To Moria

Another package, this time with Kapheim abstracts enclosed and a book or two.  Hastily added, a letter addressed to the supervisor of the Iron Garrison waterworks supervisor from Kapheim, and this letter.

My Dearest Nallo,

What splendid news for you!  I know you’ll make the best of this opportunity, though I will miss you sorely when I return to my intermediate courses and general lectures in the Natural Sciences.  I’m told that the Moria waterworks are even more splendidly engineered than those at Thorin’s Hall, and I can but envy you seeing them.

My return has been delayed by a day to make a few arrangements here at Kapheim, which involve news both good and ill.  I will be leaving the archives come the end of my contract, and for the best of reasons.  Kapheim has offered me a junior position in the Philosophy department.

That is Philosophy and not Geology, yes. While their geology faculty are, as you know, fully staffed and without much in the way of vacancy, their philosophy program is smaller and newer.  Do you remember the piece I wrote on a lark back in the Fall about the moral implications of competing geological theories?  The one the Tower society thought was a hoax?  It seems to have drawn more positive attention among dwarven scholars, who are more appreciative of ethical discussions based on, shall we say, solid matter.  Neocennanism, while less popular among Elves and Men, has a growing following among Aule’s folk.  I attribute it to the fact that it is not based on Elven traditions, yet does not contradict too many non-negotiable beliefs head-on.  I also think my approach, eccentric as it is elsewhere, is more in fitting with the materialistic bent of Kapheim’s traditions.  Oh this is a very poorly constructed paragraph!  A new one, then.

I have already accepted.  You know I cannot do otherwise.  As you know, Kapheim operates on a four-quarter system, and my residency requirements in the first year call for my presence three out of four quarters with no travel funding as such.  However, I will make my case to Uncle Nallo that I might have a few weeks with you at least before I move into my chambers.  It comes with a full apartment!  And my own office too.  I have a book allowance and a student scribe.  No more transcribing my own texts!  We have loaning reciprocity with five major libraries, did you know?

But before I go thither, I want to see you again and see all you’ve found in Khazad Dum.  I may even burn a bridge with the Archives and leave early.  I have not quite decided.  This turn of events seems unreal as a dream, ephemeral as a bubble and just as liable to burst on contact with a rough forefinger’s tip.  But it seems we will be apart more than I first thought, and much more for this first year.  Lucky that the post travels direct from Thorin’s to Moria, hmm?

Now, the outlook as far as we are concerned becomes brighter after that first year.   I have leave every fourth quarter, and am expected to travel on university business to conferences and so on.  Alas, Khazad Dum does not quite fall into such categories, but I made sure fieldwork was part of my contract, though it needs must change if I’m to make tenure as a philosopher.  Strange title.  Strange word.  Is not everyone who thinks deeply about the universe a philosopher?  Does not every theory of origin and function impact our relationship to the created (or happenstance) universe?

See?  I already talk more.  I admit to some sadness over labels and titles.  I did so want to be a Geologist, to be taken seriously as such, and not relegated to the ‘softer’ arts where women can be safely allowed, so long as they please.  But this is a proper post with a chair in it at the end, and within the dwarven system where I have a chance of sitting in such furniture.  A woman may want a man’s path, but her roads are fewer and cramped by rules unwritten and ironclad.  She must bend before them.  She must become what is asked, one way or another.  This change, at least, is one I can make, even as it breaks my heart to amputate part of my intellectual self so the rest may thrive.  Does not nature itself tell it?  All is motion, and motion removes and reshapes, sure as ice slices ridges to spurs.

There will be no more strata for me, save to assuage my own enthusiasm.  But I will come to see your delvings and granites, and to see what your colleagues now do, and I will think about what it means for the rest of us.  I will be heard, at least.  My clipped horn, girded in cirques and aretes, will stand more stark against the immortal stars.

My prose grows purple and my test maudlin.  Farewell for now, my dearest love.  And very well done to you!  Continue as you are, and we shall age gracefully on the ridge of the Learned and Wise.

Warmly and ever yours,

Tinuvist

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Replies

Directed to Echad Dunann, Eregion, with a waterproofed bundle.

Dear Nallo-the-Sweeter,

I’m so sorry to have missed you, but I’m glad you’ve an opportunity for proper fieldwork. I’ll be thinking of you at Kapheim III and be sure Helvia hears the comments so she can recite them for you later.  She’s coming too, did you know?  Well now you do.

Dearest, you forgot your portable core sampler.  Here it is.  Oh, your compass was left out in the mushroom incubator.  And your field glass too, and I believe this is your pocket atlas?  Or is it mine?  Well, better you have two than none.  The hardness picks were for your next birthday, but – oh dear!  I’ve gone and spoiled the surprise, haven’t I?  You’ll forgive the slip when you see them, I’m sure.  Big Nallo went in half on them, so do remember to thank him when you get back.  I put in a few notebooks.  You never bring enough notebooks.  Pay me back later.

I think you’ll find the Eregion strata support my glaciation hypothesis.  Try not to be too chagrinned when the data support me.  Boronbereth was quite mistaken about the rifting, and I believe the walls of the Hollin valleys will vindicate me.  When you find a truncated spur near Gwingris and feel horizontal grooves under your fingertips, follow the undulating curves of the drumlins and eskers to the sweet satisfaction of the terminal moraine.  We will discuss it over gingersnaps, and you will tell me at length of Khazad Dum’s deep delvings.  

Please, please sample where you may.  I simply must know why mithril gathers only in this one spot.  Is it the upthrust of the central ridge bringing the hidden treasure of the depths nearer to the crust’s surface, or does the constant heated pressure naturally refine simple silver into something more pure and light, as fire renders wood to charcoal?  Or is mithril some alchemical marriage of mineral substances, perfectly suited to each other, but meeting only in the heart of Arda to form a perfection from two broken parts?  Or – don’t laugh, I dare you! – perhaps it is the excrement of balrogs.

Stay warm and stay safe.  When Telimektar reaches zenith, blow him a kiss.  I will send him one to pass back to you.  How strange to find you orbiting me.  You don’t look like a moon.  I’ll see you on the retrograde cycle.

