hated it.

Sniffing, Daran stacked the letters spread out over the table, fitting them back into a crude box. She’d been writing more often in the past month than she had since she’d moved to Bree. He needed to know why. Not that he minded, but he had seen the look in her eye when he’d last seen her; helped her battered body into her armour. One of them would would eventually be the death of the other, he was sure of it.

A dry wind raked across his tanned face as he stepped out into the evening. Stretching out his muscled arms he strode out over the plank bridge to where his horse waited with twenty other Trév Gállorg fighters, armed to the teeth and eyes lit with fire.

“You all have your orders,” said Daran, addressing the group as he swung himself into his saddle. “I don’t want any heroics.” A head taller than the tallest hill-man, Daran wheeled his mount around and led the group to the gates heading north, the three scout leaders beside and behind him.

“What of the Angmarim camp down the valley?” asked one man.

“My group is scouting to the south of them, Finnan’s will take the north.” Amber eyes glistened in warning as he looked back to the speaker. “Save the fight for tomorrow, Helgrin. I expect you to keep your men in line.”

Helgrin nodded reluctantly, obviously displeased. Motioning to his group of five, the younger man led them away from the others, heading west. Exchanging a look with the other leaders, Daran motioned with a quick flick of his wrist and he and his five hunters split off, riding east.

The ride to the hill-man outpost was strangely uneventful. The horses hooves echoed like shallow heartbeats against the dead earth and as he and his men left their horses at the small camp a feeling of foreboding set in. There were no scouts to run down as they continued on foot, nor were there ravens to shoot out of the night sky. The only feral eyes gleaming in the dark were his own.

A hand batted his right shoulder, and Daran followed the direction of the hunter’s arm to the hill past the first. The Angmarim camp was still there, and the number of campfires appeared to have almost doubled from the past week. Creeping forward in the shadows, Daran and his men climbed the first hill, just out of range of the firelight, and watched.

There were five . . . no, possibly six hundred Angmarim and orcs camped in the bowl of the valley. There were no siege weapons, but Daran was sure they were on their way. Weapons, placement of shrines, number of visible priests were all taken into account. An argument could be seen at the head tent and the Angmarim captain threw a little boy to the ground, pointing east. Scrambling to his feet, the little boy took up the bow that had fallen from his hands and scurried out into the night, the laughter of Angmarim filth lending speed to his legs.

Daran squared his jaw and for a moment, closed his eyes. It disgusted him. He still remembered what it had been like to live under the terrifying hand of Angmar, but he turned away with his men, knowing there was nothing he could do. Hopefully the child would return after the next day’s battle, alive and free once the Trév Gállorg forces burned the enemy camp to the ground. Motioning to his men they slinked back down the hill and began the jog back to the outpost.

The outpost not a hundred yards away, a pain shot through his leg, the wound having never quite healed. Masking his stumble, Daran ducked down, and to his surprise an arrow whizzed past where his head had been. The hunters reacted instantly. Three gathered around Daran and two vanished, the sound of a not-so-distant scuffle the only giveaway to their location.

Grabbing the arm of the youngest of the three, Daran shoved him forward towards the outpost. “Get — ” The rest of the words never left his mouth as time seemed to slow around him. He could see him, the boy. Daran’s hardened amber eyes met the fearful blue orbs that fixed on him, the child’s arm trembling as the arrow shot out of the bow. It was poetic, really. The flight of the iron-tipped arrow sounded more like the exhale of a sigh as it sailed past the young hunter’s head, nicking his ear. Daran had just enough time for an enigmatic smile to carve up his mouth before the projectile pierced into his chest with a sickening thud.

Then time caught up with them. His eyes still locked on the child hidden behind the far patch of rocks, Daran gasped and dropped to his knees. The young hunter cried out in surprise, his hand flying to his split ear. Turning as Daran fell he darted to catch the man by his shoulders lest he fall on the arrow protruding from just above the heart.

“No, NO!” shouted the young man as the others ran to Daran’s side. “Get it out of him!”

“Don’t,” growled Daran, the taste of blood in his mouth as he grabbed one of the hunter’s wrists. “I-I’ll just die faster. Take me,” he managed, struggling for a breath. He motioned to the outpost and blinked. Opening his eyes he saw the boy was gone.

