The Days Grow Shorter

The house was quiet for the afternoon; the children were both attending market with their mother in an attempt to give Eirikr and Eruviel some quiet time with the baby. Garric was tending the beehives, but was due back shortly. Eirikr sat on a chair watching the boy play with some smooth wooden blocks on a thick quilt spread upon the floor. He smiled as Eboric gnawed on one.

Standing by the door, Eruviel removed the string from her bow. Glancing between the child and the man with a small smile, she made her way around the quilt to find a seat. “He plays so nicely.”

Eirikr leaned back in the chair and stretched out a foot. Eboric greeted Eruviel with a bright smile and threw a block at her shin, but it didn’t go far. “Yes, he does. He is sitting up well.”

Eruviel grinned at the boy. Leaving her chair for a moment, she retrieved the block, and rolled it back to him. “Give it a little bit and we will see if he inherited your aim.” Sitting down again, she hooked one end of her bowstring on her boot to anchor it.

Eirikr nodded and started to say something when the door opened and Garric lumbered inside. He nodded to his guests and move to the table with a heavy bucket. “Garric, how are the bees?” Eirikr asked instead. Eruviel pulled a waxed cloth from her pocket as she looked up and nodded to the towering man.

Garric set the bucket down on the table. “They are buzzing,” he replied, “and producing still. Soon we will not be able to harvest.”

“Ah. I know nothing of bee-keeping. It is fascinating.”

Eruviel nodded in agreement as she pulled her bowstring taunt, and began to wax it. “When do you think the weather will shift? The nights have been getting a bit brisk.”

Garric sighed. “Sooner rather than later. It is going to be difficult this year. For many reasons.” He looked over at them. “You would be wise to reach home before the cold nights set in.”

Eruviel glanced to Eirikr. “Do you know of the condition of the pass over to Rivendell?”

“Aye,” Garric said as he rubbed his thick sideburns. “We have fought to keep it clear all summer; it is becoming more treacherous as the goblins grow bolder and the days grow shorter.”

Eruviel frowned as she turned her string around to wax from the other direction. “More dangerous than traveling with a caravan back through Moria?”

Garric eyed them both. “With a babe in the night… the cold. Aye, perhaps.”

Eruviel turned her gaze to Eboric, then to Eirikr. “When should we plan to head back?”

Eirikr took a deep breath and looked down at the child.

“I do not wish to sound as though your company is not welcome,” said Garric. “But soon. The first snows come earlier in the mountains. And while the paths are clear now…” His stern, yet gentle gaze was troubled.

Eruviel looked back to the man, and gave him a grateful smile. “I hear they are nigh impassable for more than half the year. Our departure will be soon, then. Eirikr and I will sort out the details and let you know.”

Garric nodded and looked between the two. “If there is anything I can further assist you with, please, do not hesitate. It is our desire to see the boy safe and well taken care of. He have grown quite attached to him.”

“We will. You and your family have been more than kind to us, and especially to Eboric. We are in your debt. I do not doubt he will miss all of you as well.”

Garric’s expression clouded as he nodded. “If I may speak frankly, I do not advocate your leaving at all, my lady. But he is not my son.” He stared at Eirikr for a moment before turning toward the bedroom. “I have friends that can take you across the river. They can lead you to the pass, but they will not go so far south as Moria.”

Eruviel looked to Eirikr. “My contacts in Lorien can see us safely south if we do not take the pass. Which ever way you think would be best to take him…”

Eirikr hesitated and looked back and forth between Elf and Beorning.

Garric grunted quietly and disappeared into his bedroom, leaving them with Eboric plopping over onto his side with a baby giggle.

Eirikr rubbed his forehead and looked over at Eruviel.

Eruviel glanced after Garric, and could not help but smile a little as Eboric giggled. “The pass is probably a little more dangerous, but it would save us several weeks of travel. I have had no news of Moria since we departed it’s halls. I would like to think no news is good news, but….”

Eirikr frowned. “Do you think we will be able to keep him warm? What if he falls ill?”

Eruviel motioned to the little boy. “If we can make a thick cocoon-like wrap of furs like they use in Forochel, then he should be plenty warm, especially if he sleeps with whoever is not on watch. If he falls ill then we would already be near Rivendell where he could get the best treatment.”

At her words Eirikr seem to be a bit satisfied, but did not look fully convinced. The expression was not new, however, having bore it most of the journey. “All right, then. The pass it is. When shall we leave?”

Eruviel swiped the cloth up the length of her bowstring before pocketing it. “Give me one day to get everything together, and we can head out at first light… master Garric?” she called, turning her attention to the bedroom door.

Shuffling came from the inside of the bedroom. The door had not closed; Garric’s large form filled the frame. “Yes?”

Eruviel nodded to him. “If in a day we wish to depart to take the pass, when would be the best time to leave here so we have daylight in our favor as we start up and over?”

Garric took a deep breath. “Dawn would of course allow you the most time for travel. I will give you a token that will allow you passage without having to pay our tolls.”

Eruviel gave him a grateful smile. They really did owe him and his family everything. “I would gladly pay them, but thank you. Is our departure in a day enough time for you and your family to make your farewells to the boy?”

Garric nodded. “Of course. We have been prepared for a long time.”

“I just wanted to be sure,” she said, inclining her head to the man. Looking to Eirikr she gave him small smile. “I will start to make preparations tomorrow morning.”

Bowing to her respectfully, Garric retreated once more.

Eirikr rubbed his beard. “I will begin preparing today. That way, I can assist with watching the boy or… or whatever you’ll need tomorrow.”

Eruviel nodded. The poor man. While the only name she could put to it was ‘weariness’ she could see the weight in his eyes. And she felt quite certain that burden ran deeper. She could help relieve it to an extent but, if they pressed hard, they could spend a day of in Imladris so he could rest better before the final stretch home. “I am here to make things easier for you, remember? The market will be open for a while. Unless you wish to go, I can go and pick up a few things we need.”

Eirikr shook his head. “No, I will go. You enjoy some time with the boy.” He stood and rubbed his hands on his pants. “Is there anything specifically needed?”

Eruviel smiled, and started to speak. Being a guard and guide came so naturally it seemed like nothing. And while she knew she could do no more, the Elf hated that she felt her smiles to be useless. Stopping herself, she pulled out the little notebook from her pocket, and jotted down a few items. Tack, soft deer hide, thick cotton cloth, a thick fur pelt, dried fruit — “Here. Mostly hides, and a few food things that will be good for Eboric as we travel.”

Eirikr accepted the list and looked down at it with a frown. “All right. I will be back as soon as I can.”

“We will be here.”

Eirikr nodded once, and then slipped out of the door.

Eruviel watched him go, and told herself the time and space would be good for him. After a moment she sighed, and moved down to sit on the floor with Eboric. Eboric smiled happily as Eruviel joined him. He waved his hands at her.

Such a beautiful little boy. Eruviel waved back at him, and weaved a hand forward to attack tickle his belly.

Eboric squeed with laughter and latched onto her hand and wrist with both of his hands. His feet pulled up to lock around her forearm as he grinned.

Eruviel laugh brightly with him, completely forgetting the Beoring that was in the other room. Yes, the laughter of an infant was magic. Her free hand ready to catch him, she lifted Eboric up and down. “You’ve got me! Ahhh, you strong little man!”

Clinging to her with surprising strength, Eboric let out a giggle and grasped at Eruviel’s hand.

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