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.