Month: May 2015

Bittersweet: Beneath an Old Oak Tree

Droplets of moisture clung to her pant legs as Eruviel waded through the tall grass. The sun had begun to set over the not-so-distant mountains, but the light in her eyes did not diminish as she found her way by the path burned into her memory nearly a year earlier.

She intended to remain only one more night, having arrived at the homey cottage the evening before. Garric and her had traded news of the road and woods, and Avina had admonished her at both breakfast and luncheon for “eating like a bird”. The air was clean, and the sky’s clear, and a happy vibe filled the air around the home.

The morning had been spent with Eboric on one hip as she spoke with, and aided her hostess with a few chores. The afternoon, though, was possibly the most delightful one she had had in a long time. Her braid (properly redone, courtesy of her host’s young daughter) was still filled with wildflowers, and grass stains colored her trousers from playing with both the girl and her brother. Eboric had taken a fancy to her pointed ears, and took great joy in tugging them any chance he got. In truth, she almost did not leave for her errand. Having fed the babbling child, the Elf had dozed off as he fell asleep in her arms. Even now she could still feel the warmth of his little head on her shoulder.

Following the edge of the wood, Eruviel slowed as she came upon her destination. A sad smile stole over her features, and she approached the old Oak Tree with soft, reverent steps.

“I was hoping to find you still here.”

Her only response was a soft breeze that wove through the wide branches and played over young, green leaves. Having left all but her satchel back at the cottage, Eruviel looked down on the grave for several minutes.

Ninim, wife of Eirikr In death shall I live, could be seen carved into the wooden headstone Eirikr had labored over. Pulling off her gloves, Eruviel moved to kneel beside the marker. She began cleaning a years worth of dirt out of each carefully carved letter. Leaves and seeds and sprouts of grass were removed from around it’s base with, and piled to the side to be disposed of later. Eruviel cleaned away fallen twigs, wiped off the top and, finding there suddenly nothing left to clean, pulled out the small jar filled wax she used to care for the wood of her bow.

“You would have had your hands full,” she said quietly as she unscrewed the lid. “Eboric is a big boy! He is tottering rather well. Give him a month or two and that child will be unstoppable.”

Eruviel took out a clean cloth and began to slowly work the wax into the wood of the headstone. “That boy has such a wonderful laugh. I’d like to think he has your eyes . . . You may be glad to know that I noticed a reddish gleam in his light brown hair. I think . . . I think, should he ask, Eirik would be glad to know, too.”

A small knot rose in her throat, and she smoothed the wax into the lettering. “He didn’t come. I know you understand. He’s not ready yet. It will take a while, but he will come around. These things take time . . . .” Eruviel took care to get the tight corners in the ‘k’. Consumed by working in the growing dark, she fell silent as she emptied the rest of the jar out to coat the base, and back of the marker.

“Sometimes I envy you,” she said quietly, her hands falling to her lap as her eyes searched the freshly treated, yet lifeless headstone. “You are far away, probably with family you missed and beyond any pain or fears of this realm. You may have even met them; Adrovorn, Daran, and Myrthrost. You’d like Myrthrost. His humor was a lot like Eirikr’s. If you come across an Alasse from Tharbad, tell her Ravi sends her greetings.”

It became difficult to smile. Her lower lip quivered, and her arms slowly grew heavy. Little by little, Eruviel’s expression cracked till silent tears streamed down her fair cheeks. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “So . . . so sorry. I wish I could have done better . . . I wish I could have taken your pain. I wish it hadn’t happened at all.” Her voice cracked as a small sob rattled beneath her healing ribs. “He should have never suffered such a loss. If –”

Cutting herself off, she shook her head and looked out into the night. In the tall grasses a few little lights from insects flickered on and off, and ever so slowly the Elf composed herself. “You’d be proud of him . . . not that you were not before, of course. He whittles a lot more now, and his beard has grown thick.” She chuckled, and in a lighter voice added, “It encourages his habit of combing it with his fingers when he’s thinking, or amused, or puzzled. I wonder if his chin may one day go bald.”

