Month: November 2014

Home Again: Rest

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The afternoon sun peeked through the corner of the bay window of Eruviel’s room, sending warm rays across her slumbering features. Moaning in protest she rolled over to hide her face in the soft down pillow, grasping blindly for the sheet at her waist and pulling it up over her shoulders. She didn’t want to wake up. She had missed her wide bed, and the peaceful house. She wanted to drift off again and find the dream the sunlight had so rudely woken her from. Such a good dream.

Stretching out Eruviel rolled over onto her back to stare up at the ceiling. She had gotten up the day before to do laundry, but the majority of the few days since the return from Evendim had been spent resting. I suppose I should get up, she thought with a sigh. But that would mean leaving the comfort of her mattress. She had to get the laundry and clean. But that would require clothes. Heaving a sigh she lingered, looking up at the light scattering over the ceiling as she tapped her thumb over the fingertips of her right hand. Eruviel raised her hand to brush her fingers over her lips, humming in thought.

Hir vuin.

With a smile and a decided humph she swung her feet around and tore herself away from the bed, taking the billowing white sheet with her. After weeks of worry and fighting, and months before of the same or worse, she felt weightless. She didn’t bother to tie the soft waves of her hair in it’s customary braid, and her bare feet hardly touched the ground as she padded over to the rich, elven mahogany dresser.

Eruviel’s mouth twisted in a scowl as she saw only her armour within, remembering she had washed practically everything the day before. Turning in a slow circle her brows suddenly perked with a thought and she skipped over the long train of her makeshift raiment, making for the guest room  across the common area from her own. Just as she’d hoped, a spare white underdress lay folded on one of the nearly empty shelves of the guest dresser. Not bothering with the ties, Eruviel slipped it on over her head, returned the sheet to her bed and, snagging a shawl from a peg by the door, stepped outside into the late autumn sun.

Golden light enveloped her, and she pulled the shawl tighter around her shoulders as the warm rays were accompanied by a crisp breeze. Breathing in deeply of the fresh air she stopped halfway down the front steps when she became aware of the large grey beast sitting on her stoop. The fact that her first reaction was to laugh brought an amused, musical chuckle up her throat.

“Banon, what in Orome’s name are you doing here?”

Amber eyes opened to gaze at her with an unamused air.

“Did Mira kick you out of the house?”

The wolf gave a distasteful huff and looked away.

“You’ve grown soft and let yourself become domesticated,” Eruviel laughed softly as she walked back up to leave the front door cracked. “If you get over your injured pride you can go in by the fire.”

Banon glanced at the door, but looked away again as if to deny her petty charity.

Smirking, Eruviel strode down the steps, and made her way around the right side of the house. “Very well. I do not need strays. You can stay outside with the swan.” Banon narrowed his eyes at her, but as soon as she was out of sight Eruviel heard him pad inside.

The swan. Henry had been the first to welcome her home. One of the clumps of decorative grass in front of her home had been worn down into a nest and the haughty bird had watched her walk up the long path from his bed, merely squawking a greeting as if to say “Oh good, you’re late.” When she had emerged to wash her clothes the white bird had followed her around like a puppy, flapping it’s wings and watching her with interest as she hung her dresses, pants and shirts to dry.

“Come to think of it, where is that menace?” Eruviel muttered, glancing out over her neighborhood. Turning the corner to the strip of yard where the laundry was hung the elf stopped in her tracks. Almost all the clothes were gone, save for a pair of trousers and a large white shirt that had been Milloth’s that she’d saved.

“Where  in the Voi–” Her words were cut off when her shawl was yanked away from behind her, and Eruviel turned in time to see Henry fleeing around the corner of the house, the soft woven cloth fluttering behind him. Tearing around the house after the thieving swan Eruviel skid to a stop, a hand clutching at her skirts as she stared in horror at her fountain. A rainbow tower, woven of cotton, and linen, satin and wool rose from the bottom bowl, only the top layers not entirely soaked. Henry padded up the mound, placing her gold and orange and black shawl at the top like a crown. It was not a nest. It was a trophy.

