“What’ll we call her?” Anborn asks, sitting up, then is immediately distracted again; the girl launches herself at him, squealing with delight. The boy giggles & falls back to the floor, catching her & lifting her above him to make her laugh.
Ingold raises a sarcastic brow. “‘Bloody Nuisance’?” he suggest drily. He glances at Damrod, whose bleeding triceps is being tended by Remmirath.
Remmirath sends Ingold a quelling look. “Really, Ingold,” he chastises, his gentle voice a contrast to his sharp, angular features and compact, whipcord frame. “You’d rather have left her to die of thirst, or by the hands of an Orc?”
Ingold purses his lips, his eyes cutting away. Disgruntled, his answer is to throw his long frame on a cot. Remmirath grins quietly, his eyes on his work.
Mablung’s troop had managed to return to Henneth Annun, straggling in pair by pair. Damrod and Ingold were the last to arrive in the wee predawn hours, exhausted by several acute scuffles with the Orc band they’d pursued all the previous day as they brought up the company’s rear. The worst injury among the six was Damrod’s gash, luckily delivered by an un-poisoned blade.
Damrod flinches as Remmirath begins stitching the sliced flesh back together. He watches Anborn play with the petite child, trying to distract himself. “How do you do that, Anborn?” he asks, his tone sulky.
“Do what?” The boy sets the child down again, sitting up. She attempts to climb him, and he turns her upside down, eliciting another ear-shattering shriek of joy.
Damrod gestures vaguely at the child with his uninjured arm. “Make ‘er so… happy.”
Anborn shrugs, his rapport with the little girl coming naturally. “I got a little sister back home, prob’ly about this age now.”
Damrod frowns; evidently children are not his forte. The titanic Man props his chin on one anvil-like fist & observes the two youngsters gravely, pondering.
Galenas returns to the company’s stony dwelling-room, bearing six plates, three along each arm, heavy laden with breakfast. He pauses in the door, his oft-mischievous gaze sweeping the room. “Where’s Mab?”
Ingold grunts from his cot, “Sulking.” He rises and plucks a precariously balanced plate from Galenas, moving to sit at the common table with Damrod.
Galenas makes a face and feints a rude gesture with his full hand at the back of Ingold’s head, then looks to Remmirath for the real answer. Remmirath meets the younger Man’s gaze and jerks his chin back out the archway through which Galenas has come, beyond which the Curtain may be heard tumbling from the rocks above.
Glancing over his shoulder, Galenas spies Mablung’s dark silhouette, thrown into relief against the Curtain, one fist propped on his hip, the other cradling the bowl of his pipe.
Stepping further into the room, Galenas unloads his burden. Anborn rises from the floor only long enough to snag a plate. He returns to the girl child, allowing her to pick bites from his plate while he eats, shoveling food in his mouth at a rate only a growing teenage boy can muster. Damrod turns toward a plate, beginning to eat even as Remmirath finishes his stitches.
“Take ‘im a plate, Gal?” Remmirath mutters, nodding again out the door. Galenas sighs lightly, but obeys.
* * *
Mablung stands silent, his gaze piercing the streaming sheet of the Curtain to soar out over the gorge of the Forbidden Pool as it slowly lights with the dawn. Still as a statue, he puffs slow, thoughtful clouds of pipe smoke. His mind turns over and over, wrestling, restless.
“M’lord.” Galenas’ voice rouses him. He turns to see the young Man, only lately beginning to thicken with hardening muscle, waiting with a plate for him.
“Ah. Thank you, Gal.” Mab accepts the plate as Galenas nods.
There is a silence, in which Mab turns back to stare through the Window, his plate all but forgotten already, and Galenas pauses awkwardly.
“Sir? You will join us, ey?” Galenas’ tone is hesitant, but hopeful.
Mablung shakes himself, turning from the ethereal view and his ponderous thoughts. “O‘course, Gal. My apologies.” He follows Gal’s lithe frame, beginning himself to feel the effects of their long day’s efforts with every stride.
As they enter, Remmirath is shaking his head as he packs away the last of his healing kit. “No, no. Not nearly pretty enough.”
Damrod’s broad brow creases. “But she is Bitty.”
Remmirath laughs. “She may not always be, Dam. Who’s to say she won’t get big as you?” He seats himself at last over a plate and tucks in.
