Alagos

What Might Have Been

(If things had gone differently…)

Talagol sat outside the office suite of the grand villa. Minutes had passed since the muffled sounds of raised voices had cut off with what he could only assume to have been a book thrown against the thick mahogany doors, and the man wondered why his time was being wasted.

Having survived the bitter defeat in the west, the Wainrider had been surprised when the summons came for him. The battle-hardened man idly played his thumbs over a worn corner of the letter, quelling the growing anticipation as his eyes ran over the tall sandstone pillars. It had been years since he had been back. Longer still since anyone aside from his superiors had dared demand anything of him.

A dull thud sounded as the heavy lock of the double doors slid back. A man emerged from the office. Talagol could not help but cock an eyebrow as he watched his highest ranking sorcerer hurry away, hair tossed and looking like a cow fleeing from a culling.

Turning his gaze back to the still-open doorway, it took him far too long to recognize the young woman standing in the door. She had dyed her hair, but she had her mother’s eyes and, to his surprise, wore the blood-red robes of Mistress.

Tossing her bangs, a wicked smirk played on Inaris’ crimson lips. Crooking a finger, she beckoned him to follow after her as she turned back into the room. “Hello, daddy.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“About time you made it back.”

Asmus curled his upper lip against the thick smell of opium that wafted in every time someone used the back door of the den. “All o’the ships were destroyed. I had to make other arrangements.”

The fat man behind the desk wriggled his nose against an itch, and tossed a fat coin purse across the space between them. “Good work, anyways. The others are waiting for you across town. Use the west entrance.”

Catching the hefty payment, Asmus rose from his seat. “Right. I’ll be around in a week with the new shipment.”

With quick steps he strode down the hall, doing his best not to breathe in the air thick with smoke, incense, and hot bodies. He might not have minded it all that much, but the man had come to expect better things and find his pleasures elsewhere. It was what happened when one caught a lucky break, and he wasn’t the kind of person to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Rubbing the back of his hand over his crooked nose, Asmus left down a long corridor, and stepped out into the daylight that graced the lower quarter of Dol Amroth. The smell only got worse in the filthy alley, but the presence of the open sky beyond high roofs was a small improvement. Turning to head down the narrow way the toe of his boot suddenly caught on something, and the man cursed, stumbling as a wounded yip sounded from the edge of the filthy path.

“What the bloody –” Asmus caught himself on the alley wall and turned to see what he stepped on, and froze. “You?”

The girl laying on the ground drew her knees in close against her chest, hiding behind the long, dirty blond locks that fell around her face.

Asmus crouched down and frowned when she shrunk away from him. What had it been, twelve years? “Shit, girl. What did they do to you?”

Dull amber eyes avoided his gaze, and she shivered in mid-spring heat.

Grunting, Asmus stood, pulled a coin out of his pocket, and tossed it down to her. “Go get yourself a warm meal. Figure I owe ya that much.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Alagos did not bother looking up from his reading as Zagasht pushed past the guards at the door. “I assume you have news,” said the sorcerer mildly. “It had better be worth the interruption….”

Zagasht growled, and nodded quickly. “The others want to know why you have not sent anyone to fortify the tower. The Elf and his Gondorian friends have cut their way into the main hall.”

“Oh, have they?” he mused. It had taken them long enough to get here, but they had indeed come, just as he knew they would. Glancing over his shoulder, Alagos lifted a finger to summon the shadow standing against the wall behind him. “What do they want?”he asked of the thick, clearly agitated Orc.

Zagasht shifted uncomfortably as the dark, lithe figure stopped to hover beside his master. “They… They demand her return… and your head, my lord.”

A cruel, mirthless laugh rose from Alagos’ throat. “Splendid!” He turned his head and reached over to take his companion’s hand. “I had begun to worry they would never come for you.”

“What is your will?”

How deliciously cold her voice was, and the void in those lovely green eyes sent a thrill through his body. She had been his greatest challenge, and his ultimate masterpiece. The little, rage-filled bits of her that remained were carefully caged within her, left to watch everything that she and he did.

“Go. Greet our guests, my pet,” he said, kissing the back of her hand. “I am sure your brother will be happy to see you, and he has many friends to introduce you to.”

Bowing, the elleth that had been Eruviel took up the sword resting on the corner of the desk. Zagasht led the way out of the room, and Alagos sat back to watch her go, a gleeful smile twisting his features as the lights dimmed with her passing.

Bittersweet

Having parted from her conversation with young Sage, Eruviel took her leave of the camp before Eirikr could reappear from wherever he had gone. Assuming she was going to join the scouts, the Rohir standing watch did not hinder her . . . though they never gave her anything but looks of suspicion. Just as well.

