To Dale: Confrontation, Part 2

((A combination of exposition and chat logs edited for tense))

“Abiorn!”

Eirikr did not even try for subtlety as he led Eruviel up the stone staircase to the second floor. His low voice boomed throughout the hall as he called for his brother.

“Abiorn!”

A strained, thin voice came from the west wing. Eirikr took the stairs two at a time as his brother called back, “Eirikr? Eirikr, it is okay. Go away! I-I do not want to go with you, all right, brother?”

Eririkr paused on the landing and listened carefully. He held up a hand to Eruviel as she opened her mouth to speak. In the unsettling quiet that fell, Eirikr heard the faint melody of a bell. The sound was not heavy and threatening like the bell his father used to summon his guard. A haunting plea sounded in the gentle rustling of the metal.

Tinkle tink tink

Quick as a jackrabbit, Eirikr bounded up the stairs and rushed to the closed door at the end of the hall.

Abion had taken over his brother’s space when he moved to Esgaroth with his wife. The parlor was small, but spacious and opened to a larger bedroom with soaring windows. The heavy drapes concealed the pale blue sky reflecting off the waters of Long Lake. The boy lived in a world of darkness to hide him from prying eyes. His weak muscles and bent limbs could be concealed with loose fitting garb and a pleasant smile, but his shuffling gait could not.

Now, as Eirikr stared with eyes burning with low rage, Abiorn sat in the stuffed chair, a dagger point just drawing blood from his neck. In his hand he clutched the tiny silver bell with trembling fingers, but the practiced calm of his face was betrayed only by his terrified eyes.

Eruviel looked past Eirikr to the boy, her eyes wide as glanced from him to the stairs, and back.

Eiriikr ‘s fingers flexed around his bow. His eyes leveled with his father’s as he demanded, “Let him go. He’s a child.”

Kolrson shook his head. “You bested four guards, hm? The fact you made it back at all astounds me. Gregor was right. I did not give you enough credit. But I will not allow you to take this son from me as well.”

Eiriikr kept his gaze steady, though the veins of his forearm showed from his restraint. “You would rather see him dead then free?” Behind him, Eruviel gripped the hilt of her sword as she glared at the man, waiting, listening.

He raised the hand resting on the back of Abiorn’s chair. “I do not give away anything for free, son. You should know that by now. If you and your sister insist on freedom, a price must be paid.”

Eiriikr shook his head, his red hair grown long from the journey. “This is madness. You would kill your own son or daughter just to have your own way!” He motioned subtly with his free hand for Eruviel to move in closer. She stepped forward, giving him the faintest of nods.

Kolrson noticed the movement and grabbed Abiorn by his auburn curls. “Don’t come any closer, She-elf! What are you really, Eirikr, bringing one of those with you for protection?”

Eiriikr kept his eyes on Kolrson and raise a hand at his hip to Eruviel. “I thought you liked Elves, Father.”

He sneered, “I like their gold, boy.”

Eruviel smirked. “I can leave, gwador, if you think it best.”

Eiriikr managed a tight smile. “I prefer you watching my back, systir mine.” He rolled his shoulder. “How fast is your draw lately, systir?”

Eruviel’s fingers tightened around her bow. “My draw is far faster than yours, brother,” she snickered, her eyes still locked on Kolrson.

Eiriikr raised a brow. “Oh, you believe so? I recall you complimenting me on my skills several times on the path here.”

Kolrson tensed as he watched the exchange. With wide eyes, Abiorn looked up at his father and then at the two across the room. His hand tightened around the bell in a fist. Tinkle tink tink Finally, the man sneered, marring his already severe features. He barked out with impatience, “Stop chattering! What is wrong with you?!”

Eiriikr laughed mirthlessly. “What is wrong, Father?” The word ‘father’ dripped off his tongue like poison. “Not the center of attention?”

Eruviel ‘s shoulders relaxed as a wry smile curved up her mouth. “Do not make me eat my words. I would hate to have to let you win.”

Eiriikr grinned. His white teeth glistened in the firelight. “He can’t dodge two, I don’t think. Not a soft old man like him.”

Eruviel nodded once. “We will not know unless we try.”

Abiorn sank lower in the chair only to be stopped by the fist in his hair. He looked on at Eirikr in terror. He wouldn’t shoot…would he?

