Her red box of memories

Tidings Travel South – Part 6

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Culanir had made it clear that they would be travelling fast, though perhaps not as fast as he had originally planned without his sister in tow, so Leoba packed as lightly as she could.  From under her bed, she dug out the two leather saddle-bags with which she had journeyed south nearly twelve months previously.   Laid out on the bed were her surcote, two good kirtles; one dove grey, the other expensively dyed with lichen to a shade of dusky pink and which had never really suited her that well anyway. Not that such things mattered anymore, she thought.  Leoba ran her long fingers over the pink dress, appreciating the delicate and lightweight woollen fabric, and she resolved that it would meet its fate in a suitably sombre dye bath in due course.  To the pile she added several clean shifts and drawers.  Veils too; they would be needed in Minas Tirith at least. If truth be told, Leoba was finding there was some comfort and reassurance in having a length of linen or wool to hide behind; it prevented over-eager suitors’ dogging ones steps.

She crossed to the bureau, opened the drawer underneath and removed an olive-wood box.  Inside lay secreted a small bundle of precious letters. These she wrapped carefully in a scrap of oilcloth before adding them to her pack.

It was very late by the time Leoba reached the point of having no choice left but to go to bed.  She went to close the shutters and, as she had done every night since parting from Dirk, she gazed out to the far north.   Where somewhere the man she loved had fallen. The stars still twinkled in the heavens with shameless lustre but Dirk of Esgaroth would not be there to bear equal witness on this night. Or ever again.

Looking out on the great darkness of the night-bound world, Leoba felt desperately small and alone, so separated, so lost. It seemed so wrong that all around her the household had settled down to sleep. That all across Pelargir she knew that citizens were dancing and singing, fishermen would be launching their boats, couples were cuddling up under their sheets. That those same people would wake to a new dawn, would break their fasts, children would laugh, carts would roll, traders would call out their wares: the motions of the world continuing as they had ever done, and as she couldn’t countenance them doing ever again. She missed Dirk as she had missed him for months before but now the ache ran deeper and was sharper; a bitter wound with a splinter cruelly buried.

Along the meandering road of the past Leoba wandered, taking the rough paths alongside the smooth, searching for the hidden dells of exquisite joy, for there had been such incredible happiness amidst the trials and tribulations; a love that Leoba knew she had been lucky beyond measure to know. She never wanted to forget a single memory of her all too brief time with Dirk; that was all she had left.

Culanir had insisted on bringing the glass of brandy up to help her sleep and now it leered across the room in the light of the guttering candle.  The trouble was, Leoba didn’t want to sleep.  Didn’t want it to be the next day and the next; an endless road of empty days.  When she had woken up that morning there had still been hope in her heart and she feared that if she closed her eyes now it would lock that moment too finally into the past.  Leoba dawdled over folding her clothes up, ready for the morrow.  Clad in only her shift, she climbed into her bed and sniffed at the spirits; she was not a great drinker but she knew that Culanir only had her best interests at heart. She closed her eyes and took a gulp, feeling the fire sear her lips and tongue; it numbed her throat as she hoped it might numb the rest of her.

Eventually she succumbed to the numbness and, curled up under the linen sheet, Leoba sank into an exhausted and exhausting slumber riddled with vivid dreams….

She was in the taproom at the Lucky Fortune Inn. The air was wreathed with pipeweed smoke and the smell of ale and the sweetness of the fresh straw on the floor. In the corner by the fireplace sat the obligatory hooded stranger, sending smoke rings dancing between the roof beams and glowering from under his cloak at two giggling barmaids. Leoba was trying to concentrate on pouring a steady pint of Golden Harp; a bright hoppy ale with a surprisingly intense heart. However her concentration was being eroded by the young man leaning over the bar, who had taken hold of her other hand.  Dirk played with her fingers, trying to capture her attention.  Leoba studiously ignored him, maintaining her friendly chatter with her customer.  Dirk redoubled his efforts, his grey eyes sparkling with laughter. He raised Leoba’s hand to his lips and touched them lightly to her palm.  Then he moved his mouth to her wrist and ran kisses up her arm, sending ripples of distraction coursing through her body. She could restrain her longing no longer, she had to look at him, and she over-filled the ale.

“Now look what you’ve done!” as Golden Harp poured onto the straw below. Leoba wiped the tankard down with her apron and handed it to the customer with an apology.  She tried to frown but only ended up grinning at Dirk.

Dirk grinned back. “Don’t worry, I’ll help you clean up.”  He climbed nimbly over the bar and wrapped his arms around her waist.  “Er, Dirk, the broom’s over there” Leoba told him.  But she responded in kind, sliding her arms around his neck, sinking willingly into his embrace. She buried her face into the velvet warmth of his shirt, and drank deep, drowning in the earthy scents of leather, of woodsmoke, of crisp nights watching sparks drifting upwards to dance in the heavens.  Dirk ran a finger slowly along Leoba’s cheekbone then brushed her hair back from her ear. He bent his head to her and Leoba looked up, thinking he was going to kiss her.  He didn’t.  Dirk whispered something softly in her ear.  Leoba blushed brick red. She was still a little pink in the cheeks, though she smiled at him as she exclaimed: “You’re incorrigible!  And I’m supposed to be working.”

Leoba awoke. Dirk faded; his touch dissipated, transient as the morning mist, leaving only heartache in his wake.

Written by leobavorima

March 11, 2013 at 9:52 pm

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