Pulling her dark hood up to shadow her fair features, Eruviel changed course several yards out. Plunging further into the swamps, the Elf did not slow till she reached the large boulder she had seen from afar. Nothing sounded nearby. She heard no sounds of life aside from the insects, nor felt the presence of friend or foe. Finding a weathered overhang in the rock she slipped beneath into the darkness. Setting her weapons aside, the Elf leaned against the cold stone, slid to the ground, and dropped to her knees.

It swelled inside her; boiling and clawing at her, screaming to be let loose. Hiding her face behind her hands, her head sunk to the earth. She knew it well. The consequences of the hate she had ignored for years had come surging out like a lion as soon as the sorcerer strode into camp. Her scars ached with the memories, and ever fiber of her being roared for her to kill him. She had not been prepared for it, and it took all of her will to keep it at bay.

Then Eirikr had spoken to her up on her return. “Most Black Numenoreans I’ve ever heard of do not care about others. They care about themselves, and never once did the man mention saving himself,” he had said. She remembered, and she actively had ignored it. Little did he know how those simple words were a slap across the face. All those years in Angmar there was black, and there was white. Occasionally there had been the exceptions, like Daran, but she had known her enemy, and she knew that they had to be stopped at all cost. This — the sorcerer, at least, was different. She didn’t want it to be different.

Reaching a hand down to the hilt of her sword she froze. They were not there. The black cords that had been worn by her foes had been burned at Fallowmath. She remembered the purpose in her steps and motion as she’d cast them into the fire and watched them wither away. That was the poison. Maybe it had been Daran’s spirit who had planted the thought in her mind. No, she was almost sure of it. Eruviel thought she had dealt with her hate of Alogos and his brothers. Even in Evendim she had tried to save the spirit of the man Parmanen. Then Daran had died. Her last friend and brother from the past who’s heart had been harder than hers. Yes, it would be like him to see her teetering on the brink of succumbing to her monster, and force her to finally deal with it.

Hot tears spilled out of her eyes and down to the already moist earth. The unhealed hole within her, kept that way by Alagos’s lingering sorcery, mixed with the anger at herself . . . the anger of knowing she had to let go. What was she if she did not? Cwen knew of most of her scars, but Eruviel could not approach her again, hoping to confide in her only to have something come up. Besides, as she’d heard her say, Cwen didn’t trust anyone. Anya had seen them, but never could Eruviel bring herself to tell her.

Eirikr didn’t know. She wanted to tell him. How badly she ached to tell him with the hope that he would see past the lingering marks and tell her it was all right to let go. That the imperfections and brokenness didn’t matter. Rainion couldn’t, nor could Milloth or Daran or any of the others she had lost to war and darkness. How could she? Hope all she liked, she was still an Elf. Elves were supposed to be perfect, whole beings of light, and here she knelt in the darkness in the dirt, covered with scars she took great pains to hide, exorcising her anger and bitterness one tear at a time. She did not put much stock in the legend that the two races were fated to sorrow. Such ends were experienced within their own races as well. But as for defying such “fates” she seemed to have guided her own to failure. He would not look at her the same once he knew. He wouldn’t want her, but then, she could not hide it forever, and he deserved better.

Squinting her eyes closed she suddenly saw him. His face appearing out of the darkness of her mind, Alagos sneered at her, that wicked, triumphant grin curling up like smoke from a dragon’s maw. Letting out a sharp, wrathful breath, Eruviel punched into the earth beneath her. She would pull herself back up. Others needed her to be strong, and she could not fail them. The more she let needless anger rule her, the more Alagos won. Never, EVER would she let him win. She was to hate and destroy the darkness, not those reaching to emerge from it. This was not Angmar, and she would not live empty words. She would show mercy

There is always a glimmer of light in the darkness,” she had told Sage. “Yes, I feel great hatred towards their kind . . . but I am also bound by the belief that everyone deserves a chance at redemption.” There was her path. She used to be known for it, she used to be called it, and it was what separated her from the darkness she stood against. There had to be a defining line, or else they had already lost.

Rising to her feet, she did not bother to wipe her eyes as she fit her bow back across her back. She had to let go. It was decided. She had accepted, not matter how begrudgingly, that Atanamir had found a higher path into the light. If she could trust him, she could, with a dose of discernment, give another a chance. Besides, would she not want the same chance of forgiveness were she to fall so far? They all had monsters inside of them, but she would be the master of her’s.

