Forochel

Bittersweet: Foolishness

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Eruviel sat on the railing of the icy bridge, looking out over the bay. Her notebook rested open on her lap, it’s pages fluttering in the wind held down by the elf’s gloved hand that grasped a short, well used pencil. This was the last sketch on her list, and she was glad that she had saved it. The view that afternoon was stunning, and a night’s rest without Mornenion in her head helped her enjoy it even more.

Liriedir, having paced around the settlement without purpose, appeared to her right and began to cross over the span. His fingers curled around his slender chin,  Elven brows tugged together in a fretful frown. Consumed by his thoughts, he did not seem to notice Eruviel as he began to pass her.

“They should have a contest to see who can pace the shoreline more,” Eruviel offered in jest as he began to pass her by. “I have little doubt that you would win it.”

Liriedir gave her a sour look. “I am pleased the storms have not blown away your sense of humor.”

Eruviel cast an amused glance at him before quickly catching the pages of her book as they begin to flip. “Are you really? A shame they did not. Being out in this cold so much, you might have caught it.”

Liriedir’s look did not change, and Eruviel felt her stomach drop a little, finding his expression unpleasantly familiar. “Laugh all you wish. Your fleeting emotions are a mark of your age.”

Uhh… The elleth studied him, and she easily responded, “Yes, they are. And I assure you I have no intention of being rid of them. They make life more enjoyable, and seeing and understanding some things far easier.”

Liriedir turned towards the other side of the bridge, overlooking the huts and campfires that doted the shore. “I do not suggest being rid of them. I suggest immaturity. Joke and posture as you will to your fellows, but I will abstain from this foolishness out of respect for our hosts.”

Eruviel turned in her seat to face him, saving her page with her pencil. What in Arda… She quickly thought over her words, not understanding why he would be so harsh. “You consider my joke to you as being disrespectful to our hosts?”

Liriedir set his hands behind himself. “Joking while the city mourns? Yes, I do. Do you feel none of the despair and regret in the air?”

Eruviel’s smile hardened at this. Deep breath. “I feel it deeply, and it is part of what keeps me up every night. I will joke in private with friends as I see fit, for a bitter heart dwelling on death will not help heal the wounded, nor keep my head clear for dealing justice to the enemy when the time comes,” she answered quietly. You do not owe him any explanation. Let an Angmarim break his nose. But she went on.”I bear much of their pain, and spend a great deal of my time aiding the healers with every seriousness that should be afforded.” Turning again, she faced the bay and returns to sketching on her saved page.

“You think like a man. If you feel it, I suggest you act like it.” His shoulders straighten. “We are the firstborn; We are guides, shepherds, teachers. We possess wisdom lost to the younger races. Help all you will, but if you laugh in the face of tragedy, you will be seen as uncaring.”

Eruviel did not respond to him. It had been a long time since she had been accused of being uncaring, and it hurt far worse than expected. She only continued to sketch in her book, her pencil pausing at his words. Be still. He knows nothing, and he would not care if you told him anything, she reasoned.

Liriedir did not say any more. Without a response, he continued down the slope of the bridge, paying no mind to the swirling snow.

Blood boiling in her veins, Eruviel waited till he had gone a ways to snap her book shut. Swinging her legs over, she stood on the bridge and began to stride purposefully back to the Lodge. Bitter, asinine, haughty… Let the others mistrust him. I have no time, and now no care to empathize. Maybe she did think like a man, but she was quite sure she was better for it.

Stopping at the door of the Great Lodge she took a deep breath — well, several deep breaths to calm herself. She could show her anger when she drug Wahseena — Wahsenahthat man to Panja’s feet, and crushed the dark god’s face in with her fist, but she would be damned if the horrid new Elf ruined her mood. Kem, where are you when I need you? Smiling a little down at her notebook, she took one more breath before gladly stepped into the warm building.

“Sivullinen!”

Eruviel look over to where the call had come from. Smiling as she offered a slight wave to the young healer, she weaved through the small crowd by the door to approach the woman. Swallowing, she switched her thoughts to Larsi so as to make speaking it easier. “I apologize for taking so long.”

The young healer smiled hopefully, and shook her head. “Do not apologize. You… you have it?”

Eruviel nodded and reached into her pocket to pull out a makeshift envelope, bits of blue feather escaping out of one corner. Would he think this foolishness? “I hope this will suffice.”

“It will! I cannot thank you enough. He was so upset when he learned that the ones I gave him were ruined….” the woman whispered, a sudden look of shame and worry showing in her eyes. “I would go, but I cannot leave with all of –”

“It is not safe to leave,” Eruviel interrupted softly, resting a reassuring hand on the woman’s arm. “And you are needed here. You can just say a friend helped you get them. They were a gift to me, so it is only proper that I gift a few to you. He will like them, but not as much as he does you.” She then turned her gaze to the beds filled with wounded across the great room. “How are they?”

The woman blushed a little, tucking the precious envelope safely away before a more serious look took over her features. “No change. Hopefully we do not loose another before nightfall.”

“How about Keihäs and Pentu?”

