dreams

Bittersweet: Get Out

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In a cloud of steam and laughter, the women poured out of Stonebluff. Hair damp and eyes bright with merriment, the soak and good company had brought each soul to overflowing.

“– then he cut his apron strings and ran out of there as fast as he could!” cried Beth, laughing lasciviously at her own joke.

“Umm… Yes, I… I think I get it,” muttered Anyatka, cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she looked to Eruviel for help.

Eruviel fought back a playful smirk as both women looked to her. She paused, handing off her basket of food to Feygil who shouted a war cry about beating the men to the feast as male voices drifted out of the Broken Cask. “I think in this rare case your joke would flow better if the baker ‘pounded’ instead of ‘kneaded’.”

Anyatka look utterly mortified, and Beth laughed even louder than before as she skipped ahead to share her joke with Ansithe and Varidia. “Do not look so shocked, oselle,” said Eruviel as she linked arms with Anya, her fair cheeks flushed with one too many glasses of wine. The merry band crossed over the Dunwash on their way to Ravenhold, and behind them Rosie could be heard preemptively scolding the menfolk for drinking all of her good ale.

“I just was not expecting that from you,” Anya muttered, a sheepish smile stealing over her features.

“You will find out soon enough. Just spare me the details when you and Ander–”

Eruviel!” Anyatka cried.

Eruviel threw her head back with a merry laugh, and that was when she saw the lone figure standing on the bridge. Was it Eirikr? Or perhaps Cedoric wandering off?

“What is it?” asked Anya, peering around the Elf in attempt to see what had caught her friend’s attention.

Giving the young woman’s arm a squeeze, Eruviel stepped away from the flow of friends heading up the hill. “Nothing. I will be right behind you.”

Arching a brow, Anya shrugged and waved after her. “Don’t take too long!”

Eruviel grinned and, pulling her ribbon-bound braid over her shoulder, headed for the bridge.

“Hey, where are you going?” called another voice from behind. Glancing back she saw Abbi waving at her even as he snagged a bottle from Hallem’s hands. Behind him was… Eirikr? who’s wave to her faltered as he reached to try and snag Abbi, the younger Tenorbekk scampering around Taja. Chuckling, she waved and continued on.

The figure on the bridge shifted, and she could see it better now, the long beard and stern profile.

“Commander?”

Godric turned again in the dark to face her.

“You should come and join us, Sir. We –”

Eruviel’s words were cut short when the towering man slumped forward in the darkness. She rushed up the bridge, and skidded to a halt when the shadows receded enough to reveal the Commander leaning forward, impaled on a long black sword. Breath caught in her lungs as happy laughter echoed down from Ravenhold.

“I should thank them,” came the cool, all too familiar voice. Eruviel’s fists clenched as she slowly remembered, her dream continuing on without her. “That is one less pest to have to account for.”

“You will leave them alone.”

The shadow leaning up against the railing of the bridge watched her, violet-brown eyes unblinking from beneath the dark hood. “Did I ever tell you what it sounded like? The last ragged breath escaping Milloth from the hole in his chest?”

“Get out of my head.”

“Who should I kill first? Or should I curse the lot of them and save myself the effort?” The robed figure stood and began to approach. Bodies began to bob up in the water below them, Ruby Lake turning crimson in the moon light.

A terrible ache tore through her chest. She had promised. She had promised. The Elf looked down again, and to her surprise the horrifying scene changed. As soon as the bodies appeared they suddenly vanished, one by one in soft puffs of smoke.

“It is no use. Why do you fight? Are you not tired of it all? I might steal whatever magic is in the red eye of your friend. I also have more spirits. You remember, don’t you? I could turn them all against you….”

Shadows snaked around Eruviel to trap her, suffocate her… but they collapsed at her feet in piles of flowers. It wasn’t her….

“Did you forget what he told you? You will never be free, not of him, or me, or the curse that follows you.”

“Get out,” she growled through gritted teeth.

