I hate to contact you on such short notice, but my beloved Colsappa simply must have a proper tiara to match a ring she’s had for a while but wants to wear for the wedding. I know that it is such short notice for such a commission, but I simply must have a tiara! I’ll pay double your going rate for this rush delivery. Come to my Manor when you get this message so you may see the ring and begin work right away.
* * *
Anricwulf rapped on the ornate wooden door. The house seemed oddly quiet this time. During Anricwulf’s last visit the Barding could hear the Lady of the house barking orders at the staff even through the front door of the Manor. He glanced at the sky, rubbing his darkened and tear-raw eyes. Graying clouds covered what remained of the last pink hues of dawn. Perhaps he had come too early? He could go back to bed, not like it would help any. Not after…
The door squeaked and it slowly swung open. “Ah, Master Anredson.” Fenfiren’s face lit up as he gave a bow of his head; what few strands of white hair the doorman had left combed back to try and cover a bald spot brought about from age. “My Lord and Lady will be pleased to know that you have come. I trust the letter he sent you reached you with little-”
“Fenfiren!” Colsappa’s voice shrieked from the second floor. “Who are you talking to?”
Fenfiren cleared his throat before calling back. “Master Anredson has come about your tiara.” The doorman turned a fearful eye to the Barding, his voice now barely above a whisper. “You are here about the tiara, yes?”
Anric gave a wary nod and as convincing of a smile as he could muster.
“Well it’s about time he got here! Bring him into the sitting room! I’m not ready for guests yet!”
Fenfiren gave a slow nod of his head. “At once My Lady.” The doorman swung the door wide and motioned Anric inside. “The past day has been somewhat…tense, what with My Lady deciding on a new ring to wear for the wedding. My Lord’s usual tailor had to be woken up in the middle of the night to begin work on a third dress purposefully for the occasion. The courier will be pleased to know his letter did make it to you, though that will not remove the bruise My Lady left on his cheek when she found out you had been left sleeping.”
Anricwulf paled. “Well if I had known it had been that…serious…is Lady Colsappa going to need a new necklace as well?”
Fenfiren shook his head as he pulled out a mahogany chair for the Barding to sit on. Gold leaf covered only the outer edge of the legs and back of the chair; the plainest piece in the baby-blue room. “My Lady is still quite enamored with that necklace. I suspect she will keep it with this new ensemble. May I get you some tea?”
Anricwulf’s heart leapt into his throat over the thought of something that hot around Colsappa. “Thank you, no.”
Fenfiren nodded and turned just in time to have Lady Colsappa strut into sitting room. “Master Anredson, I’m so glad you’ve arrived.” She sunk into a lounging couch, gold cushion contrasting her silvery white dress. A smile clearly practiced many times grew on her lips. “When the courier told me he had dropped the letter off at the inn you were staying at as opposed to handing you the letter personally I was dreadfully worried you wouldn’t get it.”
Anricwulf rubbed his cheek. “No, no, it got to me just fine. The innkeeper has always been quite punctual about getting me any messages I have.”
Colsappa gave a satisfied nod before rising. “Good to hear. Now, onto business.” The Lady strutted forward and thrust her hand into Anric’s face, palm pointing at her wrist. “I want you to make a tiara to match this ring. It’s an Elven-styled ring, so only the finest karat of gold will do. I also want those same green emeralds that you used in my necklace, but add some white diamonds to them as well.”
Anricwulf looked closely at the ring, his face paling again. He’d seen that style of ring before, placed on the hand of another…
* * *
Anric’s jaw drops as he stares down at the ring; a wedding ring. Berianreth tries to smile, but her lips refuse. He turns to look at Hallamacr. He remembers Berianreth crying on his shoulder, terrified at the threats that man made against his beloved’s life over their speedy courtship. Now, the hand of his lover intertwines her fingers with that of her would-be assassin.
Moisture forms in the eyes of the Barding. “You…you two are…”
“Anric, I didn’t mean for it to happen like this.” Berianreth looks at Hallamacr, who tries to offer the half-elf a reassuring smile. Berianreth smiles back weakly before turning her attention back to her former lover. “I would have told you sooner, but you were gone on business here in Thorin’s Hall, and when Hal and I went into the fields of Bree-land…it all happened so fast.”
Anric’s lips waver. “But Beri…you and I were courting. And now…you and he…”
Hallamacr steps forward. “Don’t take it out on her. The wedding was my idea. I thought…”
“Please don’t be angry Anric.” Berianreth steps forward, offering up a hand. “I never meant to hurt you. It just…”
Anricwulf turns away. He swings himself into Fjall’s saddle and gives his goat a hard kick. Fjall bleats, rears up and bolts out of the Dwarven stable. He can hear Berianreth calling his name as he rides off.
Anric spurs his goat on again and again. His whole body shakes, tears streaming down his face. Nearing the river by Noglond, Fjall slows her pace. Ignoring her Master’s spurring, the goat trots onto a flat clearing by the water and plops herself down. Anric slumps out of the saddle before collapsing onto the gravel of the river bed. He sucks in a breath, squeaking slightly as the air filled his lungs.
The anguish cry of the Barding echoes amongst the Blue Mountains.
* * *
Colsappa snapped her fingers in Anric’s face. “Barding! Are you paying attention?”
Anricwulf rubbed at his eyes. “Oh. Oh, yes. I was…I was just thinking.” He bit his lip. “About what I can do for your tiara.”
Colsappa huffed. “Well just remember Master Anredson; with how much my husband is paying you for this tiara you better finish it on time.”
Anric rose to his feet; already he could feel the moisture returning to his eyes. “Don’t worry Lady Colsappa. I’ll…I’ll finish it in time.”
Colsappa folds her arms. “You’d better.”
* * *
Once the door shut behind the Anricwulf, the Barding slumped against the Manor. His body heaved, his breath shook alongside the rest of him. He put his face in his hands, tears once again streaming down his cheeks.