Rain and Snow and Ice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Though she did not know why.

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

~~~***~~~

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

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

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

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

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

B.

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

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

~~~***~~~

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

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

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

Stepping further into the cave, Lômiphel finally spoke.

“Expecting someone else, Father?”

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

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

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

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

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

A scoff and a flip of a hand greeted Lômiphel.

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

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

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

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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.

Sorry, So

The earth was terribly dry. Already the leaves were wilting and the petals had crumpled to hang down in drops the color of coagulated blood: a red so dark it was nearly black. She wanted to rip the petals off one by one. Little girls played that game still, didn’t they? Now he loves me…he loves me not…

Because it was so dry, it was difficult to dig. Anya had found the little hand spade where she had tossed it so carelessly only days before. Was it so recent that she had celebrated her birthday with cakes and presents? Only weeks ago. She almost had not gone to him to get the rose bush. Surely the drawing of the blossom he had sent with Esthyr should have been enough. Why was it never enough?

Eruviel said Anric went on a trip. He had never mentioned a trip to her. Or had he? She was so distracted lately. Perhaps he was just getting away from how terrible everything was now that… And then, all this. She never wanted something like this.

What did she want? Eruviel’s voice echoed in her mind. Do you even know what you need?

Did she?

The metal of the spade cut into the dirt. How could it be so dry when it was so close to the water? It should not be thirsty. She looked up at the sky. The sun had faded long ago. The darkness enveloped her and gave her the courage to trespass onto Anric’s lawn to dig in his backyard. Perhaps the neighbors did not know yet that he kicked her out. They seemed fond of her. They could not have known she kept such turmoil trapped inside.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. The spade fell rhythmically like the beat of her heart.

Thunk. Shh. Thunk. Shh. The earth fell in an ever growing pile. She would have to put it back. Perhaps Anric really would never know.

Thunk-shh. Thunk. Thunk-shh. Thunk. Her arms grew tired and started to drag across the lawn. She was so tired.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

She jabbed the ground with the spade and felt it penetrate a root. The rose bush shuddered. Appalled at her carelessness, she let out a cry and dropped the shovel.

“Oh, no, no-no-no. I am so sorry, little Charm, so sorry.” She reached into the dirt to pull it away with her hands. “So sorry. So so sorry.”

As she dragged the dirt out of the hole, more fell back in. She dug in deeper, pulling more and more away onto to have it tumble right back.

“So sorry so-.”

The sob broke out across the lake and bounced off rock to fly back to Anya’s ears. The noise triggered something inside of her and the tears fell to the crumbling ground before her. Her cries shook her with terrible, wracking jolts throughout her entire body. She fell forward onto her hands and then sank to the ground.

“I’m so sorry.”

Her cheek rested against the earth as the floodgates finally opened and all her pain, confusion, and fear fell to the soil around the roots of the Dalish Charm in Anricwulf’s backyard.

“I’m so sorry. Don’t die.”

Her tears watered the land as the moon passed in its wavering course and the nightingales sang to the stars.

Regrowth

The backyard.
The backyard.

The dirt crumbled beneath her hand spade. It was such a little thing in her grasp, but it tossed the dirt from the hole well enough. She had chosen a spot well away from the house and around the back so that she did not have to look at the damn bush every time she came home with Anricwulf. In truth, she did not know why she accepted it again. She certainly did not have a green thumb, especially when she compared her little garden to what she saw in the Shire, but something in her drove her to plant.

The vegetables grew out of Anric’s practicality. If they were to grow a garden, they should be able to benefit from it by consuming the berries and beans and leaves of the plants. Never mind that he seemed to have wagon-loads of money from the jewels and precious metals he found so easily.

She agreed, of course. And there was a pleasant satisfaction from harvesting the evening meal herself. And the blossoms were pleasant enough to look at before they transformed into their foodstuff. Yet, the peas and strawberries and raspberries were not what she craved to see. They grew only as a substitute to what she really wanted.

The metal of the spade clanged sharply as it struck something in the dirt. Leaning over, Anya dug her fingers into the hole and pulled away the earth until the tip of a rock appeared. Frowning, she pulled it out with a grunt and flung it into the lake.

“Not in my hole, stupid rock,” she muttered as she set back to work widening the hole enough for the root ball of the bush lying next to her foot. The burgundy blooms were already beginning to wilt and though Morty reassured her roses were hardy plants and sent instructions, she still feared it might never bloom again.

A few minutes more of digging and the hole was satisfactory. She took a handful of soil to make a little hill at the bottom so the roots would have something to spread around. Cradling the rose bush carefully, she turned it about to examine which side to plant toward the front yard. Two blossoms remained on one side and she lowered the plant into the ground so that they faced the yard and the sun. Gently, she pushed the earth back into the hole and pressed it back into place around the roots of the Dalish Charm. She had a bucket of water prepared and she poured it around the rose bush carefully. Not too fast, not too slow.

