Feira

Innocent Heart

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.”

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Anecdotes: What We’ve Done

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Twenty-three men. A hundred and four had joined him at Minas Tirith, and now twenty-three was all that remained of the 6th, excluding Peldirion. By now they had gone to set up camp, but he remained, an unmoving remnant before the fresh graves that had joined the pillar standing in memory of his brother and friends.

You are in good company.

He had put the halberd back in it’s resting place, and only memory told him that the stained silk ribbon tied at it’s neck had once been emerald green. The elf had been right. He had fought harder with it in his hands, and more than once the long weapon had saved his life. Now he returned it, one of the many burdens he had bore now lifted.

It had begun with Halethon, then with Lalaith, and now the last ten years and past two months came slowly crashing down on him. She had made it so much more difficult to keep it all in. Little by little his Arien had pieced him back together. Every soft touch and tender word was salve to an open wound, and suddenly he could grieve. It hurt far worse than Peldirion had ever anticipated, the ache tearing through his chest as the miles between them grew. Hot tears poured down his face in the dark, and he did not move as Ferris stopped several paces behind him.

“He’ll take care of them.”

Peldirion slowly nodded. Yes, they were in far better hands now.

“S-Sir?”

He did not respond.

“Camp has been set up, Sir.”

Still, the young man got nothing but silence.

“I… W-Would — Should I bring your effects here for you?”

It wasn’t the same. Not without Halethon, but he kept telling himself that the boy would learn, and Halethon would return. “No,” he said, his low voice unwaivering, not bothering to wipe his eyes. “Bring food for you and I to my tent. We have work that needs done.”

Hands clasped firmly behind his back, the Captain pivoted on his heel and marched away, mounds of fresh earth marking the graves watching him as he walked away.

Six more months. Only six more months….

 

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She’d left first, shaking bits of spring grass from her short hair that was in desperate need of a trim. Strolling around the block had proven to be just enough time for Jade’s companion to depart, and she pocketed the little pouch of silver as she slipped back into the dimly-lit garden. Ignoring the patch of disturbed grass in a shadowy corner, Jade strolled over to the side where the stone wall was coated with vines boasting of little white flowers.

It smelled better than she had remembered. Stretching out on the low stone wall, Jade cushioned her hands beneath her head, and let the sweet smell of vanilla roll over her. It was funny, people and what they would do. Had it really been a year? He’d prevented her from falling, propelling her towards a silly supper party where she’d found ghosts, and trouble, and somehow her heart. They had shared a small smile at the funeral, and perhaps that was all that was really needed.

Utterly ridiculous.

Smirking, she pulled the thin gold chain she wore up and over her head. Carefully extracting the ring from it’s hold, she slipped the gold band onto her finger and studied it on her hand in the lamp-light. How difficult the farmer made things. How strange, how much she like it. Work had began to loose it’s luster because of him. Her regular customers became unsatisfying, and instead of indulging in the occasional tryst, she had to tell them one by one (with a foreign sense of relief and girlish anticipation), that things had to end.

Sighing, Jade sat up and carefully uprooted a small sprout of the sweet-smelling vine to take with her. She’d be staying at the Mantle tonight. She didn’t want to be, but told herself to enjoy it while it lasted.

 

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Fletch lounged on the bed, head resting on his paws as he watched Eruviel put away her things. Aside from the travel pack and old quiver full of new arrows she’d bought from a vendor she didn’t know, the room felt strange. Everything was tidied and in it’s proper place. The bed was made, downy pillows neatly piled at the head of the bed, her weapons hung from pegs on the wall aside from her bow that lay unstrung on the bench by the foot-board, and a fistful of flowers and grass (courtesy of Eboric) filled the little vase sitting on her mantle.

Removing the blue agate pendant from where it hung around her neck, she carefully laid it to rest in the crystal box on her nightstand. Raenarcam and Kemendin both insisting anything of sentiment be left behind, she gladly replaced nearly all of her gear, and remembering the memory she had witnessed, Eruviel replaced the rest as well, just to be safe. Bow from Milloth, swords from Rainion, bracers from Raen, daggers from Myrthrost, shirt from Esgaroth….

