Month: March 2016

New Plans

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The Houses of Healing was as busy as when the army had left. Navigating the halls with a relative familiarity, Peldirion folded the note back up and slipped it safely into the pocket of his tunic.

”Halethon needs to see you.”

He had been sorely disappointed, though not all that surprised, to find his room empty when he had returned from dealing with the twins. Of all the times for them to start a fight…. Peldirion shook his head, and he distracted his thoughts of Halethon with imagining her name filling the blank space below the beautiful script. The way her dark hair tumbled over her shoulders, how years of stress fled before her touch….

And then he was there. Peldirion stared at the offending door for a moment before pushing it open, not bothering to knock. Halethon lay on a bed in the corner across from him, eyes closed and brow furrowed as he focused.

“Still working at trying to move?”

Halethon started, his head jerking back a little as Peldirion’s low voice broke his concentration. “I’ll get it one of these days,” he said quietly. The younger man glanced at Peldirion’s face, then his arm. “Glad to see you’re still in once piece.”

“‘Bout as glad as I am to still be in one,” Peldirion responded, pulling up a chair as he took note of Halethon’s tired features. “You sleep?”

“Hardly. Was getting worried that you wouldn’t…”

Peldirion grunted and adjusted the sling that held his right arm.

Halethon craned his neck to get a better look at the man. Peldirion moved his chair closer. “I’m… I apologize for what I said before.”

“What part?” He didn’t mean for it to sound as harsh as it did, but he wasn’t all that sorry.

Halethon frowned and looked down over his immobile form. “When… For saying it’s a good thing you don’t have any more brothers left for this one to sleep with.”

Peldirion studied the young man, his dark blue eyes nearly black. “You will never compare her to Lothiel. Unless it is to praise her, you will not. Not ever, do you understand me?” There was no warmth in his voice, and he was not sure what angered him more; the fact that someone would stoop so low as to compare Lalaith to Lothiel, or that it had been Halethon who’d said it.

Halethon nodded quickly, his face twisting with regret. “Yes, sir. I understand. I regretted it as soon as I’d said it. Never again. I’m… There is no excuse. I’m sorry.”

A minute passed by in silence. “How were you while I was away?”

Again Halethon’s features twisted. “I don’t… I don’t want to talk about it.”

There was something about that look that pulled at Peldirion’s core. A memory of despair, and after half a lifetime as friends, he understood that fleeting expression.

“You give up on me, and I’ll bring you back and beat you senseless,” said Peldirion gruffly.

Halethon squeezed his eyes shut and nodded. “It felt easier to give up,” he said weakly. “The thought of living life like this….”

“You can’t give up. After everything… You held me up for years. It’s about time I return the favor. I have new plans for you, and those plans won’t be any good without a right-hand man.”

“Well, if I can at least get full use of my arms back…”

“Full use?” Peldirion said, interrupting as he sat up in his seat.

A grin suddenly spread across Halethon’s face, it’s light banishing the gloom that had filled the room moments before. “It’s so faint I sometimes wonder if I’m imagining it. They pinch me though, the healers. Every time they come in they test and I can tell, all the way to my finger tips.”

Relief washed over Peldirion like a wave, and for a moment he wondered if he would start crying. So many bloody emotions in one day would surely be the death of him. “What do they say?”

Halethon rolled his head as if he might have shrugged his shoulders. “It will be a lot of work.”

“We expected that, though. It’s never stopped us before.”

“You can’t work with me all the time, Peldirion. If you do, you won’t have daylight to do anything else.”

Peldirion sniffed and a wry smile lit his features. “You let me worry about that. Ferris will be running my errands from now on so that will help.”

Halethon’s eyebrows rose. “Ferris? Don’t tell him that it might suit him better than a shield, but…” His voice trailed off and an amused smirk replaced the look of confusion. “Did he see…?”

“There was nothing to see,” said Peldirion briskly, shooting Halethon a half-hearted warning glance. “But, yes. Ferris has been, to some extent, assimilated into our little council.

“And what of these new plans? How are you going to get by with a cripple as your right hand?”

Peldirion grinned, and leaned forward to rest his good elbow on his knee. “Where should I start?”

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What Happened That Day

“C’mon, Hale! You’re falling behind!”

Halethon made a face and smacked his eight year old legs against the flanks of his pony. “Only ’cause you’re going too fast!”

“Well,” started Peldirion, slowing, Halethon was sure, merely to patronize his distant cousin, “when you lead, you can set the pace.”

“But you ALWAYS lead! And we always go play at the old ruins,” Halethon grumbled.

“Oh, don’t pout like a girl,” Peldirion jabbed. “It’s our castle!” he exclaimed, stretching his lanky, twelve year old arms out wide as if to embrace the shoreline, and the broken spire rising from beyond the next hill. “Adrovorn said he will convince father to buy it for me whenever he comes home.”

Halethon looked over to his dark-haired cousin, and grinned. “You couldn’t make him let you go with?”

It was Peldirion’s turn to pout. “No. And Lothiel says he’ll probably find a tribe of wild people, marry a savage girl, and never come home.”

“Lothiel’s stupid,” said Halethon flatly.

Peldirion reached over to punch him on the arm. “Shut up!”

The two boys rode in silence till they crested the hill nearest their ruined destination. “Did you mean it?” asked Halethon suddenly.

Peldirion frowned. “Mean what?”

Idiot. “About it being our castle?”

“Shit. Of course I did!”

“Ass. Don’t say ‘shit’.”

“Shit, shit, shit. And don’t call me that, or it’s just my castle,” said Peldirion without a scrap of conviction.

Halethon smirked. “You’d be bored without me, admit it. And I always kill more orcs than you.”

Peldirion huffed. “I’m starting page work soon. We won’t be able to do this much.”

