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One Ring to rule them all..
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» November Rebirth
Frinneth
 Posted: Mar 5 2015, 23:26
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[Open to anyone in Arnor who wishes to join in! The more, the merrier!]


For Frinneth, mother of little Miriel and widow of Dorion, starting over was an awful lot like birthing--a lot of pain in waves in one part, followed by the wonder of new life and knowing you will never be the same again.

She huddled under the blanket, holding her five year old daughter close as the snow fell in fluffy stars of white on a very gray November day--almost the last day of what had proven to be a cold, dreary month. Frinneth and Miriel, with Miriel's pocket hedgehog and their three-quarters grown kitten, who stuck to them like the snow was sticking to the cobbles and frozen mud, for she had no wish at all to be out in the weather, it was definitely not the most welcoming new beginning, at least not yet. Frinneth had hopes for later, for without them, she felt she would freeze like the ground and lose all chance at making a new and happier life. But she knew she was still in the pains of labor before the rebirth. It was hard to see past the difficulties of the moment, but she would make a new life for herself and her daughter.

"Warm enough, Sweet?" she whispered to sleepy Miriel, who was snuggled up to her side in their little covered half wagon, presently holding under the eaves of a boarding house downhill from but next door to the Prancing Pony Inn in the city of Bree. "How are Prickles and Peekaboo?" she added, the former name referring to the hedgehog who lived in Miriel's apron pocket, while the latter was the fitting designation for the kitten who was under the blankets. At her name, the black and white cat poked her pinkest of pink nose out from her hiding spot, gave Miriel's hand a lick, and went back to earning her name.

Miriel roused, as exasperated as her current sleepiness allowed, and scolded her mother with smudgy blue eyes and a childishly stern voice. "Mama, it's Pickles, not Prickles!" Her voice turned back to its usual gentleness as she groggily sighed, "I'm warm enough. I like the snow. It's pretty." She then snuggled back down and closed her eyes, her face soon swathed by Frinneth's blanket re-arranging.

"Pickles it is," murmured Frinneth, feeling a sudden pang from Miriel's eyes. Just like your father's eyes, she thought, and anew felt the keenness of how deeply she missed Dorion. It had been four years since he was killed, yet only recently how she learned just how he likely had been taken from her.

Murdered.

The word sent shivers through Frinneth, and she felt it was fitting to be sheltering from the snow in such a lonely, busy place as Bree, while nature's white blanket covered the town and people were hurrying through all the things they had to do before the snow grew too deep to be out and about. The city was muffled already by the white flakes already several inches deep, and the sky promised more during the night. Already lanterns were being lit, and sounds of activity muffled by the first substantial snow. The snow had been flirting with Breeland for over a week, since the day Frinneth, with her neighbor's help, had set out for the city.

Each day of their journey from the north, it had snowed a little bit, but this was the storm that meant business. At least it had waited until Frinneth's little family had actually reached Bree three days ago. Strong and kind Vagorion, her neighbor, had left them to return to his family in the north, and to sort out her own farm for her. Frinneth hoped he had reached safety by now, but was not overly concerned, for Vagorion was a Ranger, and they knew how to get along in any weather. He would likely still be riding, or perhaps had stopped to make a shelter for himself and his horse.

Frinneth was glad for the lowered visibility, and the calmness of her sleeping child. She took these moments to think, with her face more vulnerably open than at times when she knew she was being watched. In the journey south, she had at first been numb to thinking about the reason for the suddenness of this relocation to Bree, or Breeland, since the city had not exactly extended its most warm welcome to the young widow and her child and small menagerie. She had been numb because she had to be, for awhile. Vagorion understood, and had not troubled her with overmuch conversation. He too, she realized when she was able to think on what had happened to her family, had also much to come to grips with.

Frinneth and Miriel owed their neighbor Vagorion a debt it would be impossible to repay. He had saved their lives, from a man, Dolen, who they now strongly suspected had killed Frinneth's husband four years ago. His motive he had made abundantly clear: he wished to marry Frinneth, who would have nothing to do with him in the way he wished. He had been a plague to her even before she married Dorion, and had not stopped his pursuit of her even after she was wed.

