Anecdotes

Little updates and tales of my characters.

Anecdotes: Everything We Love

It had been a morning packed with deliveries for twitterpated lovers and husbands that had forgotten. Ahiga’s hidden purse was twice as fat as usual. As much as he hated being at the beck and call for people who couldn’t just deliver worthless parcels and drivel themselves, he would not complain about the extra coin he raked in on these silly little holidays.

Sitting on a stone banister, the young man shoved his hair out of his eyes and took a bite of the steaming potato that was his lunch. He watched the Bree-landers below scurry to and fro with more haste than usual, buying overpriced candies, gaudy jewelry, and every passably limp flower in sight. It seemed foolish to him. A waste of resources on a day fabricated to boost the egos of the insignificant and lie about emotions that were good for nothing. 

Scoffing, he hopped down from his perch and shoved a hand into his pocket. Their happy chatter was beginning to piss him off. He’d go… to the garden. Yes, the garden. And even if he wasn’t there, at least Ahiga’d get some damned peace and quiet.

—–

By the time he reached the top of the fourth flight of stairs, Peldirion had a newfound respect for the servants. Careful not to jostle the tea, he bore the tray arrayed with steaming plates of flat cakes, fruit, eggs and Valar knew what else was hidden beneath the silver dome (though it smelled suspiciously of toast and bacon).

Then there was the envelope. His surprise that he’d worked on for two months. That alone tempted him to leave the food and sprint down the private hall to wake her. But the tall, proud man walked calmly and with purpose, dismissing the attending servant before he quietly slipped into the suite.

The grand room was still, the only light coming from the hearth that added to a pale, pre-dawn glow from the windows. Resting the aromatic tray on the bench at the foot of the bed he walked around to her side. 

How soundly she slept. A part of him pulled away, not wishing to disturb his slumbering wife. Lalaith. Everything he loved, good that he did not deserve, yet there she was. Peldirion swallowed hard, the swelling of adoration in his chest not fading as he brushed back a soft curl of black hair and stopped to kiss her cheek. 

“Rise and shine, my love.”

Anecdotes: Yule and Regret

“Can I show you anything?” The shop owner looked down at Jade, his patience worn thin by the wave of girls and women who had flowed in and out all day.

Jade did not care. She rested her elbows on the counter and her chin in her hands. “No.”

The man frowned down at the sulking young woman before shrugging and moving off to help someone else who was more likely to spend money.

“Misses Harlowe?”

It took Jade a second, but remembering that that was her, she lifted her head to see who had spoken.

A happy smile lit the Elf’s fair face, and Jade wasn’t sure if it was from having forgotten the lady’s name or the fleeting thought of wanting to look that good in hunting leathers that caused her mind to go blank for a moment. “Oh… Hey. You’re — How are you?”

“Eruviel,” the Elf offered kindly as she set a gloved hand on the counter and looked behind it to the wall covered in gold, silver, and shell necklaces, bracelets and clips. “And I am exceptionally well, thank you. You are here shopping? I should warn you away. I do not think gold is the metal for your husband.”

Jade scoffed, but that brought a little smile to her red lips. “Then maybe a comb for his beard.” She then shook her head. “I’m waiting for the barber to get done”

Eruviel raised her brows. “You are cutting your hair off?”

“Sure am,” she replied, nodding curtly.

“May I ask why?”

Jade glanced side-long at the Elf’s long, intricate braid woven with satin ribbon and pretty winter blossoms. “Feel like being petty,” Jade offered lamely, feeling childish. Lifting her chin, she smirked and tossed her bangs to chase the feeling away. “Don’t tell me you’re cutting yours off. Do Elves lose their powers if they cut their hair?”

The Elf gave an enchanting, silvery laugh. “Not at all! And no, it is one of my most prized possessions. One of the younger members of the guild braided it so nicely and I fear I do not have a clip to keep it from unraveling.”

Jade combed her fingers through her own soft, pale gold hair. “How’s one of your kind end up without anything?” 

Eruviel rolled her shoulders nonchalantly. “I gave it away.” Stopping a saleswoman, she motion to a set of combs and clips stuck to a display. “I don’t know what has you in such a mood at Yule, Miss Jade, but I hope you reconsider.”

Jade studied the display with a thoughtful air. “Oh, it’ll backfire. Reason is silly, but it’s just hair. It’ll grow back.”

“Hmm….” Eruviel picked up a delicate filigree comb. “May I?”

Jade blinked in surprise. “Wh — uhh, sure.”

Eruviel caught a pale swoop of the young woman’s hair with the brass comb, spun it and set it securely in place. “Petty reasons do not justify rash action. Neither are the small regrets worth it.” She hesitated, a warm, distant look in her green eyes. Adjusting the chain of a necklace hidden beneath her collar, Eruviel turned her attention back to Mrs. Harlowe. “And you do have lovely hair.”

The sick feeling that came from her feeling sick at the thought that haunted her lessened, and Jade flashed a charming smile up at the strange Elf. She really would regret it.  “Can’t argue with that.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You have a minute?”

Frank’s hammer clanked in an awkward strike against the tin. Hand gripping the handle tighter, he finished pounding the sharp bend in the metal. “What do you want?”

