Lina hadn’t worried about it when Falros and she decided without words to start to drift apart. It happened just as suddenly as their drifting together. She didn’t remember how she ended up in the back stall of the South Gate stables, but she supposed she had a good time.
And that very day, she received a visitor with unexpected news. The farmhand refused to meet her eye as he spoke. Her mother was dying. She needed to go home.
For a very long time, she sat in her aunt’s parlour and stared at the small pouch of coins that came with the message. The money was to pay for post back to the farmsteads. The farmhand begged for haste as she sat there weighing the coin. Her mother had received injuries during a brigand onslaught. They had burned everything they could: only the stone of the main house had protected what family possessions survived. The barn, the pastures were cinder and ash. The youth, who couldn’t have been much older than Lina herself, described the devastation in detail. Only when he started to describe the barn roof ablaze over the screaming horses did she move. Quickly, she ordered him to hire the post horses and meet her at the North Gate.
Without explaining to her aunt, who had stood at the door to eavesdrop anyway, she fled the house and rushed back to Falros’s. She didn’t really have anything to gather. Packing was quick: three or four mismatched outfits, her dagger. She gave Moose, the large, stolen piece of taxidermy art on Fal’s bedroom wall, a loving pat and scanned the sparse room. She tried. She really did. Maybe he’d miss her. Maybe she’d find out one day.
* * *
Her mother was not dying. The woman lay in bed with a bruise on her forehead from fainting into the kitchen table. Her father was far worse off, at least appearance-wise; the man had multiple cuts and lacerations from fighting off the attackers with his old garrison blade. His brows were scorched away from fighting the fire that consumed his livelihood.
Though she was relieved that the farmhand had exaggerated (under her mother’s duress, she was certain), Lina grumbled that she had ridden half a day for a bruise.
“Emma!” her mother cried from her bed. Lina held the woman’s tea as she gestured grandly toward the walls of the room. The entire place smelled of charcoal and smoke. The brigands had driven off her family’s swine; a few came wandering back, but there was little they could do except bring them into the main house. Their earthy scent mingled with the acrid scent of burns and caused Lina to gag. How her mother could handle it, she hadn’t a clue. “How can ye think o’ leavin’ us now wit’ all th’ work tha’ needs ta be done?!”
“Mother, may I remind ye that ye sent me to Bree two years ago.” Lina handed her the tea and held her palm up for the saucer she knew was about to be handed back. She set it on the night stand.
“But things are different now, Emma. Ye must see tha’ we need the helpin’ hand. We are your family!”
Looking out the bedroom window, Lina held her tongue. Her father labored outside with the farmhands, cleaning up the remnants of the barn. The pile of debris grew as the men shifted through the ruins searching for salvageable material. Despite the deception, despite the past, in that moment Lina knew her mother only spoke the truth: they needed her.
“I will not stay indefinitely,” she said as she watched the men work, “but I will stay until the farm is cleaned up.”
“Until it is cleaned up, Mother. And no more.”
** ** ** ** ** **
Two days ago…
Zhevruil | The two of them ride to Buckland, to home.
Cwen stretched languidly, her body pressed against Zhevruil’s as the rising sun filtered through the dark blue curtains. She propped her head up and perused his beaten brow: the bruises were yellowing and would fade away completely but the scars… She reached out to gently touch his lip. She remembered when they were unmarred, years ago. The stripes across his back, hidden beneath cloth or sheltered from her eyes carefully throughout their night, caused her heart to stop with the pain of of her sympathy. She saw it in his eyes that he didn’t want it. He didn’t want her to feel sorry for him.
“Zhevruil,” she whispers, the name hanging on her lips like honey.
She should feel guilty. Biramore had been missing for weeks, and the time stretched thin like she took each second as a step along a wire stretched across the deep chasms of Moria. Her time spent in Bree added to her depression – the memories, the memories. But she was beholden to her heart and with Laerlin away, she worried a competent healer would not be readily available to the girl upon her return. And then the theft of her ring…
She knew that her return to Bree set into motion something bigger than her plans to retire quietly in Buckland. Biramore’s disappearance, Zhevruil’s reappearance, and the missing ring could hardly have been connected, but she wondered sometimes if the fates worked in threes.
