The Dûnhebaid Cycle
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Fair Folk and Foul: 16. Satisfaction
Uaithne ana Alban uaine, Brilliant pillars of green Alba,
clann as cruaidhe ghabh bhaisteadh; A race the hardiest that received baptism;
'ga roibh treas gacha tire, A race who won fight in every land,
Seabhaig lie ar ghaisgeadh, Hawks of Islay for valour,
Clann gan uabhar gan eadcair, A race without arrogance, without injustice,
nar ghabh acht eadail chogaidh; Who seized naught save spoil of war;
'gar mheanmnach daoine uaisle, Whose nobles were men of spirit,
Is agar bhuaine bodaigh, And whose common men were most
Na slóigh as fearr san scruinne The best people in the round world,
a muirn a mire a bhfoghnamh; their joyousness, their keenness, their
ní comhnairt bheith 'na bhféagmhais: without them is no strength:
ní h-éibhneas gan Chlainn Domhnaill. it is no joy without Clan Donald.
--Giolla Coluim Mac an Ollaimh
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Saelon paused to wipe her brow. The day was warmer than usual at this season and the air close, as the sun drew up yesterday's rain. It would have been more pleasant to pick hazelnuts in the shade of the river brakes or fish from a spray-misted rock by the shore, but the first could be safely left to Rian and the other lasses, and the second to the younger lads. She could not trust them to do this. A surprising amount of such particular work needed doing here, on the moor between the mountains and the sea, especially as Narbeleth wore on. Gaernath was finding the hunting especially good hereabouts as well, she had learned.
Well over a fortnight ago, Veylin had left with the better part of their menfolk to slay the raugs, and there had been no word. Returning to the grubby work of digging tormentil roots, Saelon reminded herself that such a campaign would take time, if conducted with due care. And she had no idea how long it might take to drain a tarn. Yet her mind kept murmuring that three days should have taken them there, and three days brought them back, and surely it would not take so long to cut a drain as to delve a hall.
So whenever she straightened to ease her back or move to a new sprawl of stems, she would scan the land to the east, in hopes of some glimpse of them. The heat and the moor's hazy damps often played tricks on the eyes, hinting at motion where there was none, so when she first caught a flicker on the hills, she shook her head at her fretful eagerness and made herself fill half the cloth before looking a second time.
Yes: a person—no, two; three, coming down towards the river. Two tall, one short. Saelon frowned. The three who set out with Veylin were all tall. Partalan was short, but he had left on horseback . . . and she had not thought to ever see him again. Could they be strangers? Or some other folk of Srathen Brethil?
Returning to her packbasket, she tucked away the clothful of roots and shouldered it, setting out to see.
When she was a few furlongs away, the tallest pointed her out to the others, and the next tallest waved energetically. Halpan? Oh, blessings, it was Halpan—and she began to run. Halpan, and Dírmaen, and Partalan—yes, Partalan, who bore a gruesome thing on a short-shafted spear, the price she had commanded for forgiveness. Though all three had made some effort to mend and clean their clothes and themselves, they had been battered. Halpan's right arm was in a sling, or she would have embraced him; Partalan had livid wounds on one side of his head, spaced like the talon-scores she had seen on Veylin a year ago. "Aniel?" she demanded, heart poised to fall, though oh, oh so glad to see any of them alive, so little mauled.
Halpan threw his sound arm around her, packbasket and all. "Slain," he said wearily, head resting briefly against hers. "As are all the fiends. We buried him by Halladan."
She was weeping, though whether more from grief or joy she could not say. "Your arm—"
"Broken, though not badly. Or," Halpan cut his gaze to the Ranger, with a wry smile, "so Dírmaen says. If you are unhappy with how it has been tended, speak to him!"
Looking to the elder Dúnadan, apparently unscathed, Saelon said, "Thank you for caring for him." The two had been furious with each other when they departed; they seemed companionable now.
Dírmaen bowed his dark head. "Such a stalwart arm must be preserved, Lady."
