Feira

Innocent Heart

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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Innocent Heart: Numb

“What are you doing all the way over here?!”

Feira’s golden head snapped up from the thick pages it hovered over. “You’re supposed to speak quietly in a library, Nellie.”

“It’s too quiet… and full of books,” the young woman huffed, pursing her painted lips. “But you’re never on this side of the place! Not as colorful here if you ask me.”

“It’s the law section, Nellie. There are no painted pictures in the pages.” Feira closed the heavy tome before her, and subtly wiped at a damp cheek. She knew what she had set out to do, what she thought had been a good idea. In truth, though, it had been but a fruitless attempt to try and find a way to fix the empty ache in her chest.

“… but oh no! Told them straight up. Really, it can be such a burden, being right all the time.”

Feira blinked her long lashes as she rose from her seat, only just realizing that Nellie had been talking. “Think you’ll go back?”

Nellie tossed her long brown hair over her shoulder. “No way! Got your books? Anyways, I got a date and — Hey, you okay?”

Feira tucked her single book, having nothing to do with ships or sea or sun, beneath one arm. She felt numb, having cried more than she ever thought she would. Her free hand lifted to brush at her slender, unadorned neck, and swallowed the miserable lump she had not felt rise in her throat. “I’m fine, thank you,” she replied, her voice soft and smile weak.

Nellie huffed and led the way out of the building that was probably the least interesting to her in all of the city (aside from maybe the temple). “Know what you need?”

Feira sighed, brushing at her neck again, missing the necklace that had hung there. “No. What do I need, Nellie?” She caught the library door, forging into the daylight after her fellow maid.

“You need to get laid.”

Feira balked at her. Cheeks flushing crimson she lifted her chin and strode quickly ahead. “Nellie –”

Unphased by Feira’s warning tone, Nellie sashayed dramatically down the stone steps. “Really! Gotta do the deed someday. You might like it! And it does wonders f –”

The faint memory of her gold note locket breaking free in the bottom of the Alshier flooded in and a crushing weight of several very different emotions bore down. Spinning on her heel, she stopped abruptly in front of Nellie.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to allude to it. He’s not one of your dozens of trash weekends boyfriends, and never is any form of such a suggestion helpful or appropriate. Do I make myself clear?”

Nellie stared at her in surprise. “I get you…. Sorry. I’ll try and be good about it as long as I can.”

Feira nodded weakly turning to start the walk back to the estate. “… The whole day.”

“A whole day?!” Nellie exclaimed, leaving Feira unsure if she was joking or serious. She looked to her golden-haired friend, studying her tired, red-rimmed eyes. “I’ll behave for two days… Then I’ll make a list of all the single guards for you!”

Feira sighed, shaking her head as the fastidious maid looped an arm with hers. “What am I going to do with you?”
Nellie giggled and very nearly drug Feira along. “Help me spend my pay, of course! I’m not a penny pincher like some people,” she said, giving her a pointed look. “And you need cheering up.”

“Nellie, I don –”

“Nope! No choice! It’s unnatural, you smiling less than me. But that reminds me! So Kelly told El, that Master Hanley to Baelen that the Lady –”

Feira tuned Nellie out as the flood of worthless gossip began. But it did make her smile, and that, for the moment, was probably what she needed most.

Innocent Heart: Journal Entries 

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Song

Orange
My wild heart
Sustaining and bursting
With summer’s desire.

~

Over rocks and sand
I roam and run
Searching through sea foam
For what might become
An answer for searching souls
And questions carefully forgotten
If I find you then maybe
Just maybe

~

Delicate parchment of
Facts and fables
Trusting cold fingers to
Find and understand.
Lost in the sea of
Faded leather and ink
Bleed out more questions that
Feed endless searching
Candlelight flickers in
Frigid drafts that warm my cheeks
Whispering reminders of sun

~

Sharp and bright
This steel in midday heat 
Parry and slash 
To be faster 
Better 
Bending but not 
Breaking like waves 
Rippling like sails 
Warm against my skin
Focus
Attack
Parry and slash
Faster
Practice for them
For me
For what may never be
Arm held steady
Spinning in the dance
Plucking fiddle strings
That snap and yield to your
Attack and slash
Parry and thrust
Faster
Faster
Focus

Innocent Heart: Bartering

By care of Lady Eruviel Artistuion,

To Master Dorsett of Bree-town, 

Dear Sir,

Greetings! I hope this letter finds you well and in good health. Before anything I would like to beg your forgiveness on the part of my negligence. I had been in Bree-land for a few short days only a couple of months back and it did not occur to me to pay you a cordial visit till after I had departed back south for home. 

