Eruviel

Anecdotes: Where We Are

The glow of a new dawn crept over the wooden beams of the ceiling. It was several minutes of staring up at the warm hues before Jade fully realized that she was awake. For a split second she thought she might have been back in Bree-land, with Drew’s arm draped over her, but then the strong arm reflexively pulled her closer and she remembered.

Turning her head she watched Hazim as he slept, his dark hair tossed over their pillows. For several minutes she listened to him breathing, as well as the occasional stirring of Rafi elsewhere in the room. Thoughts filtered through her mind as she savored the heat that seeped from Hazim’s skin into her own. Regret for the pained look on Drew’s face, for the anger on Sadie’s. She missed Dorsett, and Jo fiercely. And Drew. In truth the wondering had come often in the early hours of the day. Would she regret it someday? Leaving a loving husband, and a quiet, secure home? She thought of the few friends she had, and the small vineyard behind the house. Of the flower bushes that hid her failures.

Careful not to disturb her lover, Jade untangled herself from Hazim and the sheets. The room she and the two brothers shared was simple, and modest, and, most importantly, cheap. Cheap enough for them to live comfortably till they got their footing in the city.

Quick to wash and dress for work, Jade regarded herself in the mirror as the grey light of morning took on a dull, fiery hue that filled the room. Yes, there were things she missed. Selfish decisions that made her question herself. But then a warm sea breeze stole past the curtains to pull at the fabric of  her dress, tease through her hair, and blow away her doubts. Jade drew in a deep breath, and a confident, impish smirk curled up the corners of her mouth.

Turning back to the bed as the tall fighter stirred, Jade stooped to press a soft kiss to his neck. His smell and warmth was almost enough to make her stay, but she pulled herself away and fixed the blanked over Rafi before silently stealing out the door. The sounds of Dol Amroth filled her ears before she even reached the street, and beyond the arch of the exit the glimmer of the nearby sea reflected in her blue eyes. Yes, this was where she was supposed to be.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You did what?!”

Feira winced as Nellie gaped in disapproval. “Please do not give me that look.”

“Oh, I will!” Nellie proclaimed huffily, tossing her brunette locks over her shoulder as the two maids browsed over the selection of fish at the docks. “I can’t believe you!”

Feira rolled her eyes and then gave the merchant a charming smile as she selected a fat salmon for purchase. “What was I supposed to do?”

“Uh, say yes? He’s gorgeous! And owns his own business, and is an actual gentleman,” Nellie griped, spelling it out for her friend with a hand set firmly on her hip. “You know, for as smart at you are, you can be an absolute idiot!”

“What? Because I know how to say ‘no’ to men and you don’t?” Feira retorted smoothly with no small amount of sass.

Nellie gasped in offense, but had no other response because, well, it was the truth. “That is not the point, missy, and you know it. Uugh, and I could have bought a new dress and gotten free treats, too,” she added with a pout as she watched her friend pay for the fish, and exchange knowing smirks with the grizzled but kindly-looking fisherman.

Fiera turned and motioned for Nellie to lead the way down the row of busy merchant stalls. “I am so sorry, Nells, that I am not getting married for your benefit,” she teased.

Nellie jutted out her lower lip in a disgruntled pout at Feira before checking her shopping list. “Why couldn’t you just do it for the money? And you know, since it’s so important, you could have at least tried to love him. You have to get over that silly sailor someday.”

Feira brushed golden strands of hair out of her eyes and cast a glance to the nearby sails at the docks. “Maybe, but Berest deserves someone who does love him, not someone who might.”

Exhaling a long-suffering sigh, Nellie hooked an arm with Feira’s and led her to another stall. “And maybe you’ll be an old maid and give all your pennies away to those little runts you tutor. Or, perhaps I should give that boy — Sully? Sally?”

“Master Sellion?”

“Yes!” Nellie snapped her fingers and pranced several steps. “Perhaps I should give him pointers on how to turn your head.”

Feira scowled at Nellie. “My students are not runts, Sellion and I are just friends, and you are impossible.”

Nellie giggled and squeezed Feira’s arm before dragging her another way, distracted by displays of Haradic jewelry. “I know!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The young recruit dashed in, so sure that his practice sword would find it’s mark. Peldirion had made the young man he sparred with work to get an opening, and waited as he took the bait. Then, without hesitation or mercy, batted away the driving wooden blade, and swung his free arm in to knock the man off of his feet.

“Good! Your form has improved,” he said, expression stern as he offered a hand down to his gasping opponent. “Faster on the draw, and if you get knocked down, roll with it. I may not deal the finishing blow, but your enemy will.”

The training room had filled with young guardsmen eager to serve a new Gondor, and they watched with rapt attention. The Lord Calaer’s morning training sessions were known for being brutal, but every young man at the garrison was up each morning, eager to learn and prove their worth. The fit private stood at attention despite his struggling to regain his breath.

Peldirion looked back to his audience and was about to select two men for the next demonstration when the sight of Halethon in the near hall caught his attention. “Captain Matteson! Run the men through their paces.” One of the officers off to the side strode in and barked to the room as the men began to pair up.

“Woe to the fool who dares attack Pelargir,” said Halethon with a smirk as his friend drew near.

