fantasy

Practice

lotroedgeofwastes

“… and we took of like cats from a cage! Should ‘a seen us. Damned birds. Gonna be shyin’ from the critters fer weeks!”

Eruviel blinked out of her thoughts, lifting her head from where it rested on her knee to look to the young weapon smith. “Hmm? Oh — yes, yes that would be incredibly frightening. Crows are far smarter than some people care to admit.”

Risala lowered her weighted arms, frowning at the Elf. “You weren’ listening to a word I said, were ya?”

“You were running away from the gravedigger.”

“Yer so full of it,” Risala snorted, lifting the training sword to continue going through her paces. “What’re ya thinkin’ about?”

With a little smirk the Elf rose to her feet and walked along the stone fence to where their training gear sat. “Nothing that need concern you.”

Risala grinned mischievously and pointed her sword accusingly at Eruviel. “You were thinkin’ about him, weren’t ya?!”

“No, I was not,” Eruviel replied, taking up a short sword and the wooden shield from where it leaned against the barrier. “And even so it is hardly any of your business.”

“Bull,” Ris shot back with a snicker. “Can’t fool me, pointy-ears.”

One corner of Eruviel’s mouth slowly curved up. “How is your wounded tail bone feeling?”

“What? What has that gotta do with –” Risala cut off and shrugged, shoving a swath of bright red hair out of her eyes. “It’s fine. Why?”

“Your footwork has gotten sloppy.”

Risala scowled at the change of subject. “It ain’t got sloppy, you jus — Whaaaiiie!”

Quicker than she could respond, Eruvil had dashed in and swept the human’s legs out from under her. With a yelp and a flail of her arms Risala’s legs flew up and she crashed down to the ground.

“Ayyee! Damned bloody elf!” Ris wailed, rolling over and holding her bottom. “What’d ya do that for?!”

Eruviel dropped the shield beside the young woman, and set her hand on her hip. “As payback for last year when you knocked me on my ass.”

“Eh-heh, oh yeah,” Ris responded, grinning as she rose to her feet and took the shield up.

“And also, because the further you go along your road, the greater the chance of you crossing paths with far more dangerous things than an ‘gaunt lord’ and his enchanted flock of carrion.”

Risala sniffed and frowned down at her hammer and shield. “Yeah? Ya really b’lieve in all tha’?”

“I have seen all that, my dear friend.”

“Guess… learnin’ from a two thousand year ol –”

“Fifteen hundred year old –”

Risala smirked and rolled her eyes, though her limbs tingled with an eager anticipation.”Yeah, same thing. Company ain’t gonna be in Bree long. Ya really think you can learn me all that before I go?”

Eruvel’s green eyes narrowed as she grinned, and the Elf whispered under her breath to ignite the oil along the length of her blade. “Shield up. I can do better than that, Miss. Thorne. I can teach you.”

Anecdotes: Yule and Regret

“Can I show you anything?” The shop owner looked down at Jade, his patience worn thin by the wave of girls and women who had flowed in and out all day.

Jade did not care. She rested her elbows on the counter and her chin in her hands. “No.”

The man frowned down at the sulking young woman before shrugging and moving off to help someone else who was more likely to spend money.

“Misses Harlowe?”

It took Jade a second, but remembering that that was her, she lifted her head to see who had spoken.

A happy smile lit the Elf’s fair face, and Jade wasn’t sure if it was from having forgotten the lady’s name or the fleeting thought of wanting to look that good in hunting leathers that caused her mind to go blank for a moment. “Oh… Hey. You’re — How are you?”

“Eruviel,” the Elf offered kindly as she set a gloved hand on the counter and looked behind it to the wall covered in gold, silver, and shell necklaces, bracelets and clips. “And I am exceptionally well, thank you. You are here shopping? I should warn you away. I do not think gold is the metal for your husband.”

Jade scoffed, but that brought a little smile to her red lips. “Then maybe a comb for his beard.” She then shook her head. “I’m waiting for the barber to get done”

Eruviel raised her brows. “You are cutting your hair off?”

“Sure am,” she replied, nodding curtly.

“May I ask why?”

Jade glanced side-long at the Elf’s long, intricate braid woven with satin ribbon and pretty winter blossoms. “Feel like being petty,” Jade offered lamely, feeling childish. Lifting her chin, she smirked and tossed her bangs to chase the feeling away. “Don’t tell me you’re cutting yours off. Do Elves lose their powers if they cut their hair?”

The Elf gave an enchanting, silvery laugh. “Not at all! And no, it is one of my most prized possessions. One of the younger members of the guild braided it so nicely and I fear I do not have a clip to keep it from unraveling.”

Jade combed her fingers through her own soft, pale gold hair. “How’s one of your kind end up without anything?” 

Eruviel rolled her shoulders nonchalantly. “I gave it away.” Stopping a saleswoman, she motion to a set of combs and clips stuck to a display. “I don’t know what has you in such a mood at Yule, Miss Jade, but I hope you reconsider.”

Jade studied the display with a thoughtful air. “Oh, it’ll backfire. Reason is silly, but it’s just hair. It’ll grow back.”

“Hmm….” Eruviel picked up a delicate filigree comb. “May I?”