Man agoreg?” she managed, eyes wide.

Henry waddled down, looked up to consider his work and, looking over to Eruviel, honked proudly with a ruffle of his tail feathers.

“You . . . you feind!” she shouted,  running at the bird. “If I catch you I’ll cook you!” Squawking, Henry ran from her, seeming to enjoy the chase as he wove a path around the yard. The closer she came, though, the more panicked the bird’s wings flapped.

The breeze picked up and caught her shawl, carrying it  away, yards above Eruviel’s reach. Both elf and swan stopped to watch as it sailed up and over the cliff.

Eruviel narrowed her eyes at Henry. “Go.” The swan seemed taken aback by the order, but he bobbed his head and took off after her escaped shawl.

Looking back to the fountain Eruviel groaned, running a hand through her hair. Of anything she owned, the fountain might have been the cleanest, and the water was the same that she used for laundry, but that wasn’t the point. Walking over to the artful mess Eruviel pulled a sopping wet navy dress from the pile. “My poor lilies,” she muttered, moving two armloads of clothing out of the fountain to look down at the crushed blossoms. Not that they had long to live with the turn of the seasons.

As if to echo her thoughts the wind picked up again, and she shivered as she hefted as much of her dripping clothes as she could bear around to the back. At least they now smelled of the flowers. Which was not all bad. It was one of the reasons she kept the plants in the first place. The smell almost had a hint of honey to it. Honey. The memory of the smell of honey filled her head and her scowl fled before a warm smile.

Rounding the corner once more Eruviel was pulled from her thoughts when she saw Henry standing under the lines, her shawl draped next to her trousers, still dry. He honked and poked his beak against the pant leg.

“Oh, you were so thoughtful to leave me some dry clothes,” she teased dryly.

Henry honked again and flapped his wings, seemingly happy that she recognized his thoughtfulness.

Hanging the wet clothes up, the swan watching her work, Eruviel took the dry trousers, shirt and shawl, and rolled them up under her arm for safe keeping. “You,” she said sharply, finally looking to the bird.

Henry waddled over and stood in front of her, looking up expectantly.

“If this happens again,” she growled, not an ounce of sincere menace in her voice, “I will pluck you, stuff you, and roast you for Yule.”

The swan grumbled and looked away.

Reaching down she smoothed her hand down the back of the bird’s neck and over the top of his wing feathers. “Why do I think I’ll be stuck with you?” she sighed.  Standing up she raised her chin to look at the sun through the high leaves the the trees beside her home. “I should go for a walk,” she thought aloud as she wandered back around to the front.

Henry honked as he followed behind her.

“No, you can come with me some other time. I have errands to run and friends to call on.”

The bird looked up and grumbled again.

“No, I’m sending Banon home too,” she said, though when, Eruviel was unsure. Mira’s wolf would come and go as he pleased, and his company was thus-far more enjoyable than her laundry-swan’s.

Giving her a hard look, Henry bobbed his head, turned, and strode away down the path. Rolling her eyes after him Eruviel returned back inside, smiling at seeing Banon laying on the rug by the low-burning fire. His grey ears perked when she closed the door behind her, and they exchanged a glance as she walked around the center table to her room. The thought of taking a nap next to him was tempting, but she shook her head as she changed. No, she needed to get out. She intended to drop by Durrow to make sure Anya was getting along alright. Eirikr’s burn was, to her relief, healing well, and she could only assume that Abiorn was currently conquering the woods around the homesteads. Then she . . . no. The mail and groceries could wait till the morrow.

