dream

Bittersweet: Haunting Hours

lotromoon

The bonfire in the yard of Ravenhold crackled and sparked, embers dancing up towards the stary sky to beat of the music. It was midnight, but the only magic there came from contagious smiles and contented laughter as the happy din drifted out over the homestead.  There was no special occasion, but in truth did they really need one?

Near the totem Oendir played his fiddle, laughing at Nelia and Solstan. Cwendlwyn sat at his feet, smiling as she accompanied him on her lute. The woman exchanged a meaningful look with her husband as the melody danced and mixed just as well as the half-dozen couples that swung together in the firelight. Everyone was there. Taja danced with a woman in blue, Ansithe, Feygil and Beth huddled close as the latter coerced Fey into a prank, and Abbi sat leaning against Atanamir as he embellished a tale of grand adventure for Dorsett and Sage.

Then there was Anders with his arms around Anya, the two whispering happily. Pheadra and Varidia stood with Cedoric, teasing the young man about something as Cedoric’s friend beside him watched on in amusement. There was Gaelyn and Halvel, Hallem and Lichen, and Mor standing in the midst of the romping Torsten, Eboric, and Atrian. Pharazanu and Zabathôr sat to one side, soaking up the firelight and merriment. Near them stood Kemendin who was shaking his head at some absurd comment that had sprung from a happily drunken Raenarcam, and on the far side Godric sat, Wraith’s head resting on his lap as he oversaw the festivities with what might have been a smile beneath his mighty beard.

Applauding with the rest as the song ended, Eruviel excused herself from a conversation with Rosie as she noticed a form lingering in the shadows beyond the reach of the firelight. She had thought everyone to be there, and on such a merry evening no one should be left out. Eruviel glanced over her shoulder to the happy gathering to mentally check off who might not be in attendance, but stopped in her tracks as she looked back to the shadows and found them empty. How strange.

Shrugging, she turned back to return to the party when cold fingers curled over her shoulder. The shadow loomed up behind her, causing her heart to leap up and catch in her throat.

“Looks like fun,” breathed the voice as a hooded face dipped low to hover by her ear. “There are more of them than I had anticipated.”

Every muscle in her body tensed. Unable to bring herself to turn, she fixed a horrified gaze down on the festive gathering. “You’re dead.”

A chuckle sent dreadful shivers up her spine, the breath in her ear cold. “Am I? Yes… yes, I was? I was! You had to choose to stay, didn’t you? Oh, you could have stayed beyond the sea or gone with him, but you never learn. You had to find new people to fill the void of what you lost.”

“How dare you think they are merely –”

“Merely what?” the voice calmly interrupted, the grip on her shoulder tightening. “Don’t get snippy with me. It won’t be as easy as last time. You sssee, I learn my lessons.”

A light rain began to fall. The fire hissed in protest, and the droplets soaked into her skin, but no one else appeared to notice. Eirikr emerged from Ravenhold, Drewett on his heels and laughing. Clapping the farmer on the back the Dalish man wove around the crowd, lifting one of the goblets in his hands as he made his way over to the Elf.

“What are you doing over there?” Eirikr called with a smile. “Come on! Everyone’s waiting.”

Did he not see him? Eruviel forced a smile and accepted the glass with a grateful nod. “I apologize. It’s — It’s a nice vantage from here.”

Giving her a curious look, the man then chuckled and took her hand to rest it on his forearm. “It is, I suppose, but no sneaking off. Come on back.”

The cold hand slowly released her, and the hooded face retreated back into the shadows beyond the yard as she stepped forward to return with Eirikr. “It is you or them…. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel’s eyes fluttered open. A noon breeze gently rocked her as she lay in her hammock, and Fletch sat on the grass beneath her, whining loudly with concern as he stared up at his Elf.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Eruviel lifted a hand to wipe at her face and was startled to find it wet with rain. Indeed, her dress and hair were soaked with rain water. Sitting up she shivered bodily, glancing about the yard with a frown as her dream quickly faded to a dull memory.

