Bellethiell

Thursday

A black mist crept along the floor, swirling up in soft, claw-like puffs as she ran down the corridor. The back hall of the Pony never seemed so long, but a dry laugh echoed out from behind her, urging her legs to run faster.

“That’s great that you’re sorry . . .”

Bounding off the wall to keep from crashing as she turned the corner the room changed. A wall blocked off her retreat and the way was now lined with cold, crudely cut stone. Orange light danced across the walls. Only the mist remained. Was this the dungeons of Carn Dum? Stepping forward it filled her with dread and a familiarity she’d rather deny. Where had she just come from? Why was she here again? She had escaped, hadn’t she?

“You made me believe . . .”

Her breath caught in her throat. Some unseen force sucked the air out of her lungs, but as she slumped against the wall a scream echoed from up ahead. I know that scream, she thought as a feeling of panic gripped her. Pushing off from the wall she stumbled forward into a run. Ninim? Anya? The scream filled her ears and each time it sounded it changed. By the Valar, who was it?! Eirikr? Torrin?

Before she knew it she was running from cell to cell, sparing only glances for the dead within as she searched frantically for the voice. The dry, emotionless laugh sounded again and as she skidded to a stop, so did her heart. Why were her feet wet? As soon as she looked down she regretted it. Instead of mist, blood swirled around her ankles, covering the floor. The harsh smell of iron assaulted her. Covering her mouth with her hand she suddenly wrenched it back, staring at her hands in horror. They too were covered in blood, and it was not her own. Bile rose in her throat.

Then she heard it. Not a scream or a laugh, but the quiet, desperate struggle of one wounded, gasping for breath to survive. It was from the cell beside her but when she turned it was too dark to make out the features of the person slumped against the far wall. Pushing open the cell door she stepped in. I need to help them, she thought frantically, I must get them out of here.

She stumbled back, but the cell door had closed behind her. Arathier’s mouth curled in a sneer, his hands hanging limp at his side. His mask floated just out of reach and arrows protruded from his chest. Blue eyes turned up to look at her, filled with sorrow and rage and confusion. 

“Why?”

 

Eruviel shot upright, gasping for breath as she tore the sheets off of her that had wound around her neck. Coughing, she retreated to the head of the bed, pulling her knees to her chest as she struggled to control her violent shaking.

Minutes passed, and the sound of birds in the tree outside her window gently brought her back to her senses. The sun was fully up, and a late morning breeze filtered in through the windows she had left cracked open.

“Blasted bed,” she grumbled, swinging her legs over the side. His side. Her eyes misting over she rose to her feet, fighting off the blanket that still looped around her waist. They were over, and looking back over her shoulder at the ornate piece of furniture, it seemed more like a cage. Hastily throwing on her customary trousers and a shirt she studied the bed through narrowed eyes as she pulled on her stockings and boots. It had to go. Opening the front door and the rest of the windows to air out the house Eruviel rolled up her sleeves and began tearing off the soft silk lining of the bed’s canopy.

Collecting the sheets and blankets she rolled them into one massive ball and threw them off the porch into the yard. Angrily wiping a tear that coursed down her cheek she marched back inside and tackled the mattress. It was wide and awkward. Stumbling once or twice she finally managed to drag it through the house. Cutting a hole in the side of the taunt cloth to use she grasped the seams and struggled to squeeze it out of the door. Finally getting it out she heard her weapon stand fall over with a crash. Leaving the mattress leaning against the nearest statue she made her way back to the bedroom.

The rich, red wooden frame of the canopy bed never seemed intimidating before, but now the heavy wooden furniture looked back at her as if to say, “What did you expect?” Making her way down to the cellar Eruviel returned with a handful of tools. But it was no use. Try as she might the bolts at the corners of the posts would not turn.

“Please, please just work,” she begged as she fought with the tools one more time. Her efforts amounting to nothing she tossed the tools to the side, standing in the middle of the room feeling helpless.