Cotton skirts swished, and he could almost feel her at his back though she remained several feet away. “I wanted to see you.”

You little — “You should go home, Maddie.”

“Frank, I –”

Without turning, Frank stepped away from the work bench and moved to the forge before her reaching hand could touch his arm.

“I heard you signed over the farm.”

“I did. I also signed your papers at the Town Hall,” he replied cooly.

Her silenced weighed down around them. “If… I didn’t know, Frank. Who I was, what I wanted –”

“Now we both do,” Frank interrupted sharply, meeting her soft, sad eyes with a cold, even look. “Go home.”

She looked wounded, sorry, but the now former Maddie Burns ducked her head in defeat. Picking up her cloak, she left the warmth of the barn for the frigid, snowy evening.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The little house was warm. Too warm. But she felt cold, and Feira shivered bodily, curled up in a quilt on the lightly worn couch.

Beside her several gifts sat, perfectly wrapped, bound with perfect little bows… except for Lalaith’s which was ready to be mailed in the morning. 

Then there was the tray set on the stool covered with several tea cups and a soup bowl. Torrin had not left her side all day, and his soon to be betrothed had even stopped in to see if you young woman was all right. Feira could feel better in the morning, or it could be a couple days, but she would be fine. 

Still Torrin doted on her as if it were her last day on the earth. They played games, and exchanged gifts, and when she fell asleep he sat and read at the foot of the couch to keep her feet warm. 

She didn’t think she could have had a better brother. 

Staring out the front window, Feira listened to him stumble through the kitchen in an attempt to make supper. The world was not as bright as it had been before. But in a day, or a week, whenever he showed up the two years would be over. She would cry and pretend to be fine, then eventually heal, but while she regretted not telling Torrin more about it, there was nothing, at least in that little moment, that she would have changed. 

In Our Darkness 

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He felt somewhat robbed, leaving behind the little Elven home for the faintly glowing paths of Durrow. The satisfying feeling of leaving behind a houses warmth for the cold shadows kept at bay by lamplight was denied him as long, purposeful strides brought him closer to the homestead gate. Did they miss it, too? Did they even know?

Resigned to endure the dull, ethereal way, his thoughts waited with bated breath. Beyond the homestead the night would be colder and darker. Better for brooding and planning for the time when his enemy would once again make the mistake of letting himself be found.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The dull glow of the dieing fire cast  an orange hue on the wooden wall beside the wide, thin straw and feather filled mattresses that lay on the floor. It was calm here. Warm. He liked the warm. The attic room that served as home was clean, empty aside from the bed, a small table decorated by a fat tallow candle and his weapons, a chair that held his few folded clothes, and several old chairs against the far wall that had been stacked for storage and forgotten.

The hour was late. A quiet sigh deflated his chest as he shoved his hair out of his eyes. With care to not wake the slumbering man beside him, he slipped out from beneath the arm draped over his chest and stood, taking a moment to peer out the small attic window. It was time, and only darkness would allow for such an errand.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The salt breeze rushed along the beach, tossing the shawl draped around her shoulders till it billowed out like a sail. A dull light grew around her as the mute grey pushed back the last remnants of a starless night. She would be expected to be back soon, but she lingered as long as she could, sitting alone atop the time-worn boulder where it had begun.

Part of her had begged the darkness to stay. The weight in her gut that made her feel sick whenever she thought of what she should do — what she needed to do — seemed less in the shroud of night. Things were easier when you did not see. Then again, how many times had knowing eyes seen her and pitied or scoffed at her in her ignorance? That was even worse.

Instead of sitting anticipating the array of colors that was sure to follow… that she found herself doubting, she rested her golden head atop her knees. Absorbing the murky glow that swelled into a thick morning fog, she wished the night would linger a while longer.

Anecdotes: Return

“You sure they’re there?”

Frank grumbled in frustration and pointed again to the distant copse of trees lit by the low orange glow of campfires. “I don’t give shit reports. They are there.”

“Watch your mouth.”

“We should move in now, while we have the chance,” Frank growled, glaring at Ildric through the dark.

Ildric crawled back till it was safe enough to stand, and adjusted the sword at his hip. “I’ll take it from here. You ride on back.”

Frank wheeled around to face the towering man. “I brought the report from the Elf herself. I have seen their numbers and I am staying. I want them dead just as much as –”

Ildric snatched Frank up by the front of his tunic and tossed the young man back. “Go to your wife, Frank. I know you got a score to settle, but you’re no good to me.”

“You bastard,” Frank snarled, scrambling to his feet.

Moving to shove the younger man away, the sound of horses reached Ildric’s ears. Grabbing Frank by the shoulder he drug him in to clap a hand over his mouth. The sound grew louder then faded off to their right, and Ildric did not release his friend till the echo of hooves had faded.

“What you do that for?”

“You’re a mouth breather.”

Frank punched Ildric hard in the shoulder. “I am not. You’re an ass.”

“True.”

“When do we go?”

Ildric frowned down at him. “You’re goin’ nowhere but home.”

Frank set his feet and glared up at the man.

What felt like several minutes passed before Ildric nodded his head curtly. “You’re a pain, Frank.”

