Memories

Eruviel remembers.

A Healthy Dose of Shock

lotrohorizon

Eruviel remembers….

Twenty years ago.

“You’re off in the morning, then?”

Eruviel looked up and accepted the mug of mead as Ildric stepped over the bench to sit beside her. “Things are getting bad again north of Aughaire.”

“Wargs?”

“Worse.”

Ildric grunted into his mug as he turned his gaze to the half finished feasting hall filled with merrymaking. “Typical. Leaving me to deal with a camp full of drunk mercs.”

“Ahh, but they are your drunk mercs,” Eruviel responded affectionately, eyes drifting warily to an exceptionally rowdy table.

“Damn straight,” the man snorted. “Sure you don’t wanna stick around a few more days? I could really use the help setting them straight.”

“You will manage,” Eruviel responded with a sniff. Beginning to feel the last five mugs of ale finally take hold, she put a hand on the man’s shoulder, shaking her head as she stood. “I would rather raid an Angmarim camp with Daran and his Hunters.”

“He gets more of your time than we do,” Ildric grumbled, holding out a hand to catch her in the event that she might stumble. “The ass.”

“Takes one to know one,” she shot back, smirking. Loud, drunken whispers began to fill her ears and she nodded to Ildric. Yes, it was time to go. “Good luck, my friend.”

Ildric must have heard it too, for he turned his harsh, withing gaze on the rowdy bunch that had turned their attention. Offering her a wave he watched over the rim of his mug, poised on the edge of his seat.

Eruviel had almost made it to the newly installed double doors, sixth mug of ale in hand, when one of the more handsome and bold young men of the newcomers stumbled into her path.

“Ma’ammm…. Boysss… wanna know weh — why Boss calls yeh ‘Witch’.”

By Orome, she had had too much ale to patiently deal with this tonight. “I am sure you will find out soon enough. Now if you will excuse me –”

“Le– Leavin’ aaahready?”

Then she felt it. There was a slight tug on the long braid that hung down her back, and her head felt lighter somehow. The music and merry voices that filled the room instantly fell into a shocked silence. The Elf reached a hand back and, to her despair, felt the frayed ends of her unraveling hair that now only reached down to the curve of her bottom.

Lookee here!” declared one of the drunken newcomers, waiving the bottom six or seven inches of the Elf’s soft braid above his head. “You lot now owe me fifteen silver –”

In a flash Eruviel spun around. Mug of ale cast aside, her fist found the brigand’s face and the man flew back, flipping over the table and into his friends. His prize still in one hand, the man grasped at his mouth with the other, catching blood and teeth.

While a few of the drunken men moved to right the table, one of the offending man’s friends advanced, attempting to restrain her as his hands landed where they shouldn’t. “Bitch. Don’t think you can go an’ do that to one o –” With a shout from the men around them, and a cry of anger and pain from the second man, Eruviel drew the knife from his belt, tripped the man, and stabbed down, pinning three of his finger to the bench.

Sit,” she growled, voice low as she stood at one end of the table and gently laid the knife down before her . All but the man now missing three fingers, and the other missing several relatively decent teeth sat.

“The bet was twenty silver each?” She glared at them, the alcohol that had begun to make her limbs tingle now burning away in her blood.

Seven sets of eyes refused to look at her as the nearly six dozen others watched on. Ildric had moved, but it was to sit back in his seat, dark eyes taking note of the offenders.

Well?”

“It… it was fifteen, ma’am,” offered one of the younger men, daring a glance up at her.

Eruviel exhaled, the delicate fingertips of one hand resting on the table beside the knife. “Oh? It was thirty? Very well. I will accept the thirty silver each of you owe him.”

Their eyes widened. Thirty silver was what they had been paid for the last weeks of work, and for some of them it was probably all that they had.

“You heard the Lady,” sounded Ildric’s voice, cold as stone from across the room.

Slowly coins were counted, and seven coin purses were passed down to the Elf.

It paled in comparison to the lovely length of hair that had been lost, but Eruviel swallowed her tears as she plucked up the payment. “Thank you, boys,” she said briskly. “Welcome to Tharbad.”

The music struck up again from the far corner of the room. With a wave to Ildric, and a nod to the others she knew as she went, Eruviel glided out of the hall with her payment and what remained of her pride.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Fourteen years ago.

“Oy! There’s a sight for sore eyes!”

Eruviel laughed as the Dwarf took the reigns of her mare, and hopped down from the saddle. “It is good to see you too, Rhuniki!”

Rhuniki let out a belly laugh as he tugged on his long beard. “Thought some strange pointy-ear was comin’ up. Di’n’ figure it fer you! Lookin’ like a whole new elf.”

“I feel like a whole new Elf, Master Dwarf. Is Milloth nearby?”

Rhuniki shook his head as he confiscated the jug of ale from behind Eruviel’s saddle. “Took off this mornin’. Figure he’s gone scouting up north a ways with a few of the men.”

Looking about the encampment tucked away in the woods north of Esteldin, the Elf did her best to not appear too disappointed. “And what of Myrthrost and the others?”

“They’re in the Commander’s tent,” the Dwarf responded after a moment of hesitation and a drink from the jug. “Got some Angmarim trouble on our hands.”

The muscles in Eruviel’s neck tensed, but she nodded and clapped a hand on Rhuniki’s shoulder. “I think I will go see what sort of trouble is afoot, then,” she responded with a smile.

Shaking his head, Rhuniki waved her off as he led her horse away. “Mind yourself today. Commander’s in a foul way.”

Eruviel waved back. She did not doubt it, and it did not help that their first meeting had been a bad one. Nodding politely to the few men who greeted her as she passed, Eruviel found her way to the Pelargirian’s white tent trimmed in blue, black and gold. Stopping at the ten flap, she listened to the conversation for a second before ducking inside.

“How many did you say there were?” came the mellow voice that belonged to Myrthrost.

“Two dozen at least was what the messenger said,” responded a soldier who hesitated as the elleth appeared. “We — ehh…. With how long it takes to get to this side of the mountains, our window is five days.”

Myrthrost offered a small smile and a nod to Eruviel as she stepped up to the table. The Commander, however, did not look at her, his only reaction being the displeased frown that tugged at his already grim expression.

“That should be just enough time. We can intercept them at the point,” said Adrovorn, pointing to a spot on the well used map laid out on the table.

Eruviel peered down at the map and the foot-path over the mountains that had been marked. “Forgive me, but where were the Angmarim said to have started from?”

She felt Adrovorn’s disapproving gaze fix on her, but Myrthrost ignored the Commander and picked up another marker to set on the northern side of the mountain range. “Here is where they were spotted. The Free People’s fighters that spotted them were outnumbered, so made no move to intercept the enemy.”

