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Once upon a time, the fields of Fornost were lush and green. Settlements dotted the landscape and folk greeted the armies of Arthedain with cheers and garlands. People farmed and crafted and smithed and life was good among the gentle downs.

Life was good.

Then they came from the north and the east and they destroyed the land and its people.

He fell fleeing to the south with his people, one of a dozen fools to think they could stand against the might of Angmar. They never should have tried to find peace in a land torn by war for generations and generations. They should have known they were to fall among two enemies that day.

I saved him. I saved his spirit from being consumed by the darkness. I saved his spirit from being cursed to wander those broken plains alone.

One day, I will summon him again to me. One day, I will be free of this prison of metal and stone and all of the west will tremble.

~~~***~~~

I think of it often. The crossroads that lead to the four directions: east to hidden wilds, north to cursed lands, west to dangerous territories, and south, back south toward civilization. It is such a lonely place to be, and then he remembered that crossroads when we drew near all those months ago.

If I had the power then that I do now, maybe things could have been different. Maybe I would not have struggled against Faethril, and instead I would have been able to control her anger and use it for good.

Would I have been able to live forever, then, if I had those powers at my disposal? Morty would not have had to be alone. He always ended up alone, and it was because we would always leave him. He had to watch people die around him and he had to bury them again and again. Even if we did not leave him by choice, time would have left him alone.

Is that why? Is that why he let himself go? Esthyr said she found him just lying beneath his oak. That his roses had all died. That he was no longer there inside the shell of Morty Mossfoot. Morty was dead, he was gone, he wasn’t there anymore and he left all of us, Esthyr and Hawk, too.

If I had any doubt in my mind that he was dead, his letter indicated as much. While we were waiting for the horses to be saddled, I remembered the letter Esthyr tucked into my sash and that letter said “They’re probably going to die along with me.” He meant my roses, and he was sorry that they were going to die along with him. That poor little bush that had lived through so many transplants and nights of salted waterings was finally going to die because he did.

But my roses did not die, and I have to know what that means.

~~~***~~~

Holding his child, Halvel could not help but wonder if one day Gaelyn Fletcher would wish for another. He was proud of his son. Any fool could see the love behind the pride when he looked upon Atrian, and though it terrified her at first, it still warmed her heart to see the man bearing the little bundle into the little cabin. And then, he let her hold him.

The noises little Atrian made! Would she learn what each one means? How could she, when all her life the cries of other people’s children hardly moved her or, at their worst, annoyed her? She knew Atrian was part of the deal and she knew Gaelyn would not hold her to their wedding, even if they had consummated the marriage. Did she want this new life of mother and wife that came to her so suddenly?

And then Atrian smiled at her.

Or perhaps he had gas. But it looked like a smile and his big eyes found her face and when she smiled, he seemed happy. When she looked at Gaelyn, he seemed happy, too.

Life is simpler here, she told herself as they walked along the forest path on the way to Ravenhold. She carried Atrian as Gaelyn pointed out new things and the birds sang in the trees around them. Life was simpler, and she told herself that she would do her part to make it home.

~~~***~~~

Emmelina Lilybrook stared at the piece of folded paper in front of her. She sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. Opening the letter, she squinted at the words. She poked them. She traced the first letter of the signature: a line across the top and a line down the middle, like a gallows. It wasn’t Anya’s writing, and she didn’t think it was Abiorn’s since his name started with the same sound as Anya’s. That “T” wasn’t an “A”. She at least knew that much.

“Hey,” she asked one of the girls as she sat at the bar in the Mantle. “Do yeh know how ta read?”

“Some,” the girl answered. “You getting love letters?”

Lina shrugged and held out the bottom portion of the letter. She kept the top folded over onto itself. “Wha’ does that say?” She pointed to what she assumed was the name.

“T…Tor…”

“Tor? That’s too long for ‘Tor’ and what’s he doin’ writin’ me anyways?” Lina jerked back the parchment and frowned at the offending letters.

The girl shrugged. “How’m I supposed to know that? Want me to read it to you?”

“No, no,” Lina said. “Thank yeh, though. I’ve a friend who knows ‘er letters.”

Shrugging again, the girl turned back to her small meal and said, “All right. I’ll be here if you change your mind.”

Lina nodded as she started toward the entrance. “Thanks!” Waving dismissively with one hand, she tucked the letter into her bodice with the other and set off for the South Gate and Durrow.

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What Keeps Us Awake at Night

All I want in the world is to know who I am and where I come from and to find a place without all the lies. I am so tired of lies and half-truths and people thinking that those things can somehow make things better. They can’t.

~~~***~~~

I will be fine. This will all be fine. I am a strong, loved person and everything will turn out perfectly fine and I will not think about it at all.

~~~***~~~

Why do things always get so complicated? Things aren’t that complicated when you live by yourself in your own little world. Sometimes, I wish I would have never left my own little world, but then again, I would have never met him and knowing him makes it worth it, especially after all those people just think that I’m a freak after seeing me change.

~~~***~~~

ScreenShot00473

This city makes me miss Dale. How is that even possible.

~~~***~~~

Day and night, it’s always the same. Wake up, lie down, roll over. When did my life become so boring? Makes me want to go steal a coinpurse just for old time’s sake.

~~~***~~~

I’ve never felt so confident in all my life and all I did was make a little breeze. It is empowering! Yet…he does not know this world of spirits and sorcery and I know I will not need it if I were to become his wife. Why do I feel so empty at the thought of leaving my training now? Is it another link to him, the magic of his presence, the mystery of his life and power? Will he always haunt my thoughts and dreams?

~~~***~~~

When everything you knew about a person is veiled in a lie, how do you go about trusting him again, even if it is your own father? Is it all worth it when it’s just a damn charade to get an old man his kicks? Living here has made me live a normal life and for the first time, I like the thought of waking up with a husband that worked digging fields and not ruins. What if I want my own life and not the life he is forcing upon me?

~~~***~~~

The simplicity of this place is astounding. We get up. We find food. We cook it. We mend our clothes. We sweep our floors. He swims in the pools and waterfalls around the lake. Nothing is more beautiful than he is beneath the falls when the sun sinks behind the purple mountains and the colours of the light catch in his hair. We eat. We make love. He is happy. For him, for him, I will be happy for now.

~~~***~~~

I will shake this from me. His actions are not my actions and I am as good as any man. Hard work and intelligence will lead me to where I wish to go. If only the people saw it the same way, this city would be the better for it. I will continue to hold my head up high and convince Mother that I do not need a man to make my way. I won’t be sold to him for his title.

~~~***~~~

Who’s a girl gotta do to get some revenge up in here? Anyone? Anyone?

Shameless: Friends

“Thanks, Lina!”

Abiorn turned the ceramic mug over to inspect each side. The relief of a bears could have been ugly (Anya would have expected it to be ugly), but Lina had found something subtle and quite perfect for Abiorn’s sixteenth birthday. He clearly liked it.

“‘Course, Abbi,” Lina said with her lopsided grin. “Business has been good,” she said.

“You wanna go down to the Cask? Try it out?” Abiorn said eagerly. “Maybe we’ll run into Penn and he’ll be jealous.”

Anya sighed and frowned, but did not say anything to stop him.

“Sure,” Lina said agreeably, “but I’ll meetcha down there. I wanna talk to Anya ’bout sumthin’ first, ‘kay?”

Abiorn nodded and pushed back from the table and his plate, picked clean of his birthday supper.

“All right, meetcha at the Ford,” he said. He eyed the two girls before stomping out the door.

With another sigh, Anya stood to begin cleaning up dinner.

“Thank you for invitin’ me,” Lina said as she watched Anya work. “I, ah, so.”

Anya gave the girl a look. “Of course. Abiorn’s fond of you and you are one of my first friends here, Lina. I wish you came around more.”

“Work,” was all Lina answered. She shifted the remaining crusts of bread around on her plate. “So. Ah, how’re yeh?”

“I am all right,” Anya said and Lina looked up at her sharply. Even though she didn’t come around much, Lina could tell Anya was not quite “all right.”

“Really? I mean, I ran inta Morty at the Pony. I wanted ta come by even if it hadn’t been Abbi’s birthday.”

Lina could see Anya tense immedately. Her friend’s voice strained for control as she answered.

“What did he say? Was he grumpy? I am sorry if he was. He seems to be… under some stress lately.”

Shaking her head with disbelief, Lina replied, “Anya. Look, he said he tried ta break it off with yeh. I couldn’t give a lesser shite what he’s under. I wanna know why yeh want ta be with a man who don’t wanta be with you.”

Anya set down the carving knife and turned to Lina with a cold expression that masked a greater underlying fear.

“Lina, what do you mean? What did he say?”

Shifting uncomfortably in her chair, Lina admitted, “Tha’ he didn’t wanna hurt yeh no more. Tha’ he though’ he was stealin’ the best yearsa yer life or somethin’ like that. He said he tried ta break it off with yeh. Looked real tore up about it, though.”

