As the Shadows Shift

Emmelina stood in the doorway chewing a piece of straw. She eyed the Elf that stood over Anya and gently tried to wake her. Anya stirred beneath the twisted covers and Eruviel spoke softly.

“My friend, someone is here to see you.”

Lina snorted. She would have dumped the girl to the floor ages ago.

Finally, Anya groaned.

“Really, Anya, whatever has gotten into you?” Eruviel sighed and lifted the cup of water from the small table next to the bed. She held it out to the Woman as she sat up holding her head.

“Dunno,” Anya muttered under her breath. She reached for the water without opening her eyes and Eruviel obliged by placing it in her hand. “I dunno anything any more.”

“Well, by the Valar, what started this in the first place? You spoke of Men last night, though none of it made much sense.” Eruviel frowned down on her friend and shook her head at the mess Anya was: her only robes wrinkled and stained, hair a tangle, face blotchy from her night of drink.

“I did.” Anya stared for along moment at the satchel discarded on the floor. Lina’s eyes followed her gaze and immediately went to retrieve it.

“What’s in here, Anya?” Without waiting for an answer, she unbuckled the clasp and dumped the contents on the foot of her bed.

Pencils and charcoals fell to the spread in a cloud of fine black dust. Her sketchbook and a smaller journal came out along with some pieces of loose paper and a stuffed bunny. A small silver bell tinkled as it rolled to the floor. A crumpled ball of paper landed on top and Lina picked it up. She smoothed the page out on the bed and snorted. “Thought so.”

“Lina, what are you doing here?” Anya croaked rubbing her forehead.

The tall girl shrugged. “Thought I’d stop by ‘fore heading to work. See how you was doin’.” She pointed down at the picture: half the face of a man, one eye heavily scarred with five streaks down the left side of his face, foppish hat, roguish grin. “This that fella you had me chasin’ for all over town, eh?”

Eruviel looked carefully at the drawing. “Hm. You drew this last night at the Pony, Anya. Could you explain?”

Lina shot Anya a quick glance through her lashes. Anya had come home late an evening before, tipsy and giddy. Lina had taken a run at her for being out by herself, but Anya had just waved her hand and brushed it off before turning in for the night. The next day, she looked a bit worse for wear and had spent the morning composing the letter. She begged Lina to deliver it and when she had forgotten, got very upset. Lina had begrudgingly sought after the man at Anya’s insistence and gave him the note. Upon returning to their room that evening, Lina asked who he was. In fact, she had persisted until Anya had angrily stalked out despite looking tragically pale and unsteady.

She was surprised then when Anya nodded slowly, her eyes closed. “I think I need to talk to someone about it,” she admitted in a voice so soft, Lina could barely hear it at the foot of the bed.

Eruviel put a comforting hand on Anya’s arm. “Please do, my friend. I think it will help.”

And Lina listened as Anya began spilling the tale of her yesterday.

The picture is of Morty Mossfoot, Bree’s grave-digger. I met him one day outside the Pony when I was standing by the Postbox, lost in my own thoughts. He was polite and charming despite my blatant inability to look away from the terrible scarring of his face. He probably thought my permanent shade was strawberry red, I was so embarrassed.

Morty was kind to me; after running into him at the Market, he had a dress made in the likeness of the one he found me admiring. I was so flattered, but also amazed that after only two or three encounters, he was willing to procure such an item for me. He called it a welcoming gift. And it wasn’t the last thing he did for me as I tried to start my new life here.

He helped me get the room at the boarding house where I met you, Lina. And he talked up my drawings until I had the courage to show them to someone who was interested in buying. I feel like he’s this amazing person who showed me a second chance at life. I needed that, so desperately. Almost as desperately as I feel I need him now.

Which is foolish of me. Entirely and utterly foolish. He has no interest in me other than the conquest: another woman to dote upon until she’s done with him. He never lied to me about what he did. Who he, and all of Bree, thought he was. So, I tried to just see him. Not think too much on our time spent together or the talk of people. See him as kind company for my loneliness. Soon, the loneliness fell away, only he didn’t. And then – I saw him. And I couldn’t stop seeing.

