Dol Amroth

Innocent Heart: Numb

“What are you doing all the way over here?!”

Feira’s golden head snapped up from the thick pages it hovered over. “You’re supposed to speak quietly in a library, Nellie.”

“It’s too quiet… and full of books,” the young woman huffed, pursing her painted lips. “But you’re never on this side of the place! Not as colorful here if you ask me.”

“It’s the law section, Nellie. There are no painted pictures in the pages.” Feira closed the heavy tome before her, and subtly wiped at a damp cheek. She knew what she had set out to do, what she thought had been a good idea. In truth, though, it had been but a fruitless attempt to try and find a way to fix the empty ache in her chest.

“… but oh no! Told them straight up. Really, it can be such a burden, being right all the time.”

Feira blinked her long lashes as she rose from her seat, only just realizing that Nellie had been talking. “Think you’ll go back?”

Nellie tossed her long brown hair over her shoulder. “No way! Got your books? Anyways, I got a date and — Hey, you okay?”

Feira tucked her single book, having nothing to do with ships or sea or sun, beneath one arm. She felt numb, having cried more than she ever thought she would. Her free hand lifted to brush at her slender, unadorned neck, and swallowed the miserable lump she had not felt rise in her throat. “I’m fine, thank you,” she replied, her voice soft and smile weak.

Nellie huffed and led the way out of the building that was probably the least interesting to her in all of the city (aside from maybe the temple). “Know what you need?”

Feira sighed, brushing at her neck again, missing the necklace that had hung there. “No. What do I need, Nellie?” She caught the library door, forging into the daylight after her fellow maid.

“You need to get laid.”

Feira balked at her. Cheeks flushing crimson she lifted her chin and strode quickly ahead. “Nellie –”

Unphased by Feira’s warning tone, Nellie sashayed dramatically down the stone steps. “Really! Gotta do the deed someday. You might like it! And it does wonders f –”

The faint memory of her gold note locket breaking free in the bottom of the Alshier flooded in and a crushing weight of several very different emotions bore down. Spinning on her heel, she stopped abruptly in front of Nellie.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to allude to it. He’s not one of your dozens of trash weekends boyfriends, and never is any form of such a suggestion helpful or appropriate. Do I make myself clear?”

Nellie stared at her in surprise. “I get you…. Sorry. I’ll try and be good about it as long as I can.”

Feira nodded weakly turning to start the walk back to the estate. “… The whole day.”

“A whole day?!” Nellie exclaimed, leaving Feira unsure if she was joking or serious. She looked to her golden-haired friend, studying her tired, red-rimmed eyes. “I’ll behave for two days… Then I’ll make a list of all the single guards for you!”

Feira sighed, shaking her head as the fastidious maid looped an arm with hers. “What am I going to do with you?”
Nellie giggled and very nearly drug Feira along. “Help me spend my pay, of course! I’m not a penny pincher like some people,” she said, giving her a pointed look. “And you need cheering up.”

“Nellie, I don –”

“Nope! No choice! It’s unnatural, you smiling less than me. But that reminds me! So Kelly told El, that Master Hanley to Baelen that the Lady –”

Feira tuned Nellie out as the flood of worthless gossip began. But it did make her smile, and that, for the moment, was probably what she needed most.

Innocent Heart: Bartering

By care of Lady Eruviel Artistuion,

To Master Dorsett of Bree-town, 

Dear Sir,

Greetings! I hope this letter finds you well and in good health. Before anything I would like to beg your forgiveness on the part of my negligence. I had been in Bree-land for a few short days only a couple of months back and it did not occur to me to pay you a cordial visit till after I had departed back south for home. 

The reason for my writing is that, after all you had said about your own collection of book back when we talked in the library, you stuck out in my mind as someone who might have answers for me. My inquiry is a strange one, but I was wondering if you have any literature on mermaids. I am looking for anything concerning habits, diets, and things that attract them. Holding no assumption that you have read anything on the subject I still dearly hope that you have. While I am searching the books within my grasp here you are far more the scholar than I. 

Emeleth bless you and keep you.

Respectfully,

Feira, servant of House Colagar

gondorshore

“Good afternoon, Miss Feira!”

