Letters to Minas Tirith: “An Indefinite Amount of Time”

Dearest Mother:

I write you yet again. I apologize if the weekly ramblings of your youngest son begin to wear you away with boredom; I do not mean such! Yet know I miss you terribly. Your warm and loving conversation has been most missed these days. Let me start by assuring you, once again, that I am hale. I have managed to slightly injure my wrist, but already it is almost completely healed. As you can see, I write to you regardless! So therefore it is not so bad. How fare you, my brothers, Father? Please remember: I do think upon you all every day, every hour. With fondness, of course. Merileth has received her own letter this time, so do not think I shun my beloved sister!

The snow in this land is most curious. When I last wrote, I had finished an experimental house made of snow. It has sadly begun to melt – this is such a perplexing idea! How can something so cold, in such cold air, melt? The sun is truly a powerful force. Soon it shall be nothing more than a pile of cold, white powder. Ah, the snow as it falls, mother! It glistens as stars falling to the earth: a gift from the Valar. What I would not give to see your reaction to such beauty. I can picture you, even now, standing in the yard and bundled in furs, looking to the sky as the snow floats around you, sparkling like diamonds. It is dreadfully cold business, however wondrous. I stay indoors whenever I find the opportunity.

Yet that is not the most important thing which weighs on my mind. I have past written to you of my current plans to remain in Bree for a time; I now wish to beg your forgiveness. “A time” has become “an indefinite amount of time.” It is not the weather, nor my health. I must be discreet, for various reasons which I am unable to disclose to even you, but I can no longer hold this façade. I beg of you, truly, truly beg of you to tell no one: not even Father. It is a matter of utmost secrecy, and even as I write these words, I worry for putting them to paper. I will not request something as dramatic as to burn it after reading, or anything like that…yet I must implore silence.

I stay for another. She is not learned, not compared to the education in which you raised me, and she is not what most in your circles would consider a graceful lady; yet she stirs deep within me something which I have never dreamed possible. I am a poet; if there is one thing I have read over and over throughout my life, it has been descriptions of meeting someone who can take your breath away with merely a look. After Nídhil, I questioned if that were even possible: if someone as beautiful, intelligent, and well-bred as her could not cause the skipping of a heartbeat, who could? I now see that was folly on my part – foolish brooding. You of all people know my fondness for speech, being the one who instilled it in me so well, but now there are times when even I am brought to utter silence by a look or touch.

This letter may come as a shock, my words seemingly scribbled upon the page. My apologies if any are hard to read. I find myself unable to speak to all but one confidant, and even he is unable to truly understand her. Even when described through my own eyes, her demeanor around others skews his opinion too much. She is keenly intelligent, proud, strong, and harbors a deep, abiding sense of hope as well as love of the fanciful. There are many layers to her, each different and a joy to learn. She inspires something altogether new to me, Mother. Protection.

I desire to protect her. Naturally, I have always wished to do as I am able to help protect those I care for, but this is a far more fierce need. When I see tears begin to bead in the corner of her bright eyes, my heart aches to stop whatever is causing it. I want nothing more than to hold her for so long that her worries and sadness dissipate. It is new, and almost disconcerting in its intensity. I aspire to be a better person – nay, a better man – for her. It is far too soon to speak of that which I know you are already wondering. Far too soon. Yet know I am beyond smitten.

I know this should not surprise you, but I do feel obligated to tell you: she is not from the same place as you or me. I do not mean the city proper, either: my meaning is of status. It matters not to me. I care only for the warm, delicate swan hidden behind the mask; not whom her parents may be, nor anything else that could be considered something to be undesirable by my peers at home. Her accent is rough and her hands have callouses; her hair is haphazardly cut and her dresses plain – all these things help to shape who she is, each desirable in their own fashion. I cannot apologize enough for not staying behind and marrying well. I truly cannot, for it was a selfish action. Yet I beg more forgiveness from you still as you read the next line: I will never regret it. I am not sorry, for it brought me here, to this quiet and green land with snow and blossoms of twilight.

