The boys were gone. Abiorn continued to read about Bree culture and history from the books he borrowed from the Archives in town. Anya worried that he spent less time in the forest these past few weeks, and though he did not say anything, she often heard him tossing in his bed as she sat up late at night watching the moon pass through the sky. Eirikr was in Gondor with Eruviel; his letter told her they arrived at Imloth Melui without trouble, but she had not heard anything since.
Anyatka Tenorbekk of Dale tried not to worry. But worrying was in her blood.
Her mother’s worries revolved around appearance. Sit up straight, comb your hair, wash your face, cross your ankles, hold your hands in your lap, smile, don’t smile, curtsy, don’t blush. If it was not Anya’s appearance, then it was the manor’s: dust the mantles, beat the rugs, place the little fork on the inside, polish the silver, make that plant grow straighter. Never could the woman find pleasure in sitting still. Never could she be satisfied with the way things were.
“Improvement! There is always room for improvement, Anyatka, do not forget you are not perfect. You will never be perfect. Go have Moll fix your hair! It has come out of its braid; you stupid girl, you were running again, weren’t you?”
Today her hair had finally grown long enough to cut away all the black. The remaining strands did not brush her shoulders as she was accustomed to, but something in her wanted the last few inches gone. Even. Red.
No more traces remained of the ordeal except for the statue hidden in Atanamir’s library and the unexpected presence of his daughter in Bree. No move had been made against the statue since Atanamir placed his protections over it. Perhaps he was strong enough to deter the woman. Perhaps, like her, his daughter only wanted to live a life away from a crazy father now.
Hand on her arm. Grasping at her neck. And then air, its kiss so sweet on her cheeks as she fell. The feeling of weightlessness slowed time. For a moment she could not hear him yelling. For a moment he could not reach her and she flew.
Then, the edge of a marble step followed by another and then another until her little body crashed to the floor.
Anya wiped her eyes. She did not know why these memories came to her today, but once they started, they did not stop. Perhaps even now, leagues away from her, they knew she dared to be happy. They knew someone loved her and wanted her and did not have hidden agendas or a need for wealth or social status. Could they send their anger and hate all that way by sheer force of their stubborn wills?
She was someone who could be loved. She was someone who had worth.
She would prove it.
Atanamir’s ring sat in her keepsake box. For some time, hesitation caused her to avoid it. Did she want it anymore? Without the threats of lingering spirits of Men and bodily harm, her lessons seemed less important. Selfish, even. Who was she to upset the natural order of things to learn something like sorcery?
The sunlight glinted off the orange stone. Tourmaline. She had Abiorn bring home a book on gemstones the last time he went to the Archives. Cleansing. Focusing. Growing. Balancing. She did not realize different colours of stones could influence their properties (or that they had properties at all). Orange tourmaline assisted “the energy of action” according to the author whose name she could not pronounce. Did he want her to do something, then?
Frowning, she turned the ring over and examined the band. Nothing noteworthy stood out to her.
She saw little else to do with it; she slipped it onto her first finger.
After a mere second, a ball of wind formed above the stone. Her eyes widened as she watched it form. She could see it form. This was new.
With her other hand, she tried to poke the ball. She could feel the air swirl and part around the blockade. The interruption of her fingers caused little ripples on the surface of the ball and disturbed her hair. Eyes widened, she looked up and saw the still branches of the trees in her yard and just beyond them the lake sparkled.
That evening, the residents of Durrow gathered in the Broken Cask as they are wont to do. Over their meals and tankards of ale, talk ranged from the quality of the soil to how big the Furrow tomatoes were this season.
At one table, Henry Reed told an tale that the others dismissed as usual fairy tale and overactive imagination.
While the man was working with his glass that afternoon, Ruby Lake shone like a mirror beneath the sun. The heat from his fire rose in waves. He considered an afternoon nap, but just as the thought crystalized, a wild breeze rushed up over the land. It came from the lake, which in itself was not unusual, but for the suddenness and force of the gale. It nearly blew his latest piece from his worktable.
Just as suddenly as it came, the wind was gone. Something pricked at the back of his neck; he realized a quiet had fallen. Something unnatural caused that wind, he claimed. Fairies, he claimed, cast a magic spell to disrupt his work, it was.
Leland Whitethorn dismissed Reed’s tale with a laugh and told him to save it for his daughter. She’d like such a tale, he said, you know Honey. The heat was getting to you, Henry, that’s all, he said. And he bought the man another ale.