Zhevruil mumbled in his sleep and turned his face away from her. Callee would be awake soon to take Neilia across the river to play with the Stock children as she did every Wednesday. It was market day.
Things seemed so much simpler in the Shire.
** ** ** ** ** **
Eirikr stared at the letter in disbelief. The hand that covered his mouth trembled. His left held the parchment open with some difficulty, the sling hanging loose as he sat leaning his elbow on his knee. As his trembling increased, the paper fell from his grasp. It floated to the floor oh so slowly and landed dangerously close to the embers of the cooking fire.
The house was deathly empty without Anya’s presence. The week between her return from Fornost and their departure for the Red Pass had been spent in her near constant company after Faethril had emerged on the streets of Bree. The angry spirit attacked Eruviel and had to be wrestled to the ground. Anya had been able to control the whispers of the spirit much better at the Elf’s home.
He had taken it upon himself to keep her entertained so her mind would not dwell on what she had to face. They talked of everything from the water-bugs that still dotted the pond beneath Eruviel’s home to the state of Dale when Anya departed. He watched her paint and draw with an embarrassed awe. He never realized his sister’s talent. At night when Eruviel was home, their laughter filled the confines of their solitude and the world was brighter despite the dark. Since his sister left, it seemed as if every stretch of silence could only be broken by a crow’s call.
Ninim’s penmanship flowed over the page. It spoke lightly of the winter markets and the skulk of foxes that ran through their back yard leaving tracks in the fresh fallen snow. It told how Hulda next door was expecting her fifth child. And it spoke of how Kolrson Tenorbekk sent Sven the Shiv to “protect and watch over” her, his wife, while he was away fetching the wayward daughter.
Hovering over his wife.
He could do nothing.
He stood quickly and strode to the window, throwing it open to let a cold breeze rush in. He closed his eyes and let the wind assault his heated face. Raising his left hand, he tried to make a fist. The fingers responded slowly. Resisted. Gritting his teeth, he tried again. And again.
When Anya returned – and she would return – he would go back to Dale without her if he had to and get Ninim away from the clutches of that man. He could protect her; he would protect her. Abiorn, too, if he had to. No man was going to touch his wife and get away with it.
He would keep making a fist until Anya walked through the door, determined to use it to knock anyone who got in his way, out.
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
“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.”
“’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.”
“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?”
“E’en if his face got character, but his loins ain’t?”
“Yer so stupid.”
“Fair enough, I suppose.”
***Anya and Aeron
“Hey, um. Are you there?”
“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.
…Did you have another question?
“It’s about your beloved.”
Ah, yes. Faethril. I am afraid for her.
“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.
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!))
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.
A sharp, stabbing, cramping pain. Wetness. Down her thighs. Pooled beneath her. Her hand touched the wetness and pulled back stained red. The pain blinded her as the blood streamed from her belly and she screamed.
Lina sat up in bed, her chest heaving as the dream still clung to her. The darkened room was chill in the night. The nocturnal creatures stirred outside and inside only the deep, even breaths of Falros accompanied the sound of her own. He stirred, murmuring in his sleep and reaching for the spot where her warmth had been moments before. She reached down and let his hand find hers. He stilled.
Her breathing in the night air left puffs of smoky vapor hanging like ghosts. The embers were dying on the hearth glowing a dull orange in the dark. She looked back down at Falros and sighed, her eyes traveling over his brutish profile simply drinking him in. She leaned down to kiss him gently and then slid out from beneath the covers and padded over to the fire.
She quickly banked the fading embers to make it easier in the morning and then stood up to gaze at nothing with her arms wrapped around her naked torso for warmth. The phantom pain still lingered and her hands moved to press low on her belly. Her eyes shut tight against the tears that threatened to spill and she took a deep, shuddering breath.
