Moria

Beneath These Mountains

The way into Moria had been as peaceful as she’d hoped. Having spoken with the leader of the caravan, Eruviel quietly made her way over to Eirikr. Standing near the edge of the platform with his arms folded across his chest, he stared out across the chasm. “What do you see?”

The man looked over at her and smiled. “Rock. A lot of rock. How are you?”

Eruviel chuffed a quiet chuckle, and looked out to the great cavern. “I am well. These caves always make me feel a tad squeamish, but it is nothing I can’t ignore. How are you?” This cold realm better have had only one Balrog.

Eirikr shrugged and turned to face her. “I am well enough as any man can be stuck beneath these mountains. But a few days’ travel and we will see the sky again.”

Smiling up at him, she nodded. “Very true. The word I hear is that the road ahead of us is clear.”

Eirikr nodded, but his expression remained neutral at the news. “We will travel with speed, then. What are your thoughts for our return journey?”

Her keen gaze flicked over his face before turning towards the small encampment behind them. “If it is a peaceful journey through, I would recommend returning back this way. There is safety in numbers. We can still inquire after the pass once we reach our destination.”

“I hope all is well with the Beornings. The path ahead may be clear, but perhaps because so many have left the mines to push east into Lothlorien and the Wood.”

Eruviel nodded in agreement. “As do I. We don’t have to make any decision about our return till we choose to return, though. I do not wish to make any premature decisions that could cause us future trouble.”

Eirikr gave her a quick look. “Do you wish to linger there?”

“I did not mean to imply that,” Eruviel responded as she arched a brow, “though it is beautiful there. I merely did not wish to assume that we would depart any sooner or later than you desire to.”

“I am eager to return to Durrow. Anyatka and Abiorn alone in that tiny cabin…” His voice trailed off and a look of realization struck him. “Oh, my…”

Eruviel snickered, and gave her braid a thoughtful tug. “It is character building. I am sure the house will be in one piece, and the dogs a little less trained than how you left them.”

Eirikr shook his head. “And I am bringing an infant back to that… Eruviel… there will be no where to put a cradle!”

Eruviel set a hand on her hip, and looked out to the cavern as she thought. The old house is rented out. And he should not have to… “With your consent he can stay at my place till there is room. If you’re up for the work, we could round up Gaelyn, and Mor, and some of the others and get your cabin remodeled before the weather changes.”

“I do not know… isn’t the point of my bringing him home for me to be with him?”

Eruviel mirrored his slow nod. “Then you can stay at my place with him till your cabin is done.”

Eirikr looked at her and then swiftly away. “I would hate to impose on you like that.”

She waved a hand dismissively. “You would not be imposing at all. I will probably be away most nights anyways, and this time of year I usually rest in my hammock.”

Eirikr nodded slowly. “All right. If you insist we will not bother you.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I will probably appreciate your insight into raising a child. I have… no idea what I am going to do.”

Eruviel’s mouth twitched as she fought back a smile, and thanked Orome for the times she babysat for a day or two over the past several hundred years. “I will do my best. Good thing you are a runner, because he will keep you on your toes. He was toddling when I saw him a few months ago.”

Eirikr fell quiet for a moment. “He is. What else was he doing? And what else is he doing now?”

Eruviel twisted her mouth to one side as she gently tugged at her braid again. “He was energetic… and he liked to pull on my braid and ears. But what is he doing now? I’d think he would be eating soft foods now, and he could be starting to form words. He should have most of his teeth by now… Oh, heavens…. Give it a few more months and you could try potty training him.”

The man rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands.

Watching him, Eruviel felt a soft twist in her chest, and she rested a hand on his arm. “I’ll be there for whatever you need… and we can make Anya and Abbi change his diapers. You missed the ‘up every two hours’ stage. He should sleep straight through most nights. I can watch him for you most days if you need to go hunt or have time to yourself.”

