To Dale

The journey East with Eirikr Tenorbekk to save Ninim and Abiorn

To Dale: Path to the Golden City

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“I am ready.”

Eruviel nodded curtly as she nocked an arrow. Looking ahead to the rise she stepped forward, Eirikr moving with her. “Retrieve as many of your own arrows as you can,” she said quietly as they took advantage of the cover afforded them by the boulders and darkness of night. “It will not do to return the sentinels their arrows and leave our own behind.” She did not want to admit she felt a little bitter at them being initially denied access to Lothlorien. They have their reasons, and we would have had to fight the orcs anyways, she told herself. A dry smile curved up her mouth as her eyes pierced into the shadowed distance. Only ten arrows.

Ducking behind a small growth of trees Eirikr peered around the trunk at the nearest lumbering orc. Exchanging looks with her he slid out into the open, loosing his arrow to drop the dumb monster as he ran forward. Eruviel followed close behind him, sinking an arrow into the second guard to give Eirikr the second he needed to draw on the third. Running by their fallen quarry both human and elf retrieved their now black, blood-stained arrows. They are going down too easily, she mused.

The fourth orc caught Eirikr’s arrow in the mouth as it opened it’s filthy maw to raise the alarm, and Eruviel raced up behind the fifth, throwing it off its feet and using its own crude weapon to sever it’s head. She stepped to follow after Eirikr when a quick movement caught the corner of her eye. Eruviel had only a second to draw her dagger when a taller, more slender orc rushed her. Caught in the foul beast’s grapple Eruviel and the orc tumbled across the rocky path. The orc landed on top and a filthy, gnarled hand wrapped around her neck when a golden-fletched arrow pierced through it’s throat. Flipping them over Eruviel ripped out the projectile and stabbed her knife onetwothreefour times into the enraged orcs face. Not bothering to waste time on catching her breath she leapt up to run after Eirikr.

“You forgot this,” Eruviel whispered as they slowed to survey the road ahead of them, handing the elven arrow back to the man. She could hear the caravan begin to advance slowly a ways behind them.

“So that’s where it went,” he muttered with a hint of sarcasm. “But where are we going to find ten of these?”

“Over there,” she said quietly, pointing to the base of the hill from where the black plume of smoke rose.

“Yeah . . . I just see more orc guards.”

Eruviel rolled her eyes. Palming the top of his head she turned him to look ten degrees to the left. “Right where I am pointing, gwador.” Beyond the enemy sentries a festering pile of dead orcs could be made out, arrows jutting from their corpses. She could feel his glare hitting her though the darkness.

“Well, we won’t get there any faster by sitting here,” he grumbled with a smile as they moved out from their hiding place.

*     *     *

The vast canopy of mallorn trees took on a shimmering glow as the sun crested the tree line. A tall, elven guardian of the woods stood waiting for them on the road as Eruviel and Eirikr walked under the first of the golden trees of Nimrodel, the caravan close behind them. Two masked sentries flanked the ancient Eldar and Eruviel amused herself with the pride she felt at successfully keeping back a sarcastic smirk. The humans really were wearing off on her. Before the caravan could pull to a stop the Eldar trio turned with an expectant air.

Eirikr shot Eruviel an irritated look as they and the wagon train followed the elves and she put her hand lightly on his arm, shaking her head with a warning. “If we want to continue on in haste it would be best not to offend our hosts.”

Her companion shifted his jaw around before nodding curtly, calming his facial expression just as they rounded the path to a camp set up between the western arm of the Celebrant and headwaters of the Nimrodel.

The elf lord who had led the group glanced over at Eirikr before looking to Eruviel. Bowing slightly he gestured to a maiden standing at the back of the camp. “Celeguien is expecting you,” he said with a self-important air. Returning the bow Eruviel led the way. Eirikr carried the bundle of retrieved arrows and she sensed him stiffen when the tall elf lord and the two sentries followed.

“Suilad, mellyn,” chimed Celeguien merely giving the elves behind the duo a curt nod before offering her hand out in greeting. “I hear you have retrieved some of our arrows for us?”

Eruviel clasped her hand, speaking before Eirikr could. “We have. I did not realize the threat that lingered at the doors of the Golden Wood.”

“The danger has indeed grown more pressing in the past years,” Celeguien replied, the gleam in her eye betrayed her calm, soothing demeanor. She might hate orcs more than I do, Eruviel mused. Looking from Eruviel to Eirikr the elf maiden arched a brow. “But that is not why you are here. I presume you gathered your collective twenty arrows to earn passage through our land?”

A smug smirk curling across his face, Eirikr set the bundle down  and untied the leather wrapping, revealing nearly three dozen arrows. “We each got our ten, but it felt so wasteful, passing the dead orcs littering the last mile or so,” he said with a feigned thoughtfulness.

