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Aerin and Broddun II

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Names of the Hare

They walk together in the evening by the brook, quietly. It is never wise to attract attention. Startled, Aerin sees Broddun bring up her sling, a simple but efficient thing of leather and horsehair. A well-aimed stone whizzes into the shadows.
‘Look’, says Broddun, holding up her prey and continuing an earlier language lesson. ‘Long ears—a hare. Short ears—a rabbit.’
‘Hare,’ repeats Aerin in Easterling.
She reaches out and runs her finger along a long elegant ear. Oh faint heart! Her people captive, starving, dying—and here she is, in tears over the sudden death of a hare.

‘You grieve. You grieve over Master Hare.’
‘I’m foolish,’ says Aerin, drawing her hair over her face. ‘I’ve never hunted for a living.’
‘Not so,’ says Broddun. ‘There are words to say. People forget—because the old died on the road and in battle, because we do not know these lands. Strawhead Country, they say and do not show proper respect. But I was taught. I forgot until you reminded me.’
Aerin listens as Broddun recites the many names of the hare.
And in the thin stew ladled out to the thralls at noon there’s just a bit of meat.
 

Stirring (Hares in Echuir)


‘Women! More hair than wit, all of them,’ says Brodda.
So certain of that is he that he ignores all evidence to the contrary, right under his nose. He delights in outwitting Lorgan, but when things go wrong in the house…
‘It was an accident,’ says Broddun firmly and her brother believes her.
‘I’m sorry,’ says Aerin humbly. ‘Such a hare-brained idea!’
The only thing Aerin regrets is that she let herself be caught but Brodda accepts it.
Although it can be easy to fool Brodda, it is never safe. Only a glimmer of suspicion—and Aerin meets his fist.

It is spring, finally. Shy hares go crazy, come out of hiding and chase each other round the meadow in broad daylight. They kick and strike out at each other!
Aerin, too, feels the sap rise in her veins. She wants to run like a hare, toss her hair, jump and shout in the pale sunlight. She knows she is too old, weighed down with responsibility—her youth was gone in the blink of an eye, a casualty of war. But still her legs twitch…
Broddun sees the wild look in Aerin’s eyes with alarm.
‘Take care, sister! Stay safe!’

A/N “Mad as a March hare” in Sindarin would apparently be” mad as a hare in Echuir”. Echuir spans late winter and early spring and translates literally as "Stirring".


At the crossing

On the bridge over the laughing water where once the elven king went riding, all in white and silver, swarthy Broddun raises her arms wide, sighing: “It’s so good to be home!” A moment later, she catches herself and gives Aerin a self-conscious look.
Confined to Brodda’s stockade, pale-haired thralls soothe aching pride and smarting backs by whispering among themselves that the battle was lost only by a hairbreadth. Nearly, very nearly, the Easterling invaders got their just deserts, killed for their treachery.
But to Aerin, death to all Easterlings no longer spells a fair outcome or a happy ending.

They might mingle in time, straw-headed Edain and black-haired Easterlings, and become one people, although not in one generation, Aerin thinks, nor in two. But they are caught, beyond their own devices, in a war of others’ making; it will not happen and Aerin, being Hurin’s cousin, should be glad.
Never does the gulf between the two peoples seem as wide as when the Easterling lash descends brutally on another ill-fed, overworked boy. A scream—skin breaks—and again Aerin stands helpless, watching. But whenever Aerin finds herself huddling together for warmth with Broddun, it seems a mere hairbreadth between.

A/N: The elven king is Fingon--in CoH, Turin is described as having watched him ride across the bridge over Nen Lalaith ("Water of Laughter"), the stream flowing past Hurin's house, all clad in white and silver.

 

A son or daughter

She was taking precautions, knew they were not infallible. Now she faces a decision; it must be made before Brodda realizes.
She would gain status in Easterling eyes as mother of Brodda’s heir. If she sought power for herself—power to do good—this might be her chance. But Aerin remembers the sombre face of the true heir of Dor-lomin. She remembers her father’s pride in the House of Hador—and Morwen.
The deliberate fall off the top of the ladder to the hayloft almost kills Aerin. Brodda’s child, her child, becomes a red smear on the hard earthen floor.

Broddun grimly nurses Aerin back to health. The two women hardly talk for months. Come winter, they are out late, gathering wood. Aerin looks up at trees delicately outlined against a golden sunset.
‘So much we inherit and bequeath is enriched only by sharing—still we remain deadlocked in a struggle over possession’, she murmurs. ‘Broddun, I wouldn’t have hated my black-haired child—feared for it, yes…’
Broddun makes an inarticulate sound, throws her wood on the ground and stumps off. Aerin, aching, stiffly bends to pick it up.
Broddun, returning, says sharply: ‘Give me that! No, all of it.’
 

