Month: January 2016

Lotus: Things That Glow

Lost in thought, Inaris climbed the steps to the archives with three books in her hands. The first two were scandalous volumes that had fallen short of expectations, and the third was an introductory to knitting (which, while a valiant attempt, had ended in utter failure).

Not watching where she was going she stumbled up the last step that, to her surprise, did not exist, and sniffed indignantly at her clumsiness. Returning the books to the main desk she turned to look around when she caught sight of Dorsett. Completely oblivious to the rest of the room, the man was engrossed in writing down notes and looking at a small stone beside him that emitted a faint light.

Sauntering over she stopped behind the man and peered around him at his work. “Hey there, you. What ya doin‘?”

Dorsett jumped and looked first to the stone, as if it might have done something between then and the last time he looked, and then glanced back at Jade. “Oh– Jade, hello,” he murmured, offering her a weak smile. “Just… just copying a book, you know how it is.” He glanced to the stone. “What are you doing here?”

Inaris’s head listed dramatically to one side as she eyed him. “Returning books and hopin’ to bump into you. What’s that?” she asked, motioning to the stone.

Dorsett looked back at the stone. “Oh, that is… that is…” He stopped, and took a deep breath. “That is a stone which is magically tied to a ring Atanamir wears. It– well, when he wears the ring, the stone is supposed to shine a bright pink. This…” He gestured to the dull white color, “…This means he is not wearing it. And he never takes it off.”

Inaris leaned a little as she peered at the stone. “Does the ring give off any light? Perhaps he’s… somewhere where it might give him away, or he has it hidden to be kept safe…” she offered slowly, hoping herself that it was just that.

Dorsett shook his head. “No, no. It is just black, and it does not… glow, or anything. He always keeps it on so I know he is safe. This is… this is not good.”

Her expression sobered a bit. “Maybe… maybe he was robbed by brigands in the night and he’s currently hunting them down to get his stuff back?” She tried hard to sound encouraging.

Dorsett chuckled a little, quietly. “I doubt it. But I appreciate the thought.” He paused. “I know he cannot be cooped up in the house all the time, but every time he goes out, something like this happens….”

Inaris crossed her arms under her chest and moved to lean against the edge of the table. “Do you know where he went off to this time?”

“Angmar,” Dorsett said with a bit of a shrug, as though it were a perfectly reasonable place to vacation. “He was looking for an artifact of some kind. Took Hallem and Oendir with him. He sounded so confident when he left.”

Inaris arched a brow. She had heard mention of the place more than once, and none of it was ever good. “Yeah… bright and sunny spot to go treasure hunting,” she responded dryly. “No wonder you’re wound so tight.” She then nodded to the stone. “How long since it stopped lookin’ pink?”

Dorsett looked at it again. “A… few days. Four days. I wish there were some easier way of making sure he is all right….”

Inaris hummed in agreement, then turns her keen gaze back to him. “And I suppose you are spending all day staring at it, and sleep with it at night just in case?”

“Well… well, yes. I mean to say, what else would I do with it…”

The young woman huffed and shifted her leaning to stick out a hip. “Not wear it out. You won’t be any good when he comes back if you’re anxious and helplessly sleep deprived.”

Dorsett looked a little guilty. “Well… well, no. But if I do not keep an eye on it I will not know if he is okay.”

Inaris narrowed her eyes at Dorsett as she gave him a look. “Would the stone turn a different color if he died or a different person put the ring on?”

Dorsett hesitated. “No. I mean… just if he put it on again, you know…”

Inaris nodded curtly. “Well, then that settles it.” She extended out a hand and leveled her gaze at him. “I’ll babysit your rock tonight.”

Dorsett blinked. “Oh– no– you do not need to. I can keep it.” While unspoken, “Just in case,” hung readily in the air.

She smirked. “I think I do,” she countered stubbornly. “I promised Atanamir that I’d keep an eye on you. Either you can surrender the rock to me for the night, or we can have a sleepover and I’ll stay up with the rock while you get some rest.” She almost preferred the latter option, imagining the man might need to be force-fed tea and sat on to keep from fidgeting and pacing all night.

Dorsett looked torn, but he eventually picked up the rock and handed it over. “I could just keep it in a cabinet,” he mumbled.

Inaris barked a rich laugh. “Uh-huh. I don’t believe you one bit, Dorsett. If you stuck it in a cabinet you’d just stand there with the door open afraid you might have blinked at the wrong time.”

Dorsett sighed. “I use that thing to read at night, you know. Light without a fire.”