Yet, despite what Dolen had done the night Vagorion had saved her from attack and more, it had been such a shock to find that he had her husband's missing necklace, which Dorion had been wearing when he perished in some unknowable way. Dorion and Dolen had been childhood friends, until Dolen would not give up his desire to have Frinneth. And now, Frinneth feared Dolen's perverted fixation on her had been what brought on her husband's...murder.

Four years had done their work in Frinneth's imagination, wondering with horror and sadness how he had died. She had pictured him injured somehow, succumbing to wounds he could not survive, perishing alone in the wilderness, with no one to hear his final words, to comfort him. Yet, while he was missing, she had been thinking of him every day, loving him, awaiting with joy his return. She may not have been physically with him, but in her heart they had been together as if he had never left on that fateful scope of his land.

Now, it was even worse to think that Dorion's former friend, Dolen, may have been the person to take his life from him. She did not know, not for sure. The only reason Frinneth had wished Dolen had lived a little longer after his attack on her was so that she and Vagorion could have asked him questions, gotten answers to quell their dark fears. How had he come to have Dorion's neckchain, on which he had hung his wedding band? The simple gold band was still missing, but Frinneth knew the contempt Dolen had felt towards that little circle, binding him out of her life forever, even as it bound Dorion to Frinneth. Had he killed Dorion, Dolen would have destroyed the symbol of lives he never recognized as being joined in the first place.



Tonight they would stay in a hayloft over a barn, where their horse could find some rest as well. They could not afford to stay in an inn, not yet. Frinneth was hoarding her money like a miser, for there was not much, and it had to last them until Vagorion sent her more from the sale of her farm and possessions. That would be at least two weeks more, perhaps a month. When it grew darker, and the streets even more deserted, she would nudge her horse out of it's cover and they would find a barn.

The light of the lanterns made the city glow with gold in the snowfall. Frinneth lowered her eyes from the snow to her daughter's eyelashes, brushing her pink cheeks in innocent sleep. "I will look until I find us a home, a good one, where we will be happy."


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Berard Burrwen
 Posted: Mar 6 2015, 20:35
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What had at first seemed like a nice portion of good luck had gradually reduced Berard to irritated grumbling under his breath, ultimately worsening to outright cursing at himself as he struggled to trudge uphill toward the Prancing Pony Inn, slipping and stumbling, his pride smarting from rude or amused comments from a number of passersby, some of whom he would ordinarily have greeted as friendly acquaintances though that evening the friendliest thing he could muster was to not snarl at them.

He had spent the better part of the afternoon delivering his wagon to the wheelwright in Bree, because he had concerns about whether a wheel would be dependable during the winter months. Along with the wagon, he had brought a light load of produce and furs to sell, and afterward relieved of all burdens except his coin purse, he had been walking back home. Not far outside the East Gate, he had chanced to bring down a pair of turkeys. Nice luck, that! Since coin was in shorter supply than meat and harder to get during the winter, he had stuffed the heavy fowl into his game bag and walked back to Bree, confident that Master Butterbur of the Prancing Pony Inn would be glad to buy them since he had complained that very day of being short of fresh meat.

What Berard had not considered was the rapidly worsening condition of Bree’s streets. The cobbles and mud were always lumpy underfoot, but day after day of gradual snowfall had hard-frozen that uneven footing and obscured it under a layer of white. The fading light and reflected gleam of lanterns played tricks with the shadows, making walking even more difficult, especially uphill with a heavy game bag slung at his back. Usually very sure-footed, Berard slipped and stumbled so many times on his way to the Prancing Pony that he could have been mistaken as drunk. Why hadn’t he at least gone around to the back door? The footing would have been just as foul, but fewer witnesses would have seen him.

