Bree-land

Fool Me Once . . .

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Eruviel grabbed the ruffian’s arm as he bolted to escape and whirled him around, slamming him into the pole. Pulling the man to his feet she bound his hands behind his back. “You should learn not to run. And you should learn to punch a little harder to make it worth your effort,” she said darkly. Running her tongue along the inside of her cheek she shook her head at the criminal. “It’s for your own good, believe me.”

She needed to get this man to the prison, and fast. Anyatka had made her promise to be careful, and she had, telling her young friend not to worry about her. The scrawny man that was her bounty was the easiest catch she’d had in months. A small twinge of guilt stung her for not telling Anya about her detour, but now she half wished she had gone home to Anya and Eirikr. The door to the Comb and Wattle Inn opened and closed behind her and her stomach sank as the footsteps stopped.

“Put that man down! He is wanted for crimes against Bree-land!”

Eruviel looked over her shoulder. “Of course he is. That’s why I’m arresting him!” Pulling the ruffian with her she turned only to freeze in her steps. “You?”

The masked man growled at her, his voice raspy and deep as his fist tightened around the hilt of his drawn dagger. “Yes me. . . I will give you one chance. Put the man down.”

Eruviel unclasped the strap over her dagger. “I will not,” she replied coldly, narrowing her eyes at the man. “He is going to the prison where the Justice will sentence him and either lock him away or execute him.” So much for attempting to avoid him for once, she thought grimly.

Growling at her, the mysterious man pulled out a tiny knife and threw it in a whipping motion. The blade flew past her, sticking in the pillar behind her. “Next time I will not miss.”

Remaining unflinching as the knife whistled past her head, Eruviel let out a short breath. “Maybe I was wrong about you,” she said with a wry smile, pulling the defeated ruffian behind her and letting him fall to the ground. “I do not want to fight you, but I will if you force my hand. I have already turned in two other criminals to the Justice. The brigands did not seem to . . . appreciate my efforts.”

The masked man sighed, his voice thick. “I do not want to hurt you. If . . . if you are to take this man away, let me at least talk to him first.”

Eruviel pursed her lips, studying the masked man with a grim look. “You may talk to him, either with your weapons from a distance, or up close with your weapons left on the bar.”

“If I wanted him dead, he would already be dead!” snapped the man, glaring furiously at her.

Eruviel raised her chin slightly in defiance, her green eyes blazing. “Like the other men you have killed? You came in here with your dagger already drawn, and have given me no cause to trust you.” I need to get my prisoner out of here, she thought frantically.

The masked man sighed. “Take the man then! I will not hurt you . . . .” His voice trailed off, seeming slightly nervous. “The next one is mine,” he spat.

Arching a brow at the man, Eruviel took a step back towards the ruffian still laying on the floor. “So you do not wish to question him?” she quipped, smirking.

The masked man looked up at her, his mouth twitching. “I was going to drive a knife into his skull.”

Eruviel gave him another wry smile as her eyes gleamed dangerously in the fire light. “I thought as much.”

The mysterious man stared at her for the longest time. “Why do you seem to care for the well being of this . . . dog?” he asked, sneering down at the bound man.

Eruviel meet the man’s stare. “I care that he receives his rightful punishment. He is within the confines of the law of town. I do not kill men not aligned with the Eye unless it is warranted, or for self preservation. This dog will most likely wish he were dead by the time they are done with him.”

The man stared her down before approaching, stopping uncomfortably close to her, speaking in his normal tone of voice. “I do not want you to get hurt. I have said this before, stay away from me.”

It took everything within her to remain calm and keep her muscles relaxed, ready. You are too close. I cannot trust you! she fumed. Outwardly, Eruviel ‘s smile softened slightly as she narrowed her eyes at him. “I believe it was you, this time, that interrupted my . . . form of justice. If you wish to not be hindered by a mere elf maiden perhaps you should kill with greater care . . . or not kill in town at all.”

The masked man peered down at her. “I do not think you are just a mere elf maiden judging by the looks of that man. . . .” While he had her attention he drew a small knife again from his back with his left hand, and threw it square into the man’s abdomen. “If he survives you can keep him in your jail, but by the looks of it I might have nicked something vital.”