Feira smiled sweetly as she surrendered her letter to the postmaster. “Good afternoon, Master Cenor!”

The elderly man gave a warm chuckle. “Good to see you back! And sendin’ a letter. I shouldn’t be surprised — Ulmo! Who do you know all the way up there?”

“Oh, lots of people,” she reasoned as she pulled her loose hair over one shoulder.

“That’s what you get for travelin’. Meetin’ people. Reckon this one will write you back?” Cenor asked as he stamped the envelope and filed it away in the proper mail bag.

Feira blushed a little as she offered a curtsy, and swept towards the exit of the street-side office with a flutter of her long indigo skirts. “Let us hope so!”

A sea breeze caught her as she flitted out into the street, and she smiled happily, letting it escort her down the busy way (the two of them were going in the same direction). The young woman breathed deeply, savoring the smells of home. It was hardly a block till the sounds of the city fully enveloped her. The great court was filled with vendors, overflowing with sunlight and a generally merry atmosphere. A bubble of emotion swelled in her chest. How she had missed home.

She had changed up everything that week, even if some sad little part of her wondered if it mattered or not. Feira haunted a different corner of the library each day, took different paths to her destinations, and she could not have been more glad of it. Her basket heavy on her arm carried several new books from a shop she had not noticed before, and a little bag of sample muffins from a lovely woman’s bakery she had somehow failed to notice in all of her years in the city. There was also a noosegay the maid had picked for herself from a last second shortcut through a public garden because she had gotten spooked by a shadow, and (hidden beneath it all) what she assumed to be a discarded love note that had been trampled on and abandoned in a puddle. So much adventure while on her errands and there was still plenty of daylight left.

Weaving through the bustling crowd after placing a few orders, she ground to a halt when a stall stacked with old, worn books caught her eye. Feira licked her lips and brushed a few stray golden locks behind one ear before approaching the table.

“G’day, Miss!” called the haggard man standing behind the piles of tomes. “I can see ye’re already interested. What can I help ye find?”

“Good day, sir!” Feira chimed with a winning smile. “I think I have already found it — but… oh, I don’t know,” she murmured, trailing off as she turned her head and leaned a little to read the faded titles.

The man cleared his throat and lifted a work-worn hand to comb through his greying hair. “Got a few histories, some cookbooks and eh… original works if ye’re inta that sorta thing.”

Feira had spotted exactly what she wanted but hardly gave the tomes sandwiched in the middle of a stack another glance as she looked over the rest. “Do you have anything fanciful? Perhaps folklore or sailor stories?”

Studying her bright, amber eyes the man nodded slowly. “I think I have somethin’… Here, how’s this un?” He pulled out a tome the girl was well acquainted with.

Tales of Ulmo’s Bride? Oh, I have read this one before. Thank you, though. The ending is so sad, don’t you think?”

The merchant blinked before quickly nodding. “Sure is. Tragic, that one.” He had clearly never read it. Clearing his throat a bit more loudly than before, he shifted several stacks aside before pulling out one of the two tomes she had spotted. It was the nicest one in the entire collection. “How ’bout “Sun in the West: Forgotten Tales of Gondorian Folklore.“?” he asked, holding it out for her to see.

“Oh, that is very nice,” she admitted with a noncommittal nod of her head. “How much is that one?”

“For ye, missy? One silver.”

Outrageous. “A whole silver for that…?” Feira gave him a dubious frown. “May I inspect it first?”

He gave her a long, suspicious look, but the innocent young woman seemed to be the type that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Relenting, he surrendered the tome over. “Careful with that un. Ain’t gonna find it many places,” he cautioned.

Handling the book like a precious jewel she inspected it from spine to edge. It was clear that she knew how to handle books, and she went so far as to inspect the note of the scribe and the painting of Ithillien that decorated the centerfold. “Hmm… I could not pay a whole silver for this, no,” she replied with a disappointed sigh.

“What is wrong with it, if ye don’ mind me askin’?”