His vision began to blur as the hunters carried him down the rocky path. The youngest hunter sprinted ahead of them and Daran coughed a chuckle at hearing the boy’s panicked voice. More blood. He felt himself being lowered onto a pallet, and it seemed strange that the shouts and worried conversations were muffled to his ears. He knew he was going to die as the strength ever so slowly drained from his limbs, but did they have to rush about as if their efforts would change the inevitable? He coughed a few jokes, but all he got in return were distressed looks and grumbled responses. Could they not even give him a fake chuckle or two?

“A — a quill.” The thick, garbled words clawed their way up his throat.

The crowd around him fell silent, frozen and unsure until a shadowed figured pushed it’s way though. Daran felt the quill in his hand and a parchment tacked to a board appeared, propped under his chin, just within his vision.

My Lady,

I wanted to write this myself before the grim task was handed to the healer. You always teased that one day my luck would run out. I seems that is today. It appears you were also correct about my pride, for I am enraged that I must die such an inglorious death. You should have taught marksmanship to the enemy so that my death would have come more swiftly. The healers do not seem to appreciate the morbid jokes I am making. I suppose you would not either, though I know that if you were here I would at least be humored by your smile. Thank you for my life. For the meaning you gave it, and for the meaning you made me find on my own.

Always yours, Ge’bar

Swallowing, he let the quill fall from his hand.  With that done a small weight lifted from his mind, as if there was nothing left he had to do. The murmur of voices began again, strained and worried. He just wanted silence. Why did they stress so? But it would be over soon, he told himself, and maybe finally . . . finally he could rest. There was only one he would miss, but where he was going, he knew he’d care not. Yes, no more swords and enemies or sleepless nights fretting over the ones he loved. Just a long-awaited, blissful rest.

Dwarven Crates: A Casual Raid (part 2)

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Raigar tilted his head. “Shit,” he muttered as they come to a crossroads. His eyes flickered over his shoulder. “Now we pick a tunnel to follow.”

Anricwulf turned down to the right. “This one looks good.” Threz reloaded his crossbow, shouldered it and followed, dagger in hand.

Eruviel smirked and stepped around a bend in the wall. “Sure. Gotta start somewhere,” she muttered, stepping to follow.

Raigar looked to Eruviel and grinned. “Your friend has some spirit, I’ll give him that.” Drawing his knife once more he moved after them.

“That he does,” she responded with a quiet chuckle.

Threz glared at them. “You talkin about me behind my back?” he whispered.

“Never, Threz. Don’t you worry,” Eruviel quipped.

Raigar approached a line of weapon racks, but shook his head. “Not Dwarven.”

Threz looked around the cave. “Cozy.”

Anricwulf snuck up on a sleeping Brigand before bringing his sword through the robber’s chest. “What was that about Dwarves?”

“Not here either,” whispered Eruviel, quickly looking through a small, empty nook separated as sleeping quarters.

Raigar looked up to the others as the tunnel curved back around to make a loop. “We’ve reason to believe that these Orcs have a shipment of stolen weapons, crafted by the Dwarves of Othrikar.  That’s the last sort of weaponry that we need the Enemies of Bree to be wielding.”

Anric nodded. “Ah. Well that makes sense.” He looked around. “How many weapons are we talking?”

“Has Othrikar fallen then?” Threz scowled, “Or did the uh . . . Longbeards . . . do the selling?”

Hearing  the echo of steps emanating from the direction they had originally come, Eruviel stepped past the men as they talked, watching down the cavern, her bow knocked and pulled taunt.

Raigar shook his head. “We never did get a count.” He then turned to Threz. “Not sure. Though, I believe Eruviel found evidence that one of their trading routes had been hit — not by Orcs, but by men.’Which still begs the question of how they got into Orc hands to begin with.”

“Mounted men?” Threz ventured.

Raigar looked to Threz and shrugged, then glanced over his shoulder for Eruviel to answer. However, she had conveniently disappeared further down the tunnel.

“We could be dealing with Dourhand treachery,” said Anric. “Iwn a few to work alongside Orcs, and the northern lands are crawling with the filth.”

“It’s possible. I wouldn’t put anything past the treachery of the enemy.”

Threz gently unloaded his cocked crossbow and followed, loading a different bolt as he kept the weapon pointed in a safe direction. Moving up beside Eruviel he whispered, “Do you think the other mercenary is behind this? Estorn?”

