Month: March 2015

Innocent Heart: Evening Reading

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Black mist rolled across the floor. Cold crept up her ankles like a snake, and the rhythmic knocking grew louder . . . and louder . . . . 

Heart pounding in her ears, she had just taken hold of the door knob when —

“Feira?”

Nooo!” shrieked the girl, curling up into a trembling ball and hiding her face behind her book. “Wha — Oh . . . I-I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to shout.”

The Librarian walked into the exceptionally well-lit reading space, several books tucked under one arm. “Dear, you know you can sit at a desk, right?”

Feira looked down at the cushioned bench she’d commandeered from the corridor. “I-I know,” she muttered, cheeks flushed from fright and embarrassment. “I just — I didn’t want to have my back to the room as I read.”

“You never did like horror stories, Feira,” said the Librarian with concern as she approached. “Why in Arda are you reading them now?”

“Well . . . I-I have a friend who told me a frightening tale the other night. I didn’t get a chance to ask, but it seemed important. I wanted to see if there was more to the story.”

The kindly, scholarly looking woman chuckled softly and set down the stack of five volumes next to the girl. “It seems to me you are only torturing yourself. It really must be important. You’ve been here for hours. Have you had any progress?”

“Not a bit,” Feira huffed, looking down with a frown at the open volume in her lap. “It’s all just terror, loss, and dead ends.”  

Reaching over to give the girl’s hand an encouraging pat, the Librarian turned and moved to walk out of the reading nook. “Well I found you four more novels about being trapped on islands, and a history book.”

Feira smiled gratefully up at the woman. “Thank you. Whatever I don’t get through, might I leave them on a desk till I have time to come back?”

“Why don’t you take them home with you?”

“Oh, noooo,” said Feira. “I am already having trouble sleeping. I don’t think I could get a wink of shut-eye with these in my room.”

The Librarian chuckled softly. “You poor dear. I hope you give up this venture. You’re too sweet a thing to be reading books like those. You jumped straight to the worst ones, too. There is a little book of fairy stories at the bottom of that stack. Read a few happy endings before you leave, all right? We don’t want you getting nightmares.”

Feira managed to maintain a smile as the kindly woman walked away. Lighting another candle she looked up at the star-lit sky for a minute before going back to her book. “No, we wouldn’t want that.”

 

A Year Apart

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Around one year ago . . .

“Master Whitethorn?”

“Wha — Oh! Good day, Lady ‘ruviel,” called the taxidermist from the back. “I’ll be right out!”

The Elf walked up a step and into the show room filled with a fair number of finely preserved beasts. A few of them she recognized as her own catches. Glancing out the window she could not help but feel relieved at seeing her red-haired friend still outside, waiting with that dour expression on his face.

“What can I do for you my friend?” asked the taxidermist as he emerged from the back room. Covered with a fine dusting of animal hair and his sleeves rolled up, Stev Whitethorn extended out a hand.

Giving the shop one more look-over Eruviel clasped his hand and they shook. “No business today, Stev. I actually have a favor to ask.”

“Oh?” asked the man as he made his way to the fireplace.

“Do you remember the Ranger you housed a few months back.”

“Aye,” Stev said, nodding as he retrieved his pipe from the mantle. “The one with the bum arm?”

“That’s the one. Do you think you could make one of those little leather balls like the one you made for him? I have a friend with an injured shoulder and he needs to get strength back in his hand.”

The taxadermist’s eyebrows rose. “Sure thing, ‘ruviel,” he responded, puffing on his pipe as he lit it. “It’ll just take me a minute.” Walking around the counter to a small work bench he sat down to work. “So what happened to the lad’s arm?”

Eruviel wandered over to lean against the counter. “My friend’s? Hurt it fighting Orcs,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders.

“Fighing orcs?” Stev tossed away the ball he was making and pulled out better materials. “Where do you find these people, Elf?”

“They find me,” responded Eruviel, chuckling as she watched him work. “He is the brother of a dear friend. I feel bad for him. He’s a good archer. I think I’d go out of my skull if I lost the use of my hand.”

The taxidermist let out a rolling laugh. “Good thing you’re an elf. I wager you’d be as bad as a man if you ever fell ill.” Tieing off a thick string, Stev tested the little ball and tossed it to her.

“You’d probably win that wager,” she said with a grin as she caught the ball. “Thank you, Master Whitethorn. I appreciate it.”

