Wandering Poet: Sunsets & Hobbits

Dearest Mother,

I have reached the border of the Shire. The waters of the Baranduin are slow and steady, a great comfort to a weary traveler. Did you know that in this land, they more oft call the river by the name “Brandywine”? It is a peculiar and particularly charming mispronunciation. There is a small settlement of Hobbits (they seem to be amused yet slightly offended at being called “periannath”) in which I stay this evening. They are not quick to trust, but are used to travelers, and my songs and coin were enough to persuade them I mean no harm.

I can barely fit into their tiny houses; therefore I sleep under the stars. It is a reassuring way to rest, watching the constellations move through the sky as I listen to the river’s waters flow nearby. There is something inexplicably soothing about hearing a cricket play its song, or the rustling of long grass in the wind. It helps me recognize that the world does in fact continue to move, heedless of my whims or heartbreak. Logically I have known this all along, but this does not mean that I feel it in my heart yet.

The reflection of the sun against the rippling waters of the Baranduin was bittersweet, even as the Hobbits assured me it would lift my spirits. How could they know the fiery red of the sun and vivid blue of sky yet undarkened, dancing upon water, would remind me of that I wish to forget? Their gesture and kindness were appreciated, regardless.

My candle supply is limited until I find a proper town with traders, and so I must cut this short. The Hobbits assure me my letters will make it through what they call “the post,” which is their courier/letter system. This shall reach you when it reaches you. May you, Father, Thurinon, Merileth, and all their children, fare well. I will find treats for each of you on my travels, particularly Arassiel. Hobbit-sized is what we could consider child-sized; perhaps a writing desk or easel… Ah, my thoughts run away. Fare well, Mother.

Yours,

Dínendir

Wandering Poet: Second Journey

Dearest Mother,

Forgive your son for being short on words, so heavy is his heart. After chancing across some old acquaintances and friends, it has become abundantly clear to me that I am incapable of properly socializing with others at this time. To continue to stay indoors during the warm months is not sustainable, nor do I particularly wish to stay within these walls more than absolutely necessary. I am sure you understand.

I think it best if I travel for a time. A change of scenery, as well as copious amounts of walking, will perhaps help clear my mind. It was a goal of mine to see the home of the Periannath and to walk the green hills of their land. I will do so, as well as continue my journey toward Duillond. I know you and Father have partners in the elven port, including Maluhíl. It is my fervent hope he has not departed yet, for he would be a comfort to see once more.

During my travels, I will write when it is possible. Please send any replies you wish through our family’s connections in Duillond, as that is my final destination. I am unsure if I will return to Bree to live, or if I shall sell the land and move elsewhere.

This is a journey of discovery, much like my former one, yet this time I do not seek glory or to be remembered for my words and deeds. Instead I desire to regain my sense of self. The vibrant and alive colours of Bree-land in the summer do nothing to stir my heart; this is something which must be remedied. Deep in my heart, I know there is magic and wonder and beauty in the world…and I must learn to see it once again.

Wish your wayward son luck, for I believe he shall need it. Despite my somber words, know that I still – and always will – smile with joy as I think upon you, my father, brother, and beloved sister. Give them my sincere love.

I remain yours,

Dínendir

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. 🙂

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

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…

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

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.

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

“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.”))

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

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.

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…”

Remembering…

(Stolen from amimain, yet again. <33333 I wrote ENTIRELY too much, but I won’t apologize because this was a really great exercise. I hope you enjoy! ^_^)

Sky quietly slipped out of the room when she thought Luned had finally fallen asleep. Her roommate slept like a log most nights, making it much easier to slide away. She bundled herself up even further before silently exiting the warm house, trading comfort for freezing cold. Feet walked: left, right, left, right, making small crunches in the remaining snow. Every night, she went to this spot and every night she waited. All night. She had no idea if she’d ever see her again, but she’d always try. Was it a dream?

Ruff! A small puppy bounded up to the campsite shortly after Sky lit a fire. Bending down in a mess of limbs, she sat on the ground and held her arms out. The puppy, already freezing in the mid-winter night, quickly ran up to both young woman and fire: both warm. Sky hugged the puppy tight, glad for companionship as she held her vigil.

