The first person you remember to call your name is your Grandmother. Her hair is silver, and she is ancient. She sits near a window, her almost blind eyes half-lidded. Her dry knotted fingers can hardly bend, but the pulps are surprisingly sensitive. She is caressing the petals of a white flower clenched in your hand, and she smiles.
"It is a Maiden's Tear," she explains and tells you how to make a drink with these flowers, so that when the pain comes to your stomach with the new moon, you can conceal your ailment from others. She presses the crooked index finger to her lips and whispers, "You are small, girl. If you do not tell them, they will not give you to a man."
You love your Grandmother, her world is white, clean and smells of dry herbs she hangs above the window. Her irises are white too, and she moves following a wall of her cob with her fingers. You want to stay with her, trees and tall grasses surrounding her small round house with white walls and black straw roof. A small village where she lives is very poor but the women who come to her bring bread and roots, you boil the round spuds and add them to a flavourful sorrel soup. The women talk in hushes voices and leave the house carrying little sachets of herbs with them.
In the balmy evenings after a hot summer day you sit near you grandmother's feet and she is combing her fingers through your copper curls. She tells you of a beautiful ship that once cast anchor in the harbour where she lived as a young maiden. She describes men with flaming hair that lay dead on its deck, their faces drained of life and thin, and the two who were still alive. She tells of how one of them died a few days later but the other one lived and married her sister. She tells you of her secret fire for him and how his eyes, green and shaped like a willow leaf, would burn when she entered a room. She repeats your name and explains that it is a name of a small bird in his homeland. She tells how he would murmur in his lilting tongue, his forbidden kisses sweet and his hands gentle.
2. Long Daer
When a tall man with a black beard comes to take you away, you thrash in his hands and wail. Your grandmother stays inside, while he is dragging you across the small, neatly swept yard. You are scratching and fighting, until he shoves you in the arms of a lithe blonde woman. You lift your face to her and see a pair of your own eyes looking back at you.
Your mother and father reside in a large wooden house built on the coast. They trade with the locals, sending their hands with barrels of fish and carts of furs to the South. You are told that in you runs the blood of Numenoreans, that you have four older brothers and that now that your hair reaches your waist you will stay with your family. You are frightened and cry every night for a month.
You are told that the gentle murmur of a lover that you thought your name was is to be forgotten now. They give you another name, proud and coarse on your tongue. They tell you it is a name of an obedient wife and a devoted mother, and you nod. One day your mother asks you if your insides ever hurt but you shake your head. That night you sneak from the house and look for the white flowers.
Your brothers are tall, dark haired and haughty. They are strong and take pleasure in shoving you aside when passing you in the yard. You avoid them like plague. Soon your mother gives birth to another child. It is a girl, her hair is dark and her limbs are long. Everyone forgets your name.
One morning the girl does not wake up. After a short mourning your mother calls for you, and you start spending your days with her. She shows you the life around the house, teaches you how to read and keep the books, how to sew and mend. Sometimes young men come to visit your mother, accompanied by their mothers and older sisters. They whisper behind your back, but every time they leave and do not come back. When looking at you, your mother's face constantly bears disappointment.
A few years later your father slips on wet boards in the docks and after a few days of agony he passes away. Your oldest brother starts going for longer trips, and that is the only change that comes to the large wooden house. Your mother now uses his name to issue her commands. Life goes on unchanged. Even her night robe remains the same. It is your father's old tunic. She is so short that it reaches her knees.
It is spring and you sneak under the furs in one of the cart. You have a small bag of food with you, and you are trying to get back to your grandmother. The house is empty, the bunches of herbs dusty above the window. One of the local women takes you in. You help her with cooking and cleaning. You realize that you remember everything your grandmother told you about leaves, flowers and roots. Soon enough a crying woman comes to your new home. Your adopted mother takes you aside and asks for a brew to kill an unborn babe. You recoil and shake your head.
Three days later you pick up your backpack and set out South.
You are fighting but you know you won't last long. The man's hands are rough, and his breath is foul. You somehow twist out of his grip and dash aside. He grabs your shoulder and lifts his fist. An explosion of golden sparkles hits him to the face. The short dagger you pulled from your boot is sharp, and you jab it between his legs. Enough to draw blood, but still leaving his flesh dangling there. He cries out, and you knee him in the same regions. He is writhing on the ground, and you press the knife to his throat.
"If I ever again see you in a vicinity of a woman, I'll perform an excruciatingly long surgery on your private parts." You kick him several more times and start running. You stop when there is no breath left in you. There is an inn, and you pay for a night. The innkeeper asks for your name and you stop in your tracks.
The healer in the infirmary where you serve is an old man who drinks too much ale and calls you Filegethiel, Elvish for "a wren". After the second mug he becomes teary and tells you of that time when he traveled to see his distant relatives and a procession of Elves passed him.
