Forlindon

One Final Lesson

Eruviel remembers . . . .

“Get up.”

Rainion’s words sent air rushing into her lungs, and Artis used the pillar behind her to pull herself to her feet.

“Pick up your sword.”

Her eyes never leaving her brother, Artis stepped over to pick up the curved, Elven blade. “How much longer wi –” Her words were cut off when Rainion flung out his arm, sending a wave of wind out to knock his little sister off her feet. Flying back it was the pillar that once again brought her tumbling to a halt.

“Get up.”

“Stop helping,” grumbled Artis with gasp. At least she hadn’t lost her sword this time. Anticipating his attack, she spun around and hid behind the pillar as a force of wind rushed past.

“How am I helping, Moriquendë?”

She took a second to steady her breathing. “You say this is preparing me for the future,” she said as she stepped back out into the open, “and I heard Ada telling you not to go easy on me. Stop giving me air when the wind is knocked out of me.”

One corner of Rainion’s mouth curved up. “Do not lose your sword. We will not stop till you start landing on your feet every time.”

Setting her feet as he had taught her, she nodded. “Go.”

The force slammed into Artis, and the world spun as she fell backwards to roll through the dirt of the training yard. Panic shot through her as she gasped frantically for air. Sliding to a stop on her knees she forced herself to breathe, rose to her feet, and moved into a jog to attack Rainion head on.

Again he flung out his hand, and again she was thrown back. Once, twice, three times she rolled across the ground.

“You are not a sack of wheat. Get up!”

Artis got up. Her head spun, but her sword remained in hand, and with each fall she more quickly recovered. Land on your feet. Land on your feet.

Reaching a hand into the leather pouch hanging from his belt, Rainion waited for Artis to get within striking distance before throwing his hand out at her. Catching the force of the blow with her chest, Artis sailed back through the air, but this time she had prepared for it. Flipping around she reached down and caught the ground beneath her with the tip of her blade. Slowing, she landed on her feet, slid to a stop, and launched herself forward towards her brother.

“Again!”

Rainion grinned, and attacked. She had figured it out. His strikes were never the same, but no matter which way she was thrown Artis used her weight, weapon, and surroundings to land upright. Each time she got faster, and each time she got a little closer to him.

Landing sooner, Artis attacked before Rainion had a chance to recover. A swipe of her blade forced him back, and as Rain cast out his hand she took hold of his wrist. In the blink of an eye he had twisted out of her grasp and extended a dagger to her throat.

“Not quite fast enough, Moriquendë. Took you a few days –”

“And a few beatings,” chimed Artis to reminded him.

“Ah, yes, and a few beatings, but you have improved.”

Artis’s mouth slowly curved up into a grin, and she tapped the flat of her blade against his side.

A look of realization passed through the tall Elf’s grey eyes, followed by a gleam of pride. “That’s my girl.” Withdrawing his blade, Rainion took a step back. “My last day home, and my little sister beats me.”

Frowning, Artis gave him her most stubborn scowl. “We tied. You will know when I beat you.”

“I look forward to it,” Rainion said with a chuckle, reaching out to tousle her already messy bangs. “I hope Milloth is there to see it when you do. He becomes rather childish when reminded of his many losses.”

Fixing her bangs, Artis could not help but smile a little as she moved to walk with him. “I will train hard while you are away.”

Rainon did not speak for several paces. Draping an arm across her shoulders he nodded as he led them back to the main house. “Pray that I will not be gone long.”

Handing her sword off to an attendant waiting at the door of the yard, Artis glanced to Rainion’s hand that draped over her far shoulder. “I will. Naneth . . . Naneth does not want you to go.”

“Neither does Eilianniel.”

She could feel his shoulders sag. “I know,” responded Rainion quietly. “I wish none of us had to go, but when there is evil someone has to stand in it’s path.”

Pursing her lips as she frowned, Artis nodded. “I saw her packing earlier today.”

“I do not have to report in for a couple weeks. Eilianniel and I will be spending that time together.”

What could only have been jealousy twisted a little inside of her. Swallowing, she looked down to the smooth stones set into the ground beneath their walking feet. “Is it difficult? To be away from her?”