Jade blinked in surprise. “Wh — uhh, sure.”

Eruviel caught a pale swoop of the young woman’s hair with the brass comb, spun it and set it securely in place. “Petty reasons do not justify rash action. Neither are the small regrets worth it.” She hesitated, a warm, distant look in her green eyes. Adjusting the chain of a necklace hidden beneath her collar, Eruviel turned her attention back to Mrs. Harlowe. “And you do have lovely hair.”

The sick feeling that came from her feeling sick at the thought that haunted her lessened, and Jade flashed a charming smile up at the strange Elf. She really would regret it.  “Can’t argue with that.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You have a minute?”

Frank’s hammer clanked in an awkward strike against the tin. Hand gripping the handle tighter, he finished pounding the sharp bend in the metal. “What do you want?”

Cotton skirts swished, and he could almost feel her at his back though she remained several feet away. “I wanted to see you.”

You little — “You should go home, Maddie.”

“Frank, I –”

Without turning, Frank stepped away from the work bench and moved to the forge before her reaching hand could touch his arm.

“I heard you signed over the farm.”

“I did. I also signed your papers at the Town Hall,” he replied cooly.

Her silenced weighed down around them. “If… I didn’t know, Frank. Who I was, what I wanted –”

“Now we both do,” Frank interrupted sharply, meeting her soft, sad eyes with a cold, even look. “Go home.”

She looked wounded, sorry, but the now former Maddie Burns ducked her head in defeat. Picking up her cloak, she left the warmth of the barn for the frigid, snowy evening.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The little house was warm. Too warm. But she felt cold, and Feira shivered bodily, curled up in a quilt on the lightly worn couch.

Beside her several gifts sat, perfectly wrapped, bound with perfect little bows… except for Lalaith’s which was ready to be mailed in the morning. 

Then there was the tray set on the stool covered with several tea cups and a soup bowl. Torrin had not left her side all day, and his soon to be betrothed had even stopped in to see if you young woman was all right. Feira could feel better in the morning, or it could be a couple days, but she would be fine. 

Still Torrin doted on her as if it were her last day on the earth. They played games, and exchanged gifts, and when she fell asleep he sat and read at the foot of the couch to keep her feet warm. 

She didn’t think she could have had a better brother. 

Staring out the front window, Feira listened to him stumble through the kitchen in an attempt to make supper. The world was not as bright as it had been before. But in a day, or a week, whenever he showed up the two years would be over. She would cry and pretend to be fine, then eventually heal, but while she regretted not telling Torrin more about it, there was nothing, at least in that little moment, that she would have changed. 

In Our Darkness 

breenighttime

He felt somewhat robbed, leaving behind the little Elven home for the faintly glowing paths of Durrow. The satisfying feeling of leaving behind a houses warmth for the cold shadows kept at bay by lamplight was denied him as long, purposeful strides brought him closer to the homestead gate. Did they miss it, too? Did they even know?

Resigned to endure the dull, ethereal way, his thoughts waited with bated breath. Beyond the homestead the night would be colder and darker. Better for brooding and planning for the time when his enemy would once again make the mistake of letting himself be found.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The dull glow of the dieing fire cast  an orange hue on the wooden wall beside the wide, thin straw and feather filled mattresses that lay on the floor. It was calm here. Warm. He liked the warm. The attic room that served as home was clean, empty aside from the bed, a small table decorated by a fat tallow candle and his weapons, a chair that held his few folded clothes, and several old chairs against the far wall that had been stacked for storage and forgotten.

The hour was late. A quiet sigh deflated his chest as he shoved his hair out of his eyes. With care to not wake the slumbering man beside him, he slipped out from beneath the arm draped over his chest and stood, taking a moment to peer out the small attic window. It was time, and only darkness would allow for such an errand.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The salt breeze rushed along the beach, tossing the shawl draped around her shoulders till it billowed out like a sail. A dull light grew around her as the mute grey pushed back the last remnants of a starless night. She would be expected to be back soon, but she lingered as long as she could, sitting alone atop the time-worn boulder where it had begun.

Part of her had begged the darkness to stay. The weight in her gut that made her feel sick whenever she thought of what she should do — what she needed to do — seemed less in the shroud of night. Things were easier when you did not see. Then again, how many times had knowing eyes seen her and pitied or scoffed at her in her ignorance? That was even worse.

Instead of sitting anticipating the array of colors that was sure to follow… that she found herself doubting, she rested her golden head atop her knees. Absorbing the murky glow that swelled into a thick morning fog, she wished the night would linger a while longer.

Innocent Heart: Bartering

By care of Lady Eruviel Artistuion,

To Master Dorsett of Bree-town, 

Dear Sir,

Greetings! I hope this letter finds you well and in good health. Before anything I would like to beg your forgiveness on the part of my negligence. I had been in Bree-land for a few short days only a couple of months back and it did not occur to me to pay you a cordial visit till after I had departed back south for home. 

The reason for my writing is that, after all you had said about your own collection of book back when we talked in the library, you stuck out in my mind as someone who might have answers for me. My inquiry is a strange one, but I was wondering if you have any literature on mermaids. I am looking for anything concerning habits, diets, and things that attract them. Holding no assumption that you have read anything on the subject I still dearly hope that you have. While I am searching the books within my grasp here you are far more the scholar than I. 