The man waved a hand at her as he rose to walk with her to the door, still puffing on his pipe. “Think nothing of it! Anything you need, ‘ruviel. Let me know how your friend turns out, all right?”

“I will,” she said, stepping out the door and shaking his hand once more. “Have a good day, Stev. I’ll see you later.”

~~~***~~~

In spite of the frost lacing the edges of the glass panes a black capped chickadee chirped outside of her small bay window. By the light that streamed through the house Eruviel knew it to be early morning, and it took a small amount of persuasion to convince herself to roll out of bed.

Dressing quickly, she washed her face in the silver basin on her small vanity, and tied her brunette waves of hair back in a low pony. It was a perfect day outside. She’d meant to be up and gone hours ago, but then again, why hurry? Tucking an old tome into her rucksack, she slung it over a shoulder as she snatched an apple from the table and stepped into her boots. Out the door, she left a hasty note in the wooden frame should anyone come over, than skipped down the steps.

A crisp wind blew up the bluff to wash over her, and she stopped for a moment take a deep breath. Spring was so close, she could nearly taste it. Down at the stables Voronwen pranced about impatiently, but it was Marisily she led out of the corral (much to Vorowen’s distress). Fitting a blanket and light saddle on the mare, Eruviel hopped up and let the sweet-tempered animal set the pace.

Only her daggers at her hips, Eruviel leaned back in the saddle, soaking in the sunlight as the road and countryside passed by. After a while the Elf and horse left the path to mosey through the woods. She didn’t care to pay attention to time or weather. Her eyes only saw the reawakening of the forest around her, fresh sprouts of undergrowth, and new life in the fox cubs that tumbled and played a short distance away.

“Ah, here we are,” Eruviel muttered as Marisily slowed to a stop. The hills rose up around them, creating a barrier for the little forest valley. Water bubbled over stones in a wide brook that wove through the trees, and the trees themselves were alive with birds, and squirrels. Though mostly evergreens on this end of the woods, Eruviel unsaddled her horse beneath a lonely, thick, old oak tree.

Marisily wandered away to graze as the Elf took off her shoes, stockings and gloves. She turned, slowly inspecting the little bit of paradise. It was not her usual spring get-away, but she’d been gone long enough. Rucksack on her back, Eruviel began to climb.

It was a tall tree, and strong. Leaves had already begun to peek out of the bark and branches, and the smell of pine, fresh water, and cool earth wafted up with the afternoon breeze. Finding the thick oak arm some forty feet up just as she’d left it, Eruviel hung her rucksack from a branch.

Streching her arms up over her head, and giving a delighted sigh, she laid down. One leg dangled off of the perch, her foot hooked on a smaller branch near the main trunk of the tree. She retrieved her silver ear cuff from one pocket and fit it on before pulling out a small writing kit from the center compartment of her bag. Setting up a small bottle of ink, Eruviel fit the special made tip onto her quill and pulled out a piece of stationary. Taking a moment to think, she brushed the vane of the feather over her lips before dipping the quill tip into the ink.

Master Garrick and Lady Avina,

Dear friends,

I hope this letter reaches you well before the anniversary of our bittersweet meeting. While you have been a gift sent by the Valar, I wish we could have met on far less tragic a night . . . .

Anecdotes: Late One Night

 

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The sound of Eirikr’s footsteps had long since faded away down the lane. Closing the hatch to the cellar, Eruviel straightened out the rug. It was so good to be home, and even better that the house was not cold and empty when she’d gotten there.

Books littered one end of the map table. A stack of mail and a finely wrapped parcel sat to another side, and her pack took up the rest of the space. Pulling out several trinkets along with the little stack of drake scales she had collected, Eruviel suddenly stopped her unpacking.

I can do this tomorrow . . . or the next day, she thought. Even her inner voice sounded as lethargic as she felt. Abandoning her things, the Elf drew the iron screen over the front of the fireplace. Shedding her clothing as she went, Eruviel made her way into the bedroom and collapsed on her bed.

Oh, what an excellent bed.

The house smelled warm from the fire. It smelled like old tomes, and like evergreens, and of him. A hint of pipe smoke lingered, but that could have just been from the neighbor down the hill who smoked more than his chimney.

Cocooning herself beneath her soft covers, Eruviel hummed softly in her blissful comfort. A few breaths later she was deep in her rest, dreaming of forests and glittering drifts of snow, and the spray of white powder that flew up from her paws.

 

