By the Road Abandoned – Part Two

By the Road Abandoned – Part 2

The sun had reached its zenith when Brassica began to suspect, with growing horror, that Beldrieth didn’t intend to stop for lunch. In point of fact, Brassica was beginning to realize that she’d never really made any proper observation of what the elves ate. There had been food in Tinnudir, certainly, and the Duendain had shared it around most generously, and if the fare was simple, it was still hearty and Brassica had greatly enjoyed it. But now that she really thought about it, she didn’t recall that she’d particularly noticed either of the elves eat anything. Celebarad, of course, had been making himself scarce, but Brassica couldn’t call to mind any memory of having seen Beldrieth eat anything. They must eat…surely they must, because the elf Lithuinin on the island of Rantost had given her several of his little cakes. And besides which, they had been at the breakfast feast in Dwaling, and surely they would have tucked in to an excellent and marvelously prepared spread, such as the one her kinfolk had provided. And yet…so far the only notion of food that had crossed anyone’s mind had been when Celebarad’s mount had strayed from the trail behind Beldrieth and wandered into a stand of blackberry bushes, because the elf had gotten it in his head to pull out his book, and try to read while riding. Brassica found herself glaring enviously at the elf’s horse, jealous of her few munched mouthfuls of berry bush.

Her tummy gurgled loudly, and she blushed, looking up at Llythne. “I know it seems a silly question,” she began, “but tell me, do elves remember about how us mortal folk need feeding on occasion?”

Llythne squinted up at the noon sun. “I suppose it is getting to be around that time, isn’t it? Well, if Beldrieth remembers, it’s been driven from her mind by the fact she’s had an errand laid upon her, and if Celebarad knew to begin with, he’d need reminding, and then he’d just go crashing off into the brush after berries again at the thought of you going hungry. Hold tight, and we’ll go and have a word with Beldrieth.”

The burglar nudged her mount from a trot into a canter, and in a few moments had drawn alongside Beldrieth. “What say you to a brief rest?” she questioned, as the huntress reined up to hear what Llythne had to say. “The horses could do with watering, and the hobbit could do with feeding. We’re making good time, and we’d all be better for a break while the sun is high.”

Beldrieth consented, and they drew to the side of the road and the shade of a stand of trees. Brassica was provided with a few strips of jerky and a small pouch of dried fruit, to be washed down with fresh water from a flask. The horses were seen to by Llythne, while Beldrieth roamed off to scout their surroundings–not that it was necessary, it just seemed to be a thing that Beldrieth did. Celebarad had seated himself cross-legged in the grass, and propped his new book in his lap, reading it with an intent expression and furrowed brow. Munching on her trail fare, Brassica went to join him.

“Good book?” she questioned, smiling when the elf looked up.

Celebarad nodded in answer, and folded the book closed politely, holding his place with his thumb between the halves. “Yes. A good book,” he repeated carefully. He observed her small lunch, and then attempted a statement in the Common-Tongue, “You have a hunger.”

“I’m hungry,” Brassica half-agreed, half-corrected. She had to stifle a grin at the elf’s occasionally peculiar phrasing. As talkative as he was in his native-tongue, he was shy of his Westron, but he was trying, and Brassica didn’t want to put him off by snickering about it. “Hobbits are always hungry.” She held out her bag of fruit to the elf. “I can’t tell if elves get hungry, but you’re welcome to share, if you like.”

The elf declined. “I do not have a hungry,” he answered, quite seriously, and Brassica nearly choked on a giggle, which became a vicious cough instead.

With the horses tended to, Llythne came to sit down in the shade with the hobbit and the elf. Brassica was accustomed to seeing the burglar in dark grey attire, fine, soft cloth that made no sound when she moved, but her traveling clothes were dusty, trail-stained leather instead. She had bound her hair up in a knot at the nape of her neck, but now undid it, and combed her fingers through it, sighing and stretching out in the grass. “A nice day,” she pronounced, “for riding through Parth Aduial.”

That was certainly true, and Brassica had found herself quite enjoying the journey. The countryside was pretty, but in the distance in the east, she could see that they were drawing near to a new and different region, and the nearer they got, the more excited she became.She’d been told the name of the place, but knew nothing about the lands to the East, and wanted to have a better idea before they got there. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“To the North Downs!” Llythne announced, smiling. “We’ll pass through the Evendim gate, and we shall see the Fields of Fornost, where a great battle of the Kingdoms of the West was fought, long ago in the Second Age. I have long wanted to see them myself, but my travels have never taken me that way. I’m glad that they shall now.”

“Where have your travels taken you?” Brassica questioned, curiously. She had gathered the impression that her three companions were all great travelers, and she wanted to know about the strange places they had seen.

