Mornenion

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!)

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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.”

Bittersweet: Get Out

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In a cloud of steam and laughter, the women poured out of Stonebluff. Hair damp and eyes bright with merriment, the soak and good company had brought each soul to overflowing.

“– then he cut his apron strings and ran out of there as fast as he could!” cried Beth, laughing lasciviously at her own joke.

“Umm… Yes, I… I think I get it,” muttered Anyatka, cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she looked to Eruviel for help.

Eruviel fought back a playful smirk as both women looked to her. She paused, handing off her basket of food to Feygil who shouted a war cry about beating the men to the feast as male voices drifted out of the Broken Cask. “I think in this rare case your joke would flow better if the baker ‘pounded’ instead of ‘kneaded’.”

Anyatka look utterly mortified, and Beth laughed even louder than before as she skipped ahead to share her joke with Ansithe and Varidia. “Do not look so shocked, oselle,” said Eruviel as she linked arms with Anya, her fair cheeks flushed with one too many glasses of wine. The merry band crossed over the Dunwash on their way to Ravenhold, and behind them Rosie could be heard preemptively scolding the menfolk for drinking all of her good ale.

“I just was not expecting that from you,” Anya muttered, a sheepish smile stealing over her features.

“You will find out soon enough. Just spare me the details when you and Ander–”

Eruviel!” Anyatka cried.

Eruviel threw her head back with a merry laugh, and that was when she saw the lone figure standing on the bridge. Was it Eirikr? Or perhaps Cedoric wandering off?

“What is it?” asked Anya, peering around the Elf in attempt to see what had caught her friend’s attention.

Giving the young woman’s arm a squeeze, Eruviel stepped away from the flow of friends heading up the hill. “Nothing. I will be right behind you.”

Arching a brow, Anya shrugged and waved after her. “Don’t take too long!”

Eruviel grinned and, pulling her ribbon-bound braid over her shoulder, headed for the bridge.

“Hey, where are you going?” called another voice from behind. Glancing back she saw Abbi waving at her even as he snagged a bottle from Hallem’s hands. Behind him was… Eirikr? who’s wave to her faltered as he reached to try and snag Abbi, the younger Tenorbekk scampering around Taja. Chuckling, she waved and continued on.

The figure on the bridge shifted, and she could see it better now, the long beard and stern profile.

“Commander?”

Godric turned again in the dark to face her.

“You should come and join us, Sir. We –”

Eruviel’s words were cut short when the towering man slumped forward in the darkness. She rushed up the bridge, and skidded to a halt when the shadows receded enough to reveal the Commander leaning forward, impaled on a long black sword. Breath caught in her lungs as happy laughter echoed down from Ravenhold.

“I should thank them,” came the cool, all too familiar voice. Eruviel’s fists clenched as she slowly remembered, her dream continuing on without her. “That is one less pest to have to account for.”

“You will leave them alone.”

The shadow leaning up against the railing of the bridge watched her, violet-brown eyes unblinking from beneath the dark hood. “Did I ever tell you what it sounded like? The last ragged breath escaping Milloth from the hole in his chest?”

“Get out of my head.”

“Who should I kill first? Or should I curse the lot of them and save myself the effort?” The robed figure stood and began to approach. Bodies began to bob up in the water below them, Ruby Lake turning crimson in the moon light.

A terrible ache tore through her chest. She had promised. She had promised. The Elf looked down again, and to her surprise the horrifying scene changed. As soon as the bodies appeared they suddenly vanished, one by one in soft puffs of smoke.

“It is no use. Why do you fight? Are you not tired of it all? I might steal whatever magic is in the red eye of your friend. I also have more spirits. You remember, don’t you? I could turn them all against you….”

Shadows snaked around Eruviel to trap her, suffocate her… but they collapsed at her feet in piles of flowers. It wasn’t her….

“Did you forget what he told you? You will never be free, not of him, or me, or the curse that follows you.”

“Get out,” she growled through gritted teeth.

Cold laughter wafted around like a chilling breeze, drawing nearer. “No? Maybe I will make myself a bear fur coat. There is something so sensual about fur against the skin…. And maybe I’ll take that little boy and his father, and –”

Godric’s greying body fell away in a glittering shower of limrafn dust, and Eruviel reached out to catch the sword before it could fall. “Get out!”

Whirling around, she sliced off the hand reaching for her and with a shout, before plunged the blade into the bridge. The figure reeled back as the reality of the Eruviel’s dream shifted violently and heaved up to shatter about them. Starlight flickering like fire erupted with a concussive roar from the Elf and sword, and flooded out, filling every crevice of her mind till his laughter and shadows had nothing to hold onto.

– – – – –

With a cry Eruviel shot upright, the steaming water in her tub sloshing about her. Gasping she sagged back in the fragrant bath, hiding her face in her hands.

He was gone. A small, relieved sob escaped her as she curled up into a ball at one end of the basin. One night of rest was all she wanted at that moment. And somehow she knew he was gone. Finally gone. Whatever, or whoever had helped her —

Fletch’s frantic barks sounded from beyond the closed door. The  growing pup whined, scratched,  and barked again as he tried to dig his way past the door and into her. Grabbing her robe, Eruviel stumbled out of the bath, water pooling in her wake. Yanking open the bathroom door, she was nearly knocked over as Fletched barreled into her.

“Hey, hey, calm down boy. It’s all right. I’m all right.”

Whining worriedly, Fletch nuzzled and licked her face as Eruviel knelt down on the floor.