“Very difficult,” said Rainion. Looking down to the top of her head he smiled softly, and gave her a one-armed hug. “I forget sometimes how much you’ve grown. Perhaps you will finally be wed by the time I return.”

Scrunching up her nose, Artis lifted her chin to look to the path ahead. “Do not get your heart set on it. I just have a few more boring, arrogant, and passionless options to check off Ada’s list, then I will be free.”

Laughing, Rainion placed a kiss atop of her head before moving to take them up a stair that lead to the kitchens. “So long as Ada is on this side of the sea, dear Moriquendë, you will not be free of what he sees as your duty.”

Artis frowned. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No. Just promise me you will be our good Artistuion while I am gone? As much as you two clash, you can still learn a lot from him.”

Nodding, Artis stepped inside the door he held open for her. “I will do my best.”

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A Bitter Wind (part 2)

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Eruviel remembers.

 

A day had passed, and then another before Milloth and Rainion had returned. And when they had they stayed long enough to trade out horses and speak in private with their father. Then with a kiss to Artis’s forehead they were off again.

As for father, he and she had not spent their customary walks at twilight together. The first night he had missed and Istuion had sought her out, not telling her why but to apologize and say he would be there the following evening. He was not. They had missed twilight’s when he was away or had business, but never before had she been there standing alone. Why does he not tell me. Why does he not tell me anything?

Her chest heaving with a sigh Artis sat up to rest at the edge of her bed, abandoning her book to the nightstand. A cold northern wind batted against the windowpanes, and the harder it blew, the deeper the chill that something was amiss delved into her bones.

Wrapping a soft, woven ivory blanket around her shoulders she rose to her feet and began to pace slowly around her quarters. Stopping in the wide curve of the bay window she cast her eyes down to the main courtyard below. Eery shadows danced away from the torches and through the naked tree branches as the wind poured over the high walls. Only the necessary Eldar guards and troops had remained as the others had been sent to fight both the enemy and fires to the east. She had not seen her father leave . . . but then again she had not seen her father at all.

Her emerald eyes rose to search the horizon and she was about to turn away when she saw it; the faintest orange glimmer amidst the darkness to the south. Her breath faltered as she looked again through the ripples of rain coursing over the glass. That was past the bridge . . . The Eldar were no where near there . . . .

“They won’t get there in time,” she muttered under her breath. But maybe . . . maybe I can make it. Dropping her blanket she paced to the red mahogany armoire and changed out of her nightdress into the trousers, tunic, and leather curiass she kept hidden beneath her skirts. She opened a side cabinet and stopped. Then she remembered that Istuion had taken her bow and short swords several days back. ‘To ensure that you do not follow through with any bad ideas,’ had been his words. Sucking a harsh tisk through her teeth Artis fixed a thick cloak over her shoulders and strode purposefully out of her room.

None of the few servants still out in the halls stopped her or spoke to her, but all of them moved out of her way. Taking the steps two at a time Artis swung open the doors to her father’s study. She did not bother stopping to look around the empty room as her eyes locked on her target that hung against the wall over the cold fireplace. Crossing over the Lorien-woven rug, a victorious smile curled up her lips as her hand easily reached and closed around her father’s ebony bow.

_ _ _ _ _

The wind pierced through the thick wool of her drenched cloak. Almost there. Almost there, she told herself as she whispered to her steed, urging the animal to run faster. The black giants of trees watched her as she flew forward, racing towards the distant glow of fire. She had heard the talk. Goblins. She had seen pictures and heard tales of what they looked like and what they did. Artis told herself it could be worse. It could always be worse.

Cresting the next rise Artis reigned in her mount, the horse reeling around at the abrupt halt and stomping as the inferno came into view. The whole outpost was awash with flame, and the shouts of battle and crash of steel echoed up from the knoll. Turning back she tied her horse to a tree a short ways off then backtracked back to survey the chaos.

