Eboric

Bittersweet: Warm Autumn Days

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Song

“What did you find there?” Eruviel asked, leaning over in the fresh stream as Eboric sloshed over to her.

“Rocks!” he declared proudly, his wet little hands full of smoothed, colorful stones.

Chickadees fluttered above them in the thick, rusty gold leaves that trembled in the warm autumn breeze and shimmered in pale sunlight. The spring water that bubbled over its old path wove around behind the fair sized, cool spring pool surrounded by ruined, mossy stonework. Between several arches the Elf had hung the glowing stones she had scavenged from the road in Durrow, and they shimmered, casting dull blue and purple stars about the secret hall hidden in the woods. It had not taken too much convincing to keep Eboric from the deep, sunken room filled with crystal clear water. All it required was the hint of adventure, the fast pace of the stream that swirled around the shallow pools where they waded and splashed, and, of course, the crafting of a most excellent leaf boat.

“Throw in!?” Eboric asked, pointing to the ruins behind them, and tugging on the light blue cloth of her swim dress.

“Of course!” she chimed, brushing away little pebbles sticking to her shoulder that had been gifted by little hands. “But remember? What do we do at the big pool?”

Eboric dumped his wealth of shiny rocks into her open palms and hiked up his swim shorts that were on their last adventure before winter and a growth spurt. “Sit,” he said with a serious bob of his head. Wading out of the stream he reached to pull her after him.

With a soft huff of breath as she juggled holding his rocks, being led by the wrist, and not stumbling over the thin, dripping strips of her skirt, Eruviel rose to her feet and padded over the mossy ground with the little boy. Reaching the wide edge of the pool the two sat down side by side, their feet dangling over the ledge and into the crystalline water.

“Here we are,” she murmured, piling the stones between them. “Now don’t tell Raenarcam that — Where are you going?”

Eboric pushed himself to his feet and scampered away over the soft floor. He did not go far, however, and stopped at the broken foot of an ancient pillar to retrieve his top and the prize leaf boat that had been saved (with no small amount of effort on her part). Padding back, Eboric sat down and snuggled up beside her.

“Throw!”

Eruviel paused, arching a brow down at him. “Throw…?”

“Please!” Eboric added, beaming up at her and doing his best not to look too sleepy.

“Thank you.” One arm around the boy just in case he got excited and scooted too close to the edge, she tossed a smooth red stone out to drop into the pool with an echoing plunk.

Eboric giggled and stifled a yawn. “Again!”

“Someone is getting tired,” Eruviel said in a sing-song voice.

Nooo,” Eboric protested as he picked a green stone out of her palm and chucked it into the water with a resounding plop.

Eruviel tossed a blue-grey stone in. Plunk. “Yeeees. We had a long day! We ate cookies, and made a fort….”

“Vorwem!”

“You like riding Voronwen?”

Eboric nodded enthusiastically. “Go fast!”

“A little too fast for even my comfort,” she said with a warm chuckle as she surrendered a red stone to the boy. Plop! it went, sending up a spray of water back onto them and drawing a string of giggles from Eboric. The sound echoed around the small ruins and quickly faded into him rubbing his eyes.

“Do… you want a story?”

Eboric nodded quickly. He loved stories.

“If you want a story you will need to lie down.”

He made a face at that, studying her as if it were some sort of trick.

“Do not give me that look. I will lie down, too. We have just enough time for a little rest before we should head back for supper.”

Pursing his lips, weighing the gravity of such an important decision, Eboric finally nodded. Trusting her to see that he would not fall into the pool, the little boy reached over her lap, and scooted the rest of the stones off the edge to tumble into the clear blue depths of the ancient room. He then took up his fine leaf boat and placed it upon the water.

“Ready?”

Eboric nodded tiredly, and before Eruviel could lean over his head had found its way onto her lap.

“Oh, hold on, little Ric,” she said softly. “Not this close to the water.” Gathering him up, Eruviel scooted back to lean against a green-carpeted stone. Eboric settled on the dry moss, resting his head in her lap and rubbing his face against her leg.

“Thank you for that. Do you want to hear the tale of the forest hunter?”

