fan-fiction

Bittersweet: Story Time

nolofinwe_by_ralphdamiani-d5km73h

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….”

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The clerk sighed again, giving Inaris an impatient look.

“He’ll be here,” she repeated curtly. By the gods, it was not like the clerk had anything else to do all day. Inaris fidgeted with the red silk of her inner sleeve, looking down at the soft lace and skirt as blue as the sea of Rhun. The longer she waited, the more she wondered. Wondering was dangerous, she knew, and it was worse when she began to doubt what she wanted.

Drewett sprinted into the room, a piece of grass in his hair. “I’m ‘ere! I’m ‘ere!” He coughed a little and upset a few chairs as he staggered toward the stage.

The world exploded around her. The light streaming through the grimy windows grew brighter, and the scent of jasmine lingering on her skin and the little white vanilla flowers in her hair filled the air around her.  What do you really want? Inaris could not hide her grin as he filled her vision, and bit back a laugh. “What kept you?” I bet it was that bloody goat.

Drewett grinned back at her, looking at the somewhat worried clerk with a slightly embarrassed expression. “Goat got outta ‘er paddock. Reckon she’s jealous. I’m ‘ere now though!”

Inaris laughed now, a burst of warmth blooming in her chest. “I should have guessed she’d be the one to throw a fit.” She brushed at the sleeve of his best jacket as she gravitated to him. “Don’t you look sharp!”

Drewett shoved his hair back and smoothed down his mustache. He gave a little chuckle. “Y’ look beautiful, by the way. Ain’ never seen a woman looked as beautiful as you…” He looked at her, utterly lost in thought.

The clerk cleared his throat noisily.

Arching a brow at Drew, Inaris smirked before quickly looking to the clerk. “Seems we’re both here now.”

Drewett didn’t seem to notice the clerk, completely absorbed in looking at Jade.

The clerk shuffled his notes. “I… Ah… do you have any witnesses?”

Inaris’s mouth quirked, and she blinked out of the warm spell Drew’s gaze held her under. “Oh… uh…” She looked to Drew. She knew she forgot something. She had meant to ask Dorsett, but when it came down to it, she didn’t have the heart to. He said he was past grief. She didn’t believe him.

Drewett blinked and then shrugged. “Ted’s lookin’ after the farm…” he muttered, scratching at his beard.

The clerk sighed and, looking between the two of them, bellowed out, “Oy! Gwinnie! Ed! Get in here!” After a few awkward minutes passed a hobbit lass in green skirt and a sallow-skinned man in a high collar make their way in and plopped down in seats at the front.

Inaris looked around Drew to grin gratefully at the halfling.

Drewett grinned as well, looking a little embarrassed by the whole affair. The Hobbit, Gwinnie apparently, clapped her hands together. “Oh weddings are so lovely!” she declared to the man beside her who just nodded a little irritably.

The clerk cleared his throat. “Well! Now that’s sorted. My friends, we are gathered together here in the sight of the gods to join together this Man and this Woman in holy matrimony; which is an honorable estate, instituted of the gods in the west, and into which estate these two persons present come now to be joined.”

Inaris reached over to slip her hand into Drew’s, and lightly brushed her hip against his. How perfectly it fit.

The clerk looked over at the two witnesses gathered from the office and flipped over a few of his notes before continuing, “I require and charge you both, as you would answer in full binding before the gods, that if either of you know any impediment, why you may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, that you confess it.”

Drewett squeezed Jade’s hand, he didn’t appear to have looked once at the clerk since the man had begun officiating.

Her slender fingers curled over the edge of his palm, and it surprised her at the amount of effort it took to keep her eyes on the clerk.

The clerk looked over at Drewett. “Will you have this Woman to be your wife, in the estate of Matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep only to her, so long as you both live?”

Drewett coughed, aware suddenly that he’d being addressed. He looked over at the clerk and then at Jade. “Wha’? Oh aye!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

candles

 “What are you still doing up?”

Feira looked up from where she laid on the floor of her little bedroom. The map of the world from Cirieldis lay flat before her, and beside it a fat candle and several books, each one sprawled open and marked with a bookmark decorated with a flower saved from her first nosegay. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“Again?” Torrin left her door open and his stockinged feet padded softly across the hardwood floor. “What are you looking at?”

“A map of the world,” Feira responded, pulling her loose, golden waves back as she sat up.

Torrin crossed his feet and sat down beside her. By Emeleth, but he looked tired. “Going on a trip?”

Feira snuggled up beside him. “The Lady Ciri offered to send me on a trip. I can go anywhere?”

“Why would she do that?”

Feira rolled her eyes. “Because she is nice? The Lady can do as she pleases.”

Torrin reached over the map to pick up a book that showed a painted drawing of Dale, the Lonely Mountain’s silhouette dwarfing the towers of men. “And you are going to take her up on her offer?”