To Have Known Better (part 1)

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I should have known better, Eruviel fumed. Pushing the crude grate up from where it sat over the dried-up tunnel Eruviel thanked the long-dead architects for the gracious space that avoided her the room to move through while in her armour. Hoisting herself up she signaled down to the hill-man hunter that waited hidden below before racing across the high stone courtyard that ringed the citadel.

She had recognized the foul presence of the man who had broken in to their — no, her home. Shrouded in darkness he had come; a reminder of her past, and that she could not escape retribution. Iluvatar bless him, Arathier had gone out to face the intruder in attempt to protect her. But he was no match for the student of Alagos. Eruviel knew the tortures that awaited him, and the monster within her cursed, swearing to raise the ancient fortress to the ground if he was dead. She should have sought him out and killed him years ago. She should have known better.

With as much speed as she could muster she sprinted towards a side door to slam into the two Angmarim Summoners guarding the entrance. Before they could react Eruviel threw open the door, their rent bodies still falling behind her. Rage boiled the blood in her veins as she ran down the hall, cutting down the few orc guards and servants that loitered at their posts. Some attacked her, but others merely gaped at the sight of her before they too were killed. Nothing had changed in the thirteen years since she had been held there. Well, aside from a few extra skeletons in the cages, and the darker chambers.

It was not till she had reached the lower flight of steps leading to the dungeons that Eruviel realized that the guards did not even notice her as she struck them down. He does have Alagos’s flair, I will give him that. Stopping in the middle of a landing she stood between four Angmarim soldiers, staring at their almost blank expressions for a moment before hurrying on. Though they themselves did not see her, it almost felt as if the master of the fortress watched her from behind their eyes.

Bursting into the first long, narrow hall of cells that began the dungeon labyrinth, Eruviel rushed from cage to cage in search until she skidded to a stop. “Arathier,” she whispered numbly, staring at the breathless body within the cell. Panic seizing her chest she tore at the lock and searched for a way in past the cold iron bars. No . . . Orome, NO, you cannot let them — Then the spell lifted, and for a brief moment relief washed over her as she saw the stranger who had been masked with Arathier’s likeness.

A faint, cruel laugh rippled through the dank air. Turning she walked with an unnerving calm back down the hall. Her anger turned to wrath, and her gleaming emerald eyes paled to an ice green. They had taken from her. Again. And she would have no more of it. Deep in the recesses of her mind she welcomed the inner beast. It filled her, fitting it’s steady hands into hers, and peered out of her eyes. The numbness in her legs dissipated as she strode up the stairs with all the confidence and grace of her ancestors, and without stopping she slit the throat of every orc and Angmarim she passed.

It seemed unnerving, how she remembered her way to the great hall. How many times had she been drug, beaten and bruised and fighting though these corridors? Her time here seemed like an eternity ago, but her victory over Alagos now seemed to be for naught. My brothers will find you, he had told her. You will never be free. She had been a fool to disregard the threat. She had taken care to avoid contact with any Angmarim for a time, and had thought she had gotten away with it. Not that she ever regretted slaying the wicked man, but she had been foolish in thinking she had outwitted the agents of the enemy. Worst of all she unwittingly risked the lives of those she cared for by simply caring. Anyatka, Abiorn, Eirikr, Laerlin, Daran….

Fitting her bow onto her back she stepped in through the open doors. A red fire burned in the fireplace, the banquet table was cleared, and only a single figured occupied the room. Dressed in the garb of the fallen men and a lesser iron crown upon his head he faced away from her, his shoulders shaking with a silent laugh as she drew her sword. “Where is he?”

“Right here,” the man said in a dark, even tone as he turned. Eruviel’s only initial outward sign of distress being her nuckles turning white as she gripped her sword hilts tighter, her mind screamed, thrashing within it’s cage. For the first time in years she wanted to fall over and retch.

All the color drained from her face as she stared at the pallid, black-eyed Arathier. No, she realized as she set her foot back to steady herself. There is something else. He is something else. “What have you done to him?”

Advancing a step towards her Arathier . . . or at least Arathier’s body . . .  motioned uncharacteristically to the open door. “Bring him in,” he called out, his voice twisted with something darker. A wicked tone she recognized from sometime . . . .

Eruviel stepped to the side to not expose her back as she turned her head to see two Angmarim soldiers drag in one of the hill-men who had accompanied her north from Aughaire. He was beaten, and some of his bones visibly broken, but he met Eruviel’s eyes and shook his head. It was not her fault, and he would not give the enemy the satisfaction.

What had been Arathier laughed as the hill-man was dropped. Strangely, the Angmarim retreated from of the room. “Such proud people,” he said with disdain, “yet so naive.” Crossing the space, he unsheathed a dagger that was not his own. “May this be the first of many.” With that Arathier slit the young man’s throat and let the body fall to the ground, blood soaking into the ancient rug.

