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Araquiel’s Story

Note: This is a story about an alternate reality version of Araquiel. These are just fun stories about my character in Lord of the Rings Online with the same name. This Araquiel is not related to the one from the Sahenda stories at all.

Part one takes place around the first time I played, roughly c. 2010. The original character was a burglar.

Part One

I don’t remember much about my da, he died when I was maybe five summers. Mum used to tell me stories about him. His name was Cainshaa and he was a fisherman out of Dol Amroth, that’s all I know about him. I don’t know where he died or how. He left one day to work and never came back so I guess I don’t rightly know he’s for certain dead. But we never saw him again, and Mum said he was a good man and would have never willingly left us.

It’s hard to remember sometimes. But I figure if I’m to ever be more ‘n a common thief for my new brethren then may as lief practice my letters. Now that I have a place to sleep and I’m not after spending all my coppers on bread and ale, I purchased some foolscap from a scholar and a binding to keep it in. I’ve cut it all down to a size I can hide easily and stitched it into the binding. It doesn’t look very tidy, but maybe I can redo it later.

So, my da was named Cainshaa and he was a fisherman. That’s all I know. Mum said he was a good man and that he believed in doing the right things. He must have left us all right, at least for awhile. I remember the house we lived in. It was small, but cozy and if we didn’t eat fancy we ate enough. We had a cat for the hearth; I called him Collywobbles. I’d feed him scraps I’d saved from dinner and he’d curl up in my lap and purr. Mum would scold ’cause she wanted him for a mouser but I don’t think she truly minded.

Mum did a bit of needlework to help us by and we had a little garden. She insisted on teaching me my letters and numbers. Said that without a dower, best she could give me was the tools and the wit to manage myself. She also expected me to speak proper and she’d box my ears if I spoke like a street-rat. So I wasn’t a proper young lass but I did okay.

I guess I was about 8 or 9 summers and some rough mates came to the house, asking my mum about my da. She told them she never knew what about, just when I was 5 he left and never came back. I don’t think they believed her, because one of them cursed her and grabbed her by the arm. I flew at him and he backhanded me across the room. His ring cut my cheek open and I curled up sniveling in fear. I still bear the scar.

Mum penned a note to someone, and gave one of the neighbor boys a coin to carry it. A few nights later she woke me up and bade me gather a few changes of clothing. We left with a skinny, scary man in a scruffy beard with naught but the clothes we carried and whatever silver was in the house. I didn’t even have time to say goodbye to Collywobbles. I didn’t want to leave him but mum said he’d be okay but any road, we couldn’t take him along. The scruffy man had a horse for mum and he put me up on his own with him, and off we rode. We were on the road for more days than I can remember, but in the end we came to Bree-town.

Here’s somewhat I do remember: When we got there, mum tried to give the scruffy man a few coins. He refused to take them. He said, “It’s the least I can do for Cainshaa’s memory”. Mum cried and thanked him. I never saw him after, but I remember the tone in his voice when he said that. Like my da was someone important to him.

Nobody came after us, but life changed after that. We lived in the worst part of Bree-town, dangerous and filthy. Mum took in laundry and mending to make ends meet but it seemed like we were often hungry. There was no place to tend a garden, and I cried and begged for another cat but mum would hush me and tell me we were lucky to have anything at all.

She seemed tired after that, I think it broke her heart to leave Dol Amroth. I think she felt closer to my da there by the sea. At any rate, about five years after we arrived in Bree-town she took sickly and died of a cough.

I was alone after that. I found I could run fast and move quiet-like, so I took to thievery to earn my bread. I was too young for aught else save being lightskirt and I didn’t fancy that a bit. I got pretty good at it too, at least enough to make by. Been living that way for four years now. Happen I’d be nothin’ more than a thief all my days too, if not for those toffs in the Pony.

But that’s a story for another day, and sleep calls me.

So it’s been a busy few days and I’ve not had time to write about the toffs in the Pony, but I got a few coin laid by now and I’m learnin’ to do honest work. I can take a bit of a break.

Happen it’s been maybe a fortnight or a tad less ago now, along toward evening. I’d headed over to the Pony. That square right outside’s a fine place to pick pockets if the toffs are all out and about. There’s one broody-looking bloke that stands round outside all dressed in black sometimes though, and he was there. The likes of him usually don’t pay no mind to a street-rat like me, but that bloke misses nothing so when he’s there I don’t stick around.

