The inky black sky was sugared with stars as Anya walked along a side road in Durrow. She liked nights like this when the new moon allowed the true brilliance of the sky to sparkle like tiny adamants were tossed by the handful into the air.
She was taking a risk, she thought, going to him in the night. She wasn’t naive enough to think he spent them alone. But she missed Morty’s smile. His voice. The scent of his roses.
Anya cast a glance upwards and didn’t notice the rut in the dirt road. As her weight shifted unexpectedly, she let out a cry of surprise as she fell on the twisting ankle. The pain shot brightly through her, but she’d felt worse. It was nothing, really. Nothing until she hit the cold dirt and then…
It was midday and she stood looking out over yellow plains that stretched into rolling hills. The sun was brutally hot; it was midsummer and the men would be expecting the arrival of the shipment from the west as payment for the armour the fortress sent to the young settlements trying to gain a foothold as they fought over the invisible borders that ran through the Lone-lands. Rhudaur had an advantage, and though some were jostling for a temporary peace with Cardolan, Amon Sul would never find peace. Not while the palantir sat at the top of the hill and not while the Witch-king kept his heavy hand in the land.
The elders grumbled among themselves as they crossed the courtyard. They were always grumbling to themselves these days. They disliked the tower being occupied by the dark sorcerer and did their best to keep the people away. She found him fascinating, however. He wore a robe made from the skin of a great crimson long-worm that he claimed he slaughtered in Angmar. If he ever left the tower, he carried a gnarled grey staff topped with sickly green jewels. She wondered how much truth existed in the rumours of his power and dreamed of learning his secrets.
She turned and walked down the narrow stone steps. Glancing into a rain barrel, she pulled at the corner of her sharp blue eye stretching the skin smooth. Sighing heavily, she frowned. Then, without looking up, she turned and ran into the solid mass of a man.
Strong arms caught her. They set her on her feet and a gentle, deep baritone went, “Woah, there. Easy now.”
She looked up into eyes as blue as the sapphire stones the Dwarves brought from the mountains far away. Her breath caught and her heart stopped beating. She realized her hands had grabbed hold of him in their frantic flailing and she felt his muscles flex as he steadied her and stepped back.
Aeron. He was dressed in hunting leathers instead of his metal breastplate. His arms were bare and he wore an easy smile. She had never looked at him so closely before. He was just a solider, after all. Nothing new or exciting there. Except… the way his head tilted as he regarded her. And the set of his lips as they curved into that amused smile.
“Are you all right?”
Her heart didn’t start beating again. It took off at a gallop and leapt into her throat.
Then suddenly, it was night again. The stars twinkled steadily in the sky and the Valacirca hung low over the sorcerer’s tower. She felt his warmth around her, enveloping her like a warm bath. He smelled of soap and leather. His touch ignited her skin…
When Anya awoke, every bone in her body ached with damp and cold. The sharp pain in her ankle still throbbed and brought her quickly to her senses. Tears began to flow before she even tried to push herself up from the ground.
What happened? she thought as the looked up and found the Sickle high in the sky. Several hours had passed since she left for Morty’s little home on the edge of the graveyard. High above was still an inky black. Clouds had moved in blotting out the stars and for a moment, she didn’t know where she was.
The Lone-lands. She never wanted to go back. Was it a dream? It felt so real. Aeron. She saw Aeron young and alive and suddenly she missed him dreadfully. It ate away at her and made her want to bawl for want of him. The confusion that sprung up in her mind conflicted with the certainty in her heart. Why would she feel like a limb was missing? Like she’d never see sunshine again? She must have been seeing the world through Faethril’s eyes. She shuddered at the thought.
Slowly, she pulled herself to her feet and tested her swollen ankle. She looked around and regained her bearings; she was at the gate near Ravenhold. Her own home was closer than Morty’s. She tried her best to keep her weight off her tender ankle as she slowly hobbled home still pondering the dream.