It took me a few tries to get them to a point where I was sort of happy. I’m still not happy with Aeron’s hair, but a short option wasn’t really available that I liked for him. And real Aeron was a hulk of a man – very bulky.
Anya still misses him.
Anyatka nods and manages a smile. “Yes. It is three. I tend to be rather demanding; I apologize.” She swallows at her mention of her appearance. “Sleep will come,” she says softly. “I will spread word of your flowers. Do take care, Esthyr. He loves you very much.” With that, she curtsies and turns to leave.
Eruviel nods to Anyatka. “Are you ready, oselle?”
Esthyr calls after her, “People tell me that, too. Tell them you aren’t demanding; you just know what you want!”
Anyatka looks ahead and nods to Eruviel. She smiles at Esthyr’s parting words and actually chuckles.
Anya sat astride her horse – her horse, not a rental – and took a deep breath. They rode at a leisurely pace, which suited her just well. She suppressed the feeling that she would never see Bree again as they passed the Yellow Tree and she could not help looking back.
Eruviel rode slightly behind her and caught her backward glance. She offered her friend a small smile and turned to face forward again. One hand gripped the reins and the other held the stems of the five lily-of-the-valleys she bought from Esthyr Mossfoot. She spent the three silver on the five blossoms mere moments before she left the Pony, sneaking out through the kitchens as if to avoid anyone she might know. She had asked Miss Esthyr to take care of herself. She told her she wanted to get to know her better. She asked if she would say hello to her father for her.
Because I may never be able to again.
She pushed the thought from her mind. Focus and determination, Eirikr had said. Instead of a pretty young girl with pure white flowers contrasting her dark attire, she pictured her brother as they rode away from the familiar lands surrounding Bree. He walked them to the edge of the homesteads, his arm in a sling. When they reached the gate, he had looked down on her for the longest time just holding her shoulders as if to keep her there. She had looked down. Still she felt his gaze on her and finally he pulled her into a tight embrace.
“I love you, Anyakta. You are in good hands. Eruviel will bring you home.”
Turning in her saddle, she looked back at Eruviel again. Her “sister,” to whom she owed so much. Who, despite injuries that plagued her far worse than she let on, still rode into certain battle with Anya. Her gaze shifted to Anricwulf. The Bardian was more than welcome in her small company. She couldn’t help but think about the danger each was willing to put themselves in just to try to save her.
Her thoughts drifted north to where Canderas had been called back to duty. Their parting had been bittersweet and brief. He took his duty seriously though he swore he wished he could accompany her to the Circle of Blood. Torlach, despite his promise to see things through to the end, had declined accompanying them. Anya struggled with her thoughts and feelings about his decision. His wife demanded his attentions and family first, and Anya knew that it was the way it should be. Still, she felt a cold fear without him by her side. He had been there from the start, from the first glimpse he had of the bracelet to the release of Aeron at Fornost. They should have pushed back their journey until he could have gone. Without him, would they survive?
Anricwulf rode slightly behind as they left the shelter of the Southern Chetwood. As the road passed through the southernmost tips of the Midgewater Marshes, he said, “Do we have a more straightforward plan this time? Or simply go inside and see what happens?”
Anya sighed. “I hope to learn more as we go.”
However, beside him, Eruviel smirked slightly. “We do, thank the Valar. But I feel it safer not to elaborate till we get there . . . For Anya’s sake more than ours.”
Anricwulf said, “Very well.” He took his spear and began to sharpen it.
Anya turned in the saddle to look back at them. “Eruviel, what?”
Eruviel thought for a moment, then asked, “How well have you been managing her– the spirit?”
Anya ran the tip of her tongue over her lip. “While at the house…it was almost as if she wasn’t there. Eirikr and I spent most of our time catching up, drawing. That sort of thing. But since leaving…” her voice was strained.
Anricwulf spoke up. “Garth Agarwen…that’s where we’re headed, is it not?”
Eruviel looked back to him. “Yes, that is whre we are headed.” She then nodded, as if Anya answered her own question. “I keep that house in the state of an elf haven. I should not be too surprised that she did not emerge there. But I do not want to risk her taking control of you so early in our journey.”
Anya looked down the road. “We should make haste through the Lone-lands,” she says quietly.
Anricwulf fell silent again, still sharpening his spear. After a pause, he said, “I’ve been in those ruins many times…And I agree.”
She knew full well what would happen if Faethril heard the intentions of the party. So far, she had been able to keep things separate and shut her out of her private thoughts. But as they drew closer to Faethril’s homelands, Anya began to feel her presence growing like a shadow in her mind. It was a relief when they passed the Forsaken Inn and broke into a hard gallop because she had to concentrate on staying in the saddle. As she focused on the rhythm of the hoof beats, she could not feel the shadow swallow her whole.
“Our goal,” said Eruviel as they surveyed the Eglain that lived so beset on all sides by foe, “I will now tell you, is to clear the land past the Rest Pass of the fell spirits. Once the land has been cleansed, Fae should be expelled from Anya.”
Anricwulf scoffed. “All the spirits? For good?”
Eruviel looked to Anya. “If we can,” she said softly.
Anricwulf said, “Then you are a fool. Those lands are as dark as a moonless night. We may drive some of the spirits away for a time, but there is nothing that can cleanse those lands of all the evil.”
Anya suddenly stiffened, her eyes rolling up. She slumped forward a moment over the horse’s muscular neck and and her fists tightened around the reins. “No…” she groaned through clenched teeth She sat up, eyes shooting open and jet black. “No!” Her steed cried out and reared, throwing her backwards. She landed on her back but sprung to her hands and knees.
Anricwulf looked to Anya, unsure of what was going on.
Eruviel shot him a cold look. “We will do what we can . . . and what we must.” Seeing Anya fall she pulled a decent amount of elvish rope from her saddle bag. “Oselle?”
Anya pushed up into a low crouch and took a step back. Her voice hissed out high and clear. “Give it to him – he needs it!”
Eruviel opened her mouth to respond, shut it, then sat up straight. “Aeron is gone, broken one. He has passed to an eternity of peace you deprived him of.” Her expression softened. “You can still join him, Faethril, if you let us help you.”
Anyatka hissed and an inhuman scream came from her. “You lie!” She turned toward the entrance to make a break for it.
Anricwulf rode after her, taking his blunt end of his spear and aiming for a knockout blow.
Eruviel jumped off her horse, pulling the small pouch out from her armour. “You want this?! It is broken, Faethril. We were in Fornost a week ago and set him free. Do you not love him any more? He hopes for your redemption!”
Anyatka screamed loudly and lunged for Eruviel. Unfortunately – or fortunately – Anricwulf landed his blow. She fell forward in a heap.
Anricwulf slid off Fjall. “This should keep her calm until we get to the ruins. I suggest you help me get her onto my goat; I’d like to be inside before she comes to.”
Eruviel sucked in a deep breath, stuffing the pouch back into its hiding place and giving Anric a sad but thankful smile. “That would be ideal.” She moved to take one of Anya’s arms, grimacing slightly as she stooped low.
Anricwulf took Anya’s other arm, and lifted to drape the lass across Fjall’s saddle in the back. Anya was just a sack of unconscious potatoes.
Eruviel took her rope and offered it to Anric. “If you think this would help . . .”
Anricwulf said, “If you wish to restrain her arms and legs you are welcome to. I’ve no intention of lashing anyone to Fjall. She’s a sturdy goat; no fear of her falling off.”
Eruviel noded slightly, her eyes moistening slightly as she bound Anya’s arms and then her feet together.
Keeping a hand on Anya for extra stability, Anricwulf said, “Let’s be off.”
Together, the two started for the Red Pass to put an end to it, once and for all. Anya regained consciousness shortly after entering Garth Agarwen; they loosed her feet but kept her hands tied as her eyes flashed with Faethril’s darkness. They fought their way through the outlying Créoth camps, Anric leading the way. His time spent in the Lone-lands served them well. They searched the ruins and red pools until they found it: the remnants of an alter and a secret ritual still carried out by the evil men.
