Risala

Practice

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“… and we took of like cats from a cage! Should ‘a seen us. Damned birds. Gonna be shyin’ from the critters fer weeks!”

Eruviel blinked out of her thoughts, lifting her head from where it rested on her knee to look to the young weapon smith. “Hmm? Oh — yes, yes that would be incredibly frightening. Crows are far smarter than some people care to admit.”

Risala lowered her weighted arms, frowning at the Elf. “You weren’ listening to a word I said, were ya?”

“You were running away from the gravedigger.”

“Yer so full of it,” Risala snorted, lifting the training sword to continue going through her paces. “What’re ya thinkin’ about?”

With a little smirk the Elf rose to her feet and walked along the stone fence to where their training gear sat. “Nothing that need concern you.”

Risala grinned mischievously and pointed her sword accusingly at Eruviel. “You were thinkin’ about him, weren’t ya?!”

“No, I was not,” Eruviel replied, taking up a short sword and the wooden shield from where it leaned against the barrier. “And even so it is hardly any of your business.”

“Bull,” Ris shot back with a snicker. “Can’t fool me, pointy-ears.”

One corner of Eruviel’s mouth slowly curved up. “How is your wounded tail bone feeling?”

“What? What has that gotta do with –” Risala cut off and shrugged, shoving a swath of bright red hair out of her eyes. “It’s fine. Why?”

“Your footwork has gotten sloppy.”

Risala scowled at the change of subject. “It ain’t got sloppy, you jus — Whaaaiiie!”

Quicker than she could respond, Eruvil had dashed in and swept the human’s legs out from under her. With a yelp and a flail of her arms Risala’s legs flew up and she crashed down to the ground.

“Ayyee! Damned bloody elf!” Ris wailed, rolling over and holding her bottom. “What’d ya do that for?!”

Eruviel dropped the shield beside the young woman, and set her hand on her hip. “As payback for last year when you knocked me on my ass.”

“Eh-heh, oh yeah,” Ris responded, grinning as she rose to her feet and took the shield up.

“And also, because the further you go along your road, the greater the chance of you crossing paths with far more dangerous things than an ‘gaunt lord’ and his enchanted flock of carrion.”

Risala sniffed and frowned down at her hammer and shield. “Yeah? Ya really b’lieve in all tha’?”

“I have seen all that, my dear friend.”

“Guess… learnin’ from a two thousand year ol –”

“Fifteen hundred year old –”

Risala smirked and rolled her eyes, though her limbs tingled with an eager anticipation.”Yeah, same thing. Company ain’t gonna be in Bree long. Ya really think you can learn me all that before I go?”

Eruvel’s green eyes narrowed as she grinned, and the Elf whispered under her breath to ignite the oil along the length of her blade. “Shield up. I can do better than that, Miss. Thorne. I can teach you.”

About Frank

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“I don’t know why I have ‘ta go with,” Ris grumbled as she spurred her horse to catch up with the Elf.

Riding a tall, black war steed that seemed to take his mistress’s outing far too seriously, Eruviel looked down at the young woman with an amused smile. “It’s my afternoon to give you lessons,” she responded as if to explain everything.

“Yeah, lessons,” Ris scoffed, “not a country ride. I have work at the forge to get done! There is nothing about this tha — HEEEY!” yelped Ris as Eruviel reached over to shove her. Unable to keep her balance, the young woman slid out of her saddle and tumbled to the grass on the side of the road.

“Hold, Eolir,” Eruviel muttered. The steed stopped on command, nickering in annoyance that his progression had been halted. “I can teach you all the footwork I know and run you through hours of drills, but it won’t do you a lick of good in a fight if you have no core strength.”

Glaring up at her pointy-eared companion, Ris scrambled to her feet. “I got plenty o’ core strength,” she grumbled.

A smirk curved up Eruviel’s face, and she let her mount continue on at a walk. “Then that’s the first lesson of the day: Use it.”

Retrieving her horse and hopping back into the saddle, Ris once again urged the animal into a canter to catch up. “Wait for . . . uugh, never mind,” she grumbled. “So where we goin’?”

“There is a farm down the road. A young friend there had me run an errand for him.” Eruviel sat back in her saddle and stretched her arms up over her head, trusting her mount to know the way.

“You’re running errands for human farm boys now? What kind of an Elf are you?” asked Ris, not bothering to hide her bewildered frown.

Eruviel only chuckled in response. Patting her right pant pocket as if to check for something, she then motioned ahead to where a small farmhouse amidst a grove of trees came into view. “We’re almost there.”