“Can I go with you?”

“What?”

“I wanna go with you,” said Halethon with a stubborn set to his jaw. “You’re older so you can get started first, but… if it’s our castle, and we have to kill all the orcs in it first, I can’t be in someone else’s army.”

A grin spread across Peldirion’s face. “You won’t be. I promise.”

Relief spread across Halethon’s face, and he drew his wooden sword from his belt. “Last one to kill the fat orc gives up his lunch!” the boy cried, spurring his pony forward into a run, his imagination bringing shadowy beasts to life beneath the ruined arches. “For the King!”

“For the King!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A surging wave of silver and blue, they thundered out of the broken gate. How great they seemed in that moment after a day of darkness; a vanguard of Gondorian might and resolve. Halethon rode closely behind Peldirion as their contingent of Pelargir soldiers took the Swan Knight’s right flank. Their numbers melded with those of the Rohirrim, and the sea and the earth smashed into the lines of the enemy, their wave and zeal neither cresting nor falling.

His heart pounded in his chest to the drumming of his horse’s hooves. They could win! A brother to his left, a Rohir to his right, and Peldirion charging ahead of him, halberd gleaming in the morning light he knew. Drive them to the river! Excitement coursed through Halethon. This was the Gondor he dreamt of! This was the Gondor Peldirion talked about and aimed for. Mighty men fighting along side their allies, spurred on by the rising sun to retake their lands for the glory of their people. It was idealistic at best, and in the past months something of dreams, but now… NOW.

Peldirion shouted a command and the line of mounted Pelargir soldiers turned in a practiced formation, sweeping a few Rohirrim along with them to devour a line of orcs so that the Prince’s knights would not be hindered from that flank. They all followed him, their swords raising as his did, and half of the hope and fear in their hearts came from him as well. They were unwanted sons, either though scandal, found to be of little worth to other commanders, or simply too far down the line of succession. Granted by the unfortunate end of Peldirion’s eldest brother he had found them, or they had begged him for a chance, one chance to prove their worth and be more than the lot in life that had been cast for them.

On and on they fought, till suddenly new drums pounded the ground of the battlefield. Mûmakil. Enormous beasts, they ran into the frey, crushing and throwing dozens with every stride. What was an ordered assault turned into a chaotic tide of men fleeing from the Mûmakil’s paths and attacking groups of orcs. Wheeling his mount to one side, Halethon was nearly thrown from his horse as a soldier crashed into him. Fresh fear gripped his throat as one of the giant animals tore through a line of Rohirrim and Swan Knights.

What hope had built in him slowly began to turn. He didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t! Turning back around Halethon went in search of Peldirion but, instead of seeing his Captain, an orc dove over the head of Halethon’s horse, and tackled him to the ground. His leg caught for a moment in the stirrup, and something pulled, sending hot pain up his leg, but there was no crack, and no time to think on it. His foot falling free and horse bolting away, Halethon grappled with the snarling creature.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“The river! Black sails!”

Halethon cut down an evil man and turned to look to the river. He had lost him in the chaos. Many of his comrades had been found alive and dead, but not Peldirion. Not anywhere. At the cry that there were ships, he stopped dead in his tracks. What now? Before they might have won by sacrificing every man, but with the aid of Corsairs, how could they ever hope to drive them back?

Pelargir. What had they done to her? To their castle? Anger ignited, mixing with the despair that washed over him. Where was Peldirion? At least they could die together, brothers hewing apart the monsters that more than likely saw to the ruin of what was left of their fair city, and with it, years of dreaming. So many dreams, all burning and drowning in blood.

His knees found the earth, sinking into the dark mud as pain clawed through the muscles of his left leg. So many. Emeleth… Valar… Is this what will become of us? Hailthon wavered, swaying. Soaked in sweat, rainwater, and blood he waited for a passing orc to finish him as black sails filled his vision.

“Get up!”

Halethon blinked, the words distant, echoing in his ears. “Wha –”

Air suddenly rushed back into his lungs as strong hands drug him to his feet. “Get up! Halethon?!”

He blinked, staring in disbelief at Peldirion and maybe two dozen of Pelargir soldiers. By the gods, he looks like death.“S-Sir?”

Peldirion smiled… no, grinned at him. A bright, engulfing expression he had not seen in years. “Don’t give up on me! Halethon, stand up! The king is here!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was a battle to rival all others, and none would match it. At least he hoped not. He didn’t understand it, how the Captain could keep going. He had stayed up when the others slept, fought in the worst of, and Halethon could not remember the last time he had seen him eat.

They had fought for the majority of the daylight hours, the sun and brilliant hope brought by the return of the king fueling them. For the first time in hours, it seemed, Halethon stood still in the strange silence and observed the fields. A great wind had swept the rain clouds away, and standing next to the fallen body of a Mûmakil, the man suddenly felt so small. What was he compared to the mighty men that inspired their armies to victory? Against all odds they had somehow won, and it was on the wings of the gods that each new hope arrived.

He was tired. So tired. Sword dragging in his hand, Halethon turned to watch his comrades sweep across the field in search of brothers and friends. One picked a Swan Knight out of the mud, another wept as he embraced a Pelargir soldier long thought lost. Yes, he felt small. Small, and proud to be here among the victorious dead, and triumphant living.

Catching sight of Peldirion, Halethon raised a hand and started towards him. Peldirion rose to his feet, looking over his men with pride. But turning his gaze to Halethon he stopped. Something was wrong.

Fatigue slowing his limbs, he frowned. What was he shouting about? Peldirion had picked up his halberd and was now rushing towards him. Why are you running? What is wrong?

A shot of searing pain like fire exploded though his back. Halethon stumbled, barely aware of the arrows that suddenly flew past him. The world turned red, and he looked down to see a black spear tip protruding from his chest. How had that gotten there? And why… why can’t I move my arms? Breathing became a struggle, and the ground rushed up to meet him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“What is going on?”

