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Aulë’s Gift

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4th Age (F.A.) 2038, May. Dale.

It was Saturday, and Fror Fholsson had promised to take his children to the Spring Festival in Dale while their mother was at work for the day. Hildis and Freor were old enough to entertain themselves, which was convenient when Fror had to deal with their sister’s toddler outbursts. It was a perfect day, blue and soft and fragrant, and the fairgrounds were packed with people and animals and laughter and enticing smells. Sindri wanted to pet the bunnies, and Hildis and Freor kept going on about the caber-toss, so Fror instructed the elder two to keep an eye on one another and meet him back at the cider stand in forty-five minutes.

Fifty minutes later Fror was wiping juice off his younger daughter’s furry chin when Hildis emerged from the crowd and skipped up and gave her little sister a kiss on her cheek. Sindri giggled. Hildis looked around. “Where’s Freor?”
“Wasn’t he with you?”
“He got bored and said he was going back to the petting zoo. Didn’t he find you?”
“No, I haven’t seen him. How long ago?”
“Ten minutes?”
“He probably got distracted. He knows we’re meeting here. He’ll come.”

When he didn’t after another five minutes Fror asked Hildis to wait by the cider stand (in case Freor appeared) while he took Sindri off to look for him. Fror’s son was clever and not usually disobedient; it was unlike him to wander off for long periods. But he wasn’t with the rabbits, nor had he gone back to the bleachers by the caber green. Fror, with Sindri on his hip, had started back for the cider stand when he spotted his boy on a bench on the far side of the green, sitting beside a Daleman and playing a tin whistle. “Freor,” he called. Freor didn’t hear him. He sighed and headed across the green.

“Son, do you know what time it is?” Freor was engrossed in the instrument and hadn’t seen him approach. When he heard the familiar voice he looked up, startled.
“Oh. Hi Dad.”
Fror cocked an eyebrow at him. “And when were you planning on meeting your family at the cider stand?”
“Am I late?”
“Yes. Don't do that. I was getting nervous.”
Fror looked up at the Daleman. (Probably not a Daleman, actually. He looked foreign. His face was an odd shape, he wore his hair unusually long, and his shirt was… well. A bit loud for local tastes.) “Who’s your friend?”
“Leif. He’s teaching me tin whistle. Leif, this is my dad and sister. Where’s Hildis?”
“She’s waiting at the cider stand in case you went back there. Do you still want to see the horse jumping? The last show’s in fifteen minutes. We should go get seats.”
“Yeah! Can Leif come?”
“That’s up to him.”
Freor turned and addressed his new friend. “You want to come see the horses with us?”
The man smiled. “Sure.”
Freor handed the whistle back to him. The man stood, took it, and stashed it in a narrow pouch on his belt. Fror stuck out his free hand and the man shook it. He was tall, even for a man. “Fror Fholsson, at your service.”
“Leif Green, at yours and your family’s.”

* * *

“I must admit I’m a little surprised that people named ‘Green’ would call their son ‘Leif’.”
“Oh, I was the lucky one. They named our horses ‘Kelly’ and ‘Forest’.”
Fror laughed. “You in town for the fair?”
“Yes. I’ve only been here a couple days but I like it so much I plan to stay.”
“Oh? Where you from?”
“The Greenwood originally; recently the Iron Hills.”
“Not a lot of mannish towns out there.”
“No, it’s pretty quiet.”
“Well welcome to Dale and all that, though it’s not really my place to welcome you here.”
Freor had been watching the horse-jumping intently- but apparently also listening to his father’s conversation- because at that moment he chimed in with, “We live in The Kingdom. Most of the time we stay there but Dad said I could see the horses today. Can I see your whistle again?”
Fror chuckled at his son’s statement of the obvious. He was often amused to discover the things that his children didn’t realize adults took for granted. In this case: dwarves live in The Kingdom and men live in Dale and there are very few exceptions.

Leif took the whistle out again and handed it to the boy. He also pulled a small metal case from his breast pocket, flipped through the cards inside it, and then chose one and handed it to Fror. “I’m a music teacher by trade. Look me up if any of yours want lessons. Or you, for that matter.”

Fror read the card - Leif Green; instrument repair and music education; strings, woodwinds, voice - then stashed it in his pocket. Nice as the idea was, private music lessons were something he didn’t expect to be able to give his children until he or Heid got promoted. “Thanks. I will.” Freor fiddled with the whistle throughout the show, but never blew any audible notes. Fror supposed he didn’t want to startle the horses.

By the time the show ended Sindri was getting fussy and Fror told the others that he’d like to run her around on the jungle gym for awhile. Leif said, “Well. I'm very glad to have met all of you. And thanks, this has been fun. But I have an appointment in half an hour and should be going.” Freor returned the man’s tin whistle, and they all shook his hand and said goodbye, and he left.

* * *

That night when he was undressing Fror found Leif Green’s card in his pocket and glanced at it again. There was no address, nor contact information other than the name. He stuck it into the mirror frame on the bedroom dresser where it joined the general chaos, and forgot about it. On his way back from the bathroom in his pajamas Fror heard Freor call him from inside his darkened bedroom. “Dad?”
“What was that song you used to sing to me when I was little?”
Fror stepped inside and went to sit on his son’s bed. “Here comes the sandman?”
“No, the other one. When I couldn’t sleep. Wind on the western sea?”
“Oh, Sweet and Low.”
“Yeah. Leif played it today.”
“No kidding? Small world.”
“Where’s it from?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know. My grandad used to sing it to me when I was little, and he told me his mother sang it to him. I suppose it’s an old song, but I don’t know where it came from.”
“Can I have a tin whistle?”
“Maybe. Ask your mother.”
“My birthday’s coming up. Can I have one then?”
Fror chuckled to himself. Freor’s birthday wasn’t for another three months. “We’ll see.”