Bittersweet: Warm Autumn Days

watersmeet-13

Song

“What did you find there?” Eruviel asked, leaning over in the fresh stream as Eboric sloshed over to her.

“Rocks!” he declared proudly, his wet little hands full of smoothed, colorful stones.

Chickadees fluttered above them in the thick, rusty gold leaves that trembled in the warm autumn breeze and shimmered in pale sunlight. The spring water that bubbled over its old path wove around behind the fair sized, cool spring pool surrounded by ruined, mossy stonework. Between several arches the Elf had hung the glowing stones she had scavenged from the road in Durrow, and they shimmered, casting dull blue and purple stars about the secret hall hidden in the woods. It had not taken too much convincing to keep Eboric from the deep, sunken room filled with crystal clear water. All it required was the hint of adventure, the fast pace of the stream that swirled around the shallow pools where they waded and splashed, and, of course, the crafting of a most excellent leaf boat.

“Throw in!?” Eboric asked, pointing to the ruins behind them, and tugging on the light blue cloth of her swim dress.

“Of course!” she chimed, brushing away little pebbles sticking to her shoulder that had been gifted by little hands. “But remember? What do we do at the big pool?”

Eboric dumped his wealth of shiny rocks into her open palms and hiked up his swim shorts that were on their last adventure before winter and a growth spurt. “Sit,” he said with a serious bob of his head. Wading out of the stream he reached to pull her after him.

With a soft huff of breath as she juggled holding his rocks, being led by the wrist, and not stumbling over the thin, dripping strips of her skirt, Eruviel rose to her feet and padded over the mossy ground with the little boy. Reaching the wide edge of the pool the two sat down side by side, their feet dangling over the ledge and into the crystalline water.

“Here we are,” she murmured, piling the stones between them. “Now don’t tell Raenarcam that — Where are you going?”

Eboric pushed himself to his feet and scampered away over the soft floor. He did not go far, however, and stopped at the broken foot of an ancient pillar to retrieve his top and the prize leaf boat that had been saved (with no small amount of effort on her part). Padding back, Eboric sat down and snuggled up beside her.

“Throw!”

Eruviel paused, arching a brow down at him. “Throw…?”

“Please!” Eboric added, beaming up at her and doing his best not to look too sleepy.

“Thank you.” One arm around the boy just in case he got excited and scooted too close to the edge, she tossed a smooth red stone out to drop into the pool with an echoing plunk.

Eboric giggled and stifled a yawn. “Again!”

“Someone is getting tired,” Eruviel said in a sing-song voice.

Nooo,” Eboric protested as he picked a green stone out of her palm and chucked it into the water with a resounding plop.

Eruviel tossed a blue-grey stone in. Plunk. “Yeeees. We had a long day! We ate cookies, and made a fort….”

“Vorwem!”

“You like riding Voronwen?”

Eboric nodded enthusiastically. “Go fast!”

“A little too fast for even my comfort,” she said with a warm chuckle as she surrendered a red stone to the boy. Plop! it went, sending up a spray of water back onto them and drawing a string of giggles from Eboric. The sound echoed around the small ruins and quickly faded into him rubbing his eyes.

“Do… you want a story?”

Eboric nodded quickly. He loved stories.

“If you want a story you will need to lie down.”

He made a face at that, studying her as if it were some sort of trick.

“Do not give me that look. I will lie down, too. We have just enough time for a little rest before we should head back for supper.”

Pursing his lips, weighing the gravity of such an important decision, Eboric finally nodded. Trusting her to see that he would not fall into the pool, the little boy reached over her lap, and scooted the rest of the stones off the edge to tumble into the clear blue depths of the ancient room. He then took up his fine leaf boat and placed it upon the water.

“Ready?”

Eboric nodded tiredly, and before Eruviel could lean over his head had found its way onto her lap.

“Oh, hold on, little Ric,” she said softly. “Not this close to the water.” Gathering him up, Eruviel scooted back to lean against a green-carpeted stone. Eboric settled on the dry moss, resting his head in her lap and rubbing his face against her leg.

“Thank you for that. Do you want to hear the tale of the forest hunter?”

He shook his head.

“Of the lonely dragon?”

Eboric shook his head again.

“What about the Ocean’s daughter, or the hunter who listened?”

Eboric shook his head once more and tilted his chin to look up at her.

“Goodness, little one. I do not have my story book with me… What about a song?”

Eboric smiled happily up at her and nodded, and Eruviel smiled back. 

“A mountain king?”

He nodded again, and was quickly distracted by specks of light that danced over his hands. A song would have him asleep in no time.

The stream behind them serving as her accompaniment, Eruviel smoothed back Eboric’s hair from his brow as she began to quietly sing. The warm autumn wind blew through the ruined stone as the child and Elf looked out over the secret woodland hall, watching the little gold and green ship scuttle across the water.

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Innocent Heart: Broken

dasky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

Bittersweet: Lex Talionis

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“Watch your step, Artis.”

Eruviel stopped short, halted by Milloth’s quick whisper. The stone tile in front of her gave off a faint, sorcerous shimmer. “Why are we here?” she asked in a hushed tone as she skipped two tiles ahead to be safe, and crowded up beside him.

Milloth’s golden hair cascaded over his grin as he motioned for her to be quiet. The heavy, scraping steps of an orc guard echoed from two corridors down, grew louder, than faded away. “Borrowing something.”

“You mean stealing.”

Milloth motioned for her to follow, and the two Elves glided down to the end of the dark hall with hardly a rustle of their cloaks. “I mean taking preventative measures.”

The elleth frowned up at her brother. “What are we stealing?”

His fingers twitching, Milloth did not respond for a moment. Resting a hand on her shoulder, he pointed through the wide door to a winding stairwell leading up.  “Four flights will take you up two floors. There is a large study, and you should find a little black box somewhere.”