Only a moment. She would allow herself only a moment to remember the past and then she slid back into the warm present of Falros’s arms.
I don’t know who I am any more. I feel so lost. In such a short amount of time, I have gone from a spoiled, selfish merchant’s daughter to a near destitute vagabond scrounging for survival with batted eyelashes and bated breath. Someone leeching off of near strangers for such basic needs as a roof over my head and warm food in my belly. For fancy robes on my back.
I hate that I have become something I loathe. I’ve become our father.
The lines between kindness and manipulation have begun to blur. Misdirected, I have gutted one for an advantage over the other. This passionate need to fight for what I want has destroyed what I want. I want friends, I want family. I want to be loved. But they seem to simply slip through my grasp. I can’t trust myself to differentiate between friend or foe anymore. I am not prepared for a world such as Bree. I feel like I have lost something, and more than just a friend. All to protect myself against the dark rumours that he himself perpetuates by justifying them.
I do not know whether to feel justified or suffer from the terrible loss.
He’s in my head.
He is in my head; I know he is and I do not want him to be, but I do not want him to not be, either. Eirikr, is this how it is like with Ninim? Do you want her so much it hurts? I cannot think of you before her; you are one. Together, you make a whole. How did you know that she was your other half? That together, you would be right?
And what if Ninim hadn’t been Ninim, but a person with a past and a face that everyone believes lies? What if someone you trusted told you not to trust her, though she had already told you that people would say precisely that? Who would you believe? Her? Or the rest of a town?
No, I am not prepared for a world such as Bree.
Thus, I am going on a trip. Miss Teiblanc found a necklace that might lead to a treasure and we are going to go seek it. I’m going on an adventure! I am nervous, maybe a little scared, even. But I feel like I am in good hands and cannot foresee any terrible grief that might befall us. Teiblanc is leading us and Eruviel, with whom I now live, wanted to come, too! A man named Torlach is sponsoring the trip; he is something called a Ranger and I feel perhaps a little disturbed. He once saw a bracelet I found on the road and threatened to relieve me of my hands as a penalty for stealing Ranger relics. He is rather frightening, but since then he has bought my art and been very pleasant. It’s down-right wonky.
Falros had agreed to come along at first, though since then we have had a figh falling out. He warned me that Morty was just playing mind games and manipulating me—his words stung more than I could admit. So I stung back and made as if I were using Morty. I tried to make it seem like I had no emotional attachments to him and that Falros was worried over nothing. But it circled back and bit my heel; he no longer trusts me so suddenly I changed. He didn’t know who I was any more and neither did I. I feel absolutely terrible about what happened—Falros is such a simple man. I did him a grave disservice by giving him my complications and I am so sorry for it.
What should I do, brother mine? How can I fix this—is it even possible?
Emmelina stood in the doorway chewing a piece of straw. She eyed the Elf that stood over Anya and gently tried to wake her. Anya stirred beneath the twisted covers and Eruviel spoke softly.
“My friend, someone is here to see you.”
Lina snorted. She would have dumped the girl to the floor ages ago.
Finally, Anya groaned.
“Really, Anya, whatever has gotten into you?” Eruviel sighed and lifted the cup of water from the small table next to the bed. She held it out to the Woman as she sat up holding her head.
“Dunno,” Anya muttered under her breath. She reached for the water without opening her eyes and Eruviel obliged by placing it in her hand. “I dunno anything any more.”
“Well, by the Valar, what started this in the first place? You spoke of Men last night, though none of it made much sense.” Eruviel frowned down on her friend and shook her head at the mess Anya was: her only robes wrinkled and stained, hair a tangle, face blotchy from her night of drink.
“I did.” Anya stared for along moment at the satchel discarded on the floor. Lina’s eyes followed her gaze and immediately went to retrieve it.
“What’s in here, Anya?” Without waiting for an answer, she unbuckled the clasp and dumped the contents on the foot of her bed.
