A light mist drifted down from a thinly clouded sky. Though not enough to drench the few citizens that made their way down the side streets of Dol Amroth, it had persisted for several hours and filled the spaces between the stones of the cobbled streets with small puddles. Her little notebook tucked safely under one arm, Feira’s golden hair fell forward over her shoulders, coated with a veil of crystalline droplets.
“Yeah, stop bein’ so damned hard to catch.” The young man with scarred hands leered down at her. “You just tell yer brother. Two weeks or we come collectin’.” There was a wall behind Feira that blocked her retreat, and she turned her head away as he lifted a hand to nudge her chin. Sounding a dry chuckle, the young man turned and walked down the street.
The other man, unfortunately, did not leave. He stared down his crooked nose at her, and Feira wondered what he would do if she attempted to leave. Swallowing, she kept her hands balled into fists in an attempt to keep herself from shaking.
“I apologize for him.”
Feira blinked several times. “W-What?”
The man with the crooked nose shrugged. “‘e’s a bit… enthusiastic about ‘is work. Probly no fun for ya t’ have us keepin’ an eye on ya.”
In what realm would this be fun for her? “Then why do you do it? J-Just leave me alone — Leave us alone.” She hugged her book to her chest as if the letters within would protect her.
“Hey, I don’t have to come along. Be grateful I do or the boys would have collected on your brother’s debt weeks ago.”
Feira shivered, feeling ill at the thought. “It’s not his debt, though. And i-is that supposed to make me feel better?”
The man with the crooked nose frowned, looking somehow guilty. She didn’t believe it. She didn’t believe it for a second. Of all the people in the world she only hated two, and even after all she had done Feira pitied Aunt Raewiel more than anything else. But not him. If anyone could fill her with hate it was the ghost that had her cornered along the side of an empty street.
Walk away. Walk away... Feeling nauseous, Feira started to walk around him, praying that her legs would not give out under her.
“For what it’s worth…”
Feira froze in her tracks, unsure if she was shaking from fear or anger.
“I’d heard she’d died. Didn’t know what happened to you, though. I’m sorry things had t’ happen like they did.”
She was not sure what came over her, but in a flash Feira whirled about and fiercely stabbed the end of the spine of her book against his chest. “Had to? Had to?! It’s worth nothing! Everyone has a choice, and you never had to do what you did!”
The man with the crooked nose let out a startled ooph and stepped back, putting a hand to his chest where she’d struck him. “But you weren’t — What do you mean?”
“What do I mean?! I mean I saw everything!” she cried brokenly, hitting him again. “It’s all your fault! All of it! It’s your fault she died!”
He was staring at her, face twisted with shock, and he stepped back again as the cage over his heart absorbed another blow. “You saw? Shit, girl, that was twelve years ago. Don’t go blamin’ me. She was alive when –”
Feira stabbed him again with her book, harder this time, holding it more confidently than she did her practice sword. Never mind that he was taller and stronger than she. She didn’t care. Tears pooled in her eyes to blind her, and spilled out to pour down her pink cheeks. She could smell the opium on him, and it fueled her fire. “I blame you! Is you leaving her alive like that suppose to be some sick kind of mercy?!”
The man with the crooked nose batted away her next attack and grabbed for her wrists. “I said I was — Calm down, girl!”
“Or what? You’ll finish the job after all this time? What was it you said? I’ll take this one, she’s a cutie?!” Feira choked on a sob and wrenched her arm away only to have it caught again.
Her words hit harder than her fists, and the man winced as he gripped her wrists. “Emeleth, girl, I just wanted t’ warn ya. Is just the way things are –”
From the back of her mind, Hathlafel’s words echoed out, and Feira rammed her knee into the man’s groin with as much force as she could muster. His voice cut off and he doubled over in pain.
“No, it’s not. You’ll get your filthy money, you monster,” she spat, scampering out of his reach. “And don’t you ever lay a finger on me again!” Still blinded by tears, the realization of what she’d done slowly came over her. Feira spun around in the damp and fled, her only beacon the tall roof of the sanctuary that was the library as she left the man with the crooked nose behind.