Somewhere outside the bedroom, through the warm stone walls, Anya could hear birds calling to one another in the morning air. For a moment she thought she was in her bed back in Glaston and she smiled to hear the starlings greeting spring with their song. She stretched her arms above her head and felt the warm body lying next to her. Anricwulf. She was not in Glaston and she was not in her bed. The night’s pleasures came back to her and her body trembled at the mere memory of his touch. So kind, so attentive.
Opening her eyes, she turned her head to gaze at him as he slept. She had never experienced the surge of emotion that flowed through her when she thought of him. Looking at him made her heart flutter and her belly tighten. Her want for him grew with each passing day and each night seemed to open new realms in their level of intimacy. As she basked in the warmth radiating from his body, she couldn’t help but consider how he would feel not in her hand but in . . .
She blushed. Such thoughts he provoked. . . living with him made it easy for her to fall into his embrace. Trusting him came naturally. There had always been a subtle pressure with Canderas; as soon as she gave in, he left her wanting and alone. Anric, she felt, never let his desire for her lead his intentions. She knew in her heart that he put her first – didn’t he prove that last night when he said they would move back to Bree since she found Thorin’s halls so lonely? Her fear that he’d say good-bye when she answered yes to his gentle inquiry had been completely unfounded.
Slipping from beneath the covers, she shivered from her memories of the night and the cool morning air. She ran her hands over the gooseflesh of her arms and reached for her robes. She slid her arms into the soft fabric, fastened her belt, and tried to smooth her hair. Glancing back at Anric’s sleeping form, she smiled and tiptoed from the room. Her bare feet padded across the stone tiles to her room where she donned her hood and cloak. Forgoing shoes, she quietly passed through the front door into the yard.
Though spring would be warming the rolling fields of Bree-land, the mountains had yet to shed the chill of winter. Her toes flexed in the frost tinged grass and she shivered again, pulling her cloak tighter around herself like a blanket. She turned her face up to the sky visible through the gap in the roof of the mountain. Fingers of pale rose and orange crept up the lightening canvas above. A deep breath invigorated her; she looked for the song birds with sparkling grey eyes that reflected the color of the sky.
An evergreen hung over Anric’s house and perched in the branches were two dark birds with flecks of blue and green on their feathers. They sang to greet the morning sun. A grin spread across her face as she watched them hop from branch to branch as if dancing. Fluttering around one another, they took to the air once the sky turned powder blue and disappeared from view, taking their sweet song with them.
Anya stood and stared after them for a long time. Her toes grew numb and damp from the melting dew, but she hardly noticed. A gruff voice greeting her from behind finally broke her from her reverie and she turned to greet the neighborhood watchman.
“Well met, Master Dwarf,” she replied to his call, bowing low.
“What are ye doin’ out so early, Mistress Anya? And in bare feet, no less!” Orn waved his thick hand at her and she saw his beard and mustache move in what she began to recognize as a Dwarven a smile.
She pointed toward the opening and said, “I heard birds this morning and came out to investigate. It was not a sound I expected to hear here.”
The Dwarf grinned and waved his hand dismissively. “There’s a lot to the mountains many find mysterious, when in truth things are rather like any other place in the land. Ye dunna think we Dwarves spring out full-grown from the bare stones, do ye?”
Grinning, she shook her head. “Of course not, Constable Orn. I’ve met Ragna down at the market.”
“Have ye now? Fine lass, she is, though a bit dodgy wantin’ to travel to the Glitterin’ Caves to start a trade business with our distant kin there. None of a female’s business, leavin’ the halls to go out and about the lands all willy nilly!”
Anya pursed her lips briefly though she held her tongue. She was certain Orn would not care to hear her opinion on a female’s abilities to leave home without being ‘willy nilly.’
“How’s the married life treating ye?” Orn continued nonplussed. Anya blanched and averted her eyes. Before she could recover, Orn grinned and said, “Ah. I see. No business of mine, Miss Anya.” Chuckling, he added, “Master Andreson is a mighty fine feller and I’m sure he does you honorably.”
Anya nearly choked on her own tongue. “‘Tisn’t like that, sir,” she stammered, “not at all. We’re decent folk and wouldn’t do that before marriage – ”
Orn guffawed, his deep voice booming off the stone walls of the cavern and out to the morning sky. “Indeed, I did not mean that, Miss Anya! Relax, I wouldn’ta told nobody any way it worked itself out. As I said,” he touched the side of his nose, “no business of mine. Though I might say, if’n I may beg yer pardon, that we are mighty glad ye joined our Man here in Thorin’s Hall.” He doffed his hat to her. “Now, I must continue my rounds, miss. Do take care of our Master Relic-finder, will ye?” He winked at her, causing the blush to rise in her cheeks.
“I will, I promise,” she said and gladly waved as he walked away from the gate.
Well, she thought as she looked back up at the sky, at least the Dwarves seem to approve of my being here. She saw another songbird light on the orb of the stone statue standing in the yard. A small smile crept across her face and she sighed, her heart light for the moment as she stood barefoot in the sparkling grass.