With an air that would make a librarian proud, Feira turned a little so the man could better see. “There is water damage up the bottom of the spine. The outside may look decent, but the stitching is about to crumble away. That alone degrades it’s value. Then there is the scribe’s signature. I have seen this name before and he always signed his name on the upper corner of the opposite page. And you don’t want me to get started on the poor state of the painting. I think I am just better off borrowing the library’s copy.”

It was another test the man failed to pass as he sniffed and offered a lower price. “Seventy copper.”

It took every bit of Feira’s self-control not to grin. She knew for a fact that the library did not have this book on it’s shelves. “Seventy? For this sad excuse of old parchment? I will give you ten.”

The man’s eyes narrowed at her as he accepted the book back. “Fifty.” He clearly just wanted to be rid of it, and it made her wonder just how long the poor tome had been sitting alone on a shelf.

“Ten.”

“Fifty, and no less.”

“I will do no higher than ten.”

“Fourty-five?”

“Then I will offer five?”

Pit, you will! Sixty!”

“Fifteen.”

“Deal!” The word spouted from the man’s lips before he could stop himself and he stared at the sweet young woman in surprise. “Hey, now, ye can’ –“

Feira smiled sagely, and shook her head. “You already agreed to it. Give me that little copy of the “Mariner’s Daughter” and I will give you twenty.”

Grunting, the man seemed none too pleased about being bested. Studying her in a new light, he yanked out the little faded blue dustcover from the stack. “I s’pose ye want ’em wrapped, too.”

Feira, though not unkindly, afforded herself a little triumphant smile. “I would be grateful if you did.

She waited patiently, the wicker handle of her basket held in both hands as she observed the thin merchant wrap the two books in brown paper. “Don’t got any bows ‘n all that shite t’ tie ’em with.”

“Like this is just fine, thank you.” Counting out her coin, Feira pulled a chocolate muffin out of the bag in her basket, and set it down with the copper.

“… Wha’s this?”

Feira tucked the wrapped books into her basket and smiled brightly at the man. “A thank-you. Do enjoy the rest of your day, sir!” Turning at that, Feira left the man at his stall, staring at her with a bewildered expression as her golden head disappeared into the crowd.

Innocent Heart: Hate

Cobblestone - old street in Rome (Italy). A view just after rain.

 

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.

“Anything else?”

“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.

What Might Have Been

(If things had gone differently…)

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“About time you made it back.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

“What is your will?”

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

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

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

Innocent Heart: Ghosts

 

“Faerie, look at me.”

Feira didn’t respond as she scrubbed the already clean counter-top.

Torrin sighed heavily and rubbed at his eyes. “Feira… Feira, please. It’s well past midnight. What in Emeleth’s name is going on?”

She shook her head and took up a towel to dry the lacquered wood.

“… Did someone stop by?”

Feira nodded.

Frowning, Torrin stepped forward in a swift motion, meaning to stop her furious working but froze as she shrunk away from his hand like a frightened animal. “What’s wrong?”

Turning her tear-stained face towards him, she brushed a hand at her flushed cheeks, and her brother could make out the beginnings of shadows under her eyes. “A man stopped by,” she said quietly. “He said that they would come collecting in two months.” Feira looked up at him. “Tell me the truth, Torrin.”

The young man’s chest deflated. “Shit.”

Feira’s small hands balled into fists. “T-That’s and un-understatement,” she muttered, voice breaking up from fear and anger. “What did you do?”

Torrin groaned in frustration. “Our lovely aunt has apparently borrowed money in my name.”

Feira blinked, staring at him with wide eyes.

“I’ve already tried to talk to the lender. They don’t care that it wasn’t really me. It’s in my name, and they want the money repaid. I didn’t –”

“You weren’t going to tell me, were you?” she asked accusingly, interrupting him.

Torrin shook his head.

“How much is owed?”

Her brother hesitated. A minute passed before he drew out a notice from his pocket and handed it over.

Feira’s eyes grew wide as she read the figure, and her hands gripped the paper. “So much?”

Torrin’s face turned pale as he fixed his gaze on his socked feet.

“… Do you know who it was that came by?”

His eyebrows drew together in a dark frown. “He didn’t… Did you recognize him?”