“Of course I am! How many maids do you know that ever leave this city and it’s bay, let alone Gondor? I may never have a chance like this ever again.”

Torrin grinned, and let her take the book from his hands. “Do you know where you want to go?”

“I want to go everywhere. I have been practicing my Haradic diligently, so somewhere in Haradwaith is definitely on my list. Dale too, it being so dreadfully far away. Also Forochel. Did you know the Lady is from there? I have never seen snow. I bet it’s deliciously cold.”

“How are you going to choose?” asked Torrin with a laugh, suddenly looking uncommonly relieved. “You said you had a list?”

Feira leaned forward to scoop up her stack of books, adjusting the short sleeve of her night dress. “Oh, yes! There were one of the Dwarven kingdoms, but I do not know a lick of KhuzdulI had Edoras on my list, but it is too close, and I do not think there is much to do in Rohan besides drink mead, ride horses, look at horses, and talk about horses.”

“Hey, now! That sounds like a good way to spend every day,” said Torrin, feigning offense.

Feira grinned and waved a hand at him. “I was also thinking of the Grey Havens or Lothlorien, but it is all Elves there, and I hear they are all planning on gradually leaving. I imagine it is all a bit depressing in spite of the scenery. I closed my eyes and put my finger on Dorwinion and Khand, but those probably are not the best of places for a young woman to visit right now.”

Torrin rumbled a chuckle, and kissed the side of her head. “Well, wherever you go, I am sure it will be the best of options. I am glad you’re going, though I’ll miss my little Faerie.”

“Just you wait,” she chimed, beaming a smile a bright as the May sun. “I will be a young woman when I come back. But before I forget!  Will you have time to walk me down to the docks tomorrow?”

Torrin sighed, and rolled his eyes. “Leaving him a letter?”

Feira stuck her tongue out at Torrin as he moved to rise to his feet. “Of course! I can’t just up and disappear on him.”

“Like he does to you?”

Feira scowled, and snagged a pillow from behind her to toss at him. “That’s low.”

Torrin grunted, and caught the pillow, stealing it away with him as he headed for the bedroom door. “That’s the truth! Anyways, get some sleep! You can scold me on our way to the docks tomorrow.”

“You’re the best!” Feira called after him with a roll of her eyes as she laid back down to study her map, propping her chin up on her hands.

“I know. Now get some sleep!” the young man called back as he closed the door behind him. “Love you.”

Bossy. Love you, too.”

(Thank you to Raenarcam for playing Drewett! Jade’s portion was taken from in-game RP and edited for tense and composition.)

Anecdotes: Safe

Feira ducked into the churning crowds in the Court of the Fount. Clutching her basket close, she cast a frightened look over her shoulder.

She had seen them as she was finishing her errands for the estate. What do they want?! She knew what they wanted. They had most likely let her spot them on purpose. Then she would tell Torrin, and their message would have been sent for them. Pay up, or else.

Fastening a kerchief over her golden head of hair as many of the female shopkeepers did, Feira skirted around a cluster of sailors, then around the other way past a gaggle of ladies who had come to indulge in the festivities. She spotted them on the far side of the great court, the young dockworker from the market, and the man with the crooked nose. She let out a breath in relief to see that they had lost her.

Careful not to rush or shove past the festival-goers, Feira wove through the throng, heading straight for the tall gates and hedges where she knew she would be safe.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An excited thrill coursed through Jade as she began gathering the few things in her room at the Mantle that she owned. Yes, in truth she would miss it, but the pleasant ache that lingered in her muscles told her it would not be much.

The door to her room slammed shut behind her. The smell of potent men’s cologne, cloves, and burnt flesh assaulted her nose. Jade did not trust her initial expression, and so continued folding her silk night robe, back still turned to the dark, wiry man who waited five, six… paces away.

“Running away again?”

His voice turned her stomach. “Taking a holiday,” she responded, tone aloof and cold as she felt her walls easily slip back up into place. Perhaps too easily. “We both know it would be worse if I tried to.”

The man’s chuckle crawled over her skin. A dart of heat brushed past her cheek, and burned a small hole in the wall. “It took me a while to find you. I like the haircut.”

Jade fit the robe into her satchel, and kept her hand concealed as she found the weapon hidden within. “You always did prefer fair-faced little boys.”

A strong hand slipped around her neck, and the trickle of electricity meant to shock her as a warning just flowed in to dissipate in her throat. “They were right,” he said after a minute. “How fascinating. And your pulse is as steady as ever. Whenever Talagol is able to travel and find this little hole in the world we should catch up.” A bony finger brushed at the brand behind her ear as if to remind her, then pulled away. “Don’t go far, dear Inaris. I will see you in a few months.”

