A Little More Conversation 10

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'A Little More Conversation'

 

Part Ten - Pleasure


To do list

     1. Confirm delivery dried fruit, Forlond
     2. Private note Cpt Balien re bridge building, ref Turin.
     3. Meeting - Thalahir - after lunch.
     4. Order oil for Imladris
     5. Create schedule, start sorting files.
     6. Rosemary and black pepper hair oil.
     7. Price body lotion.
     8. Take boots to be re-heeled.
     9. Remember catnip!
     10. Language exercises, 231 - 245. Irregular verbs, list 3, learn!!!

Dear Fin,

Where to start? I am so glad you liked the book. I hoped you wouldn’t think it strange that I sent my own instead of having a copy made, but there was no time – you would still be waiting for it. What you said about being able to see my favourite sections makes it more personal anyway, doesn’t it? Almost as though I was there to point them out to you (look, there’s the narwhale, and here’s the temple to the war god, decorated with skulls…)

I know you are interested in faraway places and was not surprised when you said you would like to travel when the opportunity presented. Since getting to know you, I have tried to imagine what it must be like to have a second chance at life, and I think I would want to experience as much as possible and try to make every minute count. Is that how it is for you?

The first group will soon be leaving for Imladris, all related to members of the garrison. Seven wives, eleven children, someone’s parents, in fact I think there are two sets of parents. (list will be enclosed) After a great deal of begging, combined with promises that Thalahir will keep my work up to date, I persuaded His Majesty to let me go along with them. For security reasons they will naturally have a well-armed escort, and he has seen fit to give me command of this. The warriors will join your force until Lord Elrond has decided where to deploy them, whereas I have permission to stay for a month, returning with the next courier. I would have liked longer, but I was grateful for what I could get. Pathenien is not very happy about it, but can hardly argue with the king.

When I made my case for being allowed to visit, I was careful to emphasize how useful it would be were I familiar with Imladris, and only mentioned your invitation in passing. However, His Majesty gave me a very long look before saying “You and Glorfindel have been corresponding for nearly a year now, right? Probably time to share a cup of wine, yes.” He has a reputation for being very perceptive, though I had no idea I was so transparent. I think I blushed, which is not a habit of mine.

We leave in just under a month, which should give me ample time to bring my work up to date, delegate various responsibilities, complete the requirements of the current section of my studies, and – possibly the most difficult – find someone to look after the three cats that live with me. We need to keep our luggage to a bare minimum, obviously, as we cannot risk passing through enemy territory with something resembling a trade caravan in size, but if Imladris has any urgent needs, we can transport far more than the regular courier can manage. That applies to any personal requests you might have, too. Send me a list.

It never occurred to me before that of course there was no enemy in Aman, no need for weapons. That’s fascinating. How did weaponry begin, how could you know where to start, what to make, how it would work? We are introduced to the sword, spear and bow when we are very young and concentrate on whichever best suits us, but your only use for knives or bows would surely have been hunting? To make the leap from that to using them as offensive weapons, and from the knife to the sword – how was that done? And I suppose the next obvious question would be - who taught the first elf to fight? And why?

I should warn you that I ask even more questions in person. You raise some interesting ones yourself, though. Dormant vegetation? Like spores and seeds, you mean? Buried in the ground, just waiting for heat and light to bring them to life? That sounds a little like something I had to learn by rote as a child, about how flowers sprung up beneath the feet of the Noldor as they marched into Middle-earth. Did that really happen? I always wondered. There is even a famous painting that purports to depict it, except the Noldor are all armed to the teeth and wearing really modern-looking clothing.

I suppose the insects that pollinate the plants slept too. And the bees, bees don’t come out when there is no sunshine, or at least they seldom do so because they use the sun to check their direction. Are there beehives in Imladris? If not, you really should look into doing something about that.

I have written to the head of the settlement at Lake Evendim, asking if they would be able to supply you with a few goats. I thought perhaps two males and six or seven females to start with? I took the precaution of first raising this with His Majesty, who suggested I send the letter in his name. This makes it somewhat less a request, and means you should have goats arriving as soon as is practical. He thinks it is a very good idea, and has even given me an item made of mohair to send to you. I think it must be a knee rug, but many people would drape it decoratively across a chest or over the back or arm of a chair.