Partalan snorted, and Saelon turned to her scabbed sheep, regarding him and the grisly trophy he carried with disapproval. After a pause, he bowed his head and offered it to her. "Lady."
She stared into the face of the raug, its dun flesh sunken on the bony skull, lips shrunk back from the stained and broken teeth, giving it a horrible grimace. So this was the monster that had haunted their nights and darkened their days; killed her brother and less-loved kin; drove her people from their long homes. Under the light of the sun and days dead, it was hideous rather than fearful . . . yet having seen their work, she was glad they had all been slaughtered.
"This is the very one that prowled here last Ivanneth," Halpan told her, laying his hand alongside her pack strap. "It had but a single hand, and was scarred by axeblows. Veylin gave it its first wound, and took its head."
Resentment and disapproval of her friendship with Veylin had embittered the drunken slurs that goaded both Dwarves and Men to confront their foe . . . so Saelon was glad Halpan had spoken of him and spared her the asking. "How did you come by it, then?" she pressed Partalan, eyes narrowed.
"He gave it to me, Lady, after we had satisfied each other on certain points," was his cool answer, "so that you might take me back into your service."
"And the spear?" That was dearer than carrion, which might well be thrown to a cur to stop its growling.
"I found it lying, and put it to use."
Saelon glanced at Halpan and Dírmaen, who seemed to find nothing wanting in this explanation. Men; it was if they belonged to a secret fellowship, devoted to the preservation of their honor. Stepping closer, she reached out to finger Partalan's wounded temple: days old, yet still hot and oozing. "These are festering. I will have to see to them."
"Yes, Lady," he agreed, bearing the pain of her probing without flinching.
Well, a few flagons of ale would loosen his tongue, or Halpan's. In truth, there ought to be tales enough among the three of them to occupy many an evening to come, though they might have to save some until the little ones were abed.
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Unagh wept, broken-hearted, in Rian's arms; Teig, that colorless man, slept for several nights among the hounds that were all the kin he had left now that his brother was slain. The rest of them waked Aniel with a will, thrilling to the terror and tragedy of the tale of the battle against the raugs.
His oath hot in his heart, the huntsman had confronted the mightiest of the fell beasts, the one that had slain the old Chieftain, Halpan told them, seated on the board so all could hear him, the benches gathered around. Her cousin had always been able to spin a tale, and this one required little embellishment, the sparest description of the monsters setting most to quaking with unforgotten horror. Aniel had planted his spear in its flank, goring it deep; yet its terrible strength had torn the weapon from his hands.
Nordri and his followers strove to defend him, remembering his gifts of game: Nyrad, who had carved the birches in the wall there by the door, fell beside him, and Thiolf, hewing the red hand that cast down his master's son. Muirne, who had taken such pleasure in the Dwarves' music during their own dark days, muffled her weeping in her shawl as Halpan told how the mason who so loved the stone of these cliffs had been trampled beneath the raug's pounding feet with the fallen, though the Dwarves said he would mend.
Dírmaen had reached them then, striking the fiend in the throat, but the shaft of his great spear shattered under its thrashing weight. Saelon saw the gleam of wide-stretched eyes, pressed to a narrow crack at Maelchon's chamber door, where no crack should be, and the austere diffidence on the Ranger's lean face as Halpan extolled how the elder Dúnadan had struck at the thing with the head of the broken spear, keeping it from the injured Dwarves until Halpan was able to come to their aid, pinning the monster while Rekk and Ingi and Nyr hewed it to the bone.
His arm? Broken by its death throes, he confessed, clasping the wounded limb to his breast, the thing perilous even when its breath rattled in its torn throat.
A valiant end for Aniel, and a tale that would be told when the rest of them were no more than mounds in the green grass. They turned then to recounting Aniel's earlier exploits: Airil speaking of the black wolf and the silver one; Canand of the white bear in the winter of blizzards, when cattle died of cold in the sheltered strath, which slew the huntsman's fearless Huan; oh, boars and stags and hinds beyond count; and the little merlin that had shadowed him for near a year, an uncanny thing. Perhaps it had been an omen.