She drew a deep breath, than another as anger burned through her. He is not himself. He is not Arathier. Do what you must. As the slain hunter’s body hit the stone floor she half-heartedly sprang forward to strike.

With inhuman speed, Arathier whirled around, grabbing her right arm as she came within inches of stabbing him. “Do not try anything, or you will share the same fate as your human,” he growled, towering over her as he squeezed her arm tighter. “I will destroy you.”

For a brief moment as she met his glare a hint of color crept back into his eyes, as if from somewhere Arathier was fighting to take back control of whatever held him. The moment did not last long, however, and Eruviel steeled herself as she felt the bone of her arm weaken beneath his grip. “Would not your master prefer to kill me himself?” she growled, forcing herself to not fight back. He is not Arathier!

Arathier opened his mouth to speak when suddenly his eyes darted to look behind Eruviel. Releasing her he dropped to his knees. “You have come.”

Eruviel could hear the scrape of metal as a sword was drawn from a sheath, and she could feel a presence behind her that she knew all too well. “What a delight that we finally get to meet face-to-face.”

Turning, her sword at the ready and blocking out the pain in her arm, Eruviel beheld the Black Numenorean that had broke into her home and stolen Arathier. “You are Alagos’s pupil,” she said matter-of-factly even as she felt his sorcery stab into her consciousness. Not this time, she thought, narrowing her eyes in defiance. She noted that the possessed Arathier had not risen from where he had knelt.

“I am Mornenion,” flowed his deep, venomous voice. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”

He is weak, Eruviel told herself as she readied to strike, fighting hard to keep him out of her thoughts. He does not hold half the power Alagos did.  But even then… “It took you long enough, mortal,” she mocked in a sweet tone. Chin raised proudly, she summoned all of her will to meet his gaze and banished the doubts that clawed at her subconscious.

Mornenion’s upper lip curled in a sneer. “If you defeat me, you both may live.”

“Somehow I do not think that will be enough,” she replied with a wry smirk. Taking a step to the left she quickly took stock of his weight, height and how he carried himself. I have to end this fast, she told herself. The longer we fight the more it will be to his advantage.

The Black Numenorean opened his mouth to respond when Eruviel dashed forward, her elven steel ringing loudly as it clashed against Mornenion’s dark iron blade. She did not back down as he countered each of her strikes, forcing herself to attack faster . . . Faster! One of her blows pushed him back far enough and, quicker than she thought possible, the tip of his sword cut across her breastplate even as she leaped back to avoid it.

Fighting on, her mind flickered to Nillariel for a moment, and she wished now that she had let her come. The elf maiden’s shield would have come in handy, as well as her experience in battle. Barely avoiding Mornenion’s slash, the blade grazing over her left arm guard, she drew her dagger across, slicing into his unarmoured side. The fool! Thinking back she remembered Atanamir asking if her mission north would be better accomplished with aid. Or something like that, she thought sullenly, not bothering to recall the details of how the man had worded it. It was too late now. Whatever he was, Atanamir would have been the most helpful.

She could feel the power building, a terrible pressure in the air around her. It pulled at the veigns in her head, an with each passing second a terrible pain gnawed at her chest as if some unseen hand was digging at her heart.

Eruviel turned too slowly and Mornenion, bellowing in rage from the injury, brought his sword crashing down on her left shoulder. The force dropped her to her knees and even as she resisted the blow cracked her pauldron enough to slip in between plates and cut into her shoulder. Crying out, the pain brought a sudden clarity. This was not just for her, nor Arathier, but for all her friends; all the lives that could potentially be harmed by this black-hearted man. Never again. Her icy gaze reflected the fire from the hearth, and she let out a sigh of an apology to Anya and Nilla, that she had broken her promise to not go it alone. One last time. In the blink of an eye she watched herself grab the Black Numenorean’s blade. She did not feel it slice open her fingers as she used it to pull the wicked man towards her. Letting out a shout brought on by pent up adrenaline and fury, Eruviel thrust her sword into Mornenion’s chest. Her blade pierced his heart and he dropped his weapon, screeching like a wounded animal. Running him though she ducked under a wildly thrown punch to bring her dagger up under his chin and into his skull.

He stared at her, his lips parted in a disbelieving gape that she had beaten him. She felt his sorcery fade, and did not release her hold on him till the last garbled breath escaped his lips. The building darkness retreated, drawing back into the lifeless corpse. The Black Numenorean could not curse her, nor revive for one last vengeful strike, and as his body dropped to the cold stone floor his pridefully coveted life was extinguished.

