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Old 11-05-2015, 04:11 PM   #201
littlemanpoet
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Eodwine

Eodwine nodded, spotting Elfthain.

He gazed around the hall. The folk were huddled for warmth, even with the hearth fire happily roaring; it did not drown out the rumbling of the rains on the roof. Eodwine shook his head. He hoped the rain what stop soon, or else there would be hard days.

"Let us get started. Who has the number one stone?"

Eodwine heard some matters of minor disagreements; news from near and far. There was a case of a couple who had lost their children, and a child who had lost his parents; they had already found each other; it was Eodwine's happy duty to 'say them yea' for a year and a day.

"Who is next? Who has the number five stone?"
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Old 11-13-2015, 05:24 PM   #202
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Scyld before the Eorl

Scyld stood up from his seat. "I do," he said, stepping forward to stand before the Eorl.

Eodwine had thought somewhat about how best to do what was needed about Scyld. He had settled his thought on two things. First, his own friendship to Scyld, so that others would see that his own choice was already that of welcome. Second, surprise to make sure that all were heeding. Eodwine stood; this was itself unusual, and it garnered the heeding he wanted.

"First, welcome back. You have my friendship already." Eodwine paused, glancing here and there among those gathered, gauging their hearing, how open or closed they seemed. He did not see anyone appearing ill disposed to Scyld.

"Now, name yourself ... and tell us somewhat of your story, both of your time away from us, and also, somewhat ... of times before." Eodwine sat.

Scyld had hoped not to speak much, that Eodwine might say what needed to be said and that he would be spared the necessity of telling aloud his story once more. There was nothing to be done for it though, and he began: "Many of those here know me as Nydfara, but this is only a name I took for myself. My right name is Scyld."

For her part, Rowenna had sat up straighter the moment Nydfara stood. Upon hearing his right name, her eyes opened wide and she looked upon someone whom she had not known. To her he was both a stranger, and familiar; perhaps more than familiar.

Scyld continued steadily, "I came to you as Nydfara, thinking myself a fugitive of the law, for I acted as Sorn's servant and jailor during the kidnapping of the Lady Linduial. In the end, Sorn would have killed her, but I helped her escape. I did not wish to also be party to murder. For my help, the Lady Linduial in turn did not lay a charge against me, though I did not trust her word at the time. I also wished first to know the people she had spoken of so highly. I came to you then full of doubt and mistrust, but in time found that Lady Linduial had spoken truly. I stayed longer than I planned. I left when I felt my secret was no longer safe."

So this, thought Rowenna, is what he had kept hidden all this time. This was how they were alike. Her heart beat fast and she listened for more.

"Two things have I done in my time away. First, I sought out the Lady Linduial, and gained from her a letter in support of my story. Second, I have gained some skill as a leatherworker, and I now offer my services as such."

"My thanks, Scyld. Before all these folk, I honor my word given earlier. You shall serve as one of our folk, as leatherworker, for a year and a day. At that time we shall meet again, and all those who would speak yea or nay at that time, will be given their chance. Is there anyone in this Hall who wishes to speak before I set my bond for a year and a day upon the man called Scyld?"
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Old 11-19-2015, 06:26 PM   #203
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Leof and Cerwyn at court

Having slipped in at the last moment as they had, the number on Léof's stone was quite high - they would be near or at the end. He was glad of it; he'd thought it would give him time to plan out what he meant to say. As it turned out, his thoughts seemed to run in muddled circles. He spoke so rarely of his life before; he wondered if Eodwine even knew he had a sister. How to explain - and how much?

Cerwyn was oblivious to her brother's turmoil. At first she was interested in the proceedings, but she quickly realized that the Eorl's court was the most boring possible event she could have arrived in time for. Even the kidnapper's story, which she thought might have been perfectly thrilling if he'd told it the right way, had been too flat and factual. Just as she was thinking it could go on no longer, Lord Eodwine called yet another number and Léof stood up.

"We are next," he said and gestured for Cerwyn to stand with him.

"Wait, what?" she hissed at him, but he just gave her a look and guided her forward.

"Lord Eodwine, this is my sister Cerwyn," he said. "She has... just arrived. I've not spoken to her long yet, but I wanted to ask if there might be a place for her here, if she wishes it."

Eodwine's brow rose, but with a smile said, "I greet you, Cerwyn." He paused. It seemed that Léof was unsure whether she wished to stay or not. "Did you come here, hoping to stay, or was there another reason?"

"I came to find Léof," Cerwyn said. "I thought he might come home with me. I did not know he would not want to."

Léof held his tongue. The less said, the better, it seemed to him, but he could not now tell Cerwyn what not to say without raising more questions.

Eodwine glanced at Léof, who's expression was as middling as he could make it. Eodwine could tell that he was ill at ease, stepping from foot to foot like a horse in the stall wanting to run in the fields. "Is Léof needed at home?"

It briefly occurred to Cerwyn to lie, that maybe then the Eorl would insist Léof go home with her. But no - too many ways for such a scheme to go wrong. "No," she said. "Just missed."

Eodwine smiled, and his heart went out to the girl. He leaned over the table and folded his hands, meeting her eyes. "I think it is too soon for you to bond yourself to Scarburg, surely not for a year or more. You are welcome to stay as a guest as long as you wish, and should you choose to bond yourself here, we can speak of that later. I am sure a place can be found for you. Is there anything else you wish to say?"

"Thank you," said Cerwyn, but Léof interjected.

"One other thing," he said, suddenly remembering. "Maybe I should have brought this up sooner. It seems that Cerwyn... neglected to tell anyone where she was headed. I think the roads will be impassable for several days, but perhaps it could be arranged to send word to our father when the caravan leaves? Or, if she prefers, to be accompanied home?"

Eodwine nodded. "Once the roads can be used again, we can arrange either to send word or see Cerwyn home safely."

“Thank you, lord,” said Léof, and they returned to their seats.
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Old 11-22-2015, 08:57 PM   #204
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This day of court was turning out to be more interesting than Thornden had anticipated. Everyone had known the outcome of certain questions – as the parentless child and the childless couple that were joined – and other small, predictable troubles of the Hall, but Nydfara’s confession was surprising.

Thornden watched him with mild interest as he first stood before the eorl. His eyes became a little steely, perhaps, when Nydfara told his story and revealed his true name and identity. He couldn’t help feeling Scyld had played upon all of them – had taken advantage of their good will and trust.

