((Exposition added; all other taken from RP chat logs edited for conventions and tense))
The streets of Bree always seemed to dirty to Eirikr. Tonight, they stank of the late summer evening and the presence of a growing number of Bree’s paltry residents. Each passing day brought more foreigners to the city; while he felt the anonymity of being a part of an increasing minority population, he also felt each Barding meant an increased chance of discovery.
Perhaps it was silly being so paranoid. The chances his father would have recovered from the loss of Sten and so many of his guard so quickly seemed unlikely, but Eirikr never discounted the resourcefulness of the man. He knew that one day, a shadow of Kolrson Tenorbekk would find his way to Bree and there would be a knife at his back.
For now, he merely sought the refuge of a crowded room without his siblings on top of him. He loved them both dearly, but years of living with just Ninim spoiled him of the joys of living in close proximity to his brother and sister. Even back home in Dale, they each had their own sections of the estate and rarely had to encounter each other unless they willed it. Since selling the large family home he had bought in Bree for Ninim, the three siblings dwelt in the small fisherman’s cabin in Durrow-on-Dunwash. It was a good, sturdy home, but he had never imagined Anya would be claiming the single bedroom leaving Abiorn and he to share the small front room with the tables and cabinets.
The wave of heat hit his face as he stepped inside. He frowned. It was crowded; moreso than he was comfortable with. The weeks lost in the Far Chetwood still clung to him and people packed into the front room of the Pony immediately caused him to tense. Without meeting anyone’s eye, he made his way to the bar and ordered a drink. Butterbur served him with his general jovial small talk and then set to other business leaving Eirikr to scan the room for a familiar face.
He saw her walk in.
With a man that was not her ‘husband’.
He grunted and let a short woman pass by before crossing the hearth to her.
She was speaking of searching and swordsmanship and it all made his stomach leap and twist into knots. He had to remind himself that she could handle her own better than most Men he knew.
He waited patiently for her to finish speaking with the man and finally turn to greet him. After she explained it was her neighbor and exchanging pleasantries and noting she looked a bit strained, he offered to buy her a drink.
She nodded, smiling at him. “I don’t need one, but I am getting one,” she chuckled. “Just a moment.”
Eirikr nodded and remained awkwardly standing as she stepped to the bar to order herself a drink. He remembered the drink in his hand and took a long swig to steady his nerves. The din of the inn filled his head and he couldn’t think clearly. Why was it a good idea to come here again? he thought.
Eruviel talked briefly with Barliman and, trading her coin for a pint of cold cider, she walked back over, tapping her mug against Eirikr’s. “Care to find a seat?”
He looked down at the clinking mugs in surprise having been lost in his own thoughts. “Certainly.” He looked around before adding, “Perhaps in a far corner somewhere,” in a mumble.
Eruviel glanced around the room, nodding. “Perhaps the fire down the hall is unoccupied?”
He nodded, grateful. “Wouldn’t hurt to look,” he said without emotion, outwardly at least.
Eruviel arched a brow at him but shrugged slightly and began making her way towards the steps. She skipped faintly at seeing the vacant room. “Ah, good!” Eirikr danced around her to hold the chair for her to sit in and she arched her brow at him but nodded as she sat. “Thank you, Eirikr.”
Eirikr nodded back and settled in the chair across from her. He took another drink before saying. “I wanted to thank you. For helping us.”
Eruviel smiled at him over the rim of her mug. “I told you before, you do not need to thank me. I was more than happy to help. I need to come over soon to see it.”
He nodded. “It looks wonderful. Like the Dwarves themselves set the stone.” The corner of his mouth twitched.
Eruviel chuckled. “I do not think we did /that/ magnificent of a job laying tile, but I am sure it looks very good.”
Grinning, he asked, “So what have you been up to, Eruviel? Between laying tile and…whatever else it is you do?”
Eruviel licked a bit of cider from her lips, relaxing back into her chair. “I have been hunting mostly, taking smaller commissions, and telling tales to a little friend of mine who is keen on writing a book.”
His eyes fell her her pink tongue as she licked her lips. Looking up quickly, he raised a thick brow. “A book? About…you?”
The Elf scrunched up her face in a smile, shaking her head. “My tales are just to educate and inspire her. She is a younger elf who had never ventured far from Rivendell. Though, I think I tell her too many tales of adventures. She’s gone off to explore local ruins.”
Eirikr’s eyes traveled over her face and down to her boots before they returned to her eyes. “Does she know how to defend herself? I avoid ruins when I can… too many bandits trying to get rich as quickly as possible with the least amount of work as possible.”
She looked back over to him as his eyes reached her face again. “I tried to teach her how to use a bow, but her skills are elementary. She has a close friend who travels with her.”
Eirikr nodded slowly. “She know how to protect herself?” he asked, making casual assumptions about the pronoun.
Eruviel smiled, nodding. “She does.” Taking a sip of her cider, she inclined her head towards him. “But what of you? We have not gotten a chance to speak much. How are you doing, Eirikr?”
He looked down into his mug as he swirled the amber contents. “I’m doing. Not much else to be done,” he said rather cryptically.
Eruviel studied him for a moment. “Your tone makes me wonder if there is a condition to that,” she said with a sad smile. “What would it be if there /was/ something to be done?”
He was beginning to dislike how she could see through him. Only Ninim had ever been able to do that, and it made him feel open and exposed. Vulnerable. He pressed his lips together into a thin line. “I guess if I knew, I’d do it.”
Eruviel nodded slowly looking to the fire as she took a drink. “Well, when you find out, let me know.”
He chuckled without much mirth. “I will.” He mulled over his thoughts for a moment as he stared into the fire, his mug gripped between both hands as he leaned his elbows on his knees.