~~~***~~~

 

Climbing the short incline of the road, Inaris forced herself not to hurry as she made her way back home. Thinking about it, she should have gone back to the Inn to relieve the girl watching Jo for the day, but she wasn’t expected till morning. Inaris had only acquired the little cottage after her things from Rohan had caught up with her, but it was the closest she had to a home, and the only place that felt safe.

Still clutching her right hand to her chest she let out a breath in relief as the little building came into view. She hated that panic kept trying to edge it’s way in. She hated that she couldn’t forget the seconds of burning pain on her palm, the relaxing cool that had flowed through her hand, or the tickle at her wrist. She hated it, she hated it. Most of all, she hated that it made her remember.

Why had I trusted him? And why did he show me?

“Don’t forget, you know what I can do,” he had said. Was that supposed to be a threat?

Practically running up the path to the cottage, Inaris nearly jumped out of her skin as a dog a few houses down barked. Lurching, her foot hit a patch of gravel and the young woman twisted as she fell. Hitting the ground hard, the back of her head smacked against the bottom step of the front stoop.

A brief cry of pain escaped her before she clenched her teeth. Hot tears filled her eyes, but as she slowly sat up Inaris felt a thin, warm stream trickle down her neck. Reaching a hand back, her scalp screamed at the touch. She was bleeding. Not badly, but enough.

“Blood?” she muttered, staring at her hand in confusion. Then it hit her. The panic, as was the lingering memory of pain and numbness in her hand, was gone. No pain that left no marks, or fear of the next night and the one after that. Just the real, burning pain that tore through her as warm blood stained her pale blonde hair.

A laugh bubbled out of her lips. The sound surprised her. Another followed, and another, and before Inaris knew it she was rolling on the ground, seizing with a manic laughter she couldn’t stop. Minutes passed. Still choking on crazed giggles, she wiped the blood from her hand onto the grass and crawled up the steps to her home. Her home. Free, and alone, and without a care in the world.