The reason for my writing is that, after all you had said about your own collection of book back when we talked in the library, you stuck out in my mind as someone who might have answers for me. My inquiry is a strange one, but I was wondering if you have any literature on mermaids. I am looking for anything concerning habits, diets, and things that attract them. Holding no assumption that you have read anything on the subject I still dearly hope that you have. While I am searching the books within my grasp here you are far more the scholar than I. 

Emeleth bless you and keep you.

Respectfully,

Feira, servant of House Colagar

gondorshore

“Good afternoon, Miss Feira!”

Feira smiled sweetly as she surrendered her letter to the postmaster. “Good afternoon, Master Cenor!”

The elderly man gave a warm chuckle. “Good to see you back! And sendin’ a letter. I shouldn’t be surprised — Ulmo! Who do you know all the way up there?”

“Oh, lots of people,” she reasoned as she pulled her loose hair over one shoulder.

“That’s what you get for travelin’. Meetin’ people. Reckon this one will write you back?” Cenor asked as he stamped the envelope and filed it away in the proper mail bag.

Feira blushed a little as she offered a curtsy, and swept towards the exit of the street-side office with a flutter of her long indigo skirts. “Let us hope so!”

A sea breeze caught her as she flitted out into the street, and she smiled happily, letting it escort her down the busy way (the two of them were going in the same direction). The young woman breathed deeply, savoring the smells of home. It was hardly a block till the sounds of the city fully enveloped her. The great court was filled with vendors, overflowing with sunlight and a generally merry atmosphere. A bubble of emotion swelled in her chest. How she had missed home.

She had changed up everything that week, even if some sad little part of her wondered if it mattered or not. Feira haunted a different corner of the library each day, took different paths to her destinations, and she could not have been more glad of it. Her basket heavy on her arm carried several new books from a shop she had not noticed before, and a little bag of sample muffins from a lovely woman’s bakery she had somehow failed to notice in all of her years in the city. There was also a noosegay the maid had picked for herself from a last second shortcut through a public garden because she had gotten spooked by a shadow, and (hidden beneath it all) what she assumed to be a discarded love note that had been trampled on and abandoned in a puddle. So much adventure while on her errands and there was still plenty of daylight left.

Weaving through the bustling crowd after placing a few orders, she ground to a halt when a stall stacked with old, worn books caught her eye. Feira licked her lips and brushed a few stray golden locks behind one ear before approaching the table.

“G’day, Miss!” called the haggard man standing behind the piles of tomes. “I can see ye’re already interested. What can I help ye find?”

“Good day, sir!” Feira chimed with a winning smile. “I think I have already found it — but… oh, I don’t know,” she murmured, trailing off as she turned her head and leaned a little to read the faded titles.

The man cleared his throat and lifted a work-worn hand to comb through his greying hair. “Got a few histories, some cookbooks and eh… original works if ye’re inta that sorta thing.”

Feira had spotted exactly what she wanted but hardly gave the tomes sandwiched in the middle of a stack another glance as she looked over the rest. “Do you have anything fanciful? Perhaps folklore or sailor stories?”

Studying her bright, amber eyes the man nodded slowly. “I think I have somethin’… Here, how’s this un?” He pulled out a tome the girl was well acquainted with.

Tales of Ulmo’s Bride? Oh, I have read this one before. Thank you, though. The ending is so sad, don’t you think?”

The merchant blinked before quickly nodding. “Sure is. Tragic, that one.” He had clearly never read it. Clearing his throat a bit more loudly than before, he shifted several stacks aside before pulling out one of the two tomes she had spotted. It was the nicest one in the entire collection. “How ’bout “Sun in the West: Forgotten Tales of Gondorian Folklore.“?” he asked, holding it out for her to see.

“Oh, that is very nice,” she admitted with a noncommittal nod of her head. “How much is that one?”

“For ye, missy? One silver.”

Outrageous. “A whole silver for that…?” Feira gave him a dubious frown. “May I inspect it first?”

He gave her a long, suspicious look, but the innocent young woman seemed to be the type that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Relenting, he surrendered the tome over. “Careful with that un. Ain’t gonna find it many places,” he cautioned.