For whatever reason then I went inside the Pony that night. Figured with so many people outside there’d be few more inside and old Butterbur wouldn’t notice me helpin’ myself to a few pockets an’ the like. I slipped inside the door. And I was right, there was a lot of people inside and he didn’t notice me.

I pulled my cloak ’round me a little and tried to sidle over near the fire. There were a couple of hooded fellows what looked like hunters near the fire talking. Looked like toffs, they did – they had nice clothes and they were clean and spoke well. They were joined by one scary-looking bloke with an eyepatch and no hair. He had nice clean clothes too but he looked fierce as the day is long.

I started to edge away from them, and one of them suddenly turned toward me. He let his hood fall back, and I could see he had a circlet on his head and pointed ears. “Hello, miss!” he said to me. “Would you care for something to drink?”

Oi. I felt like a deer caught in the hunter’s sight, I froze, I cringed a little. I mean, bloody hell, he was an elf and he was LOOKING RIGHT AT ME. I wanted to run away as fast as I could, but I remember my mum telling me you can trust elves. So I just sort of quivered in my shoes and shivered and I think I finally stuttered something about maybe just having some water to drink? I really didn’t want a bunch of toffs noticing me, especially not five feet away from Butterbur.

The scary man laughed and it was a great merry sound, not at all scary. “I think we’ve got something better than water to offer you,” he told me. I cast a nervous glance over at Butterbur. I was sure at this point he was going to notice and haul me out by the ear. I was so scared of these toffs at this point, I didn’t have a thought of lifting from their pockets. I just didn’t want them to hurt me. I suppose if I’d thought it through I’d have managed to get Butterbur to notice me just so he’d haul me away from the toffs, but I wasn’t thinking too clearly.

I think the elf noticed me looking all nervous at Butterbur, because he said something about finding a more quiet place to talk. The three of them sort of herded me back into a back room. The other hunter-looking fellow, he turned out to be an elf too though he didn’t really say anything. He just kind of gave me a bit of a look, he did, sort of watchful and cautious. Can’t say as I blame him. But the elf that first spoke to me, he had this friendly sort of way about him, big bright smile and his voice was musical. Something about him said “trust me”, and you couldn’t really say no about it.

The big scary guy kind of circled around to stand behind me, and I very nearly bolted at that point but the elf said “You can trust him, he won’t hurt you.” And didn’t mum say we can trust the elves? We went into one of the back rooms and I just kind of got in a corner and watched everyone. Weren’t any way to escape, anyway.

So the elf tells me his name is Gilruin, and that the scary bloke’s name is Spanyell, and the other elf is Thorox or somewhat. And he says they’re good blokes looking to combat the darkness that’s creeping in. Spanyell gave me some ale to drink that went straight to my head, though when I had to lean back against the wall all they did was chuckle a bit. Gilruin asked me if I was willing to join their cause, and I shrugged. Sure, why not? So he offers me a badge of their kinship and then tells me Spanyell will show me the house.

Now here you got to understand, I spent the first 9 winters or so of my life in a cottage, the next 5 in a hovel, and the rest of my time lucky if I didn’t get chased away from the trash-fire in Beggar’s Alley. So when Spanyell tells me he’s going to show me “the house”, I’m thinking maybe something a little bigger than the cottage I grew up in.

He took me to a fair bloomin’ mansion, he did. The place was bloody HUGE. He showed me round the statues and trophies and whatever not in the yard, and then took me inside.

Here I’m thinking their “cause” was maybe doing a little fighting. Now at this point, I’m realizing these are good folk who have been fighting the evils of the world together for a long time. Cause there were more trophies inside. And they had these plaques on them telling the tales and suchlike, and there were shelves full of books. There was goodness in the very walls of the place, you could feel it.

So Spanyell shows me ’round, and then he tells me now I have a home and I have people. That I don’t have to be alone. He shows me the table and tells me I can eat whatever I want. Then he tells me something that just sets me right back on my heels.

He tells me he wants me to keep practicing my thievery. Then he laughs that jolly great laugh of his and tells me “Not on us, of course”.

I giggled a bit. You can’t NOT laugh when Spanyell laughs, it’s just that merry sounding. Turns out that he’s not going to turn me over to the watch for being a thief, he wants me to hone my skills and use them to help his cause. Edge’s cause.

Oi, there’s more to write but sleep calls me.