Bodies littered the ground and only a small number of human soldiers remained. But what puzzled Artis was the enemy. They were fewer in number than she had feared . . . though she didn’t know what to expect. The problem was that they were too tall to be goblins; too tall and too thick. The enemy crushed in past a line of rangers and the fighting intensified. Overwhelmed, she pulled the ancient bow from her back and notched an arrow when a hand clasped over her mouth.

Artis could have sworn her heart stopped. Her body went rigid as her head was pulled back . . . and then her heart stopped again.

“What in Valinor,” Istion growled as he glared down at her, his dark hair fallen from it’s usual ponytail to hang wet and wind-whipped across his hardened features.

“A-Ada,” she gasped, staring up at him in shock.

“You should not be here,” he said darkly, releasing her as he turned his steel-grey eyes towards the fire and fighting several hundred yards away.

“I –” The words wouldn’t come. I wanted to help. I know I could. You can let me. You can trust me. I am strong enough. “Ada?”

Istuion took the bow from her hands, his care more chilling than the bitter light in his eyes that stabbed down at her. “We are going home.”

“Wha — but the humans,” she insisted, suddenly discovering her heart as it lept back to life, pounding furiously in her chest as she watched him walk away. “You cannot leave them to this!”

“I can, and I will,” he said simply, the words flowing too easily from his mouth. “You will learn, daughter, that humans only bring this,” he said, motioning to the desperate fight below, “no matter how much hope is placed in them.”

Artis followed a few steps and stopped. “They wanted to help. They could have.” She turned to look back as one of the large beasts cut down another Arthedain soldier. So much blood . . . so much death. They didn’t choose this death. “We have to help them!”

“No. We do not. Get your steed. We are going home.”

“Ada! How can you –“

Enough!” he hissed, whirling around to face her as the main hall of the fort collapsed, crushing the few wounded with tremendous crash and explosion of embers. “You are my daughter, and I said we are going. You will never hold a bow again.”

Damn it all!” she suddenly shouted, stepping towards him. “What did they ever do to you? Punish me later,” she insisted, desperate. “I will bear whatever consequences that you see fit, but please, Ada! They are dieing!”

Istuion looked back to the outpost where the last three soldiers, Jarrin among them, faced off against twelves of the beasts. “They chose this,” he mutter bitterly as he pivoted to walk away.

Artis stared at him in disbelief. She moved to follow, but her joints felt stiff, her core ached . . . and screamed and thrashed as the rain drove ever harder down to the earth. “No,” she whispered, halting.

What?” Istuion asked, the Eldar’s fury filling the air around them. Before it would have made her quiver. Before she would have retreated, ashamed and begging for his forgiveness. But not now. If he didn’t tell her why he hated them, that was on his head, not hers.

“I said no,” she responded quietly, her head held high. “You chose this.” Not caring to see the reaction on his face she snatched the black bow from his hands and sprinted away in the dark towards the hissing ruins and screams of fallen men.

She felt numb as she dashed down the far side of the rise, letting gravity pull her ever faster towards the flames and monsters and men. Nock, draw, loose. Nock, draw, loose. The first arrow buried its barbed tip deep in the back of the first beasts head even as the third shot from her string. Artis did not know if it was fear or shock, but she was certain it was not bravery that drew her closer.

Seeing the enemy drop and her sprinting to join them the men suddenly attacked the tall beasts with a renewed energy. Another fallen beast, then another. The soldier to the right was knocked to the ground, but an arrow through the monster’s arm gave the man enough time to cut it down.

Then, a cry from the side drew her attention. One of the enemy stood over Jorrin, a spear through the man’s chest. With a shout Artis rebounded off a charred post to help the man when the wind was knocked out of her. The world spun and as Artis crashed to the ground all her senses rushed back to her. The blood, the fire, the burned flesh crawled into her nose, the screams of the wounded lost in the dark and the roar of a defiant fire poured into her ears. Artis had but seconds, scrambling for a muddy, lost shield before an enemies meteor hammer came crashing down with a resounding crack upon the wood and steel. The shock racked her body, slamming her head against the hard ground, the layer of mud and ash not offering a bit of protection. The shield remained whole.