He glanced quickly at Eodwine. It was clear Eodwine had heard Scyld’s story already, and was having the man repeat it for the sake of the men there. He had already made his decision. When Eodwine asked if any wished to speak, Thornden held his tongue. He would give the man a chance, if Eodwine deemed him worthy.

He paid little heed to the next case as he recalled to mind the entire incident involving the Lady Linduial. He did not remember Scyld from that time.

He lifted his head again when the next number was called and Léof stepped forward with a strange young lady. He listened with interest and watched her keenly as Léof and Eodwine spoke. As Léof finished, Thornden smiled, amused at the girl’s apparent strong will. She was truly a girl of spirit of she left home without permission from her father and without his knowledge. He looked forward to knowing her better.
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Old 11-23-2015, 02:22 PM   #205
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Balan did not follow Cerwyn. Instead he wandered through the grounds, looking around. He noticed some structures that he did not see before. But he also saw sections that were taken apart. He wondered what could have been the reason for that.

He realized suddenly that there were no people around. Straining his ear, he traced a faint voice to the Great Hall. It seemed that there was a court. Balan stood at the back, not wishing to disrupt the proceedings, and watched with interest as the last people came forth to bring their queries to the Eorl. At the very end, when the Eorl was about to stand and close the court, Balan raised his voice.

“My Lord!” Heads turned towards him. He walked slowly to the middle of the Hall, as did the petitioners before him. “I give my greetings to you and your people. I am Balan Bard, traveling northward through this country. I ask your leave to share your roof and your bread for five days, or for as long as you will have me, and I will earn my stay with my tales.”
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Old 11-23-2015, 08:27 PM   #206
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Eodwine

"Ho!" Eodwine smiled. "A teller of tales! Welcome, Balan Bard. Do you play tunes?"

"Alas, I do not," Balan replied. He had tried to make music several times in his life, but his hands were too clumsy and his hearing too coarse. "I admire greatly the talent of musicians, but my skill is in words alone."

"Maybe you can spin a yarn for us tonight by the hearth, if you are able and willing."

"I will so with your leave, Lord. There is always a will, but as for ability, that you and your folk shall judge for yourselves."

"So be it! I would have you sit at my table for our evening meal." Eodwine rose. "Unless there are any other matters to be brought before court today, we are done. Speak now or hold your peace until the next moon."

Balan bowed to the Eorl and followed the crowd outside.

Rowenna

Although Rowenna heard the rambunctious bard interrupt the proceedings, which the Eorl seemed to take in stride, her eye was on Nyd- Scyld. It would take some getting used to. She supposed that she should be offended that he had hidden so much from her; but he had done this to all, and now she understood. She knew that, had she been in his place, she would probably have done no differently. So they were alike. Oddly, she felt that she liked him more than she had. There was much about him that was still a mystery, but he had removed a wall between himself and all of them. She was glad of it. He glanced her way, once, and she knew that what he saw on her face was a smile and interest. He looked away, but she did not.

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Old 11-23-2015, 10:35 PM   #207
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Leof and Cerwyn

With the court over, folk began to disperse. Cerwyn turned to Léof. “Why didn’t you tell me we were getting up to speak?” she asked.

“I didn’t mean to surprise you,” Léof said. “There wasn’t much time, and I’m just trying to figure this out as I go – your being here, I mean. It’s still a bit of a shock.”

“Hmm,” said Cerwyn, not wholly satisfied.

“Court went well though,” said Léof. He felt terribly relieved, though rationally he didn’t know why he should have been so nervous. When had Eodwine ever been anything but good and fair to him? Still, suddenly forced now to worry about his family and his past again, Léof had felt as he stood up there as though he were sixteen again, anxiously wondering why a lord would take in a homeless, penniless lad of unknown origins to be his ostler.

“Yes, I suppose so,” said Cerwyn.

“And if you are to stay for a few days at least, we had best get you settled. Come, let me introduce you to the lady of the Hall.”

Cerwyn followed as Léof threaded his way through the people still milling about, talking or working to move the tables back to their usual configuration. They approached a woman much younger than Cerwyn expected, and she wondered briefly if the Lord Eodwine was a widower, and this was his daughter taking her mother’s place in the Hall. Or perhaps a daughter-in-law – she seemed too old to be unwed.

“Saeryn, this is my sister Cerwyn,” Léof was saying. “Cerwyn, this is Lady Saeryn, Lord Eodwine’s wife.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Cerwyn said, rapidly rethinking her theory. An arranged marriage then – in light of Cerwyn’s own fears about her future, the alternative did not occur to her. She wondered if the lady regretted her fate, or if she was pleased with her fortune. If one was to be forced to marry, she supposed one could do far worse than an Eorl, especially one who seemed to be fair and kind.

“Could you show Cerwyn where she can stay?” Léof asked. “I’ll bring in her things from the stables.”
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Old 11-24-2015, 10:14 AM   #208
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Saeryn smiled at Cerwyn and extended her hand in welcome.

“We are glad to have you here,” she said. “Any friend of Leof's is welcome here at the hall.”

The girl took Saeryn's hand and as Saeryn pressed it in welcome, their eyes met, and Saeryn thought she would like her.

She turned and began to lead her towards the room where the women slept. “We do not have as much room as we did before the winter,” Saeryn said. “Most of the women share this room.” The door swung open and Saeryn led way in. The room was full of the beds. There was not much space left, but it was orderly and neat. The beds were all made-up, the corners tucked in. A few chests of wood stood against the wall between some of the beds.

Saeryn led her down between the rows until she had gone nearly to the back wall.

“You may stay here,” she said. She looked a moment at the quilted cover on the bed. The woman who had slept here and who had sewn the quilt, had been one of those who died during the long winter. For a moment, her lips pressed a little tighter together, and then she turned back to Cerwyn.

“You may put your belongings into that chest,” she pointed.

They stood still for a moment. Cerwyn looked around and Saeryn looked at her.

“I hope you are not very disappointed if Leof decides not to return with you,” Saeryn said at length. “He has a home here, and he has made a place for himself. That means a lot to a young man like your brother.”
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Old 11-24-2015, 12:50 PM   #209
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Having lived alone with her father for so long, it was a bit of a shock to Cerwyn to see so many beds lined up in the same place, to imagine sleeping in the company of so many other women. She supposed, though, that it seemed as comfortable and homey as such a place could be – clean, with small touches of decoration near some of the beds hinting at the tastes or personalities of their occupants. Her study of the room was interrupted by Saeryn’s comments about her brother, which eerily echoed his own words earlier.

