Month: December 2014

Innocent Heart: Come Callin’

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Feira lumbered out of the wash house, the hem of her dusty indigo-toned dress wet with wash water, and her arms overflowing with linens destined for the the already full lines. A grey bandana kept her blonde curls our of her face and hours of chores maintained a pink flush in her cheeks. The sun shone bright, although a blustery wind swirled about, and the girl passed into the first row of white sheets, taking in a deep, satisfied breath.

Lhainan had easily enough strolled onto the grounds. The orchards and gardens were often open for folks to tour. He’d made his way to what seemed likely to be servants’ area and sure enough, there she was, stringing laundry up in the sun.

Lhainan grinned and watched Feira for a moment; her pretty pink cheeks, the way her nose wrinkled as she heaved linens over the high lines. What was it that was reeling him in, more sunk than a fish on a line? By Ulmo, he was gonna find out. Waiting until any other laundresses were gone back to the wash house, he crept closer, winding between the billowing sheets, as familiar to him as the canvas sails on the jib.

“Hallo, Miss Orchid.”

Feira, lost in a happy thought, jumped at the unexpected voice and whirled around to face the newcomer, brandishing a dish cloth. “Oh! Hello Master Lhainan!” she responded as she saw who it was. The girl’s cheeks flushed a shade pinker and quickly she hid the cloth behind her. “By Emeleth, what are you doing here?” Feira asked, looking around them for any other maids.

Lhainan grinned. He didn’t smirk. Well, not exactly. But it was sly and sure and amused all at once as he regarded her. “Toldja I’d come callin’, soon as I could find ya,” he said, hooking his thumbs into his pockets. He lifted his chin as he inspected her. “That’s not a bad defensive stance there. …somebody been teachin’ you to fight?”

“Nah, just reading and teaching myself,” she responded with a wry smile as she turned to hang up the cloth. Glancing back at him with an indiscernible smile she picked the next damp sheet out of the basket. “It has been a few days. I was beginning to think you wouldn’t figure it out.”

Lhainan grinned, seeming pleased that she could read. “Well, you set me a pretty good puzzle. You know how many estates ’round here got special flowers?” he asked, rocking back and forth on his heels.

Feira could not help but laugh as she reached up to secure the corner of the sheet. “Why no,” she fibbed as she pulled down a dry linen and folded it to make more room. “How many?”

“A lot,” he said, prowling closer. “So… you were afraid I wouldn’t figure it out, huh?” he asked with a wolfish grin. “That mean you were thinkin’ about me?”

“I never said I was afraid you wouldn’t,” she responded innocently. Dancing between the softly billowing sheets she took another down to fold and shot him a wink. “But if you’d been searching for me all that time I must have been on your mind a fair bit.”

“Ev’ry minute,” Lhainan proclaimed quickly as he circled, trying to hem her in so he might approach as if she were some wild filly and he intended to snare her. “Save when I was hungry or sleepin’,” he admitted frankly, but added with a beguiling grin, “…even sometimes when I was sleepin’.”

Feira chuckled softy, securing her basket on her hip and pivoting around another line before he could flank her. “That is quite a lot of thinking,” she hummed as she plucked smaller towels from the next line, and silently prayed that she’d stop blushing. “Have you no family or friends who would better preoccupy your time?”

“Nah,” he said, disappearing behind the shade side of a set of sheets. “No fam’ly save my gran’mother, and I see her plenty when I’m ashore. And my friends’d call me awful queer if I spent much time ponderin’ over their ugly mugs.”

“And you’ve been accused of being queer much, I take it?” she teased. Turning and seeing him gone she hesitated before retreating into the shade of a sheet as she folded another. Biting her lower lip to keep back a laugh she crouched down as the wind picked up, hoping to catch a glimpse of his feet.

If there was one thing he knew, it was the wind and how to take advantage of it. He didn’t rise to the bait of her teasing, but stayed quiet and out of sight.

Suddenly, a dry sheet fluttered down on top of her, blocking out the sun and, well, everything else too. Feira gasped and whirled around in attempt to find her attacker, inadvertently twisting the sheet about her, causing herself to stumble.

“Whoa! Hang on there, little lady!” Strong hands caught her hips and righted her. “…sorry, I, I wasn’t tryin’ to trip you up.” For the first time, Lhainan’s confident tone wavered.

Laughing merrily Feira batted at the sheet about her head, her bandana lost as she finally found the edge and emerged back into the sunlight. “I’m not that clumsy. I promise,” she snickered, putting a hand on one of his as she caught her bearings.

His smile restored by her laughter, Lhainan didn’t let go. “I’ll catch ya any time you’ll let me, whether you need it or not. So when’s the next time you’re off work?” he asked, taking in her blonde curls with a pleased sort of look.

Feira took in a breath as if for a moment she’d forgotten to, and her small smile grew brighter as it reached her amber eyes. Static keeping her grey bandana stuck to her skirts she moved to step out from his hands and tie her hair back once more. “I have a day off in three days,” she said with a casual shrug. “When is your leave over?”

He seemed to sober a bit. “A week.” But then he snatched at her kerchief, trying to yank it from her hands. “Why would you cover up those pretty curls?”

Feira didn’t let go, tugging back on her end of the grey cloth. “Cause I have to work, that’s why,” she said with a smirk. “Why do you wanna know when I have a day off? It’s not like you know me all that well,” she said more quietly, suddenly feeling incredibly shy.

Lhainan gave ground, but didn’t let go of the kerchief, letting her reel him in closer. Suddenly he stood just an inch away, grinning down at her. “’cause I want to,” he said quietly. “And what I do know, I like.”

Feira stared up at him, heat rising to her cheeks. “Well I know just as much about you as you do me, s-so how about you buy me supper in three days?” she proposed, slowly taking a small step back. “You can learn a lot about a person in a week.”

Lhainan’s grin nearly tore open his face. “Hey Blondie… I ain’t gonna hurt ya,” he said, still in that soft tone. “Promise.” He released her kerchief. “I’ll tell you anything you wanna know about me. Got nothin’ to hide.”

“I’m not afraid of that,” she said quietly unable to keep back a smile as he grinned, ” but I’ll hold you to that promise.” Tossing him her kerchief she looked around for her basket. “One of the other maids owes me. How about the day after tomorrow? If your grandmother can spare you, that is.”

