“Hazim! Hazim! Hazim!”
Oh how glorious it was to hear the crowd chanting his name again. Each punch, each splatter of blood against the dirt-clad floor ignited the audience into thunderous applause. He was always a fan favorite, and it seemed the two years away from the city had not seen him forgotten.
The Gondorian brute that faced Hazim stood bloodied and bruised, weary from a long fight against the Haradic fighter. Hazim, however, stood tall with his fists raised, grinning. There was still much vigor left in the man; he was, after all, in his natural element once again.
With a swift motion, Hazim’s arm pulled back, then launched forward with tremendous might and speed. As his curled fist connected with the Gondorian his face crunched and his body fell back onto the arena floor. His head fell back, mouth and chin stained with fresh crimson blood from his newly broken nose.
“Hazim! Victor!” The crowd on the balcony above the fighting pit roared in celebration as the editor of the match named a winner. Hazim laughed and raised his bloodied fists in the air as he glanced up to gaze upon the men and women cheering him on. His dark umber eyes flashed as he set them upon the most striking woman watching him from above.
“For Jade!” he called, dedicating his win in her honor as he gestured toward her with an extended arm, before being finally exiting the arena for the next match of the night.
The little warehouse on the docks of Dol Amroth was not the grand arena he once fought in as a slave, but it was a start. It was where he belonged.
Leave Minas Vrun, pass through Kingsfell, avoid the Rangers… His thoughts raced as he lied awake in his bedroll. Enter Angmar through Aughaire, stick to the hills and slip through the pools of Malenhad undetected, into the mountains and finally to the tower. Back to Sadie in time for Yule…
His eyes slowly peered open, spying upon the back of the silver-haired Elf as she watched the fire. A soft groan escaped his lips on a breathy sigh.
That is assuming I make it back at all. What is she hiding, and why? Why did I even agree to come? Because I was bored?
Valthier narrowed his eyes to thin slits, watching the fire-lit blurry form of Raenarcam.
Because I was bored. I’m addicted to chaos. How must that make Sadie feel…?
Rampant thoughts of Sedania being stuck at home flooded his mind, as well as pictures of her sleeping alone in bed again for the first time in several months. Why could he not think of this before he left, before he could have changed his mind? Why didn’t she protest more?
I am sorry. I won’t leave again. I promise.
How many more times would he have to promise himself this? He sighed again, letting his breath form moist clouds in the cold air in front of his face before he finally closed his eyes again.
Varidia strummed her fingers along the smooth surface of her dining table as she stared across at the model windmill. Its sails still weren’t moving, even though she had promised Jaemy she would take it to a toymaker or someone who worked with clockwork to fix it.
“Do you want me to take it with me? I can get it fixed,” a younger, male voice called from the opposite side of the table.
Varidia’s eyes lifted to look upon her nephew, watching him sip the tea she had made him. “No, I’ll do it. I told her I would. I just keep forgetting to take it with me when I head into Bree. Haven’t really had as many chances as normal lately,” she answered confidently.
Brannt lowered his cup of tea, which gently clapped against the smooth wood surface. “You have a lot going on. It makes sense. Not many people would volunteer to take in a kid, but you’ve always been that way, haven’t you? I was her age when you took me in, too.”
“And look at how you turned out,” she said, smiling back at him.
Brannt chuckled and lowered his eyes modestly. “Can’t imagine how I would have turned out, if you didn’t. Probably would have turned to begging, and winter would have taken me, just like it would have taken her if you hadn’t brought her home with you.”
Varidia brought her hands together on top of the table, settling one into the palm of the other. Her thin smile grew.
“I still don’t know how you manage taking care of kids on top of everything else though. And what about Gaelyn?” he asked.
“What about him?”
“You said he was uncomfortable with keeping Jaemy around. You aren’t afraid he’ll change his mind about you?”
Varidia shook her head, but before she spoke up she slowly tugged one shoulder into a subtle shrug. “I dunno’… maybe,” she replied with uncertainty in her voice. “I think he’s jealous of her.”
“Why?” he asked, then lifted his cup of tea and waited for an answer.
Varidia let out a soft sigh as she gathered her words. “Likely because I’m spendin’ all this effort taking care of Jaemy instead of focusing on him and his kid, Atrian.” Her fingers curled and scratched along the outside of her opposite hand, fidgeting slightly. “But Atrian has family to look out for him. Jaemy… Jaemy doesn’t have anyone else.”
“It’s likely more than that…” Brannt murmured. “But I get it.” A moment of silence lingered between nephew and aunt as Brannt finished his tea. “Can I offer some advice?”
Varidia glanced up with her amber eyes curiously, then slowly nodded.
“You keep saying you’re not ready to settle down. It sounds like he is, and he likely wants to fast, for Atrian. Are you sure that’s even what you want? Because… if it’s not, you should tell him.”
Varidia sat quietly, letting her chest swell with a breath before exhaling a sigh. “I don’t know,” she muttered, then slumped forward onto the table.
“Maybe you should figure that out,” he suggested, then stood up from his chair. “I should get going. Are you sure you don’t want me to take that thing into town with me and get it fixed?”
Varidia turned her head, looking away from the young man to stare at the reconstructed heirloom sitting at the edge of the table. “No,” she sighed. “I’ll fix it. I promised.”