Hasn’t it been awhile since I wrote? And a lot’s gone on. I’ve made new friends, mostly thanks to my hobbit-friend Gracyn. And Spanyell went missin’. Oi, I’ve a lot to catch up on! I’ll start with Gracyn.

I like hobbits. Hobbits are good hearted folk what laugh with you, not at you. Or if they laugh at you it’s no more than they do themselves cause hobbits laugh at themselves more than anyone. So I made friends with this hobbit named Gracyn Lightfoot. One day I’m waitin’ in front of the Pony for Gracyn, and this elf walks by and offers me a smile and a nod.

Oi! And wasn’t he just that pretty? I stared at the ground and twisted my fingers in my cloak. Happen Gracyn saw all this and started proddin’ me to go say hello, as if he’d talk to the likes of me! Mind you this weren’t long after Gilruin was lost, an’ I wasn’t really ready to look elsewhere but Gracyn wasn’t having none of it. We got in an argument and off I stomped to go sit in the garden in Bree. I go there when my heart or my thoughts are in turmoil.

When Gracyn gets an idea in her head there ain’t no stoppin’ it. She’ll smile and agree and do as she pleases anyway, arguin’ with it is like pushin’ a rope. I saw the chap around a time or two after but he didn’t say anything after that to me. And why should he? I told Gracyn offerin’ a polite smile don’t mean nothin’, but I’ll admit I couldn’t help but notice him around sometimes.

Not long after I was gone for about a month, I guess. Had some travelin’ to do, heard some rumors here and there about my da I wanted to follow up on. Nothin’ came of it, so I came back to Bree. Once I got back Gracyn told me she did some investigatin’ and she found out the name of that pretty elf. She said it was Hismenixe.

She like to drove me clear out of my mind, buggin’ me to just go say hello to him next time I saw him. I can’t do that! Mum said we can trust the elves but just because Hismenixe wouldn’t slice my throat in my sleep didn’t mean he wanted to talk to me, neither. I know Gracyn meant the best; I’d been pretty sad with Gilruin gone and finding out nothin’ about my da, but honestly! Finally got to the point where she threatened to go talk to Hismenixe herself. I agreed to let her send him some flowers from me anonymously to see if he were pleased by the idea, before revealin’ myself to him if she’d agree not to tell him anything til I said so.

So a few days go by, and isn’t that Gracyn up to something she won’t tell me? Grinning like a mad fool and gettin’ letters like nobody’s business, all the while tellin’ me she ain’t talked to Hismenixe but she don’t think he was mad about the flowers at all. Happen she thinks maybe he liked them just fine. Me, I wanted to barf from sheer nerves. But a few days go by and I don’t hear any more about it from Gracyn, so she tells me she’ll buy me a drink in the Pony to commiserate if I’ll meet her there one nice afternoon.

We agree on a time and I show up, but no Gracyn. Now Gracyn’s high-spirited and mischievous, but she generally does what she says she’s gonna so I was a little worried. I was standing outside listening to some musicians and some nice fellow strikes up a conversation with me. He said his name was Zint, and he was a captain. I was nervous at first but really, what’s he goin’ to do right out in front of the Pony? We listened to the music and made some polite conversation, he told me he was waitin’ for a friend and I told him well isn’t that a coincidence? So he invited me inside and offered to buy me a drink. Didn’t seem like he had any ulterior motive really, either. Some folks is just that friendly.

Only, sittin’ right there on the porch of the Pony is that pretty elf. Hismenixe. I nearly swallowed my tongue and started to make excuses to stay outside but then Zint waltzes right up to Hismenixe and chats him up like they’re old pals. Which apparently, they are.

Right. This ain’t my first time on the dance floor, and about this time I’m feeling mighty suspicious but Gracyn still ain’t showed up and really, there’s nothin’ for Hismenixe to know it was me who sent the flowers so might as well. I wanted to just bolt and run for the hills but I made myself try to stay there and have a natter. Wasn’t so bad after a bit really. A nice elven lass comes in and Hismenixe introduces her as Sidri, and she’s just as sweet as she can be. I’m starting to relax a bit thinkin’ I might just get out of here without anyone bein’ the wiser.

Except. My good mate Greyfoot walks in and asks me have I seen Gracyn? He was supposed to meet her in Combe and didn’t show but she’d told him she was meetin’ me at the Pony, and to come find me if she didn’t. And all of a sudden Hismenixe gives me this sharp sideways look and says, “Gracyn Lightfoot?”