The battle for the sacred site raged epically until the corruption was put to a stop. When the last Créoth fell, Eruviel gasped for breath, looking to ensure Anya was whole. She saw Anya fall into the darkened water, submerged. Her body flailed for a moment and then stilled. Anricwulf knelt before Anya, checking for vitals, as Eruviel dropped to her knees, pulling Anya’s head above the surface.
She looked up to Anric. “Is she . . . .”‘
Below the water, the bracelet around Anya’s wrist glowed hotly.
Anricwulf said, “No…her pulse is weak, but it’s still there…” He noticed the bracelet and lifted Anya’s arm out of the water to have a closer look.
Eruviel swallowed, her eye catching the glint of the bracelet. “Will you hold her up? I will attempt to remove it.”
Anricwulf nodded, sat in the water and hoisted Anya’s body onto his lap.
The bracelet burned brightly, the little blue jewel darkening to black. Anya’s wrist, which never was burned before, started to redden around its edges.
Eruviel reached over, bracing herself, and attempted to undo the clasp. As she tried, Anricwulf took handfuls of water and poured it over Anya’s wrist, trying to cool the bracelet and the burn on her wrist. It didn’t budge; it was if there was no end nor beginning: the bracelet was whole and seamless, grown tightly around Anya’s limb as Faethril had grown in power. The water seemed to help ease the burn though she remained unconscious.
A voice on the wind could barely be heard, masculine and deep. “Ost Guruth…take her home…”
Anricwulf blinked. “I’m not the only one who heard that, right?”
Eruviel pulled back and rose to her feet. “Anric, would you mind carrying her as we leave this place?”
He nodded. “If you’ll help her onto my back.” He knelt down to make it easier to get Anya onto his back.
Eruviel bobbed her head, lifting the soaked woman and placing her arms over Anric’s shoulders. “I will pave the way back.”
Back in Ost Guruth, they took Anya to the metalsmith. He loaned them some sheers and Anric dug out his jeweler’s tools. As they examined the cooled bracelet, they noticed it had loosened: it would turn around her wrist but they were still unable to slip it over her hand.
Anricwulf took out a hand clamp, seeing if he can fit it between the bracelet and her wrist. Suddenly, Anya jerked as if her body was trying to get away from the clamp. Eruviel sat by Anya and pulled the woman onto her lap to better hold her still. Anricwulf fiddled his hand clamp between Anya’s wrist and the bracelet. He gave the clamp a squeeze, trying to work the spot on the bracelet thinner so the shears had less metal to cut through. Once he was satisfied with the thinning process, he worked the shears under the bracelet and squeezed to cut the bracelet off. Eruviel watched the man work, holding Anya down to prevent her from getting hurt.
Anyatka started to thrash and jerk as if the bracelet knew its time had come. A scream was rent from her as Eruviel held her still as best she could. The Elf struggled to hold Anya down, setting her jaw and whispering encouragements in Anya’s ear.
Anricwulf squeezed harder, forcing the shear blades through the metal with brute force. As the bracelet is destroyed, her scream echoed off the broken stone walls. A cold wind rushed through the compound and a figure emerged.
Eruviel’s eyes darted to Anric, then up to the figure suddenly standing beside them.
Anricwulf looked up at the figure, dropping the shears and reaching for his spear.
Faethril shimmered near Anya’s prone form. She stared at them for a minute, her cool blue eyes wondering.
Eruviel reached out her hand to Anric. “Who . . . Is it you?” she asked, frowning up at the female spectre.
Faethril turned her head to look at Eruviel. “You? Who?”
Anricwulf lowered his spear in order to avoid provoking whomever it is that has appeared in front of them.
Eruviel swallowed a little. “You must be Faethril. I am Eruviel. We’ve — spoken before.”
Anyatka moaned softly.
Faethril nodded. “I am Faethril. We have spoken? Who are you?” Her eyes roamed to each of them.
Eruviel brushed her hand softly over Anya’s forehead that still rested in her lap. “I am the elf Eruviel Aranduin. The gentleman is Anricwulf, and the lady you just emerged from is Anyatka Tenorbrook.” She hesitated before continuing. “We were friends of your husband’s. He sent us to see to your well-being.” She watched Faethril carefully.
Faethril looked around. “You know Aeron? Howso…did you serve at Fornost with him?” She noted Anya’s condition. “Is she all right?”
Anricwulf looked to the elf, wondering how much they should speak of, and how much of the truth they should bring up.
Eruviel sighed sadly. “I did not, though I suppose my brother did.” She paused before continuing on more confidently. “You were within her, Faethril. This year is far past your time. The last time I saw Aeron, he was a shade as you are, rising from Anya, telling us how to . . . how to save the two of you.” She shrugged her shoulders at Anric. She added, “He wanted us to save you so that you could join him, my friend.”
Anricwulf nodded enthusiastically, deciding not to speak to avoid saying the wrong thing.
Faethril ‘s eyes widened and she looked around her again as if seeing for the first time. “Sa-save me…join him…he…he’s dead?” She shade began to solidify and her blue eyes started to blacken. “No…no, it cannot be…”
Eruviel carefully set Anya’s head down to the ground and stood, offering a kind hand and sad look to the woman. “Why are you so filled with fear and anger? He was . . and is a brave man who wants the best for you. My friend, there is a far better place beyond us where you will never be parted. You need only accept that beautiful truth. Even I envy men their eternity with Iluvatar.”
Faethril shook her head as she backs away from Eruviel. “No…those are lies…no one knows…where is it…it will save him…” Her voice took on a feral tone and her hands clenched into claws. “No…he needs it…”
Anricwulf said, “Faethril…do not believe the darkness. Your beloved has found peace, and wishes for you to find the same peace. Let the sadness leave you, and he will guide you to happiness…”
Eruviel turned her head so that Faethril can see the still-red claw marks that showed along her jaw. “You are better than this, mellon. You are stronger than to give into despair.”
Faethril continued to shake her head. She doubled upon herself, holding her head. “No! The necklace will save him! It will unite with the bangle and save him!” She reached for her wrist and screamed when the bracelet was not there. “Where is it?!”
Anricwulf looked to Eruviel, unsure of what necklace she speaks of.
Eruviel turned and nodded to Anric, mouthing “the bracelet” to him as she reached a hand beneath her armour to once again pull out the pouch, undoing the leather ties. At her feet, Anyatka looked pale in the moonlight.
Anricwulf slipped Eruviel the bracelet as stealthy as he could manage.
Eruviel looked up in attempt to meet Faethril’s eyes. “Did you love him so little as to think binding him to darkness would help? You should have trusted Aeron, my lost friend.” She carefully dropped the broken necklace into her other palm.
Faethril turned to Eruviel. “YOU!” More corporeal now than ghost, she lunged toward Eruviel to reclaim her tokens. Eruviel braced herself, a ruined token in each hand. Anricwulf moved forward, shield up to try and keep the spectre away from Eruviel. The dead woman lashed out at Anricwulf with her right hand to knock him away.
Anricwulf took the hit with his shield, but was ultimately knocked to the ground.
Eruviel ‘s eyes darted to the molten metal by the forge. “Faethril, please, stop this!”
Faethril leaped to land on Anric as her focus was taken by his block attempt.
Anricwulf groaned, still stunned by the power the spectre had behind her attacks, unable to defend himself.
Eruviel lunged forward, knocking Faethril off of Anric. Faethril was thrown backward from the impact. She landed hard on the ground with an oof. Raising her fist, she brought it up toward Eruviel’s head. Eruviel took the punch across the face, stumbling back but able to keep her footing.
Anyatka slowly rolled to her side, moaning.
Faethril lept to her feet and moved to rugby tackle the Elf. “Give them to me!”
Anricwulf staggered to his feet, trying to determine if attacking is a good idea.
Eruviel smoothly dodged to the side, tripping Faethril. Dodging away she stopped beside the vat of molten metal. “Faethril, they are both broken! You are a hundred years too late!”
Anyatka pushed herself to her feet, groaning. “What is happening?” she muttered.
Eruviel extended an arm to Anya, the broken end of the bracelet peeking out of her fist. “Oselle, stay back!”
Faethril fell into a heap, dust flying up all around her. She looked up at Eruviel and screamed incoherently, an unnatural sound, as she reached in vain for the jewelry.