Pencils and charcoals fell to the spread in a cloud of fine black dust. Her sketchbook and a smaller journal came out along with some pieces of loose paper and a stuffed bunny. A small silver bell tinkled as it rolled to the floor. A crumpled ball of paper landed on top and Lina picked it up. She smoothed the page out on the bed and snorted. “Thought so.”
“Lina, what are you doing here?” Anya croaked rubbing her forehead.
The tall girl shrugged. “Thought I’d stop by ‘fore heading to work. See how you was doin’.” She pointed down at the picture: half the face of a man, one eye heavily scarred with five streaks down the left side of his face, foppish hat, roguish grin. “This that fella you had me chasin’ for all over town, eh?”
Eruviel looked carefully at the drawing. “Hm. You drew this last night at the Pony, Anya. Could you explain?”
Lina shot Anya a quick glance through her lashes. Anya had come home late an evening before, tipsy and giddy. Lina had taken a run at her for being out by herself, but Anya had just waved her hand and brushed it off before turning in for the night. The next day, she looked a bit worse for wear and had spent the morning composing the letter. She begged Lina to deliver it and when she had forgotten, got very upset. Lina had begrudgingly sought after the man at Anya’s insistence and gave him the note. Upon returning to their room that evening, Lina asked who he was. In fact, she had persisted until Anya had angrily stalked out despite looking tragically pale and unsteady.
She was surprised then when Anya nodded slowly, her eyes closed. “I think I need to talk to someone about it,” she admitted in a voice so soft, Lina could barely hear it at the foot of the bed.
Eruviel put a comforting hand on Anya’s arm. “Please do, my friend. I think it will help.”
And Lina listened as Anya began spilling the tale of her yesterday.
The picture is of Morty Mossfoot, Bree’s grave-digger. I met him one day outside the Pony when I was standing by the Postbox, lost in my own thoughts. He was polite and charming despite my blatant inability to look away from the terrible scarring of his face. He probably thought my permanent shade was strawberry red, I was so embarrassed.
Morty was kind to me; after running into him at the Market, he had a dress made in the likeness of the one he found me admiring. I was so flattered, but also amazed that after only two or three encounters, he was willing to procure such an item for me. He called it a welcoming gift. And it wasn’t the last thing he did for me as I tried to start my new life here.
He helped me get the room at the boarding house where I met you, Lina. And he talked up my drawings until I had the courage to show them to someone who was interested in buying. I feel like he’s this amazing person who showed me a second chance at life. I needed that, so desperately. Almost as desperately as I feel I need him now.
Which is foolish of me. Entirely and utterly foolish. He has no interest in me other than the conquest: another woman to dote upon until she’s done with him. He never lied to me about what he did. Who he, and all of Bree, thought he was. So, I tried to just see him. Not think too much on our time spent together or the talk of people. See him as kind company for my loneliness. Soon, the loneliness fell away, only he didn’t. And then – I saw him. And I couldn’t stop seeing.
It’s stupid. It’s childish. He probably just reminds me of Bookie, the man who brought me to the Bree-lands. I trusted him too much, just like I am trusting Morty. I have reason not to trust Morty. As I said, he’s never hidden from me, and I guess that is refreshing after a life of hiding in Dale. But I’m trusting him too much, and his honesty stabs at me. Then I just rub salt in the wounds.
Yesterday, I saw him outside the Pony. He got the letter and tea I sent; he often looks so unwell. Once inside, he confronted me about Falros. Falros! I had written to him about our journey – let him know that Falros was going so that he’d know I’d have protection that he could trust. But he warned me of him. He said, “This may sound like a real riot coming from me, but…be careful around him.” Be careful! As if Falros would have any interest in me! Virgin or no, I doubt Falros sees me as having anything worth stealing!
This upset me. That he would question things that way. And so what if he did?! So what if Falros wanted me…it might as well have gone to him! None of them can be trusted — they have no interests beside their own.
And then, as if I wanted to really drive home the self-inflicted pain…I asked about Orchil. She’s a sad woman who I suspected Morty had an affair with. Has an affair with. I don’t really know, to be honest, but I asked. And he told me plainly: yes. They had been together and to this day things seem unresolved.