“Some faces are hard to forget.”

“Gods, Faerie… You poor thing. I’m so — I didn’t think. I didn’t think.” Looking pained, he reached for her again, slowly this time. “What one was it?”

She pulled away, this time out of fear of her own reaction than from being touched. But he kept his arm outstretched, and she relented, finally allowing him to pull her into a protective embrace. “The one with the broken nose,” she muttered timorously.

Torrin’s arms around her tightened, and she wondered if it was to hold her tighter, or from anger. “If you see him… any of them again you tell me. They so much as threaten you I’ll –”

“You won’t do either of us any good if you’re thrown in jail or killed,” she muttered, sniffing as moisture welled in her eyes. “We are safe here. We won’t have to worry if they try to cause trouble on the Lord’s property.”

Several minutes passed before Torrin again spoke. “I don’t want you out at night.”

“But –”

NO. You will be on the estate before sunset,” he ordered sternly, gripping her arms and forcing her to look at him. “You tell me if you’re being followed, or even if you think you’re being watched.”He hugged her again. “I’ll… I’ll make this go away, Faerie. I promise. I just need to pay them back and they’ll forget about us.”

Feira wiped her tears on the front of his shirt, breathing in his smell of soap, hay, horses, and mulled cider in attempt to banish the scent of burnt syrup that clung to the inside of her nostrils. “I think… I think he thought I was mother for a minute.”

Torrin sighed, and finally released her. “Promise me you won’t try to help.”

“Tor –”

Promise.”

She swallowed, a knot forming in her throat, and nodded. “I promise.”

Innocent Heart: Guilty

“Hold on! I’m coming. I’m coming,” Feira insisted, pattering down the steps to the main level.

“How long have you been home?” asked Torrin from the kitchen. “You usually have started supper by now.”

Smoothing out her skirts, Feira quickly checked the laces on her corset and pulled her long hair over her shoulders. Just in case. “Sorry! Sorry. You know me. I got distracted reading.”

The man chuckled as he fed several logs to the fire. “You and your –” Torrin stopped as he turned, and stared at her for a second.

“Fei? Are you all right?”

Try not ta look too guilty!

Feira stood a little straighter, silently cursing her cheeks as she felt them flush a shade pinker. “I-I’m fine! Really! Why would you ask?” she inquired as she forced herself to retrieve a pan from a low cupboard.

Her brother watched her, his brows knitting together. “You look flushed. It’s been ages since you’ve been sick. Do you have a fever?”

Swallowing hard, Feira kept her amber eyes locked on her working hands. “It’s nothing to worry about, Torrin. Just… the night air, or something.”

Huffing, he strode across the small cooking space and pressed a hand to her forehead before she could protest. “Oi! You feel too warm! Tell me the truth, Faerie,” insisted Torrin. “When did this start?”

“It’s — I’m fine, honest!” As much truth as possible. You’re a terrible fibber. “Started a little before noon, I think. Went out for a walk and just felt… out of breath.”

Torrin frowned, his features strained with concern, and he kept on feeling her face as if doing so would make the heat go away. “And here I am expecting you to have supper ready after you’ve worked hard all day.”

Feira managed a timid smile. “I-I haven’t done all that much, really. I can still ma –”

“No!” Torrin exclaimed, pulling her into a protective hug. “I’ll make supper tonight. Gods! You are warm. Poor Faerie. You run upstairs and rest.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, giving him a guilty look.

“I insist! Oh, don’t — don’t give me that look. You deserve a rest,” he said with a curt nod. “I’ll bring food up to you when it’s ready.

Giving him an apologetic smile, Feira accepted a kiss on the forehead. “Thanks, Tor. Don’t make anything too fancy, okay?”

He shooed her off and she obeyed, heading back for the stairs. Glancing back she couldn’t help but feel bad as he turned to roll up his sleeves and face the kitchen. “Oh, I’m sure there is a way to make water boil….”