Slipping into her boots she fixed a dagger to her belt, pocketed the small vial containing the last of the limrafn dust, the little statue of a ship, and swung a warmer cloak over her shoulders. Leaving a window cracked for Banon, Eruviel returned to the sun, locking the front door behind her. She felt revived and refreshed, evidence seen by the gleam in her bright emerald eyes and glow of her skin. Maybe she’d go for a run, or a climb, or one last swim before it grew too cold. But did it matter? Maybe she’d do all of them, or just find a high branch to perch on and rest in the sunlight. Shrugging, she tied her hair in a low ponytail to drape over a shoulder and skipped down the steps, her eyes fixed on the road ahead.

Perhaps . . .

Eruviel shivered beneath her blanket. It was not the chill of her swim that had seeped into her bones. That had been chased away by dry clothes, the fire, and the small smile that had accompanied the hot tea offered by Eirikr. A crisp, late autumn breeze floated down from the mountains to the west, but her blanket had served her well. No, it was the journal of the man called Parmenan that made the hairs rise on the back of her neck. As her studies returned to her, Eruviel almost wished they hadn’t. At times the words sent shivers down her spine, and the the next page might very well cause her blood to boil.

She had sat up by the fire as the others slept, however uneasy, and more than once she had risen to suppress a nightmare. Her senses stretched out to hear the pattering of fallen, golden leaves a hundred yards out, Eruviel still walked around the camp every half hour. Call it paranoia, or precautions, it would have been over her dead body if her companions were woken before the sun rose. The journal never left her hands.

For the few hours left to the night she poured over the stained pages that were nearly as old as she. Orome help me. All they do is take, even from their own. How she hated them, and yet for the first time since she had met her first Black Numenorian, a handful of journal entries brought her to pity. And she supposed she should not have been surprised. It all fit, like some wicked, sad, twisted puzzle.

May your dreams be free of fire . . .

A soft, pink glow spread over the far horizon. Rising silently to her feet Eruviel walked through the camp to stand on the lake’s edge. Mist rose off the water as the light of dawn slowly chased the night back into the far recesses of the forest behind her. The breeze caught in her loose hair and she turned her sharp gaze south as she pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders.

Foul bastard. I want my sister back, she thought bitterly. All those months . . . Was it selfish of her to want more time? More time with just Anya? She wanted the chance to take her on the little trips they had hoped to share. Simple days spent in the sun as Anya painted to her hearts content. Days without the fear that her oselle’s mind might be taken over or that the smallest gift might hurt the young woman. Did not Anyatka deserve even one such day?

The pink and gold mixed in with the deep, blue morning sky above her, and Eruviel breathed in the sweet smell of pine and spruce. They would get her back. They had to get her back. What if the others . . . Eruviel shook her head as if to rid herself of the heartbreaking thought. She could not loose focus.

Her father would have been proud of the stern look that seemed to highlight her elven features. Hang on, Anyatka. Just a little longer.

Who knew what the next few days would bring? As Eruviel clutched the journal to her chest she wondered if perhaps their best chance was not in swords, spears, and the strength of their arms, but in actual, selfless love, and in the strength of the souls the went to both slay and save.

Perhaps, I will find you again.

Innocent Heart: A Slight Detour

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The morning, Gondorian sun streamed through the shop windows, casting rainbows through the cut glass. The last of the morning orders had been filled and Berest set to work knowing he had a few hours to replenish the cheese on his shelves before the afternoon rush. Looking up, he saw her golden hair before the bell of the door rang to announce her entrance, and a smile lit his face as she bobbed a curtsey.

“Good morning, Master Berest,” the girl chimed as she glided towards the counter, careful to avoid the display tables.

“Good morning, Feira! Is it payday already?” Berest asked as he set his cloth aside and leaned forward to rest his elbows on the counter. He’d never seen that blue dress on her before, and though the long sleeves covered her arms the young shop-keeper had to force his eyes to remain on her face.

“It is!” Feira practically sang. “But no treats for me today. I’m off to visit a friend — oh, well, I hope she’ll be my friend,” she said more quietly, a slight, worried frown creasing her forehead.

Berest arched a brow curiously. “Why would she not?”

