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A Hair Failure



I will let you know one thing.  Forgoil.  They do not know how to handle hair.  It is amusing.  If your hair is not straight and like a horse's tail, they get confused, panicky, and dramatic.  I learned this when Seaxa brought me to Ealhild's mother's house.  As Seaxa and I entered the room, the smell of honey and lavender oil flowed around me and filled my nose immediately.  A tall woman with silky blonde hair, who I now know to be named Ealuthryth, stood before us as she arranged the jars across the shelves of the dimly lit room.  The only true source of light streamed through a propped open door and danced across the floor and over the table with a bowl full of fluids against the wall.  Seaxa and my shadow quickly blocked out the glittering of light as we stepped into the room and immediately, Seaxa left my side to walk over to the unfamiliar woman with a smile spread across his own fair features. 

"Dear Thryth!" Seaxa said, "I have a customer for you."

My own eyes followed Seaxa to the woman as I stepped in futher which shifted my shadow and allowed the light to touch a strange object which glimmered brightly and caught my attention.  I looked to it only to see someone who seemed oddly familiar and yet unrecognizable.  It almost looked like one of the tapestries that hung from walls around town, but this had an unusual metal boarder surrounding it.  Although the details of the image I looked into looked nothing like the details of the tapestries, but instead of the typical pale people in the tapestries, this woman looked much alike to the woman in my home.  And unlike the greens and blues of grass and plants in most of the tapestries, this woman stood in front of a very similar door to the one of which stood behind me.  I tilted my head with my interest and the woman tilted her head as well. 

The object entranced me until I heard the, still odd sounding may it be, the name Blóstma of which the Rohir gave me to identify me. 

“This is Blóstma,” Seaxa told Ealuthryth.

"Oh?" The woman looked at me for several moments before taking my hand, "By all means, dear, have a seat."

I lower myself onto the seat with my back facing the object.  Seaxa spoke up to say to me, “Tell Thryth what you’d like.” 

Blinking a few times, I feel a swell of nervousness inside of me.  I did not know what was proper for a Rohir.  At home, we styled our hair many ways, but I was unsure of what the Rohir expected of me so instead I stammer out, "Uh... What I like?"

Ealuthryth seemed patient as she spoke up now, "Would you like your hair cut, or braided, perhaps?"

Since I was unsure of what kind of cutting the woman might decide, I decided that braiding would be safer.  So slowly, I said, "Uh.... braided.”

As Ealuthryth leaned my head back to allow my hair to sink into the liquids of the basin on the table behind me, Seaxa began to speak, "So how are the children?"

"Lovely!"  Ealuthryth answered.  I felt the woman’s fingers dig into my scalp as she massaged the sweet smelling liquids in through the mess of my hair.  Perhaps if I had not felt so nervous about the Rohir touching my head, I would have actually enjoyed her doing such.  But in that moment, my vulnerability both in physicality of the situation and mentality of my own ignorance of the scenario this unfamiliar world put me into.   My eyes followed along the ceiling in desperate attempts to find something for them to latch onto as the woman continued to speak, "Eadfrith is out with Aude, causing trouble and Hilda is up in the Mead Hall, as always."

Seaxa snorted, "Aude will not end up in too much trouble, I assure you."

“If you say so," she commented as I felt her pour cool water through the thickness of my hair and over my scalp.

Using a towel, Ealuthryth dried my hair.  I could not quite tell what the woman did, I imagine she was using a comb of sorts whatever they might call it, but I suddenly felt a yank in my hair as Ealuthryth found herself tangled amoungst my hair.  Throwing myself to my feet, I ripped the woman’s hand away from me and let out a growl from the pain I felt. 

Ealuthryth jumped, probably in fear I would imagine, as she asked with sudden concern, "Sorry, did that hurt?"

Seaxa responded as quickly as she did, "Is something the matter, Thryth? You're never so hard."

‘Of course it hurt,’ I thought to myself, but instead I looked to the woman and mumbled out, “Hurt."

She frowned, "I'm not used to hair being so... difficult."