Innocent Heart: Haunting Hours

 

Emerging from a cloud of mist, Feira meandered down the flowering street lined with vendors. It was spring… or possibly summer? That hardly mattered, though. The warm day was accompanied by a cool sea breeze and soft tufts of clouds floated by overhead. Her freshly washed locks glowed in the sunlight, and her light, prancing steps encouraged the thin, flowy layers of her new pale, seafoam green dress to swim about her. Come to think of it, she couldn’t recall exactly how she had gotten the dress that had adorned a mannequin in a shop window for months, but that was just another detail that flittered away as quickly as it came.

Shop owners waved to her as she passed through the crowd. Small talk was made with other maids who had the day off, and all commented on how fetching she looked without her grey apron and what a lovely day it was to see the war finally end. A brand new book with gilded lettering on the cover gave an accomplished weight to the basket hanging from her arm. Cheeses for Lalaith made their way into her basket, followed by the Lady Mredothyn’s favorite fruits and the best flowers in the city for Lady Ciri’s room. Torrin could tease her for spending so frivolously all he wanted, but some days were happy enough that there was nothing wrong with sparing no expense.

Lalaith had written that she’d be back on the morrow. It was all Feira could do to keep from asking for another day off so she could rent a horse to go and meet the young woman on the way. The war was over, and everyone was coming home. Everything was going to be right again. The Lord would be home soon, and the young woman was sure that it would not be long before the estate was overflowing with babies and dinner parties.

Weaving a path through the happy throngs, Feira made her way towards the docks. It surprised her how quickly she got there, for she turned the first corner and the buildings opened up to present a breathtaking, awe inspiring view of the massive harbor. Blue and white sails filled the air. The shouts of sailors and soldiers mingled with hundred of gulls gliding overhead, and the laughter of the citizens who filled every nook and cranny of the walkways.

“’bout time ya got here!” called a familiar voice from behind. Her heart leaping in her chest, Feira spun around.

Her heart stopped.

Taller and fitter than ever from months at sea, Lhainan stood just out of arm’s reach, his captivating gaze fixed over her shoulder.

“A little waiting never hurt you,” responded a young woman’s voice, and Lalaith, dressed in one of her old silk gowns brushed past Feira to take the sailor’s offered arm. No habit in sight, her friend’s glistening blue-black hair tumbled down her back.”You get me anything?” she purred.

“Course I did,” Lhain replied, a coy smile curling his lips as he bend down to whisper into Lalaith’s ear.

What was this? Shocked, words caught in Feira’s throat when a second woman approached. “And what about me?” asked the lithe, olive skinned beauty that stole up to coil around the sailor’s other side.

Eyes gleaming, Lhainan laughed. “I’d never forget about you, beautiful.” Unable to move, Feira watched in horror as he reached out and, with little effort, ripped the gold locket from where it hung around her neck. Draping the arm around the young southern woman he let the delicate heart and chain tumble over the woman’s shoulder to disappear beneath her low neckline. The trio laughed and turned to vanish down the docks, suggestions about a long boat ride getting lost in the haze that filled Feira’s head.

The brilliant sun above her dimmed, though no one seemed to notice. A grey form rose up from where the southern woman, Lhain and Lalaith had disappeared, and as the world closed in around her Aunt Raewiel glared down at Feira with a wicked, triumphant sneer.

This wasn’t real. It wasn’t! Valar… Emeleth… But no, no one could hear her. Nobody would. Trapped and with nowhere to run, the flowers in her basket withered, the fruits shrunk and turned sour, and the pages of her book crumpled into ash. She couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t speak, and the only movement Feira could manage was the trembling that slowly took over her limbs.

Wake up….

Wake up….

Days Have Passed

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(Thought I would clean out the drafts that had sat forgotten for the past year and a half.)

The last gleam of sunlight disappeared over the hills as Eruviel’s eyes fluttered open. For several minutes she stared up at the star-lit sky framed by tree branches and ruined elvish architecture, wishing she could fade back into her sleep-like trance. There would be no true rest till she had all three human back safely in Bree.

Reluctantly rising to her feet she stretched up, observing Eirikr sleeping a few feet away. He slept hard, and a small pang of guilt stung her as she picked up her boots and silently padded away. Best that he gets as much rest as possible, she thought as she nodded in greeting to the few hunters and fighters milling around the camp. She knew his mind was far to the east, and they still had a long way to go.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She never stayed up this late. Till the night she’d gone out two weeks back Feira had always been early to bed and early to rise. But now the night was at it’s coldest, and she leaned against the side of a bench on the look-out, feet dangling over the ledge as she watched the horizon.

