A LotRO role-player character blog. Yes, I know. Shut up.
Mixed Bag: First Things Third
February 5, 2013Posted by on
A life is made of first moments because every moment is new and will never come again. But every life has certain moments that stand out in memory as being special. This is true for real people as well as characters, and that’s what this series is about. It’s a continuing collection of various events for different characters over time. There may be a little of everything from brief flashes of memory to epic epiphanies (epic to the character in question, at least). But small or large, all will be moments that hold first things.
A bit over a year and a half ago…
“‘Ey! Uh, there a Vandric’s place near ‘ere?”
The man set his pipe between his teeth as he sat up and swung his legs over the hammock, eying the stranger up and down with a frank gaze. “Oh aye. Who’s looking for him?”
“Nobody important. Which place is ‘is, then?”
He smiled, and as the woman neared, the man’s eyes crinkled at the corners with humor in addition to kindness and age. “This’d be it. I’m him.”
She gave him a blank stare for a second, then a somewhat somber half-grin. “…Heh, they did say top o’ th’ ‘ill. Uh.” The woman neared with a hand thrust out. “Nethali Aster, sir.”
Vandric stood properly and offered his hand in the manner of Bree-folk even though he wasn’t of Bree-land himself, originally. “Nice to meet ya, lass.” He chuckled. “Who’s this ‘they’, then, aye?”
She clamped his hand in a firm shake. The man could tell from her wince that she was letting the ‘lass’ bit slide, and then she said, “Jess asked aroun’. Uh.” She straightened, adopting a parade rest stance, and said in a lower tone, “I’m one o’ th’ folk your son saved.”
Vandric arched an eyebrow as he removed the pipe from between his teeth. He regarded the woman’s face for a long moment, then quietly said, “Oh aye?” It was truly all he trusted himself to say just at the moment. It had only been about a month since he’d got word, and he swallowed a bit hard.
Nethali did him a favor by focusing her gaze just over his shoulder in a soldier’s stare. “It was a brave death, sir. Saved over a dozen o’ us.” She spoke briskly, clearly out of her element but he could see that she was trying.
The man scritched at his beard a moment, then clamped his pipestem back in his mouth, grinning around it in a perhaps surprisingly jaunty way. “Oh aye. Ain’t a bit of doubt in my mind he did a good thing, all in all. That many, is it? Well now.”
The woman moved her gaze back to the old man, clearly somewhat surprised at his apparent bounce-back. She smiled. “Ain’t many a man that kin boast those kinda numbers, sir. I kin only hope t’ help half as many when my time comes. No doubt yer proud.”
Vandric’s smile softened, and he didn’t even try to hide the pride in his expression. “Oh aye. My lad were always a right odd one. But I never doubted his heart.”
Nethali shifted uneasily from foot to foot, giving a curt nod. “A courageous one, t’be sure, sir. Uh. If y’ dun mind, if it’s… not too sour, I’d like t’ hear a bit ’bout th’ man who saved us.”
He smiled and reached out to pat the woman’s shoulder. “What do ya like to be called best, lass? Me, I like names simple, aye? Call me Van.”
The woman relaxed out of her soldier’s stance for the familiarity, her smile warming, but still a bit on the grim side. “Nethali’s what most folk call me, but I dun much care, Van. Call me what y’ like.”
“Well, then. I reckon Nethali’ll do, aye? Come sit on the stoop with me, if ya like. Got a spot of drink inside, if ya want summat. Brew some, myself.’
Nethali ‘s eyebrows twisted in a passing look of mixed temptation and shame, her gaze going askance. “I’d, uh. I’d be glad t’ sit, but I’ll pass on th’ drink this time, Van.”
“What is it ya want to know about my Jon?”
She followed after him to sit on the steps and stretched out her legs as she answered, “Anythin’. It don’t feel right knowin’ nothin’ but ‘is name an’ ‘ow ‘e died.”
The man tilted his his head and looked thoughtful as he tapped out the spent, ashy contents of his pipe against the stone steps. “Well, he never knew his ma, truly. He weren’t a full year old when we lost her. Me and my daughter raised him. She was good with him.” He smiled fondly.