Emeleth bless you and keep you.

Respectfully,

Feira, servant of House Colagar

gondorshore

“Good afternoon, Miss Feira!”

Feira smiled sweetly as she surrendered her letter to the postmaster. “Good afternoon, Master Cenor!”

The elderly man gave a warm chuckle. “Good to see you back! And sendin’ a letter. I shouldn’t be surprised — Ulmo! Who do you know all the way up there?”

“Oh, lots of people,” she reasoned as she pulled her loose hair over one shoulder.

“That’s what you get for travelin’. Meetin’ people. Reckon this one will write you back?” Cenor asked as he stamped the envelope and filed it away in the proper mail bag.

Feira blushed a little as she offered a curtsy, and swept towards the exit of the street-side office with a flutter of her long indigo skirts. “Let us hope so!”

A sea breeze caught her as she flitted out into the street, and she smiled happily, letting it escort her down the busy way (the two of them were going in the same direction). The young woman breathed deeply, savoring the smells of home. It was hardly a block till the sounds of the city fully enveloped her. The great court was filled with vendors, overflowing with sunlight and a generally merry atmosphere. A bubble of emotion swelled in her chest. How she had missed home.

She had changed up everything that week, even if some sad little part of her wondered if it mattered or not. Feira haunted a different corner of the library each day, took different paths to her destinations, and she could not have been more glad of it. Her basket heavy on her arm carried several new books from a shop she had not noticed before, and a little bag of sample muffins from a lovely woman’s bakery she had somehow failed to notice in all of her years in the city. There was also a noosegay the maid had picked for herself from a last second shortcut through a public garden because she had gotten spooked by a shadow, and (hidden beneath it all) what she assumed to be a discarded love note that had been trampled on and abandoned in a puddle. So much adventure while on her errands and there was still plenty of daylight left.

Weaving through the bustling crowd after placing a few orders, she ground to a halt when a stall stacked with old, worn books caught her eye. Feira licked her lips and brushed a few stray golden locks behind one ear before approaching the table.

“G’day, Miss!” called the haggard man standing behind the piles of tomes. “I can see ye’re already interested. What can I help ye find?”

“Good day, sir!” Feira chimed with a winning smile. “I think I have already found it — but… oh, I don’t know,” she murmured, trailing off as she turned her head and leaned a little to read the faded titles.

The man cleared his throat and lifted a work-worn hand to comb through his greying hair. “Got a few histories, some cookbooks and eh… original works if ye’re inta that sorta thing.”

Feira had spotted exactly what she wanted but hardly gave the tomes sandwiched in the middle of a stack another glance as she looked over the rest. “Do you have anything fanciful? Perhaps folklore or sailor stories?”

Studying her bright, amber eyes the man nodded slowly. “I think I have somethin’… Here, how’s this un?” He pulled out a tome the girl was well acquainted with.

Tales of Ulmo’s Bride? Oh, I have read this one before. Thank you, though. The ending is so sad, don’t you think?”

The merchant blinked before quickly nodding. “Sure is. Tragic, that one.” He had clearly never read it. Clearing his throat a bit more loudly than before, he shifted several stacks aside before pulling out one of the two tomes she had spotted. It was the nicest one in the entire collection. “How ’bout “Sun in the West: Forgotten Tales of Gondorian Folklore.“?” he asked, holding it out for her to see.

“Oh, that is very nice,” she admitted with a noncommittal nod of her head. “How much is that one?”

“For ye, missy? One silver.”

Outrageous. “A whole silver for that…?” Feira gave him a dubious frown. “May I inspect it first?”

He gave her a long, suspicious look, but the innocent young woman seemed to be the type that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Relenting, he surrendered the tome over. “Careful with that un. Ain’t gonna find it many places,” he cautioned.

Handling the book like a precious jewel she inspected it from spine to edge. It was clear that she knew how to handle books, and she went so far as to inspect the note of the scribe and the painting of Ithillien that decorated the centerfold. “Hmm… I could not pay a whole silver for this, no,” she replied with a disappointed sigh.

“What is wrong with it, if ye don’ mind me askin’?”

With an air that would make a librarian proud, Feira turned a little so the man could better see. “There is water damage up the bottom of the spine. The outside may look decent, but the stitching is about to crumble away. That alone degrades it’s value. Then there is the scribe’s signature. I have seen this name before and he always signed his name on the upper corner of the opposite page. And you don’t want me to get started on the poor state of the painting. I think I am just better off borrowing the library’s copy.”

It was another test the man failed to pass as he sniffed and offered a lower price. “Seventy copper.”

It took every bit of Feira’s self-control not to grin. She knew for a fact that the library did not have this book on it’s shelves. “Seventy? For this sad excuse of old parchment? I will give you ten.”

The man’s eyes narrowed at her as he accepted the book back. “Fifty.” He clearly just wanted to be rid of it, and it made her wonder just how long the poor tome had been sitting alone on a shelf.

“Ten.”

“Fifty, and no less.”

“I will do no higher than ten.”

“Fourty-five?”

“Then I will offer five?”