This is not the letter you were expecting, no doubt. Yet it is more truth than most would dare speak. I am slowly falling for a woman of no social stature in a land with little true education, and nothing in this world fills me with more joy and nervous hope. You and Father were considered a proper match, so I am aware that the situations are not the same…yet if you would write me your counsel, it would be most welcome. You once did something rash and followed your heart; it brought love and happiness to your life. Did it scare you as much as it sometimes does me? The reward, the future which could theoretically happen, is more than worth the risk: this I know for certain. I only wonder if it is supposed to cause disquietude, or I am truly such a fool. Regardless of my status as “fool” or “not a fool,” I fear I have caused enough distress for you in this letter, Mother.

Forgive your foolish son, and please do but love him still. My address is stationary as of now, and as long as the envelope is addressed to Tegil, it shall find its way to my hands. Please write.

You are the only one for whom I will still sign a letter as such.
Your son, with all his love,

Dínendir

Unexpected Conversations: Part Four

Last part, still inspired by the amazing prompt by the ever-lovely amimain. This one is REALLY FREAKIN’ LONG. Also characters most of you aren’t familiar with! I tried to throw their relations in without making it too obvious. So yeah, apologies (but not really) on the length. If I’m up for it tomorrow, you may read this mysterious letter!

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

Gaelwen glided into the study, a cordial but warm smile on her face and an ink-stained envelope in her hand. She curtseyed as was proper in the presence of an elder and waited to be spoken to. She didn’t have to wait long, the plump and gray-haired woman standing on no ceremony and rushing to embrace the girl.

“Gaelwen! How are you, darling? To what do I owe th – ah! That ink-stained note. I would recognize it anywhere. Is it…?”

She gracefully curtseyed once more and held it out to the woman. “Aye, milady Hannien. I was asked to bring you the note myself, instead of let it linger with the rest of them.”

Despite her age, she had retained much of her beauty, like an aged piece of poetry. A bright, beautiful smile blossomed; it reminded Gaelwen of the author of the note she held aloft. Dínendir often gave her those smiles as a young boy…usually when he and Nídhil were about to get in trouble. “You darling girl, please sit. I am sure he has some most wonderful news or prose to share with us all.”

Gaelwen couldn’t help a slight roll of her eyes at the matriarch’s – and that’s really what she was, what with eight grandchildren thus far – enthusiasm. They all knew her younger sister, Nídhil, set off after Dín – ah, pardon her, Tegil. Everyone else was just waiting for a note from one of them, announcing their return. She wasn’t as sure, but she humored everyone else’s notions; at a minimum, it helped to ease the worry for her sister. “As you wish, milady. I would be more than glad to accompany you.”

Hannien held the note up and poked Gaelwen’s nose with it. “Despite your demeanor, you are a bright young woman, Gaelwen: not a child. When will you cease treating me as if I’m the Steward himself? You are only fourteen and act as if you were forty! We are practically family. Please, sit.” She motioned to a downy cushion, rich linen in a jeweled tone. The study itself was decorated in similar colors, making the pale grey gown Gaelwen wore seem out of place.

She settled gracefully onto the pillow and folded her hands on her lap, waiting patiently. It wouldn’t do to try to read over her shoulder, regardless of how close they were. Hannien was like a second mother to her, just as her own mother was a second mother to Dínendir and his siblings. That aside, it was a letter from a son to his mother. Not appropriate to read before or even while she did so. She watched for a reaction, though; did Nídhil arrive yet? The letter wouldn’t have arrived so soon, surely.

The elder woman pushed a wisp of grey from her equally grey eyes and settled into her cushioned chair. Nimble fingers deftly opened the envelope and pulled a few pages of parchment. Dínendir always did write lengthy letters, so neither woman seemed too surprised. Hannien’s eyes crinkled as she read, that bright smile reappearing. These were no doubt the flourishing greetings he sent her: they were always close. The smile was a bit infectious, Gaelwen smiling as well…for a moment. As soon as the smile dropped into a confused line and her head tilted, Gaelwen followed suit. She remained quiet, however.