Her door locked just in case Eboric woke and decided to try and wander into her room, she sat on the rug in her skin, Fletch hopping down to stretch out beside her. Raen had cut her hair. All the lovely silver strands. Eruviel was not willing to make such a sacrifice. With care she wove her long, soft waves up into a tight bun that would be out of sight and out of mind.

“You be good, all right? No running about Durrow causing trouble while I’m away,” she muttered softly, scratching the growing pup behind his ears.

Fletch made a soft grumble in understanding. Licking her hand, he rolled over onto his side to beg for more pets.

 

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“Good evening… May I help you?” Having only just gotten home after putting in extra hours, Feira looked out into the waning evening light at the man who stood on the stoop.

His face paled for a moment, looking at her as if he was seeing a ghost. A minute passed before the middle-aged man cleared his throat. “You’ve grown up. I didn’t — That is… Is Torrin home?” He fidgeted, trying hard not to look anxious. The edges of his eyes looked blood-shot, and something about him, perhaps the smell of burnt, syrupy smoke that lingered about him or the strangely familiar crook of the bridge of his nose, made her feel uneasy.

Sorry, Faerie. Been a long day. If anyone comes by asking for me, I’m not home.

“I — I’m sorry, sir, but he is not,” she replied, careful not to move to block his view as he peered past her into the small house. “I can tell him you called though, mister….”

The man swallowed, and Feira resisted squirming under his gaze as he eyed her. “Just tell him a friend stopped by, and that we’ll come collecting in two months.”

Feira nodded, the stiffness that gripped her joints aiding her in not closing the door too fast. She waited, clinging to the door handle as she listened to the man’s retreating footsteps. Then she remembered to breathe. Sinking down in the corner behind the door, Feira pressed a trembling hand to her mouth to keep back the rising panic. Amber eyes lifted from the dark floor to the ceiling beneath where her brother slept.

What have you done?

Innocent Heart: Guilty

“Hold on! I’m coming. I’m coming,” Feira insisted, pattering down the steps to the main level.

“How long have you been home?” asked Torrin from the kitchen. “You usually have started supper by now.”

Smoothing out her skirts, Feira quickly checked the laces on her corset and pulled her long hair over her shoulders. Just in case. “Sorry! Sorry. You know me. I got distracted reading.”

The man chuckled as he fed several logs to the fire. “You and your –” Torrin stopped as he turned, and stared at her for a second.

“Fei? Are you all right?”

Try not ta look too guilty!

Feira stood a little straighter, silently cursing her cheeks as she felt them flush a shade pinker. “I-I’m fine! Really! Why would you ask?” she inquired as she forced herself to retrieve a pan from a low cupboard.

Her brother watched her, his brows knitting together. “You look flushed. It’s been ages since you’ve been sick. Do you have a fever?”

Swallowing hard, Feira kept her amber eyes locked on her working hands. “It’s nothing to worry about, Torrin. Just… the night air, or something.”

Huffing, he strode across the small cooking space and pressed a hand to her forehead before she could protest. “Oi! You feel too warm! Tell me the truth, Faerie,” insisted Torrin. “When did this start?”

“It’s — I’m fine, honest!” As much truth as possible. You’re a terrible fibber. “Started a little before noon, I think. Went out for a walk and just felt… out of breath.”

Torrin frowned, his features strained with concern, and he kept on feeling her face as if doing so would make the heat go away. “And here I am expecting you to have supper ready after you’ve worked hard all day.”

Feira managed a timid smile. “I-I haven’t done all that much, really. I can still ma –”

“No!” Torrin exclaimed, pulling her into a protective hug. “I’ll make supper tonight. Gods! You are warm. Poor Faerie. You run upstairs and rest.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, giving him a guilty look.

“I insist! Oh, don’t — don’t give me that look. You deserve a rest,” he said with a curt nod. “I’ll bring food up to you when it’s ready.