“A pain, those two.” Nodding to Eruviel, she reached into her healer’s apron and offered the Elf a bottle. “Their dressings will need changed as well. Would you mind?”

Eruviel smiled kindly as she accepted the bottle. “Not at all.” Parting ways, she followed the wall around, nodding respectfully to several of the healers. She was sure Maggie and Varidia were about helping somewhere nearby. Keeping out of the way, she slowed as she approached two cots.

“About time!” one of the men huffed as he looked back to see the Elf. “What took you so long?”

“Welcome back,” replied the man in the second bed, a thick dressing laid over his eyes

“Thank you, Pentu. And I got caught up in an unpleasant conversation,” she replied mildly to the first man. “How is the leg, Keihäs?”

“The same as when you left,” Keihäs huffed. Propping himself up on his elbows, the man nodded to her. “Did you get all of them?”

Smiling softly, Eruviel knelt down between the two beds. “Of course I did.”

“Well, hand them over!”

Eruviel swatted away Keihäs’ reaching hand. Opening her notebook to the page saved by her short pencil, she carefully began tearing out several pages covered with rough, but meticulously sketched scenes of the landscape and village. “Here you are.”

Keihäs eagerly accepted the drawings from her, and laid back, pouring hungrily over each page. “You are terrible at drawing.”

“Do not be rude, Keihäs,” Pentu admonished quietly, turning his head a little to the sound of the rustling pages.

“He is not wrong,” Eruviel replied with a smile. Placing a hand briefly on Pentu’s arm she then reached to take up the wide bowl and small satchel left at the foot of the bed. “Let us change the dressing on your eyes first, hmm?”

Nodding, Pentu straightened his head to face up. “But it is still unkind to say after you went through all of that trouble.”

Eruviel chuckled quietly, and rolled up her sleeves. Washing her hands in the prepared water, she carefully peeled away the thick poultice from the man’s wounded face as she had watched Cwendlwyn and so many other healers do before. “It was no trouble at all.” Keihäs grunted at their conversation, but said nothing as he slowly traced his fingers over a drawing of a cluster of huts.

“What is it like… outside” Pentu asked quietly, managing a small frown as he looked up past burned lids to see nothing.

A pained expression flickered across her features, but Eruviel did not let it reach her voice. Placing a textured stone from the shoreline in his waiting hands, she pulled the cork from the small jar, and took up a clean rag. “The storm is not as bad today, and a bit of golden sunlight filters down now and then to warm the round roofs. You can see the pale bean — oh, eh– ice… floating in the dark, grey blue waters….”

 

(Thank you to Atanamir for playing Liriedir! RP taken from in game and edited for tense and composition.)

Bittersweet: Burned Away

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Eruviel stared at the roof of her hut. Was it her hut? Minutes were hours, and every one she spent convincing herself not to crawl out into the cold of the storm and curl up in the snow. The heat of the burns radiated through her aching, languid limbs, and every movement only a measure more agonizing than laying still.

She could not remember how she had gotten from the Ferry to the hut. She could not remember how she’d gotten into her bed of furs, or changed into fresh clothes with salve spread over her burns, but the pain… That was all too clear. Her flesh bubbling and curling as she’d stepped into the liquid fire. Heat turning her lungs to parchment and smoke filling her chest for her to choke on. And she had gone back in. The Elf remembered the pain being a little less… or it was, quite possibly, her body growing numb to compensate for the pain, and she remembered feeling the cold bite of magic that had clung to her shoulder since Durrow burn away.

More than anything, she remembered waking from the Henki-maa, in the raw reality of Forochel to writhe in the snow, unable to keep back the tormented cries that clawed up her throat. What a pitiful sight she must have been. Somewhere in the back of her mind she tried to convince herself that it would pass, and tried to push past the unbearable sting and heat that radiated from her singed flesh, but the present was too much. Hot tears streamed across the dried skin of her face to wet the loose hair that pillowed her head. What she wouldn’t give for a taste of cold snow on her tongue, or the feel of frigid water coursing down her throat.

Having woken in a haze she’d found Hano curled around her head. She had cried more than she’d meant to, finding that she was not alone, his concerned wimpers pulling her from her sleep. Had she dreamed or voiced her discomfort in her sleep? Either way, she did not have the heart nor the will to ask him to stop when the wolf occasionally licked the tears from her cheeks. Kemp drifted in and out of the dwelling, but Hano remained, ever vigilant as she passed in and out of sleep.

She thought often about the others. An ache twisted in her chest, a bitterly familiar pain of shame and failure as she recalled Oendir’s cries, and the horrifying silence as Kemendin had begun to float away in the river of fire. She was to blame. Leaving the elk calves to their fate had not been an option, but she had been weak, stepping into the lava, and because of that her friends had gotten hurt. They all knew that there would be a cost. They had been warned of it two years ago, but in their urgency she had not cared to think on it.