The next parchment was brought forward, the first quickly flipping to lay face-down on the desk. She read faster – already the third parchment – seeming to want to reach some sort of conclusion. As the final piece was scanned, the woman leaned back and let all four rest on the table unseen. The nimble fingers from both her hands reached up to massage her temples…now that was a look Gaelwen knew all too well. What did he do now?

“Dearest Gaelwen, I apologize. This is a private message for myself, and I have been asked to keep its contents for my eyes only. I am afraid I will be unable to let you read it.” Her eyes didn’t open and she didn’t stop massaging her temples. Not a good sign.

Gaelwen bowed her head and rose fluidly. “Then I shall leave you to better read it again, if milady would wish it?”

Hannien nodded quietly. “Thank you again for bringing it to me. It is always good to see your face, child.” Her eyes opened and she gave a warm, if a bit strained, smile to the young girl.

“You are more than welcome, milady Hannien. If it would not be a bother, may I beg a favor?”

One hand lowered from a temple, resting on the letter again. “Aye, what is it?”

A wry smile found its way to her face. “Please call upon my mother soon, she has been fretting over Nídhil once again and could use your cheer.”

“I will call later this afternoon, perhaps for tea, if it is not too sudden; I believe we both could use cheer.”

Gaelwen curtseyed fully and floated away on a cloud of grey skirts.

What did he do?

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

Another shout, another crash. Merileth couldn’t take much more of this. Ever her mother’s daughter, two fingers from each hand found their way to her temples, rubbing some of the stress away. At least they weren’t fighting – it was only play…and they were outside. There was nothing to be done about it except for escape while she still could. Why did she want four children again? She swayed into the courtyard and let loose a sharp whistle. All seven children froze in place and turned to look at her, somewhat afraid.

“I am going to visit with Gaeril. Please behave while I am gone. If I return to someone with an injury, there will be no cookies after dinner.” She paused, then adding on, “And I will tell the parents of children who are not mine.” That did the trick, with all them properly warned. They settled down and she walked away in peace, the only sounds being the click of her shoes and swish of fabric against the stone.

They didn’t live far apart, the walk no more than a leisurely few minutes on foot. She knocked on the door and was promptly let in by a servant. A polite nod – servants were people, too! – before she asked to call upon the lady of the house, if she were not indisposed. They ushered her into the sitting room and assured her that the lady would be most available for a visit. Merileth sat and waited politely.

It wasn’t long before the short woman came through the door in a wave of scented oil and flowing garment. Gaeril always looked as the sea itself: shifting, fragrant and boisterous…her name was only too fitting. The thought brought a wide smile to Merileth’s face as she rose and hugged her friend. “How are you, my dear?”

Gaeril immediately ushered the younger mother onto the sunning balcony. “I have been the same as the last you called: torn between joy at life’s bounty and being sick with worry over my wayward daughter. Sit, sit; do you want a drink? Those children must be driving you up a wall.”

“They bring that saying to life, climbing the walls in truth.” Merileth groaned good-naturedly and gladly accepted the refreshing glass of water. “Thank you. Have you word yet from Nídhil?”

Long black hair shook and green-grey eyes shifted to the north. “No, I have not. I know Laechon has gone with her, but I cannot help but worry. It is folly to chase after someone after you have parted paths. I have an ill feeling about it.”

“You had an ill feeling about that fabric, yet it turned out to be your favorite dress, did it not?”

A wry look shot across the table for her friend’s jest. “There is a rather drastic difference between my daughter’s well-being and some fabric.”

The glass clinked down as a small chuckle followed its sound. “I know, I know. I apologize, it is not the same. Yet I would point out that my little brother’s heart also lies in the path of your wayward daughter.”