Eruviel cried out in shock and dropped to the ground next to the man, frantically attempting to stop the bleeding as his spurting blood soaked her gloves. No, no, no, no! Blood and orcs! she cursed as the ruffian’s breathing slowed to a stop. “You could not leave this one man well enough alone?” Her chest heaved with rage as she looked up at the masked man. “I . . . you . . . .” Words failing her, she jumped to her feet and slapped him hard across the face. “No matter what he’s done, he might have had a family; some trapped woman or child depending on him simply staying alive. Did you ever take that into consideration?” she growled, her elvish accent thickening her voice. “I would demand you leave but I’ve already delivered one body to the coroner today. You make a mess, you clean it up,” she spat. Wrenching off her soiled, blood-soaked gloves she threw them against his chest as she stormed past, her eyes hot with moisture.

She stopped a few steps past him, clenching her fists. Careless! her mind screamed at her. You knew you could not trust him, yet you let him distract you for one critical second! Warm arms wrapped around her and she froze as she realized the horrid, mysterious man was in front of her, holding her softly. For the love of the Valar, let me be! She squirmed, pushing her fists against his broad chest to get away from him. How dare he touch me!  she thought miserably, her core aching.

Letting her go, the man walked back to the dead criminal, and knelt, carefully closing the dead man’s eyes. He muttered something under his breath, Eruviel only hearing, “You were there . . . I know it.” Frowning back at the man, her face darkened with a storm of anger and confusion. Glancing regrettably down at her gloves she turned and walked out the door. Her horse stood waiting for her, looking up at her with concern and unease, it’s mouth full of hay.

Stepping up into her saddle the man exited the Inn behind her, hefting the body from his shoulder onto his own horse. Mounting the steed he rode up beside her. “I do not do this because I want too. I do this because I have too,” he said matter-of-factly before spurring his horse into a trot down the south road.

Eruviel opened her mouth to respond but quickly shut it. Wheeling her steed around she urged the mount into a gallop down the west road leading out of Comb. Her horse turned them towards the homesteads on its own and she did not correct it. You cannot break, she told herself. You have too much to do. Brigands had taken the lives of people she cared about before, and yet she had kept a cool head, not letting even the thought of seeking vengeance take her. Milloth, Cade, and how many others? And now . . . now the thought of this dark man loomed over her like a bad dream. Passing through the gates of the Glaston neighborhood she forced herself to sit upright, her eyes cold and void of the emotions that raged within her. Why . . . why does he kill them? Why does he keep saying he has to?

Finally reaching her house, Eruviel quietly dismounted, and removed the horses tack. Going to the well she scrubbed her hands clean of the blood till her skin stung. Silently slipping inside the front door she drew both of the latches to lock the way behind her. A small smile crept across her lips as she saw Eirikr sleeping on his pallet, snoring softly. Peeking her head into Anyatka’s room a small wave of relief washed over her, seeing Anya’s cocooned body softly rise and fall as the woman slept peacefully.

Tip-toeing across the main room she closed her bedroom door behind her. Leaning against the door for a moment she wearily pulled her clothes off, not caring to put them away, and wrapped herself in the blanket from her bed. Sliding to the floor in the far corner of her room Eruviel finally took a deep breath, and cried.

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“I will see you soon, then.”

Eruviel delighted in the relative quiet that the Scholars Stair offered. Having no commissions that day, she decided to relax in the sun. Letting out a deep sigh she sank further back in her seat, sharpening her dagger as she let her mind wander. She had slept very little the past two nights. Even after speaking with the leader of the Bree-town Watch about her encounter her mind had been restless. As much as her mysterious assailant intrigued her, she worried about others being caught in the cross-fire.

Sleep had almost taken her when she was startled back to the present by a sickening thud. “By the Valar,” she mumbled angrily under her breath. Rising to her feet she slung her bow over her shoulder as she made her way to the stone railing. Fifteen feet down laid the body of a man, lifeless in a pool of blood. You fool! she chastised herself as she slammed her dagger back into its sheath with frustration.