Feira pursed her lips, a full-on frown twisting her features as she looked at him. “Cause she’s nobility. But . . . but she’s at the convent now. Not sure why,” she sighed with a shrug, “but I figured now that she’s there we could be friends . . . the Sisters can have friends, can’t they?”

Berest stared at the young woman in disbelief before standing up, his rich laugh filling the shop and trickling outside where several heads turned to see where the sound had come from. “I s’ppose they can, Miss Feira. You must have the day off then.”

“Mm-hmm,” she nodded in response. “I was in such a hurry that I almost forgot to stop by, as I’d taken a slight detour.”

“Keeping out of trouble, I hope, since the city’s calmed down again.”

“I’m rarely in trouble,” she chuckled softly as she peered into the glass case.

Berest laughed softly and looked down through the top. “So what can I get you for your friend?”

Digging a hand into her pocket, Feira pulled out a small coin purse and laid out her month’s wages plus a little savings on the counter. “Whatever small corners that can get me. Maybe a gouda . . . a biere, and a morbier . . . .”

“Not the belloc?” asked Berest with a smirk. Why would she be taking food to the temple?

Feira looked to her coins and shook her head reluctantly. “No, just those will do.”

Berest mulled over her stacks of coins, took three fourths of it, and set to work cutting off bits of each cheese, including the belloc. “Do you need a box for these?”

Her blonde curls swished over her shoulders as she shook her head, and Feira opened the parcel that was held under her arm. “I have this,” she said as she opened it and laid it out.

The box had two sections, one side already filled with berries he assumed she had picked on her way to town. Detours, he laughed quietly. Wrapping the cheeses he noted that she noticed the larger portions as he set them into the box. “Hmm . . .” Berest sighed as he looked thoughtfully at the box.

“W-what?”

“This is nice, but you cannot have cheese without bread.” Before she could voice her protest Berest slipped in several thick slices of fresh bread and a small wooden knife for the cheese. “There,” he said as he closed the box and handed it back to her. “A fine little picnic.”

Feira dropped a silver into the tip jar, put the remaining silver and few coppers back in her purse, and took the box with a curtsey. “Thank you, Master Berest!” she beamed.

“You’re welcome! I hope things go well,” he smiled, raising a hand in a wave as she hurried for the door.

“I’m sure they will!” she called back, raising her free hand in a wave as she opened the door, the bell chiming above her. “See you next month!”

Interlude: Another Afternoon

“No . . . no, no NO!” huffed Arylieth, crumpling up her page and casting it into the fire. It landed square on top a pile of fragile black husks of parchment, edged with embers that mushroomed up in a puff as the new reject joined the smoldering remains. Pushing her seat back in what might possibly have been the most docile display of frustration, the young elf snatched up a hair tie and twisted her raven waves up into a soft bun.

“It’s not right,” she muttered with a sigh as she scooped up her manuscript and began rifling through the stack of pages. “Nothing fits.” The first half had been the simplest. Plot flowed, intrigue and the weave of characters had fit so perfectly. The following chapters, though, had grown more difficult with each passing page. Now, when the most important and seemingly honorable of characters were about to win . . . she could not think of a way to kill them. She had intended for everything to be turned inside out and for the truth of the favored heroes to be revealed, but nothing she wrote fit. Nothing was dark enough. Nothing molded the amount of tragedy she hoped to convey. She had read nearly every book in the Bree-town Archives (which, admittedly was not that great of a feat), and none of it sufficed.

Dropping the stack onto the desk she tied up the pages with twine and packed her few things into her satchel. Eruviel’s books had only helped so much, and though the maps were nice, they did not help at this point in her writing. Aryl felt proud of herself for not reading the box of letters hidden in the guise of a thick, dully titled volume, and the most thrilling part of the whole day had been when a particularly petulant swan had chased her up the path to the house.