How can I let that hurt me? How can I let something so foolish drive a knife into my heart and just…bleed?
Lina pressed her lips together and stared at Anya as she told her story. She tried to suppress a snort or two. She could remember those days, when love and lust mingled in one confusing throng of agony. It surprised her that the older woman seemed so distraught over such matters, though if she was honest with herself, she had been like that once. She looked at the young woman and felt pity for her – briefly. She didn’t have time for that any more.
“It’ll pass, Any,” she said. “They’re all the same, anyway, in th’end. They only think with their passions and can’t be bothered until they don’t have a choice.” She snorted. “And even then, some can’t be accounted for.”
Eruviel gave Lina a hard look. She refilled Anya’s cup with a pitcher from the stand. “Anya, things are not as bad as they seem, my dear. They will work their way out in the end. But I would like to tell you what happened last night at the Pony…”
Some men started taking a go at the cause of your troubles…
Anyatka waves her hand dismissively and picks up her mug for another long drink. She doesn’t raise her head from her hand.
Teiblanc raises a brow in Anya’s direction and crosses her arms. “Hmm is something the matter miss Anya?”
Rhetyn leans to Eruviel. “I think your friend could use a strong drink.”
Anyatka shrugs and takes another drink only to turn the mug upside down, A thin stream lands on the table. “Bard’s bloody bow,” she mutters and turns to go get more.
Eruviel looks to Rhetyn, “Unfortunately she already has one . . . but may need another.”
Marnal grins, “No, you’re not so bad. Watch out for the sad woman behind you.”
Anyatka nearly bumps into Nill. She turns to avoid her and scratches her head. Dragging her feet, she goes for another ale.
Teiblanc frowns in concern as she rises and raises a hand in a questioning manner but is unable to say anything.
Rhetyn chuckles. “So it seems.” He watches Anyatka drag herself across the room and shrugs. “My money is on man problems.”
Teiblanc says, ‘What happened to make her this way?’
Marnal turns to Rhetyn, “Are you starting a betting pool?”
Eruviel shrugs sadly, but gives Rhetyn a half-hearted smile. “Part of me hopes not, but you may be right, good sir.”
You spoke of a man who was lost…
Anyatka flops to the side and stretches out on the bench. “Didn’t come. Was brought. Stupid man. Stupid stupid MEN!” She reaches up to pull the mug down to her.
Anyatka looks blearily from Eruviel to Rhetyn. “What was I talkin’ about?”
Eruviel slowly reaches across the table and draws Anatka’s mug away from her. “You were talking about how terrible men are . . .”
Anyatka points emphatically. “Not men. Bookie. Bookie the Bastard!” She laughs at her lame insult and slaps her knee.
Rhetyn says, ‘And how you were dragged here from your home.’ Rhetyn shrugs back to Eruviel.
Anyatka turns to Rhet. “He lied. A lot.” She reaches for her mug and looks confused. “He told me he could protect us and look how that turned out!”
Eruviel frowns, “Anya, who lied to you?”
Anyatka shakes her head at Rhet. “No, ’cause I ran.” She swivels to Eruviel. “Bookie lied. He fed me lies for years and now I’m here and he’s not.” She spots Eruviel with two mugs and reaches for one.
Rhetyn says, ‘And you are just now upset about it?’
Eruviel hands over her own mug that’s half full with a light wine.
Anyatka shakes her head. “What’dya mean just now? Happened two weeks ago!”
Rhetyn says, ‘Exactly my point. This is a bit of a delayed reaction, isn’t it? Two weeks ago and you’re just now drinking about it? I thought you were a Dalish woman!’
Eruviel shakes her head sharply at Rhetyn, knowing that it’s been a sore subject for Anyatka.
Anyatka shakes her head and gestures to Rhet with her mug. “No. No. He’s dead, for all I know. He’s gone. Or he’s fine, and just not come looking. Whatever. I’m here now. I’m here.” She takes a drink. “But MEN!”
