To Dale

The journey East with Eirikr Tenorbekk to save Ninim and Abiorn

To Dale: Epilogue

The miles that passed underfoot were but numb echoes in Eruviel’s limbs. She could still feel Ninim’s blood on her hands with every arrow she loosed, and see the life fade from the young woman’s eyes whenever her own closed.

It had gone all wrong. Try as they had, Ninim had perished as Eruviel cradled the screaming newborn against her chest. In the moments before Abiorn had taken his little nephew from her she had stared down in horror at the beautiful child, fearful that he might die as well.
Never, she had thought, never will I have children. She would not . . . could not. Not now.

Every night when they made camp her eyes would follow Eirikr as he’d take his leave to stand watch. The memory of his harrowing cry kept her from sleeping when he was gone, and she stood more alert when he would finally rest on a pallet beside his brother. When his dreams got worse she’d creep over and press her hand to his forehead, sometimes merely suppressing the terrors that plagued him, and other times exchanging his dreams for her calm.

The tranquility of Lothlorien had done little to lessen her guilt. And though it had raised her spirits, it was the look on Abiorn’s face as they entered Caras Galadhon that finally caused her to smile. No light shone in Eirikr’s eyes however; a look Eruviel knew all to well. He should never have had to suffer such a loss. She had promised herself she would prevent it, and her failure turned the evening meals to ash in her mouth. As their short respite ended she wished she knew what to say to him, but her words would most likely fall on deaf ears. So she walked and fought beside him in silence, and took greater care in seeing to Abi’s comfort.

Eruviel could not remember ever wanting to see Bree again so badly. As the road west once again became familiar she thought of Anya, whose gift hid awkwardly in her satchel, and of Threz, who’s letters nested in her pocket. But most of all she thought of the little boy they had left behind. Sighing, she fixed her gaze on the horizon. She would go back in a year or two. If Abiorn was up to it, perhaps they would go together. Deep within her she hoped that the boy grew to look like a little Eirikr. But, in truth it did not matter who had fathered the child. What mattered was that the infant born in the dark of Mirkwood would have Ninim’s eyes.

To Dale: In the End

“But if only-”

in a world there lived a Woman

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They crept out of Esgaroth beneath a new moon. Only the stars lit the way as they traveled north through the Lonely Mountain where a Dwarf Eirikr knew from childhood housed them for two nights. Then down to the borders of the realm of the Wood-elves where Eruviel’s pointy ears helped convince the scouts to let them pass unharmed. The paths through the Mirkwood were slow and tedious. Several times, they almost abandoned the wagon, but it made traveling so much easier on both Abiorn and Ninim. They backtracked. They waited while Eirikr or Eruviel scouted. They made their way through the shadows and fog with a constant vigilance. If their heightened state wasn’t for the spiders and the wargs, then the knowledge that Kolrson Tenorbekk still lived plagued them all.

Eirikr kept a close eye on Abiorn. The boy joked about his lack of handiness – figuratively and literally…

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To Dale: Confrontation, Part 2

The end is in sight! But who knows what will come next?

in a world there lived a Woman

((A combination of exposition and chat logs edited for tense))

“Abiorn!”

Eirikr did not even try for subtlety as he led Eruviel up the stone staircase to the second floor. His low voice boomed throughout the hall as he called for his brother.

“Abiorn!”

A strained, thin voice came from the west wing. Eirikr took the stairs two at a time as his brother called back, “Eirikr? Eirikr, it is okay. Go away! I-I do not want to go with you, all right, brother?”

Eririkr paused on the landing and listened carefully. He held up a hand to Eruviel as she opened her mouth to speak. In the unsettling quiet that fell, Eirikr heard the faint melody of a bell. The sound was not heavy and threatening like the bell his father used to summon his guard. A haunting plea sounded in the gentle rustling of the metal.

Tinkle tink…

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To Dale: Confrontation, Part 1

in a world there lived a Woman

((edited from chat logs for tense and exposition. all fight action based on a d20 roll with an AC of 10))

Eirikr stood staring at the house. The rain fell around him and dampened his light auburn hair to a deep rust. The yard was quiet; no one was out in the rain. He walked up the worn path slowly as if willing the moment he has to enter the house to pass him by. Behind him and unbeknown to him, Eruviel walked up the path, remaining hidden as she observed her surroundings before setting her sights on the large home ahead.

As he approached the stone entryway, a man emergesd from a side entrance. From beneath his heavy hood, he gaped at Eirikr before rushing forward. “Master Tenorbekk! You have returned. Your father will be…forgive me, sir, but where is Miss Tenorbekk?”