Eruviel fit her arrow back into her quiver and bow back onto her back. Drawing her sword she nodded to the flickering of shadows back down the way they had came. “I don’t know. By Orome, I hope not,” she whispered back. “But we will have company if we don’t keep moving.”

Anricwulf walked up beside them, and Raigar by him. ‘Then by all means, let’s.”

Arriving once more at the crossroads Anric charged ahead, and Threz, glancing at Eru, followed. Eruviel and Raigar considered the third path, a few carts visible down the tunnel, but followed after the other two as the sound of a small skirmish drifted back. Jogging around the bend the man and elf arrived just as Anric pulled a javelin from a brigand’s chest. Threz wiped his dagger clean and turned to wait for the others. A dry smirk circulated through the group and they continued on down the passage down one bend then another till the tunnel opened up into a cavern, the facade of a forgotten ruin set against the far end.

“That’s interesting,” commented Raigar with an arched brow.

“Well, well. What is this?” Eruviel muttered curiously at the sight of the ancient stonework.

A brigand walked around the corner to walk out out of the ruins, but before any of them could react a javelin flew past to peg the man in the chest. The brigand could only manage a startled expression before he fell dead at the small flight of steps. “Hmm?” Anricwulf asked, approaching to collect his weapon.

Raigar pointed out the intricate engravings that decorated the structure. “The star of the North Kingdom. These ruins are Arnorian.” Raigar shoots a glance over his shoulder at Threz, obviously concerned for the man’s still healing wounds, but just then, the sound of voices up ahead seem to echo through the small tunnel.

Eruviel ‘s brow furrowed as she approached the arched doorway. “I’ve heard of this place, but it’s been a long time . . .” She stopped at the sound of voices, taking another silent step forward in attempt to hear better. Someone, or some thing, was in the midst of a heated discussion up ahead, and neither side seemed capable of coming to agreement. Yet their words were muffled from a distance.

Raigar hmmed softly. “Well then,” he whispered. “Lets go see who’s not so happy.” Drawing a second hidden dagger he proceeded up the steps, the others close behind. Responding the earlier sound of a body hitting the floor and orc rounded the corner only to have Raigar’s elbow smash into it’s face. The man’s hand clamped down on the beasts mouth as the other drove his knife into it’s throat. Pivoting around the man, Eruviel stooped to catch the orc’s crude sword before it could clatter to the floor. Threz moved past them to see if there were more and Anric padded towards a second flight of steps leading to a second level.

“Who is that? I don’t recognize the voice.”

Raigar looked to Anricwulf and shook his head. He didn’t recognize it either. “Might as well go ask ’em, eh?”

Anricwulf smiled. “Sounds good.” Drawing his sword he headed up the stairs.

Eruviel and Threz exchanged another look, the mercenary huffing a silent chuckle as he put his dagger away and once again took his crossbow from his back.

At the top of the stairs, a piece of rubble fell and clattered to the ground. The conversing parties haulted and looked towards the group, just in time for the man who had been bickering with an orc to take Anric’s javelin through the torso.

Fearful that they would loose a source of information, Eruviel flipped her dagger around in her hand, moving in as Anric attacked and cast the blade into the orc. The Orc had turned and made for the door at seeing himself outnumbered. It was nearly there when Eruviel’s dagger caught it square in the thigh, and he tumbled to the ground. But her efforts were in vain and Anric fell upon the wounded Orc, ending it’s life with a flourish of his sword.

Raigar watched Anric finish the Orc as he approached the impaled man with a dour expression. “Well then, he won’t be saying much,” he muttered, before kneeling to search the dead man’s pockets.

Eruviel had moved to the snarling, yet incapacitated Orc and frowned down at it. “Blast it all,” she muttered. Kneeling down she took the few pouches from the it’s belt and began to rifle through them.

Anricwulf raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t have expected him to say that much anyways. Besides, they’ll lie and weasel there way out of anything.”

Raigar nodded slowly. “Maybe so,” he whispered. He rose and pulled the javelin from the dead man’s body, and turned to toss it to Anricwulf. A boot kicked the corpse over onto it’s back. “He’s too rugged, and his clothing rough, to be from Bree. My coin’s on him being a brigand.”

Anricwulf caught his javelin mid-air. “My coin was on that from the start. I don’t know any Bree-lad who would willingly work with Orcs. Only Brigands and the like would deal with such brutes.”

