HASA Playlists

The Dûnhebaid Cycle

Playlist Navigation Bar

Middle row links go to story overviews. Bottom row links go first chapter of a story.
At Playlist Start
At Playlist Start
  
  

 

Rock and Hawk: 10. Yuletide

The brotherhood is not by the blood certainly:
But neither are men brothers by speech-by saying so:
Men are brothers by life lived and are hurt for it:


Hunger and hurt are great begetters of brotherhood:
Humiliation has gotten much love:
Danger I say is the nobler father and mother:


Those are as brothers whose bodies have shared fear
Or shared harm or shared hurt or indignity.
Why are the old soldiers brothers and nearest?


--Archibald MacLeish, "Speech to Those Who Say Comrade"


* † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † *


"Where is the Lady Saelon?" Veylin asked a woman who was spreading washing over thornbushes to dry.


She shrugged and turned away.


With a sour look, Veylin leaned heavily on his stick and rubbed his aching leg.  If it had been sound, he could have sought Saelon out himself and avoided such snubs.  Was this Tearlag?  Or Gaernath's father's widow?  It was hard to keep the ones who shunned them straight.  He was wondering whether he should take a seat on one of the benches and wait for Saelon to pass—she seemed never to be at rest by day, always moving from one thing to the next—when there was a tug at his sleeve.


It was one of the small children, a boy by its clothes.  "I know," he declared.


"Do you?"  Veylin found the children of Men curiously pleasing.  Dwarves kept their little ones close, treasures to be carefully guarded, but among Men those too tender for useful work ran almost wild, flitting about like finches.  They seemed fascinated by the Dwarves, yet whispered or giggled at a distance.  Few were as bold as this one, who came barely to his shoulder.  "Will you tell me?"


The boy put his head to one side to consider, pert as a wren.  "Why do you want to know?"


Fearless but not thoughtless.  Veylin smiled.  "What is your name?"


"Hanadan."


Ah; one of the Dúnedain.  "You are right to ask, Hanadan, since the Lady is your kinswoman.  As you may know, I owe her a great debt, for she saved my life."  Lowering his voice and leaning nearer, he asked, "Can you keep a secret?"


"Yes."  The child was indignant that there should be doubt.


Veylin showed him what he held in his hand.  For a moment, Hanadan looked without understanding, puzzled; then he saw, and his eyes grew round with wonder.  Veylin held a finger to his lips as a reminder, and the boy stifled his exclamation of delight.  "I would know where she is, so I can give it to her."


Hanadan laughed.  "She is down on the shore."


How apt.  Veylin chuckled as well, but his amusement died when he looked that way: as ever, the sea was daunting . . . and it was a long way, too far for his lameness.  He would have to wait until she returned.  Heaving a disappointed sigh, he patted the boy's shoulder.  "Thank you, Hanadan."


"You will go?"  It was a question; the child knew something was amiss.


"My leg will not bear me so far.  No matter," he brushed it off.  "I will give it to her when she returns."  And he stumped back to the delving, where the hall had taken shape and they were opening the chambers off its sides.


Not long after, as he directed Tarain, Finean, and Artan in the setting of the hearth kerb, he heard one of the Men—Bred, was it?—shout, "Ho, boy!  Clear out of here.  This is no place for playing."


"I am looking for Master Veylin," Hanadan's high voice protested.


"What for?" scoffed Bred.  "Away with you, before I tell your mother."


"Here, Hanadan," Veylin called.  As the boy ran over, he frowned at him.  "He is right; you should not be at the workings.  What do you want?"


Hanadan seized his hand and tugged him towards the entrance.  "Come," he urged, his smile irrepressible.


"Why?"


"Come," is all he would say, an impish gleam in his eye.


With lowering brows that threatened consequences if this should be no more than a lark, Veylin went with him.  Outside a boy a little larger stood holding Veylin's saddled pony with a dubious expression.  "Hanadan said you wanted your pony?" he said.


"He needs to go down to the shore," Hanadan explained, with sorely tried patience.  "I told you."


The taller boy, who might have been his brother from the sameness of their features, asked, "Is he being a pest, Master?"