Pit, you will! Sixty!”

“Fifteen.”

“Deal!” The word spouted from the man’s lips before he could stop himself and he stared at the sweet young woman in surprise. “Hey, now, ye can’ –“

Feira smiled sagely, and shook her head. “You already agreed to it. Give me that little copy of the “Mariner’s Daughter” and I will give you twenty.”

Grunting, the man seemed none too pleased about being bested. Studying her in a new light, he yanked out the little faded blue dustcover from the stack. “I s’pose ye want ’em wrapped, too.”

Feira, though not unkindly, afforded herself a little triumphant smile. “I would be grateful if you did.

She waited patiently, the wicker handle of her basket held in both hands as she observed the thin merchant wrap the two books in brown paper. “Don’t got any bows ‘n all that shite t’ tie ’em with.”

“Like this is just fine, thank you.” Counting out her coin, Feira pulled a chocolate muffin out of the bag in her basket, and set it down with the copper.

“… Wha’s this?”

Feira tucked the wrapped books into her basket and smiled brightly at the man. “A thank-you. Do enjoy the rest of your day, sir!” Turning at that, Feira left the man at his stall, staring at her with a bewildered expression as her golden head disappeared into the crowd.

Blame

durrorw-horizon

“Where in Stockard’s grave ‘ve you been?”

Eruviel looked to the front stoop of her little house as she closed the gate to see Ildric occupying most of it, a pipe smoking in one hand. A guarded frown replaced her initial smile as she quickly read the dark look in his eyes, and she instinctively glanced over her shoulder to the narrow road beyond her fence. “Where’d you come from?”

Ildric’s narrowed eyes studied her from where he leaned against her door, purposefully blocking her way to her house. “Been waiting for you to come home for half the day.”

“That seems like a waste of time for such a busy man.”

“Probably was. What were you doing?”

“Hunting,” she lied.

“Bull.” He knew her too well. “You were doing fairy crap.”

Eruviel’s frown deepened. This was not Ildric. This was Vrax, and she could see through the dark that he was both tired and angry.”What is troubling you, Ildric?”

Ildric tossed his pipe aside and rose to his feet with a grunt. “Don’t give me that Elf, sugar-coated garbage.”

“Then don’t give me any of your shit,” she snapped back.

“Oh? My shit?” he scoffed, lumbering down the steps towards her. “You talk crap about caring about your friends and — What the hell is on your face?”

The Elf was caught off guard, and faltered for a moment. “Wha — Oh, this? Lipstick.”

“Why?”

“Because I was alone all day and I thought it might be fun. I decided it was a waste to leave it sitting in my bathroom unused.”

A dim, familiar glint passed through the man’s eyes. “Well that’s all backwards. If people wanna do something for themselves they usually  just f–”

Vrax!”

The two glared at each other, the air in the yard tense. Finally the big man shoved a hand into his vest pocket. Drawing something out he tossed it to her without care. “That’s why I’m here.”

Something small, and cold hit her cheek, and Eruviel caught it between her hair and her braid as it tumbled down. She instantly recognized the object as a ring and, lifting it to get a better look, was greeted by an all too familiar sapphire encased in silver leaves that glittered in the evening light. “What — Why do you have this? This is –”

Was,” Ildric clarified harshly.

Eruviel’s frown deepened as she looked up at the angry man towering a bit too close for comfort. “Was? What happened to Maddie?”

Thick arms crossed over Ildric’s chest as he continued to glare down at her. “I’d think you would be smart enough to figure that out for yourself. She left him.”

Eruviel’s shoulders sank, and an ill feeling twisted in her gut. “What? Why? Ildric, when did she leave him?”

“Before we got in from the raid. Bea was waiting up for us, and Frank found Maggie’s ring on the table in his forge.”

Speechless, Eruviel looked back to the ring for several moments. “And you’re angry at me because….”

“Because if you hadn’t been off doing Valar knows what, all of this could have been avoided!”

Her green gaze paled in a fleeing look of fury and darted up to lock on him. “You will not blame any of that on me! I told Frank why I could not go. He said he understood, and that is that!”

Ildric stepped up close, forcing her to retreat a step. “His wife had been taken! Someone you call friend needed you to be there, and you left to run around in the woods!”

“I left to find someone I call sister,” she shot back, her anger matching his. “He came to ask my help as I was already preparing to leave. Frank was sympathetic, and there was no issue with it. By the time I had returned you and yours had already caught the caravan! It is not my fault that she lost it and left him, and I am not responsible for her decisions.”

“Oh? Who was is that sent Frank south with news about Koss and his band a months back?”

Eruviel’s hands curled into fists at her sides. “You mean news that almost got my throat slit open in the process of getting? I did, but –”

Witch. That was the last straw for them! Did you know she watched him ride off? Cried like he had died, then went off and moved in with some young baker in town. If he’d have stayed they could have worked things out.”

“It doesn’t just happen like that, Ildric, and you know it. I told him to give Tamrin the message and stay home, but he wouldn’t have it. It was his marriage, and she had been treating him worse and worse since their anniversary. He insisted that it would fix things, and would not be persuaded otherwise.”