Eruviel nodded. “That’s who I suspect had ambushed the Dwarves to get the weapons. Those we still have yet to find,” she added sullenly.

“Then it’s likely he wasn’t just working alone.” Leaving the corpse behind, Raigar strode towards the door. With an idle twirl of his sword he beheaded the wounded Orc before cracking the door open. “It leads to outside,” he whispered. Prying the door open, offering a shrug to the others before stepping outside back to the surface.

Eruviel slippped two of the Orc’s pouches into her pockets before she followed after Threz, closing the door behind them. Chaos reigned in the camp as mounted riders continue their onslaught of the remaining Orc forces.

“Well, that was fun,” Anric commented lightly as he stretched out his arm and took a breath of the relatively fresh air.

Raigar grunted. “No sign of the crates.”

Eruviel cleaned her dagger off on her black pants and slipped it back into it’s sheath as they watched the riders do their work. “Unfortunately. It seems we have more scouting to do.”

Raigar let a sigh escape. “The world is a far place to scout in search of just a few crates.”

Eruviel nodded slowly, glancing back to the hill behind them. “One down.”

 

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

Dwarven Crates: A Casual Raid (part 1)

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From her vantage point on the hill, Eruviel watched as the battle ebbed and flowed below her. Well, if the raid could have been called that. The locking of Bree’s gates during the plague had been a major setback. The search for the crates of dwarven weapons had led her and Raigar here, and she offered a silent prayer that the stolen weapons were indeed still at the camp.

Anricwulf grinned wickedly. With a roar, he drew his spear and charged into the mass of Orc bodies. Plowing through the enemies ranks, Anric slammed Orcs aside with his shield before piercing necks and chests with sharp jabs of his spear. Kicking a wounded and raging monster aside, the man whirled his spear in his hand and brought the point down through the Orc’s eye.

Raigar seemed at ease in the chaos. The Horselord strolled in easily behind Anricwulf, slaying in his wake. He severed the throats of many Orcs that had been left wounded or stunned in his path, and his long sword gleamed in the firelight as it flashed back and forth, deadly yet elegant. Raigar plunged his hunting knife hilt-deep into the skull of one of the Orcs that had been kicked aside, and wrenched it free seconds later. A twisted smirk etched along his lips as black blood splattered across the grounds in the wake of their onslaught. All the while, his eyes remained moving, constantly searching the dark for sign of the missing Dwarven crates that had brought them there.

Threz, standing on the ridge not far from her, set his sights on a meaty looking Orc and dropped the beast with a bolt to the brain. He worked to recock the weapon, grunting as he put strain on his shoulder blade muscles. Eruviel felt a pang of gilt, knowing by all rights he should have been back in Bree, healing. But the guild needed rebuilt, and she figured he would prefer the payout to pity. Threz loaded a bolt and scanned the bloodied scene for enemy archers. He found one when the villain’s arrow bit the dirt near where he crouched. Cursing, he sighted and shot it down before the Orc could get another arrow in the air.

Glancing back to the mercenary, Eruviel pivoted and took out an Orc archer that had circled from the eastern side of camp. Shifting her stance back she loosed arrows in swift succession into the mob of beasts, avoiding the men who battled below, and taking out any potential threats to them she could perceive. A wounded Orc that had been missed attempted to rise to his feet behind her companions and Eruviel swiftly nailed it to the ground. Looking further into the camp she sighted a larger Orc sprinting down from the crude fort, and after striking it once, then twice, the monster finally dropped.

Raigar followed the path of dead bodies even deeper into the camp, pausing only to signal up to Eruviel and Threz to join them once the way had been secured enough. When he turned to them, another Orc tried to tackle him from behind, but he hurled it over his shoulder and gutted it with his blade.

Anricwulf slammed an Orc to the ground before bringing his metal heel down between the beast’s eyes. “So are we looking for something or just here to spill some blood?”

Threz stepped back out into the open, aimed and loosed, pausing to re-cock his weapon before marching down to join the others. Eruviel followed, drawing another arrow from her quiver as she slid down the incline. It had been a long time since she’d had a fight like this, and she easily dismissed her wondering if it was a good or bad thing.

Raigar drew his sword free of the Orc’s belly and called out to Anricwulf, “Didn’t want to deter you from your fun,” he practically laughed, his eyes glancing to Threz and Eruviel as they approached.

