Bree

Lotus: Flowers

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Jade woke as the mattress shifted. Her eyes did not open to let in the early morning light, but she smiled. Rolling over into the warmth of the sheets where Drew had lain, she curled up with his pillow. Every morning she woke with the briefest of fear that she was on a cot in a camp with petty sorcerers circling like vultures, or in a fat stranger’s bed just because of the generous coin, or back at the House behind locked doors beneath a pile of warm bodies of people who could have cared less if she were dead. Every morning she woke here, and she kissed Drew as he kissed her, and it was perfect. Then the kitten, who had waited for Mister Harlowe to head out for the fields, hopped onto the bed and stretched out along Jade’s stomach.

She woke an hour or two… most likely two later. Malt stretched out his little paws, head resting between her breasts as he considered Jade through sleepy eyes. She petted and scratched him, then shifted the kitten off of her so she could slip out of bed. Jade dressed, no matter how reluctantly (for it would not do for any of Drew’s field hands to see her in such a state), and raced Malt downstairs.

This was the part of the day that keenly reminded her that she was a housewife. Lists were made, plants were watered, and the house was cleaned. But she always kept it clean. Jade had scrubbed the rooms top to bottom after moving in, and now she made small changes. Not that Drew probably cared, but she made them gradually to acclimate him, and asked with the bigger ones… she really did want to have that rug replaced. Something that she picked. Something that helped make it more their place than his parent’s.

Jade had just discarded a cook book in favor of making something simple… like another type of sandwich, when she heard the dogs tumbling about the porch. Sighing, she buttoned up the front of her shirt and adjusted the sash of a belt around her waist before stepping outside.”

“Listen here, you two –” She stopped. Jacomys and Jamettus froze to stare all too innocently at her. Covered in dirt, the flowering vine from her new little garden hung between them, the object of her play. A flicker of panic ran through her. Running from the porch Jade rounded the house.

A hand pressed to her stomach, Jade took in the sight of the ruined garden. The flanking flowering vines had been torn down, and the little gardenia had been ripped up and gnawed to bits. Jacomys and Jamettus had followed her, and now sat, watching curiously as Jade slowly fixed the bit of fence Drew had erected. She cast them a burning look, and both of the hounds whined a little, ducking their heads as they laid down.

Setting the gardenia to the side she searched it’s hole, her bare hands sifting… then clawing the soft earth aside. It had to be there. If they had disturbed it or moved it… gods, if the hounds had drug it out… then she found it, and gasped a sigh of relief. The rock was still there, the stone’s charge remaining undisturbed and hidden beneath it’s weight.

She sat there for a moment, staring at the dirt that had stolen in up under her nails. She felt sick. She wanted to cry. Every day just before noon it struck her. It still ached and hurt a little, but then anger and frustration temporarily burned the memory away like the fire that had consumed the old sheets. It wouldn’t do her, or anyone else any good. There would be no tears. No confessions for something that probably wasn’t even her fault. She would just need to find another plant to fill the space. Smoothing the dirt to fill in the hole and head up as confidently as ever, Jade carefully gathered the shredded remains of flowers and went to go change and wash the dirt from her hands.

Lotus: Things That Glow

Lost in thought, Inaris climbed the steps to the archives with three books in her hands. The first two were scandalous volumes that had fallen short of expectations, and the third was an introductory to knitting (which, while a valiant attempt, had ended in utter failure).

Not watching where she was going she stumbled up the last step that, to her surprise, did not exist, and sniffed indignantly at her clumsiness. Returning the books to the main desk she turned to look around when she caught sight of Dorsett. Completely oblivious to the rest of the room, the man was engrossed in writing down notes and looking at a small stone beside him that emitted a faint light.

Sauntering over she stopped behind the man and peered around him at his work. “Hey there, you. What ya doin‘?”

Dorsett jumped and looked first to the stone, as if it might have done something between then and the last time he looked, and then glanced back at Jade. “Oh– Jade, hello,” he murmured, offering her a weak smile. “Just… just copying a book, you know how it is.” He glanced to the stone. “What are you doing here?”