“And you know what it fixed? Nothing. Want to know what is even better? Koss fed his men to our attack and slipped away. Now we have to hunt the bastard down all over again,” Ildric spat, shouting angrily.

“He got away?”

“I gotta say it again? Finally had him in my sights after ten years and he’s gone.”

Eruviel deflated some, and shook her head. “Ildric, please. I am sorry that he got away. If you’ll let me –”

“You are, huh? Well I don’t want you helping this time. I’ve had enough of it,” he growled, shoving her out of of his way as he stalked past, his glare hazed over with a cloud of unbidden emotions.

“Ildric, wait! Where is Frank?”Eruviel called, her voice almost catching as she turned to attempt to follow after the man.

“At home. Locked himself in his forge,” he shot over his shoulder as he shoved the gate open and slammed it shut. “Leave him be…. Oh, and wipe that filth off your face. You look like a whore.”

Bittersweet: Warm Autumn Days

watersmeet-13

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.

Bittersweet: Lex Talionis

angmarminasdeloth

“Watch your step, Artis.”

Eruviel stopped short, halted by Milloth’s quick whisper. The stone tile in front of her gave off a faint, sorcerous shimmer. “Why are we here?” she asked in a hushed tone as she skipped two tiles ahead to be safe, and crowded up beside him.

Milloth’s golden hair cascaded over his grin as he motioned for her to be quiet. The heavy, scraping steps of an orc guard echoed from two corridors down, grew louder, than faded away. “Borrowing something.”

“You mean stealing.”

Milloth motioned for her to follow, and the two Elves glided down to the end of the dark hall with hardly a rustle of their cloaks. “I mean taking preventative measures.”

The elleth frowned up at her brother. “What are we stealing?”

His fingers twitching, Milloth did not respond for a moment. Resting a hand on her shoulder, he pointed through the wide door to a winding stairwell leading up.  “Four flights will take you up two floors. There is a large study, and you should find a little black box somewhere.”

Eruviel seethed. “What, with all the other little black boxes?”

“There is only one.”

“This is a terrible plan.”

“Then why did you come along?”

Huffing a harsh, quiet breath, Eruviel moved towards the stair only to have her wrist caught by Milloth. Looking back to the Elf, he placed a little pouch in her hand. “What is that?”

“For the student resting on a bench to the right of the door — Oh, and be careful of the holding cell one floor up. I couldn’t tell if anyone was there.”

Eruviel gave her brother an incredulous look.

Milloth released her and nodded briskly for her to go on. “Be quick. I will be here. I promise.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel turned down a dark corridor as she headed back to the front hall, knowing, in spite of her frustration, that Eirikr was right. Her hand ached from gripping the sword hilt too hard, and no amount of shaking her head could expel the fog gathering in her mind as she walked briskly to return to the group near the entrance of the Tower.

Stone. Iron. Orc. Incense. Blood. It was the blood she could smell most. Her fingers shifted on the leather-bound grip. The Elf could feel it, the haze creeping in on the edges of her mind and vision, making her irritable, and impatient. Then there was the hunger….

Darkness trickled into the hall like water from up ahead. If she could end it now, if she could just get one shot, then they could regroup. They could walk out of the gates, and go home, and never have to come back.

Air rushed past her as the dim light shining from behind her disappeared. Rainion’s words springing easily across her tongue, flame sprung to life along her well oiled blade, and she moved to run when a wave of darkness slammed into her. Trapping her arms, the black tendrils whipped about, and for a moment Mornenion’s face appeared, grinning wickedly as he closed in on her…. But then the face vanished. As quickly as it appeared the mass of shadow dropped her and withdrew, retreating down the corridor in the direction she meant to go.

Eruviel landed on her feet. If it had come from the hall be hind…. Shouts from ahead interrupted her thoughts. Leaping into a run, she did not falter as the shadow of an orc stepped into her path. A thrill ran up her arm from the sword and she ran faster, colliding with the beast, sword piercing between plating and ripping out as the Elf did not stop. She could feel it, the cold, hateful soul of a being, twisted from birth, flowing into the bright elven steel.

More.

In the long hall before her, Eruviel’s eyes flicked quickly over the faces of her friends, hunting as the small group reacted to black tendrils yanking Phrazanu off of his feet and dragging him away. Locking on her quarry, she flew forward over the smooth stone tile. Putting her full body into the swing, she half spun with the slash, severing the dark arms.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mornenion watch from his cover of darkness at the far end of the hall as the Elf paced back and forth. She was faster than she had been minutes before, and certainly more volatile. Like an animal caged by reason and expectation she prowled, searching the shadows, not for the sorcerer, but for him.

No, he had planned to kill the brothers and Bree woman as soon as Eruviel had led them up the stairs. She was closest to those two, the bear and the archer, and making her watch them die would have been delicious. But at the last minute the man had stopped her and somehow convinced her to turn back. Mornenion cursed the Barding. To be honest it surprised him, her relenting to the insistence of the Human.

And there was Minuziel. Lovely, troublesome Min. He had expected some sort of plotting from her, but not like this. She belonged to him, as well as her bastard child, and he would never allow her to leave. Mornenion’s fists clenched, a fresh surge of unbidden anger rising in him as his wife clung to the arm of that horrible boy.

