Hallem

Bittersweet: Lex Talionis

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“Watch your step, Artis.”

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

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

“You mean stealing.”

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

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

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

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

“There is only one.”

“This is a terrible plan.”

“Then why did you come along?”

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

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

Eruviel gave her brother an incredulous look.

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

More.

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

They are mine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come out, coward!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bittersweet: Choices

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“Since we did not need his help, we owe him nothing.”

Eruviel nodded in agreement with Eirikr. All she had wanted was Anyatka back, and now that they had her, putting the orc camp a ways behind them, she wanted to see them all safely home.

Eirikr looked around at his companions. “Then the question is whether we release them or…not.”

Her right hand tightened ever so slightly on her bowstring. Delostor. Not that wanting to steal Anya and put the spirit of Faethril in her was bad enough, now Parmanen had changed his mind and planned to put the long dead woman into the body of his daughter. His only child. It turned her stomach, and made her furious.
“Just give them the damn statue, and let them have their obscene little romance. At least then we never have to see them again,” said Esthyr from behind the tree she had retreated to.

Eruviel shook her head. “It would be very one sided,” she says quietly.

Esthyr’s arm snaked round the tree to point in the direction of Lomiphel. “You heard her! She volunteered.”

Lômiphel sagged as she nodded. Her face was flushed and sweaty, and the Elf looked to the woman’s bandaged arm. We need to get her to a healer, and soon.

Eruviel shook her head. “Giving Faethril a body will not make her love Delostor. And he does not love her.”

“If we give them the dragon, we must return home for it…” Eirikr looked at Eruviel. “What are you talking about?”

Esthyr crossed her arms. “Fine.”

Eruviel could feel Parmanen’s eyes as he watched her and Eirikr closely and with a look of concentration. Did the air around him cool? Be careful. For all you know he could freeze every one of us.

Eruviel looked to Eirikr. “About Faethril or Delostor?”

“Both.”

“Faethril never mentioned Delostor. Not once. It was always Aeron. The last time I saw her face it was when we thought we had killed her and she looked peaceful. Trapping the spirit of a woman one can never posses, then forcing her into the body of another is not love. It is want, and possessive, and wicked,” she says, turning her gaze to Parmanen. It was all a sick, twisted mess. Anyatka being used by this man, Lôm agreeing for, if nothing else, the love of her father, the danger that those she loved had been in for the past two years….

“Then we kill them and go home,” said Eirikr.

Gaelyn spoke up then. “That seems unnecessary.” Hallem nodded in agreement with him.

Eruviel continued to watch the older man with a wary expression as Eirikr looked over at Gaelyn. “We have no jail to hold a sorcerer.”

Parmanen raised his bound hands and suddenly the surface of the lake surged. A wave of water rose and crashed toward them.

She had wanted to try and save him. Ever since reading his journal she had wanted to try and find a way to, in the least,  give the old Parmanen a chance to overpower the Black Numenorean that had been put in him all those years ago. She had tried, and failed. What if he now escaped? How many more lives would he hurt and ruin? The water rushing in, Eruviel drew back on her bowstring, and fired her arrow at the sorcerer.

It was a clean shot, aimed at the man’s heart. But a shout that did not come from one of her friends rose, and as the wave hit them, Lômiphel threw herself in front of her father.

The wave gone, Parmanen struggled to sit up, but the weight of Lômiphel pinned him down. Harsh, rasping gasps for breath fill the air, and Eruviel saw her arrow sticking out of the woman. “Help her! Please!” cried the older man as he tried to get up again.

Gaelyn rushed forward, and Eruviel with him. She glanced to one side. Good, Eirikr is all right. He has Anya…“Esthyr!”

Esthyr stalked over to them all, cursing under her breath.

Parmanen suddenly looked not like a wicked sorcerer, but like a scared old man.

Esthyr squatted down to inspect the woman, and sighed. “Her lung is punctured, and her scapula likely shattered. If we were in Bree, I might be able to do something, but I don’t think she can survive this. I can’t remove the arrow without tearing even more.”

