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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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Overdone: Life Well Spent

((Much spoilers))

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.”

Overdone: Whispers in the Dark

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’m right here, darling. You really should not speak of one as if she was not in the room.Anya's Room

“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.

“Anric?”

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.

“Aeron?”

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…”

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.

“Fight…”

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.

Overdone: Preparations

Really! Less than a week’s notice. What does Miss Anya think I am, a miracle worker?

It’s good that I have kept Gardeneve in good condition while Miss Cwendlwyn has been away with that adventuring company with whom she signed. I cannot imagine all that travel. The transition from Oatbarton to Buckland alone caused me such anxiety. Her latest letter did nothing to reassure me that travel was a safe endeavor. Certainly, she is on her way home and things worked out down in that Big Folk city, but really. Such trauma should be left for the ghost stories and minds of much less savory folk.

No, travel is certainly not for me. I shall stick to the simple task of keeping my house and Miss Cwendlwyn’s. Six people in that cottage! And Miss Anya said there could be more. It is good that Master Biramore built it large. Too large for my liking, but I suppose it will serve its purpose now.

Less than a week’s notice.

At least Miss Anya said I did not have to worry about stocking the pantry. I cannot believe that Miss Cwendlwyn would mind terribly that the house was being used. She had specifically said if Miss Anya needed it, she had permission to access it. But with so many visitors? Whatever could cause that girl to need such a large company?

Linens washed, beds made, rooms aired, surfaces dusted. The front gardens need to be weeded. Surely the neighborhood boys have plucked her vegetables clean. Miss Cwendlwyn needs to get her head out of the clouds and let her feet feel solid earth beneath them again. And soon.