The screams did not stop. Eruviel had only moments to catch her breath before turning to see Arathier writhing on the floor. A shadow was upon him but Eruviel paid it no heed as she ran over to drop to her knees beside him. “I am here, Arathier,” she insisted with a soft voice, reaching out to him.

Arathier’s eyes looked cold, his faced twisted as he struggled against the spirit. “You lose! He is mine!” he spat.

Fighting off his flailing arms, her teeth grit in attempt to bear the pain from her wounds she finally took hold of his head, cupping his face with her hands. “You can fight him,” she whispered. Staring into his eyes she forced what little powers she possessed to subdue the spirit that had taken residence inside of Arathier. After using it so often on the return from Dale, the Elf had been in a haze of brokenness, and even now bits of it still lingered in her subconscious. She did not dare draw it into herself, and she could not cast it out. She did not know if anyone could, but she poured her will like streams of light into the man even as the wight within him screamed in protest. She lent all but the last bits of her strength to help him take back control, praying –no — begging Orome for it to work.

His voice weak, Arathier finally looked up at her with his own blue eyes. “Eru — Eruviel?” he managed to mutter in disbelief before passing out from exhaustion.

The second hill-man who had accompanied her ran into the room, his sword wet with blood. Looking about with a concerned frown he then nodded to Eruviel. “You survived, Lady Aranduin.”

“I did,” she said with a forced calm, pulling herself to her feet. “This is him. Take as much Angmarim garb off of him as is feasible. Could you manage to carry him?”

“Aye,” the man answered, giving her a long look and taking note of her injuries before seeing to Arathier.

Leaving him to his work, Eruviel walked with dragging steps over to Mornenion. Retrieving her weapons, she cleaned them off on his robes and stet them in their sheaths. Picking up his rather heavy sword she pulled the Black Numenorean’s black badge from around his neck with a sharp tug, then brought the dark weapon down, severing the man’s neck. To the Void with you. Give your Master my regards. She would leave nothing to chance.

Nodding to the hill-man as he hoisted Arathier onto his back Eruviel pulled the pendant from the black cord. Giving it a disgusted look she threw it across the room into the fire and walked out of the hall, a sulfuric green light dancing around her as the pendant burned. Following the hill-man out she tied the cord around the handle of her sword along with the one she had taken from Alagos. That makes two. By Orome, let that be the end of them.

 

 (All dialogue taken from  in-game RP and edited for tense and exposition.)

A Belated Return: Angmar Part Two

This most definitely was not her brightest moment. They had been safe. Daran’s burns were healing, and Arathier and her had stopped in Tinnundir to rest their own wounds when news had reached them that Teryn, Arathier’s childhood friend that Eruviel had met only a week earlier, had been captured. Eruviel glared defiantly up at the Angmarim captain, bracing herself as his foot slammed into her abdomen. She glanced over to Teryn who was chained to the wall next to her through a haze of red, giving him a reassuring nod as he protected his face with his forearms from his own torturers blows.

Looking back she could not see a way around it, but she had been caught sneaking into the dungeon to free the man. While saving Daran she had been stabbed in the side with a dirk while Arathier had taken a bolt to the leg. There was no way she would have let him try to go after Teryn with such a handicap. The fast healing and high pain tolerance helped her out, but it wasn’t enough, and they had trapped her. The ache of dread in her gut did not come only from the Angmarim’s practiced kicks.

Teryn’s ruggedly handsome face had lost it’s color, but he smiled wickedly up at his captor and make a jest at the Angmarim’s expense. He got the reaction he wanted, but the beating only increased. Eruviel laughed numbly at the joke — it really was quite humorous — before the Angmarim slammed his fist across her face. Arathier said he would come, she told herself. If — NO! When she got back to Bree Anya would be sure to have her own lashings readied for her.

Spitting a mouthful of blood to the side an idea came to her. It was a bad one, she knew it, but they had to try something before they were carted away to Carn Dum. She would not go back there. Not again. Not like this. Dodging the second punch, her tormentor flew into a rage as his fist collided with the cold stone behind her. Teryn grinned over at Eruviel, even as his head was slammed against the wall. Spitting blood into the Anmarim’s face only made things worse for him and the twisted man drew out his knife, carving it through the muscle on Teryn’s shoulder. Teryn could no longer hold back a cry of pain.

Eruviel grunted, gritting her teeth as she took another kick to the gut. “Does this thrilling conversation have a purpose,” she asked hoarsely. She knew the beating had a purpose, but the silent, senseless torture grated on her nerves like fingernails on slate.