“I should hope so! That is her goal, after all.” She paused, quieting to let a frustrated sigh loose. “Ah, I am torn, dearest Merileth. We all assumed they would end up married, it was such a good match…but now that she goes after him in such a reckless manner, I do not know. I just do not know.”

Her hand snaked across the table to pat Gaeril’s hand. “It is difficult, I know. She ran off after already rejecting him. My dear Dínen – hah, Tegil. That still is foreign to my mind! My dear little brother is a forgiving and gentle boy, but if I told you he could easily forgive and then take her back…well, they would be comforting words for the sake of comfort – not truth. He can be stubborn.”

Something in her tone must have alerted Gaeril, as her friend shifted the chair to face her directly. Gaeril’s eyes – her namesake – fixed to her own. “Do you know something?”

“I did not want to be the one to tell you this, but Mother is utterly convinced you should learn on your own. Folly, I say. Whenever Nídhil finally writes you…steel your heart. She will likely be angry, if I know her as well as I believe I do.”

Eyes shuttered shut and reopened. “Why?”

Merileth bit her lower lip, brow furrowing and free hand going to her lap. “I cannot tell you. It is not my story or news to give. None save D- Tegil himself can shed light on it. Needless to say – and I am truly sorry to have to tell you this – she will most likely be rejected in turn. Not cruelly…not cruelly. He is the heart of my heart, and I know he has no cruelty in him. But your daughter is only a friend to his eyes now.”

Silence reigned supreme for some time, only broken by a deep, slow sigh. “Oh, Nídhil. Darling, what have you done? …I hope she returns home as soon as she finds out, then. She should not be in a foreign land when going through something like this. First she lights out of here as fast as an arrow, only to miss her target completely…”

“Only Mother and I know. You are the only other person either of us has told, and we had quite the discussion when that was decided last night. I am sorry.”

“Sorry? What for?” A weary but quiet enough expression finally emerged. “It is not as if you had a hand in it! My beautiful, precious daughter will have to learn the hard way, just as I did: you cannot fly across the land to chase a man who does not love you. Take the opportunity while it rests in your lap, not after it has flown away. Thank you for telling me, it eases my heart to know what will come. You may tell your mother you were right. I know how you love that.”

Merileth grinned. “Aye, I do enjoy it.”

“But enough of this! How are you?”

“Ah, my youngest has managed to find a new way to annoy his older sisters…”

Unexpected Conversations: Part Three

Third time’s the charm, and it’s all still her fault! Okay, this one turned out shorter than expected. The reason for this? Well, frankly, the last part (incoming soon!) is freakin’ long. It involves four characters (two scenes) and they both blend into each other very well. It would be really crappy to break them up. Expect super long fun from Minas Tirith proper with Part Four. Maybe coming tonight, maybe not. In the meantime, enjoy some Lori.

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

“So, do ya think you’ll be a’righ’ to pull it off?”

Loriwen raised an eyebrow at the man across the table and leaned back in her chair. A foot went up on the table for support when she realized she didn’t wear a dress today. “Pull it off? They’re just bee hives, Eddie.”

Brown hair and deep brown eyes shifted as he shrugged. “They can git real complex iffen ya don’t do it right.” His sentence hung in the air – that unspoken continuation of his sentence, one very few people willingly put voice to – at least not in front of her. And you’re a woman.

She rolled her eyes and let the chair fall back down to the stone floor with a thud. Golden-red hair swung freely and green-blue eyes stared at him, hard. “You wanted one of the best woodworkers in town, you asked around, and you got me. You want me to take the job or not? It’s an easy one.”

There was pride there – that much was clear. His jaw set a little, much to Lori’s delight; he ended up nodding. “A’righ’. When’dya think you’ll be havin’ ‘em ready?”

Her eyes didn’t lose their intense stare, but she did grin happily. “Well, that depends on how fast you want them.” Let the negotiations begin. She did love negotiating with jerks.

