((Edited for tense and exposition from chat logs taken 3/30/2014))
Eirikr Tenorbekk stood at the junction between the road and the path leading up to Eruviel’s front door. He looked up toward the house as its owner came down the path. He could see the tops of the statues and the shingles on the roof. The comfy little hammock, the friendly firepit, and Anya’s rose bush were hidden by the slope down to Fountain Street. “Eruviel,” he said neutrally as she reached the street.
Eruviel offered Eirikr a curt nod as she stepped past her front gate. “Eirikr. Are you ready to depart?” The Elf wore her armour with ease and Eirikr could not help but notice how well it suited her out of the corner of his eye. He continued to stare at the roof of the house for a long moment before nodding.
“You said that Anya has chosen to live with that man who is courting her?” He tried to keep the concern from his tone.
Eruviel glanced back towards her home, the corners of her mouth twitching. “Yes. He has a spare room that she will occupy. And he will protect her, so that puts my mind at ease.”
Eirikr leveled his eyes with her face. “You trust him? He was quick to offer this ‘spare room’ to my sister. He is honorable in battle, but is he honorable in matters of the heart?” Deep in his mind, he knew he was being foolish since his sister already left for Ered Luin the day before.
Eruviel met his gaze. “I do trust him. He is honest, and I respect that, especially about Anyatka. I do worry, but more over Anya than Anric.”
Eirikr cracked a smirk and said, “You may have a point there. She seems to find trouble wherever so goes. Shall we?”
She smiled slightly, nodding in agreement. “Yes, let us depart.” He turned and mounted the steed behind him taking a moment to adjust his saddlebags. His weapons, aside from his bow, were arranged within their scabbards on the horse. He looked over as Eruviel stepped up into her own saddle, her horse patiently bearing three medium saddle bags and two spare quivers stuffed full of arrows.
Without a word, they turned their mounts toward the road and took off with a thunder of hooves. They rode hard without pause until they reached the Forsaken Inn. Eirikr looked over to his companion and asked, “Do you wish to break, or simply ride through to Ost Guruth?”
Eruviel reined in her mount, the steed circling restlessly. “Ost Guruth would be a safer place to stop at for the evening. There a few fighters from the Free People who will be riding there this evening and would offer safer passage, unless you desire to take it easy the first leg of our journey.”
Eirikr shook his head. “There will be no easy leg of our journey. We ride.” His mount reared as he thundered off down the road. Again, they rode in silence until the tall walls of Ost Guruth loomed above them. Only as they turned from the road to take the well-worn path to the stable did they slow. He sighed as he ran his hand through his hair. “We camp here for the night.” He slid down from his horse and handed the reins to the stable-master with a nod.
Eruviel slid an arrow back into its quiver, glancing back up the hill to be sure the warg hidden on the side of the road did not follow them. “I will find us some food. The healer will have beds already prepared for us.”
He gave her a look. “I should go with you,” he said evenly and leaving no room for debate. “I need to go with you.”
Eruviel arched a brow at Eirikr but merely bobbed her head at him. “Let us go, then.” Pulling a saddle bag from her horse, she smiled back at Unni, the stable-master, before heading towards the steps leading to the fortress. Eirikr grabbed his things and followed, looking around. The old keep was busy with evening preparations. The meal was being served and people were finishing their last tasks before the sun fell too low in the sky. The lithe Elf walked through the camp with an air of familiarity and stopped by the table in the building of healing. Setting her bags on the table, she nodded to Strangsig and muttered quietly. “It has been a long time since I’ve seen so many empty beds.” Shooting a small smile to Eirikr, she turned and headed back outside.
Eirikr looked around once more as he followed her out after dropping his own bag onto the floor. “That is a good thing,” he stated as he trotted behind her.
Eruviel bowed to Trumswith who stood behind a cauldron cooking on a fire. “It has been a long time, mellon! Three plates, if you please.” Eirikr raised a brow and silently counted them both: one, two. He remained silent, however, and simply watched the man spoon up the meal.