Hano sniffed, his cold nose nudging at her ear as the elf’s wallowing began to get the better of her. Pulled from her thoughts, she attempted what she hoped was a weak smile, and exhaled a ragged sigh that felt only somewhat less painful than than the ones before. The wolf scooted a little closer and Eruviel tucked her head against his neck, praying for sleep to take her, and for her two friends that she hoped had somehow been spared.

Days Have Passed

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(Thought I would clean out the drafts that had sat forgotten for the past year and a half.)

The last gleam of sunlight disappeared over the hills as Eruviel’s eyes fluttered open. For several minutes she stared up at the star-lit sky framed by tree branches and ruined elvish architecture, wishing she could fade back into her sleep-like trance. There would be no true rest till she had all three human back safely in Bree.

Reluctantly rising to her feet she stretched up, observing Eirikr sleeping a few feet away. He slept hard, and a small pang of guilt stung her as she picked up her boots and silently padded away. Best that he gets as much rest as possible, she thought as she nodded in greeting to the few hunters and fighters milling around the camp. She knew his mind was far to the east, and they still had a long way to go.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She never stayed up this late. Till the night she’d gone out two weeks back Feira had always been early to bed and early to rise. But now the night was at it’s coldest, and she leaned against the side of a bench on the look-out, feet dangling over the ledge as she watched the horizon.

Why did she even care to watch? She had never been lonely, but then again she might have always been and never knew it. Don’t waste your time, Torrin had said. Nothing good can come from sailors. Maybe he was right. She didn’t know him really. For all Feira knew he was good at hiding his real nature and had shown up amidst the laundry lines just to mess with her… but did it matter much? She had no idea what she was getting herself into, but there was nothing to do about it now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Having returned cold to her core, Abiorn had not left her side. Long since recovered from the search for the lost hunter, Eruviel sat wrapped in furs, her back against a pillar near one of the fires. Abbi slept leaning on her left arm, and Huor had nested in her lap. Both of them radiated delicious heat that made the bitter hours of tracking through the storm nothing but an unpleasant memory.

Smiling softly to each in turn, the elf turned her attention back to the letter she now knew by heart. The thumb of her free hand traced over the scratched out words as if doing so would make the mark blacking them out disappear. She would never tell, but she allowed herself to hope as the faintest remnants of words brought a warmth to her cheeks that the wolf and her young human brother could not offer. It won’t be long. Help Panja, help Taja, Huor, survive, then home.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel let out a quiet sigh. “People do funny things when they think they are helping others. Sometimes the reasons are good, and sometimes they are not, but we always need someone to come after us. I’m sure Morty knows you will go after him.”

Hallem shook his head. “He wouldn’t want us to.”

“Because he wants to be left to his fate, or because he doesn’t want you to get hurt?”

“Both, probably.”

“Then I am sure he knows you will come for him anyways.”

Hallem looked to her. “Why does that m-matter?”

Eruviel smiled sadly. “Does it not matter to you?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A soft thud of the outer door leading in from the corridor summoned Peldirion out of his thoughts. Sitting up from where he leaned took more effort than it should have, and an exasperated sigh poured out of him as he heard the outer door open and close again.

“Boys,” he said in a tired, no-nonsense tone.

The sound of cautious footsteps stopped. Then, obediently, they slowly turned, and two boys in their late teens entered Peldirion’s dark study. Both saluted quickly, and the shorter of the two nervously stepped forward.

“Y-Yes, Sir?”

Letters: Drawing to a Close

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Dearest Sister,

Forgive me for not writing you in a while. I hope this letter reaches you before we return, for I do believe our time here is drawing to a close.

An unnatural storm had set in on the region, but thankfully has finally abated. Our company and all of those in the city had to take shelter in the Great Lodge. Though the warmth was welcome, I do not think I have ever had cabin fever so badly. A few of us set out one afternoon to track down a hunter that had been lost, and I can honestly say I have never been so cold in my entire life.

There is much to write, but it would be so much better to tell you in person. You will have more sketches of Forochel as well, but those will come with my return. I am well, and Abbi is also. The chief, Panja whom we were send here to aid is beginning to recover. Time will tell if the sacrifices made to see him healed are worth it.

Take care of yourself, Anyatka.  I warn you, Abbi is a little taller, a little louder, and a little more ‘bear’ than he was before. I think you’ll be proud of him (and I won’t cut his hair just so you can have something to fuss over). His presence here has been invaluable to me.

Till we see each other again, and with all my love,

Eruviel

 

~~~***~~~

Dear Eirikr,

I realize how long it’s been since my last update, and I apologize. I do hope this letter reaches you before we return home.

Abiorn and I are well, as is the majority of our company. We have suffered a great loss with the passing of one of our number, as well as several setbacks, but at last we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Our company has been able to help the chief we came up here to aid, but time will tell if our efforts turn out to be fruitful.

I am happy to report that the wolf pups we took in have found a new home. Master Dorsett and myself saw them off. While I am glad that they are safe and happy, the parting was bittersweet. I can only blame myself for getting so attached to Hano, but I know he is far better off here than he ever would be in Bree.

There is so much more I would like to tell you, but it will have to wait till we all come home. Give Bear a treat for me, and Grey a polite nod (I do not know if he’s the ‘pat-on-the-head’ or hugging sort).

Be well.

Till then, I remain yours,

Eruviel

~~~***~~~

Threz,

Dear friend,

Thank you for your letter. I apologize for not telling you of my departure for the north when it happened, but time was short and I could not find you.

