Somewhere

Somewhere up north

“You are not yet recovered, Father. You shouldn’t be travellin’ in the open by any means.”

“You’re concerned for me, darkling?”

“I have always been concerned for you. You’ve always been my father whether it as Parmanen or–or that other.”

“I have always been that other. There is no differentiation; only ignorance of the other.”

“…We still should not go south. You are too ill.”

“I have faith that you will watch over me, Lômiphel. And the forces I hide from are averted to other endeavors. The darkness stirs in the south.”

“People will recognize you. Those who protect her won’t let you close. They won’t let me close, neither. We don’t have the strength to start an assault on them, Father.”

“No, we do not. But perhaps…perhaps we can raise an army.”

“What is that look for? Why do you smile so? Father, what are you thinking?”

“All in due time, Lômiphel. All in due time.”

~~~***~~~

Somewhere down south

I left them there in the graveyard. I do not know what compelled me to depart so quickly. I could not stay. I would not stay with all of them standing there staring at him burying his brother.

I heard the mandolin as I walked down the worn dirt path. I heard the song carry over the wind, and I wanted to run away.

What sort of person am I that would run?

Past the cliffs, Bree sat in the distance. I saw her sitting against the hill just waiting for something perceivable in the air, but vaporous, elusive. The warm wind that wound around me stole my breath away.

I could not go back. Nothing was the same.

Oli found me north of Thornley’s. He did not ask with searching eyes, but merely fell into stride as I thudded north: step, thud-step, step, thud-step. My walking stick beat the rhythm of my stuttering heart into the Greenway. Step, thud-step, step, thud-step.

The wind grows foul. I cannot breathe.

~~~***~~~

Somewhere in between

“Oh, why yes, I do remember seeing her! That unusually large cat caught my attention, it did. I thought it was going to eat my pet turtle there! See him? See him down in the grass?”

“I’m sorry, but I cannot.”

“No? Really, no? He’s right there in the tall–Jasper! Jasper, boy, go get Tully out of the tall weeds!”

“That’s really quite all right, sir. Did the girl say where she was going?”

“Oh, just that she wanted to go into the downs, but it wasn’t safe enough for her. My Tilda and I agreed, oh, yes. Them downs ain’t safe, you know. ‘Specially for some lady lookin’ soft as she did. I was amazed her menfolk let her away like she was, all dressed nice like she come from some ceremony.”

“Nah, Pa. More like some sad thing. She was all dressed in dark. Like from a funeral!”

“Funeral’s still a ceremony, Jas. Now you just hush, boy. Git on.”

“So do you know where she was going when she left?”

“No, I’m terribly sorry. I wish I could…wait a darn moment! What do you think you’re doing?”

“This won’t take a moment. I promise.”

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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.

When Nightmares Come

Shadows loom in the dark of the mountain.

I am home, am I not? This looks like home. Only Erebor can cast such deep shadows. They swallow our gardens and kill many flowers. They wither and simply fade away.

There. The shadows are creeping up the grass to touch the bright flowers I tried to grow. Papa said it was useless. I am worthless as a gardener; everything I plant only dies. I try to hard to bring them back to life. I want them to grow, to bring butterflies and busy bees.

Eiri says to just plant them in the sun. But Mama says I cannot plant there. That corner is reserved for the gardener and the patio and the guests that wish to feel the magnificence of the Lonely Mountain without feeling so small.

Oh, look! It withers. The petals shrink and the leaves curl and no amount of love will ever bring them back.

I reach for the last bloom: a beautiful burgundy rose that somehow managed to open. The shadow nears. The outer petals start to close and I break the stem quickly in an attempt to sever it from the poison. The thorns draw blood. It drips too quickly and begins to paint the bare dirt beneath my feet. Shadows start to rise from the droplets of blood and as I back away I see the blurred shapes of Men and Dwarves and Elves.

They have come for me.

~*~***~***~*~

Eirikr rubbed a calloused hand through his beard. The nightmare came again. Ninim lying there, the naked, crying child still connected by the cord running from its belly into her. So much blood.

Like in so many of his dreams, suddenly he could not move. He could only watch as the blood rose up around her even as she began to sink. Her features twisted in pain and she called out to him, only no sound reached him from her. He heard only the baby’s crying.

Slowly, the pool climbed up her cheeks and he could feel the tears slide down his own. As the crimson filled her mouth and nose, the infant started wailing.

Do you hear me, Eirikr?
The beast bears our wretched whelp to the woods.

The book. Those words from the book were spoken in his head and the mingled with the screaming. He wanted to run, but still his arms and legs did not respond to his desire.

It was not this nightmare where he read the book. Why couldn’t anyone else see the text written in the book? He remembered it now: the book. Blood. He did not know what it meant and the details wouldn’t find their places in his mind.

A dream within a dream.

He stared at the child as the pool began to drag it forward by its cord. The terror in the child’s newborn face could not be disguised by the wrinkles and crust of birth.

He had to save it.

Him.

Wake up.