Tilting my head a bit, I lowered myself back to the chair and leaned my head over to look for the basin from an upside-down view.  I knew the problem.  When my hair dried and was not soaked in a water, the bunches of my hair caught up with each other and tangled up which makes it harder to sort.  I knew when it was soaked or underwater, you could run your fingers through it easily as well as a comb.  I always groomed my hair when I bathed at home and allowed it to dry on its own or wrapped up in a fabric if it did not have the opportunity to dry unhindered in air.  If my mother ever braided it, she braided it when it was wet for when it was dry, the ends often tangled and made the process of braiding much more challenging.  Of course you can braid my hair dry.  I do sometimes when it is dry out and my hair frizzes too much.  But if you wish to comb it, you can never do it dry or even simply damp.  Therefore, I said to them as I grabbed my hair and tried to move it closer to the basin as my strained view made it difficult, "Wet.  It need wet."

"It is wet, isn't it?" Seaxa asked

Ealuthryth nodded, "It's still damp, yes."

They were not listening to me, "More wet."

Slowly, the woman added more water to her hair and returned to combing now that she submerged my hair in the basin once more.  Even in the water, the woman found little snags as she went, but it felt much more normal and much less unbearable.  I am not entirely sure why Seaxa asked after a moment, "You don't... need help, do you?"  

Something must have gone wrong for suddenly Ealuthryth stopped combing and exclaimed in horror, "I--I've never seen such hair before."

I open my eyes and sat up a bit to look at her.  Her hands and her comb looked darker from the thin coating of the loose bits from my hair that came out from her grooming much alike when you run your fingers through my hair when its dry.  Just when its dry, the hair does not cling to your hands like it does when my hair is wet.  I felt a surge of panic from the ambiguity of the situation.  I said weakly as an attempt to control any possible damage I somehow might have been imposing on her, "Sorry..."

Ealuthryth looked away to me towards Seaxa as she shoved her comb back into her pocket, "I--Should I stop?"

"I'm sure you can do it.”  Seaxa said slowly, "Just ah... how did they do it back home, Blóstma?"

I look between them in confusion as I tried to answer now in a quiet voice, "We wet.  Use... er...." I looked at Ealuthryth but could not find her tool in her hands to point it out.  I did not know its name in their tongue, "Use tool wet."  Now I sit up fully and run my hands through my soaked hair.  It began to dampen the fabric of the Rohirric dress I wore over my breasts and down my back, "Leave hair. It dries."

Ealuthryth quickly retorted, "If you're so sure, Seaxa, why don't you try?"

"You're right—right, Thryth, you're right,”  Seaxa stammered, “Aye. Right."

Ealuthryth nodded slowly, "Right... I'm sorry."

Standing up, I pull my hand down the length of my hair to allow the moisture caught inside to stream out the ends of my hair and onto the ground.  Looking behind me, I saw that peculiar object again, but this time the woman stood closer to it than she did before.  She stared back to me with her hair wet as well and her hands straining the excess moisture from her hair.  I looked into her eyes and suddenly felt a pang in my stomach.  Even though it was a woman before me, looking into her eyes felt like when I looked into my father’s eyes as a child.

I remember my father very clearly.  Often people told me I looked like him growing up.  As a strong, respected man, my father knew everyone in Lhan Tarren (my hometown) and everyone knew him.  He loved to fish most days.  I suppose by the time I was born, most of my father’s fighting days had passed into the realm of memories and he instead enjoyed the relaxation of fishing from the river that flowed outside the gates of our village.  A bridge stretched across the river that connected with a faded, almost unrecognisable path that weaved through the mountains.   Often as a child, I sat beside my father and weaved circlets from the flowers that grew alongside the riverbed while he collected the fish.  When we returned into town, my father always wore my artistry with pride to pair with the mess of fish he slung from his shoulders and me held onto his arm, trotting to keep up with his longer stride.  I suppose it helped his case that everyone in town knew better than to tease him of the girlish things like flowers on the crown of his head for they knew his strength, even in his aging years, made him something to fear. 

Things changed after the death of my eldest brother, Andras.  My father became much softer, but I became much harder.  I remember seeing my father weeping in private.  Of course, he never let my other brothers or my mother know of anything but his anger and desires for revenge, but I saw him weep when he thought he was alone.  It broke my heart.  Before Andras’ death, Andras often helped me learn to fight.  My father's love of my innocent youthful femininity always hindered his ability to train me, but Andras forced the knowledge of a warrior upon me for my own good.  I am glad he did for after his death, I took over his role of leader amoung our brothers.  My brothers Alwyn, Alun, and Afon, although strong and respectable warriors, did not have the cleverness that both Andras and I possessed.  So when Andras died, I left the side of my father and took on his role in leading Alwyn, Alun, and Afon (even if they would never admit it). 