Celeguien’s mouth twitched as she kept back a smile. Peering over Eirikr’s shoulder the elf lord did not seem to share the maiden’s amusement. “You do yourselves credit,” he said mildly. “This is indeed a boon to our efforts.”

“Oh, you don’t get all of them,” said Eirikr. Stooping over he picked out three elvish arrows, sticking one in his quiver and two in Eruviel’s. “These are to replace the ones we lost.”

Celeguien quickly jumped in as both Eruviel and the elf lord opened their mouths to speak.  “That is of course, expected. By the black blood on both of you I can see the replacements are well earned. You are free, then, to travel through. The arrows will serve as witness that you have the right to be among us.” Shooting the elf lord a neutral glance of warning she bowed first to Eirikr then to Eruviel. Loborwen will have horses for you. May your paths be green and golden.”

Bidding Norlin a fond farewell and Eruviel making sure to wave back to the merchant Tannith, she and Eirikr quickly gathered their few things and headed off on the horses that had been saddled and waiting for them. Walking the horses till they crossed back over the Celebrant, they then took off at a modest canter down the road through the Lady’s Rest. Simply being in the Golden Wood itself revived Eruviel after the long road through Moria. The crisp air washed the dank from her lungs and her face soaked in the golden glow of morning sunlight.

They rode on, silent. There was nothing to say. Both Eirikr and Eruviel rode tall, relishing the lush scenery that they had been immersed into. The occasional elf they’d pass would regard them then go about their own business, very few visibly showing their distrust of the visitors. After a time the companions reigned in their horses at one end of a bridge that led across the little river towards Caras Galadhon.

“I remember walking though those gates once before,” she said in a hushed, reverent tone. Even if it was so long ago, she could still remember touching the gleaming arches and tasting the sweet waters that coursed through the city. From long forgotten memories she could recall the thrill of the first time she climbed one of the many soaring ladders, and the harmonious sound of a hundred elvish voices.

Eirikr stared openly at the golden city set in the ancient trees. Flowing bridges spanned one high platform to another and the faint gleam of blue, crystal lights lingered behind curving trellises and on the delicate cords of lights that blended in with the natural curve the grand haven. “We will see it on the way back,” he said with a slow nod, as if to talk himself out of staying longer.

“Yes, we will,” said Eruviel, forcing herself out of the cusp between waking and sleeping.

“It might be wisest to make the crossing under the cover of night,” said Eirikr as he turned his horse to the east, giving the city of trees one last longing glance.

Eruviel nodded, humming in agreement as she spurred her horse after him. “We can eat and rest at the Vineyards for the day.” Giving him a thoughtful look she then gazed ahead down the road, her thoughts still lingering on the golden city they’d left behind and not the long way they still had to go. “Are you glad to be taking the lead once we cross the Anduin?”

A moment passed before Eirikr rolled his shoulders. “I will be glad to be one step closer to Esgaroth.”

 

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To Dale: Small Progress

Eruviel sat leaning back against the stone pillar, twirling the arrow between her thumb and pointer finger with the fletching whisking against the pant of her left knee. She had already counted the stalactites hanging from the vaulted ceiling as well as the sparks that had floated up from their now smoldering fire. Several merchants and travelers still talked quietly a short ways away and she eavesdropped on their softly spoken conversations, wondering who best to join.

There were several dwarves headed to the Lonely Mountain, but few of them seemed . . . congenial enough for her to risk spending the time to earn their trust for them to open up to her. There was a stern, self-important merchant with a Gondorian accent who would be of no use to her, and then there was the Barding that appeared to be relatively new to the trade. Norlin had just bid the younger man good night and he sat quietly by his fire, staring thoughtfully into the flames. His accent was of Bree-land, and by the bits of conversation she had picked up, he had not been east of the mountains since he was an infant. This meant that all his knowledge would have come from his father.

Yes, he will do perfectly, she mused, sliding the arrow back into her quiver.  Eruviel thought of Threz, and wondered what sort of trouble he might have gotten himself into by now. Orome cover you, my bullheaded friend, she prayed with a smirk as she rose to her feet, pulling her plain woolen blanket around her shoulders. This might be her one chance to find out anything for the man.

Stepping over her bedding and carefully stacked armour she stopped when Eirikr grumbled and rolled over in his sleep. That was the tenth time in the hour alone that he had tossed. With their paced slowed, exhaustion was not so strong as to keep dreams from his sleep. A dark frown twisted the man’s face and his hands gripped at his blanket. She had only to guess at what haunting visage plagued him. Picking up a second blanket Eruviel draped it over him to ward off the cold and damp. Kneeling down beside him she gently placed her cool hand against his forehead. A wave of anger, hatred and fear washed through her mind as she touched him, but his uneven breaths soon steadied and his expression calmed. Pursing her lips as she studied him she wished for a moment that she were her brother. Milloth could have banished the nightmares for the night or reached inside Eirikr’s mind to speak as a reassuring voice of reason. She could only calm the storm for an hour or two. At least it was something.