He had finally nearly reached the bustling front door of the Prancing Pony and so made a strong effort to calm his temper and prepare to barter a good price for the heavy bundle on his back. A small wagon, apparently parked but with its horse still hitched to it, forced him a little farther out into the street to pass by, but there he finally slipped so badly that only slamming bodily against the wagon saved him from falling flat.

With a yell that was part curse, he grabbed onto the wagon until he could stand again, making it creak and lurch under his weight.

“I am sorry!” he gasped before even looking up to see if anyone were there, since he had paid no attention before. Upon seeing a young woman sitting on the driver’s bench, he instantly took more care with his manners. “Please pardon me, ma’am, I slipped on the ice. Are you all right?”

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Frinneth
 Posted: Mar 7 2015, 00:41
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Bree was quieting down as most people had hurried home through the falling slow, leaving footprints in the blanket that was now at least shin deep. Where many had walked, or horses trod, the prints were overlapping yet still distinct. The lights of lanterns glowed even more yellow now that the day was in the last hour before night would darken the world to those golden circles around lights, and the soft light the snow would cast, making the night less dark than had the snow stopped falling.

Frinneth had been lost in thought but watchful of what was going on around her, as she sat on the wagon bench with her daughter beside her, Miriel's head in her lap. They were both bundled under the blanket, which now and then Frinneth had shaken out to shed the snow from it. Pickles the hedgehog was emitting the cutest wheezy snores from Miriel's pocket, while Peekaboo the kitten was playing under her own blanket, chasing imaginary (Frinneth hoped) mice, simply being a kitten at play. Frinneth was relaxed, for this was a time of day she especially loved, one of the few restful times of day. Usually on the farm she had just finished the day's tasks and would pause at this time to look around her and enjoy the pause before the evening chores of making dinner and preparing for all that the evening required.

But here in Bree, all Frinneth had to think about was where she would go with her daughter to find haven for the night. She had a shelter in mind, down the road a mile, where there was a barn with a loft. There would be room for the horse, and some hay, and she and Miriel could easily find a corner in the loft to stay. They would eat some cheese, and the rest of a loaf of bread Frinneth had bought at the market earlier, before the baker had closed up, his wares sold early as people stocked up to ride out the storm. Frinneth had felt compelled to buy a second loaf, wrapped in linen now and in the bag of other simple foods she and Miriel had been subsisting on since their arrival in the city.

As she watched, she could make out a figure noticeable among those going about their travels, for he seemed heavily burdened and kept slipping. He was trudging up the hill that led to the Prancing Pony and beyond, and he did not seem in good humor, perhaps due to his burdens, or his slipping on the white covered cobbles.

Frinneth watched him approach closer, and then he slipped and knocked hard into the cart, cursing in that exasperated, temper-shredded way that meant he was at the end of his patience. The cart was sturdy, but it did sway on impact, and Miriel let out a startled cry, while hedgehog and kitten both squeaked in fright in very different ways, after becoming silent and still. Frinneth had thrown her arms around Miriel, to keep her from tumbling off the bench, which had caused the blanket to drop from Frinneth's shoulders and expose her shawl-covered head and shoulders. "Oh!" she had said, in surprise, hoping dearly that the man was not drunk.

But she gave him due respect for recovering his manners so quickly upon realizing that the wagon he had lurched into was occupied by a woman. Not everyone in Bree this day had been so polite. "I am quite well, thank you Sir," she replied in a pleasant voice. "You have awakened my daughter, but no harm done." Miriel by now was sitting up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, and leaning with some fright against Frinneth, who took a moment to reassure her that the man had only jostled their wagon because he had slipped on the ice. She fixed the blanket around them both, and looked again to the man. "You carry quite a burden, Sir, so close to the time when the streets will empty. I hope you have not far to go, and a warm place to end the day."