Frank sniffed, dusting off his left sleeve as he marched past the older man. “I learn from the best.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Feira leaned over the railing, hands cleaning to the rigging as fresh ocean mist sprayed up to shower her face and cling to her hair. Home! It was just beyond the horizon… and a little ways beyond that, but still! The air slowly turned increasingly warmer, as did the salty sea, and Feira wondered for a moment what would happen if she lept from the side do dive into the frothing hills of blue water.

“Ho! Miss!” called a deck hand from behind her. “Ya wanna be careful. Hit a swell ‘n ya be swimmin’ yer way back teh Gondor!”

Feira shoved her golden hair out of her eyes as she beamed back at the man worn by sun and years at sea. “If I did, maybe I’d beat you all there!”

The man stared at her for a moment, a little bewildered by her response before chuckling and shaking his head. “Well can’ say I didn’ warn ya! S’long as yeh enjoy it and ain’t leanin’ too far I s’pose it don’t hurt any, though.”

Nodding readily, Feira smiled a charming smile at the man, not minding the pitch of the ship since she had got her sea legs a few days before. “I’ll be careful! Thank you!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel leaned back against her front door, listening as Eirikr’s footsteps retreated down the hill towards the cabin. The fearful ache started to crawl it’s way back into her chest.

How can you ask me to stay behind?

And she had caved. Of course she had. He thought she sounded crazy. He was angry with her… and she supposed if things were reversed she would have been, too. As much as she wanted to beg and plead for him to change his mind, a fresh confidence also settled over her, knowing that he would be there.

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

How could she communicate the danger? How could she tell him — all of them why any of this was happening? Sliding down the smooth door, she stared at the floor between her knees. How could she turn the tides in their favor. He’s arrogant, prideful, dramatic… and scared.

“Going to face him head-on, tracking him down. That is predictable. Draw him out!”

Her gaze turned to the delicate silver chain around her neck. Lifting a hand she pulled the small blue agate out from beneath her shirt, gazing at it for a moment before grasping it in her fist. “Draw him out, hmm? Damn it, Eirikr,” she whispered softly. Leaning her head back she closed her eyes, pulling herself out of each thought and emotion, allowing the white light that filled her mind to become everything that was.

Eruviel opened her eyes. There were no shadows as bare feet carried her up the low, grassy hill speckled with blue and white flowers swaying on silver stems. Carefully she withdrew the light from the boundaries of her mind, and while not blinding and filled with her will, the light remained, like the soft haze of sunlight that blurs one’s surroundings.

It was not long till he came. She sensed him first, cautious and corrupting, his shadows coiling out in attempt to drown out her light.

“I admit that I am surprised. Are your defenses so weak, or are you too tired to care.”

Her skin crawled as he drew close, but the dark form did not attempt to step foot on the low hill, and she did not so much as move to acknowledge him.

He prowled for a moment, circling her small rise with an air that said he was merely humoring her. “How disappointing that you burned the banners, though. I had been saving them just for you. I was hoping you might keep them with you as you steal into my tower to finish what you had started.”

Again she did not respond, gazing off to some distant corner of her mind, her own features obscured by the surrounding glow.

Mornenion stopped, fixing her with a dangerous look. “Why did you let me back in?”

Finally she she turned to face him and lifted her gaze to meet his. “I have been waiting for you.”

What Might Have Been

(If things had gone differently…)

Talagol sat outside the office suite of the grand villa. Minutes had passed since the muffled sounds of raised voices had cut off with what he could only assume to have been a book thrown against the thick mahogany doors, and the man wondered why his time was being wasted.

Having survived the bitter defeat in the west, the Wainrider had been surprised when the summons came for him. The battle-hardened man idly played his thumbs over a worn corner of the letter, quelling the growing anticipation as his eyes ran over the tall sandstone pillars. It had been years since he had been back. Longer still since anyone aside from his superiors had dared demand anything of him.

A dull thud sounded as the heavy lock of the double doors slid back. A man emerged from the office. Talagol could not help but cock an eyebrow as he watched his highest ranking sorcerer hurry away, hair tossed and looking like a cow fleeing from a culling.

Turning his gaze back to the still-open doorway, it took him far too long to recognize the young woman standing in the door. She had dyed her hair, but she had her mother’s eyes and, to his surprise, wore the blood-red robes of Mistress.

Tossing her bangs, a wicked smirk played on Inaris’ crimson lips. Crooking a finger, she beckoned him to follow after her as she turned back into the room. “Hello, daddy.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“About time you made it back.”

Asmus curled his upper lip against the thick smell of opium that wafted in every time someone used the back door of the den. “All o’the ships were destroyed. I had to make other arrangements.”

The fat man behind the desk wriggled his nose against an itch, and tossed a fat coin purse across the space between them. “Good work, anyways. The others are waiting for you across town. Use the west entrance.”

Catching the hefty payment, Asmus rose from his seat. “Right. I’ll be around in a week with the new shipment.”