Rising back to her feet she padded softly across the short distance to where the young merchant still sat, wide awake. Looking over at her as she drew near the man jumped to his feet, nearly tripping over his bedroll.

“I am sorry to startle you,”she said in a soft voice, smiling kindly a she offered a small bow. “My fire is nearly out and I did not wish to wake my traveling companion. Might I warm my hands over your fire?”

“By all means,” beamed the man with an embarrassed smile, rubbing the back of his head with his left hand. “I-I would be glad of the company.”

– – –

“Is it possible for us to move any slower,” Eirikr huffed under his breath.

Eruviel reigned in her goat, renamed in honor of the friend it ever reminded her of. “I will ask Brogur. Hopefully he has a satisfactory answer,” she replied, steering Falros around Eirikr’s mount to walk past Norlin’s wagon.

Eirikr nodded curtly, following. “Anything is better than standing here.”

Trotting past one wagon after another, seeing by the light radiating from the lanterns Eruviel raised a hand in a wave as they rode by the gentleman from the previous night. “Good morning to you, Master Tannith!”

“Good day to you too, Lady ‘Raviel!” he called after her, switching his reigns to one hand to better wave back.

Eruviel caught the look Eirikr shot her. “Do not be so swift to doubt me, my friend,” she said back to him with a small smile. Last nights dream must have been bad indeed for him to look this upset. Pulling Falros back to a slow walk beside the lead wagon she bowed at the waist to the old dwarf. “Master Brogur! What is it that holds us up?”

“Goblin scouts ahead. Or so our escorts tell me.” Hesitating, he looked from Eruviel to Eirikr, than back. “I might’ve asked if ye be willin to aid some, but yer a traveler this time my friend.”

Eirikr gave her an even look and the two nodded in synch to each other. “We will be glad to lend our aid, Master Brogur.”

Falros turned his shaggy black head to give Eruviel a disapproving look as she tied him to the back of the lead wagon. “Do not scowl at me, mellon. I will find you a pint of ale when we get to the Twenty-first Hall.” The goat’s golden eyes narrowed at her for a moment before he turned his head to face forward, walking along with an apathetic air.

Eirikr tied his goat next to hers, removing his bow from the saddle. Walking behind him as they outpaced the wagon train, Eruviel counted to make sure he was not lacking arrows. Pulling her odd one out she stuck it in his quiver and stepped up beside him as they moved into a jog. She preferred this, the running side by side.  Their footfalls were hardly the sound of a breath as they sped off into the dark of the stone gallery. Hearing the rumbling of dwarvish conversation ahead of them Eirikr was the one to pick their pace. Slowing into a cautious walk as the two nocked arrows to their bowstrings.

“So who is the merchant you greeted earlier?” asked Eirikr, looking to the right and her to the left as they passed through an intersection of halls.

“Jase Tannith,” said Eruviel quietly, her eyes piercing through the darkness ahead of them. “He has never been to Dale and is taking his wagon of goods to the Lonely Mountain. Everything he knows he learned from the family trade. His father moved their family west ten years ago.”

Eirikr arched a brow at her.

No,” she said firmly.

Eirikr skewed his mouth as his hand faintly tightened on his bowstring. “What did you tell him?” She could hardly make his face out in the dark, but his tone unsettled her.

Stopping, Eruviel reached out a hand and caught his arm. “I told him my amlisse, Eruraviel, which I have not gone by for seven hundred years, assuming I should take such precautions. I told him I had grown tired of fighting other people’s wars and wanted to see the world before I sailed.” Releasing him she moved to walk ahead. “I also told him that you tagged along because you felt sorry for me.”

Eirikr snickered, taking a small step before stopping. “Not in the slightest,” he muttered, drawing his arm back. Eruviel glanced over to where he aimed and nodded. Two sets of eyes blinked in the dark, one higher than the other. They loosed at the same time. A whispered thwap sounded from where her arrow hit, followed by a garbled growl and a heavy thud from Eirikr’s shot.

“Humph,” Eruviel muttered, blowing a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. “You knew which one was the warg, did you not?”

Eirikr nodded. “Took me a minute, but you talked long enough . . . .”

Eruviel smirked as they drew fresh arrows and continued on towards the light of the dwarf captains lantern. “I’m impressed,” she said simply.

“Now you are just patronizing.”

“Only because you cannot take a simple compliment,” she shrugged. “Either you are improving, or you were exceptionally good before your shoulder was wounded.”

Eirikr raised his right hand, flexing the fingers that not long ago had refused to respond to his bidding. “We will find out soon enough.”

To Dale: Durin’s Threshold

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The Hollin Gates closed behind them, the air reverberating from the thud echoing through the vaulted chamber. Eruviel had no intention of turning back, and though she knew it to be irrational she felt trapped in the dim light of Moria. The caravan moved further into Durin’s Threshold, and Eruviel pushed the ridiculous notion of claustrophobia out of her mind as she looked around the great space with a small, familiar smile. She had a number of positive memories of this place, and she chided herself for already failing to take her own advice.