Peldirion’s eyes narrowed to show his amusement and fit on his tunic as he joined him. “Let us hope these lads do not have to see war so close to home again,” he huffed in response as he held out a hand to accept the sealed scroll Halethon offered up to him. His friend turning his wheeled chair, the two began to slowly walk down the hall to the terrace that overlooked the courtyard of the garrison. “Do you know how she is this morning?”

“I did not hear much, but I think your beloved had her breakfast in bed.” There was silence for several seconds, and it prompted Halethon to look up and read Peldirion’s frown. “Pel, she is well,” he assured quietly. “Morning sickness is common.”

Peldirion grunted, and kept his focus on the letter that was suddenly vastly insignificant. “What do you think?”

Halethon’s gaze narrowed as he watched his friend. “I think a lot of things.”

“Do you think it is a boy?”

“Possibly.”

“… What if it is a girl?”

Halethon blinked, and suddenly leaned his head back as he laughed. “Then you will be hopelessly head over heels for two women! You’re going to be the most ridiculously adorable father. Seriously. I don’t know if your men will fear you less or more after!”

Peldirion’s hardened expression cracked faintly, and only Halethon could see just how soft of a look it really was. “You think so?”

“By Ulmo,” Halethon huffed with a grin. “If you start crying on me I swear I will punch you!”

“I never cry,” Peldirion retorted.

“Horse shit.” Halethon swatted at Peldirion’s arm before turning to wheel himself away. “You’ll do great. Now stop grumping all over the place. We have work to do.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A log in the fire popped, sending a shower of sparks up into the wide chimney. A thick quilt draped over her, a steaming mug of cider rested on the end table, and Fletch slept, snoring softly on Eruviel’s bare feet. It took her a good while to fully concentrate on her studies. The common room of her little home in Durrow still echoed with the memory of laughter, and smelled of beef stew, buttered rolls, and winterberry pie. Even the feel of his final parting kiss lingered, warming her fair cheeks.

But soon enough Eruviel’s emerald gaze was fixed on the old tome as she studied her brother’s notes by fire and candlelight. There was nothing new for her to find, but still she read, possibly to glean what knowledge she lacked, and also out of hope that she could find something else to help the young girl.

She found it again. The recounting of similar cases. And if she thought about it, even from across Ruby Lake, she could faintly sense it. She had not told Eirikr, but it frightened her at first, the fear in Jaemy’s eyes when their hands first touched. The young girl’s pained, confused cries. At the same time that it broke her heart, a fury like blinding fire burned in her veins towards the people that had harmed the child. But she was with Varidia, and in truth, Eruviel could think of no better place for Jaemy’s sake. Both for herself and for her guardian.

Sighing softly, Eruviel closed the tome. One hand tracing over the intricate designs in the leather cover, her other reached to first take up the letter from Idlric, and then the hot mug to sip from. The warmth seeped through her, and the Elf settled further beneath the massive blanket. As prepared as she worked to be for the worst, Eruviel knew that the poor girl was getting the best medicine and magic she could. The logs in the fireplace popped again, and Eruviel watched the flames dance in the hearth. Very few things… if anything in the world were as powerful as true kindness and love freely given. Perhaps they were meant to rescue the young one. Then again, perhaps Varidia and even Durrow were simply the Hunter’s tools to guide Jaemy to an understanding that she could, indeed, save herself.

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Practice

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“… and we took of like cats from a cage! Should ‘a seen us. Damned birds. Gonna be shyin’ from the critters fer weeks!”

Eruviel blinked out of her thoughts, lifting her head from where it rested on her knee to look to the young weapon smith. “Hmm? Oh — yes, yes that would be incredibly frightening. Crows are far smarter than some people care to admit.”

Risala lowered her weighted arms, frowning at the Elf. “You weren’ listening to a word I said, were ya?”

“You were running away from the gravedigger.”

“Yer so full of it,” Risala snorted, lifting the training sword to continue going through her paces. “What’re ya thinkin’ about?”

With a little smirk the Elf rose to her feet and walked along the stone fence to where their training gear sat. “Nothing that need concern you.”

Risala grinned mischievously and pointed her sword accusingly at Eruviel. “You were thinkin’ about him, weren’t ya?!”

“No, I was not,” Eruviel replied, taking up a short sword and the wooden shield from where it leaned against the barrier. “And even so it is hardly any of your business.”

“Bull,” Ris shot back with a snicker. “Can’t fool me, pointy-ears.”

One corner of Eruviel’s mouth slowly curved up. “How is your wounded tail bone feeling?”

“What? What has that gotta do with –” Risala cut off and shrugged, shoving a swath of bright red hair out of her eyes. “It’s fine. Why?”

“Your footwork has gotten sloppy.”

Risala scowled at the change of subject. “It ain’t got sloppy, you jus — Whaaaiiie!”

Quicker than she could respond, Eruvil had dashed in and swept the human’s legs out from under her. With a yelp and a flail of her arms Risala’s legs flew up and she crashed down to the ground.

“Ayyee! Damned bloody elf!” Ris wailed, rolling over and holding her bottom. “What’d ya do that for?!”

Eruviel dropped the shield beside the young woman, and set her hand on her hip. “As payback for last year when you knocked me on my ass.”