“Me, I made lots of mistakes. Jon were always a quiet, dark little fella like his ma’s little brother was.” He looked back to the woman. “Come to that, he looked right like Oendir’s boy. Ya know him, I reckon?”
Nethali grinned at her boots as she listened. The grin faded at the mention of Oendir, but she looked up and nodded. “Solstan? Aye. I do. Quiet kid. Good kid.”
Van smiled. If he noticed the woman’s change of expression, he made no sign of it. “Oh aye, and that’s sure. Jon were like that. Used to have bad dreams, too, like that one. Well. Hope they ain’t the same kind. Most lads have some bad dreams. But Jon’s haunted him, like.”
Nethali gave the man a sideways glance and then brought up a boot to fidget with its buckling while she listened. The two spent a good portion of the afternoon there on Vandric’s stoop while he told tales of his son and the woman asked questions about him. But eventually she braced her hands on her knees and pushed up to stand. “I shoul’ get a move on. Thanks, Van.”
He smiled and offered up his hand, though he remained sitting. “You’re right welcome, lass. I’m glad ya dropped over. It’s a comfort to hear from somebody what saw… what my lad did. Thank ya, Nethali.”
She leaned down to grasp the man’s hand for a quick shake. “Like th’ best o’ ‘em. I won’t ferget yer son, sir.”
He returned the handshake, his expression crumpling just the tiniest bit. It passed quickly back to his more usual cheerful grin, though his eyes shone a little more than they did before. “Good of ya to say, lass.”
§ § §
A bit over 4 and a half years ago…
On August 16, seven crates marked with a tree symbol and filled with finely brewed beverages were delivered to the Broken Cask in Durrow. It was the inn’s opening day. Each crate bore the message “Compliments of Heartwood Legacy – Good fortune in your endeavors!” What began as a goodwill gesture from one business to another became the beginning of a long friendship.
You and your kin had best make an appearance at the Cask in the near future, so we can heap both praise and ale upon you. Such generosity! We all thank you, and wish all good things to you and yours!
We’ll definitely be visiting your tavern as soon as may be. Some of us had hoped to sooner, but business prevented us. Oh, and though hard cider is my personal favorite, I don’t think I’ve been known to turn down an offer of ale yet. Haha!
Well, we shall lay in a supply of cider then, in hopes of your visits to come!
A few days later a small package of pipeweed arrived at the Heartwood estate. Attached were a notice that the Broken Cask would be open that night and a personal note from the proprietress.
Here, have some of the fruits of my own farming. I hope you enjoy them in good health.
Thank you very much for the pipeweed! Thank you also for the reminder to visit the Cask. We’ve been very busy of late, but I hope that my wife and I will find the time to visit. Until then,
That night he did visit the inn, and made many subsequent visits over time. There were many more notes and letters and visits outside of business reasons over the years as well. Desmira proved to be among the staunchest of friends, and Faeldur will never forget the way she stood by him through his hardest times.
§ § §
“Hatcher,” she murmured. A moment later she dissolved into happy, giggly laughter. “Oh, Hatcher.” She began to kiss him, starting at his cheek and moving towards his hair.
He smiled. “You know my name. That’s a good start,” he teased. “And I have a confession to make.”
Mredothyn blinked her eyes a few times, pulling back to look over his face. “Aye?”
Hatcher lowered his lashes as he looked down. He didn’t quite blush, but his smile turned a little bashful. Then he lifted his gaze to her again, clear and dark and utterly open. “I wasn’t completely sure, but… I thought the sword might have–” He licked his lips, then smiled again. “I thought it might have been about this. That’s why I didn’t refuse it.” He searched her face. “Because that’s what a man does when he doesn’t agree, isn’t it?”
The woman looked endeared by his expression at first, but it turned into a thoughtful look as he kept talking. “I make no claims on what men do,” she answered with a subtle tease in her tone. A moment later she looked a little uncertain. “You are happy, aye?”
The man kissed her nose and smiled as he set his forehead gently against hers. “Yes. You make me happy.” He paused, then said, “But I have another confession.”
Mredothyn let her eyes close as their brows came together. “Tell me,” she said in a soft whisper.
His lips twitched. “What comes next? I have… No. Idea.” Together they laughed.
§ § §