So much to prepare, and really, I should be focusing on deciphering that recipe. I wish I had paid more attention when that Ranger had tried to teach us that flowery writing. Just one part, and then I shall have the recipe and I will be able to prepare the medicine that will make everything okay again.

~~~***~~~

The house was quiet for once. Sally Stitches curled up at Anya’s feet on top of the quilt and stared lazily at Morty as he sat and held vigil at the foot of her bed. Every so often, the brown mackerel tabby would flick her tail and the low purr of her guardian should have lulled Anya to sleep.

Instead, she stared at the circle of pale flesh around her wrist. The bracelet that had burned its impression into her skin had been destroyed in the forges of Ost Guruth and the necklace that shattered and started it all by releasing Aeron’s spirit to attach to her had melted in the fires of Thorin’s Hall in the Blue Mountains. She had never thought the spirits would return to plague her again. She had seen Faethril dissolve beneath the heat of the molten metal. The look on the ghost’s face had been of peace. What had brought her back?

She felt blind in the dark. There was nothing solid to link her to, not like the last time. This was a different magic at work, something that went beyond cursed jewelry and ancient curses. A magic that only Morty seemed to be able to control.

She knew he would not go with them, so she did not even ask. The words rested on her tongue always, but instead of coming out as a request to leave all he knew to accompany her to the wilds of the ancient kingdom, they tumbled out in pleas to stay with her now. Four more days, she had reminded him. Four more days before they left and who knew if she would survive to return?

The skin around her wrist tingled as it often did at night. She closed her eyes instead of rubbing it and pictured Morty’s face as he realized what her words meant. Did he care enough to mourn her if she fell among the ruins and forests of Evendim? Would he miss her enough to cover her grave with his Dalish Charms on the anniversary of her death? Or would he forget her as one of the women that left him?

She didn’t want to leave him.

Anya knew that with her brothers in the next room, Morty would not come to her bed that night. She missed his cool warmth, the comforting pulse in his neck even as she missed what she imagined was the sound of his heartbeat. The nights they were not together never tugged at her heart as this night when he was right there, but so far out of reach.

Was he ever really in reach?

Anya burrowed deeper beneath her quilt disrupting Sally’s stoic watch. The cat mewed and stretched, her claws tugging on the quilt. Normally, she would have gently nudged the feline off the bed to prevent her from ripping the bedcovers, but tonight, Anya merely listened to her claws dig into the fabric. She did not want to disrupt this moment where she felt like he loved her.

In the morning, it would be three days time.

Three days to prepare for the long separation from all she had learned to love as home, perhaps forever. Three days to try to love Morty Mossfoot with all her heart so he would not forget her while she was away trying to send home another lost lover simply searching for her missing solider.

It would be enough because it had to be enough. Faethril was getting stronger and Anya worried that Morty called her Miss Murderess with such casualness. It wasn’t good. None of it was good.

As the owls questioned the darkness of the overcast sky, she longed for the arms of the man less than three feet away. Three feet. Three days.

It was too much and it would never be enough.

Overdone: In Love Again

The inky black sky was sugared with stars as Anya walked along a side road in Durrow. She liked nights like this when the new moon allowed the true brilliance of the sky to sparkle like tiny adamants were tossed by the handful into the air.

She was taking a risk, she thought, going to him in the night. She wasn’t naive enough to think he spent them alone. But she missed Morty’s smile. His voice. The scent of his roses.

Anya cast a glance upwards and didn’t notice the rut in the dirt road. As her weight shifted unexpectedly, she let out a cry of surprise as she fell on the twisting ankle. The pain shot brightly through her, but she’d felt worse. It was nothing, really. Nothing until she hit the cold dirt and then…

It was midday and she stood looking out over yellow plains that stretched into rolling hills. The sun was brutally hot; it was midsummer and the men would be expecting the arrival of the shipment from the west as payment for the armour the fortress sent to the young settlements trying to gain a foothold as they fought over the invisible borders that ran through the Lone-lands. Rhudaur had an advantage, and though some were jostling for a temporary peace with Cardolan, Amon Sul would never find peace. Not while the palantir sat at the top of the hill and not while the Witch-king kept his heavy hand in the land. 

The elders grumbled among themselves as they crossed the courtyard. They were always grumbling to themselves these days. They disliked the tower being occupied by the dark sorcerer and did their best to keep the people away. She found him fascinating, however. He wore a robe made from the skin of a great crimson long-worm that he claimed he slaughtered in Angmar. If he ever left the tower, he carried a gnarled grey staff topped with sickly green jewels. She wondered how much truth existed in the rumours of his power and dreamed of learning his secrets.

She turned and walked down the narrow stone steps. Glancing into a rain barrel, she pulled at the corner of her sharp blue eye stretching the skin smooth. Sighing heavily, she frowned. Then, without looking up, she turned and ran into the solid mass of a man.

Strong arms caught her. They set her on her feet and a gentle, deep baritone went, “Woah, there. Easy now.”

She looked up into eyes as blue as the sapphire stones the Dwarves brought from the mountains far away. Her breath caught and her heart stopped beating. She realized her hands had grabbed hold of him in their frantic flailing and she felt his muscles flex as he steadied her and stepped back.

Aeron. He was dressed in hunting leathers instead of his metal breastplate. His arms were bare and he wore an easy smile. She had never looked at him so closely before. He was just a solider, after all. Nothing new or exciting there. Except… the way his head tilted as he regarded her. And the set of his lips as they curved into that amused smile.

“Are you all right?”

Her heart didn’t start beating again. It took off at a gallop and leapt into her throat.

Ost GuruthThen suddenly, it was night again. The stars twinkled steadily in the sky and the Valacirca hung low over the sorcerer’s tower. She felt his warmth around her, enveloping her like a warm bath. He smelled of soap and leather. His touch ignited her skin…

When Anya awoke, every bone in her body ached with damp and cold. The sharp pain in her ankle still throbbed and brought her quickly to her senses. Tears began to flow before she even tried to push herself up from the ground.

What happened? she thought as the looked up and found the Sickle high in the sky. Several hours had passed since she left for Morty’s little home on the edge of the graveyard. High above was still an inky black. Clouds had moved in blotting out the stars and for a moment, she didn’t know where she was.

The Lone-lands. She never wanted to go back. Was it a dream? It felt so real. Aeron. She saw Aeron young and alive and suddenly she missed him dreadfully. It ate away at her and made her want to bawl for want of him. The confusion that sprung up in her mind conflicted with the certainty in her heart. Why would she feel like a limb was missing? Like she’d never see sunshine again? She must have been seeing the world through Faethril’s eyes. She shuddered at the thought.

Slowly, she pulled herself to her feet and tested her swollen ankle. She looked around and regained her bearings; she was at the gate near Ravenhold. Her own home was closer than Morty’s. She tried her best to keep her weight off her tender ankle as she slowly hobbled home still pondering the dream.

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.

Letters to Nowhere: Asking Too Much

Dear Eirikr,

I have not seen you since you returned from Dale. I have gone to the house you purchased before you left for the East, but you are never there. I miss you, bróðir. Where are you?

It sounds insane, I know, but I have decided to go to Evendim. There is something there that I must find. I would tell you what I am looking for and how I know it is there, but you will think I am crazy. Besides, I need to get out of the Bree-lands and Buckland just is not far enough and I have heard it is beautiful there.

I am not sure when I will be leaving. There is no pressure to get there; what I seek is not being sought by any other and it has lain there for a thousand years. I would like for you to come if you would. Come find me, Eirikr. I need you.

If you find this at the Pony by chance, know that you will not find me in Folchet anymore. Some things happened, Eiri, and I fear I did not handle them very well. Though how would you handle a living dead man? I know how Anric will handle him. Anric will kill him. He will see it as his duty to help him leave this world by any means possible. He joined us first and foremost because he needed to be sure Aeron found his place with the dead. I know that now. I had always been so curious why he was willing to believe me when he heard the purpose of our journey. Why he was willing to risk his life for some girl he just met. He needed to see Aeron and Faethril pass on.

He left me, Eirikr. Anric left me because I cannot love only him. I want to love only him. Right now, I want to love only him because if I don’t have him, then all I have is him and that will not do. He will have all of me and I will not be able to temper the need I have to love him. What will become of me when all I have is him?

Love.

Morty says he doesn’t need love. Not romantic love. The love of Esthyr is enough for him. And the baby. He is having a baby. Well, not him, of course. That would be impossible. He is not the one who is going to have the baby, but I am sure you understand what I mean. And, anyway, all he needs is his children. He does not need Cal. He does not need the love of a woman. He “loves” many and he cannot love just one.

Will not, he should say.

But children grow up. They go their own way. It isn’t the same as someone who knows you and loves you and will always be by your side. Everyone wants someone like that. Someone who understands what you are trying to say before you yourself understand it.

And he says he cannot love me the way I want him to love me. How does he know how I want him to love me when I do not even know myself? Eruviel, Aeron. They say I do not want the a man who would wanders. But is sex the same thing as love? Can you have sex without love? Cwen seemed to believe it was possible. Sex is just a physical act, isn’t it? One night stands do not mean you must love the person.

He said it was a one night stand.

My cheeks just flushed. I feel the damn heat as I sit here and I hate it. Why am I so easy to read? Is it just easy for him to play me so? Is he truly cruel and uncaring and simply deriving a sick pleasure from tormenting me so? Does a lack if a heart mean he is incapable of love or that he simply does not love me?

Why can’t I just let him go?!!!!!!!

I realize I am writing crazy. Perhaps I should burn this so no one can discover such crazy thoughts. But I simply cannot understand it. He spent so much time telling me no. There were plenty of reasons why he told me no.

He did not sully virgins.

He could not love only me.

He would not when I had a good man like Anric.

I would love only him.

But, I do love Anric. I love him still even though I know he has left me. He just left me there in the meadow outside the West Gate. I hurt and I hurt Anric because I could not love only him. What does that say about me? Am I no better than Morty deep down, unable to save my love for just one man?

Is it so wrong that I want them both? Love and affection and attention and someone who knows me deeply and intimately without even touching me before? Someone who takes my breath away?