~*~***~***~*~

A faint feeling of foreboding stirs the sleep of a half-bred hussy
Beauty of splendor and secretive lies set a stage for the fine-bred and fussy.
She doesn’t fit in and she’ll never quite win
As her dreams fill with damaging mist
A sense of ‘gone wrong’ and a sad howling song
Keep her guilty whenever she’s kissed

Far, far away in a land made of death she dreams of a different touch
One that’s now gone and safe from her harm and thinks he won’t be missed much
But her dreams tell a tale and the winds blow a gale
And the warmth that she feels turns so cold
And when love turns to hate, it will open the gate
For the nightmares to come out of old.

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: Instincts

From High King's Crossing

The shield was dirty and it made Abiorn’s face look dirty. Dirty streaks crossed his features as he touched his cheek and then his chin. Was this his face? What happened in those ruins?

He looked down and turned over his hands. The bruises that ran across his palms from wrist to ring finger attested that yes, he was the one who had caught the club of the hulking tomb robber. His hands turned into burly claws and he was the one that ripped out the man’s throat with his teeth. His eyes in the mirrored surface of the shield were his eyes. Those were his shoulders, though, yes, in the time he spent since leaving Dale, they were broader. Stronger. Work around the cabin had made them so. His hair was a wild frame around his face; he rarely spent much time on it anyway.

He touched his lips and could still taste the robber’s blood on his tongue. No matter how many times he rinsed his mouth out, he could not remove the taste. But that did not bother him quite as much as the simple fact that he had liked it.

He had liked the raw power rippling through his muscles as he stood on his hind legs and easily overpowered the lumbering robber. He had liked watching the body fall as an enemy vanquished. He had liked the fear he saw in the eyes of the humans around him, friend and foe alike.

It felt strong. It felt powerful. It felt right.

The boy touched his lips again and ran his tongue over his front teeth as he bared them in a snarl.

Abiorn the Bear. Not the weak, crippled boy that he lived as all his life.

Yes, that felt right.

~~~***~~~

Every instinct in my body tells me to look at her as I used to before we left for the dark road to Dale. Even as we slept side by side beneath the changing moon, I only saw her as a companion of the woods. A companion in arms. A fellow marksman and tracker and a systir. Never did I see her as I do now each time I close my eyes. Each time I look at her and see her smiling up at me with sparkles in her hair. Each time I simply want to dive into her and lose myself.

How many times has my pain been removed by her touch?

How many times has she saved my life and I saved hers?

Yet, she is an Eldar. Men and Eldar cannot find happiness in such a union. Our fates lead us down different paths and despite how she is becoming my journey, I know I am just a detour in hers.

From High King's Crossing

~~~***~~~

Anya’s lips curled into a smile as Morty’s hands roamed over her bare skin. She arched into the gentle weight of him as he hovered above her and she looked up into his warm brown eyes and kissed him.

“Only you,” he murmured into her ear as the moonlight bathed them in its gentle glow. “Only you, my Anya.”

Somewhere in the far corners of her pleasure-logged mind, a bell went off. A silver tinkling like the sound of the little bell she left on Morty’s mantle grew louder and louder until she could no longer hear the heavy breath of her lover. She could only hear the ringing of the bell.

Anya pushed against Morty’s chest and looked up into his face. Clear of scars. Soft brown eyes. Not Morty.

Her heart stopped to coil into a tight pain and then it raced ahead in panic and fear.

Not Morty.

“Anya…” His voice was worried and still laden with desire as he leaned in to kiss her temple. Her forehead. His lips were warm and she felt his heart thudding against her breast.

Not Morty.

She pushed harder against him and tried to sit up. He gripped her shoulders and tried to catch her eye.

“Anya, what is it, love?”

Not Morty.

Every fiber in her body screamed for release from him in both senses of the word. She arched against him to push him away and when he did not move, she hit him. His rough grave-digger’s hands easily pinned her wrists to the mattress.

Not Morty.

“No! Release me! Let me go!”

Then he laughed and it was cruel. His perfect face faded and she was left naked on a cold stone floor. Blue flames surrounded her in her nightmare and she saw Faethril on the other side.

We could make it so, you know. Mend his pain and make him yours.

“Never… I will never give in to you!”

You don’t want him all to yourself? Just you and he to make babies and eat supper together every night?

“That’s not us. That’s not Morty.”

But are you sure it isn’t you? We can make it so.

“It would not be right. I know it in my heart it would not be true to who he is or who I am!”

Oh, but little dear… who are you? What colour is your hair?

“I know who I am. I feel it in my gut, I am me! I will never be you!”

And I feel it in my soul that I will have you. Call it… a premonition. My instincts tell me that you will join me if it means having him. In time, you will see.

Overdone: The Strength of One

His scent is heavy. Both young and wise in such a Man’s body. He follows their trails to ensure they are safe.

I will do the same.

Mainy seasons have passed since I left the sanctuary of the forest. Perhaps my paws have forgotten the feel of the grass of the Shire. The sands of the Barandalf. How long has it been since my muscles have strained as I tore over open plains?

My pack is strong. I trust them to keep the vigil and watch over her as I have watched over her since I returned from the burning Brown Lands to find her still and beautiful. I can finally leave the forest without fear.

Her scent keeps me alive.

Her understanding keeps me strong.

