Writin' practice 1 - who I is

'All right, girl, you needs writin' practice. Y' knows it, y's known f' a while, but y' ain' done nothin'. Time t' fix tha'.' She heaved a sigh as she dug out some scraps of parchment and a quill. After setting things out appropriately, she took a deep breath, blew at her hair, and began.

Her progress was laborious, as it took her quite a while to form each letter to anything like her satisfaction. Slowly, her notes took shape, no matter how rough the penmanship. Fortunately for any potential readers, slowing down to write improved her grammar.

I'm writing this in order to get better at forming my letters when writing in Westron. Just copying out the letters over and over won't hold my attention long enough. I've proved that several times already.

So, to keep myself going and make this useful, I need something to write about. Given the things people tend to ask, I reckon that writing about who I am and how I got to be in a position of wanting some writing practice might do.

My name's Adriellyn, though I mostly get called Adri. I wasn't even sure that was my right name until recently, but it is. I'm from Esgaroth. That's the lake-town in the Dale-lands. I don't remember much of my early life there, before I was out in the streets. It was too much like a different world, and trying to remember it hurt too much inside, anyway, so I reckon I forgot most of what I might have remembered.

Part of that's because I thought my mother had deliberately kicked me out. Well, her words at the time, what little I recall… I had reason to think that. But I've met her again since, and it wasn't so. But making sense of who I am kinda won't help if I say things like that too much. So, while I'm going to write about how it all seemed at the time, keep in mind there might be more to the story later. Assuming anyone's crazy enough to read this.

Anyways, people always ask where I'm from, and that's where. When I was still with her, my mother was a scullery maid, at least by the time I knew such things. Back then, I thought having that extra word, instead of just plain maid, meant something special. Turns out it doesn't, of course, but I was almost proud of that extra word then. Actually, it was the next-closest thing to being dismissed from service entirely, but I didn't know that.

I didn't have a Da. I'm pretty sure Marney – my mother, Marnewyn, that this – didn't even know who the guy was. I should ask her about that, if she'll talk about it. But the times I heard her asked back then, and how she didn't really answer, left a lot of room for doubt. Maybe she did and thought she was protecting him by not saying. Or maybe saying would break the last remains of her dreams that he'd come back for her someday. I don't know. All I know for sure is it wasn't a thing to ask about, and I just didn't have one.

I remember that Marney liked to play dress-up with me when she could, but the clothes she had for it didn't fit me, and she'd get frustrated, and say things that was blaming me for it, and she'd hit me. When she'd got me right good and had me crying in a heap on the floor, she'd cry over me and hug me and tell me she was sorry and all that kinda crap. I was too little, and she was Mum, so I had to try believing her, but I mostly knew it was crap even at the time. Nowadays, I reckon she hated herself, or at least her life, and was taking it out on me without meaning to. Back then, of course, I didn't know why she was like that. I just I had to try to be good so as not to set her off – but since it wasn't really about me, there wasn't any being good enough. So I never knew what I'd done wrong when she hit me – with the kind of results I've since learnt that means with how a child grows up. And that gets me way ahead of myself with respect to talks with Miss Sareva and Lady Cesistya, but it explains some other things about me.

Eventually, Marney got in an argument with the steward. Well, another one – a bigger one than usual. She yelled at me about it after, making it out that everything that was bad for her was my fault for just existing and how she'd be better off without me. Actually, what little I can remember of some of their other arguments before, I might have been the only reason she was still employed there, but I didn't figure that then. I just knew – or thought – I'd been thrown out. I didn't know for sure at the time, since nothing ever got done about birthing-days (for her either, though), but I was six.

I spent some time in the darker places on the walkways over the Lake, crying my heart out and hoping to die. Not like I was going to jump off into the water and drown myself – just wanting to magically stop being. Of course, that didn't happen, and I got hungry. I tried to find my way back. After a couple of knocks on the wrong doors, I found the steward. He told me I didn't live there any more, and slammed the door in my face. Looking back, and thinking on how he said it, he might only have meant that we didn't live there any more. He might not have known for sure that I didn't know he'd kicked Marney out in the meanwhile, and figured I was just at the wrong place. But given what she's told me about how he set the dogs on her when she tried asking him after me, I don't think he really cared. He was just being a right bastard about it. Anyway, all I knew from that was that all of a sudden, I didn't live anywhere, and was on my own.