Giving him an apologetic smile, Feira accepted a kiss on the forehead. “Thanks, Tor. Don’t make anything too fancy, okay?”

He shooed her off and she obeyed, heading back for the stairs. Glancing back she couldn’t help but feel bad as he turned to roll up his sleeves and face the kitchen. “Oh, I’m sure there is a way to make water boil….”

Anecdotes: Where We Go

“I can carry that stack in too, if you’d like.”

Feira looked over to the petite maid from where she hung a sheet on a line. “I would. Thank you, Mariah! These go with the first load to be pressed. The ones on the bottom are to be put in the first three guest rooms.”

The brunette nodded and accepted the stack atop the basket of clean laundry she already carried. “Sure thing. You headed out after this?”

“For a few hours. The rest of the morning chores are done.”

“Don’t read too hard!”

Feira waved after her and hefted a large sheet heavy with water up onto the next line. Laundry was always best on days like these. Warm sun and cool breeze amplified the scent of flowers from the garden and the billowing white sheets that surrounded her. Two more sheets to hang and she would trade it for a couch tucked away in a quiet corner of the library.

A gust of wind caught the next sheet she hung, and Feira grinned, her bare feet curling in the grass. The sheets turned into sails and her mind began to wander. The grass turned into wooden planks of a deck, the billowing linens turned into an armada, and a whistled tune was taken up….

Her eyes snapped open. She knew that tune. Warmth rose to her cheeks and, taking up the last sheet, she back up to an open spot on the line behind her, whistling harmony as the first whistler drew closer. She hung the wide, white cloth and the voice fell silent. Feira followed suit. Footsteps drew near and she skipped into the shadow of a sheet partially to play and hide, and partially because it was all she could think to do as her heart began to race from anticipation.

The heavy footfalls stopped opposite of her sheet and a head appeared to peer at her. His sun-bleached hair longer than she remembered, Lhainan’s sea green eyes caught her and he grinned.

“Hiya, Blondie.”

  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She was warm. Deliciously warm. Inaris drew in a deep breath, not bothering to open her eyes, and smiled as she remembered.

How long had she lain there? Ten minutes? Thirty? Maybe an eternity… Yes, she could spend eternity like this. Life was not supposed to be like this. She wasn’t supposed to be okay with it, but she couldn’t help herself.

It hadn’t been like this before. It hadn’t been so easy. Was it supposed to be easy? Something ingrained deep inside of her told her she should slip out from under the covers and leave. That she should open her eyes and see it all as lies.

Hate was as simple as breathing. She enjoyed it, the hate and anger and control that fueled half of her work days. It had gotten her safely this far from the inland sea, and suddenly she had no need for that hate nor the indifference that came with it. Her walls were tall and cold and hard as iron… and he walked right through them.

Maybe she hated that most. That she suddenly did not have to. That everything beyond this point was an entirely different world than she’d ever thought for herself. That here in this moment she was more safe than she’d ever felt in her life. To the Pit with it all. Let them come for her now. Let them waste their time. And if they found her? Well, she wouldn’t want to be them.

Adjusting the ring on her finger she nestled close against his chest and beckoned sleep back to her. She was warm, and she was safe, and for the first time she believed it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I thought you were going to the Blue Theater.”

Peldirion looked over his shoulder to Halethon. “I mean to to. I walked by.”

The young soldier crossed his arms over his chest as he watched his superior rise to find a towel to wipe the sweat from his face and chest. “You spend too much time here.” He motioned to the empty training hall.

“I like the exercise,” said Peldirion gruffly. “Just because my off hand is out of commission does not mean I should sit idle.”

“Yes, but you should actually relax once in a while. Ask one of those ladies to the theater or supper or… I don’t know, go for a walk in the gardens.”

“I don’t need to walk in the gardens.”

Halethon chuffed a breath and went to retrieve Peldirion’s effects. “Because you smell like one?”

Peldirion cast him a glare.”It is lavender. Supposed to help the pain. I think the healer is just screwing with me.”

Tunic and light armour in hand, Halethon did not move as he leveled a look at the Captain.

What?”

“You’re not sleeping again, are you?”