"A pest?"  Veylin shook his head and smiled.  "No.  It was a kind thought.  Will you help me mount?"


Once the elder, Dwarf-high and a good support for all that he was slender as a sapling, helped him into the saddle, Veylin took the reins from Hanadan.  "Thank you.  Do not make a habit of such liberties, however," he warned.  The boy's smile did not give him much hope of it, however.


As his pony ambled down the track and over the plain, Veylin reflected on the differences in temper among Men: some so bold and open-handed; others untrusting and rude, even though they would be houseless but for dwarven assistance.  Men and women, adults and children alike; not even all the Dúnedain were friendly, although they masked their dislike with greater care, perhaps from pride in their gentility.  Was it wise to found any hopes on such uneven ground?  Could it be more stable than these sandhills his beast was laboring through?


He halted the pony as it reached the crest, and looked the sea in the face.  Though the sky was mostly blue, the surf did not lap as mildly as it had on that autumn day when he had followed the opal dyke onto the foreshore, and the tide was not so far out.  But having come so far, how could he return, his errand unaccomplished?  Even that child had known that his gift would be most fitly given here.


What must this place have been like on that stormy day when Saelon had brought them the second log, giddy, as drunk on the dreadful power of the waves as some grew in battle?  And where was she, anyway?


Veylin had concluded that the child was having a joke on him and was raking the sandy arc with one last scowling glance when he finally spied her, where it was hardly possible for anyone to be.  Huddled in her cloak, in a nook of the one battered outcrop of rock that still stood proud of the beach, she was gazing out across the water and dabbling her feet in the cold foam.


Madness.


What had her brother said?  When a woman's heart is given . . . .  Even from here he could see that she sat at ease, as a woman might rest in the arm of a mighty warrior, without fear.  Halladan must have seen this; and though he had not loved the sea, he must have trusted it with her, to leave her here.


Bearing what he did, he dared approach, taking his pony down the steep, sliding slope and onto the shore, but only to where the very edges of the waves fingered the grains of sand, shifting them this way and that.  "Saelon!" he called across the surging water.


She looked around, startled, and scrambled to her feet.  "Is something wrong?" she called back, suddenly fearful.


"No!"  He cursed himself; of course she must think only great necessity would bring a Dwarf to the sea.  "All is well.  But I have found something that may please you."


Cocking her head curiously, she picked her way along the dark rib of rock, until it disappeared under the pale sands.  She waded up out of the rim of surf, stopping alongside his pony.  "What is it?"


Veylin drew the rough chunk of limestone from his pouch and handed it to her.  When he was mounted, they were much the same height; she looked at him quizzically from under a crooked eyebrow and turned it over.  She recognized the silver-grey shape within the creamy stone much faster than the boy had done.  "A shell!"


"So it seems."


She ran a finger over one of its many horns, then met his gaze.  "From the cliff?"


"A good thirty paces in from the face, and truly set in the stone, as you can see."


"How can that be?"


"How do you think?  When the stone of the cliff was made, all this was under the sea."


Saelon looked away to the cliff-top, then down at the ripples that nearly reached her feet.  "Did it reach so high and lay so long?"


"At the breaking of Númenor, or Beleriand?"  Veylin shook his head; he did not smile at her ignorance so close to the waves.  "No.  We are told that there were greater tumults of land and sea in the days before the Children woke.  Such things are sometimes found while quarrying, I have heard, although I have never seen one before.  There is little limestone in the Ered Luin."


"It is a marvel," she breathed, stroking the ancient thing.  "Like a fantastical whelk."  It was with some reluctance that she held it back out to him.


He closed his hands on the saddlebow.  "If it pleases you, keep it."


Her sea-colored eyes flashed; she had not forgotten.  "It is rare, and a pleasure to behold.  You do not value it?"


"No more than other things."  Veylin paused, then asked, "Can this be chance?  Or is it a token?"


"Of what?"


To him it was a sign that the waves did not always conquer the land, or at least not forever; that there was give and take between Mahal and the Lord of Waters.  How she, a lover of the sea, might read it, he did not know.  "Amity between sea and stone."