They are mine!

Casting out a hand, a wave of darkness surged across the hall, tossing some, and whipping about others. Poke them, prod them, then let their bones clatter to the floor in piles of their own dust. The swell of sick delight at Eruviel slamming into the wall was swiftly obliterated as he saw Minuziel standing calm and untouched by his attack.

Looming forward, behind the newly arrived second party — What timing — Mornenion focused hard and gathered more shadow from further into the tower. “If you wish to leave, she stays.”

The call of the Bree woman was lost to his ears as Minuziel spoke up.”You may as well come out. No use in acting dark and shadowy when they know who you are.”

Mornenion glared at her for a moment, mulling over the idea. He was using more energy than he had intended… But she was right. He could come out, strike in the middle of their ranks…. The sound of bone rung in his memory again, and Mornenion looked down as the Barding archer drew his sword and…. Was he really pointing a sword at him?

The sorcerer’s laughter rung against the stone walls. “What are you going to do with that?”

The angry, bearded man did not falter. “Poke things that should die.”

Eruviel was ushered further behind her friends, the bear-boy following close to her as the Bree woman pushed herself to her feet and walked over. “Hey, ass, I asked you a question!” she barked at the shadow.

Mornenion sighed. Some people. He manifested the outline of his figure to appear in the center of the room has he turned his attention from the Barding to the Bree woman. A tendril of shadow flicked out lashing the woman hard across the face. She managed to get her arms up in time, and took the full force of the strike, which flung her back to the floor with a thud and sharp gasp.

“Come out, coward!”

Mornenion’s focus snapped to the silver-haired Elf just as the Barding charged at him. Landing in a run, the sorcerer drove his shoulder in to the bearded man’s chest, intent on rushing past. The Barding grunted on impact, but grabbed at his attacker to take him down with him.

The bear-boy roared loudly and thundered toward the sorcerer and his brother, only slightly hindered by his nasty wound. Mornenion staggered a bit as the Barding grabbed for him, but shrugged off his hands and flung a wave of shadow at at the charging animal. It barreled into the bear-boy, shoving him out of the way with a yip in pain just as a sharp kick dropped the sorcerer to his knees.

Out of the corner of his vision Eruviel rushed at him. I’ll finish this once and for all. I swear, I’ll kill all of them as you drown in your own blood. Mornenion lashed out a hand as the Elf drew near, shadow tossing her aside like a doll and reaching desperately for her mind as he turned back to drive —

Amidst a shout, a fist slammed into the side of his face. Mornenion staggered from the force, emitting an angered cry as he fell back. It had been years since he had been struck, and it never felt quite as painfully disagreeable as this. He felt his shadow lift off the white-haired man — then tasted blood as the Barding’s foot caught him in the mouth. Snarling, he grabbed at the bearded man’s ankle… and nothing happened. The Barding should have been collapsing in a heap of dust and hunter garb, but instead he struggled against Mornenion’s grip, very much alive. Somewhere beyond the weight of anger and blood, desperation finally crept in as his shadows were swept away, leaving the great room measurably brighter than before.

Releasing the man, Mornenion scrambled to his feet, panic gripping him as he turned to flee. No sorcery! None! Never had it left him. Was it the Elves? The Barding? Min? Perhaps it was the other sorcerer, or the Council…. Betrayed, betrayed, they all have betrayed you. A little more power and I’ll show them all. They will cower and writhe and I will take everyth — The Bree woman’s hands appeared from the side, causing him to stumble, when suddenly a bitterly cold shock plunged through his spine.

A tormented cry of pain erupted from his throat, filling the room  as a red-coated sword drove out of his chest. Mornenion knew what death felt like. It had not been pleasant, but there were worse things. With a little help it had been easy enough to escape from the first time, but this…. He was paralyzed by cold steel sapping the warmth from his blood. He tried to rebel against it, and pull himself away, but that only increased his agony. Every fiber of him felt as if it were tearing apart.

Gasping, grasping for air, for power, for anything, true darkness crept into his vision as he was forcefully ripped from the spells that held his spirit in place. He felt the weight of a body against his back, the warmth of a forehead against his shoulder. In one last effort to escape his fate he grabbed for the Elf who held the despicable weapon that devoured his essence from the inside – out. Nails caught flesh, then feeling was lost, and as the steel was pulled away, the last he ever saw was the prized cage that had been his body slumping over to exhale it’s final breath.

(Second half derived from in-game RP log, and edited for tense, composition, and Mornenion’s point of view. Thank you to Atanamir, Cwendlwyn, Valthier, Raenarcam, Hallem, and Feygil for all the help and for coming along for the ride!)

Anecdotes: Return

“You sure they’re there?”

Frank grumbled in frustration and pointed again to the distant copse of trees lit by the low orange glow of campfires. “I don’t give shit reports. They are there.”

“Watch your mouth.”

“We should move in now, while we have the chance,” Frank growled, glaring at Ildric through the dark.

Ildric crawled back till it was safe enough to stand, and adjusted the sword at his hip. “I’ll take it from here. You ride on back.”