Inaris’s head listed dramatically to one side as she eyed him. “Returning books and hopin’ to bump into you. What’s that?” she asked, motioning to the stone.

Dorsett looked back at the stone. “Oh, that is… that is…” He stopped, and took a deep breath. “That is a stone which is magically tied to a ring Atanamir wears. It– well, when he wears the ring, the stone is supposed to shine a bright pink. This…” He gestured to the dull white color, “…This means he is not wearing it. And he never takes it off.”

Inaris leaned a little as she peered at the stone. “Does the ring give off any light? Perhaps he’s… somewhere where it might give him away, or he has it hidden to be kept safe…” she offered slowly, hoping herself that it was just that.

Dorsett shook his head. “No, no. It is just black, and it does not… glow, or anything. He always keeps it on so I know he is safe. This is… this is not good.”

Her expression sobered a bit. “Maybe… maybe he was robbed by brigands in the night and he’s currently hunting them down to get his stuff back?” She tried hard to sound encouraging.

Dorsett chuckled a little, quietly. “I doubt it. But I appreciate the thought.” He paused. “I know he cannot be cooped up in the house all the time, but every time he goes out, something like this happens….”

Inaris crossed her arms under her chest and moved to lean against the edge of the table. “Do you know where he went off to this time?”

“Angmar,” Dorsett said with a bit of a shrug, as though it were a perfectly reasonable place to vacation. “He was looking for an artifact of some kind. Took Hallem and Oendir with him. He sounded so confident when he left.”

Inaris arched a brow. She had heard mention of the place more than once, and none of it was ever good. “Yeah… bright and sunny spot to go treasure hunting,” she responded dryly. “No wonder you’re wound so tight.” She then nodded to the stone. “How long since it stopped lookin’ pink?”

Dorsett looked at it again. “A… few days. Four days. I wish there were some easier way of making sure he is all right….”

Inaris hummed in agreement, then turns her keen gaze back to him. “And I suppose you are spending all day staring at it, and sleep with it at night just in case?”

“Well… well, yes. I mean to say, what else would I do with it…”

The young woman huffed and shifted her leaning to stick out a hip. “Not wear it out. You won’t be any good when he comes back if you’re anxious and helplessly sleep deprived.”

Dorsett looked a little guilty. “Well… well, no. But if I do not keep an eye on it I will not know if he is okay.”

Inaris narrowed her eyes at Dorsett as she gave him a look. “Would the stone turn a different color if he died or a different person put the ring on?”

Dorsett hesitated. “No. I mean… just if he put it on again, you know…”

Inaris nodded curtly. “Well, then that settles it.” She extended out a hand and leveled her gaze at him. “I’ll babysit your rock tonight.”

Dorsett blinked. “Oh– no– you do not need to. I can keep it.” While unspoken, “Just in case,” hung readily in the air.

She smirked. “I think I do,” she countered stubbornly. “I promised Atanamir that I’d keep an eye on you. Either you can surrender the rock to me for the night, or we can have a sleepover and I’ll stay up with the rock while you get some rest.” She almost preferred the latter option, imagining the man might need to be force-fed tea and sat on to keep from fidgeting and pacing all night.

Dorsett looked torn, but he eventually picked up the rock and handed it over. “I could just keep it in a cabinet,” he mumbled.

Inaris barked a rich laugh. “Uh-huh. I don’t believe you one bit, Dorsett. If you stuck it in a cabinet you’d just stand there with the door open afraid you might have blinked at the wrong time.”

Dorsett sighed. “I use that thing to read at night, you know. Light without a fire.”

Inaris shook her head at him as she cradled the rock in one hand. “I sympathize for you, but a little warm flame won’t hurt you, and the light of a fireplace is more likely to lull you to sleep. Besides, I’m sure Atanamir has other non-lethal glowing things about the place.”

Dorsett couldn’t argue with that, so he finally gave up. “Have you convinced Drewett that Elves exist yet?” he asked quietly, shuffling his papers around aimlessly.