She needed experience. She needed inspiration that would give life to the last remaining chapters. Fitting on her thick cape, Arylieth closed the decorative iron grate over the font of the fireplace, and swung her satchel over her shoulders. “Maybe I should go for a ride and get captured,” she thought aloud. Eruviel had told her most of her own experiences, but it just seemed disrespectful to pry further than she already had. She wouldn’t really let herself get captured . . . that would be foolish! But if she could find someone with a more devious history . . . or better yet a book full of dark deeds who’s writer was already dead . . . .

“Yes! That would work splendidly,” she sang. Slipping out the front door into the crisp autumn afternoon, Arylieth locked up the house, hid the spare key, and scurried down the lane before the disgruntled bird could reappear.

 

 _ _ _ _ _

Thamon stared at the target, weighing the throwing knife in his hand. “M-May I see you do it one more time?” he asked quietly.

The little brat, thought Ris, glancing down at her brother’s adopted kid. His first several throws had missed horribly, and by their accuracy she knew the boy to be a terrible liar. “Sure. Here.” Drawing out another dagger she took a step back and with a swift flick of her arm cast the dagger into the bullseye. “Like that, see?”

He looked up at her and his hand shook slightly in a feigned moment of nervousness as he nodded. “Okay, Miss Thorne.” Thamon threw a dagger and the hilt bounced off the tree nearly a foot below the target. “S-See? I am terrible.”

Risalra put a hand on her hip and considered him with a wry smile. “You do a very good job at missing,” she commented casually. Stepping forward she walks towards the target. “Care to go one more round?”

“Yes, Miss Thorne,” Thamon grumbled, watching her as he followed to retrieve his scattered knives. Walking back he glanced forlornly back at the target. “I just don’t get it! I-I am bad at this. Why do you insist I do it?” Flinging a hand out in frustration, a knife escaped the boy’s grasp and landed with a thud in the bullseye. “I-I . . . didn’t mean . . . .” His eyes widened and turned away.

Risalra chuckled, not bothering to look at him as she eyed the target. “Cause you were so excited for this when we left your house . . . and I enjoy a little competition.” She shot Thamon wink and threw her own dagger, sticking it in the end of his.

A smile flashed across the young boy’s face and for the first time that night Risalra could see him lower his guard. “Thank you, Miss Thorne.” Walking over to her, Thamon chose a blade, inspected it, and pointed out his target. He hit the corner of the branch with ease. “Guess you won’t be able to keep up,” he chimed.

Yup. You’re a brat. Risalra sighed. “I suppose not –” she said as she started to turn, casting her knife away. The blade sailed across the yard, skinned along the side of the boy’s blade, and sunk into the soft wood. Glancing back to him she twirled another dagger in her hand. “Your turn.”

Thamon blinked at the target but quickly put on a smirk. He picked up another knife but in his haste completely missed, and this time not on purpose. “Ugh,” he groaned, scrunching up his face. “Put me out of my misery while you have the chance.”

Risalra snickered and pointed to the corner of the box garden. “I figured you’d be good –” She threw the dagger, hit her mark, and offered another knife to the boy ” — but didn’t think I’d have to work at beating Rath’s kid. I think you might be able to match him in throwing.”

Thamon looked up at her, a new spark lighting in his eyes. “You . . . you really think so?”

_ _ _ _ _

 

Clear . . . clear. Feira glanced out the door, down to one end of the hall, then the other.

Okaaaay . . . gogogogoGo! she thought with an excited panic as she sprinted down the hall with only the faintest pattering of her feet sounding in the corridor. Slipping into the library, the servant girl narrowly avoided closing her blonde curls in the gilded door and stood for a moment with her back against the wall, her chest heaving as she caught her breath.

A heavy sigh of relief deflated her chest as she saw that the house library was indeed empty, and after waiting a minute, listening for the sound of approaching feet that never came, she stepped away from the entrance. Using a chair for a boost, she stepped up onto a sturdy shelf of a bookcase and reached over the top to grope blindly through the dust. Oh please no spiders, oh please no spiders. Ah-hah! Her hand found the three-foot dowel she had procured from the gardener and, glancing around the empty isles, jumped down the four feet to the floor. Her skirts swirled around her as she stuck the landing, and she curtsied with a flourish of the dowel to her imaginary audience.