The little pup reminded her of Olly. Her eyes shifted from the small bundle of fur, over to the fire. As the flames crackled in the night, licked and climbed upward only to dissipate against the harsh coolness of the air, Sky sadly thought of her dear friend. Sometimes at night, she’d hug a pillow just to pretend it was her beloved dog once more. Not many things in this world are more crushing than losing your home, your family: but losing your pet cut deeply. They never found Olly after they escaped their home in the north. It was assumed that Olly died by an Orc’s hand. Her brows furrowed and she broke her gaze on the fire, dragging it to the shaggy creature curled in her lap. He wasn’t Olly, but he’d do. At least dogs liked her. She continued to play the waiting game.

«——————————»

The book slowly closed, shutting the door on all further adventures to the land of Lorien for the evening. Foreign symbols, Sindarin, faded from his mind slowly. It was his favorite book, a book of epic poetry dedicated to the Golden Wood. His hands softly caressed the cover, a faint smile playing on his lips. He’d never forget the first time this book had been placed into his hands.

A mischievous and melodic voice rang in his ear. “nendir, come along. I’ll read you your favorite book tonight. Just don’t tell Adar or Naneth!” His eyes widened and he ran to get ready to sleep. The book with all the Elves with the gold trees! No young boy ever cleaned up and got into his sleeping gown as quickly as he did that evening. Plopping into his large and soft mattress, he sat quietly. Eventually his sister slipped into the room, inciting silent but rousing applause from him.

“It’s your birthday today, nendir. I’m going to give you a treat, okay?” His eyes sparkled, just like she wanted. The older girl plopped an old, leather-bound book into his lap; it was well-loved, with an etching of a beautiful tree on the cover. It was their favorite poetry book, the one she promised to read to him tonight. Wide blue-gray eyes looked up to her in childish hope, small hands already crawling around to hold it to his chest. “Well, read it! I’m giving it to you, if you can read me the first stanza. Come on.”

Clearing his small, boyish throat, little nendir began to recite the long, twisting words written in the book. His Sindarin, even at the tender age of seven, was already properly accentuated. She smiled widely, impulsively leaning over to kiss her younger brother’s forehead.

Ah, Merileth. If there was one person from his family that he truly missed, with every fiber of his being, it was her. His feisty, loud, ever-caring sister. He even missed her nagging at times; he missed her advice most of all. She’s the one who convinced him that he needed to follow his heart and to leave. He would be sure to write her a separate letter next week. Quietly holding the old book to his chest, much like he did twelve years ago, Tegil transformed once more into young nendir, if only for a few heartbeats.

«——————————»

Lempi hiccuped so abruptly, the baby surprised herself. She blinked widely and looked to her mother for reassurance. Tuija gladly gave the infant exactly that, bringing her close to her chest. She softly murmured in her language as she handed the girl a crusty and chewy piece of bread to teeth upon. Lempi had learned fast, already weaned off breast milk at the age of eight months. Once that tooth began to come in, Tuija couldn’t handle feeding her any more. Too painful. Lempi loved crusty bread (which helped with her teething pains), so once the bottles were successfully accepted by the girl, everyone was happier.

Tuija kissed the crown of her daughter’s head, then pulled back to inspect the little face as it sloppily gnawed on the large baked good. It always took her breath away to see how Michael’s features were so easily transposed onto Lempi’s face. Her nose, the shape of her eyes…her lips. Especially her lips. Tuija’s were much fuller, more of a pout than a smile. Her daughter had a mouth begging to laugh, just like her father did. Tuija reached down to kiss Lempi’s cheek softly. The baby giggled and moved away; her mother was getting in the way of bread decimation, and that was not acceptable.

Michael loved bread, too. Tuija’s face twisted sorrowfully as she thought on how he loved her homemade flat breads. She remembered an old saying, one her mother would tell her every time she pouted for her duties as a girl. “Ei elämä irvistellen somene.”

“Life will not get more beautiful by making grimaces.”

Her mother was right. Tuija forced a smile.

«——————————»

The sun was shining, the snow was sparkling, and Loriwen Snowberry couldn’t have been in a better mood if she tried. She thought about skipping as she walked into the gate of Bree-town proper, but she wasn’t in that good a mood. It wouldn’t end well and she knew it. Plus, great mood or not, she was thirty. Just a little too old to be doing that in public. She’d skip at home. Alone. Lori turned away from the main road on her way to the lodge. She needed some new nails and her favorite store was around there. They had the best nail smithy, in her opinion. Sturdy but not ugly on the heads.