When trade with the rest of the realm is finally possible, both this and basket work could prove very profitable for Imladris. I could easily have sold that chair bottom you sent me, and which I am passing off as a wall hanging. It has already received a great deal of interested comment. Of course, I would never part with it, for it is a gift from you and precious to me. My earlier idea of dying some of the reeds different colours still stands - I think it would prove very popular.

I wondered how the cows fared during the heavy winter you experienced, and was glad to hear they came through it well and that safe winter pasture was found for them. Did the elves who normally care for them remain out there as well, or were they left to fend for themselves? I suppose it would have been difficult for elves to find adequate shelter from the weather.

I recall you mentioned Sael thought it best not to start work on a permanent bridge until he could see the effects of the spring thaw on the river. Was there much damage? This seems to have been an exceptionally severe winter, particularly in Eriador, so perhaps flooding is not usual for the Bruinen. Hopefully, all will be well next winter. How long does Sael think it will take to build the stone bridge? Which reminds me – we will somehow need to get our carts down into the valley and possibly across the river. Will this be a problem?

I never expected you to notice me. I grew up thinking myself imminently forgettable, mainly due to the way I was teased about my hair being so dark. And of course I longed to have grey eyes like most of my friends – I suppose we all need to feel we fit in, especially when we are very young? Over time I realised some people, for good or ill, found my looks exotic, but l certainly never, ever expected you to notice, much less remember me. And thank you for what you said about my smile, I am smiling again now as I reread it.

When you get to know me better, you will find I do not embarrass easily. His Majesty feels very strongly about all kinds of intolerance, and his attitude has encouraged many people to rethink opinions they often took for granted all their lives. It gives me such pleasure to realize you finally have the freedom to live in the way that is truest to your heart. I know enough about the way things were in the past to be aware that I was truly blessed to grow up in a time and place where prejudice is officially frowned upon.

Of course prejudice still exists, and many elves, especially the older ones like my uncle, tend to be rather conservative. If, as often happens, I am asked when I plan to marry, I normally say I am still looking for my soul mate and leave them to draw their own conclusions. Courtesy aside, people are probably happiest not having to listen to the details of my mainly disastrous love life.

Looking forward to being in Imladris soon, and hope to hear from you before I leave. This will be a very long month.

Yours always,
Res.

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Dear Res, with the beautiful smile and endless questions,

Háran and I are making a list of places and things we think will interest you during your visit. So far, we want to show you the looms and our first attempts at spinning and weaving, introduce you to the sheep, the cattle, our family of chickens that someone found wandering around a deserted farm, and take you to look at our beehive. Actually, beehives in the plural, as the bees swarmed and we now have two groups plus a wild colony at the far end of the valley. I notice you write about them with a great deal of warmth, so this news should give you pleasure.

Probably one of the first places you will see is our communal gathering place, grandiosely named the Hall of Fire (there was alcohol involved, of course), but more personal to me is the spot overlooking the river where I often go and sit when I write to you. We have a fine pool amongst the rocks if you are fond of swimming, and Háran will also want to point out his favourite vantage to watch for squirrels --- in other words, all those places I have spent months wishing I could share with you. To say I am thrilled that you will soon be here is an understatement

We spent the past month creating terraces on the north side of the valley, hard work but immensely satisfying. The north gets the best of the sun and is protected from the worst weather, plus it is relatively tree-free and covered mainly in little shrubby bushes and grass. The process has been fascinating to watch. First, steps had to be carved into the slope, then the sand had to be held securely in place with barriers made from split logs and the smooth, flat stones found along the river bank. The ground that will serve as paths separating the crops had to be stamped down, and then the earth in the future beds had to be turned over and cow manure, bat droppings, and the like dug in. Nothing containing leaves though. Leaves are bad. I have no idea why.

Water is a problem because it has to be brought up from the river in buckets, but an irrigation system is apparently next on Sael’s list. Whether or not all this effort proves successful is something we will only discover next year, which is when Amalek says the soil should be ready for us to start planting. He sends you his best regards, by the way, and looks forward to seeing you again.

If that all sounds rather detailed, perhaps you can guess how I spent the last few days? The division of labour is simple, civilians supply manure, sticks, stones and water, warriors dig. We were told with great sincerity that this was because no one wanted the valley’s protectors to feel they were being taken advantage of by having to haul water or chop wood. More likely, I suspect they thought digging was the kind of task best suited to the average warrior; uncomplicated and offering little room for confusion.

