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Author Topic: Paper Bridges  (Read 2306 times)


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« on: August 25, 2014, 07:24:00 PM »
((OOC: ... Rian wouldn't leave me alone. If anything assumed needs changed, tell me! *Wriggles in excitement for this thread*))

It was short, in the end. Hesitant hands had scribed practices for almost an hour, each one crumpled then smoothed, the spare pieces used to plan the next attempt. She debated over dashes and question marks, dear or to or just his full name, everything too distant or too intimate. The ink looped quick rather than neat. Paper cost, and now she had to worry about things like that. The practices didn’t help and in the end time slipping through her fingers forced her to go with what she had, messy and imperfect and disregarding all careful choices, rather than any satisfaction in the words. Folded twice and marked with his name, left hesitantly with the forge master in the smithy she knew he frequented. She didn’t know if she wanted a reply, but hoped for one anyway.


 It’s Rian, and don’t panic, it’s not an emergency. I don’t know what it is. I couldn’t find a permanent address for you, so here’s hoping you get this. How Actually, on the subject of addresses, that’s why I’m writing. I have one. Rented long-term and everything, under my real name. Land-lady (landlady?) of Lin daughter of Loen – her husband runs the Bettle & Chisel and she rents the rooms behind it short-term, plus the ones across the street. That’s where I am. Thought you’d want to know. So far, showing no signs of being allergic to staying in one place, though I can’t stop jumping every time someone knows my name.

 How are you? And do you happen to know how the bloody writing letters is supposed to work? It’s possible that I didn’t listen to Dyen when she tried to teach me. I have no idea what I’m doing. In more

So. Goodbye? Or hello.



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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2014, 10:30:00 PM »
(OOC:  Ahhh, it’s perfect, nothing needs changed!  *joins in with the wriggling*  This thread ohmigosh so excited!)

To say the letter had come as a surprise would be an understatement.  Two days after Rian delivered her note, Kvasir sauntered into the forge, his chin tucked into the loose grey scarf draped around his throat.  Josvo the forge master handed the parchment over.  It was undeniably meant for him - his birth name was on it - though Kvas did not recognise the looped handwriting.  Discovering it was from Rian, a strange nervousness bloomed in his chest and he halted to consume her words with something akin to reverence.  Then he had tucked the letter safely in his notebook and set about his work.

The letter lingered in his thoughts all day, his answer drafted in his mind long before the smithy closed its doors.  Later, Kvasir had chewed his bottom lip as his charcoal whispered across the page, finding it strange to hear her speak as he spoke (oh yes, as he read Rian’s words her smoky voice drifted through his mind), and he unfurled the letter, fingertips running over her words.  Did she choose them carefully, or did they come easily?  It was difficult to navigate his sincere enthusiasm without coming across as overeager.  

When he was content with his response, Kvasir tore the sheet from his notebook, leaving the page with one rough edge.  Then he folded it and marked it with Rian's name.  The hour was late but it was useless trying to sleep.  He delivered the letter that very night, pushing it under the door of the place that was now Rian's home.  For the time being.

    Hello Rian - definitely hello.

    Look at you, set up with an address in your real name.  
It’s good t  I know the Bettle & Chisel, you’re in a nice enough part of town.  15 years here (mostly) and I still drift.  It's shameful.

Have you found work?  I’m still at the forge.  Obviously.  Sometimes I run messages.  Other habits die hard, if you follow me, but I’m not as bold as I used to be.  I’m doing all right though.  Life goes on.

How are you?

Been mute a long time and even I don’t know how to write a proper letter so don’t worry about it.  As long as you can read my words and I can read yours we’ll be grand.

Thanks for writing me.  It’s good to hear from you.


