The People-Monster

Introduction

This is a stream-of-consiousness essay resulting from this week’s US elections, the personal, real-life situations I am in, the in-game drama that any DM goes through as they host a campaign, and the fever I have. It really is more IRL, but the parallels my muddled brain is creating between IRL and gaming somehow makes it work for me. I hope it works for you.

If not, it’s a glimpse into me. My thoughts. My struggles. My hopes and dreams. And perhaps where my righteous indignation stems from.

Enjoy. Or not. Up to you.

The People-Monster

I don’t like people.

Sorry if you’re a people.

“People,” you see, is plural. With “people” always comes hidden agendas, egos, conceit, condemnation, and selfishness. With “people” you have the mob mentality that can turn a single “person” into a part of a seething, emotion-driven monster. The arm that bears the torch. The mouth that spews the hate. The foot that kicks the fallen. When a person becomes a part of the people-monster, they gain the strength of that monster and do terrible, horrible things. They believe their own selfish agendas are part of a greater good and therefore even as they become one with the monster, they work against it, angering it, causing it to rage all the more.

“People” swallow up individuals and either devour them or assimilate them. Resistance is futile because the sheer numbers of “people” usually dominate and we want to be part of a number. We are social creatures. We want to work with the body of the people-monster, otherwise we become a discarded wing, a broken shell, a lost tooth. We want to be more than a faceless statistic but we don’t want to be left out of the numbers, either.

But when you are a people-monster made of different ideas and parts and beliefs and expectations and fears and angers and needs and desires and silences — eventually you have to start sheering away the painful parts in order to save yourself.

This toe, here. This toe won’t balance with the other toes. It wants to twitch and itch and walk this way not that.

I’m sorry, toe, you are part of the monster that causes it pain. You have to go.

This eye won’t look the same way as that eye. We can try to correct it, but eventually it will become useless, or, worse, a burden.

This hand keeps scratching that one.

This lung refuses to breath in tandem with the other.

The refusal of the parts of the people-monster to work as a whole is ultimately its own demise from within and what is left is a broken pile of abandoned body parts that are more than just body parts, but they are people. They are more than people they are a person and they are left broken and angry and the light that could be The People fades.

We, The People, used to mean something. It used to be strong and have weight that the person belonged to something to assimilate to would fight for ideals and hopes and dreams against the “people” who turned into monsters. Everyone working together to find their own place in The People to help the whole and not just achieve their own agendas. An ideal where a finger can be a finger and an elbow can be an elbow and a fingernail doesn’t have to feel bad it is not a heart. Or lungs. Or a brain.

We all know how much a broken fingernail can hurt, yet we only see them when they’re broken, not when they’re stoically protecting our fingers from the constant beating they take as we navigate this world. We don’t think about our eyelashes standing guard over our corneas until one falls or curls the wrong way and pokes us. Our retinas don’t see the neurons in our brains firing to interpret their work. They simply trust that somewhere, some place, somebody’s got it covered.

“People” have a tough time with that trust. We deny what our organs do every day – we don’t trust that the brain’s got it covered. Because –  you know! – they eyes have sent crappy material to us before, so we shouldn’t trust them.The brain has sent us faulty interpretations. “People” don’t trust themselves, so how can we ask them to trust another?

“People” do not trust themselves because they are so afraid of disappointment and failure. Instead of working to compensate for a mishap, malfunction, or misunderstanding, instead of working to enhance something else (like sense of smell develops to compensate for lack of sight), the people-monster cowers, broods, rages, destroys. And ultimately, it destroys itself.

I have this hope, that one day people can come together and not become a monster that devours itself from within. That they can find their natural function in the The People and accept their role, the importance of their function, and the fact that things change so sometimes they have to adapt. The eyes are not the most important part when you’re sleeping. The taste buds are not important until we eat or drink. They wait patiently for dawn or supper time and don’t spend wasted energy worrying about things that are beyond their function.

How, Cwen? How can I do such a thing? How can I accept…

Part of accepting is enduring, recognizing, and believing. Enduring the fact that sometimes, the world does not revolve around you (or me). Recognizing that others are far more capable than you realize and that a world of fear is a world where terrorist and the Dark Lords win. And finally, believing that it is possible to love, respect, or even admire someone or something while not understanding or believing in it in itself. That I can extend my hand to you and you can extend your hand to me and together, our parts will not turn on one another because we trust each other to look out for one another because even though I think you’re wrong, you’re still a person and I still care.

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Letters to Nowhere: Asking Too Much

Dear Eirikr,

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

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

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

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

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

Love.

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

Will not, he should say.

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

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

He said it was a one night stand.

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

Why can’t I just let him go?!!!!!!!

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

He did not sully virgins.

He could not love only me.

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

I would love only him.

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

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

Is that asking too much?