Rian it was who demanded Partalan's tale the following night, to know—she said—whether he had avenged her father as he ought. The scathing contempt of Saelon's dismissal they had all witnessed, and Rian dragged the rest of the story from him with what might have been artless curiosity, an ignorant girl needing things set out plain. Yes, he had found the Dwarves, but Rekk had turned him away as if he were no better than a beggar. He spent the days sleeping so he could ride to evade the raugs by night, and told how they had pursued him when he dared the corrie to spy on the Dwarves' works under the moon. The beginning of the battle he had watched from the ridgetop, until it was as desperate as his own desire. And so it was from Partalan's grudging lips that Saelon heard of Veylin's ferocious assault on his bane, as crippled as himself, and the deaths of Vitr and Arðri, who had put themselves between them.
Partalan considered it meet that Veylin had stood in greatest need of aid, and that fate had brought the dwarf-lord's own spear into his hands. That he had kept it afterwards, Saelon took as a sign that Veylin acknowledged his assistance, and so she allowed the swordsman his self-satisfaction. It was too much to hope that he would ever like Dwarves—yet if he would guard her, as Halladan had bid, he must learn not to quarrel with them. Hopefully, this would be lesson enough.
What else had been gained by such a costly victory?
Halpan's confidence, not least. Battle had burnt away the doubts that gnawed at him and, sling notwithstanding, he carried himself with an assurance she had not seen before. More sober—he missed Aniel's lively company, his nearest fellow in age—but less discontent.
When they had told their tales, and slept and ate as only battle-weary men could, a week of feted ease, he asked her, "What work am I fit for?"
They were sitting together in their chamber as she changed the dressing on his arm. "At present?" Saelon smiled at his youthful impatience. "Not much. It is knitting well, and I am pleased it pains you so little, but you must not use it yet."
"Can I ride?"
She considered, weighing his gravity. "A mount you can manage one-handed, if you take care. Why? Where would you go?"
His pale grey eyes were steady on hers. "I wish to take Partalan's trophies to Argonui, so he knows the evil is gone from Srathen Brethil and his father avenged."
"Surely Dírmaen could do that."
"He could," Halpan allowed, mouth close-pressed. "But he is not of Srathen Brethil, and I want no doubt that we still hold our own—with or without the Chieftain's aid."
Tucking the tail of linen neatly in, Saelon asked, "What of your Ranger's star-brooch?"
"What of it?" he echoed dismissively. "I am the only man left of our line. Why should I serve others, when our own people are scattered and straitened? Word must go to them of our conquest, so they can return to their homes if they wish."
Was this the fruit of his own brooding, or had he, too, taken Dwarvish counsel? "Will they dare?"
"Some of the bolder, or more discontented, might venture it. If they are unmolested, others will follow. You would not want to leave this place," Halpan said matter-of-factly, "and unless the Elves shift him soon, Maelchon will be as hard to budge. If enough come back, I might be your steward in Srathen Brethil, until Halmir comes of age."
Saelon gazed at him, surprised and pleased that he had given thought to such possibilities, evidence of a new maturity. "Would you take Hanadan with you?" He had promised Urwen that he would keep the boy by him.
Her cousin shook his head, with a wry smile. "No. Or at least not until he asks to go. He looks to be another of you sea-loving Dúnedain."
As he was not, even if it did not haunt him. "Partalan will go with you to the Chieftain?"
"You think he would be parted from his prize?" Halpan grinned. "Besides, how would I carry it, if I need this—" he held up his good hand "—for my horse?"
"Take Dírmaen as well," she advised. "The less doubt in Argonui's mind the better."
That did not entirely please him, though he did not object. "Did you miss us so little, that you would be rid of us all again so soon?"
"If I would keep any," she assured him, settling his sling, "it would be you."
"For the sake of my arm, no doubt." Yet he was chaffing, as glad of her care as of her lack of objections.
Saelon laid her hand on his. "Go with my blessing, and return as soon as you may."