Eruviel seethed. “What, with all the other little black boxes?”

“There is only one.”

“This is a terrible plan.”

“Then why did you come along?”

Huffing a harsh, quiet breath, Eruviel moved towards the stair only to have her wrist caught by Milloth. Looking back to the Elf, he placed a little pouch in her hand. “What is that?”

“For the student resting on a bench to the right of the door — Oh, and be careful of the holding cell one floor up. I couldn’t tell if anyone was there.”

Eruviel gave her brother an incredulous look.

Milloth released her and nodded briskly for her to go on. “Be quick. I will be here. I promise.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel turned down a dark corridor as she headed back to the front hall, knowing, in spite of her frustration, that Eirikr was right. Her hand ached from gripping the sword hilt too hard, and no amount of shaking her head could expel the fog gathering in her mind as she walked briskly to return to the group near the entrance of the Tower.

Stone. Iron. Orc. Incense. Blood. It was the blood she could smell most. Her fingers shifted on the leather-bound grip. The Elf could feel it, the haze creeping in on the edges of her mind and vision, making her irritable, and impatient. Then there was the hunger….

Darkness trickled into the hall like water from up ahead. If she could end it now, if she could just get one shot, then they could regroup. They could walk out of the gates, and go home, and never have to come back.

Air rushed past her as the dim light shining from behind her disappeared. Rainion’s words springing easily across her tongue, flame sprung to life along her well oiled blade, and she moved to run when a wave of darkness slammed into her. Trapping her arms, the black tendrils whipped about, and for a moment Mornenion’s face appeared, grinning wickedly as he closed in on her…. But then the face vanished. As quickly as it appeared the mass of shadow dropped her and withdrew, retreating down the corridor in the direction she meant to go.

Eruviel landed on her feet. If it had come from the hall be hind…. Shouts from ahead interrupted her thoughts. Leaping into a run, she did not falter as the shadow of an orc stepped into her path. A thrill ran up her arm from the sword and she ran faster, colliding with the beast, sword piercing between plating and ripping out as the Elf did not stop. She could feel it, the cold, hateful soul of a being, twisted from birth, flowing into the bright elven steel.

More.

In the long hall before her, Eruviel’s eyes flicked quickly over the faces of her friends, hunting as the small group reacted to black tendrils yanking Phrazanu off of his feet and dragging him away. Locking on her quarry, she flew forward over the smooth stone tile. Putting her full body into the swing, she half spun with the slash, severing the dark arms.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mornenion watch from his cover of darkness at the far end of the hall as the Elf paced back and forth. She was faster than she had been minutes before, and certainly more volatile. Like an animal caged by reason and expectation she prowled, searching the shadows, not for the sorcerer, but for him.

No, he had planned to kill the brothers and Bree woman as soon as Eruviel had led them up the stairs. She was closest to those two, the bear and the archer, and making her watch them die would have been delicious. But at the last minute the man had stopped her and somehow convinced her to turn back. Mornenion cursed the Barding. To be honest it surprised him, her relenting to the insistence of the Human.

And there was Minuziel. Lovely, troublesome Min. He had expected some sort of plotting from her, but not like this. She belonged to him, as well as her bastard child, and he would never allow her to leave. Mornenion’s fists clenched, a fresh surge of unbidden anger rising in him as his wife clung to the arm of that horrible boy.

They are mine!

Casting out a hand, a wave of darkness surged across the hall, tossing some, and whipping about others. Poke them, prod them, then let their bones clatter to the floor in piles of their own dust. The swell of sick delight at Eruviel slamming into the wall was swiftly obliterated as he saw Minuziel standing calm and untouched by his attack.

Looming forward, behind the newly arrived second party — What timing — Mornenion focused hard and gathered more shadow from further into the tower. “If you wish to leave, she stays.”

The call of the Bree woman was lost to his ears as Minuziel spoke up.”You may as well come out. No use in acting dark and shadowy when they know who you are.”

Mornenion glared at her for a moment, mulling over the idea. He was using more energy than he had intended… But she was right. He could come out, strike in the middle of their ranks…. The sound of bone rung in his memory again, and Mornenion looked down as the Barding archer drew his sword and…. Was he really pointing a sword at him?

The sorcerer’s laughter rung against the stone walls. “What are you going to do with that?”

The angry, bearded man did not falter. “Poke things that should die.”

Eruviel was ushered further behind her friends, the bear-boy following close to her as the Bree woman pushed herself to her feet and walked over. “Hey, ass, I asked you a question!” she barked at the shadow.

Mornenion sighed. Some people. He manifested the outline of his figure to appear in the center of the room has he turned his attention from the Barding to the Bree woman. A tendril of shadow flicked out lashing the woman hard across the face. She managed to get her arms up in time, and took the full force of the strike, which flung her back to the floor with a thud and sharp gasp.

“Come out, coward!”

Mornenion’s focus snapped to the silver-haired Elf just as the Barding charged at him. Landing in a run, the sorcerer drove his shoulder in to the bearded man’s chest, intent on rushing past. The Barding grunted on impact, but grabbed at his attacker to take him down with him.

The bear-boy roared loudly and thundered toward the sorcerer and his brother, only slightly hindered by his nasty wound. Mornenion staggered a bit as the Barding grabbed for him, but shrugged off his hands and flung a wave of shadow at at the charging animal. It barreled into the bear-boy, shoving him out of the way with a yip in pain just as a sharp kick dropped the sorcerer to his knees.