Eirikr looked at her and smiled wearily. “Thank you. I am sure you did not expect to become a nanny when you decided to take a liking to my sister.”

She laughed softly, and shook her head. “No, I did not. And while I try to plan for the unexpected, I never could have imagined a more delightful outcome.”

He smiled as he looked down at her with a soft expression. That smile. It nearly took the air right out of her lungs. It was the most wonderful smile that quite possibly made her knees feel a little weak. Eruviel met his gaze with a similar softness for a moment before the tips of her ears turned pink, and she diverted her eyes. “Besides, now I can try and beat you in getting him to address me first. ‘Roovie’ is… possibly easier to say than ‘Daddy’ or ‘Ada’.”

Eirikr nodded. “Challenge accepted. ‘Ada’ is far easier than ‘Roovie.'”

Eruviel smirked, and glanced back at him. “Probably, but that does not mean I cannot try.”

Giving her one last look, Eirikr turned. “I am going to turn in. Good night, Eruviel.

Offering him a small smile and a nod, Eruviel clasped her hands behind her back. “Good night, Eirikr. Rest well.”

~ ~ ~

Thank you to Eirikr’s player, Cwendlwyn, for the RP and plot!

All conversation has been taken from chat logs, and edited for tense and exposition.

To Dale: Small Progress

Eruviel sat leaning back against the stone pillar, twirling the arrow between her thumb and pointer finger with the fletching whisking against the pant of her left knee. She had already counted the stalactites hanging from the vaulted ceiling as well as the sparks that had floated up from their now smoldering fire. Several merchants and travelers still talked quietly a short ways away and she eavesdropped on their softly spoken conversations, wondering who best to join.

There were several dwarves headed to the Lonely Mountain, but few of them seemed . . . congenial enough for her to risk spending the time to earn their trust for them to open up to her. There was a stern, self-important merchant with a Gondorian accent who would be of no use to her, and then there was the Barding that appeared to be relatively new to the trade. Norlin had just bid the younger man good night and he sat quietly by his fire, staring thoughtfully into the flames. His accent was of Bree-land, and by the bits of conversation she had picked up, he had not been east of the mountains since he was an infant. This meant that all his knowledge would have come from his father.

Yes, he will do perfectly, she mused, sliding the arrow back into her quiver.  Eruviel thought of Threz, and wondered what sort of trouble he might have gotten himself into by now. Orome cover you, my bullheaded friend, she prayed with a smirk as she rose to her feet, pulling her plain woolen blanket around her shoulders. This might be her one chance to find out anything for the man.

Stepping over her bedding and carefully stacked armour she stopped when Eirikr grumbled and rolled over in his sleep. That was the tenth time in the hour alone that he had tossed. With their paced slowed, exhaustion was not so strong as to keep dreams from his sleep. A dark frown twisted the man’s face and his hands gripped at his blanket. She had only to guess at what haunting visage plagued him. Picking up a second blanket Eruviel draped it over him to ward off the cold and damp. Kneeling down beside him she gently placed her cool hand against his forehead. A wave of anger, hatred and fear washed through her mind as she touched him, but his uneven breaths soon steadied and his expression calmed. Pursing her lips as she studied him she wished for a moment that she were her brother. Milloth could have banished the nightmares for the night or reached inside Eirikr’s mind to speak as a reassuring voice of reason. She could only calm the storm for an hour or two. At least it was something.

Rising back to her feet she padded softly across the short distance to where the young merchant still sat, wide awake. Looking over at her as she drew near the man jumped to his feet, nearly tripping over his bedroll.

“I am sorry to startle you,”she said in a soft voice, smiling kindly a she offered a small bow. “My fire is nearly out and I did not wish to wake my traveling companion. Might I warm my hands over your fire?”

“By all means,” beamed the man with an embarrassed smile, rubbing the back of his head with his left hand. “I-I would be glad of the company.”

– – –

“Is it possible for us to move any slower,” Eirikr huffed under his breath.