Lhainan blinked, surprised. “…sure! Day after tomorrow, aye!” He clutched her kerchief. “Say… eighteen bells? I’ll come getcha.”

Feira smiled and nodded, her loose curls bouncing over her shoulders as she pulled a dry sheet from the line when it billowed up into her arms. “Sounds great! I’ll be waiting.”

Hearing the return of at least one other washer from the laundry house, Lhainan stepped toward Feira. “Will you get in trouble if they see me?” he asked quickly, running his fingers along the edge of her kerchief.

Feira looked in the direction of the sound, grateful for the three — no, four rows of laundry that separated them from view. “I’m not sure,” she muttered in a quick response. “I’ve never had a boy call on me before. If you don’t leave I could always put you to work, just in case,” she said with a wink.

Lhainan laughed quietly. “I’d stay and work right by ya if I knew for sure it wouldn’t get you in trouble. So I’ll take my leave, but only for that! …can I keep this?” He held up her kerchief, wrapped around his hand, and smiled his best charming smile.

“Sure, you can keep it,” she chuckled softly. “And I’ll find out if you’re safe if you ever happen to drop by when I’m working the washing.”

As the women’s voices came closer, Lhainan grinned mischievously and stepped even closer, reaching for Feira’s hand. “Til day after tomorrow, then?” he whispered.

“Yes; day after tomorrow. Now you should go! Unless you want to be caught here,” she whispered, looking down as he took her hand.

“I won’t get caught!” he hissed with a smile, and lifted her work-worn hand to kiss it before he darted away through the billowing sheets.

Feira stared after him as he disappeared through the sheets, holding her kissed hand to her chest as the women finally came upon her.

“Feira! There you are! Your aunt’s looking for you.”

“I’m coming, don’t worry,” she assured them as she tossed her hair out of her eyes and retrieved her basket.

“Honey, you alright? Your face looks flushed!”

“I’m fine! Really. Leave your load and I’ll hang them up with the rest,” she called over her shoulder as she swept over toward the wash house, fleeing from their curious expressions. Auntie was waiting in the door, scowling down at her. Relinquishing her basket she took the full one shoved into her arms. Glancing back as the sour woman set into scolding her, Feira didn’t hear a word that was said as she looked to where the boy had disappeared.

(Taken straight from mail RP, and edited for tense and grammar.

Thank you Feygil for rping as Lhainan!)

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Innocent Heart: Friends First

Feira unhooked her arm from Lalaith’s as they walked and skipped over to a leafless tree. “Mind if I walk you to the crossroads?” she asked as she jumped up to snag a thin vine of little flowers that clung to a branch.

Lalaith heaved a sigh, catching her breath. “Not at all . . . but isn’t it out of the way for you?” she asked, looking up at the vine.

Pulling the vine down with her, Feira broke off a length and turned back to Lalaith. “Not too far,” she responded with a shrug. “Besides, you have to be back soon. I don’t have to be back to work till breakfast is served.”

Lalaith smiled and nodded. “Alright. What have you got there? Tenacious little thing, isn’t it?”

Feira grinned as she fished the ribbon from their lunch box out of her pocket. “Not sure,” she chuckled. “These always bloom late, though.” Weaving the flowering vine with the ribbon, she then tied the ends and offered the circlet to Lalaith. “Here!”

Lalaith laughed and accepted the little wreath. “Shall I hang it on my door?” she asked, amused.

“You can. You do whatever you like with it,” she said as she clasped her hands behind her back and strode forward. “I don’t know the rules with Sisters, but if Emeleth made flowers I would think he would want you to enjoy them.”

“Well. Elmeleth did not make the flowers, but I am sure she would have enjoyed them,” she said, settling the circlet jauntily on her head as they walked on.

“She . . . I knew that,” Feira muttered with an embarrassed smile.

“What will you do if that boy finds you again?” she asked, adjusting the crown so that the flowers did not droop over her eyes.

Feira walked beside her with an dance-like gate. “He probably won’t,” she said with a shrug, a hint of regret in her voice. “The girls like the stern honorable knights or the sailors with broad shoulders and easy smiles. He probably has a new girl on his arm every day.”

“I forgot. You want a wild Rohir,” Lalaith teased. “A saucy sailor won’t do.”

Feira rolled her eyes and grinned. “I never said that . . . I dunno,” she said a bit more sheepishly. “Auntie says sailors are trouble, but he’s the first boy to ever call me pretty.”

“Any sort of boy can be trouble, if one doesn’t keep her wits,” Lalaith said. “I should know,” she sighed. “If his intentions are honorable, you’ll know. And if they aren’t, you’ll know. Trust your feelings.”

Feira nodded confidently, but a few steps later she shook out her arms and skipped a step. “It’s so silly,” she grumbled, “feeling nervous at the small possibility that a boy might call. Work couldn’t come sooner so I can get hi — it off my mind.”

Lalaith smiled faintly. “It’s a thrilling feeling. That isn’t wrong. It just is.”

Feira hummed thoughtfully but sidled over and hooked her arm ’round Lalaith’s. “Well boys are exciting, but I’ve had too much good all at once. Don’t want to dive in too deep when I’ve just gotten my feet wet.” She then squeezed the young woman’s arm. “Boy or no boy, he can wait. Friends come first.” The wind picked up as they left the walls of the city behind and broached the peninsula which housed the Temple.

Lalaith smiled, touched. “Oh Feira,” she sighed. “I am very glad to call you my friend.”

The wrought iron gate of the Temple grounds loomed before them. Feira beamed a warm smile, her lower lip trembling faintly. “Before I’d just hoped to end up as your servant forever, but this is much, much better. I’m glad you’re my friend too.” The young woman looked to the Temple before them with both awe and regret. It had hardly taken any time for them to walk there, and she wished good days did not pass by so swiftly. “Today was so wonderful. Thank you for spending it with me, Lalaith.”

“I would much rather be your friend than… your mistress,” Lalaith said, and hugged Feira tightly. “I hope we will spend many more days together.”

Feira hugged her back just as tightly. “I hope so too. You truly are the best. If anything exciting happens I’ll write. Otherwise, see you next month?”

Lalaith’s smile brightened. “Even if nothing exciting happens, I should like very much to hear from you. I will write too, if you like. Perhaps I’ll be given an errand in the city and might meet you for lunch. A short one, anyway.”