"They were right there, just behind the trees, Filegethiel! Silver hair, glowing attires, even their horses were made of starlight." He is a sentimental old fool and a mediocre healer, but he took you under his roof and lets you practice your medicine. You help him to get to his bed in a tiny chamber he occupies above the infirmary and pull covers over him. "You should have seen them..." he murmurs, and you think that in his place you would not have hidden in the bushes. You would have come up to the Elves and begged them to share their knowledge of herbs and healing with you. All you want in life is to learn and to heal.
"Wren, my name is Wren," you tell the innkeeper. Later you are sitting on the narrow bed, arms wrapped around your knees that you pulled to your chin, when a knock at your door shakes you out of your stupour. A tall girl, with a smiling face, gorgeous hazelnut curls and the most luscious bosom you have ever seen is standing on your threshold.
"I'm Thea," she pushes by you and walks into the room. She puts a tray with food on the table and flops on the bed. You are stupefied in the doorframe.
"So, tell me, who was that filth?" You furrow your brows at her. She gestures at your face, and your hand flies to your cheekbone. You haven't even noticed the bruise. You start shaking, and she jumps up and hugs you. "It is all right, girl. Men are pigs," she is rubbing your back. "Some are better than others, but all together a lousy folk." You cry on her shoulder and when you finally calm down, she asks for your name.
"Wren," you assert. You share the dinner and Thea takes you under her wing.
Orc blood is trickling from your blade, and you smear a nasty splash of the foul black liquid across your cheek. Your magic is pulsating, coursing through your body, long golden ribbons slithering around your feet, snaking between the bodies of the ones you just killed, just as bloodthirsty and remorseless as you were when sinking the sword into them, the blade fully lodged in their chests.
You are horrified of your own ferocity and drunk from it. You are standing on top of a small hills and below you see a familiar shape of Dwalin, son of Fundin. The terrifying warrior has just severed a head of an Orc with his battle axe, and he lifts his berserk eyes at you.
You can imagine the picture you present. Clad in the fragments of armour of a Dale guard, your red hair in a glowing halo around your head, blood of Men, Dwarves and Orcs mixed and smeared all over you, a short wide Dwarven sword in your hand, with your magic licking at your feet in bloodcurdling flares of golden flame, you are the face of War and Death itself. You cry out in warning and he swirls around, chopping an Orc attacking him from behind in two.
You lose the sight of Dwalin after an hour of fighting shoulder to shoulder. You are pushed back by a new wave of the enemy. Eventually, you are fighting your back almost pressed into the stone wall of the watchtower of Ravenhill. As the number of your adversaries grows, you fly up the flight of crumbling old stairs and slam into a wide Dwarven body clad in heavy armour.
"Master Dwarf, fancy meeting you here," your smile is more reminiscent of a snarl of a wild animal. You dash inside the stone chamber, and he barricades the door. For a second you look at each other, the battle frenzy still boiling in your blood. An unexpected halt in fighting leaves you two panting, hearts pounding, weapons lowered. Then he smirks and bestows a ceremonious bow.
"I'm starting to agree with you, Master Dwalin, coming to Erebor was indeed a very bad idea," you cannot stop smiling and think that it is probably a beginning of hysterics.
"Aye, wrong time for a vacation," he smiles back and steps to a lancet to assess your situation. It is rather poor as you suspect. "But I have to take my other words back," he adds, scanning the yard below swarming with Orcs. You lean on a wall, you head suddenly heavy and hands shaking.
"Which words would that be, Master Dwarf?" He looks at you gravely.
"You do indeed belong by the side of the King Under the Mountain." You stare at his eyes and bite your lower lip. No time for sentiments, you tell yourself. Besides, he will probably die of embarrassment if you throw yourself on his neck.
You lift your sword and give him a feral smile.
"Shall we, Master Dwalin?" And before opening the door he grin back.
"It will be my honor, Barazninh." The Red Maiden.
You dismount your pony and stand in front of the imposing Elf. King Thranduil, the Ruler of Wood-elves is so tall that you are staring at the third button of his argent embroidered garment. On the level of your nose lie the silken white hair, each strand gleaming in the dim light of the evening Greenwood the Great. The ends are not split, and a ridiculous thought to ask him what he washes it with comes to your mind.
Your hand is still in Thorin's after he helped you out of the saddle. You press your fingers into his palm reassuring and smile pleasantly into the cold eyes of the Elvenking. He is all celestial light and ancient magic, and you could not care less.
"Allow me to introduce Lady Zundushinh, the Queen of Erebor," Thorin's velvet rumble is full of pride and possessiveness. The Elf bows, and for an instant curiosity sparkles in his eyes.
"That is a beautiful and unusual name, my lady," his low melodic voice sends shivers down your spine. As magnificent as he is, his coldness disenchants you. You lift your brows and chuckle.
"It means a Bird-lady in the language of my people," you accentuate the possessive pronoun. At the corner of your eye you see Thorin's lips twitch, suppressing a pleased smile.
"A Bird-lady?" the Elven King invites you to proceed inside with a graceful gesture of his hand, polite interest on his face.