“Eh-heh, oh yeah,” Ris responded, grinning as she rose to her feet and took the shield up.

“And also, because the further you go along your road, the greater the chance of you crossing paths with far more dangerous things than an ‘gaunt lord’ and his enchanted flock of carrion.”

Risala sniffed and frowned down at her hammer and shield. “Yeah? Ya really b’lieve in all tha’?”

“I have seen all that, my dear friend.”

“Guess… learnin’ from a two thousand year ol –”

“Fifteen hundred year old –”

Risala smirked and rolled her eyes, though her limbs tingled with an eager anticipation.”Yeah, same thing. Company ain’t gonna be in Bree long. Ya really think you can learn me all that before I go?”

Eruvel’s green eyes narrowed as she grinned, and the Elf whispered under her breath to ignite the oil along the length of her blade. “Shield up. I can do better than that, Miss. Thorne. I can teach you.”

Blame

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“Where in Stockard’s grave ‘ve you been?”

Eruviel looked to the front stoop of her little house as she closed the gate to see Ildric occupying most of it, a pipe smoking in one hand. A guarded frown replaced her initial smile as she quickly read the dark look in his eyes, and she instinctively glanced over her shoulder to the narrow road beyond her fence. “Where’d you come from?”

Ildric’s narrowed eyes studied her from where he leaned against her door, purposefully blocking her way to her house. “Been waiting for you to come home for half the day.”

“That seems like a waste of time for such a busy man.”

“Probably was. What were you doing?”

“Hunting,” she lied.

“Bull.” He knew her too well. “You were doing fairy crap.”

Eruviel’s frown deepened. This was not Ildric. This was Vrax, and she could see through the dark that he was both tired and angry.”What is troubling you, Ildric?”

Ildric tossed his pipe aside and rose to his feet with a grunt. “Don’t give me that Elf, sugar-coated garbage.”

“Then don’t give me any of your shit,” she snapped back.

“Oh? My shit?” he scoffed, lumbering down the steps towards her. “You talk crap about caring about your friends and — What the hell is on your face?”

The Elf was caught off guard, and faltered for a moment. “Wha — Oh, this? Lipstick.”

“Why?”

“Because I was alone all day and I thought it might be fun. I decided it was a waste to leave it sitting in my bathroom unused.”

A dim, familiar glint passed through the man’s eyes. “Well that’s all backwards. If people wanna do something for themselves they usually  just f–”

Vrax!”

The two glared at each other, the air in the yard tense. Finally the big man shoved a hand into his vest pocket. Drawing something out he tossed it to her without care. “That’s why I’m here.”

Something small, and cold hit her cheek, and Eruviel caught it between her hair and her braid as it tumbled down. She instantly recognized the object as a ring and, lifting it to get a better look, was greeted by an all too familiar sapphire encased in silver leaves that glittered in the evening light. “What — Why do you have this? This is –”

Was,” Ildric clarified harshly.

Eruviel’s frown deepened as she looked up at the angry man towering a bit too close for comfort. “Was? What happened to Maddie?”

Thick arms crossed over Ildric’s chest as he continued to glare down at her. “I’d think you would be smart enough to figure that out for yourself. She left him.”

Eruviel’s shoulders sank, and an ill feeling twisted in her gut. “What? Why? Ildric, when did she leave him?”

“Before we got in from the raid. Bea was waiting up for us, and Frank found Maggie’s ring on the table in his forge.”

Speechless, Eruviel looked back to the ring for several moments. “And you’re angry at me because….”

“Because if you hadn’t been off doing Valar knows what, all of this could have been avoided!”

Her green gaze paled in a fleeing look of fury and darted up to lock on him. “You will not blame any of that on me! I told Frank why I could not go. He said he understood, and that is that!”

Ildric stepped up close, forcing her to retreat a step. “His wife had been taken! Someone you call friend needed you to be there, and you left to run around in the woods!”

“I left to find someone I call sister,” she shot back, her anger matching his. “He came to ask my help as I was already preparing to leave. Frank was sympathetic, and there was no issue with it. By the time I had returned you and yours had already caught the caravan! It is not my fault that she lost it and left him, and I am not responsible for her decisions.”

“Oh? Who was is that sent Frank south with news about Koss and his band a months back?”

Eruviel’s hands curled into fists at her sides. “You mean news that almost got my throat slit open in the process of getting? I did, but –”

Witch. That was the last straw for them! Did you know she watched him ride off? Cried like he had died, then went off and moved in with some young baker in town. If he’d have stayed they could have worked things out.”

“It doesn’t just happen like that, Ildric, and you know it. I told him to give Tamrin the message and stay home, but he wouldn’t have it. It was his marriage, and she had been treating him worse and worse since their anniversary. He insisted that it would fix things, and would not be persuaded otherwise.”

“And you know what it fixed? Nothing. Want to know what is even better? Koss fed his men to our attack and slipped away. Now we have to hunt the bastard down all over again,” Ildric spat, shouting angrily.

“He got away?”

“I gotta say it again? Finally had him in my sights after ten years and he’s gone.”

Eruviel deflated some, and shook her head. “Ildric, please. I am sorry that he got away. If you’ll let me –”

“You are, huh? Well I don’t want you helping this time. I’ve had enough of it,” he growled, shoving her out of of his way as he stalked past, his glare hazed over with a cloud of unbidden emotions.