“Are we going to walk the whole way, or are we able to procure goats to carry us through?” said Eirikr, smirking as his question snapped her out of her thoughts.

“Of course, my friend,” she nodded, being careful to conceal her lingering discomfort for the cave. “The week here would be more uncomfortable, and seem far longer if it were not without the favored beasts.”

And amused grunt was all she received in reply as Eirikr nodded, taking a moment to give the room a thoughtful look-over. Norlin had already unhitched his goat from the wagon laden with boxed goods and he waved back to them as he haggled with the Stable-master known as Fith for a replacement.

“Do not let Fith rob you. He does not adhere to the set prices other stable-masters do,” Eruviel chuckled as the two of them walked over to the happily squabbling dwarves.

“I know how to haggle,”Eirikr replied, snickering at her.

“That is why I will have you get a goat for me as well,” she replied in Sindarin, slipping Eirikr a small coin pouch as they stopped behind Norlin. Rolling her eyes slightly with a smile for the pleasure of the dwarves in front of them she added, “Fith doesn’t much care for the Eldar, but he thinks men are hilariously fascinating.”

Eirikr arched a brow curiously at her but as soon as she clasped her hands harmlessly in front of her and backed away several paces Fith’s face lit up. Diverting her eyes, Eruviel listened as Eirikr battled with the dwarven Stable-master for two large goats. Her restlessness finally settled when a laugh emerged from her human companion as Fith made a quip about her that she could not quite make out. Laughter was good.  A long road laid ahead of them; one that grew darker the further on they pressed. She sensed the weight that grew in Eirikr, and he needed to keep his spirits up. They both did.

“Do I even want to know what he said about me?” she asked with a smile as Eirikr led over two tall, thick Moria goats. She noted that he had gotten the best pair Fith had.

“No, not really,” he chuckled, rolling his shoulders as he handed her a set of reigns.

The sable-haired goat with brown horns stared at her with an amused glint in it’s pale gold eyes. Slowly chewing a mouthful of hay it followed her lazily back to the wagon train. The beast was strong, but looked as if it could care less as it glanced around at the duo and other goats. Eruviel almost swore that she smelled a hint of ale on the creature and as she stepped into the saddle a sharp laugh escaped from her. If Falros had been a goat . . . .

Eirikr shot her an amused look as if she were crazy, but then smiled and shook his head as he stepped into the saddle of his own hairy, walnut-brown mount. “Norlin, where is the first stop?”

“The Dolven-view, master Eirikr,” the portly dwarf rumbled as he hefted himself into the seat of the wagon, the springs beneath him faintly creaking. “Ya two better keep your eyes open. There ‘ll be goblins to be avoidin on the way.”

To Dale: The Gates

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The fires of Echad Dunann glistened in the distance as scattered rays of lingering sunlight colored the clouds high above them. A short ways beyond the manned elf ruin more campfires illuminated a caravan of wagons, and the large, hardy goats that would pull them.  Reigning in their mounts, Eruviel and Eirikr trotted the last hundred yards to the Stable-master. The elf maiden smiled kindly at them as they dismounted, taking their few possessions with them. Eruviel never questioned the capabilities of a horse that had been under her care.

“Suilad, Rocherves,” Eruviel greeted the maiden with a faint bow as she handed her the reigns.

“Suilad, mellyn,” replied Rocherves as she offered her own curtsey to Eruviel, then to Eirikr. “Your paths were safe, I hope.”

“They were, thank you,” said Eirikr, his gaze lingering on the towering peaks that looked down upon them. He stretched up to his full height and Eruviel bit back an amused chuckle, wondering just how sore her traveling companion was.

Rocherves nodded, giving the man a thoughtful look before turning to tie the horses to the hitching posts. “It is good to receive such news. The south-western paths have grown more dangerous. It was prudent of you to send a second, and might I say, horrendously vague message. The first never made it.”

Looking around Eruviel frowned slightly at seeing an elf missing from those gathered around a far table strewn with maps. “Is Glavroleth not here?”

“She went to Echad Mirobel,” said Rocherves as she shook her head, “but she instructed me about your arrival.”

“Very well,” Eruviel nodded. “When does the caravan depart?” Her question seemed to coax Eirikr from his thoughts and he looked up to glance between her and the Stable-master.

“They will leave in a few short hours. One merchant has yet to arrive but Brogur does not intend to wait longer than an hour past dusk for him.”

“That is understandable. We should catch our rest while we can,” said Eruviel as she fixed her satchel over her shoulder.

“You should be able to find Brogur at the front fire. Be well, and safe travels to you,” said Rocherves before turning her attention once again to the horses.

