Esgaroth

To Dale: Respite

A cool draft wafted through the dark room. No, it is not so dark. A trickle of light seeped in from the lantern hanging one door down the hall. A soft white beam from the moon rimmed the window and a faint orange glow from the fire on the edge of town danced along the ceiling.

Eruviel sat in one of the two chairs in her smaller room, her feet propped up  on the second as she sat watching the hall. She had left the door to her room cracked open to keep an eye on the hall. Eirikr had finally returned, having been let in from the back by the barmaid Eruviel had befriended. She could only hope that after all this time, and after everything both of them had been through — especially Ninim — that they were able to reconcile.

Setting her now sharpened and cleaned dagger on the table next to her sword, Eruviel brushed a hand over the bruise that had blossomed on her cheek. That was too close, she thought sullenly. She would have preferred wounds like Eirikrs. A shudder ran up her spine at the memory of the massive club rushing by her face. There would have been no coming back if she had been struck. Poor Eirikr would have been left to pick up the pieces of her skull.

Eruviel surveyed the small arsenal that decorated the table next to her. As Ninim and Eirikr talked in the room down the hall Eruviel had encouraged three drunkards to return to the common room, exchanged polite nods with a gentleman who she presumed to be of the town watch, and had delivered a meal for two to her friends door. Her blades were sharpened and oiled, her damaged arrows repaired, her bow cleaned, and bowstring waxed.

She almost felt silly, having busied herself after seeing to Ninim’s comfort. Maybe it was because of the long journey, the fight that had taken place, or the burning house that had woken that quarter of town. Maybe it was because that for a brief moment she remembered she was alone.

Letting out a sigh she laced her fingers together and draped them across her flat, toned abdomen. A small smile played over her mouth, thinking of Ninim’s swollen belly. How amazing, the blessing that can come from so much pain. Leaning her head back she watched the mixture of lights dance across the plaster. She hoped their night was healing, full of one another and the child growing inside of Eirikr’s beloved. They deserved the respite. Eruviel would make sure they were not interrupted. Not for a few more hours. Morning would come soon enough.

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To Dale: An Early Morning at the Silver Reel

The tension in the air lingered as Eirikr left the inn. She watched him as he strode away, a considering, neutral expression carefully fixed on her face. For a brief moment she thought she saw a shadow follow after her friend, and she thought about making pursuit but not all the tension left with him. There were still a number of patrons in the inn and if any of them had been watching every move she made would be scrutinized.

Sitting back in her chair Eruviel twisted her mouth as she watched the door of the inn for another minute, drinking slowly from her ale. Licking the moisture from her lips she glanced around with a casual air. No one looked her way at the moment. Downing the last of her drink she rose to make her way towards the innkeeper. Carefully winding around the filled tables she silently thanked Eirikr for choosing this inn. The few looks she got were just that; no off-colored comments or drunken hands were directed her way.

Leaning against the bar she made small talk with the owner as she ordered a meal to take up to her room. She rented two rooms, in fact, and paid handsomely that he keep her presence there a secret. An elf maiden on her own simply cannot be too careful in such troubled times.

Taking her things with her she made her way up the stairwell, finding the first room. She would check the second in mid-morning, when any drunks or cut-throats would be sleeping. A narrow bed stood against one wall of the small chamber. Two chairs and a small table filled the middle of the floor between the bed and a small fireplace and in the empty corner stood a wash basin filled with steaming water. Nodding once in approval she glanced down the hall one last time before closing the door behind her.

– – – – – – –

The hour was late . . . or was it early? Eruviel wasn’t sure, but the horizon gleamed pink and gold in the growing morning light when a nearly inaudible scratching sound pulled her from her dream. It was a particularly peaceful vision and she was loath to leave it, but the lock on the inside of her door turned slowly with the faintest click. 