Why did she even care to watch? She had never been lonely, but then again she might have always been and never knew it. Don’t waste your time, Torrin had said. Nothing good can come from sailors. Maybe he was right. She didn’t know him really. For all Feira knew he was good at hiding his real nature and had shown up amidst the laundry lines just to mess with her… but did it matter much? She had no idea what she was getting herself into, but there was nothing to do about it now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Having returned cold to her core, Abiorn had not left her side. Long since recovered from the search for the lost hunter, Eruviel sat wrapped in furs, her back against a pillar near one of the fires. Abbi slept leaning on her left arm, and Huor had nested in her lap. Both of them radiated delicious heat that made the bitter hours of tracking through the storm nothing but an unpleasant memory.

Smiling softly to each in turn, the elf turned her attention back to the letter she now knew by heart. The thumb of her free hand traced over the scratched out words as if doing so would make the mark blacking them out disappear. She would never tell, but she allowed herself to hope as the faintest remnants of words brought a warmth to her cheeks that the wolf and her young human brother could not offer. It won’t be long. Help Panja, help Taja, Huor, survive, then home.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel let out a quiet sigh. “People do funny things when they think they are helping others. Sometimes the reasons are good, and sometimes they are not, but we always need someone to come after us. I’m sure Morty knows you will go after him.”

Hallem shook his head. “He wouldn’t want us to.”

“Because he wants to be left to his fate, or because he doesn’t want you to get hurt?”

“Both, probably.”

“Then I am sure he knows you will come for him anyways.”

Hallem looked to her. “Why does that m-matter?”

Eruviel smiled sadly. “Does it not matter to you?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A soft thud of the outer door leading in from the corridor summoned Peldirion out of his thoughts. Sitting up from where he leaned took more effort than it should have, and an exasperated sigh poured out of him as he heard the outer door open and close again.

“Boys,” he said in a tired, no-nonsense tone.

The sound of cautious footsteps stopped. Then, obediently, they slowly turned, and two boys in their late teens entered Peldirion’s dark study. Both saluted quickly, and the shorter of the two nervously stepped forward.

“Y-Yes, Sir?”

Bittersweet: Quiet in a Library

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Godric dipped his head to the man. “My name is Godric, acting Commander of the Wayfarers’ Guild. We believe you may be in danger, and we have come to protect you.”

Eruviel glanced around as Godric began speaking with the portly scholar. Taking note of the walkway opposite of where the man sat, she motioned to Fey that she would make her way over there. Offering the man her most charming and reassuring smile, she turned to silently head down the hall.

A few girls, dressed in the robes of scholars, lingered on the opposite balcony near Eruviel. They peered curiously over to where Cabrion and the others stood.

Wary of onlookers, Eruviel inspected around the opposite corner before approaching the group of girls. “Good evening ladies,” she said with a pleasant tone and smile. “I am sorry if we are disturbing your studying.”

The girls all looked taken aback by Eruviel, but not too much. One shook her head, and smiled. “No, we’re done for the night.”

She could just make out Godric sighing and speaking with the scholar Cabrion. “I was not aware that only nobles were considered good enough targets for assassins.”

If she could hear him at this distance, others closer to the man could as well. Eruviel inclined her head to the small group. “Forgive my friends. It is nothing to be alarmed about, I assure you. They just do not know how to be quiet in a library. But please, do not let me keep you.”

The girl nodded to Eruviel. “Right. Thank you.” They all give her polite nods and smiles before trailing back down one of the halls.

Returning a smile, she turned to continue her watch, but kept an eye on the girls as they went.

Godric’s voice softly echoed out around the high pillars.  “An organization whose only interest is money. Someone paid them to kill you, and so they are going to attempt to do so. I am not going to let you die. You are coming with us whether you like it or not.”