Anyatka stepped back, still unfocused and looking startled.
Eruviel jerked her head, motioning for Anric to take the jewelry. “If she does not stop, drop them both into the vat.” She handed him the tokens and began to step towards Faethril.
Anricwulf nodded, took the jewelry and stood by the vat of molten metal.
Faethril shouted, “No!” and attempted to climb to her feet again. She would not stop unless they are joined or destroyed.
Anricwulf noticed the movement and went to drop the jewelry into the vat.
Faethril gained her feet and launched herself toward Anricwulf. She slammed into him, knocking the gems from his hand. He lost his grip on the pieces of jewelry and Faethril snatched the gems as they tumbled toward the vat.
Anya called out, “Anric!”
Anricwulf stumbled back. Acting quickly, he screamed ”MOVE!” and kicked the vat of molten metal at Faethril.
Eruviel whirled around and lept away just in time.
Faethril screamed, this time in pain, as the magma and miasma of the molten metal covered her. The jewelry was coated in the hot plasma. They were destroyed, melting beneath the heat, and Faethril lost substance. As the gems in each piece burst, her face took on a serenity and then, she was gone. In that moment, Anya fell to her knees as if struck.
Anricwulf scampered to his feet to avoid any of the molten metal he just splashed at the spectre. Regaining his composure and dusting himself off, he nodded satisfied at the results.
Eruviel turned to shield Anya in case there were to be any sparks or metal flung their way. “Anya!” She cried out before glancing back to make sure Anric was alright.
Anricwulf said, “Well, that worked out well.”
Anyatka had fallen forward to her hands and stared at the dirt. “They’re…she’s gone.”
Eruviel nodded to the man, “That was quick thinking on your part, mellon. I am in your debt.” She then placed a hand softly on Anya’s back. “How do you feel, oselle?”
Anyatka looked up at her. Her gaze slowly shifted to Anricwulf. “I…I feel so light.” She curled her legs beneath herself to sit. Rubbing her hands to dust them off, she addded, “Are you two all right?”
Anricwulf cracked his neck. “I may be a lousy shot with a bow, but I can throw or kick anything towards a target.”
Eruviel let out a sigh of relief. “That was an expert kick, Anric.” Smiling down at Anya, she shook her head. “I am unscathed, Anyatka.”
Anricwulf said, “Always happy to help.”
Anyatka nodded in relief. She, on the other hand, felt a sharp pain down her back and her cloak was ripped. She winced and slowly climbed to her feet, mud clinging to her clothes.
Anricwulf said, “So…I suppose our quest is done then?” He moved towards the group, the metal sufficiently cooled to walk over.
Eruviel nodded to the man. “I do believe so . . .” her voice trails off as she sees Anya wince. “What is it?”
Anyatka nodded to Anric. “I think so…” She looked at Eruviel and shook her head. “It’s nothing. A blade caught me, but I am fine.”
Eruviel frowned rather darkly. “What blade — where are you hurt.” She then smirked. “You do not let me off the hook so easily when I am injured.”
Anricwulf said, “I’ll go get some help.” He headed toward the infirmary to seek a healer.
Anyatka nodded and said, “One of the men…I shall be fine.”
Eruviel did not look convinced. “We will find you a healer. And I want to know when you got the wound. Was it when we were beyond the Red Pass?”
Anyatka nodded. “I didn’t see it coming and it just caught my back.”
As the healers of Ost Guruth worked to sew Anya’s back shut, Eruviel sat beside her, holding her hand. Anric stood watch with the guard for a long time that night, and for the first time in an age, Anya slept peacefully. In her bag, the delicate bell flowers waited. Despite their delicateness, their tiny blossoms survived.
Jarn-olog Warrior says, ”Ow.”
Scrapes and Bruises
Anya paused only to wipe the blood from her face. Her entire body ached from the perpetual tension stretching her senses beyond all limits. Aeron kept a regular mantra reminding her to breathe and move. He took over instinctually whenever an enemy came too close wielding her staff with a cold efficiency that surprised her.
“I thought you were a swordsman,” she thought.
When you grow up bashing your friends with sticks, you pick up a thing or two.
“Fair enough,” she told him, her mind refocusing on a small pale slave rushing toward her with fists raised. The staff whirled around her body in a figure eight propelled by both hands and she thrust suddenly connecting with its head with a loud crack. Her right wrist twisted as it served as the pivot for the weapon, her left steadying the pole’s impact. “You’re right-handed.”
And you are left.
“Does it make it awkward?”
No. You’re not fighting me. Just keep relaxed and let me work, Anya. Find a blade.
She looked around and saw a jagged orc scimitar lying a few feet from its fallen owner. Sprinting, she rushed for it. A large lieutenant spotted her and began thundering over to intercept. Behind it, Torlach severed the head of his adversary, the blood spray from his sword flecking across his face. As he turned, he caught the movement of the rushing orc and yelled, “Anya!” as he started for her.
Hold and relax. Let it flow.
As the lieutenant charged, she sank low to take up the sword in her right hand. She turned quickly and sank into a crouch balanced evenly on the balls of her feet. Her sword she held poised at the ready. Her fingers flexed around the staff and she focused on the gigantic orc. Instinct – or Aeron – took over. She parried the orc’s reckless attack with the staff and as it was knocked from her grasp, she released it, throwing the orc off balance and creating an opening. Aeron did not hesitate: the blade slashed deeply across its leg and then its back. Its cry echoed off the outer walls of Barad Narthan and filled the sky. The crows answered.
Torlach ground to a halt as the lieutenant fell, the last of the small band blocking entrance to the tower. True to form, he merely stared at her for a moment before turning to look for the Elf.
Panting slightly from the fight, Eruviel came up to them and looked up at the tower. They exchanged glances and walked through the double doors three abreast.
*** *** *** *** ***
The ground was littered with bones. The three gazed at the courtyard in silence for several minutes before Anya said, “We cannot let these monsters hold my brothers.”
Torlach answered, “We go on, then.”
Eruviel glanced to Anya and nodded solemnly. She shivered.
Anya returned her nod. “Shall we?” She stepped forward.
Shades rose randomly around them as they passed. They called out to the living in thin voices with outstretched hands. “I am free…” Anya felt her blood freeze as one rose within inches of her. Its bluish hand grasped at her arm as it hissed, “At lassst…” She felt a jolt in her heart: Aeron gasped.
My shield-brothers. What is this curse? Faethril surely did not cause this.
“No,” she thought as they moved deeper into the courtyard. “I do not think she could have caused this. And why were you not bound here?”
Faethril’s spell bound me to the heirloom, and I did not die here.
“When the necklace broke, why weren’t you released? Why did you bind to me?”
Perhaps the sorcery here holds me to these lands. We must end it, Anya. We must give them rest, even if it is for a short respite.
“We will, Aeron. I promise.” She followed along behind Torlach and Eruviel as they wove their way closer to the the highest tower overlooking the keep. “You will find rest.”
Another voice. Hissing in her mind. Give it back…he needssss it…he musssst have it…
Fae. I have sensed her for some time now. She is getting stronger.
“When we put an end to this, will she be released, too?”
No. She was not a soldier here. She would not be bound by whatever foul wraith holds the souls of my brothers in arms.
“So it will not end here.”
No. It will not. My instinct tells me to begin where it began: Rhudaur. While I and my brothers chose to attempt peace, Angmar had its hold on the lands. Faethril could easily have fallen beneath the influence of that dark sorcery if it meant a chance at saving me. Where did you find her bracelet?
“Just south of a land they called the Circle of Blood.”
Circle of Blood. Fitting. You must go, there, Anya, to be rid of her. I-I don’t know if she can be saved.
“We will do everything we can, Aeron. She needs you. You need her.” Her throat tightened as she thought of Canderas, wounded and resting back at camp. He had found his way to them after falling from a cliff near Trestlebridge, his Rohirric steed bearing him with the utmost speed. He found them in the lower tiers of Fornost, directed by Nillariel who stayed behind at the Free People’s camp to assist the wounded there. Only after they returned for the evening did he show signs of a leg injury and allow Nillariel to cleanse the abrasions from his fall. Anya had insisted they let him sleep and recover so they left him early in the morning near the campfires. The sight of him limping caused her so much concern, all irritation at his unexplained disappearance vanished. “We will reunite you.”
