A strange weight fell from her shoulders as Inaris stepped onto the small, concealed property. She was glad she didn’t stay at the Mantle when she didn’t need to. She was glad she didn’t need to tonight.
Stretching her arms up over her head for a moment, Inaris began unlacing the front of her bodice as she walked up the path towards her small cottage. Summer had seen her lawn grow wild, but it had a certain charm to it. Yes, it felt more like a meadow than an unkempt yard. To be honest, the yard was very well kept. No stray limbs lay tangled in the grass, and no stray stones waited for their chance to assault a bare foot.
By the Valar, she was proud of her little piece of the world. Something pure and perfect that no one could touch. Well, two others could touch it, but one would never come, and the other was too kind of a soul to harm anything. The clean, thatched roof gleamed in the moonlight, the remaining stack of floorboards sat neatly behind the house, and her small pond flourished with waterlily’s that perfumed the air. Everything had it’s place, and it was her’s.
The near street lamp’s light not strong enough to make it past the full apple tree that grew near the edge of her fence, Inaris smiled as the only other light shone from above. Leaving her dress and slippers on the front stoop, she padded over to the pond, and stepped in to join the dozens of white and pink blossoms. It was just big enough for her to lay down in, and a short laughed escaped her. If this was what her channeled anger produced, perhaps she’d have to get angry more often.
While she loved hot, dry weather, Inaris relished the cold water as it swirled around her warm skin. Laying her head back to rest on a smooth stone, she let out a sigh. Cold. It reminded her of who was back at the Mantle. Frowning, she shifted her slender legs around the stems of the flowers. It could not be helped. It was confusing, but then again, it wasn’t. She had been going to teasingly call him a ‘Prince’ before everything happened. And suddenly he was. There were a lot of ‘was’s’, and now there weren’t. Perhaps someday she’d understand, and thank him, but in the end she didn’t think it mattered.
She tasted the word as it slipped out from between her lips. The word and her whispered tone made her think of a cool summer breeze leaving the Sea at dawn to caress chiffon curtains hanging over wide, arched windows. It felt better to say now than it had even a few months ago. She used to love her name. She missed it, and she was learning to love it again. It wasn’t the nickname of a barmaid and lady of the night, or an oddly fitting nickname like ‘Jade’. What was it she had told the man named ‘Drew’?
Yes, it’s a rock. Not precious enough to be valuable, but pretty enough to be put to use.
Maybe she’d tell Dorsett her name. Somehow the fairly pleasant man had gleaned information she’d not spoken of in two years. Inaris laughed again. He probably had no idea. Yes, if she were to tell anyone, it would be Dorsett. It would be nice for someone to know.
Looking up to the starry sky for a moment, Inaris closed her eyes. They wouldn’t find her here. Thousands of miles from the border of Rhûn, she still feared the day a Keeper and her dear Wainrider would walk up the road, but there was no way missing property would bring them so far. But they didn’t own her anymore. They would ask for ‘Inaris’, and a young woman with long, ice-blonde hair, and they wouldn’t find her.
Sliding a bit further down into the water, Inaris let the smell of men, and heat of the Mantle wash off of her. No pretending to be somebody’s someone; no pretending to care, or not care (which was often no pretense), nor need to change faces for each customer who wanted something.
The trees wrapped protective arms over the property, then followed the tall grass. Then came the stone, and the flowers, and finally the water that gently served as a sanctuary from the game of her daily life. Reigning in her thoughts from men and haunted houses, Inaris dozed off, keeping her mind to places she’d not yet gone, and on the small, concealed property that was her escape.