Is that asking too much?

Beyond the Grave

The sun had begun to sink behind the distant trees before Anyatka Tenorbekk even realized she sat on the edge of the Little Staddlemere beneath her favorite willow tree. She searched her memory for the trek from the graveyard to Staddle, but she only found things she was not certain she was ready to face: Callumn’s distress as Morty’s strong hands crushed his windpipe, the rage on the grave-digger’s face, Hallem Kemp shoving Morty among the dead generations of Bree. The cradle in the front room. The stillness in Morty’s chest when his cool hand took her own and held it there. She did not want to remember.

She looked around quickly as she sought to find a distraction from the flood of thoughts tumbling through her brain. Her eyes fell on Hal sitting a short distance away at the end of the fishing dock. He watched her with a sort of interest like the kind that arose because there was something strange and terrible coming. He often looked at her that way, and she wondered if his interest would wane since now he knew the source of her “weird” behavior. The Little Staddlemere

Her slip,the shouted “I love you!” out of desperation to know the truth Morty kept avoiding, was pebbles compared to what she learned when he finally gave in. His groan still stung, but her feelings did not change when he told her and Hal about the deaths that left him in charge of his younger brother Callumn, how he tried to raise his dead grandparents only to succeed, and his own death at the hands of the gaunt-lord his grandfather had become while Callumn, only thirteen, fled in horror.

The anger that drove Morty to attack Callumn terrified her. She had never imagined such rage could exist inside the charming man. And next to Callumn’s cheery friendliness, it had been a winter storm in June. She knew that she should have stayed with the injured man, though she knew also she could not have done much to help him. The woman, Jocelynn, had not been very reassuring when Anya had gone back to retrieve her bag that she dropped when Morty lunged at his brother. She could not say if Callumn was all right or not. She hoped for his sake he was well enough to find the next ship down to the sea. Morty repeated many times that he would kill Callumn if he saw him again. She understood this much at least: to Morty, it would be an eye for an eye.

She blinked several times and realized she was still staring at Hal who kept watching her with lazy anticipation. He probably was expecting her to start crying or raving. She probably should be crying or raving. But she couldn’t. She was not certain what she felt. It was as if all her emotions were running around inside of her at once. She just wanted them to stop so she could focus. She looked down and saw a thin green caterpillar trekking across a fallen branch. It passed the brown leaves on either side as it sought the end of the narrow bridge.

She closed her eyes.

A soft breeze ruffled her hair. It cooled her cheeks as she turned her face into it. She felt his presence beside her long before she opened her eyes.

“You called?”

At the sound of his voice, she opened her eyes and there he sat broad-shouldered and blue-eyed.

“I did not call you.” Her voice sounded much calmer than she felt as she drank in his face. “But I am glad that you are here. How?”

Aeron shrugged. He wore a simple robe of navy blue and his bare feet were tucked beneath him as he sat cross-legged. His dark hair was pulled back from his chiseled features and he had a look of contentment about him that Anya longed to share.

“Your heart called to me even if your voice did not.” He looked over at her and sadness tinged his serene expression. “Why, systir? Why do you grieve so?”

Anya turned to look toward the pier. Hal was no where to be seen. In fact, aside from the breeze rustling the branches of the willow, it was eerily quiet. No sounds from Hobbit settlement floated down on the wind. Not a single barking dog or buzzing midge.

“Where are we?” she asked. “Are we still in Staddle?”

Aeron followed her gaze. “I believe so. But not a Staddle you could return to on your own. A Staddle somewhere between mine and yours.”

Anya looked over at him. “I do not want to go back to my Staddle,” she said softly.

A crease appeared on his forehead. “I do not like that sort of talk. Anya, I am no longer in your mind. You must tell me what it is that is troubling you.”

Taking a very deep breath, she stared at him. And then she told him. Everything. He sat listening in silence, a deep frown marring his features. When her voice broke, his deep voice rumbled with concern.

“I had rather hoped you would have let go of your feelings for the grave-digger, Anyatka. Clearly, the man is not moral nor is he trustworthy.” Aeron’s lips formed a thin, critical line. “The presence of the cradle should tell you that he will not have you, my systir. And that you should not want him.”

A Staddle somewher between mine and yours.
A Staddle somewhere between mine and yours.

Anya opened her mouth to protest, but Aeron continued talking.

“Anya, remember what I told you that night before we left for Fornost?” he said. “That it should be mutual. Equal. Your relationship with this man is not equal. And unless it is equal, it is not worthy of you. To begin with, he is not natural. He shouldn’t be there at all, Anya.”

“But he is,” she insisted as if that was all that mattered.

Patiently, he went on, “And even though he is, his choices remain a burden to your happiness. You don’t want to live with a love that does not love you back. Who cannot remain faithful. Do you?” Her hesitation brought another frown to his lips. “Anyatka, if you please, do not make such a foolhardy mistake. You do not want that. I have seen that much in your heart and mind.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The other man you spoke of. Anricwulf.”

She nodded.

“How did you meet him if your heart has been for the grave-digger?”

The wind died down and a stillness came over the water. It reflected the pale blue of the clear sky. Anya wanted to sink beneath its surface and dissolve like a sugar cube in hot tea. She wanted the feelings to evaporate and just leave her in peace. Instead, she told him how Anricwulf attached himself to their party in Bree before they left for Ost Guruth. How he knew the lands and not only helped them free the Circle of Blood of the evil for a time, but also destroyed Faethril when the shadow consumed her. Aeron sat quietly when she finished. His hands that rested on his knees tightened into fists and his eyes closed. After a moment, he relaxed and sighed.

“Then she fell completely. That is why she did not come? I have been waiting.”

Anya lowered her gaze as her heart ached for him. They had tried to reason with Faethril, but she had been in the dark for far too long. Anya had wished for her to still find Aeron and that love would be stronger than the fear that drove the woman to such dark deeds. But it seemed it was not so.

Aeron shook his head. “So it will be until the end of time. Still, I will wait.”

They sat in silence for some time, though no sun recorded its passage. Anya found an anchor in Aeron’s silent grief. She clung to her friend’s pain with relief that it was not her own. As always, his presence calmed her much like her brother’s. Another person’s pain to cling on to. Another who lost his love. She felt the shame rise – her brøðurnir had experienced true loss. What right did she have to be mourning for a dead man who was not dead? Who did not love her back with a mere fraction of the sincerity that she loved him? When she had Anricwulf who loved her truly and sincerely?

“…but you should not ever have to try.”

She was trying too hard. She did not want to try any more.

Aeron spoke. “Anricwulf does not know what you have told me?”

Shaking her head, she whispered, “I have only learned these things just now. I do not know if I can tell him.”

The wind picked back up again as Aeron have her a hard look. “You need to tell him, Anya, and you know that. He deserves to know. Secrets separate. They are the only thing that can truly destroy the bonds of love. Fae learned that the hard way.” Seeing her distress, he reached over to take her hand. Unlike Morty’s, it warmed her cold fingers as he squeezed them gently. “You will do the right thing. Do not succumb to the shadow in your heart. It will pass.” He fell silent again as he gazed out over the lake, his blue eyes sparkling like the peaks of the tiny waves cutting across the water.

Anya dropped her gaze to their hands. She stared at her nails criss-crossed in paint. Her cuticles were stained various shades of green and blue. Earthen tones clung to her knuckles and she compared their smooth creases to Aeron’s. The strength in his hands belied their gentleness. He was a warrior and soldier, but still just a man.

A man who had been dead far longer than Morducai Mossfoot. Who loved truly and deeply and had experienced the loss of his life and the ideals he fought for. Fornost had been overrun. His people fell to the shadow, his wife among them. He died trying to save what he thought was good.

Even as the realizations began to sink in, she had to point out: “Aeron. You are dead, too.”

A rough laugh full of irony escaped him. He gave her hand a squeeze. “I am, yes. But I am not in your world, Anya. And I would not stay there if I was.”

The truth. The difference. Aeron would leave when this was all over. She would be left alone, and the despair would return, but his love would still be there. And life would go on.

Her eyes closed and another silence fell between them. She felt so tired; she leaned against his shoulder and felt his head incline to rest upon hers. It was so good to be able to feel his warmth. She felt the calm flowing through her and for the time, she was able to relax.

“You left your brother’s bell with the grave-digger,” Aeron said quietly as if loathe to break the peaceful silence. “And my necklace – I assume the necklace was destroyed?”

Anya nodded. “I moved to Ered Luin for a time. I threw it in the fires of the Dwarven forges to make sure you would remain at rest.”

She felt his head turn as he looked down at her.

“I did not feel the Bree-land forges would be hot enough.”

“Oh, Anya,” he said gently, “you always do have a flair for the dramatic.”

“It seemed fitting.”

Aeron chuckled but then became more sombre. “The bell. The necklace. You have nothing left to remind you of your brothers.”

She shrugged against him. “I do not regret leaving the bell with Morty.”

“Even though he won’t know its significance to you?”

“He doesn’t have to.”

“You should have something back for your gift.”

“I don’t ask for anything back.”

“But I will give you something nonetheless. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to retrieve it.”

Aeron raised his free hand. Sitting on his palm was a silver dragon with beryls in place of its eyes.

“Not at Fornost. Not even at Ost Guruth. My father died near Annúminas on the southern shores of Nenuial. Have you ever been to Evendim, Anyatka?”

“The old capital city of the Kingdom of Arnor?”

Aeron nodded. “My father was born and raised in the North Downs. The king himself gave this to my father for services against the Witch-king. My father carried it with him though it added weight to his pack. He was sentimental like that. When he met my mother in Rhudar, this sat on their mantle until I fifteen. Then, my father was called for one last duty and he packed it away and left for old capital in an attempt to recover the Palantír rumored to be left there. He never returned. His unit was overcome by wolf-men along the far banks of the lake. They had approached from west in hopes to avoid the tombs that lined the eastern approach.” He took an audible breath. “It is why I chose to serve the king at Fornost and why Faethril understood. I honored my father and the blood of the Arthedain.” After a pause, he added, “I always meant to go to Evendim to search the city and the west banks for the treasure and see what we once were. I’ve heard it is beautiful there.”

Anya waited as he released her hand and turned the dragon over, studying it.

“If you want it, it’s yours.” He took her hand and wrapped her fingers around it. “Take Anric and a company of adventurers and find yourself again.” A smile curled his lips. “I would love to see the work you produced sitting on the banks near Tinnundir.”

