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?

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Sorry, So

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

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

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

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

Did she?

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

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

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

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

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

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

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

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

“So sorry so-.”

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

“I’m so sorry.”

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

“I’m so sorry. Don’t die.”

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

Regrowth

The backyard.
The backyard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If she tried.

“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.”