Exchanging curt nods with Eirikr, the two of them set out to walk the short distance between the two camps. Speaking with Brogur they were shown to a lone merchant three wagons back that they would be traveling with. The portly dwarf named Norlin was hospitable and Eruviel could not hold back an amused smirk as he took an instant liking to Eirikr. In spite of the sound of dwarvish laughter that relaxed her companions stern expression, a shadow remained. She entertained the thoughts that it might be the caverns that awaited them, the slower pace they would be traveling at, or the foul creatures that still lurked in the twists and turns of Moria that weighed on Eirikr’s mind, but she knew otherwise.It weighed on her mind as well.

Sitting by Norlin’s fire as he chatted away about the delights of being a traveling merchant, Eruviel only half listened. Her gaze drifted upwards to the ever-brightening stars above. She would miss them greatly. Though they would be in Moria no longer than a week, Eruviel doubted she would sleep the first few nights. The craftsmanship of the dwarves amazed her, and the company was good, but she never did care much for enclosed caves.

A call rang through the wagon train an hour later as the merchants or their servants hitched the goats to the wagons. Looking behind, three more wagons pulled up at the rear. Just in time. The caravan moved forward at an almost practiced pace, climbing the gradual slope of the wide trail. The Gate-Stream to their right was as dry as the last time she had passed this way, though in some distant memory she recalled water once flowing over the Stair Falls.

“When was the last time you were here?” asked Eirikr as they neared the top of their accent.

Eruviel gave him a thoughtful look as she continued forward. “Not since before I met Anyatka. Was your trip to Bree the first you had been through?”

“It was,” Eirikr nodded as the wagons crested the hill to look out across the Black Pool. “Though I did not pay much mind to it.”

“We will not be rushing at break-neck speeds for several days. I do hope you try to enjoy some of it.” She wanted to say that it would be a lovely thing to tell Ninim about, but she swallowed her words, unwilling to take the risk. An ache had begun to grow in her. A fear that they would arrive too late, or that something would go wrong.

“I’ll try,” said Eirikr, chuckling slightly as they neared the Hollin Gates.

Nodding ahead of them, Eruviel took joy at seeing the dwarven doorwards standing by the two lone trees that grew against the mountainside. Not since many years before her birth had there been doorwards at the West-gate. “Moria seems so much more grand when entering from this side,” she said quietly, a small smile curving up her mouth. Eirikr shot her a smirk but she merely pointed forward.

The moon emerged just as the guards turned and spoke to the stone while the caravan was still yards away. The runes set by Celebrimbor in ages past glowed bright in the moonlight, illuminating the rocky shore, and the heavy gates opened.

To Dale: The Shadow of the Mountain

The genius behind the Dale Trip!

in a world there lived a Woman

The sun bore down upon them as they stood on the cliff overlooking the Bruinen. Far below their feet, the river picked up speed as it veered southwest to join with the Greyflood. Eirikr had awoken to find the settlement of Gwingris full of purposeful activity and the sun hanging high on the verge of noontime. At first, anxiety grasped him as the first thought that entered his mind was a threat; could Eruviel have forgotten him in the press of an attack? Only when he saw her across the way speaking with the provisioner did his pulse slow and he was able to breathe again.

The provisioner, Thillosil, approached them holding a carefully wrapped bundle. Eruviel turned and accepted it with a smile and exchanged quiet words with her in Sindarin, shooting an occasional glance at Eirikr’s back. Though he could understand their words if he wished to do…

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To Dale: An Understanding

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“If I ever forget myself and travel too fast let me know,” Eruviel said matter-of-factly as they ran up the last incline. The day had begun to fade as she led Eirikr through a narrow ravine to a hidden camp site jutting out from a near cliff side.

Eirikr shook his head. “I am fine.”

Eruviel smirked at Eirikr as they slowed to a walk. “Of course, though I doubt you would tell me you were not unless the moment was dire.” A twinge of gilt  stung her as she glanced at the man. He had kept up with her all day, and it had been rather impressive. His shooting had gotten better throughout the day as well, but she knew better than to mention it. Her intent to encourage seemed to always get skewed somewhere between her speaking and the recipient hearing. No, it would be wiser to say nothing at all.

Eirikr rolled his eyes much like his younger sister would. “What sort of man would I be to not be able to keep up, hm?” He gazed out over the cliff side and took in the view. Trees of eternal autumn crowned the ridge around them, and from the perch one could make out the length of the Bruinen south towards Eregion

Eruviel shrugged off her pack, chuckling as she began to rummage through it’s contents. “Now I see where Anyatka gets that look.” She remembered the look of the elf at their last stop who had given her a letter from Anyatka. The memory of the exhausted, addle-brained bird made her laugh a little harder. The poor creature.

Eiriikr arched a brow, though not willing to take his eyes from the scenery. “What look?”

Pulling out a leaf-wrapped package she offered a corner of lembas to him. It was the last parcel of way-bread given to her by Peloras, and was just enough to see them through Moria. “That eye roll. It came quite naturally,” she quipped. Pointing down the gorge into the evening haze she added, “That will be our path tomorrow.”