Cold laughter wafted around like a chilling breeze, drawing nearer. “No? Maybe I will make myself a bear fur coat. There is something so sensual about fur against the skin…. And maybe I’ll take that little boy and his father, and –”

Godric’s greying body fell away in a glittering shower of limrafn dust, and Eruviel reached out to catch the sword before it could fall. “Get out!”

Whirling around, she sliced off the hand reaching for her and with a shout, before plunged the blade into the bridge. The figure reeled back as the reality of the Eruviel’s dream shifted violently and heaved up to shatter about them. Starlight flickering like fire erupted with a concussive roar from the Elf and sword, and flooded out, filling every crevice of her mind till his laughter and shadows had nothing to hold onto.

– – – – –

With a cry Eruviel shot upright, the steaming water in her tub sloshing about her. Gasping she sagged back in the fragrant bath, hiding her face in her hands.

He was gone. A small, relieved sob escaped her as she curled up into a ball at one end of the basin. One night of rest was all she wanted at that moment. And somehow she knew he was gone. Finally gone. Whatever, or whoever had helped her —

Fletch’s frantic barks sounded from beyond the closed door. The  growing pup whined, scratched,  and barked again as he tried to dig his way past the door and into her. Grabbing her robe, Eruviel stumbled out of the bath, water pooling in her wake. Yanking open the bathroom door, she was nearly knocked over as Fletched barreled into her.

“Hey, hey, calm down boy. It’s all right. I’m all right.”

Whining worriedly, Fletch nuzzled and licked her face as Eruviel knelt down on the floor.

Wrapping her trembling arms around his neck, Eruviel closed her eyes, offering a prayer of thanks when she saw nothing behind her closed lids. “Shhh, boy. It is all right. Everyone will be all right. I promised.”

– – – – –

Yarig! Benrith!

The Uruk and Angmarim guard exchanged unreadable, yet somehow knowing looks as they turned to step into the bedchamber. They did not so much as flinch as a bench flew to shatter against the stone wall beside them, nor blink as a wave of shadow tore what was left of the bed to pieces. Light bent and twisted, and the Lord marched, sword in hand to stand between the guards.

“My lord,” said Benrith, standing at attention.

Long black hair tossed in a crazed twist over his shoulders, piercing eyes drifted from one guard to the other. “Yarig?”

The Uruk stood a bit taller. “My lord.”

The sorcerer was not the tallest of his peers, and his muscled shoulders not the broadest, but the shadows loomed up about him, making him in his anger appear larger than life.  “Bring me your pick of five of the best you can find in the ranks. I mean to double my guard.”

Yarig did not move till his lord motioned for him to. His long strides only carried him to the doorway before a word from the sorcerer halted him.

“My lord?”

The sorcerer put a hand on Benrith’s shoulder, and with one clean swipe, sliced the man’s head off. It hit the stone floor with a sickening thunk and rolled towards the Uruk even as it’s former body decayed and turned to dust. “Take that with you. Have it sent to Aughaire. It would not do for him to be late in reporting back.”

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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….

A Belated Return: Angmar Part Two

This most definitely was not her brightest moment. They had been safe. Daran’s burns were healing, and Arathier and her had stopped in Tinnundir to rest their own wounds when news had reached them that Teryn, Arathier’s childhood friend that Eruviel had met only a week earlier, had been captured. Eruviel glared defiantly up at the Angmarim captain, bracing herself as his foot slammed into her abdomen. She glanced over to Teryn who was chained to the wall next to her through a haze of red, giving him a reassuring nod as he protected his face with his forearms from his own torturers blows.

Looking back she could not see a way around it, but she had been caught sneaking into the dungeon to free the man. While saving Daran she had been stabbed in the side with a dirk while Arathier had taken a bolt to the leg. There was no way she would have let him try to go after Teryn with such a handicap. The fast healing and high pain tolerance helped her out, but it wasn’t enough, and they had trapped her. The ache of dread in her gut did not come only from the Angmarim’s practiced kicks.