I am sorry that this has been a struggle for you. Though I would prefer to have this discussion in person I fear my return may come too late.

First of all, I must say that I am glad to hear that Lan is behind bars. Nothing I have ever seen him do has been selfless and in the good interest of others. His words are twisted, and while he may have called you ‘friend’, such a term can unfortunately be used lightly. You have a good heart, Threz, and while your emotions are clouding your decisions, I believe you are able to discern the true nature of this man. More than that, I think you already know.

Secondly, you say that he has done all those things for you. Keep in mind that the enemy feeds, clothes, and entertains his men as well. One good deed does not cover a well of wrongs, especially if the one who commits them is unrepentant.

I understand the struggle you are facing. It is a difficult decision and I will not try to lessen the gravity of it. Lan is a hard man, and knows well the road he walks.  Do not let your guilt and feelings keep you back from doing the right things. Hard decisions are part of being a leader and you will have to make more of them in the future.

Remember this: When you go home, will you sleep with the knowledge that you’ve put a cruel man behind bars and saved other’s lives, or will you lay in bed, glad that Lan is alive as another farmhouse burns to the ground, a family within? Taking lives is never a choice one should make lightly, but a decision that should be made with a clear head and right heart.

I hope to see you soon. When I get back I’ll buy you a cider and we can speak more of it.

Till then, take care of yourself.

Sincerely,

Eruviel

The Forest of Lies

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Somehow, despite everyone’s best efforts to stay together, the shadowed spirit forest managed to separate the Wayfarers. Eruviel did not look back, nor did her keen gaze linger long on her surroundings. Clearly, this forest was meant to show someone the darkest aspects of one’s inner self. At the very least, it intended to torture witless wanderers with lies and temptations. But so far, nothing had bothered Eruviel. It almost seemed as if the forest couldn’t be bothered to care.

Her eyes almost always fixed ahead of her, the elf took advantage of being left alone by the forest to run towards her goal as quickly and quietly as she could. Memories flashed through her minds-eye. What could this forest counjur? Dead Rainion or Daran? Anyatka taken over by Faethril? Parmanen . . . Alagos . . . Damn it all, run faster. About her she could only see icy snow, and the smell of wet bark, and snow-patched boughs of pine filled her nostrils with every breath.

After a while, a small, silvery doe appeared between the trees. She stepped delicately through the snow, and paused as she saw Eruviel. Large, shivery ears swiveled back and forth as her black nose twitched.

Eruviel’s progression slowed as she caught sight of the doe. Unsure if it was a trick of the forest or a spirit of the realm, she dipped her head to it in a respectful bow to the graceful creature before continuing on.

The doe’s eyes followed Eruviel as she ran. After a moment, the doe began to follow. Like Eruviel, she left no footprints in the snow.

With a glance behind her, Eruviel sped back up to her original pace, aiming herself in the direction of the castle. It is just a doe. You are nearly there. Nothing can hurt you, she told herself. You have nothing to fear. Drawing a deep breath to fortify herself, she ran on, resisting the urge to look at the animal behind her.

The doe picked up the pace to match Eruviel’s gait. She remained close behind, her eyes fixed on the Elf.

Eruviel did not look back. Her pace did not change, but she did cast a cautious look into the woods around her.

“Wait!” someone cried in a soft, feminine voice. “Why are you running? I bring a joyful message for you!”

Eruviel faltered, slowing only slightly as she cast her eyes back towards the doe. “Was that you?”

The doe stared at her, dark eyes wide and sweet.”Yes,” said a voice from somewhere and nowhere.

Smiling slightly, she ran on. “I am running to get to my destination.” Thinking twice, Eruviel asked, against her better judgment, “What is this message you speak of?”

“Do you know the grim woodsman with the hair as red as berries?” asks the doe. “I am his dream guardian. He wished for me to bring you tidings.”The doe flicked her big ears, and gave Eruviel an earnest stare.

The Elf slowed to a jog. Keep on your guard. Belethil was beautiful too before we found out the truth. “I have not heard of the grim woodsman. What are these tidings?”

The doe trotted over to Eruviel, and nosed at her palm.”He says, ‘Eruviel, I am sorry for my anger. I know you were only protecting me and mine. I am tired of denying what I feel. When you return, come to me, and I will embrace you as I should have long ago. If we cannot have forever, then let us have the now.'”

“Wha — W-Who is this woodsman?” She asked, halting and turning to better face the doe. It will lie to you.

The doe nosed Eruviel again, and looked up at her.”Don’t you know? Isn’t it what you’ve wanted?”

Giving the deer a thoughtful smile, Eruviel nodded, suddenly understanding. “I see, and it is, but me wanting it, and him actually saying it are different things. Thank you, but I can wait in the hopes to one day hear such a thing from his own lips.”