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Berard Burrwen
 Posted: Mar 7 2015, 04:33
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Berard’s first impression of the woman could hardly have been more favorable, and not because she was rather pretty, though from what little he could tell in the low light and the shawl covering her head she seemed rather pretty. What impressed him was her kind manner when she would have been well justified to rebuke him for disturbing her and her child. A young child, he would guess, judging by how she was hardly visible under the blanket and the way her mother spoke to her. Berard’s daughter had been a little girl not so many years ago. How well he remembered, and not without a tender pang of heart at that moment, for when he remembered his daughter as a little girl he also remembered his dearest wife who had died.

“I am almost quit of my burden, ma’am, which is fortunate as you understand – a pair of turkeys I hope to sell to the innkeeper here. My home then is several miles outside Bree, but I can still reach it tonight once my bag is empty.” It would be a long, chilly walk to which he was not looking forward with any pleasure, but he knew the way in his sleep, including the shortcuts, and could get there before darkness reached its deepest.

“You are kind to ask.” He meant that sincerely, for her question had been thoughtful, and he found himself offering her a polite but friendly smile. “Are you waiting for someone? Or have a problem with your wagon or horse?” he asked, noticing by the thickness of undisturbed snow surrounding her on the wagon that she and her daughter must have been sitting there for a surprisingly long time in such cold weather.

“May I be of any service, ma’am? To make amends for disturbing you.”
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Frinneth
 Posted: Mar 7 2015, 06:11
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Frinneth had this momentary feeling that the birth pangs had eased somewhat upon meeting this stranger with such goodness of manner that all the slights and unkindnesses she and Miriel had endured the past three days had vanished into the softness of the falling snow, to be buried and forgotten. She could not help but notice, for there was a lantern that favored him with it's light (though it did not touch her) that he was a handsome man with eyes any healthy woman could long look upon without displeasure. His features matched his kindness.

What startled Frinneth the most was that she had noticed these things. But there was not time now to ponder that. "I assure you, there is no need to atone for slipping on the ice. Yet I thank you for your concern." Frinneth was torn between asking if there was a place he knew of who would perhaps have a room for the night, for she did not like that Miriel would be so long exposed to the cold, even if she was warm enough under blankets.

"I might ask," began Frinneth, hesitantly. Then she dove in with both feet, and explained her plight. "It is three days, and I cannot find an inn with room, and...and perhaps quiet. I am almost desperate enough to pay for a room at the Prancing Pony, but I fear it is not the place for a child. We were going to stay in a barn down the road..."

Frinneth then felt three tugs on her shawl, and Miriel startled her as much as if she had suddenly spoken in an Elven tongue, for she was unfailingly shy around strangers. "Mama, he seems nice. Could we give him a ride home, so he doesn't have to walk in this pretty snow? Maybe he has a barn we could stay in."

Frinneth blushed deeply, and looked at the man. "There is room in the wagon," she admitted, wishing she had thought to offer the man aid before her daughter did. Had she been so long away from the company of others that she had forgotten all her instincts of kindness? "It would be no trouble for us at all to see you home to your family. We do seek shelter, but it would be nothing at all to take possession of our chosen hayloft after we have staved off the worry of your wife and family."
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Berard Burrwen
 Posted: Mar 7 2015, 07:33
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Berard’s first reaction, which took him some moments to recover from, was astonishment and curiosity about why a young mother and little child had come to Bree alone, trying to fend for themselves. Questions crowded in his mind, though he forbade himself to ask, at least not yet. It was an equal effort to refrain from asking the obvious: Had she no family? If she had family but could not or would not turn to them for help and shelter, it was surely too private a matter for him to have any business meddling.

“You are very kind indeed, ma’am… and little one,” he smiled again, glancing briefly at the small hump under the blanket where the child was. “My family will not be worrying about me, though, for I am a widower these ten years and my son would not worry for a few more hours yet.”

Not only that (he thought but did not say) but he would never let them drive alone back to Bree in the dark of night, even if the road were still as safe as it used to be. However, he remembered his friend Mrs. Dellbrook who had recently mentioned feeling less secure than she used to living alone on her farm now that foul-minded folk were cropping up more often in Bree-land. The area was noticeably less safe now than it had been even three months ago, and he for one did not assume that winter would improve matters.