Anya, you are more important now. You focus on you. Your family here. They love you.
She looked ahead at Eruviel and Torlach as they cut through another group of orcs. Her family. She needed to say something to them, anything, to express how grateful she was to have them by her side, but the words seemed small as they protected her with their lives. Elf and Man worked exceedingly well together as they learned each other’s styles and started to play to each other’s strengths. Eruviel looked over her shoulder at her to check to see if she was whole. Torlach flung the blood from his blade with a flick of his wrists.
Anya walked forward and looked at them with gratitude. Together, her family crossed into a yard surrounded by a circular wall and looked upon an idol to the Enemy. Without a word, Torlach approached it and rent it with a single blow of his sword. As it collapsed around his feet, a deep, jagged voice rang out behind them and the doors to the yard slammed shut.
“It seems you have taken down one of my brethren. Do you think to goad me into battle with your meagre show of strength? It is true, however, that you are trespassing on Angmar. For that, I think we will have a bit of fun. Boys, get them!”
The looming Orc leaped down from the wall leading a large group of his comrades. Anya, Eruviel, and Torlach steeled themselves and raised their weapons as one.
*** *** *** *** ***
Good-bye, my Brodhir ((edited from chat log))
As he gazed through Anya’s eyes, he said, “Here. Minas Erain. So different now.”
“I am sure,” said Torlach. “Let us cleanse it.”
They fought their way up each level until they reached the summit. There, three golden braziers sat dormant and the foul spirit clad in armour greeted them with scorn.
As they stood before Remmenaeg, Eruviel glanced to Anya. “Aeron . . are you two doing alright?”
Anya nodded curtly. “We kill it, I am free.”
Torlach twirled his bastard sword and said, “Stay back, then.”
Anya looked over at Eruviel. “She has something to tell you by the way. But that is for later.”
Eruviel smiled slightly, readying an arrow.
Anya fell to the ground as she lit the last brazier, flooding the balcony with light. When the armour of Remmenaeg finally fell to the stone tiles, Eruviel rushed over to Anyatka. “Oselle . . . Anyatka?!”
Torlach said, “Is this done, then?” He raised his brows slightly, lowering his blooded blade. He still stomped the wraith’s helmet, leaving it useless, before stepping over and remaining silent.
Eruviel shook her head, unsure. They carried her unconscious form back down the long road to the Free People’s camp and laid her down gently on the dead grass. Her body seemed to shimmer like the air on a hot summer’s day. As she lay prone, a spirit rose from her: the image of a man in his late twenties with dark hair and blue eyes.
Eruviel watched the spectre, her chest still heaving from the last battle. “You are Aeron?”
Torlach rolled his eyes, leaning on his sword like a staff. “Of course it isn’t.”
Eruviel frowned slightly but after a moment her eyes widened. “You mean the bracelet?”
Aeron nodded. “Faethril is still there. I could feel her, towards the end. She is not herself. While I accept my fate and existed with Anya the best I could, I wished her no harm. My presence calmed her. Fae – ” he sighed, a gust of chill wind flowing through the camp. “Fae would kill her if it meant rejoining me. She does not understand, not in her present state. She must be stopped.”
Torlach sighed, rubbing his forehead with a sweaty palm. “And how are we to do this, pray tell? I see no instruction book.” He is obviously annoyed, and fairly eager to leave Fornost.
Eruviel swallowed but noded to Aeron. “I see.” She glanced at Torlach before turning back to the spirit. “Heruamin?”
Tilting his head, he observed Torlach. “Yes. The spirits will rise again. But you are safe at present.” He turned to address them both. “Anya spoke of my homeland. How it has grown wild and corrupt. How she found the bracelet near what they call the Circle of Blood.”
Eruviel brushed a small wave of stray strands of hair out of her eyes. “Yes, she mentioned it.”
Torlach ‘hmph’ed, frowning. He wiped both black and red blood from his blade, before sheathing it over his back. He listened silently, committing detail to memory.
Aeron continued, “You must go there. Cleanse the land, release the spirits held by the corruption, just as you did here. The purge will set Fae free, or destroy her.” Pain flashed across his face for a moment. “Either way, Anya will be free of her.”
Eruviel studied the shimmering face for a moment. “Is there any guarantee that Anyatka will survive being rid of Fae?”
Aeron’s ruggedly handsome face turned to Anya. He knelt behind her and moved his hand as if to brush the hair from her face. The strands moved slightly as if a breath of wind stirred them. “No. I cannot guarantee anything except Faethril will be gone. I pray that her hold on Anya is not strong enough to take her with her when she’s vanquished. But I cannot promise.”
Eruviel ‘s eyes darkened but she bobbed her head, knowing that part was out of her hands. “We . . .” she glanced to Torlach, “will see it done, Astalder. You have my eternal thanks. I — I know Anya and I will miss you once you depart.”
A small smile formed on his lips. “I will miss you as well.” He stood and walked to stand before her. “She loves you very much, though she’s bad at saying it. Piss poor, precisely.”
He grinned and tapped his temple. “I know more of what she should tell you, but I will let her work on that. Ask her about her night before we left, why don’t you? When she didn’t come home?” He chuckled and moved as if to embrace Eruviel. He stopped himself and bowed deeply to her instead. “Take care of her, sister.”
Torlach watched quietly, near expressionless, hands clasped behind his back. He nodded to Aeron, as a form of respect.
Eruviel shifted, her smile melting into a grin. “I will remember. I would embrace you as I once did my brothers. But I will simply pray that Iluvitar shine brightly upon you as you go to join him, toron.”
He nodded and looked over to Torlach. “You, sir. She does not know why you protect her, but I am grateful that you do. See her through to the end?”
Torlach nodded again. “I will.” He went silent, not figuring anything else needs saying.
After emerging from a bedroll, Canderas yawned after seemingly oversleeping and hobbled on a seemingly better leg but still hindered. He looked to his companions and raised a brow…he looked to Anya with dire concern and looked to Torlach and Eruviel to see what is going on.
Aeron turned to Canderas and started to laugh. The sound echoed off the stone walls of the makeshift keep. “And you,” the spirit said. “Ladies first.”
Eruviel nearly choked on a laugh.
Canderas raised a brow. ” So this is what I get for oversleeping.”
Torlach did not laugh, his limited sense of humour not finding the jest.
Canderas looked to Aeron and the others with slight astonishment. He looked upon Anya’s prone form not knowing how to react.
Anya stirred, moaning. She blinked several times as she rolled to her back. Aeron moved to kneel beside her and said softly, “It is over.”
She blinked up at him again and gasped. “You.”
He noded. “Fae is still inside you. But your friends will take care of you now.”
Canderas placed one hand on his sword hilt uncomfortable with all of this and very uneasy being injured.
Eruviel watched Anya and Aeron as her smile quickly faded into a once-more serious expression.
Anya nodded. “You’re going?”
He mirrored it. “I will see you again, someday,” he said hopefully. “Take care of yourself, Little Anya. And not just because you bear my wife.” He stood and gazed down at her as he slowly started to fade. “Good-bye. Systir.”
Canderas watched as the conversation came to a close. He looked to Anya with concern and bewilderment.
Eruviel lowered her head in respect as the man’s spirit vanished. Glancing to the two men she knelt beside Anyatka. “Oselle?” she asked softly.
Anya threw her arms around Eruviel and started to cry. “Why am I so sad that he’s gone?”
Torlach turned and moved to lean on a wall, closing his eyes slowly. He seemed to relax slightly, fairly tired from the fighting.
Canderas looked to Anya sadly as she began to release her tears. He eased his grip off his sword hilt and looked to Eruviel and Anya with confusion as he was sleeping through the events.
Eruviel froze for a second as Anya began to cry before wrapping her arms around the young woman. “I will miss him as well, oselle. But he is free now. You should rejoice for him.” She gently caressed Anya’s head as she glanced over to Canderas.