The door opened and closed quietly behind her. Drawing a shaky breath, Jade waited, listening to the sound of footsteps fade. There was silence, then her heart leapt into a race within her chest as she slowly peeled her fingers away from the hilt of her dagger.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Warmth drained out of the gash in her side and her neck. Her arm screamed in pain as she fought blindly, attempting to dodge the punches that forced her body to suck in the stagnate water she was trapped beneath. Something tore at her leg. Panic rose as her lungs burned, and screams went unheard as the weight of the orc clawing at her breastplate pressed her further into the muck.

Darkness, just like before. No hands to pull her up. No hands to drag her to safety, or help her find her feet. Only the desperate will to live as, once again, the cruel claws of orcs forced her back into the suffocating black.

Eruviel shot upright in her bedroll, gasping in the fresh air that flowed through her tent, and pressed a palm against the throbbing wound on her thigh. Choking on a silent sob she lay back, weight on her good leg as she faced the unused bed beside hers that was littered with rocks. Lifting silent thanks that there was no one there in the dark to see her, she groped above her head till her hands found her broken bow. She clutched the last remnants of her brother to her chest. The Elf curled up, closed her eyes and pushed back the sudden wave of loneliness.

She willed warmth into her limbs, and passed beyond the ruined walls of Ost Guruth. Back she went in her mind, north and west till strong arms held her safely after infinitely worse days, and the words of Fionwe and Milloth mixed and melded together.

Look around you, look around you, dear little sister. Look around you and find strength. I am here. It is never so dark when you see the faces of those you love. It is never so dark when you create your own light.

Our Son

Belegorn lounged back in his seat along the wall in the main council chamber. All the paperwork had been signed by the proper parties, notarized, and the older man gave a sigh of relief as he watched his only remaining son deal with the noblemen in his stead.

No more games aside from those he chose, no more weighing the balance of power that had scattered like leaves since the corsairs had attacked the city. His things at the estate were packed, and his wife was in an enraged tizzy, trying to undo what could not be undone. Life was good.

One of the lords shouted, and Belegorn did not need to look up to know that it was Lord Bentley. Peldirion would have his hands full with that one, but he worried little. He had had his doubts, but his son handled the bickering and power plays better than anticipated. Though Belegorn had often caught him lost in thought since returning home hale and mostly whole, a new energy drove the boy. He worked every waking hour, and his new steward worked when he slept.

Before returning from Minas Tirith and calling the meeting, Peldirion had already made deals and new alliances with the lords overseeing the rebuilding, and the great harbor, bringing them into the fold. One way or another he had ensured that all the other lords had no choice but to cooperate. One by one he played them, and most of them knew it. Thirty of the fourty-seven main houses were now in the young Captain’s camp, as well as nineteen of the lesser houses who supported the others. Belegorn chuckled lowly as the more agreeable lords suddenly found courage to stand up to the few who could care less if the city united. On top of that, half of the houses were indebted to the young man for either giving the sons they pretended not to want honorable deaths, or returned them to their families alive and (mostly) whole.

Peldirion was in the middle of listening to one of the lords empty threats when Gwaeldis stepped in a side entrance. She slammed the door shut, and a number if the nobles shot the stocky woman mixed looks, but the new Lord Calaer did not do so much as acknowledge her presence.

“Hello, wife.”

Gwaeldis stopped beside him, glaring, and sniffed with a superior lift of her chin. “Call me that again, and I will divorce you.”

“Oh, come now, dear. You know you never would.”

“I may try my luck. You cannot seriously be going through with this!” Her face turned red, though not so quite as red as when her son had destroyed years of her plotting the day he had returned home. By Emeleth, he loved that boy.

Belegorn smiled pleasantly up at her. “I already have. It is done.”

“You… You traitor! How could you do this to me?! I had plans –”

“Poorly made plans,” replied the old lord calmly as he looked back to the meeting still taking place.

Your son will ruin everything!”

Our son will remake this House that you were slowly tearing apart. I must say though, wife, that I am impressed how tactfully you stole my barge from me. Is Lord Obrech enjoying it?”

Too flustered, she sat with an attempt at elegance in the chair next to him. “Lothiel wishes to speak with your son when he is done here.”

Belegorn grunted. “You mean you and her have arranged to corner him?”

Gwaeldis huffed, feigning offense. “So how long do we have? Surely the ungrateful boy will leave us destitute.”

“You do not deserve my son,” replied Belegorn, chuckling. “He and I have it all arranged. The villa north of the city is ours, and on top of keeping it fully staffed we will be receiving a biannual allowance for expenditure.”

“An… an allowance?!” she shrieked. The lords looked to her again, and Belegorn could have sworn he’d seen a smirk flicker across his son’s face.

“It is called retirement, Gwaeldy. It will be a nice change of pace for us.”

She trembled like an angry hen fluffing up her feathers. How he loved pissing her off.

“Now, kiss me, wife, and run along home to get your things packed. We start moving tomorrow.”