Eruviel reigned in her goat, renamed in honor of the friend it ever reminded her of. “I will ask Brogur. Hopefully he has a satisfactory answer,” she replied, steering Falros around Eirikr’s mount to walk past Norlin’s wagon.

Eirikr nodded curtly, following. “Anything is better than standing here.”

Trotting past one wagon after another, seeing by the light radiating from the lanterns Eruviel raised a hand in a wave as they rode by the gentleman from the previous night. “Good morning to you, Master Tannith!”

“Good day to you too, Lady ‘Raviel!” he called after her, switching his reigns to one hand to better wave back.

Eruviel caught the look Eirikr shot her. “Do not be so swift to doubt me, my friend,” she said back to him with a small smile. Last nights dream must have been bad indeed for him to look this upset. Pulling Falros back to a slow walk beside the lead wagon she bowed at the waist to the old dwarf. “Master Brogur! What is it that holds us up?”

“Goblin scouts ahead. Or so our escorts tell me.” Hesitating, he looked from Eruviel to Eirikr, than back. “I might’ve asked if ye be willin to aid some, but yer a traveler this time my friend.”

Eirikr gave her an even look and the two nodded in synch to each other. “We will be glad to lend our aid, Master Brogur.”

Falros turned his shaggy black head to give Eruviel a disapproving look as she tied him to the back of the lead wagon. “Do not scowl at me, mellon. I will find you a pint of ale when we get to the Twenty-first Hall.” The goat’s golden eyes narrowed at her for a moment before he turned his head to face forward, walking along with an apathetic air.

Eirikr tied his goat next to hers, removing his bow from the saddle. Walking behind him as they outpaced the wagon train, Eruviel counted to make sure he was not lacking arrows. Pulling her odd one out she stuck it in his quiver and stepped up beside him as they moved into a jog. She preferred this, the running side by side.  Their footfalls were hardly the sound of a breath as they sped off into the dark of the stone gallery. Hearing the rumbling of dwarvish conversation ahead of them Eirikr was the one to pick their pace. Slowing into a cautious walk as the two nocked arrows to their bowstrings.

“So who is the merchant you greeted earlier?” asked Eirikr, looking to the right and her to the left as they passed through an intersection of halls.

“Jase Tannith,” said Eruviel quietly, her eyes piercing through the darkness ahead of them. “He has never been to Dale and is taking his wagon of goods to the Lonely Mountain. Everything he knows he learned from the family trade. His father moved their family west ten years ago.”

Eirikr arched a brow at her.

No,” she said firmly.

Eirikr skewed his mouth as his hand faintly tightened on his bowstring. “What did you tell him?” She could hardly make his face out in the dark, but his tone unsettled her.

Stopping, Eruviel reached out a hand and caught his arm. “I told him my amlisse, Eruraviel, which I have not gone by for seven hundred years, assuming I should take such precautions. I told him I had grown tired of fighting other people’s wars and wanted to see the world before I sailed.” Releasing him she moved to walk ahead. “I also told him that you tagged along because you felt sorry for me.”

Eirikr snickered, taking a small step before stopping. “Not in the slightest,” he muttered, drawing his arm back. Eruviel glanced over to where he aimed and nodded. Two sets of eyes blinked in the dark, one higher than the other. They loosed at the same time. A whispered thwap sounded from where her arrow hit, followed by a garbled growl and a heavy thud from Eirikr’s shot.

“Humph,” Eruviel muttered, blowing a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. “You knew which one was the warg, did you not?”

Eirikr nodded. “Took me a minute, but you talked long enough . . . .”

Eruviel smirked as they drew fresh arrows and continued on towards the light of the dwarf captains lantern. “I’m impressed,” she said simply.

“Now you are just patronizing.”

“Only because you cannot take a simple compliment,” she shrugged. “Either you are improving, or you were exceptionally good before your shoulder was wounded.”