Cerwyn shrugged, trying to pass off her disappointment. “It was a slim hope anyway - it's good just to see him. And even if Léof wanted to come, I’m not sure Father would let him.”
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Old 11-24-2015, 01:14 PM   #210
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Saeryn looked closely at Cerwyn. Over the years, Léof had not spoken much of his family, but Saeryn had heard enough, and read enough between the lines, to know that his father was not a kind man. Her own experience under the hard tutelage of her eldest brother gave her the ability to see behind some of the words said, or in many cases, to guess at what was unsaid.

“So Léof was serious when he said you left without telling anyone. I thought perhaps he was heightening the tale to add urgency to his request. Your father does not know where you have gone? What do you think he will say when you go back?”

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Old 11-25-2015, 03:59 PM   #211
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Cerwyn shrugged again. “There’s not much he can do to make things worse than they already are,” she said. “I was rarely allowed to leave the house, and he already seems to have plans to marry me off. He keeps parading suitors through the house, each one poorer or uglier or older than the last.”

She hesitated, and seeing nothing but kindness and compassion in Saeryn’s face she asked the question that had been bothering her. “Was your marriage to the Eorl arranged?”
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Old 11-25-2015, 05:56 PM   #212
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Saeryn laughed, surprised at the question. "Heavens, no!" she said. "There was no one to arrange a marriage between us!" She laughed again, and her expression grew a little distant as she recalled to mind the time before their marriage. "We loved each other," she said. She looked back at Cerwyn. "That's why we married."

Saeryn looked at her, wondering what her thoughts were. "Is that really why you came here, Cerwyn?" she asked. "To get away from your father? Were you afraid he would decide for you one day and force you into a marriage?"
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Old 11-26-2015, 07:49 AM   #213
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Cerwyn, surprised at Saeryn’s response and embarrassed now about her question, was relieved that Saeryn did not seem offended. At the same time, she found herself slightly disappointed that her guess was wrong; Saeryn seemed so understanding.

“I am afraid of that, yes,” said Cerwyn, “and I hoped that somehow Léof could help. Maybe that sounds silly… Léof already told me he doesn’t know what I thought he could do. I’ve never left my village before, so when Father said I could go to Edoras, I knew that I had to try and find Léof. I didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance to get so close again.”
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Old 11-26-2015, 10:42 AM   #214
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Saeryn nodded, understanding. She reached out and touched the girl's shoulder companionably. "I will speak to Eodwine of your matter, if you wish, and we will see if we can help you. Until then, and at least until the rains have passed, you will stay here with us. Would you like that?"

--

Eoghan and Ruari

The children were not required to stay during the court proceedings. They wandered in and out of the hall, checking to see how things were going, and wondering how soon all the grownups would be done with their dull goings-on, and when they would turn their attention to more important things, like preparing the next meal. Normally, it was not as extremely dull as today. It was common for the children to spend the hours outside, but today, the rain poured incessantly, and it was too cold to withstand the wet. So the children were forced to remain inside.

They amused themselves for a while by walking through all the rooms of the house. They found Wilhearrd lying quiet and still on his bed. Eoghan and Ruari stood for a moment contemplating him. Then Ruari said to Eoghan he must be feeling very ill, if he was not moving at all, and Eoghan agreed. They turned and walked out.

The hall was brighter and cheerier than the dark room and for a while, they sat by the fire and drew shapes and pictures in the ashes that lay on the hearth. The court went on unheeded behind them. Ruari began drawing the shapes of letters she knew and pointed them to Eoghan. Eoghan wrote his name and whispered it to Ruari. Ruari wrote her name, and whispered it to him. A few moments of silence followed while they both busily wrote in the dust. Then Eoghan said he had spelled a word, and Ruari said he hadn’t, for he didn’t know how to write. They bickered back and forth, and then Ruari smudged his word out with her hand. There was almost a fight, but Ledwyn came over and told them to hush.

They stood up, brushed the ashes from their hands and knees, and searched for a new form of pastime. They went to their parents’ room and found their father’s sword. With some difficulty, they picked it up and laid it on the bed. They did not try to draw it out of the sheath, but they admired the carved hilt. Ruari stroked the leather of the sheath.

They heard some hubbub in the hall. They glanced at each other quickly and then hastily put the sword back where they had found it. When they returned to the hall, they found it had been a false alarm and that the court was still proceeding. They sighed, and looked for something else to do.

At long last, everyone had had their say before the eorl. The meeting was breaking up. The children ran to the kitchen, shouting with excitement now that no one would chide them for being too loud. They knew the women were often easy to wheedle something out of. They climbed up the bench and knelt with their hands on the table and their eyes bright and expectant as they glanced around. Already there was preparation going on for the evening meal, and at first, no one paid them any mind.

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Old 11-26-2015, 09:19 PM   #215
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Cerwyn smiled. “I would appreciate that very much. Thank you,” she said.

Just then, Léof showed up in the doorway with Cerwyn’s pack. He hesitated a moment. It felt strange to him to come into the women’s bedroom, but he saw no rational reason why he should not bring it in to where Cerwyn and Saeryn were standing.

“Here you are,” he said. “I’ll let you get settled. If you’d like to come find me after, I’ll be in the stables until supper.”
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Old 11-27-2015, 09:01 AM   #216
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Scyld had been careful not to meet anyone's eye after giving his account. Thankfully, no one had objected out loud, but Scyld suspected this had more to do with the people's trust in Eodwine than with any kind of goodwill toward him.

He would have to face them eventually, of course. He wasn't even sure what he was so afraid of: it was not as if he had ever been much liked before. What did the opinions of others mean to him?

But they did matter, however much he wished to deny it. Eventually, whether he felt the stare and needed to meet it, or just wanted to see if there was any chance that he still had something like an ally or friend here, he looked up.

Rowenna was watching him. He studied her face carefully but briefly and saw no trace of anything false in her smile. Confused, he looked away, but he did not forget.
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Old 11-27-2015, 04:08 PM   #217
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“I will leave you to unpack and freshen yourself,” Saeryn said. “I will have fresh water brought to you so you can wash. If you have not eaten, come to the kitchen when you are ready and have something.”

