“Witch!” sounded Ildric’s lazy attempt at a whisper.
Tap, tap, tap….
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.