He shook his head.

“Of the lonely dragon?”

Eboric shook his head again.

“What about the Ocean’s daughter, or the hunter who listened?”

Eboric shook his head once more and tilted his chin to look up at her.

“Goodness, little one. I do not have my story book with me… What about a song?”

Eboric smiled happily up at her and nodded, and Eruviel smiled back. 

“A mountain king?”

He nodded again, and was quickly distracted by specks of light that danced over his hands. A song would have him asleep in no time.

The stream behind them serving as her accompaniment, Eruviel smoothed back Eboric’s hair from his brow as she began to quietly sing. The warm autumn wind blew through the ruined stone as the child and Elf looked out over the secret woodland hall, watching the little gold and green ship scuttle across the water.

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Bittersweet: Sick

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Eruviel remembers…

“Naneth?”

Nostariel looked up from her work, emptying a handful of little paper shavings in the the basket set between her and her daughter. “What is it, dear one?”

Artistuion, now having finally grown, frowned down at the several yards of lacy paper cut-outs displaying uilos. Ada was away on business, and instead of translating the text he had left for her, the young elleth had spent the afternoon carefully ruining a perfectly good blank scroll. Even better, her mother had sat with her and helped. “The humans we saw….”

Nostariel gave her a curious look. “The ones we saw in Ered Luin? Artis, that was months ago.”

“I keep thinking about them,” she admitted quietly, carving out a trail of leaves upon the parchment. “They were sick, weren’t they?”

A minute passed before Nostariel nodded. “They are.”

The elleth’s frown deepened, and she looked up to search her mother’s sliver eyes. “They were in pain, naneth. I could see it. Ada wouldn’t let me help them. I tried to, but… why? Why would he not let me?”

Sighing softly, Nostariel reached over the confettied floor between them to cup her daughter’s cheek. “It is not just the remnants of Cardolan, but most of the human world, dear heart. Heal one, and there is not guarantee that he would not get sick again and die.”

“That does not make it right.”

“Death is a part of their world, my little light, as is sickness, but the latter does not always mean the other. And he was right to stop you. You would feel their pain and the suffering that comes with the fires of fever and draining of life, and you have no need to endure such a thing.”

Artis diverted her gaze, looking down at the delicate visage of a flower she had never actually seen. “Yes, naneth. I understand,” she replied quietly. She did not say how her father had been angry. She had never seen him angry, and never imagined it would aimed at her. Or was it at her? In any case, the elleth was sure that he had never intended his reaction to convict her, making her want to help the mortals that much more.

Nostariel smiled softly, a warm smile that reached into her youngest and lifted away the burden of doubt. “Do not let it weigh on your heart,” she assured her, kissing Artis’ forehead. “They will survive.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was not the path into the Misty Mountains that kept sleep at bay. Unlike the previous week that had been filled with exceptionally restful nights, Eruviel sat up in the dark, a pang of worry twisting in her chest.

He will survive, she repeated to herself. Every human falls ill. He will be fine. 

What could it be, really? Durrow was one of the cleanest homesteads, and certainly more so than Bree-town. Children often got sick. It made them stronger in resisting such things as they grew older, yes? But a summer cold, she was certain, would not warrant Abiorn writing to Rivendell to call Eirikr home.

Quietly she passed through the camp to where Voronwen stood dozing above a half-eaten tuft of grass. A few whispered words in Sindarin, and the animal’s ears twitched in acknowledgement. Starlight streamed through the trees as she took out a curry comb and body brush from one of her saddle bags, and Eruviel drank in the cool light that pooled around her as she busied herself.

It helped little. She brushed Voronwen’s neck and remembered seeing Eboric sleeping in his crib for the first time. Eruviel brushed the horse’s shoulders, back, haunches and flanks, and all she could think of was late nights when he knew making noise would draw her out to give him attention. Eruviel thought of the first time he splashed in a puddle, of games, and cooking lessons (messes), and lazy afternoon naps. She thought of his screams the first time she had held him, her hands covered in blood.