Your own Tinuvist.

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Justice II

Continuation of this post.

Borasvar closed the pamphlet and sat back.  Just that, then fell into silence.

“Adar?” Sidbron prodded.

“These new presses can be sabotaged.”

Sidbron’s brows climbed his forehead.  “I’m sorry.  I was talking to Adar, not Naneth.”

“Perhaps not all of your Naneth’s ideas are completely without meri…”

Sidbron interrupted firmly, “You’re angry and you can’t hit anyone.”

The older elf lifted his eyes finally from the lackluster etching that graced the pamphlet’s cover. “This will become ugly quickly if someone doesn’t stop it.  I will speak to the printer. Perhaps a committee can be raised and…” he trailed off and picked it up again.  It was short and hastily pressed, but the author had kindly numbered the pages.  Celeveren was on the sixth.  His fea flared again, too hot and too quickly for him to manage.  “You read it. She’ll come home to a mob crying ‘kinslayer!'”

Sidbron took the leaflet away, muttering, “My other parents aren’t nearly as difficult.”

Borasvar just sat back and fumed.  Sidbron could see the rage coming off him in smoking plumes.  Not see, but perceive.  Quietly, he said, “Welcome back, Adar.”

Borasvar rose and turned to the door.  Already the Vingliot had cast off into the velvety sky and the moon was showing its pale crescent through clouds.  “I have always been here,” he said, distracted.

“There is a difference between existing and engaging.”

Quietly, Borasvar replied, “All they say about her is true.  That is what we face.  Truth, in its most brutal phrasing.  She already sees herself like this, you know.”

Sidbron nodded and didn’t question the use of tense or the source of his foster-father’s knowledge. “It is some truth.”

“I must walk a while.  I must… think.” He strode off, barefoot and clad only in light trousers.  Wind and surf-salt pulled at his hair and he went to wait with his feet washed by the sundering sea.

She never came predictably, and that was when she came at all.  But of late, he had learned to find the thin moonlit strand that led to her stretching ahead into the purple blank darkness.  Sometimes he felt its brief presence during the day as a cobweb’s brush of cool presence, gone as soon as he looked for it.  At night, it held firmer.  Stronger.  Tonight, he didn’t wait for her attention to drift near.  Tonight he turned to the moon and said low, “Meren-nin?”

For a time there was no tangible response.  A few night gulls glided past and the tide inched in.  It was up to his knees when he felt her cool glow, heard her words spoken faintly from the sandy shore behind him.  Dreamily, slowly, with the habit of familiarity returning now as if they’d only just parted in friendship she said, “What does a Nando do half buried in sea? Come out of there. I think a rip tide forms.”

He didn’t turn immediately.  It was best to keep slow, keep dream-like, or she could flit away as easily as she came.  The anger still glowed bright in him, and bitter now when he thought how the words he had read would sound to her.  She would shatter.  She would break so badly, even Mandos would have trouble repairing her shards.  So he said, “Should such a tide form, it would do it further North where the sand bar has accumulated.”

“So you may think,” she said, “But why risk it? Unless you study tides now.”

He turned then, and saw her, half real, half shade, more solid where his attention fell and blurring at the edges.  She wore her hair loose, and a light linen shift of strange make drifted in a breeze that didn’t quite conform to the shore gusts that blew his hair into disarray. It was at odds with her severe features and upright stance; dignity and vulnerability and danger.  And a smile tilted her features into something rather whimsical before she said, “I am not a statue. Will you stop analyzing my stance and come out of the tide?”

It caught him into a smile, despite the weight on him.  She let him catch her eyes as he waded from the salt, and came easily to his offered hand.  He had to believe it was a hand, or it would slide through his grip.  He believed.  He held the memory of her slender fingers in his own and let her see through his eyes and into his fea‘s heart.

Her expression stilled, and there was a new tenderness in the way she said, “You burn so brightly. So hot, so…” she hesitated, and he felt her dismay.

Quickly, he said, “Not at you, Meren.”

“But it has to do with me.”  He let her look.  Before, he would evade this part of her, this invasion of his shadows and privacy.  Now, he had age to anchor him against her alarming talents.  Now, he was strong enough to accept the whole of her.  When she looked away before he did, he felt it as a loss.  She began to walk, as was their way, under a moon that shone oddly, as if seen from two places, and a shore that was not the shore outside his hut, but a shadow of it.  At last she said, “So. You are enraged on my behalf.  And you don’t wish me to see over what, so it is likely something I did.”

It was easier to say than he’d thought. “Some bored youngster wrote the sort of self-righteous things the young write when the mood takes them.”

“Ah yes. Sidbron was fond of that kind of thing.” She smiled, and he felt his rage loosen a little.

“Only this youngster has a friend with… it’s a new thing here.  You take little tiles with letters, then ink them…”

“Oh!  Yes, the dwarves have come up with something like that in Dale.  It’s remarkable.”

He blinked, paused, and stared at her.  Her smile turned up a little at the corner. “Dwarf. Dwarf, dwarf, dwarf. Dwarves with inventions! Dwarves with ink!” And they both laughed, in mutual surprise.  She said then, “So. Where is your press, Borasvar?”

“My… what?”

“Your press.  Surely you’ve found ways to improve the design?”

He let his jaw drift back from where it had dropped.  Why hadn’t he thought to study the thing?

“Make a better one, then use it to represent your own case. I somehow think you can be more convincing than a third-ager.”  Her head tilted a little and she mused, “This is a very strange dream.”

His heart sank a little as she turned insubstantial under his hands. But she would see what she wished to, and perhaps it was better if she didn’t have to believe this was reality. Yet. He traced his fingers along her sharply formed jaw and brought her close, whispering into the peak of her ear, “But it is a good dream.”