I didn’t half snort my ale out my nose, I was busted and I knew it. I don’t even remember what I said to Grey. Hismenixe was mercifully kind and didn’t say anything else about it then. Then.

But that’s for another day, my fingers are tired and so am I.

Anyway, so I mentioned how I finally met Hismenixe face to face and he found out it were me who sent the flowers. So that first night then he introduces me to an elf lass, Sidri, and to me it looks like Hisme and Sidri is just about perfect for each other. Sidri’s a bright, colorful little bird she is; sweet and charming and outgoing and everyone just loves her, how could anyone not? So I thought about it for a day or two – ran into Hisme a couple times and all – and thought maybe is best if I just kinda stepped out of the picture.

Somethin’ I ain’t talked about much, that’d been on my mind a lot: Gilruin. See, when I first joined Edge the first bloke I met was Gilruin, an elf as well. And he took a bit of a fancy to me. Now I’m as plain as a wren, and fellows don’t take a fancy to me really but this Gilruin did right off and wasn’t he just the nicest gentleman there was? And oh, wasn’t he right charming, courting me like I mattered? Like when we all went fishing, and he draped his cloak over my shoulders and carried my basket of fish, and walked with me in Falathlorn after a kinship meeting. I worried a bit cause he’s immortal an’ all, and I’m not but Spanyell sat me down and told me to stop fretting on it. He said that Gil’s old enough to know his mind and understand the consequences, and if he chooses me then I should trust that he knows what he’s doing.

Except that not long after, Gil went off to Trestlebridge to help fight off an Orc attack and disappeared, and never came back again. And there was a couple folks there said they saw it happen, least they described an elf wearin’ the same armor and cloak he was wearin’, killed and dragged off by the Orcs. And that was that, I guess. I still have the cloak he gave me that day we went fishin’.

But the thing that stuck with me was Gilruin said that elves mate for life, and if an elf’s mate dies he just lives the rest of his life alone. An’ me being just a human thief girl meant I’d be gone when he was still a young man as his folk count it. Didn’t feel right.

So keepin’ this in mind, I wrote Hisme a letter and told him I was happy to be his friend but I couldn’t be any more. I’ll never let another elf tie himself to me, because it’d be selfish to take away his future when I know they love for eternity when they love. I said I was steppin’ out of his gaze but I’d always be his friend. And he was a bit wroth with me, but we talked about it and came away from it better friends. And because of all this, I met Sidri and Zint and Cass and made some true friends.

You know, Hisme says some folks say he’s cold, but I don’t think he is at all. He’s what my mum would have called “measured”. I think a great raging fire burns in his heart so fierce that he keeps a cool face on so he don’t get burnt by his own fire. He’s painfully honest, I like that. Even if it stings sometimes. Ain’t how he means it anyway, and you can trust a bloke that honest.

Not long after all this, Spanyell went missing. Him with his scary face and his great jolly laugh. And Thorox took over and a lot of the blokes he’d hired were just louts, so with him and the louts in charge it just didn’t seem like a happy place to me anymore. I’ll write more on that another day.

So around the time all that was going on with Hisme and right after, I met a human bloke named Avandrian. I was sitting in the Pony one night off by myself. I usually sit outside but the weather was wretched, so I was inside. I saw Sidri inside and we spoke for a moment, but she was with some other friends. I did get a kick out of watching her with must have been three or four blokes all vying for her attention, she’s so outgoing and pretty. Then I hear this cultured, elegant sounding voice say “Hello, lass. Do you mind if I share the table with you?”

Looked up and there’s this white-haired wizardy type fellow, leaning on his staff, a little bent like an old man but with merry looking green eyes. Straight off I invited him to sit! He began chatting me up and I really enjoyed our conversation. Sidri came over a time or two to see what we was up to, and I introduced her to him. Anyway, this delightful old man starts talkin’ to me about maybe having some work for me, and would I be interested? He was lookin’ for artifacts and old scrolls and things, seems he was a scholar of some sort. He looked clean and didn’t smell funny like some old men do, even though he did seem to have rather a lot of dandruff ’cause he kept brushin’ these white flakes off himself that were falling from his hair and beard. He invited me to come outside for a natter, where it was quieter.