Peldirion’s dark eyes did not meet Halethon’s.

“My lord?”

“It is not a problem. Same as before.”

The young man pursed his lips and offered Peldirion the tunic. “Have you tried –“

“You know nothing helps,” interrupted Peldirion, snatching the tunic from Halethon’s hand.

“I could find you company….”

Peldirion paused before pulling the cloth over his head. “No. It did not make enough of a difference last time.”

“I don’t like it, Peldirion.”

“You don’t have to. I will try and sleep when this is all over.” Peldirion frowned and took his armour. “Get my weapons.”

Halethon’s brows drew together and he inclined his head, deciding it best not to challenge the man’s dark look. “Yes, sir.”

Innocent Heart: Haunting Hours

 

Emerging from a cloud of mist, Feira meandered down the flowering street lined with vendors. It was spring… or possibly summer? That hardly mattered, though. The warm day was accompanied by a cool sea breeze and soft tufts of clouds floated by overhead. Her freshly washed locks glowed in the sunlight, and her light, prancing steps encouraged the thin, flowy layers of her new pale, seafoam green dress to swim about her. Come to think of it, she couldn’t recall exactly how she had gotten the dress that had adorned a mannequin in a shop window for months, but that was just another detail that flittered away as quickly as it came.

Shop owners waved to her as she passed through the crowd. Small talk was made with other maids who had the day off, and all commented on how fetching she looked without her grey apron and what a lovely day it was to see the war finally end. A brand new book with gilded lettering on the cover gave an accomplished weight to the basket hanging from her arm. Cheeses for Lalaith made their way into her basket, followed by the Lady Mredothyn’s favorite fruits and the best flowers in the city for Lady Ciri’s room. Torrin could tease her for spending so frivolously all he wanted, but some days were happy enough that there was nothing wrong with sparing no expense.

Lalaith had written that she’d be back on the morrow. It was all Feira could do to keep from asking for another day off so she could rent a horse to go and meet the young woman on the way. The war was over, and everyone was coming home. Everything was going to be right again. The Lord would be home soon, and the young woman was sure that it would not be long before the estate was overflowing with babies and dinner parties.

Weaving a path through the happy throngs, Feira made her way towards the docks. It surprised her how quickly she got there, for she turned the first corner and the buildings opened up to present a breathtaking, awe inspiring view of the massive harbor. Blue and white sails filled the air. The shouts of sailors and soldiers mingled with hundred of gulls gliding overhead, and the laughter of the citizens who filled every nook and cranny of the walkways.

“’bout time ya got here!” called a familiar voice from behind. Her heart leaping in her chest, Feira spun around.

Her heart stopped.

Taller and fitter than ever from months at sea, Lhainan stood just out of arm’s reach, his captivating gaze fixed over her shoulder.

“A little waiting never hurt you,” responded a young woman’s voice, and Lalaith, dressed in one of her old silk gowns brushed past Feira to take the sailor’s offered arm. No habit in sight, her friend’s glistening blue-black hair tumbled down her back.”You get me anything?” she purred.

“Course I did,” Lhain replied, a coy smile curling his lips as he bend down to whisper into Lalaith’s ear.

What was this? Shocked, words caught in Feira’s throat when a second woman approached. “And what about me?” asked the lithe, olive skinned beauty that stole up to coil around the sailor’s other side.

Eyes gleaming, Lhainan laughed. “I’d never forget about you, beautiful.” Unable to move, Feira watched in horror as he reached out and, with little effort, ripped the gold locket from where it hung around her neck. Draping the arm around the young southern woman he let the delicate heart and chain tumble over the woman’s shoulder to disappear beneath her low neckline. The trio laughed and turned to vanish down the docks, suggestions about a long boat ride getting lost in the haze that filled Feira’s head.

The brilliant sun above her dimmed, though no one seemed to notice. A grey form rose up from where the southern woman, Lhain and Lalaith had disappeared, and as the world closed in around her Aunt Raewiel glared down at Feira with a wicked, triumphant sneer.

