The Shieldmaiden and the Carver: Return

Rojer’s horse trotted into the stable of the inn in which he stayed previously, the rider wearily falling off and neatly landing on his feet. The stocky but lean man patted the horse and grabbed his large satchel, heading out into the night air with a tired gait. He headed into the inn with little else on his mind but sleep.

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Ceolwyn trudged to her regular spot, tired after yet another unplanned dinner with a suitor she couldn’t even pretend to think about finding interesting. Her mother just would not give up. Her younger brother finally had come of age, so she was hoping beyond all hope that he would begin to divert their mother’s meddling intentions. Maybe she could encourage it, somehow…

She tossed her sack in its usual spot, her eye catching a new horse sticking its head out the stable. I recognize that horse… Her shield hand immediately flew up to her neck, feeling the cord and amulet through her shirt. Ceolwyn dropped her shield and sword to the ground, walking up to the horse slowly. Sticking her hand out, she let the horse sniff and lick her hand to catch her scent. “It’s alright, you sweet thing. I won’t hurt you.” After gaining the horse’s tentative trust, she began to stroke its nose, petting him softly. “What brings you back here, hm? I thought he was gone forever.”

“Sorry to disappoint.”

Whipping around at the sound of that low, confident voice, Ceolwyn actually jumped a little. Not expecting him to be right behind her, she flushed bright pink at being caught talking to his horse. She locked eyes with him, standing straight as she looked across to them. Now that she wasn’t preoccupied with training, she realized they were the same height. Did that make her tall, or him short? His lips were already curved into a smile: a bit of confidence there, but still a genuine smile. His eyes, a deep green, shone with the same warmth. The bags under his eyes, though, told the story of a long journey. She knew that all too well. She tried to keep her cool mask on, but a small smile made its way out.

“Um, hello. Back from your long trip?”

His smile grew to a grin, making the bags under his eyes all the more apparent. “Yep, I finally got back from Gondor. Nice place and all, but wouldn’t want to live there. Too stoney and too watery.”

Never the master of pleasant conversation, Ceolwyn stood quietly, practically staring at him. His fiery red hair, his deep green eyes, his previously well-kempt facial hair (it hadn’t been touched in days), his rather foreign facial structure. She eventually realized she was staring without responding. She was grinning, too. “Oh, uh, you look tired.” She immediately winced in her head. What are you doing?

She was greeted by a laugh in response. He chuckled loudly, crossing his arms. “I suppose I would, wouldn’t I? I only got up this early because I wanted to see if you had disappeared on a scouting or whatever it is you’re training for. Say, I’m going to get a late breakfast. You want to come along, or should I bring it out here?”

Opening her mouth to protest, she turned her head to look at the shield and sword carelessly tossed upon the ground. Slowly closing her mouth, she pursed her lips. She should train, she really should. But now that they were actually speaking to each other, the only thing she wanted to do was continue speaking. That had never happened before. She had talked to interesting people before, but he was different somehow. Managing to steeling her face back into her neutral expression, she turned back to him and nodded.

His smile turned into a smirk, one corner tugging up more than the other. “You can tell me where to go then, Lady Ceolwyn.” He swept into an elaborate bow that surprised her so much that she didn’t even give him a look at the use of “lady.” Her surprise must have broken through the mask of indifference that she tried to hide behind, because when his head lifted, he laughed again and gave her a warm smile.

Pursing her lips specifically to not smile at his laughter, she nodded and went to safely stow her items near his horse. After that, she lead him to the quietest inn in town. The “quietest inn in town”, not so surprisingly, just happened to be the one furthest to her house. Interesting. They both sat down quietly, ordering water and whatever left over breakfast food they’d kept. Any questions the barmaid may have had were very quickly swallowed under Ceolwyn’s glower.

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Rojer gave the barmaid a friendly enough smile, furrowing his brow in a little confusion at the way Ceolwyn scowled at her when she gave them a curious glance. After the young thing trotted off, he leaned forward on his crossed forearms. “What was that for?”

She looked confused. “What was what for?”

He tilted his head thoughtfully, inspecting her features with no attempt at hiding what he was doing. Her proud cheekbones stood underneath dark bags, the dark bags framing those beautifully bright blue eyes. Her hair was wild, and he wondered if she had ever actually pulled it back once in her entire life. It tumbled down her back in long, golden waves. After a long moment, he dragged his gaze back to her eyes and kept his head in the curious tilt. “You scowled at her. Why?”

Ceolwyn was clearly trying to work out some sort of answer, her eyes widening slightly then looking down at the table. Her jaw worked a little and her hand involuntarily rose to her neck, splaying across her collarbone. He sat patiently, enjoying this side of her: he could see a normal woman, not just an angry lady with a sword. A lock of hair fell into her eyes, making her blink. She shoved it back, her eyes focusing again on him. “She talks.”