Eirikr raised his hands to hush the…

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To Dale: Respite

A cool draft wafted through the dark room. No, it is not so dark. A trickle of light seeped in from the lantern hanging one door down the hall. A soft white beam from the moon rimmed the window and a faint orange glow from the fire on the edge of town danced along the ceiling.

Eruviel sat in one of the two chairs in her smaller room, her feet propped up  on the second as she sat watching the hall. She had left the door to her room cracked open to keep an eye on the hall. Eirikr had finally returned, having been let in from the back by the barmaid Eruviel had befriended. She could only hope that after all this time, and after everything both of them had been through — especially Ninim — that they were able to reconcile.

Setting her now sharpened and cleaned dagger on the table next to her sword, Eruviel brushed a hand over the bruise that had blossomed on her cheek. That was too close, she thought sullenly. She would have preferred wounds like Eirikrs. A shudder ran up her spine at the memory of the massive club rushing by her face. There would have been no coming back if she had been struck. Poor Eirikr would have been left to pick up the pieces of her skull.

Eruviel surveyed the small arsenal that decorated the table next to her. As Ninim and Eirikr talked in the room down the hall Eruviel had encouraged three drunkards to return to the common room, exchanged polite nods with a gentleman who she presumed to be of the town watch, and had delivered a meal for two to her friends door. Her blades were sharpened and oiled, her damaged arrows repaired, her bow cleaned, and bowstring waxed.

She almost felt silly, having busied herself after seeing to Ninim’s comfort. Maybe it was because of the long journey, the fight that had taken place, or the burning house that had woken that quarter of town. Maybe it was because that for a brief moment she remembered she was alone.

Letting out a sigh she laced her fingers together and draped them across her flat, toned abdomen. A small smile played over her mouth, thinking of Ninim’s swollen belly. How amazing, the blessing that can come from so much pain. Leaning her head back she watched the mixture of lights dance across the plaster. She hoped their night was healing, full of one another and the child growing inside of Eirikr’s beloved. They deserved the respite. Eruviel would make sure they were not interrupted. Not for a few more hours. Morning would come soon enough.

To Dale: Sten the Shiv

Shots fired! Shots fired!

in a world there lived a Woman

((edited – somewhat rushed and poorly –  from chatlogs for tense, continuity and clarity))

((Update: 7/11/14 – revised for less suck))

The moon was waning as it rose over the lake. Eirikr stood in the shadow of the large tree across the road from the Tenorbekk cottage. Inside, a light shone through the window. The shadows danced on the wall as he watched for Sten to emerge and leave for the tavern. He craned his neck as he peered from the shadows. “Maybe he is not going tonight,” he murmured softly. “Why hasn’t he left yet?”

Eruviel stood silently, watching their surroundings and the road from the darkness behind a tree further into the woods. She frowned, looking to the house before she started to turn and peer into the night behind them.

Eirikr followed her gaze. “Do you hear something? What is it?” His anticipation stretched his…

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To Dale: An Early Morning at the Silver Reel

The tension in the air lingered as Eirikr left the inn. She watched him as he strode away, a considering, neutral expression carefully fixed on her face. For a brief moment she thought she saw a shadow follow after her friend, and she thought about making pursuit but not all the tension left with him. There were still a number of patrons in the inn and if any of them had been watching every move she made would be scrutinized.

Sitting back in her chair Eruviel twisted her mouth as she watched the door of the inn for another minute, drinking slowly from her ale. Licking the moisture from her lips she glanced around with a casual air. No one looked her way at the moment. Downing the last of her drink she rose to make her way towards the innkeeper. Carefully winding around the filled tables she silently thanked Eirikr for choosing this inn. The few looks she got were just that; no off-colored comments or drunken hands were directed her way.

Leaning against the bar she made small talk with the owner as she ordered a meal to take up to her room. She rented two rooms, in fact, and paid handsomely that he keep her presence there a secret. An elf maiden on her own simply cannot be too careful in such troubled times.

Taking her things with her she made her way up the stairwell, finding the first room. She would check the second in mid-morning, when any drunks or cut-throats would be sleeping. A narrow bed stood against one wall of the small chamber. Two chairs and a small table filled the middle of the floor between the bed and a small fireplace and in the empty corner stood a wash basin filled with steaming water. Nodding once in approval she glanced down the hall one last time before closing the door behind her.