It was then that she noticed the man walking slowly away down the wooden walkway. Of all my unlucky weeks, she mused to herself. She did not like to gamble, but her horse was stabled in the directions he walked. Shifting her dagger amidst the folds of her flowing blue skirts she began to walk casually in the same direction. Without seeing his masked face she knew it to be the man from the other night, though he looked taller than she remembered. As they walked down the way with a mere twenty feet separating them, Eruviel thought over what she should do. There was nothing she could do combat wise. She had just gotten the dress mended a month earlier and did not want it ruined for good. She had wanted to speak with him again . . . though she assumed, under the circumstances, her options would be less than favorable.

Descending the southern steps down to the the street the man rounded the corner to walk down the shrubbery-lined way. Looking around for her horse with a frown she shrugged her shoulders and whistled two clear-toned notes. Her horse’s whinny sounded from a block away. Rolling her eyes she turned down the lane the man had vanished down. There is nothing for it, she mused, he already knows you are trailing him. “You are no good, hunting in town,” she muttered under her breath. “I’d rather hunt a man in the woods any day.”

Proceeding with caution not being an option, Eruviel strolled around the corner of bushes and began to head down the road to the West Gate when she sensed him. He snuck up on her much like he had the night before, but this time she was a little more prepared. As the man’s dagger appeared hardly an inch from her throat, Eruviel grasped his wrist with her left hand, having decided against drawing her own blade. She could hardly fit her nimble hands around his wrist and her stomach twisted as she came to the sudden realization of just how much bigger than she he was.

The man’s voice rolled past her ear in a deep whisper “Why do you insist on following me?”

“Why do you keep killing others close enough for me to see the body fall?”

The man laughed quietly at her. “I need someone to know what I am doing. . . I will not stop until they are all dead.”

Eruviel turned her head to glare over her shoulder at him. “And who are these . . . filth that you are ‘taking care of’?”

“Criminals, associates of. . . ,” his growl faltered for a moment, “Brigands.”

Keeping a firm grip on the wrist of his armed hand, Eruviel carefully turned to face the man. “Associates of who, heruamin?”

“None of your business,” he said, the danger in his voice thickening as he stared coldly at her from behind the black mask.

Eruviel ‘s emerald eyes darkened as she looked up at him. “If you were doing this outside of town, in the hills and along the roads I would be killing them with you. But there is a different law in town, and justice is not ours,” she said in a fierce whisper.

The man smiled slowly. “I will see to it the the children of this town are safe. . . along with their family’s. . . even if it costs me my life.” He moved his arm and Eruviel released her hold on his wrist to watch him sheath his long knife.

His comment surprised her, but she simply nodded curtly. “That was my first concern. I would not want to have to fight you over the life of an innocent,” she said, giving him a wry smile.

The man’s face darkened. “You won’t. . .” He stared into her eyes for several moments before adverting him. “I am here to help not hinder,” he said firmly.

Curiosity clawed within her. Eruviel smiled slightly as she took a small step back. “I cannot promise that I will not keep following you if you kill near me again . . . but I cannot say that I do not . . . admire your cause in some way. Though, if we do . . meet again, I would prefer to not have a knife to my throat.” I will need to be more vigilant, she thought. I would rather have his victims behind bars than painting the streets with their blood.

The man nodded. “I do not make promises I cannot keep.” He cracked a smile but his face went dark again. “If the Watch gets in the way. . . I will have no choice but to . . . .” His voice trailed off.

Eruviel meet his eyes again. “You always have a choice, my dark friend,” she replied, her rich, elvish accent seeping into her low, stern voice.

The man meet her eyes. “I have to do this.” Eruviel’s heart beat sped up, from what she could only attribute to being a moment of fear, as he drew closer to whisper this time in a normal tone of voice. “I do not want you to get caught in the middle of this,” he said before again stepping away.

Eruviel let out a musical laugh. “Oh, but it seems I already am, heruamin. You could have let me pass the other night. You could have killed me, but even now it seems I will not die wearing my second-best.” Giving him a thoughtful look she began to turn to walk away.

The man’s facial expression turned as hard a steel aside from a slight glimmer in his eye. “I will . . . see you soon, then.”

Eruviel threw an indecipherable look over her shoulder as she walked towards her horse that stood patiently a few yards away. “That, I do not doubt.”