With quick steps he strode down the hall, doing his best not to breathe in the air thick with smoke, incense, and hot bodies. He might not have minded it all that much, but the man had come to expect better things and find his pleasures elsewhere. It was what happened when one caught a lucky break, and he wasn’t the kind of person to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Rubbing the back of his hand over his crooked nose, Asmus left down a long corridor, and stepped out into the daylight that graced the lower quarter of Dol Amroth. The smell only got worse in the filthy alley, but the presence of the open sky beyond high roofs was a small improvement. Turning to head down the narrow way the toe of his boot suddenly caught on something, and the man cursed, stumbling as a wounded yip sounded from the edge of the filthy path.

“What the bloody –” Asmus caught himself on the alley wall and turned to see what he stepped on, and froze. “You?”

The girl laying on the ground drew her knees in close against her chest, hiding behind the long, dirty blond locks that fell around her face.

Asmus crouched down and frowned when she shrunk away from him. What had it been, twelve years? “Shit, girl. What did they do to you?”

Dull amber eyes avoided his gaze, and she shivered in mid-spring heat.

Grunting, Asmus stood, pulled a coin out of his pocket, and tossed it down to her. “Go get yourself a warm meal. Figure I owe ya that much.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Alagos did not bother looking up from his reading as Zagasht pushed past the guards at the door. “I assume you have news,” said the sorcerer mildly. “It had better be worth the interruption….”

Zagasht growled, and nodded quickly. “The others want to know why you have not sent anyone to fortify the tower. The Elf and his Gondorian friends have cut their way into the main hall.”

“Oh, have they?” he mused. It had taken them long enough to get here, but they had indeed come, just as he knew they would. Glancing over his shoulder, Alagos lifted a finger to summon the shadow standing against the wall behind him. “What do they want?”he asked of the thick, clearly agitated Orc.

Zagasht shifted uncomfortably as the dark, lithe figure stopped to hover beside his master. “They… They demand her return… and your head, my lord.”

A cruel, mirthless laugh rose from Alagos’ throat. “Splendid!” He turned his head and reached over to take his companion’s hand. “I had begun to worry they would never come for you.”

“What is your will?”

How deliciously cold her voice was, and the void in those lovely green eyes sent a thrill through his body. She had been his greatest challenge, and his ultimate masterpiece. The little, rage-filled bits of her that remained were carefully caged within her, left to watch everything that she and he did.

“Go. Greet our guests, my pet,” he said, kissing the back of her hand. “I am sure your brother will be happy to see you, and he has many friends to introduce you to.”

Bowing, the elleth that had been Eruviel took up the sword resting on the corner of the desk. Zagasht led the way out of the room, and Alagos sat back to watch her go, a gleeful smile twisting his features as the lights dimmed with her passing.

Days Have Passed

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(Thought I would clean out the drafts that had sat forgotten for the past year and a half.)

The last gleam of sunlight disappeared over the hills as Eruviel’s eyes fluttered open. For several minutes she stared up at the star-lit sky framed by tree branches and ruined elvish architecture, wishing she could fade back into her sleep-like trance. There would be no true rest till she had all three human back safely in Bree.

Reluctantly rising to her feet she stretched up, observing Eirikr sleeping a few feet away. He slept hard, and a small pang of guilt stung her as she picked up her boots and silently padded away. Best that he gets as much rest as possible, she thought as she nodded in greeting to the few hunters and fighters milling around the camp. She knew his mind was far to the east, and they still had a long way to go.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She never stayed up this late. Till the night she’d gone out two weeks back Feira had always been early to bed and early to rise. But now the night was at it’s coldest, and she leaned against the side of a bench on the look-out, feet dangling over the ledge as she watched the horizon.

Why did she even care to watch? She had never been lonely, but then again she might have always been and never knew it. Don’t waste your time, Torrin had said. Nothing good can come from sailors. Maybe he was right. She didn’t know him really. For all Feira knew he was good at hiding his real nature and had shown up amidst the laundry lines just to mess with her… but did it matter much? She had no idea what she was getting herself into, but there was nothing to do about it now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Having returned cold to her core, Abiorn had not left her side. Long since recovered from the search for the lost hunter, Eruviel sat wrapped in furs, her back against a pillar near one of the fires. Abbi slept leaning on her left arm, and Huor had nested in her lap. Both of them radiated delicious heat that made the bitter hours of tracking through the storm nothing but an unpleasant memory.

Smiling softly to each in turn, the elf turned her attention back to the letter she now knew by heart. The thumb of her free hand traced over the scratched out words as if doing so would make the mark blacking them out disappear. She would never tell, but she allowed herself to hope as the faintest remnants of words brought a warmth to her cheeks that the wolf and her young human brother could not offer. It won’t be long. Help Panja, help Taja, Huor, survive, then home.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel let out a quiet sigh. “People do funny things when they think they are helping others. Sometimes the reasons are good, and sometimes they are not, but we always need someone to come after us. I’m sure Morty knows you will go after him.”

Hallem shook his head. “He wouldn’t want us to.”

“Because he wants to be left to his fate, or because he doesn’t want you to get hurt?”

“Both, probably.”

“Then I am sure he knows you will come for him anyways.”

Hallem looked to her. “Why does that m-matter?”