Out of the corner of his vision Eruviel rushed at him. I’ll finish this once and for all. I swear, I’ll kill all of them as you drown in your own blood. Mornenion lashed out a hand as the Elf drew near, shadow tossing her aside like a doll and reaching desperately for her mind as he turned back to drive —

Amidst a shout, a fist slammed into the side of his face. Mornenion staggered from the force, emitting an angered cry as he fell back. It had been years since he had been struck, and it never felt quite as painfully disagreeable as this. He felt his shadow lift off the white-haired man — then tasted blood as the Barding’s foot caught him in the mouth. Snarling, he grabbed at the bearded man’s ankle… and nothing happened. The Barding should have been collapsing in a heap of dust and hunter garb, but instead he struggled against Mornenion’s grip, very much alive. Somewhere beyond the weight of anger and blood, desperation finally crept in as his shadows were swept away, leaving the great room measurably brighter than before.

Releasing the man, Mornenion scrambled to his feet, panic gripping him as he turned to flee. No sorcery! None! Never had it left him. Was it the Elves? The Barding? Min? Perhaps it was the other sorcerer, or the Council…. Betrayed, betrayed, they all have betrayed you. A little more power and I’ll show them all. They will cower and writhe and I will take everyth — The Bree woman’s hands appeared from the side, causing him to stumble, when suddenly a bitterly cold shock plunged through his spine.

A tormented cry of pain erupted from his throat, filling the room  as a red-coated sword drove out of his chest. Mornenion knew what death felt like. It had not been pleasant, but there were worse things. With a little help it had been easy enough to escape from the first time, but this…. He was paralyzed by cold steel sapping the warmth from his blood. He tried to rebel against it, and pull himself away, but that only increased his agony. Every fiber of him felt as if it were tearing apart.

Gasping, grasping for air, for power, for anything, true darkness crept into his vision as he was forcefully ripped from the spells that held his spirit in place. He felt the weight of a body against his back, the warmth of a forehead against his shoulder. In one last effort to escape his fate he grabbed for the Elf who held the despicable weapon that devoured his essence from the inside – out. Nails caught flesh, then feeling was lost, and as the steel was pulled away, the last he ever saw was the prized cage that had been his body slumping over to exhale it’s final breath.

(Second half derived from in-game RP log, and edited for tense, composition, and Mornenion’s point of view. Thank you to Atanamir, Cwendlwyn, Valthier, Raenarcam, Hallem, and Feygil for all the help and for coming along for the ride!)

Anecdotes: Return

“You sure they’re there?”

Frank grumbled in frustration and pointed again to the distant copse of trees lit by the low orange glow of campfires. “I don’t give shit reports. They are there.”

“Watch your mouth.”

“We should move in now, while we have the chance,” Frank growled, glaring at Ildric through the dark.

Ildric crawled back till it was safe enough to stand, and adjusted the sword at his hip. “I’ll take it from here. You ride on back.”

Frank wheeled around to face the towering man. “I brought the report from the Elf herself. I have seen their numbers and I am staying. I want them dead just as much as –”

Ildric snatched Frank up by the front of his tunic and tossed the young man back. “Go to your wife, Frank. I know you got a score to settle, but you’re no good to me.”

“You bastard,” Frank snarled, scrambling to his feet.

Moving to shove the younger man away, the sound of horses reached Ildric’s ears. Grabbing Frank by the shoulder he drug him in to clap a hand over his mouth. The sound grew louder then faded off to their right, and Ildric did not release his friend till the echo of hooves had faded.

“What you do that for?”

“You’re a mouth breather.”

Frank punched Ildric hard in the shoulder. “I am not. You’re an ass.”

“True.”

“When do we go?”

Ildric frowned down at him. “You’re goin’ nowhere but home.”

Frank set his feet and glared up at the man.

What felt like several minutes passed before Ildric nodded his head curtly. “You’re a pain, Frank.”

Frank sniffed, dusting off his left sleeve as he marched past the older man. “I learn from the best.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Feira leaned over the railing, hands cleaning to the rigging as fresh ocean mist sprayed up to shower her face and cling to her hair. Home! It was just beyond the horizon… and a little ways beyond that, but still! The air slowly turned increasingly warmer, as did the salty sea, and Feira wondered for a moment what would happen if she lept from the side do dive into the frothing hills of blue water.

“Ho! Miss!” called a deck hand from behind her. “Ya wanna be careful. Hit a swell ‘n ya be swimmin’ yer way back teh Gondor!”

Feira shoved her golden hair out of her eyes as she beamed back at the man worn by sun and years at sea. “If I did, maybe I’d beat you all there!”

The man stared at her for a moment, a little bewildered by her response before chuckling and shaking his head. “Well can’ say I didn’ warn ya! S’long as yeh enjoy it and ain’t leanin’ too far I s’pose it don’t hurt any, though.”

Nodding readily, Feira smiled a charming smile at the man, not minding the pitch of the ship since she had got her sea legs a few days before. “I’ll be careful! Thank you!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel leaned back against her front door, listening as Eirikr’s footsteps retreated down the hill towards the cabin. The fearful ache started to crawl it’s way back into her chest.

How can you ask me to stay behind?

And she had caved. Of course she had. He thought she sounded crazy. He was angry with her… and she supposed if things were reversed she would have been, too. As much as she wanted to beg and plead for him to change his mind, a fresh confidence also settled over her, knowing that he would be there.

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

How could she communicate the danger? How could she tell him — all of them why any of this was happening? Sliding down the smooth door, she stared at the floor between her knees. How could she turn the tides in their favor. He’s arrogant, prideful, dramatic… and scared.

“Going to face him head-on, tracking him down. That is predictable. Draw him out!”

Her gaze turned to the delicate silver chain around her neck. Lifting a hand she pulled the small blue agate out from beneath her shirt, gazing at it for a moment before grasping it in her fist. “Draw him out, hmm? Damn it, Eirikr,” she whispered softly. Leaning her head back she closed her eyes, pulling herself out of each thought and emotion, allowing the white light that filled her mind to become everything that was.