Wiping her eyes, Eruviel shook her head at Voronwen’s concerned look, and set to brushing the animal down with the body brush. She had always prayed. It came naturally and nearly always unspoken as she went about her day, like talking to a distant friend. Now her lips moved without sound, and some semblance of peace that matched her carefully set expression slowly warmed her core. So many miles between her and home, what else could she do? She pleaded for Irmo to give him peace in spirit and  in dreams, and for Estë to heal him. She entreated Oromë to give strength to the others, and to Elbereth who’s light was already there. For if there was hope of anyone hearing the elf’s prayers it was her.

Bittersweet: Story Time

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It had been one of the best days so far that Spring. There were no Orcs, no wights, no landslides. Instead of taking Eboric to the nursery like she was supposed to, Eruviel and the little boy made a day of it. Having made a game out of chores, then played Hunter and Dragons amongst the hanging sheets, the Elf and child had tired themselves out and retired to lie down on the couch after an exceptionally large lunch. Dragon hats on their heads and a sweet, warm breeze wafting through the open windows, Eboric snuggled against Eruviel, his head pillowed on her right arm.

“Roo! Turn!”

“All right, all right,” said Eruviel with a chuckle, turning the next page in the book full of painted illustrations to one of an Elf dancing in the woods. “Now, the mighty Sun peered down at the Mouse King and said, “No, good king, I am not the greatest. You should talk to the Cloud for he can hide me from the world,”” she rumbled, drawing giggles from the little boy.

“Roo!” Eboric exclaimed, pointing excitedly to the picture of the Elf.

“No, silly, that is not me.”

“Yes, Roo,” he insisted, stabbing at the picture with his finger.

Eruviel smiled, and moved one of the dragon wings from his hat away from her mouth. “Very well. Yes, that is Roo.”

Pleased, Eboric reached both of his hands up to the book to search for the next picture. “More!”

“Bossy. So, the Mouse King turned to the mighty Cloud and said, “Great Cloud, none are mightier than you. Will you marry my daughter?”

“Cloud?” Eboric paused on a picture and drew his fingers across a the clouds that adorned the top of the page.

“Yes, very good! But the Cloud smiled sadly down at the Mouse King. “No, oh king. There is one mightier than I. The Wind will huff, and puff, and blow me where he wills.””

Eboric squealed a happy laugh as Eruviel puffed several breaths against his cheek.

“Here. This page,” she said, turning to a picture of an elaborate courtroom. “That is a king.”

“Mouse,” the little boy said with a grin, waving his hand at the colorful likeness of an old Numenorean king.

“You know that is not a mouse, silly. The Mouse King went to speak to the Wind, but it swirled about, ruffling his grey fur. “Good king, I am honored, but there is yet one greater than I. No matter how I blow the mighty Mountain will not be moved. Perhaps he will marry your daughter.”

Eboric had settled down again, resting his head back on her shoulder as he slowly turned the pages of the old book she held aloft. Fletch rolled over where he lounged between Eruviel’s feet, resting his head on her ankle, and Pin made a happy little chirp in his sleep as he napped in the basket-nest set up by the front window.

“Now,” said Eruviel, her voice softening to a low, flowing murmur as Eboric fought back against increasingly heavy eyelids. “The Mouse King looked down to the sturdy mountain he stood upon. “Oh, great Mountain, I only want what is best for my daughter. Will you not marry her? For you are the mightiest of all beings.” Mountain rumbled with a gentle laugh, glancing beyond to the Sun, Cloud, and Wind that watched and waited. “Good Mouse King, you flatter me, but go back to your home. Allow your daughter to marry a mouse, for as strong as I am, the smallest mouse can riddle me with holes.” Moved by the words of –”

“Daa.”

Eruviel looked to Eboric, and let him flip back to the previous page. The little boy shoved back the dragon hat from his eyes and grabbed at a painted picture of Fingolfin facing down Morgoth. “That? That, little Ric, is –”

“Daa,” Eboric said again. Craning his head back, he turned big, questioning eyes upon her.

She could not say no to that look. “That is right, dear one,” she said, kissing Eboric’s brow. “That is your Ada.”

Beaming a sleepy smile, Eboric pulled the book to him as he nestled closer against her side. “More?”

