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.