Mablung speaks low, shaking his head. “Her father didn’t appear over-large.”
Five heads swivel toward him, silence falling but for the girl’s coos and garbled chirps.
Anborn pipes up. “That was her papa?” The boy’s eyes darken with the memory of the slain Man, his last act an attempt to shelter the toddler, his death full of uncertainty over her fate.
Mab exhales as he somewhat stiffly takes a seat at the communal table. “One assumes,” he mutters grimly.
The six Men turn as one to look at the girl, now happily occupied with placing small pieces of potato from Anborn’s plate onto a spoon with her fingers, then using the spoon to convey the bites to her mouth.
Each of their faces reflects varying degrees of sorrow, anger, resignation, and pity.
Anborn, from his place on the floor beside her, turns to the other Men. “She needs a name. She hasn’t got a name.” His voice is urgent.
The Curtain hisses and tumbles in the silence.
Oddly, Ingold is the first to speak. “What about… Elanor?” he offers gruffly.
Five heads turn incredulously.
Ingold huffs impatiently. “It’s the name of the flower from the great Mallorn trees that are said to grow in Lothlorien. The Elven kingdom in the north?” he explains, his tone suggesting the rest of them are dunces.
“That’s… very pretty, Ingold,” Remmirath says slowly, working hard to suppress his mirthful amazement.
Galenas squints at the girl. “Elanor,” he tries, but shakes his head. “She ain’t the delicate flower type, I think. I mean, she survived an Orc attack. By herself.”
Ingold seethes quietly. “You come up with something better, then!” he bites, then shoves a forkful of eggs into his mouth.
“Maybe I will,” Galenas flings back impertinently, grinning.
Mablung raises a single eyebrow, flicking a quelling glance first at the young archer, then at Ingold, and the two Men settle.
Damrod’s reverberant bass sounds. “Got to admit, there must be something tough about her.”
Mablung watches the child thoughtfully, stroking his chin. “She’s intelligent too. She…knew she had to be quiet. And she was, the whole trip back, ey Anborn?”
Anborn, struggling to reclaim his spoon, bobs his head. He plays tug of war with the little girl momentarily, until she lets out an outraged scream of warning, and swings at his hand gripping the spoon with her free fist.
Caught by surprise, Anborn releases the spoon, and the tot tumbles backward with the force of her own pulling.
The five Men at the table burst into laughter as the girl tippily rights herself and holds up her prize.
“MY!” her tiny voice barks at Anborn, her eyes alight with victory.
“Fey little creature!” Remmirath chuckles, then has mercy on Anborn by offering the boy his own spoon.
Galenas claps a hand on the tabletop. “Fay! I like it. Short an’ sweet.” He looks around at the other Men, grinning. “I knew a Fay once! Hell of a girl.”
Ingold gives him a long-suffered look. “You’re joking.”
“A tad… harsh for a little girl, don’t you think?” Mablung asks.
Damrod pipes up. “Her eyes shine. Sparkle. Like stars.”
Remmirath looks up from having joined Anborn and the child on the floor, catching Mablung’s eye. Simultaneously, the two Men murmur, “Feygil.”
Anborn perks up and smiles. Damrod nods slowly. Galenas chuckles.
“It’s not very pretty,” Ingold jibes.
“It’s settled then!” Remmirath states, after a last glance at Mablung. “Welcome to Henneth Annun, little Feygil.” He chuckles, noting the four looks of satisfaction. And one set of rolling eyes.
“But what of a last name?” Ingold poses the question after a moment, his tone unusually (mostly) devoid of sarcasm. “We don’t know her family name either.” He turns to Mablung. “Do you seriously intend to claim her, Mab?”
Mablung frowns, staring at Feygil. “I… cannot answer that yet.”
“She hasn’t got any family to take a name from,” says Galenas morosely.
The Men turn again to look at Mablung.
Remmirath looks surprised, then pleased. Ingold raises a skeptical brow. The other three simply look confused.
“How do you know how devoted she might be?” Ingold asks.
“I don’t,” Mablung replies. “I just know she appears to quite easily inspire a great deal of it in others.”
To Damrod, Galenas, and Anborn, who are less versed in the old Sindarin than the older Men, Remmirath murmurs an explanation: “Powerful Devotion. Righteous Devotion, one might even say.”
Ingold sighs with resignation. “So much for pretty,” he sneers, but it is half-hearted.
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