“But you don’t have much time!” the doe urged. “He will be dead soon!”

Taken aback by the animal’s tone Eruviel retreated a step, and quickly shook her head. “He is safe in Bree. In comparison to me, perhaps, yes, he will die soon. I promise I will go see him once I return home.” You have been polite enough. Just smile and leave —

The doe advanced on her.”You’re going to lose him,” she urged. “If you don’t tell him, you will lose him to her.”

“I have told hi — Her?” Eruviel felt a twist in her gut. “Who is her?” she asked quietly. “Ninim?” Please, oh please, oh please say ‘Ninim’.

“No,” said the doe. “I can feel what he feels for her. He is going to ask her to marry him. He thinks it will be better, for flesh to wed flesh, to forget you like the memory that you are. His heart wants you, but if you don’t go to him, tell him, he will take her as he should take you!”

Eruviel took another step back, her still somewhat calm expression faltering. A wave of emptiness washed over her. Just like the pool. No one wants me, and those that do . . . no . . . NO.  “I will take your words into consideration,” she said in an even tone. “Thank you for speaking with me.” With that she turned to resume her trek towards the castle, resuming her original pace.

This time, the doe did not follow. It just stared at her, its black eyes unblinking and suddenly terrible in their depth.

Moments later, the forest faded away quite abruptly, leaving Eruviel alone in the barren, snowy foothills beyond. Up above, on the highest peak, ghostly Veli-koti loomed. Skidding to a stop, the Elf gasped for breath, a steeled expression taking over her features as she looked back to the forests edge.

 

– – – – –

For the most part, the group remained quiet and withdrawn after the return to Suri-kyla. An hour has passed since their return. Abiorn’s relatively positive ending to trekking through the shadowed spirit forest gave her a measure of relief. Being back in the physical realm helped as well, but that only gave her enough strength to keep a small half-hearted smile on the surface.

Dear Abiorn. The look in his eyes told her he did not quite believe her when she said she would be all right. She wanted to tell him. She wanted to tell Fey, but how could she with so many others around? Five minutes of venting would have been enough . . . or a minute of tears and a hug. But some things were not so easily obtained, no matter how simple they seemed to be.

Cwen sat crying in Oendir’s lap, Vahan napped happily with his head in Abbi’s lap, and Dorsett and Atanamir had disappeared into some hidden corner of the Lodge. It was too much.

Excusing herself she retreated to her bedding, wrapped herself in a blanket, and disappeared beneath a layer of furs. She read through Anyatka and Eirikr’s letters, but even that did little to settle the storm of emotions within her. Rest. You need . . . Oh, by Orome, make it stop, she thought miserably as a dozen of whispered, tender voices from around the Lodge swarmed into her ears. Eruviel shuddered and retreated further beneath her blanket, but the whispers of love and promises did not stop. There was no escaping them. The Elf squeezed her eyes shut, gathered moisture escaping from their corners as she pressed the letters against her chest.

A minute passed, and Eruviel started and opened her eyes when a warm, wet tongue licked her cheek. Háno sat by her, his head tilted to one side, and soft, little puppy ears flopped in the same direction.

“Hey, there, little one,” she whispered in Sindarin, reaching out from under her covers to pet the wolf cub. “Where is your brother?”

Háno gave a quiet yip and moved to put his front paws on her face.

Augh, no, I — we can play in the morning,” she muttered, moving him off and wiping tears from her eyes.

His flopping tail slowed. Ears lowering a bit, Háno made a small, concerned rumble under his breath. Glancing over his shoulder to where his brother slept, he then slipped beneath Eruviel’s blankets and curled up against her stomach.

More tears came. Háno licked her hand and she focused on his warmth, blocking everything out. Slowly, as she curled herself around the white cub, the twisted knot in her chest began to unwind. A night of rest and it will fade. You are stronger than this. They were just lies. You’ll be fine . . . . You’ll be fine.

 

(First part taken from rp-mail. Thank you Oendir for the great GM’ing!)

Letters: Miss You

Dearest sister,

Thank you so much for your reply! Hearing from you has been the highlight of my week. I am glad to read that you are well. Be assured that I will see that Abbi writes again.

It is good to hear of home. I’d think Little Staddlemere would be lovely this time of year; frozen over and wreathed with glistening snow. I hope the village is as cozy and safe in its wintery bliss as I imagine it to be. I do not mind Eirikr being at my place. The quiet is probably nice. I assume it is far away enough to satisfy his wandering feet, and close enough that he is not far from home and you.

The mental image of little Bear wreaking havoc in the market is hilarious. At least he did not destroy the house. I’m sure there are enough cats around to keep him in line (for the most part). Speaking of pups, this is my current new little friend. Háno and his brother Kemp (yes, named after Hallem), were rescued by a group of us after their pack had been killed. Do not worry. I am not brining back a retinue of new pets to add to the zoo. Between your house and mine I daresay we could have one. I am hoping either another wolf pack or a Lossoth hunter will take in the rascals. I will miss Háno, though. He has decided his new bed is atop of my legs, and while still wild, is relatively well mannered.