Her forgiveness guides me.

She tells me in my slumber that the Mountain-lake Pack is troubled. Their members quarrel and stray. In the years since I was exiled, the descendants of Shadowclaw have only grown fatter and more frivolous. They see not what their actions do to the security of the pack. They did not listen. They would not help me. They forced my hand and I pay the price to this day.

And now, as Bregamir and Hara… Hara move north…

I will not help them but I’ll help Them.

His scent is heavy.

It keeps me strong.

She tells me they are strong through visions of trees and flowers. They reach the sky, tall and terrible to behold with the majesty of the days when the Old Forest took me from the western sea to the Anduin. Brilliant colours: crimson and greens and blues. Gold and orange. Then the vision shifts and I understand they seek great peril. A great winged-worm of silver. An iris such a deep burgundy it is black. The earth speaks deep secrets if only one is willing to listen.

He listens. They will hear.

Or they will die.

Silloth, when will I hear your shining laughter again?

~~~***~~~

Arrival in Oatbarton

They arrived in Oatbarton without incident. Anya’s wrists chafed beneath the cords that wrapped around her wrists, but she did not complain. For most of the ride, she simply listened to Abiorn ramble about tracking and hunting and Bregamir’s training. She hoped the boy understood that he would never be able to keep up with “normal” young men. She hoped his hopes wouldn’t be crushed.

The waggon turned and climbed a steep slope up to the farms. She listened to the others debate about what was good for her and what was not and tried not to respond with the emotions that rolled through her. She understood that they were acting in her best interest. Their best interest. She felt Faethril surge when Anric sat in the back of the waggon with her. But it didn’t make it any easier.

See how they leave you behind?

She tried not to jump as the voice echoed in her head.

“They didn’t leave me behind. People stayed with me.”

To watch over you. To bind you. Try to control you. They do not trust you; they fear you for no reason. Give them a reason to fear you. Take control by accepting the power only I can give you. Strike down those that try to wear you away to the small, suffering whelp you once were.

“Why? Why do you do this?”

Let me show you…

Blackness that faded into a midnight sky. No stars dotted the great expanse above. A swirling disorientation and Anya was standing before the Tower in the Lone-lands where she knew Faethril’s master, Delostor kept his study. Anya moved forward and reached to the worn handle. Her footsteps echoed off the stone walls. There. At his workstation with his back to the stairs, Master Delostor held the heirloom in his hand. He chanted over the small silver dragon as he held it in the smoke rising from his ritual bowl.

She stood at the top of the stair with her hands clasped in front of her. She could feel the power of the experiment.

“You are certain you wish to do this? Once done, it can not be undone.” Her master’s voice was silky and rich. It cooed like a lover even as the purple smoke curled around his head as if caressing him.

She nodded.

“Very well. You have it?”

She held out her hand. A few strands of hair. His hair, freshly pulled as he slumbered next to her. He would never miss the few she plucked from his scalp; in fact, he had only winced and rolled over. As she murmured the soothing spell over him, the Adûnaic flowing with her remarkable penchant for language, he stilled and sighed. It was for him. This would make him strong – both of them strong. He would survive.

Master Delostor’s eye gleamed as he took the hair and added it to the fire.

“For the last ingredient,” he said as the smoke swirled angrily as the hairs burned, “I need your arm. Please, Faethril. Step forward.”

Anya felt herself stepping forward and she held out her left arm to the sorcerer. She felt herself cringe slightly as the jagged dagger left its sheath, but she did not pull away.

Pain.

A steady stream of crimson blood. A low hiss as a drop missed the open mouth of the dragon and fell into the flames. The smoke turned black and then a rich, warm burgundy. With a noise like a child slurping from a running stream, the dragon swallowed the smoke until it’s emerald eyes flashed like aquamarine. As they faded back to green, the remaining smoke cleared and Faethril’s master handed her the statue.

“This will protect him?”

Anya took the dragon from Master Delostor and though the metal was hot, it did not burn her. As she tilted the statue to the side, she thought she saw Aeron’s image flash in the adamant star mounted on its forehead. She ran her finger down the six set into its hide. The irony of the trophy from the King… his father’s pride. Her master had assured her the use of the Arthedain relic would not weaken the spell.

“Yes. He cannot be killed as long as this statue is whole. It will take the power of the Witch-king himself to destroy it. And your blood only strengthens the spell; you have bound your souls together until the end of time.” Delostor looked at Anya with his changeling eyes and she smiled even as she trembled.

“Thank you, my lord.” She curtsied deeply, sinking all the way to the cold stones of the tower’s floor…

You see, I will do anything. He is my strength and my succor. This world took him from me and for that it shall suffer.

Anya closed her eyes and shook her head. She heard the horses whinnying outside the waggon. She felt the heat of the fire on her face still as she leaned back against the canvas.

I will bring him back. We will have the life that was stolen from us once these Men with their petty quarrels have paid.

As she fought to ignore the sinister undercurrent, Anya whispered to her solitude, “Give me strength.”

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.

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.

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.

Quotes – OOC

February 2-9, 2014

stolen from Word Porn
stolen from Word Porn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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