Unexpected Conversations: Part Two

Once again, entirely her fault! Part two of what will probably be three. Maybe four, if this last part gets long. This is technically one scene, three characters. I pulled Lempi for one scene, then Tuija immediately after. Given the scenario, it made sense to just mesh them. 🙂

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

Every day, it seemed to be easier to wake up. Every night, it was even harder to go to sleep. Where was Sky? Was she all right? Did she need help? Was she alive? No mother should have to worry about where her daughter was. But here she was, trudging along in Bree-town, eyes constantly scanning for that familiar tall girl. Finally giving up her vigil for the day, Farra walked into the Mess Hall to warm up before heading out. Maybe even ale today; she was in that foul a mood. She sat down with a groan and signaled the person at the bar to bring her a drink.

A young woman, mid 20s most likely, sat across from her and began to carefully unpack a lunch. This would be a fairly normal sight in the Mess Hall, if the woman wasn’t so…foreign. Pale skin, rich blue-brown eyes, a whole lot of black hair piled on her head, wearing a furred tunic; she screamed “not from around here!” Farra stared for only a moment before being distracted by the bartender. A mug of ale plopped in front of her and she handed over the copper to pay for it with a start.

The out of towner kept her eyes politely averted and on her food. Farra was just about to ignore her in return when a sound erupted from the woman’s bag. At least, she thought it was a bag until the woman twisted it and pulled a baby from it. Now that was a handy little idea! She quickly looked down to her food, only looking up after another few minutes of silent eating. The baby gurgled away happily, chewing on what sounded like bread. On the upward tilt of her head, that was confirmed. A sudden wave of pain swept over her features. That was a baby girl.

Sky.

She wasn’t thirsty anymore. She shoved the ale away and got up quietly with a polite nod to the woman and child. Maybe she could make it all the way home before crying this time…

—-

Tuija was used to people getting up and leaving when she sat down, but that woman was different. She could almost feel the sorrow emanating from the stranger as a glance was swept down to Lempi before her hasty retreat. Whatever her pain was, the Lossoth woman hoped the Bree-land woman would be comforted somehow. Lempi whined and a small water skin was pulled to quiet her daughter; that worked, silent suckling replacing the noise.

Another woman sat down, this one much more relaxed and open. They seemed to recognize each other as outsiders almost immediately: long blonde hair nodded politely to coiled black. The blonde woman opened a pack with apple, cheese and bread, starting up a small conversation. “Cute baby, there.” She shined the apple on her sleeve and took a crunchy bite.

Tuija nodded politely as Lempi stared openly at the hair. She was no doubt chewing on it instead of her water skin in her mind. “Thanks to you.” She continued to quietly eat her own food, left over roast meat and pickled carrots.

Both women were quite content to leave it as that; they ate in silence, Tuija leaving first when Lempi began to fuss. Maybe she needed a change. Didn’t smell like it, but Leuedai wasn’t exactly an expert on children of any age.

The younger woman turned to watch with a curious gaze as the two departed. That was quite an accent, and her tunic was constructed in a way Leue had never seen before. She idly wondered where the woman was from as another glug of ale made its way down her throat.

Unexpected Conversations: Part One

Entirely her fault. Also, expect more. I’m posting them in waves so you don’t have like… ten at once. They’re a bit longer than most people’s, as per my usual. I just can’t stop writing once I start!

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

As she stepped out and to the side, she was blindsided by a yellow so bright it almost glowed. It was possibly the most hideous yellow Skyrah had ever seen in her life! In fact…the man was bright all over. Red robes – she’d call them crimson, really – covered by green scarf and gloves, topped with that…thing. He stopped and gave her a short if cordial bow. “Apologies for being in your way, miss.”