 

~~~***~~~

 

The late hour was called out by a distant town crier. A cool night breeze that smelled like the sea wafted through the stables as Torrin cleaned up a work station. Hanging up his pitchfork he affectingly patted one of the Ladies mares on the neck as he passed.

“Feira?” he called softly as he closed the large doors behind him. She had promised to stop by hours ago. His little sister often was distracted by her books, but rarely did she fail to show.

Shaking out his sleeves, the stable hand nodded to the guards as he made his way to the gardens. Taking a moment to stop and exchange a few words with two or three that he knew, Torrin began searching all the hidden corners.

About to give up, the young man, on a hunch, ventured into a hidden alcove guarded by a trellis and flowering trees showing the first signs of spring. There, on a curving bench a short ways in, Feira lay sleeping. A thick book served as her pillow and her apron had been folded up to cover her bare arms.

“What are you doing back here, Faerie,” muttered Torrin as he ducked under the trellis. Feira breathed softly, and rolled to lay on her side as he approaoched, but she did not wake.

Quietly chuckling, Torrin reached down. Brushing her tangled waves of curls out of her face, he then retrieved the letter that had fallen to the ground.

“What have we here, little sister?” he asked under his breath. Angling the letter to read by moonlight Torrin read it once, blinked, then read it again. Letting out a gruff breath he looked up to the sky. “Fell asleep star-gazing, I see.”

Folding up the letter, he tucked it safely into a pocket of her apron. “I suppose I’ll kill him a little less. For your sake,” Torrin muttered as he knelt down. With as much care as he could, the young man bore her up in his arms, remembering to take her book as well. She mumbled incoherently something that sounded like an apology.

“C’mere, little Faerie. Let’s get you to bed.” Feira sighed and settled close against his chest as he bore her to the servants quarters, muttering another apology.

“I know, I know. You’re forgiven,” he hummed softly. “You’re all right. Better that I tuck you in, instead of the other girls seeing you wander in in the early morning lookin’ like this.”

 

Innocent Heart: Making Friends

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Strolling around a corner at the Warf, Feira buried her nose and a storm of thoughts into her book. Kicking out the hem of her skirt so as to not trip on it, a sailor down the path let out a shout. Startled, Feira inadvertently stumbled and stubbed her toe against a crack in the paving. Mumbling pitifully, she muttered an apology to the stone she had struck, and continued on, a little slower than before.

“Watch your step, miss!”

“Oh, thank you, sir.” Feira stopped and looked back to find the owner of the voice. A young man about her age grinned over at her from his perch atop a stack of crates.

“Hey, I think I know you.”

Blushing in embarrassment at her stumble having caught notice, Fiera lowered her book. “You — you do?”

The boy nodded cheerfully, rolling up a bit of twine in his hands. “Aye, you’re Lhain’s friend.”

Feira blushed a bit more. “Aye, I am,” she said as she gingerly stepped out of the way of a passing cart. “I’m Feira. It’s a pleasure, sir,” she added, bobbing a polite curtsey.

“I sailed with him for a bit. Foretopman. Do you want to see my drawings?”

Blinking at the sudden invitation, Feira nodded slowly. “Ahh, yes, of course. What do you like to draw?” she asked as she approached the stack of crates.

“Stars. And fish. I love stars,” he explained. His expression was pleasant and friendly, and Feira relaxed a bit. “I think I’d like to navigate,” he continued, hopping down from his spot to show her a small, leather-bound booklet that he drew from his pocket.

“Oh, these are lovely! Stars are rather wonderful, aren’t they,” she said, leaning in to inspect the boy’s drawings. “Isn’t a foretopman . . . . You’re in charge of the mast near the bow, correct?”

“That’s correct,” said the young man, flipping to a page where he seemed to have marked constellations. “What do you think this one looks like?” he asked her, pointing to a collection of dots.

Humming softly, Feira inspected the grouping. “Is it Wilwarin?”

The young man chuckled. “Actually, I just thought it looked like a bunny. I’m sure you’re right. I don’t memorize their names.”

Feira chuckled quietly. “As long as you know were you’re going. I suppose that is the important part.”

He smiled peacefully and looked up at the night sky. “I think you’re absolutely right. Where you’re going, and how you get there.”

Feira considered him with an amused, yet curious look. “So what has you on dry land instead of followin’ stars, Mr.  . . .”

“Gilben. You can call me Gil, or Ben . . . or anything.” He then extended out an intricately woven twine bracelet to her. “Please accept this as a token of our newfound friendship.”

“Oh, you don’t have to give me anything,” she said, taken aback. “It’s lovely, but making your acquaintance is token enough.”

Gilben deflated sadly. “Please?”

Feira’s eyes widened at seeing his fallen expression, and she quickly accepted the bracelet with a grateful smile. “Thank you. It really is lovely,” she said as she fit the twine bracelet around her wrist. “No one’s given me a bracelet before.”

“Oh, it’s my pleasure,” said Gilben, dipping his head politely. “I give them to all of my friends. I make them when I’m sitting up in the crow’s nest. It’s very peaceful.”

Feira nodded, her golden curls bobbing. “So I hear! What has you making them on crates instead of the crow’s nest?”

“The ship is docked for repairs. What are you doing here?”

“Nothing serious, I hope,” she said, arching a brow. A moment passed before Feira sputtered and quickly added, “And I’m just running errands.” She also had suddenly remembered Lhain’s caution about her going through the Warehouse District at night. It wasn’t quite night yet . . . least not late night.

“Oh, no, no,” said Gilben, shaking his head. “Fraying ropes, some interior water damage… are you very well, miss?”

“Ahh, just routine.” She then chuckled and smiled sweetly. “I am quite well, thank you. Forgive me, I had just completely forgotten to answer your question; being so focused on asking my own.”

“It’s all right. I think it’s important that people focus on themselves.”

Feira shook her head. “I’d have to disagree. If everyone focused on themselves then no one would appreciate anyone.”

“You’re right, of course. But sometimes you just need to take care of yourself first,” said Gilben, compromising.

“I can see that, yes,” Feira said with a chuckle. “I fear I am no master of that though. Being a servant inflicted me with the terrible disposition of putting my needs last.”

Smirking, Gilben then gave her a thoughtful look. “You should come look at the comets with me some night.”

“There are comets?” asked Feira, eyes wide. “When?”

Gilben shot her a cheeky grin. “Half past two in the morning, most nights. I’m something of a night owl. Woke up not long ago.”

Feira blinked and looked up at the sky. “You and Lhain both,” she muttered. “I was up at the crack of dawn. Rarely do I stay up later than eleven bells.”

“By then I’m rolling in my dreams.”

A thought struck her. Lalaith had kindly insisted that a chaperone was needed for times like these . . . but he was just a boy, and a harmless one at that! “Well, I suppose I can manage a late night . . . or early morning. Whichever it is. Where is the best spot to watch them?”

“Oh, anywhere clear and not ruined by the light,” said Gilben.

Feira nodded and turned in a slow circle. “The view from the garden near the armoury? That might have the least obtrusive light. How about there?” And now the unopened letter from Lhain might as well have been burning a hole in her pocket.

“If you wish. I do love the flowers there.”

“You are an interesting lad, Master Gilben,” said Feira with a chuckle.

“Everyone is interesting,” said Gilben, smiling. “I will make you a crown of flowers, so you might feel more noble.”

Feira laughed. “Now I’ll be expecting one! What night should I see these comets, then?”

“Mmm. How does Sunday evening sound?”

Feira twisted her mouth to the side and hummed in thought. “Sunday . . . Sunday, Sunday sounds perfect!”

“Beautiful!” said Gilben with a bright grin. “I will see you then, Miss Feira. Enjoy what is left of your night.”

“Till then! Have a good evening, Master Gilben,” she chimed, nodding politely before turning to hurry and finish her errands. Lalaith would frown on this, to be sure, she told herself as her now decorated hand slipped into her pocket to withdraw the sealed letter. But he makes bracelets, and likes stars and flowers. There is no harm in making friends. No harm at all.

Letters: Drawing to a Close

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Dearest Sister,

Forgive me for not writing you in a while. I hope this letter reaches you before we return, for I do believe our time here is drawing to a close.

An unnatural storm had set in on the region, but thankfully has finally abated. Our company and all of those in the city had to take shelter in the Great Lodge. Though the warmth was welcome, I do not think I have ever had cabin fever so badly. A few of us set out one afternoon to track down a hunter that had been lost, and I can honestly say I have never been so cold in my entire life.

There is much to write, but it would be so much better to tell you in person. You will have more sketches of Forochel as well, but those will come with my return. I am well, and Abbi is also. The chief, Panja whom we were send here to aid is beginning to recover. Time will tell if the sacrifices made to see him healed are worth it.

Take care of yourself, Anyatka.  I warn you, Abbi is a little taller, a little louder, and a little more ‘bear’ than he was before. I think you’ll be proud of him (and I won’t cut his hair just so you can have something to fuss over). His presence here has been invaluable to me.

Till we see each other again, and with all my love,

Eruviel

 