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(All dialogue comes from in-game RP)

In The Late Watches of the Night

Respectfully,
Eruviel Aranduin

Stifling a yawn, Eruviel folded her letter, including the solo hunting commissions for her friend. She never remained in town this late into the night and felt ill-at-ease. Slipping her message into the mailbox she noted three shadowed figures, one peering out the southern gate, one pacing inconspicuously down the street, and another crouched behind a bush beyond the stable yard.

Turning to head out of town her heart rate began to increase. Could there be another? Before she could set her forwards foot down she heard a whisper of a breath and a soft thud. Turning around she saw the figure that had been hiding beyond the stable yard laying in a dark pool of what could only have been blood. A faint movement caught her eye and she look up in time to see a mask and a dark cloak disappear around the corner into an alley.

There is another, she thought grimly. She had heard rumors of murders happening in the night. Heaving a small sigh of frustration, she tugged her gloves on and melded into the darkness as she began to carefully pursue the shadowed figure.

Ahead of her the silhouette of what could only have been a man hesitated for a moment before continuing down the corridor. Eruviel steped in time with the man, blending easily into the shadows of the buildings. Rounding the bend in the road she froze. He had disappeared. Impressive, she thought, forcing her pulse to steady. The excitement of a challenge mixed with uncertainty, not knowing if the man had continued on or laid in wait for her amongst the ancient stone ruins. She carefully surveyed the square littered with broken pillars and shattered paving stones. As light as a feather, she carefully made her way through the rubble, stopping just in reach of the light of a street lamp.

She smelled the steel and blood. In a flash, as the shadow drew behind her, putting a knife to her throat, she flicked out her dagger, pressing it’s tip against the man’s side. “Following me?” asked a deep voice.

“Only because you warrant the effort,” she responded coldly, tapping her blade against his side to make sure he was aware of it.

The masked man laughed “And what do you plan on doing?”

Eruviel turned her head slowly so he could see the wry smile on her face. “That all depends on your next move, my shadowy friend.”

The man chuckled. “Tough… I like that…” he put his knife away. “No blood shall be spilt tonight…but do not follow me again.”

“I hope the blood you already spilled was worth it, or next time you will not see me coming.” Eruviel stepped away smootly, clicking her dagger back into its sheath.

The man flashed a smile. “The blood is only starting to spill, love… I am going to be “cleaning” the filth from Bree-land… make it a safer place.”

Eruviel ‘s eyes narrowed as she studied the dark-robed figure. “For whom it shall be safer for, I have yet to determine. Be careful that you mind the lines on which you tread.”

“I do not think this is the first time we have met,” said the man, his deep voice growing cold as he laughed quietly to himself.

Eruviel smirked as she stepped back out of the lamp-light. “Nor shall it be the last, I wager. Till we meet again, dark one,” she said with a smile.

The man gave her one last long look before smiling and walking away. “Till next time.”

InBree

(Dialouge taken from RP and altered only slightly to fit the correct tense and add details.)

What Was Found in The Barrow-Downs (part 2)

(side note: the previous post’s tense did not seem to fit right, so I will be changing it. Enjoy!)

Eruviel remembers.

Her bones ached from the cold. Her soft, fair skin had faded into a pallid grey over the past days as she remained where she had first lain on the grassy, mist-ringed hill. Her ears had grown accustomed to the groans and wails of the barrow-wights, and on the rare occasion the screams of some creature meeting it’s untimely end.

Eruviel stared south into the mists, her once vibrant green eyes now faded and hollow. This must be what it is like to fade away, she thought. Even her mind seemed void of emotion. The battle with the wight played over and over in her head. And over again she saw herself thrust the knife into Rainion’s corpse. He is not your brother, she had told herself repeatedly, but it had not been long till her care to say it faded.

“I wonder if this is what it is like to die,” she whispered through parched lips.

A cry echoed from a distant barrow to the south, and Eruviel’s grip on the hilt of Rainion’s sword shifted ever so slightly. Though they passed by in the low places, not once had a wight or hound climbed her hill.