Teryn’s ruggedly handsome face had lost it’s color, but he smiled wickedly up at his captor and make a jest at the Angmarim’s expense. He got the reaction he wanted, but the beating only increased. Eruviel laughed numbly at the joke — it really was quite humorous — before the Angmarim slammed his fist across her face. Arathier said he would come, she told herself. If — NO! When she got back to Bree Anya would be sure to have her own lashings readied for her.

Spitting a mouthful of blood to the side an idea came to her. It was a bad one, she knew it, but they had to try something before they were carted away to Carn Dum. She would not go back there. Not again. Not like this. Dodging the second punch, her tormentor flew into a rage as his fist collided with the cold stone behind her. Teryn grinned over at Eruviel, even as his head was slammed against the wall. Spitting blood into the Anmarim’s face only made things worse for him and the twisted man drew out his knife, carving it through the muscle on Teryn’s shoulder. Teryn could no longer hold back a cry of pain.

Eruviel grunted, gritting her teeth as she took another kick to the gut. “Does this thrilling conversation have a purpose,” she asked hoarsely. She knew the beating had a purpose, but the silent, senseless torture grated on her nerves like fingernails on slate.

Teryn’s face darkened as blood trickled down his arm. “Well?!” he shouted as best he could, backing up her question. The Angmarim raised his knife to strike at him again and Eruviel could feel the panic rise. We BOTH have to survive, she told herself. In the blink of an eye Eruviel mustered what strength she had left and pulled herself up with her chains, sweeping her feet out. Tripping her captor, she brought the heels of her boots down with all her might onto the Angmarim’s face at the moment his head cracked against the stone floor.

Teryn watched in horror as his torturer and another from outside the cell rushed at her and pinned her down. Chaining her feet, they then proceeded to both whale on her. Everything began to dim. The excruciating pain filled her body and a harrowing cry clawed it’s way up her throat. Through the gap between her arms she could see that Teryn was being spared, but her relief was short lived when two more Angmarim entered and rushed at the man. She did not know how much longer it lasted, seconds — minutes, but a strange stillness settled over the room even as her body worked to numb the pain.

Blinking out of a bloody haze, Eruviel looked up at Teryn. Two new Angmarim sat next to them, quietly gazing towards the bars of the filthy cell. Teryn did not look as bad as she felt . . . and she hoped he was better off. They exchanged looks, both wondering how many days it would take till they could find a way to escape, if in fact they were not killed first. Then there was an echo of pounding feet making a mad dash down the hall. Teryn’s eyes widened as he looked over and Eruviel shifted her head to follow his gaze.

Arathier stood in the hall, panting for breath as his hands reached back for his knives. His eyes widened and Eruviel’s stomach sank, knowing he only found one. She felt like she would be sick when he did not look at her.

The Angmarim started from their day dreams and quickly moved to hold knives to the prisoner’s throats as Arathier and Teryn exchanged looks. “It’s all right, Arathier,” said Teryn quietly as his captors blade pressed against his throat.

Orome, Eruviel thought miserably, I know that look. Don’t you two make this decision! She ordered her throat to function; raged at her lungs when they struggled to do her bidding. She could not feel it, but her arms struggled against the chains that bound her none-the-less. “No,” she rasped, her voice finally reviving, “NO! Arathier — Teryn, I’ve lived far more than my share! You have hardly begun –” Her words were cut off as the cold bade pressed against her neck drew blood. Hot tears blinded her and she squeezed her eyes shut. Was this not what she was here for? To, if worst came to worst, take someone’s place? In the furthest corners of her mind she wondered if it was what she really wanted. Death. A noble one, a death that meant something, but death just the same.

Then it happened. As Eruviel’s eyes opened Arathier’s blade sailed over her head to sink into her captor’s face. The Angmarim’s knife fell free and she kicked it across the room and under the bars to Arathier even as the blade against Teryn’s neck did it’s work. Arathier’s face twisted in anguish as he dropped to his knees.