Llythne chuckled, plucking a long stalk of grass and nibbling on the root reflectively. “Truly, not really much of anywhere. Oh, from end to end of Evendim, across the lake, even to the great city of Annuminas. But beyond the borders? Not far. Do you want to know something strange? I have never even been as far south as Brockenborings and the Shire proper. Your country is just as strange to me as mine is to you, my friend!”

Brassica blinked at this, disbelievingly. “But…it’s just the Shire! You don’t need to see much of it to have seen all of it…and this place…with the tombs and the robbers, and the great old ruins, and the Rangers everywhere…anyway, you seem to know such an awful lot about every place.”

“From books! Not from seeing any of this big old world.” Llythne tapped the side of her head wryly. “All the traveling I’ve done has been up here, so you and I are much alike on that front. You and me and our Elvish friend, I’m betting. No, Beldrieth’s the one who’s roamed the world from end to end.”

Looking around for the huntress, Brassica found her still absent. She was beginning to get the idea that Beldrieth was not fond of staying in any one place for any length of time. “Where’s she going?”

Llythne shrugged. “She’s not told me. It’s possible she’s not going anyplace, in particular. Elves are like that, sometimes. That’s not to say that I’ve met many, but you hear the tales of them wandering about, and they have a connection to the Rangers, especially, and the old Kingdoms of the West. It could be she’s just seeing the world, because she can. They’ll go just about anywhere. A year of travel is nothing to them. Who knows? The lives of mortals are a river, and the Fair Folk are the stones on the bed. We pass around and over them, but we’ll never change them–not really, or not without a lot of time.”

This sentiment was a little bit troubling, and more than a little complicated, and Brassica found herself needing to push around the ideas in her head to make room for such a big concept. It was strange to think that the elves–and not just Beldrieth and Celebarad, but all the elves–had been around for centuries before she’d been born, and would be around for centuries afterward. She’d always known this about elves, but not having ever met one, it wasn’t really a part of her reality she’d needed to concern herself with. To fill the silence in the wake of the notion, she piped up, “Well, I guess I’m the youngest of our little fellowship by far!”

Arching an eyebrow, Llythne squinted at Brassica. “By far? How old do you think I am?”

“Oh, fifty or so,” Brassica replied nonchalantly.

Llythne sat bolt upright at this. “Oh, that’s just unkind!” she exclaimed, dismayed, her fingers going to her slightly plump cheeks, and then her fingertips roaming over her crooked nose. “Really, fifty?”

Brassica was taken aback by this. “Are you…not fifty? I thought it was only elves with the funny ages! You don’t look old, if that’s what’s got you upset!”

“I’ll see my thirty-fourth year come autumn,” Llythne replied, still looking suspiciously at Brassica. “What’s got you saying fifty?”

“I thought you were much older than me! I’m only just thirty…”

“…only just come of age,” Llythne finished for her, making some connection she hadn’t quite before. “Well it’s said that those with the blood of the old Western Kingdom have a longer span than most. But I see now where you’re drawing your scale. No, I’ve not got so many more years than you, I just spent fewer of them as a child.”

The hobbit was now slightly embarrassed at the notion of having hurt Llythne’s feelings. “You also have that funny gray hair,” Brassica added, but then appended, “I quite like it, though, it’s pretty. Not like mine, darned carrot-red. And freckles to boot! I got no end of teasing about my darn red hair.” She tugged a lock of it ruefully and then blew it back up off her forehead. “It’s a bad lot I’ve managed, in that regard.”

“Bad?” Celebarad questioned, then declared. “Not bad!” Both Brassica and Llythne were impressed that he’d followed the conversation well enough to comment, but he went further. “There is not its like in Elf-kind.”

Brassica laughed. “I don’t imagine elves would look as silly as I do, with my carrot-hair.”

Celebarad frowned and shook his head, “I do not know ‘carrot’,” he said apologetically, and continued, “I say in the stead of carrot…ah…do you have the word in Westron for ‘last light of sunset through golden leaves at the end of summer just becoming autumn’?”

“No, but we do have about a dozen of them,” Llythne answered, grinning at the elf. “We owe you more credit than you’re given, you pick up the Common-Tongue quickly enough.”

“You’re learning fast,” Brassica simplified the burglar’s compliment, and blushed. “And thank you about my hair.”