Anricwulf cracked his neck. “Was a good fight. Far better than Brigands or Tomb Robbers.”

Raigar rolled his eyes. He sheathed his knife and plucked the horn that dangled from his quiver, raising the mouthpiece to his lips. A mighty roar burst forth as he blew into the horn, and soon a new, large pack of Orcs came running down the hill from the back of the fort. Anricwulf grinned, hurling a javelin into the mass. He drew his sword and rushed the Orcs, shield held out in front of him. Eruviel took a step to the left and aimed high. Shooting in rapid succession, her fifth arrow left the string just as the first hit into the fast approaching mob.

Threz glared at Raigar, and Eruviel could have sworn that she heard the mercenary mutter, ‘horn man,’ rather spitefully. “I thought we were done!” Then he loaded a bolt in, sighting at an archer taking position on the hill, and fired.

As Raigar let his horn drop  the sound of thundering hooves echoed off the cliff walls. Raigar’s riders had arrived, and they swooped in from the far end of the camp, crashing into the Orc lines without mercy. “That cave up ahead,” Raigar shouted, gazing back over his shoulder in search of Eruviel’s attention, before turning to nod at it. “Looks like a good hiding spot, doesn’t it?”

“That it does!” she responded, moving forward as she shot another orc archer from the far ridge. Her eyes gleamed as they then darted ahead towards the cave. Threz parried an Orc’s blow easily, slashing the beast with a practiced arm as he fought through the quickly panicking mob.

Anricwulf slammed his shield hard into the chest of an Orc, his sword finding a sweet spot beneath the foul beast’s arm. His swing produced a spray of black blood that spattered his companions. “Is that where we are headed?”

Raigar nodded and the small company fought their way towards the cave. “There’s no telling how deep it goes. The riders can keep the rest of the camp busy while we explore it.”

Eruviel resisted the temptation to draw her sword, but with a dark, satisfied smile turned up her mouth as she decided there were enough blades about, and shot an arrow inches past Raigar’s head to kill the orc behind the one he’d just cut down. “I hope we are not too late,” she called in response, dodging falling bodies and horses. Threz blocked an Orc’s attack with his dagger and grabs the monster’s sword arm, holding it out of the way while he sliced the beast’s throat.

Raigar ‘s brow quirked as the arrow whistled past his head, and lips curled into another wicked grin. “Aye, to the caves!” he shouted before slamming his sword into the jaw of another Orc. Anricwulf kicked an Orc between the legs with the metal heel of his boot before following, Threz hot on their heels as he slammed his dagger up under an Orc’s chin and into it’s skull.

No enemies guarded the door into the hill, and the small group slid into the cave unhindered, the thick wooden door muffling the roar of the one-sided battle taking place outside. The air was dank and cool, the relative quiet more shocking and welcome than anything else.

Anricwulf looked between his fellows. “Alright, we’re here. What now?”

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

Lessons

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Eruviel remembers.

“Adaaaa,” Artis protested, propping her elbows upon the heavy, ornately carved wooden desk with a huff. Smushing her cheeks between her hands the young Eldar’s emerald eyes gazed out the great arched window facing west. “Can we just go?”

“It will just be a few more minutes. Exercise your patience, my dear.”

Artis wrinkled her nose and sniffed. “I lost it. Lessons took forever today.”

The elf lord’s steel-grey eyes rose to peer over at her from behind the letter he read. “We will have time, Artistuion. I just need to finish this letter. Recite again for me then, since you’ve been studying forever.”

Slouching back in her chair, Artis drew one knee up, resting her still dirty bare foot on the cushions of the seat. “In the following excerpt, written in 1936 of the First — ” she began, tugging at the violet satin ribbon woven through her hair. ” So deadly and ineluctable is the underlying thought, that those who in the circle of light, within the besieged hall, are absorbed in . . . .”

Istuion nodded, his nimble yet strong hands flying the quill across a fresh page of parchment. Looking up at her with a small smile his eyes then narrow briefly. Artis put her propped up foot down. He narrowed his eyes a bit more and she sat up straight, her posture so perfect it would have made the highest born of the Eldar proud.

“– rehandling in a new perspective an ancient theme: that man, each man and all men, and all their works shall die,” Artis ended. Leaning against the arm of the chair she set her chin in her palm, her eyes now fixed on the might bow that never left it’s resting place on the wall. “And not just them. We all die,” she added quietly.

