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Old 12-01-2006, 02:48 PM   #38
Animated Skeleton
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 45
bill_n_sam has just left Hobbiton.
Mem’s sharp hearing had picked up the sound of Kata’s donkey cart well before Jóra had scampered in through the unbarred door. In the few years since moving into the west with Gunna and her husband, Mem had formed close relationships with many of the women of Ulfang’s town, despite spending almost all of her time within the four walls of the little house. It hadn’t taken long for word to spread of the queer, sightless woman’s fine spinning ability, and the quality of her work often prompted busier wives, sisters and daughters to come calling. The relentless grind of daily chores frequently prevented these women from being able to take the time needed to spin the wool or flax into the gossamer weight threads that Mem’s deft hands were able to produce. The garments then woven or knit from such yarn were soft and light and slid luxuriously over the skin. In exchange, the women were happy to trade whatever products of their own hard labor, or their families, that could be spared. Thus many a fine piece of cloth, woven mats, cloaks and bedding of warm skins, and, most commonly, food stuffs were received by Mem and her sister. When the little family of three, now four, had first arrived in the settlement, there had been a few shaken heads and rolled eyes. But pity and wonderment at Dag’s extra burden of providing for his blind sister-in-law had since turned to acknowledgement that he was a lucky man to have one so skilled in his household.

Still, Mem was reluctant to call out a welcome to Kata and old Granny Dulaan, for she had soon recognized the shuffling gait of the old one amongst the springing steps of young Jóra. Gunna was taking longer than Mem had anticipated, and she was shy of speaking to the other women on her own. Usually, it was Gunna who led the way, greeting and offering refreshments, conducting the bargaining and trading bits of gossip once the deal had been concluded. Mem preferred to sit quietly and listen intently, occasionally throwing in a joke or a funny story, often being asked to sing one of her comic songs, which frequently centered around poking fun at the men in their lives. One old crone had asked Mem how she could have such an astute perception of men, when she had no man of her own. “Oh, but I feel that I have many” Mem quipped. “All those in the town in fact, after hearing all I have from their wives and daughters. I have the benefit of knowing how men are, without the labor of having had to find out.”

“Well, that may be so, girl.” The old one had jibed back. “But your stories and songs are little enough to warm you on a cold winter night.”

Thus, Mem hesitated as Kata called out, “Gunna, are you there?” “I see the little fire’s going!” she heard Jóra’s high pitched voice saying as the door opened and the girl rushed in. As usual, the girl went straight to the baby, exclaiming over her, and then Mem felt Jóra’s light touch on her frail arm. “Can I hold her?”

Before Mem could answer, Kata gently announced her entrance into the little house, and Granny Dulaan’s too. Mem first turned her unseeing eyes in the direction of Jóra’s voice. “Yes, of course, sweet one. She would be waking soon in any case. She’ll be thrilled to see you.” Jóra clapped happily and went to tenderly lift the child from its wooden cradle.

“Is Gunna here?” Mem heard the doubt and then the concern in Kata’s voice, as the woman called again, “Gunna?”

“Welcome Kata! How are you Granny Dulaan?” Mem said politely. “Gunna is not here at the moment, Kata. But please, sit. Be comfortable. I’m sorry, the fire is low, the day being so warm. But I can have it stirred up in a moment, and will put the water pot on to boil and we can have tea. I’m sure Gunna will be back any moment.”

Unthinkingly, Mem turned her face to the doorway, wondering what was taking Gunna so long. Meanwhile, her hands found their way unerringly to the small pile of faggots which lay by the fire pit. Carefully, she laid them in a pattern on top of the embers and bent to blow on the banked fire gently. Having been confined to sitting by the fire for so much of her life, she was readily able to tell from the feel of the heat on her body where it was safe to place her hands and where it was not. But she could hear a sharp gasp from Kata as she blew the embers to life. Even for those who knew her, Mem realized it was hard for them to imagine how much she could do, for herself, and for her family. She prided herself on trying to be as much of a help, and as little of a burden, as possible to Gunna.

Hoping to reassure and distract the women, Mem said merrily, “And what is this I hear Dulaan, how one of those handsome young Borrim hunters has fallen in love with you and has sworn to carry you off to the far north when they leave, and that he will die of a broken heart if you will not have him?”
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