– – – – – – –

The hour was late . . . or was it early? Eruviel wasn’t sure, but the horizon gleamed pink and gold in the growing morning light when a nearly inaudible scratching sound pulled her from her dream. It was a particularly peaceful vision and she was loath to leave it, but the lock on the inside of her door turned slowly with the faintest click. 

Her undone hair swayed behind her as she silently rose from the bed, her pointed ears somehow more obvious as they jutted out through her wavy brunette locks. Wrapping a sheet around her she secured the corner of the cloth under her arm and drew her sword from where it rested on the table. There was no time to get dressed, but the element of surprise was indeed hers. Gliding over to the door as it slowly pushed open she stopped it’s progression with her bare heel and stuck the tip of her steel blade into the darkness of the corridor. An inch beyond a man’s throat swallowed.

“You have the wrong room,” she said cooly.

“I don’t think I do,” replied the stranger. He shoved against the door and, deciding she preferred not to have her foot pinched, she pivoted back as he stepped in, only to have her blade once again at his throat.

“You will leave my quarters, sir. How dare you intrude upon a lady, especially at such an hour,” she hissed in offense, forcing the hooded man to take a step back.

The man’s body tensed, and she could make out the outline of his gawking eyes beneath his hood. After a moment he seemed to regain his composure some and clenched his fists. “Who was the man you spoke with tonight?”

“I spoke with many men tonight,” she said flatly, painting a frown of confusion over her brow.

“The one who sat with you earlier in the common room,” the intruder grunted in frustration, advancing a step.

Eruviel relaxed her shoulders slightly, her brow furrowing. “I don’t know who he was,” she responded with a faint scoff.

“You bought him a drink and touched his shoulder,” he grumbled as he batted her blade away with a gloved hand.

“I merely have an empathetic nature,” she spat, ducking under his hand as he lunged to grab her. Stepping inside his reach in the blink of an eye she drove the pommel of her sword into his gut, forcing him back out into the hall. “I should beat the life out of you for intruding on my privacy. I cannot believe an elf maiden would be treated with such disrespect,” she huffed with the tone of injured pride.

The man clutched at his stomach for a moment, not having had time to brace for the blow. “What did he talk ta you about?”

“Why is it any of your business?” she demanded with a haughty sniff. “And who are you to barge into my room and ask me about a man I don’t know?”

A cruel smile played over his mouth and he drew back his hood to reveal an angular, lightly tanned, scarred face. “That’s my business, elf,” he spat as he moved for her again, his main hand moving to his side to draw a knife as he missed grabbing the sheet around her by inches. “I’ll get my information one way or another!”

“He wanted to hire me as a sell-sword,” she responded in an irritated tone as she moved. Switching her sword to her left hand she parried his attack and dove for him, slamming her fist across his face. The man staggered back, falling against the wooden wall of the hallway. She raised a hand to clutch his jaw as he stared at her in shock. “When I refused he quickly left, as you obviously saw,” she said accusingly.

She saw the fight drain out of him as she stood in the doorway with the most noble air she could muster, her free hand catching the sheet before it could fall. “Now if you will just wait a moment –” she did not finish her words, letting her slamming of the door speak for itself. Throwing on her clothes she snagged up her sword belt, returning the blade to it’s sheath. Opening the door once again the man had just folded his hands over his chest, obviously brooding as she stepped into the hall and locked he door.

“What a bunch of worthless –”

“It is your own fault,” she huffed, interrupting him as she made a show of buckling her belt around her waist.

“You gotta know something,” he muttered as he watched her, his eyes traveling up and down her form several times. Eruviel could see he was at odds with what to do with her. She’d better make up his mind for him.

“I do,” she said airily as she walked down the hall, him close at her heels. “He looked like all the rest of you humans but had much better manners.”

The rugged man stopped on the steps, squinting down at her in frustration. “You’ve caused me a lot of trouble, and that’s all I get,” he said quietly, a threat darkening his tone.

Turning she looked up at him with an amused smirk. “You, heruamin, did that yourself. You could have asked me for my apparent wealth of information in a hundred better ways than what you choose.” He opened his mouth to protest and she quickly cut him off. “But, since you have broken into my room, attacked me, threatened me, and seen me in the most, on my part, undesirably vulnerable state, I do believe you owe me.”

The man arched a scarred brow at her before shrugging in defeat. “What ya want?”

Resting her left hand comfortably on the handle of her sword she smiled back up at him. “You will buy me breakfast and show me around town,” she said pleasantly.

“Now listen here, lady!” The man barked, reaching out to grab her shoulder.