“Thank you, Myrthrost,” said Adrovorn with a tight smile. “And you need not bother about it, Lady Eruviel. When Mrthrost returns with a report we –”

“They will not come that way,”Eruviel interjected.

All eyes turned to her, and Adrovorn lifted his head with an imperious air. “Excuse me?”

Eruviel frowned back at the tall man. “I will,” she snipped back. “That path is well out of the way from where the Angmarim were spotted. They will not come by that way.”

“My lady, that is the only way there is. Now, if you would be so kind, see if the cook has supper ready, and leave the preparations to us.” Adrovorn stepped back and motioned to the tent flap.

“I will not. If you will just listen to me, there are –”

“You are a fair archer, from what I hear, but I have heard nothing of you being a tactician. If you wish to remain, you will do so silently. Otherwise please take your leave.”

Myrthrost moved to put a calming hand on Eruviel’s shoulder, but she stepped around him to stand by the Commander and the table. “They will either come by this way, or out here,”she said curtly, leaning over to set two markers on two separate unmarked peaks.

Adrovorn stepped over to reluctantly peer over her shoulder. “There is no path there.”

“There is a path.”

“No, clearly there is not,” he insisted, growing agitated. “This map is new as of this spring. I can weigh your opinions with your brother’s knowledge when he returns.”

“Milloth has not spent half as much time there as I have. I am not telling you that you are wrong to cause trouble. If you go here your men –”

“Lady Eruviel,” said Adrovorn, shoulders tense and hands clasped behind his back as he moved between her and the table, forcing her to retreat a step. “I appreciate you attempting to help, but when I want the opinion of an Elf maid who’s been mind-fu–”

Eruviel’s fist connected with the Gondorian’s jaw. Stumbling back, the towering man dropped to the ground, landing hard on his bottom.

“Now, you listen to me,” Eruviel spat, eyes turning dark as her glare met, what she assumed to be, a healthy dose of shock as the man stared up at her, jaw held in one hand. “If you want to go and waste your time or risk your men getting killed that is fine with me,” she declared, leaning over the fallen man. “If there are two dozen Angmarim coming over those mountains, you can be damned sure there will be more not far behind them, and you will either be passed by or pinned against the mountains with nowhere to run but a narrow path.”

Adrovorn stared up at her for a minute, the others gathered around the table silent and tense as they watched. “You know where these paths lead out to, I assume.”

Standing up straight, Eruviel turned her nose up in disdain and pivoted to stride out of the tent. “Yes, I do.”

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Bittersweet: Sick

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Eruviel remembers…

“Naneth?”

Nostariel looked up from her work, emptying a handful of little paper shavings in the the basket set between her and her daughter. “What is it, dear one?”

Artistuion, now having finally grown, frowned down at the several yards of lacy paper cut-outs displaying uilos. Ada was away on business, and instead of translating the text he had left for her, the young elleth had spent the afternoon carefully ruining a perfectly good blank scroll. Even better, her mother had sat with her and helped. “The humans we saw….”

Nostariel gave her a curious look. “The ones we saw in Ered Luin? Artis, that was months ago.”

“I keep thinking about them,” she admitted quietly, carving out a trail of leaves upon the parchment. “They were sick, weren’t they?”

A minute passed before Nostariel nodded. “They are.”

The elleth’s frown deepened, and she looked up to search her mother’s sliver eyes. “They were in pain, naneth. I could see it. Ada wouldn’t let me help them. I tried to, but… why? Why would he not let me?”

Sighing softly, Nostariel reached over the confettied floor between them to cup her daughter’s cheek. “It is not just the remnants of Cardolan, but most of the human world, dear heart. Heal one, and there is not guarantee that he would not get sick again and die.”

“That does not make it right.”

“Death is a part of their world, my little light, as is sickness, but the latter does not always mean the other. And he was right to stop you. You would feel their pain and the suffering that comes with the fires of fever and draining of life, and you have no need to endure such a thing.”

Artis diverted her gaze, looking down at the delicate visage of a flower she had never actually seen. “Yes, naneth. I understand,” she replied quietly. She did not say how her father had been angry. She had never seen him angry, and never imagined it would aimed at her. Or was it at her? In any case, the elleth was sure that he had never intended his reaction to convict her, making her want to help the mortals that much more.

Nostariel smiled softly, a warm smile that reached into her youngest and lifted away the burden of doubt. “Do not let it weigh on your heart,” she assured her, kissing Artis’ forehead. “They will survive.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was not the path into the Misty Mountains that kept sleep at bay. Unlike the previous week that had been filled with exceptionally restful nights, Eruviel sat up in the dark, a pang of worry twisting in her chest.

He will survive, she repeated to herself. Every human falls ill. He will be fine. 

What could it be, really? Durrow was one of the cleanest homesteads, and certainly more so than Bree-town. Children often got sick. It made them stronger in resisting such things as they grew older, yes? But a summer cold, she was certain, would not warrant Abiorn writing to Rivendell to call Eirikr home.

Quietly she passed through the camp to where Voronwen stood dozing above a half-eaten tuft of grass. A few whispered words in Sindarin, and the animal’s ears twitched in acknowledgement. Starlight streamed through the trees as she took out a curry comb and body brush from one of her saddle bags, and Eruviel drank in the cool light that pooled around her as she busied herself.

It helped little. She brushed Voronwen’s neck and remembered seeing Eboric sleeping in his crib for the first time. Eruviel brushed the horse’s shoulders, back, haunches and flanks, and all she could think of was late nights when he knew making noise would draw her out to give him attention. Eruviel thought of the first time he splashed in a puddle, of games, and cooking lessons (messes), and lazy afternoon naps. She thought of his screams the first time she had held him, her hands covered in blood.

Wiping her eyes, Eruviel shook her head at Voronwen’s concerned look, and set to brushing the animal down with the body brush. She had always prayed. It came naturally and nearly always unspoken as she went about her day, like talking to a distant friend. Now her lips moved without sound, and some semblance of peace that matched her carefully set expression slowly warmed her core. So many miles between her and home, what else could she do? She pleaded for Irmo to give him peace in spirit and  in dreams, and for Estë to heal him. She entreated Oromë to give strength to the others, and to Elbereth who’s light was already there. For if there was hope of anyone hearing the elf’s prayers it was her.

Bittersweet: Of Places Homely

Eruviel remembers

“Are we there yet?” asked Artis, craning her neck to peer between the horses’ ears, her whisper echoing off the high stone walls.

“Patience, dear one,” Istuion replied, chuckling softly, catching the little elleth as she began to slowly slide from her seat. “You will see the light of the valley just around this next bend.”

Artis leaned against her father’s arm that held her safely on the large chestnut steed as she stared ahead. She couldn’t blink. She wouldn’t! What if she missed it, the first sight of the hidden valley?