The rising sun crested the furthest barrow, shining a cheery bright yellow that in another time would have woken her with delight for a new day. But now, she wished it had risen red as it seemed often to do. Another cry of a wight rung out, closer this time. Her muscles did not tense. She simply laid there, waiting as she observed the land in the direction of the crys with a dispassionate gaze. The bark of a hound no further than fifty yards away ended abruptly, and an awareness crept back into Eruviel’s eyes. Who could possibly be here? More importantly, why did she suddenly care?

The fog below shifted, twisting as if it were somehow attempting to flee. A figure rose out of the mists, features shadowed by the brilliant light behind him. She knew without a doubt that the newcomer to be of her kin, for he was tall and his step unwavering. The sun gleamed off of his golden hair, and for one crazed moment she thought it to be the High Elf Glorfindel. The figure stopped, his etched leather boots inches from her body. She felt his eyes upon her but had not the strength to meet them.

“Oh, oselle,” flowed the sad, yet deep, musical voice of the elf. He moved to retrieve her discarded weapons, then stooped and lifted her in his strong arms, cradling her against his chest. Then they were moving. The elf lord lept from the small hill, sprinting through the Barrow-Downs at a pace few elves could match. He bounded over rocks, dodging all manner of foes, bearing her swiftly down a southern path into Bree-land where the sun finally warmed her skin. Looking up, only then did she see it was her brother Milloth.

He did not stop till they reached a campsite, a fire already burning in a pit. He laid her down on a pallet of bedding he had previously rolled out, and gently unwrapped her fingers from their grip around their older brother’s sword. She did not want to let go of the ancient weapon. Eruviel had not realized just how much it had numbed her mind, and how much of her desire to wield it came from the blade itself till Milloth had taken it away. He did not speak, his movements swift and graceful as he pulled off her damp overcoat and tucked a wool blanket around her. Finally seating himself next to her he untied her braid, letting out her hair so it could dry faster. Taking a wet cloth he moistened her mouth, dripping the warm water past her lips to slowly hydrate her.

She could feel heat beginning to return, slowly trickling through her veins. Milloth paused for a moment, his sea-blue eyes looking sadly down at her. “Sister, why were you in the Barrows? And how is it that you have Rainion’s blade?”

Eruviel looked up, searching his eyes as her own began to clear. “I saw him, Milloth,” the words caught in her throat. “The dark spirit had stolen his body and –” her voice cut out as tears welled in her eyes. Suddenly fear gripped her. Looking to Milloth his face change into Rainion’s. “No, a’mael toror. Please,” she whimpered, pulling away from Rainion’s face and Milloth’s hands.

The face suddenly changed again, the vision of her brother withering, his eyes growing dark with a hungering evil. A panicked scream rose up from deep within her and Eruviel scrambled to escape, even as the hands took hold of her, pinning her down as she thrashed in vain. Weeping, she screamed Rainion’s name, begging for forgiveness. A firm hand struck her, slapping her across the face. All the fight in her vanished as did the haunting vision, and she collapsed against Milloth’s strong chest, shaking and sobbing quietly.

The next two days Eruviel lay beneath the blankets, trembling as Milloth tended to her, giving her water and feeding her small portions regularly. On the third day her shaking stopped. Her mind had revived, her body having regained some of its former strength. She sat up to eat, devouring the food Milloth set before her, then sat quietly, staring into the fire, unable to look at her brother.

It was afternoon when he knelt beside her. “Can you stand, oselle?” he asked kindly. Eruviel nodded, taking the hand he offered her, but standing of her own accord. Straightening up she raised her head to look at him. His handsome face showed nothing but sternness, but his eyes glimmered a little with pride as she stood before him expectantly. “Good. Take up your bow,” he commanded, giving no explanation. She did as she was bid without question, shouldering her quiver and expertly stringing her bow in one smooth motion.

“I am ready,” she said simply. Where could he be taking her?

Turning, she matched his stride as he set out in a jog. Her heart skipped a beat as his path lead them back towards the Barrow-Downs. She moved with the elegance and grace that she always had, her face set in a calm yet determined look, but her eyes belied her body, filling with panic as the brother and sister rounded the corner into the Downs. Milloth took the lead, cutting down any enemy that thought to pursue them without slowing his stride. Further in they ran, one behind the other till they came to the hill he had found her on.