She clutched the dragon to her chest and nodded. “Do you believe I can handle a journey into the wilds of Evendim?”

Aeron smiled and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I believe in you, Anya. Many people do, and those that do not should take the time to see it in you. Journeys make one strong. And home will always be waiting for you.”

Aeron

She nodded and looked up at him. “You are going back now, aren’t you?”

He looked upon her with understanding. “I am. I am always with you, Anyatka. Do not forget the ones that love you.”

She closed her eyes and the breeze blew her hair all about her face. As it died down, she knew he was gone and she was back in her Staddle and Hal Kemp would be staring at her like she was crazy. Perhaps she was.

She looked over at him. He had not moved and she wondered how much time had passed here in Bree-land while she was with Aeron. Looking down, she saw the same caterpillar making its way across the dead branch.

With a sigh, she stood. She would tell Anric about Morty and hope that he would not take matters into his own hands. His abhorrence for the undead worried her; her feelings for Morty did, too. But she had to deal with both fears. She had to find the strength to stand on her own.

It would take time. Looking south toward where the Great East Road wound its way through the lands, she knew she would go to Evendim and retrieve the last remnants of Aeron left in the world. She would take Anric if he’d have her and perhaps find some new friends along the way. But she made the decision to wait until Esthyr’s wedding; she would not run away. She had more than one purpose in life if she’d accept them.

It was time to find her way.

Through the Red Pass

Anyatka nods and manages a smile. “Yes. It is three. I tend to be rather demanding; I apologize.” She swallows at her mention of her appearance. “Sleep will come,” she says softly. “I will spread word of your flowers. Do take care, Esthyr. He loves you very much.” With that, she curtsies and turns to leave.

Eruviel nods to Anyatka. “Are you ready, oselle?”

Esthyr calls after her, “People tell me that, too. Tell them you aren’t demanding; you just know what you want!”

Anyatka looks ahead and nods to Eruviel. She smiles at Esthyr’s parting words and actually chuckles.

Anya sat astride her horse – her horse, not a rental – and took a deep breath. They rode at a leisurely pace, which suited her just well. She suppressed the feeling that she would never see Bree again as they passed the Yellow Tree and she could not help looking back.

Eruviel rode slightly behind her and caught her backward glance. She offered her friend a small smile and turned to face forward again. One hand gripped the reins and the other held the stems of the five lily-of-the-valleys she bought from Esthyr Mossfoot. She spent the three silver on the five blossoms mere moments before she left the Pony, sneaking out through the kitchens as if to avoid anyone she might know. She had asked Miss Esthyr to take care of herself. She told her she wanted to get to know her better. She asked if she would say hello to her father for her.

Because I may never be able to again.

She pushed the thought from her mind. Focus and determination, Eirikr had said. Instead of a pretty young girl with pure white flowers contrasting her dark attire, she pictured her brother as they rode away from the familiar lands surrounding Bree. He walked them to the edge of the homesteads, his arm in a sling. When they reached the gate, he had looked down on her for the longest time just holding her shoulders as if to keep her there. She had looked down. Still she felt his gaze on her and finally he pulled her into a tight embrace.

“I love you, Anyakta. You are in good hands. Eruviel will bring you home.”

Turning in her saddle, she looked back at Eruviel again. Her “sister,” to whom she owed so much. Who, despite injuries that plagued her far worse than she let on, still rode into certain battle with Anya. Her gaze shifted to Anricwulf. The Bardian was more than welcome in her small company. She couldn’t help but think about the danger each was willing to put themselves in just to try to save her.

Her thoughts drifted north to where Canderas had been called back to duty. Their parting had been bittersweet and brief. He took his duty seriously though he swore he wished he could accompany her to the Circle of Blood. Torlach, despite his promise to see things through to the end, had declined accompanying them. Anya struggled with her thoughts and feelings about his decision. His wife demanded his attentions and family first, and Anya knew that it was the way it should be. Still, she felt a cold fear without him by her side. He had been there from the start, from the first glimpse he had of the bracelet to the release of Aeron at Fornost. They should have pushed back their journey until he could have gone. Without him, would they survive?

Anricwulf rode slightly behind as they left the shelter of the Southern Chetwood. As the road passed through the southernmost tips of the Midgewater Marshes, he said, “Do we have a more straightforward plan this time? Or simply go inside and see what happens?”

Anya sighed. “I hope to learn more as we go.”

However, beside him, Eruviel smirked slightly. “We do, thank the Valar. But I feel it safer not to elaborate till we get there . . . For Anya’s sake more than ours.”

Anricwulf said, “Very well.” He took his spear and began to sharpen it.

Anya turned in the saddle to look back at them. “Eruviel, what?”

Eruviel thought for a moment, then asked, “How well have you been managing her– the spirit?”

Anya ran the tip of her tongue over her lip. “While at the house…it was almost as if she wasn’t there. Eirikr and I spent most of our time catching up, drawing. That sort of thing. But since leaving…” her voice was strained.

Anricwulf spoke up. “Garth Agarwen…that’s where we’re headed, is it not?”

Eruviel looked back to him. “Yes, that is whre we are headed.” She then nodded, as if Anya answered her own question. “I keep that house in the state of an elf haven. I should not be too surprised that she did not emerge there. But I do not want to risk her taking control of you so early in our journey.”

Anya looked down the road. “We should make haste through the Lone-lands,” she says quietly.

Anricwulf fell silent again, still sharpening his spear. After a pause, he said, “I’ve been in those ruins many times…And I agree.”

She knew full well what would happen if Faethril heard the intentions of the party. So far, she had been able to keep things separate and shut her out of her private thoughts. But as they drew closer to Faethril’s homelands, Anya began to feel her presence growing like a shadow in her mind. It was a relief when they passed the Forsaken Inn and broke into a hard gallop because she had to concentrate on staying in the saddle. As she focused on the rhythm of the hoof beats, she could not feel the shadow swallow her whole.

They rode into Ost Guruth three abreast. Three

“Our goal,” said Eruviel as they surveyed the Eglain that lived so beset on all sides by foe, “I will now tell you, is to clear the land past the Rest Pass of the fell spirits. Once the land has been cleansed, Fae should be expelled from Anya.”

Anricwulf scoffed. “All the spirits? For good?”

Eruviel looked to Anya. “If we can,” she said softly.

Anricwulf said, “Then you are a fool. Those lands are as dark as a moonless night. We may drive some of the spirits away for a time, but there is nothing that can cleanse those lands of all the evil.”

Anya suddenly stiffened, her eyes rolling up. She slumped forward a moment over the horse’s muscular neck and and her fists tightened around the reins. “No…” she groaned through clenched teeth She sat up, eyes shooting open and jet black. “No!” Her steed cried out and reared, throwing her backwards. She landed on her back but sprung to her hands and knees.

Anricwulf looked to Anya, unsure of what was going on.

Eruviel shot him a cold look. “We will do what we can . . . and what we must.” Seeing Anya fall she pulled a decent amount of elvish rope from her saddle bag. “Oselle?”

Anya pushed up into a low crouch and took a step back. Her voice hissed out high and clear. “Give it to him – he needs it!”

Eruviel opened her mouth to respond, shut it, then sat up straight. “Aeron is gone, broken one. He has passed to an eternity of peace you deprived him of.” Her expression softened. “You can still join him, Faethril, if you let us help you.”

Anyatka hissed and an inhuman scream came from her. “You lie!” She turned toward the entrance to make a break for it.

Anricwulf rode after her, taking his blunt end of his spear and aiming for a knockout blow.

Eruviel jumped off her horse, pulling the small pouch out from her armour. “You want this?! It is broken, Faethril. We were in Fornost a week ago and set him free. Do you not love him any more? He hopes for your redemption!”

Anyatka screamed loudly and lunged for Eruviel. Unfortunately – or fortunately – Anricwulf landed his blow. She fell forward in a heap.

Anricwulf slid off Fjall. “This should keep her calm until we get to the ruins. I suggest you help me get her onto my goat; I’d like to be inside before she comes to.”

Eruviel sucked in a deep breath, stuffing the pouch back into its hiding place and giving Anric a sad but thankful smile. “That would be ideal.” She moved to take one of Anya’s arms, grimacing slightly as she stooped low.

Anricwulf took Anya’s other arm, and lifted to drape the lass across Fjall’s saddle in the back. Anya was just a sack of unconscious potatoes.

Eruviel took her rope and offered it to Anric. “If you think this would help . . .”

Anricwulf said, “If you wish to restrain her arms and legs you are welcome to. I’ve no intention of lashing anyone to Fjall. She’s a sturdy goat; no fear of her falling off.”

Eruviel noded slightly, her eyes moistening slightly as she bound Anya’s arms and then her feet together.

Keeping a hand on Anya for extra stability, Anricwulf said, “Let’s be off.”

Together, the two started for the Red Pass to put an end to it, once and for all. Anya regained consciousness shortly after entering Garth Agarwen; they loosed her feet but kept her hands tied as her eyes flashed with Faethril’s darkness. They fought their way through the outlying Créoth camps, Anric leading the way. His time spent in the Lone-lands served them well. They searched the ruins and red pools until they found it: the remnants of an alter and a secret ritual still carried out by the evil men.

The battle for the sacred site raged epically until the corruption was put to a stop. When the last Créoth fell, Eruviel gasped for breath, looking to ensure Anya was whole. She saw Anya fall into the darkened water, submerged. Red WatersHer body flailed for a moment and then stilled. Anricwulf knelt before Anya, checking for vitals, as Eruviel dropped to her knees, pulling Anya’s head above the surface.

She looked up to Anric. “Is she . . . .”‘

Below the water, the bracelet around Anya’s wrist glowed hotly.

Anricwulf said, “No…her pulse is weak, but it’s still there…” He noticed the bracelet and lifted Anya’s arm out of the water to have a closer look.

Eruviel swallowed, her eye catching the glint of the bracelet. “Will you hold her up? I will attempt to remove it.”

Anricwulf nodded, sat in the water and hoisted Anya’s body onto his lap.

The bracelet burned brightly, the little blue jewel darkening to black. Anya’s wrist, which never was burned before, started to redden around its edges.

Eruviel reached over, bracing herself, and attempted to undo the clasp. As she tried, Anricwulf took handfuls of water and poured it over Anya’s wrist, trying to cool the bracelet and the burn on her wrist. It didn’t budge; it was if there was no end nor beginning: the bracelet was whole and seamless, grown tightly around Anya’s limb as Faethril had grown in power. The water seemed to help ease the burn though she remained unconscious.

A voice on the wind could barely be heard, masculine and deep. “Ost Guruth…take her home…”

Anricwulf blinked. “I’m not the only one who heard that, right?”

Eruviel pulled back and rose to her feet. “Anric, would you mind carrying her as we leave this place?”

He nodded. “If you’ll help her onto my back.” He knelt down to make it easier to get Anya onto his back.