Feira bounced on her toes as she grinned. “Oh that would be splendid! Here’s hoping that you do. And, I will be sure to write. If that boy show’s up you will hear all about it!”

Lalaith giggled. “Good! Goodbye. Be careful returning.”

Feira hopped a step and turned, walking backwards as she waved. “Goodbye for now. I’ll be careful! Cross my heart. Have a good night!” Watching Lalaith disappear through the tall gates Feira turned back around and sauntered down the path. A lively waltz playing in her head she hopped atop a low retaining wall and pranced over the stones as she set her path towards home.

 

(Taken straight from mail RP, and edited for tense and grammar.

Thank you Feygil for rping as Lalaith!)

 

After a Party: Yule Cheer

“Really, Miss, I just –”

“By the Valar, hold still!” Aryl insisted, taking a pin from her mouth to use on the sweatshirt she had fit on the first stranger through the door.

Crazy elf,” Ildric grumbled, holding his arms out as the dark-haired elf maiden circled around him, pinning the pieces of warm cloth together. “I just want my tunic mended! I’m not your dummy. ”

Arylieth scurried to fetch her shears from a cluttered tailoring bench, waving a hand at the man. “You’re a bit broad compared to the boy, but I’m sure he will fill it out soon enough.”

Ildric groaned in protest as she ushered him to a mirror and motioned for him to spin. Arms extended, the man stopped and stared at his reflection, or more specifically at the picture worked into the thread of the sweatshirt. “A bear? Really?”

“It’s a Yule gift!” Arylieth explained with an excited grin. “Now if you would please stop complaining I’ll mend your tunic for free once I’m done.”

_ _ _ _ _

“Best friend EVER!” Feira exclaimed, sliding down the railing of a flight of steps in a far wing of the manor. A letter fluttered in one hand as she used the other to catch herself from falling as she flew off then end into a lower hallway. Spinning a few steps she re-read Lalaith’s letter for the twentieth time. Someone had written her a letter! Her!

Carefully folding the letter back up and slipping it into her pocket, Feira snatched up a broom and dust pail. This might have been the best day she’d ever had. Well, beside the day she first visited Lalaith at the temple, the day the Wayfarers returned from defending the city, and the day she had off in town when a gentleman told her she looked lovely. But this might just out rank them all.

She had to finish her chores. She had to finish them quick!

‘If you are still inclined, I thought we might visit your friend’s cheese shop. The one with the delicious gouda! Might you be free?’

“Yes!” she laughed, skipping nearly too many steps in one leap. She had made sure to get visiting day off. A day in town with a friend? And gourmet cheese! Life just kept getting better.

_ _ _ _ _

You bloody fool. Eruviel didn’t bother closing the door to her dark house all the way as she dumped her Yule basket and Anric’s gift on the long, cushioned lounge chair. Yanking the green ribbon from her hair she drew the letter from her pocket and paced towards the hearth that still cradled half a dozen hot coals.

She stopped, the letter extended before her, and after a long moment drew herself away from the mostly cold fireplace. No, she couldn’t burn the letter; little Eboric’s hand print. Clenching the letter in her fist she turned and slammed her hand down on the map table. What had she expected? She had fretted over the letter since she’d received it, stressing over if she should actually give it to him or not. But it was too late for that.

Letting out an enraged shout she shoved the map table back, threw up her rug, and lifted the hatch to drop down the steps that led to the cellar. Grabbing up a fresh quiver of arrows she selected a short sword from the collection on her wall and hopped the steps back up to the common room. Shedding her dress, discarding it, her circlet and ribbon by the rejected letter on the map table she then disappeared into her room. A minute later she emerged, clad in her hunting garb, buckling on a bracer. Fitting on her sword belt she sifted through the stack of warrants on the corner of the map table and selected one out.

She was mad — no, she was furious. Never had she meant for the letter to remind him of Ninim, and yet the guilt for every little glance and thought towards him, each hope she felt suddenly became like salt on a wound. But it didn’t matter what she had meant. She had been thoughtless; selfish, and that was the worst crime of all. She should have known better, and the look of pain that had twisted his face hurt worse than the beating she’d taken in Angmar months earlier. Eruviel stopped, her hand resting on her toned abdomen for a moment before snatching up the quiver of arrows. She hadn’t told anyone, but she should have told Cwen . . . if anyone could help her with that it would be Cwen. She couldn’t tell Eirikr. Not now. And possibly not ever. Not after tonight.

Grabbing a pad of paper she sketched down a note and left, not bothering to add a log to the fireplace. She had a bad habit of taking off with no one knowing. Maybe the piece of paper was her compensating for how much of an idiot she felt like. But she couldn’t take off without leaving some sort of word for Cwen in the event the woman showed up. She’d find her bounty, and if it ended up being too easy maybe she’d go on a run. A long run. Tacking the note to the outside of her door she turned and disappeared into the dark as flakes of snow began to drift down from the night sky.

Cwen,

Went out on a job. Be back in a day. Make yourself at home.

SIFRP: Broken Thorns

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She could not lift her arms. The rack had done its work, and she wished now that she had risked the elements rather than remain hidden with baseless hope. The Captain who oversaw her torture had been keen, and she focused on her throbbing black eye from where he had struck her, hoping to push out the pain of the rest–her healing back, dislocated arm, broken rib . . . and only the Seven knew what else.

The Seven . . . The unconscious Maester still hung against the wall beside her, and she could hear the screams of the woman whom she had falsely revealed to have been Danica. Where were the Seven? Well, besides the Stranger. He was the darkness that filled her blood-veiled eyes, and the bitterness that sprouted within the pain deep in her chest. She had cracked. Granted, it was either lies or information they already knew, but how long did she have? A day? Two days before they strung her up again and either slit her throat or cut out her tongue?

A wet, ragged sigh garbled up her throat as she leaned her damp, blood-matted head against the cold wall. Her red-stained fingers weakly traced wreaths of thorns against the stone on either side of her. She had embroidered, sewn and painted the pattern so many times she could have drawn it in the dark. A painful chuckle gripped her. She was drawing it in the dark.

Licking her parched lips with her dry tongue, she began to pray. Not out loud; not by any means. A single defiant glare had nearly been the end of her, but she prayed none the less.