Saelon smiled soberly.  "I have never thought they had cause to quarrel."


No; she had not quarreled with them, even when she had cause.  And she had had cause.  Her folk whispered that the sea spoke to her.  If this was a sign, perhaps it was for him, for the Dwarves . . . why else would it be set in stone?  "Dwarves are slow to trust," he told her, feeling some explanation was necessary.


"So I have heard."


Stone was hard, to endure, but water had the patience to wear it away, drop by drop, grain by grain.  "And I have heard that the Dúnedain are long-sighted."  Then it came to him.  "You would sow.  For what harvest?"


She gazed out to sea.  "I do not know."  He must have made some sound of dissatisfaction, for she turned her sharp falcon's glance on him.  "I do not expect you to trust me.  How can you, when my own folk do not?"


Veylin shrugged.  "Some of them do not.  Some of them are fools."


"Would that I was sure they were one and the same," she replied, as if in jest.


She had not pressed him; it would be unkind not to return the favor, especially given the many other things that weighed on her.  "Doubtless time will tell."  One wave reached higher than the others, splashing around her calves and his pony's fetlocks.  The beast stood it stolidly, but possible signs from Mahal notwithstanding, it was too close for Veylin's comfort.  "Should we not return to the cliff?  After so much time, we will be missed."


She laughed at him.  Taking the bridle, she began leading the pony towards a break in the dunes.  "Is it the tide you fear, or the wagging tongues of gossips?"


"The wagging—"  For a moment, Veylin did not understand; then he understood all too well.  "Some of your folk are fools," he growled, disgusted.  "Worse than fools.  Their tongues had best not wag where I might hear them, if they wish to keep them."


"It was a jest," Saelon hastened to tell him, looking alarmed.


"It is not a matter for jest."  He studied her narrowly as she and the pony toiled up the loose sand to the firm turf beyond.  No; free she had been, but never in that way, not even while nursing him.  Had he not just seen how close she clove to the sea?  Yet from her silence, she was uneasy.  It must be more than mere jest.  "You allow them to speak of you so?"


"Allow?"  There was a kind of relief in her snap, like the cracking of an overburdened pillar.  "As soon hold back the tide."  She glanced back at him, her face angry, and also troubled.  "They have spoken nonsense of me for so long I no longer regard it."


Veylin took the reins again, halting the pony.  "They are no longer twenty leagues off, Saelon."  It was easy to disregard what one did not hear.


She let go of the bridle and faced him.  "No.  They have been forced to take refuge with the madwoman by the sea.  And now she lays them under obligation to uncanny folk.  If some find that easier to choke down with a splash of spite," she said almost savagely, "they are welcome to the sauce.  Folk will judge for themselves what is bile and what is truth.  I do not know how it is among Dwarves," she declared, "but among Men, protest feeds suspicion."


"The words of Men often seem crooked."  After some days among them, it did not surprise him to hear that her own folk found her as strange as they did.  Yet that they should invent absurdities when she did not trouble to hide her eccentricities . . . .


"The cruelty of the world twists us."  There was bleak resignation in her voice.


Whereas Mahal had made them to resist.  Should they then pity and despise Men?  They did not despise copper for not being steel.  "That has not kept you from speaking truly."


"That is why I left them."  She gazed west again.  "When the way is bent, the straight path seems queer."


In Mithlond Veylin had seen Elves with the sea-longing, but their look was different from Saelon's.  "Would you sail?"


Her laugh was nearer a snort.  "Do not fear," she assured him.  "Even if I would not be unwelcome, I am hard aground on this rock.  And unlike you, nothing I can do will free me."


"Then hold fast until fortune turns again," he urged her.  "It is as fickle as these waves, now high, now low."


"If only it were as sure to rise after its ebb!  Be easy," she sighed.  "I am not in despair so much as plagued, which is why I took refuge on the shore.  My bitter words are for the relief of my heart."  She looked again at the shell set in stone.  "I should thank you for enduring them."


"So brief a storm is a matter for endurance?" Veylin scoffed lightly.  "Did I not tell you that a burden shared was a burden halved?"