Handling the book like a precious jewel she inspected it from spine to edge. It was clear that she knew how to handle books, and she went so far as to inspect the note of the scribe and the painting of Ithillien that decorated the centerfold. “Hmm… I could not pay a whole silver for this, no,” she replied with a disappointed sigh.

“What is wrong with it, if ye don’ mind me askin’?”

With an air that would make a librarian proud, Feira turned a little so the man could better see. “There is water damage up the bottom of the spine. The outside may look decent, but the stitching is about to crumble away. That alone degrades it’s value. Then there is the scribe’s signature. I have seen this name before and he always signed his name on the upper corner of the opposite page. And you don’t want me to get started on the poor state of the painting. I think I am just better off borrowing the library’s copy.”

It was another test the man failed to pass as he sniffed and offered a lower price. “Seventy copper.”

It took every bit of Feira’s self-control not to grin. She knew for a fact that the library did not have this book on it’s shelves. “Seventy? For this sad excuse of old parchment? I will give you ten.”

The man’s eyes narrowed at her as he accepted the book back. “Fifty.” He clearly just wanted to be rid of it, and it made her wonder just how long the poor tome had been sitting alone on a shelf.

“Ten.”

“Fifty, and no less.”

“I will do no higher than ten.”

“Fourty-five?”

“Then I will offer five?”

Pit, you will! Sixty!”

“Fifteen.”

“Deal!” The word spouted from the man’s lips before he could stop himself and he stared at the sweet young woman in surprise. “Hey, now, ye can’ –“

Feira smiled sagely, and shook her head. “You already agreed to it. Give me that little copy of the “Mariner’s Daughter” and I will give you twenty.”

Grunting, the man seemed none too pleased about being bested. Studying her in a new light, he yanked out the little faded blue dustcover from the stack. “I s’pose ye want ’em wrapped, too.”

Feira, though not unkindly, afforded herself a little triumphant smile. “I would be grateful if you did.

She waited patiently, the wicker handle of her basket held in both hands as she observed the thin merchant wrap the two books in brown paper. “Don’t got any bows ‘n all that shite t’ tie ’em with.”

“Like this is just fine, thank you.” Counting out her coin, Feira pulled a chocolate muffin out of the bag in her basket, and set it down with the copper.

“… Wha’s this?”

Feira tucked the wrapped books into her basket and smiled brightly at the man. “A thank-you. Do enjoy the rest of your day, sir!” Turning at that, Feira left the man at his stall, staring at her with a bewildered expression as her golden head disappeared into the crowd.

Innocent Heart: Broken

dasky

“I did what you suggested… with letting the air and cold clear my head…. I was wondering if you might tell me what you know about… well, about him. The short boat ride seems like a proper place to sort it all out in my head….” Feira did not want to speculate. Speculating made her feel like she would lose her late lunch, and yet, if the Lady knew something, what was to come might even be worse.

Cirieldis threaded her fingers together, and let out a light breath. “I am afraid it is not a simple conversation. How long do you have?”

Feira licked her pink lips and resisted the urge to glance back to the door that blocked their view of the waiting Elf. She had spent the entire trip in Forochel trying to keep the young man from her mind by day, even as he always seemed to find his way back in at night to crowd all else out. She felt nervous and sick, and she needed to know. “I have time enough,” she replied softly with a small bob of her head.

Cirieldis nodded. “Very well. Come with me.”

Feira followed, careful to not step on any swan feet. Ciri’s balcony was secluded– set high and facing the ocean, making it impossible for anyone to eavesdrop from it’s location. The Lady invited Feira to take a seat at one of two delicate white chairs, at a table set for tea.

Looking a bit more nervous than before, though no less determined, Feira quietly lowered herself into the offered seat. Silivren hopped into Feira’s lap as she settled, and the girl was comforted by the snuggly bird.

“Tea?” Ciri asked, offering the teapot. “You are welcome to help yourself to sweets.” She indicated the tiered plate stacked with cakes, truffles, and pastries.

Feira smiled softly and nodded gratefully, pausing her petting of the swan to carefully reach over to accept the tea with out disturbing the bird. “Thank you.” While she had little appetite, it would have been rude to refuse even the tea.

