Gondor

Innocent Heart: Hate

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

 

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

“Anything else?”

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

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

“I apologize for him.”

Feira blinked several times. “W-What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“For what it’s worth…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Imloth Melui: As Shadows Fall

The hours slowly turned from one to the other, and the darkened sky denied him the knowledge of how long he had laid there. Draping a muscled forearm over his forehead Pellion stared at the ceiling, counting the decorative tiles, and resenting every one of them.

Feeling the bed beside him move, the man rolled out from beneath the satin sheets before the soft, slender girl could roll over in her sleep to trap him beneath her thin, pale arms. Though not of her doing, the thought of being touched made him uncomfortable and more frustrated (if that was indeed at all possible). She was too warm. Everything was too warm. The girl, the sheets, the floor beneath his feet. Even the night air blowing through the open double doors warmed his skin.

Pulling his hair back to secure it out of his eyes, and not bothering to even glance at a shirt, Pellion left his room and slumbering guest behind as he padded down the long back stair that opened up below the estate. It was cool down there. So blessedly cool. And while it did nothing to lessen his foul mood, it did clear his mind.

Halethon.” He did not need to shout. His voice filled the narrow stone passage and rolled like a wave through the rooms beyond. Two doors down a pale yellow light shone out of a room. It was not a warm light, and Pellion almost smiled.

The man Halethon stepped out, and gave a small salute. “Sir.” He was unphased by the shirtless Pellion, and he waited for the young lord’s nod before standing at ease. “Not sleeping?”

“As usual,” Pellion responded dryly as he turned into the room they had turned into an office.

“You’re going to exhaust yourself.” Halethon followed him inside and closed the door.

Setting his hands on his hips, Pellion fixed his hard gaze on the map on the table instead of on his friend. “We had this discussion last night.”

“What about what Garax sugest–”

“It’s not working.” Pellion could feel Halethon’s stare.

The young man sighed. “We won’t get our reinforcements,” he said grimly, getting down to buisness. “Not right away, at least.”

Pellion finally looked up from where he maneuvered a marker on the map. “What?” He did not mean for his harshness to slip out — Well, he wouldn’t have cared if it were not directed at Halethon. Taking a deep breath, he started again in a less formidable growl. “Why, pray tell, are we not getting reinforcements?”

Seemingly impenetrable to Pellion’s ire, Halethon filed one report, and retrieved several letters from neat stacks on the shelves. “All of the others wrote back. Here,” he said as he handed them over. “The army is being split up. Half to set up a defensive at Minas Tirith and Osgiliath, and the other to set up a defensive and offensive on the coast. Until their plans are worked out, we will get no trained soldiers for Imloth Melui.”

Pellion’s hand curled into fists. He did not raise them, however. He only set them against the hard wood of the table, and kept his dangerous glare down on the perfectly drawn ridges and rivers of Gondor. “We leave in two hours. Prepare my horse, and wake Yassarah. Thank her for me. You’re a happier face to rise to.”

His eyes darted up, and the two men shared a smirk. “Right away, sir. Should I send a messenger ahead?”

“Yes. Tell the old men that the young fools better be geared up and ready by the time we arrive. And try not to wake the house. I don’t have the patience for them right now.”

“I’ll word it better, but yes. Of course, though . . . .”

Pellion straightened, and arched a dark brow at the other man. “Though, what?”

Halethon glanced his way as he gathered a few things they would need. “Though you might want to take it easier on the boys. They will hold no love for you.”

Pellion grunted, and waved a hand to dismiss him. “The rest of our country is bleeding out, and they want me to smile? I don’t need their love. I need them to do what they are told.”

“Very well. Don’t be long.”

Saluting once more, and giving Pellion a look that made the man want to roll his eyes, Halethon slipped out of the room.

Listening to his only friend’s retreating steps, Pellion let out a long, weary sigh. The rest of the country is off to war, and he was stuck protecting fickle refugees with old men and boys. And all because mother dearest suddenly pretended to care. It made his blood boil.

Pushing away from the table, Pellion sat at his desk, readied a fresh piece of parchment, and pulled out the Elf’s letter. The man had written her to be polite, but never had he expected a response. Worst of all, she sounded so damned pleasant. He hated asking for help, but someone had to. 