Whirling around she smacked his hand away and glared up at him. “I will not listen! You have offended me in one the greatest ways possible and wasted my precious time. So unless you have something better to do at such an ungodly hour of the morning you will happily oblige me.” It was times like these she was glad for the edge being an elf gave her.

His jaw ticking, the man nodded curtly, finally slipping his knife back under the folds of his jacket. Brushing past her he trudged begrudgingly down the rest of the steps to the common room. “C’mon, then, lady. Let’s get ya somethin to eat.”

To Dale: Discovery and Darkness

in a world there lived a Woman

A light from the window illuminated the sparse lawn in front of the Tenorbekk cottage. It stood at the end of a dirt lane on the edge of the town where houses sprung up on the banks near the forest. Eirikr stood in the shadow of a large oak tree across the road and watched the front door for an hour before a man emerged and shouted something back inside before slamming the door shut. As he walked down the path to the road leading to the town, he whistled out of tune.

Eirikr ducked back behind the tree; he did not have to look to see the man would have been handsome except that his features were sharp and cruel. He knew them well; any time his father needed something “taken care of,” Sten showed up in the parlour in his dirty shoes and cap. The first time he…

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To Dale: Selling Something

The people she past cast her curious looks, some of them even suspicious. Walking lightly, the creaking boardwalk hardly felt her weight as Eruviel navigated the maze of streets through Esgaroth. The beams of warm light shining through low windows were broken here and there by other pedestrians and the occasional stray cat. Ahead of her the murmur of multiple voices rose and she stopped at the end of the street that met the city square. A handful of vendors still had their stalls set up, a variety of colorful wares of human, elf and dwarvish make on display. More vendors were closing down and a chorus of shouts, laughs and threats wafted out of the taverns and inns along with the smell of food.

A weapons vendor started to call out to her until he got a better look at the bow on her back and the hilt of the sword at her waist. A jeweler beckoned to her with a hand full of necklaces, ignoring the woman he had previously been bartering with. A dozen other eyes turned her way, some drawing whispers or thrown elbows. Eruviel ignored the looks, walking with a relaxed gait and thoughtful air as she searched through the thin crowd. The women seemed to inspect her with curiosity and distrust, and the men inspected her with curiosity and, well, curiosity. She was glad for the months of dirt that darkened her cloak and diminished the usual spotless gleam of her armour to a worn tint of hard use. Her sharp green eyes caught the few shadows that studied her, assessing her monetary value above all else.

Avoiding tripping over a pack of filthy children sprinting between the legs of loitering adults, she could not help but smile in relief at the sight of a clothing vendor who had more shirts and pants versus dresses. Stepping up beside a woman who browsed the table Eruviel began thumbing through the piles of folded shirts.

“Good ‘evenin to ya!” beamed the man behind the table. “What can I help ya find?”

Eruviel returned the smile, shaking her head. “I need a moment more to look. Besides the young woman next to me was here first, I believe.”

The man turned to the lady but she stepped back, her eyes lingering on Eruviel’s bow, her quiet disposition shaken at not having realized the armoured elf had been standing beside her. “Oh n-no, I was merely browsing.” Setting down the folded cloth that had been in her hands she quickly picked up her small basket of produce and bobbed a precarious curtsy. “G’night,” she mumbled hurriedly before pattering away and down a street.

“Don’t mind ‘er. She’s always skittish,” rumbled the vendor before looking back to Eruviel. “Yer needin something other than you’re armour, I take it.”

Nodding her head Eruviel selected out a burgundy shirt with soft brown leather lining the V’d neckline and collar, two straps crossing the back at the shoulder blades for the aesthetic appeal of armour. “I have been on the road so long I am aching for something more suited to a slower pace,” she said with a half smile.

“Naw, m’lady, ya won’t be wanting that,” insisted the vendor with a charming smile. “Elvish lasses should be in something finer than a tailors leftovers.”

Eruviel humored the man as he began to rifle through a crate of dresses, muttering about what styles might best compliment her. He stood and turned, unfurling something grey and something green when Eruviel was hit from behind, nearly falling upon the table.

What in the bloody –” shouted the rough young man who had run into her, his hand clutching his shoulder as he turned. Seeing her in the lamplight he froze. She could tell she was not what he’d expected.

“Forgive me, mellon,” she apologized hurriedly, re-stacking the pile of shirts that had fallen over. “I did not realize I was in your way.”

