Month: April 2016

Anecdotes: Safe

Feira ducked into the churning crowds in the Court of the Fount. Clutching her basket close, she cast a frightened look over her shoulder.

She had seen them as she was finishing her errands for the estate. What do they want?! She knew what they wanted. They had most likely let her spot them on purpose. Then she would tell Torrin, and their message would have been sent for them. Pay up, or else.

Fastening a kerchief over her golden head of hair as many of the female shopkeepers did, Feira skirted around a cluster of sailors, then around the other way past a gaggle of ladies who had come to indulge in the festivities. She spotted them on the far side of the great court, the young dockworker from the market, and the man with the crooked nose. She let out a breath in relief to see that they had lost her.

Careful not to rush or shove past the festival-goers, Feira wove through the throng, heading straight for the tall gates and hedges where she knew she would be safe.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An excited thrill coursed through Jade as she began gathering the few things in her room at the Mantle that she owned. Yes, in truth she would miss it, but the pleasant ache that lingered in her muscles told her it would not be much.

The door to her room slammed shut behind her. The smell of potent men’s cologne, cloves, and burnt flesh assaulted her nose. Jade did not trust her initial expression, and so continued folding her silk night robe, back still turned to the dark, wiry man who waited five, six… paces away.

“Running away again?”

His voice turned her stomach. “Taking a holiday,” she responded, tone aloof and cold as she felt her walls easily slip back up into place. Perhaps too easily. “We both know it would be worse if I tried to.”

The man’s chuckle crawled over her skin. A dart of heat brushed past her cheek, and burned a small hole in the wall. “It took me a while to find you. I like the haircut.”

Jade fit the robe into her satchel, and kept her hand concealed as she found the weapon hidden within. “You always did prefer fair-faced little boys.”

A strong hand slipped around her neck, and the trickle of electricity meant to shock her as a warning just flowed in to dissipate in her throat. “They were right,” he said after a minute. “How fascinating. And your pulse is as steady as ever. Whenever Talagol is able to travel and find this little hole in the world we should catch up.” A bony finger brushed at the brand behind her ear as if to remind her, then pulled away. “Don’t go far, dear Inaris. I will see you in a few months.”

The door opened and closed quietly behind her. Drawing a shaky breath, Jade waited, listening to the sound of footsteps fade. There was silence, then her heart leapt into a race within her chest as she slowly peeled her fingers away from the hilt of her dagger.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Warmth drained out of the gash in her side and her neck. Her arm screamed in pain as she fought blindly, attempting to dodge the punches that forced her body to suck in the stagnate water she was trapped beneath. Something tore at her leg. Panic rose as her lungs burned, and screams went unheard as the weight of the orc clawing at her breastplate pressed her further into the muck.

Darkness, just like before. No hands to pull her up. No hands to drag her to safety, or help her find her feet. Only the desperate will to live as, once again, the cruel claws of orcs forced her back into the suffocating black.

Eruviel shot upright in her bedroll, gasping in the fresh air that flowed through her tent, and pressed a palm against the throbbing wound on her thigh. Choking on a silent sob she lay back, weight on her good leg as she faced the unused bed beside hers that was littered with rocks. Lifting silent thanks that there was no one there in the dark to see her, she groped above her head till her hands found her broken bow. She clutched the last remnants of her brother to her chest. The Elf curled up, closed her eyes and pushed back the sudden wave of loneliness.

She willed warmth into her limbs, and passed beyond the ruined walls of Ost Guruth. Back she went in her mind, north and west till strong arms held her safely after infinitely worse days, and the words of Fionwe and Milloth mixed and melded together.

Look around you, look around you, dear little sister. Look around you and find strength. I am here. It is never so dark when you see the faces of those you love. It is never so dark when you create your own light.

Our Son

Belegorn lounged back in his seat along the wall in the main council chamber. All the paperwork had been signed by the proper parties, notarized, and the older man gave a sigh of relief as he watched his only remaining son deal with the noblemen in his stead.