(If you get a rash or can’t catch your breath, uproot and see a healer immediately)[/li][/list]


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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2014, 03:27:00 PM »
She had half-woken at the susurration of paper on stone, fingers securing around the knife she still kept under her pillow. But when no further noises sounded, sleep retook her and she thought no more of it until padding out of her sleeping alcove the next morning into the tiny room she still couldn’t quite think of as hers. Green eyes caught on the creamy page and she picked it up carefully, as though the paper was old and brittle, might fall apart at her touch. The feel of familiar paper, the torn edge (she felt guilty, briefly, about that – the notebook was important) and the neat handwriting told her the writer even before she opened it. Although it had been mere days, she had worried that he wasn’t going to reply; equally worried that he’d choose to do so in person. It wasn’t that she was scared of him – not now. It was just a strange sort of hesitance, a leftover instinct to give herself distance mixed with a desire for the control that a shield of paper gave her, since Kvas rendered her masks inert. Not that she wanted to hide – just that she wasn’t used to not being able to. The ink didn’t help as much as she had once imagined it would, as she had discovered in the first note, her hand running on ahead of her brain.

 There was no one there to see the grin and faint frown and considering look, the eye roll at his jest, no one from whom she had to hide the feeling of things settling into place as she listened to his voice through neat pencil and was subtly reassured yet again that he was still the same Kvas. She still looked around half-suspiciously as she knelt at the table and pulled out paper and charcoal – she’d have to find some chairs and proper pencils soon; ink was too messy and this crumbled too easy. This time the words came more easily, with less second-guessing. The letter was longer, writing getting squished towards the bottom, some thoughts hidden for another time now that she thought there’d be one.

 She barely finished before having to go to work, doubled her journey home that evening by looping around to the forge again. This time an apprentice offered to run in and get him for her, but she convinced him to tell her which pigeonhole contained his belongings instead and slipped the folded sheet in among them, hoping his name on the outside wouldn’t smudge. He hadn’t knocked when he’d delivered, and she didn’t want to pull him away from work, and… And her earlier reasons still applied.


     Lin told me the same thing about it being nice many times, and so far it seems both of you have been telling the truth. It’s odd to wake up to so little shouting.

     Fifteen years?
Has it Did you stop to eat on the way here? Your journey was a good ten years shorter than mine. Here I thought I was following in your footsteps settling down. This explains why you didn’t warn me about how everything doubles in price. Never before have I seriously wanted to complain about the price of chairs.

 Work. Well. Don’t laugh, alright? It seems that as of yesterday I’ve ended up in needlecraft after all. Leatherwork, admittedly. My employer’s name is Thul and we’ll see if she keeps me. She’s nice enough and the pay’s good. (The few other places that didn't politely chase me out wanted me to work for free until they got over themselves. I think I’d have starved before they managed.) I don’t know how it’ll work yet. I need the hours but I want to try convin time to do other things – I’ve been spoiled for it this past while, can’t go to being responsible all at once. By the way, is Josvo suspicious of everyone or just females? He seemed to think I was lost, then he thought I was trying to distract him to allow a thief in. Here’s hoping the others in there aren’t nosy enough to try and read this.
 It’s good to hear you’re well – keep it that way, alright? I’m not blind to the irony of me saying this, but be careful.

 I don’t know how I am. Ask again in a week, by then hopefully I’ll have figured out whether the answer is ‘terrified’ or ‘disconcertingly content’. The only thing I’m currently certain of is that dresses still annoy me.

 Thanks for the reassurance – I’m fairly sure I forgot I was supposed to sign mine, and I’ll probably do worse.if


 (Hilarious. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, I just got used to the idea of staying still.)[/li][/list]



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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2014, 06:20:00 PM »
After delivering his first response to Rian, Kvasir had returned to his basic bedsit room in an inn known as the Bitter End.  Its name was testament to the dark humour of its long-dead founder, as well as his love of pale ale.  While it was in one of the more rundown regions of Ered Luin’s underground city, it was not exactly dangerous.  You could sleep without fear of having your throat cut so long as you locked the door.  And sleep Kvas did, his faint smile lost to darkness.  