What else is new?! I competed against a Larsi gentleman at chopping wood the other night, and won. Apparently he was so impressed by my ability to do chores that he gifted me with a token of favor. With the troubles concerning the chief’s marriage the token could come in handy, but I hope it’s use will not be necessary . . . mostly because I am a terrible pack-rat and would like to keep it as a keepsake.

Things in the spirit world have not changed much, but I am still equally delighted and concerned by it. We witnessed the most beautiful thing earlier this past week. A spirit of higher standing had fallen in love with a human woman in Suri-kyla. I do not know how long they have been lovers, but he was granted the freedom to leave the spirit world to join his beloved. It was almost like a birthing, but with no blood; only explosions of light, warmth, and the simmering radiance of the night sky seeming to dance about us as the spirit left his world behind. The look they shared as they touched hands for the first time, though seemed somehow more brilliant and meaningful than all the light and power in the past minutes.

The two drawings are lacking, but I hope they suffice. I miss you greatly, Anyatka. Be well, sleep in, and spoil yourself while we are away. I have asked Eirikr to give you a hug so be sure to collect one from him. I hope to see you soon as well.

With all my love,

Eruviel

Háno

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 – – – – – *** – – – – –

Dear Eirikr,

Thank you for your letter. While I detect a frown in your words, know your gloom only made me smile. I do not do so because I like your gloom, but because I feel you would worry even if there were no danger. I am honored by the confidence you put in me, but am not sure if I should double my efforts in being careful, or simply never tell you of whatever peril I encounter. Seeing as I cannot find it in myself to lie to you, I will merely report on the good in an attempt to relieve your worry. The not so good will only be told in person once Abbi and I have safely returned.

Abiorn has been causing a little mischief, but no harm has been done. Indeed, if he were acting innocently I would be more concerned. He has made several friends in our time here. Though his joints still bother him, he has done well (as always) under Cwendlwyns care. His spirits seem more bright and alive than ever. He might have grown an inch or so as well, but I cannot be certain.

Concerning the dragon, do not give up hope. I am sure we will find a way. I apologize for not consulting you before, but if anyone can help us it would be Atanamir. He is the dark, exceptionally melancholy gentleman who is so pretty he might be mistaken for a girl ( though you did not hear that from me). I know not yet if he has had time to look into our situation, but I pray to have some progress to report once I come home.

As for other updates, a few things have transpired since my last letter. Apparently my wood-chopping skills were impressive enough to earn me a token of favor with the Lossoth. My Larsi has been coming along nicely, though I am nowhere near as fluent as I would hope to be. The other evening we all took a much needed respite at a hot springs. I could have remained there for hours, and am thoroughly convinced that more places should have such a place for relaxation.

The only other major news is that there are two wolf cubs in our company for the time being. Feygil, Atanamir, a gentleman by the name of Dorsett, and myself went out in search for a pack of wolves. To our distress we discovered that the pack had been slain by a Gauradan hunter. Spiriting the two surviving cubs back with us (who have been named Háno and Kemp), we hope to find them a new home. They are hardly a foot tall, and white as the snow. Háno has taken a liking to me, and I admit I have grown far more attached to him than I really should. The drawing (art not being a great talent of mine) is what I woke up to this morning. He is so adorable, I could melt, even after he decided the other morning that latching onto my ear was a good way to wake me to play. I am now sporting a neat set of bite marks on the tip of one ear, and sleep entirely hidden beneath my covers. I doubt the layers of fur will suffice as a shield for long. I will have both Háno and his brother in my hut tonight, and have decided to take them on a good long walk before bed in hopes of tiring them out.

Give Anyatka a hug for me, and Bear a treat. If Henry should show up give him my greetings as well. I hope the house has been suitable. Do know you need not stay only in the cold of the cellar, and can take your reading upstairs, if you wish.  I mi I do not know how much longer we will be here, but I miss your company, and when we get back hope to see you well and rested.

Till then, I remain yours,

Eruviel

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Letters: Where to Begin

Dear Nate,

Thank you for your letter. I admit that I was surprised to receive it, but nonetheless delighted.

In spite of the cold and ever present danger of Forochel, I am well and whole. Indeed, I feel safer than I have in a long time due to the company I keep. It is beautiful here, and wild, and there is always something new for my old eyes. I have hunted large, long-toothed cats, stood nose to nose with a massive wolf that was as tall as a man, and spent an hour in another persons body. It is a long story, but I promise to give you all the details upon my return.

Though I would tell you not to worry for me, I thank you for caring enough to do so. I’m am glad to hear you still continue to pursue healing. I hope things with Auroera are going more smoothly. Be well, my friend.

Till we meet again, safe paths to you.

Sincerely,
Eruviel

—– —– —–

Dearest Sister,

Before I start in, the first sketch is where I am writing to you. How are you? How is home, and Eirikr, and Durrow? I do hope Bear has healed up since the spider incident.

