My dearest brother,
So you are here now. That makes this awkward. That I write to you and you are just a short walk away in your room at the Pony. That I write to you letters that you will probably never see!
I know you do not wish to stay here, Eiri, and that you long for your wife back in Esgaroth. And I know that you will not leave the Bree-lands without me. You truly believe that Father will send someone for me, but I don’t think so, Eiri! What purpose would such a waste of manpower serve our father? He sent you, yes. The expendable son that already refused to follow in his footsteps. Do you ever wonder if he even expects to see you again?
Eiri, I think you should stay. I think you should stay here with me and make a life in Bree. We could send for Ninim and Abbi and life could continue as if it were never interrupted! You could fish and hunt; I could work on my sketches and learn how to paint. Abbi could find something here, Eiri. People read books and write stories and there is no standard for decorum other than what we set for ourselves. Father could no longer send men to drag you out of your own home. His lash does not reach this far.
Think about it, Eiri. I beg you to think about it. You are stubborn, but I am stubborn, too! And I know you will not force me to do something I do
A loud knock on the door startled Anya and a single drop of berry red ink dropped to the parchment of her journal. She dabbed at the blotch with her fingers as she returned the quill to the jar. The knock came again, loud and insistent. In her haste, she nearly tripped over a boot left by the entryway and fell into the door.
“Who is there?”
“Anya, it is me.”
Trying to hide a frown, Anya let Eirikr into the house. He wore his hunting leathers with his bow slung over his back. His normally stern face held a level of curiosity as he looked around the Bree-land home full of Elvish decor. Without waiting for an invitation, he crossed to the table to look at an unfurled map of the North Downs. His eyes perused the towns and his finger traced the outline of the mountains bordering the land. “This is detailed. Did you draw this?”
Shaking her head, she said, “No. It is one of Eruviel’s. I do not know where she got it.”
Nodding slowly, he smiled up at her briefly. His eyes shifted to the open journal she had been writing in and her heart dropped. Let him pass over, she prayed, but his gaze did not waver. He reached out to pick it up and started to read.
“That is private,” she said softly, more nerves in her voice than anger.
“It is addressed to your dearest brother. Is this for Abbi, then?” Without waiting for an answer, Eirikr continued to read. His brow creased as his eyes traveled across the page and when he came to the end, he flipped it. Finding the next blank, he started turning them back until he was at the beginning. Anya held her breath as he slowly turned each page.
His mouth moved agonizingly slowly as he read: “A loud noise and then some pictures in my head. Then Morty was there. I was in my room in Bree and the sun was rising…” and “Perhaps it is a good thing that Aeron comes out to face him…” He set his mouth in a hard line and continued to stare at the last page for several moments. Anya waited for it to come, her eyes downcast and her heart racing.
“You-you seemed to have more feelings for this Mossfoot fellow than you let on, little sister,” he said finally in a voice so low it could barely be heard over the fire. “And he merely toys with you?”
She shook her head.
“But it seems this is the truth.” He turned back and reread the last lines of that entry that never should have been seen. “You choose very strong words, little sister. Words that are indeed unfitting of a Tenorbekk.”
Anya continued to stand in silence. She felt answers hanging on the air unformed between them and she did not want to grab the wrong ones.
Eirikr continued: “I am not sure what to think of this. He seems like a decent fellow, from what I’ve seen. He did not show any inappropriate behavior toward you, and he seemed genuinely pleased to meet me. He-” He looked down at the page again and flipped back. “He stayed with you? The only one after your injury. He seems to want to protect you. I can even see his refusal to take advantage of you as just that: he is protecting you, sister, from the gossips and the rumours that can ruin one’s life worse than you can imagine.
“But to have you feel this way when the Man can never return your affections – I do not like it, Anyatka. It is not healthy.”
Anya still did not speak. Her eyes fell to the tabletop.
“Why do you smile?”
“Because things have progressed, brother. I am learning. Loving without wanting. And,” she blushed, “though he will always have a place in my heart and who knows what the future will bring, I think I am starting to move on.” Her finger traced a pattern on the surface of the table. “You interrupted the last entry. It was very inconsiderate of you to do so.” She looked up with the small smile curving the corners of her mouth. “If I had finished, I would have written of a man named Canderas and how he makes me smile.”
Eirikr stood up straighter at that. His eyes, so alike Anya’s in shape and color, showed an alertness that accompanies good news tinged with a shadowy uneasiness. “Canderas? Have I met this man?”
Biting her lip, Anya looked up and searched her memory. “I do not think so. He had been away for quite some time on the warfronts to the north.”
Sighing, Eirikr regarded her for a minute with an unreadable expression.
“I will introduce you as soon as I can, I promise.”
Nodding, Eirikr’s looked down at the journal in his broad hands. He gingerly placed it back on the table and turned to face her fully. She could tell his mind was at work, perhaps running through the many faces that pass through the Prancing Pony each evening. A small ‘v’ formed between his brows and she laughed.
“Eirikr, it is not so bad,” she reassured him as she moved to take his arm. “Would you rather me in tears bemoaning the evils of men? Eruviel found it so upsetting after a time.”
His brow raised speculatively. “Perhaps. That would mean that I would not have to worry about you when you were alone. Or, not alone,” he added with a smirk.
She patted him on the arm, her head tilted in sympathy. “Brother, I am not a little girl anymore. You can stop watching over me; I will be fine.”
He grunted and pulled her to him in an embrace. “Never, little whelp. I will always look after you, though I must admit you need it less and less. Which brings me to why I came.” He cleared his throat softly. “I have sent a letter to Ninim explaining that I have found you but I will be longer than anticipated. I tried to make it rather vague, but she will understand.”
Anya looked up at him with searching eyes.
“I will give you time, little Anyatka, to prove that you can hold your own here. And I need to see that you are well.” He cleared his throat. “After speaking with some of your friends, I realize you have a journey to go on before any decision is made. I would be here for that journey. And perhaps take it with you.”
Her eyes lit up and she hugged him tightly. “Eirikr, I love you so much. I could not risk you injured or worse. I would never forgive myself.”
“And neither would I, were you the one to fall into peril and I nowhere to be found. Anya, you have my bow to protect you. One more will only increase the odds of survival.”
“We shall discuss it, brother.”
He nodded as he looked down into her stormy grey eyes.
“Yes, Anyatka. That we shall.”