The next morning took him back to the smithy, to the familiar metallic ringing of hammers and oppressive heat.  It wasn’t until he finished for the day, when he went to gather his belongings together, that he realised Rian had struck again.  Peeking out of the folds of his weathered green cloak was another letter, addressed clearly to him save for a small smudge on the r.  Delighted that she had replied so promptly, hungry for her words, he unfolded the note there and then.

Kvasir’s journey home (to use the term loosely) was extended by Josvo’s request that he deliver some newly sharpened swords to their respective noble owners.  Outside the sun had set by the time Kvas at last returned to the Bitter End.  Taking a meal downstairs, he pulled his notebook from his pocket and set about drafting his response, pausing now and then to sip a tankard of the bitter that gave the tavern its name.

It was different, writing with Rian.  Without her here, there was no pressure to hurry, no weight of waiting eyes on his face.  Not that Kvas particularly minded either – he had grown accustomed to the lulls between speech and his scribbled responses.  But he would forever miss the quick exchanges they had shared in their youth, the retorts and hushed words spoken of home, the ebb and flow of their spoken conversations.
Rian’s voice, fire-damaged and husky, the lilt of the Grey Mountains bleeding into the coarser tones of the Iron Hills – a thing of unique beauty, really – shaped the words on the paper before him.  Kvas was almost able to sense the lass’ growing confidence now that contact had been made, now that this unusual channel of communication was open.  Her writing was endearingly squished at the bottom of the page, as though she had so much more to tell him.  Maybe she did.  Kvasir hoped so.

As with his last letter, Kvasir delivered it that night, pushing the folded paper quietly beneath Rian’s door.  As he did so, he wondered how long it took to establish a habit.


    I all but ran south.  Didn’t stop for lunch and didn’t stop looking over my shoulder until I got to Fangorn – what a strange place that is.  Where did your road take you?

    You led the way in leaving the Grey Mountains and you lead the way in settling down.  I would do the same if running messages didn’t take me away.  Perhaps I should limit myself to the Blue Mountains.  I am trying to imagine you haggling over chairs.  It’s a strange (and amusing) sight.  When did you get so responsible??

    I didn’t laugh, I promise.  The fact you have ended up in needlecraft makes me think there are some fates that can’t be outrun.  A scary notion.  Sounds like you are well set up though and now I know who to speak to when I need riding tack mended.  I just hope your poor fingers can tolerate the pricking of needles.  

    What other things do you have in mind?
    Josvo is suspicious of everyone.  On my first day of work he told me he would take my writing hand if I ever stole from him – and we both know how much it means to me, especially now.  He's not a bad man though, it probably flustered him to see a woman at his forge.  It’s not likely the other smiths will stick their noses in anything that’s marked for my attention.  15 years and I am still the scary outsider.
    I try to be careful, I really do.  You take care of yourself too – you hear me?  And if there is anything you need, you know where to find me.  I currently have a room at the Bitter End but that could change.  The forge is always a safe bet though.

    I’ll ask again in a week then.

    Are you wearing dresses these days??  If I pass you in the street without
sayi waving, it is because you aren’t in breeches.  Now that makes me laugh.  Sorry.



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« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2014, 02:43:00 PM »
This time the rustle of paper came while Rian was still awake, the dying fire providing the only light as she curled up on her bed – she still needed to find chairs – and brushed the tangles out of her hair. She was getting used to it glinting gold again.

 She leaned around the edge of the alcove to confirm what she thought she already knew, green eyes catching on the white paper and a smile already quirking her lips. Bare feet touched the cold floor hesitantly and then she was padding over, considering opening the door and calling after him for a brief moment before dismissing the notion. Instead she settled on the floor in front of the fire for light, at a safe distance not only through her own fears but also because she didn’t want any unlikely stray sparks to hit the note.

 Same paper, same writing, same voice bleeding through it. Muted expressions flitted across her face as she read (should she tell him she wanted to smith? It seemed so childish. She was still a novice at 67 and he was
good at forging, and she didn’t want to ask for help) and when she finished, she wondered for a moment if she should try to reply tonight. But then, she’d have to get dressed properly again – shifts weren’t the best thing to be wandering the city in alone at night, nice area or not (and she was fairly sure Kvas’s current residence fell into not). And, for a moment, the entertaining notion crossed her mind that they’d just keep going; chasing each other back and forth to deliver replies all night. Entertaining and slightly tempting.

