Tapestry of Love

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'Tapestry of Love'

 

For Agie, with all my love ~ Kei

 

The little thicket on the edge of one of the residential areas of Bree lay soaked in afternoon sun and the cheerful sound of calling birds.. To the casual glance it might have seemed deserted, but closer inspection would have revealed two elves, one with dark hair, the other fair, talking quietly behind a well chosen screen of bushes.

"I think I prefer dogs. They’re more predictable. I nearly had a heart attack when she sprung onto my lap out of nowhere."

The cat rubbed her head against Erestor's knee and purred happily in response. Glorfindel had the sense not to laugh. Not out loud at least.

"I think she likes you. Enjoy her company while you can, she’ll probably be off home for dinner soon.”

Erestor ran a hand down the animal’s smooth back. It wasn’t often he got to pet a cat as those in Imladris were workers and spent most of their time around the storage areas in search of rodents. "I suppose. Do you think she lives with Megan?"

Reaching over to scratch behind the cat’s ears, Glorfindel considered the low hedge that separated Megan’s garden from the little thicket he and Erestor were - skulking in, he supposed was the right term. Like vagabonds up to no good. He kept that thought to himself too. "I know she has cats. And there's a dog, too, of course. It's possible."

"How long do you think we'll have to wait, Findel?"

There had been no one home when Glorfindel checked round the back, but an open window and laundry drying on the line suggested a brief absence. It suited the elves well enough, giving them time to prepare their surprise and then find a place just out of sight to keep watch.

"Not long, I think." Glorfindel settled more comfortably against the trunk of a young birch tree, stretching out so that his legs were in the sun. "She'll be back in time for the little one's tea. If you come and sit over here, I can think of a great way to pass the time while we wait."
 

~*~*~*~*~

Megan hefted Jasmine up more securely on her hip and took a fresh grasp on the basket's handle. Almost home now, she thought, turning into the little lane at the end of which stood their house. Marigold Way drowsed under the mid-afternoon sun, and she could hear the birds chirping in the little thicket next to her garden. The only living soul around seemed to be Ally Mason's cat, lying stretched out bonelessly on the front wall of the Appledore’s house.

Jasmine had been almost asleep, but even so she spotted the animal and began to point, leaning towards it excitedly. "Cat… cat!" she crowed in delight, almost overbalancing them both in her efforts to reach out to the big tabby. Tired though the walk to the shops had left her, Megan gave a laughing sigh and kissed the top of the child's head. Honey-coloured curls tickled her nose.

"Oh, what a big, heavy girl you’re getting to be. No, sweetness, not today. We can come and greet Bard later if he's still here, but Mama has to get the food into the house where it's cooler and have a nice cup of tea first."

She kept walking with Jasmine squirming round to look back at the cat and babble at it hopefully in baby talk. She adored animals and led their own two mousers an occasionally miserable existence. Megan was convinced it was only due to her sweet, sunny nature that she'd never been scratched. Even the cats seemed to know she was special.

Megan’s mind started to wander back over recent events. Life had changed out of all recognition since she and Sam so unexpectedly became parents shortly before last winter’s solstice. They never found the birth parents of the babe who had been left on their doorstep, although Sam heard talk of an abandoned wagon about a half day's ride from Bree, with a neatly dug, holly-decked grave close by and drew his own conclusions. The ground was winter-hard, it would have taxed the strength of all but the strongest mortal to turn it.

When days had passed and no one seemed to be asking after a lost infant, they told everyone the baby was the child of a distant relative of Megan's who had died of the fever in Tharbad. While there might have been talk for a time, no one ever questioned this story to their faces. Sam and Megan were honest folk, but they agreed the Fey Ones must have had their reasons for choosing to leave the babe with them, and the story was almost the truth. Megan did indeed have a cousin recently deceased in Tharbad, but so far as they knew there had been no children.

Things had gone well in the months after her arrival, and it was soon as though she had always been part of their home and lives. Sam’s business prospered and Megan continued her work as midwife and healer, with the difference that while she mixed potions and prepared salves, the much longed for babe now slept nearby in a bassinette. Sam's determination that his daughter be known by the simple name of Snowdrop had soon fallen by the wayside. Jasmine she was and Jasmine she would always be - sweet, fair, delicate, winter's child with summer's nature. It seemed to them and to all who knew them and wished them well that they had truly been blessed.