“Ildric, wait! Where is Frank?”Eruviel called, her voice almost catching as she turned to attempt to follow after the man.

“At home. Locked himself in his forge,” he shot over his shoulder as he shoved the gate open and slammed it shut. “Leave him be…. Oh, and wipe that filth off your face. You look like a whore.”

Bittersweet: Warm Autumn Days

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Song

“What did you find there?” Eruviel asked, leaning over in the fresh stream as Eboric sloshed over to her.

“Rocks!” he declared proudly, his wet little hands full of smoothed, colorful stones.

Chickadees fluttered above them in the thick, rusty gold leaves that trembled in the warm autumn breeze and shimmered in pale sunlight. The spring water that bubbled over its old path wove around behind the fair sized, cool spring pool surrounded by ruined, mossy stonework. Between several arches the Elf had hung the glowing stones she had scavenged from the road in Durrow, and they shimmered, casting dull blue and purple stars about the secret hall hidden in the woods. It had not taken too much convincing to keep Eboric from the deep, sunken room filled with crystal clear water. All it required was the hint of adventure, the fast pace of the stream that swirled around the shallow pools where they waded and splashed, and, of course, the crafting of a most excellent leaf boat.

“Throw in!?” Eboric asked, pointing to the ruins behind them, and tugging on the light blue cloth of her swim dress.

“Of course!” she chimed, brushing away little pebbles sticking to her shoulder that had been gifted by little hands. “But remember? What do we do at the big pool?”

Eboric dumped his wealth of shiny rocks into her open palms and hiked up his swim shorts that were on their last adventure before winter and a growth spurt. “Sit,” he said with a serious bob of his head. Wading out of the stream he reached to pull her after him.

With a soft huff of breath as she juggled holding his rocks, being led by the wrist, and not stumbling over the thin, dripping strips of her skirt, Eruviel rose to her feet and padded over the mossy ground with the little boy. Reaching the wide edge of the pool the two sat down side by side, their feet dangling over the ledge and into the crystalline water.

“Here we are,” she murmured, piling the stones between them. “Now don’t tell Raenarcam that — Where are you going?”

Eboric pushed himself to his feet and scampered away over the soft floor. He did not go far, however, and stopped at the broken foot of an ancient pillar to retrieve his top and the prize leaf boat that had been saved (with no small amount of effort on her part). Padding back, Eboric sat down and snuggled up beside her.

“Throw!”

Eruviel paused, arching a brow down at him. “Throw…?”

“Please!” Eboric added, beaming up at her and doing his best not to look too sleepy.

“Thank you.” One arm around the boy just in case he got excited and scooted too close to the edge, she tossed a smooth red stone out to drop into the pool with an echoing plunk.

Eboric giggled and stifled a yawn. “Again!”

“Someone is getting tired,” Eruviel said in a sing-song voice.

Nooo,” Eboric protested as he picked a green stone out of her palm and chucked it into the water with a resounding plop.

Eruviel tossed a blue-grey stone in. Plunk. “Yeeees. We had a long day! We ate cookies, and made a fort….”

“Vorwem!”

“You like riding Voronwen?”

Eboric nodded enthusiastically. “Go fast!”

“A little too fast for even my comfort,” she said with a warm chuckle as she surrendered a red stone to the boy. Plop! it went, sending up a spray of water back onto them and drawing a string of giggles from Eboric. The sound echoed around the small ruins and quickly faded into him rubbing his eyes.

“Do… you want a story?”

Eboric nodded quickly. He loved stories.

“If you want a story you will need to lie down.”

He made a face at that, studying her as if it were some sort of trick.

“Do not give me that look. I will lie down, too. We have just enough time for a little rest before we should head back for supper.”

Pursing his lips, weighing the gravity of such an important decision, Eboric finally nodded. Trusting her to see that he would not fall into the pool, the little boy reached over her lap, and scooted the rest of the stones off the edge to tumble into the clear blue depths of the ancient room. He then took up his fine leaf boat and placed it upon the water.

“Ready?”

Eboric nodded tiredly, and before Eruviel could lean over his head had found its way onto her lap.

“Oh, hold on, little Ric,” she said softly. “Not this close to the water.” Gathering him up, Eruviel scooted back to lean against a green-carpeted stone. Eboric settled on the dry moss, resting his head in her lap and rubbing his face against her leg.

“Thank you for that. Do you want to hear the tale of the forest hunter?”

He shook his head.

“Of the lonely dragon?”

Eboric shook his head again.

“What about the Ocean’s daughter, or the hunter who listened?”

Eboric shook his head once more and tilted his chin to look up at her.

“Goodness, little one. I do not have my story book with me… What about a song?”

Eboric smiled happily up at her and nodded, and Eruviel smiled back. 

“A mountain king?”

He nodded again, and was quickly distracted by specks of light that danced over his hands. A song would have him asleep in no time.

The stream behind them serving as her accompaniment, Eruviel smoothed back Eboric’s hair from his brow as she began to quietly sing. The warm autumn wind blew through the ruined stone as the child and Elf looked out over the secret woodland hall, watching the little gold and green ship scuttle across the water.

Bittersweet: Get Out

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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.

“Commander?”