~~~***~~~

Dear Eirikr,

I realize how long it’s been since my last update, and I apologize. I do hope this letter reaches you before we return home.

Abiorn and I are well, as is the majority of our company. We have suffered a great loss with the passing of one of our number, as well as several setbacks, but at last we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Our company has been able to help the chief we came up here to aid, but time will tell if our efforts turn out to be fruitful.

I am happy to report that the wolf pups we took in have found a new home. Master Dorsett and myself saw them off. While I am glad that they are safe and happy, the parting was bittersweet. I can only blame myself for getting so attached to Hano, but I know he is far better off here than he ever would be in Bree.

There is so much more I would like to tell you, but it will have to wait till we all come home. Give Bear a treat for me, and Grey a polite nod (I do not know if he’s the ‘pat-on-the-head’ or hugging sort).

Be well.

Till then, I remain yours,

Eruviel

~~~***~~~

Threz,

Dear friend,

Thank you for your letter. I apologize for not telling you of my departure for the north when it happened, but time was short and I could not find you.

I am sorry that this has been a struggle for you. Though I would prefer to have this discussion in person I fear my return may come too late.

First of all, I must say that I am glad to hear that Lan is behind bars. Nothing I have ever seen him do has been selfless and in the good interest of others. His words are twisted, and while he may have called you ‘friend’, such a term can unfortunately be used lightly. You have a good heart, Threz, and while your emotions are clouding your decisions, I believe you are able to discern the true nature of this man. More than that, I think you already know.

Secondly, you say that he has done all those things for you. Keep in mind that the enemy feeds, clothes, and entertains his men as well. One good deed does not cover a well of wrongs, especially if the one who commits them is unrepentant.

I understand the struggle you are facing. It is a difficult decision and I will not try to lessen the gravity of it. Lan is a hard man, and knows well the road he walks.  Do not let your guilt and feelings keep you back from doing the right things. Hard decisions are part of being a leader and you will have to make more of them in the future.

Remember this: When you go home, will you sleep with the knowledge that you’ve put a cruel man behind bars and saved other’s lives, or will you lay in bed, glad that Lan is alive as another farmhouse burns to the ground, a family within? Taking lives is never a choice one should make lightly, but a decision that should be made with a clear head and right heart.

I hope to see you soon. When I get back I’ll buy you a cider and we can speak more of it.

Till then, take care of yourself.

Sincerely,

Eruviel