Word From Home

Dolthafaer was elbows-deep in the Arrow’s monthly expense reports, trying in vain to sort through them and hoping desperately for any reason to put it off for another day.  He was no bookkeeper; he simply did not have the patience for it.  He wondered if it would be rude of him to ask Parnard if there were any idle Pillars about who were in need of some busywork.

But distraction came in the form of someone dropping something heavy onto the floorboards behind him.  Dolthafaer cast a look over his shoulder and arched one eyebrow at the sight of Berenthand standing in the middle of his office, his large shield resting on the floor with his hands folded over it.

“Too heavy for you, is it?”

“Not at all.”

Dolthafaer turned his back to his desk and the dreaded paperwork with a smile, crossing his arms over his chest and taking in the sight of his friend – who, curiously, was fully armed and armored.  Hardly the garb one usually favored for a casual stroll through the Valley.  He gave the other elf a questioning look.

Berenthand shifted under his gaze and glanced behind him.

“I… eh…”

“Going somewhere?” he prompted.

“That depends.”

Dolthafaer raised both eyebrows now, but held his silence as he awaited an explanation.  He was a little troubled.  Berenthand had not been in the Valley long, and thus far his duties had prevented him from fully catching up with his one-time brother in arms.  He hoped that he did not plan to leave before he had the chance.

“Before I left Mithlond,” the other elf continued in a somber tone.  “I made sure that I had friends watching for small signs.  Of her.”

Dolthafaer tensed.

The sound of a dagger being torn from its sheath, a cry of fury and pain ripping through the still night air – the only warning before the elleth lunged at the commander, fast as a viper.  The blood looked black against the silver blade.

“Now, I know this isn’t much, but I heard that she might have been spotted in the outskirts of Ered Luin.  Close to the Shire.  I say might—”

“Ered Luin?” he interrupted, skeptical.  “What…”

But he trailed off, frowning, and waited for his friend to finish.

“Because I have only heard of one Elf with similar behavior and looks.”

“What did she do?”

“Something about a quarrel with a local Merchant,” the soldier replied with a shrug.  “I can’t say that it’s a solid source.  But it is a lead.”

Berenthand looked him straight in the eye, his gaze steady and firm, and after a moment, Dolthafaer felt a grim certainty settle in the pit of his stomach. 

“You think it is a lead worth following.”

“I believe it might be worth investigating.”

Dolthafaer rubbed the back of his neck and raised his eyes to the ceiling, seeing instead a thick canopy of twisted oak and pine, a small bird fluttering in the highest boughs.

‘How much longer?’

She ignored him, kicking over a twitching goblin corpse.

‘How many more?’

She ignored him again, yanking an arrow free from its skull.

‘How many hundreds more?’

He followed, doggedly, as the red-haired elleth moved from corpse to corpse and ripped arrow after arrow from their broken bodies.  Her gloved hands were slick with black blood.

‘It will not bring him back.’

She stopped then, her back to him, crouched over her prey.  Her red hair fell in tangled mats just past her shoulders.  She turned to face him, a spark of fury in her cold grey eyes.

‘That is not the point.’

‘It will not make him forgive you.’

The silver blade was in her hand in a flash.

He did not need to ask for more details.  He knew.  Somehow, he knew.

“She has not been seen or heard from in half an Age,” he remarked, soft, thoughtful.  “If she lives still, it will likely be another half an Age before she turns up again.”

Berenthand gestured towards the forgotten papers on the desk behind him.

“I’m sure your work is very exciting,” he smirked.  “But I figured you wanted to know.”

Dolthafaer smiled faintly, almost despite himself. 

“Ered Luin is lovely, this time of year.”

“I hear she ventured Northwards as well.  I hear the Lake is also lovely this time of year, if the trail leads there.”

Dolthafaer said nothing for a long moment, considering.  He cast a look back at the paperwork – the monthly expense reports, his duty to the Arrow.  He thought of those under his command.  Capable scouts, every one.  Strong.  Fierce.  Independent.  They would not suffer without his guidance.

Go,’ she whispered, hoarse, kneeling in the bloodsoaked leaves with her dirty hair knotted in her bloody hands.  He stood over her, torn and hesitating.  The knife lay between them.  ‘Leave me, Nuldafairë.  Go back to your king.’

‘My king is dead.’

‘I am dead.’

“Are you up for a quick trip from the Valley, my friend?”

Berenthand snorted.

“In this gear?” he asked dryly.  “I’d only outrun you by a day.”

“If you have grown too fond of the Hall of Fire, I would understand.”

Dolthafaer broke into a tight grin as his friend shuddered.

“Fresh air sounds nice.”

“I will have to make some preparations.  Go pack your things – and bring a warm cloak, if we do venture near the Lake.”

Berenthand gestured dismissively.

“Don’t be ridiculous.  I’m already packed.  Meet me when you’re ready.”