We went outside and talked a bit, and he asked me why such a pretty lass as me was all by myself and didn’t I have a young man? I told him naw, blokes don’t go for the likes of me an’ any road, I keep to myself mostly. And he frowned and he harrumphed and told me not to be silly, that somewhere out there’s a fellow for me. Then he asks me to meet him outside the gates cause he wants to show me something. I figure why not? Ain’t like I can’t outrun an old man if he gets a notion to mischief.

While I’m standin’ there waiting this young bloke comes out and points at me and hollers “OYE! You! I need some help! Right this way!” And off he storms. And I kind of half follow along and glance over my shoulder and try to explain to him that I’m happy to help and all but I’m waitin’ for someone and if he can put it off just a few…

And doesn’t he just spin right ’round and whip out a sword and lunge right at me, yelling like a lunatic?

I squeaked and grabbed two handfuls of dirt and flung ’em right in his face, and then pulled a lil’ trick I learned in the Alley where I can hide pretty nearly right in plain sight. And I circled round and watched him. I didn’t want to hurt him none, but I wasn’t about to let the ravin’ bastage get close enough to me to do the job. And finally he pulls off his helm and says, “It’s me, Ara. Avan.”

Only this bloke’s young, and he’s wearing armor, and he’s got fiery red hair. But I see those same merry green eyes, and the face and beard’s the same save the color. I peer at him and didn’t I just see a bit of white powder still in his beard? Bloody hell if it really wasn’t Avan! Seems he’d had on with me and he wasn’t an old man at all!

Well. I marched right up to him, I was just that pissed I forgot to be scared and I shook my finger in his face and gave him what-for, for scarin’ me like that. And he laughed and told me he just wanted to see how I handled myself and how fast I could think in a pinch. The nerve! But I had to admit it was rather funny, and I let him buy me dinner to sooth my ruffled feathers.

I’ve seen him a few times, he usually disguises himself as the old man and I don’t tell nobody he’s not old cause he asked me not to. The next time I saw him, he gave me a little carved wooden eagle he made himself and told me I am to remember that just because a bird is plain doesn’t mean that bird isn’t special and wonderful, and that any time I am tempted to forget I am special and wonderful, I can look at that wooden bird and remember. He travels though, and not long after he left on one of his jaunts. Said he didn’t know when he’d return.

After Spanyell went missing and I decided to leave Edge, I thought about joining up with Avan’s bunch. He’d told me I’d always be welcome. But with Avan gone I didn’t have anyone to ask about, and anyway I don’t much like being around people I don’t know. Sidri invited me to come along on an adventure with her one night, with Zint and Cass and Hisme and some of their other mates. Turned out to be just that grand of an adventure! Afterward, Zint offered me the chance to work with them, and I accepted. It’s an honor to be able to work with folks like these, they take care of each other and they’re honest and they got each other’s backs.

So I joined the Ithildin Order, and that’s where I am now. And I think my mum could rest a little easier now, if she knew. Maybe somewhere, she does.

Here’s the funny thing about life; it surprises you even when you’re watchin’.

Let me backtrack. When I was wee even before we left Dol Amroth, whenever something happened that was a big deal to me my mum used to tell me to find a quiet place and just think about how I feel. That helps you know yourself, she always said, and if you know yourself then can’t nothin’ knock you off your feet. I didn’t forget that even after mum died. I like quiet places really. That’s why I go to the garden sometimes, or stand up on the rooftops near the Scholar’s Stair up past High Bridge.

It goes something like this: I stand there and first I think about how everything feels outside of me. If it’s warm or cold, if it’s breezy or still, that sort of thing. Then I listen to the sounds around me, the birds or the creak of cart wheels or the snorting of horses. I notice the smells (which is why I like the garden and the rooftops, it don’t do to take a big deep breath in the Alley, trust me). Next I think about how I feel and what I’m thinking. I think about why I feel that way. Mum used to tell me it’s okay to feel however you feel, that you shouldn’t feel bad about your feelings as long as you’re the master of how you act. Sometimes I don’t like how I feel about things but I ken she had the right of it. You can’t help sometimes if you feel mean or hateful, but you can make sure you don’t act that way.

The important thing is that I know how I feel and why. And I try to put that same watchfulness outside myself too. I try to be still and watch and listen to people and things, and when you do that it’s easy to see patterns and pathways in things. So ain’t much surprises me.

Hismenixe surprised me.