Inaris shook her head at him as she cradled the rock in one hand. “I sympathize for you, but a little warm flame won’t hurt you, and the light of a fireplace is more likely to lull you to sleep. Besides, I’m sure Atanamir has other non-lethal glowing things about the place.”

Dorsett couldn’t argue with that, so he finally gave up. “Have you convinced Drewett that Elves exist yet?” he asked quietly, shuffling his papers around aimlessly.

Inaris ‘s mouth curves in an amused smile. “No, not yet. I’m picking my battles with that one, though I can’t decide if elves or dragons would be a harder topic to sway him on.”

“I think… I mean, could you not start by convincing him that Elves are essentially people who look a little differently than we do? Dragons seem like something that could be only a legend, but Elves…” His voice drifted off before quickly adding, “And we have an Elf or two we could introduce him to.”

Inaris hummed thoughtfully. It would at least be entertaining. “Good point. Think either of your Elves are the type to agree to meetin’ him?”

Dorsett cleared his throat. “I feel like, ehm, like Miss Raenarcam might terrify him just a little, so… maybe Miss Eruviel. She might humor us if we ask nicely.”

Inaris arched a brow. “Worth a shot. Would you mind asking her? I admit I’ve never really talked with an Elf before. Not sure how to approach ’em.” Thinking about it, she was sure approaching an orc would be far easier… of course that she had done.

Dorsett blinked. “Well, um. I suppose I could, yes. I sort of just… say hello, and then…” He trails off, like someone wondering if they had been doing things totally wrong up until now. “But, I mean to say, I can ask her. I suppose it is not terribly important that he believe in Elves, since most people will never see one around here.”

Inaris shrugged. “True enough. Maybe I’ll stick to dragons, then and make a game of it.” She almost carried on, suddenly distracted by how absurdly endearing Drewett’s superstitions were, but she cleared her throat and gave her bangs a toss of indifference.

Dorsett smiled faintly, and started cleaning up his things. “I suppose I should go home. I will see you tomorrow to get the stone back, yes?”

Inaris nodded. “You will. Don’t fret so much, really. I promise that if it changes I’ll go to your place straight away. Try and take a breather, though, all right?” she insisted, more sincerely. “Feed the cats and yourself, and try a hot bath or something. It’ll be all right.”

Dorsett tucked his papers into his bag, and attempted a slightly wider smile. “Thank you, Jade. I will… see you later, then.” He paused for a moment, and then slipped out.

Watching him go, Inaris leaned back against the wall as the door clicked shut behind him. She tossed the stone up to catch it a few times before stopping to inspect it. “I know he’s cute when he frets, but this is just cruel,” she muttered as if the stone could hear her. Tucking the stone safely down the front of her dress, Inaris turned to head for the other exit. “Get your act together and get home.”

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Innocent Heart: Haunting Hours

 

Emerging from a cloud of mist, Feira meandered down the flowering street lined with vendors. It was spring… or possibly summer? That hardly mattered, though. The warm day was accompanied by a cool sea breeze and soft tufts of clouds floated by overhead. Her freshly washed locks glowed in the sunlight, and her light, prancing steps encouraged the thin, flowy layers of her new pale, seafoam green dress to swim about her. Come to think of it, she couldn’t recall exactly how she had gotten the dress that had adorned a mannequin in a shop window for months, but that was just another detail that flittered away as quickly as it came.

Shop owners waved to her as she passed through the crowd. Small talk was made with other maids who had the day off, and all commented on how fetching she looked without her grey apron and what a lovely day it was to see the war finally end. A brand new book with gilded lettering on the cover gave an accomplished weight to the basket hanging from her arm. Cheeses for Lalaith made their way into her basket, followed by the Lady Mredothyn’s favorite fruits and the best flowers in the city for Lady Ciri’s room. Torrin could tease her for spending so frivolously all he wanted, but some days were happy enough that there was nothing wrong with sparing no expense.

Lalaith had written that she’d be back on the morrow. It was all Feira could do to keep from asking for another day off so she could rent a horse to go and meet the young woman on the way. The war was over, and everyone was coming home. Everything was going to be right again. The Lord would be home soon, and the young woman was sure that it would not be long before the estate was overflowing with babies and dinner parties.

Weaving a path through the happy throngs, Feira made her way towards the docks. It surprised her how quickly she got there, for she turned the first corner and the buildings opened up to present a breathtaking, awe inspiring view of the massive harbor. Blue and white sails filled the air. The shouts of sailors and soldiers mingled with hundred of gulls gliding overhead, and the laughter of the citizens who filled every nook and cranny of the walkways.

“’bout time ya got here!” called a familiar voice from behind. Her heart leaping in her chest, Feira spun around.

Her heart stopped.