Swallowing the knot in her throat, a burden she had carried for nearly a year lifted from her shoulders, and more unbidden tears clouded her vision. “My feelings aside, even if I end up never anything more to him than a friend, you have my word that I will take care of him. And Eboric.”

Pulling a daisy from behind her pointed ear, Eruviel laid it atop the headstone. “Boe annin gwad, Ninim . . . . I am glad that I came to see you.” Fitting the jar and cloth back into her satchel, Eruviel slowly rose to her feet. “I would say for you to be well, but I am sure you are more than just well where you are. I’ll give your baby boy a kiss for you. I can’t make any promises, but if I am able, I will try and visit again next year.”

Scattering the pile of leaves and grasses on the other side of the tree, Eruviel looked one last time upon the grave. Shouldering her satchel, she dipped in a low, graceful curtsy to the marker before turning and striking out into the darkness.

Bittersweet: Grasp of Darkness

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After falling victim to the trap before the door to the tower, Eruviel woke in another building entirely. Her armor and weapons had been stripped from her, and her wrists chained. At the center of the room lay bodies of slaves, dead from a variety of causes and injuries. Around them, children toiled to clear the bodies away, tossing them into a great forge on the opposite wall. None paid much attention to Eruviel, but Ûrîzîr was there, wrists chained, too, and he glanced briefly to the Elf.

Frowning as she came to, a bit of misery mixed into her expression as she watched the children work. Where am I? Taking a minute to feel herself for all her weapons, her shoulders sunk a little at finding them all gone.

Turning her gaze to Ûrîzîr, her eyes quickly searched him for injury. “Are you all right, Uri?”

The child bled in several places, some of his injuries looking to be from a whip. For the most part, he, too, ignored Eruviel, answering with only a slight nod. He then made to dislodge a body from the pile with one of the other children.

Watching him with a sorrowful ache growing within her, Eruviel slowly rose to her feet. Taking her eyes from the boy, she looked around the room. “Where are we?” she wondered aloud to no one in particular.

Another boy, this one looking to be of Easterling descent, shrugged to Eruviel.

“The red haired man was looking for you,” Ûrîzîr mumbled to her as he struggled with the corpse.

Eruviel’s shoulders sank, and the motion reminded her of the few ribs cracked by the warg-woman. Taking in a deep breath, she stretched to one side till a faint pop sounded, and she let out the breath in relief. I have to get out and find him. “Is . . . is he all right?”

Ûrîzîr hesitated. He looked down, shifting the chains on his wrists so he could pull the body free. “He was. The orcs . . . came and hurt him.”

A pained look crossed over Eruviel’s face, and she turned away so the boy would not see. The orcs had better be gone by the time she found him, or they would wish they had been. Eirik . . . and the others. Where were they? Turning her gaze to her chains she shifted them around her wrists to see if she could manage to get them off. Just as quickly as she started, she stopped, for even the slightest movement of the sturdy chains cut into her wrists. How she hated chains.

Somewhere, on the other side of the bodies, another child screamed in fright, followed by the sound of a cracking whip.

Eruviel turned quickly, her eyes narrowed, and she moved around the pile of bodies to find the source of both sounds.

The children scattered in the opposite direction that she hurried. As she rounded the pile of bodies, she came across Taja on the other side, on his knees. The whip struck him soundly across the face, and he fell down on the pile of corpses.

Eyes wide, Eruviel lept forward to stand between Taja and the whip.

The Uruk that bore the whip gave Eruviel a scowl, and pointed her towards the bodies. “You have a job. Unless you want to end up like him,” he said, nodding to Taja who lay unmoving.

Eruviel leveled a dangerous glare at the Uruk. Strike me with that whip and I swear I will tear — “I will work, but you will not touch him, nor the children.”

The Uruk chuffed a laugh at her. “He’s already dead.”

Though the man’s blood still oozed from fresh wounds, his chest did not rise with a single breath. One of the children came over to start dragging him away.