To the Father: rain judgement upon their heads.

To the Mother: be with my sons, a-and bless the two who had tried to help me before.

To the Maiden: be with Sable . . . my love . . . whether he sees my false signature in time or not . . .

To the Crone: give my words wisdom so that no matter my fate these bastards will pay. Let the truth be known — not for my sake, but for Sable’s and the slain Paramount.

To the Warrior: grant me strength . . . nay, I should have been dead once already. Give Sable strength; give my sons strength. Please . . . PLEASE let Danica be alive and safe.

To the Smith: I — I am unsure what I could ask of you . . . but if you craft anything, forge Berstag a death worthy of his crimes.

To the Stranger: You may be tired of my company already, but as much as you have dealt to me, give back to these men ten-fold.

To the Old Gods: give me the grace to see this through. But . . . but if not, let my broken thorns make them bleed.

“Fear no fate,” she whispered, her heavy lids closing without protest. “Fear no fate.”

A Horse and His Elf

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“It is amazing, is it not, how fast they grow?”

The grey steed nickered, shaking his long, dark mane as his elf held up a parchment up for him to see. Of course, all two-legged creatures had hand-prints. He was quite proud of his own hoof-prints, but he didn’t see what was so special about the little palm-print displayed on the strange, square leaf scribbled with lines of mud. It was special mud, he knew, for he had seen the lady use it on other leaves before, and he had learned very quickly that neither were for him to eat.

“Oh, I know you don’t care,” the elf chuckled, folding the leaf up and slipping it into her pocket. “But come on, we still have a few hours of sun left.” And with that she pranced ahead of him through the trees, lost in some lovely thought.

She was so strange. Not that he minded; not at all, really, but she never did this around the other two-legged creatures known as ‘people.’ He did not understand why she could not be like this more often. Maybe it was special, that only he was privy to such carefree afternoons, but that was not important, he told himself. He could run and prance nearly whenever he wanted, and it rarely mattered who around. He actually preferred to have an audience. Having an audience always made play time better!

Jumping forward after her, Voronwen cantered around a clump of birch trees and with a deft nip, snagged the ribbon from the elf’s hair and fled, an excited shiver thrilling through him as she shouted and made chase. The game never got old. The mare Meranor was too sweet for him to play with, and he did not dare test the temperament of his person’s new war steed. Eloir hated fun. No, the game was best with his elf. She was fast, and quick, and made the game a challenge.

The dark green ribbon fluttered over his muzzle as he turned his head to look back. Snow gathered up around his hooves as he pulled to a quick stop, and he snorted. Where was she? He hated when she did this. There had been enough times of her disappearing for a reason that he could not help but be concerned. But there were no enemy camps nearby . . . were there? Whinnying, he trotted back a short ways, weaving through the trees as he looked for her footprints. Then his ears perked up. He had heard something, and he suddenly felt eyes upon him. He did not want to panic; no, he would not panic. He was brave and proud, he thought as he puffed up his chest, but he was further in the trees than a lone horse should be. Where was she? If this was some cruel trick he’d —

A sharp scream escaped him as two feet dropped onto his back from above. Bucking, the weight left his back and he felt a hand on the crest of his neck. Then she was there, spinning around him. Snatching the ribbon from his mouth, the elf let her momentum carry her, and using a low-hanging branch she swung away, landing with a soft poof in a low drift of snow several yards away. He stared at her in disbelief. Snorting almost angrily, he pawed at the ground in protest.

The elf leaned back against a tree as a fit of laughter took her. “I know, I know; that was unkind of me.”

Voronwen snorted again, lowering his head and shaking it vigorously. Unkind indeed!

“You should have seen the look on your face,” she laughed merrily, standing upright.

He narrowed his eyes at her. How could she scare him like that?!

“Oh, do not give me that sour look, Voronwen. You cannot deny that I got you good that time.”

The audacity! He skipped over to her and shoved his muzzle against her back, sending her stumbling away. He nickered and followed, poking his soft nose against her. Again! Again! He did not like to loose, and she had embarrassed him! Maybe it was a good thing they did not have an audience. To think if someone else had seen his fright. The thought was intolerable.

“No, my friend. I still have to find a good rod. Maybe by the spring, eh?” she said, weaving the silky green strip back into her hair.

Voronwen turned his head to eye her, and with a nod, motioned to the long stick tied to her back. How many magic sticks could a person need?!

The elf looked over her shoulder to the bow, putting a hand up to touch the etched wood. “I do not need this kind of stick. I need one for fishing, silly horse.”

Fishing? The steed huffed and tugged at the thick cloth hanging from her back. She already had one of those sticks. And it was the wrong time of year for fishing, wasn’t it?

“No, it’s not for me. It is for a friend,” she responded as she fixed her cloak and fur shoulder piece, walking on.

Sniffing, Voronwen stepped forward with a reluctant grunt, but he continued to eye the ribbon. Catching his glance as they strolled over a rise the elf snickered and pushed playfully against his cheek. “No you don’t. No more distracting me,” she said with a smile, pulling her braid over the opposite shoulder. Voronwen huffed out a displeased breath, but did not press her. He would get her good next time.

Continuing on, the elf and steed made their way through the woods at a leisurely pace. Once in a while she would hurry one way to examine a long stick, or swing around a thin tree or change their path to skip over stones in a brook. He let himself think that he indulged her the little sidetracks, for usually he would find a still-green clump of sweet grass to munch on along the way.

A tall bank of hills slowly rose before them, and the steed trotted ahead of his elf as the spring set against a high cliff of rocks came into view. Nothing could compare to it, the taste of fresh spring water. The water back at the stables had a muddy flavor, but he supposed not everyone could afford the luxuries that he enjoyed when on such outings.

The spring had mostly frozen over aside from where the water splashed down the rocks from above. Crystals had begun to grow up the sides of the stone and he stepped over to nibble at one. They looked like spikes of sugar but they turned to water! The disappointment of them not actually being sugar was overshadowed by the fact that they melted in his mouth.

His elf padded nimbly over the thing ice towards the small falls and scooped up a handful of frigid water for herself. Hopping over the open space to the ice on the other side she made for a clump of reeds and thin trees growing on an little island set against the cliff on the far side of the pond. Voronwen looked down to the frozen edge of the pond and back up to her. He wanted to go too!