Taller and fitter than ever from months at sea, Lhainan stood just out of arm’s reach, his captivating gaze fixed over her shoulder.

“A little waiting never hurt you,” responded a young woman’s voice, and Lalaith, dressed in one of her old silk gowns brushed past Feira to take the sailor’s offered arm. No habit in sight, her friend’s glistening blue-black hair tumbled down her back.”You get me anything?” she purred.

“Course I did,” Lhain replied, a coy smile curling his lips as he bend down to whisper into Lalaith’s ear.

What was this? Shocked, words caught in Feira’s throat when a second woman approached. “And what about me?” asked the lithe, olive skinned beauty that stole up to coil around the sailor’s other side.

Eyes gleaming, Lhainan laughed. “I’d never forget about you, beautiful.” Unable to move, Feira watched in horror as he reached out and, with little effort, ripped the gold locket from where it hung around her neck. Draping the arm around the young southern woman he let the delicate heart and chain tumble over the woman’s shoulder to disappear beneath her low neckline. The trio laughed and turned to vanish down the docks, suggestions about a long boat ride getting lost in the haze that filled Feira’s head.

The brilliant sun above her dimmed, though no one seemed to notice. A grey form rose up from where the southern woman, Lhain and Lalaith had disappeared, and as the world closed in around her Aunt Raewiel glared down at Feira with a wicked, triumphant sneer.

This wasn’t real. It wasn’t! Valar… Emeleth… But no, no one could hear her. Nobody would. Trapped and with nowhere to run, the flowers in her basket withered, the fruits shrunk and turned sour, and the pages of her book crumpled into ash. She couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t speak, and the only movement Feira could manage was the trembling that slowly took over her limbs.

Wake up….

Wake up….

A Little Sand

Eruviel remembers.

Nine years ago…

“By the gods I hate this place,” Ildric muttered as he spurred his horse up the narrow path to catch up with the others.

“Only because you do not understand it,” Daran retorted, shooting the mercenary a disdainful glance as he tossed a water skin back.

“I am sure Orome subjects you to it just to hear you complain,” added Eruviel as she caught the skin and pulled the cork.

Ildric’s scoff cut out when he caught sight of the water. “Hey! Where was that two hours ago?!”

Daran looked back to the path ahead of them. “With me and out of your greedy hands.”

“If you ladies are done squabbling I suggest we catch up with the others,” called a voice from up ahead. “We are still two hours from the village.”

“Yeah, yeah, Shiny Shirt,” grumbled Ildric as he moved up to ride beside Eruviel. “You had to bring him along?”

The Elf looked ahead and smirked as she caught the brief glare Adrovorn spared Ildric. “I didn’t have to do anything. He wanted to come.”

“Better aid from the Dreadward than being overrun by greedy men playing at thievery,” Daran chimed in, sparing an amused glance to Eruviel.

“I resent that, caveman,” Ildric retorted, aiming a snatch for the water skin. “We merely —

“Vrax, quit pretending to make excuses for your pride,” called Adrovorn, sounding bored. “We all know you have none.”

Looking to the tall soldier ahead, Ildric’s attempt to claim the water skin for his own failed, and instead hit the end of Eruviel’s bow, sending it tumbling down the hillside.

“Bloody — Vrax!” shouted Eruviel in alarm. Jumping down off her horse she left the water skin hanging from her saddle and set off down the steep rocky slope.

“Wit — Eruviel! Come back! I hit it I’ll get it,” Ildric insisted as he too dismounted and stood on the path’s edge to look down after her.

“Good job,” Daran scolded. Patting his horse on the neck he turned the beast to bring him back to where Ildric stood.

“Oh, shut up –”

“Don’t let her go down there alone,” insisted Adrovorn as he rode to rejoin them.

“Ahh, she’s fine, pretty boy,” huffed Ildric as he pointed to where Eruviel stepped off the rocks and onto sand to retrieve her bow.

Adrovorn glanced to Daran and squared his firm jaw as he saw the hill-man’s sudden frown. “What is it?”

Eruviel had frozen in her tracks three or so steps from where her bow lay. “Adrovorn…” The bow had begun to slowly sink into the ground.

“Don’t move,” the Gondorian ordered firmly as he stepped down from his war steed. Pointing to the horse as if to order it to ‘stay’, Adrovorn took his halberd with one hand and started down the slope.

“No shit,” Eruviel grumbled, eyes still fixed on her bow. Swallowing, she nimbly danced forward a few steps across the surface of the quicksand. Successful in snatching up her bow the elf turned, but not before a particularly loose spot caught her foot. Before she could react she was sucked down past her knees.