Eruviel turned quickly to stop the child. “No, no, no dear. This one is not for the fire,” she said gently as she took hold of Taja. The child gave her an odd look, but he stepped away, allowing Eruviel to take the man. The Uruk looked on at the scene, saying nothing. His lips curled in dark amusement as he allowed her to take Taja’s body.

Milking the pain from her cracked ribs, Eruviel grimaced as she took Taja to the side. Sparing a glance back at the Uruk for any other weapons, but seeing only the whip, she carefully lay the man down. Tearing off the bottom hem of her shirt she bound his worst wound, and brushed her fingers across his forehead, sending in trickles of calm and alertness. “Stay with us, my friend,” she muttered.

Taja did not respond to her words, or even in response to being dragged. Without movement or breath, it was clear that he was dead, and the warmth of his body began to slowly fade.

From the other side, the Uruk laughed cruelly.

Panic gripped her. No! You just joined us! You’re needed here and home! Eruviel pressed one hand against his cooling forehead, and pounded her other fist against his chest over his heart once . . . twice . . . . “Dammit! The spirits aren’t that far, nor the Valar. Breathe!”

Nothing happened. Some of the children glanced to Eruviel, but none stopped their work, avoiding the overseer’s ire.

After a minute Eruviel ceased her efforts and, letting out a heavy breath of defeat, crossed Taja’s hands over his chest. Slowly rising to her feet she shifted to face the room once more when a young girl with messy blonde hair pulled another body out from beneath the others. The Elf froze as she caught sight of the pallid face and lifeless eyes. Feygil.

“What is this?”

No one answered her.

As she watched, more of the Wayfarers are dragged from the pile: Scield, Cwendlwyn, some of Langafel’s men. None moved, and none breathed. The racing of her hear pounded in her ears. Not again . . . By the Valar, I can’t loose them all again . . . . Then another thought struck her, and her panic turned to fury.

“This isn’t them . . . It cannot be . . . It is not!” Fists clenched, she pivoted to face the Uruk’s wicked grin. “Where are they?!” They were more stubborn than she. This was not them . . . This was not how the end for her company would come. She could not — no, she would not accept it.

“Where are who?” the Uruk asked, albeit mockingly. “Your men who thought they could steal away in here? They’re dead. All except the red-haired man, and you.”

Eruviel strode over to feel for Cwendlwyn’s pulse. “This can’t be . . . Why?” Looking around her, she did not care to hide her struggle with what she saw. Then her eyes darted around, looking for a way out. “Where is he?”

“In the dungeons, being taught a lesson. One I think you need, too.”

The Uruk drew back his whip, but then froze. Everything around Eruviel froze in place. The scene flickered, the room fading into where they fell to the trap. It lasted for only a moment before everything returned to as it was, and the Uruk swung a mighty blow of his whip at her.

Her eyes growing wide at the scene, and Eruviel knew. Bracing her feet she did not dodge the blow. Grab, pull, slide, jump, strangle . . . White-hot pain shot through her body as the whip connected. As she grabbed for it, however, it simply passed through her fingers, as if she were made of nothing but air.

Everything around her changed again. For the briefest moment, the sleeping bodies of all of her companions came into view around her. Eirikr’s arms, too, still held her.

Then it was gone once more.

Gritting her teeth against the pain that summoned unbidden tears, Eruviel staggered back a step. She had to snap out of it. She had to wake so she could try and pull him out of whatever nightmare he was held in. Ignoring the cold bite against her flesh, she tugged at the metal that bound her wrists, and slunk back to get behind the pile of bodies. The whip might not work now, but the chains would fit around the Uruk’s neck . . . .

The bodies flickered in Eruviel’s sight, her surroundings uncertain. As they took form again, her bow appeared on top of Cwen’s chest, waiting for her.

Thank you! I like this plan much better. Wiping moisture from her eyes, she hurried over to Cwendlwyn to take up her bow. Keeping an eye out for the Uruk, she looked around for an arrow. As if someone responded to her very thoughts, an arrow appeared just in front of her eyes, suspended in the air.