The stress knotted in her gut, making her feel ill. It had been such a good dream, too. Hopping down from the hammock she took a moment to comfort Fletch, assuring him that she was all right before turning to rescue the dripping linens from the line.

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To Dale: Waiting for the Dawn

“Behind you!” a muffled voice cried out. Whirling around, Eruviel narrowly missed the blade that whistled past her head. Her armour weighed her down, and her joints felt sluggish as she struck down the faceless Barding criminal. Who are these men? her mind wondered as she worked to keep herself from panicking.

Eirikr fought the swarm of faceless men who had attacked them as they had passed through the grand, stone city gates of . . . was this Dale? Glancing behind her, Eruviel let out a horrified cry as she saw Eirikr stumble forward with a spear stuck in his back. “Why will my feet not move?” her mind screamed. She had to help him! Anya would never forgive her. . . nor could she forgive herself.

Hardly fifteen feet beyond her reach an older man who could have only been her companions father, Kolrson, emerged from the clouds of dust that surrounded them. Eirikr raised his head, meeting Eruviel’s gaze as he pulled the spear out. Giving her a sad smile he turned away from her outstretched hand to face his patron. A cold hate radiated from the proud merchant as he threw a round sack to the ground at Eirikr’s feet. Long, soft hair tumbled out of the mouth of the sack. A harrowing roar of rage and grief rose out of Eirikr. Lunging forward he plunged the spear into his father’s heart, only to be pierced through by the elderly man’s sword.

All the air seemed to be sucked out of her lungs. “No,” the word brushed past her trembling lips. Her sword felt heavy. Looking down, her eyes glazed over from shock she saw the dead body of one of Kolrson’s brutes hanging from her blade. Releasing the blade she stumbled back, her chest heaving as the silence assaulted her ears. “It was not supposed to be like this,” she whispered miserably.

A soft wind stirred, carrying the dust and haze back out the gate. There was a body slumped against the stone wall. Seeing who it was Eruviel jumped back, tripping as she scrambled to get away. Alagos, the Black Numenorian who had had her captured all those years ago stood skewered by pikes a short distance from her fallen companion.  “By the Valar, what is going on?” she asked in a quiet whimper. Turning again her heart sunk she saw Arathier slumped against a far wall, sitting in a pool of blood, a ruined piece of paper crumpled in his limp hand. She tried to step towards him, to help him as she had before, but then she saw them. Beyond him was Sig, then Anric, Anyatka, Adrovorn, Cwendlwyn, and countless others who she had befriended, loved, and even those who had sheltered her and Eirikr on their journey. The streets were littered with bodies, and all of them were dead.

Glancing down, Eruviel stared at herself in horror. Her armour was gone, and she stood naked in the noon-day sun amidst the carnage. Her body looked deathly pale and her own life blood began to drain from her as every wound she had ever acquired began to reappear on her skin. Each stab, scratch, lash mark, burn, and bruise reemerged on her flesh. A thousand years of pain tore through her still-youthful body and she dropped to her knees, cupped her hands over her face, and wept.

Eruviel jolted awake, gasping for air. The building of healing in Ost Guruth was silent except for the soft breathing of its sleeping occupants. Wiping hot tears from her cheeks she took a moment to find her composure. Carefully climbing down from her bunk she stepped over Eirikr’s sleeping body and tiptoed across the stone floor. Glancing around the dark chamber she quickly stepped into her trousers, pulled off her sleep-shirt, and tugged on the padded shirt she wore under her breastplate. Scooping up her armour, bow and boots she padded barefoot out into the crisp night air. Finding a concealed corner beyond the courtyard she put on the rest of her gear, taking extra care as she cinched each strap and clasped each buckle.

Her moist eyes turned cold as she slung her bow over her back and climbed the battlement to sit watch. Watching the horizon she forced the images from her dream out of her mind as she waited for the dawn to arrive.