A stagnant air hovered over Ost Guruth. Eruviel could sense the restless spirits from beyond the Red Pass, and the weight of their wickedness and sorrow made her skin crawl.
Eirikr walked up beside her and looked out as the sun crawled up over the horizon. “Sleep well?” he asked gruffly.
Biting her lower lip slightly, Eruviel fixed her cloak over her shoulders. “No, unfortunately. But it was sleep, I suppose.”
Eirikr turned his head only slightly to look at her as he started for the stables. “It was rhetorical. I didn’t realize Elves slept.”
“Some times,” she said with a small smile, shrugging as she followed him down the broken stone steps. How little the man knew of the Eldar. They did not sleep, not like the race of men did, but they required rest just as much as the other children of Iluvatar. How she delighted of visions of nature, of dancing beneath the tall flowering trees amidst the starlight. Her keen senses remembered the smell and music of elvish banquets, hobbit feasts, and the sensation of cool spring water caressing her skin on the first swim as the seasons turned. But not here in the Lone-lands, especially so close to the lair of the Red Maid.
Eiriikr handed Unni, the stable-master some coin and took the reins of his horse. “Fair enough,” he said. Arranging his things, he mounted his steed as Eruviel guided her own horse from the kindly dwarf and stepped into her saddle.
Nodding curtly to the man as she turned her horse around she nodded towards the East Road. “Let us be off.”
As eager to be off as their masters, the horses leapt forward into a run over the low hills towards the neglected cobbled road. Wargs roamed in the brush, forcing them to alter their course. Trusting her mount to guide itself, Eruviel took a few seconds as they crested a hill to pull her bow off her back and rest it across her knees. The man and elf dodged the occasional creeping spider and keen-eyed crebain as they charged over the dry earth and onto to the road.
“That Elf . . . did you stay up with her long?” Eirikr shouted back to her as they crossed over the Last Bridge.
Eruviel shook her head though she knew he could not see her. “No,” she called up to him, “not long at all.”
Eirikr smirked slightly, “She seemed hungry for company.”
“She was indeed,” Eruviel said, chuckling as her eyes took note of the wolves prowling beyond the treeline and bears lumbering too close for comfort. “I apologize, though, for the interruption to our conversation last night.”
Eirikr humphed, frowning slightly. “I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
Time flew by as they charged along the rugged road through the Trollshaws. She let Eirikr ride in the lead, following only several feet behind, keeping a sharp eye on the few predators that made rather lazy attempts to pursue the swift riders. Over the far rise Eruviel could see the gleam of the Ford of Bruinen drawing nearer. We will make it, she thought, more as a statement than for encouragement . . . or possibly both.
Eirikr reigned in his horse, stopping at the edge of the clear-flowing river. “The ford,” he said flatly. “It seems calm enough.”
Eruviel surveyed the land around them and the river with a stern, cold look. “We will be safe crossing the waters. I do not doubt that my kin know we approach.”
Eiriikr nodded to her. “You take the lead – I do not know the other side at all and I’ve heard the paths can disappear beneath your feet.”
Eruviel returned the nod. “It has been a long time since I have followed the path,” she said quietly. “Do not fall too far behind.” Checking their surroundings one last time Eruviel spurred her horse forward.
“You know, I am surprised Anya did not talk Anric into following us,” Eirikr called up to her as their horses waded through the shallow crossing.
Eruviel skewed her mouth to one side at the thought. “As am I . . . or even that she did not follow us herself, with Anric in tow.”
Eirikr took a deep breath and held it for a moment. “I think she knows what must come to pass. She does not want to revisit our old lives.”
Eruviel glances over at him for a moment. “I do not blame her. It is for the best that she stayed behind for this . . . trip.” Reaching the far side of the river their mounts moved into a gallop. Making their way up the steep trail, Eruviel did not hesitate the as the road vanished, letting her memory and her mount plow the trail. She rode tall, one hand loosely holding the reigns, the other gripping her bow. Several wild cats made chase, but the pounding of the horses hooves discouraged the few that dared getting too close. A small wave of relief washed over her as she saw the road reappear beneath them. Following it around the bend they approached the narrow pass into The Hidden Valley.
Eirikr brought his horse up to ride beside Eruviel. “I still think it best if you sojourn in Imladris while I carry on.”
Eruviel shot him a curious look as she urged her mount forward. “Why do you keep saying that?” she calls over to him.
“Can’t I just want to keep you safe from harm?” he shouted after her.
Eruviel reigned in her horse at the top of the switch-back that lead down to the Hidden Valley. “I thought that was what I am doing here, keeping you safe from harm,” she said, eyeing the valley with a joyful familiarity.
Eirikr sighed heavily and let out a low growl. “Eruviel, this isn’t like battle. There is no honor in this war, if it be called that.”
An amused smile crept across her mouth. “I have a friend in Bree you might see eye to eye with. He held a knife to my throat twice for getting between him and his . . . vengeance.” Tugging lightly on her reigns Eruviel guided her horse back to the path. “I have made up my mind, Eirikr,” she sad sternly.
Eirikr sighed and reluctantly followed her. “Stubborn Elf,” he muttered under his breath.
Eruviel ‘s tilted her chin up slightly with a hint of pride, taking his grumbling as a compliment. Eruviel inclined her head to the view of the Last Homely House. “Shall we to the stables first, or to our host?”
Eirikr’s eyes followed her gaze. “You know best.”
Eruviel glanced between the two horses and nodded. “They need rest. We go left.” Walking their weary mounts down the lane carpeted with leaves a cool, sweet breeze combed through her travel-tousled hair. The bright green and orange leafed trees rustled their ancient songs into the wind, accompanied by the distant echo of the large waterfall across the valley.
Passing under the smooth stone arch leading into the stables Eruviel dismounted, bowing in thanks to Ladrochan the stable-master as he took the two traveler’s horses. Nodding to Eirikr she smiled and motioned to a secondary path leading to a graceful, sweeping bridge. “I suppose you have never been here before?”
Eiriikr shook his head. “No, I haven’t.” His eyes betrayed the wonder her felt as he looked around. “Tales cannot hold a candle to the true majesty of this place.” Stretching out her arms, her face gleaming with contentment, Eruviel stepped forward. Falling into step with Eirikr they strolled quietly out of the stables, abandoning words as their senses drank in the beauty and tranquility of the haven.
((Edited for tense and exposition from chat logs taken 4/3/2014))