Her eyes that he had at one time likened to that of a gentle doe fixed on him as if willing him to burst into flames. The former Lady of House Calaer, her reputation having slowly fallen into ruin, dared not refuse Belegorn before nearly every noble of the city. Gwaeldis pecked a quick, proud kiss against his lips, and pivoted to scuttle from the chamber.

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.”

What Happened That Day

“C’mon, Hale! You’re falling behind!”

Halethon made a face and smacked his eight year old legs against the flanks of his pony. “Only ’cause you’re going too fast!”

“Well,” started Peldirion, slowing, Halethon was sure, merely to patronize his distant cousin, “when you lead, you can set the pace.”

“But you ALWAYS lead! And we always go play at the old ruins,” Halethon grumbled.

“Oh, don’t pout like a girl,” Peldirion jabbed. “It’s our castle!” he exclaimed, stretching his lanky, twelve year old arms out wide as if to embrace the shoreline, and the broken spire rising from beyond the next hill. “Adrovorn said he will convince father to buy it for me whenever he comes home.”

Halethon looked over to his dark-haired cousin, and grinned. “You couldn’t make him let you go with?”

It was Peldirion’s turn to pout. “No. And Lothiel says he’ll probably find a tribe of wild people, marry a savage girl, and never come home.”

“Lothiel’s stupid,” said Halethon flatly.

Peldirion reached over to punch him on the arm. “Shut up!”

The two boys rode in silence till they crested the hill nearest their ruined destination. “Did you mean it?” asked Halethon suddenly.

Peldirion frowned. “Mean what?”

Idiot. “About it being our castle?”

“Shit. Of course I did!”

“Ass. Don’t say ‘shit’.”

“Shit, shit, shit. And don’t call me that, or it’s just my castle,” said Peldirion without a scrap of conviction.

Halethon smirked. “You’d be bored without me, admit it. And I always kill more orcs than you.”

Peldirion huffed. “I’m starting page work soon. We won’t be able to do this much.”

“Can I go with you?”

“What?”

“I wanna go with you,” said Halethon with a stubborn set to his jaw. “You’re older so you can get started first, but… if it’s our castle, and we have to kill all the orcs in it first, I can’t be in someone else’s army.”

A grin spread across Peldirion’s face. “You won’t be. I promise.”

Relief spread across Halethon’s face, and he drew his wooden sword from his belt. “Last one to kill the fat orc gives up his lunch!” the boy cried, spurring his pony forward into a run, his imagination bringing shadowy beasts to life beneath the ruined arches. “For the King!”

“For the King!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A surging wave of silver and blue, they thundered out of the broken gate. How great they seemed in that moment after a day of darkness; a vanguard of Gondorian might and resolve. Halethon rode closely behind Peldirion as their contingent of Pelargir soldiers took the Swan Knight’s right flank. Their numbers melded with those of the Rohirrim, and the sea and the earth smashed into the lines of the enemy, their wave and zeal neither cresting nor falling.

His heart pounded in his chest to the drumming of his horse’s hooves. They could win! A brother to his left, a Rohir to his right, and Peldirion charging ahead of him, halberd gleaming in the morning light he knew. Drive them to the river! Excitement coursed through Halethon. This was the Gondor he dreamt of! This was the Gondor Peldirion talked about and aimed for. Mighty men fighting along side their allies, spurred on by the rising sun to retake their lands for the glory of their people. It was idealistic at best, and in the past months something of dreams, but now… NOW.

Peldirion shouted a command and the line of mounted Pelargir soldiers turned in a practiced formation, sweeping a few Rohirrim along with them to devour a line of orcs so that the Prince’s knights would not be hindered from that flank. They all followed him, their swords raising as his did, and half of the hope and fear in their hearts came from him as well. They were unwanted sons, either though scandal, found to be of little worth to other commanders, or simply too far down the line of succession. Granted by the unfortunate end of Peldirion’s eldest brother he had found them, or they had begged him for a chance, one chance to prove their worth and be more than the lot in life that had been cast for them.

On and on they fought, till suddenly new drums pounded the ground of the battlefield. Mûmakil. Enormous beasts, they ran into the frey, crushing and throwing dozens with every stride. What was an ordered assault turned into a chaotic tide of men fleeing from the Mûmakil’s paths and attacking groups of orcs. Wheeling his mount to one side, Halethon was nearly thrown from his horse as a soldier crashed into him. Fresh fear gripped his throat as one of the giant animals tore through a line of Rohirrim and Swan Knights.

What hope had built in him slowly began to turn. He didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t! Turning back around Halethon went in search of Peldirion but, instead of seeing his Captain, an orc dove over the head of Halethon’s horse, and tackled him to the ground. His leg caught for a moment in the stirrup, and something pulled, sending hot pain up his leg, but there was no crack, and no time to think on it. His foot falling free and horse bolting away, Halethon grappled with the snarling creature.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“The river! Black sails!”