Frank wheeled around to face the towering man. “I brought the report from the Elf herself. I have seen their numbers and I am staying. I want them dead just as much as –”

Ildric snatched Frank up by the front of his tunic and tossed the young man back. “Go to your wife, Frank. I know you got a score to settle, but you’re no good to me.”

“You bastard,” Frank snarled, scrambling to his feet.

Moving to shove the younger man away, the sound of horses reached Ildric’s ears. Grabbing Frank by the shoulder he drug him in to clap a hand over his mouth. The sound grew louder then faded off to their right, and Ildric did not release his friend till the echo of hooves had faded.

“What you do that for?”

“You’re a mouth breather.”

Frank punched Ildric hard in the shoulder. “I am not. You’re an ass.”

“True.”

“When do we go?”

Ildric frowned down at him. “You’re goin’ nowhere but home.”

Frank set his feet and glared up at the man.

What felt like several minutes passed before Ildric nodded his head curtly. “You’re a pain, Frank.”

Frank sniffed, dusting off his left sleeve as he marched past the older man. “I learn from the best.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Feira leaned over the railing, hands cleaning to the rigging as fresh ocean mist sprayed up to shower her face and cling to her hair. Home! It was just beyond the horizon… and a little ways beyond that, but still! The air slowly turned increasingly warmer, as did the salty sea, and Feira wondered for a moment what would happen if she lept from the side do dive into the frothing hills of blue water.

“Ho! Miss!” called a deck hand from behind her. “Ya wanna be careful. Hit a swell ‘n ya be swimmin’ yer way back teh Gondor!”

Feira shoved her golden hair out of her eyes as she beamed back at the man worn by sun and years at sea. “If I did, maybe I’d beat you all there!”

The man stared at her for a moment, a little bewildered by her response before chuckling and shaking his head. “Well can’ say I didn’ warn ya! S’long as yeh enjoy it and ain’t leanin’ too far I s’pose it don’t hurt any, though.”

Nodding readily, Feira smiled a charming smile at the man, not minding the pitch of the ship since she had got her sea legs a few days before. “I’ll be careful! Thank you!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel leaned back against her front door, listening as Eirikr’s footsteps retreated down the hill towards the cabin. The fearful ache started to crawl it’s way back into her chest.

How can you ask me to stay behind?

And she had caved. Of course she had. He thought she sounded crazy. He was angry with her… and she supposed if things were reversed she would have been, too. As much as she wanted to beg and plead for him to change his mind, a fresh confidence also settled over her, knowing that he would be there.

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

How could she communicate the danger? How could she tell him — all of them why any of this was happening? Sliding down the smooth door, she stared at the floor between her knees. How could she turn the tides in their favor. He’s arrogant, prideful, dramatic… and scared.

“Going to face him head-on, tracking him down. That is predictable. Draw him out!”

Her gaze turned to the delicate silver chain around her neck. Lifting a hand she pulled the small blue agate out from beneath her shirt, gazing at it for a moment before grasping it in her fist. “Draw him out, hmm? Damn it, Eirikr,” she whispered softly. Leaning her head back she closed her eyes, pulling herself out of each thought and emotion, allowing the white light that filled her mind to become everything that was.

Eruviel opened her eyes. There were no shadows as bare feet carried her up the low, grassy hill speckled with blue and white flowers swaying on silver stems. Carefully she withdrew the light from the boundaries of her mind, and while not blinding and filled with her will, the light remained, like the soft haze of sunlight that blurs one’s surroundings.

It was not long till he came. She sensed him first, cautious and corrupting, his shadows coiling out in attempt to drown out her light.

“I admit that I am surprised. Are your defenses so weak, or are you too tired to care.”

Her skin crawled as he drew close, but the dark form did not attempt to step foot on the low hill, and she did not so much as move to acknowledge him.

He prowled for a moment, circling her small rise with an air that said he was merely humoring her. “How disappointing that you burned the banners, though. I had been saving them just for you. I was hoping you might keep them with you as you steal into my tower to finish what you had started.”

Again she did not respond, gazing off to some distant corner of her mind, her own features obscured by the surrounding glow.

Mornenion stopped, fixing her with a dangerous look. “Why did you let me back in?”

Finally she she turned to face him and lifted her gaze to meet his. “I have been waiting for you.”

Bittersweet: The Falls of Imladris

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Waiting till the sound of retreating footsteps were drowned out by the thundering of the falls, Eruviel reached a hand out to the white stone pillar to steady herself. For what felt like a minute (but could easily have been more) she stared at the empty space before her, replaying everything back in her mind, if only to make sure it had been real.

Then she remembered to breathe. Sweet mountain air rushed into her lungs as Eruviel slumped against the stone. She looked back to the empty path behind her, eyes soft and bright with disbelief. Realizing then the warmth that radiated from her cheeks, Eruviel scooped up the bundle of her cloak and fur wrap. Hugging them tightly to her chest, she drifted swiftly down the path to where the trees grew near the base of the falls.

Nothing and everything had changed since she had last been to that corner of Imladris. The trees were the same, but taller, the river just as crystal clear and cool, but wider here and there where the earth and stone had eroded away. Dropping her effects at the edge of the clearing, Eruviel sank down into the thick grass to stare out at the rainbows of water that crashed down over each other, sending diamond mist up to coat the pines, and summer grass.

