Snapshots: Mother’s Day

While I don’t believe there is really a Mother’s Day in Middle Earth, many of us spent yesterday (or part of yesterday) celebrating it. I have had a horrible case of writer’s block for almost a month now, and this idea finally broke my dry spell. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ve written snapshots of each of my characters, dealing with their mother or a mother-like figure in their life. 🙂

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The envelope quietly ripped open, dexterous fingers releasing the well-traveled contents inside. A small linen drawstring pouch fell into her lap, confusing Lori. The letter that shortly followed suit was quickly opened and scanned. Whoever wrote this for them had awfully small handwriting: she had to squint and scoot closer to the window. It was legible enough, though…and filled with simple conversation. Everything seemed normal, but an extra page at the end, a smaller one, caught her eye. She pulled it out and read it slowly.

Your mother’s birthday was last week, from when this letter was written. I have held on to this for years in the hopes that one day you would see it and ask for it. Since the ways have become dangerous, I do not wish for you to travel here now. Instead, it is enclosed it for you. Your mother gave this to me before she left, as a reminder of her. After much talk with my mother, we have decided it should pass to you.

Blue-green eyes widened immediately, looking to the pouch on her lap as if it burned. This was something her mother gave Uncle Thurwald. What was it? The letter was carefully laid on the table as a finger reached out to poke the pouch. It was soft, whatever it was. Very light. Could it have been paper? No, she was told her mother couldn’t write. What… what was it? Loriwen slowly opened the pouch, blindly sticking her fingers in to feel around. It felt like…hair? She pulled it out carefully. It was hair. A braided, old piece of golden hair…

Golden hair. Her mother had golden hair. Was this…? She turned it around in her hands a few times, eventually lifting it to compare to her own reddish locks. They both held that golden tint to them, her own tinged with her father’s carroty reddishness. It was. She held it up, staring at it for some time before finally blinking and realizing where she was. This had to be kept somewhere safe… aha! Her knife pouch. She’d get a new carving knife pouch, one that was a little bigger, and she’d keep it in there. There was nowhere else it could possibly belong. For now, she should keep it in the bag – when she wasn’t looking at it, of course. Like now. She inspected the hair, reverently spinning it in her hands.

This was a very odd gift! Very thoughtful, though. She had a similar idea for her wedding ring to Tarlanc, but sadly it wasn’t possible: she wanted to encase some of her hair in crystal or glass or something. No one knew how to do it. It was more than a little touching to realize her mother thought of the same kind of gift. Perhaps they would’ve had some things in common. Hmmm, maybe cutting some of her own hair wouldn’t be a bad idea. You know, in case something happened. It always was a possibility. She’d want her child to have a little piece of her.

Her thought process halted immediately and she stared wide-eyed at the wall. Wait…

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Another sniffle echoed throughout the woods, startling a small rabbit from its early feast of a fresh clover patch. The little creature hopped away, rather than toward, the noise. If only it knew how harmless the skinny, awkward teenage girl really was. She wiped another tear from her face and cleared her throat. She was having such a wonderful day, and then she managed to catch a glimpse of her mother walking through town. Naturally, as her luck would have it, she was spotted as well. She ran as fast as she could, easily losing the frantic woman in the bustle of the crowds. The woods were the first place she ran, hoping she wouldn’t be followed. She wasn’t, as far as she could tell.

Why did she have to see her mother? Couldn’t that have been her father? Someone she could hate? Ugh. This was horrible. Needed to clean her face up before she faced Luned again.

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“Olen pahoillani, tyttäreni. Rakasta hänen – mikään ei ole tärkeämpää. Ei edes maaomaisuus.”
I’m sorry, my daughter. Love her – nothing is more important. Not even the land.

The Lossoth words echoed as Hilja’s voice rang from the sun above. Tuija looked around, confused. A moment later, her mother floated down on a cloud to stand before her. Somehow she knew that she spoke in perfect Westron, but Hilja understood her anyway. “Mother, why are you here?”

“Voit surra ohi aiemmin, ja vieroksua sitä tulevan. Rakkaus hänen kuin rakastin sinua.”
You grieve over the past, and shun the future. Love her as I loved you.