Anya cried for a few moments more before pulling back and nodding. As she did, she said, “Are you hurt? And Torlach?” She looked over at Torlach. He shook his head to Anyatka, only having a few cuts and bruises. She looked back to Eruviel.
Eruviel smiled softly. “I am mostly unscathed. Nothing that will not heal. You are not injured, are you Anya?”
Canderas took a step toward Anya and then stoped himself…he then stopped and looked amongst the ruins of Fornost and the folk of the Free People’s Camp. “So everyone is alright then? All is well with the spirits?”
Anyatka swallowed and shook her head. “I am all right.” She turned to look at Canderas and noted his bewilderment. She held out her hand and beckoned him over.
Canderas struggled to sit down next to Anya and took a long breath when he sat beside her. ” That will be an interesting story for around a Campfire.” Canderas looked to Anya with feigned joking as his masked emotion was clearly that of concern.
Anyatka chuckled and took his hand. “Yes. It will be.” She squeezed his hand and asked, “How are you? Is your leg healing properly?”
Canderas nodded to Anya as he looked her over. He made note of her freckled cheeks and met her eyes. He assessed if she was well. He grasped her hand comfortably in his as he looked relieved when she seemed well.
Anya was indeed well, but exhausted and disoriented without Aeron’s calm presence. She looked between her companions, a grateful appreciation for each on her face. She threaded her fingers through his and looked to the others. “Shall we rest a night and then head back to Trestlebridge? I would see how Eirikr is doing.”
Eruviel looked back over her shoulder to Torlach. Studying him for a moment, she tilted her head towards him respectfully before looking back to Anya.
Canderas looked to Anya and shrugs..” Either would do…I feel well rested.”
Anyatka smiled to him. “You’ve been asleep most of the day, dear.”
Canderas shrugged. “Falling hundreds of feet into river, then being dragged in the current is quite a beating.” In fact, he looked exhausted yet still from his journey to Fornost that involved him being separated and weary half of the way.
Eruviel furrows her brow at Canderas. “It is incredible you survived, heruamin.”
Anya leaned over against Canderas and closed her eyes. “I am so glad that you are okay,” she said and nodded in agreement with Eruviel.
Canderas nodded to Eruviel. “I am glad we are all here before each other alive and well…I would not have it any other way.” He looked to Torlach and firmly grasped Anya’s hand in his own. “Tis good to be with friendly company.”
Eruviel said, “Indeed it is, though our journey is not yet complete.”
Canderas nodded. “Where does our road take us next then?”
Anyatka looked at Eruviel without surprise. “I had a feeling it was not. Aeron was released, but Fae?”
Eruviel shook her head solemnly. “We will need to journey to the Blood Circle and cleanse the land to free Anya of Fae . . . though she — Faethril will most likely put up a fight.”
Canderas said, “Well let us be done with it then! And rid of her!” He grinned a bit looking between them all and shrugged. “We mustn’t let this spirit linger any longer within our friend.”
Eruviel’s eyes flickered sadly. “Aeron could not promise that you would survive, oselle,” she said quietly to Anya. “On this last leg you will need to be stronger than ever.”
Anya closed her eyes and turned her face into Canderas’s sleeve. She sighed heavily and nodded. “But we should not put this one off, should we? Fae is no Aeron. I-I can’t control her.” She looked out at her. “She remained hidden because Aeron kept her in check.”
Eruviel sighed heavily, raising her head to meet Anya’s gaze. “I agree. We should not tarry.”
“Then tomorrow, I say we leave to return to Trestlebridge, gather Eiri, and make it back to Bree. We take a week to re-provision and…” she looked at the others to see if they had any objections.
Eruviel nodded. “We should not delay longer than that, though. And I insist you not be left alone. Fae would willingly kill you, oselle.” She then looked to Canderas and added, “I hope you intend to come with. One of us will need to be present, ready to restrain Anya if necessary if indeed Faethril become violent.”
Canderas said, “I will be there indeed. I will not slow ye down despite my leg either… my steed will carry me most the way.”
Eruviel bowed her head, looking relieved. “I am grateful to you. Hopefully there is a healer in Bree that can speed the healing process.”
Anyatka looked up from Canderas’s shoulder. “Is Cwen still in town?” she asked quietly.
Eruviel skewed her mouth. “I hope so.” She then chuckled lightly. “If not I will make haste to fetch her!”
Anyatka chuckled as well. “She lives in the Shire, right? About a day’s ride away?”
Eruviel nodded. “She does.”
Anyatka yawned. “Then if she’s left, we should find her. To look over all of you.” She smiled sleepily at them each in turn.
Canderas smiled and nodded in agreement to Anya. He looked to the Guards to take note of their progress so near to Fornost.
Eruviel nodded in agreement, wincing slightly as she shifted her sitting position.
Anyatka frowned. “You are hurt worse than you let on, systir.”
Eruviel smiled slightly to Anya. “Am I not always discreet about my wounds? But honestly. It is nothing that can’t wait for the lady Cwen.”
Canderas stood as his leg began to tighten from being on the ground. He slid his fingers from Anya’s and he walked around to stretch. He sighed.
Anyatka nodded and released Can reluctantly. “We should to bed soon.” She watched him stretch with a smile.
Eruviel rose slowly and carefully. “I will return in a moment. I must speak with one of the fighters here, then we should indeed get some much needed rest.”
Anyatka nodded and climbed to her feet herself. She wandered over by the fire and to sit on a bedroll.
Canderas grabbed Anya before she managed to sit.
Anyatka paused and looked at Canderas. “What is it, dyrr?”
Canderas kissed her gently on the lips before offering her a pleased smile and expression. “Rest well m’lady. I am glad ye’ are well. And will try not to fall into any rivers on the way to the Red Pools in the Lone-Lands.”
Anyatka chuckled softly and nodded saying quietly, “Lay near me?”
Canderas answered, “Aye, I will remain with ye this night, and any other you choose to have me at your side when the road and wilds do not demand otherwise. For I have grown quite fond of being there. “
Eruviel whistled for her horse and rummaged through her saddle bag, retrieving a small package wrapped in a large leaf. She pulled out a wafer of lembas and broke it into four pieces as she carried it over to Anya and Canderas. “Ignore my presence, but here, this will tide you both over till we return home.” She handed each of them a piece, smiling slightly at their exchange.
Canderas smiled widely in thanks as he was familiar with lembas. He took a bite and rubbed his already growling belly. Anya looked down at the way-bread and blinked in surprise. “Eruviel,” she said only as she took it.
Eruviel offered the third piece out to Torlach. He ambled over and sat down slowly by the fire. He watched each of them silently, chewing idly on the stem of his unlit pipe. To Eruviel, he raised a hand, politely declining.
Canderas said, “Don’t suppose they will share that creature on the spit there.” He chuckled and looked around to the folk of the Free Peoples camp, grinning widely to the Took by the tent.
Anyatka pointed at his lembas. “You shouldn’t need to eat anything else of you have the Elvish way-bread,” she said before taking a bite of her own.
Canderas nodded rubbing his belly feeling somehow cheated of a juicy meal from the bite of lembas that indeed made him full.
Eruviel nodded to Torlach and gave the third piece to the hobbit attending the camp. Laughing quietly at Canderas she said, “Rest well, mellyn.” She bowed and walked over to the corner where the walls meet and sat, leaning back with a small sigh.
Anyatka curtsied to Eruviel before settling down on the bedroll at last. She looked up at Canderas with a smile. He sat next to her and wrapped his arms around her in a comfortable manner as to help ease her to sleep.
Torlach glanced at the two on the bedroll, raising a brow, before politely looking the other way.
Anyatka leaned against him and closed her eyes. She soon eased into a deep sleep.
Click here for Eruviel’s account of the end of their journey to Fornost.
In his bed at his family estate, Canderas lay beside her sleeping soundly. A small grin of contentment even now curled his lip. She studied his face in the dying firelight: smooth, chiseled features except the scar on the right side, pale lashes resting on his cheeks. His mouth. He had a lovely mouth. So often it showered her with kisses and left her pulse racing.