“Anya and I are alike in many ways,” said Eirikr as he looked down at the waters flowing between the hills. “But still very different.” Accepting the lembas he added, “That leads into Eregion?”

“I can see it,” she nods thoughtfully. Breaking off a piece of the way-bread for herself she continued, “It does. The trail leading up the mountain is long, but there is a Free-People’s camp just over the border. We should not run into too much trouble till past Gwingris.”

Eirikr frowned as the shadow of a thought passed over him. “There was much movement in the lands when I passed through. The Elf I hired to lead me preferred to move at night.”

Eruviel ‘s eyes narrowed as her gaze stretched out into the south. “I share the sentiment. I hope for us to arrive at Gwingris at midday so that we can rest before it grows dark.”

“You sent messages ahead there, as well?” asked Eirikr as he stretched his shoulder, kneading the muscle.

Eruviel nodded, smiling as she flexed her right hand. She hoped the hours of writing would be worth it. “I wrote a great many messages.”

Eirikr shoot her a look. “Did you receive any back? About the person you seek for your friend?”

Eruviel shook her head, keeping her face calm. This? Again? “I did not send any messages regarding him. I know no one in Dale, though perhaps a dwarf or two. The caravan that we will travel with through Moria might know something, though.” She offered Eirikr a half-hearted smile. “I can only hope.”

The Barding turned towards her and crossed his arms. “What do you plan to do if you find this person? Simply take the information back to your friend?”

Eruviel studied him seriously, clasping her hands behind her back. “My friend merely wants to know who it is, and if the criminal still lives. Now, if I meet the man face-to-face . . . that is another matter that hinges on many factors. Why . . . why do you ask, Eirikr?”

Eirikr looked back out over the gorge. “No reason, really. The likelihood of you finding this person is small, anyway.”

Eruviel observed him for a minute before finally looking away, not entirely satisfied with his answer. He must be nervous. Attempting to cover his anxiety with other thoughts . . . I hope. “If I am able to find any information I will consider it a success.”

“You do keep repeating that,” sighed Eirikr. His eyes darted at her out of the corner of his eye. “Is there something else on your mind, my friend?”

Eruviel did her best to keep down a chuckle as she lowered herself to sit on the soft grass. “Merely that you seem exceptionally curious about a small matter that should be the least of your worries,” she said kindly.

Eirikr stared down at her. “Eruviel, I plan on slipping in and slipping out. This is no pleasurable visit to Esgaroth, I assure you. I see our troubles greatest there as Ninim will be under guard. I hope to sneak Abbi out . . . unless . . . .” he trailed off and looked back out over the valley.

Eruviel frowned up at him, narrowing her eyes. The strength it took to keep back the tide of harsh words surprised her. Had she missed making her intentions clear? “I am well aware of the challenge ahead of us,” she said sternly. “I plan to do everything in my power to ensure that we succeed. If you ever thought that I hope to dally and distract from our purpose, I pray that you put it from your mind once and for all.”

Eirikr sighed, obviously exasperated. “Then how do you intend to succeed in helping your friend?”

Pulling out her water flask, Eruviel focused on uncorking the top. “I plan to ask the merchants we are to travel with. If we run into any Bardings on the road I hope to be as lovely and congenial,” and convincingly innocent, she thought, “as an Eldar lady can be to get whatever information they have out of them.” Taking a drink she arches a brow up to Eirikr. “You doubt me,” she said simply.

Eirikr scratched at his beard. “I do not doubt you. Just the compatibility of your intents with mine.”

Eruviel leaned back and folded her hands behind her head, not bothering to hide that his words bothered her. “Finding that man is the least of my concerns. We are going to save your wife and sneak out your brother. Once we are past Lorien you are in charge of this . . . expedition. I even packed a dress, just in case,” she added, her revived humor creeping back into her voice. “A female Noldor in armour could be disconcerting.”

Eirikr looked at her for a long moment as he sucked on his lower lip. “A merchant’s dress?” he said, finally speaking, “It won’t be like the streets of Bree. You’ll need a fine gown to fit in.”

Eruviel looked up at him with a faint smile before fixing her eyes on the emerging stars. “I did my research. Besides, I always bring my best.” Her thoughts lingered on the silk dress folded and wrapped carefully in the lovely blue and gold cloak that had hung idly in her room for several months.

Eirikr stared at her for a moment then turned away, shaking his head and chuckling. “Fair enough, my lady.”

 

((Edited for tense and exposition from chat logs taken 4/30/2014))

To Dale: From Ost Guruth to Rivendell

A stagnant air hovered over Ost Guruth. Eruviel could sense the restless spirits from beyond the Red Pass, and the weight of their wickedness and sorrow made her skin crawl.

Eirikr walked up beside her and looked out as the sun crawled up over the horizon. “Sleep well?” he asked gruffly.