No more games aside from those he chose, no more weighing the balance of power that had scattered like leaves since the corsairs had attacked the city. His things at the estate were packed, and his wife was in an enraged tizzy, trying to undo what could not be undone. Life was good.

One of the lords shouted, and Belegorn did not need to look up to know that it was Lord Bentley. Peldirion would have his hands full with that one, but he worried little. He had had his doubts, but his son handled the bickering and power plays better than anticipated. Though Belegorn had often caught him lost in thought since returning home hale and mostly whole, a new energy drove the boy. He worked every waking hour, and his new steward worked when he slept.

Before returning from Minas Tirith and calling the meeting, Peldirion had already made deals and new alliances with the lords overseeing the rebuilding, and the great harbor, bringing them into the fold. One way or another he had ensured that all the other lords had no choice but to cooperate. One by one he played them, and most of them knew it. Thirty of the fourty-seven main houses were now in the young Captain’s camp, as well as nineteen of the lesser houses who supported the others. Belegorn chuckled lowly as the more agreeable lords suddenly found courage to stand up to the few who could care less if the city united. On top of that, half of the houses were indebted to the young man for either giving the sons they pretended not to want honorable deaths, or returned them to their families alive and (mostly) whole.

Peldirion was in the middle of listening to one of the lords empty threats when Gwaeldis stepped in a side entrance. She slammed the door shut, and a number if the nobles shot the stocky woman mixed looks, but the new Lord Calaer did not do so much as acknowledge her presence.

“Hello, wife.”

Gwaeldis stopped beside him, glaring, and sniffed with a superior lift of her chin. “Call me that again, and I will divorce you.”

“Oh, come now, dear. You know you never would.”

“I may try my luck. You cannot seriously be going through with this!” Her face turned red, though not so quite as red as when her son had destroyed years of her plotting the day he had returned home. By Emeleth, he loved that boy.

Belegorn smiled pleasantly up at her. “I already have. It is done.”

“You… You traitor! How could you do this to me?! I had plans –”

“Poorly made plans,” replied the old lord calmly as he looked back to the meeting still taking place.

Your son will ruin everything!”

Our son will remake this House that you were slowly tearing apart. I must say though, wife, that I am impressed how tactfully you stole my barge from me. Is Lord Obrech enjoying it?”

Too flustered, she sat with an attempt at elegance in the chair next to him. “Lothiel wishes to speak with your son when he is done here.”

Belegorn grunted. “You mean you and her have arranged to corner him?”

Gwaeldis huffed, feigning offense. “So how long do we have? Surely the ungrateful boy will leave us destitute.”

“You do not deserve my son,” replied Belegorn, chuckling. “He and I have it all arranged. The villa north of the city is ours, and on top of keeping it fully staffed we will be receiving a biannual allowance for expenditure.”

“An… an allowance?!” she shrieked. The lords looked to her again, and Belegorn could have sworn he’d seen a smirk flicker across his son’s face.

“It is called retirement, Gwaeldy. It will be a nice change of pace for us.”

She trembled like an angry hen fluffing up her feathers. How he loved pissing her off.

“Now, kiss me, wife, and run along home to get your things packed. We start moving tomorrow.”

Her eyes that he had at one time likened to that of a gentle doe fixed on him as if willing him to burst into flames. The former Lady of House Calaer, her reputation having slowly fallen into ruin, dared not refuse Belegorn before nearly every noble of the city. Gwaeldis pecked a quick, proud kiss against his lips, and pivoted to scuttle from the chamber.

Bravery: Nelson Leafcutter

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“Nelson.”

Wha–!” Nelson Leafcutter nearly lept out of his skin, and the stack of letters bound for Ravenhold flew out of his hands like birds from a cage.

Willoric lifted a hand to shield himself from the cascade of paper. “Why’d you shout?”

“By the –” Nelson scampered about the street, snatching up letters before the breeze could. “Don’t do that, Will! You nearly scared me to death.”

The Hobbit blinked. “Wha’d ya mean? I’ve been walkin’ by ya the whole time.”