I like Hisme. He’s a quiet fire. When I first met him I was so nervous and awkward ’cause I had such a crush on him from afar an’ all, but he turned out to be a bit of all right and we’re friends and I’m okay with all that. Don’t mean I stopped likin’ him a bit more’n I oughter, just means I ain’t one to wish for the moonlight when I ain’t even got a mirror to catch it in. I can be content with his friendship.

So a couple nights ago I was havin’ a natter with Melenas (another elf in our little band) and Hisme, and weren’t the two of them actin’ stranger than a pair of mooncalves? They were askin’ me about my nonexistent love life and then Hisme’d say somewhat in his language and Mel would reply “Why yes, that is a lovely dress” in Common. Made me wonder if Hisme hadn’t gone flat barmy over this tailoring he’s been workin’ at lately. If it was any two other folks in all of Bree but Mel and Hisme I’d wonder if they’d gotten into Barliman’s Private Reserve but I don’t think elves get drunk. Any rate, Hisme asked me if I’d like to go on a picnic, just him and me. Which I was delighted to do, he’s a good friend. Right? Who doesn’t like to spend time with their bessie mates?

So we meet up in the early evening and off we go under the stars to this lovely field not far from Archet, full of flowers. And Hisme spreads out the blanket and lays out the food, I brought the wine he gave me a few weeks agone and my mum’s good polished wooden goblets and about the time I’m trying like what-all to sort my head around exactly why we’re here, Hisme up and asks me if I’m interested in courtin’ with him.

Him. Me. Us. Hisme and me. I’m just that serious! Hisme asked to court me!

(underneath the entry is a small pencil sketch showing a bunch of saffron flowers with one in the middle shaded slightly darker than the rest).

Been a few days since I wrote. Hismenixe and I spent a holiday in Rivendell and I didn’t bring my journal, but that’s all right. I was too busy having a fun time to write anyway.

He’s ever such a lamb, is our Hisme. Here’s an example: One afternoon we rode up into the Misty Mountains, and he showed me one of his favorite spots; a small river that had frozen over except for a series of waterfalls. Now here I was thinking that he liked the place because it was good for thinking, and yet then he showed me how to slide on the ice and then didn’t he just pick me right up and go dashing back and forth, sliding around the ice and capering about like he didn’t have but a care in the world save having fun with me? I can’t think when I’ve laughed so much.

I did have a couple of odd experiences one night while Hisme was off hunting with some mates of his. I took my tea and sat out on the porch to watch the evening stars come out and a friend of mine happened by, an elf named Tarlarian. Tar’s a decent enough bloke, but he didn’t seem terribly happy to hear I’d taken up with Hisme and that didn’t make a bit of sense to me at all because he’d given me the distinct impression that we were friends. I thought he’d have been happy for me.

Later on after he left another elf named Gauthlion or somewhat happened by and paused to speak to me, but he was nasty and condescending. I just nodded my head and said “oh right guv, sure and I’m just nobody at all, don’t mind me none”. He parks his hands on his hips ‘n looks me up and down and says, “Well at least SOME of your kind is humble and knows their place, perhaps there is hope for the race of man after all.”

I just said “Perhaps” and drank my tea. I can’t be arsed to care what some random eejit thinks, even if he is an elf.

It did make me wonder though. Do some of them consider us some kind of animal or exotic pet? I mean I know that’s not what Hisme thinks nor Sidri, but just because most elves are good don’t mean they’re also kind, happen.

Anyway, time for resting. We’re heading off to Ered Luin early and I need to sleep.

Hasn’t it been near to a month since I wrote last? I guess when you’re busy livin’ life you ain’t got time to spend writin’ about it.

Not too long after I wrote last I was hangin’ about outside the Pony with Sidri and Mavie and some bloke come up and asked about the Captain. I didn’t know the bloke but Mavie seemed to and let him know she’d pass the word along. He seemed polite enough, had a lass with him. Acted a bit the gallant but nothin’ disrespectful.

Day or two later I was in the Pony with Hisme and the Captain and the bloke turned up, wanting to talk. I offered to meet up wiv Hisme later so’s to give him and the Captain privacy but the bloke said anything he had to say he was happy to say to the lot of us so we met up in the back room.