What little colour was left in Anya’s cheeks had drained from them. She stood as still as a statue, her palms braced on the wooden table before her, as she answered.

“I know he thinks that right now. He does not understand that it does not matter how old he is or what he does when he is not with me. I love him.”

Lina shook her head and said vehemently, “Bu’ tha’s just it, Anya. He knows he’s doin’ yeh wrong and yeh just let him! Yer young an’ pretty, an’ tha’s why he likes yeh. Yeh don’t see him chasin’ skirts’a women as ancient as he is, do yeh?”

“He loves me.”

“If he loved yeh, he’d take better care’a yeh. Anya, girls down at the Mantle’s got blokes’re more attentive than he is. How can he be when he’s got girls all over the place…”

“I don’t want to know about his other girls! I don’t care who they are!”

Lina blinked up at Anya. A dark, angry flush crept up her friend’s cheeks and now she looked like one of the girls before they learned how to apply the paint properly to their faces. Pale and comical and sad.

“Anya. Really. He ain’t all that special. He’s jus’ another bloke.”

“He’s not just another ‘bloke’!” Anya insisted angrily. Lina grew wary as the rush of words included contractions: something that happened when Anya lost her composure completely. “He’s so much more than what he makes himself out to be, I know he is and everyone always leaves him, not the other way around! Well, I won’t, Lina, I just won’t! He deserves to be loved for who he is and what he is and I will always love him! Why don’t you get that? Why doesn’t he?”

The delicate girl slammed her fist into the oak table and immediately let out a harsh cry of pain. She clutched her knuckles to her chest and glared at Lina who had sat through the tirade giving her a sad look.

“You are the one, aren’t you?” Anya accused lowly. Her low, rich voice broke harshly. “You convinced him to leave me. It is why he told you those things.”

Lina rubbed her nose with the palm of her hand.

“Yeah. I guess so, but I hadn’t meant to. He was gushin’ on an’ on ’bout his kids and how much he loved ’em and I told ’em yeh’d give ’em more babies if he’d only asked.” Lina shook her head. “I don’t understand how that made ’em all wantin’ to leave all his women all the sudden. He wanted babies. He’s got women willin’ t’give’em babies. Darn fool seems to have ‘sactly what he wants, yeh ask me.”

The color flamed in Anya’s cheeks and for a moment, she did not look like herself at all. It must have been the cloud that passed over outside or the dark hair from her ordeal with the spirit. But for a moment, her features almost seemed to appear more sharply angled, her eyebrow more dangerously arch. Even the several inches of reddish roots in her hair seemed black in the shadow that passed over the house.

“Anya,” Lina said more cautiously, “I jus’ think…I jus’ think yer better’n what he’s got. When Anric ditched yeh, yeh had Mossfoot. Ditch Mossfoot an’ I’m sure someone’ll come along. I could see if Rush knows anyone, yeh know. Mehbe one’ve his brothers or somethin’.”

“Lina, I think you should go now.”

Startled at the abrupt dismissal, Lina protested, “I’m jus’ tryin’ta help yeh, Anya. He don’t even have it in ’em ta do what’s right when he knows it’s right.”

“Please leave!” In a calmer, though more dangerous tone, Anya added, “Abiorn is probably waiting for you. At the ford.”

Lina stood up and rubbed the back of her head.

“Sorry, Anya,” she murmured before taking her leave.

Anya’s silence as she left followed her all the way through the market and to the ford where Abion was waiting.

“Come on!” he said eagerly as she sauntered up to him with her hands shoved in the waistband of her breeches. “What’s wrong? Let’s go to the tavern!” She hadn’t noticed how much he’d grown since he came to Bree: an inch or two at least. Despite the boyish eagerness of his grin, he looked less kid and more man and Lina sighed and wondered when he’d start looking at women as only playthings.

She rearranged her features into her easy, eager smile. Her eyes lit up with a false fire and reached for Abiorn’s arm.

“Sure thing, Mister Tenorbekk,” she teased. “Whatever yer heart’s desire.”

~~~***~~~

Beneath the house of the Elf, in a crate and warded safe, a statue of a dragon lay cold and alone. Upon its forehead, an adamant star begins to glow.

A cold wind blows, whispering around the empty home.

Out. Out. Through the spirit and out the soul. Out. Out. 

Devils and Strumpets

Doing the same thing over and over again gets dull. Even something that feels as good as this.

This bloke ain’t bad. He has a nice smile and his teeth are straight. But it gets repetitive night after night. The same motions. The same sighs and sounds to ensure each man gets not just his pleasure, but his confidence bolstered as well.

That’s why they come here, after all. They’ve been rejected by a woman and thus must pay to feel like a man again. We buy pretty dresses and powders for our faces to make us feel more like women. Men buy us to make themselves feel more like men.

Everyone has something to sell. Everyone pays the price.

It’s hard work building up a man’s ego. Smithies toil all day in the heat of their forges. Their muscles grow and tire with their work. Their names become celebrated for their skill and their wares allow men to conquer their fears and slay their enemies.

How different am I? Is it because they cannot own me?

I sweat and I toil for the bravery of men. My skill will give a man the strength to pick up that hunk of metal and risk its bite in battle. My talent will serve as the final reward when he comes home to a cold bed next to his wife.

An emasculated man is hardly a man at all.

But after I deliver my wares, I will never be looked upon with respect and reverence like the Dwarven smiths. My skill and agility will never become the stuff of legends like the Elves. And my strength to take these men again and again, to withstand their most brutal acts of control…no bard will immortalize that strength in a tale sung at the Prancing Pony.

How many women live their lives in such obscurity? How many are hated for just being what they are?

Men want angels in the daylight, but demons in their beds. You cannot conquer an angel.

~~~***~~~

You would think that she would learn. Time and time again she could not sort through to find reason, and impulse bade her do things that perhaps she should not have.

For instance her letter to Prince Imrahil accepted his courtship, but she had hardly stopped to ask herself why.

Why would she be able to develop a relationship across leagues when she could hardly keep one when the man lived down the street? Why would she wish to add another Complication to the swirl of emotions that drowned her each night even as she lay alone? Why would she consider herself even partially worthy of royalty?

To stop it, of course. To halt the twisted windstorm bred when Oendir met Rheb in her heart and mind. To give her an out: an escape.

She just wanted to quiet her mind and in his arms back in Dol Amroth, she had a focus. She had a purpose again and understood clearly what it was: to support the Prince in his darkest hour and give him the honest love and sanity he longed for. What greater purpose was there for a human being than to inspire and lift their loved ones up to higher ground? To influence and bolster him as he led his army to face the hordes of Mordor was a great honor and he chose to offer her the role.

What role did she play in Bree?

As Oendir’s–what was she even to Oendir? A lover? They had never made love. A future wife? He said himself he did not think he’d find interest in marriage again. An adviser? He hardly spoke to her about things of importance.

She was there for a kiss. A swim in the lake. A balm for him when he had the time.

She knew how much he needed her deep down inside himself. She had felt it in him when their spirits were exchanged in Forochel. He wanted love. He was as starved for it as she was and time and time again his sources of that love failed him. She did not want to fail him, too, but how could she not? Each time she chose, she hurt another. And every moment was a choice.

Every moment she hurt herself, for she longed to be with Rheb.

If she listened to her heart, she knew she wanted the youthful freedom his love provided. Pure, unattached love created when two people were simply built for one another. Their bodies melded as one and their souls rejoiced in each other’s presence. It was greater than any emotion she could distill into her potions. He was in ever fiber of her being, now, and without him, she felt lost.

Stuck between worlds, never fitting in, denying one to never find acceptance in another–both of them knew what it was like to feel the emptiness of their missing worlds and the completion they found in each other’s arms.

But she messed things up again. And that is why she wrote the Bluejay accepting his courtship.

If she had to go out as a shallow and fickle strumpet in Bree, she might as well go to Dol Amroth as royalty.

At least, that is what she told herself while she laid in bed alone.

Rain and Snow and Ice

She wouldn’t tell a single person about this part of the trip even though it was the most exciting.

ScreenShot00415
Rush and Lina’s view on a non-rainy afternoon.

There was nothing in Trestlebridge except ash and mud. While Rush tramped about seeking his calling, she spent most days distracting the boys around town with coy smiles and giggles, but many had a hard time seeing through the man’s shirt and breeches she wore. Every night she met Rush by the stables and together they’d trudge up the hill where they made a camp meager in all things save the view; the Trestlespan straddling the canyon was still breathtaking even if the town that shared its name was not.

It had been misting most of the day, but the afternoon saw the skies open with a cold rain that soaked through heavy cloaks and carried the weight of a long winter ahead. Even now, the mud and cold added a special excitement to Rush as he learned how to please and be pleased. They added to the normality that the act had become but it was different this time also because she felt that somehow, she knew. She knew he was inexperienced, and for all his casual certainty in his clothes, there was that hesitant fumbling about him now that he was out of them and it made her smile and enjoy him even more.