 Instead she set the note into the box beneath her table that kept everything important that needed to be reachable – things like her rent agreement and the majority of her money were less accessible, locked under her bed. It was strange knowing they’d stay there for years, hopefully. Like an anchor. Being responsible felt like being chained down, sometimes.

 She killed her fire (it would be cold in the morning, but it was better than having nightmares) and rolled back into bed, letting her reply draft itself in thought before she fell asleep.

 The next morning Rian wrote it while reflecting that she still really needed to acquire pencils as opposed to crumbling charcoal sticks meant for drawing. And chairs, still. And tea that didn’t taste awful, if she could afford it. She had to leave early and ask directions from a vendor in order to follow Kvasir’s example and slide the reply under his door, using skills acquired over a lifetime to get past the innkeeper without being noticed. It was reassuring that she still could, all this new responsibility hadn’t weighted her steps with noise and made her too solid to slip past.

     I’ve never been past the outskirts of Fangorn. Does it get stranger further in? To me it just seemed like a very old forest.  I think I’d need a map to remember the whole of my road, but the short answer would be nearly everywhere except Esgaroth and Erebor. I even went back to the Iron Hills for a bit. They didn’t tempt me to stay. I also wouldn’t recommend Rhun or South Gondor. Though the rest of Gondor was alright - spent a lot of time there and in Rohan, and wandering around on the west side of the Misty Mountains. And the east side. And a fair bit of Eriador in general, especially since these mountains started tempting me.

     I’m not sure I
am responsible. If chairs were smaller and easier to carry I think I’d have given up on haggling by now. Where else do messages take you? I admit, if I could get paid to appease my wanderlust I would.

 You better not have laughed. I’ll outrun it yet, just wait – I’m letting it think it’s caught me. In the meantime I’d be happy to help. My fingers will get used to it; I doubt my stomach would be so tolerant with not having food if I ran out of money.

 I’ll tell I was wondering about trying to get into a forge to practise. Ered Luin seems a lot more tolerant about women smithing than the Grey Mountains were, even if Josvo was confused by my mere presence, but I’m dismally behind in learning and pretty out of practice. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

 I’ve heard a few rumours about you being a scary outsider – just made me wonder exactly how people came up with them. Not sure whether to laugh or correct them. Unless you really did manage to make a deal with a dragon somehow, in which case tell me the story.

 Bitter End, got it. Lovely name. Same offer extends to you. (Anything to escape how sickeningly sensible I try to be otherwise.)

 It’s not fair, Kvas! Have you ever tried to get a job wearing – never mind. Let’s just say dresses make it marginally easier to be trusted, but it’s not really worth it. Thank goodness for riding skirts, otherwise I’d go crazy.




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« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2014, 10:49:00 PM »
Kvasir was sprawled out in bed, his face obscured by the arm draped across it, nose buried comfortably in the crook of his elbow.  The other hand was knotted in his own tousled hair, a self-soothing gesture, while the sheet tangled messily around his waist.  At this early hour he was dozing, vaguely aware of and desperately trying to ignore the fact that he would need to rise soon.  That was when Rian stealthily nudged her letter beneath the door to his room.  Blue eyes, murky with slumber, opened a crack at the soft sound of parchment.  It took him a moment to place the noise, to understand its cause.  When he realised, the arm shifted away to reveal a sleepy smile.

Some moments later, after chasing away the last dregs of his dreams, Kvas rose.  With bandages covering him from elbow to wrist and dressed only in loose-fitting breeches, he extracted himself from the bed.  Padding to the doorway, he ran a hand lazily through his hair – serving only to make it more untidy – and bent to pick up the paper.  The smile widened.  While it was tempting to settle back down beneath the still warm sheets, Kvas opted instead to sit at the bed’s edge and carefully unfold this next piece of correspondence.  How strange to think that Rian had come so close, had been mere feet away, as he slept.  How wonderful that she had come to this sorry part of town to deliver this note to him.