Eirikr raised his right hand, flexing the fingers that not long ago had refused to respond to his bidding. “We will find out soon enough.”

To Dale: Durin’s Threshold

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The Hollin Gates closed behind them, the air reverberating from the thud echoing through the vaulted chamber. Eruviel had no intention of turning back, and though she knew it to be irrational she felt trapped in the dim light of Moria. The caravan moved further into Durin’s Threshold, and Eruviel pushed the ridiculous notion of claustrophobia out of her mind as she looked around the great space with a small, familiar smile. She had a number of positive memories of this place, and she chided herself for already failing to take her own advice.

“Are we going to walk the whole way, or are we able to procure goats to carry us through?” said Eirikr, smirking as his question snapped her out of her thoughts.

“Of course, my friend,” she nodded, being careful to conceal her lingering discomfort for the cave. “The week here would be more uncomfortable, and seem far longer if it were not without the favored beasts.”

And amused grunt was all she received in reply as Eirikr nodded, taking a moment to give the room a thoughtful look-over. Norlin had already unhitched his goat from the wagon laden with boxed goods and he waved back to them as he haggled with the Stable-master known as Fith for a replacement.

“Do not let Fith rob you. He does not adhere to the set prices other stable-masters do,” Eruviel chuckled as the two of them walked over to the happily squabbling dwarves.

“I know how to haggle,”Eirikr replied, snickering at her.

“That is why I will have you get a goat for me as well,” she replied in Sindarin, slipping Eirikr a small coin pouch as they stopped behind Norlin. Rolling her eyes slightly with a smile for the pleasure of the dwarves in front of them she added, “Fith doesn’t much care for the Eldar, but he thinks men are hilariously fascinating.”

Eirikr arched a brow curiously at her but as soon as she clasped her hands harmlessly in front of her and backed away several paces Fith’s face lit up. Diverting her eyes, Eruviel listened as Eirikr battled with the dwarven Stable-master for two large goats. Her restlessness finally settled when a laugh emerged from her human companion as Fith made a quip about her that she could not quite make out. Laughter was good.  A long road laid ahead of them; one that grew darker the further on they pressed. She sensed the weight that grew in Eirikr, and he needed to keep his spirits up. They both did.

“Do I even want to know what he said about me?” she asked with a smile as Eirikr led over two tall, thick Moria goats. She noted that he had gotten the best pair Fith had.

“No, not really,” he chuckled, rolling his shoulders as he handed her a set of reigns.

The sable-haired goat with brown horns stared at her with an amused glint in it’s pale gold eyes. Slowly chewing a mouthful of hay it followed her lazily back to the wagon train. The beast was strong, but looked as if it could care less as it glanced around at the duo and other goats. Eruviel almost swore that she smelled a hint of ale on the creature and as she stepped into the saddle a sharp laugh escaped from her. If Falros had been a goat . . . .

Eirikr shot her an amused look as if she were crazy, but then smiled and shook his head as he stepped into the saddle of his own hairy, walnut-brown mount. “Norlin, where is the first stop?”

“The Dolven-view, master Eirikr,” the portly dwarf rumbled as he hefted himself into the seat of the wagon, the springs beneath him faintly creaking. “Ya two better keep your eyes open. There ‘ll be goblins to be avoidin on the way.”

To Dale: The Gates

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The fires of Echad Dunann glistened in the distance as scattered rays of lingering sunlight colored the clouds high above them. A short ways beyond the manned elf ruin more campfires illuminated a caravan of wagons, and the large, hardy goats that would pull them.  Reigning in their mounts, Eruviel and Eirikr trotted the last hundred yards to the Stable-master. The elf maiden smiled kindly at them as they dismounted, taking their few possessions with them. Eruviel never questioned the capabilities of a horse that had been under her care.

“Suilad, Rocherves,” Eruviel greeted the maiden with a faint bow as she handed her the reigns.