This wasn’t real. It wasn’t! Valar… Emeleth… But no, no one could hear her. Nobody would. Trapped and with nowhere to run, the flowers in her basket withered, the fruits shrunk and turned sour, and the pages of her book crumpled into ash. She couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t speak, and the only movement Feira could manage was the trembling that slowly took over her limbs.

Wake up….

Wake up….

Innocent Heart: Letters and Longing

To the Master, Lord Colagar.

Dear Sir,

I pray this letter finds you in good health and spirits. The estate is well cared for and being kept spotless in your absence. Dol Amroth is a great deal quieter since the departure of the Knights. While I know little of the troubles occurring in darker corners of our city, the most boisterous of the rabble-rousers I usually overhear while on errands have fallen silent.

As for your Lady, I assure you she is well looked after. There is no question as to how greatly she misses you. Much effort is being put forward to keep her spirits up, and will continually be given until you return safely to her.

Sincerely, your humble servant,

Feira

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Sir Hathlafel,

Greetings! I hope this letter finds you in better spirits than when we last spoke.

How is Minas Tirith? I would badger you with questions, but I am sure you are busy with a great many important things like winning the war, and all. I hope the time you spent there is not terribly marred by your purpose.

I saw your daughter a couple weeks back. Would that I had seen her more recently and I could give you a more accurate report. She seemed troubled, but in spite of whatever the matter was about her smile seemed, for the most part, as bright as ever.

Do take care of yourself and return to us in one piece. The letter enclosed with this one is to Lalaith. I was unsure of how to get it to her. If you could deliver it to her I would be grateful.

Sincerely, and with highest regards,

Feira

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dearest Lalith,

How are you? I miss you ever so much. You arrived safely, I hope.

How are the Houses of Healing? Are they treating you well? Do you like it there? They are so fortunate to have you there. You really are the best. I can’t begin to imagine all the things you get to see, and how much good you will have the opportunity to do.

What is Minas Tirith like? Has it changed much since you were last there? Do you recognize anyone? I hope you are getting along well.

Has any fighting started yet? You must promise me to be safe if it has or when it does. No running off and being reckless. You can be brave back at some safe place. I do not want to think about you not coming home.

Take care of yourself, my dear friend. I hope this is all over soon so you can come back.

Emeleth bless you and keep you.

Your friend,

Feira

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She sat there for a time, staring at a fresh, blank page. Her first draft of her last letter was far too short so Feira set it aside. The second draft rambled on for several pages and those were discarded as well.

Starting into her third draft Feira jumped some time later, having realized she had gotten lost in a rather scandalous daydream. Blushing furiously, the young woman gathered up all three drafts and safely deposited them into the fire where the flames consumed all of her delicately penned words. A letter from her would never reach him anyways.

The Trouble with Boys

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“Faerie?”

“…Fei?”

“Feira!”

Wha — Torrin!” Feira jumped from where she sat by her bedroom window, and nearly fell from her seat. “Can’t you knock?”

“I did,” her brother replied with a smirk as he leaned in the doorway. “You got a little…”

Feira’s eyes grew wide. “A little what?”

“A little mark from the sill on your face.”

“Ha ha.” She made a face at him as she scrubbed at the indent on her cheek. “Is supper ready?”

“It will be as soon as you stop pining and moping, and change out of that ridiculousness.” He motioned to the blue silk skirt from her ball gown that she wore over her work dress, topped off by a baggy knit sweater.

“I-I’m not pining,” she muttered as pink rushed to her cheeks.

“Uh-huh… And I’m not judging. He gone again?”

Feira tossed her sweater aside, and focused on the skirt.

“Feira….”

“Been for a while.”

Torrin scowled. “Wanna know what I think?”

“No.” Feira wiggled around as she pulled the cloth of the gown’s skirt up over her head.

“You should find yourself another boy.”

“I don’t want another boy,” came her muffled response from beneath layers of cloth.

“You all right in there?”

Her struggling stopped for a moment. “I’m fine.”

“Really, Fei. The city is full of young lads who drool when you walk by.”