Her undone hair swayed behind her as she silently rose from the bed, her pointed ears somehow more obvious as they jutted out through her wavy brunette locks. Wrapping a sheet around her she secured the corner of the cloth under her arm and drew her sword from where it rested on the table. There was no time to get dressed, but the element of surprise was indeed hers. Gliding over to the door as it slowly pushed open she stopped it’s progression with her bare heel and stuck the tip of her steel blade into the darkness of the corridor. An inch beyond a man’s throat swallowed.

“You have the wrong room,” she said cooly.

“I don’t think I do,” replied the stranger. He shoved against the door and, deciding she preferred not to have her foot pinched, she pivoted back as he stepped in, only to have her blade once again at his throat.

“You will leave my quarters, sir. How dare you intrude upon a lady, especially at such an hour,” she hissed in offense, forcing the hooded man to take a step back.

The man’s body tensed, and she could make out the outline of his gawking eyes beneath his hood. After a moment he seemed to regain his composure some and clenched his fists. “Who was the man you spoke with tonight?”

“I spoke with many men tonight,” she said flatly, painting a frown of confusion over her brow.

“The one who sat with you earlier in the common room,” the intruder grunted in frustration, advancing a step.

Eruviel relaxed her shoulders slightly, her brow furrowing. “I don’t know who he was,” she responded with a faint scoff.

“You bought him a drink and touched his shoulder,” he grumbled as he batted her blade away with a gloved hand.

“I merely have an empathetic nature,” she spat, ducking under his hand as he lunged to grab her. Stepping inside his reach in the blink of an eye she drove the pommel of her sword into his gut, forcing him back out into the hall. “I should beat the life out of you for intruding on my privacy. I cannot believe an elf maiden would be treated with such disrespect,” she huffed with the tone of injured pride.

The man clutched at his stomach for a moment, not having had time to brace for the blow. “What did he talk ta you about?”

“Why is it any of your business?” she demanded with a haughty sniff. “And who are you to barge into my room and ask me about a man I don’t know?”

A cruel smile played over his mouth and he drew back his hood to reveal an angular, lightly tanned, scarred face. “That’s my business, elf,” he spat as he moved for her again, his main hand moving to his side to draw a knife as he missed grabbing the sheet around her by inches. “I’ll get my information one way or another!”

“He wanted to hire me as a sell-sword,” she responded in an irritated tone as she moved. Switching her sword to her left hand she parried his attack and dove for him, slamming her fist across his face. The man staggered back, falling against the wooden wall of the hallway. She raised a hand to clutch his jaw as he stared at her in shock. “When I refused he quickly left, as you obviously saw,” she said accusingly.

She saw the fight drain out of him as she stood in the doorway with the most noble air she could muster, her free hand catching the sheet before it could fall. “Now if you will just wait a moment –” she did not finish her words, letting her slamming of the door speak for itself. Throwing on her clothes she snagged up her sword belt, returning the blade to it’s sheath. Opening the door once again the man had just folded his hands over his chest, obviously brooding as she stepped into the hall and locked he door.

“What a bunch of worthless –”

“It is your own fault,” she huffed, interrupting him as she made a show of buckling her belt around her waist.

“You gotta know something,” he muttered as he watched her, his eyes traveling up and down her form several times. Eruviel could see he was at odds with what to do with her. She’d better make up his mind for him.

“I do,” she said airily as she walked down the hall, him close at her heels. “He looked like all the rest of you humans but had much better manners.”

The rugged man stopped on the steps, squinting down at her in frustration. “You’ve caused me a lot of trouble, and that’s all I get,” he said quietly, a threat darkening his tone.

Turning she looked up at him with an amused smirk. “You, heruamin, did that yourself. You could have asked me for my apparent wealth of information in a hundred better ways than what you choose.” He opened his mouth to protest and she quickly cut him off. “But, since you have broken into my room, attacked me, threatened me, and seen me in the most, on my part, undesirably vulnerable state, I do believe you owe me.”

The man arched a scarred brow at her before shrugging in defeat. “What ya want?”