"True."  She turned a bittersweet smile on him.  "Would that I had someone here so steady under the load, who gave such good counsel.  I will miss you when you have gone."


He snorted and kicked the pony back into motion.  "If you have the wit and will to keep peace with four foul-tempered Dwarves, you can tame this lot."


"Do not mistake them," she warned, a fierce gleam of nettled pride in her eye as she fell in beside him.  "They have been humbled, but they will not be quiet long."


"No.  They will not."  That could be counted on, but whether for good or ill was less certain.


* † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † *


They finished on Yule Eve, Vitr forging the pintles for the stout oaken main door as Men hung the lighter panels closing off the side chambers.  Vitnir was setting the bolts for the cauldron chains over the hearth, standing on Halpan's shoulders since the youths had been overhasty in reducing the scaffolding to faggots for the holiday fire.  Children—many of whom were supposed to be helping their mothers carry their slender goods into their new homes—chased each other round and round, in and out of the chambers, barely dodging cursing workmen and agilely evading half-hearted attempts to capture them, piping Yule carols like birds in spring.


Veylin sat back on the bench, pipe in hand, and smiled at the merry disorder.  It had taken more than five days, although Nordri's pride in his work was largely to blame: he would not leave such fine stone rough-finished, and Veylin had seen Nyrað carving a simple frieze around the upper part of the hall.  There also seemed to be panels of low-relief birches on either side of the main doorway.  Such touches aside, by dwarven standards it was a very humble hall, yet most of the Men thought it grand as a palace and even the grumblers had temporarily shut their mouths.  The admiration, and the sight of folk who had been in despair so short a time before in better heart, was compensation enough for a few more days of labor.


After they had gotten Vitnir safely down from his awkward perch, Halpan came over and sat down beside Veylin, rubbing his shoulder with a grin.  "You are heavier than you look, you Dwarves," he complained cheerfully.  "Although seeing how tirelessly you work, I should not be surprised.  You will stop to keep Yule with us, I hope."


Veylin had wearied of even glowering at their persistent generosity.  After a few thoughtful puffs on his pipe, he allowed, "Let me speak to the others and learn their minds.  For my part, most of my near kin are with me, so it matters little where Yule finds us."  He knew what the answer would be.  The weather was turning foul, with a misting rain and deepening cold, the nearest they had yet come to frost.  Though it was milder than it would be in the hills inland, let alone the mountains, no one would choose to leave a good fire for ice.  From the amount of wood that had been scoured off the nearby shores and stacked under the overhang of the cliff, they meant to have a roaring blaze in the new hearth.


A pity they would not be able to dedicate the hall with a proper thanksgiving feast.  Rekk was concerned about the lack of ale, fearing bad luck if they did not pour the customary draught for the first fire, but Nordri had reminded him that the hall was for Men, who would doubtless see to whatever rites they felt necessary.


Veylin was wondering what, if any, rites Men might use to dedicate a new dwelling when there was a bustle in the entryway.  At first he thought it was Thyrnir and Vitr getting the heavy oak door up, but there was a shout of joy from Maelchon and a press of wet-cloaked Men pushing through, straining to hold some great weight off the ground.


Halpan jumped to his feet and began striding towards them, sweeping aside the children who were crowding around, some of them hopping with excitement.  "What have you got there?" he called, over the growing hubbub.


"Boar!" Gaernath cried triumphantly, letting go of a hind leg.  Halmir, who had held it with him, stumbled and sagged, but without losing his grin; and then everyone else let go and the dark beast sprawled onto the floor.


"He must be near thirty stone," Maelchon breathed in awe, clapping a congratulatory arm around Aniel's sleet-peppered shoulders.


"This is the monster of the oakwood, Aniel?" Halpan asked.


"Aye.  Partalan—" the huntsman grinned over heads at the grizzled warrior "—said he couldn't bear the thought of fish stew for Yule.  You should have seen his thrust."


"So," Fransag, Maelchon's wife, asked, setting her hands on her hips as she looked down on the carcass, "how will you all be wanting to eat him?  Seethed or roasted?  Not that there isn't plenty for both.  And the head, of course.  Mercy . . . who'd have imagined we'd be having boar's head for Yule?"


* † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † *


The boar's head was the centerpiece of the Yule feast, and if there was a shortage of pies and the usual cakes, there were stewed sloes and crabs, and cakes of hazelnuts and honey; oyster chowder and smoked salmon and goose to relieve a palate surfeited on pork; buttered kail and boiled onions and a seaweed Saelon insisted was excellent but hardly anyone else ate.


Most welcome of all was the thin sweet mead that Urwen brought out only after they were seated at the board, brewed in secret using her own malt and honey contributed by Saelon.  There was barely enough for everyone to have a scant cup, and Rekk nearly started a fight by tossing half of his into the blazing hearth; but once they had explained, Muirne, Artan's sweetheart, ran to fetch the rowan wand she had cut to put over the door.  All of the Dúnedain except Saelon laughed at her charm, and there was lively talk through the meal about ways to court good fortune and turn bad, a subject on which everyone had much to say.


Music, however, did not come easily.  Perhaps it was because the drink had run out; perhaps because the Men had brought few instruments with them when they fled . . . and not all of them found dwarven playing to their liking.  It might simply have been that, though relieved, their hearts were still too heavy for much song.  Some had already withdrawn, carrying limp children off to new beds, when Partalan came back into the hall, a cased harp in his hands.


Veylin had been listening attentively while Maelchon and Mais lamented the loss of their farming equipage—ploughs and scythes, spades and sledges—and wondered how they might strip the turf and break the soil on enough land for next year's crop.  He had noted the warrior's entrance, no more . . . until the Man began to play.


At first it was light melodies, mainly the carols Veylin recognized from the children's singing, the Man gruffly disparaging the tuning of his harp and fingers between pieces; but this was no pot-house playing.  He did hazard a rousing drinking song, but midway through, Tarain broke in.  "That needs ale, and plenty of it, to sound well.  Stop toying with us, brother.  Play Evendim."


"My fingers are too unpracticed for that," Partalan objected, his gaze going to the high table, where Saelon sat between Halmir and Rian.


"Nonsense," Maelchon declared.  "And even if it were true, you must.  It would not be Yule without Evendim."


Veylin saw that everyone was looking at the high table.  Saelon wore that look of cool placidity that was her war-mask; Halmir was biting his lip; and Rian was considering her aunt sidelong, her expression torn.  "What would you like?" Halpan asked them, gently.


"It is for Halmir and Rian to say," Saelon replied.


"He always asked you for Evendim," Halmir said to Partalan, and Veylin realized they must be speaking of Halladan.


"He did," Partalan agreed.  "Do you ask me for it now?"


It was one of those passing moments that suddenly takes on stark significance: the father's sworn man asking the son if he wished his service.  The boy looked around at all the attentive faces, brow knit, expression grave, weighing them.  "Yes, please.  We would like to hear it."


"If we cannot have Father with us," Rian seconded, her hand resting on Saelon's arm in comfort or restraint, "we would at least have the memory of him, in happy times."


Partalan bowed his head and set his fingers to the strings.  If they were unpracticed, Veylin would have liked to hear him when he was in form, for he had heard few better, save among the Elves.  There were hidden depths to this blunt-faced, uncongenial Man, who played the achingly beautiful air with such feeling that Veylin saw tears in Maelchon's eyes beside him.


Saelon's hand was before her face before many bars had sounded, and soon after she withdrew, slipping from the hall as unobtrusively as possible.


When Partalan finished, he stood and bowed to Halmir and Rian.  Urwen asked for another tune, but he shook his head and she did not press him.  The poignant performance seemed to have brought the festivities to a close, like a dying fall of notes that call for silence after.  Most people withdrew, and Partalan rejoined Tarain and the other men at arms, who appeared to have a skin of something they meant to console him with.  Rian cast her glance around the hall and spoke briefly with Urwen, then shepherded her brother to their chamber.


Saelon had not returned.  Frowning, Veylin rose and made his way to the door, waving off Thyrnir's inquiring glance.  The half-frozen rain had stopped, but the wind was keen and cold, tearing rents in the cloud that let through a glimmer of starlight and the occasional wash of silver from the rising moon.  He hoped she had not gone down to the shore to drown her grief, figuratively, in the frigid waves, and was reassured when one of the fleeting gleams of moonlight showed a dark figure on the flat rock near the edge of the shelf, gazing down across the plain.