Sorry, So

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

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

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

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

Did she?

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

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

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

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

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

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

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

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

“So sorry so-.”

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

“I’m so sorry.”

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

“I’m so sorry. Don’t die.”

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

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.

“Now, don’t you worry, Anya. I’m sure your brother and Eruviel will arrive home well and whole. I doubt they will run into anything much worse than the scum that can be found wandering the streets of Bree nowadays.”

Cwen spoke crisply as she cut the skin from the rabbit. She had given Anya the coin and sent her down the street to the Hobbithole down the road. The young Hobbit gladly sold her the rabbit and thanked her kindly for her patronage and gave his regards to Miss Cwen. Since returning, Anya noted the quick, almost jerky movements of Cwen as she treated the rabbit for that evening’s stew. The woman’s brow seemed sterner than usual and her eyes had dark circles beneath them.

“I know it is no good worrying, Cwen. But I still do.”

Anya stood watching the older woman work for a moment. As Cwen began hacking the meat into sloppy chunks, she had to ask, “Cwen…is something the matter?”

With a loud thunk, Cwen sunk the cleaver into the thick cutting board covering the table. “Whatever makes you think there is something the matter, Anya?”

“You seem…upset about something. Is it okay that I am here? I do not wish to intrude. I just, well, I had to get away for a while.”

Her host laughed dryly. “Anyatka, dearie, you chose to live in Bree. The urge to flee should come often.” Cwen scooped up the pieces and dropped them into a frying pan to brown. “You are most welcome at any time. But where is your husband? I would have expected him to come with you.”

Trying to hide the blush with a curtain of hair, Anya sputtered, “Oh, he’s not, we’re not…I know it isn’t proper to live together before marriage, but under the circumstances we all thought…”

Smirking, Cwen waved a greasy hand at her. “Never you mind, Anya. Biramore is not my husband, either.”

Anya tried to hide the surprise. “He isn’t?”

“Oh, no, dear. I have been married once, to a foolish, selfish man. Biramore and I chose to love one another without the pretenses of ceremony.” Cwen poured some liquid into the pan and began adding fresh herbs. “It was a grand ceremony, though. Anidore wore a deep, lush burgundy robe and the bridesmaids a vibrant blue. I led a company of folk back then. The weddingThe groomsmen all wore the uniforms of green and gold.” She paused and smiled slightly. “My dearest Aldoon officiated. One of the rare times he paused in his travels just long enough to do so. And Castius! Castius brought his tamed cat – one that would make your little Oli look like a house pet.” Chuckling, she stirred the mixture as it rose to a low boil.

“You do not appear like one to want a huge ceremony like that, Cwen. That surprises me.” Anya reached over the island between them and took up a paring knife and a large potato.

Cwen shrugged. “That was a long time ago. Neilia’s father. She’s nearly eight now. Though she acts like she’s thirty.” The thought of her daughter brought a smile to her lips.

“How does Biramore do with Neilia? I imagine well.”

The smile vanished as quickly as it came. “He did splendidly. Thought of her as his own, I’m certain.”

“Did?”

The falter in Cwen’s stirring would have been missed by most. Only because Anya was watching her friend so closely did she catch it.

“Biramore traveled a great deal protecting caravans. Merchants. Over six months ago, he left for Needlehole and never came back.”

Cwen’s voice was even. Calm. She moved about preparing the coney stew with practiced grace. She added the potatoes and set to chopping carrots.

Finally, Anya broke the silence. “He’s gone?”

“Well, yes. Dead, probably. Seeking revenge for his sister’s death. Or taken by goblins or orcs or bandits.”

“Are…are you okay?”

Cwen set down the knife and looked over at Anya. “Are you all right? Knowing your brother could be dead or on his way to death? Are any of us all right, Anya?”

Anya blinked and took a step back. “There was another man…” she blurted out under the pressure of Cwen’s cold response. “I remember seeing you with another man in Bree.”

“Zhevruil. His name was Zhevruil. He’s disappeared again, as well. I have a special knack for that Anya. Making men disappear. I have grown used to it.”

“He’s dead, too?”

“Possibly. Though Zhev is like a fox—hard to catch and hard to kill. More likely, he made a bad deal and had to vanish to avoid the consequences.”

Anya watched as Cwen finished dumping things into the pot. Her host wiped her hands on her apron and sighed. “Men are fickle, Anya. They always will be. They chase glory or adventure or gold. Occasionally they remember their woman back home. It helps when they have children with her. But even then—” she shrugged. “Well, look at Neilia’s father.”

“My Anric is faithful and true,” Anya insisted.

Cwen smirked as if she knew something Anya did not. “Thus far, yes. Anric seems like a nice lad from what you’ve told me. Would probably do right by you. But the passion fades, Anya. Love dies down to acceptance of each other’s company.”

