Frank

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. 

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.”

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.”