“You have helped me to an idea. I would gladly accept a ride home if you would allow my family – my sister and brother-in-law – to give you shelter for the night on their farm. Even more convenient would be if you would stop at my friend’s farm which we would pass on the way. She is a widow who lives alone, who I think would be happy to give you shelter tonight. If she cannot, we could drive on to my family’s farm. Either way, you would reach shelter sooner and could return to Bree on the morrow if you wish.”

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Frinneth
 Posted: Mar 7 2015, 21:23
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So he was a widower. This fact sealed some of her ease with this kind man, for he might understand her own emotions as a widow. Yet, evenso, Frinneth squared her shoulders ever so slightly, waiting for this stranger's questions, which she saw on his face. She was ureasonably disappointed to see them on his face, not discerning yet that they were out of concern for another person rather than nosey curiosity. But that can be forgiven, for she did not know him yet, and past history had taught her to be careful around others. Frinneth watched his expression closely, especially those eyes she was finding it hard to look away from. They were eloquent, and they fascinated her.

It was because she was studying him that she saw the moment he decided not to ask the several obvious questions to grant her the compliment of being the one to share or not. He rose in her estimation, for he had conquered his curiosity and had the manners to mind his own business. Frinneth found herself considering opening up to him, at least as much as courtesy demanded. He had, after all, just offered herself and Miriel his hospitality and acquaintance with a neighbor his voice spoke well of, as well as (unsaid but by those eloquent eyes) his protection, and it was the most kind offer Frinneth had received since entering Bree three days ago. His own manners spoke well of his neighbor who might give her a night's lodging, and if she had not the room, there was still the offer to stay with his own family. She knew she had best accept this, for it would be so much better for Miriel to be warm and comfortable.

As much as his unasked questions showed his manners, her lack of providing any information showed her that it was now time to show hers. "It is a kind offer," spoke Frinneth, scooting over a bit on the wagon bench, in the universal invitation to make room for him. "We accept, but not until we are more acquainted. I am Frinneth, widow of Dorion these four years, and this little angel is our daughter, Miriel. We came to Bree down the Greenway from the north, for my farm is too much for me now that I have no help, for my hand felt too keen the loneliness of it and...I do not wish Miriel to grow up so isolated." Now was not the time to confess her problems with Dolen, so she left all of that unsaid. "A friend, a man named Vagorion, saw me safely to town, but had to return to his expectant wife and children and his own vast farm. He will come again when he has sold my farm for me. Then I hope to purchase a smaller, vacant farm near here, and rejoin civilization."

Frinneth finished her introduction with a self conscious smile, and blushed, feeling as if she had just spoken to someone who might even become her neighbor, and she felt with hesitant gladness that she might see this man now and again, and make the acquanitance and perhaps even friendship of him and his neighbors, especially if she was fortunate in the purchase of a farm in the vacinity. "Why not sell your turkeys, and introduce yourself after, for they will not get any lighter, and we can speak on the way to your neighbor's place. We will wait happily your return."

Again, Frinneth wondered at herself, that she had not understated her emotion at seeing this man again. Perhaps it was because of his natural manners, but she felt safe in a way she could not explain. It was not simply the natural desire to be under a man's protection even for awhile, for this was not a night when thieves and those who plot and do evil would have much chance of making trouble without leaving behind plenty of evidence in the snow. Frinneth, who needed time to figure out her reactions, would mull them in the night, while her daughter slept.


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Berard Burrwen
 Posted: Mar 8 2015, 20:54
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Berard’s pleasure when she accepted his offer distracted him, for the moment anyway, from wondering with sympathy what shelter Frinneth had found the previous two nights, since it sounded as if she had not stayed in an inn. That was yet another question that could wait until their conversation while driving to Elanor’s farm, for indeed he felt more sympathy for her difficulties than he knew how to express without seeming to meddle.