Smiling softly, Eruviel removed Eirikr’s dragon hat from her head, and tilted the book so that the boy could better look at the picture and warrior whom she would now forever see with auburn hair.

“Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a hunter….”

The Days Grow Shorter

The house was quiet for the afternoon; the children were both attending market with their mother in an attempt to give Eirikr and Eruviel some quiet time with the baby. Garric was tending the beehives, but was due back shortly. Eirikr sat on a chair watching the boy play with some smooth wooden blocks on a thick quilt spread upon the floor. He smiled as Eboric gnawed on one.

Standing by the door, Eruviel removed the string from her bow. Glancing between the child and the man with a small smile, she made her way around the quilt to find a seat. “He plays so nicely.”

Eirikr leaned back in the chair and stretched out a foot. Eboric greeted Eruviel with a bright smile and threw a block at her shin, but it didn’t go far. “Yes, he does. He is sitting up well.”

Eruviel grinned at the boy. Leaving her chair for a moment, she retrieved the block, and rolled it back to him. “Give it a little bit and we will see if he inherited your aim.” Sitting down again, she hooked one end of her bowstring on her boot to anchor it.

Eirikr nodded and started to say something when the door opened and Garric lumbered inside. He nodded to his guests and move to the table with a heavy bucket. “Garric, how are the bees?” Eirikr asked instead. Eruviel pulled a waxed cloth from her pocket as she looked up and nodded to the towering man.

Garric set the bucket down on the table. “They are buzzing,” he replied, “and producing still. Soon we will not be able to harvest.”

“Ah. I know nothing of bee-keeping. It is fascinating.”

Eruviel nodded in agreement as she pulled her bowstring taunt, and began to wax it. “When do you think the weather will shift? The nights have been getting a bit brisk.”

Garric sighed. “Sooner rather than later. It is going to be difficult this year. For many reasons.” He looked over at them. “You would be wise to reach home before the cold nights set in.”

Eruviel glanced to Eirikr. “Do you know of the condition of the pass over to Rivendell?”

“Aye,” Garric said as he rubbed his thick sideburns. “We have fought to keep it clear all summer; it is becoming more treacherous as the goblins grow bolder and the days grow shorter.”

Eruviel frowned as she turned her string around to wax from the other direction. “More dangerous than traveling with a caravan back through Moria?”

Garric eyed them both. “With a babe in the night… the cold. Aye, perhaps.”

Eruviel turned her gaze to Eboric, then to Eirikr. “When should we plan to head back?”

Eirikr took a deep breath and looked down at the child.

“I do not wish to sound as though your company is not welcome,” said Garric. “But soon. The first snows come earlier in the mountains. And while the paths are clear now…” His stern, yet gentle gaze was troubled.

Eruviel looked back to the man, and gave him a grateful smile. “I hear they are nigh impassable for more than half the year. Our departure will be soon, then. Eirikr and I will sort out the details and let you know.”

Garric nodded and looked between the two. “If there is anything I can further assist you with, please, do not hesitate. It is our desire to see the boy safe and well taken care of. He have grown quite attached to him.”

“We will. You and your family have been more than kind to us, and especially to Eboric. We are in your debt. I do not doubt he will miss all of you as well.”

Garric’s expression clouded as he nodded. “If I may speak frankly, I do not advocate your leaving at all, my lady. But he is not my son.” He stared at Eirikr for a moment before turning toward the bedroom. “I have friends that can take you across the river. They can lead you to the pass, but they will not go so far south as Moria.”

Eruviel looked to Eirikr. “My contacts in Lorien can see us safely south if we do not take the pass. Which ever way you think would be best to take him…”

Eirikr hesitated and looked back and forth between Elf and Beorning.

Garric grunted quietly and disappeared into his bedroom, leaving them with Eboric plopping over onto his side with a baby giggle.

Eirikr rubbed his forehead and looked over at Eruviel.

Eruviel glanced after Garric, and could not help but smile a little as Eboric giggled. “The pass is probably a little more dangerous, but it would save us several weeks of travel. I have had no news of Moria since we departed it’s halls. I would like to think no news is good news, but….”