Milloth pulled a sword from his belt — Rainion’s sword — and stabbed it into the earth. “The blade, while powerful, is dangerous. We should not take it with us.” Eruviel nodded slightly in agreement as her eyes darted around their surroundings. Milloth, looking at the sword for a moment longer, moved to stand beside her, more regal than she ever remembered him as he counted the arrows in her quiver. Taking a handful out, that left her with five. The Elf muttered something under his breath, touching each of the arrows then finally the top of her head.

“Now, oselle,” he said, one strong, lean hand on her shoulder, the other pointing to a lesser wight fifty yards away. “Slay it.”

She turned to look up at him, not caring to disguise the fear that saturated her voice. “But toror, I– I do not think I can.” The terrifying vision of Rainion flashed in her mind. She shook her head in attempt to expel the wicked, grinning face.

“You will,” he said matter-of-factly. From the look her gave she had no other option.

Turning to face the wight he had pointed out she took a tentative step forward, then another. The horrifying face flashed in her mind, more dark and terrible the closer she stepped towards her foe. Raising her bow she aimed for the wight’s head. “Orome, steel me,” she muttered under her breath. She loosed her arrow and it struck the wight in the head, flinging the fiend back, though not killing it. Her arms shaking, she rushed at the being, thrusting her daggers into its neck. She let out a frightened cry as it screamed inches from her face. Then the body collapsed, her hands covered with the perished man’s dust. The vision of Rainion vanished. Her chest heaved as she worked to control her breathing.

“Well done,” Milloth said, still watching from the hill. “No, no oselle,” he said softly as she started back towards him. “You will slay four more. We will not leave until you do.”

Eruviel looked up at him, her face stern. She smiled a little at him, understanding what he meant to do. He was forcing her to face her fear, and he meant to drive it out of her. He even had the foresight to deprive her of ammunition in the event she go too far. Something inside of her clicked. It was a subtle change, but in spite of her uncertainty, she knew it could never be reversed. Giving him a curt nod she turned away, disappearing into the mist as she knocked another arrow. She no longer trembled, her eyes no longer showed fear, and the vision did not reappear as she glided more confidently towards her quarry.

What Was Found in The Barrow-Downs (part 1)

Eruviel in the Barrow-Downs

Eruviel remembers.

The unrelenting sun pours its merciless heat down through the canopy of the Old Forest. Sweat gathers on her brow as Eruviel guides her tired horse through the thick undergrowth. An afternoon ride into Buckland had turned into a week of exploring the Old Forest. For the most part her exploring proved uneventful aside from being shadowed by wolves for three days, and a long conversation with a beautiful, golden-haired woman who called herself the “River-woman’s daughter.” But now the air had begun to change, and her mount more reluctant to press on.

“Calm yourself, Crithta,” she says, patting her mare’s neck. “Why have you grown skidish?” She dismounts, and scratches along the edge of the horses’ mane as she peers ahead of them.

The horse grows silent. After a moment the mare jerks away from Eruviel’s hand and back away.

The elf-maiden frowns, looking from her horse back to the path ahead of them. “Crithta,” she beckons, “tula sinome.” The horse tosses its head in protest. “Tula sinome,” Eruviel commands quietly, pointing to the ground next to her. Her mount snorts unhappily, but steps up beside it’s lady. Patting the reluctant animal once more, Eruviel takes the reigns and begins to press on through the trees.

The humid air begins to thin as does the foliage. She can see grey hills ahead as she nears the edge of the forest. The sun seems less oppressive, and a sour wind cools the sweat on the elf’s face. Cresting the first open hill before them Eruviel sucks in a sharp breath. A chill courses up her spine and a growl rises from Crithta’s throat as the horse lays its ears back. As far as they can see the landscape is covered with grassy, rolling hills and mounds. Mist creeps like a living thing through the low places, and from nearly every mound stone megaliths grasp at the sky like cold fingers pushing up through the earth.

“The Barrows,” Eruviel says with a hushed breath. “Once part of the capital of Cardolan.” She attempts to comfort her frightened mount. “It fell a hundred years before I was born. Uuma dela, Crithta. We will not remain here long.”