Returning the chair and fixing the few books she had displaced, Feira sauntered down one row of books then another, her eyes grazing over the titles as a lady might have a closet of shoes or a lover a street filled with flowers. Finally she found the one. Plucking the leather-bound petals from the shelf she peeked back around a towering shelf to the library entrance, and quickly retreated to the back corner of the room.

“Page . . . ah, here we are,” she whispered as she flipped through the soft leaves, stopping on a chapter titled by a picture  of two knights locked in combat. “Draw your sword before you engage,” she murmured, reading aloud as she extended the dowel before her. “It takes longer to draw a sword than it does to get hit.”

Continuing on, she relaxed her shoulders and set her feet, taking a moment to figure out just what angle to point her front foot. “There is no middle-ground nor compromise . . . .” Careful not to strike a marble likeness of a swan set up on the end of a bookshelf, Feira attacked forward at an imaginary Black Rose, the prized book on swordsmanship a shield in her off-hand.

Nothing

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Anyatka looked up at Esthyr. “You’re his flesh and blood. I see him in you. She shows me what it would be like . . . if he were younger . . . whole. If he loved only . . . me.” Her voice broke again and she lowered her head. By the Valar, she looked tired, and if there was not the threat of unleashing Faethril again, Eruviel would have relieved the woman’s weariness in a heartbeat.

“Well obviously that’s fake, then,” Esthyr snorted. “Morty was never young.”

Eruviel tucked strands of Anya’s hair behind the young woman’s ear. “And I’m sure if he was he would not be half as handsome without the scars.”

Anyatka nodded to both of them and managed a smile. “True.” Looking down at her hands a curious frown creased her face. “What is in my hand?”

“Something from someone called Atanamir,” said Esthyr.

Eruviel looked over Anya’s shoulder at the orb. “Abbi handed it to you.”

“I know Atanamir,” Anyatka frowned, “But why would he give me something? What is it?” She held it out as best as she could, stretching it up on her fingers towards the elf.

“Something to focus your mind,” said Esthyr as she took a step back and looked around the small camp. “Anyway, I’m tired, so I’m going to rest a bit. Don’t get ghosty on me while I’m gone.”

Nodding after Esthyr with a grateful smile Eruviel reached around Anya and plucked up the orb. A faint calm crept through her mind and her eyes widened slightly as she cradled it in her palm. “I can see how it helped you, oselle.”

“I didn’t know Abbi knew Atanamir. I wonder when he got it.”

Eruviel shrugged as she offered the orb back to Anya. “I have met the man only a few times, and know little about him.”

“Me, too. I hope Abiorn paid him for the item,” replied Anyatka.

Eruviel smiled and shifted in her seat, her eyes darting for a second to Eirikr and Hallem as they walked off to speak privately. “Maybe, but unless specifically sought for, that seems like an item that is gifted.”

Anyatka shrugged and nodded wearily. “I guess so.”

The poor girl. She needs sleep after the ordeal with the Gauradan. Eruviel inclined her head to the small pile of packs as short ways away. “Shall I get you a cloak? You can rest against me for the night if you wish, oselle.”

Anyatka nodded to her. “If you would not mind. I sleep better.”

Rising to her feet for just a moment she retrieved her and Anya’s packs. “I know when I’m interrupting something private,” she heard Hallem snort a short distance away. It took more willpower than she wished to admit to force herself to not eavesdrop on the distant conversation. Pulling out her large, thick cloak Eruviel shook it out as she sat back down, returning the faint smile Anya managed to offer her. “Will this spot suit you? Or should we find a more comfortable one?”

Anyatka leaned over and shook her head as Eruviel wrapped the young woman up in the warm cloth. “It is fine.”

