Nine years ago…
“By the gods I hate this place,” Ildric muttered as he spurred his horse up the narrow path to catch up with the others.
“Only because you do not understand it,” Daran retorted, shooting the mercenary a disdainful glance as he tossed a water skin back.
“I am sure Orome subjects you to it just to hear you complain,” added Eruviel as she caught the skin and pulled the cork.
Ildric’s scoff cut out when he caught sight of the water. “Hey! Where was that two hours ago?!”
Daran looked back to the path ahead of them. “With me and out of your greedy hands.”
“If you ladies are done squabbling I suggest we catch up with the others,” called a voice from up ahead. “We are still two hours from the village.”
“Yeah, yeah, Shiny Shirt,” grumbled Ildric as he moved up to ride beside Eruviel. “You had to bring him along?”
The Elf looked ahead and smirked as she caught the brief glare Adrovorn spared Ildric. “I didn’t have to do anything. He wanted to come.”
“Better aid from the Dreadward than being overrun by greedy men playing at thievery,” Daran chimed in, sparing an amused glance to Eruviel.
“I resent that, caveman,” Ildric retorted, aiming a snatch for the water skin. “We merely —
“Vrax, quit pretending to make excuses for your pride,” called Adrovorn, sounding bored. “We all know you have none.”
Looking to the tall soldier ahead, Ildric’s attempt to claim the water skin for his own failed, and instead hit the end of Eruviel’s bow, sending it tumbling down the hillside.
“Bloody — Vrax!” shouted Eruviel in alarm. Jumping down off her horse she left the water skin hanging from her saddle and set off down the steep rocky slope.
“Wit — Eruviel! Come back! I hit it I’ll get it,” Ildric insisted as he too dismounted and stood on the path’s edge to look down after her.
“Good job,” Daran scolded. Patting his horse on the neck he turned the beast to bring him back to where Ildric stood.
“Oh, shut up –”
“Don’t let her go down there alone,” insisted Adrovorn as he rode to rejoin them.
“Ahh, she’s fine, pretty boy,” huffed Ildric as he pointed to where Eruviel stepped off the rocks and onto sand to retrieve her bow.
Adrovorn glanced to Daran and squared his firm jaw as he saw the hill-man’s sudden frown. “What is it?”
Eruviel had frozen in her tracks three or so steps from where her bow lay. “Adrovorn…” The bow had begun to slowly sink into the ground.
“Don’t move,” the Gondorian ordered firmly as he stepped down from his war steed. Pointing to the horse as if to order it to ‘stay’, Adrovorn took his halberd with one hand and started down the slope.
“No shit,” Eruviel grumbled, eyes still fixed on her bow. Swallowing, she nimbly danced forward a few steps across the surface of the quicksand. Successful in snatching up her bow the elf turned, but not before a particularly loose spot caught her foot. Before she could react she was sucked down past her knees.
“Aw, hell,” grumbled Ildric. Smacking Daran on the leg he started forward. “C’mon.”
Sighing, Daran dismounted more slowly. Taking a moment to grab his spear he began following the other two down.
“I told you not to move!”
“I heard you the first time, Captain,” Eruviel responded. “I am sinking too fast. There must be something beneath me. Here.” She threw her reclaimed bow to Adrovorn, then began unbuckling her sword belt.
Having reached the bottom of the hill, Adrovorn caught her bow, set it aside, then caught her sword belt. The loss of it’s weight slowed her progression, but not enough. “Where is the edge of it?”
Glancing around her, Eruviel shook her head. “Beyond arm’s rea — ” Her words cut off with a gasp as she dropped down another foot. “Halberd!”
Daran and Ildric scrambled to a stop beside Adrovorn as he tossed the long weapon to the Elf. Catching it, Eruviel began fishing for the edge of the pit while moving as little as possible.
“Is there nothing else we can do?” asked Ildric, looking around the barren terrain for anything that might be of use.
“She’s got this,” said Daran as he let Ildric take his spear.
Standing rigid on the edge of the rocks, Adrovorn completely ignored them as he watched and waited.
“Shiny Shirt,”said Ildric, his voice suddenly nearly as authoritative as Adrovorn’s had been earlier. “Use your sword and help me find the edge of the pit.”
“No –” Eruviel, chest deep in sand, leaned back slowly against the flow. “No need.” Having reached behind her with the halberd, she had found the edges and, bracing the ends of the long weapon on either side, had begun hefting herself up. Taking a moment to catch her breath she began slowly working her feet out.
“You got it?” asked Adrovorn, his expression more stern and his features more pale than before.
“Just about…” She froze for a moment, gave a sad look, and resumed pulling her legs from the trap.
“Eruviel? What is it?” asked Daran as the men ventured forward.
Laying on her back and liberated, Eruviel quickly rolled to the side and off the surface of the quicksand. Taking up the halberd she accepted Ildric’s hand and rose to her bare feet.”
“I lost my boots,” she muttered with a particularly dignified air of remorse.
Daran looked to the pit, Adrovorn seemed too busy looking her over for injury, and Ildric laughed. “You females and your shoes!”
“They were new! And… they had my good daggers in them,” she added with a pathetic, Elven pout.
“You still have what? Twenty blades on you? And what’s with that pout?” Ildric chided.
“I can be disappointed if I want,” said Eruviel with a sniff. “And I don’t have to care what you think.”
Ildric shot a glare back at hearing Daran choke back a snicker. “Well, let’s check to see if you’re injured.” He reached forward towards her chest when a big hand grasped his shoulder and sent him sailing into the quicksand.
It was Eruviel and Daran’s turn to chuckle, and Adrovorn just glared, satisfied that the mercenary had landed right where he wanted him. “Are you hurt?”
“I’ll live!” came Ildric’s shout as he fought against the sand.
Smirking, Eruviel shook her head. “I am fine… Really!” she insisted as he frowned down at her.
“Close your eyes,” Adrovorn insisted as he pulled out a kerchief.
“Close your eyes. You have sand all over your face.”
“Not much. Honestly, a little sand never hurt anybody –”
“Put your hands down, and close your eyes,” Adrovorn grumbled as he took up the end of her braid to toss over her shoulder.
Daran frowned at the two of them. Taking the Gondorian’s halberd the hill-man rolled his eyes and turned away. “Nobody panic. I’ll fish the thief out.”
(Thank you, Laerlin for the writing prompt!)