“You probably shouldn’t. It won’t bear you–”

He ignored her. No matter that he was bigger than the island she stood on; he did not wish to be left behind. And if she could cross the ice without leaving a mark, why couldn’t he? Stepping a foot out the ice creaked, but did not break. He turned his face up to her, a pleased glint in his eyes. See! I can do — But his thoughts were interrupted at the next step when his hoof promptly broke through the ice. Startled as his leg sunk knee-deep into the freezing water, Voronwen whinnied in protest, stumbled, and quickly backed out of the spring.

“I told you,” said the elf with a sympathetic chuckle.

Voronwen didn’t want her sympathy, so he tossed his head, declaring that it was merely a trifle.

“By the Valar,” she sighed, turning to grab a hand hold in the stone above her. “I’m just going above, Voronwen. I’ll be right back.”

The elf scaled the wall of stone and in a minute she was out of sight. He stood there, staring after her. It was not fair that she could do that. The steed looked one way then another for a way up to where she had gone but there was none. So he scuffed at the snow to eat at the grass hidden beneath. Maybe if he pretended not to care she would feel bad and give him a treat when she returned. Yes, that was a splendid idea.

A Bitter Wind (part 2)

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Eruviel remembers.

 

A day had passed, and then another before Milloth and Rainion had returned. And when they had they stayed long enough to trade out horses and speak in private with their father. Then with a kiss to Artis’s forehead they were off again.

As for father, he and she had not spent their customary walks at twilight together. The first night he had missed and Istuion had sought her out, not telling her why but to apologize and say he would be there the following evening. He was not. They had missed twilight’s when he was away or had business, but never before had she been there standing alone. Why does he not tell me. Why does he not tell me anything?

Her chest heaving with a sigh Artis sat up to rest at the edge of her bed, abandoning her book to the nightstand. A cold northern wind batted against the windowpanes, and the harder it blew, the deeper the chill that something was amiss delved into her bones.

Wrapping a soft, woven ivory blanket around her shoulders she rose to her feet and began to pace slowly around her quarters. Stopping in the wide curve of the bay window she cast her eyes down to the main courtyard below. Eery shadows danced away from the torches and through the naked tree branches as the wind poured over the high walls. Only the necessary Eldar guards and troops had remained as the others had been sent to fight both the enemy and fires to the east. She had not seen her father leave . . . but then again she had not seen her father at all.

Her emerald eyes rose to search the horizon and she was about to turn away when she saw it; the faintest orange glimmer amidst the darkness to the south. Her breath faltered as she looked again through the ripples of rain coursing over the glass. That was past the bridge . . . The Eldar were no where near there . . . .

“They won’t get there in time,” she muttered under her breath. But maybe . . . maybe I can make it. Dropping her blanket she paced to the red mahogany armoire and changed out of her nightdress into the trousers, tunic, and leather curiass she kept hidden beneath her skirts. She opened a side cabinet and stopped. Then she remembered that Istuion had taken her bow and short swords several days back. ‘To ensure that you do not follow through with any bad ideas,’ had been his words. Sucking a harsh tisk through her teeth Artis fixed a thick cloak over her shoulders and strode purposefully out of her room.

None of the few servants still out in the halls stopped her or spoke to her, but all of them moved out of her way. Taking the steps two at a time Artis swung open the doors to her father’s study. She did not bother stopping to look around the empty room as her eyes locked on her target that hung against the wall over the cold fireplace. Crossing over the Lorien-woven rug, a victorious smile curled up her lips as her hand easily reached and closed around her father’s ebony bow.

_ _ _ _ _

The wind pierced through the thick wool of her drenched cloak. Almost there. Almost there, she told herself as she whispered to her steed, urging the animal to run faster. The black giants of trees watched her as she flew forward, racing towards the distant glow of fire. She had heard the talk. Goblins. She had seen pictures and heard tales of what they looked like and what they did. Artis told herself it could be worse. It could always be worse.

Cresting the next rise Artis reigned in her mount, the horse reeling around at the abrupt halt and stomping as the inferno came into view. The whole outpost was awash with flame, and the shouts of battle and crash of steel echoed up from the knoll. Turning back she tied her horse to a tree a short ways off then backtracked back to survey the chaos.

Bodies littered the ground and only a small number of human soldiers remained. But what puzzled Artis was the enemy. They were fewer in number than she had feared . . . though she didn’t know what to expect. The problem was that they were too tall to be goblins; too tall and too thick. The enemy crushed in past a line of rangers and the fighting intensified. Overwhelmed, she pulled the ancient bow from her back and notched an arrow when a hand clasped over her mouth.

Artis could have sworn her heart stopped. Her body went rigid as her head was pulled back . . . and then her heart stopped again.

“What in Valinor,” Istion growled as he glared down at her, his dark hair fallen from it’s usual ponytail to hang wet and wind-whipped across his hardened features.

“A-Ada,” she gasped, staring up at him in shock.

“You should not be here,” he said darkly, releasing her as he turned his steel-grey eyes towards the fire and fighting several hundred yards away.

“I –” The words wouldn’t come. I wanted to help. I know I could. You can let me. You can trust me. I am strong enough. “Ada?”

Istuion took the bow from her hands, his care more chilling than the bitter light in his eyes that stabbed down at her. “We are going home.”

“Wha — but the humans,” she insisted, suddenly discovering her heart as it lept back to life, pounding furiously in her chest as she watched him walk away. “You cannot leave them to this!”

“I can, and I will,” he said simply, the words flowing too easily from his mouth. “You will learn, daughter, that humans only bring this,” he said, motioning to the desperate fight below, “no matter how much hope is placed in them.”

Artis followed a few steps and stopped. “They wanted to help. They could have.” She turned to look back as one of the large beasts cut down another Arthedain soldier. So much blood . . . so much death. They didn’t choose this death. “We have to help them!”

“No. We do not. Get your steed. We are going home.”

“Ada! How can you –“

Enough!” he hissed, whirling around to face her as the main hall of the fort collapsed, crushing the few wounded with tremendous crash and explosion of embers. “You are my daughter, and I said we are going. You will never hold a bow again.”

Damn it all!” she suddenly shouted, stepping towards him. “What did they ever do to you? Punish me later,” she insisted, desperate. “I will bear whatever consequences that you see fit, but please, Ada! They are dieing!”