"When I was a healer's apprentice in Dale, they called me Filegethiel."
The Elvenking nods and translates, "Elvish for a small bird, or..."
"Wren," you pronounce together.
"For the hair I presume," his smile is just a bit warmer, a bit more sincere. You enter the chambers followed by the company of the King Under the Mountain.
Thranduil invites you all to sit and wine is served. Your King and a few of his close counsellors exchange greetings with the present Elves. You politely decline your goblet and ask for water. The Elf's brows twitched and his eyes fall at your middle. You meet his eyes and hold his stare. You are rubbing Thorin's knee under the table.
After the meeting is over, long tedious negotiations and a celebratory dinner finished, you are standing on a tall balcony of your guest chambers and absentmindedly stroke your round stomach. Previously artfully draped under the heavy layers of Dwarven attire, it is obvious under a thin gauzy nightdress and a silken robe covering it. The King Under the Mountain steps out onto the balcony and murmurs softly, mirthful glint in his eyes.
"What is my Queen so lost in thoughts over?"
"Have I ever told you how my grandmother used to call me?" He hugs you from behind, wraps his arms around your waist and rubs his thumbs on your round stomach. His chin is on your shoulder, and you feel warm and safe. "When my parents took me away from her, they told me my real, proud Numenorean name," you scoff, "but for many years I thought that what she called me was my real name."
He hums and kisses the tender skin behind your ear. "Then it is your real name. Did you know that the Khazad do not believe in revealing their real name to anyone except their kin. It is supposed to protect your umurad." Their soul.
You turn in the warm circle of his hands and press your palms into his hard chest. "Would you like to know my real name, my Lord? But you have to promise me to be gentle with my soul."
He presses his forehead to yours and whispers, "Tell me."
"Calibri," the long forgotten lilted appellation is warming up your heart and heals your soul.
"Calibri," the King's lips caress your name and he seals his promise with a kiss.
"Amad... Amad..." the whisper is desperate, and a small hand is shaking your shoulder. You feel the King stir near you and bury his nose deeper into your side.
"Ama-a-ad," the second little voice joins in.
"Wake up, amad, it is important." You feel the King's beard tickling you as he is smiling into your skin. You open your eyes and see your two older children peeking from behind the heavy curtains of your canopy.
"What are you doing in our bedchambers? You know you are not to come in without permission."
"But it is important," your daughter's voice is irritated, she does not possess any patience for such trivialities. She is an early speaker, her vocabulary extensive and her speech haughty. Her older brother is so excited that he bobs on his heels and looks like any other youngling rather than a miniature copy of the King Under the Mountains that he endeavours to appear.
"We found a treasure!" he blurts out and pulls your sleeve. "Come, amad, come!" You feel the King's hand give your bum an encouraging push, his eyes closed and face relaxed in an ingenious appearance of deep slumber.
You crawl from under the covers and follow your children. They lead you to the library and there, on a table lies a narrow wooden box, couple inches deep. In it, a small filigree key decorated with river pearls and opals is dimly gleaming in the candle light. You look at it and laugh.
"Did you find it between the books?"
"Yes!" They are exuberant. You decide to let the fact that they are rummaging through the library in the middle of the night stay conveniently ignored for now.
"Who do you think put it there?" Your daughters eyes are huge and trusting, absolutely confident that you possess all answers in the world.
"Your father did." They stare at the key.
"There was a note in it," your son hands you a piece of paper, and you feel momentarily alarmed. You have a suspicion the content of the note might not be suitable for children.
"It says Find me tonight, zundush," your daughter quotes, proud of her memory.
You open the folded note and indeed you see the rigorous writing of the King. His name is signed at the bottom, with its forceful first element, a wide swirl of a "t", quill pressed resolutely on the bowl, and a long upper bar almost across the whole bottom of the paper. Long assured horizontal elements in writing are characteristic of a confident, decisive personality.
"What does it mean?" Thror pulls your sleeve again. You chuckle,
"It is a game your father and I used to play. We would leave clues for each other so that one would find another later," you omit the eventual purpose of the game, of course.
"Adad played hide and seek with you?!" Your daughter squints at you in disbelief.
"He plays with you," you remind her.
"Shhh, it is a secret," she frowns, "Glorious warriors of Erebor do not play hide and seek. Do not tarnish my honour."
"He used to play with Thror too," you offer in consolation.
"Amad!" Your older son squeaks in horror. "She will never let me forget about it now!"
"Why does it say bird?" Your daughter is luckily distracted by the mystery in the message. She is contemplating the text, "Find me tonight bird. Were you supposed to bring a chicken with you?" You laugh and hug her.
"No, no chickens. That is how your father used to call me."
"But your name is 'amad'!"
"Indeed it is," you stroke the black curls of your daughter. "My name is amad. And now to bed, both of you."
They grumble and, bickering, disappear in the passage. You slip the key in the pocket of your robe and smiling head back to your bedchambers.
A/N: "Calibri" is the Russian word for a humming bird.