It’s stupid. It’s childish. He probably just reminds me of Bookie, the man who brought me to the Bree-lands. I trusted him too much, just like I am trusting Morty. I have reason not to trust Morty. As I said, he’s never hidden from me, and I guess that is refreshing after a life of hiding in Dale. But I’m trusting him too much, and his honesty stabs at me. Then I just rub salt in the wounds.

Yesterday, I saw him outside the Pony. He got the letter and tea I sent; he often looks so unwell. Once inside, he confronted me about Falros. Falros! I had written to him about our journey – let him know that Falros was going so that he’d know I’d have protection that he could trust. But he warned me of him. He said, “This may sound like a real riot coming from me, but…be careful around him.” Be careful! As if Falros would have any interest in me! Virgin or no, I doubt Falros sees me as having anything worth stealing!

This upset me. That he would question things that way. And so what if he did?! So what if Falros wanted me…it might as well have gone to him! None of them can be trusted — they have no interests beside their own.

And then, as if I wanted to really drive home the self-inflicted pain…I asked about Orchil. She’s a sad woman who I suspected Morty had an affair with. Has an affair with. I don’t really know, to be honest, but I asked. And he told me plainly: yes. They had been together and to this day things seem unresolved.

How can I let that hurt me? How can I let something so foolish drive a knife into my heart and just…bleed?

Lina pressed her lips together and stared at Anya as she told her story. She tried to suppress a snort or two. She could remember those days, when love and lust mingled in one confusing throng of agony. It surprised her that the older woman seemed so distraught over such matters, though if she was honest with herself, she had been like that once. She looked at the young woman and felt pity for her – briefly. She didn’t have time for that any more.

“It’ll pass, Any,” she said. “They’re all the same, anyway, in th’end. They only think with their passions and can’t be bothered until they don’t have a choice.” She snorted. “And even then, some can’t be accounted for.”

Eruviel gave Lina a hard look. She refilled Anya’s cup with a pitcher from the stand. “Anya, things are not as bad as they seem, my dear. They will work their way out in the end. But I would like to tell you what happened last night at the Pony…”

Some men started taking a go at the cause of your troubles…

Anyatka waves her hand dismissively and picks up her mug for another long drink. She doesn’t raise her head from her hand.

Teiblanc raises a brow in Anya’s direction and crosses her arms. “Hmm is something the matter miss Anya?”

Rhetyn leans to Eruviel. “I think your friend could use a strong drink.”

Anyatka shrugs and takes another drink only to turn the mug upside down, A thin stream lands on the table. “Bard’s bloody bow,” she mutters and turns to go get more.

Eruviel looks to Rhetyn, “Unfortunately she already has one . . . but may need another.”

Marnal grins, “No, you’re not so bad. Watch out for the sad woman behind you.”

Anyatka nearly bumps into Nill. She turns to avoid her and scratches her head. Dragging her feet, she goes for another ale.

Teiblanc frowns in concern as she rises and raises a hand in a questioning manner but is unable to say anything.

Rhetyn chuckles. “So it seems.” He watches Anyatka drag herself across the room and shrugs. “My money is on man problems.”

Teiblanc says, ‘What happened to make her this way?’

Marnal turns to Rhetyn, “Are you starting a betting pool?”

Eruviel shrugs sadly, but gives Rhetyn a half-hearted smile. “Part of me hopes not, but you may be right, good sir.”

You spoke of a man who was lost…

Anyatka flops to the side and stretches out on the bench. “Didn’t come. Was brought. Stupid man. Stupid stupid MEN!” She reaches up to pull the mug down to her.

Anyatka looks blearily from Eruviel to Rhetyn. “What was I talkin’ about?”

Eruviel slowly reaches across the table and draws Anatka’s mug away from her. “You were talking about how terrible men are . . .”

Anyatka points emphatically. “Not men. Bookie. Bookie the Bastard!” She laughs at her lame insult and slaps her knee.

Rhetyn says, ‘And how you were dragged here from your home.’ Rhetyn shrugs back to Eruviel.