A golden light beamed into the pass. Rounding the corner Artis could see sunlight streaming through leafy, green branches, and hear the distant rumbling of waterfalls.

“Ada!”she yipped excitedly, little legs kicking at the horse’s flanks. “I see it! I see it!”

“Calm yourself, little ligh–” Istuion’s words were cut off when the steed leapt forward, confused by his master’s calm pull on the reigns, and the little elleth’s delighted squeals.

The horse came to a halt near the roof of the first switchback. Nostariel’s melodic humming had turned into sweet, ringing laughter behind them, and their companions and escorts chuckled along with her. Artis did not hear them, and if she did it only added to the wondrous first moment of seeing Imladris with her own eyes. Small hands gripping the horse’s mane, she pushed herself up to lay on the animal’s neck, feet braced on Isuion’s knees and chin resting between the steed’s ears.

Ooh..,” she exhaled in reverent awe. “Ada… Ada! Do you see? Oh, it’s so pretty!”

The noble Elf smiled warmly at his Autumn child. “Sit like a lady, Artistuion,” he chastised, lifting her up and setting her back down in front of him.

Giggling, Artis nodded quickly. “You didn’t tell me it was this pretty,” she whispered up at her father as if his lack of every single detail was a betrayal.

Istuion spurred his mount forward into a walk, and his dark brows rose as he looked down at her. “What if I wanted it to be a surprise?”

Artis thought on that, and her growing grin reflected the daylight reaching past the high peaks. “Will Rain be here?”

Istuion gave his wife a meaningful smile as she brought her horse up to ride beside them. “Yes, Rainion should already be here, as should Elrond and his sons, and the other Lords.”

Artis gasped happily. “Really? Do you think they will play with me?”

Istuion’s stern brow furrowed. “We are not here to play, dear one. This might be the last time it is safe enough to travel outside of Lindon for a long while. There is buisness –”

Nostariel’s mare pranced a few paces, and the Elf cleared her throat.

Istuion’s mouth tugged one way then another, but his conflicted frown vanished as he looked down to see his daughters bright, questioning eyes fixed on him. “We will see, little light. Maybe… Maybe if you ask nicely.”

A Little Sand

Eruviel remembers.

Nine years ago…

“By the gods I hate this place,” Ildric muttered as he spurred his horse up the narrow path to catch up with the others.

“Only because you do not understand it,” Daran retorted, shooting the mercenary a disdainful glance as he tossed a water skin back.

“I am sure Orome subjects you to it just to hear you complain,” added Eruviel as she caught the skin and pulled the cork.

Ildric’s scoff cut out when he caught sight of the water. “Hey! Where was that two hours ago?!”

Daran looked back to the path ahead of them. “With me and out of your greedy hands.”

“If you ladies are done squabbling I suggest we catch up with the others,” called a voice from up ahead. “We are still two hours from the village.”

“Yeah, yeah, Shiny Shirt,” grumbled Ildric as he moved up to ride beside Eruviel. “You had to bring him along?”

The Elf looked ahead and smirked as she caught the brief glare Adrovorn spared Ildric. “I didn’t have to do anything. He wanted to come.”

“Better aid from the Dreadward than being overrun by greedy men playing at thievery,” Daran chimed in, sparing an amused glance to Eruviel.

“I resent that, caveman,” Ildric retorted, aiming a snatch for the water skin. “We merely —

“Vrax, quit pretending to make excuses for your pride,” called Adrovorn, sounding bored. “We all know you have none.”

Looking to the tall soldier ahead, Ildric’s attempt to claim the water skin for his own failed, and instead hit the end of Eruviel’s bow, sending it tumbling down the hillside.

“Bloody — Vrax!” shouted Eruviel in alarm. Jumping down off her horse she left the water skin hanging from her saddle and set off down the steep rocky slope.

“Wit — Eruviel! Come back! I hit it I’ll get it,” Ildric insisted as he too dismounted and stood on the path’s edge to look down after her.

“Good job,” Daran scolded. Patting his horse on the neck he turned the beast to bring him back to where Ildric stood.

“Oh, shut up –”

“Don’t let her go down there alone,” insisted Adrovorn as he rode to rejoin them.

“Ahh, she’s fine, pretty boy,” huffed Ildric as he pointed to where Eruviel stepped off the rocks and onto sand to retrieve her bow.

Adrovorn glanced to Daran and squared his firm jaw as he saw the hill-man’s sudden frown. “What is it?”

Eruviel had frozen in her tracks three or so steps from where her bow lay. “Adrovorn…” The bow had begun to slowly sink into the ground.

“Don’t move,” the Gondorian ordered firmly as he stepped down from his war steed. Pointing to the horse as if to order it to ‘stay’, Adrovorn took his halberd with one hand and started down the slope.

“No shit,” Eruviel grumbled, eyes still fixed on her bow. Swallowing, she nimbly danced forward a few steps across the surface of the quicksand. Successful in snatching up her bow the elf turned, but not before a particularly loose spot caught her foot. Before she could react she was sucked down past her knees.

“Aw, hell,” grumbled Ildric. Smacking Daran on the leg he started forward. “C’mon.”

Sighing, Daran dismounted more slowly. Taking a moment to grab his spear he began following the other two down.

“I told you not to move!”

“I heard you the first time, Captain,” Eruviel responded. “I am sinking too fast.  There must be something beneath me. Here.” She threw her reclaimed bow to Adrovorn, then began unbuckling her sword belt.

Having reached the bottom of the hill, Adrovorn caught her bow, set it aside, then caught her sword belt. The loss of it’s weight slowed her progression, but not enough. “Where is the edge of it?”

Glancing around her, Eruviel shook her head. “Beyond arm’s rea — ” Her words cut off with a gasp as she dropped down another foot. “Halberd!”

Daran and Ildric scrambled to a stop beside Adrovorn as he tossed the long weapon to the Elf. Catching it, Eruviel began fishing for the edge of the pit while moving as little as possible.

“Is there nothing else we can do?” asked Ildric, looking around the barren terrain for anything that might be of use.

“She’s got this,” said Daran as he let Ildric take his spear.

Standing rigid on the edge of the rocks, Adrovorn completely ignored them as he watched and waited.

“Shiny Shirt,”said Ildric, his voice suddenly nearly as authoritative as Adrovorn’s had been earlier. “Use your sword and help me find the edge of the pit.”

“No –” Eruviel, chest deep in sand, leaned back slowly against the flow. “No need.” Having reached behind her with the halberd, she had found the edges and, bracing the ends of the long weapon on either side, had begun hefting herself up. Taking a moment to catch her breath she began slowly working her feet out.

“You got it?” asked Adrovorn, his expression more stern and his features more pale than before.

“Just about…” She froze for a moment, gave a sad look, and resumed pulling her legs from the trap.

“Eruviel? What is it?” asked Daran as the men ventured forward.