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.”

– – – – –

Yarig! Benrith!

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.

“My lord?”

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.”

Bittersweet: Last We Spoke

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Godhric stood, silently staring out into the ice bay of Forochel, near the outskirts of Suri-Kyla, with his hands clasped together behind his back. The only sounds came from the now calm, morning winds and crashes of gentle waves on the cold shore.

Having left the village behind, Eruviel quietly approached the towering man, her own hands held behind her back as she walked over the thin layer of fresh snow. “You would think it might be easier to find a person in such a relatively small area.”

Godhric turned his head to glance upon Eruviel as she approached him. His eyes studied her for a moment before returning quietly to the sea again. “It is a beautiful place, is it not?”

“Breathtaking,” Eruviel replied, nodding slowly in agreement. “I do not think I would ever tire of winter if I lived here.”

“Nor would I. The air is more forgiving, now that the Northwind is calmed.”

Eruviel’s features lit with a small smile. “Just wait till winter sets in. It can be bitterly unforgiving, and equally as lovely.”

Godhric hummed lowly. “I believe you,” he said with a short pause. “What did you come to me for? I am sure it was not to talk about the weather.”

Eruviel tisked softly. “Ah, but the weather is such a broad topic.” Looking out over the water her expression turned serious. The emotions and thoughts of the man from when she had, but for a short time, inhabited his body were still all too fresh in her memory. “When will you leave?”

“The Wayfarers?” He paused again in thought. “After we have settled in Bree. I will ask Oendir to resume his place as Commander. My son and I have matters to attend to in Rohan, and I am homesick.”

Eruviel ran her tongue along the inside of her cheek, nodding once. “And when will you return?”

Godhric remained silent. His eyes narrowed on the distant edges of the water where his vision ended.

Eruviel did not break the silence for a time as she watches the water in the bay ease and roll at the behest of the tide and breeze. “You meet a lot of people in fifteen hundred years, but I can only count on one hand the number of men I have met whom I would follow to any end, and fewer still that I would do so unconditionally. If you do not eventually come back, be sure that I will send both Hallem and Feygil after you.”

Godhric’s chest deflated after releasing a large, measured breath with a plume of mist that extended from his lips. “It seems I will have to make my home in the North, now.”

A soft chuckle escaped her. Reaching into the pocket of her warm coat she pulled out her notebook, and from it an aged envelope. She had intended to save it for the next time she passed north of Lorien, but somehow this seemed right. Looking up with a soft smile and meaningful look, she extended it to Godric. “I am sure you can find a proper place to plant this once you get to where you are going.”

Godhric glanced over to study the envelope before unclasping one hand to reach for it. “What is it?” he asked as he held it in front of himself.

“Seeds. Plant the dried flower with it, and wait a week. It should sprout and bloom by then.”

Godhric brought forth a second hand to hold the seeds with. “I will. Thank you.”

Eruviel closed the notebook and slipped it back into her pocket. “You are welcome. Thank you.”

Godhric nodded slowly, then glanced forward to the water once more. “I believe I am going to take a walk before I head back to the village. I will not stray far,” he said. “Thank you, for everything you have done for me.”

Eruviel looked to him for a moment, then dipped her head in a respectful bow. “Commander.” She then stepped away and turned to head back to the village.

“Eruviel,” came Godric’s voice from behind her.

Eruviel stopped and looked back as the man as he turned to face her. “Sir?”

Her eyes sparkled as they might if she had laughed as his voice rose over the sound of the frigid, lapping waves. Responding in jest, she did not have to wait for him to continue.

“– When I am gone, I need you to look after them all for me. Can you promise me this?”

The Elf then gave him a sure nod. “I will look after them. You have have my word.”

Godhric nodded once with a warm smile, then turned to leave, away from Suri-Kyla.

 

(Thank you to Valthier for playing Godric. Taken from in-game RP and edited for tense and composition.)

Bittersweet: Foolishness

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Eruviel sat on the railing of the icy bridge, looking out over the bay. Her notebook rested open on her lap, it’s pages fluttering in the wind held down by the elf’s gloved hand that grasped a short, well used pencil. This was the last sketch on her list, and she was glad that she had saved it. The view that afternoon was stunning, and a night’s rest without Mornenion in her head helped her enjoy it even more.

Liriedir, having paced around the settlement without purpose, appeared to her right and began to cross over the span. His fingers curled around his slender chin,  Elven brows tugged together in a fretful frown. Consumed by his thoughts, he did not seem to notice Eruviel as he began to pass her.

“They should have a contest to see who can pace the shoreline more,” Eruviel offered in jest as he began to pass her by. “I have little doubt that you would win it.”

Liriedir gave her a sour look. “I am pleased the storms have not blown away your sense of humor.”

Eruviel cast an amused glance at him before quickly catching the pages of her book as they begin to flip. “Are you really? A shame they did not. Being out in this cold so much, you might have caught it.”

Liriedir’s look did not change, and Eruviel felt her stomach drop a little, finding his expression unpleasantly familiar. “Laugh all you wish. Your fleeting emotions are a mark of your age.”

Uhh… The elleth studied him, and she easily responded, “Yes, they are. And I assure you I have no intention of being rid of them. They make life more enjoyable, and seeing and understanding some things far easier.”