Biting her lower lip slightly, Eruviel fixed her cloak over her shoulders. “No, unfortunately. But it was sleep, I suppose.”

Eirikr turned his head only slightly to look at her as he started for the stables. “It was rhetorical. I didn’t realize Elves slept.”

“Some times,” she said with a small smile, shrugging as she followed him down the broken stone steps. How little the man knew of the Eldar. They did not sleep, not like the race of men did, but they required rest just as much as the other children of Iluvatar. How she delighted of visions of nature, of dancing beneath the tall flowering trees amidst the starlight. Her keen senses remembered the smell and music of elvish banquets, hobbit feasts, and the sensation of cool spring water caressing her skin on the first swim as the seasons turned. But not here in the Lone-lands, especially so close to the lair of the Red Maid.

Eiriikr handed Unni, the stable-master some coin and took the reins of his horse. “Fair enough,” he said. Arranging his things, he mounted his steed as Eruviel guided her own horse from the kindly dwarf and stepped into her saddle.

Nodding curtly to the man as she turned her horse around she nodded towards the East Road. “Let us be off.”

As eager to be off as their masters, the horses leapt forward into a run over the low hills towards the neglected cobbled road. Wargs roamed in the brush, forcing them to alter their course. Trusting her mount to guide itself, Eruviel took a few seconds as they crested a hill to pull her bow off her back and rest it across her knees. The man and elf dodged the occasional creeping spider and keen-eyed crebain as they charged over the dry earth and onto to the road.

“That Elf . . . did you stay up with her long?” Eirikr shouted back to her as they crossed over the Last Bridge.

Eruviel shook her head though she knew he could not see her. “No,” she called up to him, “not long at all.”

Eirikr smirked slightly, “She seemed hungry for company.”

“She was indeed,” Eruviel said, chuckling as her eyes took note of the wolves prowling beyond the treeline and bears lumbering too close for comfort. “I apologize, though, for the interruption to our conversation last night.”

Eirikr humphed, frowning slightly. “I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

Time flew by as they charged along the rugged road through the Trollshaws. She let Eirikr ride in the lead, following only several feet behind, keeping a sharp eye on the few predators that made rather lazy attempts to pursue the swift riders. Over the far rise Eruviel could see the gleam of the Ford of Bruinen drawing nearer. We will make it, she thought, more as a statement than for encouragement . . . or possibly both.

Eirikr reigned in his horse, stopping at the edge of the clear-flowing river. “The ford,” he said flatly. “It seems calm enough.”

Eruviel surveyed the land around them and the river with a stern, cold look. “We will be safe crossing the waters. I do not doubt that my kin know we approach.”

Eiriikr nodded to her. “You take the lead – I do not know the other side at all and I’ve heard the paths can disappear beneath your feet.”

Eruviel returned the nod. “It has been a long time since I have followed the path,” she said quietly. “Do not fall too far behind.” Checking their surroundings one last time Eruviel spurred her horse forward.

“You know, I am surprised Anya did not talk Anric into following us,” Eirikr called up to her as their horses waded through the shallow crossing.

Eruviel skewed her mouth to one side at the thought. “As am I . . . or even that she did not follow us herself, with Anric in tow.”

Eirikr took a deep breath and held it for a moment. “I think she knows what must come to pass. She does not want to revisit our old lives.”

Eruviel glances over at him for a moment. “I do not blame her. It is for the best that she stayed behind for this . . . trip.” Reaching the far side of the river their mounts moved into a gallop. Making their way up the steep trail, Eruviel did not hesitate the as the road vanished, letting her memory and her mount plow the trail. She rode tall, one hand loosely holding the reigns, the other gripping her bow. Several wild cats made chase, but the pounding of the horses hooves discouraged the few that dared getting too close. A small wave of relief washed over her as she saw the road reappear beneath them. Following it around the bend they approached the narrow pass into The Hidden Valley.

Eirikr brought his horse up to ride beside Eruviel. “I still think it best if you sojourn in Imladris while I carry on.”

Eruviel shot him a curious look as she urged her mount forward. “Why do you keep saying that?” she calls over to him.

“Can’t I just want to keep you safe from harm?” he shouted after her.

Eruviel reigned in her horse at the top of the switch-back that lead down to the Hidden Valley. “I thought that was what I am doing here, keeping you safe from harm,” she said, eyeing the valley with a joyful familiarity.

Eirikr sighed heavily and let out a low growl. “Eruviel, this isn’t like battle. There is no honor in this war, if it be called that.”

An amused smile crept across her mouth. “I have a friend in Bree you might see eye to eye with. He held a knife to my throat twice for getting between him and his . . . vengeance.” Tugging lightly on her reigns Eruviel guided her horse back to the path. “I have made up my mind, Eirikr,” she sad sternly.

Eirikr sighed and reluctantly followed her. “Stubborn Elf,” he muttered under his breath.

