My son has a house. A wife. A cat. Of course he has a cat. It’s all too much good news to fit into this part of a tale. This part of the tale is the part where I drift through adventures far from home. Or it could be that I’ve come to the part where my ship’s anchored at the Dead Islands and all these people are ghosts. It’s close enough to that, seeing what the years have done to my sweet, scrawny boy.
He talks like his father. He walks like his father. He’s got that cheese-eating grin his father used to have before war sailed off with it and death came for his sons. He does that air-sniffing thing his father did too, and that bit where he’s having to slither into clothes real quick in the middle of the day while his wife’s baking buns in the real oven. Told Gregor that boy was Beorning-born. I was right. I win. Three cheers for me.
It’s like stepping back in time to look at those two lovebirds. He likes ’em big. Good for him. She seems sweet with steel in her spine. He holds her like Gregor used to hold me, with his nose stuffed down her neck. There’s fish. I can make pie with that, if he’ll just let me touch his pots. That’s what I’ll do today. I’ll make a fish pie. Fish pies don’t happen in a ghost-house. Then I’ll go see Wynnelet, once I’ve got myself back and I won’t blubber. She’s my baby. We don’t blubber. I just need to wash up and get settled and then we see. What in the rocky depths is she doing shacked up with a Gondorian? I’ll have to get good and focused on that. He’d better not be noble. I bet he’s noble. That’d be just like her. She’d better not have found him rescuing him from a dragon or some such nonsense. If he mucks up her career so help me I’ll make him wish he’d sunk with his ancestors’ island. Assuming she’s got a career. Broddi says she can fight again. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Maybe a Gondorian’s not so bad, if he keeps her home and gives her a family to anchor her down, keep her away from the storm forming over the Lake. They can’t possibly expect her back. She had a medical writ, for Smaug’s sake! She had a frikking sword through her liver! She’s supposed to be dead! Nobody would say a single word if she just stayed out of it and used that second chance to make herself a real life.
No way she’ll do it, no matter how shiny that Gondorian’s armour is. She’s my girl. If she’s better, she’ll march herself back and hold to the strictest letter of that oath. That’s just what she’ll do. And next time, we won’t be getting her back breathing. Bollocks. Bollocks. I can’t think straight. I’ll fix that problem later. Fish pie. I can handle a fish pie while I stay here with my nice, normal son and his nice, normal wife. Easy. Too easy.
I keep waiting to see the other shoe off. Maybe he’s got some hunter after his pelt, or the house has got some daft mortgage he hasn’t figured on paying, or there’ll be a drop in jobs, or he’ll turn out to be a dodgy contractor. I’ve gotten so used to my children coming home on planks, it doesn’t feel normal to have one turn out… happy. Normal. Normal for a Beorning.
I knew when he was three and came home with a raw fish in his mouth for me. I knew when he kept getting his hand stuck in the honey jar, and when the only time he’d take naps was in the winter. All the other boys would be skating, and he’d be snoring in a corner somewhere come noon. I knew when he brought home that half-drowned kitten and swore he’d heard her ask him to feed her. I knew when he told me the bird said his Da’s ship was coming to dock. Gregor said no. Blood’s too thin, and it’s all nonsense, and he’ll be better without it, trust him, he knows. Gregor should’ve run off when his Da made him sign his life over to the King’s service. I’d have told him so, if I’d been his wife back when.
Well. Broddi will talk when he wants to. It’s his life. He made it. I raised a boy who did what he felt right with no matter what folk said, and he made it. I was right. I win. We win, for once in our lives. Can you see, Gregor-mine? Or are you frozen with your ship in the lake-bottom’s stony grip?