Halethon cut down an evil man and turned to look to the river. He had lost him in the chaos. Many of his comrades had been found alive and dead, but not Peldirion. Not anywhere. At the cry that there were ships, he stopped dead in his tracks. What now? Before they might have won by sacrificing every man, but with the aid of Corsairs, how could they ever hope to drive them back?

Pelargir. What had they done to her? To their castle? Anger ignited, mixing with the despair that washed over him. Where was Peldirion? At least they could die together, brothers hewing apart the monsters that more than likely saw to the ruin of what was left of their fair city, and with it, years of dreaming. So many dreams, all burning and drowning in blood.

His knees found the earth, sinking into the dark mud as pain clawed through the muscles of his left leg. So many. Emeleth… Valar… Is this what will become of us? Hailthon wavered, swaying. Soaked in sweat, rainwater, and blood he waited for a passing orc to finish him as black sails filled his vision.

“Get up!”

Halethon blinked, the words distant, echoing in his ears. “Wha –”

Air suddenly rushed back into his lungs as strong hands drug him to his feet. “Get up! Halethon?!”

He blinked, staring in disbelief at Peldirion and maybe two dozen of Pelargir soldiers. By the gods, he looks like death.“S-Sir?”

Peldirion smiled… no, grinned at him. A bright, engulfing expression he had not seen in years. “Don’t give up on me! Halethon, stand up! The king is here!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was a battle to rival all others, and none would match it. At least he hoped not. He didn’t understand it, how the Captain could keep going. He had stayed up when the others slept, fought in the worst of, and Halethon could not remember the last time he had seen him eat.

They had fought for the majority of the daylight hours, the sun and brilliant hope brought by the return of the king fueling them. For the first time in hours, it seemed, Halethon stood still in the strange silence and observed the fields. A great wind had swept the rain clouds away, and standing next to the fallen body of a Mûmakil, the man suddenly felt so small. What was he compared to the mighty men that inspired their armies to victory? Against all odds they had somehow won, and it was on the wings of the gods that each new hope arrived.

He was tired. So tired. Sword dragging in his hand, Halethon turned to watch his comrades sweep across the field in search of brothers and friends. One picked a Swan Knight out of the mud, another wept as he embraced a Pelargir soldier long thought lost. Yes, he felt small. Small, and proud to be here among the victorious dead, and triumphant living.

Catching sight of Peldirion, Halethon raised a hand and started towards him. Peldirion rose to his feet, looking over his men with pride. But turning his gaze to Halethon he stopped. Something was wrong.

Fatigue slowing his limbs, he frowned. What was he shouting about? Peldirion had picked up his halberd and was now rushing towards him. Why are you running? What is wrong?

A shot of searing pain like fire exploded though his back. Halethon stumbled, barely aware of the arrows that suddenly flew past him. The world turned red, and he looked down to see a black spear tip protruding from his chest. How had that gotten there? And why… why can’t I move my arms? Breathing became a struggle, and the ground rushed up to meet him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“What is going on?”

“Don’t worry about it. Close your eyes.”

“Why are you carrying me –”

“I said don’t worry about it. Just relax.”

“Peldirion…”

“Yes?”

“Why can’t I feel anything?”

Silence.

“Tell me.”

“Later. For now just rest. We are almost there.”

“I feel cold.”

“A few minutes more, and I’ll get you warmed up.”

“Your eyes…”

“What about them?”

“You never cry. Tell me, damn you.”

“Not now. Not here. I said rest.”

“Is that an order?”

“… yes.”

“Is it bad?”

More silence.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“Just… hold on. We’re almost there.”

Fires That Temper the Soul

lotropeldirion

Ducking his head, Peldirion felt his bones quake as a foul voice ripped through the air. Gritting his teeth as he heard Grond being pulled back for a third swing he caught sight of a few of the men cower then move to flee. Growling, he snatched the first man by the arm and threw him back in line. “Hold!” he bellowed, bashing the cross guard of his sword against his shield as the others fell back into formation. You will not die with your backs to the enemy! The thuderous crash sounded behind him, and Peldirion turned to face the gate. It creaked, groaned… and fell with a deafening clatter.

Here they come.

Orcs clambered into the gaping wound, flinging themselves through the gap, flooding into the courtyard, driven mad to fight. A line turned and charged at the cluster of Pelargir soldiers, raising sword, mace, crossbow, and club. Some of the men of other companies and provinces, overtaken by the dread of the Captain of the Nazgul, turned and fled. “Cowards,” Peldirion muttered, thankful for the sounds and smells of death and fire that ignited his blood. Adjusting his grip on his sword, Peldirion gave a shout, and he, along with several dozen Pelargir soldiers, rushed forward to meet the advancing enemy.