Her image rippled and firmed, warming now under his fingers. Her eyes were alight, bright and piercing and hers.  She said, almost sweetly, “It is. Perhaps this is what absolution feels like. Or healing. Or wholeness.  Or…”

He bent to press his lips to hers, relieved and longing and alive again. Engaged. Joined… yes, all of that. Her hands tugged at his hair and he tasted apples on her breath. Real. So Real. It was no memory that felt along his back, and no imagination that produced the myriad changes in her since their last embrace on Arda. She had grown light as feathers, and there was a new yielding in the way she moved in counterpoint to his touch. It was real. He was sure it was real but…

Sidbron watched from the hut through the long night.  His father stood a long while in the misting dark of the surf.  The moon set and stars wheeled, and darkness made it hard to see the slender figure standing alone.  Sometimes, he seemed gone entirely.  Then, in the graying foredawn light, he saw a whispy figure made of foam and starlight at his father’s side. She was there, and not, and Sidbron’s eyes misted at the familiarity of the way she tilted her head. He’d forgotten she did that.  He’d forgotten how bright she was and how…

Dawn broke, and his father stood alone. Sidbron couldn’t help but stare some as he returned, resolved now rather than irate. “Adar, what… how?”

Borasvar’s brows lifted. “You could see her?”

“That was her?  I… only a glimpse.  A shadow of memories. A trick of the light.”

His father shook his head a little. “What is real? Perhaps the dream is real, and these so-called realities of time and space are but illusions.”

“But you are not… Adar, did you wed without telling me?”

His smile saddened and he replied, “No.”  He then said, more seriously, “Come.  Today, we go to have a look at this press. I have a plan.”

Sidbron nodded slowly, his gaze lingering on his father’s eyes. Dimly, but… there. Deep, subtle, and mithril-strong. Naneth. They went to see about the press.

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OOC: As seen on the internet

This one’s for Helvia.  This one’s for Helvia.  This one’s for Helvia.

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Love

Here’s some stuff.

“Are you pregnant?”

Cynewynne gave her mother a horrified look.  “No, by the Depths of the the Dragon.”  Her hands went in a blur, but her mother could deal.  “I have oaths.  You know, those words I spoke to my King?”

Her mother’s eyes rolled.  “If you are, I’m not angry.  I’ll even watch the squirt while you go off and save the world.”

Cynewynne roared, “I am not pregnant!”  People stared.  She returned to sign.  “I just want to know if my children will or will not turn into bears.”

“And why are you asking?”

Cynewynne reddened.  “It came up in conversation.  Arion’s curious.”

Her mother then finally shocked her by signing, “Maybe.”

“What do you mean, ‘Maybe’?”

“I mean your children could turn into bears.”  Then she gloried in her moment by signing, “Your father did, and he was mixed-blood.”

“Stop lying.  Da never!”

“Oh yes he did.  And your oldest brother.”

“I thought he was just telling fish tales!”

“Your brother turned into a bear.  B-e-a-r bear.”

“Fur and claws and… bear?”

“Bear.”

Cynewynne felt her gut lurch.  She’d killed a bear or two without even trying to see if they were people.  “Swear it.”

“You calling me a liar, Wynnelet?”  Her mother looked like thunder.

“… right.  Broddi?”

Her mother looked at her and said… nothing.

“Is Broddi a bear?  Is Broddi a motherfucking bear?”

“Language!  You keep a lady’s tongue in there if you want to last five minutes in Minas Tirith.”

“Is Broddi a bear?”

“Ask Broddi.”

Cynewynne stood up, signing, “No.  No, this is madness.  This is pure…”

“Sit the fuck down.”

“You said…”

“Do I look like I’m moving to Minas Tirith?  Sit the fuck down.  Now.  You’re not showing Beorning traits… much.  You take after me.  Your get will probably be normal.  But you’ve gone and tied yourself to a man with old blood, and old blood does strange things with other old blood.”

Cynewynne stared at nothing.

“Does he object to bear-kin?”

Numbly Cynewynne signed, “No.  He wants to buy sturdier cradles.”

“Don’t bother,” her mother signed.  “They don’t start changing their skin until they hit manhood.  Or womanhood.  Either.”

Cynewynne stared.  “And you couldn’t have mentioned this… earlier?”

“What’s the problem?  He’s not leaving you over it.  Sounds to me like he’d be keen on a few bear-children.  Now, if that’s not a reason to make some for him, I don’t know what is.  Which reminds me, you’re still living in infamy and people will talk.  It’s the perfect time to make it official and pop out a…”

“No.”  Cynewynne stood.  “Go away and stop talking.”

“A man going into battle deserves descendants.  If you loved him you’d…”

Cynewynne closed her eyes, pointedly, then stalked into the kitchen.  The door slammed.  Frithvail ate her pickled egg soup and dill-bread with a smug look.

*********

Tremors.  They still hummed through her flesh and soul with little rills of joy as she went humming about her apartment.  Tremors and fire boiled through her still, filling her belly with pent up heat.  He was under her and inside her and turning her into something new.  Melted and pressured and gold-streaked.  Old sediment fused and ran into meaninglessness, or buckled into rumples.  Tremors.

Her skin smelled of ink and books where he’d been close.  She kept her unwashed under-robe folded over her pillow, unapologetically.  He’d asked.  He’d offered.  He’d handed her his heart.

“Governing Principle… is this the shape of things?  Is this… ”  She trailed off.  His heart was fragile.  His heart asked, but remained itself.  He needed no revisions.  She needed no revisions for him.  Why now?  Why now, and not when the plan said?

The Governing Principle  crafts nature to its shape.  Happiness is gained by living within the shape in which the creation is made.

And there, the paradox.  She was not made to be adjunct while men of lesser quality had funding.  She was not made to yield to such a banal thing as love.  Was she?  Why, cosmos? Why?

“He loves me.  Ambition is part of me.”

She sighed as she shank into her bed and curled around the robe whose scent was already fading.  Only an idiot would turn away from happiness for a dream that may never materialize.  Would he be strong enough to bear success, if it came to her at last?  Would she?  The cosmos would unfold as it was meant.

“I am his.  Beloved,” she said to the turtles, then blew out the lamp.  To the night, she murmured, “I know how Beleriand was drowned in its own salt tears.”