Fence posts rose out of the ground, framing in freshly plowed fields. Ris rode beside Eruviel, only doing a decent job of hiding her curiosity at the sound of children’s voices that reached them, and at seeing her Elven companion raised a hand to wave at the men sowing seed over the tilled earth.

“This is the Burns Farm, isn’t it?”

“It is,” said Eruviel as she guided them off the road and down the short lane. Seeing the visitors, several children ran into the hobbit-style farmhouse. “An unimportant family, by Bree-town standards, but an old and good one nonetheless.”

“I think I’ve been here before. There was a fire here a few –”

“Miss Eruviel!” interrupted a shaky, elderly woman’s voice.

“Yes,” muttered Ris, dismounting as Eru did. “This’ll most definitely improve my uppercut.”

Shooting the young woman a warning look, Eruviel only had to walk a few steps before a wrinkled old woman a foot shorter than her snatched her into a hug.

“By Ulmo, we’ve missed you!” the woman declared. Eruviel’s eyes widened as she was squeezed, and Ris hid a snicker behind a hand. “As skinny as ever — and you’re little friend’s as skinny as you! What’s with girls these days?! Skin and bones. Good thing you’re here! You will stay –”

“Lady Bea, really. We just stopped by to see Frank.” Eruviel quickly interjected, still caught in the elderly woman’s iron grasp.

“Frank?” asked Bea with surprise. “What about Frank? You don’t want Frank; such a silly boy. Come into the house and I’ll make you girls –”

“Bea, Bea, please forgive me, but we cannot stay long. I just need to talk with Frank for a minute.”

Bea huffed, but finally released the Elf. Ris took a cautionary step back as the woman’s sharp eyes turned her way. “What about? Not the cobbler’s daughter?”

“Something like that, yes, Lady Bea. But that’s Frank’s business.”

White brows meeting as she frowned, Bea turned towards the barn. “FRANK! YOU GOT VISITORS!” Ris winced, and Eru cringed as the woman’s sweet voice transformed into a thunderous shout.

Her mouth quivering as she held back a grin, Eruviel patted Bea on the arm. “We can go find him Beatrice. He’s probably busy with work.”

“Oh? All right then, sweetheart. You ‘n your friend run along,” encouraged Bea. Reaching up, she caught the Elf’s cheek with a fond pinch. “Do come back soon, though! And bring this nice young lady. She seems like a calm, quiet lass.” Giving Eruviel’s face a loving pat, Bea then turned to scuttle back towards the main house.

Ris hurried to walk with Eru as they made their way to the barn. “I don’t think anyone’s ever called me ‘calm’ and ‘quiet’ before,” she muttered as she glanced back after the old woman.

“Don’t get used to it.” Eruviel grinned as Ris stuck her tongue out at her.

“Ho! Eruviel!” called a young man who’d stepped out from the barn and into the bright sun.

“Hello, Frank!” Eruviel responded. Approaching him, she then motioned to Ris. “I don’t know if you’ve met before, but Frank, this is my friend Risala Thorne.”

“I’ve seen ya about Bree. Good ta meet ya,” said Frank with a friendly smile as he extended his hand. They shook, and Frank then motioned for them to follow. “Let’s talk in here. Granny’s been nosier than usual.”

Eruviel stepped to follow, but Ris glanced back at the house. Seeing the old woman peering out through the drapes, she smiled and waved before strolling after the others.

Frank led the two past a row of stalls to the back where a workbench had been set up. Turning to Eruviel the young man suddenly seemed incredibly giddy and nervous. “Did you get it?”

Ris blinked, and looked between the two, clearly confused.

“Yes, I did,” Eruviel replied as she pulled a small velvet pouch from her pocket.

Frank eagerly accepted it. “Was the five silver enough?”

A strange smile curved up Eruviel’s face, and she nodded. “More than enough. I hope it fits her.”

Ris’s eyes widened as a ring fell out of the pouch and into Frank’s palm.

Frank appeared just as shocked. “Balls . . . This was only five silver?!”

Eruviel nodded, unfazed. “It was.”

Ris gravitated over to stare at the ring, though Frank’s mouth still gaped. Turning the delicate, silver-toned band set with a sapphire that was framed by two little diamonds that shimmered like stars, realization slowly came over him.

“I can’t take this.”

“Yes you can. You bought it.”

“None of my pennies could have paid for this. Your r — ”

“It’s yours, Frank.”

