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Old 11-20-2006, 02:14 PM   #28
Animated Skeleton
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 45
bill_n_sam has just left Hobbiton.
Leaving the stone jar of ale for her husband’s thirst, Gunna gathered up the empty bowl and hurried out into the afternoon sun. Her thoughts whirled as her feet carried her through the twisted lanes that crisscrossed the Ulfing settlement. Unconsciously sidestepping the scattered piles of refuse which threatened her fine leather slippers, Gunna mulled over all that the arrival of these elves might imply for their family. The arrival of the hunters from the north had been unsettling enough, at least at first. Although distantly related, these men and women had quite definitely been regarded as strangers by most of the Ulfings. Even after a month, they were treated with at least skepticism, if not downright suspicion, by the inhabitants of the town. If it hadn’t been for Belig’s assertions that the Borrim were not so very different after all from their southern cousins, Gunna would not have dared approach the house which now lay just around this last corner.

Even holding tight in her mind to Belig’s assurances, Gunna found her stomach muscles contracting as she regarded the facade of the house which had been given over to the Borrim dignitary, his family and retainers. Belig had opined that she had seen this man, Khandr by name, and that he did not seem at all that imposing a personage to her (which she had emphasized with a sharp sniff). Gunna thought, however, that one who came seeking to bind one of Ulfang’s sons in marriage must wield some power in his own land, and in his own home, certainly. As she steeled herself to approach the residence, Gunna wondered how the women of such a house would conduct themselves, and whether she would seem coarse and common to such as these.

It was with great relief that Gunna saw the house was extended in the back by a walled in yard. Perhaps, she thought hopefully, she could enter that way and attract the attention of one of the servants, and not even be required to deal with a wife or daughter of the house. Pulling nervously to straighten out invisible wrinkles in her wool tunic, she steeled herself and stepped nervously through the open postern door in the gate.

Immediately, Gunna spied a woman pulling water from a cistern at the far side of the yard. From the woman’s garb, it was difficult for Gunna to decide whether she was servant or family, for her clothes were plain, but the cloth was of good quality. Unsure of how to address her, Gunna opted for a simple and direct, “Good day to you, mistress. I’ve come to see about bartering some cheese for fresh meat.”

The woman turned and regarded Gunna with a sharp eye. For a moment she did not speak and Gunna wondered if she had heard her. Gunna had just opened her mouth to repeat her offer, when the other said abruptly, “Goat or cow?”

Somewhat nonplussed, Gunna hesitated before realizing what the woman was asking. “Oh, oh, goat! Of a very good quality. About this size.” Gunna tucked the bowl under her arm and held her hands apart to indicate the size of the wheel. “Well ripened.” She added, the woman’s dour countenance for some odd reason compelling her to find convincing reasons for the trade. “My sister received it from one of our chieftain’s wives, in exchange for the fine thread she spins. It was she that told me that you have fine fresh meat to trade, for your feasting.” Realizing that she was virtually babbling, a rare occurrence for the usually taciturn Gunna, she abruptly shut her mouth and gazed at the ground, feeling the woman’s eyes still upon her.

“Who is this, Embla?” A second female voice, softer than the first, caused Gunna to raise her head. This other woman, who was standing in the threshold of a door leading into the house, smiled encouragingly at her, saying, “Can I be of service?”

Being so politely addressed made Gunna stammer a bit. “Y-yes, mistress. I . . . I’ve come to see . . . to see if you’d like to trade. Some cheese for some fresh game.” Gunna’s eyes darted nervously to the first woman, still not sure if she was servant or family. That one’s face had darkened as she glared at the one in the doorway. Not wishing to give offense, yet not knowing what to say, or to whom to say, Gunna once more stared down at her shoes, miserably wishing she had not been such a fool as to come here in the first place.
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