Nelson frowned. “Since when?”

“Since the Post? Think all that readin’s dried your brain,”said Willoric, taking off after an escaped envelope.

Nelson made a face and took a moment to straighten his robes. “Sorry,” he muttered, counting the letters to make sure they were all there. He then glanced to the Hobbit, wondering if he hadn’t meant to frighten him from the start. “Where are you headed?”

“Same place you are,” Will replied with a shrug, licking his lips.

Most likely going to lift food from the kitchens.

“This should be the last of ’em.”

Nelson accepted the letter with a grateful nod. Turning to walk back up the road he set the letter on top of the stack… then beneath it… then began to alphabetize the pile by the name of the receiver. “Will you be heading out with the others in a few days?”

“S’pose so.” The hobbit prattled on, but the sound grew muddled and distant to Nelson’s ears.

Feygil, Gaelyn, Hallem, Lichen, Lichen, Lichen….

“You organizin’ them by first or last names?”

Nelson blinked, then sighed, and started all over. “Well, be safe when you go.”

Willoric glanced up at him. “You’re not goin’?”

Nelson stood a little straighter, as if better posture aided by his true height might somehow aid him in his excuses. “No, not this time. Ms. Lichen has a lot on her plate, and I’m needed here.” How he loathed field work. Rain ruined books, and dust could harm the condition of the tomes he might decide to take, because of course he couldn’t NOT take books, and then what would Nallo think of him if he couldn’t even protect literature? It was bad enough that he dropped the letters all over the place, but he’d be disgraced if he went to the Lone Lands and wound up with all his books ruined. Not to mention the risk of Orcs burning them, or Goblins stealing and — Oh, Cor, they might tear the pages out!

“Nelson?”

What?” he squeaked, then gasped as he realized he had been holding his breath as his thoughts had begun to spiral out of control.

Will smiled. “There ya go.”

“Oy! To your right!”

The man and hobbit moved off to the side of the road as a wagon clattered up the cobbles behind them, driven by Brock Thornley.

“Good day, Mister Thornley!” called the Hobbit.

Nelson nodded politely, hardly glancing up from the letters.

“‘allo. Hey, Nels. One of the horses got out again.”

“Why tell me? Why didn’t you go get her?” Nelson felt his stomach twist as he caught sight of one escaped letter right as a wagon wheel ran it over.

Brock shrugged, and pulled the length of straw from the corner of his mouth to point at the horses. “Workin’.” He then lifted a hand in farewell and tapped the reigns on the horses’ rumps.

Nelson shook himself as he watched Brock drive off, then went to retrieve the poor, trampled envelope from the middle of the road. “Will, would you mind –” He stopped when he turned and found Willoric gone. “Oh… blast.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Letters safely stowed in one of his cavernous pockets, Nelson trudged out of the gates of Durrow. He heard the horse before he saw it, and chastised himself for not thinking to grab a lead rope… or an apple, or something.

Just over the first southerly hillock, the young man saw Peppermint grazing at the edge of a field. The spotted pony appeared all too pleased with herself, and Nelson filed through his memory on the best way to reclaim a runaway horse.

Snagging up a fistful of long, green grass, he slowly approached the pony, thanking his luck when he saw she still wore a halter.

“Here, Peppermint! Come, girl.”

The pony nickered and pranced around him.

Nelson sighed. Big animals always made him nervous, and this one wanted to play. Perfect. “Come on, pretty pony. Here’s some grass. Yum, yum!” Valar, please don’t let anyone see this.Here, Peppermint…”

Peppermint tossed her mane, and trotted over to indulge in the offering of pre-picked grass.

Taking hold of her halter, Nelson led her away from the farm and back towards the road. “That’s a good girl. Why are you causing trouble?” he said quietly, petting the pony’s cheek as she munched on the last bite of grass.

This really wasn’t all so terrible. If all field work was like this he thought he could manage. It was rediculous, how proud he was that he’d gone and fetched the stray animal. Maybe Amelia would be at the stables. He’d walk in with Peppermint, and she’d smile… maybe even hug him for — oh, but who was he kidding? There was nothing brave whatsoever about going to fetch a horse that probably would have come home on it’s own.