 

Posted in Confessions from the Silent World, Earth and Sky | 1 Comment

Letters – Family drama edition

I’ve not done these in a while.  Might as well!

Broddi,

We will try to make dinner.  Arion’s duties are what they are.  Tell Ma that I did not deliberately put her off, but have no interest in her ‘little tips’ and she will never, ever see my rooms.  I know she left that note in the suggestions box at the cafe.  Tell her if she has a problem with my theme colors, she can not use them in her own bakery.  This is my bakery.  My bakery, my colors.  And I will not fire my cleaning maid because she found a cobweb under the awning.

I will come to dinner.  Arion may come to dinner.  Tell Ceci I’ve got the starters and roast.  Make sure Ma’s got accounts at the good banker.  Frollo the Dwarf, not Robert the Bald.

Love,

Wynne

*********

Wynne,

I don’t argue with Ma for you anymore.  You two work it out before dinner or I swear I will take the food and Ceci and hide in the bedroom.

Love you too,

Broddi

*********

Ma,

I did not deliberately put you off, but have no interest in ‘little tips’ and you will never, ever see my rooms.  I know you left that note in the suggestions box at the cafe.  If you have a problem with my theme colors, you can not use them in your own bakery.  This is my bakery.  My bakery, my colors.  And I will not fire my cleaning maid because you found a cobweb under the awning.

When you go to bank, get your accounts at the good banker.  Frollo the Dwarf, not Robert the Bald.  I know his rates are more conservative, but Robert gets… Robbed.  Frequently.  You can pretend you’re banking with Robert, but please, just got to Frollo.

Finally, I am sending back the baby dresses you sent.  I am not having a baby.  Having a baby is not something you just do because you have free time before going back to fulfill your oath to the king.  You do not break your oath to the king to not marry either, and no, a medical discharge is not the same as a proper discharge.  I promised to come back if I got better, and I’m better, so I’m going back.  I’m not married, even, as you have generously pointed out on many, many occasions.  I am not throwing my life away on a lost cause, and I wish you’d stop referring to My King in such language.

I know you don’t want to lose more children.  I don’t know what to say to that.  I can’t imagine, I really can’t.  But if it were us back there, you’d not write us off as lost.  And to me, my men are my responsibility.  I cannot be a proper mother if I fail in an equally serious responsibility.  And I most certainly cannot be a proper wife if I show in the first moments of it that I’m incapable of adhering to an oath.  Do try to understand.

I do love you.  I’ll see you at supper.  We’ll argue before down at the pub so we don’t upset Broddi.

Cynewynne

*********

Cynewynne,

Do as you like, but I did notice that your cleaning girl had a new job.  Good on her.  Now she’ll learn.  You may like all the colors, but you won’t offend one if you leave it out of your palette.  You’ll have everyone in Bree thinking Dale is made from overexcited rainbows.  But it’s up to you, of course.  Paint’s cheap is all I’m saying.

I know honor is important to you, and that’s as it should be.  But keep in mind that honor doesn’t mean you don’t have to take stock of how it may be used against you to extract more than your oath offered.  Just because the King’s the King doesn’t mean the king’s perfect.  Think is all I’m saying.  Find a way to have your own life.  The King’s not using you now, and your man’s steward isn’t using him either.  Get married.  Give the poor man an heir.  By the time you’re done, you can both go off and do what you have to do.  You can pretend it wasn’t my idea, just like I’ll pretend my banker’s name is Roger.

You don’t get to say where we argue.  We’ll argue at noon, when the light’s better, and then we’ll have a drink.  Final offer.

I love you too,

Ma

Posted in Bearing It, Confessions from the Silent World, Letters | 1 Comment

That survey thing

Describe his posture. Does he carry himself well or does he slouch?

Cynewynne – Ramrod and powerful.  Even in a dress, she walks like a soldier.  In combat, on the other hand, she becomes loose and lightening-fast.  A natural athlete.

Frithvail – Large and in charge.  She’s a tall woman (not as tall as her daughter) but does. not. slouch.  EVER.

Helvia – Birdlike and tentative, though she’s a graceful version of birdlike.  She could be a ballerina in another life – her movements have an almost ethereal grace.  In the lab, she settles into smooth, precise motions.

Tinuvist – Bouncy!  She’s energetic and animated until she goes to sleep like a log and do it all again.

Verdigris – Subdued when she’s not hustling.  She learned upper class body language as a young adult, and it’s not natural to her yet, but she’s determined to stay upwardly mobile.  In rare, unguarded moments she slouches.

Aminah – Grace and formality rule the smallest gesture, even when she’s racing after her toddling daughter.  While not athletic, she does dance well.

Celeveren – Other elves would call her awkward.  Humans probably can’t tell the difference.  She is stiff and tightly wound, but when she goes to her surgery, she’s delicate and eerily precise.

Broddi – He slouches and saunters in a vain attempt to look unthreatening as late adolescence turns him into a giant, hairy man.

How is his health? Is he fit or out of shape? Any illnesses or conditions? Any physical disabilities?

Cynewynne – Well conditioned, but suffering the after-effects of illness and injury.  She can’t drink much after she took a near-fatal sword to the liver, and she’s deaf from childhood fever.  Nevertheless, a hearty constitution and iron will keeps her in fighting form.

Frithvail – She’s healthy as an ox.  While she’s quite overweight, there’s muscle under that from the heavy work of cooking and keeping house and hearth.   She’s had six full-term babies, and there are issues when she sneezes.

Helvia – Her scars from a childhood accident are disfiguring and, to an extent, disabling.  Lost muscle in her back and legs tends to spasm on her.  Better diet has largely improved the anemia she struggled with a few years ago.

Tinuvist – She’s farsighted and getting moreso as time goes on.  Now, glasses correct it pretty well, but she knows her days with working vision are numbered.

Verdigris – Nope.  A formerly broken arm twinges when the weather changes.

Aminah – All’s well.  Her figure shows marks from her four pregnancies.  Some would consider that an issue, but her husband is not among that ‘some.’

Celeveren -Elves aren’t supposed to scar.  That said, she let some of the wounds from Menegroth’s first fall heal to leave marks and continues to keep them out of habit.