It was at this point that Beldrieth reappeared. She cut quite a different figure from Celebarad, who even just for traveling, wore an elegant leather jacket, dyed blue and chased with gold. Brassica had seen him attired for battle only the once, and had to admit that it didn’t quite seem to suit him as well. Beldrieth was altogether a different matter. Even though they had no cause to expect any kind of trouble on the road, she still wore elven mail, wrought of queerly-shaped, dark-gray iron scales, like tiny leaves. When she turned slightly to catch the light, however, Brassica could see that some of the scales still glinted with a bright flash, as though they’d once been silvered and only time had worn their shine away. Beldrieth’s mail coat was short, ending just below her hips, and beneath it she wore tight leather leggings, banded about and patterned with a further tracery of leaves. About her shoulders was an intricate mantle, covering her throat, with a gold coloured emblem hanging above her breastbone. Her gloves and boots were less refined, bracers bound tight about her wrists, leaving her fingertips bare, and her slender feet girded tight in stiff brown leather boots.

When Celebarad stood to greet her, Brassica had a sudden, momentary glimpse of the polarity of Elven-kind, for standing next to one another, Celebarad looked as young and fair as a spring morning, and Beldrieth somehow like the fall of an autumn evening, with the knowing in her eyes like what comes at the end of a long day. She directed the younger elf over to the horses with a nod and a gesture, and then turned to Llythne and Brassica, still sitting on the grass together. “You have taken sufficient rest?” the elfess questioned, looking over her charges with a slightly critical eye. “We must reach the Evendim gate by nightfall, for we press even further east by dawn, and reach the town of Trestlebridge.”

Llythne sat up and then rocked forward onto her heels, springing up lightly and stretching. “Aye, we’ve passed a fair few minutes. Don’t worry at the time we’ll take to get there. We’re not all veterans of the long road, Beldrieth. In fact, that’s been a good part of our talk–we’re all of us new to the wandering trade.”

Brassica wondered if this comment had been made for her benefit, because she was surely the least experienced traveler of their party. Hastily she clambered to her feet as well, dusting herself off. She cleared her throat and piped up shyly, “Thank you for letting us have a rest, ma’am.”

Beldrieth nodded in response, and turned to mount her stallion, as the small fellowship prepared to take to the road once again. Brassica was still learning how to react to the elfess–she was by far the most taciturn person the young hobbit had ever met, and she remarked on this under her breath to Llythne as the burglar helped her remount the painted mare they shared. “Huh, you say the elves are like stones on a riverbed, Beldrieth’s got to be stonier than most.”

The burglar laughed aloud as she swung into the saddle, settled herself comfortably, and twitched her heels into the mare’s flanks. “Well, think of her this way; however long you and I have been in this world, we’re not much more than children to her. Ahh, it’s not that she’s hardhearted, I don’t believe. She’s just got a head full of big, Elvish thoughts, stretching far back and far forward down her road, and perhaps there’s no place in her mind for moments so small as those spent passing pleasant conversation one afternoon in Evendim.”

“And perhaps,” Beldrieth called over her shoulder, reining her horse to a halt on the road ahead of them, and turning to face them broadside, thus to indicate three young coneys, neatly trussed, hanging from the bow of her saddle, “she has better hearing than the rest of her party put together, and gives greater thought than she’s credited for to the wants of a hobbit’s appetite, and could spare a few minutes for something so small as a gift for the Ranger to whom her party rides with a message.” Her stallion snorted and tossed his head, as though agreeing with his rider, and Beldrieth patted his neck absently. Then she tilted her head and looked at Llythne with a faint smile and an arched eyebrow. “And perhaps a woman who’s not been beyond the bounds of her homeland should not be so quick to speak on the whole of Elvendom.” Then, glancing around for the last member of their party, she sighed to herself. “Especially not on the bigness of our thoughts, when one with whom I share kinship has ridden into a bush. Again.”

This time, Brassica was pretty certain she laughed louder and longer than Llythne, as Beldrieth trotted over to fetch Celebarad once more.

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4 Comments

  1. Oh my. I could barely contain my laughter at Celebarad riding into a bush, again. Since I’m at work that woul be a bad thing.

    Reply
    • preludeinz

       /  March 23, 2012

      Haha, that’s not the first time I’ve caused someone that problem, apparently! You people! Do your work! /scold

      …no, I’m kidding of course. Don’t do your work. wtbpageviewsplzkthx 😉

      Reply
    • robamb2002

       /  March 27, 2012

      Ha! I just did the exact same thing at that point. Great story!

      Reply
      • preludeinz

         /  March 27, 2012

        I shouldn’t laugh at him too much, my tendency to auto-run everywhere while reading quest chains or messing about with my inventory, or the lotro store, or my deed log–basically, I look everywhere BUT at the road when getting a toon from A to B, and they’ve all had their moments of riding into bushes/walls/rivers/off cliffs, etc.

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