“Hello? Lady Eruviel, how –” Bellethiell’s merry greeting stopped short as she saw the mess in the common room. Stepping past the scattered weapons and over the fallen maps and candle stand she poked her head into the bedroom, her golden hair swishing about her troubled face. “What in Arda . . . .”

Eruviel turned to look at her young friend, tears welling in her emerald eyes as she was unable to conceal how miserable she felt. “I-I can’t get it,” she managed.

Giving her a long, look, Belle nodded once. Not speaking a word she took up the tools and fought with the bolts, having no better luck at loosening them. The two Eldar stood side-by-side, hands on their hips, staring at the bed.

“Do you have an axe?”

“Yup.”

“Where at?”

“Downstairs to the left.”

Eruviel didn’t move till she hear Belle coming back up from the cellar. Stepping inside the frame, she positioned herself in the middle of the open rectangle.

“Should you break it or I?”

“You break it. I’ll hold it.”

Belle nodded and moved to the first corner of the bed, axe gripped comfortably in her hands. “This is a terrible idea.”

Eruviel lifted her hands up to brace against the wooden canopy roof. “I know. Just do it.”

The four supports broke easily as Bellethiell chopped through one, then another. The top dropped, and though Eruviel caught it the weight sent sharp pangs down her still-healing arm. Gritting her teeth she carried the top out, grateful that Belle let her do it on her own till she came to the door. One on either end they hefted the top of the canopy outside, then returned for the bottom frame, breaking off the post before dragging the rest out to join the growing pile.

Then it was over. Taking a deep breath Eruviel offered Belle a grateful smile as she stepped to go back inside but the young elf maiden snagged her left arm. “Let’s go.”

“What?” she asked looking back at her friend. Seeing the determined look in her eye Eruviel tried to pull away, shaking her head. “I’m fine, Belle, really. ”

No. You can’t pull that with me. Get your bow, and let’s go. We can clean up the mess when we get back.”

Searching her face for a moment Eruviel finally nodded in consent. Snatching up her bow and quiver from inside she shut the door and padded down the steps, drying her tear-stained cheeks. “You’re right. Let’s go.”

 

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Intent to Kill

My brothers would kill me if they knew, Eruviel thought grimly as her gloved hand rested at the strange sword hanging at her hip. Her usual weapons absent, she had retrieved Rainion’s sword from the Barrow Downs after she’s returned from Othrikar with Threz. Bits of moss still clung to the fine details on the crossguard but the metal of the blade still gleamed like it had all those years ago. The rune-master had given her an odd look as she had him bind small runes to either side of the pommel, but she would not take any chances. She was sure that it was the ancient blade that made her feel strange, but the wound on her upper arm did not help. Looking up she nodded, her face pale as she moved to greet the sell-sword that walked up into her yard. “Good evening Joan. I . . . I really appreciate this.”

Joannee removed her helmet, a frown creasing her brow. “What’s wrong?”

Eruviel ran her tongue along the inside of her cheek as she looked down at the sword. How in Arda do I explain this? “A . . . friend of mine, Arathier, has been unfortunate enough to be taken over by a wight. This is all rather . . . strange, I know, but I intend to convince it that I will kill it by killing Rath. I can do it, but I needed to have my back covered and to have him taken to the infirmary after. I can pay you, of course.”

“Well, are we allowed to injure him, or no?” the woman asked as she drew her crossbow.

Eruviel ‘s eyes widened and she quickly shook her head, holding out a hand. “Oh no. I-I do not want him injured more than nessicary. I just need him to not get away. My hope is to bind the wight to this blade.” She pats the weapon at her hip. Since her and Rath had agreed on this solution she had been reading up on anatomy as a refresher. To be honest, she had lucked out, the wight having been too tired from fighting back Rath to hear her through it’s host. She was very good at killing, so she felt confident she could strike and not kill.

Joannee put her helmet back on and raised the visor. “If either your life or mine is at risk, I will not hesitate.” She paused for a moment before adding, “Wait, did you say Arathier?”