Broddi – He occasionally turns into a bear.  He also can communicate with animals.

Describe his complexion. Dark, light, clear, scarred?

Cynewynne – Freckles and more freckles.

Frithvail – Weathered freckles and a few wrinkles.

Helvia – Scarred, though the unmarked skin she has left is creamy and perfect.  If a rack of weapons hadn’t fallen on her face, she’d be stunning.

Tinuvist – Peachy!  She has strikingly clear, flawless skin and always has.  She’s very keen on moisturizers and floppy hats.

Verdigris – Rosy and freckle free.  By hobbit standards, she’s stunning.  She doesn’t care.

Aminah – Very deep coffee-bean brown and well-tended.  She’s a Winter.

Celeveren – Generic elf pale.

Broddi – Freckles.  Lots of freckles.

Describe his hair: color, texture, style.

Cynewynne – Thick, wiry curls in a deep rusty red.  She keeps them pulled up and back except on the rare occasions she’s dressing up.

Frithvail – See Cynewynne’s, add 30 years and a scarf.

Helvia – Honey-gold, fine, thick, and very long.  She styles it up in loose-pinned folds on good days and braided into a rope on bad days.

Tinuvist – Thick, fine, straight, and black-brown.  Her braid reaches her backside and is big around as her wrist.  She has a collection of fancy combs and such that she wears even to do field work.  Her favorite is a jeweled dragon comb, quite large and worn stuck atop a fancy braided knot.  The dragon’s carved from a piece of red lace agate set in gold, a gift from a geologist friend Under the Mountain.

Verdigris – Incongruously soft russet curls that she does not make much of.  She wears it up so she looks older.

Aminah – Springy curls worn to her shoulders and softened with whatever oils she has available.  Kinky spirals around her hairline speak of ancestors beyond Far Harad’s Southern mountains.  She’s become a fan of pouffy styles under loose scarves.

Celeveren – Mithril-silver and long past her ankles.  Thick.  It’s the only of her physical features other elves would consider unusually stunning.  She wears it up and wrapped neatly around her head.

Broddi – See Cynewynne, add beard.

Does the character have any other noteworthy features?

Cynewynne – She’s tall and broadly built, strong under large curves.  Like so:

Frithvail – See Cynewynne, add 30 years, six babies, and 100 lbs.

Aminah – Multiple piercings, most left undecorated for now.

Broddi – Bear?

What language/s does he speak, and with how much fluency?

Cynewynne – Dalish, Common, Sign

Frithvail -Dalish, Common, Sign, enough Khuzdul and Sindarin to greet regular customers and negotiate ingredients.

Helvia – Sindarin, Common, Anduiac as a written language.

Tinuvist – Sindarin, Common, Dalish, Khuzdul, Silvan Sindarin.  She speaks and reads all of them fluently, and has taken special pains to make her Khuzdul very good.

Verdigris – Common, Math

Aminah – Common Haradrian, Sireshan, a few other local languages, Common.  She’s learning Sindarin.  She can understand Black Speech, but has not yet been foolish enough to speak it.

Celeveren – All of them.

Broddi – Dalish, Common, Sign, Bear.

How intelligent is this character? Is he book-smart or street-smart?

Cynewynne – Military smart?  She’s extremely bright, but most of it gets sucked up in her struggle to communicate with the hearing world.

Frithvail – Craft smart and worldly wise.  She takes domesticity to the levels of competitive sport, and under the strict, harsh manner there’s the ability to understand and appreciate weird people.

Helvia – OMG brilliant, almost tragically so.  It comes with heightened sensitivity and a perfect memory.  The trauma of her childhood injuries did significant damage, but she makes a living off her obsessive devotion to pharmacy.

Tinuvist – Scary smart, and she hides it under an acceptably girly exterior.  She’s a wily game-player determined to use sexism against her sexist colleagues.  She’s learned to be diplomatic, solicitous, and indirect while protecting her work and ensuring she doesn’t get used.

Verdigris – A savant with numbers but otherwise normal.  She gets by on hard work, and is wary of do-gooders.

Aminah – Very bright, and practical.  Ruthless (well, low-ruth) where the well-being of her people is concerned.  Most of her considerable brains are devoted to improving her ability to protect her people and maintain their independence.  She expects treachery and prepares for it while avoiding becoming evil as best she can.  For her, a deep religious faith to the native gods of her land and an idealized version of traditional noblesse oblige is something of a saving grace that keeps her from slipping into the increasing power-mad evil of her peers.  She’s that rare creature: a practical idealist.

Celeveren – Even elves think she’s alarmingly, dangerously clever and something of a ticking time bomb liable to do something to break the world any day now.

Broddi – Normal.  His wild lore is deeper than most (see: Bear) and he’s a talented carpenter.

What kind of education has the character had?

Cynewynne – Military training, physical training, and deaf education.

Frithvail – She reads and writes well enough and learned to cook from her own mother.

Helvia – Lots, mostly self-directed.

Tinuvist – Lots, and in several intellectual traditions.  She’s very much the child of career academics and many graduate student babysitters.  She was her dwavish nanny’s thesis subject in comparative childhood development.

Verdigris – Very little.  Her ability with numbers is a freak-of-nature thing.  Life has taught her that no matter how bad it looks, it can get worse.

Aminah – Private tutors and years ruling at her father’s side before his death.  She had to grow up far too quickly, but had the disposition to make the best of it.  She didn’t know enough about normal people to know what she was missing… then.

Celeveren – She doesn’t have education.  She gives it.  Her schooling happened way too long ago for anyone to care.  Be that as it may, she finds mortals informative.

Broddi – Trade and practical skills.  He’s not one for books.  He builds, he tends.  He doesn’t always turn into a bear, but when he does, he eats raw salmon.

What are his areas of expertise? What, if anything, is he interested in learning more about?

Cynewynne – Fighting and cooking.  She’s interested in fighting and cooking better.

Frithvail – Cooking and raising children.  She’s interested in doing more of the same.  She’ll tell you how to do it too.  No need to ask.