Istuion looked back to the outpost where the last three soldiers, Jarrin among them, faced off against twelves of the beasts. “They chose this,” he mutter bitterly as he pivoted to walk away.

Artis stared at him in disbelief. She moved to follow, but her joints felt stiff, her core ached . . . and screamed and thrashed as the rain drove ever harder down to the earth. “No,” she whispered, halting.

What?” Istuion asked, the Eldar’s fury filling the air around them. Before it would have made her quiver. Before she would have retreated, ashamed and begging for his forgiveness. But not now. If he didn’t tell her why he hated them, that was on his head, not hers.

“I said no,” she responded quietly, her head held high. “You chose this.” Not caring to see the reaction on his face she snatched the black bow from his hands and sprinted away in the dark towards the hissing ruins and screams of fallen men.

She felt numb as she dashed down the far side of the rise, letting gravity pull her ever faster towards the flames and monsters and men. Nock, draw, loose. Nock, draw, loose. The first arrow buried its barbed tip deep in the back of the first beasts head even as the third shot from her string. Artis did not know if it was fear or shock, but she was certain it was not bravery that drew her closer.

Seeing the enemy drop and her sprinting to join them the men suddenly attacked the tall beasts with a renewed energy. Another fallen beast, then another. The soldier to the right was knocked to the ground, but an arrow through the monster’s arm gave the man enough time to cut it down.

Then, a cry from the side drew her attention. One of the enemy stood over Jorrin, a spear through the man’s chest. With a shout Artis rebounded off a charred post to help the man when the wind was knocked out of her. The world spun and as Artis crashed to the ground all her senses rushed back to her. The blood, the fire, the burned flesh crawled into her nose, the screams of the wounded lost in the dark and the roar of a defiant fire poured into her ears. Artis had but seconds, scrambling for a muddy, lost shield before an enemies meteor hammer came crashing down with a resounding crack upon the wood and steel. The shock racked her body, slamming her head against the hard ground, the layer of mud and ash not offering a bit of protection. The shield remained whole.

A roar reached her, not quite human, not quite beast, and as the foul creature brought his arm up to attack her again a bolt of lightning shot through its chest. The white-blue light flashed over her vision again and again. It resounded through the woods around them and as she sat up, the air around her crackled with energy. Looking up she saw Istuion standing over the last of the creatures, a long, sparking dagger sticking up out of the the top of the beasts head. He was magnificent, and terrifying. Was that really her father? She wanted to both run to him and to flee. But there was no going back. It might have been the only thing she was sure of.

One of the soldiers staggered over to her, pulling the shield off of her and offering her a hand up. Seeing the shock and gratitude in his expression she too his hand, rising shakily to her feet. The fire had finally began to die down and a dim, grey light rose in the east. Steam rose and swirled about them as the cold wind continued to blow through the high branches. Retrieving the bow she turned in a slow circle, the growing light revealing the full extent of the human’s losses. Seeing one of the last soldiers kneeling beside the commander Artis joined him. Blood trickled out of the side of Jorrin’s mouth, and he could only manage a sputter as she knelt down to try and help stave the hot flow seeping from his mortal chest wound. She had never seen so much blood.

And then she looked to Istuion, and he looked back at her. As drenched as the least of them, Artis had never seen her father so expressionless. “Ada,” she said weakly, her mouth dry as droplets of water coursed down her face.

His cold eyes saw right through her. There was something in that look. It was angry and betrayed and it cut her to the core. Retrieving a long knife from the neck of one of the creatures he cast a disdainful look at the pitiful remnant of the human outpost. Then his gaze found hers. “Since this is what you want, help them to the human fort the the east. Do not bother coming home till you do.”

No going back. He would think less of me if I did not stand by my decision. I would think less of me. Standing, Artis nodded curtly, not caring that her arms shook and that the cold sent an aching shiver through her body. “So be it.” Was she so wrong?  Ada.

Nodding, his cold eyes flicked over her, checking for injury, and she could feel every droplet of water, every bit of mud and blood on her. Then Istuion turned away from her, and disappeared into the shadows of morning.

In Exchange

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Eloir waited patiently as Eruviel fit the bridle over his ears. The destrier had been unusually still the whole time she had packed her saddle bags. Fitting the reigns over the pommel of her saddle the elf stopped for a moment, looking down to her delicate hands as she balled them up into fists. The faintest tremble took over her hands, and the muscles in her arms grew weak. She had one more thing to do before she left, and by Orome she prayed that she was doing the right thing.

“Wait for me, my friend,” she whispered, smoothing a hand down the dark grey neck of her horse. Shifting the bow on her back she turned and strode down the path to the road. Every step that brought her closer to the square of Glaston was a tug to straighten her high, open V’d collar, a brush at her braid, a deep breath that sent a solemn and confident air swirling about her. Crossing over the bridge she could not help it as her shoulders sunk as the young boy came into view. His new mother walked away, arms hugged to herself. Eruviel had spoken to her briefly the day before, and though she had given no details she knew Amiraen understood.

“You must be Thamon,” she said evenly as she approached. Eruviel ignored the knot that rose in her chest. Though he lacked Daran’s amber eyes she could see the same conviction that lingered behind the storm of emotions on his face.

“Yes. You are Miss Eruviel, then?” he asked quietly, dipping his head.

Eruviel studied the boy with a somber expression as she stopped. “I am, young one,” she said as she offered him the most graceful of curtseys in spite of the blades fixed on her hips. “I wish we could have met under happier of circumstances.”

Thamon nodded slowly as he walked towards her with caution. Extending an arm to her he offered her a knife. It had been one of Daran’s. He closed his eyes, his lower lip quivering. “Please, I took one of yours. . . and I wish for you to take my life in exchange.”

Eruviel’s eyes brimmed with moisture as she took the knife. Resting a hand softly on his shoulder she nodded. “If that is what you wish.”

The boy sucked in a sharp breath. “I-I am sorry.”

Studying him a moment longer she turned and motioned back the way she had came. “Walk with me?”

Thamon flinched when she touched his shoulder and slowly nodded, following her quietly with his head hung low. “Yes, Miss. Eruviel,” he whispered as he stayed close to her.

Eruviel strolled forward at a leisurely pace as she lead the boy down the street. “How is your mother coping with your wishes?” she asked, her tone both sad and sweet.