“Don’t worry about it. Close your eyes.”

“Why are you carrying me –”

“I said don’t worry about it. Just relax.”

“Peldirion…”

“Yes?”

“Why can’t I feel anything?”

Silence.

“Tell me.”

“Later. For now just rest. We are almost there.”

“I feel cold.”

“A few minutes more, and I’ll get you warmed up.”

“Your eyes…”

“What about them?”

“You never cry. Tell me, damn you.”

“Not now. Not here. I said rest.”

“Is that an order?”

“… yes.”

“Is it bad?”

More silence.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“Just… hold on. We’re almost there.”

Fires That Temper the Soul

lotropeldirion

Ducking his head, Peldirion felt his bones quake as a foul voice ripped through the air. Gritting his teeth as he heard Grond being pulled back for a third swing he caught sight of a few of the men cower then move to flee. Growling, he snatched the first man by the arm and threw him back in line. “Hold!” he bellowed, bashing the cross guard of his sword against his shield as the others fell back into formation. You will not die with your backs to the enemy! The thuderous crash sounded behind him, and Peldirion turned to face the gate. It creaked, groaned… and fell with a deafening clatter.

Here they come.

Orcs clambered into the gaping wound, flinging themselves through the gap, flooding into the courtyard, driven mad to fight. A line turned and charged at the cluster of Pelargir soldiers, raising sword, mace, crossbow, and club. Some of the men of other companies and provinces, overtaken by the dread of the Captain of the Nazgul, turned and fled. “Cowards,” Peldirion muttered, thankful for the sounds and smells of death and fire that ignited his blood. Adjusting his grip on his sword, Peldirion gave a shout, and he, along with several dozen Pelargir soldiers, rushed forward to meet the advancing enemy.

The orcs were mad, fighting even as they died, clinging and tripping up men as they trod over them. A young man, little more than a page, shrieked and fell, kicking at the mouth of a slavering, bleeding orc. Forming a line, the soldiers pressed against the orcs that crashed against their bright shields like black waves. Halethon, fighting to Peldirion’s right, drove back a screeching orc, and the two men served as an anchor to the thin wall of soldiers.

Behind the first line of orcs rose a mountain range. Or so it seemed. Cave trolls, five, eight, perhaps more, thundered through the gate. Some of them did not stop, bowling through the lines like boulders, into the fires beyond. One ugly lout fixed his only good eye upon Peldirion and roared, charging. Wrenching his sword out of an orc, Peldirion turned in time to see the troll face him. Caught up in the rush of battle, he roared back, his voice deep and filled with fury. He dodged past a group of fighters, and ran to meet his foe.

Already, men were dragging bodies back out of the clash to the shadowed edges of the courtyard. Some begged for their mothers, others screamed in agony, dying. The troll raised a spiked club the size of a horse and swung, intent on crushing his prey like a bug. Diving within the reach of the troll, Peldirion sliced out to drag his sword across the creature’s gut. The troll screamed, enraged, though not much slowed, as thick greenish blood oozed from his glutted belly. He flailed his club side to side, sweeping at the bug which dared to bite back. Either too focused on slaying the beast, or blinded by the blood that dripped down his visor, one could not be sure, but as he swung his sword again the the club crashed into Peldirion’s shield, throwing him back like a rag doll.

Time, and light, and gravity seem to shift. The red burning flames took on a cool blue cast, and shadows and light leapt out in contrast. Around the perimeter of the courtyard, a grey shadow flited in and out, hovering over fallen men.

Fighting now to breathe as the wind had been knocked out of him, Peldirion lay stunned, sword arm unable to move from being pinned down by the body of a fallen orc. Gasping, he struggled for a moment before he could wrench his sword arm free. He rolled over onto his shield, chest heaving, and forced himself up to his knees. Yanking the helm from his head, he wiped at his eyes to clear them of the blood when the shadow caught his attention. A grey robe and veil formed a slender silhouette in the shadows, but the image seemed to flicker, as if insubstantial. He stared, still dazed. What tricks of light… she cannot be…. Cool grey light trailed after the ghostly form, as if pale little stars slowly gathered around her.

An orc some distance away had stopped, and paused in his horse eating when he realized something much more delicious was nearby. Manflesh– or more precisely, woman-flesh. The orc snarled and began to stalk over to the grey figure. The woman knelt, caressing the brow of a dying soldier. He stilled, breathing his last, and another star joined the constellation forming about her. She rose and moved to another fallen body, seemingly ignorant of the stalking orc. Wiping again at his eyes, a snarl curled the man’s lips as he caught sight of the orc. Ramming the helmet back onto his head, he snatched up his sword and charged at the fiend.

As Peldirion rose, the figure of the woman flickered out, disappearing. Flames and blood reddened, and time jerked back into full motion. The orc paused at the sight of the strange light-show happening with the slim figure in front of him. Before he could fully regain his senses, he was split straight onto Peldirion’s sword. It died with black blood gushing out of its chest. Nearly stumbling, Peldirion stared at the foul body hanging from his blade. How in the… What in the pit is going on?! Kicking it angrily away he looked around wildy in search of the vanished form. For a moment he saw it, a grey light in the corner of his vision. Whirling about as he hunted for the source of the light a hand grasped his elbow.

“Sir! Sir!” Halethon cried above the chaos, the fear on his face telling that he had seen his commander get tossed by the troll. “Are you all right?!”