Eiriikr nodded, still grinning. He motioned a countdown with his fingers. Three…two…one…

As Kolrson watched the obvious countdown, his eyes grew wide. As Eirikr counted down to one, he attempted to duck behind the chair. Eruviel whisked out an arrow, and anticipating the cruel man’s flight, knocked and fired without hesitation. The man screamed as Eruviel’s arrow penetrated his calf. However, it was a feint! As Eruviel shot, Eirikr charged and tackled Abiorn right in the chair. The entire seat moved back, checking into Kolrson and knocking him over. The force of the chair crashing into him knocked him to his side and he lost hold of the dagger tipped with Abiorn’s blood. Eruviel lept forward and snatched up the dagger before it could be recovered.

Abiorn let out a shout that was abruptly cut off by the force of his brother’s full weight. As he toppled backward, his frail arms and legs flailed about and tried to catch the landing that never came. Eirikr rolled away from the pile-up, dragging his brother with him. He shielded his brother with his body as he looked over toward the chair and fallen man. “Eruviel!” he called out, motioning for her to take hold of Kolrson before he could manage to recover.

Eruviel ran over to grapple Kolrson at Eirikr’s command, dropping her weapons to the side. Bleeding profusely from the arrow in his leg, Kolrson attempted to manipulate Eruviel to the ground. As he rolled her over, his momentum carried him back on to his back where she suddenly had the advantage. He cursed and grabbed for his dagger.

Eiriikr looked down at Abiorn. The boy was fighting back tears and clutching his arm. “Are there any other guards? We faced four downstairs.” Abiorn shook his head yes. “Where are they?”

Eruviel grabbed his reaching hand as she pulled her other arm back to throw a punch. Her fist connected squarely and he sputtered as blood spurted from his nose. He howled in anger and threw his weight toward her to knock her off balance.

Abiorn answered softly, “He probably sent the back guards after you. Most are on leave until the evening. Wh-what are you doing here, Eirikr?”

Eiriikr shook his head. “We are leaving, brother. Your arm?” He frowned down at him and touched his arm gently.

Abiorn shook his head in dismissal. “It is nothing. Sore.”

Eruviel’s eyes widened in surprise as the man threw her. She tumbled over and attempted to scramble back to get a hold on him. Kolrson pushed her away and tried to crawl on his hands and knees, leaving a trail of blood on the floor toward the door. She fell back but rolled, grabbing at the man’s foot to pull him back as she braced her feet to right herself. He kicked weakly as his leg was latched onto by the Elf, shouting out in pain.

Eiriikr nodded and looked over to the two struggling. He grinned at Abiorn as he helped him sit up. “Should I help her?”

Abiorn looked alarmed for a moment and then relaxed into a grin. “You might just get in the way.”

Eruviel dodged Kolrson’s kick and grabbed his free foot with her other hand. Quickly rising to her feet she pulled, hoping to drag the man further back into the room. He flailed his legs, but the injury was too much. Bending at the waist, he grabbed at her hands, but his rather rotund belly got in the way.

Eiriikr grinned back at his brother and strode over to Eruviel and Kolrson. He grabbed the man by the front of his robes and lifted him with one heave so he can punch him in the face. Kolrson used the opportunity to punch Eirikr in the gut. He crashed back to the floor and kicked out at Eruviel again hoping the inertia of his fall would assist him in gaining his freedom. Eruviel batted away the kick and grabbed for one of his feet as she attempted to draw her sword with her free hand.

Eiriikr doubled over and gasped for breath. He drew his sword as he struggled to catch his breath. His father growled as he was denied and grabbed at the Elf’s sword. Stepping forward, Eirikr lowered the sword to Kolrson’s throat.

The older man stilled and looked up at his son from his back. “You wouldn’t kill your own flesh and blood, would you, son?” he sneered.

Eruviel’s hand grabbed her sword and she froze, still holding on to Kolrson. “You filth,” she growled. “You are one to talk.”

Kolrson kicked out at Eruviel just for spite. “I’ve not killed one of my own,” he said before stilling as the cold metal of Eirikr’s sword touched his skin. “So, what now, boy?”

Eiriikr growled, “You may not have killed any of us, but the damage you set upon us is proof enough: you don’t deserve life, old man.” He went in for the kill, but a sound of alarm from Abiorn stayed his hand. He glanced back, the sword tip wavering.