Inaris ‘s mouth curves in an amused smile. “No, not yet. I’m picking my battles with that one, though I can’t decide if elves or dragons would be a harder topic to sway him on.”

“I think… I mean, could you not start by convincing him that Elves are essentially people who look a little differently than we do? Dragons seem like something that could be only a legend, but Elves…” His voice drifted off before quickly adding, “And we have an Elf or two we could introduce him to.”

Inaris hummed thoughtfully. It would at least be entertaining. “Good point. Think either of your Elves are the type to agree to meetin’ him?”

Dorsett cleared his throat. “I feel like, ehm, like Miss Raenarcam might terrify him just a little, so… maybe Miss Eruviel. She might humor us if we ask nicely.”

Inaris arched a brow. “Worth a shot. Would you mind asking her? I admit I’ve never really talked with an Elf before. Not sure how to approach ’em.” Thinking about it, she was sure approaching an orc would be far easier… of course that she had done.

Dorsett blinked. “Well, um. I suppose I could, yes. I sort of just… say hello, and then…” He trails off, like someone wondering if they had been doing things totally wrong up until now. “But, I mean to say, I can ask her. I suppose it is not terribly important that he believe in Elves, since most people will never see one around here.”

Inaris shrugged. “True enough. Maybe I’ll stick to dragons, then and make a game of it.” She almost carried on, suddenly distracted by how absurdly endearing Drewett’s superstitions were, but she cleared her throat and gave her bangs a toss of indifference.

Dorsett smiled faintly, and started cleaning up his things. “I suppose I should go home. I will see you tomorrow to get the stone back, yes?”

Inaris nodded. “You will. Don’t fret so much, really. I promise that if it changes I’ll go to your place straight away. Try and take a breather, though, all right?” she insisted, more sincerely. “Feed the cats and yourself, and try a hot bath or something. It’ll be all right.”

Dorsett tucked his papers into his bag, and attempted a slightly wider smile. “Thank you, Jade. I will… see you later, then.” He paused for a moment, and then slipped out.

Watching him go, Inaris leaned back against the wall as the door clicked shut behind him. She tossed the stone up to catch it a few times before stopping to inspect it. “I know he’s cute when he frets, but this is just cruel,” she muttered as if the stone could hear her. Tucking the stone safely down the front of her dress, Inaris turned to head for the other exit. “Get your act together and get home.”

Lotus: Little Favors

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As agreed upon, Inaris strolled through the Ironmonger’s Gate an hour past noon. Slipping her hands into her pockets she glanced behind her towards the little concealed entrance to the hidden garden. An amused smirk curved up her lips at a thought, and she looked back to the lane ahead of her.

“You’ve got to! C’mon, there is a nice one outside ‘o town,” said a man’s voice from down a side street. Several other male voices echoed in agreement with the first.

“Forget it,” said another, more familiar voice. “I told you, it’s not gonna happ–”

“Oh! Hey, look, she’s one of ’em,” interrupted the first man as Inaris came into view. “Don’t disappoint us, man. Go get ‘er. See if Jeb was tellin’ the truth.”

Inaris walked on as the conversation to her left lowered into a jumble of grumbled protests and peer-pressure. Hardly a handful of seconds passed before a single set of heavy footfalls sounded behind her.

“Excuse me, miss?”

Aware of the dozen or so eyes that watched from behind the far hedge, Inaris turned her head, casting her keen, cerulian gaze back at the man. “Wha — oh, hello, sir.”

The sell-sword rubbed at the back of his neck, glanced over at his friends, then offered Inaris an uncertain smile. “You, uhh — work at The Lady’s Mantle, don’t ya?”

“I do,” she replied, her posture shifting as she spoke. Looking him up and down she set a hand on her hip. “How can I help you?”

Clearing his throat, the man struggled to keep his eyes on her face. “Mind if, ehh . . . we go for a walk?”

Tossing her head in a futile attempt to shift her ice-blond hair out of her eyes, Inaris pivoted smoothly to head down the lane and away from the gaggle of men. “I don’t mind at all.”