Teryn’s face darkened as blood trickled down his arm. “Well?!” he shouted as best he could, backing up her question. The Angmarim raised his knife to strike at him again and Eruviel could feel the panic rise. We BOTH have to survive, she told herself. In the blink of an eye Eruviel mustered what strength she had left and pulled herself up with her chains, sweeping her feet out. Tripping her captor, she brought the heels of her boots down with all her might onto the Angmarim’s face at the moment his head cracked against the stone floor.

Teryn watched in horror as his torturer and another from outside the cell rushed at her and pinned her down. Chaining her feet, they then proceeded to both whale on her. Everything began to dim. The excruciating pain filled her body and a harrowing cry clawed it’s way up her throat. Through the gap between her arms she could see that Teryn was being spared, but her relief was short lived when two more Angmarim entered and rushed at the man. She did not know how much longer it lasted, seconds — minutes, but a strange stillness settled over the room even as her body worked to numb the pain.

Blinking out of a bloody haze, Eruviel looked up at Teryn. Two new Angmarim sat next to them, quietly gazing towards the bars of the filthy cell. Teryn did not look as bad as she felt . . . and she hoped he was better off. They exchanged looks, both wondering how many days it would take till they could find a way to escape, if in fact they were not killed first. Then there was an echo of pounding feet making a mad dash down the hall. Teryn’s eyes widened as he looked over and Eruviel shifted her head to follow his gaze.

Arathier stood in the hall, panting for breath as his hands reached back for his knives. His eyes widened and Eruviel’s stomach sank, knowing he only found one. She felt like she would be sick when he did not look at her.

The Angmarim started from their day dreams and quickly moved to hold knives to the prisoner’s throats as Arathier and Teryn exchanged looks. “It’s all right, Arathier,” said Teryn quietly as his captors blade pressed against his throat.

Orome, Eruviel thought miserably, I know that look. Don’t you two make this decision! She ordered her throat to function; raged at her lungs when they struggled to do her bidding. She could not feel it, but her arms struggled against the chains that bound her none-the-less. “No,” she rasped, her voice finally reviving, “NO! Arathier — Teryn, I’ve lived far more than my share! You have hardly begun –” Her words were cut off as the cold bade pressed against her neck drew blood. Hot tears blinded her and she squeezed her eyes shut. Was this not what she was here for? To, if worst came to worst, take someone’s place? In the furthest corners of her mind she wondered if it was what she really wanted. Death. A noble one, a death that meant something, but death just the same.

Then it happened. As Eruviel’s eyes opened Arathier’s blade sailed over her head to sink into her captor’s face. The Angmarim’s knife fell free and she kicked it across the room and under the bars to Arathier even as the blade against Teryn’s neck did it’s work. Arathier’s face twisted in anguish as he dropped to his knees.

“We are not done!” she managed to yell as she fell over, unable to hold herself up. Her words snapped Arathier out of his sorrow long enough to pick up the knife she had kicked him, dropping the last Angmarim as he charged across the cell towards Eruviel. Tears stained the red painted floor beneath her face. Breathing became a chore as she watched Arathier break down the wooden cell door in a rage and crumple down beside Teryn’s now lifeless body.

“You — you have to burn his body,” she managed to rasp as her consciousness began to slip. The closer she drew to the darkness the suddenly more aware she became. She could sense somewhere in the massive citadel above them the presence of wights . . . and of something– no, someone far worse. “They wi-ill take it i-if you d-don’t.”

Arathier’s wide, sorrowful gaze finally turned and he began to move towards her. She felt his hand on her forehead as her lids drew closed. So heavy, she thought numbly. She wanted to apologize . . . to say something, but it escaped her, and she forgot everything else.

 _ _ _ _ _ _

She could feel it, every ounce of pain, every splintered and broken bone. Something else inside of her had broken as well. She could not tell what it was, but it’s shattered presence was beyond repair — a concept she had never been confronted with before, and it terrified her. In the darkness, lit with red flames she opened her eyes and instantly regretted it. A vast wall stretched out before her, hung with the corpses of her friends. This was worse than the dream she had had months earlier. Far worse. Eirikr, and Anyatka; Cwen and Threz hung in a line, followed by Adrovorn, Nillariel, Forthogar, and Rainion. Every face in Bree she respected followed. The Watchers of Bree decorated a row, followed by Wyllawen and her troop of friends, a dozen lines of Rangers, then halflings. A lifetime and more of friends and acquaintances filled the empty spaces as her eyes searched frantically for hope.

A tall, robed figure materialized from the shadows. She knew those eyes, and that wicked smile. Alagos stood before her, his head tilted like a viper waiting to strike. Then a wave of terror assaulted her. The massive, overwhelming presence approached her from behind and a scream of pain and fear was seemingly pulled from her lungs as the sudden sensation of her skin being torn from her body burned through her nerves.