After learning I had no more home, I took myself back off to the hidey-hole what I found earlier, and cried some more. No Mum, no food, no rags to wrap up in for warmth – and it was getting on night, and getting cold. I reckon I didn't mention yet, cause it didn't ever seem strange to me, but I never had a bed. I had a pile of rags on the floor. That's about all Mum had, too, though. I'd seen beds, but they were for better people. And iffen I leaves it at that, I bet I'm going to hear about it. But that's how it was said. People what were higher in station were called betters, and that's what I learnt. Maybe there's some part of me what still thinks they're actually better people, but the saying is what I knew, and I don't want a lecture about that. These days it isn't that I think I'm not good enough for beds – it's just that I'm not used to them. Well, and a few other things that make that true, but close enough.

So, anyways, I was cold, hungry, lonely, tired, and scared, and only in the rags I was dressed in when Mum threw me out. I set out looking for chimneys on kitchens, hoping I could huddle up against one of them for warmth in the night. I kept finding they were already in use, and the kids there didn't exactly look at me friendly-like. When I got back to the ones what had been around my former home, though, there was one with only two other kids, girls only a little older than me. I wasn't sure how to ask if they'd share, but the red-headed one recognised me from earlier that day, and knew I had lived there until then. She allowed as how they could share, and we would all be warmer for it. She let me have the last of her bread scraps from the day, and we traded names, and that become my home for a good while.

The redhead, who did most of the talking, called herself Magpie, and the brown-haired one was called Wren. I didn't think about how that might just be what they called themselves, and it wouldn't have done to ask after real names anyways, so I'm glad I didn't think of it. Anyways, after a lumpy but warm night, they introduced me to the other kids what didn't have homes, at times explaining which ones were safe to meet more or less alone, and which ones were trouble.

This went on through the day, when they also taught me about stealing bits of food to keep us all fed. They had been doing it with Magpie making a distraction, and Wren grabbing stuff, but the shopkeepers were getting wise to it, and they were having to work harder at it. So, we tried a different way, with them as two distractions, and me sneaking stuff away, sometimes from a different stall entirely, but with the minder watching my new friends. Turned out I had a right knack for the sneaking and snatching, and we ate pretty good, even that first day. Sometimes, we could even buy favours from other kids with spare food, we were doing so good at it.

I didn't really like the stealing, but I tried begging and found that there were older, established beggars what wouldn't let me get away with that. I even tried begging at the various servant doors around town, but never really got anything, and sometimes couldn't escape getting kicked or beat for trying. Didn't take much of that to get me to stick with Magpie and Wren, and just being a gutter-snipe. That's what the shopkeepers called us street kids, mostly.

Some of the shopkeepers were easier to get stuff from than others, but I figured out kinda why, I think, and didn't take too much advantage of it. They were kind-hearted, and knew we needed to eat, and I didn't want to hurt them by stealing more from them than what I had to. I made a game of taking from the meaner ones more often. Got some beatings from that, too, from time to time, but that just made me learn how to do it better. I'm pretty sure Mum never really fed me proper even afore I was a gutter-snipe, so I always looked like I needed to be fed. I'm pretty sure that also helped me with some of the shopkeepers.

The older girls taught me some knife-fighting, too, and eventually I snatched us better knives from some travelling traders. I didn't feel too good about stealing more than I had to for eating, but they had convinced me we might need to fight sometimes, and especially so as they were starting to get some womanly curves to them, and that made being just the three of us out on the street at night not very safe. Sometimes what saved them was the men saying 'They got a kid!' and looking elsewhere. So it was good they had me along.

Of course, the sort of cobbers what're looking at street waifs because they're too cheap to pay even a stand-up whore don't be the best of men. They're generally mean and violent to start with, and made worse by drink. And one night – evening, really, but it was night afore Magpie and me knew about it – a group of them caught Wren off without us. We didn't know where she'd been, or why she was late, until she came crawling to our spot, barely covered in the remains of her clothes, all battered and leaking blood. We took care of her the best we could, but she wasn't the same at all. She barely ate, couldn't really move much, didn't say more than about four words at a time, and just seemed not to care what happened to her.

We had to leave her at times during the day to keep us all fed, and try getting better stuff for her to wear. About three weeks gone, we came back to find her in a pool of blood, and beyond any helping. We didn't find traces of fighting, or new wounds. Best we could figure was she'd been tore up inside worse than we knew, and it finally gave way. We were awful broke up, of course. I reckon they might have been sisters, though they never said, and they were more mums to me than my real one ever was, so we just held on to each other and cried until we couldn't any more. I don't know how to say it better, but I reckon a bit of each of us died with Wren. I know we weren't neither the same after.

Sniffing back tears, trying not to drip on her parchment, the young woman put her work aside. 'Tha's too depressin' to 'member an' keep writin' pas' jus' now. Time to drink… mebbe even brandy f' once. My 'and be 'urtin' from all that anyways.'