Tuija reached toward her mother, but the elderly woman dissipated the moment her fingers brushed what would have been her peikko-fur tunic. Panic set in, and she awoke with a start. Was it a true dream-message, or the workings of her mind? Did it matter? She looked over to Lempi, nearly a year old, and brushed a lock of jet black hair away from the baby’s sleeping face. It was sound advice, regardless of from where it came. Kiitos, äiti.

((Yeah, okay. Lots of Finnish. It just didn’t work any other way; sorry! Last one is “thank you, mom.”))

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You truly did not have to send anything, but I know there is no method of dissuading you from sending a birthday gift if you wish to. I do miss you, Merileth. Thank you again. I keep you all in my thoughts at all times. Please give Mother a kiss and embrace for me.

Yours, Tegil

He sat back and sighed happily. Time to let the ink dry before he sent it off. What did Merileth send him? Knowing her, it was likely something absurd and far too pushy – possibly even something to do with Ceswyn. Then again, Mother probably would insist Merileth be patient. He was glad, truly glad, that they knew; but that naturally opened the door for pestering and teasing. Well, he would bear it proudly. Hopefully the gift would be something simple and meaningful.

Now to write to Mother. She would no doubt wish for a detailed description of the pendant…should he draw it? No, that would not do it justice. His words would have to suffice. He started the letter as he always did, before diving right into describing the gift. An easy, lopsided smile grew as he imagined her reaction to reading it.

Through Another’s Eyes

The ever-lovely amimain with another prompt. Didn’t do all my characters this time, but these two (particularly Lori’s) just spoke to me. :3

We get chances to develop our characters’ personalities all the time, but it’s rarer that we get to develop how our characters are perceived by others. Write about your character from someone else’s point of view. That someone else cannot be any character that you play.

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She nodded politely to the woman, her fake smile softening some when her eyes drifted over the baby sack. Such a weird little sack, but it fit such a weird woman. Kind of practical, when you really thought about it: hands were free, but the baby was still pressed against you. The baby inside was absolutely adorable. It made sense, though. Such a gorgeous and exotic woman would bring forth such a beautiful babe. Shaking her head as slight jealousy built, Dori Wheeler made her way back from the road.

There was nothing wrong with the woman, except for her being a widow already. Such a shame! When she said who the father was, that shocked Dori. Michael Lawson went up north and married himself one of them Lossoths. That was right weird, but yet fit. He was always about going off and finding stuff. She was a right sorta woman, though. Mourned him properly, a whole year, and seemed keen on respectable work while she settled herself into life here. Still didn’t know why she didn’t take the baby up north again, back to her family; but who knows. Those people way up there were beyond Dori’s understanding: who would ever want to live in permanent snow, eating fatty meat and having to stay huddled around a fire? Ugh! Just the thought was troubling.

That baby was better off here. Nice, normal weather; nice, normal folks. Nice and average. Hopefully that woman would find a man again. No shame in marrying again when you’re widowed. Not after a year and not when you’ve got such a little one. Trick there was finding a man willing to marry a woman already having a babe. Men were proud creatures – she smiled fondly to her own husband’s set of clothes at that thought – and it was hard for them to accept a kid not of their blood as their own. She was darn pretty enough that Dori was sure even that Too…jah? Too… uh? Bah, she couldn’t pronounce that weird name. She was sure she could snag someone, even with broken Westron. Too pretty not to attract someone’s eye, no doubt.

Must be nice to be so pretty. She ran her hands through her brown hair with a sigh. Time to make some bread. She rolled up her sleeves, pondering the latest bit of gossip.

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Emmett Beetly looked through his window, across the street. His neighbor slowly – almost comically – pulled plank after plank of wood into the house. No woman should be able to do that; they were sturdy pieces of wood, a man should be helping her bring them inside. Where was that foreigner she was living with? Oh, pardon him: her husband. They got married. Most in town were convinced that their gallivanting about had gotten her with child, so they married quietly…those rumors hadn’t been proven true. Yet. She stayed slim as ever, almost a month later. And hauling wood. No self-respecting pregnant woman would haul wood around, even her.