“Very well, Frinneth. It should not take long since I often do business with this innkeeper, Barliman Butterbur by name. So does my friend whom you will soon meet, so if you wish, Master Butterbur could vouch for both of us.” She had not made such request, but Berard mentioned it anyway in case she feared that asking to hear someone vouch for him might seem rude or ungrateful. He would certainly not begrudge her taking such a precaution.

Leaving Frinneth to weigh whether she wished reassurance from the innkeeper, he left her with a smile and carefully took the last steps to the front door of the Prancing Pony, determined not to slip and stumble anymore. He failed, though less obviously than before, but that time it did not affect his temper, which had much improved thanks to his encounter with the lady and the knowledge that he could indeed be of service.

He was less patient than usual in catching Butterbur’s oft-distracted attention, and when told that a woman and child awaited Berard outside in the cold, Butterbur made short work of their bargaining. As was customary, they sealed it with a quick drink, and afterward Butterbur surprised him by dropping two candies in his hand. Berard thanked him while concealing the teasing quality behind his smile, for despite the decidedly mixed quality of reputation among Butterbur’s customers, he apparently was a bit of a softie at heart.

“I am ready, Frinneth,” Berard reported with a cheerful smile upon returning. He climbed up and sat beside her on the bench, trying not to crowd her, and slung the empty game bag over his feet.

“Compliments of Master Butterbur. He included these in our bargain at no charge,” he added, offering her the two candies, the explanation being an attempt to forestall her from demurring the gift if she thought he had bought it for her.

“I am Berard Burrwen of Staddle. I am a hunter and live on my family’s farm. My friend is Mrs. Dellbrook, whose farm is only a few miles beyond the East Gate. I would be honored to drive the wagon, if you would like?”

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Frinneth
 Posted: Mar 31 2015, 06:25
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Frinneth was touched by the kindness of the candies. Miriel thanked the man very properly, and shyly, and then asked if she had permission to eat the sweet. "Indeed you do, my little angel," replied Frinneth, scooting farther over and swinging her daughter up onto her lap, still keeping her covered from the now heavily falling snow. She saved the other sweet to give to Miriel later, for this was a treat she could not deprive her daughter of, so few of these did she get.

Frinneth also thanked Mr. Burrwen. She knew the now named Berard Burwen had asked out of courtesy if she wished him to take the reins as they drove at least as far as his friend's farm. She had moved over already on the wagon seat to make room for him, and now smiled and held out the reins for him. "Thank you kindly as well for the offer to drive. I accept, Mr. Burrwen. Darkness falls, and I would get us lost in the snow. You must know these parts well to be able to guide the horse in such poor visibility."

They set off as soon as Mr. Burrwen was up and seated. "I hope your friend Mrs. Dellbrook does not mind a refugee widow and her small daughter on her doorstep this late. We have been staying in empty haylofts, which is not the best or safest lodging during the night. I assure you I have been careful. My situation is somewhat precarious at the moment, moneywise, for our move south came suddenly. I have a large farm in the north, which a friend of my family is selling for me as soon as he is able. He has promised to send my spinning wheel and some money in a fortnight, or as close as he can. His wife is greatly expecting, so I need to make what coin and supplies I have last in case he is delayed. I would rather wait longer than have him miss the birth of his fifth child. He is one of those lucky men to have a bonny, merry wife and four other children who have inherited the best qualities of both mother and father. The two eldest, boys, or I should say young men now, are taking to farming and are also Rangers, as is Vagorion, their father. He has also two sweet and kind daughters, who help their mother as much as they can, both still under ten. They cannot wait for the new baby!"

Frinneth paused, looking at the snow building up on the blanket. She shook it out, without disturbing Miriel, who had fallen asleep curled up against her. Once the blanket was again wrapped snugly, the made sure the cat was still hiding under his own pile of blankets in the back of the half-wagon, and saw that the hedgehog was poking his nose out of Miriel's pocket. Nocturnal, this was morning for it, but it did not fancy the cold and burrowed again into the pocket it most preferred in Miriel's overdress.