Seeing the moment of weakness in his son, Kolrson reached up to grab the sword from his hand. Eruviel swiftly drew her blade as Eirikr looked behind them, but Eiriikr turned around in time to see him grab at the sword. He took a step back as he pulled away, and Kolrson reached out to trip him.

Eruviel thrusted her blade down, hoping to parry Korlson’s movement, stabbing him in the arm in the process. He laid back and clutched his wound, glaring at the two.

Eiriikr redirected his sword to point at Kolrson again. To Abiorn, he said, “Abbi. Go. We will follow.”

The boy nodded and edged around the room for the door. Once he reached it, he slid out reluctantly.

Eruviel glanced back to the door. “Should I stay or follow him, brother?” she asked quietly.

Eiriikr shrugged. “He said the only guard is in the front now. We shall thus exit the back.” He walked around his father slowly and nodded for Eruviel to leave. “Take Abiorn to Ninim. I will raid my father’s safe and then we shall leave. A small restitution for the suffering his actions have caused, I think.”

Eruviel shot a withering glance at the wounded Kolrson and nodded curtly as she turned for the door. “I will see him safely there. Don’t be long, Eirikr.”

Eiriikr nodded, his eyes on his father. As Eruviel left, he said simply. “Don’t send anyone after us. They will die, or end up like the men you’ve hired downstairs. Don’t try to find us, as we are better off without you. Sten is dead. You could be, too. Be thankful I am nothing like you, Father.”

Still clutching his arm as it bled, Kolrson glared up at his son. “You won’t have a single night of peace. I heard Sten gave your wife a present, didn’t he?”

At those words, Eirikr stopped in his tracks and turned. He grabbed his father by the robes and slammed his fist into his face. Without a word, he followed Eruviel out, heading for the safe and leaving his father dazed and bleeding on the floor.

 

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To Dale: Confrontation, Part 1

((edited from chat logs for tense and exposition. all fight action based on a d20 roll with an AC of 10))

 

Eirikr stood staring at the house. The rain fell around him and dampened his light auburn hair to a deep rust. The yard was quiet; no one was out in the rain. He walked up the worn path slowly as if willing the moment he has to enter the house to pass him by. Behind him and unbeknown to him, Eruviel walked up the path, remaining hidden as she observed her surroundings before setting her sights on the large home ahead.

As he approached the stone entryway, a man emergesd from a side entrance. From beneath his heavy hood, he gaped at Eirikr before rushing forward. “Master Tenorbekk! You have returned. Your father will be…forgive me, sir, but where is Miss Tenorbekk?”

Eirikr raised his hands to hush the old man. “Pyotr, please. I am not here with good news. I am here for Abiorn.” He looked up at the house, blinking through the water clinging to his lashes. “We are leaving this place, Pyotr. It might be best if you gathered everyone in the servant’s wing.”

Pyotr gaped some more and nodded vigorously. “But, sir, your father will not let you take your brother. You surely know-”

Eirikr cut him off with a shake of his head. “I know, Pyotr. Get everyone, especially the women and children, into the servants’ wing. Now.” Without another glance at the servant, he looked up to the house and strode for the door.

From the shadowy lane, Eruviel risked a glance over the stone wall. Seeing Eirikr walk inside, she ducked and retreated down the path to circle around the house to find a better place to hide and to hopefully listen.

Mumbling to himself, the old servant hurried back into the house via the side door.

 

Eirikr closed the door softly behind him. He looked down at the old floorboards in the entryway and stepped carefully. The house was clearly being prepared for a feast. Tables and chairs were out of place as apparently they were recently abandoned. The clutter led to the main hall. Kolrson Tenorbekk stood in the middle of it all, bellowing about lazy layabouts and whippings.

Eirikr could not help but smirk when he saw his father out of sorts. He stepped into the room with his hand loosely on the sword at his side. “Good day, Father. I see you are well.”

Kolrson whirled to face his son. He glowered a moment as he searched for the shadow he expected to be clinging to Eirikr’s sleeve. “Where is your sister?” he asked finally.

Eirikr shrugged. “She didn’t want to come back. I don’t blame her.”