Feeling life rush back into him as he fully regained his breath, Peldirion shook his head as the world ceased sounding so distant. “What? Yes. Yes, I’m all right!” He motioned to the wall with his sword. “I will gather the remaining men. See how the Swan Knights are faring up the-”

Suddenly, a blast of cold air and sheer dread blew through the Gate. No more orcs. No more trolls. Something worse. Through the archway rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, and those nearest the gate fled before him. Even on the opposite end of the great court did both men stumble away, whirling around to look to the terror beneath the gateway. But one approached the fallen man. The wizard that had ridden out with the Prince the day before now paced forward on his white steed to oppose the wraith.

As the two spoke and unbidden dread welled in his chest, the grey light flickered again, a few meters to Peldirions left. The man tore his eyes from the scene to look. Halethon saw nothing but the stand-off at the gate.

Lalaith, for surely it was her, knelt, bowed over a dying soldier, her hand raised as if against a great and terrible wind. The image of her even bent and flowed as a banner in a typhoon as she struggled. He did not understand, but a chill ran though his limbs as he saw her ghostly form in the midst of the bodies. She should not be here! Forcing his feet to move, Peldirion rushed towards her. The metal of his knee guards ground against the stone as he dropped to his knees beside her. Half blinded by blood, half by a wave of panic, he quickly brought his shield arm around her, guarding her from the sight of the Black Rider.

Her face blooming with recognition, she suddenly looked to the soldier she knelt over, opened her mouth to cry out….Then she was gone again. Peldirion gaped at the void between him and his shield. Forgetting the terrible conference across the court, frustration and rage began to shadow his features but stopped when he saw the soldier he knelt beside. It was a recruit from Imloth Melui. A man no older than Halethon that had driven Peldirion half mad before the Captain had allowed him to join his ranks. He was a good boy, a strong young man. He was dead. Peldirion’s shoulders sank, his head bowed, and a minute passed before he closed the lad’s eyes and rose once more to his feet.

Looking up, Peldirion saw the Black Rider lift his sword above his head, and flames ran down the blade. The wizard did not move. It was the strangest thing, in that moment, when the sound of a rooster heralded the dawn, and filled the dreadful silence with it’s crow. Peldirion could hear his heart beating in his ears. Horns.

Horns?

Out of the darkness beyond the walls sounded great horns. He knew that sound… It was Rohirrim!

“Lieutenant!” Peldirion boomed, regaining the mask of command as he stode back towards Halethon. “The Prince and his knights!” he called, reminding the man of his orders. Halethon, face alight from the sound of morning, quickly saluted and dashed for the stairs. Peldirion could feel the fire surge back to life in his veins. “There is a war to be won!”

 

(Thank you to Feygil, and Laerlin for plotting and RPing this with me! Taken from in game RP and edited for tense and exposition.)

Bittersweet: Choices

lotrosky

“Since we did not need his help, we owe him nothing.”

Eruviel nodded in agreement with Eirikr. All she had wanted was Anyatka back, and now that they had her, putting the orc camp a ways behind them, she wanted to see them all safely home.

Eirikr looked around at his companions. “Then the question is whether we release them or…not.”

Her right hand tightened ever so slightly on her bowstring. Delostor. Not that wanting to steal Anya and put the spirit of Faethril in her was bad enough, now Parmanen had changed his mind and planned to put the long dead woman into the body of his daughter. His only child. It turned her stomach, and made her furious.
“Just give them the damn statue, and let them have their obscene little romance. At least then we never have to see them again,” said Esthyr from behind the tree she had retreated to.

Eruviel shook her head. “It would be very one sided,” she says quietly.

Esthyr’s arm snaked round the tree to point in the direction of Lomiphel. “You heard her! She volunteered.”

Lômiphel sagged as she nodded. Her face was flushed and sweaty, and the Elf looked to the woman’s bandaged arm. We need to get her to a healer, and soon.

Eruviel shook her head. “Giving Faethril a body will not make her love Delostor. And he does not love her.”

“If we give them the dragon, we must return home for it…” Eirikr looked at Eruviel. “What are you talking about?”

Esthyr crossed her arms. “Fine.”

Eruviel could feel Parmanen’s eyes as he watched her and Eirikr closely and with a look of concentration. Did the air around him cool? Be careful. For all you know he could freeze every one of us.

Eruviel looked to Eirikr. “About Faethril or Delostor?”

“Both.”

“Faethril never mentioned Delostor. Not once. It was always Aeron. The last time I saw her face it was when we thought we had killed her and she looked peaceful. Trapping the spirit of a woman one can never posses, then forcing her into the body of another is not love. It is want, and possessive, and wicked,” she says, turning her gaze to Parmanen. It was all a sick, twisted mess. Anyatka being used by this man, Lôm agreeing for, if nothing else, the love of her father, the danger that those she loved had been in for the past two years….

“Then we kill them and go home,” said Eirikr.

Gaelyn spoke up then. “That seems unnecessary.” Hallem nodded in agreement with him.

Eruviel continued to watch the older man with a wary expression as Eirikr looked over at Gaelyn. “We have no jail to hold a sorcerer.”

Parmanen raised his bound hands and suddenly the surface of the lake surged. A wave of water rose and crashed toward them.

She had wanted to try and save him. Ever since reading his journal she had wanted to try and find a way to, in the least,  give the old Parmanen a chance to overpower the Black Numenorean that had been put in him all those years ago. She had tried, and failed. What if he now escaped? How many more lives would he hurt and ruin? The water rushing in, Eruviel drew back on her bowstring, and fired her arrow at the sorcerer.

It was a clean shot, aimed at the man’s heart. But a shout that did not come from one of her friends rose, and as the wave hit them, Lômiphel threw herself in front of her father.

The wave gone, Parmanen struggled to sit up, but the weight of Lômiphel pinned him down. Harsh, rasping gasps for breath fill the air, and Eruviel saw her arrow sticking out of the woman. “Help her! Please!” cried the older man as he tried to get up again.