Cirieldis settled in her chair. “Before we begin, I would like to hear everything you know about Lhainan. It will help me decide where to begin.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There was nothing as Feira made her way to the ship to Pelargir. She felt no ocean breeze on her colorless cheeks, nor saw any faces through the haze of tears that rimmed her ever-bright eyes. What little she had eaten that day had been lost in an alley on the way to the port, and still the sick pain in her stomach remained. The commotion and busyness of the docks was distant to her ears, and she counted out her carefully saved coin for a small cabin below deck only because some distant knowledge moved her hands and feet for her.

The sapphire blue sky was grey, and the open space closed in around her as she shuffled down the wooden steps without a word. Fumbling numbly with the lock, Feira managed to finally get the narrow door open, and slipped inside to lock it behind her. The pungent smell burned into her memory flooded over her as she sank to the well-scrubbed wooden floor. Her mother’s muffled cries and screams filled her ears, and the young woman curled into a ball on a ship to a place she forgot as wracking sobs seized her chest.

Innocent Heart: Hate

Cobblestone - old street in Rome (Italy). A view just after rain.

 

A light mist drifted down from a thinly clouded sky. Though not enough to drench the few citizens that made their way down the side streets of Dol Amroth, it had persisted for several hours and filled the spaces between the stones of the cobbled streets with small puddles. Her little notebook tucked safely under one arm, Feira’s golden hair fell forward over her shoulders, coated with a veil of crystalline droplets.

“Anything else?”

“Yeah, stop bein’ so damned hard to catch.” The young man with scarred hands leered down at her. “You just tell yer brother. Two weeks or we come collectin’.” There was a wall behind Feira that blocked her retreat, and she turned her head away as he lifted a hand to nudge her chin. Sounding a dry chuckle, the young man turned and walked down the street.

The other man, unfortunately, did not leave. He stared down his crooked nose at her, and Feira wondered what he would do if she attempted to leave. Swallowing, she kept her hands balled into fists in an attempt to keep herself from shaking.

“I apologize for him.”

Feira blinked several times. “W-What?”

The man with the crooked nose shrugged. “‘e’s a bit… enthusiastic about ‘is work. Probly no fun for ya t’ have us keepin’ an eye on ya.”

In what realm would this be fun for her? “Then why do you do it? J-Just leave me alone — Leave us alone.” She hugged her book to her chest as if the letters within would protect her.

“Hey, I don’t have to come along. Be grateful I do or the boys would have collected on your brother’s debt weeks ago.”

Feira shivered, feeling ill at the thought. “It’s not his debt, though. And i-is that supposed to make me feel better?”

The man with the crooked nose frowned, looking somehow guilty. She didn’t believe it. She didn’t believe it for a second. Of all the people in the world she only hated two, and even after all she had done Feira pitied Aunt Raewiel more than anything else. But not him. If anyone could fill her with hate it was the ghost that had her cornered along the side of an empty street.

Walk away. Walk away... Feeling nauseous, Feira started to walk around him, praying that her legs would not give out under her.

“For what it’s worth…”

Feira froze in her tracks, unsure if she was shaking from fear or anger.

“I’d heard she’d died. Didn’t know what happened to you, though. I’m sorry things had t’ happen like they did.”

She was not sure what came over her, but in a flash Feira whirled about and fiercely stabbed the end of the spine of her book against his chest. “Had to? Had to?! It’s worth nothing! Everyone has a choice, and you never had to do what you did!”

The man with the crooked nose let out a startled ooph and stepped back, putting a hand to his chest where she’d struck him. “But you weren’t — What do you mean?”

“What do I mean?! I mean I saw everything!” she cried brokenly, hitting him again. “It’s all your fault! All of it! It’s your fault she died!”

He was staring at her, face twisted with shock, and he stepped back again as the cage over his heart absorbed another blow. “You saw? Shit, girl, that was twelve years ago. Don’t go blamin’ me. She was alive when –”

Feira stabbed him again with her book, harder this time, holding it more confidently than she did her practice sword. Never mind that he was taller and stronger than she. She didn’t care. Tears pooled in her eyes to blind her, and spilled out to pour down her pink cheeks. She could smell the opium on him, and it fueled her fire. “I blame you! Is you leaving her alive like that suppose to be some sick kind of mercy?!”

The man with the crooked nose batted away her next attack and grabbed for her wrists. “I said I was — Calm down, girl!”

