Moonshadow

When I was young, I could read without them.  Then I turned ten and I was caught borrowing Old Master Fowler’s glass once too often.  No worries, of course.  Young folk often had a little trouble in their teens and needed lenses to read.  At RoyEl, they came fairly cheaply, and I thought I looked like a proper scholar.  I got the ones with pink stones in the armature.  Life went on.

New lenses became a way to mark years.  I knew that there would always be replacement, and it was no real trouble.  I had more important things to do, like earning my certificate and applying for masters.  I invested in mirrored dwarf-craft lamps.  I went on with living.  I climbed outdoors and hung from rock-faces with glass tied firmly to my face.

I had dreams and goals, and I accomplished every last one.  Even the hardest!  Regular faculty… full time affiliation… dwarf-run, even!  I had start-up funds and my own rooms to own.  I dreamed of openings for my Nallo in geology and celebrated by going for my next set of lenses.

There was no next set.  

It sounds now like I hadn’t been told.  I had been, and years ago now.  “May” and “might” were in the explanation, so I assumed that I’d be in whatever percentage didn’t end in blindness.  I was, in a word, unscientific about it.  There’s a study somewhere in that.  I wrote up an abstract before this opportunity came to me.  I took it, and I didn’t let myself think that it was partly to see Dol Amroth before I can’t ever see Dol Amroth.  It was mostly to keep an eye on Nallo.  

Interesting phrase, “to keep an eye on.”  I wonder if it sounds as odd to other blind people.

Did I just refer to myself as blind?  Not yet I’m not.  I can see more than I can’t see, and after dark, Nallo’s there.  I hope there aren’t any other red-wearing men around.  I worry that one day, I’ll grab the wrong one.  

I can’t read the book I just took off the shelf, but I can still see that it’s bound with leather and gold.  It’s illustrated.  That’s probably a dragon.  Or perhaps a griffin.  Or…

The hinge resists a little when I close the volume.  My fingers find the gap where it goes, and I realize that I’ve been doing it this way for a while now.  My feet don’t lift like they used to, and my staff… I carry it now like I’m an old woman who needs it.  The day I step out into is muted into moonlight, but I hear the crier calling mid-day.  My gut is twisting and…. pah!  I’m scanning the crowd for red like a clinging ladyfriend.

Nallo is my last set of lenses, and soon, he’ll be gone too.  

I’d best interview a few more locals before supper.

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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