Stepping out to let one of the Men pass, Veylin weighed whether to leave her to her grief or go to her.  He did wish to speak with her, privately if possible, before they left; and if the weather cleared, they would be on their way as soon as they could strap their gear on the ponies.  They had their own hall to finish, before winter deepened further.  With the cold keeping most folk close-gathered in the hall, it would be hard to avoid other ears if he waited.


With a muttered curse for the cold, he went to her.  "Mad as you are," he rumbled, "you cannot be out here for pleasure."  He glanced westward, but while the wind was blowing the upper sky clear, fog clung to the shore.  "And the sea cannot be seen in this mirk."


"No," she admitted.  "Though it can be heard."


A heavier swath of cloud made it too dim to see her face clearly, but she sounded as if she had been weeping.  He sat down beside her on the stone.  "Why do you leave the warmth within to seek the counsel of the sea?"


She turned her head sharply in his direction, but if he could see little he was sure she saw less, and after a few breaths she shook her head dismissively.  "No great cause.  Partalan played Halladan's favorite tune," her voice clotted with grief, "and I could not bear it."  She lifted a hand, as if to dash away tears.


"He must have been dear indeed," Veylin said quietly, "for the pain to be so sharp after so many years apart."


"Except at Yule.  Halladan insisted I keep Yule in Srathen Brethil.  Every year he would come to fetch me, and every year I would grumble that I would rather keep it here, in peace.  This is my first Yule here . . . and I have neither his company nor peace."


Regret was the steel edge that bit deepest.  "That is a grief.  But do not wound your heart further with the memory of old discontent.  If he did not think your company worth the complaints, he would not have come for you.  Are not kin ever an alloyed blessing?"


She wiped her face and blew her nose in a corner of her shawl.  "You have a sister, I think."


Who had spoken, and when?  "If Thyrnir is my sister-son, I suppose I must."


"We have kept you—and he—from her this Yule."


"That is not uncommon among Dwarves.  She will not grudge you, since she, too, might have been mourning a brother slain."


"As well as a husband."


"Yes."  She was leading him onto ground where he would rather not tread, but the reminder of vengeance unmet provided a clear way out.  "I wish I could have paid you in the coin you desired," he said, with unfeigned regret.  "The death of these fiends."


She sighed and hugged her shawl closer about her hunched shoulders.  "No matter.  This is better: life, not death.  It is always better to build than to kill."


That was a woman's thought.  "Except when one must kill to preserve what has been built."  He clasped his hands on his stick as if it were the helve of an axe.  "So—you are satisfied by the work?  The debt is paid?"


"More than amply.  I wonder if I am not now in your debt."


"Spare me your obstinate generosity, Saelon.  Let us end this.  Yea or nay?"


"Yea," she said simply, and stared blindly toward the sea.


Why was she so downcast?  One would have thought she greatly valued her hold on him, though she had never sought profit from it.  In such situations, a Dwarf must expect to ransom his life and honor high, in gold and gems and gear of war.  Yet she herself took nothing from this, not even trifles such as she had from Oddi and Rekk; what she had received she had passed on to her people, without hesitation.


Her brother had chosen well when he sent them into her care.


"Good," Veylin declared, loosening his grip on his stick.  "I would now treat with a neighbor lord, not my benefactress."


Saelon turned her gaze to him, head canted like a baffled hawk.  "Do you expect some difference?"


"From you, perhaps not—you do not seem to keep account of give and take like most folk, though some others of your people are near as bad.  But I, in case you have forgotten it, am a Dwarf, and I would be free to strike a good bargain, and say no to a poor one.  I could hardly haggle with you when I was in your debt."


A rent in the clouds gave light enough to see her bemused smile clear.  "What bargain would you make with folk so poor as us?"