The knot that already sat in her gut twisted. You have got to be kidding me. How does she — Her thoughs were interrupted as the Eldar, Bellethiell walked up the path, armoured to the teeth like Joan, her shield strung on her arm. Nodding a bow to her with a small sigh of relief she looked back to Joan. “I did. He and I are . . well we were.” She shook her head as she beckoned Belle to join them. “The relationship can be difficult to explain.”

Bellethiell offered a bow as she stepped over, her eyes darting between the two of them, “I am here for whatever you need my lady.”

“What do you mean?” asked Joan with a raised brow, looking at the new elf, “Another mercenary?”

Eruviel blinked, looking to Belle with a chuckle. “Oh no, she is not competition for you. Joannee, this is Bellethiell, an armorer by trade.”

Joannee slid her visor down. “Good. I would not want someone interfering.” She drew the string back on her bow and loaded a bolt.

Bellethiell stumbled back a bit. She tried a short bow to Joannee before stuttering, “Just — just here to help is all. Eruviel, how can I assist you in this . . . endeavor?”

Eruviel ‘s stern expression cracked a little more and she nodded down the lane. “We will be going to a house in the next neighborhood. Joanne is watching my back. I need you to make sure the wight does not . . . spirit him away before I can get a good shot at him.”

Bellethiell nodded quickly and made her way down the hill, readying her weapons. Watching her move ahead Eruviel almost felt bad at seeing her young friend’s hands shake. Who else could she have asked? Nilla was gone, and Threz was still healing from the battle. She didn’t have the heart to ask Eirikr, and asking Anyatka was simply out of the question.

“Shall we?” Eruviel asked with a nod to Joan. “And no killing him. I’d prefer any injury done to be by me,” she added with a smirk and a jab of her finger.

Joannee answered by aiming the crossbow to make sure it was sighted. She then lowered it.

Steppping forward, Eruviel shoot Joan a look. I mean it. She’d just turned around when Belle’s tremoring voice called out from below. “E-eru-uviel?”

Glancing back to Joan she jogged down to the gate. “What is it, Belle?” She was mere yards away when she saw him, and she skidded to a stop.

Arathier towered over Belle as the young Eldar blocked the path, his eyes black a night. “Move Elf! Only one of your kind will die tonight.”

Eruviel could hear Joan stop behind her, and she knew the woman had her crossbow aimed at Arathier’s chest.

Bellethiell turned over her left shoulder, her eyes glistening with fear. She drew up her left arm and pointed to Arathier.

Eruviel ‘s eyes narrowed at the man as she drew her sword, pointing almost too calmly to Belle with her free hand as she approached. “Block the road, dear friend.” A cold chill went up her sword arm.

Arathier glared at Eruviel and sneered as he took a step towards her. “Elf you will not stop me! This mortal will be mine.”

Joannee coughed a bit as she placed the stock of the crossbow into her shoulder. “Keep talking like that, and we’ll see who stops you.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Eruviel saw Belle take another small step back at her post, drawing her hand to the small blade at her waist. She was in good company. Sliding one foot back, she leveled the ancient blade at him even as an unnatural urge to kill set into her. Is this why Milloth warned me away from this thing? “Then you should have run instead of coming after me, you fool. You have made my job easier. I was serious, what I said the other night,” she says darkly.

Arathier looked around. “What will you do elf, kill your human?” He gave her a evil smirk as he saw the anger flash in her eyes before motioning out to the three of them. “You have not brought these two to kill him. . . you are so weak!”

Joannee walked down the pathway, crossbow still raised. “Look at me. Do you honestly think I will not kill you? I am here to protect her, not you.”

“Aye!” Belle shouted in response, nodding confidently up to Joannee before turning her gaze back to the possessed man. Her hand clasped her blade tighter.

Eruviel could hear the blood rushing in her ears. The wound on her bicep began to throb, and she began to suddenly feel off balance. You have to . . . You have to go now! “You should not underestimate me,” she shouted, furious as she lunged forward, the blade aimed at his abdomen.