Helvia – Obsessively focused on heavy metal contamination and water tables.  Also, producing good products.

Tinuvist – The cosmos and the long-picture history of Middle Earth.  She’s an excellent children’s natural sciences teacher.  While she loves children, her long-term goals lie in higher education and university support for her work.  She has her eye on dwarf-run institutions and to that end has become familiar with dwarven customs, language, and so on.  Human institutional support would be nice, but she’s convinced she’ll always be game playing there.  She’s rather play dwarf games.  Such positions are notoriously difficult to land for non-dwarves.

Verdigris -Math.  She funnels that to practical book-keeping and business because that’s her means of survival, and she’s all about survival.  Her passion is all about higher mathematics, but that’s a treat she saves to fill in the corners of her workday.

Aminah – She likes philosophy and law.  She’s grown to appreciate poetry, but she’s more keen on statecraft and ethics.  Its lead her to some very nontraditional moves.

Celeveren -Bodies.  Fixing them, mostly.  Mortal bodies are really interesting to her.

Broddi – The simple life.  He homesteads and makes great furniture.

Describe the character’s sense of humor. Does he appreciate jokes? Puns? Gallows humor? Bathroom humor? Pranks?

Cynewynne – Raunchy, naughty, and never mean.

Frithvail – Her children don’t think she has any.  She enjoys laughing at their antics in private.

Helvia – Self-deprecating OCD jokes have been her bread and butter in a defense attempt to beat others to the punch.  She’s switching over into playful theatrics in private.

Tinuvist – She loves geology puns and science jokes.  Geeky humor delights her, but she can turn it off when she’s out among normal folk.  There, it’s gentle teasing and easy laughter.  If she’s snorting while laughing, she’s for-real amused.

Verdigris – Sorry, what?  Not only is she not a fan of humor, but she’s most familiar with the nasty sort that involved bullies and poor-jokes.  She’s very likely to be the person who says “That’s not funny/ appropriate/ nice.”

Aminah – Mellow laughter at well-phrased puns and cross-cultural jokes, given that it eases the inevitable tensions of a mixed marriage.  She’s usually earnest; humor is kept for trusted ears only.  She has been known to play up the ‘submissive Haradrian woman’ stereotype for her own amusement.  She’d probably like improv comedy.

Celeveren – It would shock some people that when lecturing and teaching, she’s quite clever and often precision-aims humor at her audience.  She can be charming and erudite.  She turns it on and off.

Broddi – *frap* *cackle*  Sex jokes and penises drawn on shed walls are still hilarious.

Does the character have any diagnosable mental disorders?

Cynewynne – Eh.  Nah.  Workaholic?

Frithvail – Controlling, but not to the point of pathology.

Helvia – OCD, PTSD

Tinuvist – There’s probably a mild attachment disorder in there somewhere, but she’s quite well-adjusted.  Her times rather than herself are more the problem.

Verdigris – There’s a lot of childhood trauma.  The Nazgul didn’t help.  She could probably benefit from a therapist.

Aminah – Growing up way too fast and having a child at 13 probably did more damage than she’s willing to admit.  There’s a heavy dose of denial that helps her cope with the considerable trauma she’s suffered.  Her life now is much better, and that’s where her focus lies.  Having some respite from direct ruling and a supportive husband has allowed her to do some catching up with her inner child.

Celeveren – Sea-longing and PTSD.

Broddi – Bear?

What does he fear?

Cynewynne – Being a burden.

Frithvail – Being a burden.

Helvia – Madness severe enough to hurt her family.

Tinuvist -Domestic slavery; being shoved into any mold whatsoever, or worse — being dismissed and ignored.

Verdigris – Poverty.

Aminah – Costing lives, escalating international incidents, having her children murdered.

Celeveren – Valinor and the unchanging peace of perfection under the all-knowing rule of the Valar stuck with people she can’t stand for all eternity.  So boredom, essentially.

Broddi – Getting shot, stuffed, and mounted.

What are his hopes or aspirations?

Cynewynne – Save Dale, get married, have babies, feed people.

Frithvail – Grandchildren and feeding people.

Helvia – Professional respect and saving the world from toxic water.

Tinuvist – Respect from her peers and acknowledgement as an equal.

Verdigris – Financial security.

Aminah – Peace.

Celeveren – Fix ALL the things.  Um, people.

Broddi – Fish.  Family.  More fish.

What is something he doesn’t want anyone to find out about him?

Cynewynne – Um.  She’d say she lives life so she doesn’t need to worry about people finding out things.

Frithvail – She helped Broddi escape Dale so he’d not be forced to join the military.  She stocked his boat, left a map in it, made sure river elf guides were waiting for him, and bought his passage through Mirkwood.  Nobody knows any of that, Broddi included.

Helvia – She’s not got much in the way of secrets.  If anything, she thinks people don’t take her madness seriously enough.

Tinuvist – Sometimes she feels like giving up.  Despite her best intentions, she has let past serious lovers do things to her she knew she shouldn’t have tolerated.  Even as she fights for what she sees as the cause, she knows she has the capacity to cave under the pressure to marry.

Verdigris – She did some things to feed her family that weren’t quite legal, and hoarded coin away from the rest of her siblings when they could have used it.  Surviving in her family meant doing some less than respectable things, and hobbits don’t tolerate that well.

Aminah – Glariond doesn’t quite see how ruthless she is, and she’s not inclined to disabuse him of idealizing her.  The end result is less ruthlessness.  She also sometimes wishes she didn’t have children at all and finds herself very impatient and frustrated with her willful, demanding toddler.  Since she’s lost some of her children to violent deaths, she feels she hasn’t a right to be anything but appreciative of the girls she has left and should treasure every moment with them.  Unable to cope with attachment parenting, she’s finally been convinced to hire a nurse.  She feels guilty at the relief.  She’s still getting the nurse.  Finally, having been responsible for the welfare of a large noble house since she was a child means she often secretly resents the weight and wishes she could just up and leave it all to go play.  Rebelling with her wildly inappropriate husband and Gondorian alliance is as much a personal as a political move.  Ditto her subsequent orders freeing all slaves, prohibiting underage marriages, and limiting polygamy to existing marriages.   She does what she has to do to convince people that she’s really just bringing back traditional Sireshan mores, and has read enough history to do it convincingly.  However, there’s a good bit of contrary anger fueling her bolder moves, and it dates well before her marriage to Glariond.