She was a walking scandal these days. Bah, most days? Try her whole life. He almost felt bad for her. Well, at first. Having no ma, supposedly – supposedly! – she was some foreigner as well, but no one ever knew. Crazy Rojer Snowberry just left one day, and years later just showed up with a kid. Never married again; according to him he did marry her ma, but no one around here believed him. Poor Lori Snowberry, stuck with her da’s reddish hair and being really clumsy. People still thought there was Dale in her da’s family. Red hair wasn’t Bree-hair.

These days, she brought all the scandal on herself. Did ever since she ran off for a whole year and lived with the Hobbits. Most were wary when she moved into Wildore, but they didn’t say anything. She stayed to herself, worked in her little garden, and didn’t bother nobody. Just an old maid. Like she should be, at her age. Minus that woodworking and whatnot. It was bad enough she walked around wearing pants most of the time, going to the Pony and Cask, drinking more than any respectable woman should drink. Then that foreign man started coming around: that was the talk of the town when everyone realized it. That was not something you did: living with a man, not married? Everyone knew what was going on there, too. They weren’t stupid around here. On top of that, not only was he not from Bree, people said he was a sailor on top of it. Rowdy, unreliable types, they were.

If a woman her age got it into her head she was somehow court-able, the least she could do was find herself a nice, local widower. Not some questionable sailor from another land. At least she started wearing dresses sometimes, and wasn’t drinking so much. Days like today, though…it was like a relapse. Tunic and pants, hauling large pieces of timber around, sitting on the stoop in the freezing cold as she drank deeply from one of her large mugs. It wasn’t right. Even if they were all married proper-like, she should be getting with child and cooking and wearing dresses. Indoors. None of this still working nonsense. Bah. He shook his head. Nothing to be done for it. At least they did the respectable thing and got hitched. Nothing anyone could say now. He went back to scrubbing the dishes.

Dreams: The Past, But Not

((Expect a dream from every character in the next day or so. Some deal with their pasts, some will highlight a part of themselves they didn’t realize was there, some are completely random. I hope you enjoy this little series. I was just struck by it last night. :3))

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“Come to dinner, darling one!”

A short little girl – no more than four – heeded her mother’s call, bright golden-red hair bouncing happily into the farm house’s main room, blue-green eyes twinkling with anticipation. “What’s dinner, ma?”

The tall and usually stoic woman looked down to her daughter and couldn’t help a soft smile. Her Rohirric accent was still thick, even years after leaving her people. “We will have stew tonight. Now go, call your father and wash up.” She swayed gracefully back to the fire, stirring her concoction one last time; her daughter pranced away with much the same grace, calling for Daddy.

Reality swirled around them, but no one seemed to mind; the next Loriwen knew, she was sitting at the table, a few years older. Her hair was in pigtails, like she hated, but she had to look nice for mourning. She didn’t mind, if only because she was so sad, herself. She had only met her Uncle Thurwald once, but he was a real nice man with great stories and the best laugh of anyone ever in the whole world – well, except for Daddy. They were going to wear black all week and she had to look nice. That meant no playing outside or sneaking woodcarving behind the house when Mommy wasn’t looking. Her parents stood up and held each other, then parted on one side and motioned for her to join them. She quickly hopped down from the chair and rushed over to be comforted.

As soon as she reached them, everything shifted. Loriwen felt the same, yet she was a young woman getting married. She didn’t feel very happy for it, but it was a good match. He didn’t care about naught but inheriting his parent’s farm; she was just too old by the village’s standards to stay single any longer. It wasn’t normal. They both agreed, as childhood friends, to stay just that: friends. It was acceptable enough, giving small kisses in public and never expecting more from the other. As they kissed, they froze. It seemed as though they stood still while time flew away from them.

When they parted, both were older. Holt was beginning to grey early, only thirty-two. She herself was almost thirty. He was off to work in the field again, working on keeping the squash safe from the impending summer – it had been a horrible spring with too much rain. How did she know that? She just did. He walked off, and she waved; then quickly rushed to change and go into town. Once she walked out the door again, the door became the door to the Pony. She was suddenly carrying a small basket that only had a few loaves of bread in it. Unfortunately, she managed to walk into a scuffle on the porch of the Pony, and she was quickly and unintentionally pushed off the edge. Landing with a thud, everything changed again. Suddenly a strange man – she knew his name was Tarlanc, somehow – walked over with his friend Brant. Brant, she knew if only by face; he was one of those rich Heartwood boys, the one that managed to get himself lost for a long time. Gossip spread fast amongst the housewives. She would know, she was often the butt of it…what with her still not getting with child. The stranger with dark hair and eyes that seemed to shift reached down to help her up, and she couldn’t take her eyes away from him, even as it seemed like he couldn’t take his away from her. Where their hands touched, it was like an ember: a long-lasting and smoldering heat that, with the slightest provocation, would ignite into a flame. Everyone, even that rich boy Brant, faded away completely.