Resting her left hand comfortably on the handle of her sword she smiled back up at him. “You will buy me breakfast and show me around town,” she said pleasantly.

“Now listen here, lady!” The man barked, reaching out to grab her shoulder.

Whirling around she smacked his hand away and glared up at him. “I will not listen! You have offended me in one the greatest ways possible and wasted my precious time. So unless you have something better to do at such an ungodly hour of the morning you will happily oblige me.” It was times like these she was glad for the edge being an elf gave her.

His jaw ticking, the man nodded curtly, finally slipping his knife back under the folds of his jacket. Brushing past her he trudged begrudgingly down the rest of the steps to the common room. “C’mon, then, lady. Let’s get ya somethin to eat.”

To Dale: Selling Something

The people she past cast her curious looks, some of them even suspicious. Walking lightly, the creaking boardwalk hardly felt her weight as Eruviel navigated the maze of streets through Esgaroth. The beams of warm light shining through low windows were broken here and there by other pedestrians and the occasional stray cat. Ahead of her the murmur of multiple voices rose and she stopped at the end of the street that met the city square. A handful of vendors still had their stalls set up, a variety of colorful wares of human, elf and dwarvish make on display. More vendors were closing down and a chorus of shouts, laughs and threats wafted out of the taverns and inns along with the smell of food.

A weapons vendor started to call out to her until he got a better look at the bow on her back and the hilt of the sword at her waist. A jeweler beckoned to her with a hand full of necklaces, ignoring the woman he had previously been bartering with. A dozen other eyes turned her way, some drawing whispers or thrown elbows. Eruviel ignored the looks, walking with a relaxed gait and thoughtful air as she searched through the thin crowd. The women seemed to inspect her with curiosity and distrust, and the men inspected her with curiosity and, well, curiosity. She was glad for the months of dirt that darkened her cloak and diminished the usual spotless gleam of her armour to a worn tint of hard use. Her sharp green eyes caught the few shadows that studied her, assessing her monetary value above all else.

Avoiding tripping over a pack of filthy children sprinting between the legs of loitering adults, she could not help but smile in relief at the sight of a clothing vendor who had more shirts and pants versus dresses. Stepping up beside a woman who browsed the table Eruviel began thumbing through the piles of folded shirts.

“Good ‘evenin to ya!” beamed the man behind the table. “What can I help ya find?”

Eruviel returned the smile, shaking her head. “I need a moment more to look. Besides the young woman next to me was here first, I believe.”

The man turned to the lady but she stepped back, her eyes lingering on Eruviel’s bow, her quiet disposition shaken at not having realized the armoured elf had been standing beside her. “Oh n-no, I was merely browsing.” Setting down the folded cloth that had been in her hands she quickly picked up her small basket of produce and bobbed a precarious curtsy. “G’night,” she mumbled hurriedly before pattering away and down a street.

“Don’t mind ‘er. She’s always skittish,” rumbled the vendor before looking back to Eruviel. “Yer needin something other than you’re armour, I take it.”

Nodding her head Eruviel selected out a burgundy shirt with soft brown leather lining the V’d neckline and collar, two straps crossing the back at the shoulder blades for the aesthetic appeal of armour. “I have been on the road so long I am aching for something more suited to a slower pace,” she said with a half smile.

“Naw, m’lady, ya won’t be wanting that,” insisted the vendor with a charming smile. “Elvish lasses should be in something finer than a tailors leftovers.”

Eruviel humored the man as he began to rifle through a crate of dresses, muttering about what styles might best compliment her. He stood and turned, unfurling something grey and something green when Eruviel was hit from behind, nearly falling upon the table.

What in the bloody –” shouted the rough young man who had run into her, his hand clutching his shoulder as he turned. Seeing her in the lamplight he froze. She could tell she was not what he’d expected.

“Forgive me, mellon,” she apologized hurriedly, re-stacking the pile of shirts that had fallen over. “I did not realize I was in your way.”

