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.


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