Where do I begin? So much has happened since I last wrote. I daresay a novel or two could be written in recounting tales from the past weeks.  Due to a little trouble in the spirit world one evening, our party was cast back into our realm . . . reawakening in the wrong bodies. A young woman by the name of Faethril was in my body, and Abiorn found himself in the body of a young gentleman who goes by Sage. I myself awoke inside Abbi’s body. I do not think I can properly express everything that I felt, with our little brother as the vessel for my soul.

I have tasted mortality, the ache in his bones, and the overwhelming fire of wanting to turn into a bear (which, I should note, I did not). But, worst of all was that I — he apparently had to relieve himself and I had to hold it the whole time before being able to be put back in my own skin. Never, have I ever been more grateful to be a female! The only side-effects are that occasionally I get the urge to shout at inconvenient times, and certain things stir my anger more than they ever have before. It has given me a whole new appreciation for Abiorn.

In preparation for the impending wedding (though the young chief Panja has yet to decide on a bride), Cwendlwyn, Master Arrowheart, and myself went out to collect snowdrops (one which has been pressed and is with my sketches to you), and to hunt large, saber-toothed cats known as Kalpa-kita. Five pelts were needed, for it is customary for brides to wear dresses made from the animal’s white fur. That was the first day since our arrival that I had seen trees. How I miss them!

I will not take my time here for granted, and hope to find more remote corners to sketch down for you. I wish I could draw for you the giant wolf I saw in the spirit world, the thousands of pools I wrote of before, and the glistening ice palace of the spirit Prince named Pretty. I am sure Abbi will regale you with more of our adventures.

Take care of yourself, Anya.

With all my love,

Eruviel

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—– —– —–

Dear Eirikr,

I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying your winter respite. The most recent snow storm abated a few days ago and we find ourselves as busy as ever. We spend a great deal of time in the spirit world, and though I cannot say all of the experiences have been pleasant, we have met a great many kind spirits and have had more than our fair share of adventures.

Not long after my last letter we were in the other world, attempting to calm a lost spirit who was unaware that she had perished in our world, when two wolves came upon us. The lady Faethril seemed to know who they were and spoke with the smaller female, but the male circled the rest of us. He finally stopped before me, his nose hardly an inch from my own. I feel like a fool for, instead of greeting him, all I could do was stare back at his piercing gaze in wonder. His name is Valkoinen, and he is as tall as Kvgir. I wish you could have seen him. He is by far the most magnificent creature I have ever beheld. Looking back, perhaps it was appropriate that I found myself speechless. Such a moment would have been easily ruined by words.

A dark creature has been following us. We do not know what, but those who know of it seemed gripped with fear by it’s presence. The hate in it’s white eyes is unrivaled, and it has attacked our party more than once. One night it attacked and there was no escape. Thrown back into our world we awoke, but in the wrong bodies. Abiorn found himself in the body of a young gentleman who goes by Sage, and I was in Abbi’s. While it was a worthwhile experience, I mean no disrespect your gender when I say I am infinitely relieved to be back in my own skin. The lingering side-effects are that occasionally I feel less restraint in being frank with others (which actually came in handy the other day), and certain topics stir my anger more than ever before. I have seen things through Abbi’s eyes, and it has given me a new appreciation for him.

Even as events turn and we find ourselves in dangerous situations, we are all well and in some ways more whole. I forgot to mention before, but I took the liberty of speak with Atanamir about our research. I hope this does not meet your disapproval, but he is the most knowledgeable resource we have in that field of study. He said that he would be glad to aid us in finding a solution.

Give Anyatka a hug for me. There should be a treat in my pantry for Bear, and if you happen upon Grey give him my greetings. He does not strike me as the hugging type.

Till then, I remain yours,

Eruviel

Letters: Musings and Misadventures

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Dearest Sister,

The first sketch is from where I sit writing to you. I doubt the cold and harshness of Forochel would suit you, but how I wish you could see this beautiful land shrouded in snow and ice.

Hallem and I went ice climbing the other morning, and as he accused me of being naturally gifted (which I assured him I was not), my thoughts immediately went to you. As talented as you were a year ago, it amazes me to see how you’ve grown as an artist. I think only your keen eye and steady hand could properly make the frozen beauty of this place come to life on canvas.

Speaking of a year ago, I woke this morning and realized that this time last year you had moved into my spare room. We already had this conversation, but I just want to thank you for being in my life. When we get back you and I should have a day out. Whatever you want to do.

How are you? How is home? I hope you and Eirikr are getting along all right. Be safe and stay warm, and I will write again soon.

With all my love,

Eruviel

– – – ~*~ – – –

Dearest Sister,

Today might have been the longest day I have had in a while. After returning home today I did not even make it to the Lodge. I’m tired and beat in every way. This will sound odd coming from an Eldar, but all I want right now is a hug and a hot bath.

Abbi stayed behind with a few of the others today to speak with the young woman who is intended to wed Panja, the young chieftain that we came up here to aid. Myself, Cwen, and several others departed for the spirit world with the intentions of calming a wind spirit that hindered our continued exploration of the realm. The talk of Cwendlwyn’s story-telling at yule did no justice to her gifts of speech. The tale she read to appease the disgruntled entity brought several of us to tears.