The answer was there. Field work. He’d have to get his hands dirty if he was to show how brave he was… And that would put him in good standing with Nallo, wouldn’t it? The scholar had gone to Moria of all places, hadn’t he? Nelson gazed wistfully down the path towards the gate, Peppermint plodding along beside him. Moria sounded horrid and dank. No place at all for books… but then again, there might be Dwarven tomes. Who knows what old writings might be rediscovered in the far places if someone would just look? Then he’d get to see Amelia shoot her bow all the time, and Nallo would ask him to help at Stonebluff! Yes… yes, field work just might be it. The next trip… or the one after, depending on the destination, of course.

Peppermint pulled against Nelson’s arm as a thick patch of spring grass caught her eye. “No, no, Peppermint. I have to get you back. Ms. Lichen needs these letters, and I need to feed Amelia. No! I mean, my Amelia — I mean! My… not yours — ours… Oh, come on, Peppermint!”

Innocent Heart: Ghosts

 

“Faerie, look at me.”

Feira didn’t respond as she scrubbed the already clean counter-top.

Torrin sighed heavily and rubbed at his eyes. “Feira… Feira, please. It’s well past midnight. What in Emeleth’s name is going on?”

She shook her head and took up a towel to dry the lacquered wood.

“… Did someone stop by?”

Feira nodded.

Frowning, Torrin stepped forward in a swift motion, meaning to stop her furious working but froze as she shrunk away from his hand like a frightened animal. “What’s wrong?”

Turning her tear-stained face towards him, she brushed a hand at her flushed cheeks, and her brother could make out the beginnings of shadows under her eyes. “A man stopped by,” she said quietly. “He said that they would come collecting in two months.” Feira looked up at him. “Tell me the truth, Torrin.”

The young man’s chest deflated. “Shit.”

Feira’s small hands balled into fists. “T-That’s and un-understatement,” she muttered, voice breaking up from fear and anger. “What did you do?”

Torrin groaned in frustration. “Our lovely aunt has apparently borrowed money in my name.”

Feira blinked, staring at him with wide eyes.

“I’ve already tried to talk to the lender. They don’t care that it wasn’t really me. It’s in my name, and they want the money repaid. I didn’t –”

“You weren’t going to tell me, were you?” she asked accusingly, interrupting him.

Torrin shook his head.

“How much is owed?”

Her brother hesitated. A minute passed before he drew out a notice from his pocket and handed it over.

Feira’s eyes grew wide as she read the figure, and her hands gripped the paper. “So much?”

Torrin’s face turned pale as he fixed his gaze on his socked feet.

“… Do you know who it was that came by?”

His eyebrows drew together in a dark frown. “He didn’t… Did you recognize him?”

“Some faces are hard to forget.”

“Gods, Faerie… You poor thing. I’m so — I didn’t think. I didn’t think.” Looking pained, he reached for her again, slowly this time. “What one was it?”

She pulled away, this time out of fear of her own reaction than from being touched. But he kept his arm outstretched, and she relented, finally allowing him to pull her into a protective embrace. “The one with the broken nose,” she muttered timorously.

Torrin’s arms around her tightened, and she wondered if it was to hold her tighter, or from anger. “If you see him… any of them again you tell me. They so much as threaten you I’ll –”

“You won’t do either of us any good if you’re thrown in jail or killed,” she muttered, sniffing as moisture welled in her eyes. “We are safe here. We won’t have to worry if they try to cause trouble on the Lord’s property.”

Several minutes passed before Torrin again spoke. “I don’t want you out at night.”

“But –”

NO. You will be on the estate before sunset,” he ordered sternly, gripping her arms and forcing her to look at him. “You tell me if you’re being followed, or even if you think you’re being watched.”He hugged her again. “I’ll… I’ll make this go away, Faerie. I promise. I just need to pay them back and they’ll forget about us.”