“Or what? You’ll finish the job after all this time? What was it you said? I’ll take this one, she’s a cutie?!” Feira choked on a sob and wrenched her arm away only to have it caught again.

Her words hit harder than her fists, and the man winced as he gripped her wrists. “Emeleth, girl, I just wanted t’ warn ya. Is just the way things are –”

From the back of her mind, Hathlafel’s words echoed out, and Feira rammed her knee into the man’s groin with as much force as she could muster. His voice cut off and he doubled over in pain.

“No, it’s not. You’ll get your filthy money, you monster,” she spat, scampering out of his reach. “And don’t you ever lay a finger on me again!” Still blinded by tears, the realization of what she’d done slowly came over her. Feira spun around in the damp and fled, her only beacon the tall roof of the sanctuary that was the library as she left the man with the crooked nose behind.

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.

Bring May

Real-Image-Arabic-Kaftan-2015-Newest-Design-Moroccan-Kaftan-Court-Train-Appliqued-Abaya-In-Dubai-Special

The clerk sighed again, giving Inaris an impatient look.

“He’ll be here,” she repeated curtly. By the gods, it was not like the clerk had anything else to do all day. Inaris fidgeted with the red silk of her inner sleeve, looking down at the soft lace and skirt as blue as the sea of Rhun. The longer she waited, the more she wondered. Wondering was dangerous, she knew, and it was worse when she began to doubt what she wanted.

Drewett sprinted into the room, a piece of grass in his hair. “I’m ‘ere! I’m ‘ere!” He coughed a little and upset a few chairs as he staggered toward the stage.

The world exploded around her. The light streaming through the grimy windows grew brighter, and the scent of jasmine lingering on her skin and the little white vanilla flowers in her hair filled the air around her.  What do you really want? Inaris could not hide her grin as he filled her vision, and bit back a laugh. “What kept you?” I bet it was that bloody goat.

Drewett grinned back at her, looking at the somewhat worried clerk with a slightly embarrassed expression. “Goat got outta ‘er paddock. Reckon she’s jealous. I’m ‘ere now though!”

Inaris laughed now, a burst of warmth blooming in her chest. “I should have guessed she’d be the one to throw a fit.” She brushed at the sleeve of his best jacket as she gravitated to him. “Don’t you look sharp!”

Drewett shoved his hair back and smoothed down his mustache. He gave a little chuckle. “Y’ look beautiful, by the way. Ain’ never seen a woman looked as beautiful as you…” He looked at her, utterly lost in thought.

The clerk cleared his throat noisily.

Arching a brow at Drew, Inaris smirked before quickly looking to the clerk. “Seems we’re both here now.”

Drewett didn’t seem to notice the clerk, completely absorbed in looking at Jade.

The clerk shuffled his notes. “I… Ah… do you have any witnesses?”

Inaris’s mouth quirked, and she blinked out of the warm spell Drew’s gaze held her under. “Oh… uh…” She looked to Drew. She knew she forgot something. She had meant to ask Dorsett, but when it came down to it, she didn’t have the heart to. He said he was past grief. She didn’t believe him.

Drewett blinked and then shrugged. “Ted’s lookin’ after the farm…” he muttered, scratching at his beard.

The clerk sighed and, looking between the two of them, bellowed out, “Oy! Gwinnie! Ed! Get in here!” After a few awkward minutes passed a hobbit lass in green skirt and a sallow-skinned man in a high collar make their way in and plopped down in seats at the front.

Inaris looked around Drew to grin gratefully at the halfling.

Drewett grinned as well, looking a little embarrassed by the whole affair. The Hobbit, Gwinnie apparently, clapped her hands together. “Oh weddings are so lovely!” she declared to the man beside her who just nodded a little irritably.

The clerk cleared his throat. “Well! Now that’s sorted. My friends, we are gathered together here in the sight of the gods to join together this Man and this Woman in holy matrimony; which is an honorable estate, instituted of the gods in the west, and into which estate these two persons present come now to be joined.”

Inaris reached over to slip her hand into Drew’s, and lightly brushed her hip against his. How perfectly it fit.

The clerk looked over at the two witnesses gathered from the office and flipped over a few of his notes before continuing, “I require and charge you both, as you would answer in full binding before the gods, that if either of you know any impediment, why you may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, that you confess it.”

Drewett squeezed Jade’s hand, he didn’t appear to have looked once at the clerk since the man had begun officiating.