No, she wouldn’t tell a single person about this part of the trip.

The ladies at the Mantle would surely gossip about Lina schooling a youngster and then the bosses would catch wind and coin would be expected. And even though he offered to help pay for the time she stole from her work before this bit of entertainment was proposed, she had refused his money. She wasn’t going to take a single coin and she wasn’t going to tell anyone.

Though she did not know why.

As the rain continued to fall and their fire died down, Lina arched over Rush and kissed his mouth. He tasted and smelled of whiskey and pipeweed. Such smells for a seventeen year-old boy.

~~~***~~~

Snow had a way of silencing the land for leagues in all directions that it lay. It’s weight could bring down a roof, yet it fell so calmly from sundropped clouds and settled on Cwen’s shoulders as gently as a lover’s touch. The crystals nested in her dark hair and clung to her lashes causing her to blink at the vision of Fiddler’s Falls half-frozen in its perpetual cascade down the cliff’s side. Even the song of the waterfall seemed dampened beneath the heavy blanket of white.

After the new year, she resolved herself. After the new year, we will return to Buckland and things can return to something normal. Something easy.

She wasn’t running away, she told herself. She had no home here in Durrow and though Ravenhold was welcoming, the gardens were not hers, the beds were his, and the yard was a monument to someone else.

Did she really think she could find a new home here in the land of Men? The house she found with Rheb had been as perfect as any she’d seen in all of the lands of Men: an expansive yard begging to bear fruit and herb and bloom, the Dunwash flowing gracefully past the backyard. But Oendir owned it. Mathdor had lived in it. So many memories that wounded so deeply. In such a small village as Durrow, she knew she could not dodge their shadows forever.

And truth be told, she had unfinished business in Buckland.

B.

The muffled cry of the Falls had no more answers than the Shire night sky.

Without feeling the cold, Cwen sank into the snow and fell back, heedless of winter’s fingers slipping into her collar. As she stared up at the cloudy sky, fluffy flakes began to descend and she made no effort to move as they slowly began to sting the exposed skin of her cheeks and mingled with her icy tears.

~~~***~~~

Snow came cold and fast in the mountains and held on long into spring. A long, black shadow strode through the breezy flakes of ice toward some unseen purpose. It traveled its path as if it hardly needed eyes to find it and soon, it disappeared around a frozen outcropping.

ScreenShot00223The cave was illuminated by a central fire and low torches along the smooth, almost circular wall. Parmanen dropped down to his knee beside the fire and added several dry logs from the large pile stashed there in warmer times. The man sighed as he stoked the flames and wiped his brow. Fire.

A sound at the entrance of the cave caught his attention and he turned quickly, his old eyes tired. A head of beautiful raven black hair ducked to avoid the icicles over the entry and Parmanen sighed again as his daughter entered from the cold. Wordlessly, she stared at him as she assessed his reaction.

Stepping further into the cave, Lômiphel finally spoke.

“Expecting someone else, Father?”

Parmanen shook his head and tossed her the bag he carried over his shoulder.

“There is food in there. Eat. We will not stay in these caves long.”

The woman caught the bag against her chest and glared at the man. “Where are we going? Rantost is north. We can rebuild. Get back what we lost.”

“What we lost is not north, my daughter. But we must proceed carefully. In the land of the halflings, we would stand out. The red-haired one revealed they had made friends there, thinking information was what we sought. No, we must take the Hills further east and then past the old capital of Arthedain.”

“This is madness,” Lômiphel spat. “If you are who you say you are and have betrayed who you claim to have betrayed, this will only end with our own, Father. You cannot stand against the power in the East.”

A scoff and a flip of a hand greeted Lômiphel.

“I mean not to challenge the Dark Lord himself, silly girl. I merely wish to take back what I lost. If in the process, some of his enemies are destroyed, the Great Eye will surely see the profit in my actions.

Yes,” Parmanen said as he covered the wall of the cave in a sheet of ice. From the smooth surface, mountains rose, and forests grew, and then rivers cut across the lands of Eriador.

“They are here, somewhere,” he said as he stared at the map of ice and stone. “They cannot hide it from me.”

Shameless: Rush

Anyatka opened the door even as the fist on the outside pounded on it again. She blinked into the darkness and focused on a figure squinting into the brightness of the Tenorbekk’s front room.

“Lina? What are you doing here?” She stepped back to let the girl in and noted her flushed cheeks and breathlessness. “Are you quite well? What is it?”

From the dinner table, Eirikr looked up and his visible eye narrowed beneath the bandage wrapped around his head. Abiorn, Anya’s younger brother, looked incredibly interested in what interrupted their dinner. As Lina brushed past Anya, he grinned and leaned his chin on the palm of his hand.

“Anya, beg yer pardon, but I need yer help an’ it’s gotta be quick!” Lina turned in a whirlwind and leaned back against the couch. She crossed her leather-clad leg over the other. “Yeh got a bedroll an’ some campin’ supplies I can borrow?”

Anya nodded and strode forward to take the girl by her arms. “Lina, slow down. Are you in trouble? Why in such a rush? We can help you; you do not have to run.”

Lina’s slender neck stretched as she leaned her head back to laugh. “Oh, no! I’m not in trouble. The Missus gave me permission an’ everything. I just told ‘im I’d meet ‘im in an hour and goin’ by the Mantle took up near half. I gotta get supplies an’ meet him, or he’ll think I stood ‘im up.”

Not one to remain silent on the sidelines, Abiorn asked, “Who’s that, Lina?”

Grinning at the boy, Lina answered, “Rush. We’re goin’ ta Trestlebridge. Maybe farther north, who knows. But I’m gettin’ outta Bree fer a while, and that’s all tha’matters.”

Anya and Eirikr exchanged a concerned look. She nodded to her brother and he stood to fetch the supplies she’d need for the journey.

“Lina, who is this Rush?” Anya asked with measured politeness. “What does he do?”

Flushed from her rush, Lina ran a hand through her short hair. “Jus’ a boy. My age. My real age. Have I told yeh my real age? I’m not nineteen, I’m seventeen. But he doesn’t do anythin’ really, and tha’s why he wants to go to Trestlebridge. He’s done all sortsa jobs, but doesn’t like a one.”

“Does he know what you do?” Abiorn blurted.

Lina nodded. “Mhmm. Doesn’t phase him. Actually, he bartended at the Mantle for a bit. Didn’t last. He’s a decent fella, just kinda listless. Needs a kick in th’arse, prolly.”

“And you intend to give it to him?” Eirikr asked as he dropped a bedroll and a woolen blanket on his bed. He didn’t look at Lina as he rolled it into a compact bundle for her. “Where’s your pack?”

Lina thrust her pack at Eirikr. He took and pulled it open and then started adding things to it and taking some things out.

“Nah, look, it’s just a chance t’get outta Bree fer a while. I trust this fella. He’s got lots of brothers an’ sisters an’ just needs ta get out on his own a bit, tha’s all.” Lina bounced on her toes. “Yeh almost done? Don’t mean ta rush ya or anythin’, I just don’t want ‘im ta think I stood ‘im up.”

Eirikr knotted her pack and held it out to her. “Yes. You’ve said that.” Looking over her head to his sister, he cocked a critical brow. Anya shook her head and shrugged.

“Lina, promise you’ll write when you get to Trestlebridge? Especially if you intend on staying for an extended period of time, or leaving to go somewhere else, please?”

Lina took the pack with an appreciative grin and raised it to Eirikr. “Thanks, big brother,” she said. Looking at Anya, she wrinkled her nose. “Anya, yeh know I can’t write.”

Anya sighed. “Well, maybe this Rush can. Have him take dictation. Please.”

Lina shrugged. “If I remember. Can’t stay, though. I’ll bring yer things back when we return!” Quickly, she left in a flurry.

Abiorn watched the door for a moment after it closed behind her.

“You think she’ll make him pay?” he asked with a grin.

Eirikr slapped him on the back of his head. “Abiorn. Not appropriate.”

Anya blushed and frowned as she resumed her seat at the dinner table. “Yes, really, Abbi. That is none of your business if this man is a client of hers. Or just a friend.”

“Ever heard of him? Didn’t she say he was her age? She’s not that much older than me. How could a kid like me afford Lina for a week?” Abiorn stuck his finger into his mashed taters and sucked it clean.

“Ugh, Abbi.” She tossed a cloth at him, but he only laughed when it hit his face. “That’s none of your concern, anyway. What Lina does is Lina’s business.”

Who Lina does, you mean.

Ow! Damnit, Eirikr.”

After dinner, Anya knelt by the fire and scrubbed the fine china dishes Eirikr and Abiorn brought back from Dale in a tub full of lukewarm water. “Don’t you think we should have stopped her?” Eirikr grumbled as he brought her his and Abiorn’s plates.

“It would have done no good. She would have found the man and ran off with him anyway, Eirikr, you know that as well as I.”