“We are not done!” she managed to yell as she fell over, unable to hold herself up. Her words snapped Arathier out of his sorrow long enough to pick up the knife she had kicked him, dropping the last Angmarim as he charged across the cell towards Eruviel. Tears stained the red painted floor beneath her face. Breathing became a chore as she watched Arathier break down the wooden cell door in a rage and crumple down beside Teryn’s now lifeless body.

“You — you have to burn his body,” she managed to rasp as her consciousness began to slip. The closer she drew to the darkness the suddenly more aware she became. She could sense somewhere in the massive citadel above them the presence of wights . . . and of something– no, someone far worse. “They wi-ill take it i-if you d-don’t.”

Arathier’s wide, sorrowful gaze finally turned and he began to move towards her. She felt his hand on her forehead as her lids drew closed. So heavy, she thought numbly. She wanted to apologize . . . to say something, but it escaped her, and she forgot everything else.

 _ _ _ _ _ _

She could feel it, every ounce of pain, every splintered and broken bone. Something else inside of her had broken as well. She could not tell what it was, but it’s shattered presence was beyond repair — a concept she had never been confronted with before, and it terrified her. In the darkness, lit with red flames she opened her eyes and instantly regretted it. A vast wall stretched out before her, hung with the corpses of her friends. This was worse than the dream she had had months earlier. Far worse. Eirikr, and Anyatka; Cwen and Threz hung in a line, followed by Adrovorn, Nillariel, Forthogar, and Rainion. Every face in Bree she respected followed. The Watchers of Bree decorated a row, followed by Wyllawen and her troop of friends, a dozen lines of Rangers, then halflings. A lifetime and more of friends and acquaintances filled the empty spaces as her eyes searched frantically for hope.

A tall, robed figure materialized from the shadows. She knew those eyes, and that wicked smile. Alagos stood before her, his head tilted like a viper waiting to strike. Then a wave of terror assaulted her. The massive, overwhelming presence approached her from behind and a scream of pain and fear was seemingly pulled from her lungs as the sudden sensation of her skin being torn from her body burned through her nerves.

The presence looked down upon her as she continued to scream against her will. Alagos dropped to a knee then prostrated himself before whoever it was that broke past her wall of defenses as if merely opening a garden gate. “My Lord, please receive my offering,” the Black Numenorian spoke, his voice filled with reverence and a foreign tone of humility. The gigantic presence bore down on her, drowning her in it’s rage and wicked pride.

But he couldn’t touch her. Suddenly something outside of her hell shook her. The call of her name, distant and filled with concern. And then she was falling. The hold they had on her slipped and it all faded away along with the wall of horrors and searing pain. 

A cool breeze hit her. The sweet smell of the sea filled her nostrils and Eruviel suddenly realized that her eyes were clenched shut. Trembling, she forced them open and a whole new scene met her empty gaze. She was surrounded by the summer waves of a blue ocean, hovering several feet above the surface. Looking at her arms to see her fair skin whole and gleaming in the warm sunlight she felt where all her scars should have been. They were gone. The skirt of a white dress swirled around her feet as she sped forward through the air, her long hair whipping about her. The beauty and relief that quenched her soul brought fresh tears to her eyes.

In the distance through the blue haze and wisps of clouds a white shore shone on the horizon. Could it really be? Anticipation swelled in her chest even as doubt sat in her mind, it’s arms folded. Should she really be here? Her progression slowed and she alighted on the gleaming sands even as a crystal blue wave of water tumbled over her feet. In spite of the peace that lightened her heart, in a way it was wrong, feeling the warm sand beneath her bare feet. 

Miles away down the beach the silhouette of a massive pillared forum rose from the shore in swirled spires. She felt a pull to walk towards it, but after a moment’s hesitation she turned only to be greeted by the last face she expected.