Eruviel offered the first plate of deer meat and some sort of mystery beans to Eirikr, reaching out her other hand to take the second and third. “For the healer. She has a bad habit of forgetting to eat,” she explained simply.
Eirikr raised his other brow only briefly and then smiled at her as he took his plate. “It is good of you to think of her,” he said softly. He had not taken much time to get to know Anya’s ‘systir’ on a personal level. Their many nights as a trio were usually spent eating with the women singing or playing games. They often tried to pull him in, but just as often, he resisted. He began to admire her thoughtfulness as she balanced the plates.
She rolled her shoulders, smiling. “It is the least I can do.” Inclining her head she added, “You find a place and I’ll join you in a minute.”
As she returned to the healers, he wandered about a bit with his plate until he saw the gap in the wall. He headed that way out of sheer curiosity. “Sig,” he heard her call out. “Dolle naa lost!” As he left the walls of Ost Guruth, he turned briefly to examine the skirmish camp to his right, but then his eyes landed on the reddened land below. He frowned as he stared over the tainted earth.
From the healer’s building, he heard the healer’s reply. “Lle holma ve’ edan!” the woman shouted over and there was a barking laugh from both.
He waited in the noisy silence that fell after their voices died out until he could hear her footfall behind him. “She had to go through that.” He gestured down with his left hand, his right holding the plate of food. “And you went with her. And Anricwulf.”
Eruviel skewed her mouth to one side as she chewed thoughtfully. The glimmer of a memory flashed across her eyes. Swallowing her food, she let out a small breath. “We did. It was a perilous trip, and we were lucky to have survived.”
Eirikr asked hesitantly, “Would you tell me about it? About what happened? I-I was not a good brother when she returned. I had received the letter from Ninim, and all I could see was-what happened, Eruviel? It had been enough that she was alive and rid of the spirits that plagued her.”
Eruviel stirred the food absent-mindedly around her plate as her eyes darted around the red valley below, noticing every hidden predator. “I was surprised . . . how relatively easy it was to get through to the outpost. The spirits seemed . . . almost weary. Anric paved the way, unwaivering the several times numerous dead swarmed us. It was not like Fornost at all,” she said grimly. “The red reminded me somewhat of Angmar. It was as if we sloshed through pools of blood.
“Fear first struck me when Anyatka cried out in pain from behind me. I was so caught up in keeping back the advancing enemy that I had missed one that had snuck up behind us. The foe fell to my arrow . . . we were in such a hurry since Faethril’s hold had grown so strong . . . we could have lost Anya there.” She gazes miserably down at her plate before continuing,
“Anric took the brunt of the assault as we entered the Red Maiden’s lair. The fight was a blur but I remember the fear that at any moment Faethril would take hold of Anya and either kill her or find a way to utilize the Red Maiden’s power. Then . . . then she collapsed. Thank the Valar that by that time we had been able to free the Red Maid. We were at a loss. Anric carried her back out as I took the lead back here. I . . . I think Aeron was guiding us. Faethril emerged after Anric cut the bracelet from Anya’s wrist. Unfortunately she was already lost . . . we tried to reason with her, we truly tried. She would not relent, though, and we had to end up fighting her, only winning when Anric kicked a vat of molten metal on her, killing her.”
Eirikr slowly turned to look at her. “I see why you trust him. I will not worry about Anya while we are away.” He stepped over to stand before her. “Eruviel, I must implore you one last time: go back and let me finish this alone. You have taken part in so many noble deeds – mine does not have to taint your record.”
Eruviel turned to face him, frowning. “Why do you insist I not go with you? What on this trip could possibly taint my ‘record’?”
A voice rang out from behind them and Eirikr looked up with a start. An Elf said, ‘Thought I heard voices up here. Good evening to you.’ She bowed deeply before Eruviel.
Eruviel shifted around and bowed slightly to the woman. “Suilad, arwenamin.”
The Elf said, ‘Suilad, hiril.’
Eirikr turned at the sound of the new voice and shot Eruviel a look. He looked the Elf up and down.