Then they were behind the Pony, hidden by trees. Weeks had already passed somehow; he looked at her, calling her “Loriwen” as he always did. He was the only one who ever called her by her full name. It made her knees weak every time. He held her hand in much the same manner as they did when they met. She already talked to Holt, he didn’t care she was sneaking around with the strange Gondorian sailor; not in the slightest. He’d snuck around with other women, too. But Holt didn’t know the true decision Loriwen came to in that moment. She looked up to Tarlanc – so much taller! – and caught her breath once again. She was running away. Staying in a friendly but entirely dead marriage was something she couldn’t do; not now, not that she found someone who made her feel so alive. Her hands reached up, grasping the grinning man by the long, dark hair; she yanked him down for a rather passionate kiss.

When they parted, she was in Dol Amroth. She didn’t know how she knew, given she had only ever heard stories of the port town, but this certainly fit those descriptions and she just knew. Her tall man had already pledged himself to her, and they walked by the docks hand in hand. Even that simple act, with the sea salt and warm ocean breeze washing over their senses, made her heart soar. She closed her eyes, standing on the end of a pier as her scandalously new betrothed (or husband? He certainly acted like it was the latter) protectively wrapped both arms around her waist.

Loriwen’s eyes opened, and she saw ceiling. All which had just happened played through her mind at lightning-fast speed, ending when she blinked a few times. A yawn finished off her confusing reverie, and she turned to see a bare shoulder illuminated by the silvery moonlight. Her eyes drifted over to his face, jaw agape as another loud snore escaped. It was still the face from her dreams. Dreams. It was just a dream. A convoluted, entirely made up dream. Well, at least they ended up together in it. She smiled and quietly brought a hand to his forehead, brushing her hand down his face, cupping it quietly. She’d always run away with him, if given the chance. They were meant to be together. Scooting up to kiss his forehead, she snuggled back into him. His arms automatically went around her protectively – just like in her dream. Loriwen went back to sleep, hoping she would dream of a future this time instead of a completely disjointed past.

Letters to Edoras: Hello!

October 23, 2010

Grandmother Eadgifa and Uncle Thurwald,

First, I just want to say something to whoever is reading you this letter. It means a lot to be able to communicate with family so long lost to me, so thank you. Thank you so much.

I suppose I should start out with the most important news of all. I’ve become betrothed! To Tarlanc, of course; the man Thurwald met while here. It’s rather exciting. We think we’ll make a small, private affair of it: just someone to speak the words and a friend for a witness, if one is needed. I can never remember if one is needed or not. Anyway, yes; it will be small and simple. I’ve always thought it was rather sweet to hear of those couples who ran off to be together, but it seems running off looks rather suspect given our age. Ah, well! As I said, it’s really quite exciting. It seems much too soon by the older standards of the area, but to me, it seems as if it can’t be soon enough. I’m so very, very happy. I hope you know that.

All is very, very well here, as I said above. I’ve finished a rather large woodworking project, and the pay from that is going to keep me rather comfortable throughout the winter here. We’re even speaking of taking a trip somewhere afterward.

It’s odd writing to you, I’m really not sure what to write beside that! Fall is real nice here, the leaves are starting to fall off, making beautiful orange, red and yellow piles everywhere. I’ve been thinking about making a real big pile and jumping in it. That sounds a bit silly coming from a grown woman, I’ll bet! In more domestic news, I’m going to meet with Cara, Tarlanc’s young niece soon. She’s going to try and teach me how to bake a Gondor treat, a bread with cheese in it. That will be a fun day, as she is a truly sweet young girl. Her husband was killed last year, sadly, but she does have an adorably chubby little baby girl named Civrennil. The two of them are a delight to visit, and I’m glad we’ll have some time to get to know each other.

