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Old 06-21-2006, 08:42 AM   #54
Feanor of the Peredhil
La Belle Dame sans Merci
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Feanor of the Peredhil is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Feanor of the Peredhil is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Feanor of the Peredhil is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
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Degas watched the boy as he slept, knowing that he must wake him, knowing also that any information gleaned from the boy would do little to help his sour mood.

Pretty Lin is missing and I'm to blame; Eodwine lets me salvage my name by bearing ill news like a messenger boy rather than saving her myself like a man and now... now I'm trapped in the rain at an inn with no tenants with a boy that can't walk and that I must protect.

He looked the boy over... he looked smaller clean. There were no bruises... he hadn't been beaten, or at least not within recent memory. That meant either good behavior or a good master as his attire, before the innkeepers had found him clean garb, had placed him as a servant... but to whom? The old woman had combed his jet black hair and it lay flat and straight, even dried. What was it about Gondor that made being blonde or red-haired such a marked appearance? Degas blended in nowhere with his flaming locks. He wondered, not for the first time, where his parents' parents had originated... surely not from the land of the forgoil. He grinned lopsidedly at the insult... to insult a person for the way they looked? Why did it matter?

He looked back at the boy, noting his pale skin. Not an outdoorsman, then, unless he'd not been outside since the spring rains ceased. Degas glared half-heartedly at the window once more before resuming his activity.

He was small... not scrawny, just small. He looked quick. Degas gaze fell upon the boy's left ear; a tiny hole pierced the center. He laughed and knew without asking that the boy admired the sailors of the south. A dreamer, or perhaps an adventurer of the making. Yet the hole was closing... a master and mistress not so keen, perhaps?

At Degas's laugh, his eyes fluttered open and he looked afraid.

"Where'm I?"

"You are safe."

"Who are you? You've got red hair... 'nd yer accent's all funny."

Degas grinned and refrained from rolling his eyes. "My name is Degas. I am from Rohan, perhaps a day's ride from Edoras. D'you mean t' tell me, boy, that my Westron's gone foggy with Rohirric?"

"No, sir." He pushed himself up against his pillows, eyes wide and face earnest. His teeth were mostly straight and one was missing, right in front. His nose was tip-tilted, but it seemed to suit him well. Degas had to admit that the boy was cute. Had their been a wager, he'd have placed money that bullies loved this one and that they'd been taught a swift thing or two that size isn't everything. "Just that I could tell you ain't from these parts, least not from birth like me."

"Is that so?"

"Uh huh."

He was growing on Degas. The young lord tried to harden himself... it was much like stray dogs... they could tell when they found a good candidate and spent inordinate amounts of time looking utterly lovable and helpless. He'd raised countless strays as a boy. He's not a stray and I can't raise him.

"What's your name, boy?"

His face fell. "They've called me Hefigtyme since my master and mistress fell from favor and released me from service."

"Well, no burden are you to me, so a new name must be found. What name was yours before then?"

"My parents called me Feowertyne because they'd already had thirteen. My papa said my mama was tired all the time when I came along."

"I can see how that could happen." Degas chose not to hope. It was cold by the window but he saw no nooks that might conceal extra heat and he would rather be cold than cold and disappointed. "What happened to your thirteen brothers and sisters?"

"Most of 'em died when we were little." Degas eyed the boy's small frame and held back a quick grin. "A coupla the boys grew up and turned into blacksmiths and stuff, but my papa said I'd get crushed under the weight of my own hammer so I'd better not even hope it. And my sister Fyrmest..." he looked around as though half-expecting to see a reprimanding older sibling or parent. "They don't talk about her now, which 's a shame, 'cuz I liked her real much. She fell in love and ran off to live in the wild with a Ranger. A real Ranger, and my parents were ashamed. Can you imagine the adventures she must be having?"

Degas was beginning to regret his question. The boy had slept and apparently recharged while Degas sat next to a fire; his limbs were falling asleep without him.

"I can imagine. Feowertyne, I found you on the road while I was travelling. Do you remember it?"

"No sir, but I remember travelling well enough."

"Why were you travelling alone and on foot, Feowertyne?"

"Just Feo, sir. My brothers said I was too lil to get strapped down wi' such a big name. And I was travellin' a'cuz I had nowhere else to go."

Degas had been afraid he'd say that. "By nowhere, you mean--"

"My master and mistress got caught doing things that I guess they shouldna been. I don't know what it was, but they made medicines and stuff with herbs I picked 'em 'cuz they said I'd fit real well into all the places the good stuff grows and so I'd pick 'em the plants and find 'em the mushrooms 'nd all and they'd brew up medicines and all and then sell it. But I guess they did somethin' that the King didna like and so they couldn' do it any more and they turned me out."