Eirikr frowned. “Do you think we will be able to keep him warm? What if he falls ill?”

Eruviel motioned to the little boy. “If we can make a thick cocoon-like wrap of furs like they use in Forochel, then he should be plenty warm, especially if he sleeps with whoever is not on watch. If he falls ill then we would already be near Rivendell where he could get the best treatment.”

At her words Eirikr seem to be a bit satisfied, but did not look fully convinced. The expression was not new, however, having bore it most of the journey. “All right, then. The pass it is. When shall we leave?”

Eruviel swiped the cloth up the length of her bowstring before pocketing it. “Give me one day to get everything together, and we can head out at first light… master Garric?” she called, turning her attention to the bedroom door.

Shuffling came from the inside of the bedroom. The door had not closed; Garric’s large form filled the frame. “Yes?”

Eruviel nodded to him. “If in a day we wish to depart to take the pass, when would be the best time to leave here so we have daylight in our favor as we start up and over?”

Garric took a deep breath. “Dawn would of course allow you the most time for travel. I will give you a token that will allow you passage without having to pay our tolls.”

Eruviel gave him a grateful smile. They really did owe him and his family everything. “I would gladly pay them, but thank you. Is our departure in a day enough time for you and your family to make your farewells to the boy?”

Garric nodded. “Of course. We have been prepared for a long time.”

“I just wanted to be sure,” she said, inclining her head to the man. Looking to Eirikr she gave him small smile. “I will start to make preparations tomorrow morning.”

Bowing to her respectfully, Garric retreated once more.

Eirikr rubbed his beard. “I will begin preparing today. That way, I can assist with watching the boy or… or whatever you’ll need tomorrow.”

Eruviel nodded. The poor man. While the only name she could put to it was ‘weariness’ she could see the weight in his eyes. And she felt quite certain that burden ran deeper. She could help relieve it to an extent but, if they pressed hard, they could spend a day of in Imladris so he could rest better before the final stretch home. “I am here to make things easier for you, remember? The market will be open for a while. Unless you wish to go, I can go and pick up a few things we need.”

Eirikr shook his head. “No, I will go. You enjoy some time with the boy.” He stood and rubbed his hands on his pants. “Is there anything specifically needed?”

Eruviel smiled, and started to speak. Being a guard and guide came so naturally it seemed like nothing. And while she knew she could do no more, the Elf hated that she felt her smiles to be useless. Stopping herself, she pulled out the little notebook from her pocket, and jotted down a few items. Tack, soft deer hide, thick cotton cloth, a thick fur pelt, dried fruit — “Here. Mostly hides, and a few food things that will be good for Eboric as we travel.”

Eirikr accepted the list and looked down at it with a frown. “All right. I will be back as soon as I can.”

“We will be here.”

Eirikr nodded once, and then slipped out of the door.

Eruviel watched him go, and told herself the time and space would be good for him. After a moment she sighed, and moved down to sit on the floor with Eboric. Eboric smiled happily as Eruviel joined him. He waved his hands at her.

Such a beautiful little boy. Eruviel waved back at him, and weaved a hand forward to attack tickle his belly.

Eboric squeed with laughter and latched onto her hand and wrist with both of his hands. His feet pulled up to lock around her forearm as he grinned.

Eruviel laugh brightly with him, completely forgetting the Beoring that was in the other room. Yes, the laughter of an infant was magic. Her free hand ready to catch him, she lifted Eboric up and down. “You’ve got me! Ahhh, you strong little man!”

Clinging to her with surprising strength, Eboric let out a giggle and grasped at Eruviel’s hand.

Bittersweet: As The Leaves Turn

It was a perfect autumn day, and Eruviel once more waded through the tall grass towards the old oak tree. It had grown a little since she had visited four months earlier. Beneath the thick coat of gold and orange leaves she could just make out small sprouts growing from branches that had yet to surrender to the inevitable change of seasons.

“Right where I left you,” she noted as she set her boots down by an exposed root. Turning, she took a small jar of wax and a cloth from her pocket, and kelt down by the carved branch that stood guard over the grave blanketed with grass. “I assume you know what this early return means.”