Commander Oendir Arrowheart

Dear Sir,

The Sea: In Time

1204_saltrockbeach_0582

Eruviel remembers . . .

“Rain? Milloth?” called little Artis as she burst out of a wall of lush ferns and onto the grey beach. They had to be close. They had to be! She’d heard them, and she wouldn’t stand to be left behind as they explored the shoreline without her.

“Rain?” she called again, scampering up an old, fallen tree, gripping at the sea-treated roots. “Millo — aah!” A chunk of rotted bark broke away as she stepped too close to the edge of the log, and the little Elven girl cried out as she fell. A foot of free-falling felt like forever, but instead of landing on the cold rocks and sand below, strong, warm arms caught her.

“Woah, there, little sister!” laughed Rainion as he spun her in a circle. “You should watch where you are stepping. I can’t always catch you.”

“I would have been all right,” chimed Artis even as she cast her arms around the Eldar’s neck for added security.

“You find her?” called a second voice from around the beached log.

“We are over here!” responded Rainion as he knelt down to set Artis on her feet. “You should be more careful, Artis. Ada would have my head if you were hurt.”

Artis leaned back, giving him an obstinate frown. “Then I won’t get hurt! You’d look funny without your head. Besides, nothing bad can happen if you and Mill are around.”

Rainion gave her a strange smile as if she’d said something amusing, and he tugged playfully at her braid as Milloth jogged around to join them.

“Hey, who was it that just accused me for being too soft on her?” the youthful Eldar declared as his grey eyes flicked over Artis for any sign of injury.

Rainion rose to his full height, and pushed his blonde hair back over his shoulder. “Soft? You spoil her!”

Milloth strode over, and mussed a hand through Artis’s hair. “Me? Who is the one who taught her the easiest ways to climb out of her window?”

“She would have done it anyways,” responded Rainion matter-of-factly. “Call it preemptive damage-control.”

Artis frowned up at Milloth as she ducked away from his hand. “You made my hair all frizzy. And I’m not spoiled.”

“No?”

“Nope!”

“How do you figure that?” asked Milloth as he stooped to allow her to clamber onto his back.

“It’s . . . not,” she offered, making a face as she scrambled to find a better excuse. “You just love me!”

Milloth hopped upright, bouncing Artis on his back. “I don’t know. I wonder how much our big brother loves you.”

Rainion lifted his head in a proud manner, his mouth quirking with a smirk. “Enough to keep you from falling on your head.”

“Enough to give me a piggyback next?!”

“If you can catch me, you — hey!”