She followed Léof out of the room, picking up the wash bucket as she left. She took it to the kitchen, where she found several of the other ladies already hard at work, and her two children sitting expectantly at the table.

“Mama!” Ruari called when she saw her. “We’re hungry!”

“You can wait till supper,” Saeryn said. She opened the kitchen door and flung the old water from the bucket out into the muddy yard. She closed the door again and poured some water from one of the full buckets that had been brought in that morning. “In the mean time, you two take this to the women’s chamber. Cerwyn is waiting for it.”

“Who’s Cerwyn?” Eoghan asked as he slid off the bench.

“Léof’s sister!” Saeryn said cheerfully. “You shall meet her. Come, Ruari, and help your brother.”

Ruari climbed down reluctantly and took the other side of the handle and helped Eoghan lift the water. Saeryn held the door open for them and they carried the bucket out into the hall. She watched them until they knocked at the women’s quarter’s door, then she turned to the ladies in the kitchen. “How are things coming along?” she asked. “Has anyone checked on Wilheard since court ended?”
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Old 11-28-2015, 04:48 PM   #218
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Left alone, Cerwyn took a moment to more closely inspect the small space that had been given to her. She sat on the bed and thought it seemed comfortable enough. The quilt was soft and made from earthy-colored patches: rich browns, reds like clay, and golds that put her in mind of wheat fields at harvest time.

She stood and went to the chest at the foot of the bed. No adornments marked its lid or front, but it opened quietly and smoothly, giving testament to excellent workmanship and good maintenance. She had hardly opened her pack to begin moving her possessions to the chest when there was a knock at the door.

She looked around, despite knowing that she was the only one there, and called out, “Come in!”

In came a pair of youngsters, lugging a bucket between them.

“Are you Cerwyn?” asked one of them.

“I am,” she said, “and who might you be?”
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Old 11-28-2015, 10:10 PM   #219
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Eoghan and Ruari

“I’m Eoghan,” the lad responded.

“And I’m Ruari. Lord Eodwine’s our father.”

“We brought you some water,” Eoghan said as they placed the bucket down before her.

They stood for a moment surveying her from head to foot, grinning a little. When they spoke again, they both spoke at once.

“Are you older or younger than Léof?” Ruari asked, and Eoghan said, “Léof is going to teach me to ride.”

There was a short pause, and Ruari looked at Eoghan and then back at Cerwyn. “Me, too!” she said. Eoghan turned his head to her.

“Not so! You haven’t asked Papa.”

Ruari tossed her head, deciding that moment that she would ask him as soon as they were through here. She turned back to Cerwyn and smiled conspiratorially.

--

Saeryn

No one had looked in on Wilheard. Saeryn nodded. “Ledwyn, would you mind very much going in and seeing if he needs anything? I would, but I have a matter I would speak about with Eodwine.”

“Certainly,” Ledwyn agreed.

“Take him more tea if nothing else,” Saeryn said as she departed from the kitchen.

Eodwine still stood by the table. Thornden was in discussion with him, but when he saw Saeryn approaching, he drew away.

“Eodwine, I need to talk to you, concerning Léof’s sister.” She sat down in the chair by his and he resumed his seat. She faced him, and leaned in slightly, resting her arm on the table and folding her hands together.

“Cerwyn did not just come here to find Léof. She came because she was frightened to stay at home any longer. She believes that her father has intentions of marrying her to any one of his numerous friends. She has no desire to be married, and from the description of the men whom her father has found for her, I do not blame her. She received permission to go to Edoras, it seemed, and instead of going there, she traveled on and came here instead. She said she did not believe she would find opportunity to leave home again before it was too late.

“I fear for her safety, Eodwine. If she is sent back, I do not think her father will treat her well. Once she is back with him, he will not soon allow her out of his sight again, and he may well seal her marriage to someone old enough to be her own father.”
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Old 11-29-2015, 09:38 AM   #220
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On his way back to the stables from the women’s quarters, Léof turned a corner and nearly collided with someone. “Sorry, not watching where I’m going…” he trailed off when he realized it was Nydfara – Scyld.

“Indeed not,” said Scyld. Léof fought to keep his features even; after all, had not Scyld been equally not watching his way? The man was truly irritating. Léof wished he understood why Eodwine had taken him in. Any other leatherworker in all of Middle-earth and Léof would have been thrilled – it was so much more convenient to have someone in the Hall when tack needed repair or replacement.

“Sorry,” he said again. “Anyhow, when you’ve got a few minutes, would you mind coming to the stables? I’ve a few bridles and a saddle that need some work.”

“I’m free now,” said Scyld, glad for something productive to do. He’d helped restore the tables in the hall to their right position after court ended, but that hadn’t taken long and he’d found himself at a loss for something to do.

“Very well,” said Léof. He had plenty to do, but this wouldn’t take long. He led Scyld to the stables in silence.

“Mostly it should be pretty easy work,” said Léof as they entered the tack room. Léof was glad of this; he was still skeptical of Scyld’s claims about himself and Léof was glad to have the chance to the quality of Scyld’s work on a few simple tasks before entrusting him with anything more complex.

Scyld nodded and took mental notes as Léof began to show him what needed to be done. As Léof had said, it would mostly be easy work: re-sewing a couple seams, replacing one of the straps on a halter, and the like.

“Last one,” said Léof, holding out a bridle. “A mouse got to this one.” Scyld could see where one of the reins had been chewed nearly all the way through close to the bit. “Normally the cats do a good job with the mice, but one seems to have gotten past them,” Léof was saying irritably.

“Have you tried using mint?” asked Scyld absently, still studying the bridle.

Léof frowned. “No, how do you mean?”

Scyld looked up. “Either mix just a little bit into your leather cleaner, or rub the oil from the plant around the tack room. Should keep the mice away.”

“I’ll try that,” said Léof. Certainly couldn’t hurt. Maybe put some in the hay loft as well… no, best to wait and see if it worked. It took a lot of mint to make a fairly small amount of oil.

“The easiest way to fix this might be to just shorten the rein, rather than replacing it entirely,” said Scyld, referring again to the bridle in question.

Léof considered. “Yes, I think that would be fine,” he said.

“Good,” said Scyld. “I have the tools but not the raw material to fix most of these things. With the roads as they are, I’m not sure how long it will take.”

“Of course,” said Léof. “Thank you.”