Kolrson’s eyes narrowed as he strode forward angrily. “Do not play games with me, boy. I sent you after your sister and you were supposed to bring her back.”

Eirikr stood his ground and looked down at his father. The son stood a good three inches taller than the man. “I chose not to. We like it where she is. I think Abiorn will like it, too.”

Shaking his head, Kolrson glowered in disbelief. “Never. Abiorn knows his place. You might be a grown man, Eirikr, but I will still teach you yours.” Turning, he reached into his pocket and withdrew a large silver bell. Its sound pealed through the grand hall and rushing footsteps followed. Two men arrived through the door and stared stupidly at Eirikr and Kolrson, their hands on the grips of their swords. “What is it, sir?” asked one.

Eirikr shifted into a slightly defensive stance but did not draw his weapon. “Hello, Karl. Tjorn.” The guards looked uncertainly between the two men.

Kolrson smirked. “Now, now, Eirikr. See how foolish it was to come here alone? Do you actually think just sauntering in here was going to work? It is a shame you didn’t declare yourself properly so the guards knew who you were. Accidents do happen, though.”

Eirikr narrowed his eyes. “What, Father? You can’t face me yourself?”

Just around the corner in the entryway, Eruviel silently glided over to stand near the front door.

Kolrson mounted a platform that appeared to be set up for a performance. “Why waste the energy. Karl? Tjorn. Show my son what happens when I become disappointed. And then send word to Sten in Lake-town. Tell him to slit that bitch’s throat.”

Eirikr grinned openly. “Sten is dead, Father. Ninim is safe from the likes of you. Your goons cannot touch her any more.”

Turning, Kolrson stared at his son. “You lie. You would not be here if that were true. Only a fool would do such a thing.”

Eirikr drew his sword. “Or someone who loves his brother. You’ve never understood that, Father. I don’t expect you to now.”

Red-faced, Kolrson gave the order. “Just kill him!” The two guards advanced with grins. One said to the other, “I always wanted to gut him, didn’t you, Karl?” In response, Karl said, “Nah, I never really cared one way or the other. But I don’t mind it now.”

Eruviel opened and slammed the front door shut, promptly kicking over the wooden chair with a loud crash.

Eirikr spun around at the noise, ducking. His back turned to the guards, they charged forward throwing caution to the wind. Eirikr whirled around in time to parry one blow only to be tackled by the other man. Karl slammed Eirikr backward into the large pillar supporting the vaulted ceiling and punched him in the gut.

Eruviel ran into the room, taking everything in before taking a swing at the man who punched Eirikr. “Sorry I’m late.”

Eirikr wheezed as the breath is knocked out of him twice. He crumpled down and fell to his knees as the man took Eruviel’s blow without any attempt at defense. Karl flew backward from the force of the blow. Tjorn swung his sword toward her as he tried to hide his surprise.

Eruviel dipped into a bow in the same motion as her punch. “You must be Kolrson.” She then turned to the armed man and drew her sword.

Eirikr looked up at Eruviel with a glare that fell somewhere between thankfulness and annoyance.

Kolrson slammed his hand down on the table in front of him. “Who are you? Get out of my house! Guards!”

Eruviel drew out her dagger as she attacked Tjorn. “Do not worry, gwador. You will be buying me dinner on the trip home, though.”

Eirikr pulled himself up on the pillar. “Eruviel, I thought you were staying with Ninim!” he gasped.

Tjorn parried and counterattacked with skill. He was no cheap mercenary, but a trained guard bought from the Dalish army. “Watch your head, now, pretty lady,” he taunted as he swung toward her thigh. Meanwhile, Karl, recovered from the blow, walked around her to seek an opening.

Eruviel continued to fight Tjorn, hardly giving him time to block her blows. “She is safe! Hence my coin-purse being empty.”

Eirikr kicked out his foot to trip Karl. As the man landed, Eirikr grabbed at his sword fallen beside him and raised it to strike. Too late, the man caught his wrist and caught him in a grapple. They rolled over each other and Eirikr gritted his teeth as he released the sword to slam his fist down into Karl’s face. “You did what?”

Tjorn, a man with an athletic build beneath his armour, kept up with Eruviel surprisingly well. He was unable to press an advantage as he was in full defense mode. On the floor, Karl’s head swam as Eirikr punched him again and again. Two more guards appeared in the doorway looking bewildered.

