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 . . . .

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