Awe showed itself in the Dwarf’s face as the sentences and paragraphs streamed by.  Rian was even braver than he had realised.  Kvasir read the letter twice more, before cursing himself for making himself late.  The note, with its charcoaled words, was folded and tucked carefully into his notebook before he washed, dressed and ate (if shoving an apple into his face as he trotted hastily to the forge counted as a meal).  By jogging the last mile he managed to arrive just in time.  A fortunate thing, for today Kvas only had a half shift.

The heavy hand of a colleague had seen a blade bent out of shape and the more flustered the inexperienced smith grew, the worst it got.  Kvasir took it from him silently, unruffled, and diligently worked the steel smooth.  Even as he hammered the glowing alloy his mind drifted to the letter, mulling over Rian’s words.  Thus on his morning break, Kvas settled himself at a workbench in the back of smithy, choosing one largely free of cinders and dirt.  Fritz was working alongside him today but fortunately the curious lad had his hands full and the other smiths knew better than to be nosy of the exile’s affairs.  Still, as he wrote his left arm mantled the pages, protecting them from prying eyes.  Just as he signed his name, he noticed a smudge of soot on the creamy page, but was in the same moment called back to the anvil.  Kvas considered his break well spent.

Early afternoon saw him leaving the smithy and, after a proper bite to eat, he acted as message-runner for himself.  The carefully folded response he pushed under the door to Rian’s home, feeling strangely nervous – likely because he was here during the day rather than at night.  With the note delivered, the corner of his mouth turned up into a faint half smile, Kvas made his way to the stables.

  • Rian,

    Before I say anything at all, I must say this – you have surprised me.  That’s not easily done.  Take a moment to pat yourself on the back.  Your road has just been so long.  I’m amazed and more than a little impressed.  But you surely know I will have you tortured with questions now.  I want to hear about your adventures, to listen to all of your stories – you must have so many to tell, good and bad.  You know something else?  I’m very glad the Iron Hills didn’t keep you.

    But yes, Fangorn.  Do you remember our adventure into those tunnels of light?  How it felt as though the weight of all the world was pressing down on us?  The forest was like that, sort of.  It was so old and so heavy that it made my bones ache (but in a good way) and the trees swallowed up all the sound.  I hope that makes sense.  What is stranger still is the creature I met there.  Have you heard tales of the Shepherds of the Forest?  I’m sure you have, you’re well-travelled.  Would you believe me if I told you the stories were true…?

    My messages mostly keep me within Eriador, which suits me nicely.  The road to Bree and on down to Lond Daer are the ones I most often tread.  I’d go anywhere though, for the right price.  Except the Grey Mountains.  And Mordor.  There are always messages to be run so if your feet get itchy (or you have an allergic reaction) you should think about giving it a try.

    Definitely didn’t laugh!  And I should have known that doing leatherwork is all part of a cunning plan.  If anyone can outrun fate, it’s you.

    Some things never change – the sun still rises and sets and still you’re drawn to the smithies.  If you’d like, I could speak to Josvo.  Might be he’d allow us into the forge after closing, if you wanted to practise there.  Might be I’d help you too, in between pestering for stories.  As long as we pay for any wasted materials I don’t see how it’d be an issue, it’s not like I ever give him any backchat.  The offer’s there anyway.  It’s up to you, Ri.  And for what it’s worth, I would buy my steel from a woman blacksmith – no blade I’ve ever carried has been as sharp as my mother’s kitchen knife. 

    I’m very intimidating, I’ll have you know.  Yet not so intimidating as to have made a deal with a dragon (I wish that was true).  I wonder where half these rumours come from.

