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Old 06-20-2015, 02:47 PM   #3
Illusionary Holbytla
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Join Date: Dec 2003
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Firefoot has been trapped in the Barrow!

It was with considerable trepidation that Scyld now returned to Scarburg. It had been just over four years since he left. He’d never meant to be gone so long, but one thing had led to another, and before he knew it, the time was just gone. His errand had seemed so urgent at the time. He fingered the letter in his pocket absently. It was a bit worn around the edges, for he had handled if often, wondering what would happen when (or if, he had eventually began to think) he would give it to the Eorl. Linduial, once he had finally found her, had been happy enough to write it for him. She had even offered to come herself, saying it would not be far out of her way the next time she came to Rohan. He had declined; he needed her testimony, but he did not need her to fight his battles for him. He would handle this on his own terms.

He had read the letter, before Linduial sealed it. “Don’t you trust me, even now?” she had asked. And he had mocked her for her trusting nature, to hide the shame he felt – shame which only grew after he read her words. The letter was an even more generous depiction of his nature than he thought he deserved. It did not hide the fact that he had aided in the kidnapping, but it emphasized the small ways he had helped her and his role in her escape.

“Thank you,” he’d said, and meant it.

“It is the least I could do, after how you helped me and after how far you came to find me. Will you stay long?”

He told her no, for though he was loath to begin already the long journey back (it had taken him nearly two months to get there, and truly had he recently told Rowenna that he did not fancy living out of doors), his task was achieved and he had nothing further to gain there in Dol Amroth.

Linduial had protested, saying that she herself intended to return to Rohan at the end of the summer, that he might travel with her, as part of her guard if he wished. He had laughed, less meanly than he once would have but not without scorn. “Perhaps the purses of Gondorian noble ladies run deep, but mine do not: I fear I cannot afford to stay so long without occupation. And you choose a poor man for your guard: a poorer swordsman you are unlikely to meet.”

“I have seen you throw a knife,” retorted Linduial, “and half the point of a guard is to dissuade bandits from attacking in the first place, so that they do not have to be fought. As for work…” she paused, and a light jumped into her eyes. “There is an envoy here, from Harad, recently arrived, seeking a trade treaty. It is a good offer, but we think they may be trying to trick us in some way. You are skilled at finding information out, I think – if you would see if anything might be found out from the sailors that came with the envoy, I would be grateful, and would pay you well for it.” He had tried to protest, but Linduial’s mind was made up and he was swept along by her plan. In the end, after talking to, eavesdropping on, and a couple times sneaking into the rooms of the Haradrim, he had been able to place a tip to Linduial that Dol Amroth stood to profit far less from the treaty than the Haradrim would have them believe, and the terms had been renegotiated.

Thus did Scyld spend the better part of a year in his journey to Dol Amroth and back. In that time, he had thought long on the letter from his brother, and eventually curiosity had overcome his bitterness. Upon his return to Rohan he did not go to Scarburg but followed the directions in Bedric’s letter, thinking to spend perhaps a few days or weeks there before bearing Linduial’s letter to Scarburg.

He’d realized, as he walked the last couple miles to his brother’s house, that he had no idea what he would say. Would they even be recognizable to each other? He asked for directions from a couple men he met along the road, and they pointed him toward a snugly built cottage with a smithy nearby. It was nearing dinner and the smithy seemed quiet, so he walked directly up to the cottage and knocked at the door. A young blonde girl, not even waist high, answered. “Who are you?” she asked, staring up at him with large blue eyes.

“Well,” said Scyld, who had never been comfortable around children, “I think I’m your uncle.”

She frowned at him, clearly not sure whether to believe this outrageous claim. A man came up behind her, and Scyld felt a jolt of recognition. His features had aged, but certainly this was his brother. “Who’s here, Agnes?” he asked.

“He says he’s my uncle,” said the girl – Agnes. She continued to talk but now Bedric’s attention turned sharply to Scyld, a disbelieving look on his face.

“Hello, Bedric,” said Scyld, a bit stiffly. “I got your letter, though it took some time getting to me.”

Then Bedric laughed, a joyful booming noise. “Come in, then! I couldn’t decide if you’d never gotten the letter, or if you just wanted nothing to do with us. Agnes, he most certainly is your uncle – this is your Uncle Scyld.” And then there were introductions all around: to Bedric’s wife and three other children – two older than Agnes and one a babe scarcely walking. They had just been sitting down to dinner and a seventh place was quickly prepared. Much of the meal revolved around the children, helping them with their meals and listening to their chatter, for which Scyld was grateful – a bit of time for him to watch the family without answering any difficult questions. Afterwards came the cleaning up, and just when Scyld thought the time might be coming for more serious conversation, Agnes approached him. “Can you tell a story?” she asked.

“Agnes, honey, I’m sure your uncle is tired from his trip - ” Bedric started to say, but Scyld made the quick decision that dealing with the child was immensely preferable than trying to explain himself.

“That’s alright,” he said. “Storytime, it is.”

With a delighted squeal, Agnes hauled herself up into his lap. Startled, he tried to figure out where to put his arms – having been the youngest of his siblings, he’d never held a child before. He did not notice the twitch of amusement on Bedric’s face. He thought of a story that his father had used to tell him, when he was a child. He began clumsily, but soon the rhythms of the tale began to come back to him. By the end of it, she had fallen asleep in his arms, and his heart was won.