Practically screeching, Kolrson pointed at the fight and ordered, “Kill them! Kill them both! Make yourselves useful for once and kill them!”

Eruviel glanced over to Kolrson as she pressed Tjorn harder, changing her footwork. “Now is not the best time for details, Eirikr.” She moved to trip Tjorn, hoping for a chance to draw her bow.

As Eirikr looked up to see the guards, Karl’s right hand worked at the wrist sheath beneath his sleeve. In one blind, but swift motion, he jabbed it the arm pinning him down. With a yell, Eirikr dropped his sword and grabbed his bicep.

The new guards bore spears and hesitated only a moment before charging toward the fray. Kolrson took the opportunity to run for the stairway leading to the upper wings.

Tjorn, thrown off by Eruviel’s fancy footwork, fell into her trick and tripped to the stone floor. His sword stayed firmly in his grasp and he swung it at her even as he fell. Eruviel leapt away from Tjorn and cast her dagger across the room to one of the charging guards. The dagger missed the far guard by a hair. He and his partner paused to exchange glances and started to approach with more caution. From the ground, Tjorn reached out for Eruviel’s legs to trip her in turn. She attempted to shift her footing, thrusting her sword down towards his outstretched arm. The guards scowl as the Elf’s strike nearly severs the man’s arm off.

Eirikr threw himself forward as Karl tried to toss him off. He ripped the dagger from his arm and slammed his fist into the guard’s face once again. The man’s eyes rolled back as he lost consciousness.

Eirikr regained his feet with his sword in his hand. He shot a glance at Eruviel. “Though this might now be the time, I do wonder who it is who is with her.”

Tjorn, being rather torn, rolled on the ground clutching his bleeding arm. Eruviel picked up the bleeding man’s sword, and turned to face the men armed with spears. “The young lad, Hari? Him, the waitress I befriended, and a soldier both Hari and Ninim approved of are taking turns watching her. No one knows where she is, and I bought up all the rooms on the top floor so she should not be found out.”

Across the room, the guard stare at Eruviel in wonder. They exchange looks.

Eirikr gave her a shake of his head and advanced with her. “You never cease to amaze me, systir.”

Eruviel snickered. “It is difficult to protect two people in separate places.” She then narrowed her eyes at the guards. “Are you going to stand down, or do want to trade me a sword for your spear before we start this?” she asked matter-of-factly.

The guards looked less seasoned than the other two. One gulped. “Um, perhaps…Mister Tenorbekk don’t pay us t’ face no Elf.”

Eirikr smirked and looked over to watch Eruviel’s response. Shel nodded to the two. “A little coin is not worth your lives. If you fight me I cannot guarantee that you will not end up like him,” she gestured of her shoulder, “or worse.”

They exchanged glances again. “By golly, Jossr, let’s get out of here. I ain’t int’rested in killin’ no She-Elf t’night.”

Eirikr stated, “You aren’t interested in losing a limb or dying tonight, you mean. Now stand aside so we can find my brother.”

Eruviel gave the guards an almost motherly smile. “I had hoped not.” She then nodded in agreement with Eirikr.

The guards backed up, though Jossr seemed less inclined to stand down. “I dunna think we should let you inta th’ house, Mister Tenorbekk. So why dunna you jes’ walk away. Save ev’ryone tha trouble.”

Eirikr shook his head no. “I am here for my brother. You will stand aside, or you will face us. Make a choice.”

Jossr stopped and shook his head. “I can’t let you in, sir.” He lowered the spear in a defensive grip in front of the door.

Eruviel adjusted her grip on the two swords, shifting her stance as she looked to the other guard. “Is this really what you want?”

The guard looked at his companion but was clearly not the leader. “Jossr?” Jossr glared over at him.

Eirikr rolled his shoulder and sheathed his sword. “So be it,” he said as he drew his bow and an arrow from his back. Eruviel nodded and followed suit. Bringing her bow up a blade mounted on the outer curve of the bow was made apparent.

The hesitant one saw the bows and backed up. “No, this isn’t worth it. Mister Tenorbekk can just take his coin back!” The man quickly retreated out of the door. Jossr watched him flee and turned back to the two archers, wide-eyed. “Uhhhhh…”

Eirikr nocked the arrow and pointed it at the man. “Come on, Jossr. Come and get us.”