Here’s the thing: When I joined up I was given to understand we was a treasure-hunting crew. Din’t have a problem wiv that, everyone took care of each other and that’s what mattered to me. But I noticed a few things too that didn’t make a lot of sense for a band of treasure-hunters. Like, the way the Captain managed to finagle that one fine lady so we din’t haveter brand that bloke she was hinky at. And little comments here and there from Hisme and the Captain and suchlike. Not that you couldn’t be a treasure-hunter and still be a decent person, but there was just a few things what didn’t quite fit, do you ken me.

So it all started to gel while I was listening to this bloke talk to the Captain about a situation what had him worried. Details don’t matter none, the main thing is it got pretty clear what he was talkin’ about didn’t have anything to do with treasure and everything to do with askin’ Zint to help him right a wrong. And that’s when it all started to fall into place. All those little funny things that didn’t add up? Added up perfectly if you’re talkin’ about a group of unseen heroes doin’ the right stuff because it’s right, and the treasure’s just a cover story.

Without fanfare. Without parades or songs or medals or whatever not. Just because it’s right.

After the bloke left Hisme and the Captain took me back to the safe house, and I asked him about it. Turned out they was getting ready to tell me about it anyway! It meant a lot to me that they took me into their trust.

It’s hard to appreciate what a family means until you haven’t got one. Once you’ve lived on the streets you appreciate knowin’ there’s folks what got your back, through thick and thin. At the end of the day mates is the family you choose any rate; don’t matter if you share their blood or even their race. Your heart knows family. Sidri, Cass and Mavie are like sisters to me. Oz is like the jolly old uncle who drinks beer and can belch the entire alphabet and make you laugh but he’s the man to have at your back in a fight. Zint’s like the big brother, keepin’ everyone in line but bleedin’ his heart out worryin’ over how to take care of us all and watch out for us. The rest – Morger, Hart, Melenas … they’re like uncles and brothers and cousins and suchlike. We may bicker a bit but we’re still a family.

And then there is Hisme. Is that the difference between love and friendship, then? This sense that this other person is just the other half of you? If I close my eyes, it’s like I can reach out and my fingers would find him right there. Even when he’s not, he never seems any further away than that.

I don’t think I have ever been so happy.

Hard to believe I’ve let the better part of a year go by without pickin’ up my pen. Happen this’ll be the last entry, at least in this journal. I may start another one down the road but right now, I don’t have the heart.

Things were good for awhile with the Order. I had a home and a family. I even got a cat named Pickle. Hisme and me made plans to get wed. He thought maybe in the springtime, in Celondim in that little garden by the water. Sidri was helping me make a gown to wear.

And then… I don’t half know what happened. Started out with Zint and his missus, Cass, they got into a fuss and Cass left. I don’t know the details. Melenas and Hisme got into a quarrel, and it turns out Mel didn’t much like Hisme marryin’ a mortal. Nothin’ personal, he said, just that it’d break Hisme’s heart when I died and left him to face the ages of the world alone. And while he denied it, it wore on Hisme, I could tell. He’d look at me sometimes like he was seein’ a ghost.

Then Sidri told me she was in love with Hisme and had been since before he met me. She was nice and all but it felt weird and awkward after that. We never did finish my gown.

With Cass gone and the Captain broody about it, there were more quarrels and less friendship. Sidri left. Mel left. Mavie got killed on a mission. The Captain climbed in a bottle.

And then one day Hisme came to me and told me he wanted to sail West. That his heart and soul were tired. I’d noticed as the kin started to unravel his eyes grew more haunted and the shadows under them grew deeper, but I guess somehow I thought the sorrow that was creeping through all of us wouldn’t have touched him.

What could I do? Ain’t ever been my way to rail against fate. Some blokes you don’t try to tame, you just go along for the ride and try to keep up. I cried a lot of bitter, angry tears but not in front of Hisme. In the end I hugged him tight and wished him well, and watched as he sailed away out of my life forever.

Come the morrow, I leave to return to Dol Amroth. I’m going to spend my time trying to find what happened to my da. Gracyn said she’d come and visit maybe, did she feel like having an adventure. She ain’t the settlin’ down type. Hobbits don’t seem to venture out of Eriador much, but who knows. Gracyn’s got itchy feet.

For me, happen I may return to Bree-land some day. Ain’t anything here for me now, though. I’ve learned a bit more than simple thievery, maybe I’ll sell my sword for a bit and earn enough to buy me one of those pretty houses down the Cape or somewhat. Only thing I know for certain is this: It’ll have a cat, and I ain’t gonna let my heart get broken ever again.

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