Gaelyn rushed forward, and Eruviel with him. She glanced to one side. Good, Eirikr is all right. He has Anya…“Esthyr!”

Esthyr stalked over to them all, cursing under her breath.

Parmanen suddenly looked not like a wicked sorcerer, but like a scared old man.

Esthyr squatted down to inspect the woman, and sighed. “Her lung is punctured, and her scapula likely shattered. If we were in Bree, I might be able to do something, but I don’t think she can survive this. I can’t remove the arrow without tearing even more.”

Eruviel, keeping out of her way, knelt down beside Esthyr, her face pale. “She wouldn’t survive the trip back?” Parmanen let his head fall back against the dirt and closed his eyes.

Esthyr pursed her lips as she looked down at Lomiphel. “She’s not going to survive for even a few more minutes.” She looked at Parmanen. “Whatever you want to say, old man, say it now.”

Damn… damn, damn, damn…. Eruviel put her hands on either side of Lom’s head. It was the least she could do. “Lom?”

Gaelyn frowned deeply. “Shit…”

Esthyr squatted down to mop at Lomiphel’s brow in a vain attempt to make her somewhat more comfortable.

Lômiphel didn’t respond. The breaths came slower; her eyes hardly open. It hit Eruviel like a charging beast. Pouring calm and comfort into the young woman’s body, her own suddenly screamed as if muscles had been torn, and her lung felt heavy and on fire. Something was shattered, she could feel the fever and infection from Lom’s arm, and to top it off Eruviel could feel her body weaken as the life drained from the young woman’s body.

Esthyr reached into her pouch. “I have some valerian leaves. It will at least ease a little of the pain before she goes.” Esthyr tried to open Lomiphel’s mouth, and deposited a few of the leaves under her tongue.

Parmanen spat out between gritted teeth, “Just kill us. End her suffering.”

Eruviel continued holding Lomiphel’s head, her features pale, looking somewhere between tears and being sick. Esthyr stayed as well, mopping at Lomiphel’s brow.

“Please,” Parmanen begged as Lômiphel struggled to breathe. “Don’t let her suffer.”

Eruviel shook her head. “S-She has no pain….”

“I can pull out the arrow,” Esthyr offered. “That would probably knock her out…” Esthyr leaned down to check Lômiphel’s breath. Lômiphel coughed, spattering Esthyr’s cheek with blood.  Not seeming to care, Esthyr firmly gripped the arrow shaft where it protruded from Lomiphel. But her hand relaxed when she felt the woman’s chest go still.

Eruviel let out a quiet, pained gasp as she felt the life leave Lômiphel’s body, and quickly drew her hands back. Out of the corner of her eyes she could see Parmanen tremble. No one, not even a man like him, should have to suffer the loss of a child.

What felt like several minutes passed before Eirikr picked up Anya. “Bring them both. We can deal with this at home. For now, let us get further away to a place we can safely camp.”
Gaelyn, Eruviel, and Esthyr all moved to take up Lom’s body, but it was Eruviel who ended up bearing the young woman in her arms.

“Gaelyn?” sounded Eirikr’s voice with surprising gentleness. She couldn’t bear to look at him. Not any of them.

“…Huh?”

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

Gaelyn? Had he and … Oh, Valar…. And she thought she had felt ill before. Cradling the deceased woman’s body, Eruviel’s gaze grew distant as she played those few seconds over and over in her head. She couldn’t save any of them, could she? Not Lom, not the warg woman in Rohan, not Ni —

They walked on, following Eirikr’s lead.

“Look, you can’t blame yourself,” said Esthyr as she walked beside her, supporting Parmanen’s weight. “She chose to do that.”

You made your choice, and she made hers.

The pain still singing through her limbs, Eruviel offered a single, agonizing nod.

 

((Taken from in-game RP, 3/12/2016. Edited for tense, point of view, and exposition. Thank you to Cwendlwyn for the lot, and for playing as Eirikr, Anyatka, Lomiphel, and Parmanen!))

Innocent Heart: Guilty

“Hold on! I’m coming. I’m coming,” Feira insisted, pattering down the steps to the main level.

“How long have you been home?” asked Torrin from the kitchen. “You usually have started supper by now.”

Smoothing out her skirts, Feira quickly checked the laces on her corset and pulled her long hair over her shoulders. Just in case. “Sorry! Sorry. You know me. I got distracted reading.”

The man chuckled as he fed several logs to the fire. “You and your –” Torrin stopped as he turned, and stared at her for a second.

“Fei? Are you all right?”

Try not ta look too guilty!

Feira stood a little straighter, silently cursing her cheeks as she felt them flush a shade pinker. “I-I’m fine! Really! Why would you ask?” she inquired as she forced herself to retrieve a pan from a low cupboard.

Her brother watched her, his brows knitting together. “You look flushed. It’s been ages since you’ve been sick. Do you have a fever?”

Swallowing hard, Feira kept her amber eyes locked on her working hands. “It’s nothing to worry about, Torrin. Just… the night air, or something.”

Huffing, he strode across the small cooking space and pressed a hand to her forehead before she could protest. “Oi! You feel too warm! Tell me the truth, Faerie,” insisted Torrin. “When did this start?”

“It’s — I’m fine, honest!” As much truth as possible. You’re a terrible fibber. “Started a little before noon, I think. Went out for a walk and just felt… out of breath.”

Torrin frowned, his features strained with concern, and he kept on feeling her face as if doing so would make the heat go away. “And here I am expecting you to have supper ready after you’ve worked hard all day.”

Feira managed a timid smile. “I-I haven’t done all that much, really. I can still ma –”

“No!” Torrin exclaimed, pulling her into a protective hug. “I’ll make supper tonight. Gods! You are warm. Poor Faerie. You run upstairs and rest.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, giving him a guilty look.