Quietly so as to not disturb him, Anya rolled from her side to her back and stared at the ceiling. The deep, dull ache low in her belly did not subside as her naked flesh pressed against his. She would have thought that she’d feel more embarrassed being nude with a man, but Canderas looked upon her as a beggar would a Dwarven treasure trove. He made her feel glamorous.
Still, glamor did not ease the feeling of anxious frustration deep in her core. It did little to fill the hallow cavern she felt growing inside her each day. Her hand moved to squeeze her breast; she blushed. The heat nearly burned the fingers she raised to her cheek. Proper ladies did not do such things, her mother’s scolding voice rang out in her head. She sighed. Like she needed more voices in her head.
She looked over at Canderas. She should be satisfied. She had made him happy – a trembling, shaking mess happy – and that should be good enough. A woman’s place was making her husband happy, her mother said when the Merchants’ Guild Master’s son first took an interest in her. Not to worry about her own needs, wants, or desires, but to fulfill her husband’s to the best of her ability. Her mother would have frowned at her current situation, though that mattered little to Anya. Things were different now. She needed no husband, but a lover? A lover she could enjoy and her duty was to please him.
And his duty should be to please you.
Her brow creased and she thought for a long minute. Without speaking aloud, she said, “But he will not unless I please him first. It is how it should be.”
Nonsense. There were nights when all I did was please Fae. It was enough to make her sigh. And moan. And scream.
“Why – why would you tell me this, Aeron?”
Because you need to know. You need to see all relationships are not like your mother and your father’s. They are not like what you think that other Man has with his lovers. There are some that are strong and good where duties – and love – are shared equally.
“But a man would leave a woman who demands from him. There are so many more he could go to that would not.”
Little Anya, that is not so. Not if the man is there for the right reasons.
She continued to gaze at Canderas as he slept. “Is he here for the right reasons?”
I do not know, Anya. I only know what you know and see what you see.
She suddenly blushed and gasped aloud.
“Oh, by Bard’s arrow, I am so sorry.”
I, um, respectfully closed my eyes. And sang. Loudly. To myself.
“Did, um, it work?”
“I am so embarrassed.”
He laughed, a deep, comforting sound. You shouldn’t be. It’s a natural thing.
“This seems unlike you. You always seem so stuffy.”
When I have to be. But we share a mind, Anya. It isn’t like we can keep much from one another.
“This is true.” Her face flushed deeper. “I am worried about him. He is a bit headstrong and though he’s seen battle, I am not sure about what we will face.” She studied the scarring on his face. “Was Fae your first?”
No. But she was my last.
“That is what is important, isn’t it?”
She could picture him nodding. I think so. Do not fear tomorrow, Anya. Live in the moment, and not in the past nor the future.
A smile crept up on her. She rested her hand on Canderas’s bare chest and kissed his shoulder.
“And right now, the moment is good.”
*** *** *** *** ***
Eirikr lay staring at the ceiling of the small room in Trestlebridge. His shoulder burned from the Orc’s blade and he was left with nothing but his thoughts. He knew with his injury he would only be a burden to the others, but he cursed his fortunes. His sister needed him, and he had failed to see the Orc that surprised him.
He thought on the moment that it happened: the Orc leapt from the cover of some debris and was on him before he could blink. The dagger plunged into his shoulder and missed his vital organs and arteries by pure luck. One of his companions delivered an arrow to the beast’s eye. Canderas.
The young man saved his life, no doubt. His weapons had been pinned beneath him and with his injury, his bow was practically useless anyway. The Elf had mended it as best she could, and the healer in town saw to stitches and further treatment, but Canderas had been the one to react first and give him the body that could be healed.
Though little good it does me now, he thought dryly. He reached over to press his fingers against the bandage covering the wound. He winced and tried to wiggle the fingers on his injured side. They responded weakly and he tried to suppress the rising panic gathering in his chest.
Someone knocked on the door.
“Eirikr?” Anya’s voice came through the thin wood and the door opened a crack. “Are you awake?”
“Yes,” he answered and struggled to sit up with a smile. He hoped his face concealed his pain.
“Eiri, I am so sorry,” she said as she came into the room and closed the door behind her. “We never should have come here.”
He grunted and waved his good hand dismissively. “Nonsense, Anyatka. We must get you well again. It was my own fault; I did not see the brute.”
Anya sat on the edge of the bed carefully. “Will you be all right?”
Nodding, he assured her, “Of course. It will mend and everything will be fine. I only worry about you, but I think you are in capable hands.” He took hers in his own. “They will fight to protect you, my systir. I know it.”
Her face fell some and she said softly, “Canderas is missing.”
The corner of his mouth twitched and he asked, “What do you mean?”
She answered in a quavering voice. “Mister Torlach believes he went to scout ahead, but there has been no sign of him since you were injured. I fear something terrible has happened.”
Eirikr squeezed her hand to reassure her. “Anya, I am sure he is fine. Perhaps he camped somewhere along the road. Have faith that things will be okay.”
“How can I? Already you have been hurt. Canderas gone. I fear our company is falling apart at the seams, brodhir.”
He leaned forward and pressed his forehead against hers. “As long as you stand, systir, your friends will stand with you. He will return. I will heal. My heart goes where I cannot. I am with you, little whelp. Always.”
*** *** *** *** ***
The Fields of Fornost ((edited from chat logs))
Anya sat uneasily in a saddle on most occasions, but the fields themselves seemed to ooze with a nervous chill. As Torlach and Nillariel led the way, she had only concerned herself with keeping them in sight. Eruviel rode close by, and the absence of Canderas and Eirikr hung over her like a cloud.
As they approached a crossing, suddenly Anya stopped. She looked up at the signpost, eyes dark. “This place…”
Just ahead, Torlach reined in his steed and said, “Is something wrong?”
Eruviel pulled her horse up beside Anya. “What do you remember?”
Torlach listened silently, frowning, and glancing about. He drew his cloak about him at a chill wind, looking almost afraid.
Eruviel pursed her lips, glancing over to Nillariel and Torlach.
Nillariel drew her blade, carrying it on her side. She looked over, “This place… it’s a-absent of light. There’s n-nothing here. It’s like t-the whole place is d-dead.”
Torlach replied, “The whole place is dead…”
Anyatka pressed her lips together as she rubbed her eyes. They opened and were fully black. “We were pressed south while the main body fled west. It was in Bree-land that I fell. But the spell was cast to the North.”
Eruviel’s eyes returned from looking into the distance, sucking in as she remembers to breathe.
Anyatka continued, “Dead is not that bad of a place, my friends. I would return.” She dug her heels into the steed’s sides to spur it into a gallop.
Nillariel blinked, “W-what’s… where’s she going?”
Torlach followed, silent.
They pressed onward until dead trees gave way to crumbling walls and the evidence of Orc and warg. Blockades lined the untended path to the gate. When they reached the main entrance to the city, a wall of wood and spikes halted their advance.
Anyatka’s blackened eyes looked up. “What has happened here? Has no one reclaimed it after all this time?”
Torlach said, “It was abandoned. The North Kingdom fell long ago.”
Nillariel looked around, “Oh… s-someone may have reclaimed it. I fear our luck i-is not that good.”
Anyatka grunted as she looked around. From within her, Aeron saw what became of his home so many years ago. “I was there. I watched it happen.” She sat for a long moment, deep in Aeron’s thoughts.
Seeing Anya pause, Torlach reluctantly led on at a slower pace.
*** *** *** *** ***
There were trolls in the dungeons. And in the main halls. And in the streets. Large, hulking trolls.
The battle raged on from the moment they stepped foot inside the city gates. As they gained access to the higher tiers of the city, the enemies grew stronger. Goblins and orcs. Wargs. And now trolls. Anya held toward the back as best she could, though on this second day in the city, she grew weary and she found herself lagging. Torlach pressed on relentlessly, his sword slashing through their enemies. Eruviel’s arrows flew straight and true. But the trolls.
Anya yelled as one of the hulking beasts charged at her. Eruviel turned and loosed a series of arrows in quick succession. The troll staggered but kept its feet. With blood running down her cheek, Anya stood her ground with her staff in her hand, but Eruviel knew even Aeron’s presence could not save her from a direct assault from a fully armoured troll. Without hesitation, she lept to stop its path.