The orcs were mad, fighting even as they died, clinging and tripping up men as they trod over them. A young man, little more than a page, shrieked and fell, kicking at the mouth of a slavering, bleeding orc. Forming a line, the soldiers pressed against the orcs that crashed against their bright shields like black waves. Halethon, fighting to Peldirion’s right, drove back a screeching orc, and the two men served as an anchor to the thin wall of soldiers.

Behind the first line of orcs rose a mountain range. Or so it seemed. Cave trolls, five, eight, perhaps more, thundered through the gate. Some of them did not stop, bowling through the lines like boulders, into the fires beyond. One ugly lout fixed his only good eye upon Peldirion and roared, charging. Wrenching his sword out of an orc, Peldirion turned in time to see the troll face him. Caught up in the rush of battle, he roared back, his voice deep and filled with fury. He dodged past a group of fighters, and ran to meet his foe.

Already, men were dragging bodies back out of the clash to the shadowed edges of the courtyard. Some begged for their mothers, others screamed in agony, dying. The troll raised a spiked club the size of a horse and swung, intent on crushing his prey like a bug. Diving within the reach of the troll, Peldirion sliced out to drag his sword across the creature’s gut. The troll screamed, enraged, though not much slowed, as thick greenish blood oozed from his glutted belly. He flailed his club side to side, sweeping at the bug which dared to bite back. Either too focused on slaying the beast, or blinded by the blood that dripped down his visor, one could not be sure, but as he swung his sword again the the club crashed into Peldirion’s shield, throwing him back like a rag doll.

Time, and light, and gravity seem to shift. The red burning flames took on a cool blue cast, and shadows and light leapt out in contrast. Around the perimeter of the courtyard, a grey shadow flited in and out, hovering over fallen men.

Fighting now to breathe as the wind had been knocked out of him, Peldirion lay stunned, sword arm unable to move from being pinned down by the body of a fallen orc. Gasping, he struggled for a moment before he could wrench his sword arm free. He rolled over onto his shield, chest heaving, and forced himself up to his knees. Yanking the helm from his head, he wiped at his eyes to clear them of the blood when the shadow caught his attention. A grey robe and veil formed a slender silhouette in the shadows, but the image seemed to flicker, as if insubstantial. He stared, still dazed. What tricks of light… she cannot be…. Cool grey light trailed after the ghostly form, as if pale little stars slowly gathered around her.

An orc some distance away had stopped, and paused in his horse eating when he realized something much more delicious was nearby. Manflesh– or more precisely, woman-flesh. The orc snarled and began to stalk over to the grey figure. The woman knelt, caressing the brow of a dying soldier. He stilled, breathing his last, and another star joined the constellation forming about her. She rose and moved to another fallen body, seemingly ignorant of the stalking orc. Wiping again at his eyes, a snarl curled the man’s lips as he caught sight of the orc. Ramming the helmet back onto his head, he snatched up his sword and charged at the fiend.

As Peldirion rose, the figure of the woman flickered out, disappearing. Flames and blood reddened, and time jerked back into full motion. The orc paused at the sight of the strange light-show happening with the slim figure in front of him. Before he could fully regain his senses, he was split straight onto Peldirion’s sword. It died with black blood gushing out of its chest. Nearly stumbling, Peldirion stared at the foul body hanging from his blade. How in the… What in the pit is going on?! Kicking it angrily away he looked around wildy in search of the vanished form. For a moment he saw it, a grey light in the corner of his vision. Whirling about as he hunted for the source of the light a hand grasped his elbow.

“Sir! Sir!” Halethon cried above the chaos, the fear on his face telling that he had seen his commander get tossed by the troll. “Are you all right?!”

Feeling life rush back into him as he fully regained his breath, Peldirion shook his head as the world ceased sounding so distant. “What? Yes. Yes, I’m all right!” He motioned to the wall with his sword. “I will gather the remaining men. See how the Swan Knights are faring up the-”

Suddenly, a blast of cold air and sheer dread blew through the Gate. No more orcs. No more trolls. Something worse. Through the archway rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, and those nearest the gate fled before him. Even on the opposite end of the great court did both men stumble away, whirling around to look to the terror beneath the gateway. But one approached the fallen man. The wizard that had ridden out with the Prince the day before now paced forward on his white steed to oppose the wraith.

As the two spoke and unbidden dread welled in his chest, the grey light flickered again, a few meters to Peldirions left. The man tore his eyes from the scene to look. Halethon saw nothing but the stand-off at the gate.

Lalaith, for surely it was her, knelt, bowed over a dying soldier, her hand raised as if against a great and terrible wind. The image of her even bent and flowed as a banner in a typhoon as she struggled. He did not understand, but a chill ran though his limbs as he saw her ghostly form in the midst of the bodies. She should not be here! Forcing his feet to move, Peldirion rushed towards her. The metal of his knee guards ground against the stone as he dropped to his knees beside her. Half blinded by blood, half by a wave of panic, he quickly brought his shield arm around her, guarding her from the sight of the Black Rider.

