Notes and Disclaimer: I do not own Tolkien, and though I find these disclaimers annoying, that is my disclaimer. This is a story about a Dúnedain settlement, and all the characters are original, though they have no bearing upon the course of the books. This is a companion piece to A Ranger's Love (which is under revision), but I shall be continuing this story to explain and expand upon certain things. Reviews, complaints, inquiries, and suggestions are more than welcome. I thought it would be interesting to deal with an original character who didn't get to make a huge contribution to the War, transcend a woman's normal place, or fall in love with canon characters. I think the appearance of an indeterminate village may have been influenced by Last Yule in Halabor, so go read that too. It was apparently a Dúnedain tradition to pick a new name for oneself at age sixteen.
Father cried that night. Báldan dropped to his knees and begged, but Father never truly forgave him. I wish he had. My mother said nothing to either of her men, but I know her mouth was grim. Parîel sobbed on the lowest step, out of pity for me rather than any remaining fear. I do not know where Raldar was. I think I slept.
Enwellîon's house was stifling, even though she had no sons
to block the drafts. The old healer stocked more wood than anyone
throughout the village, and the heat was oft-times unbearable. She
clucked like a moulting hen, fixing blankets about her charges and
gurgling songs and pounding herbs on the low table we knew so well.
Baby cries accompanied new mothers as Guldam dispensed her advice and
the Rangers would limp in for treatment when they returned. My bed
was in the corner, a ragged quilt tacked over the window's shutters
to keep the chill at bay. I always asked her to open it, but light
meant nothing now. She pinched my cheek with flabby fingers and told
me to wait 'til springtime.
Báldan would not leave that place, even when our father stood in the doorway and growled how he neglected his company. My older brother blamed himself beyond what Father did. He pinned me for the healer while she poured tinctures, rocking me afterwards like our mother used to do. The potions only burned. Hope was a foolish sentiment even then. We all knew that.
stayed with me that winter until the second snows fell upon the
plain. Father had left long before, taking Raldar for his first
season with the men. Báldan whispered how the Rangers looked
at him when they blew through town to see their wives, some cruel,
some kinder. I touched his face in reassurance, but it would not save
him from his comrades.
I never saw them. I never would. He should have been with them and I told him so, but he would shake his head, letting those soft brown curls brush noisily across his shoulders. I was learning to read by sound. He had healed long ago.
Guldam finally relented, he would carry me through the streets,
letting me walk when I thought I could stand. We could not trust my
legs just yet. The deep scar was receding, but disuse had made them
weak and I had not eaten much. We threw snowballs with the younger
children, and when he stuffed snow into my collar I began to think
that things might change.
I was happy then. Parîel grumbled as she helped me into bed, but I know she was pleased as well. Father had paid for her apprenticeship, using her money as well as mine, and Adherhad courted her at times. I promised her I did not mind as we curled together against the loft's ache-bone cold. Our parents had saved the coin since we were born, and if it could bring my sister a respectable trade, I was glad for her. I would not let myself be useless, even if no tradeswoman would take a cripple. Báldan and my father had spent much time teaching me the wild tongues, so at least I had my wits. Guldam gave me simple tasks even when I was in her care, and my father left a store of arrows for me to fletch. The fletcher examined my work while leaning on his cane and said he'd take me if I learned to cook. His wife had died some years before and he would not have another, but his boy was always burning food. My mother threw him out. Marsden came back that evening to beg forgiveness and say that his master never meant to marry me.
began to work between the two, though I burned myself and the food as
much as Marsden did. The bandages came off my eyes, and people forgot
the old hushed tones until they glimpsed the scars that still
remained. Polm treated me no different than he did his skinny lad,
but he was rough and crude and I may have cried at first.
Marsden had a tougher skin. He worked at times in Formaer's smithy, pouring molds for our arrows' heads, but he was too slight to work the bellows or the anvil like I know he wished to. The rest of the time he sat with his father on our wooden bench, sharing our load and running to find the stores of glue and twine and shafts and feathers. Polm was miserable on his single leg and cursed heartily when anything had him move. I was too slow in my way about the storeroom to handle his sharp tongue.
home when I was walking, Báldan had chastised anyone who moved
a chair to a place I might not remember. He followed me around the
first few days, catching me if I swerved too far and ensuring that I
did not step upon the cat. I had grown up in that house, and I still
remembered the familiar design, even if it all seemed larger. The
village was the same; as if it had grown in that one night. Polm lent
me his cane if I walked further than usual for an errand, and I could
use it to find wagon ruts before I fell. Falling was always a danger.
As soon as I lost my balance, I could not be sure of the map fitted
in my head. Marsden eventually cut me a cane of my own, but it was
thinner and better for my grip.
I often forgot about the woods and mountains in the distance, being too preoccupied with what was directly before my feet. I stopped wearing boots as soon as the snow melted, and the slippers Báldan later brought from the city whispered where I was going. The ground would shape beneath my feet, and I could feel each curve that led to puddle or stone and thus avoid them without a staff. Báldan swore that they were blue. I had always wanted blue slippers.
years passed that way. I could not tell time from the sun's
position or the day's length, but I learned cues from the crowds
along the street and began to rise earlier with the lowing cow and
our few chickens. I had Raldar's work now, so I milked Calad and
stooped inside the hencoop to collect the eggs. I took them with me
when I left for Polm's, and by that time the chill had broken and I
would know it was light. My mother no longer worried about me, and
focused her attentions on Báldan and her youngest son.
Raldar took the name Breanor and proved an able tracker, and Báldan came home less and less. Parîel tired of waiting for her champion's thoughts to settle and married Adherhad's brother. They lived happily enough, though she sighed regretfully whenever the Ranger came to town. She named her daughter after me and I was thankful. Marsden joined the Rangers now that I could help his father without fail, and a younger boy took over our orders within the smithy. Polm coughed as much as he talked and often lamented the irony of his trade when he had lost his own leg to a poisoned arrow. Guldam learned new poisons from a traveler, and we cooked those on occasion. Adherhad came and sat at times, but my old friends whispered that he was not nearly so handsome now. Parîel had ruined him, they said. Still, I liked his company, and since he was not as welcome in the house my sister shared, he spent much time telling me about the clouds and battles and distant stars and my brother. He was one of Báldan's oldest friends, so I'm sure they had an understanding. I missed them both, for they were rarely home.
And so I learned to live where it was lightless, and did not mind it overmuch. Just as I could no longer see the sun, I could never know the darkness either, and shadows could not touch me in my nightless world.