Thamon shook his head slowly. “She did not agree. . . but my decisions are my own. I took something from you, and I can never give it back.” A tear escaped down his cheek, the sight of it planting a pang of guilt that slowly grew in her gut.

Eruviel glanced down to him with an indecipherable look. “It is a great loss. Killing can become so easy,” she spoke quietly, “until you realize that life is the most precious thing one has.” Turning to head up the path to her large, secluded yard she nodded to him. “How old are you, Thamon?”

The boy looked back up at her, the tear betraying his steel mask of emotions. “I am nine; would be ten in a couple weeks.” He looked around the yard a small smile forming on his face at the near haven-like home . . . . But he remembered where he was, and why he was there, and the smile quickly faded. “J-Just do it Miss Eruviel.”

Eruviel stopped in the shadow of the path, the moonlight reflecting in her eyes. “Do you know who Daran was?” she asked as she turned to face the lad.

Thamon nodded slowly. “I know a lot about him. I was forced to follow him for awhile.” He stared up at her. “Miss Eruviel . . . I don’t want to be rude.” Another tear followed the path of the first as his dark blue eyes searched hers. “Take my life. I don’t want to be here anymore. Please,” he whispered. “All I can think about is the day I loosed that arrow.”

Eruviel turned her head to peer down at him. “Very well, Thamon. Kneel,” she said as she unwrapped the dagger he had handed her, letting the cloth drop as she inspected the blade.

Thamon stared at Eruviel for a moment before bowing his head. “As you wish,” he whispered quietly as he fell to his knees. Looking up proudly even as tears poured down his face, the boy locked his gaze on hers. “Do it.”

Eruviel slowly lowered herself to her knees, and putting one hand on Thamon’s shoulder set the tip of the blade against his side. Looking him in the eyes she whispered, “Thamon Thranuin, son of Arathier and Amiraen, I hereby pass judgement on you.”

Thamon stared at her with a hardened look, flinching again as she pressed the knife against him. Taking in a ragged breath he waited, nearly motionless for her to end things.

Eruviel ‘s expression remained solemn and almost mournful. “And so, for having slain the warlord Daran, captain with the Free People in Angmar in an act of self preservation, and without malice . . . do give you mercy. You are forgiven, Thamon.”

Thamon stared at her and shook his head. “No!” he shouted miserably, his hands grabbing at her’s that held the knife. “I deserve to be punished! I am a monster. I am no better than anyone in Angmar.” His jaw trembled. His whole body trembled. “I don’t deserve it.”

Eruviel’s armed hand did not budge as her eyes narrow. “Daran was born the son of an Angmarim captain. Do you know how many good men and women he had killed by the time he was your age? He struggled with the guilt and memories for years, but he vowed to be a better man than those who had trapped him in that world.” She tucked a crooked finger of her free hand under his chin. “You did not kill him because you wanted him dead, Thamon. The only one punishing you is yourself. Forgive yourself and live in his memory. Daran was a hard man, but a good man, and strong. He understood.”

The boy’s chest heaved and a sob clawed up to escape his throat. Clinging to her Thamon collapsed forward, burying his face against her shoulder. “I-I’m no better . . . I’m no better.” he muttered as he cried. “I-I’m so-orry, Miss. Eruviel. I-I never meant t-to. I didn’t want to!” he shouted.

Eruviel let the dagger fall from her hand and she wrapped her arms around the boy, drawing him onto her lap as they sat on the path. “It’s alright, Thamon,” she said quietly as he wept. “You’ve just showed more honor than many do in their lifetimes. You are a good boy, and you’ll be a great man,” she whispered as she smoothed her hand over his dark haired head. “I am sure of it.”

 

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

A Bitter Wind (part 1)

Eruviel remembers.

“Please, Master Istuion. We will not sta –”

“No,” the Eldar lord interrupted, the single, sharply spoken command echoing through the stone gatehouse. “I will not say it again. You may water your horses and rest for an hour. My sons brought you here, so they will escort you away. Them and a company of archers will see you and your men safely to the next bridge.”

The face of the tall Arthedain commander known as Jorrin hardened as he chose his words . “Will all due respect, my lord, that would be back tracking. Winter has come even earlier this year, and from reports from back home it will be even harsher than the last. We have reason to believe –”

“Sir, do you suggest that the soldiers I have will not be able to easily thwart whatever scourge the cold drives south?”

“I do not, my lord,” responded the human commander, meeting the elf’s gaze, “but my men and I only mean to pass through you lands.”

Tension flooded the space left by silence. “I will deal with whatever filth the Witch King has sent so far west. You will take your men back south. If you leave in an hour you can make the human outpost by nightfall,” spoke Istuion finally.

“Very well, Master Istuion,” Jorrin responded grimly.

Artis watched from where she sat perched in a gatehouse window as her father paced away, hands clasped behind his back and head high. A bitter wind floated over her, goosebumps pricking on her arms and sending a chill down her back. The older she got the less she understood why Istuion treated the humans with disdain. What made it worse was the silence and dismissal she got whenever she asked. She probably should have sought understanding, but Rainion had been sworn to say nothing, and Milloth knew as much as she did. Istuion’s refusal to speak of it only made her want less of that which he wished for her to pursue.

Swinging her bare feet over the ledge she jumped to drop the several yards to the ground below, landing with ease. Smoothing out her tunic and pulling her braid over her shoulder she rounded the corner to where the human commander still stood, frowning after the Eldar lord. “Mae govannen, heruamin,” she said as she offered the man a slight curtsey.

“Oh! I-I beg your pardon,” said Jorrin, startled out of his thoughts. A fond smile replaced the frown on his face as he bowed, the dozen or so men behind him following suit. “Well met, Lady Artis.”

Nodding with a kind smile to the others she motioned with a hand to the inner courtyard.  “Shall I show you to the well, sir?” she inquired in Westron, remembering that many humans did not speak her native tongue.

The commander arched a brow at her even as he gave her a faint, grateful nod. “That is not work for you, my lady. Your father will send a servant in a minute, I am sure.”

“Nonsense,” Artis said, a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth as she turned, expecting for them to follow. “It is the least I can do to show you and your men hospitality.”

The commander motioned to his men and stepped with her. “Thank you.”

Artis nodded as she led the way to the stables. “What is it that you and you men are –”

“Were.”