The troll roared angrily and swept its gigantic mace at the Elf. With the grace of the Eldar, she dodged and lept, blade raised. With a yell, she slashed its throat on her foreswing and drove her blade home deep in its chest on the follow through. Its scream rent the air and it shook dislodging Eruviel and flinging her to the ground. Quickly, she was on her feet to jump back from the troll’s attack. Too late, it struck her side and sent her flying. The troll stumbled after her, but fell to its knees as the black blood streamed with each beat of its tainted heart.
As it crashed to the ground, Anya rushed to Eruviel’s side and knelt beside her. “Are you all right?” Aeron’s calm kept her voice steady.
The Elf nodded and climbed to her feet. She rubbed at the dent in her armour and rolled her shoulder but seemed able to carry on. Anya nodded in return and they looked around at the carnage.
Torlach stood over several bodies ensuring they were indeed bodies. His blade dripped with the blood of the slain as he plunged it into the chest of an Orc that dared to still live. He looked up, expression neutral. He looked to the north.
“Not here,” Aeron said through Anya as she came to stand next to him. Eruviel stood behind them, face stern to hide the discomfort of her three broken ribs. Torlach nodded and the walked on, weapons leaving a trail of blood in their wake.
*** *** *** *** ***
to be continued…
[OOC: Snows days = multiple post days!]
Eruviel shakes her head slowly. “Anyatka, no good can come of being in love with a man who has multiple lovers. I don’t want you to become a broken-hearted remnant of his.”
Anyatka smiles sadly over at Eruviel. “But it’s too late,” she murmurs, a sad resignation in her voice. “I will not leave him, though he lock me outside of his door like an unwanted dog.”
My dearest brother,
I woke up beneath the morning stars in Raenarcam’s home and I remembered. I tried to keep it from him; I didn’t want to betray him and go against his warnings. I promised him not go to looking in the Downs and I didn’t, Eiri. I didn’t go to the Downs, I thought I was safe.
Now they say there are these people inside of me. A man and a woman. Eruviel is disturbed and worried. Lina thinks I’m crazy. I fear others are beginning to think that as well. Maybe I am.
There are these moments when I am one place and suddenly I am another. They can be small, innocuous. Like when Eruviel and I accompanied Carndan and Kaleigh to the Old Greenway Fort to draw
an image they found there. I remember being high on the wall, climbing to get a better look at the relief. It was raining and my foot slipped; then I was on the ground, perfectly fine and they were all staring at me, asking me questions about Fornost and the kingdom of Arthedain and a man named Aeron.
And then – there was an incident and I scared folks, I guess. Eruviel told me of it. I attacked Mr. Torlach. She said he didn’t even deserve it! That I demanded the necklace from our failed journey and that I said ‘he’d die’ if he didn’t have it. I can only guess that ‘he’ may be this Aeron person. Things are getting out of control and I don’t even remember them happening!
And then Morty. Eirikr, I tried not to, I really did. It hurts so much to see him with her. I know he’s gone back to her, I can feel it in the air when I’m around them and now I find myself always around them. I think it’s worse when he’s about. The episodes. I forget much more when I’m around him, and he has no necklace like Torlach. I feel such emptiness; I didn’t know my heart could hurt me so. And when he found out that the necklace was from the Downs. I knew. I knew he was connected to those dreadful tombs. And now I know and he knows and I’m afraid he’ll never speak to me again. I promised myself I would not cry over him any more and that I’d just value his friendship, but now *the words are blurred from splotches*
If I lose his friendship over this, it is only my own fault. If he wants Orchil, he can have her. If he wants every damned woman in this town except me, he can have them. I will remain as I am. Perhaps it is a good thing that Aeron comes out to face him. It lets me forgot for a time that I am not even good enough to be one of his whores.
PS – I will definitely never send this one to you, brother. I can see the murderous intent in your eyes.
February 2-9, 2014
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”**
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are interested in what the heck is going on with Anya right now and either 1) do not wish to participate in the plot line or 2) can’t fit your characters into the plot line or 3) are already involved with the plot line but have no clue what’s going on, here’s a lowdown! Please keep all knowledge OOC until learned ICly!
I will update this with relevant information as the story evolves. Everyone is welcome to join the plot if your character makes sense!
Bookie bound a wight’s soul to Anya on “accident” in the Blood Circle, Lone-lands. Camped along the Great East Road just south of Nan Dhelu, their party stumbles upon an ancient chest. Curious, Bookie delved into the ruins and discovered a small cashe of jewels. Bookie gives a small silver bracelet with a blue gem on the clasp to Anya.
The bracelet belonged to a woman of Ost Guruth who died long ago during the time of the Fall of Fornost. This Rhudauran woman persists as a spirit at slumber in Agamaur. She is connected to the bracelet Anya wears.
Only when the necklace, the protective heirloom token of her lover, is broken at Mithrenost, does the bracelet awaken. It summons the spirit of the lover, who slowly becomes alive within Anya as he seeks the woman, Faethril. The woman, too, appears to take control of Anya for shorter and less substantial possessions.
Periods of time pass when Anya is unaware of her surroundings and Aeron, son of Arithorn becomes active. He can be present as a mere observer, communicate with certain individuals, or become monstrous and Anya will lash out in search of the necklace that serves as his anchor to the physical world. The bracelet itself refuses to be removed; it burned both Eruviel, the Elf, and Nathanil, a Man.
As the possession becomes stronger, Anya must make a voyage to discover its roots. She seeks the knowledge of a Supreme Lore-master (Morty? Nallo? Elrond?) and learns she must go to Fornost to reforge the necklace, as it cracked during the black powder explosion at Mithrenost. Reforging the necklace stabilizes Aeron and he is able to take an ephemeral form separate from Anya. He then shares the story of Faethril and Anya learns she must travel back to the Lone-lands, this time Nan Dhelu and Garth Agarwen, to silence the Red Maid and her influence over the corruption of the land that raises the souls of the dead like Faethril. Thus, will the bracelet loose its power and Faethril’s soul can find peace knowing finally of Aeron’s fate.
Morducai Mossfoot’s touch on the bracelet can call a neutral Aeron to converse. When he releases it, Aeron goes away.
Torlach Longstride bears the necklace that causes Aeron to lose control and become more wraithlike. Tor having this power can make or break the adventure.
I woke up today and things were changed.
I looked down and my hands were not my own; no longer my heavy, calloused hands long used to wielding a sword and shield, but dark, small hands. Frail hands. A woman’s hands. They are often covered in soot, as if I had been playing in ashes. I see the bracelet on my wrist – Fae’s bracelet! What is it doing on my own wrist? I left it with her in Ost Guruth. She should be there, safe from the creeping darkness and far from the battles on the fields of Fornost.
But I am not at Fornost. I wake and I am standing in a room with strange people – an Elf. A hooded man. The room is vaguely familiar, as if once I had passed through for a night. I shouldn’t be here. I should be with my company preparing for battle. Or with Faethril in our tiny hut, the hut I built with my own two hands. My hands. Not these tiny things. I miss her.
Why do I wear her bracelet? And my necklace – the one passed down from my family from ancient times – it is not around my neck. I cannot feel its weight lying on my skin to protect me. Where did it go? Did someone take it from me as I slept? Did someone steal it?
Who stole it?
Adapted from ### Chat Log: RP 01/25 00:38 AM ### Edited for length and revised only to create a narrative.
A brilliant sun covered Bree in its glow, easing the cold bite of winter.
Emmelina Lilybrook stalked across the square with her hands shoved down into the pockets of her pants. She had stopped in on Anya that morning before work to find her abed and looking terrible. She didn’t stay long; Anya couldn’t sit up very well and after a time, the conversation just went no where. Lina had tried to get details about the journey Anya had just returned from, and as far as she could tell, it was a disaster. But Anya could not really remember much and so the tale was distorted and confusing. Arguments between Elf and Man, evil Dwarves attacking her around every corner, and dismembered hands kept getting repeated and after a while Lina told her to lie down and stop talking. Anya willingly obliged and once satisfied that she wasn’t going to go anywhere, Lina left for work.