Milloth leapt forward after Rain, chasing him out over the wet sand with little Artis clinging to his shoulders. “Get him, Milloth! Catch him!”

~~~***~~~

Cold waves rolled up the pale golden sand. She hadn’t bothered to keep track of how long she had been walking. Eruviel’s faint prints faded away with every step she took, and it was not until the warm, Gondorian spring sun reached well past noon that she turned around to venture south again.

A brisk ocean breeze combed through her long hair, and left salt kisses on her lips. The flowing in of the tide wrapped its arms around her like an old friend, and when it ebbed the waters were reluctant to let go, beckoning for her to follow.

You’re not far. The sea is not as wide as it seems.

Eruviel walked a little further, the sun’s rays warming her loose, happily tangled locks of hair. The distant cry of birds blended in with the thunderous crash of the surf. Occasionally a smoothed, shimmering fragment of pearly shell caught her eye and she stooped to collect it, depositing each little gem into a small purse that hung from a thin belt at her waist.

Rounding a bend in the shoreline the sand turned into small, smooth pebbles. The beach receded into the sea and, thanks to the low tide, the Elf navigated through the calm waters, skipping from the top of one submerged boulder to the next. A veil of cloud passed overhead, and Eruviel stopped, calf deep in the blue-green waters to look out over the expanse of glistening sea. Her thin, hiked-up skirts flapped in the air that flowed around her. Had she wings, a gush of wind would have carried her away up the towering sea cliffs.

You’re not far.

Far enough.

You don’t need to be.

I’m going back.

Come to us. You’re so close.

Not now. Not yet.

You could have stayed before.

I wasn’t ready. I’m still not.

Soon?

 . . . In time.

A Little More Time

Eruviel remembers.

It was a quiet day. A lazy day. The soft mattress and blankets puffed up around them in soft waves and the shimmering mountain sunlight filtered through the thick glass window to chase away their late morning slumber. Groaning in protest as the light hit his face, Adrovorn turned his head from where it rested in the small of Eruviel’s back to hide it between her side and the bed.

“So you are finally awake,” smiled Eruviel as she rolled over onto her back and stretched out. She could not help but chuckle at the squinted glare he shot her as she abandoned him to the sunlight.

“No, I’m not,” said Adrovorn in a yawn as he stretched out his thickly muscled arms. Hooking a hand over her side he pulled her close and laid back down, his broad, lightly tanned shoulders draped across her hips. Pecking a kiss on her cool skin he set his head down on her stomach and tucked his hands under her back. “Did you rest well?” he asked, his voice low and thick from sleep.

Eruviel nodded as she fixed the pillow beneath her head. “I always rest well with you,” she said, offering a contented sigh, his head rising and falling with her breath. “I do not think I need to ask if you slept well or not.”

Adrovorn shook his head. “No, you don’t. I slept so hard I don’t even remember dreaming.”

“I am glad,” she responded, combing her fingers through his strawberry blonde hair. In the last months her own dreams were not as distant as they had been in the past. She did not escape to thoughts of distant rivers or white shores. No, she dreamt of the previous day, and the day before that. Of their wedding under the flowering trees of Celondim, and the blissful weeks that followed. They would fight, hunt and drink together with the dwarves during the day, and at night . . . .

“We will not be here much longer, will we?” she asked, interrupting her own thoughts as color trickled into her cheeks.

Adrovorn sighed, crossing his arms over her abdomen and resting his head atop of them to look up at her. “No. I think we have three or so more weeks. Then we head out to find the Tribunal.”

Eruviel raised her eyes to the stone roof of the bedroom, her eyes catching the glints of dust floating through the rays of sunshine. “It’s strange . . . thinking about how much will change.”

“You will miss it, won’t you?” asked Adrovorn as he propped himself up on one arm, tracing his free hand lovingly over the pale scars that wound around her torso.

“I will. Eriador is all I have ever known. I have never been east of Lothlorien nor south of Enedwaith.”

“Gondor is a wide land. When this war is over you may get lost exploring it all,” he said with a smile. Scooting up he pecked a kiss on her cheeks before resting his head on her chest. “And you will already have a head start on seeing the world after I am gone.”

“I will not be seeing much of the world at all after you are gone,” she whispered into his hair. “I meant what I said the other night.”

Adrovorn raised his head, sitting up as his dark blue eyes searched hers. A soft look replaced his natural sternness as he studied her. “I cannot ask something like that of you.”

“That’s why I am giving it to you. Besides, I would think the halls of Iluvatar would be more grand than those of Manwe,” she chuckled softly.

A mischievous smile curved up the corners of his mouth and Adrovorn was about to speak when a knock sounded from the front door. Letting out a frustrated sigh Adrovorn laid back down atop of her, burying his face in the nape of her neck. “If we don’t move they won’t know we’re here,” he muttered.

Chuckling, Eruviel wrapped her arms around his shoulders as the knock sounded again, louder. “Give them a minute and they will go away.”

