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Birthday Drabbles and Suchlike  by annmarwalk

Natural History


“Look, just there.” Grandfather whispered. Barahir shifted slightly, rustling a dry leaf underfoot. A shimmer of emerald and gold, and the bird was gone.

Number 111. Bee-eater. Three days tramping the woods of Ithilien with his grandfather – what a treat! Grandfather knew the names of all the birds, and the flowers, and even the stars. He had given Barahir a small leather-bound journal, just like his own, to keep his notes and sketches and a list of all the birds he saw.

As the evening grew chill, Grandfather warmed some spiced wine, treating Barahir to a well-watered mugful. Nestled cozily together, they watched shooting stars streaming like fireworks across the sky.

*****

This was written for Tanaqui, who asked for drabbles set in Ithilen. As I had recently returned from a weekend playing Rangers of Ithilien with my daughter, Adventure Sally, I had much material to draw from! A rare occurence.

Kindred Spirits


Through all his long years, Mithrandir had envied neither elf nor man, concentrating always on his task: the defeat of the Dark One.

Yet when the raven-haired boy gazed at him with such admiration, he could not help but wonder: what it would have been like to father such a child? To see him grow daily in grace and wisdom, to delight in his eager curiosity, to mold his learning to noble ends? Why was such joy granted to one who treasured it not?

He revered his King Elessar, but dear Faramir had always been the child of his heart.

*******
For Acacea, a fellow November baby

Legolas and Aragorn had traveled far together, and shared much: hunger and pain; songs and stories; bittersweet memories of the past, wistful longings for the future.

So if he chooses not to share this secret, then neither will I, thought Legolas. But when he spied a small flat stone, the ghostly image of an ancient fern-leaf embedded in the dark matrix, he knelt quickly and slipped it into his pack.

“Happy birthday, friend,” Aragorn’s eyes lit up, a sudden flash of boyish delight that warmed the heart. A small token, dear Estel, in earnest of what is yours by right.

~~
For Cheryl - my first attempt at writing an elf! I still find it an intimidating prospect, even if one friend has actually described me as having as elvish soul, and urged me to "embrace my inner elvishness! Come into the light! "
Special thanks to silver_blue_phoenix for providing the spark that became the story.

Throughout that rainy winter Faramir watched, fascinated, as Eowyn wielded needle and thread as skillfully as ever she had handled her sword.

“I did not spend all my time in the practice-yards,” she laughed. “Come evening, my nurse would sit on me to make me take up my needlecraft. I fought long, but finally surrendered, and now am glad of the skill.” She held up her handiwork, a small jacket as exquisite and intricate as a spider’s web.

A tapestry, Faramir thought. Each day, some new knowledge; a new thread added. We weave our lives together, a work in progress.

~~
A drabble for Branwyn, who expressed an interest in weaving, and tapestry, and spiders' webs. I like to think of Eowyn as being a mistress of 'traditional" womanly arts, as well as the feminist icon of my pre-feminist youth.

King he might be, he was still a young man in a strange city. Stone walls closed in on him; and everywhere, too many people, too much noise. He hungered for a moment of quiet, and a breath of air; a blessed glimpse of green to remind him of his home.

He found these things at last, in rooftop garden, high above the city, tucked behind a carved archway. He found also a young woman, dark haired with eyes of grey, hoping to catch a whiff of salt air – the scent of her home.

Shy at first, they sat and talked. He told her of a great sea of grass, and the thunder of hoofbeats in his blood. She spoke of the thousand colors of the ocean in all its moods. We are all children of the sea, she said, for do we not sleep in a bed of salt water in our mother’s womb, dreaming of this life? He wondered at that, but her voice was like music to him.

When they met again, that evening, he took her hand, and did not let go. She wondered at that, but after a while, she entwined her fingers with his.

~~
For Melina - The first of a series of romantic drabbles. Quite a change for me, but very fun to write! It was very liberating to give my inner romantic free rein.

At work in her garden, fingers embedded in warm earth. Eowyn thinks, oddly, about smells.

Edoras: Grassland, horse, peatsmoke. She had been accustomed to those smells; but now, she wrinkles her nose a bit at the memory, laughing at herself.

Ithilien: new-cut hay, birch trees in bud, the lavender leaves she crushes between her fingers. Her husband: sweat, lemony soap; the scent of their lovemaking lingering on his skin. She smiles.

Footsteps, and here is Faramir, stretching out on the grass next to her. Reaching over, he nuzzles the back of her neck, murmuring, I love the way you smell.

~~
For Lariren-Shadow, who is not quite old enough to read this version! A G-Rated version was published at HASA for her.

The year’s end celebration: feasting and dancing and bonfires. At the Citadel there is candlelight; scent of cedar and fir and exotic spices; elegantly garbed and perfumed guests: the Lord Steward’s mettarë ball.