Celeveren – She’s responsible for a lot of horrible deaths.  Her work has been used to create horrific poisons, and she’s invented a few particularly gruesome weapons.  She keeps this quiet, but she’s made many enemies over the millennia.

Broddi – He’s sometimes a bear.

Describe this character’s relationship with his parents.

Cynewynne – Daddy’s girl, and her father just died.  She and her mother regularly lock horns.

Frithvail – Her parents are both dead, but she got along with them well so long as she had distance.

Helvia – Complicated.  She doesn’t acknowledge her biological mother, worships the memory of her biological father, and takes care of her aging uncle.

Tinuvist – Remarkably close and drama-free.  Her father finds her rather alarming and worries about her personal life, but he’s supportive.  Her mother is less concerned, and despite being essentially highly functioning autistic, mother and daughter have a close, warm friendship.  Tinuvist adores both her parents.

Verdigris – Her father was alcoholic and her mother was bad with money.  Both fought often and loudly (think of a COPS episode, and that’s her parents).  She grimly stepped up to be the adult, and helped her mother raise eleven children single-handed when her father died.  Her mother died of the Black Breath.  Her siblings were adopted by a lovely couple, much to Verdigris’ relief.

Aminah – Respect, affection, and about as functional a relationship as one can have in a noble family.  She had two mothers and her father.

Celeveren – Over the centuries, she became more and more at odds with both, though there was back and forth.  They’re in Valinor now.

Broddi – He loves his mother tolerantly and regrets his poor relationship with his demanding, military father.

Does the character have any siblings? What is/was their relationship like?

Cynewynne – Broddi.  They’re very fond and have always been close.

Frithvail – Oh sure, lots.  She found lots of them to be a bunch of slackers.  They still got along.

Helvia – Oh sure, with her adopted siblings.  She adores her half-sister.  For a mentally ill person, she’s good at keeping ties with her support system.

Tinuvist – Just her.

Verdigris – Ten.  All younger.  She’s their way-serious oldest sister.  Worry is the primary emotion between her and her siblings.

Aminah – She adored her older brother.  She still makes offerings on his behalf.

Celeveren – One brother is dead and living in Valinor.  One is the family ‘slacker’ who just wanders all over Arda aimlessly.  They don’t get each other.

Broddi – Wynne’s his other mom.

Who is/was the character’s best friend?

Cynewynne – Probably Thragan.

Frithvail – Cast iron crepe pan.

Helvia – 3 (they’re frenemies, actually)

Tinuvist – She doesn’t really do besties.  She has a lot of regular friends.

Verdigris – Not… really.  Maybe sort of Rosemead.

Aminah – Glariond.  They married before they got to be BFFs.

Celeveren – A what?  Maybe Tessa?  Her friends are mostly dead.

Broddi -Ceci

Is the character single, married, divorced, widowed? Has he been married more than once?

Cynewynne – Betrothed to Arion, pending the unlikely event of her saving Dale.  They’ll probably be flabbergasted when they actually get together.

Frithvail – Recently widowed and coping quietly and not well.

Helvia – Married, just the once, and she made an exception for him from her ‘marriage is evil’ stance.  He’s not made her regret it.

Tinuvist – Noooo… she’s had a few relationships go bad in ways that make her reluctant to ever, ever commit irrevocably.  But when she’s with someone, she’s a one-man woman.

Verdigris – She was leery of it, but  she’s been won over by Toby Stoneybanks and plans to marry him as soon as he saves her from Ted Sandyman and Ted’s lawyers.

Aminah – Widowed once and now married again to Glariond.

Celeveren – Two words: Strange Fate.

Broddi – Ceceil.  He wuvs her.  And then she went nuts and nearly died, and he stuck with her.  So he also loves her.

Does the character have children? Grandchildren? If yes, how does he relate to them? If no, does he want any?

Cynewynne – She wants them, but is fairly sure she’ll die heroically first.

Frithvail – Six, two living.  She’s not a fan of the ‘die heroically’ plan and is willing to bend the ‘No Gondorians’ rule as long as they raise the children Dalish.

Helvia – Belion is her biological son and Lucy is adopted.  She’s taken to motherhood better than she thought she would.  She’s never had a problem with consistency and affection and has been taking care of people all her life.

Tinuvist – She plans to when it works with her career plans.  She considers it her duty to contribute positively to the species.

Verdigris – Hell no.

Aminah – Two living, two dead.  She’s taken her toddler on a long-distance road trip and is now a great fan of nursemaids and laundry servants.

Celeveren – She has students, to whom she is supportive and loyal to death, then beyond death.

Broddi – He’s trying.

Does he have any rivals or enemies?

Cynewynne – Rhun.  Mordor.

Frithvail – Rhun.  Cheap baking ovens.

Helvia – Tad.  Several questionable persons in the Archives.

Tinuvist – She’d say no, and actually mean it.  She isn’t a grudge holder.

Verdigris – Ted Sandyman

Aminah – Her former father-in-law is a very bad man.  She’s put herself on Umbar’s most wanted, and probably pissed off any number of parties.

Celeveren – Morgoth.  Never Forget. … It’s complicated with Nogrod.

Broddi – Wait until he has cubs and we’ll see.

What is the character’s sexual orientation? Where does he fall on the Kinsey scale?

Cynewynne – 0

Frithvail – 0

Helvia – Guradan.

Tinuvist – 1.52

Verdigris – Sorry, what?

Aminah – 1

Celeveren – Elf

Broddi – I’m not into bears.

How does he feel about sex? How important is it to him?

Cynewynne – Other priorities.

Frithvail – Six children.

Helvia – Has he bathed?

Tinuvist – She’s a fan of it if she’s not concentrating on her work.  Heads have been bitten off for advances made when she’s contemplating strata.