The man gave her a lopsided grin, rolling his shoulder once as his equally rough looking friends stood like a gaggle of young girls . . .or vultures, watching from several yards away. Eruviel noted they all appeared to be mildly inebriated and wore daggers in one place or another. “Naw, miss. Yer just fine,” he said as he stood a little straighter, “I’m not in that big of a hurry.” This little fool knows nothing of elves, does he?

Eruviel followed his diverted gaze to the green dress the vendor still held up. By the Valar . . . . Thinking quickly she offered a soft, merry laugh, shaking her head. “Now sir, if I wore that these fine gentlemen would think I might be selling something.” The vendor’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment as he took a second look at the thin dress’s plunging neckline and the cocky grin that had yet to fade from the younger man’s face. She was indeed selling something, but that was her walk, her smile, and her carefully chosen words for the payment of the information to be gleaned by reactions of those around her. Information given freely without the risk of revealing her true intent. Looking back to the man who had collided with her, she made her seemingly innocent glance at her small coin purse in his hand obvious. The wry gleam in her eyes matched her soft smile perfectly as she offered a slight curtsey. “Forgive me for holding you up,” she said, her tone lowering and growing richer. “I will do my best to watch where I stand from now on.”

Chuckling, the young man stooped at the waist, bowing with a bit of a wobble. “It’s not every day a man get’s ta see a lovely maiden in armour. The fault’s mine.” He turned to rejoin his friends but stopped. Pivoting slowly he walked back up to Eruviel with a twinge of guild in his eyes. Standing uncomfortably close he took her hand and set the coin purse in her palm. She could smell the ale on his breath and pipe smoke on his leather jerkin. “I — er — ya dropped this. G’night.” And with that he retreated to his friends, one of them hitting him over the head and another clapping him on the back.

The vendor’s eyes followed after the group with a bewildered look as they entered a tavern. “One of them boys nearly stabbed a lady last night. I can’t believe he gave ya yer purse back.”

Eruviel glanced over her shoulder nonchalantly before turning back to face the man. “Do you have a grey cloak?” she asked before adding, “Those young men should be helping their families. The one here could not have been younger than sixteen.”

“He’s eighteen, actually,” huffed the merchant as he dug out a cloak and handed it over. “Them boy’s ‘er trouble, but there are much worse wandrin the streets ‘o Lake Town these days.” Studying her with a serious look the merchant reluctantly put the dresses down and picked out a black and brown pair of well made trousers. “I don think I can convince ya to buy a dress, but these are my best and should fit ye fine.”

Eruviel unfolded them and held them up, smiling with approval. “These will do splendidly.” Handing him what she owed him, the price being fair enough that she did not bother bartering, she surveyed the buildings that lined the square till she found the inn Eirikr had told her of. “If I could trouble you, mellon, what inn would you suggest?” she asked with a faintly torn look painted over her face.

Giving her a kind smile, the vendor pointed out the one she hoped housed her waiting friend. “That’s the best one, and they’re pretty reasonable.”

“Thank you, sir, for you services and for your help,” she smiled sweetly as she stepped away.

“Any time, m’lady!” he replied, obviously pleased with himself. “Visit again some time!”

Waving back to him she wove through the occupied square to the inn, her new clothes clutched to her chest. Taking the few steps up to the open door of the inn she ducked past several patrons exiting the building and quietly asked the first barmaid for a room to change in. Her smile, aided by the offer of a few coins procured her a lit storage room with the maid standing guard. Changing quickly, wrapping her armour snugly in her dirty cloak Eruviel stepped back out, sighing with relief to the amusement of the barmaid. The clothes fit perfectly, and Eruviel’s spirits rose with the comfort afforded by the loss of thirty pounds of steel. Ordering a drink she sat at an empty table to the side of the room, careful to slouch slightly in her seat. Following half a dozen conversations, she surveyed the darker corners of the common room, hoping to find the one familiar face, and praying that he had good news.

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