Whip at the ready, the Uruk followed her around the pile of bodies, having grown irritated. “Get back to work, slave.”

Snatching the arrow out of the air, Eruviel nocked it and drew, aiming for the Uruks head.

“I’m no one’s slave.” She fired.

The arrow found it’s target, and sunk right into the Uruk. He didn’t bleed, and he didn’t react. Everything around her went still when he was hit, however, then began to fade away. Her surroundings melded into a voided black, as did her consciousness.

Lotus: Late Spring Evenings

Nursing her mug of cider, Inaris studied the young woman with the odd color in her hair. With long hair, the red and black streaks struck Inaris as rather fantastic. An interesting choice in fashion, but Inaris wondered how Anya managed it, and could not help but toy with the idea of it would look like with blonde instead of the red . . . . “What picture did you hide in the first one?”

Anya smiled. “A fish and a rabbit’s head and a snail and snake . . . a whole bunch of animals.”

Inaris sat up a little straighter as the young woman listed off the animals. “My, how do you think it all up?”

“I do not do much else,” Anya admitted. “I cook and clean for my brothers, but one is away right now. But I do drawings and painting most of all.”

Inaris licked a droplet of cider from the rim of her mug. “There is nothing wrong with that. Best to dive head first into a gift if you have one, and you definetly do, Miss Anya. Do you have a market for your work?”

Anyatka shrugged and then shook her head. “Not really. Not here. I do a portrait every now and then and sometimes I can sell a landscape. But most folk here do not have the means to spend frivolously on pictures.”

How silly to be excited for a painting . . . But a piece of art would definitely liven up the plain space that was her bedroom walls. And now that no rain could leak in to ruin her things — “I’m not well off by any means, but I would love to buy something of yours. If you can sketch like that, I can only imagine what your paintings must look like.”

“Really?” Anya asked, looking up with a surprised smile. “I can do a custom work just for you. What sort of things do you like?”

Inaris made a face and shrugged. “All sorts of things. I like warm places where I’m not up to my knees in mud. I like flowers . . . especially lotus flowers. Oooh! What does the sea look like?”

 – – – * * * – – –

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Two years prior . . . .

Tying down the last bundle of straw, Inaris sat on the peak of the thatched roof, frowning at her poor, scratched up hands. The red hood kept the sun out of her eyes, and hid the gaudy clip that secured her bangs back over the top of her head. She’d been working on the roof since sun-up, and she had quietly grumbled to herself the whole time, but now, seeing the fresh straw gleaming like gold in the late spring sun, a bit of pride swelled in her chest. She had done this, and all by herself.

“Jade?” called a woman’s voice from somewhere below. “You still up there?”

“Yeah, I am!”

“Well, hop down, dear. Supper is about ready, and you have a visitor!”

“Sure thing, Miss Wynthryth!” Tossing the last of the rope ahead of her, Inaris carefully made her way down the slope of the roof. Nearing the bottom the young woman glanced around and slid the last six feet like she’d seen so many of the young men do before. Flying off the edge she landed on her feet, but as soon as her weight came down she tumbled several times before skidding to a stop on her rear end.

Letting out a small yelp, she grimaced, and slowly rose to her feet to dust herself off.

“First time trying that, eh?”

Shit. “Yeah, but I’ll get it next time,” she said, casting a tight smile over to her audience of one. “What are you doing here, Othorion?”

The tall captain leaned against the side of the house, arms crossed over his broad chest, not bothering to hide his amused smirk. “I came by to see you, of course.”

Reaching beneath her hood, Inaris removed the clip and hid it in her pocket, her bangs falling down to veil her face. “I am honored, of course, good sir,” she said with a dramatic inflection, “but I’m smart enough to know you want something.”

Chuffing out a laugh, the Rohir pushed himself away from where he leaned to approach her. “Miss Jade, you wound me.”

“You can take it.”