The mare huffs in protest, and jerks the reigns out of Eruviel’s hands. She canters half way down the hill back towards the forest before stopping and whinnying after its mistress.

“Ed’ i’ear ar’ elenea!” Eruviel exclaims. Waving the horse away she smiles down to it. “Begone with you, then! Wait for me by the East Road.” The horse nickers, bobbing it’s head in response before it plows back into the trees, oddly confident of it’s path.

The elf maiden shifts the long daggers on either of her hips into a more comfortable position, and pulls an arrow out of her quiver as she carefully makes her way down the hill and further in. Several times she dodges wights as they rise from the ground or pass through the mists. “This is foolish,” she mutters to herself as she slips behind a boulder to avoid a wight that passes by too close for comfort. She rises up into a crouch, about to turn back when, from the corner of her eye she sees a cloak . . . a sword . . . a withered body she recognizes. Her muscles freeze and her limbs refuse to listen to her.

“I– it c–can’t be,” she gasps, her chest heaving. Her mind snaps to and she leaps down the hill, her sprinted steps silent as she disappears into the mist below in pursuit of a wight, begging the Valar that her eyes deceive her. Leaping up out of the swirling fog, Eruviel finds herself standing on a small, unmarked mound. No megaliths, no markers, not even a barrow door rises from the earth.

Lifting her head, Eruviel sees the the wight hovering not fifteen feet before her. Her pulse quickens. The shade’s breathing echoes in her ears, and as it turns slowly to face her Eruviel’s heart stops and rises into her throat. Her face, her body language remains calm and confident, but her mind screams in agony, beating against the cage of her skull with rage.

Despair.

“Rainion?” The name catches as it trickles out from her lips.

Despair.

Amin toror,” her voice wavers as she stands, “Why is it that I see you now, when you perished three hundred years ago?”

Despair.

Eruviel drops her bow, the wight too close for it to be of use. Her serene face grows dark, and her eyes gleam with misery and wrath. “No, you are not my brother Rainion. He now lives across the sea. How dare you desecrate his body.” Her voice steadies, her tone deepening with anger as she slowly unsheathes her daggers.

“Thisss body hasss been very ussseful,” breaths the wight. “When my massster fled the battle the lassst of my brothersss came here. Thisss body laid hewn upon the ground. Did it belong to you?” His raspy voice mocks the elf-maiden.

“Rainion, my brother,” she says as she slides her right foot back behind her, ready. “You tarnish only his memory, fiend of Angmar,” she hisses. He is not your brother! She tells herself. Her arms tremble as the wight begins to approach. Rainion’s sword is in its hand. Ranion’s armour clads its body. Ranion’s now-gaunt, decaying face holds only the eyes of a black spirit. Stop shaking. He is not your brother!

Despair.

With a great cry Eruviel leaps forward to attack the shade before it can raise its weapon. Thrusting her left dagger into it’s chest the wight screams and bats her off of him. She hits the ground hard, but rolls and jumps to her feet, attacking again. Faster! she commands her body, muscles aching with sorrow. What poor fortune has she that she must kill the body of her beloved, deceased brother? She stabs the wight once — twice before he punches her in the face with his cross-guard. Eruviel stumbles back, barely avoiding his swinging blade as the tip grazes her leather breastplate. With one final shout she passes the wight’s swinging sword and thrusts her blade deep into its chest.

The wight screams, struggling in the throes of death. Eruviel pressed herself hard against it, twisting the dagger. The evil spirit attempts to claw at her but it perishes and dissipates before it can touch her. The elf is left standing on the small green hill, panting for breath, a pile of dust, bones and elven armour at her feet.

Her face is cold, and her eyes empty of everything as she drops to her knees. The earth is soft here, and Eruviel has little trouble carving out a hole in the soil just big enough to bury Rainion’s remnants. She can hear the cries and hollow breaths of other wights as they circle their own mounds, but none approach her small hill. Breathing seems pointless except as a habitual action. Her limbs tremble with weakness, and hot tears course down her chilled, pale cheeks. Leaning over she curls up on her side, cradling her brother’s sword, and a bitter, broken wail rises from her parched throat to echo over the Barrow-Downs.