Skyrah just blinked. “Uh.. s’arigh’.” He looked up and peered curiously at the bag on her back. She explained sheepishly, “I’m, uh, th’ person bringin’ all th’ candles ‘round lately. Make ‘em an’.. uh… stuff.” Her voice trailed off as she ran out of words. He looked surprisingly delighted at such a basic service.

“Ah! I have seen many using your candles. They are most well-crafted, miss. I assume you do not have any extras upon you, so wanted your craft has become.” He let his sentence drift, the obvious question hanging between bright red-and-yellow and dark brown-and-green figures.

She nodded. “Y-… uh, yeah. I, uh, d’ya want one?” His dialect was weird; it threw her off more than usual. At least he wasn’t making fun of her accent or anything, it was a start. She easily pulled a candle from her bag and was relieved when it was one of the nicer ones. Blind luck saved her again; this guy was kind of fancy, he’d probably appreciate one with swirls of color more than a plain candle.

His eyes proved her quite correct, but not how she expected. He blinked and for a split second – she wasn’t even sure it actually happened – his face softened from its polite mask into a quieter, happier look. It was quickly smoothed away as he looked down to pull a coin from his robe to hand to her. “Thank you, it is a perfect candle for my writing, such as it is.” A polite smile and nod of the head in her direction.

Skyrah nodded awkwardly, not even willing to protest they weren’t a whole silver as she handed him the candle in exchange. She had slowly begun to realize fancier people like this usually didn’t want to deal in copper. Maybe they just didn’t carry them, who knows. As she walked away, leaving the vividly colored man with his candle, she was distracted by a single question. Her curiosity nagged at her, but she would not retreat to ask. She’d never ask him if she ever saw him again, either! But she still wondered: what was so special about a candle with bright blue color in it?

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

A head bobbed down the main street of Combe. Golden hair shone in the afternoon sun, the warm rays almost seeming to wash out all color. Apple green eyes peered around and finally spotted a young Man sweeping some dirt off a stoop. Such a young little boy, especially compared to her people! She quietly approached, hands clasped gently in front of her. Her grammar in Westron was still quite inadquate, but she had begun to understand more in her travels here. “Excuse me, you do know way to the Shire?”

He looked up, startled; his eyes went from sad to wide in a heartbeat. “Wh- y-.. yer… it.. a… yer.. yer ears an’…”

This is something she had acclimated to. Her head bowed politely to him, golden hair falling to cover her ears. “I am Duinelleth. I am sorry for interrupting your works.”

The boy looked around nervously, brown eyes beneath an equally plain brown mop of wavy hair scanning for something – or someone. He seemed to be mollified and took a half step closer. “Dy’a.. yer goin’ to th’ Shire?”

She nodded quietly. “Yes. I am to go home now. I know Shire is on way to home.”

He looked around one more time – so skittish, for a child! – and looked up to her nervously. “C’n ya look fer ma sist’r, iffen y’ see ‘er? She’s gone ‘way an’ I dunno where she gone off ta. She’s gotta be.. goin’ home, too. Comin’ back here.”

A rather odd request! A sincere one, if his worried frown was any indicator. “I…yes. Perhaps she become lost, if I find I will give her message of welcoming. How is she looking?”

The short young boy pointed to the sky. “She be real tall. Mebbe even yer height, she got brown hair an’ eyes jus’ like me.” His hand flew down to yank a lock of dirty hair and point to his eyes. “Real skinny like, like.. like me. An’ uh, she’s gotta scarf she don’ take off none. S’ brown.” His eyes went wide in realization. “Oh! An’ uh, th’ Shire’s.. ya gotta go int’ town over there,” he pointed behind her to the main town of Bree’s gate, “an’ then git goin’ over t’ th’ West. Ya follow th’ road to a bridge right proper.”

Filing the description away – that could be any number of humans, not that she’d tell the boy that!! – she bowed her head. The directions sounded much more promising. “I thank you, young sir. I now leave, and tell your sister if I am to be finding her.”