Stepping back over to stand by Eruviel, Ris and her watched Frank as he stared at the ring, visibly torn. A minute passed before his hand balled up into a fist around the small treasure. “Thanks, Eru. Margret will love this.”

“She shouldn’t say yes to a ring, but I think it being nice will ease your worry.”

Frank chuffed out a laugh. “I think I might worry more, now! But I owe you, really.”

Shaking his extended hand, Eruviel patted Ris on the shoulder and turned to head out of the barn. “You don’t owe me a thing. Good luck, Frank. Let me know if she says ‘yes’, all right?”

“You’ll be the first!” he called after her.

Strolling out into the yard, Ris looked back to the barn before shooting a smirk over to her companion. “You’re a strange Elf.”

Chuckling, Eruviel stepped up into Eolir’s saddle. ‘Yes, yes I am.”

Moments: 100th post

“Everything’s put away. I’ll start on the molds in the morning,” called Ris as she hung up her thick leather apron and shook out her short, strawberry blonde hair.

“That’s fine! Thanks for the good work,” responded the forge master, glancing up from his bench.

Raising one hand in a small wave the young woman unbuttoned the collar of her coveralls with the other. “Good night, then!”

Slipping out the shop door she took a deep breath of the frigid air, the smell of Bree only partially ruining the moment. Swinging her satchel of tools over her shoulder, Risala strolled past the guards at the South Gate and set off for home.

The thought brought a euphoric smile tingling up from her toes and stretching up the pink corners of her mouth. Home. She not only had one, but a reason to be there.

– – – *** – – –

A month and a half. Mira kept telling herself that it wasn’t that long, but the first night with Rath gone felt like an eternity. She could wait that long. Not much else could be done.

Leaning against the door frame she watched Thamon’s small body rise and fall with steady breaths. For not having a drop of his parent’s blood in his veins Mira was amazed at how similar to the Ranger he was. He was beautiful, the little boy, in all his vitality and willfulness. Even after  being brought to the relative safety of Bree-land, the spark of a new fight lit in his eyes every morning.

The dark Eryn Vorn wolf that curled up next to her son blinked his yellow eyes open to look to her. The small knot of trepidation that had begun to wind in her gut loosened. A moment passed between them. Then the animal closed his eyes and Mira closed the door. Yes, she could wait a month and a half. She’d wait as long as it would take.

– – – *** – – –

The last rays of the Gondorian sunset shimmered and reached across the horizon where the sky embraced the sea. Tossing her soft, blonde waves of hair over her shoulder, Feira’s face inched closer to the ivory pages of her book, squeezing as many words as she could into the last few moments of light. A final burst of pale gold shot across the sky before the sun winked away, and the girl snapped the volume shut with a triumphant flourish. Chapter complete.

The winter had been a mild one. In spite if the brisk wind that washed up the sea cliffs Feira pranced ahead, barefoot and balanced atop a low stone fence that ran along one side of the road. Novel secured in one hand and slippers swinging in the other, the young woman danced ahead to a song only she could hear.

Lalaith’s most recent letter had been sent. There was nothing new to report, but Feira’d thought it would be nice to send one anyways. Two more weeks till visiting day.  In spite of occasionally seeing Lalaith, and her brother suddenly being more interested in her life, an ounce of loneliness trickled through Feira like an sip of bitterly cold water.

Tugging at the empty locket that hung around her neck Feira looked out to the sea. He had disappeared. Stood her up. The few, wonderful days of Lhainan’s company only made the ache of being left worse. He would have shipped out by now. Maybe she’d never know why he hadn’t shown.

Frowning, she shook her golden mane and pranced forward atop her perch with determination. There was no good in wondering. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Humming the secret, celestial tune, Feira turned her eyes to the heavens as she made her way home. Careful to not miss one, she looked to each star in turn, just in case.

– – – *** – – –

The wind did not drive as fiercely up here. Finding a handhold in the ice Eruviel pulled herself up over the cliff’s edge. The thrill of the climb faded as she fixed the thick of her cloak beneath her and turned her emerald gaze out. The night was darker, being so far north, but the frozen realm glittered as a swath of color danced across the obsidian sky.

The freezing air pricked at her lungs as the Eldar took in a deep breath. The sensation was fleeting and she did not mind. The silvery chime of a delighted chuckled spilled out of her. Hugging her arms across her chest Eruviel plopped back to lay in the tuffs of snow blanketing her perilous perch.