    Life isn’t fair, so tell it to bog off and wear your breeches of mistrust anyway – if that’s what makes you happy.  You’re worried about going crazy?  Don’t be.  You already are and have been for some time.  What sane girl woman (by the Maker’s hammer, we’re old) goes gallivanting around all of Middle Earth?  I’ll tell you – one that’s crazy and bold in equal measure.

    Never change.

« Last Edit: September 11, 2015, 09:36:24 PM by Ulmo »


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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2014, 10:53:00 PM »
This time the note was waiting for Rian when she returned – later than normal; she had swung by the scribe’s alley and finally bought herself proper pencils. It was either there or to the street of carpenters, but chairs could wait. She had little enough room without adding more pieces of furniture. The shift in priorities made her quirk a smile when she noticed it, though it should have worried her. Since when did others come first, people come over practicality?

 (Since Kvas came running back into her life, sprinting down that alley after her with the truth.)

 She nearly stood on the white rectangle of paper, splayed over the stone tiles in front of her door. Which was still strange to think about. It had been pushed inwards when it had opened. She had to step over it carefully and push the door closed again before picking it up, wondering for a moment if something was wrong, to have caused the earlier delivery. She had to stop reading to find her perch on the edge of her bed and light a lamp, find her place again with calmer eyes. The block of text couldn’t be a panicked emergency note, and the words picked up where they had left off, the tone relaxed. Easy. Pulling her lips into a pleased smile before her face changed it response to the words, brows pulling up and hands absently undoing the braids she had done for work. The letter was balanced in her lap, legs crossed comfortably as she brushed a finger over the smudge of soot. He had been at the forge.

 The end brought surprising warmth flushing through her, brushing her cheeks in defiance of her empty fireplace. She told herself that it was just Kvas being Kvas, as good with words as ever (Maker, she had missed the way he talked when he had no limitations of time or tightened scars) – just the recognition of his voice, and reread the letter from the beginning.

 The pencils were bound together and she had to cut the bindings and sharpen one with the same knife before she settled in to write the reply, balancing it on a book that had been left behind by the room’s previous occupant. If she was fairly fast, she could get it to his inn before it became too late.

 And even if it was too late, why should it stop her? She had settled, but Kvas was right. She didn’t have to conform to every rule that would be imposed on her.

 This time she wished – openly to herself, not quietly and half secretly – that they were talking in person, so she could spill her questions and read his expression. But then, he wasn’t likely to be so eloquent. And as she read several paragraphs a few times over before hesitantly choosing words, she was glad of the time and the chance to cross them out, to pause and tap her pencil against the book.

 The streets were still fairly full when she set out, the Bettle and Chisel just getting the tail end of its main crowd in. The note slid under Kvas’s door again without trouble, and the city was quieting by the time she returned to her own room, still wondering if she had worded it right, said too much, and carrying the warmth of his words deep in her chest.

  • Kvas,

     Ah, stop. I need my head to fit through the door. It’s big enough already; I’m more than a little proud of some of my stories and I don’t think I’ve told the half of them to anyone else. At least not entirely truthfully. (You’re probably as well checking every now and then if I’m still talking facts.) Others… Not so much. There are a lot of things I wish I had done differently.

     Of course, I’m going to have to ask you too. Sounds like you packed a lot into your journey, and you can’t have lived in boredom since you came here.

     I’m hardly likely to forget that day. I do remember – those are good words for the feeling. You more than make sense, you make it feel like I was there. (Careful I don’t tell this story back to you.) I’ve heard of them, but I thought they were myths, like the Giants in the Misty Mountains. Or the Oliphaunts, though my doubt in them isn’t quite so strong. Trees that think and walk sound like a tired traveller’s fancy, seeing faces in the leaves… But you, I would believe. Tell me more – did it talk? Are they really so large? Did it pay you any heed? Did it wear a cloak of leaves and a beard of clouds? I could fill the paper with questions!

    … Or are you having me on? Either way, I’m a little disappointed I never went further in.