“M’ name’s Ridgley, iffen yer findin’ ‘er. Thank ya, Miss Elf Lady.” He stood awkwardly as she gracefully glided out of existence. His first Elf, and what does he do? Ask her to look for Sky! Sky? Gah! He never told her his sister’s name! Ridgley sighed to himself and went back to carefully sweeping the stoop. Idiot.

What Lurks Beneath the Unspoken

New prompt! Oddly enough, the name was inspired by a line in RP that I typed out tonight (okay, it is the line). I was struck by it, and I may elucidate further on that in another post. Anyway, the meme is called “What Lurks Beneath the Unspoken.” While we all have relatively verbose characters (most of them, anyway) they still have layers of depth to both their personalities and what they say – or in this case, what they don’t say. This is a short exercise in the second of those. I’m taking a line each of my characters have said recently, and then in italics below, pointing out the unspoken subtext.

«≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡»

“Be careful.”
You know I’m not going to sleep half the time until you’re back in my arms.

«============»

“I’m jus’ tired. I’m fine. How’s yer apple boy?”
You and I both know I’m wearing myself into the ground, but I have proof. You’ve seen it. I can’t give up now.

«============»

“Everything will be all right.”
It will, for you. I’m withering but I will linger for you. Please find happiness.

«============»

“Good night.”
A stolen kiss or two will sustain us both for now. For now.

«============»

“I hate that cheese.”
We both know Butterbur began replacing the cheddar with Bree-brie within the first week of his noting I was giving it away.

Regret: Whatever She Needs

A secret, collaborative effort with the amazing Quae. To be read directly before or after her entry. Tegil has just told Ceswyn the news about Nethali leaving, and in true fashion didn’t leave anything out. He reiterated what Oendir said about how Nethali did “not expect to return.” Picture at the bottom courtesy of her, and Ceswyn is so her character. I only claim Tegil and the prose. All dialogue is ripped directly from the RP log. :3

«≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡≡»

She looked to the fireplace, face still blank; her hands, however, told the true story of what was in her thoughts. Worry, the obvious answer. She twisted her fingers to get out the tension. Then a question, hesitant. Thoughtful.

“Where…is the Moors, Mister Tegil?”

Mister Tegil. Yes, she was definitely rattled. As most people would be! Yet it still hurt to see. He blinked a second later as he registered her question. His brow twisted, much like her fingers, into a visible frown. An obvious worry. She wouldn’t… no, she wouldn’t. Still, he had to ask. “I would that you not follow her..”

“I am not so foolish.” She snapped, and rightfully so, too. It was a stupid question, but one he had to ask for his own sake. Selfish yet again. He hung his head in a nod, chastised by her tone alone.

“I apologize.” He breathed in to calm himself. He recalled dusty maps he studied long ago, by candlelight, in some old study area. The precise lines floated to his mind and he remembered once again. Still, he paused. It was not good news. His voice softened. “It is near the Misty Mountains; on Angmar’s doorstep, as some say.”

Worried hands untangled from themselves and retrieved the kettle, still unwarmed and clearly not meant for tea, placing it back on the mantel in what seemed like its usual spot. She floated to the window, her skirts silently touching the floor as they followed their mistress’s new path. When she spoke, her voice was strained again. Panic wasn’t there, but he could sense she was pleading for a positive answer; yet he knew he shouldn’t tell her what she wanted to hear. False comfort never gave that which it should, for eventually it would be proven inaccurate.

“Is her expectation reasonable?”

His brow knotted further as he watched her silent form. Back straight – too straight, to compensate for being upset, no doubt – and shoulders pushed back. Head raised. All he had to do was lie to her, say that her cousin overreacted, and she would be relieved. Her shoulders would relax and maybe she’d even scowl for such a stupid decision. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t lie to her, especially not now. She deserved the truth, always, even if it hurt. His feet carried him to stand behind her before even he knew what happened. Both hands, one bandaged and one hale, moved to softly rest on her respective shoulders. He swallowed the lump in his throat and disciplined his voice to be as compassionate as he could manage. “It is not without some merit. Yet she is truly skilled, so it is not a certainty.”