Laying on her back and liberated, Eruviel quickly rolled to the side and off the surface of the quicksand. Taking up the halberd she accepted Ildric’s hand and rose to her bare feet.”

“I lost my boots,” she muttered with a particularly dignified air of remorse.

Daran looked to the pit, Adrovorn seemed too busy looking her over for injury, and Ildric laughed. “You females and your shoes!”

“They were new! And… they had my good daggers in them,” she added with a pathetic, Elven pout.

“You still have what? Twenty blades on you? And what’s with that pout?” Ildric chided.

“I can be disappointed if I want,” said Eruviel with a sniff. “And I don’t have to care what you think.”

Ildric shot a glare back at hearing Daran choke back a snicker. “Well, let’s check to see if you’re injured.” He reached forward towards her chest when a big hand grasped his shoulder and sent him sailing into the quicksand.

It was Eruviel and Daran’s turn to chuckle, and Adrovorn just glared, satisfied that the mercenary had landed right where he wanted him. “Are you hurt?”

“I’ll live!” came Ildric’s shout as he fought against the sand.

Smirking, Eruviel shook her head. “I am fine… Really!” she insisted as he frowned down at her.

“Close your eyes,” Adrovorn insisted as he pulled out a kerchief.

“What?”

“Close your eyes. You have sand all over your face.”

“Not much. Honestly, a little sand never hurt anybody –”

“Put your hands down, and close your eyes,” Adrovorn grumbled as he took up the end of her braid to toss over her shoulder.

Daran frowned at the two of them. Taking the Gondorian’s halberd the hill-man rolled his eyes and turned away. “Nobody panic. I’ll fish the thief out.”

 

(Thank you, Laerlin for the writing prompt!)

 

One Final Lesson

Eruviel remembers . . . .

“Get up.”

Rainion’s words sent air rushing into her lungs, and Artis used the pillar behind her to pull herself to her feet.

“Pick up your sword.”

Her eyes never leaving her brother, Artis stepped over to pick up the curved, Elven blade. “How much longer wi –” Her words were cut off when Rainion flung out his arm, sending a wave of wind out to knock his little sister off her feet. Flying back it was the pillar that once again brought her tumbling to a halt.

“Get up.”

“Stop helping,” grumbled Artis with gasp. At least she hadn’t lost her sword this time. Anticipating his attack, she spun around and hid behind the pillar as a force of wind rushed past.

“How am I helping, Moriquendë?”

She took a second to steady her breathing. “You say this is preparing me for the future,” she said as she stepped back out into the open, “and I heard Ada telling you not to go easy on me. Stop giving me air when the wind is knocked out of me.”

One corner of Rainion’s mouth curved up. “Do not lose your sword. We will not stop till you start landing on your feet every time.”

Setting her feet as he had taught her, she nodded. “Go.”

The force slammed into Artis, and the world spun as she fell backwards to roll through the dirt of the training yard. Panic shot through her as she gasped frantically for air. Sliding to a stop on her knees she forced herself to breathe, rose to her feet, and moved into a jog to attack Rainion head on.

Again he flung out his hand, and again she was thrown back. Once, twice, three times she rolled across the ground.

“You are not a sack of wheat. Get up!”

Artis got up. Her head spun, but her sword remained in hand, and with each fall she more quickly recovered. Land on your feet. Land on your feet.

Reaching a hand into the leather pouch hanging from his belt, Rainion waited for Artis to get within striking distance before throwing his hand out at her. Catching the force of the blow with her chest, Artis sailed back through the air, but this time she had prepared for it. Flipping around she reached down and caught the ground beneath her with the tip of her blade. Slowing, she landed on her feet, slid to a stop, and launched herself forward towards her brother.

“Again!”

Rainion grinned, and attacked. She had figured it out. His strikes were never the same, but no matter which way she was thrown Artis used her weight, weapon, and surroundings to land upright. Each time she got faster, and each time she got a little closer to him.

Landing sooner, Artis attacked before Rainion had a chance to recover. A swipe of her blade forced him back, and as Rain cast out his hand she took hold of his wrist. In the blink of an eye he had twisted out of her grasp and extended a dagger to her throat.

“Not quite fast enough, Moriquendë. Took you a few days –”

“And a few beatings,” chimed Artis to reminded him.

“Ah, yes, and a few beatings, but you have improved.”

Artis’s mouth slowly curved up into a grin, and she tapped the flat of her blade against his side.

A look of realization passed through the tall Elf’s grey eyes, followed by a gleam of pride. “That’s my girl.” Withdrawing his blade, Rainion took a step back. “My last day home, and my little sister beats me.”

Frowning, Artis gave him her most stubborn scowl. “We tied. You will know when I beat you.”

“I look forward to it,” Rainion said with a chuckle, reaching out to tousle her already messy bangs. “I hope Milloth is there to see it when you do. He becomes rather childish when reminded of his many losses.”

Fixing her bangs, Artis could not help but smile a little as she moved to walk with him. “I will train hard while you are away.”

Rainon did not speak for several paces. Draping an arm across her shoulders he nodded as he led them back to the main house. “Pray that I will not be gone long.”

Handing her sword off to an attendant waiting at the door of the yard, Artis glanced to Rainion’s hand that draped over her far shoulder. “I will. Naneth . . . Naneth does not want you to go.”

“Neither does Eilianniel.”

She could feel his shoulders sag. “I know,” responded Rainion quietly. “I wish none of us had to go, but when there is evil someone has to stand in it’s path.”

Pursing her lips as she frowned, Artis nodded. “I saw her packing earlier today.”

“I do not have to report in for a couple weeks. Eilianniel and I will be spending that time together.”

What could only have been jealousy twisted a little inside of her. Swallowing, she looked down to the smooth stones set into the ground beneath their walking feet. “Is it difficult? To be away from her?”

“Very difficult,” said Rainion. Looking down to the top of her head he smiled softly, and gave her a one-armed hug. “I forget sometimes how much you’ve grown. Perhaps you will finally be wed by the time I return.”

Scrunching up her nose, Artis lifted her chin to look to the path ahead. “Do not get your heart set on it. I just have a few more boring, arrogant, and passionless options to check off Ada’s list, then I will be free.”

Laughing, Rainion placed a kiss atop of her head before moving to take them up a stair that lead to the kitchens. “So long as Ada is on this side of the sea, dear Moriquendë, you will not be free of what he sees as your duty.”

Artis frowned. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No. Just promise me you will be our good Artistuion while I am gone? As much as you two clash, you can still learn a lot from him.”

Nodding, Artis stepped inside the door he held open for her. “I will do my best.”

The Sea: In Time

1204_saltrockbeach_0582

Eruviel remembers . . .

“Rain? Milloth?” called little Artis as she burst out of a wall of lush ferns and onto the grey beach. They had to be close. They had to be! She’d heard them, and she wouldn’t stand to be left behind as they explored the shoreline without her.