Her face blooming with recognition, she suddenly looked to the soldier she knelt over, opened her mouth to cry out….Then she was gone again. Peldirion gaped at the void between him and his shield. Forgetting the terrible conference across the court, frustration and rage began to shadow his features but stopped when he saw the soldier he knelt beside. It was a recruit from Imloth Melui. A man no older than Halethon that had driven Peldirion half mad before the Captain had allowed him to join his ranks. He was a good boy, a strong young man. He was dead. Peldirion’s shoulders sank, his head bowed, and a minute passed before he closed the lad’s eyes and rose once more to his feet.

Looking up, Peldirion saw the Black Rider lift his sword above his head, and flames ran down the blade. The wizard did not move. It was the strangest thing, in that moment, when the sound of a rooster heralded the dawn, and filled the dreadful silence with it’s crow. Peldirion could hear his heart beating in his ears. Horns.

Horns?

Out of the darkness beyond the walls sounded great horns. He knew that sound… It was Rohirrim!

“Lieutenant!” Peldirion boomed, regaining the mask of command as he stode back towards Halethon. “The Prince and his knights!” he called, reminding the man of his orders. Halethon, face alight from the sound of morning, quickly saluted and dashed for the stairs. Peldirion could feel the fire surge back to life in his veins. “There is a war to be won!”

 

(Thank you to Feygil, and Laerlin for plotting and RPing this with me! Taken from in game RP and edited for tense and exposition.)

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….”

Stealing From The Wrong Men

“What do you mean there are more?” Ildric whispered incredulously.

Frank ducked his head as a sentry passed by their hiding spot. His eyes were lined with worry, and Ildric wondered if the boy had slept at all in the past days. “I mean,” he whispered back after a few seconds had passed, “that another company rode in early this evening.”

“Same group?”

“I don’t think so. Trade off of goods.”

Ildric growled under his breath. “Piss. I don’t see the wagon. The witch go after it?”

Frank shook his head, and glanced back at the woods behind them. “She’d gone back before the first group had even gotten here.”

The man glared angrily at the brigand encampment in the ruins a short distance away. “I’ll kill every last one of ’em if that wagon makes it to Angmar, and then I’ll have words with that bloody Elf. Needs to get her head out of her ass. We’re outnumbered as it is.”

“Your men are all in place. You could make it work with –”

“Fifteen to forty? Yeah, we could, but we have no damned archers worth their salt, and this lot is a lot tougher than the usual crowd. Seriously, Burns, when I get my hands on her –”

The air around them shifted, though Ildric couldn’t put his finger on it. There was no change in the brigand camp as the men settled down for the night, and no unease amongst the animals tied up on the far side of the crumbling stone wall. Lifting his head, he looked to where his own men waited, watching for his signal to attack.

Then he heard it. Softer than a sigh, the sound of a breath passed overhead, and an arrow suck in the center fire. Ildric blinked, taken aback. A second dragged by before he suddenly shoved Frank’s head down and covered both their eyes.

Light exploded around them. As soon as it began to fade Ildric was on his feet running, and a shadow flew past him. The four sentries on their side of the camp dropped, arrows sticking up from their corpses. Ildric drew his sword from his back, and let out a high-pitched whistle. His men rushed out from their hiding places, and looking back to the ruins, the brigands were scrambling for boots, writhing from having been blinded, and the Elf was cutting down the first man running at her. She disarmed the second brigand, kicking him back to be subject to Ildric’s blade, then parrying a third man’s axe to the side and into the dirt, she slammed her elbow into the brigand’s throat.

“What about my head being in my ass?” she called back to him, firelight showing a mischievous smirk.

“Took you long enough!”

Eruviel grinned as she fired another quick succession of arrows into the brigands blindly scrambling for their weapons, then dodged an attacker’s punch.

Motioning to Hill, Ildric plowed into the first man to run at him. He was angry — nay, furious. The illegal goods were nothing if they didn’t stop that wagon. They had to. The ruins were a chaotic mess of half-blind brigands, and several of them exploded into flames as arrows whizzed past Ildric’s head to find their homes in the chests of criminals.

Criminals. Ildric grit his teeth as he fought back a lanky, scrappy man. A few more years and he would be too old for this. Taking hold of an arm that had grabbed him from behind, Ildric swung a man around and into his opponent, sending them both crashing into a tent. Affording himself a second, he looked around to see the fight turning in their favor. Another, lesser flash of light in the corner of his vision before the Elf went tumbling across the compound, and Ildric was back fending off the lanky man’s dual blades.

Just one shot, he thought as he struggled to force his opponent back. Just one… A cry went up, and the thin man faltered just long enough for Ildric to bring his fist smashing into the man’s throat. He dropped to his knees, and kicking his weapons out of his hands, Ildric snatched him up by the neck.