“It goes away?”

She shook her head. “No. Not like that. But it doesn’t burn like it does in the beginning. People like that: the burn. The excitement. The rush.” She put her fist on her hip and looked at Anya intently. “Do you know what I mean?”

Blushing, Anya thought not of Anric, but of Morducai Mossfoot. Her cheeks did not flush around him simply because he had a tendency to be flirtatious and crass. The burn consumed her when she thought of him. The excitement declared itself in her voice whenever she greeted him. The rush made her head swim whenever he leaned in close. She forced her thoughts to her lover, to Anric. There was warmth there. Affection. And love. She did love Anric and she knew that he loved her, too. But there was no burn.

“Burns hurt, though,” she whispered. “And eventually, they cool.”

Cwen leaned over the pot and took a deep breath of the rising aroma. “They do. On both accounts. Which is why people settle…or wander. But they always look for that feeling, just to make sure they are still alive.”

Anya turned to look out the window overlooking the front lawn. Cwen’s house was not built Hobbit-style beneath the ground, but it bore the roundness of traditional Hobbit homes. Even in the front lawn, Cwen had planted crops and herbs among her flowering garden. She thought of the little plot of land she and Anric were trying to turn into a vegetable garden. Without her bidding, her thoughts shifted to the Dalish Charm removed because of her negligence.

“Why don’t people just accept that, then? If folk always do it. Always look for something else.”

Behind her, Cwen shrugged. “Tradition. Family. It is easier to raise a family when you know the spouse will be there.”

“Not everyone falls for tradition, though. You, for instance. And there are others I know.”

“Mhmm. Indeed there are. Anidore, for instance, went back to his womanizing ways after we split apparently. I would say I was hurt and surprised, but really, just hurt.” She lets out a self-depreciating laugh. “And not really even hurt. I just felt foolish.”

Anya nodded and asked very cautiously,“Do you ever wonder what it would have been like to just…let him?”

Cwen turned to look at her. “Let him…sleep around? Oh, heavens, no. I don’t think that ever crossed my mind. At least not then.”

“But what about now?”

The older woman ran her fingers along her hairline brushing back any flyaways that escaped from the loose bun on the crown of her head. “I think that now, I wouldn’t mind it so much. It would be difficult to see the one I love with someone else at first, but if I knew that in the end, their heart belonged to me, I think I would be more open to it.”

“If you loved them and they loved you.”

“Maybe. Though I am not sure I could actually do it when it comes down to it. See my love with another.” Cwen smiled kindly and reached over to pat her hand. “I am jealous like that, I suppose.”

Anya nodded. “I think most people are.”

“Jealous and perhaps selfish. In the end, people don’t want the pain that comes with the burn.” She laughed. “After all, only crazy people hurt themselves on purpose, right?”

“Right.”

 

Anything for You

This song has been haunting me for a week or two. It needs to be shared.

So jelly of the people at this release back in 2010. I’m sad to say that as a St. Louisian (sorta), I’ve never been to Vintage Vinyl. If ever there had been a time to go, this would have been it.

This song is found on Eirikr’s playlist, but I think it’s many people’s hope to find a love like this.

I'd do absolutely anything for you. . .
I’d do absolutely anything for you. . .

Anything for You by Ludo

My ancestors planted some sequoias by a road
I’ve driven down that road since I was born
Oh, never have you ever seen so many perfect evergreens
But I would chop them all down just for youI have walked a million miles in a hundred pairs of shoes
In search of some universal truth
Well, a deity just came to me and handed me a scroll to read
And I will gladly pass it on to you

Anything for you
All of this is true
But the best story that I could ever tell 
Is the one where I am growing old with you. 

I was having rotten luck and nothing went my way
‘Til I stumbled on a clearing in the woods
I found a town of leprechauns and grabbed each one for wishing on
But I would let them all go just for you

I have crossed a natural plane and communed with the dead
But people always seem to want some proof
No one even would believe, my love, that evil I got pictures of
But I would throw them all out just for you

Anything for you
All of this is true
But the best story that I could ever tell 
Is the one where I am growing old with you 

My scar is from a polar bear, my curse is from a witch,
I’ve caught a giant squid in all the seven seas
I’ve picked up rocks from distant moons astronomers will discover soon
But I would give them all back just for you

I’ve gotten drunk and shot the breeze with kings of far off lands
They showed me wealth as far as I could see
But their kingdoms seemed all shrivelly and they cried with jealousy 
When I leaned in and told them about you

I’d give up anything
(Anything for you)
I’d give it all
(All of this is true)
But the best story that I could ever tell 
Is the one where I am growing old with you

All I’ve ever wanted, see, was to tell you honestly
I’d do anything for you
I’d do absolutely anything for you