View Single Post
Old 11-17-2006, 09:37 AM   #25
Animated Skeleton
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 45
bill_n_sam has just left Hobbiton.
Gunna cradled the warm bowl in the crook of her arm as she balanced the bread in one hand, the stone jar of ale in her other. Giving the door a shove with her foot, she called back to her sister over her shoulder. “I’m going now. I’ve banked the fire, so if the baby awakes . . . “

“I know, I know.” Mem interrupted good naturedly, her unseeing eyes staring vacantly from her pinched face, but her mouth drawn up in a mischievous smile. “If the baby wakes I’ll make sure I stir up the embers and feed the fire until the flames are higher than my head and then I’ll turn my back and pay her no mind . . . “

Gunna smiled in response. “Alright, just . . . just, take care, and I’ll be back quickly.” She stepped through the door into the spring sunshine.

“I’ll be here!” Mem chuckled softly, her hands never ceasing their labor as she deftly spun a thread as delicate as gossamer from the spindle she held in her lap.

As Gunna walked the short distance under the town’s eastern wall, from where they had their small home to where her husband had his forge, she frowned slightly. It wasn’t only her uneasiness of what might happen every time she was required to leave Mem by herself which creased her brow. The growing tension amongst the Ulfings had many of her neighbors on edge. Gunna usually tried to mind her own business and not pay too much attention to the gossip of the women. This was growing harder to do however, since the return of Ulfang’s eldest son. The reconciliation between the two had certainly taken many by surprise, including Ulfast, who had apparently nursed great ambitions of succeeding to the leadership of their people. But his brother’s recall from exile had brought those hopes into serious doubt, and now . . . and now Ulfast called upon her husband to craft a fine sword.

Well, there was nothing to be done about it, she thought resignedly. All the inhabitants of the settlement, it would seem, were being called upon in such oblique ways to cast their lots in with one or the other of Ulfang’s contentious offspring. Her husband might try to walk the knife’s edge and remain neutral, but sooner, rather than later, every man would have to declare for either Ulfast or Uldor.

Dag’s back was to her as she slipped unnoticed into the shed. As always, she spared a moment to admire the muscles spread taught over his spare frame. The strength needed to wield a hammer for hours at a time was well evident in the contours of his shoulders and neck. Sweat gleamed on his skin as the warmth of the day grew. Turning around, he caught sight of her but did not immediately hail her or stop his labors. But she could tell, from the slight relaxation of the muscles around his jaw, and the easing of his features, that he was glad of her presence. Gunna set the food and drink down carefully and waited, arms across her chest, for him to speak.

Finally reaching a point where he could safely set aside the blade, Dag carefully replaced each tool in its proper place and then crossed to his wife. His fingers traced the crease in her brow where the frown rested still. “I hope this isn’t for me.” He teased gently, a slow smile spreading over his lips.

The frown flew from her face, as his wife smiled in return. “It is – and it isn’t.”

Dag raised one eyebrow quizzically, as he reached for the bowl of food and took a seat on one of the upturned stumps which he used either as fuel or furniture, as the need arose. Ploughing a piece of bread through the thick pottage and shoveling it into his mouth, he waited patiently for her to continue.

Gunna did not sit but took a wooden cup from a shelf and poured it full of ale, handing it to Dag. “You know why I’m worried. The rumors . . . about Uldor and Ulfast. I hear more every day. I’m afraid. Afraid you’ll be caught up in all of this. Afraid that you’ll be forced to pick a side. And what if you choose the wrong son? I’ve heard . . . “

Dag spoke around a huge mouthful of food. “Have you heard yet of our visitors?”

Gunna’s frown returned. “Visitors? What visitors? No, I haven’t left the house this morning. The baby was fussy and Mem . . . “ The thoughtful look on her husband’s face brought her words to a halt as she waited for him to down half the cup of ale in one long gulp.

“Elves, from the north.” His words meant little to her but the seriousness of his tone was enough.

“Elves? What does that mean? Why are they here? What do they want? They’re here – in town?”

“They take counsel with Ulfang and his sons as we speak.” Dag replied with deliberation. “I do not know why they have come. But it may be that we’ll have larger worries than the squabbling of a chieftain’s sons to deal with soon.”

“Are there many? Have they come in peace?” Gunna asked anxiously, her nimble mind trying to grapple with the unknown factor which had just been introduced into their lives.

Dag set the empty bowl at his feet and pulled his young wife onto his lap. Wrapping his arms around her, he wished in his heart that this was all that was required of a man to protect his family from the vagaries of fate. “No, there are only two, at least, so far. I don’t know why they’re here, but it’s no secret that Ulfast pledged himself long ago to one of their kind. This is why we have been allowed to settle here, to hunt and farm without fear of attack. Perhaps now, they require the debt be honored.”

Gunna laid her head on Dag’s shoulder, feeling the calm, the reassurance she always felt when he held her. “Perhaps they are just paying their respects to our Chieftain. Perhaps they are just wanting further pledges of his continued loyalty.” She said hopefully.

“Perhaps.” Dag repeated, although the skepticism in his voice was clear. “Well,” he said, standing abruptly and setting Gunna firmly on her feet. “It’s back to the forge for me. Are you away home?”

“I thought I would drop by the house given to the Borrim for a moment. I hear they are having some sort of a feasting for their own people and are looking for some extra provisions. I thought perhaps they would welcome that wheel of fine goat cheese Mem got for the thread she sent to Belig, in exchange for some fresh meat. Belig told me the Borrim are good hunters and have fresh game practically every day.”

Dag snorted disdainfully. “What’s wrong with the meat we get from Tokr? Why do we need to trade with the northerners?”

“That last haunch of venison had maggots in it already.” Gunna explained simply. “Tokr keeps the fresher meat for himself and gives us the old. I just thought we should . . . “

Yes, yes, alright.” Dag said smiling once more and waving his hand dismissively. "I have no time for women’s concerns. Trade with who you like, but don’t be wandering all over the settlement. This visit of these elves makes me uneasy, and I don’t want you to leave Mem and the baby alone for very long.” He pulled Gunna to him quickly and kissed her forehead affectionately. “Now leave a man in peace to do his work.”

Last edited by bill_n_sam; 11-17-2006 at 03:33 PM.
bill_n_sam is offline