Curse these ears, she inwardly chastised as one more small bit caught her attention. Pulling a smaller, thin cloak out for herself she untied her braid and set the packs to one side. “Here, use my lap for a pillow. Whatever you need.”

“Thank you,” Anyatka murmured as she laid on her side and rested her head in Eruviel’s lap.

“Rest well, Anyatka,” said Eruviel quietly. Checking to make sure the young woman was bundled as warmly as possible she then smoothed and hand back over her human sister’s hair. A small sigh was all the response that came before Anyatka fell soundly asleep. They were not nearly to their goal . . . but soon . . . . Soon we will have you freed of her, dear Anya.

The distant murmur of conversation ended, much to Eruviel’s relief, and she could not help but watch in the dark as Eirikr walked along the far side of the camp to find a place to rest. Why, for a painfully lingering moment, did she wish it was his head and not Anya’s that rested in her lap? Tearing her eyes from his shadowed form she leaned back on one hand, the other resting on the sleeping Anya’s shoulder, and peered up past the towering canopy of evergreens.

She told herself that it did not matter, that it meant nothing, but Eruviel had learned the folly in lying to herself long ago. It mattered, and for now she refused believe it could not be. But when did it start? In spite of herself it suddenly meant everything . . . But the memory of his words was still there, and she was glad for the presence of the young woman who slept on her lap, reminding her she was not alone. In the end she would keep constant, whether he chose that she remained systir or become . . . . But if he knew, saw her scars, and knew of Angmar, and all she had lost she was sure it would not be her heritage that would be the hindrance. The thought of loosing her new family pained her more than the thought of loosing just him.

I’m just a man. A small smile curved up her lips. You do yourself a disservice, gwador. She could still feel the memory of his concussion lingering in the back of her head, and it mixed with the memory of his warmth as they had stood arm in arm by the shore.

And then she made up her mind. And she felt time spin about her. The tides of the years she now waded through, grasping to keep but for a moment longer, seemed so much more precious. Such little time left, Milloth, before you can chastise me in person. Eruviel listened to the soft breaths of her sleeping companions, the soft beating of Anya’s heart, and to the mountain breeze that floated down through the thickly needled branches to brush over her face. Her soft eyes looked from one star to the next then grasped beyond them, wishing the vastness would swallow her up.

It’s nothing. I assure you.

 

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

A Little Taller

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Eruviel remembers.

 

“What am I?! What am I?!” Artis begged, bouncing on her toes as she pressed her back against the door frame atop the kitchen stairwell.

“Right now you are a grasshopper. Hold still, Artis,” Nostariel chuckled.

The young eldar’s whole body heaved with a sigh as she reluctantly complied. “Yes, mother.”

A moment passed, Artis standing more still than she probably had in the past month, before her mother hummed softly.

“What? What is it?” asked Artis with bated breath.

Nostariel leaned over, smiling mischievously at her little girl, waves of golden hair falling over to frame her face. “Ah-ah, you promised to tell me why before I tell you what.”

Artistuion scrunched up her nose and made a sour face as she looked away. “Rainpromisedme,” she muttered under her breath.

“Huh? Really, tindomiel, elf maidens should not mutter,” teased Nostariel as she stood upright and set a hand on her hip. “What did Rainion promise you?”

“He  . . . he promised me that if I was five-foot by the time he got back from Evendim he would take me shooting,” huffed Artis.

“Oh? Well you know that he arrived last night, right?”

“I KNOW,” Artis exclaimed disparagingly. “How tall am I, Nana?”

“Well . . . ,” responded Nostariel, drawing out each letter as she picked up the little eldar’s bow. “You should probably make haste then. You are five feet and one inch.”

Artis shouted with delight and dashed away, only to scramble in slowing herself and sprint back to her mother. “Thank you!” she cried, flinging her arms around her mother’s waist for a brief hug before snatching the bow from her grasp, her circlet from a nearby chair, and racing back down the corridor. “Thank you! I’ll finish my lessons tomor –” Her words faded out quickly as she vanished further into the house.

