In a cloud of steam and laughter, the women poured out of Stonebluff. Hair damp and eyes bright with merriment, the soak and good company had brought each soul to overflowing.
“– then he cut his apron strings and ran out of there as fast as he could!” cried Beth, laughing lasciviously at her own joke.
“Umm… Yes, I… I think I get it,” muttered Anyatka, cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she looked to Eruviel for help.
Eruviel fought back a playful smirk as both women looked to her. She paused, handing off her basket of food to Feygil who shouted a war cry about beating the men to the feast as male voices drifted out of the Broken Cask. “I think in this rare case your joke would flow better if the baker ‘pounded’ instead of ‘kneaded’.”
Anyatka look utterly mortified, and Beth laughed even louder than before as she skipped ahead to share her joke with Ansithe and Varidia. “Do not look so shocked, oselle,” said Eruviel as she linked arms with Anya, her fair cheeks flushed with one too many glasses of wine. The merry band crossed over the Dunwash on their way to Ravenhold, and behind them Rosie could be heard preemptively scolding the menfolk for drinking all of her good ale.
“I just was not expecting that from you,” Anya muttered, a sheepish smile stealing over her features.
“You will find out soon enough. Just spare me the details when you and Ander–”
“Eruviel!” Anyatka cried.
Eruviel threw her head back with a merry laugh, and that was when she saw the lone figure standing on the bridge. Was it Eirikr? Or perhaps Cedoric wandering off?
“What is it?” asked Anya, peering around the Elf in attempt to see what had caught her friend’s attention.
Giving the young woman’s arm a squeeze, Eruviel stepped away from the flow of friends heading up the hill. “Nothing. I will be right behind you.”
Arching a brow, Anya shrugged and waved after her. “Don’t take too long!”
Eruviel grinned and, pulling her ribbon-bound braid over her shoulder, headed for the bridge.
“Hey, where are you going?” called another voice from behind. Glancing back she saw Abbi waving at her even as he snagged a bottle from Hallem’s hands. Behind him was… Eirikr? who’s wave to her faltered as he reached to try and snag Abbi, the younger Tenorbekk scampering around Taja. Chuckling, she waved and continued on.
The figure on the bridge shifted, and she could see it better now, the long beard and stern profile.
Godric turned again in the dark to face her.
“You should come and join us, Sir. We –”
Eruviel’s words were cut short when the towering man slumped forward in the darkness. She rushed up the bridge, and skidded to a halt when the shadows receded enough to reveal the Commander leaning forward, impaled on a long black sword. Breath caught in her lungs as happy laughter echoed down from Ravenhold.
“I should thank them,” came the cool, all too familiar voice. Eruviel’s fists clenched as she slowly remembered, her dream continuing on without her. “That is one less pest to have to account for.”
“You will leave them alone.”
The shadow leaning up against the railing of the bridge watched her, violet-brown eyes unblinking from beneath the dark hood. “Did I ever tell you what it sounded like? The last ragged breath escaping Milloth from the hole in his chest?”
“Get out of my head.”
“Who should I kill first? Or should I curse the lot of them and save myself the effort?” The robed figure stood and began to approach. Bodies began to bob up in the water below them, Ruby Lake turning crimson in the moon light.
A terrible ache tore through her chest. She had promised. She had promised. The Elf looked down again, and to her surprise the horrifying scene changed. As soon as the bodies appeared they suddenly vanished, one by one in soft puffs of smoke.
“It is no use. Why do you fight? Are you not tired of it all? I might steal whatever magic is in the red eye of your friend. I also have more spirits. You remember, don’t you? I could turn them all against you….”
Shadows snaked around Eruviel to trap her, suffocate her… but they collapsed at her feet in piles of flowers. It wasn’t her….
“Did you forget what he told you? You will never be free, not of him, or me, or the curse that follows you.”
“Get out,” she growled through gritted teeth.
Cold laughter wafted around like a chilling breeze, drawing nearer. “No? Maybe I will make myself a bear fur coat. There is something so sensual about fur against the skin…. And maybe I’ll take that little boy and his father, and –”
Godric’s greying body fell away in a glittering shower of limrafn dust, and Eruviel reached out to catch the sword before it could fall. “Get out!”
Whirling around, she sliced off the hand reaching for her and with a shout, before plunged the blade into the bridge. The figure reeled back as the reality of the Eruviel’s dream shifted violently and heaved up to shatter about them. Starlight flickering like fire erupted with a concussive roar from the Elf and sword, and flooded out, filling every crevice of her mind till his laughter and shadows had nothing to hold onto.
– – – – –
With a cry Eruviel shot upright, the steaming water in her tub sloshing about her. Gasping she sagged back in the fragrant bath, hiding her face in her hands.
He was gone. A small, relieved sob escaped her as she curled up into a ball at one end of the basin. One night of rest was all she wanted at that moment. And somehow she knew he was gone. Finally gone. Whatever, or whoever had helped her —
Fletch’s frantic barks sounded from beyond the closed door. The growing pup whined, scratched, and barked again as he tried to dig his way past the door and into her. Grabbing her robe, Eruviel stumbled out of the bath, water pooling in her wake. Yanking open the bathroom door, she was nearly knocked over as Fletched barreled into her.
“Hey, hey, calm down boy. It’s all right. I’m all right.”
Whining worriedly, Fletch nuzzled and licked her face as Eruviel knelt down on the floor.
Wrapping her trembling arms around his neck, Eruviel closed her eyes, offering a prayer of thanks when she saw nothing behind her closed lids. “Shhh, boy. It is all right. Everyone will be all right. I promised.”
– – – – –
The Uruk and Angmarim guard exchanged unreadable, yet somehow knowing looks as they turned to step into the bedchamber. They did not so much as flinch as a bench flew to shatter against the stone wall beside them, nor blink as a wave of shadow tore what was left of the bed to pieces. Light bent and twisted, and the Lord marched, sword in hand to stand between the guards.
“My lord,” said Benrith, standing at attention.
Long black hair tossed in a crazed twist over his shoulders, piercing eyes drifted from one guard to the other. “Yarig?”
The Uruk stood a bit taller. “My lord.”
The sorcerer was not the tallest of his peers, and his muscled shoulders not the broadest, but the shadows loomed up about him, making him in his anger appear larger than life. “Bring me your pick of five of the best you can find in the ranks. I mean to double my guard.”
Yarig did not move till his lord motioned for him to. His long strides only carried him to the doorway before a word from the sorcerer halted him.
The sorcerer put a hand on Benrith’s shoulder, and with one clean swipe, sliced the man’s head off. It hit the stone floor with a sickening thunk and rolled towards the Uruk even as it’s former body decayed and turned to dust. “Take that with you. Have it sent to Aughaire. It would not do for him to be late in reporting back.”