“Aw, hell,” grumbled Ildric. Smacking Daran on the leg he started forward. “C’mon.”

Sighing, Daran dismounted more slowly. Taking a moment to grab his spear he began following the other two down.

“I told you not to move!”

“I heard you the first time, Captain,” Eruviel responded. “I am sinking too fast.  There must be something beneath me. Here.” She threw her reclaimed bow to Adrovorn, then began unbuckling her sword belt.

Having reached the bottom of the hill, Adrovorn caught her bow, set it aside, then caught her sword belt. The loss of it’s weight slowed her progression, but not enough. “Where is the edge of it?”

Glancing around her, Eruviel shook her head. “Beyond arm’s rea — ” Her words cut off with a gasp as she dropped down another foot. “Halberd!”

Daran and Ildric scrambled to a stop beside Adrovorn as he tossed the long weapon to the Elf. Catching it, Eruviel began fishing for the edge of the pit while moving as little as possible.

“Is there nothing else we can do?” asked Ildric, looking around the barren terrain for anything that might be of use.

“She’s got this,” said Daran as he let Ildric take his spear.

Standing rigid on the edge of the rocks, Adrovorn completely ignored them as he watched and waited.

“Shiny Shirt,”said Ildric, his voice suddenly nearly as authoritative as Adrovorn’s had been earlier. “Use your sword and help me find the edge of the pit.”

“No –” Eruviel, chest deep in sand, leaned back slowly against the flow. “No need.” Having reached behind her with the halberd, she had found the edges and, bracing the ends of the long weapon on either side, had begun hefting herself up. Taking a moment to catch her breath she began slowly working her feet out.

“You got it?” asked Adrovorn, his expression more stern and his features more pale than before.

“Just about…” She froze for a moment, gave a sad look, and resumed pulling her legs from the trap.

“Eruviel? What is it?” asked Daran as the men ventured forward.

Laying on her back and liberated, Eruviel quickly rolled to the side and off the surface of the quicksand. Taking up the halberd she accepted Ildric’s hand and rose to her bare feet.”

“I lost my boots,” she muttered with a particularly dignified air of remorse.

Daran looked to the pit, Adrovorn seemed too busy looking her over for injury, and Ildric laughed. “You females and your shoes!”

“They were new! And… they had my good daggers in them,” she added with a pathetic, Elven pout.

“You still have what? Twenty blades on you? And what’s with that pout?” Ildric chided.

“I can be disappointed if I want,” said Eruviel with a sniff. “And I don’t have to care what you think.”

Ildric shot a glare back at hearing Daran choke back a snicker. “Well, let’s check to see if you’re injured.” He reached forward towards her chest when a big hand grasped his shoulder and sent him sailing into the quicksand.

It was Eruviel and Daran’s turn to chuckle, and Adrovorn just glared, satisfied that the mercenary had landed right where he wanted him. “Are you hurt?”

“I’ll live!” came Ildric’s shout as he fought against the sand.

Smirking, Eruviel shook her head. “I am fine… Really!” she insisted as he frowned down at her.

“Close your eyes,” Adrovorn insisted as he pulled out a kerchief.

“What?”

“Close your eyes. You have sand all over your face.”

“Not much. Honestly, a little sand never hurt anybody –”

“Put your hands down, and close your eyes,” Adrovorn grumbled as he took up the end of her braid to toss over her shoulder.

Daran frowned at the two of them. Taking the Gondorian’s halberd the hill-man rolled his eyes and turned away. “Nobody panic. I’ll fish the thief out.”

 

(Thank you, Laerlin for the writing prompt!)

 

Two In The Morning

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Tap, tap.

Witch!” sounded Ildric’s lazy attempt at a whisper.

Tap, tap, tap….

Eruviel!”

The Elf’s eyes flew open and she shushed the window, feeling a bit of relief at seeing the door to her room closed and latched as she went to open the window. “Keep it down, old man” she whispered, far more carefully than he had. “What do you want?”

Ildric poked his head inside and looked around. “Why’ve you not invited me in before? This is a nice place — Is that really what you wear to bed?”

Eruviel rolled her eyes and cinched the satin belt of her robe tighter around her waist, just to be safe. “That’s none of your business. Why are you here in the middle of the night?”

“The boys have everything packed up. We’re ’bout to head out.”

“It’s freezing, and two in the morning!” she chided in a hushed tone.

“So? You said you wanted to see us off whenever we left.”

Eruviel leveled him with an even look. “I was having a good dream.”

Ildric’s lips curled in an impish smirk as he leaned against the ledge. “I didn’t think Elves dream. Was it a good memory… or perhaps a daydream?”