Verdigris – What she’s had of it, she’s enjoyed a lot more than anticipated.

Aminah – Artform.

Celeveren – Necessary to the survival of the species.  Could have been designed more efficiently.

Broddi – Mm, Ceci.  Excuse me.

Do you know your character’s astrological (zodiac of choice) sign?

Cynewynne – Aries – She will solve your problems with violence.

Frithvail – Aries – The original.

Helvia – Aquarius – She thinks astrology is poorly studied, but then, she doesn’t have any proof that the number 3 is personally attached to her either.

Tinuvist – Capricorn – she’s all about goals and delayed gratification.

Verdigris – Scorpio, baby.

Aminah -Sagittarius.  Creative solutions, chaos ensues.

Celeveren – Aquarius. So?

Broddi – Pisces… yeah.

What prejudices does he hold? Are they irrational or does he have a good reason for them?

Cynewynne – Slackers and Easterlings and Mordor and Slavers.  She’s pretty rigid.

Frithvail – Slackers, Easterlings, and she’s got some private beefs with the King’s military.

Helvia – Mud.  There’s not much room for anything else – she’s a devoted anti-Mud partisan.

Tinuvist – Not really.  She’s remarkably forgiving.  The most outrage she can summon for anything is philosophical regret as she removes that person from her life as completely as possible.

Verdigris – Eh.  She both resents happy, comfortable hobbits and wants to be one.  She doesn’t much care for people who take advantage.

Aminah – It complicated.  Shes picked up and discarded prejudices both positive and negative over the years and is only really certain that Umbar and Mordor are bad, and slavery is also bad for the same reason.  She has no tolerance for rapists, not that it’s come up recently.

Celeveren – Lots, many involving other elves.  She’s the old aunt who says inappropriate and dated things at Thanksgiving.

Broddi – There’s another male bear he’s pretty sure has been eyeing his wife.  Not cool, bro.

What is the character’s financial situation? Is he rich, poor, comfortable, in debt?

Cynewynne – She makes good money and almost immediately spends it on other people.  She one of the lesser known charity donors in Bree.

Frithvail – Penniless last week, solvent this week, and soon she’ll be quite well-off.  She is suspicious of charities and fairly sure they’re all scams.  That said, she’s generous to people she knows and pays her help very, very well.

Helvia – She’s quite wealthy, enough to donate medicines to Weric’s clinic.

Tinuvist – She budgets well and tutors struggling readers so she can eat out frequently.  She’s pretty good with dyslexic learners, though she has no idea such a thing exists.

Verdigris – In her mind, she’s still not sure where her next meal is coming from.  She’s got savings and she’s got floor stashes, but she’s also horrified by charity and determined to help support her numerous relatives.

Aminah – Staggeringly wealthy… back home.  She’s managed to smuggle a great deal of mobile wealth in cashmere goats, artisans, and silk worms into Gondor.  Much of the rest was liquidated and moved before Umbar seized the rest.

Celeveren – Doesn’t know, doesn’t care.  People always seem to want to feed her and she doesn’t bother keeping up with new trends in currency.  Gold always seems fine.  Concerned former students make sure she has a stipend.

Broddi – Comfortable and moving toward self-sufficiency; he’s got workmen and everything now.  He’s bucking for early trade mastery.

What are his eating habits? Does he skip meals, eat out, drink alcohol, avoid certain foods?

Cynewynne – She eats what she cooks, and for a treat, someone else’s cooking.  She does not do dishes.

Frithvail – Her girth’s a walking advertisement for her pastry.

Helvia – She’s on a schedule and has a cook willing to guarantee 100% mud free food.  She dabbles in cookie baking, and they’re getting pretty good.

Tinuvist – She loves food.  She’s a vegetarian.  She tries to vary it up so she doesn’t run into trouble.  She amuses local Breefolk by buying and eating surplus flax seed.

Verdigris – She hoards food and has trained herself to get by on three meals only.  Hobbit anorexia.  It gives her a feeling of control.

Aminah – Food is an essential part of good hospitality and the one thing all cultures seem to bond over.  Breaking bread is sacred.  Food is the basis for all diplomacy.  Etc.  Also, she likes sweets.

Celeveren – Oh? Look, a pie!  That’s nice.

Broddi – Fish.  Berries, nuts, honey, fish.  He will do anything for his honey fix.

What does your character smell like?

Cynewynne – Tasty Dalish treats.

Frithvail – Even tastier Dalish treats.

Helvia – Seasonal flowers.  She’s taken a shine to chamomile.

Tinuvist – Apple cinnamon, currently.  It was on sale and she likes apples and cinnamon.

Verdigris – Lavender and cedar to keep the moths out.

Aminah – She used to favor jasmine oils.  Now it’s just clean.

Celeveren – Whatever the laundress uses.

Broddi – Bear.  His cat’s used to it by now and doesn’t care.

Favourite plant?

Cynewynne – Dandelion.  Highly underrated, very useful, impossible to eradicate.  She admires its tenacity.  Also, it’s bright yellow.

Frithvail – Semolina wheat, top quality.  She’s fast growing to appreciate hobbit-bred varieties.

Helvia – Willow, though she’s intrigued by the possibilities of Eastern Poppy, if it could be grown locally.  Old forest willow still packs a nice punch, though.

Tinuvist – She doesn’t play favorites, but she appreciates it if the plant’s easy to get away from the rock she’s trying to look at.

Verdigris – Cheap ones.

Aminah – Night-blooming jasmine.

Celeveren – Extinct.

Broddi – Fish.

Animal?

Cynewynne – Dogs.  My dog is the best one.

Frithvail – Dire Pike.  Or dragons.

Helvia – Cats are self-cleaning.

Tinuvist – Cats, but she has pet turtles for a while and she likes them too.

Verdigris – Goats.  Good return for your investment.

Aminah – Lioness.  She likes their style.

Celeveren – What?  Extinct, but it’s kind of like a lynx.

Broddi – It’s not cool to have favorites.  That’s how you make enemies.

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