Moving on, we came to a vast waste and traversed over a good portion of it till we came upon a most curious place. I will not lie and say that the thousands of little glass pools dotting the landscape were not a breathtaking sight, but I also will never peer into one again. Nearly all of us did so, the Master Dorsett excluded, and the spell of some vision gripped all of us. A few were amusing; Cwen thinking she was a lusty cat and Atanamir thinking he was a mammoth, but Oendir’s and my own were not so. If it had not been for a jolly spirit named Karhulaulu I fear I would have been lost to despair and a fruitless search for something I had lost. A brilliant, shining spirit in the form an an elf appeared and freed us from our individual curses. Oh, but he was a sight to behold. The spell is gone, but not the aching memory of having lost something of utmost importance or the feeling of being utterly, eternally alone. Now that I think about it, after I rest I should find Abbi and the others. I wish you were here. Your company always has a way of boosting my spirits.

Returning safely to Sûri-kylä, most of us promptly departed again along with Panja and a tall, golden-eyed hunter named Taja. A great ice drake had been attacking caravans and when we found it we hoped to reason with it. As our fortunes dictated, the monstrous animal attacked us and we did our best to subdue it. Atanamir was nearly eaten,Taja, Sage, and the Eldar Kemendin all suffered injuries, and Panja and I are battered and bruised, but it was poor Hallem who had been hurt worst; the beast having collapsed on his legs. Sage, who spoke to a spirit who appeared to him, assured us that we could release the animal, and we reluctantly did so. Do not tell worry. We made it back to the village safely, and I and everyone here are in good hands.

On a happier note, I forgot to tell you that several days ago Abiorn, Hallem and I got to help harness puppies who will grow to be sled dogs. I do not think I have seen anything so adorable in my whole life as that tumbling, yipping mound of puppies. We all got to harness a pup; Abbi’s being eager to take to his harness, mine being sweet tempered and willing, and Hallem’s pudgy charge not cooperating at all. Puppies might be one of the best creatures in the world.

Aside from the impending wedding, I cannot think of much else to report on at the moment. I will try to send your letter with Eirikr’s next week, along with a few more sketches of Forochel. I miss you, and pray that you are well, oselle. Enjoy the peace and quiet and the lesser cold that is winter in Bree-land. I have a feeling Abbi may be more boisterous than ever upon our return. Greet our brother for me and take care of yourself.

With all my love,

Eruviel

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Letters: Warmth in Spite the Cold

It was quiet, and peaceful. A serene smile stole over her face as Eruviel burrowed beneath a pile of blankets, nesting in the pocket of blessed warmth. The cold did not bother her, but the heat and cocoon of furs just added to the overwhelming sense of delightful calm that enveloped her. It was a rare thing to be surprised by something completely alien to all she knew, and Forochel was it. The excitement of being there and for the ice climbing planned in the morning traveled through her limbs like electricity. She wanted to go now! She wanted to run barefoot through the snow and drink in the colors that danced over the night sky. It was wonderful, being on such a trip with Abbiorn. She’d had the hope that they could have their own adventure some day, and The Wayfarer’s trip to Forochel had been it. It was perfect. Almost.

Tossing a rejected wad of stationary into her pack to be discarded later, Eruviel took up a fresh piece of parchment and began to write.

Dear Eirikr,

We arrived in Sûri-kylä today, well and whole. The cold had long since gotten to a few of our number, but there was no harm done. The long road had been full of new sights for my eyes, and thankfully uneventful. We have all been furnished with ice huts, and though I miss the comforts of home, there is nothing quite like curling up in a bed of furs in a small hut with the whistle of the cold, winter wind sounding outside.

Abbi’s unbridled excitement nearly dwarfed the wild beauty of this harsh, cold land. He is always wide-eyed, listening and bounding around exploring. Some times I think he is more bear-like as a human, for all I can picture is him as a cub, lolloping about and tumbling everywhere new. I thank you again for allowing him to come with us. I have never seen him so alive. He has been behaving, and fortunately, so far, only I have fallen victim to his somewhat inappropriate teasing.

Today seemed like a week in new sights and experiences. Though frozen and cold, the people we have met thus far have seemed lively and warm. In spite of the cold life here endures and somehow seems deserved and hard-won. All of us were taken in to the spirit realm this evening and it was . . . it was one of the most breathtaking and liberating feelings. With the rush of everything I hope we get to do so again so I may more properly describe the sensation of lifting out of one’s body and being borne upon the wind, soaring up into the twilight sky.

I do not wish to bore you with my ramblings on all that is wonderful and new here, so I will desist for now. With the best lie I can muster I assure you that I have kept my word and am not enjoying the start of our stay here. We are safe, Abbi and I. Cwen did most definitely come with us, and I hope that that knowledge puts your worries to rest. Be well, hir vuin. Enjoy the peace and quiet while you can. Give Anyatka my love, and I will write again in a week or so.

Till then, I remain yours,

Eruviel