The marker remained as silent as ever, and a light breeze whispered through the leaves above her.

Twigs were cast aside, leaves were thrown to be carried away by the wind, and an invasive weed was uprooted as the Elf cleaned off the small mound. Taking a circlet of late wildflowers and grasses from her head, Eruviel set it around the marker. “From Eboric. He piled them on my lap when we were out earlier.”

The wind picked up, and the Elf fell silent as she removed the cork from the jar. The summer had been kind to the grave, and another coat of wax would see the marker safely through the winter. With care she worked the thick substance into each if the letters, and a small crack that had sprung up at it’s base.

“He’s grown so much since I was last here. Such an adorable little boy.” Managing a chuckle, Eruviel fit the cork back onto the jar. “You should have seen the look on both of their faces when Eirikr first held him. He will be a wonderful father. I’ve known it for a while… well, you have known it much longer than I, haven’t you?”

Against her will, the Eruviel’s throat tightened. Setting the jar aside, she fell back to lay on the grass beside the soft mound of earth. She stared up at the canopy that swayed above her and the buried memories beside her.

“How do I help him raise a child? I’ve never raised a child. Daran, and the years of babysitting do not count. I can tell you this, of course… What do I do? He will never want for anything, I have seen to that, but… but he is so little! What if he is harmed? Orome, what if I accidentally hurt him?! What if Eirikr dies too soon… What if Eboric calls –” Her voice cracked, and she draped an arm over her eyes.

It was overwhelming. She felt rediculous, but he couldn’t see her doubt, or worry, or fear. How in Arda was it that a child made her feel so vulnerable? Several minutes passed. Eruviel sniffed, and chuffed a weak laugh. “I am sorry. Forgive me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I did this last time, didn’t I? Of all the things to be afraid of.” 

Letting out a ragged sigh, she sat up and wiped at her moist eyes and pink cheeks. “I should head back. I need to consult our gracious host on how to get our boys home safely.”

Rising to her feet, Eruviel took a cleansing breath, and gathered her few things. “I don’t know if he will visit….” Looking a great deal less burdened than she did before, Eruviel smiled at the grave, and offered the remains a graceful curtsey. “They will be taken care of. I hope your afterlife is as peaceful as I imagine it to be.”

Beneath These Mountains

The way into Moria had been as peaceful as she’d hoped. Having spoken with the leader of the caravan, Eruviel quietly made her way over to Eirikr. Standing near the edge of the platform with his arms folded across his chest, he stared out across the chasm. “What do you see?”

The man looked over at her and smiled. “Rock. A lot of rock. How are you?”

Eruviel chuffed a quiet chuckle, and looked out to the great cavern. “I am well. These caves always make me feel a tad squeamish, but it is nothing I can’t ignore. How are you?” This cold realm better have had only one Balrog.

Eirikr shrugged and turned to face her. “I am well enough as any man can be stuck beneath these mountains. But a few days’ travel and we will see the sky again.”

Smiling up at him, she nodded. “Very true. The word I hear is that the road ahead of us is clear.”

Eirikr nodded, but his expression remained neutral at the news. “We will travel with speed, then. What are your thoughts for our return journey?”

Her keen gaze flicked over his face before turning towards the small encampment behind them. “If it is a peaceful journey through, I would recommend returning back this way. There is safety in numbers. We can still inquire after the pass once we reach our destination.”

“I hope all is well with the Beornings. The path ahead may be clear, but perhaps because so many have left the mines to push east into Lothlorien and the Wood.”

Eruviel nodded in agreement. “As do I. We don’t have to make any decision about our return till we choose to return, though. I do not wish to make any premature decisions that could cause us future trouble.”

Eirikr gave her a quick look. “Do you wish to linger there?”

“I did not mean to imply that,” Eruviel responded as she arched a brow, “though it is beautiful there. I merely did not wish to assume that we would depart any sooner or later than you desire to.”