“She’s your friend. Anya. I hardly know anything about her except that I should usually be concerned for her. What if this lad hurts her?”

Anya’s dishrag slowed for a moment. “Don’t underestimate Lina. I know she looks thin and helpless, but I doubt that she is. She had lived in Beggar’s Alley for quite some time before I met her. And before that… she rarely wanted to talk about before that, Eirik. Somehow, I think she can handle herself better than I could in her situation, that’s for certain.”

Eirikr picked up a dish from the line Anya was leaving along the stone hearth. “I hope you’re right, sister.”

Anya nodded. “I know. Me, too.”

Shameless: Try to Forget

Emmelina left Lalia’s Market hugging herself as if that would do something to protect her from the cold she felt inside that had nothing to do with the rain. Her mousy hair quickly plastered itself to her thick skull and she cursed herself and the elements that made her shiver.

Her feet traveled automatically; she had no sense of time or place until she found herself at the steps of the boarding house where she met Anya. It was funny, she thought, how much she hated that grave-digger fellow and she didn’t even really know him. Anya did seem happy yesterday when she stopped in for tea before her evening shift. She even brushed of Lina’s relentless teasing about her hair like it was nothing. It was very un-self-conscious-wimpy-doormat Anya. Though she seemed happy, and that was the most important thing.

Right?Beggar's Alley

Staring up at the boarding house, she thought about things she tried desperately to forget. That’s why being a Lady’s Mantle girl was so easy. Always work to do or the other girls to chat with so there was never a dull moment where memories could sneak in and make you hurt. Or anger.

Or cry.

Damn Hallem Kemp for getting beneath her skin.

Maybe it was because he had been the first for her there at the Mantle and lying with him was the final good-bye to what she used to be. Not a laundry girl or a tarnished girl or a disgrace or grieving mother. When she shut the door to the little room at the far end of the hall, she had shut the door on her past.

Hallem was safe. He was honorable, considering. He was the better option over that ratty man who seemed so interested in the new meat offered up as auction. And Hallem hadn’t even pushed the issue of sex; only under her assurances that it was just her job and she might as well get used to it did he drop his pants and go for a tumble. In a way, perhaps she had underestimated the power of naked flesh over a man. Hadn’t she come to learn men’s purse strings were always looser the more her bodice slid down over her breast?

She did not want to go back, not tonight. Not when every face she’d see would be Jameson Sicklefoose and every jerking climax would only remind her that the men needn’t worry about bastard children with her. The healers had been very clear on that two years ago as they gave her parents the prognosis. They left no reason to doubt that the baby was lost because she wasn’t shaped right to carry a child. She was lucky that it aborted when it did; another month and it would have been much more dangerous.

Standing before the boarding house, she closed her eyes tightly and her tears flowed indiscernible from the rain.

Frustrated with herself, she pushed the heels of her palms into her eyes to stopper the tears. She scowled as she stomped away from the boarding house. Thick Beggar’s Alley mud sucked at her boots and she was thankful she wore her leather breeches and a man’s tunic instead of one of her fine Mantle dresses. Madam Lark would not find the ruining of a gown amusing, she was sure.

She needed to find a place to get in out of the rain.

She thought of her options. The Pony was sure to be crowded and she really did not want to run into the type of folk she found there. The training hall would be emptier, but that also meant the barkeep would be free to question why a sopping gutter rat dripped on his bar. She had been hungry before her conversation with Hallem in the market, but the revelations of that had put a lump in her throat and a knot in her belly.

Now she knew and he knew and she didn’t understand why it mattered so much.

Lina found herself at the gates of Durrow. If she couldn’t go stumble into Hallem, she could always find a warm hearth at Anya’s. Maybe Abiorn would tell lots of jokes and help her forget again. Maybe Anya would have another painting finished she could hawk to another john who felt it beneath him to lie with a girl that looked like a boy but who he couldn’t ignore. Maybe Eirikr would be feeling well enough that she could tease him mercilessly and not feel bad doing so. The Tenorbekks didn’t know her accent was fake and her past was full of bad choices and she already missed the boy who made her forget the most.

Ludo in Lotro

Lotro RP Played by...

Ludo is a band that I would probably follow around the country in a van. Well, was as they are no longer a band, but they should be. They were so absolutely wonderful and their music still is.

After a chit chat and channel spam of Ludo songs, I decided that an official blog post dedicated to their songs and how my characters would love them was in order. So, here we are: Ludo in Lotro, which can be found here on Audiosplitter.

Anyatka

“The Horror of Our Love” – Anya gets a bit obsessive. While she’s not gone off the deep end yet, the potential it totally there. Is it murder if he’s already dead?

Ultimately, “The Horror of Our Love” is about the all consuming love that turns one into a insatiable monster. Anya can definitely be a monster when it comes to Morty.

“Please” – She wants something special with Morty, something that’s just between the two of them. Each love is special, and once she accepts that, she may find contentment and happiness. “Please save this for me; I’ll come back to you, love, I promise you. Please save this for me and until I return, my love will burn…”

Cwendlwyn

“Too Tired to Wink” – Having been through a lot, Cwen often feels rather zombie-ish. She pushes through and tries to remember that there is always a light at the edge of the Mirkwood.  “Look at all the stars, we’ve come so far even if we don’t know where we are it’s gotta be somewhere great…or am I just too tired to wink?”

“Such as it Ends” –  “Love, such as it ends, breaking the hearts that wouldn’t bend…

Emmelina

“Whipped Cream” – What can I say. Lina likes sex. She likes things that are good and whipped cream are good. She likes fun. “I really want it…”

“All the Stars in Texas” – She’s a bit of a bad girl when she needs to be. She’s a bit of a good girl when she needs to be. She does what she wants. “All the stars in Texas ain’t got nothin’ on your eyes when you say let’s hit ’em one more time…”

Eirikr

“Anything for You” – Eirikr defined himself by his love for his wife. Ninim was his world. “I’ve gotten drunk and shot the breeze with kings of far off lands; they showed me wealth as far as I could see. But their kingdoms seemed all shrivelly and they cried with jealousy when I leaned in and told them about you.”

“Drunken Lament” – “Now you’re gone and I’m lost, in the swells I am tossed – bobbing and choking and losing the fight in the fog. You said, “Forever.” Tell me, why can’t you stay?”

Abiorn

“Battle Cry” – Poor Abbi. Truth be told, he doesn’t even have a bio yet. I  mean, he has the background his siblings have given him, but a purpose and motivation of his own? No. Which is why I feel “Battle Cry” is appropriate. “We are young and we will never die. We won’t give up; this is our battle cry! We will defeat the other guy!”

Aeron

“Topeka” – Aeron is like a whole person. He’s a white knight that isn’t trying to be a white knight. He just really is that nice of a guy. A thousand years between birth and death as a Man gives a certain type of insight. “Topeka” is about finding a truth, a belief. A self.

“I’ll Never be Lonely Again” – While he will not be reunited with his love until the end of Time, he deals.

Every Saint has a Past…

…every sinner has a future. -Ludo “Topeka”

 

Cwendlwyn stood on the banks of the Brandywine and watched the brown water stream by the steep banks. The wagon borrowed from Blanco Banks broke an axle just north of the hedges separating Buckland from the the Great East Road. Unloading their possessions took most of the morning and now they waited for the spare part to arrive from the carpenter. Neilia splashed in the shallows of the river, closely watched by Callee. The Hobbit had willingly agreed to accompany them to Ravenhold to help mother and daughter settle in before returning to Buckland to be caretaker for their home while they were gone. Cwen thought longingly of her gardens but knew that moving to Bree for the time being was best for her little family.

After all, Biramore was not coming back. Cwen had to face that now that the money they had saved was running low. The spacious home and grand kitchen seemed cold without the parties of neighbors and friends visiting from Bree. She couldn’t keep up with the gardens and the cleaning and the cooking anymore though it had never been a problem before. She couldn’t put her finger on what was wrong since he was gone. It wasn’t like it was the first time she was loved and left. Perhaps it was because for once, she truly thought it would last. She had picked a man that put family first and did not involve himself with plots and schemes. She did not have to heal injuries without knowing their cause because it was ‘safer’ if she didn’t know. They were honest with each other. They were true.

She thought about her conversations with Anya as she watched Neilia splash after a toad. She had been surprised when Anric told her that the two had separated and she did not pry when he resisted saying anything more on the matter. She now knew Anya was entertaining thoughts about someone other than Anric, but she never imagined she would act upon them. Perhaps the girl’s honesty revealed too much of the situation and that is why he left her. Cwen hadn’t the heart to ask when she visited Eirikr’s new home in Durrow. The poor girl looked on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

A frown knit her brow as she considered how her words might have played a role in the destruction of Anya and Anric’s relationship. Such talk of burning and faithfulness. What did she know about such things anyway? She had not felt the burn since Anidore and that turned out lovely, didn’t it? As she watched Neilia play, she answered own question without her usual sarcasm: yes, it did. She had Neilia and she always had to remember that. The time she would spend away on her duties was for Neilia’s benefit; vegetables and coney pies would not bring in enough coin to ensure she was taken care of in the future. If anything happened to her, Cwen knew somehow that Oendir Arrowheart would not let Neilia starve on the streets.