     Never thought I’d get mildly nostalgic at the thought of Bree. Those muddy roads and dank taverns grew on me. (What kind of idiots send messages to Mordor?) Hmm, I’ll think about it once I’m better settled. Doubt Thul would appreciate me disappearing more than I’m here. Though my feet are getting strangely itchy – I’m hoping it’s the lack of chairs. Or running. Another thing I never considered I’d miss – I didn’t even do that much of it unless something went wrong, but now I keep being oddly aware of how long walking takes.

     I don’t You would? I don’t know. And But Kvas, are you aware that you are unnervingly hard to tell anything but the absolute truth to and somehow this ability transfers to letters? (Should I have told you that? Please don’t exploit it.) I have to think about it – seems all I plan to do for a while is think about things – but if you’re sure and if Josvo says yes and if you’re willing to put up with my slightly shocking lack of skill I think I would enjoy that. Thanks. The offer means more than you know, even if it doesn’t work out. As does the vote of confidence. (Although I should point out that you, unlike many of our kin, are logical. And also that I can never hope to reach the level of Ástir’s cutlery.)

      Sure, sure. If you’ve really met an Ent I wouldn’t put it past you… Oh my, I’ve just realised I could actually start a true rumour about you now, if I wanted.

    … You’re a bad influence, Kvas. You’ll And it should worry me that I’m taking crazy as a compliment now. (We’re not old, we’re… Mature?)

     I’ll do my best.

« Last Edit: September 12, 2015, 03:00:33 PM by Manwë »



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Re: Paper Bridges
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2015, 02:14:16 AM »
After delivering his letter, Kvasir went to the stables to visit Ecru.  The general care of the pony was left largely to Andar and the other stablehands, the exile’s erratic shifts not allowing him to shoulder such commitments himself.  His steed was a handsome creature, Kvasir was forced to admit, with colouring that reminded the Dwarf of stout – the gelding’s body was a rich brown, his mane and tail a pale blond.  For all his prettiness, Ecru lacked the sense and unfaltering loyalty of Dreyri and so had not won so large a place in Kvasir’s heart.  Saddled up, with his bow over his shoulder, the smith rode out to become a hunter.  Ecru’s hoof beats flushed pheasants from thickets and, while Kvasir was not able to knock every bird from the sky, he returned several hours later with three plump specimens hanging from his saddle.

The birds he sold to a butcher and, with the coin received, he bought a spiced meat pasty and a pint of mulled cider from a cookshop and was left with change to spare.  Though the food was a little greasy for Kvasir’s taste, it was well-seasoned and satisfying enough.  Fed and watered, he returned to The Bitter End in the early evening.  There he stripped his bed and bundled together clothes and blankets to take to the wash-house the following day, while a pail of hot water ordered up to his room saw him clean.  With the scent of soap clinging to his scrubbed and flushed skin, dressed only in loose-fitted breeches and his ever present bandages, Kvasir sprawled out on his freshly made bed and was reading by lamplight when footsteps sounded in the corridor outside his door.  It seemed too much to expect a reply tonight – by the morning, maybe – but still Kvasir’s blue eyes slid hopefully from the splayed pages to the doorway.

A note appeared and, with it, a smile lit the exile’s mouth.  Marking his place in the chapbook with a strip of nondescript leather, he padded over to the door and was fiercely tempted to open it, to call Rian back (or to run after her, to tug her sleeve, seeing as he was all but voiceless).  Kvasir didn’t though, half-dressed and damp-haired as he was.  Instead his attention fell to the letter, which he unfolded carefully as he carried it back to his bed.  Lying on his back with the parchment aloft above him, he read eagerly, intrigued by what Rian had been through, curious as to those stories she would gladly share and those she would be reluctant to divulge.  Kvasir was undeterred, for did he not understand mistakes as well as anyone?  The exile disrupted the silence of his room with a soft snicker as Rian’s humour shone through, and he noted that more strikeouts appeared when it came to the subject of smithing.  He could almost sense through her script how much it meant to her.