“Where is he?!” he snarled, shaking the dazed brigand.

“Where — Where is who?” rasped the man as he grabbed at his throat.

Ildric glanced around as his men rounded up the surviving brigands. “Koss! Where is he?!” He shook the man harder, making him gasp desperately for breath.

“You should learn to ask nicely,” said a voice from behind him.

Looking over his shoulder, Eruviel, looking a bit roughed up, shoved a man a head taller than her and at least twice her weight forward. Koss grunted and dropped to the ground, and Ildric couldn’t tell if he was pissed because the Elf had his axe, or because a female had beaten him in a fist-fight.

Frank had joined them as soon as the fighting had stopped, and was quietly discussing with the Elf on the best way to break into her house if no one was home. Ildric rolled his eyes and shoved his prisoner into Hall’s waiting hands. “How far ahead is the wagon?” he asked, turning to tower over the large man.

“What’s it to you?”

“You took some things of value from us,” said Ildric with a growl as he leaned down, “and we want them back.”

Koss scoffed and spat at him. “Go to the Pit.”

Ildric let out a long breath, then punched Koss in the head, making the man’s head bounce off the old stones beneath them. “You stole from the wrong men. I’ll ask again. How far ahead is the wagon?”

Koss gritted his teeth. The man looked like he was about to retch. “Ha — Half a day… Half a day at the most.”

Standing upright, he turned to face the half dozen surviving brigands. “Seems we have no time to waste, then. Hill?”

Hill stood a little straighter, and nodded. “Vrax?”

“You and Frank take this skinny one into Bree for his bounty. Hill, you can meet back up with us. Albohr? You take ten and escort these men and their goods to the outpost. Reed will deal with them from there. And if any of you get ideas about causin’ trouble,” Ildric added with a growl, looking to the prisoners in turn, “I’ll let the witch eat you.”

“Till I Wake.”

By the gods, his head hurt. Forcing his eyes open he stared at where his halberd lay embedded in one broken half of the low table. How had it gotten there? And why was the table broken? Blinking did not clear the haze in his vision, and a heavy sigh deflated his chest as he looked to his hands resting in his lap.

Where in the bloody realm was Halethon? The young man was supposed to be back, well, he did not rightly know what time it was, but he should have been back by now. Peldirion had paced half the previous night after his conversation with Laerlin. He should accept her help. Hell, he should have accepted Alduial’s help, but that would be him admitting he needed it. That it was all spiraling out of control.

Sliding off of the edge of the bed, the man tensed as his bare skin touched the cold stone floor. Blessed cold. Everything was too hot. The baths, his bed, everything. Wearing nothing but the towel around his waist he was still too warm. He was thirsty, and angry, and tired, and… So wonderfully cold.

His eyelids drooped shut as he slumped over to lay on the floor. It helped his headache at least, but as tired as Peldirion was he would not go back to sleep. He had tried, but the now cold sweat that covered his body, and the broken table stood as testament to how well that had worked. He did not want to watch Megorin die again, to see the life leave the traitor’s eyes, to see Adrovorn’s broken body in the fields of blood, or to see her betrayal over and over with no way to make it stop.

Peldirion’s eyes slowly opened once more and he watched the halberd from where he lay. He watched the stained, emerald green silk ribbon bound to the shaft sway lazily from a draft. He should have left it at his brother’s grave when she gave it to him. Damned Elf. He did not want the responsibility that came with wielding that weapon. He did not want to want the weight he felt it put on his shoulders. Laying there in just his skin he wondered if the weight would crush him, alone in a city he loathed simply because it caged him, away from his men and the sea….

The sound of hinges creaking reached his ears. No decency to oil the bloody hinges.

“… Sir?”

Peldirion turned his head to look to the door. “Where have you been?”

The hopeful smile on Halethon’s face melted away, and he closed the door behind him. “I was meeting with someone… How bad was it?”

“Bad,” Peldirion rumbled as he sat up to lean back against the bed. He licked his lips. “Water?”

Halethon squared his jaw, and nodded. Folding the open letter in his hand the younger man made his way around the broken table towards the other side of the room.

“What is the letter?”

“Good news.” Halethon glanced over his shoulder at the table, then his captain sitting on the floor.

“Well, out with it, then,” said Peldirion, grunting as he rose to his feet long enough to sit on the mattress.

“Later.”

“Now.”

Halethon pulled something out of his pocket, and a few moments later he was turning with a glass of water in his hand. “Later… sir. First, drink and get some sleep.”

Peldirion narrowed his eyes at his lieutenant as he accepted the glass. “No sleep. Not after that.”

Halethon met his look and shook his head. “You will sleep,” he said quietly. “No dreams. You have my word. Good news can wait till you wake.”

Looking to the glass in his hand Peldirion nodded once, and downed the water. He then lifted the empty vessel in a toast. “Till I wake.”