The presence looked down upon her as she continued to scream against her will. Alagos dropped to a knee then prostrated himself before whoever it was that broke past her wall of defenses as if merely opening a garden gate. “My Lord, please receive my offering,” the Black Numenorian spoke, his voice filled with reverence and a foreign tone of humility. The gigantic presence bore down on her, drowning her in it’s rage and wicked pride.

But he couldn’t touch her. Suddenly something outside of her hell shook her. The call of her name, distant and filled with concern. And then she was falling. The hold they had on her slipped and it all faded away along with the wall of horrors and searing pain. 

A cool breeze hit her. The sweet smell of the sea filled her nostrils and Eruviel suddenly realized that her eyes were clenched shut. Trembling, she forced them open and a whole new scene met her empty gaze. She was surrounded by the summer waves of a blue ocean, hovering several feet above the surface. Looking at her arms to see her fair skin whole and gleaming in the warm sunlight she felt where all her scars should have been. They were gone. The skirt of a white dress swirled around her feet as she sped forward through the air, her long hair whipping about her. The beauty and relief that quenched her soul brought fresh tears to her eyes.

In the distance through the blue haze and wisps of clouds a white shore shone on the horizon. Could it really be? Anticipation swelled in her chest even as doubt sat in her mind, it’s arms folded. Should she really be here? Her progression slowed and she alighted on the gleaming sands even as a crystal blue wave of water tumbled over her feet. In spite of the peace that lightened her heart, in a way it was wrong, feeling the warm sand beneath her bare feet. 

Miles away down the beach the silhouette of a massive pillared forum rose from the shore in swirled spires. She felt a pull to walk towards it, but after a moment’s hesitation she turned only to be greeted by the last face she expected.

“It is cruel, really, that I was the one sent to see you,” spoke Adrovorn in his rich, deep voice as he pushed off of the rock he’d been leaning against with a shrug of his broad shoulders. His voice rolled over her like the blue waves that tumbled up the white sand. He walked towards her with his ever-confidant stride and she hugged her arms around herself, fighting the heart-wrenching urge to fly into his embrace. They stood facing each other, hardly a foot apart, a thousand words and wishes silently passing between them.

“Walk with me,” he said quietly, tucking his hands into his pockets. A slight smile curved up the corners of her petal-pink lips at the gesture, realizing she had picked up that little human quirk from him.

They walked side by side down the beach, listening to the other’s footsteps, neither one touching the other. “What are you doing here?” she finally asked.

“You could say I’m in between destinations,” he replied thoughtfully. Looking down at her his dark blue eyes shone sadly. “The question is, what are you doing here?”

Eruviel pursed her lips. “I was killed, I suppose,” she said quietly.

“Yes and no,” Adrovorn said as he chuckled. After another moment he sighed. “You know you have to go back.”

She knew it. That was what felt wrong. As much as she longed to stay she was not quite dead on the other side, and it was not yet her time. Stopping, she looked out to sea for a minute before turning her gaze back to him as he stood a pace in front of her. She had lost the meaning of her purpose amidst the veil of grief since his death. A part of her had withered away when he had not returned, and it had perished in the flames that had consumed the letter informing her of his death in battle. “Forgive me,” she said softly, her brows furrowing. “I let myself despair after you left.”

“I know,” Adrovorn nodded, moving to stand beside her and gaze out over the waters. “You shouldn’t have. You are strong, and I’d rather you live happily in honor of my memory.” The man let out a long sigh. “You were right,” he said slowly, “I should never have left you behind. My regret grew worse with every step I took away from you.”

“You were only trying to protect me, and for the most part, you did,” she said. A bitterness lifted from her as she spoke those words, and she wondered if it had not been Milloth’s idea for Adrovorn to meet her here. “It will take a long time still. A fear has sunk it’s claws into me.”

Adrovorn bobbed his head. “I take the blame for that as well, but you are going to have to work past it.” A playful smile then lit his face. “I see you have found someone to fill the gap I left behind.”

Eruviel could not keep back the soft, merry laugh that trickled past her lips. “No, he has not filled the gap. As intrusive as he is, I have learned that I can feel such warmth again, though not for him, as he so ardently hopes.”

“Good,” Adrovorn said with a satisfied nod. “Be prepared, my love. He is going to cause you a lot more heart ache in the months to come.”

“I have feared that . . . Now I am reaping the consequences of loosing myself, I suppose,” she said with a sigh.

Adrovorn looked down at her with a warm smile. “He’s not good enough for you. At least you dodged his advances.” His eyes searched hers, and like it was before, she sensed that he could see right through her. “You are fond of him, aren’t you?”