As she turns, smiling, to welcome a shy guest; as he bends, thoughtfully, to greet an old ally: their eyes meet, and a spark - a nearly palpable burst of light and heat.

Ah, the unspoken words transmitted upon the power of that glance!

Dear one, husband, how handsome you are tonight! I wish –

Would that this evening were over, my Finduilas, my love! My jewel. My precious.


~~~
A holiday gift for Astara, because writing drabbles is easier than visiting the Hallmark store. I can visualize this scene so well - John Noble and Sophie Marceau, perhaps? Much like Anna Karenina, and also with an unhappy end.

Marriage Counseling


“So the marriage is successful, then?” Imrahil eyed Finduilas over the soft dark fuzz of his newborn nephew’s head.

“What is a successful marriage? Affection, and respect. He has his work, and I have mine, now. Did you think it would not be? Have I not been raised to know my duty?”

“Affection, respect, duty. What of joy? Passion? He seems a dull humorless man, but perhaps you see a side of him I do not…”

She laughed, soft music, and the babe stirred sleepily in his uncle’s arms. “I see many sides of him that you do not, brother.”

~~
The first of several stories summoned forth by my Denethor-muse, Astara.

I hear that Legolas has visitors: tall and fair, elves! Our queen’s twin brothers, friends of the king, from his childhood! That is the gossip in our kitchens. I will go see for myself.

I can move quietly too, perhaps not as quietly as an elf, but I have been practicing, trying to learn rangerly ways. There could still be orcs about, and I must be ready to defend Gondor, like my uncle did.

There they are, under the beech tree – watching birds, perhaps? Are there not birds in Imladris? Where are their weapons? I should like to see their bright swords.

Damn that twig! They are looking right at me! Of course, they are elves – with their powers, they probably could hear me from the time I left home. Well then, no secrecy or surprise; best I speak straight out what is in my mind.

“Greetings, my lords. I am Elboron, son of Faramir, Steward of Gondor. Did you know my uncle Boromir? Can you tell me about him?”

They smile at each other – another small boy, seeking tales - and beckon me closer. “Sit, young ranger. We will tell you of a warrior we met, once, in Imladris….”

~~
LKK had asked for Elladan and Elrohir; but somehow I found it easier to get inside a small boy's head than anywhere near an elf.

Mourning Cloak


My Lord Denethor now wears only black, but this was not always so.

He had always worn somber colors, but when my lady Finduilas brought joy into his life, she brought color, too. Deep burgundy, like Dorwinion wine. Rich forest green. Midnight blue – the color he chose for that lovely mantle, his gift to her that first autumn. I would give you the sky full of stars if I could, love, he murmured, his eyes aglow, and her smile would have lit the heavens.

When she died he raged against his chamberlain: Take away these fripperies. Bring me something black.

As time went on the chamberlain, mindful always of the grandeur of the steward’s office, ordered increasingly elaborate clothing, trimmed with fur or intricate embroidery, but always black. Once, I caught a glimpse of my lord holding a bit of soft fur to his cheek, eyes closed; but then his face seemed to crumple, and he tossed the robe aside.

~~
Another one for Astara, a drabble of indeterminate length, inspired by outrage at Ngila Dickson's comments on the ROTK-EE. Flamboyant costumes? Useless chain mail? Overdecorated sword? Read the book, Ngila!

Oh, he had a sweet tooth, our young lord Boromir! Whenever he returned home to us, safe and whole, I’d fix his favorites: breakfast cakes drizzled with ginger glaze; milky tea sweetened with honey and cinnamon; crisp duckling roasted with oranges and dates. He’d laugh, and kiss me, and call me his dearest Mag. I’d shoo him away, but not before he’d grab a handful of sugared almonds, for later.

Now, every year on his birthday, my lord Faramir bakes ginger cakes, with his own hands, in memory. Not as good as mine, but Faramir tries his best, bless him.

By the time the household was roused by his youngest sister’s cries of “Ada’s baking! Ada’s baking!” Faramir and Elboron had been at work for quite some time.

Two kinds of ginger: ground for the filling, candied for the glaze. He watched his father’s strong, callused hands kneading the dough, until… “Smooth as a baby’s bottom!” they sang out in unison, laughing, as always.

Then came the moment when Elboron asked his question, as he did each year, knowing now that it was part of the tradition. “What was my uncle Boromir like?” And his father began to tell him.

A very unusual challenge: a drabble incorporating rutabagas, without using the word "the".
~~~

Siege Cookery

Hands on hips, Mag surveyed her pantry.

Rutabagas, parsnips, potatoes, and carrots filled loosely woven baskets while strings of onion, peppers, and garlic hung from dusty rafters. Sacks of dried peas, lentils, and barley were stacked neatly, interspersed with bundles of dried santolina, its sharp scent reputed to repel mice and bugs. An array of crockery held preserved meats; Mag’s precious hoard of spices was still kept under her watchful eye.

Nothing fancy, not even a chicken; but Mag knew she could produce enough porridge and pottage to keep them all going until ‘twere all over, one way or another.