Othorion leaned back against the side of the house to face her as she washed her cut-up hands in a basin. “And what if I just want the pleasure of your company?”

Her bright eyes darted up to meet his. “You never visit for my company.”

The imposing man’s eyes narrowed, and his smile grew. “You don’t know that.”

This man was unbelievable. Rolling her eyes, Inaris winced, and attempted to remove a splinter from her left pointer finger. “What can I do for you, Commander Othorion.”

“I have a favor to ask,” he replied after a moment of watching her.

Inaris chuffed out a breath and smirked. “Of course. Are we mapping out possible scouting positions, or do you want to grill me for the location of more enemy camps that I don’t know of?”

“Aren’t they your people?”

“Never. They are the enemy. But you were saying?”

“This time it is something a little more exciting,” Othorion answered with a wry smile. Moving, he suddenly stood next to her, as tall, and overwhelming as ever. It irritated her that it made her heart leap in her chest. Taking her delicate hand in his massive grasp before she could protest, Othorion, with surprising care, removed the splinter on the first try.

She did not shirk back, nor did she pull away. “The sound of that makes me curious . . . and want to answer ‘no’ before you tell me what it is.”

Releasing her, he pulled a large pair of worn leather gloves from behind him, and draped them over her hand. “I left armour inside. The set we spoke of before,” he said in that low, rumbling voice that made the air nearly too thick to breathe. He hovered there for what seemed forever, his piercing eyes cast down to meet her unyielding gaze.

“What in Arda would I do with that armour?”

Othorion stepped back. “A great many things, I imagine, but see if it fits. I will be back to discuss business tomorrow.”

Tucking his gloves into her belt, Inaris offered a curt nod. “Very well. Till tomorrow, Commander.”

Othorion inclined his head to her. “Good evening, Miss Jade.” Brushing past each other, neither looked back as they went their separate ways.

Innocent Heart: Sudden Courage

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She was late. Her work done for the day, Feira politely declined the other’s offers to go out with them. She felt sick with nervousness. Maybe Auntie won’t notice. Maybe she won’t mind. Scampering out the back door of the kitchens, Feira nearly collided with a guard on patrol. Bobbing a quick courtesy, and calling back an apology she raced for her father and aunt’s flat.

Not slowing her pace, the girl tied her hair back into a tight bun. She fixed the buttons of her blouse, straightened her collar, and tied her apron a little too tight. Auntie always huffed about her not keeping herself stiff and trim. But Auntie huffed about a lot of things.

Taking a breath to summon her courage, Feira slowed to a stop on the small porch. Turning the door handle as quietly as she could, she slipped inside.

“Feira? Is that you?” barked Raewiel’s harsh voice from the kitchen.

Feira winced. “Yes, Auntie.” Smoothing out her apron, she nodded to Lirion who sat on an old sofa, reading.

The girl’s father glanced up to her, then back to his book. “You better get in there. She’s not happy.”

She never is, Feira thought, though she knew better than to say it out loud. Tucking a stray hair behind her ear, she glided into the kitchen. “‘Evening, Auntie. I’m sorry, I –” She didn’t have time to duck as the fat woman smacked her over her head.”

“Worthless thing! Where have you been?” Raewiel then shoved a bowl of boiled potatoes into Feira’s hands. “You were supposed to be here an hour ago!”

Feira teetered for a moment as the room came back into focus, and she clung to the bowl so as not to drop it. It’s going to be a long night. “I was about to say that –” Feira stopped, swallowed, and started again as she caught a glare from the older woman. “Forgive me, Auntie. There were more chores tonight since a few of the girls were out sick. It won’t happen again.”

Raewiel chuffed out a sharp laugh. “That’s what you said last time, you empty-headed twit.” The woman returned, and wagged a potato masher inches from Feira’s nose. “You made us late tonight. You’re so inconsiderate of your own family. I’ve had it up to here with you, missy.”

Taking the masher from the woman’s fat fingers, Feira began to work on the potatoes. “Not much of a family,” she mumbled under her breath.

“What did you say?”