“At your service,” said Scyld, and Léof couldn’t tell whether or not he was being mocked. He watched as Scyld left, thinking that overall that hadn’t gone so poorly. Well, anyone could behave themselves on the first day. Scyld would have a whole year to prove his mettle – or show his true colors, as the case may be, and Léof wasn’t the sort to take bets.
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Old 11-29-2015, 05:27 PM   #221
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Cerwyn glanced back and forth between the children, unaware of the undercurrents at play but sure that Léof would have his hands full with the pair of them.

“Well,” she said, “Léof is my older brother, by three years, and I’m sure that he’d be happy to teach both of you to ride if your father says he can.”
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Old 12-01-2015, 07:55 PM   #222
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Eodwine frowned and nodded. He knew what was going on in his wife's thought when she spoke thus. Her eyes were intense and focused, her face set in that determined look she had when there was nothing that could possibly stand in her way ... except for her husband. However, this time his thought was much as hers once she gave him this news.

"She is under my protection while she is here. And she is in our care. Do you think that she wants to stay for a while? What would you do?"
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Old 12-02-2015, 08:46 AM   #223
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Saeryn

Immediately, the knot of worry in her stomach relaxed slightly. Her face softened into a small smile. “I think she would be relieved to stay here, at least for a while,” she said. “I fear that she is going to be disappointed: I don't think that Leof will go home with her. Maybe when he makes that decision, she will want to stay.

“If that is her choice, Eodwine, I think she would do well here. If she is anything like Leof, she will be kind and hard working, and we will not be sorry for her presence here. Now that the winter is passed, and we have had supplies from Edoras, we can take on another member of the household.”

She did not feel the need to mention that their company was much depleted after the winter, and Cerwyn would fill in at least one of the vacant places. She knew Eodwine felt the loss of his people more keenly than anyone. She only hoped he would agree that Cerwyn would fit well there.

--

Ruari and Eoghan

Ruari beamed with perceived victory in the situation, and Eoghan squirmed, but he kept his mouth firmly shut, having the sense that it would be impolite to contradict the lady. He was not so sure at all that his father would allow Ruari to join him in his lessons to ride. He did not want her to join him. He wanted to learn on his own.

They stood for a moment in unbroken silence, and then Ruari turned and ran off, the first, as always, to move impetuously.

“'bye,” Eoghan murmured, and turned to follow his sister.

They had not even opened the door again before Ruari began speaking as though Cerwyn were not there. “I am going to ask Papa right away,” she said.

“No, you're not!” Eoghan replied.

They struggled to get out the door first, and Ruari won, only because she had reached it first by the fraction of a second. She tore across the hall with Eoghan close behind. “Papa!” she cried, scrambling up the side of his chair opposite her mother. “Papa, can I learn to ride with Leof like Eoghan?”

Eoghan appeared at his other elbow, and he stood, glaring darkly at his sister. He even looked a little hurt, as though he knew what his father's answer would be, and he already felt disappointed.

Last edited by Folwren; 12-03-2015 at 06:37 AM.
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Old 12-03-2015, 07:28 PM   #224
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Eodwine picked up his daughter with both hands, catching her under her arms, closing his hands behind her back; the he swung her round and round in the air, her little body straight as a flag in the wind. She started giggling with glee.

"Me next!" shouted Eoghan, jumping with excitement.

Eodwine put Ruari down and picked up his grinning son and had him up in the air, whooping with glee. After a while he put his son down.

"Again!" cried Ruari.

Instead, Eodwine fell to his knees (half dizzy) and looked his daughter in the eye. "When did you suddenly want to ride a horse? Was it not when you found out that your brother would? Do you really want to ride a horse, or is there something else that you want more? Choose with care, my lovely lass." He held her eyes with his own, hard glinting. He knew his daughter had a will like few he knew. It needed refining like a sword. This was a chance to do just that.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:24 PM   #225
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Ruari looked at her father, her eyes glinting. A smile played around her lips. From behind Eodwine, Saeryn saw her look, and she raised her eyebrow. That expression always preceded trouble.

Ruari flashed Eoghan an look of triumph. She had her father in her pocket, and she knew it. Eoghan lifted his chin defensively, waiting for her reply.

"I want to ride," she confirmed. "If Eoghan gets to learn, then I want to, too."

"Papa, it is not fair!" Eoghan burst in before Eodwine could reply.

Saeryn opened her mouth to rebuke Eoghan for interrupting, but she shut it again. Eodwine was right there. He was the one who was interrupted. He could handle them. She watched, curious to see exactly how he was going to answer.
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Old 12-04-2015, 10:13 PM   #226
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Eodwine

It was like dealing with a fractious man at arms, ambitious and wilfull; and a defensive fellow man at arms who felt his advantage slipping.

"Eoghan, your mother and I will decide what is fair and right. Ruari, you do not want to ride, you want to win and see your brother lose. Your mother and I will choose what you get to do and what not. We two will talk. Now go play."
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Old 12-09-2015, 07:25 AM   #227
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His answer was not truly satisfying to either child. Eoghan still felt his opportunity to learn something without his sister tagging along still in danger. Ruari was no longer as certain of her victory. The disappointment showed in both their faces, but neither contradicted him. They stepped away and turned to go play.

Saeryn watched them go, shaking her head when she saw them already beginning to compete again. Their walk turned into a trot, and then into a run, as though they had somewhere important to go.

“You'll have to give them an answer before the day's done,” she said.

"No, my dear, we will have to give them an answer before the day is done." Saeryn grinned, thinking she already knew what she thought the right answer was. But she also knew Eodwine would wish to give it more time and thought, so she turned the conversation back to Léof's sister.

“As to Cerwyn, what say you? Shall I invite her to become a part of our household here?”

"I say yes. The choice is still hers whether or not, and for how long. Now, what say you of Ruari's sudden wish to ride a horse? Think on it, and let us talk away from all other ears."

"I will think on it. Let me see how things go in the kitchen, and I will talk to Cerwyn, and then let us decide."

Eodwine agreed, and Saeryn went towards the women's chamber to speak to Cerwyn before taking her to the kitchen and introducing her to the other women.
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Old 12-09-2015, 07:32 PM   #228
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As Saeryn went to Cerwyn, Garreth Smith came into the Hall, dripping wet and baleful in the eyes.

"Ho Garreth!" said Eodwine. "How are things at the smithy?"