And seemed rather displeased with their gender as a whole…
Anyatka raises a hand to wave dismissively and leans over to take another drink. “Bard’s arrow can take men and send them to the moon.”
And then Falros showed up and, well…
Eruviel frowns, seeing Falros approaching.
Falros blinks at Eruviel and gestures with a pint, “Don’ gimme tha’ look! I ain’t even make fun o’ ye yet!”
Nillariel sets down the lute, walking over to the loud commotion.
Rhetyn grins and raises his mug in greeting to Falros.
Anyatka moans against the tabletop and reaches for the mug Eruviel handed her. She sits up to drink and makes a face. “This isn’t ale!” Hashtag faceplant.
Eruviel discreetly pours Anya’s ale out onto the floor beneath the table.
Rhetyn says, ‘She’s having man problems.’
Renaron shakes his head slightly at the waste of perfectly decent ale.
Nillariel thinks for a moment, “L-like… race of man problems?”
Falros groans, “Shite.. I ain’t want any part o’ this!”
Anyatka sits up and leaps to her feet. She climbs up onto the bench, hands out. “No! No!” Nothing to see here…
Eruviel reaches up to Anyatka, “Dear, you should sit back down . . .” Eruviel reaches out to steady Anyatka.
Falros stares up at Anyatka, then Eruviel, and suddenly starts laughing.
Nillariel blinks, “Uhm…”
Eruviel glares at Falros.
Falros says, ‘Poor lass gots ‘er hands full.’
Anyatka darts forward toward Falros. “He didn’t say nuthin’ about you!” she exclaims. She tries to get down the other side without a hashtag faceplant.
Falros backs up, lest he get spewed upon! Carefully holding his mugs up, he watches Anya, “.. wha’?”
Eruviel nearly falls forward as Anyatka moves across the table. “Now, Anya, you really should sit back down.”
Renaron bends a bit to look around the post where he leans, watching curiously to see whatever might happen.
Anyatka lands, barely, arms out to catch her shaky balance. “Whoa,” she says.
Rhetyn chuckles and gets up, downing the last of his drink. He makes his way to the bar, shaking his head.
Nillariel looks over, “Uh… I think you s-should run.” She smirks at Falros, “Hell hath n-no fury like a woman scorned.”
Falros blinks at Nillariel, “Uh.. she ain’t me girl… an’ I ain’t -think- I pissed ‘er off…” He glances up as if trying to recall what he’s done in the last day or two.
Eruviel puts her arms out, ready to catch the inebriated Anyatka should she fall.
Anyatka shakes her head at Nill’s comment. “No, no, no. He’s good.” She points at Falros. “He’s not a man.” She meant ‘bad man’ but, eh.
Falros says, ‘Wha’!’
Rhetyn passes over payment for his own, plus Anyatka and Eruviel’s drinks, then turns to leave, chuckling.
Falros scoffs and grumbles defensively, “I be as manly as they get, thank ye very much.”
Nillariel glances over, “You… t-tripped into a barfight.”
Eruviel looks to Falros apologetically. “She’s gotten worse and worse since she came inside earlier. Please forgive her.”
Falros says, ‘… Ye stay outta this!’ He looks to Eruviel, “Aren’t ye Elves s’posed t’ be.. I dunno.. carin’ er somethin’? How’d ye let ‘er get this loaded?”
Anyatka waves at Nillariel and Falros. “No, no, no fightin’.” She plunks back down on the bench. “Whoa.” Looking up at Falros, she holds out her hands in welcome. “Falros! My friend!”
Renaron settles again to lean against his post, now that things seem boring. Or settled. Maybe both.
Eruviel shoots him a dark look. “I tried Falros. She drank faster than I could stop her.”
Falros looks left, then right. “.. this a trap?”
Eruviel rolls her eyes and heaves a heavy sigh.
Nillariel glances over, “W-well, it sin’t a good one i-if it is. You could m-make a bolt for the door, bust a window open…”
Eruviel turns to Anyatka. “You. Stay.”
Falros nods to Nillariel, “Good thinkin’.”