He couldn’t help it as a smile spread across his face; the first thing that came to his mind just sprang from his lips. “Of course she does, everyone talks.”

He almost immediately regretted it as her cheeks flushed a little and a spark came to her eyes. She put both elbows on the table and leaned forward. “You know what I meant.” She didn’t look even remotely amused as her hands found her hair and her fingers ran through it. Her head ended up between both palms as she looked away from him, sighing. “What am I doing here? I should be training.” She made another movement – graceful as the last – as her head tilted back, giving him an ever-tantalizing view of her throat. The view, unfortunately for Rojer, was fleeting as her head then hung down.

He sensed he had to do or say something quick, or lose this opportunity forever. Panic set in, and his confident nature began to melt away as he imagined that. Say something, you complete moron. His jaw worked, then he coughed to clear his throat. “So, um, what are you training for?” He held his breath as he watched her think quietly to herself. It was his last gamble. Would it work? Oh, he hoped so.

Woodworking Art: Built-ins

((This is going to be a small sub-section of my.lotro where I post Lori’s latest woodworking drawings, sketches, and completed items. These are all “hand”-drawn by me, so PLEASE be gentle. I am aware that I have very little talent in the drawing category and I’m using Illustrator with a mouse. >_>))

Built-ins

RP Prompts: A Secret Revealed!

((A great one-shot with Lori yesterday. This is a response to a lovely prompt by the ever-awesome Pumrya. The original post can be found here. After a conversation with Helvia the other day, Lori was given instructions to go visit Helvia’s uncle to ask if he could help look up information about her parents.))

Loriwen shielded her eyes as she carefully continued up the stairs, one step at a time. She’d gotten used to going up stairs normally, but in the case of this exceptionally tall staircase, she wanted to be careful. Lori went up the stairs one at a time, planting both feet firmly on each step. Falling down this staircase would not end well, and the last thing she wanted to do right now was get seriously hurt. Not only was she teetering on the edge of discovering a thirty year secret, Tarlanc could come home any day now. She had just read Kendry’s letter this morning, it came in the mail as well as the politely written note asking her to visit the archives in Scholar’s Stair. A ship sank. Not only did a ship sink, which of course was a horrible tragedy in and of itself, but it apparently had old friends of his on it. He would be devastated, and the last thing he needed when he got back was a banged up her.

Finally reaching the top and taking a couple more steps forward, she turned around and sighed as she looked down at the mass of stairs. That really would have been quite the fall. Shrugging to herself, she turned back around and quickly made her way over to the door of the archives. Taking a deep breath and holding it, she walked into the archives with crossed fingers.

–Later that day–

He told her it was good news. They had found something, something in the tax records. When her father claimed her as his daughter, said she would inherit whatever he had, her mother’s name had to be written down for it to take effect. Helvia’s uncle wrote it down for her, and now Lori sat safely in her yard, looking at the carefully folded page. She didn’t dare look at it until she was home. She wanted to wait until Tarlanc got back, but this was not the time to be gushing about news like this. He was dealing with tragedy, not something as silly as a thirty year old woman who just now realized her mother’s name may be in tax records. Ugh, she really was such a dolt at times.

Squaring her shoulders and pushing her hair back from her face, she held the note with both hands and slowly opened it. The words hit her like a ton of bricks.

Ceolwyn of Edoras

Edoras! Edoras…Edoras?! Her mother was Rohhiric?! Lori looked at the paper in disbelief. She knew it wasn’t wrong, Helvia’s uncle was as precise and methodical as Helvia herself. It had to be right, but that couldn’t be. It just couldn’t. Setting the paper down with shaking hands, Lori’s hair fell into her face again. The afternoon sun caught it, making the hair glow even more golden than red. Lifting a hand to grab the largest lock, she inspected it in the sun, watching the hair shift from a light golden-red to a bright and shining gold as it moved. Maybe he was right, she did get her hair from her mother after all.

Keeping one hand holding her lock of hair, she lifted the page back to her face with the other. Ceolwyn of Edoras. What an odd name. Lori tried her own name in the style of Rohirric and Gondorian tradition. At least, she thought it was tradition. She’d certainly read enough dry books consisting of “Gárulf, son of Gárhelm” or “Beren, son of Barahir.” They wouldn’t constantly go on like that for no reason, she thought. Books were stories, it’s true, but stories always have a tiny bit of truth in them, no? Loriwen, daughter of Ceolwyn.