Wrapping her trembling arms around his neck, Eruviel closed her eyes, offering a prayer of thanks when she saw nothing behind her closed lids. “Shhh, boy. It is all right. Everyone will be all right. I promised.”

– – – – –

Yarig! Benrith!

The Uruk and Angmarim guard exchanged unreadable, yet somehow knowing looks as they turned to step into the bedchamber. They did not so much as flinch as a bench flew to shatter against the stone wall beside them, nor blink as a wave of shadow tore what was left of the bed to pieces. Light bent and twisted, and the Lord marched, sword in hand to stand between the guards.

“My lord,” said Benrith, standing at attention.

Long black hair tossed in a crazed twist over his shoulders, piercing eyes drifted from one guard to the other. “Yarig?”

The Uruk stood a bit taller. “My lord.”

The sorcerer was not the tallest of his peers, and his muscled shoulders not the broadest, but the shadows loomed up about him, making him in his anger appear larger than life.  “Bring me your pick of five of the best you can find in the ranks. I mean to double my guard.”

Yarig did not move till his lord motioned for him to. His long strides only carried him to the doorway before a word from the sorcerer halted him.

“My lord?”

The sorcerer put a hand on Benrith’s shoulder, and with one clean swipe, sliced the man’s head off. It hit the stone floor with a sickening thunk and rolled towards the Uruk even as it’s former body decayed and turned to dust. “Take that with you. Have it sent to Aughaire. It would not do for him to be late in reporting back.”

Bittersweet: Haunting Hours

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The bonfire in the yard of Ravenhold crackled and sparked, embers dancing up towards the stary sky to beat of the music. It was midnight, but the only magic there came from contagious smiles and contented laughter as the happy din drifted out over the homestead.  There was no special occasion, but in truth did they really need one?

Near the totem Oendir played his fiddle, laughing at Nelia and Solstan. Cwendlwyn sat at his feet, smiling as she accompanied him on her lute. The woman exchanged a meaningful look with her husband as the melody danced and mixed just as well as the half-dozen couples that swung together in the firelight. Everyone was there. Taja danced with a woman in blue, Ansithe, Feygil and Beth huddled close as the latter coerced Fey into a prank, and Abbi sat leaning against Atanamir as he embellished a tale of grand adventure for Dorsett and Sage.

Then there was Anders with his arms around Anya, the two whispering happily. Pheadra and Varidia stood with Cedoric, teasing the young man about something as Cedoric’s friend beside him watched on in amusement. There was Gaelyn and Halvel, Hallem and Lichen, and Mor standing in the midst of the romping Torsten, Eboric, and Atrian. Pharazanu and Zabathôr sat to one side, soaking up the firelight and merriment. Near them stood Kemendin who was shaking his head at some absurd comment that had sprung from a happily drunken Raenarcam, and on the far side Godric sat, Wraith’s head resting on his lap as he oversaw the festivities with what might have been a smile beneath his mighty beard.

Applauding with the rest as the song ended, Eruviel excused herself from a conversation with Rosie as she noticed a form lingering in the shadows beyond the reach of the firelight. She had thought everyone to be there, and on such a merry evening no one should be left out. Eruviel glanced over her shoulder to the happy gathering to mentally check off who might not be in attendance, but stopped in her tracks as she looked back to the shadows and found them empty. How strange.

Shrugging, she turned back to return to the party when cold fingers curled over her shoulder. The shadow loomed up behind her, causing her heart to leap up and catch in her throat.

“Looks like fun,” breathed the voice as a hooded face dipped low to hover by her ear. “There are more of them than I had anticipated.”

Every muscle in her body tensed. Unable to bring herself to turn, she fixed a horrified gaze down on the festive gathering. “You’re dead.”

A chuckle sent dreadful shivers up her spine, the breath in her ear cold. “Am I? Yes… yes, I was? I was! You had to choose to stay, didn’t you? Oh, you could have stayed beyond the sea or gone with him, but you never learn. You had to find new people to fill the void of what you lost.”

“How dare you think they are merely –”

“Merely what?” the voice calmly interrupted, the grip on her shoulder tightening. “Don’t get snippy with me. It won’t be as easy as last time. You sssee, I learn my lessons.”

A light rain began to fall. The fire hissed in protest, and the droplets soaked into her skin, but no one else appeared to notice. Eirikr emerged from Ravenhold, Drewett on his heels and laughing. Clapping the farmer on the back the Dalish man wove around the crowd, lifting one of the goblets in his hands as he made his way over to the Elf.

“What are you doing over there?” Eirikr called with a smile. “Come on! Everyone’s waiting.”

Did he not see him? Eruviel forced a smile and accepted the glass with a grateful nod. “I apologize. It’s — It’s a nice vantage from here.”

Giving her a curious look, the man then chuckled and took her hand to rest it on his forearm. “It is, I suppose, but no sneaking off. Come on back.”

The cold hand slowly released her, and the hooded face retreated back into the shadows beyond the yard as she stepped forward to return with Eirikr. “It is you or them…. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eruviel’s eyes fluttered open. A noon breeze gently rocked her as she lay in her hammock, and Fletch sat on the grass beneath her, whining loudly with concern as he stared up at his Elf.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Eruviel lifted a hand to wipe at her face and was startled to find it wet with rain. Indeed, her dress and hair were soaked with rain water. Sitting up she shivered bodily, glancing about the yard with a frown as her dream quickly faded to a dull memory.

The stress knotted in her gut, making her feel ill. It had been such a good dream, too. Hopping down from the hammock she took a moment to comfort Fletch, assuring him that she was all right before turning to rescue the dripping linens from the line.