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Old 12-03-2004, 11:21 AM   #311
Hilde Bracegirdle
Relic of Wandering Days
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Join Date: Dec 2002
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Hilde Bracegirdle has just left Hobbiton.

Wondering what Airefalas’ reaction might mean, Latah thought fleetingly that perhaps these men who would live on the surface of the sea were not permitted to take a wife. She thought sadly that such a life would be a cheerless one. Going up to him she touched his arm lightly, “I am sorry,” she said with a sincere expression, “I say something wrong.”

“No, you spoke perfectly well,” the sailor assured her, and turning away from her, he stooped down quickly wiping away the image he had drawn in the dust. “The question was unexpected, that is all.”

Hearing a light whistle behind her, Latah looked over her shoulder to the guard who stood watching them. The large maenwaith nodded in the direction of a small boy slowly crossing the encampment. As she watched the boy stopped, pausing to talk to an old woman several tents away, before disappearing into her tent.

Latah twisted the long wavy hair that had crept forward over her shoulder into a knot at her neck, looking at her guest just as he rose to his feet. He stood brushing the dust off his hands. She needed to get back inside to get things ready. “The sun is hot,” she said. “We go inside.”

As the foreigner moved Latah noticed that though the sketch of the sailing ship had now vanished, Airefalas had left the fish untouched. It looked quite stranded and out of place in the dirt. “Ah, but this must go too!” And lifting the hem of her skirt slightly she swept the image away with a warm hued foot. “Fish do not like desert, not happy here,” she explained with a smile, as she walked back to the tent.

Once inside, her guest picked up the shirt that lay half mended on the cushion, and sitting down he returned to work on it. Latah withdrew to a dark corner, where she had kept the what she had used in the service of Ayar. Soon, the boy who had come earlier looking for her, would be asking for the rest of these things. Latah had avoided thinking about this moment until now. She had not wholly given up hope that she would return to her work. But the hollow feeling weighed on her as she looked about her. The tray that had once held the rows of incense pots in ready, now stood empty. It looked battered and worn, for the carefully polished pots had been quickly removed from her care after the fire. With a sigh Latah began heaping the tray with pungent bags and small wooden boxes she kept stored in a metal casket. Carrying the tray over to the door she set it down and went to bring also the gunny bag of charcoal used to burn the incense.

As she reached the door, she heard a gruff command as the guard pulled back the tent’s opening further and a small silhouette appeared in the doorway. “Latah?” a thin and airy voice called.

“I am here,” she replied softly, and then pointing to the motionless form of the sea captain, she brought her index finger to her lips. “We must be quiet.”

“But I have been told to collect the incense things from you,” the young eagle said in a loud whisper.

“I think that maybe it was your older brother that was asked, and he convinced you to run this errand! For I was expecting him.” The young boy hung his head shyly. “Never mind. But see, it is heavy,” Latah warned, picking up the tray to show him. The child looked uncomfortably at it. “I will help you,” she said smiling. And resting the tray on her hip, she chose a small bundle, giving it to him. “Here, you can carry this one for me.” With a look of relief the boy took the bag of incense, and held it to his nose, breathing deeply.

Reaching for the charcoal, Latah grabbed the sack just above the twine that held it closed, and worked to straighten herself. From the corner of her eye, she saw that Airefalas who watched them sprang to his feet. Offering his help he reached down and relieved her of the burden. Happy to be unencumbered, Latah nodded her thanks, but the boy looked warily at the stranger, as if weighing whether or not he might be eaten. Truly the boy looked a mere slip next to the Gondorian. And as the northerner easily swung the bag onto his shoulder, Latah noticed again how tall he was; much more imposing than any of the few outsiders that she had met. And though he towered over them, as had most of the visitors the camp had received of late, she thought him not unkind and strangely solitary.

Suddenly her brown eyes went wide as it dawned on her what he carried. “No!” she cried. “This thing is very dirty! It will make white shirt black!”

Airefalas simply shook his head, “I suppose it is too late now. But what is in here that is so dirty?” Latah glanced about, her brow furrowing as she searched the tent for words. “Hmm, wood coal?” she said at last. “It helps to burn incense.” She held up the tray. “See. Some good for sickness, some for thinking, but all have nice smell. Leaves, wood, roots, they all smelling very nice,” she said pleased to discuss this subject. “We must go now, wood coal is too heavy. But wait, first this,” Latah set down the tray and crossed the room.

When she returned, she was carrying a strip of heavy cloth. “Let me put here,” she said pointing to his shoulder that still held the charcoal. Airefalas obliged, lowering the bag. As he leaned forward Latah saw that only a dusting of gray was on the shirt. Attempting to brush it off she gave up, laying the cloth in place. “Shirt looks only little gray,” she said. “I think it alright.”