Eruviel opened her eyes. There were no shadows as bare feet carried her up the low, grassy hill speckled with blue and white flowers swaying on silver stems. Carefully she withdrew the light from the boundaries of her mind, and while not blinding and filled with her will, the light remained, like the soft haze of sunlight that blurs one’s surroundings.

It was not long till he came. She sensed him first, cautious and corrupting, his shadows coiling out in attempt to drown out her light.

“I admit that I am surprised. Are your defenses so weak, or are you too tired to care.”

Her skin crawled as he drew close, but the dark form did not attempt to step foot on the low hill, and she did not so much as move to acknowledge him.

He prowled for a moment, circling her small rise with an air that said he was merely humoring her. “How disappointing that you burned the banners, though. I had been saving them just for you. I was hoping you might keep them with you as you steal into my tower to finish what you had started.”

Again she did not respond, gazing off to some distant corner of her mind, her own features obscured by the surrounding glow.

Mornenion stopped, fixing her with a dangerous look. “Why did you let me back in?”

Finally she she turned to face him and lifted her gaze to meet his. “I have been waiting for you.”

Bittersweet: Get Out

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In a cloud of steam and laughter, the women poured out of Stonebluff. Hair damp and eyes bright with merriment, the soak and good company had brought each soul to overflowing.

“– then he cut his apron strings and ran out of there as fast as he could!” cried Beth, laughing lasciviously at her own joke.

“Umm… Yes, I… I think I get it,” muttered Anyatka, cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she looked to Eruviel for help.

Eruviel fought back a playful smirk as both women looked to her. She paused, handing off her basket of food to Feygil who shouted a war cry about beating the men to the feast as male voices drifted out of the Broken Cask. “I think in this rare case your joke would flow better if the baker ‘pounded’ instead of ‘kneaded’.”

Anyatka look utterly mortified, and Beth laughed even louder than before as she skipped ahead to share her joke with Ansithe and Varidia. “Do not look so shocked, oselle,” said Eruviel as she linked arms with Anya, her fair cheeks flushed with one too many glasses of wine. The merry band crossed over the Dunwash on their way to Ravenhold, and behind them Rosie could be heard preemptively scolding the menfolk for drinking all of her good ale.

“I just was not expecting that from you,” Anya muttered, a sheepish smile stealing over her features.

“You will find out soon enough. Just spare me the details when you and Ander–”

Eruviel!” Anyatka cried.

Eruviel threw her head back with a merry laugh, and that was when she saw the lone figure standing on the bridge. Was it Eirikr? Or perhaps Cedoric wandering off?

“What is it?” asked Anya, peering around the Elf in attempt to see what had caught her friend’s attention.

Giving the young woman’s arm a squeeze, Eruviel stepped away from the flow of friends heading up the hill. “Nothing. I will be right behind you.”

Arching a brow, Anya shrugged and waved after her. “Don’t take too long!”

Eruviel grinned and, pulling her ribbon-bound braid over her shoulder, headed for the bridge.

“Hey, where are you going?” called another voice from behind. Glancing back she saw Abbi waving at her even as he snagged a bottle from Hallem’s hands. Behind him was… Eirikr? who’s wave to her faltered as he reached to try and snag Abbi, the younger Tenorbekk scampering around Taja. Chuckling, she waved and continued on.

The figure on the bridge shifted, and she could see it better now, the long beard and stern profile.

“Commander?”

Godric turned again in the dark to face her.

“You should come and join us, Sir. We –”

Eruviel’s words were cut short when the towering man slumped forward in the darkness. She rushed up the bridge, and skidded to a halt when the shadows receded enough to reveal the Commander leaning forward, impaled on a long black sword. Breath caught in her lungs as happy laughter echoed down from Ravenhold.

“I should thank them,” came the cool, all too familiar voice. Eruviel’s fists clenched as she slowly remembered, her dream continuing on without her. “That is one less pest to have to account for.”

“You will leave them alone.”

The shadow leaning up against the railing of the bridge watched her, violet-brown eyes unblinking from beneath the dark hood. “Did I ever tell you what it sounded like? The last ragged breath escaping Milloth from the hole in his chest?”

“Get out of my head.”

“Who should I kill first? Or should I curse the lot of them and save myself the effort?” The robed figure stood and began to approach. Bodies began to bob up in the water below them, Ruby Lake turning crimson in the moon light.

A terrible ache tore through her chest. She had promised. She had promised. The Elf looked down again, and to her surprise the horrifying scene changed. As soon as the bodies appeared they suddenly vanished, one by one in soft puffs of smoke.

“It is no use. Why do you fight? Are you not tired of it all? I might steal whatever magic is in the red eye of your friend. I also have more spirits. You remember, don’t you? I could turn them all against you….”

Shadows snaked around Eruviel to trap her, suffocate her… but they collapsed at her feet in piles of flowers. It wasn’t her….

“Did you forget what he told you? You will never be free, not of him, or me, or the curse that follows you.”

“Get out,” she growled through gritted teeth.

Cold laughter wafted around like a chilling breeze, drawing nearer. “No? Maybe I will make myself a bear fur coat. There is something so sensual about fur against the skin…. And maybe I’ll take that little boy and his father, and –”

Godric’s greying body fell away in a glittering shower of limrafn dust, and Eruviel reached out to catch the sword before it could fall. “Get out!”

Whirling around, she sliced off the hand reaching for her and with a shout, before plunged the blade into the bridge. The figure reeled back as the reality of the Eruviel’s dream shifted violently and heaved up to shatter about them. Starlight flickering like fire erupted with a concussive roar from the Elf and sword, and flooded out, filling every crevice of her mind till his laughter and shadows had nothing to hold onto.

– – – – –

With a cry Eruviel shot upright, the steaming water in her tub sloshing about her. Gasping she sagged back in the fragrant bath, hiding her face in her hands.