Liriedir turned towards the other side of the bridge, overlooking the huts and campfires that doted the shore. “I do not suggest being rid of them. I suggest immaturity. Joke and posture as you will to your fellows, but I will abstain from this foolishness out of respect for our hosts.”

Eruviel turned in her seat to face him, saving her page with her pencil. What in Arda… She quickly thought over her words, not understanding why he would be so harsh. “You consider my joke to you as being disrespectful to our hosts?”

Liriedir set his hands behind himself. “Joking while the city mourns? Yes, I do. Do you feel none of the despair and regret in the air?”

Eruviel’s smile hardened at this. Deep breath. “I feel it deeply, and it is part of what keeps me up every night. I will joke in private with friends as I see fit, for a bitter heart dwelling on death will not help heal the wounded, nor keep my head clear for dealing justice to the enemy when the time comes,” she answered quietly. You do not owe him any explanation. Let an Angmarim break his nose. But she went on.”I bear much of their pain, and spend a great deal of my time aiding the healers with every seriousness that should be afforded.” Turning again, she faced the bay and returns to sketching on her saved page.

“You think like a man. If you feel it, I suggest you act like it.” His shoulders straighten. “We are the firstborn; We are guides, shepherds, teachers. We possess wisdom lost to the younger races. Help all you will, but if you laugh in the face of tragedy, you will be seen as uncaring.”

Eruviel did not respond to him. It had been a long time since she had been accused of being uncaring, and it hurt far worse than expected. She only continued to sketch in her book, her pencil pausing at his words. Be still. He knows nothing, and he would not care if you told him anything, she reasoned.

Liriedir did not say any more. Without a response, he continued down the slope of the bridge, paying no mind to the swirling snow.

Blood boiling in her veins, Eruviel waited till he had gone a ways to snap her book shut. Swinging her legs over, she stood on the bridge and began to stride purposefully back to the Lodge. Bitter, asinine, haughty… Let the others mistrust him. I have no time, and now no care to empathize. Maybe she did think like a man, but she was quite sure she was better for it.

Stopping at the door of the Great Lodge she took a deep breath — well, several deep breaths to calm herself. She could show her anger when she drug Wahseena — Wahsenahthat man to Panja’s feet, and crushed the dark god’s face in with her fist, but she would be damned if the horrid new Elf ruined her mood. Kem, where are you when I need you? Smiling a little down at her notebook, she took one more breath before gladly stepped into the warm building.

“Sivullinen!”

Eruviel look over to where the call had come from. Smiling as she offered a slight wave to the young healer, she weaved through the small crowd by the door to approach the woman. Swallowing, she switched her thoughts to Larsi so as to make speaking it easier. “I apologize for taking so long.”

The young healer smiled hopefully, and shook her head. “Do not apologize. You… you have it?”

Eruviel nodded and reached into her pocket to pull out a makeshift envelope, bits of blue feather escaping out of one corner. Would he think this foolishness? “I hope this will suffice.”

“It will! I cannot thank you enough. He was so upset when he learned that the ones I gave him were ruined….” the woman whispered, a sudden look of shame and worry showing in her eyes. “I would go, but I cannot leave with all of –”

“It is not safe to leave,” Eruviel interrupted softly, resting a reassuring hand on the woman’s arm. “And you are needed here. You can just say a friend helped you get them. They were a gift to me, so it is only proper that I gift a few to you. He will like them, but not as much as he does you.” She then turned her gaze to the beds filled with wounded across the great room. “How are they?”

The woman blushed a little, tucking the precious envelope safely away before a more serious look took over her features. “No change. Hopefully we do not loose another before nightfall.”

“How about Keihäs and Pentu?”

“A pain, those two.” Nodding to Eruviel, she reached into her healer’s apron and offered the Elf a bottle. “Their dressings will need changed as well. Would you mind?”

Eruviel smiled kindly as she accepted the bottle. “Not at all.” Parting ways, she followed the wall around, nodding respectfully to several of the healers. She was sure Maggie and Varidia were about helping somewhere nearby. Keeping out of the way, she slowed as she approached two cots.

“About time!” one of the men huffed as he looked back to see the Elf. “What took you so long?”

“Welcome back,” replied the man in the second bed, a thick dressing laid over his eyes

“Thank you, Pentu. And I got caught up in an unpleasant conversation,” she replied mildly to the first man. “How is the leg, Keihäs?”

“The same as when you left,” Keihäs huffed. Propping himself up on his elbows, the man nodded to her. “Did you get all of them?”

Smiling softly, Eruviel knelt down between the two beds. “Of course I did.”

“Well, hand them over!”

Eruviel swatted away Keihäs’ reaching hand. Opening her notebook to the page saved by her short pencil, she carefully began tearing out several pages covered with rough, but meticulously sketched scenes of the landscape and village. “Here you are.”

Keihäs eagerly accepted the drawings from her, and laid back, pouring hungrily over each page. “You are terrible at drawing.”

“Do not be rude, Keihäs,” Pentu admonished quietly, turning his head a little to the sound of the rustling pages.

“He is not wrong,” Eruviel replied with a smile. Placing a hand briefly on Pentu’s arm she then reached to take up the wide bowl and small satchel left at the foot of the bed. “Let us change the dressing on your eyes first, hmm?”