She could see that he seemed amused rather than angry. “I hope so, for as you have seen, my spare shirt is worse shape!” He returned the sack to its high perch. “But tell me, where are we taking this wood coal?”

“We must follow, the young eagle,” Latah replied, and turning back to the boy she told him that they were ready. The guard scowled at Latah as she announced in passing that they would return shortly, and struck off across the encampment.

They did not have to go far, only the short distance to the tent of Ayar’s serving woman Claris. As soon as the gray-haired woman came outside the tent to greet them, the boy thrust the bag of incense into her hands and ran off quickly, considering his job finished. Claris smiled warmly as he disappeared. Turning her attention to the remaining visitors, she offered to take the tray that Latah held. “I am very sorry to trouble you Latah, but I must get things ready for later.”

“I understand, do not worry,” Latah said, as she took the gunny bag from Airefalas. “Where shall this go?”

“You can set it just there, inside the door,” Claris said absently as she looked over the contents of the tray. Latah followed her directive setting the bag on a frayed mat inside. Emerging again she noticed that Airefalas was looking about the encampment as he waited. She wondered what his eyes might see when he looked at her people and their simple encampment. “Where are the tools to repair the pots?” Claris suddenly asked, breaking into her thoughts.

“I do not know.” Latah admitted, growing embarrassed, for it looked again as though she had been careless with something entrusted to her. She found herself wishing that she had not brought Airefalas along. “I have not seen them. I thought that when the burners were taken, that the tools were taken with them.”

“No, no child. They were not. And now I have a pot in need of repair with no way to fix it,” Claris sighed. “Ah well.”

“I will search again,” Latah quickly promised wishing she had more hope of finding them. She had already hunted for them several times. Just as the older woman was entering her tent, Latah suddenly remembered Ráma’s knife and called to her again. Claris wheeled around to face her. Looking furtively to see if Airefalas might be watching, Latah withdrew Ráma’s knife and handed it to her. Without offering any explanation on how it had come to be in her possession she simply said. “Please see that this is returned to Ráma.”

“Certainly,” Claris said.

Latah forced a smile before turning to back Airefalas, but her thoughts were far away. She started toward the tent in silence. It wasn’t long before the northerner asked her if anything was amiss. “Too many things gone bad!” she said looking up into his eyes. “But I can not say I have angered Lord Falasmir by burning docks and ships,” she added with a weak smile before “I have only burnt leader’s tent,” her voice serious as she bent her head in shame trailing off to speak in her own tongue. “But I am always careful! I do not know how this could happen.”

Airefalas strode along beside her for a moment, and Latah could sense that he was weighing which course this conversation might take. “Why would you set fire to your leader’s tent?” he asked at last. “From what I have seen, it appears that your leader was well loved by all.”

“How well you have learned of the eagle’s affection for their leader in so short a time.” Latah continued in her dialect. Then switching to her poor Westron she answered him. “You are right. But I did not do this, incense did.” She looked ahead as she walked. “Yalisha said to me when the Meldakhar was sick ‘Latah, tomorrow we use this incense. Maybe it will help Ayar.”

“the Meldakhar?”

“Yes, the ‘dear lady’. This is what we call Ayar. She is very good woman, good leader. But after Yalisha tells me this, I go home with used pots. I clean and fill them; first I put sand, then wood coal, then incense. Last goes grate. All ready for next day. This fire had no reason to happen. But pot fell and embers came out. And now …” Latah looked quickly at the northerner, “Now Narayad is leaving because so many are giving him dark looks, thinking he did this.” She shook her head. “And now Narayad’s wife has even lost tools to mend pots!”

“Narayad, is leaving?” Airefalas echoed. “What do they think he did?” The foreigner seemed not to follow her and Latah thought that perhaps she had said too much, and badly as well, though she felt a little better for it. “But I thought the Meldakhar did not die in the fire,” her guest said after a moment.

“No, poor Ayar! She was so very, very sick. And now she is gone, Narayad is leaving. The wind blow him away too.” Latah looked towards the mountains. “But maybe he learns to harness wind too, then wind bring him safely home!”

“But I don’t see, how the fire and the Meldakhar’s death should drive him away from the encampment.” Airefalas said cautiously. “Why is it people think he was even involved? Was he involved?”

“Because,” Latah said matter-of-factly, “because he is maenwaith, but not eagle. He is outsider. He is wolf. People here not trust wolf clan. Maybe the ancestors are unhappy and do not protect us since he is here. This is why. Narayad wants good for eagles, so he goes now. But he will return. He said he would return.”

Last edited by Hilde Bracegirdle; 01-13-2005 at 05:13 AM.
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