Month: February 2016

Trouble

He hated loosing. It was more trouble than he cared to tolerate. More than that, he hated that he hadn’t listened to his instinct and waited till it was Monday to attack. Someone had gone before he had given the order, and now only the Hunter knew how many of his men had fallen in the chaos.

Of all the incompetent…

“Tom! Hill! Get dow –” Ildric’s shout was cut short when a volley of arrows passed close over head. Too close.

The young man let out a cry, and when Ildric looked up Hill was slowly lowering the boy’s body to the ground.

“Vrax!”

“I know! I know! Call the others back,” he barked from his hiding place.

Hill wiped blood from his eyes. “I won’ leave ‘im!”

Ildric reloaded his crossbow and sprung up in a run, shooting past a burning tent as he made for the man. “You — you go call back the others. We’ll loose if we chase ’em. I’ll take Tom,” he huffed as he skidded on his knees.

Hill hesitated.

“Go!” growled Ildric, scooping the fallen lad up in his arms.

Nodding, Hill snatched up his fallen sword and sprinted off around the far side of the ruined encampment.

Ildric grunted as he slid down the near embankment to where a handful of his men were rounding up the frightened horses. The front of his dirty grey tunic slowly turned crimson, and Tom’s wheezing breaths grew shorter and shorter.

“Hang in there, boy. We’ll get you home, then run the bastards down.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ravi,

On our way north. Keep an eye on Harrier’s Rest for a week or so. If we or a band of twenty brigands don’t show by then, assume we’ve caught them. Warn Frank.

Vrax

Folding up the hastily written note, Eruviel tucked it back into her pocket, counting the days from when it had been sent. She did not need to spur Eolir to encourage him to pick up the pace as they left the road to follow a muddy stream around the nearby hill. The sooner she got there to find nothing, the sooner she could return home.

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Waiting Up

“You’re back! You’re back!”

Cal Applewood gave his best attempt at a frown as he walked inside his home to find his daughter bouncing on the big sitting chair, her eyes brighter than he preferred them to be at this hour of the night. “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?”

Brooke batted her long lashes and leaned against the back of the chair. “… Maybe… But I wanted to wait up for you!”

Hanging his cloak up Cal chuckled, and hefted the girl up out of the chair. “Oooph! That was sweet of you, but aren’t you tired?”

The little girl of eight shook her head in defiance of the notion. “No, sir!” she said with a chirp. “I could stay up all night!”

“Cor, help us all if you do,” muttered Cal with a grin. “Come on, little lady. Let’s at least get you under covers. Gonna be a cold night.”

The girl looked like she was about to protest but stopped, and pressed her nose into Cal’s beard. “Have you been drinking?”

The man grunted, and tickled her with his beard. “What else is a respectable gathering of men supposed to do? I didn’t have too much, though if that’s what you’re wondering.”

Brook grinned happily and wrapped her arms around her father’s neck as he carried her into her little bedroom. “Who was all there, Daddy?”

Cal grunted as he shifted her weight from one arm to the other. “Lemme see… There was Mister Gaelyn, of course. Then Godric, and Drewett, and Mister Eirikr….”

Brook wiggled in excitement. “Mister Eirikr was? I’m so jealous! Can I come next time? Can I? Can I?!”

“Oh, no! It’s a men only gathering. Don’t tell me you still have a crush on the man,” he chided with a teasing grin.

Brooke ducked her head and hid her face against his shoulder. “Nooo… well, maybe a little. He’s so nice! But so is Mister Godric and Mister Gaelyn, I guess….”

Cal chuckled and shook his head as he set her down on her bed. “Yes, he is. They are all very nice. Shouldn’t you like boys your own age, though?”

The girl crawled under a layer of blankets as she made a face. “Boys my age are dumb. Besides, one of them pulled my pig-tail today.”

Cal blinked. “Can’t argue with that,” he mumbled. “You keep thinking boys are dumb, sweetheart, and I’ll live a long time.” He then patted her head. “No damage done?”