Eruviel smiled sadly. “Does it not matter to you?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A soft thud of the outer door leading in from the corridor summoned Peldirion out of his thoughts. Sitting up from where he leaned took more effort than it should have, and an exasperated sigh poured out of him as he heard the outer door open and close again.

“Boys,” he said in a tired, no-nonsense tone.

The sound of cautious footsteps stopped. Then, obediently, they slowly turned, and two boys in their late teens entered Peldirion’s dark study. Both saluted quickly, and the shorter of the two nervously stepped forward.

“Y-Yes, Sir?”

Sunshine of Your Youth

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(Free song from iTunes equaled sudden bloggy thoughts.)

No state of being could be better than this moment. Little arms encircled Nostariel’s neck as Artis bounced upon her Nana’s shoulders. Half of her face was buried in hair like waves of sunshine that smelled of fresh strawberries, while the other half peek out at the world that had suddenly gotten so much bigger.

“How are you doing up there?”

Artis yipped as Nostariel hopped a break in the stone wall she walked upon. “I-I’m fine!” She was so convincing.

Nostariel laughed, and released her hold of Artis’s legs. “Give me your arms, sweetheart.”

She hesitated, but Nana was always right. And, while being so high up scared her, the thrill of fear quickly turned into exhilaration of seeing how small she was compared to the vineyards and mountains beyond.

“Hold your arms up like this.”

“Don’t let go of me!”

“I won’t let you fall, silly –”

The distant sound of horses interrupted them, and Artis forgot all else. “They’re back! They’re back!” she chirped as she flapped her arms in excitement.

“Would you like us to meet them?”

“Yes! Yes! Please!”

Bounding off the wall, Nostariel, holding onto Artis’s legs, changed their course to make for the front gates of Annúngilon. “Hold on! We can’t have you falling!”

Yeeee! You won’t let me fall. Faster!”

~~~ * ~~~

“There’s my little girl!”

Squealing in surprise and delight, Inaris was plucked from where she stood in the garden pond.

“What are you doing in there, precious? You know fish poop in that water.”

“Daddy! There’s not poop in that water. There is no fish!”

Talagol stared at her in shock. “What did you do with the fish?!”

“Talagol, really,” huffed Vilaya. “You shouldn’t treat her like a child.”

The tall, dark Easterling shot the fair woman a disapproving glare. His smile quickly returned as he set Inaris on his hip. “You’re not a child?” he asked as if hearing of some unbelievable tale.

Inaris stared back at him. She felt unsure, especially with how her mother frowned, if it were a trick question or not. “I-I… I am,” she finally muttered, her soft, blue eyes growing wide.

Talagol almost chuckled, but was interrupted by Vilaya’s harsh clearing of her throat. “Woman, go back to work.” Though he still smiled at Inaris, his voice was harsh, and void of warmth. “I will find you later when I have use for you.”

Sniffing, Vilaya spun around and marched away with her nose proudly up in the air.

Inaris batted her long lashes as she watched her mother disappear into the next building. “Am… Am I in trouble?” she asked in a hushed voice.

“What? My little princess doesn’t cause trouble,” said Talagol with a laugh. Drawing giggles out of her as he nuzzled her neck, the man bounced to bring her higher up on his hip, and started walking out to the lush mazes behind the House.

“How long will you be here this time?”

“Oh… Three days I think.”

“Really? Three whole days?!” It was like her birthday all over again!

“Yes, little one. Three days.”

“Did you bring your horses?”

Talagol chuckled, and pointed to the far side of the complex.

“You did! Oh, daddy, can I ride one?”

The man hummed as if he were considering saying no, and Inaris planted a big kiss against his cheek.

“Please?”

“Wrap me around your finger. How about this. You can pet them this time, but in a month, want to go on a trip with me? You can ride on all of them.”

Inaris glanced back to the House. “What about mother? She might not like it….”

Talagol barked a laugh. “Who cares? You’re my daughter, and I’d like you to come.”

Beaming a sweet smile, Inaris nodded, and rested her head on his shoulder. “Then yes. I’d love to go.”

~~~ * * ~~~

“Mom… Mommy!” Feira whispered.

Eleanor opened an eye to peer up at the little girl. “What is it, faerie?”

Feira glanced over her shoulder before snuggling up to her mother. “I can’t find the answer!”

“Have you asked your brother to help you?”

“Noooo,” said Feira as she scrunched up her nose.

Eleanor rolled over to lay on her back, and held out a hand. “Well, let me see the clue.”

Scooching closer, Feira opened her locket to pull out a folded strip of paper. “It doesn’t say anything. What does it mean?”

Eleanor chuckled. Taking the paper she poked Feira’s nose with it. “It means I wanted to tell you the surprise.”

Feira rolled over to face Elanor. “What is it, Mom?”

“How would you like to move?”

“Move?”

“Exactly. Mommy is looking for a new job. If she gets it, we’ll have an actual house to live in, and you’ll get to see me more.”

“I’d LOVE that!” Feira threw her arms around her mother. “When do you find out?”

Eleanor grinned. “In the next two weeks.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll get it!”

About to speak, Eleanor stopped as a clinking if plates sounded from the next room. “What’s going on in there?”

“Father is cooking supper.”