Eruviel remained silent, her bow drawn as she kept her steady gaze on Jossr.

The last standing guard shook his head. “I will take my chances from over here.” He crouched with the spear at the ready and prepared to dodge the arrows.

Eirikr shrugged before he rolled his shoulder again. He raisedthe bow and loosed an arrow. Eruviel held for a breath, waiting for the guard to dodge before loosing her own arrow.

He could not move in time. The arrows penetrated his armour at the junction between breastplate and shoulder guard. “Aarsahsfhgggrrr!” Jossr screamed, but remains on his feet. “Come at me like a real man!” he challenged.

Eirikr watchedthe blood course down the man’s arm. Ignoring the taunt, he nocked another arrow. “Two more for you, Jossr?”

Jossr, driven by adrenaline, dodged. The arrow sank into the wall behind him.

Eruviel nocked another arrow and took aim. “Your friend had the right idea, young one.”

Jossr grinned and shook his head. “I don’t abandon my duty.”

Eruviel glared at Jossr. “We do not have time for this.” Loosing her arrow she leapt forward, gripping her bow with her left hand as she drew her sword mid-stride.

Jossr manages to dodge the arrow only to fall to one knee from pain. Eirikr drew his sword as well. Eruviel batted Jossr’s spear to the side and drove her blade towards him, intent on stopping a hairs breadth from his neck.

The man froze so that the blade barely brushed the skin of his neck. He did not even have time to raise his spear.

Eruviel narrowed her eyes as she held steady. “I suggest you drop it.”

He dropped it with a clatter and sank back to his haunches. Eirikr came up to him and smashed the hilt of his sword into his skull, knocking him out.

Eruviel rotated her jaw around to one side, looking at the guard before moving to retrieve her dagger from where it had stuck in the wall. “Shall we?”

Eirikr nodded. “We shall.” He led them out of the hall deeper into the house and up to the second floor.

 

To Dale: On the Shores of Long Lake

((edited from chat logs for tense, exposition, and continuity))

Mirkwood was as miserable as ever, but Eirikr took them north along the Great River and found the traces of the Elvish path so they did not have to cross through the forest the long way. Straight across, not horizontally from southwest to northeast, he thought. Besides, the Anduin was refreshing after such a long time in Moria. The sun on the rapids helped dispel some of the shadows that remained from the caves. The journey through the dark forest remained uneventful – the incursion of the Galadhrim pulled the attention of much of the evil in the woods and their path remained relatively clear. When they emerged on the edges of the forest, they could see far in the distance the outline of the mountain in the northeast; down the Forest River, the waters merged with the Long Lake and Eirikr could almost smell the scent of fish from where he stood. He breathed deeply; he was nearly home.

They bought passage across the waters on the small boat of a farrier Eirikr knew from Esgaroth. Tyrvi was a jovial man in his late forties who spent little time on land. He inquired about the hunting as of late and the troubles in Esgaroth and Dale due to raiding Easternlings.

“Bold as brass they are!” he exclaimed as they sailed through the fading evening. “I tell you, Master Tenorbekk, things ain’t right in the land. Trouble’s a-brewin’ and we best be wary!”

Eirikr and Eruviel exchanged glances. The troubles in Bree-land were not isolated then. The enemy grew bolder not only in the north, and with more than one front, the free peoples of Middle-earth would be the worser for it.

But how would these tidings influence his goal? Eirikr knew his father often traveled to the East. His trade thrived on it. The exotic fabrics from the Men of Rhun, the imports from farther south since the Easterlings often worked with the Men of Harad…

The last of the sun’s beams stretched fiery streaks across the horizon as they stepped from the boat and onto the dock. As Eirikr paid the farrier, Eruviel found herself walking up the weathered boards toward Esgaroth. She set her stern gaze on the town ahead of them. “It is all so foreign,” she said quietly as he joined her side. Looking over to him, she asked, “What is the plan, gwador?”

Eirikr looked over at her and chuckled. When he first heard the Elf call his sister “oselle,” he hardly knew what to think. But then united by the need to save Anya’s life, Eirikr was able to see how Eruviel loved his sister as her own. Then, soon after, he became “gwador”. And finally, he was grateful for a sibling who could take care of herself.

