I think I slept in the aspen bluff that first night. By the second night I had at least sufficiently scolded myself into trying to establish some sort of hut. This was my new home, I told myself sternly, and I would have to learn to adapt to it. I would not bend and return to my father. But the first hut I made, a conical monstrosity, fell apart the moment I attempted to drape my spare cloak over its crooked frame. I gave up on that idea and fell back to making the type of shelter I knew, which was little more than a low tent. The second hut, which I cleverly thought to tie together with beach grass, lasted through the night and up to the next morning when I accidentally knocked it over trying to crawl through the too-small door. I slept in the little tent for several nights after that.
I never did try fishing, for the practical reason that I had no thin cord to make a line or net. But the beach attracted a large number of birds, which I could easily kill with a slingshot, so I was never wanting for food. I was, though, very much in need of a good shelter. A low tent is impractical on rainy nights as it not only leaks and allows the rain in from above, but also offers no barrier against the soggy ground below. I needed to make a hut, no matter how long it took or how many construction errors I stumbled across. One with a floor, walls, and a roof, and, if possible, a closing door. It had to be near the river to easily haul fresh water. And I had to make a stone fire pit for cooking.
Four trees in an aspen bluff stood in a small square-shape, and I chose these to be the corner pillars of my walls. I cleared the ground that would be within the walls before laying a floor foundation of flat-sided rocks I found on the river beach. This floor was uneven and rough, but it would do. Next I tied four long poles, made from fallen trees, across my corner pillars at ceiling-height. I tied lighter branches across these, and that made up my roof frame. Each piece had been notched to help it stay in place. The walls were trickier for me, having no nails to firmly fasten the upright poles, but notches in the wood and bonds of twisted beach grass worked to keep everything in place. I made only three and a half walls, keeping half of the south-facing wall open as a doorway. Then I built up a footing of rocks around the outer bottom of the walls, covered the roof in leafy branches and thatches of grass, and plastered the walls with a mixture of grass and clay hauled from the river.
This hut took six days to complete, and in the end looked no better than a play fort built by children. But I could keep working at it and making small improvements. I wove flat reeds into mats for the stone floor, and also into mats for the outer walls when I learned that rain quickly turns clay into mud. I made a door out of a hanging grass curtain. My travelling pack, now empty, was converted into a pillow when stuffed with feathers from the sea birds I killed. The birds also came in useful when I learned I could use strips of their plucked skin to tie together the poles and branches that made up my hut. While it sometimes tore, the bird skin was still stronger and more durable than grass.
I made frivolous decorations out of feathers, shells, and small stones. My grass curtain became so adorned with these little trinkets that it rattled in the wind. I made a thick pile of grass mats to sleep on, adding a fresh layer whenever the top one became too dry. None of it was perfect, or even much good, but it was the best I could do. Often I wondered if the first Elves who awoke under the stars were as unskilled as I in their creations. Sometimes it was comforting to imagine that my forefathers had as much trouble with uncooperative unravelling mats as I did, but other times it only made me more frustrated to think that after how many tens of thousands of years of evolution, an Elf still couldn't get his bed to stay in one piece.
But for however much I learned, and however much I improved in my simple skills, the one thing I missed above all was fabric. Grass makes insubstantial bedding and uncomfortable clothes. My own clothes, which had been new when I left in the early spring, were worn out and ripped by the end of a summer filled with travel and experimental labour on my hut. I could not fix them, nor could I make anything new. I attempted one birdskin cloak (feathers still attached), but quickly abandoned that idea. I could try to hunt for deer in the surrounding fields, but I didn't know how to tan hides.
This lack of clothing was a small enough problem in the summer and early fall, when I could go as naked as my modesty allowed. But every passing day brought longer nights and colder winds, and a thicker covering of dry brown leaves on the ground around my hut. Winter would come. I did not know how to prepare for it. Winter in Eryn Galen had always been an ordeal of snow deep enough to bury small trees and temperatures cold enough to freeze skin in minutes. But there, at least, it had always been dry, and the cold was fended off so long as one wore adequate clothing. The cold creeping in around my seaside hut was different: a heavy, wet cold. It clung to the air and seeped in through my thin cloaks to make my skin clammy and damp. Instead of snow, there was rain. It took only one night of shivering in my soggy grass bed to convince me that I needed to find better shelter, hopefully in the form of a house in a town or city, before the miserable, wet fall ended and the miserable, wet winter began.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.