Lowering the paper again, Lori leaned against her large maple tree and kept her eyes focused on her hair. Slowly letting each strand fall out of her grip and onto her collarbone, she continued to play with it. It was her mother’s hair, as far as she knew: the golden hair of the Rohirrim. It certainly wasn’t normal Bree-hair. Suddenly all the teasing and annoyance she endured growing up was worth it. She may have had straw-hair as a little girl, but it was her mother’s “straw hair.” Lori allowed herself a small smile.

The Shieldmaiden and the Carver: Time Apart

Sitting in the boat, Rojer could not stop thinking about her. Everywhere he looked, he thought he saw Ceolwyn’s blue eyes peering at him. Perhaps it was hope, he didn’t know. He’d had a couple of girlfriends—who hadn’t in Bree?—but none of them affected him like this. The only time he wasn’t completely distracted by her was when he was carving. Channeling all his energy into his craft, Rojer began to make more and more intricate pieces when resting at night.

He eventually made it to Gondor. It was everything he expected, and at the same time, somewhat less. Minas Tirith, which he saw from a distance on his boat, was more grand than he could have possibly imagined. The rest of the landscape was rather…bland. Rojer expected a little more in the way of beautiful cities, less in terms of countryside. Although there was more danger than he would have cared for, with Corsairs attacking the boat. The crew was clearly prepared for such an event, locking the passengers in the hull and taking care of the problem with efficiency. Many days later, they finally reached Pelargir. The large port city was much more than he imagined, with all manner of people walking around. While quickly making his way to his contact, an old man who knew his grandfather, Rojer wondered at the sights.

He finally made it to the old man’s place, heartily greeting him and sitting down to discuss the dreadfully boring details of a stall from which to sell. Some time later, they clasped hands in agreement and Rojer gave him the proper amount of coin. Retreating to his room to rest after a long week’s journey, he sat by the window and thought once more of the blue-eyed woman. A small smile came to his face as he imagined sitting on one of those docks with her, silently enjoying the breeze.

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Ceolwyn sighed, going through her exercises as normal. Once again, she wasn’t invited to go out on an exploratory run. She knew she wouldn’t be invited for a long time. It made her quite angry…she worked harder than most of the people who went. Just because she wasn’t as much of a natural didn’t mean she wasn’t aware of her duties! She knew what she was doing, her movements precise and exactly what she was taught. The pride and zeal were there; what was she missing? Angrily waving her sword through the motions, Ceolwyn finished for the day. Breathing heavily, she walked over to her pack and pulled out a cloth, wiping her face. The amulet that odd man gave her a few weeks ago fell out, bouncing off her boot and into the grass.

She reached down to pluck it from the ground, giving it a discerning look as she rose. It really was beautifully made. The rose looked so soft, and the branches around it were boldly carved. There was even a perfectly burrowed channel through which a string or leather tie could be pushed, making it a necklace instead of just a token. Why would someone buy something like that for someone like her? Ceolwyn turned it in her hands, blinking quickly as she noticed a small etching on the back.

R. Snowberry

Her eyes narrowed as she read the tiny name. Snowberry? Who is Snowberry? That sounds like a horse’s name… She shrugged and packed it back in her pouch, going to reach for her shield. However, she stopped mid-reach, a look of realization dawning over her features. Plopping down on the ground and pulling the amulet back out, she gave it another turn-over. Not seeing anything further, she stood up and stalked into the inn where the strange man had stayed.

============================ Continue reading “The Shieldmaiden and the Carver: Time Apart”

The Shieldmaiden and the Carver: Silent Meetings

Rojer Snowberry was a woodworker of small renown in the Bree-land area, mostly working on large furniture and carpentry. As a hobby, and occasionally to make money, he would carve small trinkets. After some years of being a young bachelor, he decided to head off to Gondor and ply trade with the large stash of trinkets he’d carved. He was a bold and brash young Bree-lad, as most are. Packing up and waving to his mother, he headed off.

When he finally reached the Gap of Rohan and was granted passage as a merchant, he stopped in Edoras to refresh himself with supplies for the trip further to Gondor. When he stopped to eat some luncheon, he noticed a young and fierce woman through the window with piercing blue eyes and long but tangled golden hair. She was sparring by herself, fiercely attempting to fight the air with a worn shield and sword. She was fairly good, certainly better than Rojer; but she was clearly not a warrior. He quietly watched her as she wore herself out, eventually finding her way to the same tavern.

She grinned as she walked into the tavern, showing a fierce expression as she sat down much like any man would, and ate the food placed in front of her fairly fast. He couldn’t help but watch her, never having seen a woman quite so interesting. Being sharp, she quickly noticed his gaze on her and narrowed her eyes menacingly at the strange man with fiery red hair. He turned back to his soup, still looking at her out of the corner of his eye as she eventually finished and walked out. He sat for a long time, struck by the strange woman with weapons and blue eyes. After a long time of thinking, he noticed laughter growing behind him. Turning and giving an inquisitive look, he saw an old man laughing in his direction.