Morwen lives

‘My hair stood on end, I tell you!’ says Sador. ‘I was convinced he was going to run her through. But Lady Morwen didn’t bat an eyelid. She just stood tall and straight, in the way she has, didn’t yield an inch and, in the end, Brodda spat a curse and rode off—overawed, although he tried not to show it.’
Aerin shudders. Another narrow escape!
‘Here’, she says hurriedly. ‘All I have for you this time, my friend, I’m sorry!’
She watches the poor man limp off, painfully, with that small sack. Morwen has nobody else left to send.

‘You can say what you want about Brodda’, says the grey-haired Easterling. ‘He’s an upstart—but the man has courage. I wouldn’t want to go near the White Witchwife myself, but Brodda dared to build his new hall right at Nen Lalaith...’
‘Morwen Eledhwen is as easy to kill as any other,’ says Lorgan softly. ‘A fire set to her house at night would do it. But it does not suit our master that she should die, just yet.’
The old Easterling feels the nape of his neck prickle. ‘Our master’! Some things are more fearsome than the White Witchwife.
 

Left behind


‘Three days ago’, says Sador, ‘just after midnight.’
Morwen was right to leave, erred only in staying so long. Aerin herself told her so. But, although Aerin saw her rarely, feared for her constantly, for twenty years it was Morwen that lent courage to all of them.
‘She could not let you know the time of her going,’ says Ragnir.
Aerin nods. She looks at them, faithful retainers, abandoned because unfit for the road. Brodda will not let her take cripples in. Her eyes sting at the sight of blind Ragnir’s white hairs, Sador’s once-skilful hands grown clumsy with age.

Brodda roars and sends men after her.
‘They have a good head start,’ says Broddun. ‘I think the men are to make sure Morwen is really gone.’
Aerin nods. Brodda is, in truth, relieved and the Easterlings have not discovered the secret path south yet.
‘No news?’ she asks, nevertheless, each morning.
‘No news,’ says Broddun, hugging her.
No news is good news, for there can be no message of safe arrival, but Aerin has nightmares of her kin erring through the wilderness, astray.
Meanwhile, she obtains for Sador a week’s food and shelter in return for carving kitchen spoons.
 

What kind is it?

Broddun’s heirloom is an animal carved of bone she wears around her neck—the only thing she still has of her mother’s, for when Broddun left, she did not know there would be no returning, although well enough that the outcome of war was uncertain.
Alone at night, she takes the pendant out to look at. The creature is elegant, stylized, secretive. Sometimes it seems fierce, snarling, predatory, sometimes dignified and powerful.
Brodda is tough, a survivor. Broddun disagrees with her brother about so many things, but he is nevertheless her mother’s son who shares Broddun’s earliest memories, without words.
 

Here goes nothing

Broddun cannot help envying golden-haired Aerin. However harsh her fate, she is not the foreign outsider in Dor-lomin. She walks familiar paths.
‘I have no heirlooms—no possessions at all,’ says Aerin, smiling at her. ‘It is all Brodda’s or my people’s—for the most part, both Brodda’s, by conquest, and my people’s, by right and need, and so doubly not my own.’
Broddun looks at her uncertainly. Is this justified reproof? Should she apologize?
Aerin cups her hands around emptiness.
‘See? All I have of my very own, I share with you.’
Understanding, Broddun carefully clasps those outstretched hands.
 

Death walks through the door

Aerin recognizes him, although it is long since she saw him last. He has Morwen’s hair, Morwen’s eyes. The missing heir—but, unlike Morwen, he sees all, understands nothing.
Tonight, everything falls apart. Brodda crashes across the table before her, his neck broken.
‘I would beg your pardon, if I thought this churl had ever done you anything but wrong.’
When is a rescue not a rescue? When it comes twenty years too late and there is nowhere to go.
It should not have ended like this. Aerin grabs a heavy platter and tries to shield Turin’s carelessly unprotected back.

Hardly a kindly old man, her brother—but greying nevertheless and killed at his own hearth without having lifted a weapon other than his tongue, no matter that the house stands on debated ground.
There is no choice for Broddun. She grabs the carving-knife and launches herself at the murderous stranger. Shouts arise around her, violence.
It is Asgon who runs her through, whose ailing mother she helped more than once. He does not recognize her in the melee, glimpses a broad Easterling nose, black hair, the knife.
Broddun dies at home, her cheek pressed against the earth of Dor-lomin.