Anyatka turns to Rhet. “He lied. A lot.” She reaches for her mug and looks confused. “He told me he could protect us and look how that turned out!”

Eruviel frowns, “Anya, who lied to you?”

Anyatka shakes her head at Rhet. “No, ’cause I ran.” She swivels to Eruviel. “Bookie lied. He fed me lies for years and now I’m here and he’s not.” She spots Eruviel with two mugs and reaches for one.

Rhetyn says, ‘And you are just now upset about it?’

Eruviel hands over her own mug that’s half full with a light wine.

Anyatka shakes her head. “What’dya mean just now? Happened two weeks ago!”

Rhetyn says, ‘Exactly my point. This is a bit of a delayed reaction, isn’t it? Two weeks ago and you’re just now drinking about it? I thought you were a Dalish woman!’

Eruviel shakes her head sharply at Rhetyn, knowing that it’s been a sore subject for Anyatka.

Anyatka shakes her head and gestures to Rhet with her mug. “No. No. He’s dead, for all I know. He’s gone. Or he’s fine, and just not come looking. Whatever. I’m here now. I’m here.” She takes a drink. “But MEN!”

And seemed rather displeased with their gender as a whole…

Anyatka raises a hand to wave dismissively and leans over to take another drink. “Bard’s arrow can take men and send them to the moon.”

And then Falros showed up and, well…

Eruviel frowns, seeing Falros approaching.

Falros blinks at Eruviel and gestures with a pint, “Don’ gimme tha’ look! I ain’t even make fun o’ ye yet!”

Nillariel sets down the lute, walking over to the loud commotion.

Rhetyn grins and raises his mug in greeting to Falros.

Anyatka moans against the tabletop and reaches for the mug Eruviel handed her. She sits up to drink and makes a face. “This isn’t ale!” Hashtag faceplant.

Eruviel discreetly pours Anya’s ale out onto the floor beneath the table.

Rhetyn says, ‘She’s having man problems.’

Falros groans, "Shite.. I ain't want any part o' this!"
Falros groans, “Shite.. I ain’t want any part o’ this!”

Renaron shakes his head slightly at the waste of perfectly decent ale.

Nillariel thinks for a moment, “L-like… race of man problems?”

Falros groans, “Shite.. I ain’t want any part o’ this!”

Anyatka sits up and leaps to her feet. She climbs up onto the bench, hands out. “No! No!” Nothing to see here…

Eruviel reaches up to Anyatka, “Dear, you should sit back down . . .” Eruviel reaches out to steady Anyatka.

Falros stares up at Anyatka, then Eruviel, and suddenly starts laughing.

Nillariel blinks, “Uhm…”

Eruviel glares at Falros.

Falros says, ‘Poor lass gots ‘er hands full.’

Anyatka darts forward toward Falros. “He didn’t say nuthin’ about you!” she exclaims. She tries to get down the other side without a hashtag faceplant.

Falros backs up, lest he get spewed upon! Carefully holding his mugs up, he watches Anya, “.. wha’?”

Eruviel nearly falls forward as Anyatka moves across the table. “Now, Anya, you really should sit back down.”

Renaron bends a bit to look around the post where he leans, watching curiously to see whatever might happen.

Anyatka lands, barely, arms out to catch her shaky balance. “Whoa,” she says.

Rhetyn chuckles and gets up, downing the last of his drink. He makes his way to the bar, shaking his head.

Nillariel looks over, “Uh… I think you s-should run.” She smirks at Falros, “Hell hath n-no fury like a woman scorned.”

Falros blinks at Nillariel, “Uh.. she ain’t me girl… an’ I ain’t -think- I pissed ‘er off…” He glances up as if trying to recall what he’s done in the last day or two.

Eruviel puts her arms out, ready to catch the inebriated Anyatka should she fall.

Anyatka shakes her head at Nill’s comment. “No, no, no. He’s good.” She points at Falros. “He’s not a man.” She meant ‘bad man’ but, eh.

Falros says, ‘Wha’!’

Rhetyn passes over payment for his own, plus Anyatka and Eruviel’s drinks, then turns to leave, chuckling.