He was gone. A small, relieved sob escaped her as she curled up into a ball at one end of the basin. One night of rest was all she wanted at that moment. And somehow she knew he was gone. Finally gone. Whatever, or whoever had helped her —

Fletch’s frantic barks sounded from beyond the closed door. The  growing pup whined, scratched,  and barked again as he tried to dig his way past the door and into her. Grabbing her robe, Eruviel stumbled out of the bath, water pooling in her wake. Yanking open the bathroom door, she was nearly knocked over as Fletched barreled into her.

“Hey, hey, calm down boy. It’s all right. I’m all right.”

Whining worriedly, Fletch nuzzled and licked her face as Eruviel knelt down on the floor.

Wrapping her trembling arms around his neck, Eruviel closed her eyes, offering a prayer of thanks when she saw nothing behind her closed lids. “Shhh, boy. It is all right. Everyone will be all right. I promised.”

– – – – –

Yarig! Benrith!

The Uruk and Angmarim guard exchanged unreadable, yet somehow knowing looks as they turned to step into the bedchamber. They did not so much as flinch as a bench flew to shatter against the stone wall beside them, nor blink as a wave of shadow tore what was left of the bed to pieces. Light bent and twisted, and the Lord marched, sword in hand to stand between the guards.

“My lord,” said Benrith, standing at attention.

Long black hair tossed in a crazed twist over his shoulders, piercing eyes drifted from one guard to the other. “Yarig?”

The Uruk stood a bit taller. “My lord.”

The sorcerer was not the tallest of his peers, and his muscled shoulders not the broadest, but the shadows loomed up about him, making him in his anger appear larger than life.  “Bring me your pick of five of the best you can find in the ranks. I mean to double my guard.”

Yarig did not move till his lord motioned for him to. His long strides only carried him to the doorway before a word from the sorcerer halted him.

“My lord?”

The sorcerer put a hand on Benrith’s shoulder, and with one clean swipe, sliced the man’s head off. It hit the stone floor with a sickening thunk and rolled towards the Uruk even as it’s former body decayed and turned to dust. “Take that with you. Have it sent to Aughaire. It would not do for him to be late in reporting back.”

Bittersweet: Last We Spoke

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Godhric stood, silently staring out into the ice bay of Forochel, near the outskirts of Suri-Kyla, with his hands clasped together behind his back. The only sounds came from the now calm, morning winds and crashes of gentle waves on the cold shore.

Having left the village behind, Eruviel quietly approached the towering man, her own hands held behind her back as she walked over the thin layer of fresh snow. “You would think it might be easier to find a person in such a relatively small area.”

Godhric turned his head to glance upon Eruviel as she approached him. His eyes studied her for a moment before returning quietly to the sea again. “It is a beautiful place, is it not?”

“Breathtaking,” Eruviel replied, nodding slowly in agreement. “I do not think I would ever tire of winter if I lived here.”

“Nor would I. The air is more forgiving, now that the Northwind is calmed.”

Eruviel’s features lit with a small smile. “Just wait till winter sets in. It can be bitterly unforgiving, and equally as lovely.”

Godhric hummed lowly. “I believe you,” he said with a short pause. “What did you come to me for? I am sure it was not to talk about the weather.”

Eruviel tisked softly. “Ah, but the weather is such a broad topic.” Looking out over the water her expression turned serious. The emotions and thoughts of the man from when she had, but for a short time, inhabited his body were still all too fresh in her memory. “When will you leave?”

“The Wayfarers?” He paused again in thought. “After we have settled in Bree. I will ask Oendir to resume his place as Commander. My son and I have matters to attend to in Rohan, and I am homesick.”

Eruviel ran her tongue along the inside of her cheek, nodding once. “And when will you return?”

Godhric remained silent. His eyes narrowed on the distant edges of the water where his vision ended.

Eruviel did not break the silence for a time as she watches the water in the bay ease and roll at the behest of the tide and breeze. “You meet a lot of people in fifteen hundred years, but I can only count on one hand the number of men I have met whom I would follow to any end, and fewer still that I would do so unconditionally. If you do not eventually come back, be sure that I will send both Hallem and Feygil after you.”

Godhric’s chest deflated after releasing a large, measured breath with a plume of mist that extended from his lips. “It seems I will have to make my home in the North, now.”

A soft chuckle escaped her. Reaching into the pocket of her warm coat she pulled out her notebook, and from it an aged envelope. She had intended to save it for the next time she passed north of Lorien, but somehow this seemed right. Looking up with a soft smile and meaningful look, she extended it to Godric. “I am sure you can find a proper place to plant this once you get to where you are going.”

Godhric glanced over to study the envelope before unclasping one hand to reach for it. “What is it?” he asked as he held it in front of himself.

“Seeds. Plant the dried flower with it, and wait a week. It should sprout and bloom by then.”

Godhric brought forth a second hand to hold the seeds with. “I will. Thank you.”

Eruviel closed the notebook and slipped it back into her pocket. “You are welcome. Thank you.”

Godhric nodded slowly, then glanced forward to the water once more. “I believe I am going to take a walk before I head back to the village. I will not stray far,” he said. “Thank you, for everything you have done for me.”

Eruviel looked to him for a moment, then dipped her head in a respectful bow. “Commander.” She then stepped away and turned to head back to the village.

“Eruviel,” came Godric’s voice from behind her.

Eruviel stopped and looked back as the man as he turned to face her. “Sir?”

Her eyes sparkled as they might if she had laughed as his voice rose over the sound of the frigid, lapping waves. Responding in jest, she did not have to wait for him to continue.

“– When I am gone, I need you to look after them all for me. Can you promise me this?”

The Elf then gave him a sure nod. “I will look after them. You have have my word.”

Godhric nodded once with a warm smile, then turned to leave, away from Suri-Kyla.

 

(Thank you to Valthier for playing Godric. Taken from in-game RP and edited for tense and composition.)