Feira looked up with fearful eyes and blinked innocently at Raewiel who pulled biscuits out from the side of the cookfire. “I said that the bread smells wonderful.”

Raewiel huffed. “Good. Gotta get you well fed. You’re so skinny, it’s not right. Need to put some meat on your bones.”

Feira worked in milk and melted butter to the mix. “I have plenty of meat on my bones, thank you.”

She could feel the woman’s gaze on her. “What would you know? Boys like girls with a little substance. No one will like you if you’re always a scrawny bird. It’s a shame, really, that you look so much like her. Seems you got her bird brains, too.”

Feira’s stirring slowed. “Don’t speak of her like that. I’m rather proud that I look like her,” she says quietly. “And you have plenty of “substance”. Where are your suitors?”

“You’ll hold you’re tongue.”

“No.”

Raewiel turned to face her. “No? Smart-mouthed little ass. You’re stupid, and worthless, and ungrateful. Who clothes you and feeds you, eh? Who got you your job? Though, I’m not sure why the Lord and Lady are fool enough to still keep you.”

Feira stood a little straighter even as she retreated a step as the woman drew near. “I haven’t taken a penny from you or father for the past year. I feed and clothe myself. If you remember, you still owe me for last month’s groceries. As for my job, Torrin got it for me.” She then sucked in a sharp breath and lifted her chin to look the woman in the eyes for the first time. “I’m smart, and I work hard, and when I am around you will never speak of the Lord and Lady and my mother with such disrespect.”

The girl’s world spun as Raewiel backhanded her across the face. “I don’t know where you’ve gotten the notion that you can speak to me like that, but I will not tolerate it, you little rat. Finish cooking supper. You’re grounded for the summer. Also, your father needs to speak with you about your mother’s trust.”

Hot tears springing to her eyes, Feira put a cold, delicate hand to her cheek. Reaching past the woman, she stabbed the masher into the pan. “You finish cooking supper. And you cannot ground me,” she said firmly.

“Oh? I can’t, can I?” Raewiel turned back around, hands balled into fists on her hips.

“No.”

“And why is that?”

Feira narrowed her amber eyes at the woman. She dared not pause lest her sudden courage abandon her. “Because you’re not family. You’re just a bitter old woman who hates me for something that wasn’t my fault. Family helps each other and loves each other, and you’re just cruel. I will be eighteen this summer. I am plenty old to live on my own. And as for mother’s trust? You and fa — You and Lirion won’t see a penny of it.”

Raewiel stared at her for a moment, blinking in surprise at the young woman before her. Then her forehead wrinkled, and her lips curled, and her hand shot forward. “Why you little –”

A shadow suddenly towered over the both of them. A strong hand grasped Raewiel’s wrist, keeping her from breaking off Feira’s necklace.

“Let go, Raewiel,” said a firm voice.

More tears sprung to her eyes. She couldn’t see through the veil of salty water, but she new the voice to be Torrin’s.

The older woman consented, and for once in her life she was speechless.

Torrin released his hold on the woman’s arm, and turned his back to her. Gently moving Feira’s hand, he inspected her cheek. Letting out an angered breath through his nose, the young man untied her apron, took down her hair, and, leaving a kiss on her forehead, directed her to the door. “Wait outside for me Faerie. I need only to speak to this woman for a minute.”

She felt numb, and her cheek throbbed as she made her way through the small flat. Lirion had not moved from where he sat, and this time Feira did not acknowledge him. Stepping outside, she did not keep the door from banging shut. Feira sat down on the bottom step, and all the energy that had built up in her escaped like air from a ball. She could hear the angry, rumbling voice of Torrin inside. Just his voice.

Taking a deep breath, she pulled a clean handkerchief from her pocket to wipe away the tears. The past few minutes felt like a blurr, and she had no idea what had possessed her. Hugging her arms to herself, Feira looked down the shadowy, lamp-lit street. Whatever it was, she hoped it stayed.