“I insist! Oh, don’t — don’t give me that look. You deserve a rest,” he said with a curt nod. “I’ll bring food up to you when it’s ready.

Giving him an apologetic smile, Feira accepted a kiss on the forehead. “Thanks, Tor. Don’t make anything too fancy, okay?”

He shooed her off and she obeyed, heading back for the stairs. Glancing back she couldn’t help but feel bad as he turned to roll up his sleeves and face the kitchen. “Oh, I’m sure there is a way to make water boil….”

Bittersweet: Red

Faethril screamed, this time in pain, as the molten metal directed by Anric’s expert kick to the vat covered her. The jewelry was coated in the hot plasma. They were destroyed, melting beneath the heat, and Faethril lost substance. The gems in each piece burst, her face took on a strange look of serenity and then, just like that, she was gone. In that moment, Anya fell to her knees as if struck.

“They’re… she’s gone,” said the young woman as she stared past red waves of hair at the dirt between her hands.

Eruviel placed a hand softly on Anya’s back. “How do you feel, oselle?”

Anyatka turned her light grey eyes up to look at her. “I…I feel so light.”

Eruviel’s eyes snapped open. She could still smell the deer meat and savory gravy from the pie lingering in the warm air of the house. Drawing a deep breath she sat up in the oversized chair filling one corner of her bedroom, mindful of the puppy that slept on her feet.

It had been two years since the Red Pass. Two years since she had sat in Ost Guruth holding Anya’s hand as a healer had stitched up the young woman’s back. Two years, and they were no closer to being rid of Faethril, and Parmanen.

Reaching down beside her chair, she lifted the red wine bottle with her seal on it’s side, and frowned. She had forgotten that she had finished it earlier. A shame. She liked that vintage. The same that they had almost gotten drunk on a year ago….

“I should be moving out soon. Regardless of breaking ground on the expansion. You need your space back, and my siblings need me there.”

Frowning, Eruviel adjusted the sash of her long, black and gold silk night robe. Glancing to the glow of firelight that could be seen past the cracked open door, she scooped up the puppy who had by now awoken to gaze expectantly up at her.

Anyatka, Anyatka, she repeated to herself, attempting to focus on the more pressing matter at hand instead of the ache that tightened in her chest. It was not the impending departure, but the stoic expression he wore as he’d said it that made her suddenly wonder if it had all just been —  Eruviel shook her head violently. Such a fool. She was being as ridiculous as her oselle. She had overstepped her bounds before, and would not do so again. She would do nothing, for it was not her place, and it was the right thing to do. She was sure of it.

Curling up in the chair with her puppy, the Elf closed her eyes. What would I do without you, my little friend? Getting tackled then tossed about by a six and a half foot, two hundred and eighty pound man had left her exhausted. It was not good for her to dwell on such matters when in such a state. She would need all of her energy for when they left in the morning to go hunt for their lost sister. Anders would get the message by morning and, Valar willing, they would meet Anya half way to the horse farms.

Resting her head on the arm of the chair, Eruviel let out a long, quiet sigh. She drew away beyond the house and the distant memory of his arms, beyond Durrow, and Bree-land till the woods and fields filled with colors and faded. Then all was dark as night, and she slowly emptied herself till all that remained was a luminous star-like being that hovered alone in the blue-black void, filled with gladness, and peace, and purpose.

Dear, foolish, selfish oselle. Be smart. Be safe.

Orome, please… please let us find her first.

 

((Two years since all the fun at ‘Through the Red Pass‘!))

Stealing From The Wrong Men

“What do you mean there are more?” Ildric whispered incredulously.

Frank ducked his head as a sentry passed by their hiding spot. His eyes were lined with worry, and Ildric wondered if the boy had slept at all in the past days. “I mean,” he whispered back after a few seconds had passed, “that another company rode in early this evening.”

“Same group?”

“I don’t think so. Trade off of goods.”

Ildric growled under his breath. “Piss. I don’t see the wagon. The witch go after it?”

Frank shook his head, and glanced back at the woods behind them. “She’d gone back before the first group had even gotten here.”

The man glared angrily at the brigand encampment in the ruins a short distance away. “I’ll kill every last one of ’em if that wagon makes it to Angmar, and then I’ll have words with that bloody Elf. Needs to get her head out of her ass. We’re outnumbered as it is.”

“Your men are all in place. You could make it work with –”

“Fifteen to forty? Yeah, we could, but we have no damned archers worth their salt, and this lot is a lot tougher than the usual crowd. Seriously, Burns, when I get my hands on her –”

The air around them shifted, though Ildric couldn’t put his finger on it. There was no change in the brigand camp as the men settled down for the night, and no unease amongst the animals tied up on the far side of the crumbling stone wall. Lifting his head, he looked to where his own men waited, watching for his signal to attack.

Then he heard it. Softer than a sigh, the sound of a breath passed overhead, and an arrow suck in the center fire. Ildric blinked, taken aback. A second dragged by before he suddenly shoved Frank’s head down and covered both their eyes.

Light exploded around them. As soon as it began to fade Ildric was on his feet running, and a shadow flew past him. The four sentries on their side of the camp dropped, arrows sticking up from their corpses. Ildric drew his sword from his back, and let out a high-pitched whistle. His men rushed out from their hiding places, and looking back to the ruins, the brigands were scrambling for boots, writhing from having been blinded, and the Elf was cutting down the first man running at her. She disarmed the second brigand, kicking him back to be subject to Ildric’s blade, then parrying a third man’s axe to the side and into the dirt, she slammed her elbow into the brigand’s throat.

“What about my head being in my ass?” she called back to him, firelight showing a mischievous smirk.

“Took you long enough!”

Eruviel grinned as she fired another quick succession of arrows into the brigands blindly scrambling for their weapons, then dodged an attacker’s punch.