Be So Cruel

“Still working?”

Peldirion did not look up from his writing. “I am always working,” he responded mildly.

Lothiel watched him from the door of his study, her presence an affront to the privacy of the entire house. “Not always. I saw you on a walk with Halethon earlier. It is kind of you to look after him.”

“He is my friend, Miss Lothiel. Such loyalty is not uncommon.” Peldirion’s dark gaze lifted from his papers, giving her a harsh, pointed look.

The woman shrugged off the look, and stepped inside the room. “He deserves the best, of course, for giving so much in the name of our freedom.”

“I will extend your compliments to him, then, as well as your sudden adoption of patriotism.” As she casually glanced about, Peldirion noted how carefully she had prepared herself. Everything was meant to appeal to him, from the simple, flattering cut of her dress, the color, and the way she stood to encourage any gaze that found her to wander. Then there was the lack of customary blood red on her lips,  and the way her dark blonde hair, woven in an intricate braid, caught the light. Things he pined for ten years ago and would have had him sweeping her off her feet. Things on her that, since then, had repulsed him.

“Do not make fun. War will make patriots of us all. But not you… You’re a hero for saving him.”

Sighing heavily, Peldirion closed his ledger with a definitive thud. “What do you want, Lothiel?”

She drifted in like an independent breeze, toying with the sash of her dress. “I want to know why I am being forced to leave.”

“You know why,” he replied, as if softly reprimanding a child. “You are a widow, and it is improper that you remain here.”

She was suddenly beside him, leaning against the straight edge of the heavy desk. “It doesn’t have to be,” she said quietly. “This is my home, Peldirion. I am meant to be here. And we…”

He had to give her credit for the effort. She was a lovely woman, to be sure, but it took every effor to not to berate her and have her sent from his sight. “We what, Miss Lothiel? Whatever we once had is long dead.”

A hurt expression masked her frustration. “Is it? I am still me, Peldirion. You would leave me destitute, and alone? Surely you would not be so cruel as to abandon your brother’s wife… a woman who loves you, to the world?”

Pushing back his chair, Peldirion rose to his feet. He did not touch her, but he hovered, ever so close,  dark blue eyes capturing Lothiel’s as he peered down at her. She responded just as he expected, her breath catching, and heat flooding her cheeks. “My dear lady, I do not believe you ever loved me, and if I were to pursue my brother’s wife if would be Adrovorn’s.”

Lothiel started out of the trace he had held her in, and scoffed. “That northern witch?”

“She outshines you in every way,” he replied coolly, ever so carefully tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “She is not a parvenu, and holds her own land and titles by right. But I doubt my station and accomplishments would be enough to even tempt her.”

Lothiel blinked in surprise. She probably only carried a promissory note. She drew a breath to speak in her defense, but had no chance to as he continued. “No, I have made other arrangements for my marriage. You can assure my mother of that. You will leave this house, as is proper, and stay with your family. The arrangements have been made and your dowry has been returned to your father.”

Her control snapped, and Lothiel recoiled a step from him. “How dare you do so without my consent!” she shouted.

“I do not need your consent.”

“So what? You think being Vice Consul gives you the right to –”

“Miss Lothiel, it gives me every right, though I do not need its position to give me authority in such matters,” said Peldirion calmly, stepping forward as he motioned to the office door.

Herded out from behind the desk, Lothiel scrambled for a response, advancing back to him as she gazed up with a sorrowful expression. “Is this how it ends, then? You banishing me because you cannot find it in your heart to forgive?!”

He caught her hands as they reached for him, and trapped her with a gaze that made her pull back. He did not let her. So many hateful, perfectly crafted words rose in his mind, and he wanted, more than almost anything, to destroy her. Lothiel struggled only for a second and was caught completely by surprise when he lifted one of her hands up to his lips.

“There is something….”Peldirion began, his breath warm against the skin of her knuckles. He hesitated, allowing a tormented shadow to pass over his hardened features. It was almost cruel… No, it was, and it was perfect. 

“What?” she breathed in response, hope kindling in her eyes.

Lowering her hand, Peldirion kept the other as he slowly escorted her to the door of his office. “Go to your father’s. For now. In about a month I will be hosting a gala here, and as of yet do not have anyone in the city to accompany me.” He stopped at the door, gently releasing her before offering a small bow. “There are some important people you should meet. It would… mean a great deal to me if you would attend.”

“I… I would be honored to, my lord,” she said quietly, triumphantly, caught hook, line, and sinker as she curtsied.

The smile lines that tugged at the corners of his eyes were genuine. “Splendid. Till then, Lady Lothiel.”

Bittersweet: Foolishness

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Eruviel sat on the railing of the icy bridge, looking out over the bay. Her notebook rested open on her lap, it’s pages fluttering in the wind held down by the elf’s gloved hand that grasped a short, well used pencil. This was the last sketch on her list, and she was glad that she had saved it. The view that afternoon was stunning, and a night’s rest without Mornenion in her head helped her enjoy it even more.

Liriedir, having paced around the settlement without purpose, appeared to her right and began to cross over the span. His fingers curled around his slender chin,  Elven brows tugged together in a fretful frown. Consumed by his thoughts, he did not seem to notice Eruviel as he began to pass her.

“They should have a contest to see who can pace the shoreline more,” Eruviel offered in jest as he began to pass her by. “I have little doubt that you would win it.”

Liriedir gave her a sour look. “I am pleased the storms have not blown away your sense of humor.”

Eruviel cast an amused glance at him before quickly catching the pages of her book as they begin to flip. “Are you really? A shame they did not. Being out in this cold so much, you might have caught it.”

Liriedir’s look did not change, and Eruviel felt her stomach drop a little, finding his expression unpleasantly familiar. “Laugh all you wish. Your fleeting emotions are a mark of your age.”