Eruviel bobbed her head, lifting the soaked woman and placing her arms over Anric’s shoulders. “I will pave the way back.”

Back in Ost Guruth, they took Anya to the metalsmith. He loaned them some sheers and Anric dug out his jeweler’s tools. As they examined the cooled bracelet, they noticed it had loosened: it would turn around her wrist but they were still unable to slip it over her hand.

Anricwulf took out a hand clamp, seeing if he can fit it between the bracelet and her wrist. Suddenly, Anya jerked as if her body was trying to get away from the clamp. Eruviel sat by Anya and pulled the woman onto her lap to better hold her still. Anricwulf fiddled his hand clamp between Anya’s wrist and the bracelet. He gave the clamp a squeeze, trying to work the spot on the bracelet thinner so the shears had less metal to cut through. Once he was satisfied with the thinning process, he worked the shears under the bracelet and squeezed to cut the bracelet off. Eruviel watched the man work, holding Anya down to prevent her from getting hurt.

Anyatka started to thrash and jerk as if the bracelet knew its time had come. A scream was rent from her as Eruviel held her still as best she could. The Elf struggled to hold Anya down, setting her jaw and whispering encouragements in Anya’s ear.

Anricwulf squeezed harder, forcing the shear blades through the metal with brute force. As the bracelet is destroyed, her scream echoed off the broken stone walls. A cold wind rushed through the compound and a figure emerged.

Eruviel’s eyes darted to Anric, then up to the figure suddenly standing beside them.

Faethril emerges and stands before them.
Faethril emerges and stands before them.

Anricwulf looked up at the figure, dropping the shears and reaching for his spear.

Faethril shimmered near Anya’s prone form. She stared at them for a minute, her cool blue eyes wondering.

Eruviel reached out her hand to Anric. “Who . . . Is it you?” she asked, frowning up at the female spectre.

Faethril turned her head to look at Eruviel. “You? Who?”

Anricwulf lowered his spear in order to avoid provoking whomever it is that has appeared in front of them.

Eruviel swallowed a little. “You must be Faethril. I am Eruviel. We’ve — spoken before.”

Anyatka moaned softly.

Faethril nodded. “I am Faethril. We have spoken? Who are you?” Her eyes roamed to each of them.

Eruviel brushed her hand softly over Anya’s forehead that still rested in her lap. “I am the elf Eruviel Aranduin. The gentleman is Anricwulf, and the lady you just emerged from is Anyatka Tenorbrook.” She hesitated before continuing. “We were friends of your husband’s. He sent us to see to your well-being.” She watched Faethril carefully.

Faethril looked around. “You know Aeron? Howso…did you serve at Fornost with him?” She noted Anya’s condition. “Is she all right?”

Anricwulf looked to the elf, wondering how much they should speak of, and how much of the truth they should bring up.

Eruviel sighed sadly. “I did not, though I suppose my brother did.” She paused before continuing on more confidently. “You were within her, Faethril. This year is far past your time. The last time I saw Aeron, he was a shade as you are, rising from Anya, telling us how to . . . how to save the two of you.” She shrugged her shoulders at Anric. She added, “He wanted us to save you so that you could join him, my friend.”

Anricwulf nodded enthusiastically, deciding not to speak to avoid saying the wrong thing.

Faethril ‘s eyes widened and she looked around her again as if seeing for the first time. “Sa-save me…join him…he…he’s dead?” She shade began to solidify and her blue eyes started to blacken. “No…no, it cannot be…”

Eruviel carefully set Anya’s head down to the ground and stood, offering a kind hand and sad look to the woman. “Why are you so filled with fear and anger? He was . . and is a brave man who wants the best for you. My friend, there is a far better place beyond us where you will never be parted. You need only accept that beautiful truth. Even I envy men their eternity with Iluvatar.”

Faethril shook her head as she backs away from Eruviel. “No…those are lies…no one knows…where is it…it will save him…” Her voice took on a feral tone and her hands clenched into claws. “No…he needs it…”

Anricwulf said, “Faethril…do not believe the darkness. Your beloved has found peace, and wishes for you to find the same peace. Let the sadness leave you, and he will guide you to happiness…”

Eruviel turned her head so that Faethril can see the still-red claw marks that showed along her jaw. “You are better than this, mellon. You are stronger than to give into despair.”

Faethril continued to shake her head. She doubled upon herself, holding her head. “No! The necklace will save him! It will unite with the bangle and save him!” She reached for her wrist and screamed when the bracelet was not there. “Where is it?!”

Anricwulf looked to Eruviel, unsure of what necklace she speaks of.

Eruviel turned and nodded to Anric, mouthing “the bracelet” to him as she reached a hand beneath her armour to once again pull out the pouch, undoing the leather ties. At her feet, Anyatka looked pale in the moonlight.

Anricwulf slipped Eruviel the bracelet as stealthy as he could manage.

Eruviel looked up in attempt to meet Faethril’s eyes. “Did you love him so little as to think binding him to darkness would help? You should have trusted Aeron, my lost friend.” She carefully dropped the broken necklace into her other palm.

Faethril turned to Eruviel. “YOU!” More corporeal now than ghost, she lunged toward Eruviel to reclaim her tokens. Eruviel braced herself, a ruined token in each hand. Anricwulf moved forward, shield up to try and keep the spectre away from Eruviel. The dead woman lashed out at Anricwulf with her right hand to knock him away.

Anricwulf took the hit with his shield, but was ultimately knocked to the ground.

Eruviel ‘s eyes darted to the molten metal by the forge. “Faethril, please, stop this!”

Faethril leaped to land on Anric as her focus was taken by his block attempt.

Anricwulf groaned, still stunned by the power the spectre had behind her attacks, unable to defend himself.

Eruviel lunged forward, knocking Faethril off of Anric. Faethril was thrown backward from the impact. She landed hard on the ground with an oof. Raising her fist, she brought it up toward Eruviel’s head. Eruviel took the punch across the face, stumbling back but able to keep her footing.

Anyatka slowly rolled to her side, moaning.

Faethril lept to her feet and moved to rugby tackle the Elf. “Give them to me!”

Anricwulf staggered to his feet, trying to determine if attacking is a good idea.

Eruviel smoothly dodged to the side, tripping Faethril. Dodging away she stopped beside the vat of molten metal. “Faethril, they are both broken! You are a hundred years too late!”

Anyatka pushed herself to her feet, groaning. “What is happening?” she muttered.

Eruviel extended an arm to Anya, the broken end of the bracelet peeking out of her fist. “Oselle, stay back!”

Faethril fell into a heap, dust flying up all around her. She looked up at Eruviel and screamed incoherently, an unnatural sound, as she reached in vain for the jewelry.

Anyatka stepped back, still unfocused and looking startled.

Eruviel jerked her head, motioning for Anric to take the jewelry. “If she does not stop, drop them both into the vat.” She handed him the tokens and began to step towards Faethril.

Anricwulf nodded, took the jewelry and stood by the vat of molten metal.

Faethril shouted, “No!” and attempted to climb to her feet again. She would not stop unless they are joined or destroyed.

Anricwulf noticed the movement and went to drop the jewelry into the vat.

Faethril gained her feet and launched herself toward Anricwulf. She slammed into him, knocking the gems from his hand. He lost his grip on the pieces of jewelry and Faethril snatched the gems as they tumbled toward the vat.

Anya called out, “Anric!”

Anricwulf stumbled back. Acting quickly, he screamed ”MOVE!” and kicked the vat of molten metal at Faethril.

Eruviel whirled around and lept away just in time.

Faethril screamed, this time in pain, as the magma and miasma of the molten metal covered her. The jewelry was coated in the hot plasma. They were destroyed, melting beneath the heat, and Faethril lost substance. As the gems in each piece burst, her face took on a serenity and then, she was gone. In that moment, Anya fell to her knees as if struck.

Anricwulf scampered to his feet to avoid any of the molten metal he just splashed at the spectre. Regaining his composure and dusting himself off, he nodded satisfied at the results.

Eruviel turned to shield Anya in case there were to be any sparks or metal flung their way. “Anya!” She cried out before glancing back to make sure Anric was alright.

Anricwulf said, “Well, that worked out well.”

Anyatka had fallen forward to her hands and stared at the dirt. “They’re…she’s gone.”

Eruviel nodded to the man, “That was quick thinking on your part, mellon. I am in your debt.” She then placed a hand softly on Anya’s back. “How do you feel, oselle?”

Anyatka looked up at her. Her gaze slowly shifted to Anricwulf. “I…I feel so light.” She curled her legs beneath herself to sit. Rubbing her hands to dust them off, she addded, “Are you two all right?”

Anricwulf cracked his neck. “I may be a lousy shot with a bow, but I can throw or kick anything towards a target.”

Eruviel let out a sigh of relief. “That was an expert kick, Anric.” Smiling down at Anya, she shook her head. “I am unscathed, Anyatka.”

Anricwulf said, “Always happy to help.”

Anyatka nodded in relief. She, on the other hand, felt a sharp pain down her back and her cloak was ripped. She winced and slowly climbed to her feet, mud clinging to her clothes.

Anricwulf said, “So…I suppose our quest is done then?” He moved towards the group, the metal sufficiently cooled to walk over.

Eruviel nodded to the man. “I do believe so . . .” her voice trails off as she sees Anya wince. “What is it?”

Anyatka nodded to Anric. “I think so…” She looked at Eruviel and shook her head. “It’s nothing. A blade caught me, but I am fine.”

Eruviel frowned rather darkly. “What blade — where are you hurt.” She then smirked. “You do not let me off the hook so easily when I am injured.”

Anricwulf said, “I’ll go get some help.” He headed toward the infirmary to seek a healer.

Anyatka nodded and said, “One of the men…I shall be fine.”

Eruviel did not look convinced. “We will find you a healer. And I want to know when you got the wound. Was it when we were beyond the Red Pass?”

Anyatka nodded. “I didn’t see it coming and it just caught my back.”

As the healers of Ost Guruth worked to sew Anya’s back shut, Eruviel sat beside her, holding her hand. Anric stood watch with the guard for a long time that night, and for the first time in an age, Anya slept peacefully. In her bag, the delicate bell flowers waited. Despite their delicateness, their tiny blossoms survived.

Fornost: Free (part 2)

Jarn-olog Warrior says, ”Ow.”

Scrapes and Bruises

Anya paused only to wipe the blood from her face. Her entire body ached from the perpetual tension stretching her senses beyond all limits. Aeron kept a regular mantra reminding her to breathe and move. He took over instinctually whenever an enemy came too close wielding her staff with a cold efficiency that surprised her.

“I thought you were a swordsman,” she thought.

When you grow up bashing your friends with sticks, you pick up a thing or two. 

“Fair enough,” she told him, her mind refocusing on a small pale slave rushing toward her with fists raised. The staff whirled around her body in a figure eight propelled by both hands and she thrust suddenly connecting with its head with a loud crack. Her right wrist twisted as it served as the pivot for the weapon, her left steadying the pole’s impact. “You’re right-handed.”

And you are left.

“Does it make it awkward?”

No. You’re not fighting me. Just keep relaxed and let me work, Anya. Find a blade.

She looked around and saw a jagged orc scimitar lying a few feet from its fallen owner. Sprinting, she rushed for it. A large lieutenant spotted her and began thundering over to intercept. Behind it, Torlach severed the head of his adversary, the blood spray from his sword flecking across his face. As he turned, he caught the movement of the rushing orc and yelled, “Anya!” as he started for her.

Hold and relax. Let it flow.

She tried.