Motioning to Hill, Ildric plowed into the first man to run at him. He was angry — nay, furious. The illegal goods were nothing if they didn’t stop that wagon. They had to. The ruins were a chaotic mess of half-blind brigands, and several of them exploded into flames as arrows whizzed past Ildric’s head to find their homes in the chests of criminals.

Criminals. Ildric grit his teeth as he fought back a lanky, scrappy man. A few more years and he would be too old for this. Taking hold of an arm that had grabbed him from behind, Ildric swung a man around and into his opponent, sending them both crashing into a tent. Affording himself a second, he looked around to see the fight turning in their favor. Another, lesser flash of light in the corner of his vision before the Elf went tumbling across the compound, and Ildric was back fending off the lanky man’s dual blades.

Just one shot, he thought as he struggled to force his opponent back. Just one… A cry went up, and the thin man faltered just long enough for Ildric to bring his fist smashing into the man’s throat. He dropped to his knees, and kicking his weapons out of his hands, Ildric snatched him up by the neck.

“Where is he?!” he snarled, shaking the dazed brigand.

“Where — Where is who?” rasped the man as he grabbed at his throat.

Ildric glanced around as his men rounded up the surviving brigands. “Koss! Where is he?!” He shook the man harder, making him gasp desperately for breath.

“You should learn to ask nicely,” said a voice from behind him.

Looking over his shoulder, Eruviel, looking a bit roughed up, shoved a man a head taller than her and at least twice her weight forward. Koss grunted and dropped to the ground, and Ildric couldn’t tell if he was pissed because the Elf had his axe, or because a female had beaten him in a fist-fight.

Frank had joined them as soon as the fighting had stopped, and was quietly discussing with the Elf on the best way to break into her house if no one was home. Ildric rolled his eyes and shoved his prisoner into Hall’s waiting hands. “How far ahead is the wagon?” he asked, turning to tower over the large man.

“What’s it to you?”

“You took some things of value from us,” said Ildric with a growl as he leaned down, “and we want them back.”

Koss scoffed and spat at him. “Go to the Pit.”

Ildric let out a long breath, then punched Koss in the head, making the man’s head bounce off the old stones beneath them. “You stole from the wrong men. I’ll ask again. How far ahead is the wagon?”

Koss gritted his teeth. The man looked like he was about to retch. “Ha — Half a day… Half a day at the most.”

Standing upright, he turned to face the half dozen surviving brigands. “Seems we have no time to waste, then. Hill?”

Hill stood a little straighter, and nodded. “Vrax?”

“You and Frank take this skinny one into Bree for his bounty. Hill, you can meet back up with us. Albohr? You take ten and escort these men and their goods to the outpost. Reed will deal with them from there. And if any of you get ideas about causin’ trouble,” Ildric added with a growl, looking to the prisoners in turn, “I’ll let the witch eat you.”

“Till I Wake.”

By the gods, his head hurt. Forcing his eyes open he stared at where his halberd lay embedded in one broken half of the low table. How had it gotten there? And why was the table broken? Blinking did not clear the haze in his vision, and a heavy sigh deflated his chest as he looked to his hands resting in his lap.

Where in the bloody realm was Halethon? The young man was supposed to be back, well, he did not rightly know what time it was, but he should have been back by now. Peldirion had paced half the previous night after his conversation with Laerlin. He should accept her help. Hell, he should have accepted Alduial’s help, but that would be him admitting he needed it. That it was all spiraling out of control.

Sliding off of the edge of the bed, the man tensed as his bare skin touched the cold stone floor. Blessed cold. Everything was too hot. The baths, his bed, everything. Wearing nothing but the towel around his waist he was still too warm. He was thirsty, and angry, and tired, and… So wonderfully cold.

His eyelids drooped shut as he slumped over to lay on the floor. It helped his headache at least, but as tired as Peldirion was he would not go back to sleep. He had tried, but the now cold sweat that covered his body, and the broken table stood as testament to how well that had worked. He did not want to watch Megorin die again, to see the life leave the traitor’s eyes, to see Adrovorn’s broken body in the fields of blood, or to see her betrayal over and over with no way to make it stop.

Peldirion’s eyes slowly opened once more and he watched the halberd from where he lay. He watched the stained, emerald green silk ribbon bound to the shaft sway lazily from a draft. He should have left it at his brother’s grave when she gave it to him. Damned Elf. He did not want the responsibility that came with wielding that weapon. He did not want to want the weight he felt it put on his shoulders. Laying there in just his skin he wondered if the weight would crush him, alone in a city he loathed simply because it caged him, away from his men and the sea….

The sound of hinges creaking reached his ears. No decency to oil the bloody hinges.

“… Sir?”

Peldirion turned his head to look to the door. “Where have you been?”

The hopeful smile on Halethon’s face melted away, and he closed the door behind him. “I was meeting with someone… How bad was it?”

“Bad,” Peldirion rumbled as he sat up to lean back against the bed. He licked his lips. “Water?”

Halethon squared his jaw, and nodded. Folding the open letter in his hand the younger man made his way around the broken table towards the other side of the room.

“What is the letter?”

“Good news.” Halethon glanced over his shoulder at the table, then his captain sitting on the floor.

“Well, out with it, then,” said Peldirion, grunting as he rose to his feet long enough to sit on the mattress.

“Later.”

“Now.”

Halethon pulled something out of his pocket, and a few moments later he was turning with a glass of water in his hand. “Later… sir. First, drink and get some sleep.”

Peldirion narrowed his eyes at his lieutenant as he accepted the glass. “No sleep. Not after that.”

Halethon met his look and shook his head. “You will sleep,” he said quietly. “No dreams. You have my word. Good news can wait till you wake.”