Bittersweet

Having parted from her conversation with young Sage, Eruviel took her leave of the camp before Eirikr could reappear from wherever he had gone. Assuming she was going to join the scouts, the Rohir standing watch did not hinder her . . . though they never gave her anything but looks of suspicion. Just as well.

Pulling her dark hood up to shadow her fair features, Eruviel changed course several yards out. Plunging further into the swamps, the Elf did not slow till she reached the large boulder she had seen from afar. Nothing sounded nearby. She heard no sounds of life aside from the insects, nor felt the presence of friend or foe. Finding a weathered overhang in the rock she slipped beneath into the darkness. Setting her weapons aside, the Elf leaned against the cold stone, slid to the ground, and dropped to her knees.

It swelled inside her; boiling and clawing at her, screaming to be let loose. Hiding her face behind her hands, her head sunk to the earth. She knew it well. The consequences of the hate she had ignored for years had come surging out like a lion as soon as the sorcerer strode into camp. Her scars ached with the memories, and ever fiber of her being roared for her to kill him. She had not been prepared for it, and it took all of her will to keep it at bay.

Then Eirikr had spoken to her up on her return. “Most Black Numenoreans I’ve ever heard of do not care about others. They care about themselves, and never once did the man mention saving himself,” he had said. She remembered, and she actively had ignored it. Little did he know how those simple words were a slap across the face. All those years in Angmar there was black, and there was white. Occasionally there had been the exceptions, like Daran, but she had known her enemy, and she knew that they had to be stopped at all cost. This — the sorcerer, at least, was different. She didn’t want it to be different.

Reaching a hand down to the hilt of her sword she froze. They were not there. The black cords that had been worn by her foes had been burned at Fallowmath. She remembered the purpose in her steps and motion as she’d cast them into the fire and watched them wither away. That was the poison. Maybe it had been Daran’s spirit who had planted the thought in her mind. No, she was almost sure of it. Eruviel thought she had dealt with her hate of Alogos and his brothers. Even in Evendim she had tried to save the spirit of the man Parmanen. Then Daran had died. Her last friend and brother from the past who’s heart had been harder than hers. Yes, it would be like him to see her teetering on the brink of succumbing to her monster, and force her to finally deal with it.

Hot tears spilled out of her eyes and down to the already moist earth. The unhealed hole within her, kept that way by Alagos’s lingering sorcery, mixed with the anger at herself . . . the anger of knowing she had to let go. What was she if she did not? Cwen knew of most of her scars, but Eruviel could not approach her again, hoping to confide in her only to have something come up. Besides, as she’d heard her say, Cwen didn’t trust anyone. Anya had seen them, but never could Eruviel bring herself to tell her.

Eirikr didn’t know. She wanted to tell him. How badly she ached to tell him with the hope that he would see past the lingering marks and tell her it was all right to let go. That the imperfections and brokenness didn’t matter. Rainion couldn’t, nor could Milloth or Daran or any of the others she had lost to war and darkness. How could she? Hope all she liked, she was still an Elf. Elves were supposed to be perfect, whole beings of light, and here she knelt in the darkness in the dirt, covered with scars she took great pains to hide, exorcising her anger and bitterness one tear at a time. She did not put much stock in the legend that the two races were fated to sorrow. Such ends were experienced within their own races as well. But as for defying such “fates” she seemed to have guided her own to failure. He would not look at her the same once he knew. He wouldn’t want her, but then, she could not hide it forever, and he deserved better.

Squinting her eyes closed she suddenly saw him. His face appearing out of the darkness of her mind, Alagos sneered at her, that wicked, triumphant grin curling up like smoke from a dragon’s maw. Letting out a sharp, wrathful breath, Eruviel punched into the earth beneath her. She would pull herself back up. Others needed her to be strong, and she could not fail them. The more she let needless anger rule her, the more Alagos won. Never, EVER would she let him win. She was to hate and destroy the darkness, not those reaching to emerge from it. This was not Angmar, and she would not live empty words. She would show mercy

There is always a glimmer of light in the darkness,” she had told Sage. “Yes, I feel great hatred towards their kind . . . but I am also bound by the belief that everyone deserves a chance at redemption.” There was her path. She used to be known for it, she used to be called it, and it was what separated her from the darkness she stood against. There had to be a defining line, or else they had already lost.