Anyatka pushes up from the bench and walk-stumbles over to him. She pats him hard on the chest. “No, no. Friend.” She reaches up and pets his bald head.
Nillariel looks to the elf over her shoulder, then looks back to the plastered woman.
Eruviel says, “Barliman, a cold towel please.”
Falros freezes. He’s been spotted! Holding his mugs at a safe distance away from Anya, he stared, mouth hanging open. “Uhhhh…”
Nillariel thinks Anya turned him off by touching the top of his head.
Eruviel takes Anyatka’s arm, “Here, lets go back to the table.” She draws Anya back to sit on the bench.
Anyatka stumbles backward, hand still reaching to pat his head.
Nillariel walks over, “You alright? K-kind of froze up there.”
Falros mumbles toward Nillariel, “If I close me eyes, she won’t be able t’ see me, aye?”
And finally, a man gave you a bunny…
Grygg reaches into his right pocket and pulls out a small, beanbag bunny, then sets it on the table in front of Anyatka, “For you, if you wish.”
Falros says, ‘… th’ dreaded bunny.’
Forthogar just blinks, not grasping the situation in the slightest, but truth be told, he’s not trying very hard.
Falros says, ‘Wha’ were th’ bunny’s name again?’
Eruviel looks at the beanbag bunny, fearing for its life.
Grygg tells Falros, “Each person names their own.”
Anyatka blinks at the bunny for a moment. “I don’t want your blasted bunny!” she says and starts to bawl.
Falros eyes the bunny for a moment, then looks back to Grygg, “Ye got anythin’ other ‘n bunnies?… like.. a stuffed troll? Aye! I’d take a stuffed troll.’
Grygg reaches into his left pocket, bringing out three small beanbag balls, “Just this.” Grygg juggles a bit.
Falros says, ‘…. tha’ ain’t very excitin’.’
Anyatka hiccups and pokes the bunny in the nose.
Grygg stops juggling and re-pockets the beanbags. “I do not really come equipped for full entertainment, these days.”
Lina held up the bunny and made it hop. Hop. Hop. Anya stared at it blearily, tears clinging to her lower lashes. After a moment more of watching the hopping, she lowered her face to her hands and said, “I can never go back there again.”
Rolling her eyes, Lina sat on the edge of the bed and asked, “Why not? You think they never saw a mess before? Shucks, it sounds like those men knew exactly what your problem was. Sure they saw it before.”
Anya shook her head, moaning, “But I drew that! Right there? And it’s so much more than just Morty.” Her hands dropped and she stared at them with pleading eyes. “Really.”
Lina looked at her dubiously. “Uh-huh,” she said and handed her the bunny. “Ya keep tellin’ yerself that, honey.”
There was a light dusting of snow the other day, though none of it stuck around for more than a moment. I thought about the Mountain and how the sun would gleam from its peak all year round. How it reflected in the surface of the lake. I try to forget those things, but often they sneak into my thoughts when I least expect it.
I do miss home. You. Little Abbi. But I am not so alone any more. I am making friends. Me! Can you picture it, Eirikr: little Anya sitting in a tavern surrounded with jolly, sociable folk drinking ale! The thought of it would have been preposterous a year ago. But, not any more. I have met many interesting people and all seem to wish to live life to the farthest extent of their abilities. And everyone is so kind here. It makes me wonder what is so wrong with our family that we could never have such freedom.
There is Falros, so boisterous and funny. He used to fight brigands in the Bree-lands and now spends his days merry-making. Father would have thrown him out on his rear the moment he walked through the door. I like him, though. He has a kind heart — kind enough to assist me after a night of rather poor choices when it came to drink.
Next, there is Miss Teiblanc, an Elf like few I have met before. She reminds me a little of the daughter of Lord Haeron. You remember, the one with the silvery hair that could not stop smiling at you that evening at banquet? Father had said she was young and foolish for her kind. I think Miss Teiblanc is young for an Elf and I do not think that is a bad thing at all. She still feels connected to us here and I do not see her looking down at me as I have felt most of her kind do.