And then disaster had struck. Two months ago a fire had started in the potter's quarters close to Sam's workshop and spread rapidly out of control. By the time the flames were doused, a row of shops and work spaces had been decimated, and Sam's entire livelihood was ashes.

As they walked through the smoke charred, sodden wreckage of the workshop, Megan had looked around in horrified awe. Almost completed orders, the work of weeks, not days, were so much charred wood, and the big work table where Sam's tools were always neatly set was a ruin, shattered when one of the roof beams had fallen across it, the contents broken and burnt. Distracted, she almost slipped on the nails strewn from their container across the floor. Her husband had reached out a hand to steady her and, almost without thought, Megan had passed Jasmine to him before kneeling down to gather the nails together; Sam would need them. When she looked up, it was to see Sam holding the baby close, his face against her soft curls, his eyes closed as his broad shoulders heaved silently. She rose to stand beside him, her hand on his arm. She had no words.

Finally he sighed and looked down at Jasmine, blinking away moisture. "We'll just have to start again, won't we?" he told his daughter, his voice husky with emotion. "For you, for us. No giving up now. What kind of a father would I be if the first lesson I taught you was to give up when the hard times come?"

The first month had been all about Sam clearing the space and rebuilding his workshop. He was not a man for rushing or for doing a job half way, but he worked as fast as he could. Where he had been paid in advance for work, customers were understanding and he was given time to start over, but in most instances business simply vanished to one of the other carpenters across town. Almost all of his tools were gone, and he was at a loss as to how he would replace them, but - one thing at a time, he told Megan. First priority was a roof to keep off the spring rains.

On an evening at the end of that month, they had sat down together to do the accounts as was their habit. Megan's work as a healer was unpredictable, they had always relied on the steady income Sam generated. There was food and fuel to be paid for, and the raw materials for rebuilding the workshop. No matter how they did the sums, there was never going to be enough.

Megan went up and checked that Jasmine slept soundly and then brewed them a cup of tea. They sat in companionable silence, sipping it before the fire. "We still have the gold and jewels the Fair Ones left with Jasmine, husband," she finally suggested tentatively. "Perhaps it would be all right to use just one of the coins? It would be as much for her benefit as our own. Surely the Others would understand?"

Sam shook his head firmly, not a trace of indecision in his face or voice. "No. Those gifts were left for her and they'll not be touched. One day they'll serve as her dowry. They trusted us, Megan. I'll not take what's hers to sort out a temporary setback. No, we'll just have to work hard and be careful. I'll speak to Bill the Wood about the fuel tomorrow. He knows the situation, he'll give us time to pay him. Just - we need to use the fuel for cooking only, not let the fire burn on into the night. It'll be all right, the weather's warmer now."

Well, it might have been a temporary setback, Megan mused as she placed the basket with the few groceries she had been able to afford on the ground and opened the gate, but it was still biting hard. Sam was accepting simple work not requiring the use of much more than a hammer, rough saw and nails, and she had started taking in sewing, mainly doing repairs as she was a competent rather than an expert seamstress, but what they earned between them was barely enough. If it were not for Jasmine's bright smile and eternally happy nature, there were times when she would have come close to despair, but their Gift was as always a joy to them and an encouragement to keep on.

She was half way up the path before she realised there was something on the doorstep. She assumed Sam had ordered it, because she could see what was almost certainly the handle of a saw extending from the neck of the sack and leaning against the door. She frowned, surprised he hadn't mentioned it that morning. There was also a smaller bag beside the sack, embroidered in soft colours and held closed at the neck by a tasseled drawstring.

Megan had found something unlikely on her doorstep once before, no more than half a year ago. Her first reaction was to look around, but there was no one in sight, no glorious being of sunlit hair and sky blue eyes. She paused, uncertain, then put the basket down and went to place Jasmine in the centre of the lawn to give herself a few undisturbed moments. Bramble the dog came round the corner of the house and Jasmine clapped her hands in delight. He pushed the child over with a gentle butt of the head, and while Jasmine rolled around on the grass laughing, Megan sat down on the red-polished step and opened first the sack and then the bag.