Arathier dodged out of the way at the last minute, grabbing her wrist as she sliced into the air where he had been. “Elf, I have been alive for far longer than you could imagine. I cannot be killed.”

“Everyone can be killed,” she spat. With a sharp yank she turned her trapped arm counter-clockwise to break his grip as she kicked at his stomach. Breaking free she danced back a pace, ready again to attack.

Bellethiell strode a step forward in a readied position to attack. Joannee’s breath began to slow as she prepared to take a shot.

Arathier stumbled back, glaring at her. “Would you kill him, Elf?” He snickered wickedly but his body suddenly went rigid, his fists clenching as a bright blue pushed away the black in his eyes. “E-Eru. . . you have to do it,” he managed.

Her eyes misting over at the sight of Arathier fighting back the wight, Eruviel nodded curtly, and she lunged forward again before the wight could regain full control.

Arathier’s eyes widened as the blade pierced him, his body shuddering as his shirt began to soak with blood. He looked at her in the eyes, his own turning from black, to blue, then back again as he slowly looked down at the blade, sputtering for breath.

Eruviel drove the ancient steel into him, her armored hand grasping the blade only a few inches from the tip so as not to run him through. “Now I have you,” she growled as her shoulders tensed under some unseen effort. Somewhere behind her she heard Bellethiell gasp, but she pushed it all out of her mind as she held the sword point into him. Through the blade, she could feel the wight thrashing in panic and she began to draw it out as she had done with nightmares and sickness in the past. It has to work . . . . Curse it all, it will work!

Arathier shuddered as the wight passed through him and began to bind itself to the sword. A shout rose from his throat as it desperately tried to reattach itself to Arathier’s body but could not regain the lost ground.

Almost. Just a little longer, Eruviel told herself as the runes on the sword faintly glowed, sealing the twisted soul to the elven blade. Eruviel’s arms began to shake as her green eyes paled, her hands clinging to the sword as it took on a sickening black aura.

Arathier closed his eyes for a moment as he regained full control of his body. He shuddered as he took a deep breath, looking from the sword to Eruviel. Joannee straightened, lowering the crossbow. She slid the visor for her helmet up, watching what was going on with a confused expression.

Then it was done. Eruviel drug her feet as she stepped back, pulling the sword from him. Her hands wet with hot blood, she held the sword out to the side. Her head spun and the chill that had run up her arm before now filled her. “Take — take him to the infirmary, Joan. If you please,” she rasped.

“That is a far, far distance to travel with a stomach wound. Are you sure?”

Arathier shook his head. “T-Take me home. I h-have everything that is needed to heal t-this.” His eyes slowly began to close.

Eruviel looked up to Arathier, her eyes still pale as she took another step back. A need for more blood trickled into her mind, almost like a small voice. “Call for a healer to see to him. Home remedies will not be enough for that wound.”

Arathier grit his teeth and looked down at the sword before turning his stern gaze on her. “Y-You must put the sword back . . . .”

Joannee took hold of his arm as he began to sway, “Right . . . I have no idea where you live, so you’ll need to stay awake.”

Eruviel ‘s hand gripped the hilt tighter, but after a long pause she nodded. I cannot keep it. I must ki — NO. Orome steel me, I must put it back. Where no one can find it. “I might be a while,” she managed as her mouth went dry. Her head rolled more than turned as she looked back to Belle. “Arwenamin, i-if you’d come with me . . . ?”

Bellethiell nodded, her usually merry face hardened and resolute. “Of course my friend, shall I go get the horses?”

Eruviel nodded, turning slowly to walk down the road. “If you would.”

 

(( RP taken from in-game and edited for tense and detail.))

Dreadward : To The Journey

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“This place is absolutely beautiful!”