I hope to get to know you better, too. After all, you are kin! Kin unlooked-for, but far from unwelcome. It’s a great relief to know of my mother’s family, and of my mother. How are my cousins, and how about my aunt? Are you all doing alright? I wonder about the winter down in Edoras. Is it very cold? Do you see snow close by, or is it only far away on mountains? I wonder if there are any traditions. Here, we exchange small gifts and mull cider. Treats are eaten, as well. The traditions come from the Hobbits nearby, lovely little folk with a great love for food and drink. I love their Yule traditions, and we around the smaller towns have adopted them ourselves. Please, write back (thank you again, for reading and writing for them) and tell me of your customs. I would dearly love to hear more of everything you would like to tell me.

I look forward to hearing from you, and…thank you for finding me. It filled a long-standing void to know of you and that part of my past that was lost.

Loriwen Snowberry

Lost Family: Getting to Know Each Other

This submission is in PDF form for two reasons.

  1. It’s entirely too long to be posted on my.lotro, and it’s not the kind of piece I can break up.
  2. It’s far more comfortable to read it in black on white serif font instead of whatever my.lotro is conjuring up at the moment.

I hope you enjoy this latest piece. If it’s not working for some reason, I’ll throw it up on fanfiction.net or something.

Link to story here.

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.

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.

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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.

Loriwen: Defective

Loriwen stumbled blindly out of the healer’s hall, staring at her feet silently. Her cursed, cursed feet. Her cursed, cursed brain! What was she going to do?! Go home, that’s what. That’s what she was going to do. Go home.

She made her way, one step at a time. She watched both her feet carefully: left, right, left, right, left, right. Knowing what she now knew about her clumsiness, she didn’t know how she’d ever be normal again. When it was just bad luck, everything was fine. It was a joke! Aha, Lori fell over again! Aha, Lori ran into that doorway! What a clumsy, silly woman! But now…

Now she was defective. It was her brain. It didn’t talk to her feet right. Something was wrong with her. She was broken. What was she going to do? Every step she took, she consciously made the effort to keep it aligned with what she thought was the right spot. Left, right, left, right.

Everything had changed. She pulled her hand up to her forehead, wincing at the dull throb her head had obtained. Loriwen gingerly touched the bruise that no doubt already graced her forehead. Ah, the forehead that only mere hours ago held a normal brain. A forehead that only mere hours ago was fine. A forehead that only mere hours ago was being kissed by Tarlanc.

Loriwen stopped dead in her tracks.

Tarlanc.

How was she going to explain this to him? How do you look someone in the eye, and say “Hi, there! My brain’s screwed up?” How do you look someone you love in the eye and say that? What.. what was she going to do?! He knew she was clumsy, he didn’t care. He kissed her bruises – the ones about which he knew, anyway – and seemed to only care about her being more careful. But now…now things were different. Her brain was broken. She was damaged goods. Why would someone like him want to be with someone like her? He wanted children, she wasn’t even sure yet if she ever would. Especially after what she saw tonight. Pain, agony, tears. She didn’t want any part of that! But.. would he still want children with someone like her?

Loriwen’s eyes slowly filled with tears as the next thought dawned upon her.

What if it’s hereditary?!

Oh, no. What if … well, she never knew her mother! Maybe that’s why her father never told her about her mother! What if her mother had it?! Could … is that where Lori got it from!? Did she die from it? Is that why he never told her? So he wouldn’t scare her? Let her live blissfully ignorant until one day, she just stopped being able to function properly?

Panic quickly setting in, Lori sat down on the ground, breathing heavily. She looked up to the sky, eyes wide. She had to locate that Northern Star. She just had to. Where was it, where was it, where was … ah, there it is. The breath she didn’t know she was holding escaped her. Watching its faint but steady glow, she slowly began to relax. After a while, the cool but humid summer air began to stick to her skin and she sighed. Getting up very carefully, she straightened her body and wiped away the tears that had fallen in her descent.

Her eyes closed, she took a steadying breath. She could fall apart when she got home, but for now it was late. Outside of town proper or not, it wasn’t safe for her sitting on the road, crying. Logic dictating her movements, if not her thoughts, she began to move back toward Wildore. Left, right, left, right, left, right. Every once in a while, a small tear would make its way down a cheek.

I don’t want him to leave.