“Rain?” she called again, scampering up an old, fallen tree, gripping at the sea-treated roots. “Millo — aah!” A chunk of rotted bark broke away as she stepped too close to the edge of the log, and the little Elven girl cried out as she fell. A foot of free-falling felt like forever, but instead of landing on the cold rocks and sand below, strong, warm arms caught her.

“Woah, there, little sister!” laughed Rainion as he spun her in a circle. “You should watch where you are stepping. I can’t always catch you.”

“I would have been all right,” chimed Artis even as she cast her arms around the Eldar’s neck for added security.

“You find her?” called a second voice from around the beached log.

“We are over here!” responded Rainion as he knelt down to set Artis on her feet. “You should be more careful, Artis. Ada would have my head if you were hurt.”

Artis leaned back, giving him an obstinate frown. “Then I won’t get hurt! You’d look funny without your head. Besides, nothing bad can happen if you and Mill are around.”

Rainion gave her a strange smile as if she’d said something amusing, and he tugged playfully at her braid as Milloth jogged around to join them.

“Hey, who was it that just accused me for being too soft on her?” the youthful Eldar declared as his grey eyes flicked over Artis for any sign of injury.

Rainion rose to his full height, and pushed his blonde hair back over his shoulder. “Soft? You spoil her!”

Milloth strode over, and mussed a hand through Artis’s hair. “Me? Who is the one who taught her the easiest ways to climb out of her window?”

“She would have done it anyways,” responded Rainion matter-of-factly. “Call it preemptive damage-control.”

Artis frowned up at Milloth as she ducked away from his hand. “You made my hair all frizzy. And I’m not spoiled.”

“No?”

“Nope!”

“How do you figure that?” asked Milloth as he stooped to allow her to clamber onto his back.

“It’s . . . not,” she offered, making a face as she scrambled to find a better excuse. “You just love me!”

Milloth hopped upright, bouncing Artis on his back. “I don’t know. I wonder how much our big brother loves you.”

Rainion lifted his head in a proud manner, his mouth quirking with a smirk. “Enough to keep you from falling on your head.”

“Enough to give me a piggyback next?!”

“If you can catch me, you — hey!”