Eleanor scrunched up her nose, and tickled Feira’s side. “You let your father into the kitchen?”

Feira giggled, and squirmed. “It’s your kitchen!”

“Oh, I see how it is!” Eleanor snickered, and sat up. “Well, come on then. Let’s make sure he hasn’t burned a good meal.”

Tombs

Brushing off the last of the dried leaves, Eruviel’s pale hand lingered on the cold stone. “They are all here?”

Standing several yards behind her, Peldirion nodded. “Most of them. There were a few that were never found, and a few who’s bodies were asked for by their families. Everyone listed there is here, though.”

Her fingers slowly traced the smooth curve of the lettering. With honor we place this stone in remembrance of those who gave their lives in defense of Gondor. Heavy-hearted, we lay to rest those of the Dreadward Tribunal who are listed below. Adrovorn Calaer of Pelargir, Mirthrost of Minas Tirith, Rhuniki of Ered Luin . . . . And so the list continued.

“Mother refused to let them put down ‘Aranduin’.”

Eruviel’s mouth curved up with a small, sad smile. “He never wanted to be buried under a rock.”

Peldirion chuffed out an amused breath. “I assume he would have preferred something grand that included fire.”

Wiping at her eyes, Eruviel nodded. “He wouldn’t care now, though.”

A silence settled in, and Eruviel traced her fingers over his name again. “Thank you. Thank you for letting me come back,” she whispered as more tears came.

“Hmm?”

“Nothing. I am just mumbling,” she said in a more audible tone. It was the last piece. It’s been about a year since we last spoke. You were right, you know. Though, you usually were. I would have missed so much if I had stayed . . . .

More silence passed. “He spoke well of you.”

Rising to her feet, Eruviel took a deep breath. Her hand falling away from the stone, she pulled his halberd out of it’s resting place in the polished foundation. “I’d hope he would have,” she responded with a soft chuckle.

His brows furrowed, Peldirion gave her a confused look. “What are you doing?”

Approaching the young captain, Eruviel set the spiked end in the ground before him. “Take it.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I cannot wield my brother’s weapon.”

“Pellion.”

The stern man stood a little straighter as the Elf’s voice grew uncommonly serious. “As his widow, I am giving this to you. You have his ring, now take his weapon. Adrovorn hated waste. If you cannot wield it, find someone worthy of it.”

He seemed suddenly unsure in her presence as her unblinking gaze fixed on him. Taking a deep breath, he finally accepted the halberd. “It’s heavy.”

A small smile sparked back to life at the corners of her mouth. “It’s the weight of responsibility.”

A light chuckle escaped him. “Hell, you sound like him.”

“Like-minds,” she added with a kind smile. Then she smelled it . . . felt it . . . . Putting her hand on Peldirion’s arm, Eruviel looked around.

Peldirion tensed, and followed her gaze. “What is it?”

“Smoke.” Eruviel pointed to where fresh wisps of smoke rose in the distance.

Giving a displeased grunt, Peldirion marched over to his horse and stepped up into the saddle. “The carravan. We need to go.”

Already in motion, Eruviel gave the grave one last, fond smile before hopping up onto her own horse. “I’m not fully recovered yet, or I’d suggest we check it out ourselves.”

Nodding curtly, Peldirion wheeled his steed around. “Then to Arnach. We will see if they have news before we get your friends. I’d like to see if they are as good in a fight as you say.”

~ ~ ~ * * * ~ ~ ~

“You’re late.”

“I am early. You merely needed me sooner, sir.”

Turning a corner, Peldirion led Halethon down a long corridor. “Mind being my orderly till the end of the week?”

“You’re demoting me?”

The men exchanged amused glances, and descended down a dimly lit stair. “Think of it as a vacation.”

Halethon snorted. “Thanks a lot. The men won’t say it, but they miss you on the field.”

Peldirion grunted. “Then I won’t say that it’s good to be missed.”

“You leave, and they suddenly realize how much easier everything was with you keeping it a well-oiled machine.”

Motioning to another set of stairs, Peldirion clasped his hands behind his back. “They should remain a well-oiled machine with me gone.”

“Oh, they do,” said Halethon grimly, “but it’s rough when your temporary replacement wants to make it into his own, less efficient machine.”

“That should make things much smoother when I return.”

“Will you, sir?” asked Halethon as if the prospect had weighed upon him.

“I will perish if I am kept in this tomb much longer.”

“It is such a lovely tomb, though.” Halethon smirked as Peldirion shot him an unamused glance. “Speaking of tombs, this place might as well be one. This the dungeon?”

Peldirion nodded. “He’s just up here.”

The main dungeon lined with cells was a dim space, lit only by lanterns on the center posts. It was clean, though. Cleaner even than it had been before Peldirion’s arrival.

“You mean to postpone the trial, then?” asked Halethon quietly.

“I do,” said Peldirion with a curt nod. “With the reinforcements only four days away, that means Laergultor, much to his delight, actually, will be tried by his countrymen. It also means I don’t have to put up with another inquisition by the Wayfarers.”

A chuckle from Halethon echoed down the hall. “What, you don’t like them, sir?”