The old man’s laughter died down and he shook his head. “You, young man from far away.. has Ceolwyn, daughter of Eadgifa caught your eye? Ahahaha.” The old man seemed exceptionally amused.

Rojer, suddenly defensive, leaned back against the table and turned to face the man. “What if she has?”

“Ahh, that woman wants no man.” The man waved his hand dismissively. “She wants to fight, even being Eadgifa’s only daughter and eldest child. A shameful woman. Usually the eldest is willing to accede to their mother’s wishes. But that one? Pah.” His hand turned into a pointing finger, wagging in the air. “Mark my words, young man from far away: that lass will only bring trouble.”

Being the young and bold Bree-man he was, Rojer pulled up a mug jauntily and drank deeply, finishing it. “I like trouble.”

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The weather had kept Rojer from heading onward in his journey for a few days; the summer rains on the plains were too much to navigate. He had trouble sleeping the last night, and it wasn’t entirely due to the inadequate bedding he rented for his stay. The fierce determination in the eyes of Ceolwyn, daughter of Eadgifa kept popping into his mind. Something about her struck him. He had to know more about the woman who refused to settle and instead chose to fight. Waking and splashing cold water on his face, he headed downstairs with a purpose: breakfast. Breakfast, and to watch Ceolwyn practice again.

Rojer settled down outside under the part of the roof that jutted out this time, holding his bread and mug of milk. Ceolwyn arrived shortly thereafter, making a point to ignore Rojer as he sat there, watching her curiously. After an hour or so and one long-empty mug of milk, she finally threw her shield down upon the ground and stalked over to glare at Rojer from above. He looked up, giving his best coy look.

“What… do…. you…. *want?*” Ceolwyn breathed between heaves of air. Sweat and rain dotted her face, her training clearly strenuous.

Rojer continued his coy expression, tilting his head. “Can’t a simple man in a strange land watch a beautiful woman practice without being threatened?”

Not expecting an answer of the flirting variety, Ceolwyn’s brow furrowed and she took a step back. She pointed her finger directly at Rojer, water from the rains dripping off it. “What… do you mean?”

He leaned against the wall, extremely pleased that his plan worked. “Exactly what I just asked: may I watch you practice? You’re beautiful when you concentrate.”

A sudden flush coming to her face, Ceolwyn whipped around and grabbed her shield. She continued to practice in silence the rest of the day, never again acknowledging Rojer’s presence. He didn’t need acknowledgment, though. He gladly watched the woman whip her sword in the air, cutting through rain and silence.

The tradition of untalkative companionship, her fiercely slicing the air and him watching intently, continued for as many days as the rains stayed. It was a total of four in all.

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The fourth night was just as sleepless as the rest, but it was productive this time. Rojer spent the night carving a small amulet, no more than the size of a coin. It was a beautiful rose, slender and soft, encased by strong branches. Tucking it into his pocket, he smiled as he went to breakfast that tired morning. He ate his breakfast inside, packing up the horse and graciously thanking the innkeeper for being such a wonderful host – uncomfortable beds or not, it was the polite thing to do. He led his trusty Bree-horse around to the spot where he normally would sit and watch Ceolwyn practice.

Ceolwyn was already practicing, her motions a bit less fierce than usual. Sensing someone coming, she ceased sparring and turned around, sheathing her sword and lowering her shield. Looking over to the horse, her face was a mixture of emotions…above all, confusion. By the time she looked back toward Rojer’s face, her own was already masked in neutrality once again. Nodding in acknowledgment, she made no move toward him.

Pulling his hand out of his pants pocket, he hid the amulet in his palm. Walking slowly toward her and raising his hand as if to shake on a deal, Rojer gave her a disarming smile. “Thank you for allowing me to watch such a beautiful woman as yourself and for not running me through.”

Wary but not entirely distrustful, Ceolwyn dropped her shield off her right arm and held out her hand to shake his. As their hands pulled apart, Rojer left the amulet in her hand. When her head immediately ducked down to inspect it, he took the opportunity to swing up onto his mount.

When she finally looked up at him, silent questions written on her face, he responded. “If ever you wear it, think of the odd foreign man who watched you spar in the rain.” Not waiting for a response in kind, Rojer patted his horse and trotted off to find trade in Gondor, leaving the bewildered and beautiful shieldmaiden behind.

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Ceolwyn watched the rather peculiar man trot away until he was entirely out of sight. She looked down to the amulet in her palm, inspecting it curiously. A beautifully carved rose set in the background, surrounded by strong branches. She carefully tucked it into her sack of belongings and continued her training.