Just as she was about to bound up the stairs – carefully as always – her ears caught a sound all too familiar to her. Children. Children taunting someone or something. Lori slid her feet to the right, peering down the alleyway next to the shop. Four children stood around a fifth, who was curled into a ball. They were all girls. Her fantastic mood suddenly diminished, leaving a very unhappy woman to stalk down the alley toward them.

“Y’ know what they’re sayin’ ’round town ’bout yer ma, right?”

“Yeah! I heard my pop saying she’s a who–

A clear and stern voice rang out over the four girls, all of whom couldn’t have been more than eight. It cut them off most readily. “And what is going on here?” The voice’s owner put her hands on her hips, golden hair shining in the remaining shaft of light and teal eyes flashing with barely hidden anger.

The oldest of them, or at least the tallest of them, pointed to Lori and squeaked, “Ah! It’s her! Din’t she stab that guy in th’ Pony?! I heard my da’ talkin’ ’bout her! Quick! B’fore she stabs us, too!”

All four fled in a whirl of ratty ponytails and threadbare skirts, leaving the fifth girl still cowering against the wall. Lori smiled and squatted down, holding out her hand. “C’mon, it’s alright. They’re gone.” The little girl – definitely younger and seemingly prettier than the others – peeked up to stare at the older woman.

“Wh-.. what’re y’ doin’? They gonna get me good later, now..” She did take Lori’s hand, though, and let her help her shakily stand up.

“They do that often? Tease you, I mean.” Holding her hand, Lori led the little girl toward the way she stalked in; away from the the girls’ direction.

A soft nod and a sniffle answered her question. “S’no fair, I ain’t done nothin’ t’ them. Jus’ wanna be their friend.” Vibrant green eyes shone with tears as the small girl – she couldn’t have been more than six!! – looked up to Lori. Now she understood. Those girls were jealous; those were some beautiful eyes, and if there was anyone in the whole of Bree who knew what it was like to be berated for being different in a pretty way, it was Lori.

“Yer a bastard kid with straw hair ‘n eyes like a rotten robin’s egg!”

“Somethin’s wrong with Loony Lori, you ain’t got no momma an’ yer hair’s all weird! Where’d ya come from, Loony Lori?!”

Her brow creased at the memories; she wiped it from her face and squatted back down to face the brilliantly green-eyed girl. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

“Lizabeth…” Another sniffle, then a wiping of eyes. They blinked, focusing on the older woman for the first time. “…Yer real purty. Diff’rent lookin’.”

A soft but wide smile spread across Lori’s face. “Thank you, Lizabeth. You’re real pretty, yourself. You have some of the prettiest green eyes I’ve ever seen. They’re like a Yule tree.”

Those eyes shifted to the ground, a pout making itself obvious. “They all call ’em puke-green. Or rott’n eggs.”

“Well, don’t let them get to you. You have pretty eyes, and when you grow up, you’re going to find yourself the best guy around and he’s going to love them. Those girls will be so busy picking at each other, all the boys will ignore them and they’ll have to settle for living with crazy Ellie in her cat house on the Stairs.”

She was rewarded with a quiet giggle. “Ya think so?”

Lori stood up and mussed the girl’s brown hair. “I know so. I was teased, too, and now I’ve got the best guy ever. He loves my eyes.” She wrinkled her nose to accompany a sweet smile.

Lizabeth bit her lower lip and grinned up to the woman. “Really? You were teased an’ now yer all growed up and married?” Another big giggle erupted and the little girl ran off happily.

Her gaze shifted back to the alley, remembering some of her own little torture sessions as a small girl. One kid stood out in her mind, a boy. Mathias. He was a mean little boy, pulling her hair and sticking honey in her boots at lessons. He said a lot of horrible things to her; some of them still cut deep when she thought about them. Her fists began to clench as she remembered a particularly crude remark about her absent mother. Half-way to a scowl, she blinked and looked down to her hand. Something was digging into her fist. Oh. Oh, of course.

Lori held her hand up in the sun, the old and battered silver ring shining despite its age. Her wedding ring. She smiled to herself. Bah, sod Mathias. She was happier than he was, that was for sure. After all, he had to marry one of the bratty girls who tortured her as well. Now she tortured him instead. Serves him right. She planted an impulsive kiss on the ring, then nodded to herself and went about her business. Time to buy nails.