A roar reached her, not quite human, not quite beast, and as the foul creature brought his arm up to attack her again a bolt of lightning shot through its chest. The white-blue light flashed over her vision again and again. It resounded through the woods around them and as she sat up, the air around her crackled with energy. Looking up she saw Istuion standing over the last of the creatures, a long, sparking dagger sticking up out of the the top of the beasts head. He was magnificent, and terrifying. Was that really her father? She wanted to both run to him and to flee. But there was no going back. It might have been the only thing she was sure of.

One of the soldiers staggered over to her, pulling the shield off of her and offering her a hand up. Seeing the shock and gratitude in his expression she too his hand, rising shakily to her feet. The fire had finally began to die down and a dim, grey light rose in the east. Steam rose and swirled about them as the cold wind continued to blow through the high branches. Retrieving the bow she turned in a slow circle, the growing light revealing the full extent of the human’s losses. Seeing one of the last soldiers kneeling beside the commander Artis joined him. Blood trickled out of the side of Jorrin’s mouth, and he could only manage a sputter as she knelt down to try and help stave the hot flow seeping from his mortal chest wound. She had never seen so much blood.

And then she looked to Istuion, and he looked back at her. As drenched as the least of them, Artis had never seen her father so expressionless. “Ada,” she said weakly, her mouth dry as droplets of water coursed down her face.

His cold eyes saw right through her. There was something in that look. It was angry and betrayed and it cut her to the core. Retrieving a long knife from the neck of one of the creatures he cast a disdainful look at the pitiful remnant of the human outpost. Then his gaze found hers. “Since this is what you want, help them to the human fort the the east. Do not bother coming home till you do.”

No going back. He would think less of me if I did not stand by my decision. I would think less of me. Standing, Artis nodded curtly, not caring that her arms shook and that the cold sent an aching shiver through her body. “So be it.” Was she so wrong?  Ada.

Nodding, his cold eyes flicked over her, checking for injury, and she could feel every droplet of water, every bit of mud and blood on her. Then Istuion turned away from her, and disappeared into the shadows of morning.

A Bitter Wind (part 1)

Eruviel remembers.

“Please, Master Istuion. We will not sta –”

“No,” the Eldar lord interrupted, the single, sharply spoken command echoing through the stone gatehouse. “I will not say it again. You may water your horses and rest for an hour. My sons brought you here, so they will escort you away. Them and a company of archers will see you and your men safely to the next bridge.”

The face of the tall Arthedain commander known as Jorrin hardened as he chose his words . “Will all due respect, my lord, that would be back tracking. Winter has come even earlier this year, and from reports from back home it will be even harsher than the last. We have reason to believe –”

“Sir, do you suggest that the soldiers I have will not be able to easily thwart whatever scourge the cold drives south?”

“I do not, my lord,” responded the human commander, meeting the elf’s gaze, “but my men and I only mean to pass through you lands.”

Tension flooded the space left by silence. “I will deal with whatever filth the Witch King has sent so far west. You will take your men back south. If you leave in an hour you can make the human outpost by nightfall,” spoke Istuion finally.

“Very well, Master Istuion,” Jorrin responded grimly.

Artis watched from where she sat perched in a gatehouse window as her father paced away, hands clasped behind his back and head high. A bitter wind floated over her, goosebumps pricking on her arms and sending a chill down her back. The older she got the less she understood why Istuion treated the humans with disdain. What made it worse was the silence and dismissal she got whenever she asked. She probably should have sought understanding, but Rainion had been sworn to say nothing, and Milloth knew as much as she did. Istuion’s refusal to speak of it only made her want less of that which he wished for her to pursue.

Swinging her bare feet over the ledge she jumped to drop the several yards to the ground below, landing with ease. Smoothing out her tunic and pulling her braid over her shoulder she rounded the corner to where the human commander still stood, frowning after the Eldar lord. “Mae govannen, heruamin,” she said as she offered the man a slight curtsey.

“Oh! I-I beg your pardon,” said Jorrin, startled out of his thoughts. A fond smile replaced the frown on his face as he bowed, the dozen or so men behind him following suit. “Well met, Lady Artis.”