"They didn't." Degas was curious about the story and surely enough:

"They mos' certainly did." Feo was indignant and to place a look of adult indignance on the petite face of a small boy child of maybe ten, with a missing tooth and a hole in his ear, was a sight that would stay with Degas for quite some time.

"And your siblings? You could not go to them?"

"No, sir. See, my brothers tol' me that I'm too small to work for 'em and that they don't want me." There was no trace of sorrow or resignation, just acceptance that his size was reason enough for family to cast away family. Degas thought of Saeryn and Caeli, conveniently forgetting Fenrir's temperament. The three of them had always been close. "So they said that I oughta travel east and north and go up to Minas Anor and get a job there, so I started walkin'."

"And how far did you get?"

"Well... it was two days ago that I started walkin' 'nd then it got real cold out while I slept." Degas notice that while the boy's voice was enthusiastic, his body was mostly still, and he clutched at the blankets that were over him. "And then I walked another day and slept in a barn while nobody was watching and I know it was wrongful for me to sneak in like that, but sir, it got so cold..."

"I believe you." Degas heart was softening despite all of his attempts otherwise. You're the younger son of a house that fell out of favor with the death of your parents. You've not the depth of purse to pick up a stray bigger than a small cat. You're on a mission! You have to face Linduial's family. You can't drag a boy child, and a sick one, across Gondor! "And today?"

"Well... I woke up when a little girl screamed and I got outta there real fast 'nd ran pretty far but it was cold out today and I was real hungry 'cuz I forgot to pack food 'nd even though I slept in a barn, I wasn't hungry 'nuf that I'd steal from decent hard-workin' folks."

"Would you steal from lazy folks that weren't decent?"

"No, sir!" The answer was emphatic. Degas was glad to hear it. No, fool, you don't care. Do not care. It's simple. You have a responsibility to the man in whose home you stay. He's your sister's friend and protector, and you owe it to him. No strays. Not this time.

"Feo, the rest of the day?"

"Well, I walked for as far as I could, and then I... I don't really know. But then I woke up and I was all wet and someone, was it you?, was carryin' me and then I was here, and where is here?, and there was an old woman and now there's you and did you tell me your name?"

"Perhaps not. I am Degas, and it was me that brought you here. Here is a small inn, about an hour's ride in dry light south and west of Minas Anor."

"Sir, if you don't mind my askin', why'd you bring me?"

"Because it was cold and wet and you lay napping in the road. That is not, I might add, the most comfortable or safe place to lay. I found you by tripping over you and thought it best to find you a safe place."

Feo's nose was running and Degas pulled a clean kerchief from the pocket of his breeches and handed it to him. The boy started coughing.

"Now, none of that. No getting sicker than you already are."

"Why not?"

"Because, boy, it seems there's nobody to take care of you, so you're going to have to" Degas screamed at himself silently once more, but even as he did, he knew that he'd never have left the boy. "Come with me."

"Ride with you, sir?"

"Just Degas, please, Feo, and yes."

"Where're we going?"

"Back toward where you came and further. I ride toward Dol Amroth bearing news. But we cannot ride until you are well, so sleep now. It is late. We will speak more in the morning."

Degas rose and felt his joint crunch. He winced a bit and bounced a bit on the balls of his booted feet before feeling that his legs were his own and he could use them properly. With a wave as he shut the door, Degas made his way back to the common room where the old man and woman still sat over mead.

"He will ride with me in a few days. I'll need food and lodging for us both, and a second horse. This should pay for the first two," he set a bag of gold pieces on the table between them, "and can you tell me where I can find him a mount? Nothing fancy, just a horse or pony that can bear his weight and a few packs over distances. Speed matters little, but endurance is of the utmost importance."

The woman looked at her husband and he nodded. "We've a small pony in the stable. Her name is Gehola and she is old, but she is sweet and patient and can go far, as long as you don't ask of her what she can't give."

"I will look at her in the morning. Until then... a room?"

The old woman rose with as much internal creaking as the doors upon the hinges that she pushed through back toward Feo's room. She unlocked the door next to his and opened it, the lantern in her hand swinging gently, the light lazily beating away shadows.

"Thank you, lady, for everything, and good night."

Last edited by Feanor of the Peredhil; 06-23-2006 at 08:40 AM.
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