Falros scoffs and grumbles defensively, “I be as manly as they get, thank ye very much.”

Nillariel glances over, “You… t-tripped into a barfight.”

Eruviel looks to Falros apologetically. “She’s gotten worse and worse since she came inside earlier. Please forgive her.”

Falros says, ‘… Ye stay outta this!’ He looks to Eruviel, “Aren’t ye Elves s’posed t’ be.. I dunno.. carin’ er somethin’? How’d ye let ‘er get this loaded?”

Anyatka waves at Nillariel and Falros. “No, no, no fightin’.” She plunks back down on the bench. “Whoa.” Looking up at Falros, she holds out her hands in welcome. “Falros! My friend!”

Renaron settles again to lean against his post, now that things seem boring. Or settled. Maybe both.

Eruviel shoots him a dark look. “I tried Falros. She drank faster than I could stop her.”

Falros looks left, then right. “.. this a trap?”

Eruviel rolls her eyes and heaves a heavy sigh.

Nillariel glances over, “W-well, it sin’t a good one i-if it is. You could m-make a bolt for the door, bust a window open…”

Eruviel turns to Anyatka. “You. Stay.”

Falros nods to Nillariel, “Good thinkin’.”

Anyatka pushes up from the bench and walk-stumbles over to him. She pats him hard on the chest. “No, no. Friend.” She reaches up and pets his bald head.

Nillariel looks to the elf over her shoulder, then looks back to the plastered woman.

"I would like to tell you what happened last night at the Pony…"
“I would like to tell you what happened last night at the Pony…”

Eruviel says, “Barliman, a cold towel please.”

Falros freezes. He’s been spotted! Holding his mugs at a safe distance away from Anya, he stared, mouth hanging open. “Uhhhh…”

Nillariel thinks Anya turned him off by touching the top of his head.

Eruviel takes Anyatka’s arm, “Here, lets go back to the table.” She draws Anya back to sit on the bench.

Anyatka stumbles backward, hand still reaching to pat his head.

Nillariel walks over, “You alright? K-kind of froze up there.”

Falros mumbles toward Nillariel, “If I close me eyes, she won’t be able t’ see me, aye?”

And finally, a man gave you a bunny…

Grygg reaches into his right pocket and pulls out a small, beanbag bunny, then sets it on the table in front of Anyatka, “For you, if you wish.”

Falros says, ‘… th’ dreaded bunny.’

Forthogar just blinks, not grasping the situation in the slightest, but truth be told, he’s not trying very hard.

Falros says, ‘Wha’ were th’ bunny’s name again?’

Eruviel looks at the beanbag bunny, fearing for its life.

Grygg tells Falros, “Each person names their own.”

Anyatka blinks at the bunny for a moment. “I don’t want your blasted bunny!” she says and starts to bawl.

Falros eyes the bunny for a moment, then looks back to Grygg, “Ye got anythin’ other ‘n bunnies?… like.. a stuffed troll? Aye! I’d take a stuffed troll.’

Grygg reaches into his left pocket, bringing out three small beanbag balls, “Just this.” Grygg juggles a bit.

Falros says, ‘…. tha’ ain’t very excitin’.’

Anyatka hiccups and pokes the bunny in the nose.

Grygg stops juggling and re-pockets the beanbags. “I do not really come equipped for full entertainment, these days.”

Lina held up the bunny and made it hop. Hop. Hop. Anya stared at it blearily, tears clinging to her lower lashes. After a moment more of watching the hopping, she lowered her face to her hands and said, “I can never go back there again.”

Rolling her eyes, Lina sat on the edge of the bed and asked, “Why not? You think they never saw a mess before? Shucks, it sounds like those men knew exactly what your problem was. Sure they saw it before.”

Anya shook her head, moaning, “But I drew that! Right there? And it’s so much more than just Morty.” Her hands dropped and she stared at them with pleading eyes. “Really.”

Lina looked at her dubiously. “Uh-huh,” she said and handed her the bunny. “Ya keep tellin’ yerself that, honey.”

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