Of course he couldn’t resist replying right away.  Rolling onto his stomach, Kvasir reached for a pencil, and his notebook, and dragged the abandoned chapbook close so he could lean against it.  With his head ducked close to the creamy, unblemished page, he surprised himself by starting not with words but a drawing – of a small bird, a wren, etched in the top right corner.  Perched on the line of a thin branch, the creature was rounded, with wings hugged close and its narrow tail half-cocked, distant light catching in its dark eyes.  A mockingbird would have suited the girl who could present herself as things she wasn’t, but Wren fitted her too.  They were small, furtive birds, most often sighted fluttering through shade half-seen.  There was no need to tell Rian that he had whispered her name quietly when alone, trying valiantly to teach himself not to butcher its sound.  There was no need for her to know it had proved impossible. 
Reh or R’en was as close as he could come.  That meant Wren was within his power to pronounce and, regardless of circumstances, the name remained a gift.
  • Wren,

    I know I promise I’m not going daft!  Ma would approve I’m sure and I know she would have given you a moniker in time, if things hadn’t happened as they did.  You were part of her flock and you’re overdue a bird of your own.  Hope you don’t feel it’s being foisted upon you.  Wren has its charms and I honestly think its fits.  Even if you disagree, think about accepting it?  It kind of breaks my heart that I can’t shape your name the way I used to.

    As for your adventures, I want to hear about them – embellished or not.  Don’t get too hung up on the things you would change.  We all make mistakes.  And trust me when I say I won’t judge.  I have some pretty unflattering tales I can tell you when we come to exchange our stories.

    What is it that makes you less doubtful about Oliphaunts?  Not saying I don’t believe in them.  Seems to me there can’t be smoke without fire and myths have to start from somewhere.  Pity I hadn’t been so willing to accept the existence of Barrow-wights, eh?  Not going to lie, I wasn’t in my right mind as I travelled south (you probably saw that for yourself) but the Ent was no figment of my imagination.  In truth I was captivated by him.  Imagine first a tree wrought into a long-limbed and mannish form, standing five times the height of you or me.  When he moved, great woody shards fell away from him and his whole body creaked and groaned.  Eyes like rubies were set into a bark-clad face – yes a face – and about his chin was a great beard of vines.  But his voice was most remarkable of all, Ri.  His words were poetry, his sentences rumbled and faltered like thunder.  I could have listened to him until my hair turned grey and my teeth fell out.  Would that I could speak as he did.  He kept a pool of brightly coloured fish.  Never seen the like of them before or since.  I was so busy looking at them I didn’t even see him at first.  Not until he spoke.  And what did I do in the face of such magnificence?  Spun about and fell on my arse, of course! 

    Describe something from your travels for me?  Anything at all.  It doesn’t have to be a talking tree.

    You can’t lie to me?  How interesting.  Cross my heart I won’t exploit it – though I’m curious what sets me apart.  Josvo is a good soul and you know I’ll put up with you (joking of course, a moment in your company is never wasted).  Besides, you’re probably not half as rusty as you think you are (pun not intended – come on, you know I can do better than that).  I’ll speak with him and let you know.

    Ha.  Start a true rumour about me and people will ascribe it to my being half-mad following a bad batch of moonshine.  Which brings me nicely to reiterating that crazy is definitely a compliment.  Who wants to be mundane?  And mature somehow sounds worse than old.  Let’s just say we’re as old as we feel?

    (or should I say Finch in this case?)

Kvasir briefly tried to convince himself to sleep first and deliver the letter in the morning.  Part of him worried that to run the message now would make him come across as painfully eager, the other part didn’t care remotely.  Why should he feel any shame for being excited to have Rian back in his life?  The internal struggle was brief.  Pulling on a tunic and tugging on his boots, the exile took to the streets once more.  Drunks spilled out of the taverns, and he weaved a decisive path through them, walking quickly with his eyes cast to the cobblestones.  Reaching the increasingly familiar door, he slipped his note beneath it and it was with a smile on his face that he turned on his heel and vanished back into the night.


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