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Old 11-08-2003, 04:36 PM   #199
Bęthberry
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Boots

The Miller's Wife's Tale

"Ah ha, I've got you now!"

Lathyn's voice rang out as she jumped over Bethberry's spot but she landed awkwardly and fell in a heaping, puffing and shuffling and humphing.

"We made the snail too small," she proclaimed.

"Did we now," replied the older woman. "Should we make a new snail for a better game then?"

"Yes, yes. It's impossible to jump on such small shells."

"As you wish, my lady Princess," intoned Bethberry solemnly. Lathyn giggled.

"Do my bidding, Lady-in-waiting," Lathyn announced, putting on her best voice of regal command.

Bethberry curtsied and, with the tree branch, erased the too-small outline. This time, she took two giant steps for each 'shell' segment as she drew the spiral outline of the snail on the soft, sandy ground. Each 'shell' of the hopscotch game was now large enough for her to sit in.

"Will this do, your Highness?" she asked.

"It shall," Lathyn decided. "Proceed."

Jumping on her right foot, Bethberry hopped into each shell until she reached the centre of the snail. Then, jumping in little circular motions, she tried to turn herself around and begin the return journey to the outside of the snail, this time on her left foot, but switching feet muddled her balance. She made it to two shells before she fell.

"You forfeit your space! My turn, my turn!" Lathyn announced, with far less regal aplomb than her previous announcements.

The young girl was much more proficient than the older Innkeeper and soon had three spaces in the spiral reserved as her own before she fell and the game returned to Bethberry.

This time Bethberry did not falter despite having to jump over the two conjoined spaces which Lathyn had claimed. She had finally won a space of her own and chose the one next to the centre.

"There! That one's mine, fair and square," she cried, and started on her return, hopping now one her left foot.

"I can't see what fun you find in childish games," intoned a male voice. Deol had come up behind the two unannounced and his sudden words made Bethberry turn, awkwardly on one foot, and she fell again.

"Tut! I pronounce you Spoil Sport and Sneaky Grouch!" Bethberry decried, with as much dignity as she could muster to recover from her chagrined spill. "Speak more respectfully in front of the Princess."

"Princess Schmincess," he retorted. "There's so much work to do and you spend time getting nothing done."

"There'll be work enough when the babe is here, Deol. No need to deny Lathyn some fun."

"All she has is fun. She's just a silly child still," he unkindly retorted.

"And you're a miserable stinker," Lathyn cried, "always moping around me like you didn't like me."

"It's not that," Deol impatiently replid. But Lathyn's feelings had already been hurt. She ran at Deol and pushed him over.

"There! That's where you belong in front of me! On your bottom, knave."

Deol breathed a heavy sigh before Bethberry interposed. "Come, Lathyn. Let the knave get on with his duties while we attend to Her Majesty your mother."

Deol shook his head as the two walked haughtily off, whispering to themselves and dismissing him with nary a glance back.

"Will there really be so much work once the baby has come, Miss Bethberry?"

"Yes, for a time. Lots more laundry and your mother will never some help at first while she recovers. And the baby will require attention and care."

"Is is scary to have a baby, Bethberry?"

"Yes and no, Lathyn. There is a physical danger, as much as any man's work can endanger him, for it takes endurance and strength, courage and patience. Both bairn and mother are at risk at the birth and for some time after. And, as well, there are many dark worries and sombre fears that can take hold. Yet there is also great awe and wonder at the marvel of new life, for this is neither art nor craft but the only true creation."

Bethberry's more philosophic musings were more than Lathyn was interested in, however. The girl stuck resolutely to more direct issues.

"Have you ever had a child? People around here sometimes wonder about you. Why you are here and where you came from."

"Me? Simple and plain me arouses their curiousity?" Bethberry chuckled and Lathyn looked perturbed at the laughter. "No, my lass, I have not."

"Why not?"

"My, you are in a questioning mood today, Lathyn." The Innkeeper pondered for a few minutes as they walked the short hill towards the house. "I think perhaps Middle-earth has greater need of me these days than I could give if I had a wee one."

With that remark, the two entered the stone house, only to be brought to attention by Maedlyn's call.

"Lathyn? Bethberry? Have you returned? I think it's time," the Miller's wife called.

"You have pains? How close?" Bethberry inquired, as both came quickly to the woman's side.

Maedlyn shook her head. "No pains, no contractions. But my water brought. Yet all is still." The woman was calm, in control of herself, yet worry and concern showed clearly in her eyes.

"I know not what to do in this case. Lairwyn is needed now. Lathyn, run quickly back to Deol. Tell him that Bethberry bids him make haste, double-time, to bring the midwife from Edoras. He must stop what he is doing immediately and get her. Tell him to tell Lairwyn that the water has broken. This is important; he must tell her this. She will understand."

Lathyn looked scared, rooted to the spot. "What's happening? Is it dangerous? What's wrong?"

Maedlyn spoke kindly, lovingly to the girl, and took her hand in hers. "Nothing is wrong, my daughter. It is time, that is all, and we are unprepared, for the bairn is early." She smiled bravely at Lathyn, not wanting her concern to show.

Bethberry spoke up. "Your mother needs your help now, Lathyn. Be quick about it; it is not the time to play hedgehog, but fox. Send Deol off and tell him not to linger talking with your father. Then return to us, for we can ease your mother's labour with our words and attention."

Lathyn hung back a moment and then turned and ran, perhaps not as swiftly as a fox but fast enough.

[ November 09, 2003: Message edited by: Bęthberry ]
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