Nodding with a kind smile to the others she motioned with a hand to the inner courtyard.  “Shall I show you to the well, sir?” she inquired in Westron, remembering that many humans did not speak her native tongue.

The commander arched a brow at her even as he gave her a faint, grateful nod. “That is not work for you, my lady. Your father will send a servant in a minute, I am sure.”

“Nonsense,” Artis said, a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth as she turned, expecting for them to follow. “It is the least I can do to show you and your men hospitality.”

The commander motioned to his men and stepped with her. “Thank you.”

Artis nodded as she led the way to the stables. “What is it that you and you men are –”

“Were.”

“Pardon me, were hunting?”

“The enemy,” Jorrin chuckled. Motioning for a younger Ranger to lead the others to the troughs the commander motioned to the side and led Artis to the vine covered wall that separated the main way into the estate from the stable courtyard. “But that is not important,” he said in a lower tone. “Your father will see these lands safe, but if I may, I suggest you do not leave for a few days.”

Artis arched a brow, clasping her hands in front of her as she studied the man. As much as she liked the humans they still at times confused her. “Why would I need to stay? I would not go out alone. Whatever dangers present themselves –”

“My lady,” said Jorrin more sternly, “I mean no disrespect, but for all your skills in the hunt you do not know battle, and I doubt that in your few hundred years you have even known fear.” Glancing back at his men he sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.

“You worry about reporting back not having found what ever it is?” she asked, eyes narrowed.

Jorrin nodded. “The trouble in the east grows worse and we would like to keep it out of Lindon.”

Aris sighed and nodded. “Very well.” She then chuckled lightly. “I am sure that you just saved my father the trouble of convincing me.”

“I doubt he would thank me,” the man laughed. “Your brothers do say you have an unusually rebellious streak.”

“Just because I would rather be out hunting with them than learning to embroider and restore old paintings does not mean I am rebellious,” Artis retorted, pouting about as much as a proper elf could.

“For and elf, for an elf,” the commander added quickly, flashing a grin. “If you were a human I do not doubt you would be a prized child.”

“If I were a human, at my age I would no longer be a child,” she quipped with a smirk.

“You will always be a young one to us, my dear onórë” rang Milloth’s amused voice from behind her.

“Lord Milloth,” said Jorrin, bowing to the elf.

Having caught the glare Artis sent him, the elf lord walked up to stand with them. “I apologize for this, my friend,” said Milloth quietly to Jorrin as he rested a hand on Artis’s shoulder. “Both Rainion and I would have let you pass.”

The commander tucked his lips in, narrowing his eyes as he nodded. “That was Lord Istuions decision, so we will respect it. These are his lands. Even beyond the river, we are just guests in Lindon.”

Artis looked between them, wishing she fully understood the serious looks the two exchanged. She wanted to go with them. Why should she stay when they were only riding to the bridge to begin with? Turning her gaze up to Milloth she was prepared to speak when he looked down to her, a different shadow passing over the eldar’s face.

“Thank you for showing them in, Moriquendë. I will see to our guests from here. Father wishes to speak with you.”

A Tribute: Daughter of Twilight

 

Eruviel remembers.

“Artis? Tindomiel! Hurry, little light, or you are going to miss it.” Istuion stood atop the grand, polished stone steps leading up from the lush summer garden. His tall, regal form stood like a beacon, silhouetted by the golden sunlight descending far beyond the wide balcony.

“I never miss it, Ada,” the little elf child known as Artis huffed indignantly. Scampering down the path, the white sand was hardly disturbed by her flight, though her long, dark mahogany hair flew in disarray behind her. The strings of garden lights twinkled on behind her, urging her little legs to run faster at the prospect of missing her favorite time of day. “Ada, I am — ooph!” she cried as she stumbled up the last step.

The Noldor lord laughed at her, the rare sound echoing off the stone arches as he stooped down, catching her before she fell. “Ah, take care. You are not that late, daughter.” Scooping her up into his arms he walked out onto the balcony. “There we are,” he chuckled, setting her down to sit on the railing. The balcony lined the fifty foot high cliff on the western edge of the haven, and though she knew he did not like her sitting on the edge, he still let her sit there for some reason unknown to her.