Rising to her feet, she did not bother to wipe her eyes as she fit her bow back across her back. She had to let go. It was decided. She had accepted, not matter how begrudgingly, that Atanamir had found a higher path into the light. If she could trust him, she could, with a dose of discernment, give another a chance. Besides, would she not want the same chance of forgiveness were she to fall so far? They all had monsters inside of them, but she would be the master of her’s.

Lotus: Garden Therapy

lotus

The small trowel made a terrible scraping sound as it dug into the hard earth. Unlike the grassy lawn around her, Inaris plunged the tool into the impossibly rocky patch, carving out a hole more by sheer will than anything else.

Ultimately, I suppose it’s your choice. Inaris winced as her nuckles scraped against the stones, but that only spurred her on.

I’m not doing it for her sake, Jade. I’m doing it for yours. I can’t in good conscience contribute to pain between the two of you . . . she’s also got power over you. Jade dug out one last lump of earth. Tossing it into the borrowed wheelbarrow, she stood to observe her work. What a joke. There had never been anything between the two women. Two — no, three short conversations in the past four months. Power over you. It reminded her of everything she had left; reminded her of everything she had fought for. Had she just wandered in a pitifully small circle?

Cadi,” she spat under her breath to the darkness that shrouded her lawn. Not slowing her pace, Inaris lined the hole, and fit a massive bowl she had purchased into the bottom. Then came rocks, and gravel. Her efforts only illuminated by starlight trickling down through the branches that hid her little cottage from the rest of the homestead, Jade took great care to make as little a mess as possible.

She looked out of place, kneeling in the dirt and pouring bucket after bucket water into the small pond. Her hands would be scraped and sore at work the next day, but she didn’t care. It was just trading one pain for another.

Looking the pond over for a minute, Inaris frowned. Not at the pond; that looked rather lovely. No, she frowned because she couldn’t shake it. She hated her. She hated her heartless gaze. She hated that she didn’t have the balls to confront Inaris herself, and instead sent him like a little messenger to threaten her job and have him say it was for her own good.

Inaris scoffed, and stooped to pick up the second to last bucket. Bitch, please.

Back home it would have been a snake in a coin purse, or poison in a kiss. If she had approached her, Inaris knew it would have been fine. But not this way. She hadn’t expected it. Not from him. This way nearly hurt as bad as last time. And she’d still given him the paper. Three people now knew her hideaway. Now, more than ever the thought of him, and the way he looked at her set her skin on fire. She didn’t care about his others, but she was at a loss to why she felt the foreign bitterness of jealousy. She didn’t mind sharing. She minded being discarded again.

Inaris sighed, and wiped at her brow with the back of her hand. Several fireflies had already begun to gather around the reeds she set into one side of the pond. No, it was what it was, and Jade was sure that after a few days she’d come out of her fog and understand that he only meant to do right by the situation. The gravedigger would do what he thought best, the Mistress would steal what little happiness she could from others, and Inaris would continue grabbing hold of her new life. If tomorrow morning the boss wanted a reaction, she’d get nothing but the same old Jade. She chuckled, hoping that the Mistress did expect something, just to spite her.

A new thought tugged a wry smile up her mouth. She had said — well he had said she had said that he, ‘can’t go to bed with you anymore‘. Inaris suddenly barked a laugh. “The old hag has no imagination.”

Her anger slowly subsided as plant by plant, she fitted water lilies and several small pads into the minuscule pond. She almost wished she liked roses better. Roses were easier to plant, and easier to acquire . . . . The poor water lilies deserved to be liked more, too, but Inaris couldn’t bring herself to. Though sufficient, they weren’t lotus flowers. Their petals weren’t as soft, nor stems as strong, nor scent as rich and intoxicating, but for now they would do.