“I like some of them. The Rohir, and the Dalish man in particular. I would make them officer’s in a heartbeat if they were in our army. I thank the Valar some of the others aren’t soldiers. I don’t have time for troops that can’t take orders. It’s a wonder more of them haven’t died.”

Halethon’s retort was cut short when Peldirion turned to stand before a particular cell. “So, this is the corsair.” Nodding to the furious-looking man, Halethon greeted him in his own tongue. He had not yet finished the greeting when the corsair lept to his feet and began shouting. “He . . . says you are men of dishonor. He was promised his freedom in exchange for information.”

Peldirion smirked, and stepped closer to the bars. “Tell him he will get his freedom.”

“Sir?”

“Tell him.”

Halethon motioned to the corsair, and the two exchanged a few short words. “He wonders why he should believe you now.”

“Tell him I never gave my word to free him to begin with. I am offering him a new deal.”

Halethon arched a brow, and relayed the message to the Haradrim. The prisoner seemed surprised, but still distrustful. “He wants to know the deal first, before he says anything.”

“Tell him I want him to stand trial,” Peldirion said, looking the corsair in the eyes, “as a witness against the old man, Laergultor. I want him to tell what he told us earlier on the road, and anything else he man know about the unfortunate situation.”

Nodding, Halethon spoke to the corsair for a moment, and exchanged a short conversation. Frowning, the prisoner’s shoulder’s relaxed, and he nodded, looking right back at Peldirion. “He says you surprise him. Did you intend for this by bringing him here?”

“Yes.”

“He says ‘yes. If you will give him his freedom, he will stand as witness.”

“There is more, though. Once freed, he will not rejoin his countrymen in the fight. He will be given enough provisions to get him as far south as the first Haradic city. Tell him that if I ever see him again, his life is forfeit.”

Looking back to the corsair, Halethon once again translated. The Hardrim smirked, and offered Peldirion a slight bow. “He said he looks forward to not disappointing you.”

Anecdotes: Going Soft

Sweeping out a back door nearest the gardens, Feira dodged one of the older women who prowled about in hopes of snagging someone to aid her with laundry.

“Do you have it?” called a newer maid who smoothed back her hair as she scurried over.

Feira lifted the gilded tray decorated with a fine set of china. “Here. The guests are in the inner — Wait!” she called, stopping the new girl before she could take off with the tray. “With guests near, always gently take. Never snatch.”

The girl nodded, her darting eyes betraying the relative emptiness behind them.

“Listen closely,” Feira instructed with a kind tone. “The grandmother gets grumpy, so serve her first. This cup. She is very picky. And don’t forget, like I told you before. Hand the daughter her tea with the handle facing left.”

The new girl nodded, smiling gratefully. “I’ll remember. Thank you, Feira!” she called as she hurried away.

Sighing, Feira frowned down at the vases in her other arm. She’s going to break every one of those cup — Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted as a voice sounded behind her. Stopping in her tracks, color blossomed on her cheeks as her heart lept into a sprint. For months she had wondered how this moment would happen; if she’d be angry or hurt, but the small hope she’d carried burst like an emerging sun she could not hold back.

“Heya, Blondie.”

~ ~ ~

The soft thud of the closing door echoed in her ears. She did not move. She wasn’t sure if she could. The small house filled with crates and half constructed furniture suddenly felt like a void.

A drop of perspiration slid down the side of the glass to rest on her hand. His glass. Looking down she stared at her hand and his glass. Electricity shot up and down her arm from where their fingers had barely touched, and she took a gasping breath as if suddenly remembering to breathe.

Quickly putting the water glasses into the washbasin, she threw herself into emptying her belongings into their new home. Anything to tell herself it was nothing. That that look was nothing. Because every fiber of her wanted it to be something, and if she allowed herself to sit still she feared she would happily let herself drown in that simple, innocuous moment.

~ ~ ~

Dawn had just begun to creep over the horizon as Jade strolled up the lane to her cottage. Stacks of new lumber for her floor sat to one side of the yard. Having left her last customer, the young woman didn’t mind the little sleep she’d get before a long day of ripping up floorboards. Smiling as she yawned, she unlocked the front door and slipped inside.

It was perfect: her plain little home decorated with miss-matched furniture. Not a single hint of sweat, or leather, or ale could be smelled within the small, sacred walls. Only waterlilies from the little pond, and aromatic teas from Dorsett filled the cool air.

Stripping off her clothes, she dropped onto the mediocre mattress and curled up in the massive quilt sent by Wynthryth for her birthday. There were no snores, nor unwashed bodies. Just blissful darkness and silence. The difference from any other day was that this time she slept to one side of the bed, hoping that memories of the tall Rohir, and the gravedigger would drown out the faint tug she felt to go back to the dark little manor in the next village.

~ ~ ~

“You are dismissed, Gruin.”

“But, Sir, it wasn’t his –“

Pellion’s dark gaze darted over to the young man, silencing any further protest.

Saluting, Gruin gave the lad next to him an apologetic look before turning and exiting the office.

“Do you have anything to add, Cole?”

The farm boy, probably no older than seventeen, took in a small, nervous breath. “We just wanted to listen to a lecture, Sir. No harm was meant by it.”

