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.”