Nodding, Pentu straightened his head to face up. “But it is still unkind to say after you went through all of that trouble.”

Eruviel chuckled quietly, and rolled up her sleeves. Washing her hands in the prepared water, she carefully peeled away the thick poultice from the man’s wounded face as she had watched Cwendlwyn and so many other healers do before. “It was no trouble at all.” Keihäs grunted at their conversation, but said nothing as he slowly traced his fingers over a drawing of a cluster of huts.

“What is it like… outside” Pentu asked quietly, managing a small frown as he looked up past burned lids to see nothing.

A pained expression flickered across her features, but Eruviel did not let it reach her voice. Placing a textured stone from the shoreline in his waiting hands, she pulled the cork from the small jar, and took up a clean rag. “The storm is not as bad today, and a bit of golden sunlight filters down now and then to warm the round roofs. You can see the pale bean — oh, eh– ice… floating in the dark, grey blue waters….”

 

(Thank you to Atanamir for playing Liriedir! RP taken from in game and edited for tense and composition.)

Bittersweet: Answers in the Cold

The wind of the storm beyond Suri-kyla stung the freshly healed skin of her cheeks as she walked. Eruviel’s pace quickened as she approached the Ferry only to come to a stop at the start of the short pier. Staring out over the bay she searched the waters. For answers? For comfort? Shaking her head, she yanked off her gloves.

Perhaps she should have told Cedoric when he asked, or Eirikr because she should have. Because she wanted to. But then again, what good would it do? Another trouble to have on the mind. Another burden for something that may or may not come. Her cloak followed the gloves, then her wrap followed by her heavy fur-lined coat. The wind catching her braid and the ribbon that struggled to keep it bound, Eruviel yanked off her boots and socks and walked to stand on the far end of the pier. Cold cut through her shirt and lined trousers to bite her healing flesh. As bitter as it was the chilled air washed over her, filling her chest with the clean, spirit-filled air, and awakening all of her senses.

But I will just say this: to ever trust the word of the Angmarim would be a deep betrayal to my people… She had wanted to run after Beth and ask her what she had meant. Why she had turned away. But then her thoughts went to Angmar. What was waiting for her, sought for her at night now that the link had been broken in the fire, and what she wished was still. What she wished with all her heart was still beyond those borders.

If you were alive you could have helped us. Attacked them from behind. You would have known what to do. Eruviel wrapped her arms around herself, and squeezed her eyelids shut even as hot tears escaped. A hundred men, their bodies broken and burning in the fires illuminated the back of her eyelids, mixed with glow of the river of molten rock. This is not the time. They will get through this. Somehow we will make it. We always do, don’t we? Keep him out. Keep him out.

He had been there again, waiting in the shadows of the trees in her dreams, filling her paths with traps. Having found a clearing she had banished the scene, all for the hill, and surrounded herself with light. All night she could sense him, waiting, but he could not get through. Then daylight came.

A warm body pressed against her leg. Looking down, Hano sat on the dock beside his golden eyes gazing up at her. Letting out a cloud of breath in a sigh, she knelt down beside him, and returned the nuzzle he gave. “Thank you. It is good to have another voice of encouragement in my head…. Or look,” she added with a little smirk.

Hano nipped at her pointed ear, and Eruviel petted behind his. “It’ll work out, won’t it? Of course it will. We’ll just beat Tuma… again. Find the daughter, beat the warlord, keep Panja alive… But if things go badly, you and Kemp go. Promise me. Keep away from any fighting, hmm?”

The wolf grumbled, and licked the Elf’s face. She laughed, most likely the response he had hoped for, and kissed the top of his head. “Let us head back. There will be a meeting, and I promised not to disappear.”

Bittersweet: Burned Away

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Eruviel stared at the roof of her hut. Was it her hut? Minutes were hours, and every one she spent convincing herself not to crawl out into the cold of the storm and curl up in the snow. The heat of the burns radiated through her aching, languid limbs, and every movement only a measure more agonizing than laying still.

She could not remember how she had gotten from the Ferry to the hut. She could not remember how she’d gotten into her bed of furs, or changed into fresh clothes with salve spread over her burns, but the pain… That was all too clear. Her flesh bubbling and curling as she’d stepped into the liquid fire. Heat turning her lungs to parchment and smoke filling her chest for her to choke on. And she had gone back in. The Elf remembered the pain being a little less… or it was, quite possibly, her body growing numb to compensate for the pain, and she remembered feeling the cold bite of magic that had clung to her shoulder since Durrow burn away.

More than anything, she remembered waking from the Henki-maa, in the raw reality of Forochel to writhe in the snow, unable to keep back the tormented cries that clawed up her throat. What a pitiful sight she must have been. Somewhere in the back of her mind she tried to convince herself that it would pass, and tried to push past the unbearable sting and heat that radiated from her singed flesh, but the present was too much. Hot tears streamed across the dried skin of her face to wet the loose hair that pillowed her head. What she wouldn’t give for a taste of cold snow on her tongue, or the feel of frigid water coursing down her throat.