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A grey day of little wind: perfect for taking Rian out to teach her the art of collecting crottle. Dyestuffs interested her more than healing herbs, save for the common simples, and though the work was tedious, the lass was delighted to get enough to color a batch of wool before the mist thickened to grizzle, and the grizzle to weeping rain. Drawing her soon-sodden cloak close about her, Saelon found the thought of hearth and a posset—and the assurance that Fransag would have supper ready—made the drear and increasingly chill tramp homewards sufferable. Winter was stretching its fingers towards them, but their supplies being ample, that did not seem dire. A quiet season would be very welcome, after this last year.
The geese, taking advantage of the wet to reclaim their former domain from children and hounds, gabbled in mild welcome when they crossed the dooryard. Leaving their dripping baskets under the overhang of the cliff, they wrung out their cloaks as best they could, then darted gratefully into the warmth of the hall. Saelon drew a deep breath: fish stew and bannocks on the griddle.
For all its vexations, the company of others had its compensations.
"Here she is!" Maelchon said heartily, from the far side of the hearth.
Draping her wet cloak over the bench by the door, Saelon gazed at him, puzzled . . . until two Dwarves rose from the bench beside him. Veylin's russet head could not be mistaken; but for her first steps towards them, she thought his chestnut-bearded companion was Vitr. No—Vitr was dead. This would be Vitnir.
"At your service, Masters," she greeted them, giving a proper curtsey despite her draggled state. Most of her folk had already gathered in the hall for the evening meal and were watching closely. To give the lie to slander, she must be more correct. "I am glad to see," she added, noting the cups on the board behind them, "that Maelchon has made you welcome." Since their guests were dry, they must have been here for some time.
Veylin bowed, and Vitnir beside. "At yours and your family's, Lady. Very kindly," Veylin assured her, "since his goodwife will not hear of us leaving before supper."
Her gratitude to Fransag increased. "We would be honored to have you both at our board, after the deeds you have done in Srathen Brethil."
They bowed again. "It will be a pleasure, Lady," Vitnir replied.
Saelon glanced at Veylin, wondering why he had not answered for them. He was leaning on his blackthorn stick, perhaps more heavily than at their last meeting, but otherwise looked hale; his expression was warm, but little more than courtesy would dictate.
To avoid the temptation of particularity, she pardoned herself. Reaching her chamber, she found Rian shaking the folds out of her one good gown, the dark heather-colored one that Urwen had given her. "A little late for finery, is it not?" Saelon scoffed quietly as she looked for the water pail, not wanting to be overheard through the thin door.
"Nonsense! How peculiar you are," Rian whispered back and shook her head at her, despairing. "It will show how much you honor them."
"And feed the gossip, no doubt," Saelon muttered, stripping off the clinging wetness of her dress.
"Did you not hear what led to the quarrel at the feast?" Dashing water on her face and arms, she sluiced off the dirt the rain had not, and sat down to wipe her muddy legs.
Rian rolled her eyes. "The men? They questioned each other's courage, did they not?"
Saelon fixed her niece with her gaze. "You think I banished Partalan for no more than calling Veylin a cripple or coward?" As furious as such talk made her, the first was honestly debateable and the second a matter on which men chose to judge for themselves.
"He didn't!" she gasped, when she realized what Saelon meant. "Not in front of all of them!"
"Near enough." When the swordsman had not faced her the next morning, she suspected he had touched on their rumored over-familiarity. Of what other coarseness would he be ashamed? It had taken her the better part of the afternoon to wring the confirmation she feared from Maelchon, loathe and mumbling.
"All the more reason," Rian declared, eyes snapping as she thrust the gown at her, "to hold yourself proudly. It is not your behavior that has been shameful."
Not shameful, but certainly shameless. How much worse the scandal would be if it were known that she had gone to Veylin's halls unescorted! "I do not think Dírmaen would agree."
"Who is he, that he should govern you?" she fleered. "Besides, he is not here."