Sighing, Cwen turned to check on the repair progress. It was a long day’s journey, and they would have to make camp now that most of the day was lost. Neilia would take the news well; she always had an adventurous spirit and saw the move as a great mystery waiting for her in the land of Men. She was certain to enjoy camping beneath the stars.

She smiled slightly as she climbed the bank of the river. She would have to get used to camp again now that she was employed as a Wayfarer.

* * *

Eirikr poked the campfire with a long, spindly stick. The woods spoke quiet comfort as the dusk settled in around him for a quick hug before sinking beneath the treetops. The rosy skies did little to brighten his mood. Nothing seemed to these days.

A snap of a twig alerted him that he was not alone. The Chetwood was full of bandits and beasts – surely a beast would not have made such a tell-tale sound. His hand flew to the hilt of his sword and he held the stick out in front of him ready to swing at the first thing that moved.

A pair of eyes reflected the firelight as the sun finally sank beneath the horizon, plunging the woods into night. They watched him, unblinking, until Eirikr relaxed and lowered the stick slightly. A black nose and then a muzzle emerged from the shadows followed by the yellow eyes of the wolf.

Eirikr stared back at the animal, fascinated. The remains of his supper rested on a leather scrap he used as a plate. He picked up the roasted rabbit and took a bite before holding it out to the wolf. He expected the animal to run – or charge – but it did neither. It simply padded over to sniff the food before accepting it with a chomp.

He wiped his hands on his tunic and sat back to watch the wolf eat. The meat was gone in seconds and the wolf licked its muzzle of the grizzle. Then, it settled down with its massive paws stretched out before him and stared into the fire.

For a long time, Eirikr watched the wolf for any signs of aggression. His instinct, however, told him there was no threat and the wolf did not see him as something foreign to the trees and night air. Eventually, it laid its head down and closed its eyes.

Eirikr looked up at the stars showing through the gaps in the trees and for the first time since he received Ninim’s letter, their beauty did not sting.

* * *

The Watcher passed by her hiding spot with that overconfident stride all of them seemed to adopt when on duty. She didn’t know why she loathed them so much lately. She knew many of them and had liked them well enough before. Things were getting more difficult, though, and she refused to go home and admit defeat. It would work out, this time, she just knew it.

When she was sure he was gone, Lina swung her legs over the wall and let herself fall to the stones covering the ground. Her arms ached from holding herself balanced for so long and she unhooked the pouch of coin from her belt with a frown. “So much work for so little,” she muttered.

“And it really wasn’t worth any of it, now, was it?” The deep voice precluded the hand that grasped her tightly around the shoulders from behind. She looked down and saw the Watcher’s colors and scowled. With her heels, she kicked at his shins, but he anticipated the move and lifted her up and back causing her to kick forward in an attempt to regain equilibrium. A rope was thrown around her arms and looped expertly around her wrists to draw them behind her. Before she knew it, she was trussed and practically helpless kneeling on the cold cobblestones of the alley.

“Honest, mis’er Watcher, sir, I didn’t do nothin’.”

The man’s cold blue eyes stared into her own as he reached for the pouch she dropped. He smiled as he straightened.

“Oh? Then what is this?” He emptied the contents of the bag into his hand and the gold coins slid from his palm to the street. An empty vial also fell into his palm and Lina’s eyes widened.

“What is this indeed,” he continued and tucked the bag into his belt. He uncorked the vial and sniffed. “Poison? I’d bet my life on it. What would a little girl like you be doing with poison?” His broad shoulders blocked out the sun as he looked down on her.

“Wha-I-I-” Lina stammered for words but had none. Damnit all!

“Empty. What have you been doing, little girl?”

“I ain’t li’l and I ain’t been doin’ nothin’!” she insisted, though she felt it was useless to protest any more. She did not think this particular Watcher was a particularly good man who was interested in the truth and something told her that she was going to regret lifting this particular purse.

“It’s empty. Tell me, did you know a Dwarf was recently poisoned right in the Prancing Pony? They have no idea who did it. The Watch is just puzzled about the whole thing. And here you are. With an empty vial of poison. That is such a coincidence. Isn’t that right?” Another man emerged from the shadows behind him. He grinned with a nod.

“Tha’s right, Dama, right shame.”

“Ye mean ta tell me ye ain’t got one clue about the culprit! What ’bout th’Elf I lifted tha’ from?” She added a bit late, “Mis’er Watcher, sir?”

Dama’s eyes widened briefly and then he smiled even broader. “Well, no, he just arrived in town today and we are stumped. But I think we might remain stumped if say, you could pay an Information Fee. That would ensure that this information would stay just between the three of us.”

“B-bu…I ain’t got no money. Tha’s why I was stealin’ in the first place!”

The man grinned down at her and lifted her head by her shaggy hair. His teeth gleamed as he said, “Then ye best be finding some, little girl. You have three days. And then I will deal with you my way.”

Some Lake Somewhere

60 Posts

In honor of “Silver Bells,” my 60th post, (and really just because I want to share my creation), here is a Divine Doll portrait of my entire entourage as it stands right now:

Callee, Cwendlwyn, Neilia, Anyatka, Eirikr, Abiorn, and Emmelina
Callee, Cwendlwyn, Neilia, Anyatka, Eirikr, Abiorn, and Emmelina

I found the site on the Free Folk forum and spent a…long time playing with it! Click on the image to doll yourself up!

Prompted Pasts

ScreenShot00132

Prompt: Write a brief scene illustrating an important moment in your character’s past (before you started playing them).

Danick tugged Cwen’s arm as he barreled through the woods. Faster, he urged. Faster. The sound of the attack on the watchtower grew faint but still he did not slow. His hood covered his bright yellow hair and allowed him to move through the shadows of the fading light. It also prevented her from reading his expression as he led them north, away from the Adorn River, away from their homeland that was besought on all sides by the Dunlendings.

Only when Cwen could run no more, falling and gasping on the rough lichen beneath her, did he stop. He disappeared only a moment and then picked her up and carried her to a small copse where a ring of oak trees formed a clearing. He sank to his knees and held her, rocking back and forth.

“You will run,” he said into her hair. “Promise me.”

“Danick -” she protested, “I have no where to run to.”

“You will run,” he repeated into her hair. His lips pressed against her dark tresses and then he tilted her chin up to look at him.

“Where can I go? Danick, let me go back and help – ”

“Go north,” Danick said calmly. “The watchtower is lost. With their armies in our lands, you will be able to sneak through. Stay aground. Stay smart. Cwendlwyn, you’re so smart – you can do this. Make it to the North, where this won’t exist. There is peace in the north.”

“Your men,” she said as she buried her face in his chest. “Your friends.”

“They die protecting what they hold sacred, Cwen. Wenfried’s mother and Biroan’s wife. Halulm’s sister.” Danick held her face in his hands. As the baying of the wolves grew louder, he closed his eyes. “I could not protect Thira, but Bema help me, I will protect you.” He looked at her intently. “Cwen. They’re coming. Run.”

She wanted to scream; the sound rose in her and caught in her throat, forcing tears from her eyes and her hands to grope for his strength. He took her in his arms and poured all his hopes into her. Their lips parted for the first and last time only when Danick let out a harsh cry. She tasted blood.

He looked at her, fear tainting his serene blue eyes for the first time.

“Run.”

He fell to his knees and Cwen saw the arrow in his back. Crying out, she reached for it and was nearly buzzed by another black arrow. It only narrowly missed.

“RUN!”

Danick drew his sword and staggered to his feet. He turned to face their foe and never looked back.

She ran.

** ** ** ** **

Jameson Sicklefoose stood over Emmelina Lilybrook with a triumphant grin on his face.

“Told ye I could steal Old Man Palater’s pocketwatch ‘n he wouldn’t e’en know.”

“So what?” asked Lina. “He wouldn’t even know it’s missing.”

“Well, then, little Emma. Let’s see what ye can do.”

She expected him to point out the tavern door and order her to rob the next fool to stumble through, but instead he grabbed her by the neck and drug her forward. His lips crushed hers and his whiskery face scratched her pale skin. He smelled of pipeweed and whiskey. Such manly smells for a nineteen year old boy.

When he pulled away, Lina could barely keep her feet. Her head spun and she gasped for breath.

“Ye serious ‘bout this, Cherry? Ye really want inta our little family?”

“Yeah,” Lina reassured him. “I want in. I need th’ money.”

Jameson growled against her lips. “Ye’ll git yer money. After ye earn it first.”

The eyes of the barn cats reflected like mirrors. A horned owl flew by to perch in the branches of the Kissing Tree. Exhausted, spent, Jameson pet Lina’s brown hair, disheveled and loose from the long braid down her back.