“It is not so foreign, really. Just another town full of men.” He looked ahead and pursed his lips. “I am truly not certain of our next step, though. I envisioned bursting in and carrying Ninim away to safety, but now that we are here, I do not think that would be wise.”

His companion wrinkled her nose slightly, a small smile cracking her expression. “I will go along with what you think is best, but would it be better if we avoid prying eyes?”

Nodding, he agreed. “Most likely. The farrier spoke of the Eastern threat. There is more trouble here than perhaps we bargained for.” They crossed a side street and took a narrow alley between a row of houses.

Eruviel ‘s eyes darted around, searching for nothing in particular, taking everything in. “If we could only figure out if there was a time he would be away to allow us time to sneak in and get her out.”
Eirikr grunted. “Perhaps in the evening. Or if he had another assignment from my father. I suppose it just depends on the current business needs of the caravans.”

Eruviel ‘hmm’ed’ quietly to herself. “So we are running blind.” Her head tilting to the side, she offered him a smile. “What would he least expect? Us walking up to the house asking what time dinner is served?”

He laughed, a rather loud and surprising sound that echoed off the stone walls of the buildings. “I suppose that is always an option. It would certainly catch him off guard. We should probably observe him for a bit…make sure he is the only one. He rarely is, though. He is a coward and a sneak and I doubt he has left his back exposed.”

She could not help but grin at the sound of the laugh. “I am rather good at observing,” she chuckled. “And it is not as risky for me to be seen and to talk to the townsfolk. It might be wise, on the other hand, for you to stay hidden as much as possible.”

The sun had set fully and the shadows cast by the light from the passing windows cloaked his expression as he looked down at her. He nodded after a brief moment. “More than wise. I know how to lay low and avoid being seen. Be aware though: an Elf here would gain some attention. They are not as common since Dale has been rebuilt.”

They paused at the end of the alley and the light from a tavern fell upon his face. Eruviel studied him, nodding. “I have some coin on me. I will procure more appropriate attire before I look about. An Eldar lady in armour is bound to draw more than just notice, and I hope to keep my dress nice for Dale.”

Eirikr smirked as he nodded. “You will find something easily in the trader’s market. This place still has the heart of a market town; if you hurry you may find someone still peddling.” He gave specific directions with landmarks and street names where they had one. “There is an inn just north of the square. Nicer than,” he gestured across the street. “I will find you there.” He pulled his hood up and nodded to her.

Eruviel returned the nod as she let her cloak fall around her, concealing her armour for the most part. “I will see you then.”

 

To Dale: The Child

((OOC: Potential trigger warning))

 In Esgaroth, the Tenorbekk cottage

Ninim Tenorbekk knelt by the shore of Long Lake as she scrubbed out the week’s laundry in the fading twilight. Her lithe body moved awkwardly beneath its burden; her back ached and she was hungry. She had aged beneath the weight of her house guest. He took too much. Used too much. And after eight months of his attentions, gave too much as well.

She wrung out the last of Sten’s shirts and hated the fact it was not her husband’s. As she tossed it into the basket, she cut off sob that threatened to escape her throat. No. She would not fall to pieces. She would not fall to pieces. She should not fall to pieces. Eirikr would return and together, they would end the time stolen from them. They would reclaim their lives, rid themselves of the parasite, and start new. Start fresh.

Standing, she braced the basket of wet clothes against her hip and held on to it as best she could as she waddled toward the backyard where the drying line stretched between two trees. The sob threatened to loosen from her throat where it lay like a chicken bone, choking and painful. How could they start new with this…this thing growing inside her? The first time Sten pushed open her bedroom door, she thought it was a dream. Indeed, the entire evening seemed fragmented after they had eaten dinner. The bruises on her wrists the next morning and the scent of him on her bedsheets were the only signs that her memories were no mere dreams.

When she started watching her food and drink, robbing Sten of the opportunity to drug her, it only led to a harsher waking world. He did not care when she fought back. In fact, he seemed to savor every slap he laid across her face until her head was swimming enough to staunch her resistance. She learned quickly to accept his attentions in order to protect herself from physical harm. Every night, her spirit suffered all the more.