“Artis, what would make you say that?” her father asked, frowning as he folded up his letter.

“Well . . . that is what happens. Our people seem to either die in tragedy, or grow sad and sail. Is not the sadness and or  loss of purpose that results in such a trip, in itself, a form of death?”

Istuion melted a pinch of wax, his brows furrowing as he poured it and sealed the letter closed. “I know the old tales are full of woe, my little light, but there are more stories that have not been written down than just those.”

Artis mumbled incoherently under her breath, glancing from the slowly setting sun back to the bow.

“What was that?”

Artis squirmed uncomfortably. “It seems the humans have more tales of hope than we. I think they have it better,” she muttered.

The Eldar lord slammed the bronze seal down on the desk with a sharp bang, the harsh sound causing Artis to jump. Her eyes gleamed, widened with a healthy fear from the dangerous look on her father’s face. Rising smoothly from his seat, Istuion smoothed out his robes, the sealed letter in one hand. Rarely did she ever see him in such a state; more often with her brothers than with her. The quiet anger made him seem taller and more ominous. Walking around the desk, his expression changed to a pristine calm, betrayed by the hint of sadness in his eyes. His mouth curved slightly in a practiced smile.

“Hurry and wait for me at the gates,” he said as he kissed the top of her head. “I need to see this letter sent, and then we can go and greet the night.”

Artis nodded and watched him leave, peeking over the back of her chair till he disappeared into the hall. Uncoiling herself she left the seat like one stepping out of a hiding place and tip-toed to the door of the study. Peering down the hall she saw no one in sight. She should have known better than to incite her father’s wrath. The older she got the more she understood that the topic of ‘humans’ was one best left untouched when within ear-shot of the Eldar Lord, father or not. Peering back into the room at the mighty bow with one last look of longing, she stepped into the marble paved hall and scampered down the corridor towards the gates. If they were late it would not be of her doing.

(Recited quotes taken from Tolkien’s Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics )

The Trouble With Little Gifts

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“Abbi is . . . I dunno. He’s just ridiculous, really. He doesn’t know what to do with all this freedom.” Anyatka chuckled softly. “I guess I didn’t either, when I first came to Bree.”

Eruviel hummed thoughtfully as she leaned back against the fencepost, her legs extended, ankles crossed as she and Anya sat in the cool grass on the side of the road. It had been by chance she had ran into the young woman who had been hobbling away from the Tenorbekk home, and it had resulted in over an hour of much needed, light-hearted conversation. “Then I suppose we should find what he likes most and encourage him to channel his energy into something constructive.”

“He likes putting spiders in my paint pots,” she griped with a frown.

Eruviel barked a laugh. “I wonder if it makes your paint glow.”

Anyatka’s scowl suddenly turned into wide-eyed excitement. “That’s a brilliant idea!”

Eruviel ‘s brows arched but her surprised expression quickly changed into a grin. “It is? Oh! Why Anya that is a marvelous idea!”

“But . . . they are still spiders.” Anya added, making a face.

Eruviel licked her lips at a thought, glancing over her shoulder. “Yes they are . . . and you have a young man who gathers them just for fun living with you. Abbi catches and kills them, you take the useful parts and do what you do best.”

“I guess if he does the hard work. But . . .” she shivered, “spiders.”

Eruviel chuckled and raised her chin. “The sacrifices of an artist, my dear oselle,” she chimed sweetly.

Anyatka sighed in response. “I guess so.” She then smiled at a thought. “You know, I still don’t think of myself as an artist. I just draw stuff sometimes.”

Eruviel shook her head. “And you draw them exceptionally well. Drawing, painting, you are truly gifted Anya. And you just keep getting better.”

Anyatka smiled sheepishly. “Thanks, Eru.” She appeared genuinely embarrassed, nearly to the point of being uncomfortable. Quickly, she changed the subject. “So, were you coming to visit?”

She had forgotten. Pursing her lips, Eruviel smiled and nodded. “I was. One of my neighbors owns a relic shop in Bree and I figured I would get you something little to help you look forward to the trip.” That was mostly true. The gift would have been given either way, but when she had stayed over at Anya’s the night she had broken things off with Arathier, Anyatka’s eyes had flashed blue — just once, just for a moment. Eruviel had not forgotten what that had used to mean. If Anya was dreaming of Aeron, it was possible . . . ever so slightly possible that Faethril still clung to the young woman. Eruviel had to know . . . for all their sakes, Anya’s most of all.