Brook shook her head. “Nope! I told teacher, and then told him my Daddy and his friends would leave him in the woods if he did it again.”

“You did?” Cal asked, arching a brow as he tucked her in.

“Well… Almost…. I sure thought it! I — I did ask him to stop.”

Cal chuckled and kissed Brooke on the forehead. “You’re a good girl. It’s okay to stick up for yourself. Are you warm enou –”

Before he could finish, Brooke shot upright, clearly making an effort to stay awake. “Oh! Did you get a dragon hat?”

The man leaned back at her exclamation, then grinned and shook his his head. “No, I did not. I wonder, though if that’s why you insisted on me going to the meetin’ in the first place….”

Brooke blushed. “I just thought you would look really handsome wearing it…. That and… well….”

Cal gave her a sad smile as he tucked her back in. “Don’t worry about me, sweetie,” he said quietly as he gave her hand a squeeze. “When I get the hat you can wear it around the house all you like. But enough of that. A bedtime story, then sleep for you, little lady.”

“Two?”

The man smiled and rolled his eyes. “Oh, all right. Two bedtime stories, but no more.”

Anecdotes: Where We Go

“I can carry that stack in too, if you’d like.”

Feira looked over to the petite maid from where she hung a sheet on a line. “I would. Thank you, Mariah! These go with the first load to be pressed. The ones on the bottom are to be put in the first three guest rooms.”

The brunette nodded and accepted the stack atop the basket of clean laundry she already carried. “Sure thing. You headed out after this?”

“For a few hours. The rest of the morning chores are done.”

“Don’t read too hard!”

Feira waved after her and hefted a large sheet heavy with water up onto the next line. Laundry was always best on days like these. Warm sun and cool breeze amplified the scent of flowers from the garden and the billowing white sheets that surrounded her. Two more sheets to hang and she would trade it for a couch tucked away in a quiet corner of the library.

A gust of wind caught the next sheet she hung, and Feira grinned, her bare feet curling in the grass. The sheets turned into sails and her mind began to wander. The grass turned into wooden planks of a deck, the billowing linens turned into an armada, and a whistled tune was taken up….

Her eyes snapped open. She knew that tune. Warmth rose to her cheeks and, taking up the last sheet, she back up to an open spot on the line behind her, whistling harmony as the first whistler drew closer. She hung the wide, white cloth and the voice fell silent. Feira followed suit. Footsteps drew near and she skipped into the shadow of a sheet partially to play and hide, and partially because it was all she could think to do as her heart began to race from anticipation.

The heavy footfalls stopped opposite of her sheet and a head appeared to peer at her. His sun-bleached hair longer than she remembered, Lhainan’s sea green eyes caught her and he grinned.

“Hiya, Blondie.”

  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She was warm. Deliciously warm. Inaris drew in a deep breath, not bothering to open her eyes, and smiled as she remembered.

How long had she lain there? Ten minutes? Thirty? Maybe an eternity… Yes, she could spend eternity like this. Life was not supposed to be like this. She wasn’t supposed to be okay with it, but she couldn’t help herself.

It hadn’t been like this before. It hadn’t been so easy. Was it supposed to be easy? Something ingrained deep inside of her told her she should slip out from under the covers and leave. That she should open her eyes and see it all as lies.

Hate was as simple as breathing. She enjoyed it, the hate and anger and control that fueled half of her work days. It had gotten her safely this far from the inland sea, and suddenly she had no need for that hate nor the indifference that came with it. Her walls were tall and cold and hard as iron… and he walked right through them.

Maybe she hated that most. That she suddenly did not have to. That everything beyond this point was an entirely different world than she’d ever thought for herself. That here in this moment she was more safe than she’d ever felt in her life. To the Pit with it all. Let them come for her now. Let them waste their time. And if they found her? Well, she wouldn’t want to be them.

Adjusting the ring on her finger she nestled close against his chest and beckoned sleep back to her. She was warm, and she was safe, and for the first time she believed it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I thought you were going to the Blue Theater.”