Oh, but it was good to be back in her own body! She meant no disrespect to Abiorn, or males in general, but she very much liked her body without the hint of scruff and extra parts between the legs.

The green and violet hues shifted and changed above her. It was mesmerizing. She reached for the notebook in her pocket to make out a sketch for Anya, but stopped. She reached a second time for it but stopped again, even though she’d gotten so far as to have the notebook in her hands.

Eirikr’s letter could wait. Every word she wrote him felt burdened; the beauty lost in the black and white of her parchment. If only he were here to watch with her. She didn’t need any words spoken, nor small touches, though she would not protest the latter. No, she only wanted his company, and the quiet understanding that might have been shared between them, looking out over the crystal wonderland that was Forochel.

Fitting the book back into her pocket Eruviel stood on the precipice and let down her hair. She allowed the bitter, rising wind to wash over her as the silken swirls of lights swam and danced to a distant tune she could just make out. This land was beautiful. While missing an audience of two, the moment seemed perfect. And it stretched on and up, as infinite as the vastness above her.

Namárië

The winter sun shone just as brightly upon Folchet as it did in all the other neighborhoods, but to Eruviel it felt like rain. Not that rain was bad; rainy days were some of her favorites, but as she stood at the gates to the old manor the Eldar felt burdened and dreary.

“Eruviel!”

Sucking in a sharp breath as the call jolted her out of her thoughts, the elf turned. “Good afternoon, Ris!”

“I got your post,” said the young woman as she approached, running fingers through her short, strawberry blonde hair. “Were you able to find everything?”

Eruviel lifted the bundle of books in her arms. “Ranth wasn’t home, but I let myself in, took a few keepsakes I’d forgotten and traded copies in for my first editions.”

Risalra tugged at the collar of her coveralls.” You didn’t have ta do that. But Ranth will appreciate not having half the library go missing.”

“I only took a handful of volumes,” chuckled Eruviel quietly. “Oh, and here,” she added quickly, fishing an envelope from her tunic pocket. “The deed.”

The young woman opened the tab and thumbed through the few pages within. “You sure ’bout this?”

Eruviel nodded. “I am. It’s time I moved on.”

“How long’s it been?”

“Just over five years,” replied Eruviel, shifting her load.

Ris scoffed. “Yer an Elf. Five years ain’t that long.”

“It’s long enough,” said Eruviel, glancing to the young woman out of the corner of her eye. “I see no benefit to holding onto the place. They would have wanted me to find a good owner who would put it to good use.”

The elf and human stood there as several minutes passed, both looking thoughtfully to the three story home. “I’ll take good care of it,” said Ris, finally breaking the silence. “Now that you’re putting the Dreadward behind you, what’ll you do now?”

Eruviel remained silent for a moment longer before a smile curved up her mouth. “Nothing is changing, Ris. My life will continue forward . . . though I am meeting with a guild leader later today,” she offered with a shrug.

“Oh? That’s good ta hear!” Ris responded, smiling at the elf. “Let me know if it works out.”

“I will,” nodded Eruviel, stepping out into the road. “We still on for lessons tomorrow?”

“Sure thing! Made a new sword I wanna test out.”

“A new sword isn’t going to make you a better swordsman, Ris,” Eruviel smirked.

Risalra rolled her eyes. “I’ll take all the help I can get. You watch out. I’ll beat you one of these days.”

Walking away, Eruviel raised a hand in a parting wave. “Over my dead body!”

“If that’s what it takes!” Ris shouted back, saluting with the envelope to her forehead. “Later, then!”

Stopping, Eruviel turned and observed the old kin house one last time as the young woman disappeared into the building. She had dealt with the deaths, but not the letting go, and the ache twisted around the relief of no longer having the empty halls looming about her. “Who knows,” she whispered with a wistful smile. “Namárië, old friend.”

“Tell Me.”

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Jumping up to grab hold of the gable of the roof, Risalra pulled herself up onto the old tile with a practiced ease. Ducking behind a chimney she peeked out to watch one of the town Watchers ride past. Not that she was doing anything illegal, per-say, but she didn’t have time to get stopped. As soon as he disappeared around the corner she jumped up and ran down the valley of the roof and faulted across the short expanse of an alley to the next house.

Finding her way easily over the maze of Bree rooftops she finally clambered down a tree into an old, hidden courtyard. Honestly, she had considered ditching the afternoon lessons. But she needed to get stronger. Her skill with a sword was elementary and she had every reason to work hard to get better. Leaning against the trunk of the tree she crossed her arms over her chest, entertaining the thought of running her newly forged blade through her instructors heart.