Feira wiped her tears on the front of his shirt, breathing in his smell of soap, hay, horses, and mulled cider in attempt to banish the scent of burnt syrup that clung to the inside of her nostrils. “I think… I think he thought I was mother for a minute.”

Torrin sighed, and finally released her. “Promise me you won’t try to help.”

“Tor –”

Promise.”

She swallowed, a knot forming in her throat, and nodded. “I promise.”

Anecdotes: What We’ve Done

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Twenty-three men. A hundred and four had joined him at Minas Tirith, and now twenty-three was all that remained of the 6th, excluding Peldirion. By now they had gone to set up camp, but he remained, an unmoving remnant before the fresh graves that had joined the pillar standing in memory of his brother and friends.

You are in good company.

He had put the halberd back in it’s resting place, and only memory told him that the stained silk ribbon tied at it’s neck had once been emerald green. The elf had been right. He had fought harder with it in his hands, and more than once the long weapon had saved his life. Now he returned it, one of the many burdens he had bore now lifted.

It had begun with Halethon, then with Lalaith, and now the last ten years and past two months came slowly crashing down on him. She had made it so much more difficult to keep it all in. Little by little his Arien had pieced him back together. Every soft touch and tender word was salve to an open wound, and suddenly he could grieve. It hurt far worse than Peldirion had ever anticipated, the ache tearing through his chest as the miles between them grew. Hot tears poured down his face in the dark, and he did not move as Ferris stopped several paces behind him.

“He’ll take care of them.”

Peldirion slowly nodded. Yes, they were in far better hands now.

“S-Sir?”

He did not respond.

“Camp has been set up, Sir.”

Still, the young man got nothing but silence.

“I… W-Would — Should I bring your effects here for you?”

It wasn’t the same. Not without Halethon, but he kept telling himself that the boy would learn, and Halethon would return. “No,” he said, his low voice unwaivering, not bothering to wipe his eyes. “Bring food for you and I to my tent. We have work that needs done.”

Hands clasped firmly behind his back, the Captain pivoted on his heel and marched away, mounds of fresh earth marking the graves watching him as he walked away.

Six more months. Only six more months….

 

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She’d left first, shaking bits of spring grass from her short hair that was in desperate need of a trim. Strolling around the block had proven to be just enough time for Jade’s companion to depart, and she pocketed the little pouch of silver as she slipped back into the dimly-lit garden. Ignoring the patch of disturbed grass in a shadowy corner, Jade strolled over to the side where the stone wall was coated with vines boasting of little white flowers.

It smelled better than she had remembered. Stretching out on the low stone wall, Jade cushioned her hands beneath her head, and let the sweet smell of vanilla roll over her. It was funny, people and what they would do. Had it really been a year? He’d prevented her from falling, propelling her towards a silly supper party where she’d found ghosts, and trouble, and somehow her heart. They had shared a small smile at the funeral, and perhaps that was all that was really needed.

Utterly ridiculous.

Smirking, she pulled the thin gold chain she wore up and over her head. Carefully extracting the ring from it’s hold, she slipped the gold band onto her finger and studied it on her hand in the lamp-light. How difficult the farmer made things. How strange, how much she like it. Work had began to loose it’s luster because of him. Her regular customers became unsatisfying, and instead of indulging in the occasional tryst, she had to tell them one by one (with a foreign sense of relief and girlish anticipation), that things had to end.

Sighing, Jade sat up and carefully uprooted a small sprout of the sweet-smelling vine to take with her. She’d be staying at the Mantle tonight. She didn’t want to be, but told herself to enjoy it while it lasted.

 

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Fletch lounged on the bed, head resting on his paws as he watched Eruviel put away her things. Aside from the travel pack and old quiver full of new arrows she’d bought from a vendor she didn’t know, the room felt strange. Everything was tidied and in it’s proper place. The bed was made, downy pillows neatly piled at the head of the bed, her weapons hung from pegs on the wall aside from her bow that lay unstrung on the bench by the foot-board, and a fistful of flowers and grass (courtesy of Eboric) filled the little vase sitting on her mantle.