Failing at fixing him with a withering glare, Eruviel pushed him out of her window. “Get out you old thief. I’ll be right there.”

“Aww, not gonna climb out your window for –” His teasing whisper was cut off as she quickly and quietly closed the window on him.

The puppy had remained asleep, and Eruviel doubted anything aside from Eboric trying to pick him up would wake the canine after the romp he’d had earlier in the evening. Putting a fresh log in her small fireplace and tucking her new quilt under her arm, Eruviel tip-toed silently out of her room, careful to let as little light and cold into the front room as possible before she could close the bedroom door. Careful to not kick a stranded toy behind the couch, Eruviel slipped by the slumbering Eirikr and Eboric. It took all her willpower to not fix the blanket over the sleeping man’s shoulder, but she decided against it, not wanting to wake him on her way out. She would fix it when she got back, she told herself. Plucking up her boots Eruviel swiftly unlocked the front door and silently slipped out into the night.

The change in temperature nearly took her breath away. Ildric stood by the front gate, arms crossed over his chest and leaning against a post, and she waited till she reached him to fit her feet into her boots.

Cor, Witch, if you were human you’d catch your death o’ cold,” he muttered, snatching the blanket out from under her arm and throwing it around her shoulders.

“I think death from cold would be the least of my worries,” she retorted as she let the long skirt of her robe conceal her tall boots. “And I wonder who’s fault it is for me being out at such an hour.”

Ildric adjusted his own wraps as they exited the yard and started down the street. “Late nights never bothered you before.”

Eruviel chuffed, sending out a breath of white clouds from her lips. “I suppose I am getting soft.”

“Bull,” Ildric grunted. “You’re just saving up all your meanness.”

“I? I am not mean.”

The man grinned wickedly in the dark. “And what if I punched your pretty, red-headed sister or stabbed your human?”

“It’s not in your nature to do such a thing,” she responded sternly.

“Not without cause, no,” said Ildric, grinning as the source of the chill in the air changed. The two exchanged looks as they passed a street lamp, and Ildric suddenly chuckled and tossed an arm over her shoulder. “I missed that.”

His gesture broke the unexpected tension his question had caused, and Eruviel smirked as she shrugged off his arm. “Missed what?”

“That look of death in your eyes. I’m glad you got it back.”

Eruviel chuckled, and pulled the blanket more snugly around her. “I didn’t know I had lost it.”

“Aye. When I saw you three years ago, though….”

One corner of her mouth curling up in a smile, Eruviel nudged him with her elbow. “Is the mighty Vrax getting sentimental?”

“Damned old age,” he muttered bitterly. “Does terrible things to a man.” He nodded down the road. “It’s been nice to relax, but I need to get back into my usual frame of mind. Things are well with the camp, but matters on the outside are getting rougher, specially on the outskirts of the Riddermark.”

“You’ll have no trouble with that,” said Eruviel with an encouraging nod.

Ildric nodded curtly, the mask of command slowly finding it’s place over his features. “Good thing about going back is the weather will get better as we go south. None of this blasted damp and cold.”

“You will raid along the way, I presume?”

“You bet your ass we will. The boys are itching for action, and so am I. Plenty of orc camps and brigand lairs along the way. We have an empty wagon for loot, too. Plenty of goodies for the lads and others.”

Humming thoughtfully, Eruviel looked up as they continued along the way. “The group made it safely back then, I take it?”

“Only lost three, and just two had injuries still healing when they got in a few nights back.”

“Not like that would keep them from killing orcs,” Eruviel replied, chuckling.

Ildric echoed her chuckle as he nodded in agreement. “Not at all… Has anyone in the tribe written you lately?” he then hesitantly asked.

Eruviel’s brows rose and she looked to him. “From Aughaire? No, not lately. Why?”

“They were wondering… with the war in the south heating up and all, if you were thinking of coming back to fight.”

The Elf fell silent for a moment, green eyes fixed on the road before she shook her head. “I have thought of it, but I have no intention of going back to Angmar. Not unless the Wayfarers are called north. After…” She shook her head again, and frowned at the night. “No. I have people I need to be here for, and my responsibility to them comes first.”

Seemingly satisfied with her answer, Ildric nodded and swiped a hand across his cold nose. “Good… But enough of that. Met your sister earlier.”

“Oh? You met Anya?”

“Sure did. Nice as you said she was, but you never told me she was a looker.”

Laughing, Eruviel shot the man a glare. “She’s beautiful, but that is hardly something you should care about. Hands off you brigand. She’s already being courted.”

“Lucky kid… What if he stops courting her?” he prodded, leaning in, clearly fishing for a reaction.

No.”