“Suilad, mellyn,” replied Rocherves as she offered her own curtsey to Eruviel, then to Eirikr. “Your paths were safe, I hope.”

“They were, thank you,” said Eirikr, his gaze lingering on the towering peaks that looked down upon them. He stretched up to his full height and Eruviel bit back an amused chuckle, wondering just how sore her traveling companion was.

Rocherves nodded, giving the man a thoughtful look before turning to tie the horses to the hitching posts. “It is good to receive such news. The south-western paths have grown more dangerous. It was prudent of you to send a second, and might I say, horrendously vague message. The first never made it.”

Looking around Eruviel frowned slightly at seeing an elf missing from those gathered around a far table strewn with maps. “Is Glavroleth not here?”

“She went to Echad Mirobel,” said Rocherves as she shook her head, “but she instructed me about your arrival.”

“Very well,” Eruviel nodded. “When does the caravan depart?” Her question seemed to coax Eirikr from his thoughts and he looked up to glance between her and the Stable-master.

“They will leave in a few short hours. One merchant has yet to arrive but Brogur does not intend to wait longer than an hour past dusk for him.”

“That is understandable. We should catch our rest while we can,” said Eruviel as she fixed her satchel over her shoulder.

“You should be able to find Brogur at the front fire. Be well, and safe travels to you,” said Rocherves before turning her attention once again to the horses.

Exchanging curt nods with Eirikr, the two of them set out to walk the short distance between the two camps. Speaking with Brogur they were shown to a lone merchant three wagons back that they would be traveling with. The portly dwarf named Norlin was hospitable and Eruviel could not hold back an amused smirk as he took an instant liking to Eirikr. In spite of the sound of dwarvish laughter that relaxed her companions stern expression, a shadow remained. She entertained the thoughts that it might be the caverns that awaited them, the slower pace they would be traveling at, or the foul creatures that still lurked in the twists and turns of Moria that weighed on Eirikr’s mind, but she knew otherwise.It weighed on her mind as well.

Sitting by Norlin’s fire as he chatted away about the delights of being a traveling merchant, Eruviel only half listened. Her gaze drifted upwards to the ever-brightening stars above. She would miss them greatly. Though they would be in Moria no longer than a week, Eruviel doubted she would sleep the first few nights. The craftsmanship of the dwarves amazed her, and the company was good, but she never did care much for enclosed caves.

A call rang through the wagon train an hour later as the merchants or their servants hitched the goats to the wagons. Looking behind, three more wagons pulled up at the rear. Just in time. The caravan moved forward at an almost practiced pace, climbing the gradual slope of the wide trail. The Gate-Stream to their right was as dry as the last time she had passed this way, though in some distant memory she recalled water once flowing over the Stair Falls.

“When was the last time you were here?” asked Eirikr as they neared the top of their accent.

Eruviel gave him a thoughtful look as she continued forward. “Not since before I met Anyatka. Was your trip to Bree the first you had been through?”

“It was,” Eirikr nodded as the wagons crested the hill to look out across the Black Pool. “Though I did not pay much mind to it.”

“We will not be rushing at break-neck speeds for several days. I do hope you try to enjoy some of it.” She wanted to say that it would be a lovely thing to tell Ninim about, but she swallowed her words, unwilling to take the risk. An ache had begun to grow in her. A fear that they would arrive too late, or that something would go wrong.

“I’ll try,” said Eirikr, chuckling slightly as they neared the Hollin Gates.

Nodding ahead of them, Eruviel took joy at seeing the dwarven doorwards standing by the two lone trees that grew against the mountainside. Not since many years before her birth had there been doorwards at the West-gate. “Moria seems so much more grand when entering from this side,” she said quietly, a small smile curving up her mouth. Eirikr shot her a smirk but she merely pointed forward.

The moon emerged just as the guards turned and spoke to the stone while the caravan was still yards away. The runes set by Celebrimbor in ages past glowed bright in the moonlight, illuminating the rocky shore, and the heavy gates opened.