Another Elf-maiden, Eruviel, has offered me refuge in the form of her spare bedroom. I cannot believe my fortune! Living with an Elf! Abbi would be so jealous. He always said he wanted to live among the Elves and learn their secret to the undying life. Though, I always wondered if that was because of his fortunes. I worry about him, Eirik. Promise me you will take care of him even though you are busy with your new life with Ninim.
And then there is Mr. Morty Mossfoot. He is the town grave-digger and suffers greatly, though I do not think I have an inkling of all of the burdens he bears. You would probably not like him very much. Father would probably gut him. Come to think on it, so would Mother. He says he is not ashamed of the way folk warn me of him, but I cannot help to think how isolating it is. You see, he’s a bit of a “lady’s man” as one woman said. He flits about from lady to lass, appearing to never settle, though he said he was betrothed before it was discovered he had an illegitimate daughter. My, how I re-read this and find it quite the terrible account of his character. I do not feel as though this is the person -I- know. I see how he loves his daughter. How he took the time to help me find housing before I met Eruviel. How he allowed me to drag him into the Chetwood to find a lost pet. How he looks when he thinks no one can see.
Perhaps you will frown and say that is not what a Tenorbrook does in society. I can hear Father’s voice in my head: “A Tenorbrook does not consort with grave-diggers and mercenaries! A Tenorbrook does not spend her time in town taverns and cavorting about a forest at midnight! A Tenorbrook does not find herself alone with a man!”
But am I a Tenorbrook any more?
I have my doubts that I will be welcome in our parents’ home. Once this would have terrified me. What have I if not the shelter and benefits of our father’s “love”? How can I possibly survive without his benevolence? How could a stupid girl like me be able to live in the world without him?
But enough of that. You know who our father is and what he is like. I do not have to tell you.
Now that I do not have to pay for a room, I might consider trying to find someone traveling East to bring these letters to you. I want you to know that I am okay. It is the least I can do after what I have done.
A sheepish looking young woman ambles up to Morty as he stands somewhere obvious in Bree.
“Ya Morty Mossfoot? Ye fit the description she gave me.” She hands him a folded letter sealed with a generic tab of wax. “My apologies I forgot to find ya sooner. Lady bid me give this t’ya.” Without waiting for a reply, she turns and slinks away, hands shoved into the pockets of her tight britches.
Dear Mr. Mossfoot,
Dear Mr. Morty Mossfoot,
I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to you for escorting me through the Chetwood last night. I do hope I did not do anything to further embarrass myself, though I do not doubt that I have sullied our friendship by my foolish actions. I hope you forgive me for dragging you out there.
It seems I have caught a chill from my stupidity as I was informed by a woman named Laerlin that a night’s drinking should not cause a fever, though I did not realize I had one until Miss Teiblanc brought it up. (I know what you are going to say about Elves.) Did I have my cloak about me? I seem to have misplaced it. Luckily, Miss Laerlin was kind enough to offer her medicinal services and brewed me a strong tea. Miss Teiblanc was willing to cover the expense. I do not like living on charity, Morty. Though I learned Mr. Falros is not much better off than me. He mentioned being cleaned out when he was away for an extended period of time. Can you imagine – fighting brigands all your life and then coming home to find you are a victim of them? It seems terribly unfair.
I cannot seem to write a letter that is not at least two pages long, so before I get off on another topic, I will sign and see if a roommate could take this to the post. I’m not sure I have it in me to take it myself.
Anya swayed slowly back and forth as she walked with a light step through the dark night toward the boarding house. Her fingers were black with soot from her sketches, a fading smudge still on her right temple. Her sketchbook was clutched to her chest as she hugged herself happily. Looking up, her eyes found a single brilliant star glowing fiercely in the sky. For a moment, she paused, just standing there, face raised to the sky as the light of the Mariner bathed her in its warmth. She took a deep breath and held it, a grin spreading wide and glistening in the night.
For the first time in what felt like an age, she smiled as she walked down the streets of Bree.