All day she thought of Anya and her disjointed thoughts. She tried to picture Anya’s face before and after the trip. The more she dwelt on it as she scrubbed the linens on the washboard, she more troubled she felt. Something was clearly not right.
But what could she do about it? She was no healer and knew of no healers that would work for as cheaply as she could afford. Perhaps that fancy Elf she lived with could fix her, but she didn’t know where she was. Her bed had been hastily made and long cold. Lina didn’t know what she could do.
So after work, she went to the Pony to forget about it.
At the top of the stair, two men stood about as far apart as could be. One, a good looking man who clearly spent time to look neat and well groomed, and the other the grave-digger with the ugly face. As she set foot to climb the steps, she considered perhaps he wasn’t ugly, daresay, but it sure was hard to tell with those hideous scars and that scary opalescent eye. Ducking low, she made to pass through without disturbing their conversation when a noise in the square caught her attention. She turned to see what it was when her foot slipped off the edge of the step. Arms flailing, she stumbled.
The grave-digger shot out an arm to steady her.. “Woah, now! The steps look better from up here, I promise.”
Lina blinked rapidly as she was steadied. “Shi—” she exclaimed, stopping the swear just in time. “Look out for that one, eh?” she joked once she had regained her balance. “Sorry about that.”
Morty smiled as he lowered his arm. “No trouble, love. Just watch those feet of yours, aye? Seem to want to get away from you.”
As he returned his attention to the pretty man, Lina nodded and muttered to herself, “Ya think I’s the one knocked me head, an’ not Anya.” She reached for the door to the Pony.
Overhearing, Morty swiveled his head around. “Say what, now?”
The other man, Forthogar, furrowed his brows before arching one, having no Middle-earthly clue what anyone was talking about. He stood by patiently as Lina looked back over her shoulder at them. “Eh?”
“What’s that you just said, about someone hitting her head?”
As Forthogar rubbed his forehead, Lina turned to look between him and Morty. “Uh, jus’ me friend. Some trip she went on, silly girl. Came back right knockered from hittin’ her head hard. She can barely keep ta’er feet.”
“Your friend called Anyatka, by any chance?”
Nodding slowly, Lina said, “Yeah…ya know ‘er, right? Yer the one she sent me ta find tha’ day.”
Very still, Morty answers, “Aye, I do. Is she all right?”
Lina shoved her hands into her pockets and shrugged. Her bobbed hair swept back and forth as she shook her head. “Nah, don’t think so, t’be honest. An’ her housemate is away, so she’s just spending most o’the day sleepin’.” Though she speaks lightly, concern clearly shadows her face. She frowns as if tasting something bitter. “Can’t even draw,” she adds.
Morty frowned. “That’s no good at all. Where is she?”
She shrugged again. “Her housemate’s,” she offered unhelpfully.
“Aye, lass. How do I get there?”
“Ah. Um. House number’s 3 Fountain over in Glaston.” She then proceeds to give poor and vague directions.
“Aye, I know the area. Thank you.”
Lina nodded and turned to head inside. Hand on the door handle, she paused and turned to ask, her rough Bree accent slipping some, “You going to go visit her?”
“Aye, probably.” He turned back to Forthogar.
Emmelina stared at his back for a moment. “Just make sure it’s for the right reasons, if you would.” Then she slipped inside without waiting for an answer.
After finishing with Forthogar, Morty quickly and easily found the home where Anya lived with her Elf friend. Upon trying the doorknob and finding it unlocked, he frowned but slipped inside. The interior of the home was very Elvish: cool stone floors and walls, thin delicate looking furniture, and books and maps left out everywhere. He found her in the first right-hand bedroom off the main hall and quietly set down his lantern and shovel.
There was just a lump in the bed; Anya’s blankets covered her completely as if to muffle her from the entire world. At the slightest noise of the shovel’s head hitting the cool stone floor, she stirred. A soft groan emerged from the blankets.
“Who’s there?” Her voice was hoarse and strained.
Morty sank down into the chair near her bed, swinging one ankle over his opposite knee. He cracked the book open on his shin. “Oh, just a ghost.”
Anyatka’s tangled auburn hair appeared from beneath the covers. Her grey eyes peered out at him, squinted and pained. “Morty?”
He smiled. “Heard you bumped your head.”
She sighs. “You could say that.” She sat up slowly, propping herself up on her elbows. A sleeping gown of finer make than anything she usually wore covered her shoulders. It was probably Eruviel’s. At least she managed to change out of her travel gear. “Where did you hear that from?”
“That scrappy young lass who delivered your letter to me was muttering about you.”
Somehow, she managed a smile. “Emmelina? She mutters about near everything.” Her eyes close and she sank back down to her back. “Forgive me.”
Arching his eyebrows, he asked, “Whatever for?”
Anya pressed her fingers against her eyelids massaging them. “For not offering you a cup of tea.”
He let out a dry laugh. “I’m fine, love.”
Carefully, slowly, Anyatka rolled to her side so she could look at him. “You can help yourself to anything you’d like,” she said tucking her hand between the pillow and her cheek. “There’s some cider in the pantry or a small keg of ale, I think.”
“Eh, I came here to say hello, not to snack.” After a pause, he added, “Just glad to see you haven’t expired.”
“Not yet, though that’s not saying I tried hard to! Dwarves can be very mean.”
“Dwarves knocked you on your head?”
Anya shook her head, winced, and moaned softly. “No,” she whispered.
“It’s all right. Shouldn’t make that pretty head think too hard with it all broken-like.”
He offered to get her something and hummed as he shuffled around in the pantry for a mug and some cider. She was able to drink some and to quip, “What do you get when you take a young Elf and two cranky Men into the Lone-lands?” (Answer: one giant headache and the urge to vomit on a regular basis.) Reassured that she was still alive, if not kicking, Morty started to excuse himself.
“I hope Eruviel will return soon,” Anya said as she slid back down into the covers. “It’s hard to get around. Thank you for stopping by. I wasn’t expecting anyone to.” Her eyes close slowly.
He smiled. “Anytime, love. Just rest up, aye? Don’t rush out of bed to be brave or heroic.” He lifted his shovel and lantern.
At the noise of him picking up his things, she opened her eyes looking confused. “Morty?”
He looked over at her. “Hm?”
Anya blinked repeatedly, her eyes having issues focusing. “You’re here?”
Confusion on his face, he answers, “…Aye? I haven’t left yet.”
Anya smiled. Her face lit up as if she just recognized he was there. “It’s nice of you to come by.” Her eyes closed gently and her breathing slowed. “So tired,” she breathed.
His brow knits. “Oh, this ain’t good…” He breathes out a sigh. “Esthyr, forgive me,” he murmurs. Dropping the shovel, he strides over to the bed.
“Stay with me, love. Don’t go all foggy-eyed on me now, you hear?”
And the grave-digger spent the night in the Elf’s home, keeping vigil over his drifting friend.
My dearest brother,
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?
Dear Miss Teiblanc,
Thank you for the necklace and the lock-box. I most sincerely appreciate the thoughtfulness of the gift as you have discovered my interest in the old tales and the things that still tell them. I have used the lock-box to hide the treasure from all sorts that pass through the boarding house, not just you-know-who. Though with how superstitious people are around here, I doubt many would be interested in something from the Downs. They would probably think it cursed.
I do wish to apologize for arguing over what we argued over. It was silly of me to do. I know you were only looking out for me just as he has done thus far. Perhaps you are right and it is because he has been one of the few to show me kindness. Though without him, I might not have roof over my head or any other clothes on my back except the ones I walked into town with. He reminds me a bit of what I left behind with my brother, I guess. He always looked out for me and I do not think I’m very good on my own. Regardless of that, however, you are right—I do not know the man very well; I know only that he digs graves and seems to have taken an interest in me. And to be honest with you, Miss Teiblanc, I am uncertain of my interest in him, as well. Do know that I have thought over what you said and continue to do so.
I hope that you are well and that next time we meet we can share stories about your travels. Do take care and be safe until then!
Postscript: I am moving out of the boarding house! A lovely Elf-maiden has offered me the spare room in her home. I will send you the new information whenever I am settled.