An honorable man, whose good opinion she would like to have. Saelon eyed Rian, strangely warmed by the lass's passion on her behalf, and took the gown. "Very well, if you will not give me peace otherwise."
So it was that she presided over their simple meal in high state, with Veylin on her right hand and Maelchon taking Halpan's place on her left. Her hopes of raising a general conversation were dashed, however: the husbandman was deep in earnest talk to Vitnir about farriery, while Rian, seated beyond Veylin, regaled Gaernath with the tale of their day. "What brought you here, Master?" she asked Veylin, since silence would have been as marked as singling him out.
"Nothing of import, Lady," he replied, placidly buttering a bannock. "A visit of courtesy, to take our leave."
"You are leaving?" Saelon prayed that her tone was composed, for her wits took flight like a covey of birds. Had the Dwarves remained here only to satisfy the demands of vengeance? Had Partalan's offense been so great? That great hall . . . and why should he have asked her about the tides?
Veylin supped the stew and did not meet the stare she turned swiftly away, remembering herself. "For the season. We have been long from our kin."
"Of course." Foolish, to expect they would always be here: Dwarves were great travelers, moving from work to work. Was not everyone surprised that they were here at all? How quickly, after all those years alone, she had grown used to having neighbors. "I am sorry, then, that Halpan is not here."
"Maelchon told us that he and the others have gone to your Chieftain, to make our victory known. That is good," and he sounded well satisfied, "yet I did not think you would send him so soon, with his arm as it is."
"I would not have," she admitted, "but that he proposed it himself. His arm should be well, if he is careful with it." More careful, she hoped, than Veylin had been with his leg; he was lamer, but it was not her place to chastise him for it. "Such news is best hot. And I would not have him idle again."
Veylin made a concurring noise around his spoon. "No," he observed, when he had cleared his mouth. "He will rust, if he is not used."
"He gave satisfaction, in Srathen Brethil?"
"You have very worthy kinsmen, Lady," he replied gravely. "I did not see him in the battle myself, but Rekk praises him, and you know what an uncommon thing that is."
Saelon smiled. "Indeed." Her heart lighter, she dared ask, "And Partalan?"
Finally, Veylin met her eye, a brief flash of acerbic respect. "It must be a comfort to have such a Man between you and harm."
"Comfort is not the word I would use."
Reaching for the jug, he gave the merest breath of a chuff, a whisper of dry humor that would go no further. When he had filled his cup and drank a draught, he gazed on the horn vessel. "You ought, Lady," he suggested, turning the subject, "to consider getting something more worthy to serve your good ale in."
Here was an appropriate topic for conversation between a lady and a Dwarf. "Which of your folk might accommodate me, Master?"
"We have a glazier with us," he replied, frowning thoughtfully at the cup in his hand, "though silver would suit your style better. Alas, there is no silversmith among my company, though there are several who would make a good job of such a commission in Sulûnduban." Veylin hesitated before asking delicately, "You have come into some wealth, I know. Would it be enough for such a purchase?"
"How much might it be?" What did she know of such things? Silver was an heirloom among her kin, bought during fat times long past and carefully treasured. Saelon suddenly wondered what had become of it. Was it sitting in some chest still, in Srathen Brethil? Had one of those who fled east taken it, to buy a new life in a strange land? It had not come here, save Rian's simple ornaments.
"A pair—you might start with a pair," he explained, watching her expression closely, "and match them later—something like what Oddi gave you . . . not less than forty shillings."
She had not made so poor a bargain for the stock after all; the kine alone were worth nearly so much. "I would not want to spend so much at present," she told him simply. "I will keep it in mind, however."
If Veylin had been concerned not to wound her pride, her answer must have reassured him, for he promptly returned, "Then perhaps a matched set of wooden cups? A modest outlay would give your table a much less—" he gazed significantly at the very assorted collection before them "—motley appearance, and Grani turns a block very prettily."
Thyrnir was Grani's prentice, was he not? Saelon saw Maelchon and Vitnir were both attending to their conversation, as were others. The mention of so great a sum as forty shillings must have caught on every ear it reached. "If you return in the spring," she mused, "I suppose you will be wanting lamb." A few ram-lambs would be small loss, and their dams could be milked dry.