Her slender fingers curled over the edge of his palm, and it surprised her at the amount of effort it took to keep her eyes on the clerk.

The clerk looked over at Drewett. “Will you have this Woman to be your wife, in the estate of Matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep only to her, so long as you both live?”

Drewett coughed, aware suddenly that he’d being addressed. He looked over at the clerk and then at Jade. “Wha’? Oh aye!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

candles

 “What are you still doing up?”

Feira looked up from where she laid on the floor of her little bedroom. The map of the world from Cirieldis lay flat before her, and beside it a fat candle and several books, each one sprawled open and marked with a bookmark decorated with a flower saved from her first nosegay. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“Again?” Torrin left her door open and his stockinged feet padded softly across the hardwood floor. “What are you looking at?”

“A map of the world,” Feira responded, pulling her loose, golden waves back as she sat up.

Torrin crossed his feet and sat down beside her. By Emeleth, but he looked tired. “Going on a trip?”

Feira snuggled up beside him. “The Lady Ciri offered to send me on a trip. I can go anywhere?”

“Why would she do that?”

Feira rolled her eyes. “Because she is nice? The Lady can do as she pleases.”

Torrin reached over the map to pick up a book that showed a painted drawing of Dale, the Lonely Mountain’s silhouette dwarfing the towers of men. “And you are going to take her up on her offer?”

“Of course I am! How many maids do you know that ever leave this city and it’s bay, let alone Gondor? I may never have a chance like this ever again.”

Torrin grinned, and let her take the book from his hands. “Do you know where you want to go?”

“I want to go everywhere. I have been practicing my Haradic diligently, so somewhere in Haradwaith is definitely on my list. Dale too, it being so dreadfully far away. Also Forochel. Did you know the Lady is from there? I have never seen snow. I bet it’s deliciously cold.”

“How are you going to choose?” asked Torrin with a laugh, suddenly looking uncommonly relieved. “You said you had a list?”

Feira leaned forward to scoop up her stack of books, adjusting the short sleeve of her night dress. “Oh, yes! There were one of the Dwarven kingdoms, but I do not know a lick of KhuzdulI had Edoras on my list, but it is too close, and I do not think there is much to do in Rohan besides drink mead, ride horses, look at horses, and talk about horses.”

“Hey, now! That sounds like a good way to spend every day,” said Torrin, feigning offense.

Feira grinned and waved a hand at him. “I was also thinking of the Grey Havens or Lothlorien, but it is all Elves there, and I hear they are all planning on gradually leaving. I imagine it is all a bit depressing in spite of the scenery. I closed my eyes and put my finger on Dorwinion and Khand, but those probably are not the best of places for a young woman to visit right now.”

Torrin rumbled a chuckle, and kissed the side of her head. “Well, wherever you go, I am sure it will be the best of options. I am glad you’re going, though I’ll miss my little Faerie.”

“Just you wait,” she chimed, beaming a smile a bright as the May sun. “I will be a young woman when I come back. But before I forget!  Will you have time to walk me down to the docks tomorrow?”

Torrin sighed, and rolled his eyes. “Leaving him a letter?”

Feira stuck her tongue out at Torrin as he moved to rise to his feet. “Of course! I can’t just up and disappear on him.”

“Like he does to you?”

Feira scowled, and snagged a pillow from behind her to toss at him. “That’s low.”

Torrin grunted, and caught the pillow, stealing it away with him as he headed for the bedroom door. “That’s the truth! Anyways, get some sleep! You can scold me on our way to the docks tomorrow.”

“You’re the best!” Feira called after him with a roll of her eyes as she laid back down to study her map, propping her chin up on her hands.

“I know. Now get some sleep!” the young man called back as he closed the door behind him. “Love you.”

Bossy. Love you, too.”

(Thank you to Raenarcam for playing Drewett! Jade’s portion was taken from in-game RP and edited for tense and composition.)

Anecdotes: Safe

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

“Running away again?”

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

Innocent Heart: Ghosts

 

“Faerie, look at me.”

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

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

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

“… Did someone stop by?”

Feira nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

Feira blinked, staring at him with wide eyes.

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

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

Torrin shook his head.

“How much is owed?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Some faces are hard to forget.”

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

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

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

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

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

“But –”

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

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

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

“Tor –”

Promise.”

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