“No they don’t. Nobody drools at maids.”

“Yeah-huh, they do. Problem is your nose is always stuck in a book, or your head’s up in some cloud thinkin’ of that blasted sailor.”

She started struggling again within the confines of the skirt. “You’d like him if you met him.”

“No I wouldn’t,” he retorted. Sighing, Torrin walked into the plain room and move to assist the struggling girl. “Nothing good can come from a sailor. Besides, I haven’t met him. I don’t like some sea fairing highwayman calling on my baby sister and taking her who knows where.”

“Heavens, Tor. He’s on a naval ship.”

“And that makes it better?”

Giving a despairing sigh, Feira let him help her as she finally found the hidden button that had snagged on her apron. “I’m not a baby, Torrin.”

He grunted in disapproval. “I know. You’re a young woman now. And that is suppose to make me feel better?”

“I don’t — I don’t need you to protect me.” She didn’t sound as convincing as she’d hoped to.

“You keep tellin’ yourself that… Heeeere we go,” he said as he pulled the skirt up and away. “Smart or no, you’re too pretty to be walking about without an escort.”

Feira chuffed out a soft chuckle, and tossed the skirt and her apron onto her bed. “Only ladies have escorts. You’re my brother. You’re biased.”

“Damn straight. I call it as I see it.” He crossed his arms over his chest and gave her his sternest look. “And then I catch you attacking bales of hay and trees with pointy sticks? I’d rather you learn to run faster than anyone else instead of learning how to fight –”

Before he could get the last word out Feira had flung her arms around his torso, and destroyed any chance he had of seeming dour.

“Woah, Faerie, what’s this for?”

Feira’s hug tightened. “F-For caring.”

Torrin’s wavering frown instantly melted into a warm smile, and he hugged her back. “I’ll keep bugging you about the sailor. Find a honest, wealthy, hard working young man who treats you like the world. Then I’ll be content.”

Releasing him, Feira poked him in the stomach. “Whatever, Dad.”

Torrin snorted, and tugged playfully at her ponytail. “Your face is leaking.”

“Oh, shut it,” she retorted, pushing him away and heading out to the room to go downstairs as she wiped at her eyes.

“Shut it? Shut it?! Ooph! I’ve been shot!” he cried, grasping at his chest.

Feira snickered and padded down the narrow stairs. “I smell burning!”

“What? No you don’t. I took all the food off the hearth.”

“Oooh… Is that smoke?”

“Don’t say that!” Torrin shouted, darting after her. “I haven’t burned anything all week!”

“You made it all the way to Tuesday!” she shouted back, squealing as he chased her into the kitchen.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Marlowe-Fireplace

Inaris gazed out her front window into the dark as the light from Drewett’s lantern disappeared down the road. “Good for you, Jade. Now you’ve gone and done it.”

Brushing her knuckles over a smooth cheek his scratchy beard had kissed she sighed, then promptly abandoned the window to began tugging furiously at the strings of her cossetted vest. “Bloody hell,” she grumbled.

It had been a year since he‘d left, revealing everything to be lies. A year since she wasn’t rich enough, or not well bred, or good enough. And it had been a year since she turned her back on him and left the Mark to end up in this backwater little town. She was going to be free. She was going to traipse around the realm and do whatever she damned pleased. She’d be with who she wanted and never tie herself down….

Think y’might be properly th’most amazin’ woman I ever met.

All of the tiredness that crept up on her earlier in the night had vanished, and she cast every ounce of clothing aside except for her long, thin blouse that she now unbuttoned well below her breasts. Tossing her swooping bangs out of her eyes in a futile, irritated gesture, she lit a fire in the hearth and tromped back into her little bedroom. Being cold fueled her frustration at herself, and the shivering that set upon her she gladly accepted as punishment… before promptly wrapping herself up in an over-sized blanket and returned to the front room to plop down before the hearth.

He said he loved her. Did he really? She’d been told that before, more times than she cared to remember, and not all of it from the one man she’d thought had spoken the truth. What was love, but a bunch of lies bound in copper, and silver, and hungry smiles?