Milloth leapt forward after Rain, chasing him out over the wet sand with little Artis clinging to his shoulders. “Get him, Milloth! Catch him!”

~~~***~~~

Cold waves rolled up the pale golden sand. She hadn’t bothered to keep track of how long she had been walking. Eruviel’s faint prints faded away with every step she took, and it was not until the warm, Gondorian spring sun reached well past noon that she turned around to venture south again.

A brisk ocean breeze combed through her long hair, and left salt kisses on her lips. The flowing in of the tide wrapped its arms around her like an old friend, and when it ebbed the waters were reluctant to let go, beckoning for her to follow.

You’re not far. The sea is not as wide as it seems.

Eruviel walked a little further, the sun’s rays warming her loose, happily tangled locks of hair. The distant cry of birds blended in with the thunderous crash of the surf. Occasionally a smoothed, shimmering fragment of pearly shell caught her eye and she stooped to collect it, depositing each little gem into a small purse that hung from a thin belt at her waist.

Rounding a bend in the shoreline the sand turned into small, smooth pebbles. The beach receded into the sea and, thanks to the low tide, the Elf navigated through the calm waters, skipping from the top of one submerged boulder to the next. A veil of cloud passed overhead, and Eruviel stopped, calf deep in the blue-green waters to look out over the expanse of glistening sea. Her thin, hiked-up skirts flapped in the air that flowed around her. Had she wings, a gush of wind would have carried her away up the towering sea cliffs.

You’re not far.

Far enough.

You don’t need to be.

I’m going back.

Come to us. You’re so close.

Not now. Not yet.

You could have stayed before.

I wasn’t ready. I’m still not.

Soon?

 . . . In time.

A Bitter Wind (part 2)

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Eruviel remembers.

 

A day had passed, and then another before Milloth and Rainion had returned. And when they had they stayed long enough to trade out horses and speak in private with their father. Then with a kiss to Artis’s forehead they were off again.

As for father, he and she had not spent their customary walks at twilight together. The first night he had missed and Istuion had sought her out, not telling her why but to apologize and say he would be there the following evening. He was not. They had missed twilight’s when he was away or had business, but never before had she been there standing alone. Why does he not tell me. Why does he not tell me anything?

Her chest heaving with a sigh Artis sat up to rest at the edge of her bed, abandoning her book to the nightstand. A cold northern wind batted against the windowpanes, and the harder it blew, the deeper the chill that something was amiss delved into her bones.

Wrapping a soft, woven ivory blanket around her shoulders she rose to her feet and began to pace slowly around her quarters. Stopping in the wide curve of the bay window she cast her eyes down to the main courtyard below. Eery shadows danced away from the torches and through the naked tree branches as the wind poured over the high walls. Only the necessary Eldar guards and troops had remained as the others had been sent to fight both the enemy and fires to the east. She had not seen her father leave . . . but then again she had not seen her father at all.

Her emerald eyes rose to search the horizon and she was about to turn away when she saw it; the faintest orange glimmer amidst the darkness to the south. Her breath faltered as she looked again through the ripples of rain coursing over the glass. That was past the bridge . . . The Eldar were no where near there . . . .

“They won’t get there in time,” she muttered under her breath. But maybe . . . maybe I can make it. Dropping her blanket she paced to the red mahogany armoire and changed out of her nightdress into the trousers, tunic, and leather curiass she kept hidden beneath her skirts. She opened a side cabinet and stopped. Then she remembered that Istuion had taken her bow and short swords several days back. ‘To ensure that you do not follow through with any bad ideas,’ had been his words. Sucking a harsh tisk through her teeth Artis fixed a thick cloak over her shoulders and strode purposefully out of her room.

None of the few servants still out in the halls stopped her or spoke to her, but all of them moved out of her way. Taking the steps two at a time Artis swung open the doors to her father’s study. She did not bother stopping to look around the empty room as her eyes locked on her target that hung against the wall over the cold fireplace. Crossing over the Lorien-woven rug, a victorious smile curled up her lips as her hand easily reached and closed around her father’s ebony bow.

_ _ _ _ _

The wind pierced through the thick wool of her drenched cloak. Almost there. Almost there, she told herself as she whispered to her steed, urging the animal to run faster. The black giants of trees watched her as she flew forward, racing towards the distant glow of fire. She had heard the talk. Goblins. She had seen pictures and heard tales of what they looked like and what they did. Artis told herself it could be worse. It could always be worse.

Cresting the next rise Artis reigned in her mount, the horse reeling around at the abrupt halt and stomping as the inferno came into view. The whole outpost was awash with flame, and the shouts of battle and crash of steel echoed up from the knoll. Turning back she tied her horse to a tree a short ways off then backtracked back to survey the chaos.

Bodies littered the ground and only a small number of human soldiers remained. But what puzzled Artis was the enemy. They were fewer in number than she had feared . . . though she didn’t know what to expect. The problem was that they were too tall to be goblins; too tall and too thick. The enemy crushed in past a line of rangers and the fighting intensified. Overwhelmed, she pulled the ancient bow from her back and notched an arrow when a hand clasped over her mouth.

Artis could have sworn her heart stopped. Her body went rigid as her head was pulled back . . . and then her heart stopped again.

“What in Valinor,” Istion growled as he glared down at her, his dark hair fallen from it’s usual ponytail to hang wet and wind-whipped across his hardened features.

“A-Ada,” she gasped, staring up at him in shock.

“You should not be here,” he said darkly, releasing her as he turned his steel-grey eyes towards the fire and fighting several hundred yards away.

“I –” The words wouldn’t come. I wanted to help. I know I could. You can let me. You can trust me. I am strong enough. “Ada?”

Istuion took the bow from her hands, his care more chilling than the bitter light in his eyes that stabbed down at her. “We are going home.”

“Wha — but the humans,” she insisted, suddenly discovering her heart as it lept back to life, pounding furiously in her chest as she watched him walk away. “You cannot leave them to this!”

“I can, and I will,” he said simply, the words flowing too easily from his mouth. “You will learn, daughter, that humans only bring this,” he said, motioning to the desperate fight below, “no matter how much hope is placed in them.”

Artis followed a few steps and stopped. “They wanted to help. They could have.” She turned to look back as one of the large beasts cut down another Arthedain soldier. So much blood . . . so much death. They didn’t choose this death. “We have to help them!”

“No. We do not. Get your steed. We are going home.”

“Ada! How can you –“

Enough!” he hissed, whirling around to face her as the main hall of the fort collapsed, crushing the few wounded with tremendous crash and explosion of embers. “You are my daughter, and I said we are going. You will never hold a bow again.”

Damn it all!” she suddenly shouted, stepping towards him. “What did they ever do to you? Punish me later,” she insisted, desperate. “I will bear whatever consequences that you see fit, but please, Ada! They are dieing!”

Istuion looked back to the outpost where the last three soldiers, Jarrin among them, faced off against twelves of the beasts. “They chose this,” he mutter bitterly as he pivoted to walk away.

Artis stared at him in disbelief. She moved to follow, but her joints felt stiff, her core ached . . . and screamed and thrashed as the rain drove ever harder down to the earth. “No,” she whispered, halting.

What?” Istuion asked, the Eldar’s fury filling the air around them. Before it would have made her quiver. Before she would have retreated, ashamed and begging for his forgiveness. But not now. If he didn’t tell her why he hated them, that was on his head, not hers.

“I said no,” she responded quietly, her head held high. “You chose this.” Not caring to see the reaction on his face she snatched the black bow from his hands and sprinted away in the dark towards the hissing ruins and screams of fallen men.

She felt numb as she dashed down the far side of the rise, letting gravity pull her ever faster towards the flames and monsters and men. Nock, draw, loose. Nock, draw, loose. The first arrow buried its barbed tip deep in the back of the first beasts head even as the third shot from her string. Artis did not know if it was fear or shock, but she was certain it was not bravery that drew her closer.

Seeing the enemy drop and her sprinting to join them the men suddenly attacked the tall beasts with a renewed energy. Another fallen beast, then another. The soldier to the right was knocked to the ground, but an arrow through the monster’s arm gave the man enough time to cut it down.