Eruviel, keeping out of her way, knelt down beside Esthyr, her face pale. “She wouldn’t survive the trip back?” Parmanen let his head fall back against the dirt and closed his eyes.

Esthyr pursed her lips as she looked down at Lomiphel. “She’s not going to survive for even a few more minutes.” She looked at Parmanen. “Whatever you want to say, old man, say it now.”

Damn… damn, damn, damn…. Eruviel put her hands on either side of Lom’s head. It was the least she could do. “Lom?”

Gaelyn frowned deeply. “Shit…”

Esthyr squatted down to mop at Lomiphel’s brow in a vain attempt to make her somewhat more comfortable.

Lômiphel didn’t respond. The breaths came slower; her eyes hardly open. It hit Eruviel like a charging beast. Pouring calm and comfort into the young woman’s body, her own suddenly screamed as if muscles had been torn, and her lung felt heavy and on fire. Something was shattered, she could feel the fever and infection from Lom’s arm, and to top it off Eruviel could feel her body weaken as the life drained from the young woman’s body.

Esthyr reached into her pouch. “I have some valerian leaves. It will at least ease a little of the pain before she goes.” Esthyr tried to open Lomiphel’s mouth, and deposited a few of the leaves under her tongue.

Parmanen spat out between gritted teeth, “Just kill us. End her suffering.”

Eruviel continued holding Lomiphel’s head, her features pale, looking somewhere between tears and being sick. Esthyr stayed as well, mopping at Lomiphel’s brow.

“Please,” Parmanen begged as Lômiphel struggled to breathe. “Don’t let her suffer.”

Eruviel shook her head. “S-She has no pain….”

“I can pull out the arrow,” Esthyr offered. “That would probably knock her out…” Esthyr leaned down to check Lômiphel’s breath. Lômiphel coughed, spattering Esthyr’s cheek with blood.  Not seeming to care, Esthyr firmly gripped the arrow shaft where it protruded from Lomiphel. But her hand relaxed when she felt the woman’s chest go still.

Eruviel let out a quiet, pained gasp as she felt the life leave Lômiphel’s body, and quickly drew her hands back. Out of the corner of her eyes she could see Parmanen tremble. No one, not even a man like him, should have to suffer the loss of a child.

What felt like several minutes passed before Eirikr picked up Anya. “Bring them both. We can deal with this at home. For now, let us get further away to a place we can safely camp.”
Gaelyn, Eruviel, and Esthyr all moved to take up Lom’s body, but it was Eruviel who ended up bearing the young woman in her arms.

“Gaelyn?” sounded Eirikr’s voice with surprising gentleness. She couldn’t bear to look at him. Not any of them.

“…Huh?”

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

Gaelyn? Had he and … Oh, Valar…. And she thought she had felt ill before. Cradling the deceased woman’s body, Eruviel’s gaze grew distant as she played those few seconds over and over in her head. She couldn’t save any of them, could she? Not Lom, not the warg woman in Rohan, not Ni —

They walked on, following Eirikr’s lead.

“Look, you can’t blame yourself,” said Esthyr as she walked beside her, supporting Parmanen’s weight. “She chose to do that.”

You made your choice, and she made hers.

The pain still singing through her limbs, Eruviel offered a single, agonizing nod.

 

((Taken from in-game RP, 3/12/2016. Edited for tense, point of view, and exposition. Thank you to Cwendlwyn for the lot, and for playing as Eirikr, Anyatka, Lomiphel, and Parmanen!))

Fallowmath: Sneaking Out

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Eruviel paused in a shadow near The Pony. “Hal.”

“What?” he asked, stopping on the steps.

“I can’t walk in the main room looking like this,” she said, motioning to her dirt and black-bloodied self. “I’m going through the back.”

Hallem gave her a guilty look. “Are you all right? For sure?”

Her mouth set in a firm line, she nodded. “I will be. I’ll see you inside.”

Giving her another look, Hallem continued up into the Inn. Turning, Eruviel slipped through the shadows along the side of the building, making her way around to the back door. By the Void, she felt terrible.