"Well enough, toasty and smelling of metal and sweat, as always. But it'll be smelling of dung and so will this place afore long. The dung pit's overrun its bounds. He lifted one muddy boot. Eodwine realized with a wrinkle of his nose that it wasn't just mud on that boot.

"Oh for the love of..." he muttered. "I had better go see."

"You won't have to travel far."

Eodwine sighed and followed Garreth out the door.
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Old 12-10-2015, 09:40 PM   #229
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Having already refreshed herself briefly in Léof’s small room, Cerwyn did not need long to wash up. Further, the promise of something to eat kept her from dawdling. The swirl of events since she had arrived had driven the thought of food from her mind, but she now realized her last meal had been Balan’s bit of bread and the last of her dried meat on the road, and she was now ravenous.

So, once she had washed, she took her entire pack and placed it in the chest without unpacking anything. It did not fit quite right that way, and the lid did not shut by about a finger’s width, though she suspected that if she were to stow her possessions properly, they would scarcely fill half the chest.

Hunger won out; she would fix it later. She left the room and was just beginning to wonder which door might lead to the kitchens when she caught sight of Lady Saeryn. Cerwyn walked up to her and said, “I would gladly take your offer of something to eat now.”
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Old 12-12-2015, 09:50 PM   #230
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Eodwine

It did not take long for Eodwine to survey the problem and the damage.

"How many spades do we have in Scarburg, Garreth?"

"Not enough I'll wager."

"Go and find all you can while I rouse the folk."

"I'll get Harreld's aid."

Garreth turned and jogged toward the smithy. Eodwine ran to the stables, where he found Léof. Did he smell mint? Odd. "Léof! Help me gather the folk, all able bodied men and women. The dung pit has overflowed and we need to get to work! You go to the Hall and I'll see who there is to round up elsewhere!"

Garreth

Garreth threw the door open. "Harreld! How many spades do we have?"

"What would you want to dig in this miserable rain?"

"The dung pit's overflowed. Probably trenches. What do we have?"

"No wonder you stink! About a half dozen if we're lucky."

"Bring them to the dung pit then check the armory. I'll check the Hall."

Garreth left the smithy, knowing his brother would do what needed to be done.
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Old 12-15-2015, 11:32 AM   #231
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Leof could not keep himself from grimacing at Lord Eodwine's announcement. Just when it seemed that an already full day was winding down and he might figure out what to do with Cerwyn and what he was supposed to write to his father... which was nearly as undesirable a task as tending to overflowing human waste. He'd choose a stable full of stalls to muck over either task any day of the week.

Nevertheless he hastened to the Hall where people were milling about, talking before supper or tending to any number of small indoor tasks that never seemed to end, no matter how many rainy days kept them in.

He hesitated; it was unlike him to bring all the attention to himself but it would be far quicker to make the announcement to everyone at once. He needed their attention; he put his fingers to his lips and whistled, the sort of whistle that brought horses from the farthest corners of their pastures in for their dinners. Silence fell.
"Lord Eodwine has just told me that the dung pits are overflowing from the rain." A ripple of disgusted murmurs ran thorough those assembled. "And all who are able are to join him outside."

~*~*~*~

Folwren's post - Saeryn

Saeryn turned from Eodwine to go find Cerwyn who met her halfway across the hall. “I would gladly take your offer of something to eat now,” the girl said.

Searyn nodded and smiled. “I thought you would be hungry after a journey like that! Rain and mud takes it out of a body. The kitchen is this way.” She led her towards the kitchen as she spoke. She saw Eodwine speaking with Garreth, and she took a second glance when she saw Eodwine’s face wrinkled in disgust and displeasure. I wonder what is amiss, she mused inwardly just before pushing open the kitchen door.

“Rowenna, Frodides, Kara,” she said, entering. “Meet Cerwyn, Léof’s sister. She will be staying with us for a while.”

The women accepted Cerwyn into their midst and as they carried on conversation, Saeryn cut her some bread. She looked into the pots boiling over the fire. A thick healthy steam rose out of the first one she opened. She reached for a spoon and fished out some of the vegetables. They were not boiled to perfect softness yet, but they would be enough to tide Cerwyn over until the evening meal.

“I am sorry we have nothing better yet,” she said as she laid the bowl on the table. “Tonight we shall have a fine spread.”

Ledwyn entered the kitchen as Cerwyn sat down. “How is Wilheard?” Saeryn asked.

“He was asleep. I left him some brewed herbs,” Ledwyn replied, quietly.

“Thank you.” Saeryn looked away, but she watched her covertly as she walked across to the washtub and resumed her work of washing the remaining pots and utensils from the noon meal. Saeryn knew Ledwyn still grieved for her boy’s loss, but Saeryn did not know how to comfort her or what to say. She felt, sometimes, that the presence of her two, healthy children must be a bitter reminder to Ledwyn of her own child. Saeryn’s heart ached for the woman, but she did not dare try to express it.

Léof’s whistle from the hall interrupted her thoughts. She lifted her head towards it. She remembered Garreth speaking to Eodwine, and Eodwine’s grimace. She sighed. Something was wrong. “We’d better go out,” she said. “Stay here and finish up,” she told Cerwyn, laying her hand on her shoulder as she passed. “If it concerns you, I will let you know.”
She came back a moment later, her lips pursed in thought. “We have work outside,” she said in answer to Cerwyn’s questioning look. “The dung pits have over flowed.”

“May I be of service?” Cerwyn asked, rising.

Saeryn shook her head. “No. Stay here. You are tired and worn and have had more than your share of wet and mud today. If you are not too weary, you can see after our supper.”

Last edited by piosenniel; 12-27-2015 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 12-18-2015, 02:03 PM   #232
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Ledwyn

Ledwyn had no case to bring before the Eorl. She sat silently in the back and let her mind wander. The court was long, and her interest waning. She used to have a cause for worry, and for planning, but she did not have one anymore. Let the others do what they must; it was of no importance to her. As her mind wandered deeper into itself, she saw small feet splash through puddles. They slowed down and stole around the yard. Then, noticing her, they leapt up and disappeared behind the corner. She chased after them, but, rounding the corner, she did not see anything. She looked back: no, she did not pass them. She gazed around her, searching for a trace. Then she knew they were on the roof. She looked up, and there they were. Now he will climb down to me. But what's that? The feet tripped and tumbled over each other, going over the edge of the roof where she couldn't see. No! That is not what happened! she was about to cry out, when something soft and grey flew into her face and she woke up with a start.