She had never seen oliphants, but she was sure her company was just as loud as one. Walking back into sight of her friends, she made a low tsk. A few of them looked her way, and she signed for them to keep their voices down.

Then she heard it; the soft whisper of a bowstring being drawn. Taking her bow from her back, she dodge out of sight and nocked an arrow. Across on the far left near the grand staircase she could make out a hooded figure hidden behind a bench, aiming his bow at Cabrion. Without hesitating she loosed her arrow at the assassin.

A scream echoed through the hall as a young woman witnessed Eruviel’s arrow stick into the shoulder of the armed, hooded figure. The man stood quickly, and darted down the stairs. Sprinting after him, Eruviel rounded a corner, flew down the steps, and hopped a banister over to the next flight. 

Slowing to a stop by the woman who had screamed, Eruviel quickly looked her over for injury. “Madam, are you unhurt?”

The shaken woman nodded stiffly. “I… Yes,” she choked out. “I-I need to get my students out of here.”

Eruviel offered her an apologetic smile. “I am sorry to have frightened you. Please, get your students out and inform whoever is in charge here. The man who fled is very dangerous.” Giving the woman one last nod and a smile, she took off once more after the wounded man.

It was an easy path to follow. Turning down a long corridor, a gradually increasing blood trail led the way. Whoever the man was had quite a wound. Eruviel hurried down the hall, frowning at the the ground. Don’t be dead. Don’t be dead.

The trail led her to the end of the hall and up a few steps. Holding onto caution, she skipped up the steps and stopped as she caught sight of the man slumped down on the floor against a wall. A dark hood covered his features. Her arrow looked to have embedded deeply into the soft flesh just under his shoulder, and there was quite a lot of blood. From his raspy breaths, she could tell that he was still conscious. Kneeling down by the man, Eruviel pressed one hand by the wound in attempt to stop the bleeding. Her other hand searched him for weapons. “If you’d not been hiding so well, I could have shot you somewhere less important,” she muttered.

The man sputtered something that was half a cough and half a laugh. “It’s… about time… someone saw me.”

Having heard them follow after, Eirikr and Godric slowed to stand behind her. Godric looked to the man on the ground and Eirikr turned to survey the area around them. “Is he the only one you saw?” Godric asked.

Eruviel nodded to Godric, and reached her free hand under the man’s hood to press against his forehead. It hurt. It was always worse on this end, and while not as bad as the last couple times, the pain pouring into her shoulder from the man was, to be put mildly, unpleasant. Moisture filled the corners of her eyes, but Eruviel just inclined her head to the man. “Do you think you could be moved to get you to a healer?”

Godric knelt down by them and awaited the man’s response to Eruviel’s question.

As Eruviel reached beneath the hood, the familiar features of Húnir came into the light. His features seem to ease some with Eruviel’s touch, but he still looked incredibly worn. “How should I know…? I am no healer.”

Godric grumbled lowly. “He has a point.”

Cwendlwyn’s voice could be heard, calling softly from the hall. “Eirik!”

Eruviel nodded, but did not seem too pleased about all of the blood loss. But Cwen was here now. She could do something for him. “Who hired you to kill that man?”

Cwendlwyn quickly came into view of the scene. “Oh, Bema help me….” She waved her hands to clear the way. “Out of the way, out of the way,” she murmured as she stepped forward.

Húnir’s gaze turned towards Cwen and Meluion as they approached. “My owners… You already must have known.”

Godric stood back up and moved away as instructed. Eruviel shifted to the side so as to be out of Cwendlwyn’s way, but still kept her hand on Húnir’s forehead.

“Forget his head! Keep applying pressure to the wound,” ordered Cwen as she began digging through her pack.

Eruviel nodded, and quickly reached over with her already bloodied hand to press against the wound. Unsure, her other hand slowly drew away.

Húnir just grunted. His chin dipped to his chest as he tried to take deep, unsteady breaths.

Cwendlwyn’s normally severe brow softened just a smudge as she cut away the shirt to reveal the wound. “Don’t force it. I’ve fixed worse,” she said before setting to her work.