… I would want you to remember…

Letting her long hair out of it’s braid, she laid back to stare up at the high branches. So tall, and warm, and strong. Always there, fearfully just out of reach, then…. Eruviel lifted her hand, but stopped, fingers hovering over her lips, not touching lest the memory that lingered on them be lost. 

It had only lasted for a heartbeat. And as she looked back, time most surely had stopped. Hadn’t it? How pure, and perfect. It had been fleeting, but in it a flawless communication that what she had said to him, as well as the meaning and feelings within her words had been understood. That she had been understood.

Adjusting the little blue agate on her necklace, Eruviel blinked her long lashes against the gathering mist in her eyes. Her chest swelled as she drew in a breath, and a sweet, euphoric laugh suddenly bubbled out of her. Startling herself, she clamped a hand over her mouth, then, quite hesitantly, licked her petal-soft lips. She laughed again, more quietly this time, but there was no need, for beside the falls of Imladris no one would hear her.

Innocent Heart: Hate

Cobblestone - old street in Rome (Italy). A view just after rain.

 

A light mist drifted down from a thinly clouded sky. Though not enough to drench the few citizens that made their way down the side streets of Dol Amroth, it had persisted for several hours and filled the spaces between the stones of the cobbled streets with small puddles. Her little notebook tucked safely under one arm, Feira’s golden hair fell forward over her shoulders, coated with a veil of crystalline droplets.

“Anything else?”

“Yeah, stop bein’ so damned hard to catch.” The young man with scarred hands leered down at her. “You just tell yer brother. Two weeks or we come collectin’.” There was a wall behind Feira that blocked her retreat, and she turned her head away as he lifted a hand to nudge her chin. Sounding a dry chuckle, the young man turned and walked down the street.

The other man, unfortunately, did not leave. He stared down his crooked nose at her, and Feira wondered what he would do if she attempted to leave. Swallowing, she kept her hands balled into fists in an attempt to keep herself from shaking.

“I apologize for him.”

Feira blinked several times. “W-What?”

The man with the crooked nose shrugged. “‘e’s a bit… enthusiastic about ‘is work. Probly no fun for ya t’ have us keepin’ an eye on ya.”

In what realm would this be fun for her? “Then why do you do it? J-Just leave me alone — Leave us alone.” She hugged her book to her chest as if the letters within would protect her.

“Hey, I don’t have to come along. Be grateful I do or the boys would have collected on your brother’s debt weeks ago.”

Feira shivered, feeling ill at the thought. “It’s not his debt, though. And i-is that supposed to make me feel better?”

The man with the crooked nose frowned, looking somehow guilty. She didn’t believe it. She didn’t believe it for a second. Of all the people in the world she only hated two, and even after all she had done Feira pitied Aunt Raewiel more than anything else. But not him. If anyone could fill her with hate it was the ghost that had her cornered along the side of an empty street.

Walk away. Walk away... Feeling nauseous, Feira started to walk around him, praying that her legs would not give out under her.

“For what it’s worth…”

Feira froze in her tracks, unsure if she was shaking from fear or anger.

“I’d heard she’d died. Didn’t know what happened to you, though. I’m sorry things had t’ happen like they did.”

She was not sure what came over her, but in a flash Feira whirled about and fiercely stabbed the end of the spine of her book against his chest. “Had to? Had to?! It’s worth nothing! Everyone has a choice, and you never had to do what you did!”

The man with the crooked nose let out a startled ooph and stepped back, putting a hand to his chest where she’d struck him. “But you weren’t — What do you mean?”

“What do I mean?! I mean I saw everything!” she cried brokenly, hitting him again. “It’s all your fault! All of it! It’s your fault she died!”

He was staring at her, face twisted with shock, and he stepped back again as the cage over his heart absorbed another blow. “You saw? Shit, girl, that was twelve years ago. Don’t go blamin’ me. She was alive when –”

Feira stabbed him again with her book, harder this time, holding it more confidently than she did her practice sword. Never mind that he was taller and stronger than she. She didn’t care. Tears pooled in her eyes to blind her, and spilled out to pour down her pink cheeks. She could smell the opium on him, and it fueled her fire. “I blame you! Is you leaving her alive like that suppose to be some sick kind of mercy?!”

The man with the crooked nose batted away her next attack and grabbed for her wrists. “I said I was — Calm down, girl!”

“Or what? You’ll finish the job after all this time? What was it you said? I’ll take this one, she’s a cutie?!” Feira choked on a sob and wrenched her arm away only to have it caught again.

Her words hit harder than her fists, and the man winced as he gripped her wrists. “Emeleth, girl, I just wanted t’ warn ya. Is just the way things are –”

From the back of her mind, Hathlafel’s words echoed out, and Feira rammed her knee into the man’s groin with as much force as she could muster. His voice cut off and he doubled over in pain.

“No, it’s not. You’ll get your filthy money, you monster,” she spat, scampering out of his reach. “And don’t you ever lay a finger on me again!” Still blinded by tears, the realization of what she’d done slowly came over her. Feira spun around in the damp and fled, her only beacon the tall roof of the sanctuary that was the library as she left the man with the crooked nose behind.