((Writing prompt: Describe some objects that are important to your character(s), and explain why they’re important.))
The wind blew tiny ripples across the surface of Long Lake. Anyatka sat at the very edge of land and water; the waves just touched the tip of her boots with each rising ebb. Paying no mind to the mud sinking into her dark green, silk dress, she rested her chin on her knees as the tears slowly streamed from her blackened eye.
She made no sound, so the soft schluff-thud of Abiorn’s gait warned her of his approach. The little boy wrapped a cloak around his older sister’s shoulders before he sat down without a word and curled up against her. Anya’s arm encircled his thin shoulders and her tears dampened his dark hair.
They sat on the shore for a long time, never minding the chill of the Yule evening, until another sound of footsteps came from behind them. Abbi tensed and turned quickly to see who approached, but the slow, dragging steps told Anya it was neither their mother nor father.
Eirikr stood behind them chewing a wad of some plant. The scent of mint and lavender floated on the breeze only for a brief moment before a gust from the lake swept it away. He gazed out over the lake. Large chunks of ice floated like ferries across the surface. All three children longed to know what it would be like to board such a vessel and sail away from the shore and find a new place where their hearts could rest in quiet. Around them, the silence of winter waited for one of them to speak.
Instead, Eirikr unclasped his cloak and draped it over the shoulders of his younger siblings. Already at the age of sixteen, the boy had the bearing of a man and a seriousness about him that he wore like a mantle. He walked around them and dropped into a crouch.
He held out his hand to reveal two bells like those found on the winter harnesses. Made of thin, polished silver, they gleamed in the fading sunlight. They tinkled dully in the crisp air as he placed one in Anyatka’s hand and one in Abion’s. The child looked up at his brother with questioning eyes. Anya looked down at the bell until Eirkir finally spoke.
“I am sorry, my sister. My brother. I am sorry I was not there.”
Anya’s tears fell more rapidly as she examined the bell. Lightly it rested on her palm and even as she sat still, the rise and fall of her breath caused its silver to ring.
“What is this?” she asked with a hoarse voice.
Eirikr leaned in closer and Anya could smell the mint of the leaves he chewed and the lavender on his clothes that revealed he had been with Ninim. More and more often he vanished from the hall to spend hours in her company and only coming home far after dark. When her father’s wrath turned upon her, he had not been there to catch his arm and deflect his rage.
Now, his refined hand reached out and brushed back the hair from his sister’s brow. The old scar above her hairline had faded, but it was the bruise around her eye that drew his gaze. She flinched from the pain as he touched the puffing skin but she did not look away from his face.
“My absence, Anya. If I had been here, I could have stopped him. I am sorry.”
Anya swallowed her tears and glanced down at Abbi. Only a child of six and so frail. Physicians had ordered his gentle treatment due to his soft bones, but the boy felt what his sister felt. He cried when Anya cried. She would sing lullabies and nursery rhymes when he was younger, but he was growing older. The little lambs did not soothe the same way they used to. The daisies did not hide away the shadows.
“You can take the blows, but you cannot stop him. No one can stop him, Eirikr.”
“No, you are mistaken, my sister. One day, I will stop him. I promise you.” He closed his hand over hers, wrapping her fingers around the bell. “Until then, keep this bell. I had an Elvish tinker make them for you and Abbi.”
“What is it for?” She looked down at Abbi and saw the boy’s wide eyes drinking in Eirikr’s words.
“Keep it with you always. When you are scared, ring it and I will come. I will protect you.”
Abbi took the ribbon the bell hung from and shook it carefully. “You promise?” he asked.
Nodding, Eirikr added, “If I cannot, the spirits of the woods and mountains will come and protect you.”
“Aye. Spirits.” Eirikr ruffled the boy’s hair. “All around us, Abbi. The Elves speak of the Valar. Do you remember the stories of the spirits of Iluvatar that created the world with their song?”
“They gave us things here to protect us. To watch over us. I have felt those things in the woods beyond the mountain; the very stones of the mountain pulse with life. It’s in the water. The ice.”
Though Abbi held on to every word, Anya stared at her brother with narrow eyes. She had heard the tales of the Elvish religions. Bookie loved to share the story of the fall of the Two Trees by Ungoliant and Melkor – their last blossom and fruit giving the moon and the sun. How Varda raised the Sickle in the north as a sign to the newly woken Elves to give them hope in the darkness. How with the song of Ainur, Iluvatar made the physical world and each Valar raised their voice to add their own creations to the melody. Her father brushed them aside as silly fairy tales made up by the prancing Elves. Eirikr had never before spoken of them as if he believed in them. Were his words genuine or a mere apology for growing up and moving on with his life?
“Their song, Abbi, it’s in all things still. It is in this bell.” He picked up the silver orb and shook it gently. “In the night, when the dark things come, shake it and I will come. Its song will fill the place with light and you shall be safe.”
“Mine, too, brother? Will it keep the dark spirits away from me, too?” Anya met Eirikr’s eyes and she saw a fire there burning behind his gaze. It startled her; she did not know he was capable of such passion.
“Anya, I will protect you,” he said lowly, his hand tightening around hers.
“I swear it.”