As the lieutenant charged, she sank low to take up the sword in her right hand. She turned quickly and sank into a crouch balanced evenly on the balls of her feet. Her sword she held poised at the ready. Her fingers flexed around the staff and she focused on the gigantic orc. Instinct – or Aeron – took over. She parried the orc’s reckless attack with the staff and as it was knocked from her grasp, she released it, throwing the orc off balance and creating an opening. Aeron did not hesitate: the blade slashed deeply across its leg and then its back. Its cry echoed off the outer walls of Barad Narthan and filled the sky. The crows answered.

Torlach ground to a halt as the lieutenant fell, the last of the small band blocking entrance to the tower. True to form, he merely stared at her for a moment before turning to look for the Elf.

Panting slightly from the fight, Eruviel came up to them and looked up at the tower. They exchanged glances and walked through the double doors three abreast.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Bound

The ground was littered with bones. The three gazed at the courtyard in silence for several minutes before Anya said, “We cannot let these monsters hold my brothers.”

Torlach answered, “We go on, then.”

Eruviel glanced to Anya and nodded solemnly. She shivered.

Anya returned her nod. “Shall we?” She stepped forward.

FreedomShades rose randomly around them as they passed. They called out to the living in thin voices with outstretched hands. “I am free…” Anya felt her blood freeze as one rose within inches of her. Its bluish hand grasped at her arm as it hissed, “At lassst…” She felt a jolt in her heart: Aeron gasped.

My shield-brothers. What is this curse? Faethril surely did not cause this.

“No,” she thought as they moved deeper into the courtyard. “I do not think she could have caused this. And why were you not bound here?”

Faethril’s spell bound me to the heirloom, and I did not die here. 

“When the necklace broke, why weren’t you released? Why did you bind to me?”

Perhaps the sorcery here holds me to these lands. We must end it, Anya. We must give them rest, even if it is for a short respite. 

“We will, Aeron. I promise.” She followed along behind Torlach and Eruviel as they wove their way closer to the the highest tower overlooking the keep. “You will find rest.”

Another voice. Hissing in her mind. Give it back…he needssss it…he musssst have it…

“Aeron?!”

Fae. I have sensed her for some time now. She is getting stronger.

“When we put an end to this, will she be released, too?”

No. She was not a soldier here. She would not be bound by whatever foul wraith holds the souls of my brothers in arms.

“So it will not end here.”

No. It will not. My instinct tells me to begin where it began: Rhudaur. While I and my brothers chose to attempt peace, Angmar had its hold on the lands. Faethril could easily have fallen beneath the influence of that dark sorcery if it meant a chance at saving me. Where did you find her bracelet?

“Just south of a land they called the Circle of Blood.”

Circle of Blood. Fitting. You must go, there, Anya, to be rid of her. I-I don’t know if she can be saved.

“We will do everything we can, Aeron. She needs you. You need her.” Her throat tightened as she thought of Canderas, wounded and resting back at camp. He had found his way to them after falling from a cliff near Trestlebridge, his Rohirric steed bearing him with the utmost speed. He found them in the lower tiers of Fornost, directed by Nillariel who stayed behind at the Free People’s camp to assist the wounded there. Only after they returned for the evening did he show signs of a leg injury and allow Nillariel to cleanse the abrasions from his fall. Anya had insisted they let him sleep and recover so they left him early in the morning near the campfires. The sight of him limping caused her so much concern, all irritation at his unexplained disappearance vanished. “We will reunite you.”

Anya, you are more important now. You focus on you. Your family here. They love you.

She looked ahead at Eruviel and Torlach as they cut through another group of orcs. Her family. She needed to say something to them, anything, to express how grateful she was to have them by her side, but the words seemed small as they protected her with their lives. Elf and Man worked exceedingly well together as they learned each other’s styles and started to play to each other’s strengths. Eruviel looked over her shoulder at her to check to see if she was whole. Torlach flung the blood from his blade with a flick of his wrists.

Anya walked forward and looked at them with gratitude. Together, her family crossed into a yard surrounded by a circular wall and looked upon an idol to the Enemy. Without a word, Torlach approached it and rent it with a single blow of his sword. As it collapsed around his feet, a deep, jagged voice rang out behind them and the doors to the yard slammed shut.They burn

“It seems you have taken down one of my brethren. Do you think to goad me into battle with your meagre show of strength? It is true, however, that you are trespassing on Angmar. For that, I think we will have a bit of fun. Boys, get them!”

The looming Orc leaped down from the wall leading a large group of his comrades. Anya, Eruviel, and Torlach steeled themselves and raised their weapons as one.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Good-bye, my Brodhir ((edited from chat log))

Wargs ReignedWargs reigned in Minas Erain. Aeron looked on the highest tower of the keep and mourned for his past.

As he gazed through Anya’s eyes, he said, “Here. Minas Erain. So different now.”

“I am sure,” said Torlach. “Let us cleanse it.”

They fought their way up each level until they reached the summit. There, three golden braziers sat dormant and the foul spirit clad in armour greeted them with scorn.

As they stood before Remmenaeg, Eruviel glanced to Anya. “Aeron . . are you two doing alright?”

Anya nodded curtly. “We kill it, I am free.”

Torlach twirled his bastard sword and said, “Stay back, then.”

Anya looked over at Eruviel. “She has something to tell you by the way. But that is for later.”

Eruviel smiled slightly, readying an arrow.

They charged.Fell Spirits

Cleansing LightAnya fell to the ground as she lit the last brazier, flooding the balcony with light. When the armour of Remmenaeg finally fell to the stone tiles, Eruviel rushed over to Anyatka. “Oselle . . . Anyatka?!”

Torlach said, “Is this done, then?” He raised his brows slightly, lowering his blooded blade. He still stomped the wraith’s helmet, leaving it useless, before stepping over and remaining silent.

Eruviel shook her head, unsure. They carried her unconscious form back down the long road to the Free People’s camp and laid her down gently on the dead grass. Her body seemed to shimmer like the air on a hot summer’s day. As she lay prone, a spirit rose from her: the image of a man in his late twenties with dark hair and blue eyes.

Eruviel watched the spectre, her chest still heaving from the last battle. “You are Aeron?”

The form nodded. “Yes, I am.” He looked down at Anya and frowned. “I am free, but I fear her journey is not over.”You are Aeron?

Torlach rolled his eyes, leaning on his sword like a staff. “Of course it isn’t.”

Eruviel frowned slightly but after a moment her eyes widened. “You mean the bracelet?”

Aeron nodded. “Faethril is still there. I could feel her, towards the end. She is not herself. While I accept my fate and existed with Anya the best I could, I wished her no harm. My presence calmed her. Fae – ” he sighed, a gust of chill wind flowing through the camp. “Fae would kill her if it meant rejoining me. She does not understand, not in her present state. She must be stopped.”

Torlach sighed, rubbing his forehead with a sweaty palm. “And how are we to do this, pray tell? I see no instruction book.” He is obviously annoyed, and fairly eager to leave Fornost.

Eruviel swallowed but noded to Aeron. “I see.” She glanced at Torlach before turning back to the spirit. “Heruamin?”

Tilting his head, he observed Torlach. “Yes. The spirits will rise again. But you are safe at present.” He turned to address them both. “Anya spoke of my homeland. How it has grown wild and corrupt. How she found the bracelet near what they call the Circle of Blood.”

Eruviel brushed a small wave of stray strands of hair out of her eyes. “Yes, she mentioned it.”

Torlach ‘hmph’ed, frowning. He wiped both black and red blood from his blade, before sheathing it over his back. He listened silently, committing detail to memory.

Aeron continued, “You must go there. Cleanse the land, release the spirits held by the corruption, just as you did here. The purge will set Fae free, or destroy her.” Pain flashed across his face for a moment. “Either way, Anya will be free of her.”

Eruviel studied the shimmering face for a moment. “Is there any guarantee that Anyatka will survive being rid of Fae?”

Aeron’s ruggedly handsome face turned to Anya. He knelt behind her and moved his hand as if to brush the hair from her face. The strands moved slightly as if a breath of wind stirred them. “No. I cannot guarantee anything except Faethril will be gone. I pray that her hold on Anya is not strong enough to take her with her when she’s vanquished. But I cannot promise.”

Eruviel ‘s eyes darkened but she bobbed her head, knowing that part was out of her hands. “We . . .” she glanced to Torlach, “will see it done, Astalder. You have my eternal thanks. I — I know Anya and I will miss you once you depart.”

A small smile formed on his lips. “I will miss you as well.” He stood and walked to stand before her. “She loves you very much, though she’s bad at saying it. Piss poor, precisely.”

Eruviel bowed deeply before Aeron, a warm smile lighting her face. “It is enough to hear it from you, my friend.”Take care of her, sister.

He grinned and tapped his temple. “I know more of what she should tell you, but I will let her work on that. Ask her about her night before we left, why don’t you? When she didn’t come home?” He chuckled and moved as if to embrace Eruviel. He stopped himself and bowed deeply to her instead. “Take care of her, sister.”

Torlach watched quietly, near expressionless, hands clasped behind his back. He nodded to Aeron, as a form of respect.

Eruviel shifted, her smile melting into a grin. “I will remember. I would embrace you as I once did my brothers. But I will simply pray that Iluvitar shine brightly upon you as you go to join him, toron.”

He nodded and looked over to Torlach. “You, sir. She does not know why you protect her, but I am grateful that you do. See her through to the end?”

Torlach nodded again. “I will.” He went silent, not figuring anything else needs saying.

After emerging from a bedroll, Canderas yawned after seemingly oversleeping and hobbled on a seemingly better leg but still hindered. He  looked to his companions and raised a brow…he looked to Anya with dire concern and looked to Torlach and Eruviel to see what is going on.

Aeron turned to Canderas and started to laugh. The sound echoed off the stone walls of the makeshift keep. “And you,” the spirit said. “Ladies first.”

Eruviel nearly choked on a laugh.

Canderas raised a brow. ” So this is what I get for oversleeping.”

Torlach did not laugh, his limited sense of humour not finding the jest.

Canderas looked to Aeron and the others with slight astonishment. He looked upon Anya’s prone form not knowing how to react.

Anya stirred, moaning. She blinked several times as she rolled to her back. Aeron moved to kneel beside her and said softly, “It is over.”

She blinked up at him again and gasped. “You.”

He noded. “Fae is still inside you. But your friends will take care of you now.”

Canderas placed one hand on his sword hilt uncomfortable with all of this and very uneasy being injured.

Eruviel watched Anya and Aeron as her smile quickly faded into a once-more serious expression.

Anya nodded. “You’re going?”

He mirrored it. “I will see you again, someday,” he said hopefully. “Take care of yourself, Little Anya. And not just because you bear my wife.” He stood and gazed down at her as he slowly started to fade. “Good-bye. Systir.”

AeronAnyatka struggled to sit up and said, “Good-bye, brodhir!” She watched the spectre dissipate and then closed her eyes.

Canderas watched as the conversation came to a close. He looked to Anya with concern and bewilderment.

