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