"It would not be unwelcome." Veylin gave a noncommittal shrug. "Shall I suggest such a bargain to Grani?"
"If you like." Between Rian and himself, they would make her appear a Lady yet. "Be sure, Master," she cautioned, "that he knows he will not get more than two lambs from me, no matter how pretty the work."
"I will, Lady."
That led Maelchon to question him about the quantity of grain they might take, and soon the husbandman was strenuously insisting that wheat did not thrive so far north, much as he would like to oblige them, and that he had no notion of this stuff they called oats. Saelon listened with interest as the two Dwarves pressed him to at least make a trial—either crop being more palatable than bere, save for making ale—and privately determined that if Maelchon would not, she would. The growing season was at least two weeks longer here than in Srathen Brethil, due to the mild influence of the sea, and a small patch would cost little in effort.
When supper was finished, the little lads soon vanished from the hall, a sure sign that the rain had slackened. Although Saelon invited and Fransag insisted, the Dwarves declined to stay the night: they had meant their visit to be brief, and there might be worry in the hall if they did not return. The fiends being slain, what was to be feared from a ride over such well-known ways in the dusk, even if it was a trifle damp?
Gaernath went out to ready their ponies, which had been stabled in the byre-cave; Veylin and Vitnir collected their hoods and cloaks, and complimented Fransag on the meal. By the time Saelon stepped out of her chamber with a dry cloak, they were passing through the door. Hastening after them, she came out in time to hear Maelchon say, "Since we have a moment, Master, come, step down here and look at the beast, and you will see how urgent our need is."
With a slight sigh, Veylin eased himself onto the bench under the overhang as the black-bearded husbandman led his muttering cousin off to the byre-cave. Looking up at her in the light of the lamp hung by the door, he asked, "Lady, will you try to impress upon Maelchon that Vitnir is not a village blacksmith? He shoes our ponies at need, but he does not like the work. I will try to find someone who would welcome it while we are at the mansion this winter, but I can make no promises. You are far off the routes such Dwarves usually ride."
"Of course," she hastily assured him, as she drew her cloak around her. The rain had stopped, but it was a raw evening, with hardly a star to break the gloom. "I hope Master Vitnir will pardon him: he has never known a smith who was not a farrier, and the horses must be sound if we are to plough."
"Which is why I will try to find someone else," Veylin said with polite patience, then huffed. "Now I must beg pardon. Your folk are very good for Men, Saelon," he told her, cocking a wry brow, "but slow to take a hint. I hope their dullness does not try you overmuch this winter."
She smiled down on him, amused by the likeness between the backhanded compliment and her folk's opinion of the Dwarves. Very good, but . . . . "A little dullness will not be unwelcome, though you can be sure that I will be glad to see you when you return." Seizing the opportunity, she said, "Bring me some seed for what you would have us grow, and I will see how it fares. I am used to small plots, while Maelchon thinks of furlongs."
"I will." For a few breaths, Veylin twisted his gnarled stick in his hands. "This sounds more like you. I was beginning to think I had given offense."
Saelon's heart wrung. "In what way, when you have accomplished the death of our foes and restored Halpan's pride?" It was hopeless; she was as graceless in courtesy as the other gentilities, unable to converse lightly without sounding indifferent. She had grown too used to pouring out the fullness of her heart to him, and could not strike the middle way.
"Your mind does not seem much eased." He cocked his head, looking troubled. "Does something yet oppress you?"
"Nothing I ought to complain of, after this last year." Surely, having suffered slayings and strife, she could bear up under mere civility.
Veylin met her gaze directly now, his bearded mouth set in discontent. "Will you at least assure me that this constraint is your own will?"
"I—" After what Partalan had said to him at the feast, could he be ignorant of the reasons for her reserve? The insinuations had enraged him, the one time she had dared speak of them. "I would have my peoples' respect."