“Welcome ta th’family, Emma. I’ll take care o’ya now.”

** ** ** ** **

Frigga Tenorbekk stood in the large window overlooking the garden. She fanned herself, refusing to shed a single layer despite the July heat. She stood watch over the ladies cleaning for the evening – watching to make sure they did not sneak anything for themselves, to be sure.

“Your guest tonight was rather unusual, Kolrson,” she said to her husband as he strode into the room. “Wherever did you find him?”
“Came into the store,” the husband answered. He barked several orders to the servants clearing away the remains of the evening. “He travels and tells fantastic stories. If no contacts could be made, I figured at least the children would be entertained tonight.”

“How pleasant of you to think of them, dear. But their entertainment is not our priority.”

Kolrson grunted.

Sitting on the floor in the pantry sneaking the meal she was denied at dinner (”Proper ladies do not eat their food. You do not wish to be considered fat nor greedy.”), Anya paused as she heard her parents’ conversation shift to their evening guest. Anya had found the man to be absolutely fascinating. She often dreamed of the world beyond Dale and the shadow of Erebor. The man who called himself Bookie told great tales that evening of Golden Woods and spider infested forests. He claimed to know many more stories from both east and west, north and south.

“Luckily, he will serve as a great connection to the trade in Rhun. Hopefully, he won’t get any fool notion to head West again. There’s little profit there now. The woods have grown dangerous.”

Her mother scoffed. “I suppose we shall be seeing more of the man, then?”

There was a pause where Anya could picture her father nodding.

“Fair enough. Perhaps we can arrange for he and Ludwig to meet. Their stories would keep guests entertained for an entire evening. It would be like hiring a professional minstrel without the racket of the singing and playing.”

“And the expense of paying,” Kolrson stated with a gruff laugh.

Footsteps approached the pantry. Anya froze, a small tomato raised to her lips. The door swung open on silent hinges and her mother stood above her in shock.

“Anya! What are you doing?”

Without thinking, Anya bolted past her mother, knocking her aside. Her little ten year old feet thundered through the halls as she ran for the boys’ wing.

“Get back here!” roared her father. She could feel the floor tremble beneath his strides. She mounted the stairs and took them two at a time. Glancing back, her father was right behind her. He grabbed her just as she ducked a breath too late. Kolrson threw his daughter backwards down the stone steps. She tumbled and rolled, managing to sustain mainly bruises until her forehead connected with the edge of the bottom step. Bright lights clouded her vision.

“Creeping about like a sneak-thief!” her father bellowed. “Stealing from your own family! The food we serve you at dinner is not enough to satisfy the fat cow?”

“Kolrson, really! Just beat her and get it over with.” Frigga came out of the kitchen and surveyed the scene before her with distaste. Looking up, she saw her eldest son at the top of the stairs leading to the west wing. “Eirikr! Back to your rooms, now!”

Eirikr stood with clenched fists staring down at the dazed form of his sister. The anger seethed in his eyes.

“Immediately, young man!”

“No!”

Eirikr’s little twelve year old body rushed down the steps and knelt beside Anya. “Isn’t being thrown down the stairs enough? She’s bleeding! Someone get help!” The boy took his own shirt and pressed it against the wound. “Gregor, go get a surgeon!”

As the servant ran for the door, Eirikr was lifted from the floor and raised to stare into his father’s eyes.

“You’ll pay for that, boy. She fell, you hear me? She’s always tripping over her skirts, the lass. And if you want to have any skin left on your back, you’ll disappear until I come for you with my whip.” Kolrson released the boy and he fell to his knees. “Now get.”

Ignoring the order, Eirikr dropped back over Anya, pressing his bloodied shirt to her head again. He sensed it and tried to relax to absorb the impact of the kick. His body tumbled over and over. His breath was knocked out from him and his head tilted back as his father grabbed a fist full of his hair.

“Now. Get.”

Eirikr slowly climbed to his feet. Before he could take a step, his mother grabbed him and drug him up the stairs into the west wing where the boys’ rooms were located. She pushed him into the room and locked the door with her key. Abiorn huddled in the corner with his nanny, the toddler’s face streaked with tears.

Below, Eirikr heard the surgeon arrive and the false concern in his parents’ voices as they explained the ‘accident.’ He could feel the sting of his father’s lash with each lie. Powerless to stop it, he bowed his head and cried.

Homeward Bound

About two weeks ago…

Lina hadn’t worried about it when Falros and she decided without words to start to drift apart. It happened just as suddenly as their drifting together. She didn’t remember how she ended up in the back stall of the South Gate stables, but she supposed she had a good time.

And that very day, she received a visitor with unexpected news. The farmhand refused to meet her eye as he spoke. Her mother was dying. She needed to go home.

For a very long time, she sat in her aunt’s parlour and stared at the small pouch of coins that came with the message. The money was to pay for post back to the farmsteads. The farmhand begged for haste as she sat there weighing the coin. Her mother had received injuries during a brigand onslaught. They had burned everything they could: only the stone of the main house had protected what family possessions survived. The barn, the pastures were cinder and ash. The youth, who couldn’t have been much older than Lina herself, described the devastation in detail. Only when he started to describe the barn roof ablaze over the screaming horses did she move. Quickly, she ordered him to hire the post horses and meet her at the North Gate.

Without explaining to her aunt, who had stood at the door to eavesdrop anyway, she fled the house and rushed back to Falros’s. She didn’t really have anything to gather. Packing was quick: three or four mismatched outfits, her dagger. She gave Moose, the large, stolen piece of taxidermy art on Fal’s bedroom wall, a loving pat and scanned the sparse room. She tried. She really did. Maybe he’d miss her. Maybe she’d find out one day.

* * *

Ruined

Her mother was not dying. The woman lay in bed with a bruise on her forehead from fainting into the kitchen table. Her father was far worse off, at least appearance-wise; the man had multiple cuts and lacerations from fighting off the attackers with his old garrison blade. His brows were scorched away from fighting the fire that consumed his livelihood.

Though she was relieved that the farmhand had exaggerated (under her mother’s duress, she was certain), Lina grumbled that she had ridden half a day for a bruise.

“Emma!” her mother cried from her bed. Lina held the woman’s tea as she gestured grandly toward the walls of the room. The entire place smelled of charcoal and smoke. The brigands had driven off her family’s swine; a few came wandering back, but there was little they could do except bring them into the main house. Their earthy scent mingled with the acrid scent of burns and caused Lina to gag. How her mother could handle it, she hadn’t a clue. “How can ye think o’ leavin’ us now wit’ all th’ work tha’ needs ta be done?!”

“Mother, may I remind ye that ye sent me to Bree two years ago.” Lina handed her the tea and held her palm up for the saucer she knew was about to be handed back. She set it on the night stand.

“But things are different now, Emma. Ye must see tha’ we need the helpin’ hand. We are your family!”

Looking out the bedroom window, Lina held her tongue. Her father labored outside with the farmhands, cleaning up the remnants of the barn. The pile of debris grew as the men shifted through the ruins searching for salvageable material. Despite the deception, despite the past, in that moment Lina knew her mother only spoke the truth: they needed her.

“I will not stay indefinitely,” she said as she watched the men work, “but I will stay until the farm is cleaned up.”

“Emma…”

“Until it is cleaned up, Mother. And no more.”

** ** ** ** ** **

Two days ago…

Zhevruil | The two of them ride to Buckland, to home.

Cwen stretched languidly, her body pressed against Zhevruil’s as the rising sun filtered through the dark blue curtains. She propped her head up and perused his beaten brow: the bruises were yellowing and would fade away completely but the scars… She reached out to gently touch his lip. She remembered when they were unmarred, years ago. The stripes across his back, hidden beneath cloth or sheltered from her eyes carefully throughout their night, caused her heart to stop with the pain of of her sympathy. She saw it in his eyes that he didn’t want it. He didn’t want her to feel sorry for him.

“Zhevruil,” she whispers, the name hanging on her lips like honey.

She should feel guilty. Biramore had been missing for weeks, and the time stretched thin like she took each second as a step along a wire stretched across the deep chasms of Moria. Her time spent in Bree added to her depression – the memories, the memories. But she was beholden to her heart and with Laerlin away, she worried a competent healer would not be readily available to the girl upon her return. And then the theft of her ring…

She knew that her return to Bree set into motion something bigger than her plans to retire quietly in Buckland. Biramore’s disappearance, Zhevruil’s reappearance, and the missing ring could hardly have been connected, but she wondered sometimes if the fates worked in threes.

Zhevruil mumbled in his sleep and turned his face away from her. Callee would be awake soon to take Neilia across the river to play with the Stock children as she did every Wednesday. It was market day.

Things seemed so much simpler in the Shire.

** ** ** ** ** **

Yesterday

Eirikr stared at the letter in disbelief. The hand that covered his mouth trembled. His left held the parchment open with some difficulty, the sling hanging loose as he sat leaning his elbow on his knee. As his trembling increased, the paper fell from his grasp. It floated to the floor oh so slowly and landed dangerously close to the embers of the cooking fire.

