Dear Eruviel

Dear sister,

I was so excited to receive your letter! Your pictures and your words make me wish I had gone with you. I still cannot believe that Eirikr agreed to allow Abiorn to go. Thank you for reminding him to write to us. It meant a lot. I have included a small note for him as well. I do not wish to appear nagging, so I kept it short.

Things have been quiet here in Bree. There has been a lot of snowfall, but I would surmise that is nothing compared to what you see. The lake is quite beautiful all covered in ice, but sometimes I miss trekking all the way out to the Little Staddlemere to paint.

Bear is good! Abiorn will be pleased to know that, I am sure. He actually got out of the house the other day and caused quite a ruckus in the market. Eirikr had to pay for several legs of lamb that we certainly did not eat. But he is just so adorably cuddly that it is hard to be mad at him for long. To keep him occupied (and to tire him out!), Eirik often takes him into the forest with him. I think he wants to turn him into a hunting dog, but I am not sure Bear has the attention for it.

Eirikr himself has been spending a lot of time out of the house. When he is not hunting, he is caring for your house. I hope you do not mind him spending hours there. I think he misses you.

Keep writing. And drawing! I miss you dearly and hope to see you sooner rather than later.

With love,

Anya

~~~***~~~

Dear Abiorn,

Hello, my brother! How is your first adventure without us? I do hope you are keeping warm and that you are listening to Eruviel and Miss Cwendlwyn. And that you are not getting in the way of any business they must attend to, being part of Master Arrowheart’s company.

The animals are well. Bear is quite recovered and I think you will be pleased to know he has taken to sleeping in your bed. You will have to share when you return. Eirikr will not let him sleep with him and Sally Stitches and Oli keep him from sleeping with me.

Eruviel told me that you have encountered the spirit world. I would not have believed it had I not experience with spirits of my own. Do be safe, Abiorn. Come back home hale and whole.

Lina has asked about you since you have been gone. She is her normal Lina-self, though I believe she has been spending some time with that fellow Rush.

Give my regards to Miss Cwen. And Abbi, do behave.

Love,

Anyatka

~~~***~~~

Eruviel,

I wish I could say your letter brought me only joy. While I was joyful to receive news, I could have done without the dark creatures and dangerous situations. I worry about you and Abiorn up there, and it seems as though my worries are not without reason. I trust in your strength and courage and good head to keep the both of you safe.

Durrow is rather quiet with half its main rabble rousers in Forochel with you folks. I have spent many hours in Glaston reading in the cellar and I dare say I have not come any closer to a clue about how to destroy the dragon. Perhaps before I would have been hesitant to include someone we hardly know in such matters, but after Evendim, I will not turn away the help of a Wayfarer. Which is Atanamir? I remember Abiorn mentioning the name, but of course, he is with you and I cannot ask him. I am certain Anya would know, but I do not wish to alert her to our activities until we actually have something to show for it.

I am not sure what to think about you being in Abiorn’s body. Or he being in some other poor soul’s. I hope he has been minding orders and setting a good example for the Lossoth.

Do come home soon. I miss you 

I hope you are enjoying your time more than you are troubled by it. Come home safely.

Eirikr

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Overdone: Plans

Over the past two days, we have scouted the island in order to plan for our quest to obtain the Dragon for my sister. According to Threz, the leader of the band of tomb robbers is Lômiphel and her influence stretches all the way to the Baranduin. How this woman took control of the various bands of men and women throughout the region, I can hardly imagine. Their activities make the believe there is a bigger plot at bay.

The men take turns patrolling the shoreline to ascertain the movements of the robbers. It seems as though they stay relatively clear of the Eavespires and I cannot say I blame them. Several visual contacts of Gauredain have been reported and as the wolf-men could probably watch us without revealing their positions, I can only assume they are making their presence known.

Bayn has found us at the Eavespires camp  and has generously gathered and confirmed valuable information. He reports approximately three dozen men and women occupy the island at any one time. No shipments out are occurring and very few shipments in have been seen in the past two days. The robbers appear to be well fortified within the remains of the old estate and he believes he has identified Lômiphel as a tall woman with raven black hair worn in a braid to her waist and sharp, angled features.

After several discussions with all involved, I believe that a combination of tactics would be best. Threz will contact and arrange a meeting with Lômiphel on the far eastern shores of the island. Concurrently, Hallem will lead a second team to cause a distraction that will lead the robbers away from the estate. Our best bet is to set fire to the brush on the eastern shore near their camp. After setting the blaze, that team will enter the estate from the back, semi-flooded stairwell on the western side of the estate to search for the Dragon. With any luck, we can find the statue and be out of there before the tomb robbers are able to control the blaze.

If luck failed to find us… there is always our blades…

Overdone: Stars

Safflower Tuffin stood on the hill overlooking Oatbarton. She rubbed her arn as she thought back to two weeks ago when she collapsed in a heap just inside the round door of her little homestead at Northcotton Farms. She remembered how she winced as she pulled the cotton fabric of her sleeve from the drying wound on her arm. The light blue was stained dark brown and she knew that if she pulled it off, the bite would start bleeding again.

“Bloody wolves,” she had cursed beneath her breath.

The animals had begun moving into the Bullroarer’s Sward again and she did not have to wander far to see signs of their passage. For a piemaker, she was extremely well versed in the lay of the surrounding lands all the way up to the far northern sands of the banks of the Brandywine.

The Baranduin Coldaer called it. She had humoured the shaggy man of the wilds and allowed him to teach her the tales of his people and how to read the language found etched in the ruins of all that was left of his people’s legacy. It was he who gave her the shining star trinket for assisting him when she found him wounded and alone on the dunes. It was he who opened her eyes to the Big Folks’ world beyond the Shire.