But this one was different. How, by all the gods, he had slipped in past her walls and made her suddenly consider being (of all things) an honest woman was well beyond her. He wasn’t like the last one… aside from the broad shoulders which she didn’t mind one bit. No, he didn’t have a long, golden mane, or eyes like the blue sky over the inland sea. Most would find him unremarkable… And for some reason she didn’t want to sell him anything. She wanted to give. The glint in his green eyes, the curve of his bearded smile, and the feel of his hand brushing against hers made her feel that terrible awful warmth inside, beyond the desire to make him smile more, that she had only known once.

Damned Farmer, singing sad songs to his goats, conning ale, not believing in dragons, and looking at her like she wasn’t just a conquest. Sometime we’ll build a castle or sommat, that’ll show ’em.

He said he loved her. How could he? A part of her told her that suddenly worrying was ridiculous, and a part of her said he’d say about the same. As guiltless as she’d always been concerning her past, she felt that she could be ill at the prospect of telling him. He would ask, eventually, about her brand, and tattoo, and where she was really from. He would want to know why she kept her hair short, and hated her father, and if she’d ever taken a life.

Inaris bundled the blanket up tighter around her, and flopped over to lay on the rug on the floor in a puddle of self-pity. She had told him her name. The gods be damned. She had said she loved him too. Did she really? Did she love the way he cursed, and didn’t believe in ghosts, and couldn’t read to save his life? Yes, somewhere deep down, she knew did.

It Feels

It feels so strange, this caring. Sure, I cared a little, but I’ve found myself doing so more now than before. It is dangerous. I cannot give in. Not too much. Not to the wrong people. Surviving was easier when I only cared about me, but I am not surviving now. I am living.

~ ~ ~

It’s been so quiet and lonely since they’ve gone. I never knew that was what I was before, and now there is no going back. I should visit the temple more, and the Warf, but there are new reasons to fear the alley’s. So I will read my books, and be here for when the Lady needs me.

Shake it off, silly. Go clean something.

~ ~ ~

How some people can separate themselves from certain situations, I will never understand. I never could, though, could I? I will be strong for him, and for them. Because I should be. Because I want to be. I will give everything, because they have given me more than I ever hoped to have. 

And now suddenly I smell the funeral pyre beneath a red Angmarim sky. I close my eyes and I see the cold rain hitting the empty road and the empty shell of what I was. I am not afraid. I do not fear. I am petrified.

Sunshine of Your Youth

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(Free song from iTunes equaled sudden bloggy thoughts.)

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

“How are you doing up there?”

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

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

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

“Hold your arms up like this.”

“Don’t let go of me!”

“I won’t let you fall, silly –”

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

“Would you like us to meet them?”

“Yes! Yes! Please!”

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

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

~~~ * ~~~

“There’s my little girl!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How long will you be here this time?”

“Oh… Three days I think.”

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

“Yes, little one. Three days.”

“Did you bring your horses?”

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

“You did! Oh, daddy, can I ride one?”

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

“Please?”

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

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

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

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

~~~ * * ~~~

“Mom… Mommy!” Feira whispered.

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

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

“Have you asked your brother to help you?”

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

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

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

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

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

“How would you like to move?”

“Move?”

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

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

Eleanor grinned. “In the next two weeks.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll get it!”

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

“Father is cooking supper.”

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

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

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

Innocent Heart: Get Free

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The street leading down to the Warf nearly overflowed with a river of people. Before Torrin could find out where she was going and stop her, Feira, with no work left for the day, slipped out of the estate. Coppers in her pocket, she had purchased the small basket, and filled it with five of the nicest oranges she could find. Who knows but if he’d have to share? Purchasing a small bag of cherries for herself, she added one of the plump, red fruits atop the already filled basket, hoping he’d get the joke, before hurrying on her way.

She had to tell him! It wasn’t really actual news, but oh, the opportunity! While part of her did enjoy cleaning, the thought of actually working with people filled her with excitement. And the prospect of a promotion was good enough reason for her to drop by the docks and say ‘hello’, right?