Removing the blue agate pendant from where it hung around her neck, she carefully laid it to rest in the crystal box on her nightstand. Raenarcam and Kemendin both insisting anything of sentiment be left behind, she gladly replaced nearly all of her gear, and remembering the memory she had witnessed, Eruviel replaced the rest as well, just to be safe. Bow from Milloth, swords from Rainion, bracers from Raen, daggers from Myrthrost, shirt from Esgaroth….

Her door locked just in case Eboric woke and decided to try and wander into her room, she sat on the rug in her skin, Fletch hopping down to stretch out beside her. Raen had cut her hair. All the lovely silver strands. Eruviel was not willing to make such a sacrifice. With care she wove her long, soft waves up into a tight bun that would be out of sight and out of mind.

“You be good, all right? No running about Durrow causing trouble while I’m away,” she muttered softly, scratching the growing pup behind his ears.

Fletch made a soft grumble in understanding. Licking her hand, he rolled over onto his side to beg for more pets.

 

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“Good evening… May I help you?” Having only just gotten home after putting in extra hours, Feira looked out into the waning evening light at the man who stood on the stoop.

His face paled for a moment, looking at her as if he was seeing a ghost. A minute passed before the middle-aged man cleared his throat. “You’ve grown up. I didn’t — That is… Is Torrin home?” He fidgeted, trying hard not to look anxious. The edges of his eyes looked blood-shot, and something about him, perhaps the smell of burnt, syrupy smoke that lingered about him or the strangely familiar crook of the bridge of his nose, made her feel uneasy.

Sorry, Faerie. Been a long day. If anyone comes by asking for me, I’m not home.

“I — I’m sorry, sir, but he is not,” she replied, careful not to move to block his view as he peered past her into the small house. “I can tell him you called though, mister….”

The man swallowed, and Feira resisted squirming under his gaze as he eyed her. “Just tell him a friend stopped by, and that we’ll come collecting in two months.”

Feira nodded, the stiffness that gripped her joints aiding her in not closing the door too fast. She waited, clinging to the door handle as she listened to the man’s retreating footsteps. Then she remembered to breathe. Sinking down in the corner behind the door, Feira pressed a trembling hand to her mouth to keep back the rising panic. Amber eyes lifted from the dark floor to the ceiling beneath where her brother slept.

What have you done?

Innocent Heart: Waiting

Dear Lhainan,

I suppose this letter shall not be added to the stack of ones unsent. It is strange that now that I’ve decided to send one, holding little hope of it reaching you, words seem to escape me. 

Things are quiet at the estate, and I suppose that is a good thing. The Lord and Lady’s anniversary is today. I feel so bad for her, having to spend it with him gone. Gifts and kind words are no match at filling the empty space left by his absence .

Rumours have started to circulate that the war is over, though I scarcely dare to hope. Even worse, I hate to think of the cost as the city awaits the return of the knights with bated breath. It’s become frustrating, the waiting and the weight of knowing nothing can be done about it. 

Borgil shines bright tonight. I never told you, but I look up at it often. It’s a pretty star. While it is a romantic notion that it might hold such powers as you say, I am comforted by it none the less. To be honest, a part of me wishes for it to be true, if only for you.

Please be safe. I hope that by the time this reaches you the sea is ours, and any sails spotted are friendly ones. I should thank you for being able to stay  long enough this time for a proper ‘goodbye’. It has made missing you a little easier.

Praying that you only see fair winds, I remain yours,

Feira

Her letter sealed and sent out with a ship that sailed that morning, Feira went about her day as she always did. The flowers in the house were replaced with Mredothyn’s favorites, and she had taken it upon herself to see that the Lady’s breakfast was extra special. 

She lingered for a moment, duster dangling from her wrist by it’s leather cord, to gaze out an east-facing window. The shadow that had lingered beyond the far mountain peaks had dissipated and she wondered how much longer they would have to wait for them to come home.