The young elf maid’s exclamation snapped Eruviel out of her thoughts. Turning from the window she smiled, watching Bellethiell wander around the common room once — twice — still wide-eyed at the strangely fitting collection of elven, human, and dwarvish furniture. For a moment she almost apologized for the odd collection, wondering if the young elf cared that the floor was not fit with ceramic floral patterns, framed with sheer drapes, and outfitted with exclusively elven crafted woodwork.

“Thank you,” she said with a soft, proud smile as she walked further into the room. “I admit most of it was here before. I’ve just painted the walls and rearranged and added a few new items.” Arylieth’s first novel, Lothlorien arrows from the trip to Dale, Father’s bow . . . .

Bellethiell glanced over to her, her eyes gleaming from what Eruviel assumed to be overwhelming joy. “This is better than I could have ever imagined!” Her pale blue skirts swished as she spun once, stopping only to clasp her hands in front of her. “I’m so blessed that you asked me to be a part of this kinship.”

I think I might have adopted yet another sibbling, Eruviel thought with a soft chuckle as she walked up the few short steps to the feasting tables. It made her heart just a little lighter. “It is about time this place had some life in it.” Humming thoughtfully she browsed over the selection of wine bottles on a low shelf before choosing one out.

“Where did it all come from?” asked Belle in an almost reverent tone as she followed Eruviel.

“It is from everywhere. Gondor, Rohan, The Lonely Mountain, among other places.” Pouring two glasses of the rich, crimson liquid she handed one glass to Belle. “The Dreadward traveled through most of the realms in Eriador, hunting evil like blood-hounds.”

Sipping her wine, Belle’s eyes wandered around the room with a thoughtful air. “How long has the kinship existed? How . . . how did it begin?”

“Oh . . . at least twelve years. I am not sure exactly how long it existed before me. The Dreadward were all eager young men — and dwarves — when I joined their ranks. The man, Lord Myrthrost began it. He was the founder, joined by the dwarf Rhunki, Gondorian Captain Adrovorn, my brother Milloth, and a number of others. He was a good leader,” Eruviel ended quietly, the trophies and tokens bringing back one memory after another.

Bellethiell paused, lowering her glass. “Are any of them still in the kin?”

Eruviel glanced down at her cup, a shadow falling over her emerald eyes. “Adrovorn and Milloth perished in the south. As far as I know the rest perished with them.” She took a sip of her wine and chuckled softly, adding, “Though, I thought I had seen Myrthrost’s ghost the other day.”

“I-I’m sorry, Eru,” Belle sighed. “How long were you with them?”

“No need to apologize, Belle.” Eruviel then twisted her mouth to one side in thought. “I joined them about twelve years ago. We traveled and fought together for eight years before they went south to Gondor.”

“I am sure they were all well fought men,” Belle muttered softly. The shadow over her face faded, and Eruviel could not help but smirk, certain that her young friend was envisioning herself fighting with the long-departed troop.

“They were,” Eruviel nodded firmly, her smile warming. “You would have like them. Though serious with matters of battle and death, they were a merry troop. Some of the most fierceom and loyal men I ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

Bellethiell paused for a few seconds before finally allowing herself a small smile, “I’ve known few men like that, but the two I knew, well . . . I hope for many more companions like them.”

Eruviel arched a brow curiously at her. “Who were they, if I may ask?”

Bellethiell’s smile warmed. “They were friends of my father’s, well fought men, who taught me much in my days as a small child. Lord Allier and Soromith the metalsmith. They were like family to me before they too perished under the blade of the orcs. I was still very young and have never met any men like them since.”

Then I have some introducing to do. “You are fortunate to have had such noble men as your teachers.”

“True men of kindness and compassion they were.” Bellethiell’s eyes grew distant, gazing out a side window as she clutched her goblet to her chest. “Soromith taught me almost everything I know.”

Eruviel touched her elbow after a moment, bringing the young elf back to the present with an understanding smile. “It is rare to find truly honorable men, but amidst the scoundrels, you may see there are more good men than our race takes into account.” Her thoughts wandered to Threz and his brood of mercenaries, the hunter from the Mark she had met up in the wilds of Nen Harn, and Cwen who had left for Gondor just days earlier with a few others. No daydreaming of far-away places, she told herself. You are on holiday from the fight. You have people to care for; people to find . . . .