She flinched away. He was unsure if it was for his touch or his words. It didn’t matter. Three words repeated, soft, disbelieving. “Not..without merit..” His eyes closed for the tone of her voice, promptly shooting back open when he heard movement. Her hands flew to her face and she slumped to the ground in shock. As she descended, a strangled noise escaped. She hunched over.

He nearly matched her pace as he immediately crouched beside her. Remembering her flinch from before, he didn’t immediately pull her against him; he hovered over her, arms and hands open wide. “Come here..” Her right palm dug into a cerulean eye, possibly trying to stop tears from coming. The left hand raised from her mouth, above her shoulder, attempting to stave off his embrace. A tear-cracked voice attempted to deter him further.

“That would..n-not be appropriate..”

He swallowed what he wanted to say, thinking it to himself instead. Who the hell cares? Instead, he reached to touch her shoulder, ignoring the upraised hand. He pleaded, “No one is here but us. Please… do not force me to watch you like this without being able to comfort you.”

A tanned hand drifted down to lay atop his own. Choked words drifted back to him, even as her gaze stayed pointed to her lap. “I..am sorry..” He began to tilt his head and blink, trying to figure out why she would be apologizing, but he was cut off mid-thought she drew a ragged breath and her whole body twisted to allow her to bury her face against his chest.

His eyes slid shut. His arms gently went around her. He laid his cheek against her head. Long raven strands mingled with short fiery tresses. The only sounds throughout the main room of her house were unsteady, uneven sobs, muffled and quiet. His robe took the brunt of their noise…as well as her anguish. He managed to hold back a wince as she tightened her fingers around the fabric, pulling it – and some less than happy chest hairs – taut.

Why did Nethali have to go off to the Moors? What did she hope to accomplish there? She has someone, right here: someone who clearly cares about her. Her company seemed sober enough when they learned the news as well. It was not as if she had no one. He pursed his lips as he tried to work through the reasoning – he was unsuccessful.

…Was it any different for him, though? He left home without any true purpose, and just wandered off into who knows what. Was he any different? A particularly loud sob erupted, pulling him out of his thoughts. He rubbed the spot of her back between her shoulder blades. Yes. He was. He would be. He would be, for her. His embrace softly tightened as he held back a sigh. Time passed slowly, tears soaking his robe and leg muscles beginning to scream at their still kneeled position.

Eventually, her sobs grew apart and turned into quiet snuffles. Her head shook against his chest more than once, wiping away tears. Her voice croaked when she spoke, raw with emotion. Her true accent was back, in full form. “She ain’t e’er..said..she’d..not come back afore.”

E’er, that’s easy. Ever. …Afore. Afore.. that was a new word. Think of the context. Ah, before. A minute nod to himself. The accent wasn’t so hard to work through and was charming when not dimmed by tears. He decided the logical approach was appropriate this time. “And yet she always has, has she not?”

Fingers tightened against his chest, nerves screaming. The only reaction he gave was a quick widening and re-closing of the eyes. Maybe that was the wrong thing to say. Maybe she did need to hear a comforting lie. The words she finally found availed him of that notion. “Aye…aye…but…” Her grip loosened as if realizing she was probably hurting him before she forced a strained, shallow sigh.

He didn’t respond with words, only moving his head so that his other cheek slowly nuzzled the crown of her head. A gradual, slight squeeze followed. At the faint hug, she regressed into a heavy sob. His robe muffled it to a thin line of sound. Her body curled against itself, and then against him, making the normally tall woman seem like little more than a child. A sigh of his own escaped.

That finally broke him. That and the screaming of his knees. He slowly sat down, right leg still propped up. He didn’t pull her into his lap, but he held her tightly. He would stay as long as she needed him, even until the sun rose. Whatever she needed.