I put the list of those who will make up your party on the notice board in the Hall of Fire, and was almost trampled in the rush to read the names. You might be surprised at how many people look forward to making your acquaintance, not just Háran and me. Your part in making this all possible has resulted in you being thought of as quite a hero here. The fact that you will have charge of the escort has even served to reassure those concerned regarding matters of safety. Personally I feel it would have been wiser to set out during winter, taking advantage of reduced enemy activity, but that would have raised other, more practical problems. As long as your numbers are sufficiently intimidating, I am sure all will be well, and I have every confidence in you and those under your command.

The greens and blues in this knee rug (or throw, or whatever you feel it should be called) are quite beautiful. I had no idea it would be this warm, and Sael’s wife says it is strong and wears well, too. I need to ask around and see if I can find someone who knows about dyes. No matter the question, someone here usually has an answer. I liked your suggestion of wall hangings, screens and mats to trade, and of adding colour to the natural shade variations. When you are here we can talk more about this, and you can see for yourself what we have made for our own use thus far.

We are moving the cows down here from the high ground, and had to use branches and sand to give the trail a more secure footing. It seems to be working well, so we can do the same when you arrive with the carts. The project was unplanned, but two cows wandered off and were later killed by orcs who, as you will know, have a streak of gratuitous cruelty. This was very evident from what remained of the poor animals, and their caretakers were devastated. After some discussion, I decided we should try and bring them all down here. I suspect Sael thinks I lost my mind, but I think this is what you would do in my place.

So far there have only been minor mishaps, but the cows trust their minders and seem willing to follow them, and they are being moved in small groups of no more than four at a time. Once down the trail, we send them across the river into the safety of the valley. The much-discussed stone bridge is still a long way from completion, but the current one has been suitably reinforced with extra wooden beams and careful use of the rope you sent us earlier, and is more than adequate for carts and the occasional (rather confused) cow.

Talking about animals, we are having a problem with mice in the storage areas. None of us likes the idea of traps, and Lord Elrond said some time back that the best solution would be to bring in a few cats. That is how we managed things in Gondolin, although the method favoured there to control the size of the feline population would certainly never be employed here. Would you consider allowing a couple of yours or their extended family to join our community? You have my word they would be extremely well cared for, and I am sure Háran can be made to understand not to chase them. I have no idea what would be involved in transporting cats to Imladris, so please tell me if the idea is unworkable (or downright stupid).

Your questions are always unexpected and insightful, and I really enjoy them. Weapons in Aman? Well yes, we had spears and bows for hunting, though knives were more for carving wood or for skinning a carcass. Feanor it was who perfected the sword, and I can only assume he was moved by one of the Valar, perhaps Aulë, to do so. As the days grew darker, some of the highest born began to wear them as symbols of strength and status, although there was no thought of using them to bring harm to another. At least, so I believe. Certainly my friends and I had no thought of killing back then, it was outside of our experience.

It was probably a different matter for the Valar. I believe they better understood the approaching darkness, but lacked the terms that would explain it to us, prepare us. It was only after Alqualondé that we all knew just how much damage a sword could cause. As for fighting, once we had crossed the Ice, those with natural talent taught their skill to those who were willing to learn. And so it went on.

Flowers springing up under our feet? So they say, yes. But if I answer all your questions, there will be no need for you to visit. That one can wait for a time when we are sitting under the trees with the fish not biting. Remind me then, and I will tell you about our arrival in Endor, how it really was. Including the flowers.

Travel? Oh yes, one day when the war is over I would love to see Harad, and to visit the ice lands in the north that I hear so many strange tales of. Those two extremes are at the top of my list. I know you are curious about Harad, so perhaps I can persuade you to share that adventure with me? Something else to discuss one afternoon beside the river when we finally have the pleasure of sharing thoughts and wishes without the barriers imposed by distance and carefully chosen words on parchment. It might also be a good time to expand on your reference to romantic disasters. I admit to having had one or two of my own.

What would we like you to bring, besides our families? Well, more cloth if you can. Good needles for sewing. Vegetables, either seeds or young plants, would be very welcome. More oil, please, our supplies are running low again. And books, any books, would be greatly appreciated. What do I need? Another question perhaps best left to be answered in person.

Háran and I will be counting the days till we finally meet. Travel safely, Res. Take care.

Fin.

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Part 11

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Beta: Red Lasbelin

AN: Grateful thanks to Erfan_Starled for detailed advice about terraced farming.