Uhh… The elleth studied him, and she easily responded, “Yes, they are. And I assure you I have no intention of being rid of them. They make life more enjoyable, and seeing and understanding some things far easier.”

Liriedir turned towards the other side of the bridge, overlooking the huts and campfires that doted the shore. “I do not suggest being rid of them. I suggest immaturity. Joke and posture as you will to your fellows, but I will abstain from this foolishness out of respect for our hosts.”

Eruviel turned in her seat to face him, saving her page with her pencil. What in Arda… She quickly thought over her words, not understanding why he would be so harsh. “You consider my joke to you as being disrespectful to our hosts?”

Liriedir set his hands behind himself. “Joking while the city mourns? Yes, I do. Do you feel none of the despair and regret in the air?”

Eruviel’s smile hardened at this. Deep breath. “I feel it deeply, and it is part of what keeps me up every night. I will joke in private with friends as I see fit, for a bitter heart dwelling on death will not help heal the wounded, nor keep my head clear for dealing justice to the enemy when the time comes,” she answered quietly. You do not owe him any explanation. Let an Angmarim break his nose. But she went on.”I bear much of their pain, and spend a great deal of my time aiding the healers with every seriousness that should be afforded.” Turning again, she faced the bay and returns to sketching on her saved page.

“You think like a man. If you feel it, I suggest you act like it.” His shoulders straighten. “We are the firstborn; We are guides, shepherds, teachers. We possess wisdom lost to the younger races. Help all you will, but if you laugh in the face of tragedy, you will be seen as uncaring.”

Eruviel did not respond to him. It had been a long time since she had been accused of being uncaring, and it hurt far worse than expected. She only continued to sketch in her book, her pencil pausing at his words. Be still. He knows nothing, and he would not care if you told him anything, she reasoned.

Liriedir did not say any more. Without a response, he continued down the slope of the bridge, paying no mind to the swirling snow.

Blood boiling in her veins, Eruviel waited till he had gone a ways to snap her book shut. Swinging her legs over, she stood on the bridge and began to stride purposefully back to the Lodge. Bitter, asinine, haughty… Let the others mistrust him. I have no time, and now no care to empathize. Maybe she did think like a man, but she was quite sure she was better for it.

Stopping at the door of the Great Lodge she took a deep breath — well, several deep breaths to calm herself. She could show her anger when she drug Wahseena — Wahsenahthat man to Panja’s feet, and crushed the dark god’s face in with her fist, but she would be damned if the horrid new Elf ruined her mood. Kem, where are you when I need you? Smiling a little down at her notebook, she took one more breath before gladly stepped into the warm building.

“Sivullinen!”

Eruviel look over to where the call had come from. Smiling as she offered a slight wave to the young healer, she weaved through the small crowd by the door to approach the woman. Swallowing, she switched her thoughts to Larsi so as to make speaking it easier. “I apologize for taking so long.”

The young healer smiled hopefully, and shook her head. “Do not apologize. You… you have it?”

Eruviel nodded and reached into her pocket to pull out a makeshift envelope, bits of blue feather escaping out of one corner. Would he think this foolishness? “I hope this will suffice.”

“It will! I cannot thank you enough. He was so upset when he learned that the ones I gave him were ruined….” the woman whispered, a sudden look of shame and worry showing in her eyes. “I would go, but I cannot leave with all of –”

“It is not safe to leave,” Eruviel interrupted softly, resting a reassuring hand on the woman’s arm. “And you are needed here. You can just say a friend helped you get them. They were a gift to me, so it is only proper that I gift a few to you. He will like them, but not as much as he does you.” She then turned her gaze to the beds filled with wounded across the great room. “How are they?”

The woman blushed a little, tucking the precious envelope safely away before a more serious look took over her features. “No change. Hopefully we do not loose another before nightfall.”

“How about Keihäs and Pentu?”

“A pain, those two.” Nodding to Eruviel, she reached into her healer’s apron and offered the Elf a bottle. “Their dressings will need changed as well. Would you mind?”

Eruviel smiled kindly as she accepted the bottle. “Not at all.” Parting ways, she followed the wall around, nodding respectfully to several of the healers. She was sure Maggie and Varidia were about helping somewhere nearby. Keeping out of the way, she slowed as she approached two cots.

“About time!” one of the men huffed as he looked back to see the Elf. “What took you so long?”

“Welcome back,” replied the man in the second bed, a thick dressing laid over his eyes

“Thank you, Pentu. And I got caught up in an unpleasant conversation,” she replied mildly to the first man. “How is the leg, Keihäs?”

“The same as when you left,” Keihäs huffed. Propping himself up on his elbows, the man nodded to her. “Did you get all of them?”

Smiling softly, Eruviel knelt down between the two beds. “Of course I did.”

“Well, hand them over!”

Eruviel swatted away Keihäs’ reaching hand. Opening her notebook to the page saved by her short pencil, she carefully began tearing out several pages covered with rough, but meticulously sketched scenes of the landscape and village. “Here you are.”

Keihäs eagerly accepted the drawings from her, and laid back, pouring hungrily over each page. “You are terrible at drawing.”

“Do not be rude, Keihäs,” Pentu admonished quietly, turning his head a little to the sound of the rustling pages.

“He is not wrong,” Eruviel replied with a smile. Placing a hand briefly on Pentu’s arm she then reached to take up the wide bowl and small satchel left at the foot of the bed. “Let us change the dressing on your eyes first, hmm?”

Nodding, Pentu straightened his head to face up. “But it is still unkind to say after you went through all of that trouble.”

Eruviel chuckled quietly, and rolled up her sleeves. Washing her hands in the prepared water, she carefully peeled away the thick poultice from the man’s wounded face as she had watched Cwendlwyn and so many other healers do before. “It was no trouble at all.” Keihäs grunted at their conversation, but said nothing as he slowly traced his fingers over a drawing of a cluster of huts.