Nostariel gazed down the now-silent hall for a moment longer before picking up her skirts and heading down the stairs towards the kitchens. She could see bits of little Artis’s future, and much of it gave her hope. Glancing out a side window she could see across the yard to Istion’s study where the elf lord sat bent over his desk. Have grace with your little star, beloved.

_ _ _ _ _

Artis pattered down the long flight of steps as fast as her feet could carry her, one hand clutching her bow and skirts, the other pressed atop of her head to keep her circlet from flying off. “Rainion? Rain — ooph!” she gasped as she ran headlong into her eldest brother.

“Careful there, Moriquendë,” laughed the towering elf lord as he quickly took her by the arm to keep her from falling. “What is the hurry?”

“I didn’t want to be late! I had to tell you, I’m tall enough to shoot with you!” she said, her excitement more hushed as she looked up in reverence to the Eldar that fought under Glorfindel. If only she could be as mighty as he!

Rainion arched a dark eyebrow in amusement as he turned to walk with her down the hall towards the courtyard. “You do know I made that a condition to get you off my back?”

Artis frowned at him in disbelief. “What? You mean to tell me I could have been shooting with you years ago?!

“No. But you practiced harder as you waited to grow, did you not?”

Artis pursed her lips in a poorly faked pout as she pushed open the gate for them. “I  . . . well, I did, yes. I’ve been practicing as much as I can, but Ada has been overseeing most of my archery.” She kicked at a pebble on the path, sending the stone flying. “He never lets me do anything cool like you and Milloth get to.”

Rainion hummed as he led the way along the back of the long training yard to where a servant arranged weapons on a wooden table. “That is probably for the best. Yes, I suppose some of what Milloth and I do can be considered as ‘cool,’ but we do more that is dangerous. Father does not always approve of our ventures, but we are also old enough to take the path that calls us away from home.”

“Do you think I can take my own path?” she asked quietly, swinging her light bow to bounce from one shin to the other, her eyes gazing longingly at the other weapons.

Rainion did not respond, and when she looked up his stormy eyes were fixed on the balcony overlooking the yard. “What path would you like to take?” he asked in a hushed voice.

Quickly looking back there was no one on the balcony, but her wondering about what he’d seen was pushed aside by his question. “I want to help. I want to fight to help others,” she said softly. “Father wants me to be a lady, to be educated and live a long peaceful life married to some lord . . . but what good is my living in peace if everyone else dies in strife? Long life, and all my abilities go to waste sipping tea and writing poetry behind flowers and hedges.” When her brother remained silent she looked up at him to see him gazing down at her with a warm smile, a spark in his eyes. “What?” she asked incredulously.

“Nothing, onórë,” he chuckled. Taking up his dark-hilted elven blade he dabbed two fingers with oil from a vial and motioned for her to follow.

Leaning her bow against the table Artis took one of the smaller short swords and went after him. “Are we not shooting today?”

“You learn archery from Milloth,” said Rainion. Glancing to her he nodding in approval at her choice of weapon. “From now on you will be learning swordsmanship from me.”

Without skipping a beat Artis shot him a smirk, flipping the sword in her hand. “Just swordsmanship?”

“Patience, Moriquendë,” laughed Rainion. Painting the edge of his sword with the oil on his fingers, Rainion muttered a spell under his breath and pivoted around to face her, poised to either attack or defend. Sparks of white electricity flicked along the blade’s edge.

“Hey!” Artis exclaimed, turning to face him. “That is not fair! Can I not have some?”

Rainion held his stance but shot her a wink. “Get a little taller first, then we can talk about it.”

Artis huffed and stet her feet, preparing to attack. “And stop calling me ‘dark elf’. Father says it is an unbecoming title for any high-elf.”

“Well father has no sense of humor. Not since Gondolin. Do you still sneak out at night?”

Artis made a face, and nodded.

“Then you are Moriquendë,” he snickered. “Now, onórë, attack me before I die of old age.”