“Well, little Charm,” she said as she watched the water sink into the ground, “here is your new home. I promise that this time, you will not have to move again.” From a basket usually used for picnics, she withdrew a handful of wood chips she got from the Combe lumber camp. A blanket of the chips to protect the bare soil and she was done.

As she stood up rubbing the dirt from her fingernails, she thought of the necklaces and jewels lying wrapped in paper in the bottom drawer of her armoire. Anya was happy. She really was. Beneath the jewels was a box of letters she kept because she could not bear to throw away someone’s thoughts so easily. Letters from Eruviel and Cwen and Esthyr. And Morty. And one from a man she only met once: Dorsett Lacewood. His letter was brief and intimate and touched on the truth of what had been causing her to pull away from all those around her in the recent days.

I do not know how you feel about Anric, Miss Anya, but you should not ever have to try. Not like that. Not if, ultimately, you will never be unhappy, but never be truly happy, either.

Dorsett’s words often rumbled around in her head. She was happy. Anric loved her and she loved him. They took care of one another. She was happier with him than if she were with someone who always stepped out on her. Right? Because that would make her incredibly unhappy. To be home alone while he-

She shook her head and looked out over the lake. A breeze rushed through the yard and whipped Anya’s hair around her face. She closed her eyes and raised her face to the sun as if she were a rose seeking the light of growth. At her feet, the leaves of the Dalish Charm rustled in the wind.

She could plant her roots here, with Anric, if she tried. She could grow to be content and life would find its meaning. Her family could find peace and start its process of regrowth.

If she tried.

Letters to Nowhere: Dalish Charm

*sent tied to the leg of a very put out bird*

Dear Eruviel,

This is to nowhere, because I do not know if it will ever find you on your journey. I guess I could have written to Eirikr, but he’s so sullen and all too worried about Ninim to pay much mind to something as small as a rosebush. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Anric’s home is actually under the mountain. Luckily there is an opening above it so that I can still see the sky. I think that I would go mad there otherwise, being so cut off from the rest of the world. He loves it, though; he always jokes that he’s either half-Dwarf or half-goat. He seems perfectly at ease beneath the mountains in the vast  caverns with their twists and turns. I still get lost going from his home, just off the square, to the gates of the neighborhood. He keeps encouraging me and telling me that I’ll find my way. He reminds me so much of Morty the way he nurtures me. He believes in me in a way no one else has, except maybe you.

Speaking of Morty, I wrote him before we left to inform him of my absence (not that he cares) and to inquire about the rosebush (he took it back). When I first saw his reply, I admit that it crushed something delicate inside my heart. I never imagined he would take the bush back! I’m certain he just does not wish it to die, but I was coming back. I was going to take care of it.

Rose Burgundy Iceberg™
Rose Burgundy Iceberg from White Flower Farm (used pending permission) Click to visit the site!

I just wanted to know how often I needed to come back and tend it – it was my excuse to come back and tend it. Eruviel, I do not know how to read him now; he wrote as if I was going into the Dark Lord’s realm never to return. Anricwulf is being very understanding about all of it. He promised we could get a hearty bush to plant outside his home, but no matter what we get, it won’t be the Dalish Charm. It won’t be Morty’s own creation. I feel like I’ve betrayed him somehow: he left one of his children with me and I neglected it. But I am being foolish – it’s just a flower, right? It isn’t as if I was out shopping with Esthyr and lost track of the girl.

I wish you were here. I wish Eirikr was  here and that this whole mess was behind us and everyone was safe from harm. Things here feel like they should be that way: trouble-free and happy. Anric is traveling a bit less, but we find things with which to occupy ourselves within Durin’s Hall. There’s always a bustle and the fires always burn. Snow fell yesterday – so much for spring! It was just a light dusting, though I could only imagine what it would have looked like on the burgundy petals of those rosebuds. Would a chill like that kill them? Can such a delicate thing survive the cold stone of the mountains?

Dwarves aren’t as interested in drawing and painting as Elves and Men. They prefer statues made of their heavy stones and metals. I’m just trying to fit in, really. You would think it wasn’t all that hard since the trade between Erebor and Dale had strong ties. Yet, I never really saw that part of things. I never dealt with not knowing what someone was saying as they laughed and stared at me. I never found myself a minority among a strange people with foreign customs. I always faced the selected Dwarves my father brought home to banquet. They were on Man’s turf, just as they were in Bree.

Now I am on their turf. And of all that I might have learned in my homeland, my little Dalish charm isn’t getting me very far.

With love,

Anyatka