Then, a cry from the side drew her attention. One of the enemy stood over Jorrin, a spear through the man’s chest. With a shout Artis rebounded off a charred post to help the man when the wind was knocked out of her. The world spun and as Artis crashed to the ground all her senses rushed back to her. The blood, the fire, the burned flesh crawled into her nose, the screams of the wounded lost in the dark and the roar of a defiant fire poured into her ears. Artis had but seconds, scrambling for a muddy, lost shield before an enemies meteor hammer came crashing down with a resounding crack upon the wood and steel. The shock racked her body, slamming her head against the hard ground, the layer of mud and ash not offering a bit of protection. The shield remained whole.

A roar reached her, not quite human, not quite beast, and as the foul creature brought his arm up to attack her again a bolt of lightning shot through its chest. The white-blue light flashed over her vision again and again. It resounded through the woods around them and as she sat up, the air around her crackled with energy. Looking up she saw Istuion standing over the last of the creatures, a long, sparking dagger sticking up out of the the top of the beasts head. He was magnificent, and terrifying. Was that really her father? She wanted to both run to him and to flee. But there was no going back. It might have been the only thing she was sure of.

One of the soldiers staggered over to her, pulling the shield off of her and offering her a hand up. Seeing the shock and gratitude in his expression she too his hand, rising shakily to her feet. The fire had finally began to die down and a dim, grey light rose in the east. Steam rose and swirled about them as the cold wind continued to blow through the high branches. Retrieving the bow she turned in a slow circle, the growing light revealing the full extent of the human’s losses. Seeing one of the last soldiers kneeling beside the commander Artis joined him. Blood trickled out of the side of Jorrin’s mouth, and he could only manage a sputter as she knelt down to try and help stave the hot flow seeping from his mortal chest wound. She had never seen so much blood.

And then she looked to Istuion, and he looked back at her. As drenched as the least of them, Artis had never seen her father so expressionless. “Ada,” she said weakly, her mouth dry as droplets of water coursed down her face.

His cold eyes saw right through her. There was something in that look. It was angry and betrayed and it cut her to the core. Retrieving a long knife from the neck of one of the creatures he cast a disdainful look at the pitiful remnant of the human outpost. Then his gaze found hers. “Since this is what you want, help them to the human fort the the east. Do not bother coming home till you do.”

No going back. He would think less of me if I did not stand by my decision. I would think less of me. Standing, Artis nodded curtly, not caring that her arms shook and that the cold sent an aching shiver through her body. “So be it.” Was she so wrong?  Ada.

Nodding, his cold eyes flicked over her, checking for injury, and she could feel every droplet of water, every bit of mud and blood on her. Then Istuion turned away from her, and disappeared into the shadows of morning.

A Bitter Wind (part 1)

Eruviel remembers.

“Please, Master Istuion. We will not sta –”

“No,” the Eldar lord interrupted, the single, sharply spoken command echoing through the stone gatehouse. “I will not say it again. You may water your horses and rest for an hour. My sons brought you here, so they will escort you away. Them and a company of archers will see you and your men safely to the next bridge.”

The face of the tall Arthedain commander known as Jorrin hardened as he chose his words . “Will all due respect, my lord, that would be back tracking. Winter has come even earlier this year, and from reports from back home it will be even harsher than the last. We have reason to believe –”

“Sir, do you suggest that the soldiers I have will not be able to easily thwart whatever scourge the cold drives south?”

“I do not, my lord,” responded the human commander, meeting the elf’s gaze, “but my men and I only mean to pass through you lands.”

Tension flooded the space left by silence. “I will deal with whatever filth the Witch King has sent so far west. You will take your men back south. If you leave in an hour you can make the human outpost by nightfall,” spoke Istuion finally.

“Very well, Master Istuion,” Jorrin responded grimly.

Artis watched from where she sat perched in a gatehouse window as her father paced away, hands clasped behind his back and head high. A bitter wind floated over her, goosebumps pricking on her arms and sending a chill down her back. The older she got the less she understood why Istuion treated the humans with disdain. What made it worse was the silence and dismissal she got whenever she asked. She probably should have sought understanding, but Rainion had been sworn to say nothing, and Milloth knew as much as she did. Istuion’s refusal to speak of it only made her want less of that which he wished for her to pursue.

Swinging her bare feet over the ledge she jumped to drop the several yards to the ground below, landing with ease. Smoothing out her tunic and pulling her braid over her shoulder she rounded the corner to where the human commander still stood, frowning after the Eldar lord. “Mae govannen, heruamin,” she said as she offered the man a slight curtsey.

“Oh! I-I beg your pardon,” said Jorrin, startled out of his thoughts. A fond smile replaced the frown on his face as he bowed, the dozen or so men behind him following suit. “Well met, Lady Artis.”

Nodding with a kind smile to the others she motioned with a hand to the inner courtyard.  “Shall I show you to the well, sir?” she inquired in Westron, remembering that many humans did not speak her native tongue.

The commander arched a brow at her even as he gave her a faint, grateful nod. “That is not work for you, my lady. Your father will send a servant in a minute, I am sure.”

“Nonsense,” Artis said, a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth as she turned, expecting for them to follow. “It is the least I can do to show you and your men hospitality.”

The commander motioned to his men and stepped with her. “Thank you.”

Artis nodded as she led the way to the stables. “What is it that you and you men are –”

“Were.”

“Pardon me, were hunting?”

“The enemy,” Jorrin chuckled. Motioning for a younger Ranger to lead the others to the troughs the commander motioned to the side and led Artis to the vine covered wall that separated the main way into the estate from the stable courtyard. “But that is not important,” he said in a lower tone. “Your father will see these lands safe, but if I may, I suggest you do not leave for a few days.”

Artis arched a brow, clasping her hands in front of her as she studied the man. As much as she liked the humans they still at times confused her. “Why would I need to stay? I would not go out alone. Whatever dangers present themselves –”

“My lady,” said Jorrin more sternly, “I mean no disrespect, but for all your skills in the hunt you do not know battle, and I doubt that in your few hundred years you have even known fear.” Glancing back at his men he sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.

“You worry about reporting back not having found what ever it is?” she asked, eyes narrowed.

Jorrin nodded. “The trouble in the east grows worse and we would like to keep it out of Lindon.”

Aris sighed and nodded. “Very well.” She then chuckled lightly. “I am sure that you just saved my father the trouble of convincing me.”

“I doubt he would thank me,” the man laughed. “Your brothers do say you have an unusually rebellious streak.”

“Just because I would rather be out hunting with them than learning to embroider and restore old paintings does not mean I am rebellious,” Artis retorted, pouting about as much as a proper elf could.

“For and elf, for an elf,” the commander added quickly, flashing a grin. “If you were a human I do not doubt you would be a prized child.”

“If I were a human, at my age I would no longer be a child,” she quipped with a smirk.

“You will always be a young one to us, my dear onórë” rang Milloth’s amused voice from behind her.

“Lord Milloth,” said Jorrin, bowing to the elf.

Having caught the glare Artis sent him, the elf lord walked up to stand with them. “I apologize for this, my friend,” said Milloth quietly to Jorrin as he rested a hand on Artis’s shoulder. “Both Rainion and I would have let you pass.”

The commander tucked his lips in, narrowing his eyes as he nodded. “That was Lord Istuions decision, so we will respect it. These are his lands. Even beyond the river, we are just guests in Lindon.”

Artis looked between them, wishing she fully understood the serious looks the two exchanged. She wanted to go with them. Why should she stay when they were only riding to the bridge to begin with? Turning her gaze up to Milloth she was prepared to speak when he looked down to her, a different shadow passing over the eldar’s face.

“Thank you for showing them in, Moriquendë. I will see to our guests from here. Father wishes to speak with you.”

A Little Taller

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Eruviel remembers.

 

“What am I?! What am I?!” Artis begged, bouncing on her toes as she pressed her back against the door frame atop the kitchen stairwell.

“Right now you are a grasshopper. Hold still, Artis,” Nostariel chuckled.

The young eldar’s whole body heaved with a sigh as she reluctantly complied. “Yes, mother.”

A moment passed, Artis standing more still than she probably had in the past month, before her mother hummed softly.

“What? What is it?” asked Artis with bated breath.