Don’t loose your head Ris, she chastised herself. There are two sides to every story . . . . She chuckled dryly as the Elf clad in formfitting, black leather armour dropped down from the roof across the courtyard to the ground, landing with ease. But maybe I won’t give her a chance to tell her side. . . . A second individual, a young woman in her early twenties with a wolf pelt draped over her shoulders, stopped on the roof the Elf had come from and sat on the edge, watching.

“Good to see you showed up, Ris,” came the first’s flowing voice, soft brown hair tumbling out of her black hood as she pulled it back.

“Eruviel,” Ris grumbled in greeting, her grip tightening on her hilt. “Course I’d show up. This was my bloody idea, wasn’t it?”

Eruviel nodded and tossed her cloak aside. “Why don’t we start with a review then,” she said, not looking up at her human pupil.

Look at me, dammit, Ris fumed, drawing her sword. “That works for me,” she responded curtly. The Elf’s eyes did not rise till Ris had begun going through her paces. Pouring her anger into her practice, Ris got done with her practiced stances so quickly that Eruviel made her run through them again. Then she did them backwards, and after that was taught a whole new set of moves, this time with two blades instead of one.

Panting for breath, Ris was nearing the end of the new steps when her toe caught on a tuft of grass. Crying out in frustration she stabbed her dagger in the ground and stopped to catch her breath. The strange woman still sat on the edge of the roof, watching as her feet swung freely in the open space below. Looking up to Eruviel, Risalra could see the elf’s face was hard as a mask. Though not insincere, layers of minor emotions shielded something else. Ris felt her anger swell.

“That was well done, Ris. You — you look tired. We can be done for the day if you like,” said Eruviel, giving Ris a sad smile.

That was about all Ris could stand. Snatching up her dagger she turned on Eruviel. “Tell me,” she growled, her blue eyes flashing dangerously. “You need to tell me why.”

Her emerald eyes taking Ris’s posture and approach, Eruviel took a step back, a hand moving to the long dagger at her hip. “Please, Ris,” she responded quietly, her voice catching. “Not . . . not right now.” Risalra could see that she clung to her mask desperately, and it fueled her desire to tear it to shreds.

“You elf witch!” she cried, parrying Eruviel’s block and thrusting forward with her longsword. “You broke my brother’s heart!” Swinging wildly, Ris lost it, her vision blurring as she put all of her practice to use. Just one drop, was all. She just wanted to see her bleed.

Retreating one step at a time, Eruviel easily blocked and parried Risalra’s attack. “Ris . . . Ris! Please!”

Her sword was knocked out of her hand and in a flash the elf huntress had her wrist in a vice-grip. “Why?! How could you — ” Risalra’s words caught in her throat as she finally looked Eruviel in the face. The elf’s jem-like eyes glistened with tears, filled with misery. “E-Eruviel. Please. Please tell me why,” she asked quietly, drawing her arm back as the elf released it.

“I couldn’t Ris. I couldn’t give him everything.”

Risalra’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean? He’d give you everything!”

“And he deserves everything in return!” Eruviel shouted, turning away. “My love never lessened, but I loved him as a friend and brother. It was not the kind of love that one gives to another when they intend to bind their lives together. ” Turning back Ris could have been knocked off her feet at seeing tears coursing down Eruviel’s cheeks. “I — am sorry, Ris. I could not give him children. He told me we didn’t need to have any, but you know Rath. I cannot go off to fight wars he cannot go to when he is old and childless. I cannot keep bringing death to his door, endangering both our lives. Even more, I am not willing to give it up for him. He needs some one who can give him everything in return. Someone who can give him a full life.”

Risalra swallowed, her eyes narrowing. “Did you tell him that?”

Eruviel nodded ‘yes’.

“And he argued back, didn’t he.”

“He did.”

“And you still ended things.” Risalra gave Eruviel half a second to nod ‘yes’ before slamming her fist into the Eldar’s face.

The elf didn’t even try to stop her, stumbling a step back from the force of the punch. A small smile curved up her lips as a stream of blood trickled out the corner of her mouth. “For Rath?”

“No,” Ris huffed, shaking out her hand. “For me.”

Eruviel wiped the blood off on her sleeve, nodding. “See you next week?”

Risalra retrieved her weapons and shoved them back into their sheaths as she walked away. “Sure.”