The knock sounded a third time, accompanied by a muffled call of, “My lord?” The fourth time Eruviel and Adrovorn looked at each other, silently debating whether or not to actually answer the persistent visitor. Then silence. The two waited, their heads lifted and turned towards the door.

“Maybe he left?” Eruviel wondered.

“Good. We rarely get a whole day to lay around,” huffed Adrovorn as he rolled onto the side and pulled her against his chest. The calm returned. Nestling against him she laid there for a time, forgetting everything else. The two had almost fallen back asleep when a new, harder knock sounded against the front door, the thud echoing through the small home.

“Adrovorn?” sounded Myrthrost’s voice from the other side. His tone made Eruviel’s stomach sink. “I’m sorry, but I know you’re in there. It’s urgent.”

Letting out an irritated growl Adrovorn pulled himself away from her and slid out of bed. Quickly stepping into his trousers he leaned over to plant a warm kiss on her mouth. “I’ll be right back love.”

Nodding, Eruviel sat up as she watched him walk out into the common room. She heard the door open, and the low voices exchange words. She could not make out what had been spoken, but it was only a minute before Myrthrost departed and the front door shut. She waited.

“Adrovorn?” she called softly. No reply came. Rising from the bed she wrapped the large white sheet around her and padded softly out of the bedroom. Her tall Gondorian stood still as stone in the entryway, a tattered parchment stretched between his hands. Stopping beside him she rested a deceptively delicate hand on his forearm. “What does it say?” she asked simply, reading the dark storm of emotions that shadowed his face.

“It’s from Pelargir,” he said quietly, rereading the letter again. “The city has fallen into chaos, and a fleet of Corsairs presses hard against the navy. I am being called back.” Sighing heavily Adrovorn sunk down to the floor, leaning back against the wall. “This was sent months ago,” he said gravely. “My men and I are long overdue.”

Looking down at him for a moment Eruviel shifted the sheet around her and gracefully lowered herself to sit beside him. “Well, then we will leave for Gondor sooner than planned.” She tried to sound encouraging, but his unguarded expression of dismay made it difficult to even smile.

“I do not want you to have to fight,” said Adrovorn bitterly as he looked up to study her face, “and I was hoping that the ten years I’ve been away would see the end of this turmoil.” She could see the anger swelling in him towards whoever it was that wrote the letter.

A genuine smile played across her lips. “You know I do not mind fighting. It is what I’m best at.”

A pained look came into his eyes and Adrovorn handed her the letter. “No, Eruviel. I cannot have you come with me.”

“I do not see why not,” she said as she read over the orders. In spite of brevity, the page was filled with haunting details of the south being raided and burned. Osgiliath was overrun and a large part of the army was stuck in the west. And she’d thought things were bad here in the north.

“Eruviel,” Adrovorn cupped a hand on one side of her face to turn her head to look at him, “You cannot come with me yet. I will go and fulfill my oath, and when my lord releases me I will come back for you.”

No, my love. I am going with you. I am fully capable of facing whatever fate awaits us,” she said firmly.

“You really are an anomaly. What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

“I have lived and fought fifteen hundred years before you came along, and I do not intend to wile away the days here when you are down in Gondor risking your life!”

“You don’t get it,” he said in frustration, gripping her arm. “I know you can face anything! But you shouldn’t have to, not any more, not if I can help it. Eruviel, I will be leading hundreds of men into battle and if you were there I would put your safety above theirs. My love, I can’t allow it! Many of them will die anyways, but I can’t leave a hundred families without fathers because my judgement was impaired out of worry for you.”

Eruviel forced down the tears that threatened to appear. She did her best to keep her lower lip from trembling, and merely nodded as he gently pulled her over to sit between his legs. “I understand,” she said quietly, resisting the urge to shrug off his hand.

“I am sorry Eruviel, that this had to happen when we were just beginning,” said Adrovorn, tucking stray strands of hair behind her pointed ears.

Eruviel shook her head, ruining his careful work. Shoving her bangs out of her face she did her best not to show her disappointment, and worry — among a hundred other emotions. “Do you mind if I ride with you and the Tribunal for a part of the journey?”

“Not at all. I would prefer it,” he said with a small chuckle, running a hand up and down her arm.

Nodding, she leaned against his chest with a small sigh, relishing the feel of his skin against hers and listening to the strong beat of his heart. “How long do yo think you will be gone?”

“A year at the most,” he said with certainty. “And if my lord tries to keep me longer I will just leave. He can find another captain to lead his men.”

A few minutes of silence between them passed as his words somewhat calmed her and dried up the moisture that had gathered in the corners of her eyes. “Then we should prepare,” she said reluctantly.

“I don’t think so,” he said with a warm smile. Kissing her shoulder he wrapped his strong arms around her and held her close. “I say when we leave and we still have a little more time.”