~ ~ ~ *** ~ ~ ~

Only another hour passed before Eruviel returned to the Colagar Estate with the rest of her guild. Húnir had been carried back by Eirikr and Feygil, and Cwendlwyn was sitting up to tend and keep watch over the unconscious man. Learning that no others were to be sent after Cabrion that night, the Elf slipped away to the confines of her quarters.

It was cool in the room, and a sea breeze wafted in the open windows. Washing the last of the dried blood from her hands, she traded her clothes for a thin summer robe, and sunk down to lean against a wall. She was used to taking the headaches, weariness and stress of her friends, but this was different. Not quite as bad as the lingering emotions that had plagued her after the previous year’s journey, nor the girl by the lake, or even Hallem’s legs, this pain seemed somehow more harsh. Not just because she was not also wounded, so her body did not fight off the pain that faded all too slowly, but because it had been caused by her in the first place.

Pulling the clip out to loosen her braid, she lay down to drink in the cold from the stone floors. It’s about time someone saw me. Some of it was probably the pain talking, but she felt guilty for having wounded him so. He needed a chance to break from the leash that bound him to Neldor and the organization that held him captive. And, unlike so many in this city, she hoped he would see that chance, and take it.

Letting out a sigh, Eruviel shifted on her side and closed her eyes. It would be gone in a few hours, and she would be right as rain. She would check on the others, and Húnir, then probably make her way to the library to see if any help could be offered in return for the mess that was made. Only a few more hours and a whole other day would begin.

((Minor editing has been done for tense and exposition.

A few things were lost between saving in-game chat logs, but I think I remembered it all correctly.

Thank you to Atanamir for GMing, and playing as Húnir and Cabrion!)

Bittersweet: Homesick

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A sweet, sea breeze at her back, Eruviel ascended the long stair leading up from the docks. Each step as light as the last, she did not go so fast as to put those she passed to shame, nor did she go so slow as to make people wonder if she was being patronizing.

By the Valar, she loved the smell of the sea. Before her trip back to Annúngilon two years prior, she could not remember the length of time that has passed without feeling the sand beneath her feet, or wind combing through her hair. With no offence to Gondor, Forlindon’s beaches were her favorite.

But, no matter how refreshing the sea was and how beautiful the city looked, she could not wait to leave. The cool wind was tainted by the oppressive discontent and disunity the city. How people could live in such wealth, untouched by war just miles away, yet be so greedy and ungrateful she could hardly fathom. As much as she wanted to help the people here and help the goodness she saw find strong footholds, by Orome she could not wait to leave.

Stopping at the same fruit vendor she visited every day, Eruviel made small talk with the portly man. He complimented her on her dress, and she complimented him for being observant. A good heartened laugh was shared with the customers lined up behind her, and she felt dozens of pairs of eyes watch her as she glided off.

A ripe mango in her free hand, she slowed to observe the evening crowd ebb and flow up through the market. It made her think of the sea, and the cliff she hadn’t visited for several days. But the days passed more swiftly now, with little time for leisure. There was so much to do, so many people to speak with, and so many mysteries to solve. To be honest, parts of her did enjoy the intrigue, but it wasn’t worth it.

She wanted to get her hands dirty doing honest work. She wanted to hunt, and run as fast and as far a she could through the woods without the fear that one of her company could be trapped by the coils of a corrupt city. She wanted to get covered with mud, and bathe in hidden pools. And how much was it to ask to wear something or not wear something, not because everyone she didn’t know expected it, but because it pleased her to do so? She wanted to fight and kill and protect because it was the right thing to do. No uncountable layers of lies and bribes at every turn. All she wanted to worry about was whether she would meet her quota of deer and boar for the butcher, what silly little fibs the Warbler would print that day, and about the happiness of those she loved.

A soft, weary sigh escaped her, and she looked down to the wooden box under her left arm as her thoughts finally settled. It was worn. The wood needed refinished, and a new handled needed to be made for it. There were obvious signs of neglect upon the case, and inside all of the lining needed to be stripped out and replaced. But it was sturdy, and made to last. Burn it all. Taking a bite of her fruit, she suddenly turned the corner to take the longer route back. The Illumin were on the top of her list at the moment, and there was no better time to start working than the present.