“I am eager to return to Durrow. Anyatka and Abiorn alone in that tiny cabin…” His voice trailed off and a look of realization struck him. “Oh, my…”

Eruviel snickered, and gave her braid a thoughtful tug. “It is character building. I am sure the house will be in one piece, and the dogs a little less trained than how you left them.”

Eirikr shook his head. “And I am bringing an infant back to that… Eruviel… there will be no where to put a cradle!”

Eruviel set a hand on her hip, and looked out to the cavern as she thought. The old house is rented out. And he should not have to… “With your consent he can stay at my place till there is room. If you’re up for the work, we could round up Gaelyn, and Mor, and some of the others and get your cabin remodeled before the weather changes.”

“I do not know… isn’t the point of my bringing him home for me to be with him?”

Eruviel mirrored his slow nod. “Then you can stay at my place with him till your cabin is done.”

Eirikr looked at her and then swiftly away. “I would hate to impose on you like that.”

She waved a hand dismissively. “You would not be imposing at all. I will probably be away most nights anyways, and this time of year I usually rest in my hammock.”

Eirikr nodded slowly. “All right. If you insist we will not bother you.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I will probably appreciate your insight into raising a child. I have… no idea what I am going to do.”

Eruviel’s mouth twitched as she fought back a smile, and thanked Orome for the times she babysat for a day or two over the past several hundred years. “I will do my best. Good thing you are a runner, because he will keep you on your toes. He was toddling when I saw him a few months ago.”

Eirikr fell quiet for a moment. “He is. What else was he doing? And what else is he doing now?”

Eruviel twisted her mouth to one side as she gently tugged at her braid again. “He was energetic… and he liked to pull on my braid and ears. But what is he doing now? I’d think he would be eating soft foods now, and he could be starting to form words. He should have most of his teeth by now… Oh, heavens…. Give it a few more months and you could try potty training him.”

The man rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands.

Watching him, Eruviel felt a soft twist in her chest, and she rested a hand on his arm. “I’ll be there for whatever you need… and we can make Anya and Abbi change his diapers. You missed the ‘up every two hours’ stage. He should sleep straight through most nights. I can watch him for you most days if you need to go hunt or have time to yourself.”

Eirikr looked at her and smiled wearily. “Thank you. I am sure you did not expect to become a nanny when you decided to take a liking to my sister.”

She laughed softly, and shook her head. “No, I did not. And while I try to plan for the unexpected, I never could have imagined a more delightful outcome.”

He smiled as he looked down at her with a soft expression. That smile. It nearly took the air right out of her lungs. It was the most wonderful smile that quite possibly made her knees feel a little weak. Eruviel met his gaze with a similar softness for a moment before the tips of her ears turned pink, and she diverted her eyes. “Besides, now I can try and beat you in getting him to address me first. ‘Roovie’ is… possibly easier to say than ‘Daddy’ or ‘Ada’.”

Eirikr nodded. “Challenge accepted. ‘Ada’ is far easier than ‘Roovie.'”

Eruviel smirked, and glanced back at him. “Probably, but that does not mean I cannot try.”

Giving her one last look, Eirikr turned. “I am going to turn in. Good night, Eruviel.

Offering him a small smile and a nod, Eruviel clasped her hands behind her back. “Good night, Eirikr. Rest well.”

~ ~ ~

Thank you to Eirikr’s player, Cwendlwyn, for the RP and plot!

All conversation has been taken from chat logs, and edited for tense and exposition.

Bittersweet: Beneath an Old Oak Tree

Droplets of moisture clung to her pant legs as Eruviel waded through the tall grass. The sun had begun to set over the not-so-distant mountains, but the light in her eyes did not diminish as she found her way by the path burned into her memory nearly a year earlier.

She intended to remain only one more night, having arrived at the homey cottage the evening before. Garric and her had traded news of the road and woods, and Avina had admonished her at both breakfast and luncheon for “eating like a bird”. The air was clean, and the sky’s clear, and a happy vibe filled the air around the home.