Looking to the glass in his hand Peldirion nodded once, and downed the water. He then lifted the empty vessel in a toast. “Till I wake.”

Questions and Faces

“You poor, suffering soul,” he joked. Then more seriously, “I only notice because I was there to see it. Complain all you want, you’re no less lovely because of it.” It was true, of course. Alduial’s formerly perfectly straight nose now boasted the smallest crook. So small he wagered that only those who had known about her injury noticed.

“Well that is very kind of you,” she replied, not insincerely and with a faint hint of flattery. “But all I wanted was to leave behind a perfectly beautiful corpse and I fear now it shall be unpleasantly flawed. It stings of course, having it taken away from you, control over your own destiny I mean.”

She pulled his hand from the water, running her fingers over it one more time before drying it off. “How are things with you? Now that we have thoroughly analyzed my predicament. You look… tired.”

His shoulders relaxed some as he let her work. “I haven’t been sleeping well. It is nothing unusual, though.”

“Well that will not do. How can you expect to defend me on the walls if you are tired?” Alduial asked, joking, gently setting his fingers on fresh splints. “I can give you a draught for it, but I take it this is some usual thing. Do you know the cause?”

Peldirion frowned and nodded. “I think so. It has been going off and on for several years. This last summer I hardly slept for three months.”

“So what is the cause? Speaking to me as both a healer and a friend of course,” she clarified.

The man’s usual stern expression slowly slid back into place as his eyes darted away. “It is all in my head, I think. You can say it was brought on by a number of things, loss being the chief among them.”

“You know I have been reading up on soldier’s heart recently,” she mused over his hand. “It is a fascinating condition whereby men, afflicted with great fear of battle develop physical symptoms as of the sick. Heart palpitations, insomnia, waking nightmares…” She trailed off thoughtfully.

“My Master, Master Nestin, believes the affliction is caused by a defect of spirit, simple cowardice. But I have been thinking… some men seem to be overwhelmed by similar symptoms even when they have never seen battle. So what if it is a blood disease, carried on families, spurred on by some unhappiness. Any unhappiness really.”

Defect of spirit, simple cowardice, unhappiness… Peldirion tensed, and grunted. “It is possible, I suppose.”

“I mean, we can certainly not discuss it if you prefer,” she said, idly, winding gauze over his fingers. “But I think you would prefer to sleep, would you not? I mean, is it only the insomnia or is there anything else?”

“How much longer till the hand is fully mended?” he asked, his tone quiet and careful as he ignored her question.

“A week until we can be sure there is no damage, you cannot rush these things. Do you have waking nightmares? Any trembling?” she inquired smoothly, keeping hold of his hand while she worked to prevent flight.

The muscles in his left forearm flexed for a moment as he resisted the sudden urge to wrench it away, and Peldirion gave his steady, bandaged hand a calculating look. “I can manage a week longer. When would be a good day for me to come back?”

“Peldirion,” she said in a soft, serious voice, making eye-contact with him. “Are you trying to run away from me without talking about your concerns?”

“No,” he said seriously as he looked back at her. “I’m going to walk away without talking about them.”

“You have acknowledged them already. That is the first step to getting help. And you do need help, whether you want it or not,” Alduial continued, holding fast to his wrist. “If you go into battle tired you will fall needlessly and what if the rest of us survive? Who will go back and save Pelargir?”

Her grip made his chest tighten, and suddenly it was not her eyes looking at him. He pulled back his arm as much as she would allow without tearing it from her grip. “If you all survive then Halethon will go back and do a good enough job of it.”

She kept hold of his wrist, an unusually intense look in her eyes. “And if you cannot hold the wall below what then? If fatigue gets the better of you and you falter what will become of Halethon and the rest?” She asked seriously, leaning over the table to keep hold of his arm. “What are you afraid of?”

Peldirion’s upper lip curled as he glared at her. At the faces that had replaced hers. Leave me! Not now. Not while I’m awake…. “I have managed before, I will again. Now if you will release me I will leave and let you go back to helping those who need it more.”

“I am just going to back to the lower ward and do you not think I would rather stay here where the air is warm a little longer,” she countered, still looking at him intently. “You must accept my aid now or I will haunt your steps like a ghost until you do.”

He looked back at her, showing no signs of relenting. “Then you will be in good company with the rest. I thank you for the offer,” he said carefully, attempting to reign himself in, “but I want… need no aid.”

She released his arm. “You are lying to me, clearly. And I do not care for it. Your hand will heal on its own but is your pride really worth this hovering unpleasantness?”

A brief look of relief escaped him as she let him go, and he pulled the hand back and out of her reach. The knot in his chest remained, however, even as the faces faded away. “The only unpleasantness, madam, is that you are pressuring me to speak about things I do not wish to.”

“I only want to help you, consider it repayment for the fighting lessons,” she replied, standing from her seat and examining him. “Return next week and I will see to the bandaging. You should think on it though…”

Rising to his feet, Peldirion nodded. “I will, though you have already helped me,” he said, lifting his bandaged left hand as he forced himself to take a calming breath. “I will be back in a week. I hope you find some time to rest as well.”

“The hand is my job, your head is more of a hobby,” she said, still eyeing him seriously. “There is no shame in being sick, no matter where it comes from, you know.”

Peldirion struggled to find the right words as a headache slowly came upon him.”I am not much of a hobbyist. Enjoy your day, Healer.” He gave her a curt bow and turned to leave… or maybe to flee, though he would never admit it. Her parting words fell on nearly deaf ears. He was tired… exhausted. The world was growing too warm, but if it was not her badgering here, it was Halethon’s concerned looks at the Guest House. No, he needed somewhere quiet, and cool where he could rest for an hour or two away from questions and faces.

(( Thank you to Raenarcam for Alduial! Conversation taken from RP and edited for tense and composition.))