For Sam there was a saw with a bright jagged edge that even Megan could see was unusually strong and sharp, a small hatchet, chisels in different shapes, a new plane, an adze, something that looked like a level, and a pair of dividers in a little wooden box with strange symbols picked out upon it. The bag was for her. She spent a while just stroking it, her fingers tracing the patterns. Inside she found a veritable sewing kit: fine metal needles in a felt booklet and a pretty leather box containing pins with multi-coloured glass heads, two thimbles, wonderfully sharp scissors, a golden bodkin - surely not real gold - and beeswax in the shape of a rose, each petal exact. There was even a selection of little wooden cards holding shimmering threads in the most exquisite colours Megan had ever seen.

The bag held one final item, a length of delicate fabric of a type she had never before seen, with tiny white stars embossed upon swirls of misty greens and blues. There was just enough to make a dress for a very small girl-child.

Bored with Bramble, Jasmine finally got her legs under her and crawled happily across the grass to her mother. Megan lifted her onto her lap and sat rocking her almost absently, her lips still parted in disbelief. Finally, instinct drew her eyes to the small thicket. Nothing moved, but that hardly surprised her. "Thank you, friends unseen," she said quietly, mouthing the words carefully so that her meaning would be clear even though she was probably too far away for them to hear her. "For everything. Thank you."
 

~*~*~*~*~

"She's so adorable. She'll be walking any day now. And that's the most gorgeous smile I've ever seen."

"Look at you, you're positively gushing. See? We should have taken her home with us."

Erestor punched Glorfindel lightly on the arm. "I don't gush. And don't be silly, look how content she is. A child can only be that happy if she's being raised with love."

"Yes, I know. Just - would have been fun, watching her grow."

They sat together up in the opening to 'their' loft, sharing the meat pie and the bread and cheese Glorfindel had fetched from the kitchen for dinner. There was also a half pint mug of beer that Erestor first declared he had no interest in, but curiosity had finally got the better of him, making him ask for ‘just a taste’.

“Hey, give that back. You said you didn’t want any, remember. That’s mine...”

“Just wait! I hadn’t tasted it before, just smelt it. It’s not bad at all. We should do something about importing it, or learning to brew it ourselves.” Erestor managed a good-sized gulp before Glorfindel took the mug back from him. "Anyway, ours, not yours. Leave me half?"

"I'll try and get another when I take the plate back," Glorfindel promised. Anything to make sure he still had his share. "So. You think that went all right?"

The distraction worked. Erestor nodded and smiled. "She seemed pleased with everything – a bit stunned, but she was smiling. I know the carpenter's tools were right, but we were just guessing with the rest. I hope Celebrķan doesn't miss the thread and the bodkin - I didn't have time to buy them and I would have felt a bit strange asking for them anyhow."

"You could have said they were a gift. You did that with the scissors, pins and needles," Glorfindel pointed out, looking to see if there was any bread left.

"I wasn’t quite sure what to ask for. Anyhow, it was just standard thread, regular colours, not something precious that she'd look for. Bri's not that fond of sewing. And she’s had that leftover fabric for ages, Arwen said. "

Celebrķan, very much her mother's daughter, had only taken up needlework when her babies were born and was randomly enthusiastic rather than expert.

"I hate to think we might never have known they were in need,” Glorfindel said. “It was just by chance I heard about the fire, put two and two together and asked the right questions. Need to check how things are going for them more regularly. Oh, the bodkin was gold in case you didn't notice. They should sell that rather than use it."

"I suppose. Never thought of that. I put a few coins in with Sam's tools though. Is there any more cheese? That pie was good."

"This place gives you an appetite," Glorfindel grinned, putting the plate where Erestor could also reach it. He held onto the beer though.

"Keeping my strength up, oh mighty warrior. For later. This loft has a proud tradition to uphold, remember. I want to be sure I’m fit and ready to do my part."

~*~*~*~*~