8. Chapter 8
It would take many weeks for Rin to start the road to recovery. Months, in fact, as Spring waxed into summer. Just as the old woman had said, Rin got better. She didn't talk though. For her part, the old woman revelled in the company the two children presented. The boy was bright, cheerful when not fighting for his life like a cornered bear. While quiet, wrapped in a deep shock that the old woman could not penetrate, his younger sister was sharper still. She followed her about, silently observing with her eyes, sometimes silver, sometimes blue. Though young, her mind was hungry. Ravenous, in fact. Too young to read, though the old woman made a start on that with both of them. She would happily sort plants, an unusual focus and accuracy to her work. Sometimes, the girl would clutch at her skirt and lean in. Provided that the old woman made no effort to hold her there, she'd stay like that for a long while, eyes closed. It was the sweetest, saddest thing the woman remembered seeing. Only person the girl allowed to hold her was her brother. The pair would spend hours together, communicating in a fashion that only they seemed to understand, games, tricks, contests. Most times Loch would win, being older and faster. But sometimes the old woman saw the lad letting his sister win the games they played with each other. Her cottage and garden was filled with the energy of youth that season. Just as it had been before, with her grandson and before him, her daughter. The old woman let herself begin to wonder what it might be like if the children stayed each night she tucked them into their beds.
~ ~ ~
As midsummer approached, the woman knew there was nothing else for it but to venture into the hotbed of lies and rumours that passed as a village. While there, she'd ask about after Jeb and Sara. Best to get all the facts before she made an accusation. Especially her. Her errands took most of the day and it was late afternoon by the time she returned. Smoke rose from the chimney. Loch was already inside, no doubt sniffing around the hearth after dinner as per usual. She cracked the door expecting to see Rin pouring over books she could not yet read, fascinated by the drawings, or frowning at the paper as she tried to make the letters for the words she was learning. Her little hands were not yet strong enough to hold the brush steady, but that did not stop the girl from trying, tongue stuck out as she concentrated so fiercely.
Instead, the cottage was clean, everything in order, and devoid of both children. On the table sat a small posy of flowers, three gold crowns and a piece of paper. The old woman set down her basket knowing already that they had gone, scattered to the horizon. The cottage was suddenly too quiet, too large. She swept the coins aside and picked up the paper. There, in shaking and uncertain strokes was a simple word. Rin's first written word, the old woman thought. First word in years.
It read: thankyu.
Below were two letters, these more confident and firm. There was an L made by Loch and an R made by Rin.
The crowns were the ones she had left for Loch, months ago now, in that charcoal lined box. She knew them from the notch she makes on each coin. By the time the King's man knocked on the door, her tears were done.
"Too late," she said sadly when he pushed the door open and saw her sitting at the table, "They've run again. But they were here, see?"
She passed him the paper.
"There's more gold in her hair now than when she was younger, still pale though. Pale as sunlight on snow. Make sure they know that else they'll never find her."
The man sighed and placed the paper on the table. It proved nothing. Another dead end. He took his leave with as much courtesy as possible and returned.
"Nothing," he reported upon arrival.
Author's Note: For more of Lochared and Rosmarin's fate, please read the other pre-quels (Smelly Cheese and Small Mercies) or, if you're feeling adventurous, delve into the main work (Cardolan's Legacy). Thanks for reading, and putting up with my writing foibles.
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.