Pellion did not move, nor did he blink. “Did you sign up to be a healer?”

“No, Sir, but we –“

“And did you go in your own free time?”

No, Sir. But there are no classes when –“

That,” said Pellion, his voice lowering dangerously, “is not my concern. You are here because there is a war, and because you volunteered to fight for your country.”

Cole swallowed, and looked down to his feet.

Had it been any of the other lads, Pellion might have ran them through the ringer, but not this one. That wouldn’t make him strong and useful. The boy had been through enough.

“Now . . . .”

Cole snapped to attention, grey eyes fixed ahead. “Sir.”

“What you do on your own time is not my business unless it interferes with you being a soldier under my command.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Now, go outside, pick up a sword, or whatever you think you may be best at, and practice without killing one of the others.”

Coles’s mouth tightened, but he just nodded curtly. “Yes, Sir.”

“You’re dismissed.”

Pivoting, the boy exited the room, frustration and confusion left in his wake.

Allowing himself to relax for a moment, Pellion leaned back in his chair and scrubbed his hands over his face. “Damned boys will make me go soft.”

Imloth Melui: As Shadows Fall

The hours slowly turned from one to the other, and the darkened sky denied him the knowledge of how long he had laid there. Draping a muscled forearm over his forehead Pellion stared at the ceiling, counting the decorative tiles, and resenting every one of them.

Feeling the bed beside him move, the man rolled out from beneath the satin sheets before the soft, slender girl could roll over in her sleep to trap him beneath her thin, pale arms. Though not of her doing, the thought of being touched made him uncomfortable and more frustrated (if that was indeed at all possible). She was too warm. Everything was too warm. The girl, the sheets, the floor beneath his feet. Even the night air blowing through the open double doors warmed his skin.

Pulling his hair back to secure it out of his eyes, and not bothering to even glance at a shirt, Pellion left his room and slumbering guest behind as he padded down the long back stair that opened up below the estate. It was cool down there. So blessedly cool. And while it did nothing to lessen his foul mood, it did clear his mind.

Halethon.” He did not need to shout. His voice filled the narrow stone passage and rolled like a wave through the rooms beyond. Two doors down a pale yellow light shone out of a room. It was not a warm light, and Pellion almost smiled.

The man Halethon stepped out, and gave a small salute. “Sir.” He was unphased by the shirtless Pellion, and he waited for the young lord’s nod before standing at ease. “Not sleeping?”

“As usual,” Pellion responded dryly as he turned into the room they had turned into an office.

“You’re going to exhaust yourself.” Halethon followed him inside and closed the door.

Setting his hands on his hips, Pellion fixed his hard gaze on the map on the table instead of on his friend. “We had this discussion last night.”

“What about what Garax sugest–”

“It’s not working.” Pellion could feel Halethon’s stare.

The young man sighed. “We won’t get our reinforcements,” he said grimly, getting down to buisness. “Not right away, at least.”

Pellion finally looked up from where he maneuvered a marker on the map. “What?” He did not mean for his harshness to slip out — Well, he wouldn’t have cared if it were not directed at Halethon. Taking a deep breath, he started again in a less formidable growl. “Why, pray tell, are we not getting reinforcements?”

Seemingly impenetrable to Pellion’s ire, Halethon filed one report, and retrieved several letters from neat stacks on the shelves. “All of the others wrote back. Here,” he said as he handed them over. “The army is being split up. Half to set up a defensive at Minas Tirith and Osgiliath, and the other to set up a defensive and offensive on the coast. Until their plans are worked out, we will get no trained soldiers for Imloth Melui.”

Pellion’s hand curled into fists. He did not raise them, however. He only set them against the hard wood of the table, and kept his dangerous glare down on the perfectly drawn ridges and rivers of Gondor. “We leave in two hours. Prepare my horse, and wake Yassarah. Thank her for me. You’re a happier face to rise to.”

His eyes darted up, and the two men shared a smirk. “Right away, sir. Should I send a messenger ahead?”

“Yes. Tell the old men that the young fools better be geared up and ready by the time we arrive. And try not to wake the house. I don’t have the patience for them right now.”

“I’ll word it better, but yes. Of course, though . . . .”

Pellion straightened, and arched a dark brow at the other man. “Though, what?”

Halethon glanced his way as he gathered a few things they would need. “Though you might want to take it easier on the boys. They will hold no love for you.”

Pellion grunted, and waved a hand to dismiss him. “The rest of our country is bleeding out, and they want me to smile? I don’t need their love. I need them to do what they are told.”

“Very well. Don’t be long.”

Saluting once more, and giving Pellion a look that made the man want to roll his eyes, Halethon slipped out of the room.

Listening to his only friend’s retreating steps, Pellion let out a long, weary sigh. The rest of the country is off to war, and he was stuck protecting fickle refugees with old men and boys. And all because mother dearest suddenly pretended to care. It made his blood boil.

Pushing away from the table, Pellion sat at his desk, readied a fresh piece of parchment, and pulled out the Elf’s letter. The man had written her to be polite, but never had he expected a response. Worst of all, she sounded so damned pleasant. He hated asking for help, but someone had to. 

Commander Oendir Arrowheart

Dear Sir,