It’s just a little test. No harm should be done if her eyes just flash blue once or twice.

Anyatka raised a curious brow but attempted to appear less eager to see what the gift was than she actually let on. “Oh?”

Keeping a watchful eye on her, Eruviel reached into her right pocket and pulled out a tiny statue, hardly three inches high. The white marble in her outstretched palm appeared to be a symbol of Arnor; a delicate ship, sails unfurled with a star atop the mast.

“Oh, it’s so pretty!” Anyatka smiled warmly. Her eyes flashed as she reached for it.

There it is. Hesitating for only the faintest moment, taking note of Anya’s eyes she handed the statue over. “I hoped it might be encouraging, something to help you look forward to the trip to Evendim, whenever it occurs.”

Then it happened. As Anyatka sat back, the statue in hand, her eyes rolled back. She let out a whimper as she fell to her side and then her eyes flew open, shining a brilliant, unearthly blue. A scream clawed up the young woman’s throat and she began to thrash as her fingers clenched around the little boat.

Panic gripping her, Eruviel dove forward, pulling Anyakta into her lap. Attempting to hold her down with one arm, she grabbed at Anya’s hand, trying to pry the woman’s fingers off from the statue. But it was to no avail. Anyatka’s fingers had locked around the little boat as her scream pitched into a high keen. Pain. It cried out pain.

In desperation, Eruviel held the still thrashing woman to her as she clamped her palm over Anya’s forehead. Dammit, NO! Oselle! Pouring her will into the effort, Eruviel mentally fought the waves of pain and stress in the young woman, clenching her teeth as she drew what she could hold onto up her arm in exchange for the little calm she could dig up. Anyatka jerked in spams for several strained moments before she arched sharply and released her hold on the ship. As she settled down in a heap, her eyes faded back to a soft grey, though hazy and disoriented.

Eruviel yanked the small marble statue from her hand and cast it away to clatter down the lane as tears began to rim her eyes. You stupid fool! You should have know! Still holding Anya in her lap she braced her friend’s head with a hand, searching her face. “A-Anyatka? Oselle, can you hear me?”

Anyatka gazed up at Eruviel with a dazed expression. “Hmm . . .”

Eruviel sucked in a ragged breath as hot tears cascaded down her cheeks. “By the Valar, Anya. I-I’m so . . . . Are you alright?”

Anyatka’s brow creased in confusion. “Wha . . . Eruviel?”

Eruviel sat upright, her free hand over her mouth as she struggled to compose herself and process what had happened. Nothing. Her thoughts were so flooded with guilt and the lingering pain that she had absorbed that no answers came to her. Anyatka remained laying in her lap as her senses returned to her. The world was blurry and dark.

Getting a hold of her breathing Eruviel glances back to the cast off relic. “Oselle, I am so sorry. No more trinkets, no more trinkets. I didn’t mean . . .” Her voice trailed of as she saw a new discomfort crease Anyatka’s brow. Quickly looking her over she then reached for the hand that had clung to the statue. The flesh of her palm was hot to the touch and reddened. With as much care as she could manage Eruviel put her own ice cold hand into Anya’s, hoping to offer some relief.

“I’m a fool,” she muttered miserably.

“Why’s that?” Anyatka murmured and sighed.

Eruviel choked on a sob as she managed a smile. “Because I did not realize . . . because I let you get hurt.” She had promised had she not? The Void find her, but she felt like she kept breaking her promises. Releasing Anya’s hand she tucked her arms under the woman, shifting her as she bore her weight. “Here, let me take you home.”

“Sokay,” Anyatka mumbled with a nod.

Blinking rapidly, her eyes still misting with tears, Eruviel grunted softly as she rose to her feet, Anya in her arms. Making a mental note to retrieve the ship later, she began to walk them carefully down the hill towards the Tenorbekk home. Maybe it was the adreniline that coursed through her veins, or the pain and panic that fogged her mind, but the young woman felt ligher than Eruviel had expected; hardly a burden to bear.

Hurrying faster down the lane as she became confident of her footing, Eruviel rushed Anya home. Skipping steps as she ascended to the front porch of the cottage Eruviel turned sideways to kick at the wooden door. “Eirikr!”

( Dialogue taken from in-game RP, and edited for tense and exposition.)