Bristling, his ruddy brows plunged in a fierce scowl. "They withhold it still?"
"And them at peace with you."
Silence; his deep-set eyes hooded, hidden from her and the lamp's light; one brawny hand clenched over the other on the head of his stick. "If you choose to conform to their wishes, for your own sake," he rumbled, so low that, near as she stood, she had to strain to catch his words, "I will not quarrel with you. But do not do so for mine. We are used to the ill-will of Men; so much so that we pay it little heed. It is their esteem that is rare."
Was that why he held her in such regard, because she was so singular? Yet so was he: she had not found her own kind as generous in spirit. Daring his displeasure, for she knew he misliked being touched, she laid light fingers on his shoulder. As she had hoped, it brought his gaze back to hers. "It might be less so, if more Dwarves were of your temper. What can we do, to cultivate goodwill as well as more palatable corn?"
That brought a rueful smile to his dour face. "Cultivation I must leave to the mistress of herbs." Chafing his knee, he sighed. "I have gone to some . . . pains to forge this alliance and ensure that my temper—" an amused sniff "—is properly respected, but I have no other counsel to give. How you, as a Lady, might keep your froward followers in their place, I do not know."
"Then," Saelon reflected, with a shrug, "I will have something to exercise my wits while you are away, so you do not find me dull-witted when next we meet."
"That is unlikely."
Gaernath's laughter gave ample warning for her to withdraw her hand, so there could be no cause for comment when the others returned with the ponies, Hanadan leading Veylin's sorrel. Saelon smiled. Here was one whose regard could be in no doubt. "Have you come to see our guests off, Hanadan?"
"Yes." The child drew himself up proudly; beyond him, she saw a kindly smirk on Gaernath's face and an approving smile on Maelchon's. "I am the Dúnadan until my uncle returns. He told me so."
Veylin rose and bowed to him. "When I see Halpan next, I will tell him how well you attended to your duty."
Hanadan gave a bobbing bow and giggled. Saelon thought Vitnir snorted as he swung into the saddle, but Veylin maintained his gravity as he turned to her. "Lady. May you and your folk find this winter kindlier than the last."
She curtseyed in return. "And a prosperous one to you, Masters. Fare you well." Once Veylin had mounted and taken his reins, she stepped forward and drew Hanadan into her arms, to be sure he would not chase after them as they rode off into the dark.
"When will he see Halpan next?" the child wanted to know.
There was only the clack of a hoof finding stone; otherwise the mud of the track muffled their going. "Spring, most like."
"Spring!" Hanadan protested. "That's forever!"
Gaernath ruffled his dark hair, grinning. "Not quite so long. It will be here before you know it."
Saelon chuckled as Hanadan grumbled, unconvinced. "Never fear, I will be sure Halpan hears of your courtesy." Yes, it would be longer than they could wish, but there was work enough to fill the days and the future to give thought to. Would the Elves leave them here in peace, when it was known that Srathen Brethil had been cleared? No doubt they would find spring upon them soon enough.
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Tormentil (Potentilla erecta): a medicinal herb also used for dying (red shades) and tanning.
Merlin (Falco columbarius): a small, dark-colored falcon.
Glazier: one who makes glass.
Shillings: a shilling was worth twelve silver pennies. See "Coinage" in the Dûnhebaid Dictionary. If nothing else, this should clearly illustrate the effects of inflation!
"turns a block": works wood on a lathe, to produce rounded forms. Lathes have been used in woodworking for about as long as wheels have been used to throw pots—the mechanical principle is, after all, the same.
Wheat and oats: while several varieties of wheat (especially emmer, Triticum dicoccum, and spelt, Triticum spelta) were grown in Scotland during warmer periods in prehistory, it has not been a widespread crop since the Bronze Age. As for oats, despite the strong association between Scotland and oatmeal, this crop was not grown there until the late Iron Age and did not become common until the early medieval period. On the West Highland coast, Avena strigosa, the black or bristle oat, was the usual variety planted, rather than Avena sativa, the common oat.
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