“What is it like… outside” Pentu asked quietly, managing a small frown as he looked up past burned lids to see nothing.

A pained expression flickered across her features, but Eruviel did not let it reach her voice. Placing a textured stone from the shoreline in his waiting hands, she pulled the cork from the small jar, and took up a clean rag. “The storm is not as bad today, and a bit of golden sunlight filters down now and then to warm the round roofs. You can see the pale bean — oh, eh– ice… floating in the dark, grey blue waters….”

 

(Thank you to Atanamir for playing Liriedir! RP taken from in game and edited for tense and composition.)

Bittersweet: Answers in the Cold

The wind of the storm beyond Suri-kyla stung the freshly healed skin of her cheeks as she walked. Eruviel’s pace quickened as she approached the Ferry only to come to a stop at the start of the short pier. Staring out over the bay she searched the waters. For answers? For comfort? Shaking her head, she yanked off her gloves.

Perhaps she should have told Cedoric when he asked, or Eirikr because she should have. Because she wanted to. But then again, what good would it do? Another trouble to have on the mind. Another burden for something that may or may not come. Her cloak followed the gloves, then her wrap followed by her heavy fur-lined coat. The wind catching her braid and the ribbon that struggled to keep it bound, Eruviel yanked off her boots and socks and walked to stand on the far end of the pier. Cold cut through her shirt and lined trousers to bite her healing flesh. As bitter as it was the chilled air washed over her, filling her chest with the clean, spirit-filled air, and awakening all of her senses.

But I will just say this: to ever trust the word of the Angmarim would be a deep betrayal to my people… She had wanted to run after Beth and ask her what she had meant. Why she had turned away. But then her thoughts went to Angmar. What was waiting for her, sought for her at night now that the link had been broken in the fire, and what she wished was still. What she wished with all her heart was still beyond those borders.

If you were alive you could have helped us. Attacked them from behind. You would have known what to do. Eruviel wrapped her arms around herself, and squeezed her eyelids shut even as hot tears escaped. A hundred men, their bodies broken and burning in the fires illuminated the back of her eyelids, mixed with glow of the river of molten rock. This is not the time. They will get through this. Somehow we will make it. We always do, don’t we? Keep him out. Keep him out.

He had been there again, waiting in the shadows of the trees in her dreams, filling her paths with traps. Having found a clearing she had banished the scene, all for the hill, and surrounded herself with light. All night she could sense him, waiting, but he could not get through. Then daylight came.

A warm body pressed against her leg. Looking down, Hano sat on the dock beside his golden eyes gazing up at her. Letting out a cloud of breath in a sigh, she knelt down beside him, and returned the nuzzle he gave. “Thank you. It is good to have another voice of encouragement in my head…. Or look,” she added with a little smirk.

Hano nipped at her pointed ear, and Eruviel petted behind his. “It’ll work out, won’t it? Of course it will. We’ll just beat Tuma… again. Find the daughter, beat the warlord, keep Panja alive… But if things go badly, you and Kemp go. Promise me. Keep away from any fighting, hmm?”

The wolf grumbled, and licked the Elf’s face. She laughed, most likely the response he had hoped for, and kissed the top of his head. “Let us head back. There will be a meeting, and I promised not to disappear.”

Bittersweet: Burned Away

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Eruviel stared at the roof of her hut. Was it her hut? Minutes were hours, and every one she spent convincing herself not to crawl out into the cold of the storm and curl up in the snow. The heat of the burns radiated through her aching, languid limbs, and every movement only a measure more agonizing than laying still.

She could not remember how she had gotten from the Ferry to the hut. She could not remember how she’d gotten into her bed of furs, or changed into fresh clothes with salve spread over her burns, but the pain… That was all too clear. Her flesh bubbling and curling as she’d stepped into the liquid fire. Heat turning her lungs to parchment and smoke filling her chest for her to choke on. And she had gone back in. The Elf remembered the pain being a little less… or it was, quite possibly, her body growing numb to compensate for the pain, and she remembered feeling the cold bite of magic that had clung to her shoulder since Durrow burn away.

More than anything, she remembered waking from the Henki-maa, in the raw reality of Forochel to writhe in the snow, unable to keep back the tormented cries that clawed up her throat. What a pitiful sight she must have been. Somewhere in the back of her mind she tried to convince herself that it would pass, and tried to push past the unbearable sting and heat that radiated from her singed flesh, but the present was too much. Hot tears streamed across the dried skin of her face to wet the loose hair that pillowed her head. What she wouldn’t give for a taste of cold snow on her tongue, or the feel of frigid water coursing down her throat.

Having woken in a haze she’d found Hano curled around her head. She had cried more than she’d meant to, finding that she was not alone, his concerned wimpers pulling her from her sleep. Had she dreamed or voiced her discomfort in her sleep? Either way, she did not have the heart nor the will to ask him to stop when the wolf occasionally licked the tears from her cheeks. Kemp drifted in and out of the dwelling, but Hano remained, ever vigilant as she passed in and out of sleep.

She thought often about the others. An ache twisted in her chest, a bitterly familiar pain of shame and failure as she recalled Oendir’s cries, and the horrifying silence as Kemendin had begun to float away in the river of fire. She was to blame. Leaving the elk calves to their fate had not been an option, but she had been weak, stepping into the lava, and because of that her friends had gotten hurt. They all knew that there would be a cost. They had been warned of it two years ago, but in their urgency she had not cared to think on it.

Hano sniffed, his cold nose nudging at her ear as the elf’s wallowing began to get the better of her. Pulled from her thoughts, she attempted what she hoped was a weak smile, and exhaled a ragged sigh that felt only somewhat less painful than than the ones before. The wolf scooted a little closer and Eruviel tucked her head against his neck, praying for sleep to take her, and for her two friends that she hoped had somehow been spared.