Eruviel lowered her head in respect as the man’s spirit vanished. Glancing to the two men she knelt beside Anyatka. “Oselle?” she asked softly.

Anya threw her arms around Eruviel and started to cry. “Why am I so sad that he’s gone?”

Torlach turned and moved to lean on a wall, closing his eyes slowly. He seemed to relax slightly, fairly tired from the fighting.

Canderas looked to Anya sadly as she began to release her tears. He eased his grip off his sword hilt and looked to Eruviel and Anya with confusion as he was sleeping through the events.

Eruviel froze for a second as Anya began to cry before wrapping her arms around the young woman. “I will miss him as well, oselle. But he is free now. You should rejoice for him.” She gently caressed Anya’s head as she glanced over to Canderas.

Anya cried for a few moments more before pulling back and nodding. As she did, she said, “Are you hurt? And Torlach?” She looked over at Torlach. He shook his head to Anyatka, only having a few cuts and bruises. She looked back to Eruviel.

Eruviel smiled softly. “I am mostly unscathed. Nothing that will not heal. You are not injured, are you Anya?”

Canderas took a step toward Anya and then stoped himself…he then stopped and looked amongst the ruins of Fornost and the folk of the Free People’s Camp. “So everyone is alright then? All is well with the spirits?”

Anyatka swallowed and shook her head. “I am all right.” She turned to look at Canderas and noted his bewilderment. She held out her hand and beckoned him over.

Canderas struggled to sit down next to Anya and took a long breath when he sat beside her. ” That will be an interesting story for around a Campfire.” Canderas looked to Anya with feigned joking as his masked emotion was clearly that of concern.

Anyatka chuckled and took his hand. “Yes. It will be.” She squeezed his hand and asked, “How are you? Is your leg healing properly?” 

Canderas nodded to Anya as he looked her over. He made note of her freckled cheeks and met her eyes. He assessed if she was well. He grasped her hand comfortably in his as he looked relieved when she seemed well.

Anya was indeed well, but exhausted and disoriented without Aeron’s calm presence. She looked between her companions, a grateful appreciation for each on her face. She threaded her fingers through his and looked to the others. “Shall we rest a night and then head back to Trestlebridge? I would see how Eirikr is doing.” 

Eruviel looked back over her shoulder to Torlach. Studying him for a moment, she tilted her head towards him respectfully before looking back to Anya.

Canderas looked to Anya and shrugs..” Either would do…I feel well rested.”

Anyatka smiled to him. “You’ve been asleep most of the day, dear.”

Canderas shrugged. “Falling hundreds of feet into river, then being dragged in the current is quite a beating.” In fact, he  looked exhausted yet still from his journey to Fornost that involved him being separated and weary half of the way.

Eruviel furrows her brow at Canderas. “It is incredible you survived, heruamin.”

Anya leaned over against Canderas and closed her eyes. “I am so glad that you are okay,” she said and nodded in agreement with Eruviel.

Canderas nodded to Eruviel. “I am glad we are all here before each other alive and well…I would not have it any other way.” He looked to Torlach and firmly grasped Anya’s hand in his own. “Tis good to be with friendly company.”

Eruviel said, “Indeed it is, though our journey is not yet complete.”

Canderas nodded. “Where does our road take us next then?”

Anyatka looked at Eruviel without surprise. “I had a feeling it was not. Aeron was released, but Fae?”

Eruviel shook her head solemnly. “We will need to journey to the Blood Circle and cleanse the land to free Anya of Fae . . . though she — Faethril will most likely put up a fight.”

Canderas said, “Well let us be done with it then! And rid of her!” He grinned a bit looking between them all and shrugged. “We mustn’t let this spirit linger any longer within our friend.”

Eruviel’s eyes flickered sadly. “Aeron could not promise that you would survive, oselle,” she said quietly to Anya. “On this last leg you will need to be stronger than ever.”

Anya closed her eyes and turned her face into Canderas’s sleeve. She sighed heavily and nodded. “But we should not put this one off, should we? Fae is no Aeron. I-I can’t control her.” She looked out at her. “She remained hidden because Aeron kept her in check.”

Eruviel sighed heavily, raising her head to meet Anya’s gaze. “I agree. We should not tarry.”

“Then tomorrow, I say we leave to return to Trestlebridge, gather Eiri, and make it back to Bree. We take a week to re-provision and…” she looked at the others to see if they had any objections.

Eruviel nodded. “We should not delay longer than that, though. And I insist you not be left alone. Fae would willingly kill you, oselle.” She then looked to Canderas and added, “I hope you intend to come with. One of us will need to be present, ready to restrain Anya if necessary if indeed Faethril become violent.”

Canderas said, “I will be there indeed. I will not slow ye down despite my leg either… my steed will carry me most the way.”

Eruviel bowed her head, looking relieved. “I am grateful to you. Hopefully there is a healer in Bree that can speed the healing process.”

Canderas nodded.

Anyatka looked up from Canderas’s shoulder. “Is Cwen still in town?” she asked quietly.

Eruviel skewed her mouth. “I hope so.” She then chuckled lightly. “If not I will make haste to fetch her!”

Anyatka chuckled as well. “She lives in the Shire, right? About a day’s ride away?”

Eruviel nodded. “She does.”

Anyatka yawned. “Then if she’s left, we should find her. To look over all of you.” She smiled sleepily at them each in turn.

Canderas smiled and nodded in agreement to Anya. He looked to the Guards to take note of their progress so near to Fornost.

Eruviel nodded in agreement, wincing slightly as she shifted her sitting position.

Anyatka frowned. “You are hurt worse than you let on, systir.”

Eruviel smiled slightly to Anya. “Am I not always discreet about my wounds? But honestly. It is nothing that can’t wait for the lady Cwen.”

Canderas stood as his leg began to tighten from being on the ground. He slid his fingers from Anya’s and he walked around to stretch. He sighed.

Anyatka nodded and released Can reluctantly. “We should to bed soon.” She watched him stretch with a smile.

Eruviel rose slowly and carefully. “I will return in a moment. I must speak with one of the fighters here, then we should indeed get some much needed rest.”

Anyatka nodded and climbed to her feet herself. She wandered over by the fire and to sit on a bedroll.

Canderas grabbed Anya before she managed to sit.

Anyatka paused and looked at Canderas. “What is it, dyrr?”

Canderas kissed her gently on the lips before offering her a pleased smile and expression. “Rest well m’lady. I am glad ye’ are well. And will try not to fall into any rivers on the way to the Red Pools in the Lone-Lands.”

Anyatka chuckled softly and nodded saying quietly, “Lay near me?”

Canderas answered, “Aye, I will remain with ye this night, and any other you choose to have me at your side when the road and wilds do not demand otherwise. For I have grown quite fond of being there. “

Eruviel whistled for her horse and rummaged through her saddle bag, retrieving a small package wrapped in a large leaf. She pulled out a wafer of lembas and broke it into four pieces as she carried it over to Anya and Canderas. “Ignore my presence, but here, this will tide you both over till we return home.” She handed each of them a piece, smiling slightly at their exchange.

Canderas smiled widely in thanks as he was familiar with lembas. He took a bite and rubbed his already growling belly. Anya looked down at the way-bread and blinked in surprise. “Eruviel,” she said only as she took it. 

Eruviel offered the third piece out to Torlach. He ambled over and sat down slowly by the fire. He watched each of them silently, chewing idly on the stem of his unlit pipe. To Eruviel, he raised a hand, politely declining.

Canderas said, “Don’t suppose they will share that creature on the spit there.”  He chuckled and looked around to the folk of the Free Peoples camp, grinning widely to the Took by the tent.

Anyatka pointed at his lembas. “You shouldn’t need to eat anything else of you have the Elvish way-bread,” she said before taking a bite of her own.

Canderas nodded rubbing his belly feeling somehow cheated of a juicy meal from the bite of lembas that indeed made him full.

Eruviel nodded to Torlach and gave the third piece to the hobbit attending the camp. Laughing quietly at Canderas she said, “Rest well, mellyn.” She bowed and walked over to the corner where the walls meet and sat, leaning back with a small sigh.

Anyatka curtsied to Eruviel before settling down on the bedroll at last. She looked up at Canderas with a smile. He  sat next to her and wrapped his arms around her in a comfortable manner as to help ease her to sleep.

Torlach glanced at the two on the bedroll, raising a brow, before politely looking the other way.

Anyatka leaned against him and closed her eyes. She soon eased into a deep sleep.

Click here for Eruviel’s account of the end of their journey to Fornost.

Fornost (part 1)

Stolen Moments

In his bed at his family estate, Canderas lay beside her sleeping soundly. A small grin of contentment even now curled his lip. She studied his face in the dying firelight: smooth, chiseled features except the scar on the right side, pale lashes resting on his cheeks. His mouth. He had a lovely mouth. So often it showered her with kisses and left her pulse racing.

Quietly so as to not disturb him, Anya rolled from her side to her back and stared at the ceiling. The deep, dull ache low in her belly did not subside as her naked flesh pressed against his. She would have thought that she’d feel more embarrassed being nude with a man, but Canderas looked upon her as a beggar would a Dwarven treasure trove. He made her feel glamorous.

Still, glamor did not ease the feeling of anxious frustration deep in her core. It did little to fill the hallow cavern she felt growing inside her each day. Her hand moved to squeeze her breast; she blushed. The heat nearly burned the fingers she raised to her cheek. Proper ladies did not do such things, her mother’s scolding voice rang out in her head. She sighed. Like she needed more voices in her head.

She looked over at Canderas. She should be satisfied. She had made him happy – a trembling, shaking mess happy – and that should be good enough. A woman’s place was making her husband happy, her mother said when the Merchants’ Guild Master’s son first took an interest in her. Not to worry about her own needs, wants, or desires, but to fulfill her husband’s to the best of her ability. Her mother would have frowned at her current situation, though that mattered little to Anya. Things were different now. She needed no husband, but a lover? A lover she could enjoy and her duty was to please him.

And his duty should be to please you.

Her brow creased and she thought for a long minute. Without speaking aloud, she said, “But he will not unless I please him first. It is how it should be.”

Nonsense. There were nights when all I did was please Fae. It was enough to make her sigh. And moan. And scream.

“Why – why would you tell me this, Aeron?”

Because you need to know. You need to see all relationships are not like your mother and your father’s. They are not like what you think that other Man has with his lovers. There are some that are strong and good where duties – and love – are shared equally.

“But a man would leave a woman who demands from him. There are so many more he could go to that would not.”

Little Anya, that is not so. Not if the man is there for the right reasons.

She continued to gaze at Canderas as he slept. “Is he here for the right reasons?”

I do not know, Anya. I only know what you know and see what you see.

She suddenly blushed and gasped aloud.

“Oh, by Bard’s arrow, I am so sorry.”

I, um, respectfully closed my eyes. And sang. Loudly. To myself.

“Did, um, it work?”

Well enough.

“I am so embarrassed.”

He laughed, a deep, comforting sound. You shouldn’t be. It’s a natural thing.

“This seems unlike you. You always seem so stuffy.”

When I have to be. But we share a mind, Anya. It isn’t like we can keep much from one another.