Having woken in a haze she’d found Hano curled around her head. She had cried more than she’d meant to, finding that she was not alone, his concerned wimpers pulling her from her sleep. Had she dreamed or voiced her discomfort in her sleep? Either way, she did not have the heart nor the will to ask him to stop when the wolf occasionally licked the tears from her cheeks. Kemp drifted in and out of the dwelling, but Hano remained, ever vigilant as she passed in and out of sleep.

She thought often about the others. An ache twisted in her chest, a bitterly familiar pain of shame and failure as she recalled Oendir’s cries, and the horrifying silence as Kemendin had begun to float away in the river of fire. She was to blame. Leaving the elk calves to their fate had not been an option, but she had been weak, stepping into the lava, and because of that her friends had gotten hurt. They all knew that there would be a cost. They had been warned of it two years ago, but in their urgency she had not cared to think on it.

Hano sniffed, his cold nose nudging at her ear as the elf’s wallowing began to get the better of her. Pulled from her thoughts, she attempted what she hoped was a weak smile, and exhaled a ragged sigh that felt only somewhat less painful than than the ones before. The wolf scooted a little closer and Eruviel tucked her head against his neck, praying for sleep to take her, and for her two friends that she hoped had somehow been spared.

Bittersweet: Haunting Hours

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The bonfire in the yard of Ravenhold crackled and sparked, embers dancing up towards the stary sky to beat of the music. It was midnight, but the only magic there came from contagious smiles and contented laughter as the happy din drifted out over the homestead.  There was no special occasion, but in truth did they really need one?

Near the totem Oendir played his fiddle, laughing at Nelia and Solstan. Cwendlwyn sat at his feet, smiling as she accompanied him on her lute. The woman exchanged a meaningful look with her husband as the melody danced and mixed just as well as the half-dozen couples that swung together in the firelight. Everyone was there. Taja danced with a woman in blue, Ansithe, Feygil and Beth huddled close as the latter coerced Fey into a prank, and Abbi sat leaning against Atanamir as he embellished a tale of grand adventure for Dorsett and Sage.

Then there was Anders with his arms around Anya, the two whispering happily. Pheadra and Varidia stood with Cedoric, teasing the young man about something as Cedoric’s friend beside him watched on in amusement. There was Gaelyn and Halvel, Hallem and Lichen, and Mor standing in the midst of the romping Torsten, Eboric, and Atrian. Pharazanu and Zabathôr sat to one side, soaking up the firelight and merriment. Near them stood Kemendin who was shaking his head at some absurd comment that had sprung from a happily drunken Raenarcam, and on the far side Godric sat, Wraith’s head resting on his lap as he oversaw the festivities with what might have been a smile beneath his mighty beard.

Applauding with the rest as the song ended, Eruviel excused herself from a conversation with Rosie as she noticed a form lingering in the shadows beyond the reach of the firelight. She had thought everyone to be there, and on such a merry evening no one should be left out. Eruviel glanced over her shoulder to the happy gathering to mentally check off who might not be in attendance, but stopped in her tracks as she looked back to the shadows and found them empty. How strange.

Shrugging, she turned back to return to the party when cold fingers curled over her shoulder. The shadow loomed up behind her, causing her heart to leap up and catch in her throat.

“Looks like fun,” breathed the voice as a hooded face dipped low to hover by her ear. “There are more of them than I had anticipated.”

Every muscle in her body tensed. Unable to bring herself to turn, she fixed a horrified gaze down on the festive gathering. “You’re dead.”

A chuckle sent dreadful shivers up her spine, the breath in her ear cold. “Am I? Yes… yes, I was? I was! You had to choose to stay, didn’t you? Oh, you could have stayed beyond the sea or gone with him, but you never learn. You had to find new people to fill the void of what you lost.”

“How dare you think they are merely –”

“Merely what?” the voice calmly interrupted, the grip on her shoulder tightening. “Don’t get snippy with me. It won’t be as easy as last time. You sssee, I learn my lessons.”

A light rain began to fall. The fire hissed in protest, and the droplets soaked into her skin, but no one else appeared to notice. Eirikr emerged from Ravenhold, Drewett on his heels and laughing. Clapping the farmer on the back the Dalish man wove around the crowd, lifting one of the goblets in his hands as he made his way over to the Elf.

“What are you doing over there?” Eirikr called with a smile. “Come on! Everyone’s waiting.”

Did he not see him? Eruviel forced a smile and accepted the glass with a grateful nod. “I apologize. It’s — It’s a nice vantage from here.”

Giving her a curious look, the man then chuckled and took her hand to rest it on his forearm. “It is, I suppose, but no sneaking off. Come on back.”

The cold hand slowly released her, and the hooded face retreated back into the shadows beyond the yard as she stepped forward to return with Eirikr. “It is you or them…. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel’s eyes fluttered open. A noon breeze gently rocked her as she lay in her hammock, and Fletch sat on the grass beneath her, whining loudly with concern as he stared up at his Elf.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Eruviel lifted a hand to wipe at her face and was startled to find it wet with rain. Indeed, her dress and hair were soaked with rain water. Sitting up she shivered bodily, glancing about the yard with a frown as her dream quickly faded to a dull memory.

The stress knotted in her gut, making her feel ill. It had been such a good dream, too. Hopping down from the hammock she took a moment to comfort Fletch, assuring him that she was all right before turning to rescue the dripping linens from the line.