"It is pleasant to have someone to speak to, who does not give me the distasteful up and down study that marks one as 'suspect' and 'a stranger'." She moved just enough to carefully brush the inch of snow off Mr. Burrwen's coat shoulders and cap. "From what I gathered in the past three days, many are newcomers, and not entirely welcome, in Bree. Has there been trouble in town? Nobody told me anything, not of detail, just from general distrust of my presence. I did hear one say, in my hearing, 'Another rat seeking safety behind Bree's gates.' If there has been trouble, I could understand why we have been shown so little hospitality."


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Berard Burrwen
 Posted: Apr 6 2015, 08:30
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As pleased that Frinneth had accepted the candies as that she would allow him to drive, and impressed by her little girl’s good manners, Berard’s recently improved mood felt to be settling in for a comfortable stay. He was also glad that Frinneth was proving talkative in a way that was pleasant to listen to, even though she was leaving some things unsaid that further whetted his curiosity. It was not that he sensed falsehoods, but he could reason that she was leaving out some important parts of her story. That was her prerogative, though, and it was not his natural way to meddle in what was not his business regardless of how curious he might feel. He was not, however, above trying to satisfy his curiosity indirectly.

“I am sorry you’ve had a difficult time here in Bree. I am happy to try and help you find better and safer circumstances while you wait for your friend. Vagorion and his family sound like fine people, the sort I would be happy to meet, though I have never traveled that far North. I have lived in Staddle – one of the small villages just outside Bree – since I was a boy of 15, and I spend much of my time in the woods hunting game, but not very far to the north, where my impression is that the country grows more dangerous.”

By then they had reached the East Gate. The night watchmen – more of them than were posted before early October – had closed it not long before and were somewhat grumpy about having to open it again, but they did, and even as they heard the noise of the heavy gates closing again behind them, Berard tickled the horse into its easiest trot, a pace he would not have dared on the slick cobblestones in town, but from there to Elanor’s farm the road was packed dirt and he knew how to avoid the worst ruts.

The snow was falling more heavily than he’d expected even half an hour ago, and in the back of his mind he began to consider whether he might be wiser not to try and reach his own home that night, but he would wait and see how deep the snow was once they were at Elanor’s cottage – and how well he could see his way if it were still falling. For the present, it would be enough to reach Elanor’s farm before the snow became deep enough to make a real problem for the horse and the wagon wheels.

He considered two things Frinneth had said that made him wonder – first, the unanswered question of what triggered her to uproot and move south suddenly at wintertime, the worst and riskiest season for such a thing, and secondly that she would mention so openly that her husband and friend were Rangers. The temptation to meddle, to which he was not often given, was growing, but he was trying to resist.

“Winter’s eve is a difficult and chancy season in which to uproot oneself, and to buy and sell land.” There, how could he not say so? But he stopped shy of asking why she was doing all this at winter’s doorstep.

“Bree especially grows crowded as winter closes in, for there are always travelers and wanderers seeking a place to stay and wait out the worst of the winter months. That raises the price of whatever accommodations are still available. This winter’s eve seems worse than usual, though. You are not the first people to come down from the North seeking to stay in Bree, though so far I have not heard why people are leaving the North.” If Frinneth knew, he hoped she would say.

They were trotting slowly along the woods-lined Great Road then, so although they could not see anything clearly through the darkness and snowfall that bewildered the eyes if one gazed through it too long, Berard interrupted himself to try and help Frinneth feel at least a little oriented, pointing out that not far off the road to their left lay the village of Combe, and to their right – where they were heading – lay Staddle.

“That does not excuse rudeness. I am sorry you suffered words from rude folk these last few days. Most in Bree-land are good people, but Bree especially also has a good share of unsavory sorts. Also, there was indeed trouble here. Early this October unknown strangers broke through the West Gate at night and broke into the Prancing Pony Inn, where I just sold my turkeys. It was very odd, and many folk still feel nervous about it. However, that might not be the only reason for the suspicion toward you if you mentioned to anyone that your late husband and your friend are Rangers.”

PM
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