It seemed that court has just finished; people were still standing up from their seats. Ledwyn felt her cheeks colour as she realized she fell asleep in court. It was her good fortune that she took her seat in a back corner, where not many people would have seen her doze. Looking down, she realized she was wearing the same shawl that was carried by the wind. She was not sure if the boy in her dream fell or flew. And he never tripped at all in the first place, she thought angrily, but she took off her shawl nonetheless. She shivered slightly, but she did not put it back on.

Ledwyn again fell into step with the household routine, doing what she did everyday. When Lady Saeryn asked her to check on Wilheard, she obliged silently. The young man was asleep, his brow still feverish. It was just as well, for Ledwyn had little love for him and had no wish to speak, but she fixed his covers and left a cup of brewed herbs on a nearby chest for when he would wake.

She just began to clean a pot in the kitchen when she heard a shrill whistle. She put the pot away and stepped outside to hear the announcement. She saw Kara beside her wrinkle her face in distaste, and heard a few not too kind things among the mutterings of the men, but some sour jokes too. She didn't feel either way. What ought to be done must be done, however little you like it, so there is no advantage to disliking it. That was how her life always worked.

She asked Kara if she may borrow her spare shawl to go outside. Kara nodded impatiently, and Ledwyn walked briskly to the women's room to get it before stepping outside into the rain.
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Old 12-19-2015, 07:02 AM   #233
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Garreth and Harreld came from the armory to find a crowd gathered near the dung pit on a patch of ground still above the flood. Eodwine was walking the perimeter. They had found two more shovels, making eight altogether, not nearly enough for this crowd. They came to Eodwine and told him the bad news.

He nodded grimly. "You two go back to the smithy and make two dozen shovels. They need not be pretty nor refined, just useful for slinging dung and dirt. I care not what you use to make them. I want them made before supper."

They looked at each other, hearts sinking, for that would usually be a three day project, and to make shovels that fast meant cutting corners. Shovels they would be, but unpretty things still looking like what they had been before. "We will need two people to handle the blower and to fetch for us."

"Take whom you will."

They headed into the crowd, Eodwine overhearing Garreth mutter to Harreld, "No women."

He went to the bedraggled gathering. "We have only eight shovels. The smiths will make two dozen more by supper, and the first of them should be ready to use as soon as they are made; I care not whether the dung steams on your shovel or not. In the meantime, gather whatever scrap of flat anything you can find, or use your hands if you must, because a trench must be dug. I will show you where." The folk looked at him in dumb and unwilling disbelief. "If we do not do this, we will sicken and have death among us in a matter of days! Go find some tool if you will not work with your hands. Now!"

The crowd broke apart into scurrying groups, except for eight men wielding the prized shovels.

"I will show you where to start digging."
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Old 12-22-2015, 10:32 AM   #234
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Scyld by chance had been standing near the shovels when Eodwine made his pronouncement, and he was not shy about taking one. The thought did briefly cross his mind to return to the Hall with only the pretense of finding something else to dig with, but he could only hide out for so long. If he was to dig he would rather have a proper shovel.

He followed Eodwine, sinking up to his ankles in mud and worse things. At the designated area, he set his spade to the earth. It dug in easily to the soft earth, but he felt the strain in his back when he tried to lift the first shovelful of heavy wet earth. Smaller scoops, then. The hole seemed to fill immediately with water.

Scoop after scoop and he felt as though he was hardly accomplishing anything. He tried to ignore the smell, the soaking rain, and the grime that was slowly coating his clothes and exposed skin.
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Old 12-23-2015, 05:54 AM   #235
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Rowenna had come out with everyone else. Not enough shovels, she thought. What could she possibly use? Ladles? Pots and pans? They would have to do, and could be cleaned later. She had a hunch that the cooks and kitchen maids would say her nay, but she would give them a talking to, if it came to that.

She was pleased with Eodwine's forcefulness and quick action. Of course, quick action was what was needed. If he had not gotten them to do what was needed, then there would be little use to staying here.

She looked over her shoulder at the Scar. Would it not be better to build a settlement on those heights? What had possessed that fool brigand lord to build in a virtual swamp?

She passed through the Hall to the kitchens, and found a pot that she regarded to be just her size. It would be back breaking work, but she would heal.

"What are you doing!" came the inevitable cry. It was Frodides.

"I'm taking this pot to dig a trench."

"But you will get it dirty!"

"If I do not, we will not be able to live! Now find a pot yourself, or at least a ladle if that is the best you can do, and come help!"

She took her pot and without a backward glance, headed off to the digging.
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Old 12-23-2015, 10:31 PM   #236
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Thornden seized upon a shovel and found himself working side by side with Scyld. They flung the muck and filth into a heap on the far side of the would-be trench. He noticed, just as Scyld and all the other diggers noticed, how progress seemed impossible and new water and mud filled the trench with each shovelful taken out.

“If the mud continues to flow like this, we may need to brace the sides with boards,” Thornden said aloud, but more to himself than to Scyld. The trouble would be finding boards. “Stone would work, too,” he added after a moment’s consideration. They had stones in plenty. But further reflection caused him to realize that stones would sink and would not be as useful. Hopefully they would not need to use either. Some progress was being made, and more and more people were joining them with makeshift tools to scoop away the sludge.

He spotted Ruari and Eoghan some way down the line. He only recognized them from their short stature. Most of the people were indistinguishable in the gray, streaming curtain of rain. Every head was bent, every back stooped. He turned his eyes and attention back to the end of his shovel.

The twins thought they were helping with the task at hand. They had not asked for permission to come out, they had simply followed the general crowd. They immediately grasped understanding of the situation and had gone to find something with which to dig. They returned and squeezed in between members of the line and squatted down and began to dip and fling the muck. No one paid them much mind, as they did no harm, and if they were in the way, they were asked to move down the trench.

The trench was slowly taking form. It never was empty, but the thick muck that was being removed was replaced by water, presumably flowing down from the dung pits. The quiet drudgery, endured in silence by most of the people, was broken by a quarrel between the twins.

Ruari’s shoveling implement – a piece of thick bark fallen from one of the logs brought by the supply wagon – broke off and fell into the trench. She fished for it with her hand a moment, but the water was too murky for her to see, and too deep for her to reach to the bottom. She turned to Eoghan.

“Give me your stick,” she said. “I losed mine.”