Bellethiell laughed brightly, gesturing out with an up-turned palm. “It is why I moved to Bree. I had heard that through the weeds of all the questionable men, there were several with true goodness here. I have many acquaintances but I’ve yet to find a friend, at least, until I found you.” The elf maid’s smile stretched from one ear to the other. “In such times of trouble I am glad to have found a kinship such as this.”

Eruviel could not help but give a merry laugh, raising her glass. “Kinship’s are well and good, but they are a framework, not the heart nor foundation. I am glad to have found a friend.”

“To the framework and the journey,” Bellethiell toasted, her eyes squinting happily as she raised her goblet.

Eruviel’s eyes twinkled from a genuine smile as she clinked her glass against Belle’s. “To the heart, and the road.”

 

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

 

Similar Paths

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The Pony had been more busy this week than the last month combined. Eruviel leaned against the barrels in the corner by the bar, observing the other customers as she pretended to mind her own business. She had come with the hopes of finding Anya. As she exchanged nods across the room with Threz she wondered where her oselle had gone off to. She’s most likely with Morty . . . . Eruviel let out a sigh and took a sip of her cider.

Threz stood with two — no, now three other men whom she presumed were a part of his guild. She could not help but chuckle at seeing the way the mercenary carried himself as he talked business. A short ways behind him stood the Justice, Arion. He stood like a massive Gondorian pillar, arms crossed over his broad chest as he endured the questions of a younger man. Another table away the healer Laerlin sat slumped, pushing her food idly across her half-empty plate. Still further back two elf lords occupied a shadowed corner, quietly discussing their dislike for dwarves.

Eruviel’s attention had just moved on when the front door of the Pony swung open. The young elf maiden she had met a week prior jogged in, clad head to toe in in gleaming heavy armour. A brilliant smile lit her face when she saw Eruviel and she practically pranced across the room to stand beside her, the elves chain mail ringing with every step.

I cant remember ever being that enthusiastic. “Mae govannen, Bellethiell,” said Eruviel, doing her best to keep back a snicker. “You look like you are ready for a fight.”

The elves golden locks bounced as she nodded her head. “Suilad! And I am!” she chimed as she set her small shield down. Her eyes grew wide all of a sudden and she held up a hand. “Oh! Forgive me. Don’t go anywhere!” And with that she ran through the room to a vendor in the back. Half of the customers gave her queer looks and the others ignored her, but Eruviel just leaned back once more, hiding her chuckle behind the rim of her mug.

The elf maid returned quickly enough, this time walking, a happy smile lighting her face. “Shall we sit somewhere and talk?”

Eruviel nodded and set her empty mug on the bar. “What do you drink?”

Bellethiell licked her lips, taking a moment to consider her options. “I will have a hard cider please. Thank you for the offer.

Eruviel ‘s mouth twitched with a smile and she nodded to the innkeeper. “Make that two, Barliman.” Taking the mugs she handed one over to Belle. “How have you been since we last spoke?” she asked, moving to look for a place to sit. She had thought of her several times. Their conversation had intrigued her, to say the least and she half expected for Belle to have sought her out sooner.

“I have been well, thank you!” Belle followed her to an open table and sat down. Taking a drink she brought her head up in a quick motion. “Do you like hunting?”

Eruviel blinked, surprised by the elf’s frankness. Pausing mid-drink a merry laugh shook her. “Hunting is my profession, and some what of a passion.”

Bellethiell turned a bright red with embarrassment. “I’m so sorry,” she muttered. “In our last conversation I never asked what it was you did.” Belle then put her head down, almost as if she feared that she’d offended Eruviel.

Eruviel ‘s laughter continued at seeing her friend flush. It was a rich laugh. A healing laugh. “No need to look so ashamed, arwenamin. I did not ask you either.” She raised her mug in a slight toast. “Having said that, what is it that you do?”