Maybe that’s when his decision was made, that he would stay longer than just a few days – that his family was worth getting to know.

He started trying to find ways to help out during the days. He was worthless as an assistant in the smithy, but his oldest sibling, Aelfred, was a leatherworker, and Scyld found that the work intrigued him. Without formal arrangement, he began spending more of his time there, helping as he could. Learning a trade was an opportunity he’d never had while with Sorn, and he was pleasantly surprised to find how satisfying it was: he could easily lose himself in the tasks of piecing together the leather or detailing an intricate design. Aelfred, serious and quiet, was a patient teacher and seemed to appreciate Scyld’s companionship. They rarely talked except of their work, which suited Scyld as he began to lose his fear of prying and uncomfortable questions.

He continued to stay with Bedric, and it was not long before a glimmer of the easy rapport they had shared as boys began to return. Scyld told him as few details as he could manage about his life with Sorn, and eventually Bedric stopped asking, content to share the present rather than dwell in the past.

Adney, Scyld’s oldest sister, he saw seldom, for she had married a farmer who lived some ways away, but Gytha, the younger of his sisters but still three years his elder, seemed to see and understand him most clearly. He caught her, sometimes, looking at him intently. It made him uncomfortable: not the fact of her attention, but what she might see in him. She never pressed him, but it was she who came to him nearly three years after he had come to them, and said: “I still wonder, sometimes, that you are here with us and not dead, and I would be glad to have you with us until we all grow old and have grandchildren about us. But I sense there is still something you are searching for, some healing you have not yet found. I thought, when you came to us, that it was your family that you had been missing, but now I think it was not so – not wholly. If you know what it is you are missing, and where you might find it, you should go to it.”

She had smiled at him, but he had only nodded thoughtfully back. When he had gone there and then decided to stay, he had tried to put thoughts of Sorn and Scarburg out of his mind, to see if perhaps this was the place where he was meant to be. Then, unbidden, thought of Rowenna come to mind, and he thought of Linduial’s letter unopened, and he knew Gytha had seen more clearly than he himself.

Three years among his siblings, and still he had never told them. He was grateful to them, thirsty for the kind of simple joy they found in life together. He wanted to share it – to anyone who did not know him well, it would seem that he did. Still, there was a barrier between him and them. At first he had simply not wanted to explain to them his life with Sorn, and why he had stayed when his ten years were up, and how he had gotten mixed up with Linduial’s kidnapping. Then after a time, he had wished to, but had not known how. How could they understand? He did not know which he desired less: their pity, or their spite. Either they would somehow try to explain it away, say it wasn’t his fault, or they would hate him for it. He could imagine their revulsion as they tried to hide it, wishing that they had not invited him into their homes. He could not stand the thought, and would not take that chance.

He had met only one person who might understand, and knew of only one way to finally be free from his past. So, in the fall of the eighteenth year of the Fourth Age, he began to make preparations to leave and return to Scarburg. His brothers gifted him with his own set of leatherworking tools: knives, awls, needles, stamps. “Can’t have those years of learning go to waste,” Aelfred had said gruffly – like Scyld, he was uncomfortable with emotionally fraught moments.

In October he set out for Scarburg, but made it only as far as Edoras when a heavy snow fell across the land, unseasonably early. He found there also a delegation from Scarburg, and was able to find out from some soldiers he had known the news from Scarburg: the harvest destroyed and the hall in need of supplies, but the heavy snowfall preventing the delegation’s return. Scyld’s heart sank. The way back to Bedric’s cottage was likewise unpassable, so he took up lodging in Edoras, figuring that snow which had come so early would soon melt, and that he would make his way to Scarburg soon enough with the supply train. After several weeks, it became apparent that this was not to be the case, and he managed to put his newly gained skills to use, working on commission for another leatherworker in town who currently had more work than he could handle and earning enough to pay for his room and board while waiting for the weather to clear.

Over the long winter, he’d had plenty of time to think, to second-guess his decision. He supposed his welcome back to Scarburg would be lukewarm at best: he did not flatter himself that he had been well-liked. Tolerated would perhaps be a more apt description. He wondered if Rowenna had missed him; if she had been sad to see him leave, she had hidden it well. What if she had forgotten him? Or was gone? Or married? As the winter wore on, new worries began to set in as well. How low on food supplies was the Hall? Had they run out? Were they dying? Thus with great anxiety he had joined the supply train when the weather broke and the great thaw began. What would he find, when he reached the Scarburg?

He paid little heed to the other members of the caravan as he drove one of the carts (Sorn had had a cart much like it, once, that he had had Scyld drive now and again). He made polite conversation as necessary, introducing himself once again as Nydfara to those he did not know (he had resumed use of this name in Edoras over the winter). It would not do to begin using his right name until he should present his letter to the Eorl. Slowly they rolled into sight of Scarburg, and Scyld felt his anxiety rising further. He took deep, steadying breaths and allowed a placid smirk to creep onto his face. He belonged here, he told himself. Let no one doubt it.
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