As she hung the clothes in the dark, she longed to sink into the earth and dissolve into nothingness. She worked when no one could see her, for even when she was complacent, he still sometimes hit her for the fun of it. No one would believe the bruises came from his hand. Sten quickly made friends with the neighbors, spinning tales of half-truths involving Eirikr’s family emergency and a sense of duty to protect his “sister-in-law”. If anyone questioned why he had not gone after the wayward Tenorbekk himself, Sten would laugh and say, “I am no fighter! The Mirkwoods scare me to death. No, Eirikr knows the trails and the ways to survive on them. It’s all I can do to help around the house until he returns.”

With the last shirt hung, Ninim gathered up the basket and headed for the house. She braced her hand beneath her bulging belly and hesitated at the back door. Closing her eyes, she felt the baby within her stir. It tried to stretch without much success. It was crowded in there.

Her eyes still closed, she leaned her head against the rough door. Eight months he had been terrorizing her. Nine months since Eirkir had left for Bree. Her letter must have reached him. It had to have reached him. He had to be coming right now to silence her fears and to love her again.

He would love her, no matter what. Holding this in her heart, she shifted the basket around her pregnant belly and lifted the latch to face her life.

 

 

Aim

Anya peeked out the window overlooking the cliff above the small pond behind the house. She raised her hand to shield her eyes from the glare and smudged the smoky pane with vermillion. Swearing silently, she turned back to the table and grabbed her rainbow rag to wipe away the paint. Rubbing in small circles, she cleaned away the soot accumulated from a winter of constantly burning fires. Once one pane was clean, she couldn’t leave the rest and polished each glass until she could see through it clearly.

Peering through the panes, she turned her head from side to side to see if Eirikr was fishing off the cliff. He wasn’t. Anya huffed, fogging the glass slightly, and turned quickly on her heel to see if he was out front.

As soon as she opened the door, she heard the twang of a bowstring. Eirikr stood over near the fire pit aiming at several bales of straw he propped up on the low stone wall. The outline of a boar was painted in the side of the midmost bale and she wondered when he got into her paints as she descended the stairs.

The arrow had sunk into the bale  far to the left of the target. It landed among several other shafts jutting out of the hay. Eirikr grunted and drew another arrow from the quiver on his back. His left hand raised the bow as he nocked the arrow, drew, and took aim in one nearly seamless motion. Before relaxing the three fingers that held the string, he hesitated. Anya saw the bow waver slightly and flinched as Eirikr loosed another arrow far left of its mark. He swore loudly.

“Eirik?” She tried to not to startle him, but he jerked around with a flushed face.

“Anya. I didn’t know you were there.”

Lowering her eyes because she didn’t want to appear to stare, Anya clasped her hands in front of her. “I was looking for you. I was wondering if you had spoken with Eruviel. To see if you knew if she was coming home tonight.”

He turned to retrieve his arrows as he answered. “No, I haven’t, but I would assume she is coming home. Why would she not?”

Anya raised her eyes to watch her brother yank each arrow from the hay and shove it back into his quiver. The muscles of his shoulders flexed beneath the thin cotton shirt he wore. He did not seem to feel the chill clinging to the afternoon. The last arrow he pulled out, he kept in his hand as he retreated to his firing spot. He took a deep breath and Anya could tell he was trying to calm himself. In another skilled, graceful movement, he loosed the arrow. Once again, it missed its mark.

“You’re pulling to the left.”

“You think I don’t know that?” he snapped at her. He shot another arrow and shouted out in frustration.

Wincing, Anya stepped forward and placed a hand on Eirikr’s shoulder. “Eiri, please,” she said softly, “be patient. You can relearn and adjust. Your aim will return, I know it will.”

His dark grey eyes fell on her and she took a step back in alarm. Cold fire burned deeply in each orb as he glared down at her.

“Anya. I don’t have the time to be patient. Ninim needs me now and every second I delay is a second she has to spend under Sven’s watch. I won’t let our father do this to her, to me. It is time he is stopped.”

A frown creased her forehead and she replied lowly, “Eirikr, what do you mean?” Her own grey eyes searched his eyes for meaning and her blood froze at what she saw behind her brother’s steely gaze.

“I will stop him, Anyatka. And he will leave us alone for good. I promise you, or I will die trying.”

Without waiting for a reply, he turned back to his target and took aim.

Backyard Views