“I am an armorer,” Belle replied excitedly. “I realized that when you have to fight, you should know how to equip yourself properly. True lady’s work.” She chuckled, shaking her head. “So many have doubted my skill simply because of my gender.”

Eruviel noded slowly, offering an understanding smile. “The concept of the ‘female warrior’ is still relatively new. Though wh–” she never finished, and even the words on her tongue vanished when she was interrupted.

Bellethiell did not seem to hear her, but leaned forward, a near-pleading look on her face. “Since hunting is your profession, could you teach me?”

“I could, but are you sure you want me as a teacher? You have not seen me on a hunt or in a fight. Surely you know other talented hunters, having lived here longer than I. There are scores of fighters flocking around Bree these days.”

Bellethiell smiled. “I have heard stories, and I trust my contacts here. They were quite insistent that we meet. I would love to learn whatever you are willing to teach.” The look on Bellethiel’s face remained hopeful.

Eruviel arched a brow at the elf maid, her eyes quickly glancing around the room. “And what have you heard about me?” she asked, leaning forward to rest her elbows on the table.

The elf maid seemed pleased by the question. “They told me we had similar paths. Though I knew you were not an armourer, they hinted of a profession similar to mine. A lady who can fight. One does not simply find that everyday. They said you had much experience in life. Experience intrigues me.”

Eruviel ‘s shoulders relaxed at the lack of specifics. “No, one does not,” she said more quietly, her face sobering some as she studied the young elf. She wondered what was in her past that made them similar. Much of her comings and goings was not public knowledge, but what was . . . “I will teach you,” she nods, “but I do have questions for you.”

“Please!” she said with exuberance. “Ask me anything.”

Eruviel snickered at her enthusiasm. “Why do you want to learn to hunt? You can already make armour. I can only assume you know how to use that shield you carry around.”

“I am a good fighter. I am not good at sneaking.” She stopped, the gleam in her eyes faded, and Eruviel saw a moment of . . . was it doubt? “My aim from a distance is less than proficient and maybe, if my fight included a bow . . . I could’ve protected my family better. But — but there is no time like the present to learn.”

Similar paths . . . . “Indeed,” Eruviel nodded.  She considered several other queries, but decided against it. Another time. A better time. “My other question was wondering if you had looked into the guilds and kinships before seeking me out.”

Bellethiell shook her head. “I saw no reason to. I take the idea of kinship very seriously. After loosing those I loved, I never thought I would be a part of something like that again. And then you came along.”

Eruviel did her best to hold back a small smile, though it was rather sympathetic. “I understand, my friend. I am the last of my kinship. Though the Dreadward are long gone, I do not see why we cannot give the name new meaning.” Two elf maids, when Mirthrost and Adrovorn had been loathe to let in one.

Bellethiell looked around her, glancing at the minstrel, the patrons, then down at her empty glass of cider. “I fear I have professed too heavy a burden on you. Let us stay light. Let us be merry. Let us hunt!” She pounded her fist on the table with her empty goblet, and wiped her mouth with her sleeve, bearing a brilliant smile.

Eruviel pushed her mug aside. And that answers my third question. “My life is nothing but burdens, and I gladly bear them.” As she rose to her feet she felt a twist of excitement at the thought of a hunt. She could bring some of her kill to Abbi and Anya. Abbi never complained of her cooking and fresh game might do him good. How long had it been since she’d run barefoot through the wilds and hunted for the enjoyment of it? She could not recall. Nor could she recall the last time she had a good run in a thunderstorm. Looking up at Bellethiel she saw the same anticipation she felt on the elf maids face. Like a mother picking a child up by his collar, Eruviel moved her fears, worries, and grief aside. She was tired of her soul drowning in sorrow and loss. She was tired of not enjoying the little things in life. She wanted to dance and laugh and fight without the fear that had burrowed into her heart. Giving Belle a smile and confident nod she fixed her bow across her back. “If you are ready, let us be off.”

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