The darkest hours of night had passed and Jade jolted awake. Short hair wild from tossing and turning, the young woman jumped out of her bed and paced across the room.
It had been her first night in a week to be alone, and she’d taken full advantage of it. She’d had just enough straw to replace the thatching over her bed, she’d dug out a small hole to one side of the yard for a little experiment, and she’d lounged about in the quiet, finishing the last chapter of her book. Then the letter had come.
A cold draft flowed over her bare skin as she walked into the front room. It took a minute of rummaging around in the dark before she found it.
“Hope you are well . . . The girls miss you . . . You should write him . . . .”
Reading the letter through, Inaris hesitated before crumpling it up and throwing it into to coals in the fire.
“The men you mentioned came through. You and Inaris should know they seemed rather set on finding her. Take care of yourself, Jade.”
Checking the lock on the front door, her mouth curved in a defiant smile as she made her way back to bed. It had been thirteen years since Inaris had seen the old man. She almost hoped he’d someday show up.
Thank you for the letter. Things have been busy this spring. The Lord and Lady were wed. It might have been the most magnificent event Dol Amroth has seen. I’ve never seen the city so alive.
Nothing is new with me. My friend Lalaith joined the Temple. Torrin is teaching me a few new dance steps, and I might be getting help with my studies. I suppose that is new, but that is about it.
I look forward to hearing about all the places you’ve seen. I keep hearing that the war is getting worse. Please
be saf do take care of yourself. I look up at our star every night. I don’t know if it actually works, but I always feel better when I do. I miss Safe travels, sailor. Come back soon.
Letting Henry inside, Eruviel locked her front door. She then locked the windows and drew the drapes. As much as she almost wanted them to try, she had no desire to deal with intruders. Not tonight.
Frowning, she pulled off her gown and threw it over a chair. Retrieving the dessert apple from her pack she made her way into the kitchen where her large tub full of water steamed. Wine, book, pipe, apple —
A rustling sounded near the front door. “Honk!”
Wrapping herself in a towel, Eruviel sighed and walked into the common room. “What is it — Henry! Put that down. I told you no before!”
The swan stood by the front door, her blue dress from Gondor in his beak.
“No, silly bird. Give me that.”
Henry waddled over, dragging the gown over to her. Releasing it, he pattered back over to the door, flapped his wings, and poked at the doorknob expectantly.
Picking up the dress, Eruviel shook it out and gathered up the first as well. “The party’s over, Henry. No more dresses.”
The swan followed her as she shoved them both in her closet, then strode back into the kitchen.
“Don’t give me that look. It’s not a big deal. He just . . . forgot.”
Henry honked at her as she slipped into the hot water.
Settling down, she reached over to pet his neck. “Really! It’s nothing. I just want to be alone for a bit.”
Taking a drink of her wine she picked up her book, but Henry had not left. As a matter of fact he had made himself comfortable in the tub on the counter. Eruviel opened her mouth to shoo him, but stopped. Smiling, she turned to her book as the swan, pretending to ignore her, began to clean his feathers.