“Pardon me, were hunting?”

“The enemy,” Jorrin chuckled. Motioning for a younger Ranger to lead the others to the troughs the commander motioned to the side and led Artis to the vine covered wall that separated the main way into the estate from the stable courtyard. “But that is not important,” he said in a lower tone. “Your father will see these lands safe, but if I may, I suggest you do not leave for a few days.”

Artis arched a brow, clasping her hands in front of her as she studied the man. As much as she liked the humans they still at times confused her. “Why would I need to stay? I would not go out alone. Whatever dangers present themselves –”

“My lady,” said Jorrin more sternly, “I mean no disrespect, but for all your skills in the hunt you do not know battle, and I doubt that in your few hundred years you have even known fear.” Glancing back at his men he sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.

“You worry about reporting back not having found what ever it is?” she asked, eyes narrowed.

Jorrin nodded. “The trouble in the east grows worse and we would like to keep it out of Lindon.”

Aris sighed and nodded. “Very well.” She then chuckled lightly. “I am sure that you just saved my father the trouble of convincing me.”

“I doubt he would thank me,” the man laughed. “Your brothers do say you have an unusually rebellious streak.”

“Just because I would rather be out hunting with them than learning to embroider and restore old paintings does not mean I am rebellious,” Artis retorted, pouting about as much as a proper elf could.

“For and elf, for an elf,” the commander added quickly, flashing a grin. “If you were a human I do not doubt you would be a prized child.”

“If I were a human, at my age I would no longer be a child,” she quipped with a smirk.

“You will always be a young one to us, my dear onórë” rang Milloth’s amused voice from behind her.

“Lord Milloth,” said Jorrin, bowing to the elf.

Having caught the glare Artis sent him, the elf lord walked up to stand with them. “I apologize for this, my friend,” said Milloth quietly to Jorrin as he rested a hand on Artis’s shoulder. “Both Rainion and I would have let you pass.”

The commander tucked his lips in, narrowing his eyes as he nodded. “That was Lord Istuions decision, so we will respect it. These are his lands. Even beyond the river, we are just guests in Lindon.”

Artis looked between them, wishing she fully understood the serious looks the two exchanged. She wanted to go with them. Why should she stay when they were only riding to the bridge to begin with? Turning her gaze up to Milloth she was prepared to speak when he looked down to her, a different shadow passing over the eldar’s face.

“Thank you for showing them in, Moriquendë. I will see to our guests from here. Father wishes to speak with you.”

Remembering: Refuge

Red Sky

Nearly every light in Durrow had been blown out for the night as Eruviel made her way down the cobbled path. A crisp wind moved through the bare branches above her, foretelling the coming of snow. She stopped at the gate to the Tenorbekk cottage, second thoughts flying through her mind. You should go home. You were fine before; you can be fine now. The house was dark; a small refuge on the side of Ruby Lake, and her eyes drifted for a moment to the wagon. No. What would they think if any of them walked out in the morning to find her sleeping in the bed of the wagon?

She had been having a lovely week. Several commissions sat in her pocket, Arylieth had insisted on stealing all her dresses to mend and touch up, and no one had died. A far better week than that of the ones prior to Evendim. And then as she had just ordered her first cider in weeks, Arathier had appeared beside her.

Eruviel forced her feet to work as she walked slowly into the yard, pulling her bow and sword belt off before she reached the front steps. She waited there on the stoop, her hand resting on the door handle, staring at the wooden door in the dark. The last time she had shown up like this Anya had been awake, and the elf had slipped in through the young woman’s window. Eirikr had reprimanded her for that later, telling her to used the front door next time. Eirikr.

Turning the door nob she slipped inside the house, the only sounds within being the sleeping breaths of the three Tenorbekks. Eruviel quietly closed the door behind her, careful to have not let in too much of a draft, and she silently set her things down on the rug. The small front room was warm. She had not realized how cold she had gotten on the walk from town. Glancing over to the slumbering forms of Abbi and Eirikr, Eruviel tip-toed the few steps over to the couch, snagged a folded blanket and laid down across the cushions, hiding her face in her arms.

We found him, Eru. We know who killed Daran . . . He wants to meet you. Could you, please . . . .

The news had shot through her like a bolt of electricity. She had tried to move past it. Why did he have to tell her? Why could he have not just let her be? Evendim had come at the perfect time. It had forced Daran’s death, and the murders she and her neighbor had stumbled upon out of her mind. No mourning or worry about the troubles in Bree-land; it was just Anya, just Abbi, just Eirikr. But Arathier had found her tonight.

He had told her that one of the strongest men she’d known had been killed by a child. While she felt like laughing, hot tears rimmed her eyes. Daran had been right in his letter. It really was strangely poetic. But now Arathier and Mira had the kid . . . and the kid wanted her to take his life for what he’d done. Just a child; no older than ten. It reminded her of the broken bits inside of her. It reminded her of the brokenness of Angmar. What would she do when she met the boy who had grown up in so much anger and hate, and now desired his judgement to come from her hand? Maybe, she thought, that what she feared most was that she would see Daran in the boy, as he had been all those year ago.

A pain twisted in her chest as she pulled out her hair ribbon and wrapped the blanket around her. She had promised to see him. To talk to the boy they called ‘Thamon.’ But what could she say? She knew what Daran would say . . . and that was probably the best place to start.

One of the boys rolled over in their beds, and Eruviel froze, not wanting to make any more noise than she already had. After a moment passed she found a small pillow and hugged it beneath her head. A tear escaped out of the corner of her eye. She should have gone home. Home was safe, and most of the time she enjoyed the quiet, but not tonight. She feared if she went home tonight she wouldn’t come out for days. She couldn’t count on Exio noticing her absence and breaking into her home again to force her into the sunlight.

No. She had work in the morning. Just tonight she would rest on the couch till twilight, then she would sneak out again. She could be strong tomorrow. She would give Ris swordsmanship lessons, and hunt and be back in time to make lunch. She had tomorrow to smile and be all right, and to work and return to some resemblance of a routine. But she didn’t want to be all right; not tonight. She didn’t want to fall prey to loneliness, and the despairing memories that came with it. So Eruviel curled up on the Tenorbekk couch and drifted off to sleep on the tear-stained pillow, dreaming of not so distant people and and very distant places.