“This is true.” Her face flushed deeper. “I am worried about him. He is a bit headstrong and though he’s seen battle, I am not sure about what we will face.” She studied the scarring on his face. “Was Fae your first?”

No. But she was my last.

“That is what is important, isn’t it?”

She could picture him nodding. I think so. Do not fear tomorrow, Anya. Live in the moment, and not in the past nor the future. 

A smile crept up on her. She rested her hand on Canderas’s bare chest and kissed his shoulder.

“And right now, the moment is good.”

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

Fallen

Eirikr lay staring at the ceiling of the small room in Trestlebridge. His shoulder burned from the Orc’s blade and he was left with nothing but his thoughts. He knew with his injury he would only be a burden to the others, but he cursed his fortunes. His sister needed him, and he had failed to see the Orc that surprised him.

He thought on the moment that it happened: the Orc leapt from the cover of some debris and was on him before he could blink. The dagger plunged into his shoulder and missed his vital organs and arteries by pure luck. One of his companions delivered an arrow to the beast’s eye. Canderas.

The young man saved his life, no doubt. His weapons had been pinned beneath him and with his injury, his bow was practically useless anyway. The Elf had mended it as best she could, and the healer in town saw to stitches and further treatment, but Canderas had been the one to react first and give him the body that could be healed.

Though little good it does me now, he thought dryly. He reached over to press his fingers against the bandage covering the wound. He winced and tried to wiggle the fingers on his injured side. They responded weakly and he tried to suppress the rising panic gathering in his chest.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Eirikr?” Anya’s voice came through the thin wood and the door opened a crack. “Are you awake?”

“Yes,” he answered and struggled to sit up with a smile. He hoped his face concealed his pain.

“Eiri, I am so sorry,” she said as she came into the room and closed the door behind her. “We never should have come here.”

He grunted and waved his good hand dismissively. “Nonsense, Anyatka. We must get you well again. It was my own fault; I did not see the brute.”

Anya sat on the edge of the bed carefully. “Will you be all right?”

Nodding, he assured her, “Of course. It will mend and everything will be fine. I only worry about you, but I think you are in capable hands.” He took hers in his own. “They will fight to protect you, my systir. I know it.”

Her face fell some and she said softly, “Canderas is missing.”

The corner of his mouth twitched and he asked, “What do you mean?”

She answered in a quavering voice. “Mister Torlach believes he went to scout ahead, but there has been no sign of him since you were injured. I fear something terrible has happened.”

Eirikr squeezed her hand to reassure her. “Anya, I am sure he is fine. Perhaps he camped somewhere along the road. Have faith that things will be okay.”

“How can I? Already you have been hurt. Canderas gone. I fear our company is falling apart at the seams, brodhir.”

He leaned forward and pressed his forehead against hers. “As long as you stand, systir, your friends will stand with you. He will return. I will heal. My heart goes where I cannot. I am with you, little whelp. Always.”

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

The Fields of Fornost ((edited from chat logs))

Anya sat uneasily in a saddle on most occasions, but the fields themselves seemed to ooze with a nervous chill. As Torlach and Nillariel led the way, she had only concerned herself with keeping them in sight. Eruviel rode close by, and the absence of Canderas and Eirikr hung over her like a cloud.

As they approached a crossing, suddenly Anya stopped. She looked up at the signpost, eyes dark. “This place…”

Just ahead, Torlach reined in his steed and said, “Is something wrong?”

Eruviel pulled her horse up beside Anya. “What do you remember?”

Crossroads in the Fields of FornostAnyatka reached out to touch the wood. “They’ve replaced it…it was here we were separated. Here we lost the rest of the company.” Her voice was calm, confident. And incredibly sad.

Torlach listened silently, frowning, and glancing about. He drew his cloak about him at a chill wind, looking almost afraid.

Eruviel pursed her lips, glancing over to Nillariel and Torlach.

Nillariel drew her blade, carrying it on her side. She looked over, “This place… it’s a-absent of light. There’s n-nothing here. It’s like t-the whole place is d-dead.”

Torlach replied, “The whole place is dead…”

Anyatka pressed her lips together as she rubbed her eyes. They opened and were fully black. “We were pressed south while the main body fled west. It was in Bree-land that I fell. But the spell was cast to the North.”

Eruviel’s eyes returned from looking into the distance, sucking in as she remembers to breathe.

Anyatka continued, “Dead is not that bad of a place, my friends. I would return.” She dug her heels into the steed’s sides to spur it into a gallop.

Nillariel blinked, “W-what’s… where’s she going?”

Torlach followed, silent.

They pressed onward until dead trees gave way to crumbling walls and the evidence of Orc and warg. Blockades lined the untended path to the gate. When they reached the main entrance to the city, a wall of wood and spikes halted their advance.

The Norbury Gates

Anyatka’s blackened eyes looked up. “What has happened here? Has no one reclaimed it after all this time?”

Torlach said, “It was abandoned. The North Kingdom fell long ago.”

Nillariel looked around, “Oh… s-someone may have reclaimed it. I fear our luck i-is not that good.”

Anyatka grunted as she looked around. From within her, Aeron saw what became of his home so many years ago. “I was there. I watched it happen.” She sat for a long moment, deep in Aeron’s thoughts.

Seeing Anya pause, Torlach reluctantly led on at a slower pace.

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

To Battle

There were trolls in the dungeons. And in the main halls. And in the streets. Large, hulking trolls.

The battle raged on from the moment they stepped foot inside the city gates. As they gained access to the higher tiers of the city, the enemies grew stronger. Goblins and orcs. Wargs. And now trolls.  Anya held toward the back as best she could, though on this second day in the city, she grew weary and she found herself lagging. Torlach pressed on relentlessly, his sword slashing through their enemies. Eruviel’s arrows flew straight and true. But the trolls.

Anya yelled as one of the hulking beasts charged at her. Eruviel turned and loosed a series of arrows in quick succession. The troll staggered but kept its feet. With blood running down her cheek, Anya stood her ground with her staff in her hand, but Eruviel knew even Aeron’s presence could not save her from a direct assault from a fully armoured troll. Without hesitation, she lept to stop its path.

The troll roared angrily and swept its gigantic mace at the Elf. With the grace of the Eldar, she dodged and lept, blade raised. With a yell, she slashed its throat on her foreswing and drove her blade home deep in its chest on the follow through. Its scream rent the air and it shook dislodging Eruviel and flinging her to the ground. Quickly, she was on her feet to jump back from the troll’s attack. Too late, it struck her side and sent her flying. The troll stumbled after her, but fell to its knees as the black blood streamed with each beat of its tainted heart.

As it crashed to the ground, Anya rushed to Eruviel’s side and knelt beside her. “Are you all right?” Aeron’s calm kept her voice steady.

The Elf nodded and climbed to her feet. She rubbed at the dent in her armour and rolled her shoulder but seemed able to carry on. Anya nodded in return and they looked around at the carnage.

Torlach stood over several bodies ensuring they were indeed bodies. His blade dripped with the blood of the slain as he plunged it into the chest of an Orc that dared to still live. He looked up, expression neutral. He looked to the north.

“Not here,” Aeron said through Anya as she came to stand next to him. Eruviel stood behind them, face stern to hide the discomfort of her three broken ribs. Torlach nodded and the walked on, weapons leaving a trail of blood in their wake.

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

to be continued…

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!))

Letters to Nowhere: Priorities

[OOC: Snows days = multiple post days!]

Eruviel shakes her head slowly. “Anyatka, no good can come of being in love with a man who has multiple lovers. I don’t want you to become a broken-hearted remnant of his.”
Anyatka smiles sadly over at Eruviel. “But it’s too late,” she murmurs, a sad resignation in her voice. “I will not leave him, though he lock me outside of his door like an unwanted dog.”

My dearest brother,

He knows.

I woke up beneath the morning stars in Raenarcam’s home and I remembered. I tried to keep it from him; I didn’t want to betray him and go against his warnings. I promised him not go to looking in the Downs and I didn’t, Eiri. I didn’t go to the Downs, I thought I was safe.

Now they say there are these people inside of me. A man and a woman. Eruviel is disturbed and worried. Lina thinks I’m crazy. I fear others are beginning to think that as well. Maybe I am.

There are these moments when I am one place and suddenly I am another. They can be small, innocuous. Like when Eruviel and I accompanied Carndan and Kaleigh to the Old Greenway Fort to draw

Eruviel twists her mouth to the side. "The other day, when Anya and I went on a walking trip, the lesser personality appeared, frantically concerned that the man Aeron be given the necklace back, as if it was a woman fearing for the life of a loved one. Why the personalities are bound to the trinkets, though, are beyond me." Torlach says, 'I have heard that death cannot end love. Perhaps the love of the two spirits lives on in the jewelry.'
Eruviel twists her mouth to the side. “The other day, when Anya and I went on a walking trip, the lesser personality appeared, frantically concerned that the man Aeron be given the necklace back, as if it was a woman fearing for the life of a loved one. Why the personalities are bound to the trinkets, though, are beyond me.”
Torlach says, ‘I have heard that death cannot end love. Perhaps the love of the two spirits lives on in the jewelry.’

an image they found there. I remember being high on the wall, climbing to get a better look at the relief. It was raining and my foot slipped; then I was on the ground, perfectly fine and they were all staring at me, asking me questions about Fornost and the kingdom of Arthedain and a man named Aeron.

And then – there was an incident and I scared folks, I guess. Eruviel told me of it. I attacked Mr. Torlach. She said he didn’t even deserve it! That I demanded the necklace from our failed journey and that I said ‘he’d die’ if he didn’t have it. I can only guess that ‘he’ may be this Aeron person. Things are getting out of control and I don’t even remember them happening!

And then Morty. Eirikr, I tried not to, I really did. It hurts so much to see him with her. I know he’s gone back to her, I can feel it in the air when I’m around them and now I find myself always around them. I think it’s worse when he’s about. The episodes. I forget much more when I’m around him, and he has no necklace like Torlach. I feel such emptiness; I didn’t know my heart could hurt me so. And when he found out that the necklace was from the Downs. I knew. I knew he was connected to those dreadful tombs. And now I know and he knows and I’m afraid he’ll never speak to me again. I promised myself I would not cry over him any more and that I’d just value his friendship, but now *the words are blurred from splotches*

If I lose his friendship over this, it is only my own fault. If he wants Orchil, he can have her. If he wants every damned woman in this town except me, he can have them. I will remain as I am. Perhaps it is a good thing that Aeron comes out to face him. It lets me forgot for a time that I am not even good enough to be one of his whores.

Anyatka

PS – I will definitely never send this one to you, brother. I can see the murderous intent in your eyes.