I wonder now if my father weeps for me as he did for Andras.  Andras died in battle which is a respectable, strong way to die.  While my father often wept in his longing for my brother, never did he weep for the fate my brother came to.  I, unlike Andras, did not die.  I was weaker than Andras.  Andras fought to his death, but I found myself captured from battle.  I did not die with the courage and strength Andras did.  So now I wonder, does my father weep?  Does he weep for my fate?  Does he weep because of my weakness?  Or does he weep because he misses the company we use to share?  I remember one day after Andras’ death after a long span of time I did not spend with my father.  When my father came home, he had no fish to show off to the town.  Instead, he came home and found me with a circlet of flowers in his hands.  Now that I am far from home in this strange town called Aldburg, my father could not come to me with a circlet of flowers to tell me he missed me.  So instead, I bare a curse of constant wonder.  Does he miss me?  Or is he ashamed with me?

Suddenly Ealuthryth’s voice pierced through my thoughts and brought my focus back onto the image of a woman standing before me, "Everything alright, dear?"

I reached my hand out to poke the face in front of me on the object.  The eyes were my father’s eyes, but her mouth looked like my mother.  Her hair weighed down in its dark coloured and her hand stretched out to meet mine on the cold, smooth surface.  A sudden realisation came to me.  I looked over my shoulder to the two behind me and my finger remains on the woman’s face, "Me?"

Ealuthryth nodded, "That's you, yes. I'm sorry about the hair."

I looked back to the reflection of me as my hand spread out against the surface.  I leaned in closer to try and make out the somewhat foggy details of my own features.  When Seaxa asked, "Do you have no sunscín​ among your people?"

I pulled my hand back and frowned a bit.  Slowly, I furrowed my brows in confusion to the foreign word.

“Sunscín,” Seaxa repeated, “It's like water, Blóstma."

I nodded slowly, knowing the word water.  I am not sure my people have a word for this object though, so it is hard to tell you what it is called in this tongue.  I will refer to it as a sunscín because that is what Seaxa referred to it as.  In some ways, this object did have similarities to water.  However, it reflected my face much more clearly than water.  Although its reflection did not look the same as someone standing before me, it did look clear enough for me to gain a deeper assessment of my own features for once.  After several moments, I turned back to Ealuthryth and offered her a smile as I backed up away from the sunscín to stand beside Seaxa, "Thank you."

Ealuthryth smiled apologetically, "I am sorry I could not braid it."

"It will..." She stopped.  I actually did not know how to properly say  'Mae gen i wallt cyrliog' in their tongue as a reassurance that I am fine with it being lef unbraided, so instead I started to twirl my finger in a circular motion and dropped it down a bit as if I formed a curling motion in the air, "It will... It will make shape.  Make shape when dry."

Seaxa was confused, "Good shape?"

Less confused, Ealuthryth asked, "It locc, yes?"

Unknowing exactly what ‘locc meant in that moment, I twirled my hand again, "This shape? Locc?"

"Locc. That's your hair. Ours--" Seaxa nodded and raised his hand up to touch his hair again, “--ours is straight. See?"

I felt a little annoyed by Seaxa’s response as I realised locc meant curly hair in their tongue.  Of course, I knew their hair did not curl.  What I was trying to say to them was that my hair would curl when it dries so the braiding does not matter.  But with frustration in the fact they were not understanding me, I turned and looked to Seaxa.  I nodded a bit and responded somewhat curtly, "Forgoil."  The description did properly match what he was saying.  His hair did not curl and it was blonde.  Just like straw.  Thus is why my people call them straw heads, or forgoil.

But Seaxa snorted, "Wealh."  I still have not fully figured out what Wealh means.

Smirking back, I responded in my tongue, "Coc oen."  Neither of them knew what that meant.

I assume Ealuthryth grew tired with us bothering her at this point.  She turned away from us and returned to her business as she offhandedly said, "If you two see Hilda, tell her it's her turn to cook dinner tonight,"

Seaxa took his cue to leave and bowed his head. "Farewell, Thryth!  We will if we see her. I hope to see you soon."

Taking my arm, he lead me through the door as I called out behind me, “Thank you” as a reassurance to myself that I was being kind to the woman and she might potentially like me better if I did.  I do not know if that actually works, but I do not know many other formalities of their culture so that would have to suffice as my attempts of civility.