Peldirion looked over his shoulder to Halethon. “I mean to to. I walked by.”

The young soldier crossed his arms over his chest as he watched his superior rise to find a towel to wipe the sweat from his face and chest. “You spend too much time here.” He motioned to the empty training hall.

“I like the exercise,” said Peldirion gruffly. “Just because my off hand is out of commission does not mean I should sit idle.”

“Yes, but you should actually relax once in a while. Ask one of those ladies to the theater or supper or… I don’t know, go for a walk in the gardens.”

“I don’t need to walk in the gardens.”

Halethon chuffed a breath and went to retrieve Peldirion’s effects. “Because you smell like one?”

Peldirion cast him a glare.”It is lavender. Supposed to help the pain. I think the healer is just screwing with me.”

Tunic and light armour in hand, Halethon did not move as he leveled a look at the Captain.

What?”

“You’re not sleeping again, are you?”

Peldirion’s dark eyes did not meet Halethon’s.

“My lord?”

“It is not a problem. Same as before.”

The young man pursed his lips and offered Peldirion the tunic. “Have you tried –“

“You know nothing helps,” interrupted Peldirion, snatching the tunic from Halethon’s hand.

“I could find you company….”

Peldirion paused before pulling the cloth over his head. “No. It did not make enough of a difference last time.”

“I don’t like it, Peldirion.”

“You don’t have to. I will try and sleep when this is all over.” Peldirion frowned and took his armour. “Get my weapons.”

Halethon’s brows drew together and he inclined his head, deciding it best not to challenge the man’s dark look. “Yes, sir.”

How to Sew a Hat

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What do you think you are doing?!”

Eruviel froze, looking up at the elderly woman like a child caught trying to skip out on chores. “I’m cutting out the pattern just like you said…”

Grandma Bea huffed and tisked her disapproval. “Not with your hunting knife, missy.”

The Elf straightened her shoulders and looked to the rich red cloth on the old kitchen table before her. “I do not see why not. I cut out the first pattern that way.”

“When I wasn’t looking! We are not barbarians, Eruviel. This is sewing.”

“What does it look like I am doing?” She gestured to the paper patterns and sea of red tacked together with pins that surrounded her. “Sewing this cannot be much different from mending tack and armour.”

The ancient old woman turned to rummage through a large sewing box. A trill of triumph sounding in her throat she whirled around and waved a pair of shiny scissors in the Elf’s face. “You go find a dragon and drag it’s hide back here to stitch up. Then you can use your knife, but if you’re going to come to my house askin’ for help with sewing you will use scissors, young lady!”

Eruviel plucked the scissors from Bea’s wrinkled fingers, knowing the elderly woman would just get grumpy if she surrendered too easily. “What help? I have pieced all this on my own! Really, Bea, when I go back to Durrow and tell them you made all of this…”

“Hah!” Bea barked, picking up what might had been a hat beneath all the pins that held it together. “You wouldn’t dare! Ruin my good name, you would. Not that any of your Bree friends are old enough to remember my sewing–”

“Or old enough to remember your cooking,” the Elf added.

“Yes! Precisely! But this is a monstrosity. Are these the wings?”

“What else would they be?” Eruviel asked as she looked up from cutting out a sleeve.

“A death trap, is what. What were you thinking?” Bea turned the little red hat with dragon wings, held together by Orome knows how many pins, over in her hands.

“It’s called efficiency,” said Eruviel with a sure nod. “I will save myself time pinning everything together at once.” She went back to cutting, but watched to see what Bea would do out of the corner of her eye.

“Darned stubborn…” The elderly woman plopped down into a seat and began threading a needle. “These are so cute,” she muttered begrudgingly. “And what are those?”

Eruviel held up a jaggedly cut piece of cloth. “The spines and little tail for the back of the jacket.”

Bea blinked, then burst into a fit of laughter. “You’re ridiculous, I’ll have you know! I thought you were just going to make hats!”