The house was deathly empty without Anya’s presence. The week between her return from Fornost and their departure for the Red Pass had been spent in her near constant company after Faethril had emerged on the streets of Bree. The angry spirit attacked Eruviel and had to be wrestled to the ground. Anya had been able to control the whispers of the spirit much better at the Elf’s home.

He had taken it upon himself to keep her entertained so her mind would not dwell on what she had to face. They talked of everything from the water-bugs that still dotted the pond beneath Eruviel’s home to the state of Dale when Anya departed. He watched her paint and draw with an embarrassed awe. He never realized his sister’s talent. At night when Eruviel was home, their laughter filled the confines of their solitude and the world was brighter despite the dark. Since his sister left, it seemed as if every stretch of silence could only be broken by a crow’s call.

And now.

Ninim’s penmanship flowed over the page. It spoke lightly of the winter markets and the skulk of foxes that ran through their back yard leaving tracks in the fresh fallen snow. It told how Hulda next door was expecting her fifth child. And it spoke of how Kolrson Tenorbekk sent Sven the Shiv to “protect and watch over” her, his wife, while he was away fetching the wayward daughter.

That man.

Hovering over his wife.

He could do nothing.

He stood quickly and strode to the window, throwing it open to let a cold breeze rush in. He closed his eyes and let the wind assault his heated face. Raising his left hand, he tried to make a fist. The fingers responded slowly. Resisted. Gritting his teeth, he tried again. And again.

When Anya returned – and she would return – he would go back to Dale without her if he had to and get Ninim away from the clutches of that man. He could protect her; he would protect her. Abiorn, too, if he had to. No man was going to touch his wife and get away with it.

Again. Again.

He would keep making a fist until Anya walked through the door, determined to use it to knock anyone who got in his way, out.

Lina’s Songlist

This one is totally not complete. Totally. Like totally. But I feel like I need to get it out there.  Emmelina Lilybrook

Let it Go performed by Idina Menzel from Frozen
“Let it go, let it go and I’ll rise like the break of dawn. Let it go, let it go! That perfect girl is gone! Here I stand in the light of day; let the storm rage on! The cold never bothered me anyway.”

 Shameless by Ani Difranco
“I cannot name this
I cannot explain this
and I really don’t want to
just call me shameless…”

Shy by Ani Difranco
“the sheets are twisted and damp
the heat is so great
and i swear i can feel the mattress
sinking underneath your weight
sleep is like a fever
and i’m glad when it ends
the road flows like a river
it pulls me around every bend”

Gratitude by Ani Difranco
“thank you
for letting me stay here
thank you
for taking me in
i don’t know where else
i would have gone
but i don’t come and go
like a pop song
you can play incessantly
and then forget once it’s gone
you can’t write me off
and you don’t
turn me on”

Wendy Clear by Blink-182]
“But I’d play with fire to break the ice
And I’d play with nuclear device
Is it something I’ll regret?
Why do I want what I can’t get?
Wish it didn’t have to be so bad”

Inside Out by Eve 6
“I would swallow my pride, I would choke on the rinds
But the lack thereof would leave me empty inside
Swallow my doubt turn it inside out
Find nothin’ but faith in nothin’
Want to put my tender, heart in a blender
Watch it spin around to a beautiful oblivion
Rendezvous then I’m through with you”

 She’s a Rebel by Green Day
“She’s a rebel, she’s a saint
She’s the salt of the earth and she’s dangerous
She’s a rebel, vigilante
Missing link on the brink of destruction”

Extraordinary Girl by Green Day
“She’s an extraordinary girl in an ordinary world
and she can’t seem to get away…
Some days he feels like dyin’; she gets so sick of cryin'”

 Little Sister by Jewel
“My little sister is a Zombie in a body
with no soul in a role she has learned to play
in a world today where nothing else matters
but it matters, we gotta start feeding our souls”

Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
“I want your drama
The touch of your hand
I want your leather-studded kiss in the sand
I want your love
Love-love-love
I want your love
(Love-love-love I want your love)”

 Topeka by Ludo
“I taste blood everytime I think of summer
If that’s true, I’m in for quite a treat
’cause I’m beggin’ for the sun in a mid-Missouri winter
waitin’ desperately to get outta town.
No, you can’t keep a good man down…
Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future
so you know what keeps me hanging around”

Whipped Cream by Ludo
“I think I’m entitled to your body gotta
little problem with personal space and I’ve been
poundin’ the Jaeger. my breath and behavior
have been driving the patrons away.”

 Girl Like That by Matchbox Twenty
“I put my hands around your shoulder
You’re saying you’re scared is all
I think I know too much about you
You think this life would make me colder
I’d give in to the alcohol
I put my loving arms around you, child

You knew damn well there was nothing going on
Is that what makes you feel damn worthless”

 Feral by Noe Venable
“I wanna run ’til my feet start bleeding
I wanna make it all the way to the ocean
I wanna live for life and no other
Cause I don’t ever wanna be like my mother
I wanna learn to walk on the water
Cause I don’t wanna be like my father
I have a sister and I got a little brother
And I don’t ever wanna be like them either

Uh uh Uh
Feral

I had a place I’d go in the garden
Where I’d pretend that nobody made me,
Watch the sun going down on the day like a
Gentleman going down on a lady
And I had friends who would come and meet me
And we would stay ’til early evening
Singing, “we’re not gonna die away so easy
We’re not gonna die away die away, no”

Uh uh UH!

I’m not scared to walk like a lady
And I’m not scared to cry like a baby
I’m not scared I’m not scared I’m not
I’m not scared I’m not…”

You I by Matt’s Dad’s Basement (Local band from mid-90s. Most famous for the song Tupac. Cant’ find You I on the YT; might put it up there if I can find it again.)
“And I feel abandoned
And I feel like I’ve been forgotten…”

Fix You by The Offspring (and Piano Felix’s version, too…)
“She wakes up
Rage and grace
Pulling me closer, pushing away
And me
The sharpest thorn on your vine
Twisting and turning
We’re all intertwined”

Lost in You by Sugarcult
“Six months went by
I almost forgot your face
Till they played that song tonight
The one we used to hate

Lost in you
And I can’t find myself again”

 In the Springtime of His Voodoo by Tori Amos
“In the Springtime of his voodoo
He was going to show me spring”

She’s Your Cocaine by Tori Amos
“If you want me to
Boy I could lie to you
You don’t need one of these to let me inside of you
And is it true
That devils end up like you
Something safe for the picture frame
And is it true
That devils end up like you
So tied up you don’t know how she came
She’s you Cocaine
She’s go you shaving your legs…”

Dialogue

probably stolen from Word Porn...
probably stolen from Word Porn…

Anyatka shakes her head slowly. “You don’t want someone like me. And there’s only one I want.” The red paints her cheeks as she closes her eyes and turns her face toward his touch. After a moment, she whispers, “They can give you what you want, Morty, but I don’t think they can give you what you need – what you don’t even think you need.”

Morducai [gazes] softly at her. “And what’s that?”

Anyatka looks up at him slowly, nervous, but sure. “Someone to belong to.” The hand that rested on his arm rises to touch his face. “And belong with.”

Morducai ‘s faintly unmasked expression suggests that her answer hit much more of a chord than the man expected…. (from January 22, 2014)

***Anya and Lina

“Falros?”

“Yep.”

“Falros.”

“Uh-huh.”

“While I see it coming together, I do not see it sticking.”

“Eh, it’s good fer us both right now. Who cares about the future? Why’s ye thinkin’ ‘bout it anyways?”

“Because you are my friend. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Ain’t nuthin’ ta tell.”

“What if I needed to find you?”

“Ye ain’t never come lookin’ before.”

Silence.

“’Sides, we go t’gether right nice. Ye know, I think he ain’t originally from the Bree-lands? E’en his thing’s dark as night.”

“I do not want to have this conversation any more.”

“Ha!”

“Do you love him?”

“Not tha’ I’m ware of.”

“Do you even like him, or is it all…”

“Oh, yeah. I like him a lot. More’n any other person in the Bree-lands. And we fit t’gether nicely.”

“I told you I didn’t want to know.”

“Nah, I mean, like, person-to-person, too. Not just ‘ye know’. What about ye? And that ugly grave-digger? Ye love him?”

“He’s not ugly. His face has character.”

“Fine. Fair ‘nough, I s’pose. But d’ye love him?”

“Yes.”

“E’en if his face got character, but his loins ain’t?”

“Yes.”

“Yer so stupid.”

“Fair enough, I suppose.”

***Anya and Aeron

“Hey, um. Are you there?”

Yes.

“Oh, um. Good. Can I ask you a question?”

Of course. Though I do not have many answers right now.

“Sure, sure. Um. What’s it like? Seeing the world through my eyes?”

