Thragan’s a bloody genius. I suspect I should have figured that out sooner, what with his being the sawbones and all, but he’s good at hiding it. I should know better. In Esgaroth we don’t act like ratcatchers and fishermen are idiots because they’re not big rich guildsmen. Not like they do some places. I suppose he was just a mate, ja? You don’t tend to think of your mates as geniuses.
Don’t know if the stew will make it, beets or no beets. Hunting won’t cut it. We have to forage. He’s right about trading too much too. Poor bastard. It’s easier to kill people who don’t have families. I suppose orcs and wargs have families. Do orcs mothers love their babies too?
That’s such a girl question. I’ve spent a long time writing off anything with ‘girl’ on it so I could get on with my job. Girls were people I protected. They cried and carried on while I herded up their children and got them on the boat. If I’m honest, it was easier to think of girls as a ‘them’ because being that – being vulnerable, being easy to hurt, being stolen and used and sold… I couldn’t do my job out there thinking that I could be a ‘them’. Easier to pretend I had a tonker and was out on a lark with my ten brothers in some kind of a saga. Never mind that I did the cooking and fussing when I wasn’t telling them how we’d storm the camps; someone has to cook, right? If they come to my fire to talk, well. Bet they came to Dafydd’s too.
I’d kill for some flour right about now. Only so much you can do with cram crumbles.
I used to make fun of girls. I did it a lot. Their dress and their hair doo-dads, their giggling and eye batting and they way they just seemed to be waiting to find some bloke to leech up on drove me near berserk. Honestly, it still does when I see them trying on my man. I want to hit ’em, ask ’em what they did lately to take care of their own damn self. It’s not fair, though. If girls were all like me, there’d be no babies in this world, would there?
Ma wasn’t a girl either, I don’t think. She wasn’t pretty and she didn’t coo. I remember before, though, she would laugh and run with us when the baking was done. She was big and tall with her great big sons and she’d toss them balls because Da couldn’t always be with us. Ma was part Da, and Da was a saga hero who’d come home with stories and presents and his great booming voice. Ma didn’t cry that I ever saw, no matter what. When stores ran low and times were tough, Ma made deals and worked harder. We all helped her, that one winter Da didn’t come home. He was frozen up a fjord, and we didn’t get his pay-coin. We didn’t cry. Ma didn’t let us cry, we worked so hard.
I’m not Ma and I’m not Da. I cry plenty. Too much, these days, all the damn time. I’m out here fretting over how we’re going to feed ourselves and I can feel my traitor eyes just going spiky with it all. Don’t think about Arion. Don’t you dare think about Arion. Don’t want his arms to hold you and his lips on your hair. Don’t want him to tell you it’s fine, and he’s there, and he doesn’t think you’re pathetic when you cry on him for the millionth time. Don’t miss the rhythm of him, knowing that he comes home to dinner now and he’ll be there so you’d better put the rolls in.
What I wouldn’t give for rolls.
Thagan’s right, though. I can’t take him with me anymore now that we’re each other’s hearth. I don’t know how Gisala and Oendir do it. I’d be removing limbs left and right every time something tried to take a swing at my man. Dear sweet Smaug on a stick, I have a man. How girl is that?
No. I can’t do this and have him fretting over every little risk I run. It’s hard enough as it is. He can’t have me flying off every time he gets a scratch or gives me that stupid “I’m Gondorian and therefore invincible” line. Who falls for that? Girls, that’s who. Stupid girls. I can’t be his girl and Lieutenant Cook at the same time. The Lieutenant isn’t a girl.
The thing is, and its a pretty secret thing, I kind of liked some parts of it. You know, playing girl with him. Our room was like some sort of secret clubhouse where you could go and stop caring what people thought or said. Nobody wanted to kill you there. We had the dog and the cat to coo over. I fludding loved fixing it up for him. I love fringe. I love patchwork. I love that he cared what sort of mattress we bought. We bought a mattress, for Bema’s sake. It was all second or third hand stuff, but that just made it look like we’d had a we for ages. I loved every single penny-nail and threadbare floursack-sheet of it. I painted the Anduin for him. He’ll see it every time he comes home now, and he does come home. Every single meal, there he’d be wiping his boots and asking what I’d made and how my day was. He’d leave his armour off if he had the time. He never did that before, not once when it wasn’t bedtime.
The salt pork’s done. The broth looks mighty thin, cram or no cram. Why didn’t I spread back-ups out among the horse-packs? I know better than to put everything on a cart.
I learned a few things playing girl. First, I never met a yellow anything I didn’t fancy. Second, I’m a nester. Like a stupid magpie, nesting. Hardly a day when I didn’t find some new shiny thing to squeeze into that poor man’s hole-in-the-wall over the offices and cells of the jail. Flud me! I nested in a bloody jail. Anyhow. Third, and I don’t know why this surprises me, but I love taking care of people. Not just saving them, but feeding. Fussing. Telling them how to run their lives. Love it.
So. Four is the scary bit. I’m good with children. Scratch that – I’m brilliant with them. I can get two boys to stop punching each other and play by the rules. I can lure a scared little girl who just lost her family out of her hidey-hole and back into the world. I can tickle a baby until she’s flopped down for bed. I have no idea how I picked up any of that, but there it is. I made a fine Ishockey coach, and after that, I was good with lacrosse. They’d show up in my kitchen to ask about this problem or that bruise. I had to start keeping cookies in a jar.
Cookies. Damn, I’d kill for some Hálfmánar.
When I made my oaths, what did I know about how life would turn out? I was fourteen. I wanted to be Da, not Ma. I still want to save folk and be brave, and I love Dale and ache to save her. I’m still that Cynewynne, sure. I understand that I just can’t be that Cynewynne and someone’s Ma. Arion can’t be what he is and be someone’s Da. Or whatever they call them over there. But we want to be. Both of us. We dream of it. Every time I see a gap-toothed smile in a brave little face, I see what I swore off, and that eye prickle starts up again.
One of us has to be a girl eventually, and it won’t be Arion. I’m afraid ‘eventually’ won’t ever come. I’m terrified it will. How messed up is that?
Screw this. I’m going to see if I can find any spring leeks and make sure Kemp didn’t leave his armour out again.