Eruviel hesitated, then nodded, understanding that he spoke of another. “I think I am. It is . . . unexpected . . . refreshing,” she said quietly. Softly biting the corner of her mouth, she raised a hand to put it on his arm, but stopped. “Might I . . . .”

He shook his head with a sad smile. “I could touch you, but we both know that if you touch me you won’t go back.”

Her mouth quirked with a smirk as she nodded, lowering her hand. “It is tempting, believe me, but the others might not forgive me. And if I really am able to return, then I suspect they are waiting with waning hope that I will wake up.”

Both of their eyes turned upwards as the light breeze picked up, tugging her towards the water. Swallowing hard, Adrovorn suddenly stepped closer and cupped her face with both of his hands, planting a lingering, tender kiss upon her lips. “I should have given that to you before I rode away that day,” he said quietly. Hovering, he then pressed a second kiss on her forehead before stepping back. “Things will get better. Just don’t keep trying to do it all on your own, if you can manage it.” Giving her a bittersweet smile, Adrovorn bowed his head, tucked his hands into his pockets, and turned to walk down the white shore as the sweet ocean wind lifted her up and carried her away.

Ruby Beach, WA

(first half edited from chat logs for tense and exposition))

Small Victories

Eruviel remembers.

Heat blasted up through the iron grate beneath their feet. The sound of shouts and clashing weapons rang from outside the chamber doors that Daran held shut. Fighting as a single unit, Adrovorn with his sword and shield, and Eruviel with her bow and knives had (with heavy support from Myrthrost and Milloth) held their own against the Black Numenorean. Adrovorn’s great shield had taken such a beating that she could barely make out the white tree emblazoned on it’s face.

Behind them Adrovorn’s soldiers drug fallen comrades behind a shield wall. The surprise attack had been betrayed to the enemy had slain half of their numbers. It was a staggering loss. Milloth and Myrthrost now stood on the opposite side of the room behind the shields, one casting spells to counter the sorcerer’s attacks, and the others to protect those that still survived.

Parrying Alogos’s strike, Eruviel ducked to the side as Adrovorn rushed past her to slam his shield into their opponent. Adrovorn’s eyes were bloodshot, and his shield arm had begun to shake from trauma. As he dropped to a knee to protect her from another strike, Eruviel knew his injury was more than that. Alagos had spoken of darkness and of his master through the duration of the fight, and Eruviel could feel his words seep like poison through her veins. How well she remembered the feeling. Meeting Adrovorn’s look Eruviel knew he could not hold out much longer. Neither could she.

“How convenient that you came back, what ever your reasons are. You have saved me the trouble of hunting you down,” Alagos sneered. His eyes, pale from his craft, flashed with pain as he wrenched a barbed arrow from his side. In spite of the hate and lust for power that hung about him, Eruviel could sense his fear of death. She could see how he struggled for breath, and knew that he was aware that she saw it.

“I will not live with your shadow following us wherever we go,” Eruviel growled, stepping up beside Adrovorn as she shifted her grip on her weapons handle. How many of his spies had she killed in the past eight years? We will not be free till you are dead.

Eruviel trembled as Alagos’s voice, rich with his Adûnaic accent clawed through her mind. You fight in vain. I find pleasure in tormenting the only Eldar to escape me. Know you will have no victory. If I die, someday my brothers will find you.

Adrovorn must have read the fear that twisted across her face, or possibly heard the same voice as well, for they leapt forward to attack at the same moment. Being nearly equal in height and broader than their foe, Adrovorn stepped inside the Black Numenorean’s reach and brought the edge of his shield down on Alagos’s wrist to disarm him. Grabbing him by the throat Adrovorn then threw Alagos over the alter at the chamber’s center. The evil man had barely a second to find his feet before Eruviel flew across the space between them with a shout. Her blade aimed at his chest, Alagos stumbled back as she continued to fight against his hold. His eyes suddenly grew wide with shock and pain as the tips of the iron spikes jutting from the wall blossomed from his chest.

Time froze. Blood trickled down the fuller of her blade from his hand to her cross guard. A fire burning several yards beneath them on the lower level hissed as streams of red coursed over the fallen Numenorean’s armour and through the gaps in the iron floor. Eruviel’s arms trembled as she gripped her hilt, staring up at the mocking eyes of her greatest fear while the color drained from his face, still trying to grasp what had just happened.

“So, you’ve done it,” coughed Alagos, blood filing his mouth. Releasing her sword his arms fell limply to his sides. “You will never be free,” he whispered hoarsely as the last breath of air escaped his body.

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.