"The night your brother was here, he said he could wish that you might have neighbors such as us.  I have had time to reflect on that.  Evil things are abroad, and in general Men are not so friendly to Dwarves as they once were.  You are poor and weak now," he agreed, "but if your fortunes do not worsen, in twenty years there will be a hundred of you, and Halmir and Gaernath will be stern Men of war wanting mail and blades.  Maelchon is already in love with the mild climate and longing for a plough to prepare for planting.  We can supply that plough . . . in return for a share of the harvest."


"Hm."  Saelon considered him.  "I think I ought to let Maelchon strike that bargain."


Veylin gave an exaggerated sigh of regret and shook his head.  "See the difference it makes, Lady?"


"And the raugs?"


"That," he told her grimly, "is not a matter for bargaining.  The only reckoning we will make is of the bodies of the slain."


"We also desire a reckoning with them," she claimed, "but we have few men and our weapons harm them little."


"I have spoken with Tarain.  I wish the troll-spears had reached your brother: it is perilous to close with these things, it seems; they have a long grasp.  A good sword wounds, but unless you slay with the first stroke, you have no chance of another.  Axes may be little better."


Saelon looked pointedly at his stick.  "As you know too well."


He rubbed his knee.  "Indeed."  It was hard to deliver a killing thrust with a spear, and Dwarves used them too seldom for great skill.  Veylin vividly remembered his first meeting with Halladan, staring up the shaft of the Man's long spear.  And Partalan's boar-slaying prowess . . . .  "When we were here before, you said you would aid us towards the death of these fiends however you could.  Then you spoke only for yourself.  Will you now, as Lady of your people, ally with us against this evil?"


"Gladly," she said, her voice both cold and eager, and offered her hand.


Veylin accepted her handclasp, as he had accepted her brother's.  She, too, was a Man they could do business with.


* † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † *


I think, here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky,
Not the cross, not the hive,


But this; bright power, dark peace,
Fierce consciousness joined with final
Disinterestedness,


Life with calm death; the falcon's
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive


Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.


—Robinson Jeffers, "Rock and Hawk"


* † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † *


Notes


Pintle: an upright pin on which another part turns, as in a hinge.


Cauldron chains: during the Iron Age and Medieval periods, large pots were usually hung over fires by hooking them to chains fixed to the roof beams or in the masonry of chimneys.


Boar: traditionally considered the most dangerous animal to hunt; they usually killed hounds and often hunters.  Boar spears would have a crossbar near the point to prevent the stuck boar from running up the shaft to gore the hunter; killing a boar from horseback was considered better training for war than jousting.  Boar's head was commonly served at Christmas, with particular carols.


Stone: a locally variable British unit of weight; usually reckoned as 14 pounds, but for meat 8 pounds.


Crabs: crabapples; like sloes, the fruit is better after it is dried.


Sledge: not a sledgehammer, but a wheelless cart like a toboggan, used to haul loads short distances (for instance, hauling manure out to the fields).  Because of the roughness of the terrain, wheeled vehicles were not used in the Highlands until roads were first built in the 18th century AD.


"steel edge that bit deepest": steel is harder and therefore more brittle than iron; a blade made entirely of steel would be too likely to shatter for practical use.  Therefore knives and weapons have steel edges on iron or mixed iron-steel bodies.


"Rock and Hawk": the first three stanzas of this poem open the story; the following four close it.



Playlist Navigation Bar

Middle row links go to story overviews. Bottom row links go first chapter of a story.
At Playlist Start
At Playlist Start
  
  

 

In Playlists

Playlist Overview

Last Update: 13 Dec 08
Stories: 5
Type: Author List
Created By: Adaneth


Dúnedain and Dwarves--and oh, yes, some Elves--on the northwest shore of Middle-Earth, not quite a century before adventures first befall Bilbo. Rampant Subcreation and Niggling in the margins. The ever-lengthening saga, in order.

Why This Story?

Dûnhebaid I: hammering out an unlikely friendship between a Dwarf and a Dúnadaneth.

 

Story Information

Author: Adaneth

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 02/26/11

Original Post: 09/22/06

Go to Rock and Hawk overview

More Playlists With This Story

Author Playlists
Awesome Original Characters: Stories focusing on well-developed ocs.