The man gave her a lopsided grin, rolling his shoulder once as his equally rough looking friends stood like a gaggle of young girls . . .or vultures, watching from several yards away. Eruviel noted they all appeared to be mildly inebriated and wore daggers in one place or another. “Naw, miss. Yer just fine,” he said as he stood a little straighter, “I’m not in that big of a hurry.” This little fool knows nothing of elves, does he?

Eruviel followed his diverted gaze to the green dress the vendor still held up. By the Valar . . . . Thinking quickly she offered a soft, merry laugh, shaking her head. “Now sir, if I wore that these fine gentlemen would think I might be selling something.” The vendor’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment as he took a second look at the thin dress’s plunging neckline and the cocky grin that had yet to fade from the younger man’s face. She was indeed selling something, but that was her walk, her smile, and her carefully chosen words for the payment of the information to be gleaned by reactions of those around her. Information given freely without the risk of revealing her true intent. Looking back to the man who had collided with her, she made her seemingly innocent glance at her small coin purse in his hand obvious. The wry gleam in her eyes matched her soft smile perfectly as she offered a slight curtsey. “Forgive me for holding you up,” she said, her tone lowering and growing richer. “I will do my best to watch where I stand from now on.”

Chuckling, the young man stooped at the waist, bowing with a bit of a wobble. “It’s not every day a man get’s ta see a lovely maiden in armour. The fault’s mine.” He turned to rejoin his friends but stopped. Pivoting slowly he walked back up to Eruviel with a twinge of guild in his eyes. Standing uncomfortably close he took her hand and set the coin purse in her palm. She could smell the ale on his breath and pipe smoke on his leather jerkin. “I — er — ya dropped this. G’night.” And with that he retreated to his friends, one of them hitting him over the head and another clapping him on the back.

The vendor’s eyes followed after the group with a bewildered look as they entered a tavern. “One of them boys nearly stabbed a lady last night. I can’t believe he gave ya yer purse back.”

Eruviel glanced over her shoulder nonchalantly before turning back to face the man. “Do you have a grey cloak?” she asked before adding, “Those young men should be helping their families. The one here could not have been younger than sixteen.”

“He’s eighteen, actually,” huffed the merchant as he dug out a cloak and handed it over. “Them boy’s ‘er trouble, but there are much worse wandrin the streets ‘o Lake Town these days.” Studying her with a serious look the merchant reluctantly put the dresses down and picked out a black and brown pair of well made trousers. “I don think I can convince ya to buy a dress, but these are my best and should fit ye fine.”

Eruviel unfolded them and held them up, smiling with approval. “These will do splendidly.” Handing him what she owed him, the price being fair enough that she did not bother bartering, she surveyed the buildings that lined the square till she found the inn Eirikr had told her of. “If I could trouble you, mellon, what inn would you suggest?” she asked with a faintly torn look painted over her face.

Giving her a kind smile, the vendor pointed out the one she hoped housed her waiting friend. “That’s the best one, and they’re pretty reasonable.”

“Thank you, sir, for you services and for your help,” she smiled sweetly as she stepped away.

“Any time, m’lady!” he replied, obviously pleased with himself. “Visit again some time!”

Waving back to him she wove through the occupied square to the inn, her new clothes clutched to her chest. Taking the few steps up to the open door of the inn she ducked past several patrons exiting the building and quietly asked the first barmaid for a room to change in. Her smile, aided by the offer of a few coins procured her a lit storage room with the maid standing guard. Changing quickly, wrapping her armour snugly in her dirty cloak Eruviel stepped back out, sighing with relief to the amusement of the barmaid. The clothes fit perfectly, and Eruviel’s spirits rose with the comfort afforded by the loss of thirty pounds of steel. Ordering a drink she sat at an empty table to the side of the room, careful to slouch slightly in her seat. Following half a dozen conversations, she surveyed the darker corners of the common room, hoping to find the one familiar face, and praying that he had good news.

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To Dale: On the Shores of Long Lake

Their first destination . . .

in a world there lived a Woman

Mirkwood was as miserable as ever, but Eirikr took them north along the Great River and found the traces of the Elvish path so they did not have to cross through the forest the long way. Straight across, not horizontally from southwest to northeast, he thought. Besides, the Anduin was refreshing after such a long time in Moria. The sun on the rapids helped dispel some of the shadows that remained from the caves. The journey through the dark forest remained uneventful – the incursion of the Galadhrim pulled the attention of much of the evil in the woods and their path remained relatively clear. When they emerged on the edges of the forest, they could see far in the distance the outline of the mountain in the northeast; down the Forest River, the waters merged with the Long Lake and Eirikr could almost smell the scent of fish from…

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