“Thank you, Ada!” she chimed, beaming a bright smile up at him as he sat beside her. She liked it when he laughed. It was a warm, rich tone that filled her with a joy her young mind could not quite grasp. But she would, she told herself. She did not know why he hardly ever did so unless around her or Nana, but as soon as she could figure out what she did that caused it, she was determined to do it more. Dangling her feet into the seemingly vast space, she let her legs swing freely in the hopes of feeling the mist rising from the waterfall twenty yards to their left.

Her glistening emerald eyes widened as the sun disappeared over the horizon. The light did not fade, however. The swirling streams of clouds lit up in golds, pinks and purples, the soft rays of warm light dancing against the darkening sapphire sky. Above the northern edge of the horizon the first star emerged, twinkling in greeting.

“There!” Artis pointed, her face illuminated with delight. “Ada, do you — Ada!” she grumbled, jutting out her jaw as if to incriminate Istuion as she caught him watching her instead of the twilight.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he chuckled warmly. “Where is it?” Putting an arm around her as she leaned to far forward for comfort, he looked to where she pointed. “I see it.”

Artis giggled, scooting closer to sit against him, wrapping her little arms around his as they watched the stars emerge, one after the other. “Ada?’

“Yes, daughter?”

“Are you a king?”

The elf lord’s shoulders shook with a laugh. “No, little light, I am only a lord. There are no more Eldar kings, though if my kin and Gondolin had survived you would be wearing a circlet and not a braid around that little head of yours.”

Artis hummed in thought, leaning her head against his side. “Ranion said he would make me one.”

“Oh? Maybe I should help him in this. A crown might keep you in your studies and not out getting your feet muddy in the vineyards.”

Artis’s brow furrowed slightly. “But I like riding horses and climbing trees. Milloth even told me he would teach me how to shoot a bow.”

Istuion grew quiet for a moment, and in the stillness Artis did not have the courage to look up into his stern, ageless face. “We will see about that,” he said quietly, giving her a soft squeeze. “But for now let your mother teach you history and dancing. Young elf princesses have no need to shoot a bow.”

Artis nodded dutifully, thinking it best not to tell him about the sword hidden under her mattress, crafted for her by Ranion. Looking up to study her father’s face she wondered if he already knew.

The dark of night enveloped them as the last glimmer of twilight disappeared into the west. Light from the garden and the veil of stars cast a misty aura around them, Artis caught a sad glint in Istuion’s eyes as he lifted her up and set her on her feet beside him. “Ada? What is it?”

The Noldor lord looked down at her for a long moment, holding her small hand in his. “I was just thinking that I have to leave for several months. I will miss watching the twilight with you.”

Stepping with him as they moved in the direction of the tallest stone home Artis shook her head violently. “You are going to Im-mdris and Lo . . . Lorien?” she asked, struggling with the pronunciations.

“I am, I’m afraid,” he replied, giving her hand a squeeze. “I have friends to visit and buisness to discuss with the other lords.”

“Then I’m going too!” she exclaimed, skipping.

“Oh no, you are not.”

“Yes I am,” she insisted, her innocent tone leaving no room for refusal.

“No, you are not.”

“Mhm!”

“And how is that?”

Artis did not miss a beat. “Because Ranion and Milloth are going, and mother wants to go too, and you promised that you would take me some day. Why not now?”

Istuion looked down at her in surprise, having forgotten his promise and that his sons told her everything. He opened his mouth to respond, but Artis jumped in once more.

“Besides,” she said sweetly, “If I go, then we won’t miss twilight.”

Lifting her up Istuion set her on his hip as he continued on towards the house. Through the second story bay window they could see his wife reading, curled up on a small couch as she always did. “Well, I suppose I could let you come . . . . We cannot miss an evening together, now, can we?”

Artis shook her head, wrapping her arms around his neck as he carried her. “Nope. Not ever.”

 

(In honor of my father’s birthday, Saturday, August 30th. Having passed away this spring, I wanted to write this in his memory. He always encouraged me to pursue my passions, and though fiction was not his forte, he was always proud of me and supported me in my every endeavor.)