Her red box of memories

Tidings Travel South – Part 1

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In the southern port city of Pelargir, the sultry heat of Urimë had become well nigh unbearable, so much so that birds had been seen to fall stone dead out of the trees.  For weeks now, the populace had been waiting for the weather to break and on this particular morning at the house of Serindë and Carandil, the children had gone out into the garden to perform a complicated rain dance.

“This is how they do it in Harad” shouted Míriel gleefully as she led her younger brother and sister, Taron and Rian, in a cheerful riot of foot-stomping and arm-waving as she chanted something wild and incomprehensible.   Little fifteen month old Thalion toddled along after his older siblings, squealing with delight.

From the shade of the terrace, Leoba and her sister-in-law Serindë kept a watchful eye on the parade, whilst Serindë nursed her fractious four month old baby.  Despite the forenoon hour, it was already hotter sitting in the shade in the still warmth trapped by the spreading vines than it was out in the glare of the cobbled courtyard where the children were dancing.

Leoba shifted her skirts above her knees and stretched out bare legs and feet in an effort to cool down.  She had pinned her chestnut hair up on top of her head to the same purpose but damp tendrils had escaped to curl darkly at her temples and the nape of her neck.  “It’s on days like this that I half wish I were a man” she said to Serindë. “I keep fantasising about the river. There were groups of lads down at Old Bridge yesterday evening, naked as the day they were born, jumping into the waters far below. It looked so cold and inviting.”

“Leaving aside the butt naked bit: you can’t swim.”

“No but all four of my brothers can.  If I’d been born a boy they’d have invited me along too when they went off exploring – and skinny dipping.” Leoba replied.

“I can think of a certain vintner who’d like to see that!” giggled Serindë, giving Leoba a little nudge.

Leoba blushed brick red. “Oh don’t, Serindë, I don’t want to think about Turaglar that way!”

“Well, you know it’s how he thinks about you”, her sister-in-law retorted.

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: Turaglar is a lovely man.”

“And rich”, Serindë interjected

“…but I’m not in love with him and I never will be.”

“You can’t know that.  Love often comes after marriage.  It did for me and your brother and, for all his foibles, we’ve been very happy together for over twelve years now”.

“But I’m not going to marry him. You know I’m not on the market.” Leoba was starting to get a bit annoyed.

Serindë snorted disrespectfully.

“I don’t want to argue: it’s too hot for cross words. Besides which, you’re never going to win me over on this subject, so don’t you think it’s time to let go of it? You know full well that I have promised myself to Dirk.  I do not take such an oath lightly, however long I have to wait. I put it to you bluntly and perhaps slightly crudely: if I married Turaglar – which I am not going to do – there would always be three of us in that marriage bed.”

“Actually, you’re right, Leoba. I’m not sure that Turaglar is into that sort of thing” said Serindë, raising one finely-defined eyebrow.

The two women dissolved into laughter, their good humour restored. The contentious subject of Leoba’s love life was shelved for another day.

From the house behind them, the two women heard the front door open and then slam back closed and then the sound of footsteps and male voices reverberated down the central passageway. Leoba hastily made her skirts decent and both women tried to compose themselves as Carandil and his eldest son, Thorondir, emerged from the shadows onto the veranda.

Carandil leaned over to kiss his wife on the lips and then caressed the dark head of his now sleeping baby boy. “What are you two giggling about then?”

Serindë and Leoba swapped glances: “Nothing!” they chorused unconvincingly

“I can tell you something to make you smile” said Carandil. “We’ve come straight from the covered market. There are rumours spreading like wildfire about a great battle that the Mithril Knights have fought up in the far north.  Everyone is talking about it!”

Leoba clasped her hands to her mouth in fear and trepidation as she murmured, as much to herself as to her companions: “Sweet Nienor, Lady of Mercy, please let him be safe.”  And then to Carandil: “Is Dirk. are they all alright? The Mithril Knights, that is?!  Please, tell me everything you’ve heard”.

He put his arm about her. “Relax sister, I told you the news is good.  They have fought and slain a Great Dragon on the slopes of Carn Dûm. It’s the stuff of which legends are made and if there was anything amiss we should have heard.  I warrant, we’ll be having celebrations in the streets before the month is out, the warriors will be féted in Minas Tirith and you’ll be charming everyone with songs about their bravery.”

“Isn’t that strange” said Serindë to Leoba. “When you woke us up with that nightmare the other night, you mentioned a dragon.”

At word of a dragon, the children’s ears had pricked up and they came running over excitedly. “A Dwagon! Dwagon! Like Smaug!” squealed Rían, jumping up and down.

“Auntie Leoba, Sing to us. I want to hear your song about King Bard the Brave again” begged Míriel.

“Later, children. Run along and play nicely.” said Serindë. Taron spread his arms like wings and ‘flew’ off down the orangery with his older sister in hot pursuit yelling, in a most warlike fashion, that she was Bard and was going to shoot him down in the fountain.

Serindë, ever practical, asked her eldest son to fetch the nursery maid to take over supervision duties. “And ask her to bring towels” she added, “because I really don’t need dripping wet children trailing footprints through the house today.”

Just Leoba, Serindë and Carandil were left on the terrace.

“Maybe Dirk will ride south”, Leoba dared to give voice to her hopes.  Her green eyes blazed like emeralds with longing for him.  She wondered what Dirk’s part had been and whether he had fulfilled Glorfindel’s prophecy that he would perform great deeds.

………………………………………………..

Later that evening, Leoba climbed the stairs to go to bed. She had after dinner, as requested, sung the song of Bard of Dale which had delighted the children immensely. Dragons were to them, the stuff of myth and legend, not real creatures that could cause havoc and fear and dread in men’s hearts.

She hummed the tune softly to herself as she poured water into the basin and washed the dust of the day from her face and neck and hands and as she folded up her clothes neatly and slipped into her cool linen nightdress. Then Leoba carefully combed out the tangles from her chestnut hair, as half under her breath she sang the chorus again:

“Away, away oh Bardings, ho! To the Long Lake’s northern shore!

And there we’ll sing new songs of Dale to live for evermore!”*

 It was a traditional song she had been taught by Bardhwyn during her sojourn in Dale a year or so earlier, written more than a generation past by a true-hearted Barding in honour of their late King’s valiant deeds.  On a night such as this when her mind was full of the news from the north and her heart full of the thought of her beloved Dirk of Esgaroth, there seemed nothing more appropriate.

Unwilling to try to sleep just yet, the young woman sat in the window seat and stared out across the city. Lights twinkled in the streets all the way down to the harbour side. From her vantage point, glinting through gaps in the buildings, Leoba glimpsed the mighty Anduin, where the moonlight caught its ripples in the burgeoning breeze. She heard the first hesitant raindrops fall and thought wryly that Míriel’s rain dance had worked its magic after all. Far in the distance, a rumble of thunder echoed and a first fork of lightening rent the skies. The weather was breaking at last. By the time that Leoba succumbed to the comfort of her mattress and closed her eyes and drifted off into dreams of happier times, the rain was coming down steadily. It cleansed the parched earth and it drenched the exhausted soldier who rode continuously through the night, switching horses as he came, down the road from Minas Tirith bearing news that he would deliver to his sister as soon as she awoke.

 

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Written by leobavorima

February 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm

One Response

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  1. *lyrics courtesy of the author: Bardhwyn of Dale/Helene Jones

    leobavorima

    February 15, 2013 at 8:54 pm


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