The morning had been spent with Eboric on one hip as she spoke with, and aided her hostess with a few chores. The afternoon, though, was possibly the most delightful one she had had in a long time. Her braid (properly redone, courtesy of her host’s young daughter) was still filled with wildflowers, and grass stains colored her trousers from playing with both the girl and her brother. Eboric had taken a fancy to her pointed ears, and took great joy in tugging them any chance he got. In truth, she almost did not leave for her errand. Having fed the babbling child, the Elf had dozed off as he fell asleep in her arms. Even now she could still feel the warmth of his little head on her shoulder.

Following the edge of the wood, Eruviel slowed as she came upon her destination. A sad smile stole over her features, and she approached the old Oak Tree with soft, reverent steps.

“I was hoping to find you still here.”

Her only response was a soft breeze that wove through the wide branches and played over young, green leaves. Having left all but her satchel back at the cottage, Eruviel looked down on the grave for several minutes.

Ninim, wife of Eirikr In death shall I live, could be seen carved into the wooden headstone Eirikr had labored over. Pulling off her gloves, Eruviel moved to kneel beside the marker. She began cleaning a years worth of dirt out of each carefully carved letter. Leaves and seeds and sprouts of grass were removed from around it’s base with, and piled to the side to be disposed of later. Eruviel cleaned away fallen twigs, wiped off the top and, finding there suddenly nothing left to clean, pulled out the small jar filled wax she used to care for the wood of her bow.

“You would have had your hands full,” she said quietly as she unscrewed the lid. “Eboric is a big boy! He is tottering rather well. Give him a month or two and that child will be unstoppable.”

Eruviel took out a clean cloth and began to slowly work the wax into the wood of the headstone. “That boy has such a wonderful laugh. I’d like to think he has your eyes . . . You may be glad to know that I noticed a reddish gleam in his light brown hair. I think . . . I think, should he ask, Eirik would be glad to know, too.”

A small knot rose in her throat, and she smoothed the wax into the lettering. “He didn’t come. I know you understand. He’s not ready yet. It will take a while, but he will come around. These things take time . . . .” Eruviel took care to get the tight corners in the ‘k’. Consumed by working in the growing dark, she fell silent as she emptied the rest of the jar out to coat the base, and back of the marker.

“Sometimes I envy you,” she said quietly, her hands falling to her lap as her eyes searched the freshly treated, yet lifeless headstone. “You are far away, probably with family you missed and beyond any pain or fears of this realm. You may have even met them; Adrovorn, Daran, and Myrthrost. You’d like Myrthrost. His humor was a lot like Eirikr’s. If you come across an Alasse from Tharbad, tell her Ravi sends her greetings.”

It became difficult to smile. Her lower lip quivered, and her arms slowly grew heavy. Little by little, Eruviel’s expression cracked till silent tears streamed down her fair cheeks. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “So . . . so sorry. I wish I could have done better . . . I wish I could have taken your pain. I wish it hadn’t happened at all.” Her voice cracked as a small sob rattled beneath her healing ribs. “He should have never suffered such a loss. If –”

Cutting herself off, she shook her head and looked out into the night. In the tall grasses a few little lights from insects flickered on and off, and ever so slowly the Elf composed herself. “You’d be proud of him . . . not that you were not before, of course. He whittles a lot more now, and his beard has grown thick.” She chuckled, and in a lighter voice added, “It encourages his habit of combing it with his fingers when he’s thinking, or amused, or puzzled. I wonder if his chin may one day go bald.”

Swallowing the knot in her throat, a burden she had carried for nearly a year lifted from her shoulders, and more unbidden tears clouded her vision. “My feelings aside, even if I end up never anything more to him than a friend, you have my word that I will take care of him. And Eboric.”

Pulling a daisy from behind her pointed ear, Eruviel laid it atop the headstone. “Boe annin gwad, Ninim . . . . I am glad that I came to see you.” Fitting the jar and cloth back into her satchel, Eruviel slowly rose to her feet. “I would say for you to be well, but I am sure you are more than just well where you are. I’ll give your baby boy a kiss for you. I can’t make any promises, but if I am able, I will try and visit again next year.”

Scattering the pile of leaves and grasses on the other side of the tree, Eruviel looked one last time upon the grave. Shouldering her satchel, she dipped in a low, graceful curtsy to the marker before turning and striking out into the darkness.