“No,” Eoghan answered, shortly. “Go find another.”

Ruari stood up and moved away. She came back a couple minutes later, unsuccessful in her search. “I can’t find anything. Let me have a turn.”

Eoghan pretended he had not heard and continued shoveling. Ruari moved nearer and tried to reach for the stick. Eoghan held it out of reach and pushed her off with a raised elbow. She began to holler for it. Eoghan, still staving her off with his arm, turned his head, scooped out a blobful of muck and catapulted it at his sister.

Ruari howled with indignation, and immediately used both her hands to shove Eoghan's back. He toppled straight into the trench.
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Old 12-28-2015, 04:59 AM   #237
littlemanpoet
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Rowenna was not so close to the children, but was closer than Eodwine. She looked his way and saw him stop in the middle of shoveling a load of dung. She meaningfully pointed at herself and then at the two children, Eoghan now hollering in doubled indignation. Eodwine nodded and watched her head off to the children before continuing with the work.

Rowenna trudged over to Ruari. With two hands she lifted her up, carried her ten feet back, and placed her on her feet.

"Stay here," she grated. "If you do not, you will feel worse from me than dung on your clothing."

Without a backward glance, she trudged back to the now screaming Eoghan, who had been fished out of the trench by one of the men at arms. With a quick thank you to him, Rowenna took Eoghan by then hand and trudged back to Ruari, who was standing precisely one step away from where Rowenna had put her, and one foot raised to take another. Rowenna grabbed her hand.

"Come!"

She walked at a splashing pace fast enough to make the children struggle to keep up, back to the Hall. Saeryn would be in a fit once she saw these two.
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Old 12-28-2015, 04:07 PM   #238
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Saeryn had gone out momentarily to see the flooding and hear the plans that were made. She returned to the hall with the others searching for objects and implements to dig with. She followed behind others when she found something, but she stopped halfway across the muddy yard. In time, people would come in from their task, wet through, cold, and covered in mud and dung. She grimaced at the thought and turned her steps back toward the kitchen. She was relieved to see that the buckets of water drawn earlier from the well still stood by the door.

“Cerwyn,” she said, seeing that the young lady still sat there. “Set some pots over the fire. As many as you can find. I’m going to fetch more water. We’ll get water ready for everyone when they finish the task.”

Together they stoked up the fire, moved the stew for supper over the direct heat, and put a cauldron of water on the boil. Saeryn hauled in from outside a large wooden tub used for bathing.

“Keep water on,” she said when she had finished. “When it gets hot, pull it aside and put it by the stew, and put another pot on the hook. I’ll bring in more before going out to help on the trench.” She picked up her shawl and tied it over her head and picked up the two buckets. She turned towards the door and stopped as it swung open and Rowenna, towing the twins behind her, entered. Searyn froze, rooted to her spot, and she surveyed their condition. Both were wet, but only Eoghan was soaked through and through and covered almost head to toe in mud and muck, and though Ruari looked black as thunder, only Eoghan was screaming.

“Stop that noise,” she said sternly. Eoghan cut short his shrill cry, but he did not cease the noise entirely.

“Ruari pushed me in!” he accused loudly.

Saeryn’s eyes flashed towards Ruari. She did not even need to ask if this was so, for the impetuous girl immediately began to defend herself. “My shovel broke, and Eoghan wouldn’t give me-”

“Hush,” Saeryn said, quietly. Ruari and Eoghan became silent, and for a moment all that was heard was the crackling of the fire and the drip, drip of water from Eoghan’s clothes, punctuated with an occasional sniff from him.

“We’ll get you cleaned up, and then we will discuss this. Take your clothes off. Rowenna, help Ruari there.” The two women got the children undressed, their soiled clothes dropped in a heap. “Rowenna, see if you can find any rope. We’ll string a line outside and hang these clothes. The rain can do some of our rinsing for us until we can get to the wash.” Rowenna went outside without a word.

Ruari crept towards the fire, shivering. Searyn stopped her. “Stay where you are until we get this tub filled.” Ruari looked like she was about to protest, but a look from Saeryn warned her not to speak. She subsided into silence and waited by her brother, who looked colder and more dejected than she. It seemed to the two of them that Saeryn and Cerwyn worked as slowly as was humanly possible, but it was really only a couple of short minutes before the tub was filled with lukewarm water and Saeryn called Ruari over. She washed her arms and legs, toweled her dry, and then told her to stand by the fire while she attended Eoghan.

In a few minutes they were cleaned and dressed. Rowenna had the line strung outside and the children’s clothes taken and hung there. Saeryn sat the two children on the bench by the kitchen table.

“I will go out and see how things go outside. Cerwyn, is it too much to ask that you keep an eye on them until I return?”
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Old 12-28-2015, 08:23 PM   #239
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Cerwyn

Cerwyn gladly handled each of the tasks that Saeryn asked of her. She was relieved not to be asked to help dig, but even more so not to sit idly and awkwardly by while everyone else worked. In the kitchen, she could still be useful without getting filthy.

Already, though, she began to understand: if she decided to stay, she would work no less hard than she did at home. On the other hand, the easy conversation among the women in the kitchen before most of them had left to dig made the work seem less onerous.

Then Rowenna marched the twins into the kitchen, and Cerwyn felt caught between horror at their state and admiration at how well Saeryn managed them. Little spitfires, they were. She followed Saeryn’s lead as best she could as they got the pair cleaned up. Then Saeryn asked her to watch them.

She eyed the twins. “I think I can handle them,” she said with more confidence than she felt.

“Thank you,” said Saeryn, and she left.

Alone now with the twins, Cerwyn first returned to the task that Saeryn had originally set her: making sure that water continued to heat on the kitchen fire. It took only a few moments to hook a new pot of water over the fire (the first having been used for the twins’ bath water). Knowing of nothing else that needed doing, she then sat down across from the twins at the table.

“Feeling better now that you’re warm and dry?” she asked them.
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Old 12-29-2015, 09:41 AM   #240
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Saeryn sloshed through the mud and water to Eodwine. In the general dimness caused by the downpour, she could not tell how much progress had been made nor how much further they would have to go. She reached out to touch his shoulder and then drew back, hoping that the wetness on his sleeve was just rain. It was hard to tell; everything stank over here.

“What are your plans, Eodwine? Will this take a long time more? How much time do you think? If it is a long time, I will join you.”
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