Swallowing, the man took in a breath and walked a little taller as he easily matched her pace. At the base of the bronze statue he reached out to touch her arm, slowing to a stop. “We should be out of earshot now,” he said, a smirk painted over his face for the enjoyment of the onlookers. “I appreciate you doing this.”

“Think nothing of it. Consider it a little favor.” She extended a hand out to him and they shook, both of their holds lingering. Turning her head up to him she smiled coyly.

The man chuckled and took a step back as if to observe her. “A favor? Even when I’m paying you for this?”

Inaris angled her head down, peering at him through a veil of bangs. “I’m a business woman, dear Tharnon. You’re just paying me generously for my time.”

Tharnon looked at her for a long moment before approaching half a step. “Shall we go for a long walk, then?”

“You still want them to think you slept with another woman, eh?”

“They have been hounding me for the past two months of travel. I’ve had about as much as I can take,” Tharnon responded, raising a hand to brush up her forearm.

“And what would your lady back home say if she found out?” She stepped closer at his touch and lifted her hands to fix his collar.

Tharnon frowned as he searched her face. “I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

A distant ripple of conversation from their audience drifted over on a slight breeze. Rising on her toes, Inaris hid her face behind his as she whispered, “I’d bed any of your friends, but the only good men I sleep with are single ones. You approach me again and I will assume you don’t mind having me on your conscience.”

Tharnon nodded, and a smile slowly returned to his face. “You know, you’re pretty decent.”

Letting out an indignant huff, Inaris rolled her eyes. “Something new I’m trying. Don’t spread it around.” Placing a lingering kiss on his cheek she let him step back first. “If you’re any good at Fox and Geese, or Tarok stop by the inn and buy me for an hour.”

“After all you just said, you tempt me?” Tharnon responded with a tsk as he bowed politely. “I’m disappointed. Besides, Miss Jade, I could beat you at those games in a fraction of that time.”

Her eyes sparking with amusement as the sell-swords emerged from their hiding spot, Inaris flashed a grin and turned to saunter away. “We will see.”

Smoldering Fire: Kindling

“As you wish . . . .”

in a world there lived a Woman

((Exposition added; all other taken from RP chat logs edited for conventions and tense))

The streets of Bree always seemed to dirty to Eirikr. Tonight, they stank of the late summer evening and the presence of a growing number of Bree’s paltry residents. Each passing day brought more foreigners to the city; while he felt the anonymity of being a part of an increasing minority population, he also felt each Barding meant an increased chance of discovery.

Perhaps it was silly being so paranoid. The chances his father would have recovered from the loss of Sten and so many of his guard so quickly seemed unlikely, but Eirikr never discounted the resourcefulness of the man. He knew that one day, a shadow of Kolrson Tenorbekk would find his way to Bree and there would be a knife at his back.

For now, he merely sought the refuge of a crowded…

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Empty-handed

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The rabbit was the fattest she had seen in months. Turning the spit over the fireplace, Eruviel slowly basted the meat, the excess hissing as it dripped onto the hot coals. The savory smell filled her house and mixed with the sweet summer breeze that floated in from the open windows.

It was quiet now. Quiet and empty. Eruviel refused to admit that it was lonely. Not yet. Arathier was gone. Anya had moved in with Eirikr and Abi, and now Eirikr . . . . Eruviel pulled out a knife and checked the meat, nodding in satisfaction at seeing it done. Fitting her hand into a thick mitt she picked up the meat, impaled by an iron spoke and cooked to a golden brown, and easily slid the still sizzling game off the spoke into a wooden dish. Try as she might, nothing she cooked or cut could silence Eirikr’s voice in her head as her mind replayed the events from the day before.

The waves kissing the shore . . . . I can’t . . . . I pushed her too hard . . . . She’s gone . . . . IT’S HIS FAULT!

Eruviel stabbed the paring knife into the cutting board, the blade piercing through the bottom of the slab and into the table. She gripped — no — clung to the handle as she hung her head, not seeing the fixings neatly diced beneath her gaze. He didn’t listen . . . he wouldn’t. And now he’s gone. He turned his back and left. They all leave. I promised . . . .