The Elf said, ‘A cloudy night…no stars.’
Eruviel gave the Eldar a thoughtful nod. “Stars are a treat when one camps near the Red Pass.”
Eirikr looked up and swallowed. It figured something like that would interrupt them. He knew the further they got from Bree-lands, the harder it would be to persuade Eruviel from accompanying him. He glanced down at the plate of cold food and picked up a hunk of meat from it with his fingers. He ate it automatically as he looked on the new Elf.
She looked at the man curiously and spoke in Sindarin, saying “What brings thee to this desolate land?”
Eirikr answered in Sindarin with a smirk, “Travel, of course. You?” His time as a trader in Dale gave him a good understanding of many languages and he was proud of his command of the Elvish tongue.
The Elf lapsed into Sindarin, glad to not have to intone the endless epiglottal stops of Westron. “I am here to look into the state of affairs.”
Eirikr continued to eat slowly, rarely raising his eyes. “Since when has it been an Elf’s duty to look into the state of affairs of the Eglain?”
At almost the same moment, Eruviel responded in the same tongue, “The men of Ost Guruth were very kind to offer us shelter. It is good to know there are others who keep watch in these lands.” She arched a brow at her human friend, but mantained her calm demeanor.
The Elf regarded Eirikr coolly. “I am come out of Mithlond. It has become plain that the great road is no longer safe. I and many others beside me have come to lend what aid we may to the peoples between the sea and the moutains
Eirikr finished the food and finally looked up at the Elf. “How thoughtful.” He tossed the plate aside and turned around to face the Circle of Blood. He jammed the head of his spear into the earth and sank down beside it. He continued to stare over the land, leaning on the spear.
The new Elf glanced quizzically to Eruviel.
Eruviel rolled her eyes slightly, inclining her head apologetically. “I originally hail from Forlindon. I have only seen our kin from Rivendell patrol the East Road of late. I have not been back to see about affairs in the western lands in some time.”
The Elf looked solemn, seeming worried she had breached some cultural taboo and hurt the man’s feelings. “Though our people have long looked only West, the war that is coming will snuff out all of us separately if we do not stand all as one.”
Eirikr pulled out a fishing hook and some feathers and line. With deft fingers, he began making a lure.
Eruviel smiled warmly. “Forgive me, valiant one, you had interrupted my friend’s . . . argument with your arrival. He and I have a debate to settle as I take part in my own meal. But I thank you. It is a light to my heart hearing another Eldar speak in a like-mind to mine.”
The Elf smiled. “More of us all the time. They’ve started complaining of elves cluttering up the roads in Bree.”
Eirikr continued to tie the lure, stifling a yawn.
Eruviel chuckled. “I would say that the Adan should be grateful, but I fear it is only a sign that the days continue to darken.” She bowed deeply before her kindred.
The Elf returned her bow and shrugged lightly. “They can be grateful once we’ve won. Until then, I understand how they wonder why we have been so long invisible.”
Not seeing an end to the idle banter between the Eldar, Eirikr climbed to his feet and nodded curtly to the Elf. To Eruviel, he said, “I am turning in for the night. We ride at dawn.”
The Elf said, ‘I am Gilrayen of Mithlond. If I may be of help to thee, you have but to leave message for me with Radagast.’
Eruviel pursed her lips, giving the man long look. “Very well, mellon. I expect an answer to my query in the morning.”
Eirikr looked at Eru for a moment and nodded. Then he offered to Gilrayen, “Eirikr Tenorbekk of Dale. Pleasure.” He headed back to his bed for the night. As he walked away, he heard Eruviel’s voice brighten as they traded introductions and he sighed heavily. Sinking down onto a bedroll, he stared up at the stone ceiling. He never had that natural ability to connect with someone and he always felt like the facade was too big of a burden. He envied Eruviel’s affable nature. Perhaps if he had such abilities he could have settled into the role of his father’s apprentice and satisfied the man’s need for power and legacy.
He rolled over with a grunt. Useless thoughts, he told himself but he continued to stare at the cold stones for a long time before sleep came.