Stepping in the back door, a small breath or relief escaped her at seeing the hall vacant. Moving in she hesitated at seeing her reflection in a mirror along the wall. The cut over her jaw from the arrow didn’t look as bad as she’d thought, but she was indeed a sight with dirt and pineneedles in her braid. Orc blood stained her dark shirt and streaked over one side of her face, but the worst was the light bruise that had begun to form on her neck where the Orc had grabbed her.

“I’m going to be in so much trouble,” she murmured with a weary sigh. Poor Hallem. She had been furious when he’d dove for cover under a dead Orc. She supposed it was her own fault. Instead of calling for help, she’d called his name, and it had been dark . . . .

Shuddering, she moved to lean against a wall and wait. The pack she had filled with items from the camp they had passed slipped off her shoulder to the floor, and she pulled out the small note Hallem had found. Keep it up. We’ll starve them out, was scrawled across the small page in Black Speech. Her thumb traced over the name for the Orcs to contact. Ievi.

Fitting the note safely away, Eruviel shoved her hands into her pockets and fixed a hard look down at the black Orc arrows in her quiver. Leave messages for the guilds, inform the authorities, get food, find Rhe — Footsteps down the hall interrupted her list. “Ah, there you are, Hal,” she said, turning her stern gaze up from the floor. She then nods politely to Morty as he followed close behind the young man. “Master Mossfoot.”

“Eruviel? What’s going on?”

Eruviel pushed off from where she leaned. She’d never seen the gravedigger look so serious or strained with worry. “Orcs have us trapped in Durrow. They mean to starve us out. They are part of a group the Wayfarers encountered before . . . led by an Orc . . . His name starts with an ‘S’. Forgive me for not remembering off the top of my head. We are all right, for now.”

Morducai rubs at his face. “Stockard’s bones. What do Orcs want with Durrow?”

Hallem looked between them and responded, “That part-orc, Rheb, ran off. He was mad at Cwen. It could’ve been him.”

“I don’t know who either of those people are,” said the gravedigger, “but all right.”

Eruviel frowned. “What they really want? I’m not sure,” she admitted with a sigh. “I hope to find out more on our way back. My theory is that Rheb is being used by the Orc leader to hurt the people there for revenge . . . or power. Maybe both.” She then nodded to Morty. “Does the name ‘Ievi’ ring a bell?”

Morducai shook his head. “No, sorry. I don’t socialize with a lot of Orcs, either.”

Eruviel managed a small smile. “Probably for the best.”

“But Esthr and Hawk are both fine?” the man quickly asked.

“They’re fine, Morty,” said Hal with a nod. “But we n-need to get food.'”

Eruviel nodded in agreement. “We should get going . . . Can we take anything back for you? Any word or notes?”

Morducai looked to her. “Yes. Please let Esthyr know I know, and I’m doing everything I can to get the Freemason’s Guild down to you.” He then turned his gaze to Hal. “Go talk to the Mayor.”

“What about Kennick? Is he here?”

“Haven’t seen him in a few days, but he was with me when I found the avalanche, so he knows.”

“Anya found the raven, by the way,” said Eruviel as she picked up the pack.

Morty smiled. “Good. I thought she would. I’d say give her a kiss for me, but, well.”

Eruviel chuckled. “I think a sisterly one will have to suffice. I’ll give Hawk a kiss as well.”

“Thank you. I’ll do everything I can from here,” he said before looking back to Hallem. “It’s really good to see you, lad.”

Hallem nodded. “Yeah. You too.” The young man turned a bit towards Eru. “I guess we should go.”

Eruviel took a step towards the door. “We should. Be well, Master Mossfoot, and thank you.”

Morducai nodded. The man was so stressed that he forgot to tip his cap. Giving them one last look he turned and headed down the hall.

Eruviel took a deep breath, and gave Hal the other half of her smile. “Do you want to go see about the Mayor while I get the food?”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “I’ll do it.”

Eruviel nodded. “See you at the West Gate in . . . half an hour?”

Hallem followed behind her as she walked to the door. “Half an hour.”

_____________

(Thank you to Oendir and Hallem for the rp! Dialogue taken from 4/16 in-game role-play and edited for tense and exposition.)

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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