Nostariel leaned over, smiling mischievously at her little girl, waves of golden hair falling over to frame her face. “Ah-ah, you promised to tell me why before I tell you what.”

Artistuion scrunched up her nose and made a sour face as she looked away. “Rainpromisedme,” she muttered under her breath.

“Huh? Really, tindomiel, elf maidens should not mutter,” teased Nostariel as she stood upright and set a hand on her hip. “What did Rainion promise you?”

“He  . . . he promised me that if I was five-foot by the time he got back from Evendim he would take me shooting,” huffed Artis.

“Oh? Well you know that he arrived last night, right?”

“I KNOW,” Artis exclaimed disparagingly. “How tall am I, Nana?”

“Well . . . ,” responded Nostariel, drawing out each letter as she picked up the little eldar’s bow. “You should probably make haste then. You are five feet and one inch.”

Artis shouted with delight and dashed away, only to scramble in slowing herself and sprint back to her mother. “Thank you!” she cried, flinging her arms around her mother’s waist for a brief hug before snatching the bow from her grasp, her circlet from a nearby chair, and racing back down the corridor. “Thank you! I’ll finish my lessons tomor –” Her words faded out quickly as she vanished further into the house.

Nostariel gazed down the now-silent hall for a moment longer before picking up her skirts and heading down the stairs towards the kitchens. She could see bits of little Artis’s future, and much of it gave her hope. Glancing out a side window she could see across the yard to Istion’s study where the elf lord sat bent over his desk. Have grace with your little star, beloved.

_ _ _ _ _

Artis pattered down the long flight of steps as fast as her feet could carry her, one hand clutching her bow and skirts, the other pressed atop of her head to keep her circlet from flying off. “Rainion? Rain — ooph!” she gasped as she ran headlong into her eldest brother.

“Careful there, Moriquendë,” laughed the towering elf lord as he quickly took her by the arm to keep her from falling. “What is the hurry?”

“I didn’t want to be late! I had to tell you, I’m tall enough to shoot with you!” she said, her excitement more hushed as she looked up in reverence to the Eldar that fought under Glorfindel. If only she could be as mighty as he!

Rainion arched a dark eyebrow in amusement as he turned to walk with her down the hall towards the courtyard. “You do know I made that a condition to get you off my back?”

Artis frowned at him in disbelief. “What? You mean to tell me I could have been shooting with you years ago?!

“No. But you practiced harder as you waited to grow, did you not?”

Artis pursed her lips in a poorly faked pout as she pushed open the gate for them. “I  . . . well, I did, yes. I’ve been practicing as much as I can, but Ada has been overseeing most of my archery.” She kicked at a pebble on the path, sending the stone flying. “He never lets me do anything cool like you and Milloth get to.”

Rainion hummed as he led the way along the back of the long training yard to where a servant arranged weapons on a wooden table. “That is probably for the best. Yes, I suppose some of what Milloth and I do can be considered as ‘cool,’ but we do more that is dangerous. Father does not always approve of our ventures, but we are also old enough to take the path that calls us away from home.”

“Do you think I can take my own path?” she asked quietly, swinging her light bow to bounce from one shin to the other, her eyes gazing longingly at the other weapons.

Rainion did not respond, and when she looked up his stormy eyes were fixed on the balcony overlooking the yard. “What path would you like to take?” he asked in a hushed voice.

Quickly looking back there was no one on the balcony, but her wondering about what he’d seen was pushed aside by his question. “I want to help. I want to fight to help others,” she said softly. “Father wants me to be a lady, to be educated and live a long peaceful life married to some lord . . . but what good is my living in peace if everyone else dies in strife? Long life, and all my abilities go to waste sipping tea and writing poetry behind flowers and hedges.” When her brother remained silent she looked up at him to see him gazing down at her with a warm smile, a spark in his eyes. “What?” she asked incredulously.

“Nothing, onórë,” he chuckled. Taking up his dark-hilted elven blade he dabbed two fingers with oil from a vial and motioned for her to follow.

Leaning her bow against the table Artis took one of the smaller short swords and went after him. “Are we not shooting today?”

“You learn archery from Milloth,” said Rainion. Glancing to her he nodding in approval at her choice of weapon. “From now on you will be learning swordsmanship from me.”

Without skipping a beat Artis shot him a smirk, flipping the sword in her hand. “Just swordsmanship?”

“Patience, Moriquendë,” laughed Rainion. Painting the edge of his sword with the oil on his fingers, Rainion muttered a spell under his breath and pivoted around to face her, poised to either attack or defend. Sparks of white electricity flicked along the blade’s edge.

“Hey!” Artis exclaimed, turning to face him. “That is not fair! Can I not have some?”

Rainion held his stance but shot her a wink. “Get a little taller first, then we can talk about it.”

Artis huffed and stet her feet, preparing to attack. “And stop calling me ‘dark elf’. Father says it is an unbecoming title for any high-elf.”

“Well father has no sense of humor. Not since Gondolin. Do you still sneak out at night?”

Artis made a face, and nodded.

“Then you are Moriquendë,” he snickered. “Now, onórë, attack me before I die of old age.”

Lessons

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Eruviel remembers.

“Adaaaa,” Artis protested, propping her elbows upon the heavy, ornately carved wooden desk with a huff. Smushing her cheeks between her hands the young Eldar’s emerald eyes gazed out the great arched window facing west. “Can we just go?”

“It will just be a few more minutes. Exercise your patience, my dear.”

Artis wrinkled her nose and sniffed. “I lost it. Lessons took forever today.”

The elf lord’s steel-grey eyes rose to peer over at her from behind the letter he read. “We will have time, Artistuion. I just need to finish this letter. Recite again for me then, since you’ve been studying forever.”

Slouching back in her chair, Artis drew one knee up, resting her still dirty bare foot on the cushions of the seat. “In the following excerpt, written in 1936 of the First — ” she began, tugging at the violet satin ribbon woven through her hair. ” So deadly and ineluctable is the underlying thought, that those who in the circle of light, within the besieged hall, are absorbed in . . . .”

Istuion nodded, his nimble yet strong hands flying the quill across a fresh page of parchment. Looking up at her with a small smile his eyes then narrow briefly. Artis put her propped up foot down. He narrowed his eyes a bit more and she sat up straight, her posture so perfect it would have made the highest born of the Eldar proud.

“– rehandling in a new perspective an ancient theme: that man, each man and all men, and all their works shall die,” Artis ended. Leaning against the arm of the chair she set her chin in her palm, her eyes now fixed on the might bow that never left it’s resting place on the wall. “And not just them. We all die,” she added quietly.

“Artis, what would make you say that?” her father asked, frowning as he folded up his letter.

“Well . . . that is what happens. Our people seem to either die in tragedy, or grow sad and sail. Is not the sadness and or  loss of purpose that results in such a trip, in itself, a form of death?”

Istuion melted a pinch of wax, his brows furrowing as he poured it and sealed the letter closed. “I know the old tales are full of woe, my little light, but there are more stories that have not been written down than just those.”

Artis mumbled incoherently under her breath, glancing from the slowly setting sun back to the bow.

“What was that?”

Artis squirmed uncomfortably. “It seems the humans have more tales of hope than we. I think they have it better,” she muttered.

The Eldar lord slammed the bronze seal down on the desk with a sharp bang, the harsh sound causing Artis to jump. Her eyes gleamed, widened with a healthy fear from the dangerous look on her father’s face. Rising smoothly from his seat, Istuion smoothed out his robes, the sealed letter in one hand. Rarely did she ever see him in such a state; more often with her brothers than with her. The quiet anger made him seem taller and more ominous. Walking around the desk, his expression changed to a pristine calm, betrayed by the hint of sadness in his eyes. His mouth curved slightly in a practiced smile.

“Hurry and wait for me at the gates,” he said as he kissed the top of her head. “I need to see this letter sent, and then we can go and greet the night.”

Artis nodded and watched him leave, peeking over the back of her chair till he disappeared into the hall. Uncoiling herself she left the seat like one stepping out of a hiding place and tip-toed to the door of the study. Peering down the hall she saw no one in sight. She should have known better than to incite her father’s wrath. The older she got the more she understood that the topic of ‘humans’ was one best left untouched when within ear-shot of the Eldar Lord, father or not. Peering back into the room at the mighty bow with one last look of longing, she stepped into the marble paved hall and scampered down the corridor towards the gates. If they were late it would not be of her doing.

(Recited quotes taken from Tolkien’s Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics )