You hate him.
Anya sat up in bed. Her room was dark and not a sound whispered in the night. Eruviel was not there in the chair where she spent her vigil. Morty was not there staring at her with one eye his soft, warm brown and the other glittering opaquely in the moonlight. No sound of her brothers snoring softly in the other room.
You hate him. If you admit it, it will make this much easier.
Inside. The voice was inside her head and though she had never heard it before, she knew who it was.
Oh, how she wished it was his voice instead, but since that day by the Little Staddlemere, Aeron had not reappeared. Maybe it had been a dream, a secret wish of her heart that the one who knew her best would return to be her guide. Anric’s anger. Eirikr’s pain. Abiorn’s isolation. Eruviel’s heartbreak.
“No wonder she came back,” Anya whispered to the dark.
“I have nothing to say to you. Leave me!”
If I leave, who will you have? Your brothers are too selfish. Men think only of themselves.
“You do not know what you are speaking of. My brothers are brave and true. Eirikr went back to Dale to save his wife. Abiorn will find his way. Leave them alone!”
Eirikr’s selfish drive killed his wife in the dark eves of Mirkwood. He pushed her too far. He did not see.
“Shut up! You know nothing!”
And then he fled like a coward to the woods, hiding from his pain and leaving it with you to bear.
“I do not blame him! He-”
Oh, but you do. You hate him for abandoning you. Like your love.
“Morty will never abandon me. Women leave him, not the other way around.”
I speak of the man with the hair like yours. Such a lovely colour. But you will look so lovely with raven-feathers instead of fire.
“Anric did not abandon me. I hurt him. I don’t blame him.”
Anric’s first thought was to run from you. Leave you to your misery. Instead of facing his adversary, he left you, the prize. He abandoned you, treated you as worthless.
“He did that to give me time. Space. To figure out what I wanted.”
He left you. He gave you no choice. And now he wants to bed you. Taste your body like it were merely some succulent bird and then toss aside the bones. He does not love you. He will not love you if he has to share your heart with another.
“Anric knows that I love him and Morty both.”
Foolish girl. He is the cause of all your pain. I would not be here if it were not for him.
The grave-digger. The most selfish of them all.
“Morty is kind. Loving. You just do not like that he can beat you!”
He knows a few wards, yes. He is not of your world and thus has a certain power…but you will not be with him soon. You shall be alone and I will take you. And then, I will destroy him.
“Why? Why won’t you just go where you belong? They have done nothing!”
He left me. You hate him. He has left you, too.
“Who has left you? Who?”
He left me for his war and as I feared, he never came home.
I will find him. I will bring him back.
“Faethril, you have to let him go!”
I will bring him back and I will have the power to protect us both.
“Please, Aeron never wanted this. He is waiting for you, you just have to be patience.”
I wanted a family. I wanted happiness. I wanted my husband.
Patience is for the weak. I will have him. But I will have you now.
Pain. Like a fist around her heart poking at all the raw spots Faethril had opened up with her words. The pain made Anya fall back, cry out, rip at the cotton chemise she wore. The silence mocked her; there was no one there. No one to come save her. No one to love her ever again.
Tears streamed as the pain only grew and spread from her chest throughout her body. “Fight it!” she thought. “You are stronger than she! Fight!”
Burning, like the flesh around her wrist when Faethril had tried to take her the first time in Ost Guruth. Only then, Anric was there and Eruviel. They fought for her. They destroyed the bracelet and freed her from Faethril’s grasp. There was no one to stop the burning now and it wrapped itself around her heart and flowed through her like poison in her veins.
She thought of Anric. Her brothers. Morty. She thought of her father who could not love anything but power. No, they were not like him, they were not like Faethril. They loved her. She could feel it.
Like a spear to her heart, the pain shot through her and then it dissipated and she was in her bed and Eruviel held her in a panic and Abiorn was pulling at her hands and Eirikr stood stoic at her feet. The sounds of the world had returned; a wolf called in the distance and both Sally Stitches and Oli peered at her through the dark of the far corner.
She was not alone. Her family would never leave her side, she knew that in her heart, and if they ever strayed they would be back again. As she reassured them it was only a nightmare, she was relieved they would be leaving within the week. It wasn’t fair to them to worry over her so.
Life isn’t fair…unless you make it fair…
She ignored the voice as she hugged Abiorn’s shoulders – much broader since his arrival in Bree – and leaned against Eruviel’s body. She was safe. She was protected.
She had their love.