Eruviel’s ears turned pink as she lifted a piece of paper with a list of measurements. “I was, but it seemed… incomplete. You know me. I cannot do anything like this the easy way.”

“Obviously,” muttered Bea, careful to dramatically drop each pin into a pile. “Your sewing is a disgrace, you could eat a horse, and –”

Eruviel laughed richly and kissed the old woman on the cheek as she swept past to save the steaming kettle from the fire. “Then you should have taught me how to sew instead of teaching me how to make buttered rolls.”

“You make a terrible Elf,” said Bea with a chuckle. “Aren’t you supposed to dance around trees and do magic and be a lady?”

Eruviel brought two tea cups to the table along with the kettle. “I dance when no one is looking, do magic as out of sight as I can manage, and being a lady does not put food on the table and save lives.”

Bea tossed the cloth hat to Eruviel’s side of the table and snatched up the jacket pieces. “You may be surprised. I will have to thank your ‘housemate‘, though. You sticking around, being properly domestic and making hats for little boys is far less stress on my health than wondering if you’ll come home two or three times a year.”

“I’ve always come home, Beatrice,” said Eruviel with a soft smile, leaving the tea to steep as she began to carefully sew the hat together.

“Seventy years. And long ones at that,” Bea scolded, pointing her needle at the Elf. She then reached over with an empty hand to fondly pinch Eruviel’s fair cheek.”At least you have gotten better about writing. And after all that time you’re still as skinny as can be. I’ll be darned if I die before making you gain a pound or two.”

Eruviel chuckled, and shook her head as she leaned back in her seat. “I haven’t put on weight in centuries. Be prepared to live a long time, my friend.”

Bittersweet: Cold Nights and Warm Thoughts

It was the second night that freezing rain had fallen on Durrow. Her thick cloak that blended into the darkness of the hill kept most of the moisture off. The bitter wind tugged impatiently at her hood, and chilled her delicate hands that held her bow, but Eruviel did not leave her post.

On full alert, her ears and eyes scoured the village before her and the hill behind her for any movement. Ansithe and Hawk slept soundly below. Branches creaked in the wind, a bucket left out by one of the village boys clattered off a distant porch, and Eolir paced in his stall in the stables, fully aware that she was up and armed. But all was well. She dearly hoped it would stay that way.

The sun would rise in an hour. As soon as the great orb fully breached the horizon she could go home. Through the darkness and the rain she could make out the thin stream of smoke that rose from her chimney. There would be a warm hearth, and warm food, and them…. They could make any place feel warm. He could.

Three more months. The estimate crept back into her mind as it was off to do, and she quickly banished it before it grew to dominate her thoughts and ruin her focus. The presence of the pup she couldn’t, and now wouldn’t, get rid of had reassured her that the missing that was sure to come would not be present for the wrong reasons. It was an easy, enjoyable coexistanc that made her want to go home every night. Warm company, warm food, and the occasional noticed warm glace caught in passing — No. Some other time, she firmly told herself. There were more important things that required her attention than the potential emptiness those thoughts encouraged.

Her delicate features hardening, Eruviel adjusted the Elven sword at her hip. She was careful not to touch the hilt. It was perfect for such a post. Just in case… Though cleansed thanks to Atanamir, it still hungered and kept watch with her. Maybe it was the proximity of the Barrow Downs, or simply the make of the steel, but she didn’t need to touch it to feel it’s pull. Why in Orome’s name Rainion had made it, she didn’t know, but she was a thousand years too late to ask.

A sea of bones. Raenarcam had not found her to report on any findings. She did not know exactly what it meant, but between necromancy and the Downs it was easy to speculate.

The gradual predawn light crept up over the hills. Tugging her wind-tossed hood back up Eruviel remained at her post watching and waiting. The constable’s lantern bobbed down a far lane. Light shone in a few windows as Durrow’s early risers began their mornings. Another quiet night. She hoped the following would be the same.