Somewhere in the ruined city of Annúminas
“Why am I here?”
Anya looked up at Bookie – Parmanen – as she sat across the narrow table with him. Her hands, still bound, sat in her lap.
“You have something of mine.” Parmanen’s even tone never faltered, though Anya thought she detected a slight weariness to it that she did not remember from a year ago. “I would like it back.”
“The bracelet?” Anya’s voice broke and a girl wearing an iron collar stepped forward to hold a crystal goblet to her lips. Anya turned her head away stubbornly though her throat burned with thirst. “It is gone. Anric destroyed it. What have you done to him?”
Parmanen’s brown eyes regarded her for a moment before he pressed his fingertips together and looked toward the door to the decrepit dining hall.
“I have relieved him of the burden of loving Anyatka. It’s a pity, you know. The man must be a fool to risk his life for the woman who broke his heart.”
She felt the blow of his words strongly, but did her best not to let her expression shift from her show of indignation. “How did you capture him? He’s far too skilled to be caught by the likes of you! When our caravan was attacked in Bree, you told me to run…”
“My darling Anyatka. Surely you know that all those brigands are dead. Well, except for the ones that now serve me, of course. But regardless, your Anric was not captured. He was found.” Parmanen took a drink from his own goblet and set it down carefully. He rotated it so that it lined up with the silver Dragon statue sitting directly between them. “Washed up on the shores of the…. what do those darling Hobbits call it? The Brandywine? Mhmm, just north of Barad Tharsír, waterlogged and unknowing of his own name.
“My scouts knew he belonged to your party. It was easy to convince him his name was Aeron of Rhudaur and he was in love with his wife, Faethril. And,” Parmanen tapped his heart and then his temple before pointing at Anya, “that I could bring her to him after his years away at war.”
“I am not Faethril,” she said hoarsely. “I never shall be.”
“Oh,” he said, “but it won’t be your choice.” He held her gaze as he stood and walked the long way around the table to stand behind her. “You see, that statue consumed her blood. And because you awoke her in the bracelet, she is inside you. The two parts to a whole. They’re lonely, Anya. Let them be reunited and give her a chance at peace.”
He gently rested a hand on either shoulder. “This wayward piece inside of you, like an arm or a leg, merely wants to join with its body again. But this is not an arm or a leg, Anya.” Parmanen leaned in closely and whispered next to her hear: “It is her conscience, Anya.” He straightened and rested his hand on her shoulder. “No wonder she tried to hurt you. All she wants is to find her dear Aeron again.”
Anya’s voice shook as she said, “Anric is not Aeron. Aeron is dead! He passed on and is at peace with his fate!”
“Then why are you here, my dear child? How did you know to come for the Dragon?”
Anya’s heart leaped. “Wh-what do you mean?”
“You came here looking for this, did you not?” He motioned toward the Dragon sitting in the middle of the table. “How did you know to look for it?”
She looked away from him, flushing deeply.
“Yes. He told you. You see, he has not entirely passed on my dear.” He traced the curve of her ear with a finger. “She bound him to the Dragon as well.”
A shiver ran down her back. “What is it?” she asked in a whisper.
“A worthless relic, a trophy from a false king. Yet it has power because Aeron’s family prized it and my Faethril prized Aeron.” Parmanen picked it up and turned it over in his hand. “So we took it. We enchanted it and cast a spell that bound his spirit to the cold metal and by chance, Faethril’s blood contaminated the spell. It left her too weak to perform her ritual when she went behind my back and bound herself to that bracelet. It almost killed her. But I found her in time.” His fingers trailed over the setting in its forehead for a large, missing, stone.
“And ultimately… it gives us a second chance. Your love ruined it the first time around, didn’t he? Try to save you? That is why you no longer wear the bracelet.”
“Anric was not my love then. He did it out of the goodness of his heart. And Eruviel, too.”
“But then you fell in love with him,” Parmanen pointed out calmly.
“What does that matter?”
The man smiled. “It matters because it allowed Faethril to take hold again. And it allows her to take hold now. But not yet. It’s too soon.” With the utmost care, he placed the Dragon back in the middle of the table.
“There is one more piece to this puzzle,” he said with a smile as he resumed his seat across the table from her. Dinner was brought in by several servants wearing those heavy metal collars. “But once I have it, she will be able to return.”
Anya gave Parmanen a contemplative look. Her soft grey eyes had not flickered since Parmanen bent the firelight around them and they slipped away from the camp at Rantost. Though it was still a struggle to keep Faethril’s visions and thoughts at bay, she found it was easier here near Anric who thought he was Aeron and Parmanen who thought he was a long dead Black Numenorean. It was as if Faethril was less agitated with her lot in life.
“You see, my dearest Anyatka,” Parmanen said softly as he lifted his goblet, “your life for hers. I would say that is a life well spent.”