She thought of the gift he gave her for making the trek to his little haven to deliver food and medicine as he recovered from the injuries he had sustained in his adventures. The little clear star was hardly the size of her thumbnail and it reminded her of the glass stars Ronald made for children’s mobiles. It wasn’t made of glass, however, this little star.

“Adamant,” Coldaer had said. “A gem that is nearly indestructible. I think you are nearly indestructable, Miss Tuffin. You will probably outlive me.”

“Yes, especially if you keep traipsing about without watching your back like you say you do, Master Coldaer!” Safflower had smiled up at the Ranger who, once on his feet, would have been a bit intimidating if it hadn’t been for his gentle brown eyes. Coldaer had laughed but there was something about the way he looked at her that made her regret the joke.

The stars began to rise over the Sward and she thought of Miss Harawyn and Master Tenorbekk and how thoughtful they had been to help her clear the infection that set in from the wolf’s bite. While she didn’t feel like a werewolf (the full moon had passed after all), she knew the villagers would feel better about things now that she had taken the ancient antidote. And besides, it cleared up the infection within the hour.

As the stars twinkled into being, she thought of the empty space in her collection box where the adamant star had sat for years. It was only fitting that she received it for helping a man live and in return she gifted it to her own saviors. Master Tenorbekk had accepted the star with a disgruntled humility she found endearing. She only hoped he had the fortunes of having someone to pass it along to if he should ever have need.

~~~***~~~

ScreenShot00392The ruins of Rantost loomed over the motley collection of men and women that represented the dozen pockets of tomb robbers throughout Evendim. Lômiphel had worked hard to secure their allegiances through temptation or threat over the past year and eight months ago, the return of her father, Parmanen, only made things easier.

Parmanen was timeless; Lômiphel knew her father had to be reaching seventy, but the man looked no more than a weathered late forties. She knew part of it had to do with his command of the elements around him; she knew he possessed a magic that could slow the decay of time. He favored ice over fire and thus the island in the middle of Lake Nenuial was a perfect base for his most loyal followers. She herself had felt the icy blast of his disdain and often wondered why she had no magical influence over ice or fire herself.

Not that it mattered. Her eyes could reel in most men and women and if that failed, she always had her sword or Redford’s brute strength leading the power of the rest of the tomb robbers’ clans to beat the dissenters into submission. Power. And strength. This is what she learned from her father and for that she will always be grateful.

Now, as she watched the boats glide across the deep blue waters of the Nenuial, Lômiphel wondered how a little adamant trinket could possibly bring her father more power or strength. They had been looking for it for months and most men knew the search was a going to yield nothing. Still, Parmanen insisted the little star would find its way to reveal itself and they had to be in position to seize it when it did.

Redford stepped from the boat even before it pulled up fully onto the banks of their island. “Nothing,” he said bitterly and she frowned at her husband.

“So we can rule out Tham Ornen?” she said coolly.

“Yes. You shouldn’t be so surprised.” Redford shot a glance toward the ruins of the large estate. “I thought your father said it was getting closer,” he muttered to her as he joined her side.

“My father never said when it’d show,” she reminded him with a quick yet withering glance. Redford ducked his head and shifted his gaze from her face to the brittle grass beneath their feet. “Besides, it is not as though you came back empty handed.” Lômiphel looked over her shoulder at the second boat which had several large brown sacks stacked in its bow.

“The men are getting restless, Lôm. I  had to let them bring back something. We found a nice-”

“You wasted time.” Parmanen’s voice was crisp in the late autumn air. “You must understand how important this is, Redford. We cannot be complacent.”

Redford ran a hand through his hair and said without looking at his father-in-law, “But if we only knew why…”

The wind picked up around them and tossed Redford’s hair causing him to shudder from the chill running down his spine.

“Do you not have faith, Redford? This artifact will bring us more riches than you can imagine. The men will be placated. It will help us take Annúminas from the Rangers and then the entire city will be ours.”

Though Redford still looked skeptical as he looked at his wife, he nodded. “All right, all right,” he mumbled and quickly went to help his men unload their plunder.

Lômiphel walked up to stand beside her father and they watched as Redford yelled at one of the men for nearly dropping a sack into the lake. A shove and a punch and the man was cowering beneath Redford’s imposing form on the rocky bank.

“He is not pleased with our guest,” Parmanen commented dryly.

“No,” Lômiphel agreed. “He is not. He does not trust him. But you do?” The daughter looked up at the father seeking his guidance.

“Oh, yes. To the extent that any man can be trusted, Lôm. Do not fear him. He is well under control.”

“Do you truly think this gem will bring the power back to the Dragon, Father? It seems to function well without it.”

Parmanen kept his gaze on his son-in-law as the man beat the clumsy robber into submission. “I need it for more than a good luck charm, my daughter. Do not worry about why the Dragon must be whole.” He turned finally and smiled, his dark brown eyes penetrating hers with an intensity that made her feel completely naked and vulnerable.

“In time,” he said softly, “ you will see.”

Overdone: The Strength of One

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

I will do the same.

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

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

Her scent keeps me alive.

Her understanding keeps me strong.

Her forgiveness guides me.

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

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

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

His scent is heavy.

It keeps me strong.

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

He listens. They will hear.

Or they will die.

Silloth, when will I hear your shining laughter again?

~~~***~~~

Arrival in Oatbarton

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

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

See how they leave you behind?

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

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

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

“Why? Why do you do this?”

Let me show you…

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

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

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

She nodded.

“Very well. You have it?”

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

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

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

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

Pain.

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

“This will protect him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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