You are short. I didn’t notice it at first, I thought perhaps I was just tired after a long march. Or something was wrong with my head. I did not realize it was your head.

“Huh. You remember things now. For instance, that you had met Or-Orchil.”

The squinting woman with the arrogant man with all the answers?

“I do not think she is with Morty any more.”

I did not mean it that way. I meant simply that she was speaking with him. I associate her with him for simplicity.

“Well, then, I guess so, yes. You probably saw them together when they…”

Why do you put so much emphasis on their relationship?

“I-I don’t know.”

Oh, wait a moment. I see it. I am sorry.

“Y-yes.”

…Did you have another question?

“It’s about your beloved.”

Ah, yes. Faethril. I am afraid for her.

“Why?”

She dabbled.

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

In black magics. And when I volunteered for Fornost, she was very afraid of some things that could befall me.

“She didn’t want you to go?”

Oh, no. She understood it was something I had to do. But she was afraid.

“You think she did this?”

Yes, in an attempt to keep me safe. Alive.

“So how do we stop this?”

I do not know that yet.

“Damnit.”

My thoughts exactly.

***

((Happy Valentine’s Day! Or as I have taken to call it, Single Awareness Day.

One thing I have noticed since returning to LOTRO is the number of community led events hosted on Landroval. This completely thrills me, though I am not used to having scheduled RP. I’m not used to scheduled anything. Living by a bell every working day of my life created this disdain for regimented scheduling outside of my career, I believe. So, on Wednesday, I did not realize it was Wednesday and that I wanted to go to the Broken Cask because two Wednesdays ago I was caught in RP before I knew it was happening. And today, February 14, 2014, though there are many events scheduled, none of my characters necessarily have “dates” to attend with them (Fal has weekend plans, darn her! And would he even be drug to one of them?).

Luckily, Torlach and Cwendlwyn have a date scheduled in Lord Elrond’s Library to research the necklace. Somehow, this humorously imitates life: hot date for Valentine’s Day? Yeah with an old and dusty book!))

Quotes – OOC

February 2-9, 2014

stolen from Word Porn
stolen from Word Porn

Anyatka glances over at Tor nervously. Silence is unnerving. Speaking is unnerving. Torlach is unnerving.

With so much going on with my characters, I often copy and paste quotes or chat log just to keep things straight. I save important plot points or particularly spectacular moments in my Scrivner project that holds all my blog posts, character sheets, and ideas. This past week, a lot has happened for all three of my girls. Lina has entered a committed relationship, Anya’s possession is gathering interest, and Cwen – well, heck, she’s back in Bree RPing. As a nearly retired character who had been out of the scene for almost an irl year, that’s saying something.

As an English teacher, I cannot help but start to analyze the characters and their interactions. RP is living, breathing. One person alone does not control it (unless they’re RPing with themselves, and that’s a whole ‘nother story). It is not unusual for me to go back and spot missed posts – especially in the Pony – or situations where something someone said could have been taken entirely the wrong way. Art imitates life, and RP is an art. It only serves that misunderstandings might take place, profound and wise words might be uttered, or characters grow in ways unexpected.  **Warning: potential spoilers for The Necklace/Bracelet plot which should be renamed to something equal parts lame and sexy, like “Bound by Fate”**

To Hallem:
Emmelina scratches her cheek and laughs. “I remind ye o’ a mad-woman? Wait’ll ye get t’know me.” She grins at him as she raises the mug to him and then tips it back to chug it down. Smacking her lips, she nods to Barliman for another. “Wha’ makes ye say I remind ye of her?”
Lina is proud of her mask, and mask it is. She doesn’t want anyone getting past it to poke at the pain she drowns in ale and crazy antics.
Emmelina raises a brow and shifts her weight from one leg to the other. “Grave-diggin’ eh? But rather be climbin’ the earth rather than diggin’ in it?” She takes a more measured sip from her ale. “Interestin’ combination.”
Despite her youth and apparent idiocy, her mind is sharp and oftentimes, Lina will say things that reflect deep wisdom that comes from experience and a certain level of instinct about people. She simply chooses to be carefree because the alternate is life-crushing. She is a young woman of extremes.

To Falros:
Emmelina nods. “Long day. Lotta clothes.” She starts to turn to tromp down the steps but only makes it down two before turning back and returning to him. “Where’m I goin’?”
Lina is very uncertain about her relationship with Falros at first. The context of sex has her all confuddled. She’s blunt enough to ask in the middle of the Pony whether she’s going to her place or his for the night, but elusive enough to make the true question unclear. Falros might have assumed she meant directions for his house, not her place in his world. Regardless, they have worked things out and Lina has found a place at Falros’s side.

Anyatka tucks her hair back behind her ear and says, “Go lurk in some other corner, Torlach. If you please.”
Self explanatory! Though Anya actually standing up to Torlach is something new. Perhaps the influence of Aeron’s cool confidence? Or is Anya finally growing up a little? Regardless, Torlach is vital to her survival now that he has the necklace. 

At Torlach:
Anyatka didn’t not mean to sound like gollum in any way shape or form.
Anyatka ducks away from his hand and swings below his arm to rugby tackle him. Since she’s rather average and scholarly, let’s see how far back she bounces!
This was just hilarious. Faethril-Anya taking on Torlach. For realz, bro. Oh, and she bounced far.

To Morty:
Anyatka snaps, “Aeron, son of Arithorn. And you?”
Morducai touches the bracelet, appears unscathed where others were burnt, and makes contact with Aeron. Aeron isn’t amused. Anya’s dismayed that he’s not burned, or at least doesn’t show it. Further proof for her suspicions, if only she could get Aeron to leave her alone when Morty was around.

To Dunstann and Misree:
Cwendlwyn looks over to Dunstann with a smirk. “Cwen,” she corrects him gently. “And aye. Pleasure to see you again,” she says to Dun with a bow of her head. She turns back to Ree shaking her head. “No, I was not referring to your face. Though, I have something for that as well. I refer to the way you’re sitting, favoring your side.”
Cwen knows her shizznit. Though I need to brush up on my herbalism. Did you know nettle tea really does taste a lot like grass? The tingle goes away after you get used to it. Not sure how else to explain it. And dandelion root tea is heavy enough to be very satisfying as a sort of snack. Good stuff.

To Torlach and Eruviel:
Cwendlwyn continues to gaze down at them for a moment before she plasters on a smile. “Of course! This one,” she holds up the plain band, “is my wedding ring from my union with Anidore Resselin. And this one,” she holds up the one with the family crest, “was given me by Arodionn Vallanor, a man I…” she looks down again, the false cheer cracking.
And that doesn’t even include the gold and silver band she wears openly which is not Biramore’s, but the Elf Elodir’s who sailed to the West. Girl’s got a past! Anidore and I agreed their daughter is seven, now, so that will limit her adventuring. Maybe one day Neilia will come sauntering into Bree – will she be more like mum or da?
Anyatka repeats, “Well. You?” She starts to sketch: rolling hills, towering, um, towers.
Sometimes, words fail.
Anyatka nods. “That is what Morty said.” She presses her lips together and adds, “He also said to try not to let him know he’s dead.”
Oopsie daisy, Raen sort of told Aeron he was dead and then Faethril went apeshit. Anya ended up unconscious on a pile of cushions muttering in her sleep as Orchil and Raen watched and discussed their involvement with her fate. The fact that Morty found out about the necklace being from the Barrows and is outraged did no good for Anya’s already fragile feelings. 

To Morty, while telling Raen the sordid tale:
Anyatka looks over at Morty for a moment in silence. “I guessed,” she whispers, blinking as the tears flow slowly. “But it didn’t matter to me.” She looks back at Raen and takes a deep breath to continue.
Re-reading this portion, Morty might have mistaken Anya’s “But it didn’t matter to me” as a flippant dismissal of his curse in her pursuit of ancient artifacts and adventure. It was not. It was her admittance that she guessed from his obsessive concern about the Barrows, his longevity against hope, and his glowy-eye that there was more to him than appeared. It was her admittance that despite the fact he could be a monster and his insistence that she does not, she loved him. Her tears were a mixture of shame that she betrayed his trust by taking the adventure with Teiblanc, horror that he now knew, and fear that he’d never speak to her again. And of course, the classic crying because you’re crying when you promised yourself you wouldn’t cry any more.

Anyatka will continue to sleep-talk for several hours. Several times she will throw her arms up as if defending herself while crying out. Each time ‘Morty’ passes her lips, her eyes open and flash as if Aeron were connecting with her feelings for him. Several times, she whimpers and pleads for the necklace, muttering how ‘he’ needs it for protection.
Ultimately, Anya’s possession is a love story. Faethril, even in the demonic form that she exists in presently, only seeks Aeron’s safety which she tied to the old family heirloom, his necklace. Aeron, though much more sentient than his lover, also rears a much more feral persona whenever Anya is overwhelmed or hurt by her feelings for Morty. Aeron surges forth to protect her, feeling the connection between her and Faethril and seeking to rid her of the pain.