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.

============================

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.

===========================

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.

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