“It is cruel, really, that I was the one sent to see you,” spoke Adrovorn in his rich, deep voice as he pushed off of the rock he’d been leaning against with a shrug of his broad shoulders. His voice rolled over her like the blue waves that tumbled up the white sand. He walked towards her with his ever-confidant stride and she hugged her arms around herself, fighting the heart-wrenching urge to fly into his embrace. They stood facing each other, hardly a foot apart, a thousand words and wishes silently passing between them.

“Walk with me,” he said quietly, tucking his hands into his pockets. A slight smile curved up the corners of her petal-pink lips at the gesture, realizing she had picked up that little human quirk from him.

They walked side by side down the beach, listening to the other’s footsteps, neither one touching the other. “What are you doing here?” she finally asked.

“You could say I’m in between destinations,” he replied thoughtfully. Looking down at her his dark blue eyes shone sadly. “The question is, what are you doing here?”

Eruviel pursed her lips. “I was killed, I suppose,” she said quietly.

“Yes and no,” Adrovorn said as he chuckled. After another moment he sighed. “You know you have to go back.”

She knew it. That was what felt wrong. As much as she longed to stay she was not quite dead on the other side, and it was not yet her time. Stopping, she looked out to sea for a minute before turning her gaze back to him as he stood a pace in front of her. She had lost the meaning of her purpose amidst the veil of grief since his death. A part of her had withered away when he had not returned, and it had perished in the flames that had consumed the letter informing her of his death in battle. “Forgive me,” she said softly, her brows furrowing. “I let myself despair after you left.”

“I know,” Adrovorn nodded, moving to stand beside her and gaze out over the waters. “You shouldn’t have. You are strong, and I’d rather you live happily in honor of my memory.” The man let out a long sigh. “You were right,” he said slowly, “I should never have left you behind. My regret grew worse with every step I took away from you.”

“You were only trying to protect me, and for the most part, you did,” she said. A bitterness lifted from her as she spoke those words, and she wondered if it had not been Milloth’s idea for Adrovorn to meet her here. “It will take a long time still. A fear has sunk it’s claws into me.”

Adrovorn bobbed his head. “I take the blame for that as well, but you are going to have to work past it.” A playful smile then lit his face. “I see you have found someone to fill the gap I left behind.”

Eruviel could not keep back the soft, merry laugh that trickled past her lips. “No, he has not filled the gap. As intrusive as he is, I have learned that I can feel such warmth again, though not for him, as he so ardently hopes.”

“Good,” Adrovorn said with a satisfied nod. “Be prepared, my love. He is going to cause you a lot more heart ache in the months to come.”

“I have feared that . . . Now I am reaping the consequences of loosing myself, I suppose,” she said with a sigh.

Adrovorn looked down at her with a warm smile. “He’s not good enough for you. At least you dodged his advances.” His eyes searched hers, and like it was before, she sensed that he could see right through her. “You are fond of him, aren’t you?”

Eruviel hesitated, then nodded, understanding that he spoke of another. “I think I am. It is . . . unexpected . . . refreshing,” she said quietly. Softly biting the corner of her mouth, she raised a hand to put it on his arm, but stopped. “Might I . . . .”

He shook his head with a sad smile. “I could touch you, but we both know that if you touch me you won’t go back.”

Her mouth quirked with a smirk as she nodded, lowering her hand. “It is tempting, believe me, but the others might not forgive me. And if I really am able to return, then I suspect they are waiting with waning hope that I will wake up.”

Both of their eyes turned upwards as the light breeze picked up, tugging her towards the water. Swallowing hard, Adrovorn suddenly stepped closer and cupped her face with both of his hands, planting a lingering, tender kiss upon her lips. “I should have given that to you before I rode away that day,” he said quietly. Hovering, he then pressed a second kiss on her forehead before stepping back. “Things will get better. Just don’t keep trying to do it all on your own, if you can manage it.” Giving her a bittersweet smile, Adrovorn bowed his head, tucked his hands into his pockets, and turned to walk down the white shore as the sweet ocean wind lifted her up and carried her away.

Ruby Beach, WA

(first half edited from chat logs for tense and exposition))