Eruviel ‘s tilted her chin up slightly with a hint of pride, taking his grumbling as a compliment. Eruviel inclined her head to the view of the Last Homely House. “Shall we to the stables first, or to our host?”

Eirikr’s eyes followed her gaze. “You know best.”

Eruviel glanced between the two horses and nodded. “They need rest. We go left.” Walking their weary mounts down the lane carpeted with leaves a cool, sweet breeze combed through her travel-tousled hair. The bright green and orange leafed trees rustled their ancient songs into the wind, accompanied by the distant echo of the large waterfall across the valley.

Passing under the smooth stone arch leading into the stables Eruviel dismounted, bowing in thanks to Ladrochan the stable-master as he took the two traveler’s horses. Nodding to Eirikr she smiled and motioned to a secondary path leading to a graceful, sweeping bridge. “I suppose you have never been here before?”

Eiriikr shook his head. “No, I haven’t.” His eyes betrayed the wonder her felt as he looked around. “Tales cannot hold a candle to the true majesty of this place.” Stretching out her arms, her face gleaming with contentment, Eruviel stepped forward. Falling into step with Eirikr they strolled quietly out of the stables, abandoning words as their senses drank in the beauty and tranquility of the haven.

 

((Edited for tense and exposition from chat logs taken 4/3/2014))

To Dale: Waiting for the Dawn

“Behind you!” a muffled voice cried out. Whirling around, Eruviel narrowly missed the blade that whistled past her head. Her armour weighed her down, and her joints felt sluggish as she struck down the faceless Barding criminal. Who are these men? her mind wondered as she worked to keep herself from panicking.

Eirikr fought the swarm of faceless men who had attacked them as they had passed through the grand, stone city gates of . . . was this Dale? Glancing behind her, Eruviel let out a horrified cry as she saw Eirikr stumble forward with a spear stuck in his back. “Why will my feet not move?” her mind screamed. She had to help him! Anya would never forgive her. . . nor could she forgive herself.

Hardly fifteen feet beyond her reach an older man who could have only been her companions father, Kolrson, emerged from the clouds of dust that surrounded them. Eirikr raised his head, meeting Eruviel’s gaze as he pulled the spear out. Giving her a sad smile he turned away from her outstretched hand to face his patron. A cold hate radiated from the proud merchant as he threw a round sack to the ground at Eirikr’s feet. Long, soft hair tumbled out of the mouth of the sack. A harrowing roar of rage and grief rose out of Eirikr. Lunging forward he plunged the spear into his father’s heart, only to be pierced through by the elderly man’s sword.

All the air seemed to be sucked out of her lungs. “No,” the word brushed past her trembling lips. Her sword felt heavy. Looking down, her eyes glazed over from shock she saw the dead body of one of Kolrson’s brutes hanging from her blade. Releasing the blade she stumbled back, her chest heaving as the silence assaulted her ears. “It was not supposed to be like this,” she whispered miserably.

A soft wind stirred, carrying the dust and haze back out the gate. There was a body slumped against the stone wall. Seeing who it was Eruviel jumped back, tripping as she scrambled to get away. Alagos, the Black Numenorian who had had her captured all those years ago stood skewered by pikes a short distance from her fallen companion.  “By the Valar, what is going on?” she asked in a quiet whimper. Turning again her heart sunk she saw Arathier slumped against a far wall, sitting in a pool of blood, a ruined piece of paper crumpled in his limp hand. She tried to step towards him, to help him as she had before, but then she saw them. Beyond him was Sig, then Anric, Anyatka, Adrovorn, Cwendlwyn, and countless others who she had befriended, loved, and even those who had sheltered her and Eirikr on their journey. The streets were littered with bodies, and all of them were dead.

Glancing down, Eruviel stared at herself in horror. Her armour was gone, and she stood naked in the noon-day sun amidst the carnage. Her body looked deathly pale and her own life blood began to drain from her as every wound she had ever acquired began to reappear on her skin. Each stab, scratch, lash mark, burn, and bruise reemerged on her flesh. A thousand years of pain tore through her still-youthful body and she dropped to her knees, cupped her hands over her face, and wept.

Eruviel jolted awake, gasping for air. The building of healing in Ost Guruth was silent except for the soft breathing of its sleeping occupants. Wiping hot tears from her cheeks she took a moment to find her composure. Carefully climbing down from her bunk she stepped over Eirikr’s sleeping body and tiptoed across the stone floor. Glancing around the dark chamber she quickly stepped into her trousers, pulled off her sleep-shirt, and tugged on the padded shirt she wore under her breastplate. Scooping up her armour, bow and boots she padded barefoot out into the crisp night air. Finding a concealed corner beyond the courtyard she put on the rest of her gear, taking extra care as she cinched each strap and clasped each buckle.

Her moist eyes turned cold as she slung her bow over her back and climbed the battlement to sit watch. Watching the horizon she forced the images from her dream out of her mind as she waited for the dawn to arrive.