A Good Prognosis


“What d’ye mean, I’m to have only soup?” Merry’s voice grew louder, and more shrill, with each passing moment. The young server was courteous, but growing increasingly distressed, and she welcomed the White Lady’s intervention with obvious relief.

“ ‘Light diet’, indeed. Can you imagine such a thing? How am I supposed to get better, if I don’t eat?”

Eowyn, who up until that moment had had no interest in eating whatsoever, lifted the linen napkin covering the tray. There was not only soup, tantalizingly scented of lemon and dill, but also flaky rolls dripping with honey butter and fruit-topped custard.

Quite surprisingly, her stomach growled.

Merry let out a roar of laughter. “See! You’re ready to eat too! But we must have more than just soup - that wouldn’t keep a flea alive. The idea!”

Ioreth, listening behind the door, hurried to spread the word that these patients were, clearly, recovering.

Where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also


The new father, brow furrowed in concentration, holds his child on a blanket spread over his lap. Bit by bit, he unfastens white linen swaddling and examines this extraordinary treasure, this jewel. His eyes alight with joy and wonder, he marvels at the dark silken hair, the tiny perfect fingers, the milky-dreaming mouth.

Is that a lullabye he softly sings?

Care you know not,
Therefore sleep,
While I o'er you watch do keep.
Sleep, my little son,
Do not cry…


Thorongil watches from the shadow, almost sick with envy and despair. Will he ever hold a son of his own?

Birdsong (A birthday gift for AmandaK)

The gift was an impulse purchase from a street vendor in the Fifth Circle; and now, Boromir was trapped. He had little knowledge (and no interest, if truth be told) but Faramir was waiting, eyes aglow, for the one who excelled at all things to share this wondrous skill as well.

“I can show you.” Denethor lifted his son onto his lap. “Set your fingers, so, and blow through here – aha!” A short sweet trill, like birdsong; Faramir’s gasp of surprise; then delighted laughter.

“Show me again, ada,” and again and again, patiently, until Faramir could play the simple tune himself.

Just a snippet of memory, really, but one that Boromir kept tucked away, precious.


Inspired
(A birthday gift for Acacea)

Eowyn watches as he sleeps, his breathing slow and even, his lips curved. Moonlight gleams on his hair, silver strands now glistening among the raven. Where have the years gone?

He has given her so much; taught her so much, a world of poetry and beauty and delight beyond imagining. She smiles to think of all those who have been inspired by seeing their loved ones thus, kissed by moon and stars; and reaches for the pen to try her hand at a new art.

I watch while you sleep
Pale moonlight brushing your skin
As you dream, you smile



History Becomes Legend
(A birthday gift for Illwynd)

Amid the noise and confusion of the tavern, Faramir had to struggle to understand the young Rider, speaking haltingly in heavily accented Westron.

“Your brother, Lord Boromir… well known …noble man, mighty warrior…beloved companion to our Prince.
We have for him made a song - ” The boy looked to his friends for encouragement, as Faramir nodded his assent.

Stillness fell upon the room as the Rohirrim sang of bright sun, dark moon; valor; love beyond death. The words themselves were understood by only a few, but the power and majesty of the elegy spoke to the hearts of all.

The Code of the Corsairs
(A birthday gift for Marta, who asked for something about how the Corsairs would view the people of Dol Amroth.)

They are owned by what they own: elaborate houses; overdecorated women; useless possessions.

We are not so burdened: keeping what jewels as we can wear, what weapons we can bear; calling naught our own but our charmed lives. The pleasures of our flesh: tingling saltspray; the scent and taste of a joyful lover; the music of the night sky.

Fighting not for plunder, but testing ourselves against fair foes, besting them with wit and skill and seafarer’s luck. When our luck runs out, we will die; but we will die knowing that we had lived. Can they say the same?

It's the Thought

Théodred brought the two children back to Edoras, riding with him on his own horse. He knew they would not immediately accept their new home – too many changes, too much pain. They would need to be coaxed, gentled, like the hurt, frightened creatures they were.

Give them something, his old nurse had suggested, to break the ice. Then she astounded him by producing two long-forgotten treasures: a tattered stuffed pony, and a small wooden sword.

He gave Éowyn the pony. Much later he remembered the envious gleam in her eyes as she watched Éomer, slashing the air with his sword.

Peace

She has fallen asleep in her chaise by the window, their newborn son peaceful in her arms. For a moment Denethor is annoyed – Where is the nurserymaid? – but then he sees the dance of moon and shadow, the play of starlight on their faces, and is captivated, thinking he has never seen a sight so lovely.

I watch while you sleep
Pale moonlight brushes your skin
In your dreams, you smile

He thanks the Powers for all the blessings of his life: wife, sons, homeland; and prays for wisdom and strength and courage to hold them safe, no matter what.


A birthday gift for Astara - December, 2005





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