She frowned slightly as she watched him. “What is on your mind, Eirikr?” she asked quietly after a moment of hesitation. “I would have you laugh like you did the other day.”
Eirikr looked up at her, startled. His eyes flicked over her face before a small grin curled his lip. “It was good to laugh again.” He sat back in the chair and drummed his fingers on the arm. “I suppose you will just have to do something to make me laugh.”
Eruviel smirked, though not unkindly as she crossed her right leg over her knee. “That would entail me either making a fool of myself or making a delightedly oblivious comment, both which are common enough, but I would hate to make a bigger fool of myself and not be funny.”
He grinned and held out a hand. “Well, my systir, however shall I laugh?”
Eruviel leaned forward, her mouth twisted to one side as she looked to his hand. “I have not the slightest idea where to begin, gwador.” She then chuckled, reaching out to tap her fingers on his palm. “Has Abbi cursed much lately?”
Eirikr grunted a laugh. “Every day as much as he can get away with. Foolish boy thinks it makes him sound like an adult, I’m sure.”
She grinned, shaking her head. “He grew quite sullen after I had him insult me. I had hoped that would curb it, but my example or a proper retort was poor to begin with.”
He laughed fully. “Well, you tried. I think he’s trying to prove a point now, but Bard knows I don’t know what it is.”
Her face lit with a smile at his laugh, nodding before she narrowed her eyes in a playful glare. “Then I /should/ stop by. I will have to gather up my wits, wherever they’ve gone off to, and see if I can find out.”
Eirikr grinned. “Your wits are perfectly fine, Eru.”
She snickered, shaking her head. “They have dulled some as my blade has gotten sharper, I fear. But I think more time with you and Abbi will remedy that. That boy must keep you on your toes.”
Eirikr let out a frustrated noise of disgruntlement. “You have no idea. He’s mother’s wits and father’s tenacity. And, well, I’m not sure where he gets his sense of humour from. Have you seen the spiders that are found in the Chetwood? The little ones that glow?”
Eruviel nodded. “I have. It is rather lovely, though most wild things that glow are best admired from a distance.”
He nodded. “I agree. Abbi doesn’t understand that. He thinks they belong in Anyatka’s paint pots.” He smiled ruefully.
Eruviel sputtered mid-drink. “Oh please, please tell me she plans to paint soon.”
He pursed his lips. “She’s found some of them. Made me kill them all. I didn’t realize she had such issues with spiders. They’re nothing here compared to…” he shivered slightly as he recalled Mirkwood. “But he keeps catching them. Just you wait, she’ll find some when you’re around.”
Eruviel nodded, a gleam in her eyes as she smiled. “I look forward to it.” She stopped suddenly and quirked a brow. “They are not poisonous, are they?”
Eirikr shook his head. “Not that I’ve noticed. Though, they are small. Perhaps too small yet to bite.”
She nodded, quickly concealing a mischievous smile. “Let us hope we do not find out if they are.”
Eirikr nodded, smiling. “I agree.” He regarded her fondly for a moment and then cleared his throat. Taking another drink, he turned his gaze back to the fire.
Eruviel sipped her cider thoughtfully, arching a brow at him as he cleared his throat. “You are not becoming ill, are you?”
Eirikr shook his head. “No, I do not think so. Just…thirsty.” How lame.
Eruviel nodded. “Good. That was the third time you’ve cleared your throat tonight. Don’t worry me like that,” she smirked, reaching out to kick his foot. “Men are hopeless when they get sick, and before you know it Abbi and Anya will be ill as well and I’ll have to tend all three of you.”
He arched a brow. “You wouldn’t need to take care of all of us. I’m sure I’d recover before any illness set into them.”
Eruviel continued to smirk. “Of course you would. Though, if they do ever fall ill, I call taking care of Abbi.”
It was Eirikr’s turn to smirk. “He’s funny when he’s feeling well, but when he catches the slightest cold, he milks it for all it’s worth. It’s quite miserable being around him actually.”
She chuckled. “What is Anya like when she falls ill?”
Eirikr thought about it for a moment before answering. “She’s much better than Abiorn. She tries to keep it to herself as much as possible, but will certainly try to find comfort in your pity if she’s able.” He swirled the ale at the bottom of his mug. “Or at least she was like that. When we were littler.”
Eruviel nodded, smiling softly as she looked to the fire. “I can see her being like that still. Since it would be unfair of me, I will not retract my earlier claim to care for Abbi if he falls ill,” she said with a playful wink. Lifting her mug and finding it empty she set it down on the floor beside her chair.
Eirikr followed her action with his steady gaze. “Do you need another?” he asked rather quickly.
She caught his look and smiled slightly, shaking her head as she stretched out her arms in a rather cat-like motion. “I do not, but you can cover my drink the next time. I am too full and warm to enjoy another as I should,” she chuckled, leaning against one arm of her chair.
He nodded. “As you wish. Do you wish for me to walk you home?”
She rolled her shoulders as she sat forward in her chair. “If you have no other business in town and would like to. I would be glad for the company.”
He nodded again. “I just came to get away from…” he blushed beneath his tan, “…well, it gets crowded in our little cabin.”
She nodded in understanding. “I would think so. We should see about expanding it so you and Abbi can have your own rooms without stealing Anya’s.”
Eirikr smiled as he set his mug down and stood. He offered her his hand. “Shall we, then, my lady?”
Eruviel laughed merrily and, taking his hand, rose to her feet in one smooth, graceful motion. “Why yes, let’s, my good sir.”
Eirikr returned her laugh with a smile. He tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and led her toward the back exit to escort her home.