Standing straight she frowned as she jerked the knife out in a sharp motion, setting it to the side. Brushing a few stray strands of hair out of her face with a frustrated swipe she surveyed the food she had prepared. Eruviel had gathered herbs in the forest as she had made her way back. Those that would be of no use to Abiorn would be good for cooking. Her smallest saddle bag bulged with fresh berries and she had prepared a colorful salad from the vegetables in her neighbor’s garden. Eruviel had watered the little plot for a week in the woman’s absence and she felt no guilt at the small harvest.

“I’m a fool,” she muttered harshly as she secured the lid on the jar of cold milk. Why would she think that he would listen to her? She hadn’t listened when she had hit a similar low . . . and she was almost to that point again. “Oh, gwador,” she whispered sadly, wrapping the rotisserie rabbit in butcher paper. As much as she wanted to go back out and find the tortured man she knew there was nothing for it. He needed the space, and the quiet. The last thing he needed was a silly elf’s council.

Filling two large baskets with her bounty, Eruviel stepped into her black leather boots and headed out the door. She squinted for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the mid-morning sun. Shifting her hold on the wicker handles she then started down the lane. Eruviel hoped she was early enough to catch whoever it was who planned on making dinner at the Tenorbrook residence. Anya and Abi were expecting her to bring Eirikr home. It was not what she had hoped, but Eruviel refused to show up empty-handed.

Scoundrel

Waving back to Nillariel, Eruviel walked across the common room of the Pony. She had enjoyed the hour chatting with her fellow Eldar about loneliness, life, and love, but a seed of worry had sprung inside of her as the minutes ticked by. He had not shown. Eruviel did not feel entirely surprised since he was still a wanted man, but Arathier’s failure to arrive made her wonder if something had happened.

Bowing to the dwarf minstrel as she passed the front fireplace Eruviel’s progression up the steps was halted by the shadow of a man looming at the entrance to the passageway. So I was not imagining things yesterday, she thought grimly as she ascended the last few steps to pass by the Barding bearing a hollow expression. Lifting the hem of her long skirt to keep from tripping she swallowed her amusement. She wore the same dress he had practically remade for her back after Milloth had perished.

“Good evening, mellon,” she said with a polite nod.

Forthogar moved his eyes to Eruviel as she passed and nodded in the same apologetic fashion he had the night before.

Yesterday, when she passed him on the stoop outside of The Prancing Pony he had refused to speak to her. He had disappeared with out a word for all those months and now would not even give her a “Well met?” Keeping a mask of calm and concern over her face Eruviel stopped a few paces past and turned back. “Not even a ‘hello’, or did you lose your tongue?” she asked in an attempt to sound light-hearted.

Forthogar shifted his eyes towards her again as the corner of his mouth lifted up ever so slightly. He shook his head, softly before giving her that still-familiar wink. For a brief moment there was a slight glimmer to his foggy grey eyes, before they resumed their newly acquired emptiness. She could learn to bear the silence, but it was that void that troubled her.

Eruviel bit her lower lip and nodded curtly, offering him a sad smile. “Very well, then. We shall have to find you parchment and a quill,” she said quietly, the merriment in her own wink failing her. What darkness in Arda has taken hold of you? “Good night, astalder.”

Inclining his head, Forthogar bowed with a low dip to her. The shadow of a smile hung on his lips for a moment longer.

Giving him one final curtsey she swept down the hall and out the back door into the night. I couldn’t even look back, she thought grimly, the memory of his empty eyes burning in her mind. Shaking her head she forced Forth’s silence out, remembering that she had, in some way, been stood up.

Meranor lingered in the overhang, untied from her hitching post, waiting patiently as she looked expectantly up at Eruviel. Unable to keep back a smile, Eruviel swung up into the saddle and let the mare walk forward on her own. Yes, Nilla, they are all scoundrels.

(All dialogue taken from 5/6/14  in-game RP and edited for tense and exposition.)

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.

“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.)