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.
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.