Weaving easily through the crowds, Feira felt like a silly little girl. Only a short distance from the docks, and she felt rediculously giddy. The last turn was hardly two merchant stalls away when a hand suddenly grabbed her by the arm and, before she could cry out, drug her off to the side. Able to keep her basket of fruit from upsetting, she froze when she found herself with her back to a dead-end alley, and her path of escape blocked by Aunt Raewiel.

“There you are, you ungrateful whelp,” growled the woman, as towering and fat as ever. Raewiel set her balled-up hands on her hips, a stance the girl knew all too well. “I was wondering when I would run into you.”

Swallowing hard, it took everything in Feira to not cower back as her angry Aunt took a step closer. “I apologize, Miss Raewiel, if I got in your path. Please, do not let me not keep you from your day.” With that she ducked to the right in attempt to step past her, but Raewiel caught her, and shoved her hard against the stone wall.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Raewiel sneered, glaring down at her. “Do you realize just how much trouble you have cost your father and I? And after everything we have done for you over the years!”

“I-I’ve been needing t-to find you, a-and discuss that with you, as a-a matter of fact.”

“Oh, you have, have you? Little whore, hiding behind your big brother. Ever since he moved you out, and made me quit the estate, it’s been hell finding good work!”

Suddenly grateful for the support of the wall behind her, Feira caught the breath that had been knocked out of her. Forcing her knees to hold steady, the girl lifted her chin in defiance. “I assure you, madam,” she responded coolly, “that any misfortune that has found you has been entirely of your own doing.”

Raewiel sucked in a hissing breath, drawing up like a snake preparing to strike. “Just as smart-mouthed as your mother. She got what she deserved, and I hope you meet the same end!”

Time suddenly seemed to slow, and Raewiel’s hand that swung towards Feira’s face froze in place. Raewiel had always blamed her for her mother’s death, but this time, it struck a new chord. No one deserved an end like her mother’s. It was a terrible thing to say. But, to be compared to her . . . . A hint of pride sparked inside of Feira, and something clicked.  You can do the same thing, sweet. Get free of her. . . . Time lurched back into motion. Slapping Raewiel’s hand away with surprising force, Feira seemed to grow a few inches as she stepped up to stand toe-to-toe with her much taller relative.

“Again, Miss Raewiel, I apologize for taking up so much of your time. I hope you have a pleasant day, and do send my regards to your brother.”

Raewiel blinked down at her, shocked by the daring look in the girl’s eyes. “What?  . . . are you challenging me?”

“No,” responded Feira with a firm, almost authoritative air. “I have no reason to. I am not like you, madam. You cannot do anything to me, nor can you make me care about anything you have to say.”

The older woman completely flabbergasted, Feira did not give her a chance to speak. She didn’t know where it was all coming from, but she couldn’t stop now.

“Seeing now that that is how things are, you have no further business with me. I would appreciate it if you never spoke to me again. I suggest that you take your leave now before you waste any more of your precious time.”

Huffing out a breath, Raewiel deflated as she stared down at Feira. A long silence passed between them, but the woman finally stepped back, and spun around to march away with whatever dignity she had left.

Turning her amber gaze down to the untouched basket, Feira took a second to process what had just happened. She wasn’t sure if she felt sick, or relieved . . . maybe it was a bit of both.

Quickly wiping away the moisture that sprang into her eyes, she moved back out to the street. Seemingly lost for a moment, a though came to her, and she headed off with new purpose. Finding an errand boy, she paid him the last coin in her pocket (which, to the young boy’s delight, was a silver), jotted down a note, and handed it to him, along with the basket.

“Take this to the docks; to the H.M.S. Turanwar.”

“Yes, miss! Who for?”

“Ask for ‘Gig’. When you find him, make sure he answers to ‘Lhainan’.”

Nodding fervently, the lad hurried off down to the docks, and Feira turned to go. She wasn’t sure where, but it would probably be somewhere she didn’t have to stand, as she still feared she might topple over. Somewhere with a good view, a good book, and a snack as a reward for her gumption.