Heating up some left-over stew that she'd taken home, Adri took up her writing materials again, continuing her journalling as she ate.
I spent the next few months doing mending and such for Andrelanor and Cwynbur. I found out Cwynbur walked funny because she's from Rohan, and spent more of her life in a saddle than off. Early on, I had to tell her about my arrangement with Mister Butterbur, about getting food instead of ale from men's coin. She dances real good, and lots of men buy drinks for her. Not that we needed much food from the Pony – Andrelanor is a better cook than Barliman.
I got to know a bit of their stories, too, especially why they had a house together. I found out they're an even odder pair than I figured afore, besides. Seems that, even being neighbours – or maybe because of it – the Riddermark and Lothlórien don't get along so good. Turns out they each is the only survivor – so far as they know, anyways – of their squads. They bumped into each other fleeing orc attacks that's the reason for all that death, and finished making their way north and up through the Vale of Andrath together, fighting orcs and brigands just about the whole way. Well, at first, that was their dwindling squads, just to be clear.
This gave them both that bond of having fought beside each other, and shared grief. Seems they was each in charge of her own squad, and so they each feels a lot of shame over losing them. They didn't figure they could go back home until they make up for it somehow. Not that getting to their homes was exactly a real easy proposition, anyways.
That all got me thinking, though, about the brigands and such, and the troubles that kept seeming to come closer to Bree – at least according to the gossip in the Pony. I started going out during the day to work for the constables – and despite sounding like street-scut, they wanted my help. That told me something about how things were going right there. I got in good with the ones in Combe and Staddle first, getting used to the work. They finally said they felt bad about it, because I was doing work they liked, but I was good enough I oughta be working on bigger troubles, and they sent me on to talk to Bree's Watch.
After a bit of running around and getting handed off from one bloke to another, they finally sent me off to see Chief Grimbriar, and he had a lot of work for me. That kept me busy for more than a year, through two winters and into the spring after. Well, that included other odd jobs against brigands for other folks out in the lands between Bree and the Shire, too, but there's only so much I can write about the other work.
During that time, Cwynbur and Andrelanor were doing their own work for various folks, too. The elf did a lot of wandering, including doing things for folks to the west and north. The horse-maiden did things mostly in the Lone-lands, and I didn't hear much about it. Part of the reason for that is that after a bit she had a boyfriend. He was a real gentleman – meaning in how he treated her, not being noble or nothing – and their courting was going slow, but toward the end of my time working for Grimbriar, Cwyn moved out to a house of her own a bit out of the town walls – with most of the horses going with her. I stayed in that place in town for a while longer, until I figured out that Andrelanor was only keeping it up for me.
Before I figured that last part out, though, we met some other folks. This was about the time my other work was taking me too far afield to keep working for the Watch, anyway – and it turned out the other folks Andrelanor and I kept running into (sometimes even together) were engaged in similar work. Well, some of them. The others were kind of their support organisation. They were a full-on Company, called themselves The Isilya Company, on account of forming on a Monday, I reckon.
Some of that Company were hobbits – especially the support part. Getting to know them was worth it for just the cooking and the mending. But they had trouble with longer, more complicated names, at least if they weren't the sort they were used to. Being Adri to them was simple enough, since I usually go by that, anyways. But Andrelanor was lucky to be just Drel, was often called Drellie. She knows that hobbits will be hobbits, especially the Shirelings, so she never fussed. And she actually doesn't mind Drel, she told me.
Well, time passed, and if any of that Company are still around, I don't know where. But during that time, in part because of wandering to so many places, and in part from the time spent in Bree, I met other folks, too. And trying to figure out how to tell it all now, after so much time, isn't coming easy. Part of what I mean to write about involves how Drel was teaching me about music, partly by way of teaching me history. And part of it, when we'd be in the same places in the field, she always knew where there was a festival, or even just music playing, and she'd drag me along with her.
Not that I was objecting to the music, but I still was always looking pretty shabby, in worn and blood stained leathers, pretty much, and people would dress up fancy for those affairs. So I'd hide in the shadows and shrubs, and listen and watch. Though there were times I'd try to mimic the dance steps I saw, and people would of course see me then. I mostly just hid again, but I did learn their steps – and the names of a lot of people who went to those festivals and concerts and such. And that brings me back to more specifics about people.
One time between jobs, I was relaxing in the Pony one evening, sitting around with Breden – Cwynbur's man – I don't know where she was – enjoying some music. There were a pair of fancy-seeming ladies there, too, so I was doing what I usually do, and keeping to the shadows so that my shabby clothes what's more mending than cloth wouldn't stand out. I'd seen them around before, and knew they was Wendy, of no last name that I'd heard, and Melanie Ward. Miss Ward was clearly from Dale, and talked like a highborn besides. Anyways, she commented to Wendy that it was nice to be relaxing there, having a chance to be in their fancy dresses instead of their armour – and of course Wendy agreed. Despite what happened next, I even would have agreed, if I'd had anything but my working gear to wear – and I mean at all, not just for that night. Instead, being kinda put out about feeling so shabby with them around, I commented to Breden that it must be nice to have such finery, unlike such baseborn folks as me.
Well, you know how, sometimes, in a tavern, everything goes quiet at once, and something you normally wouldn't hear suddenly stands out? Apparently, it was my turn to be that one. Anyways, instead of just him hearing, so did the ladies. Not only did they turn to look at me, but Wendy jumped up and run out of the inn. Now, with what I was used to from 'betters', and taking them both for nobles of some sort, I figured I was pure in for it. But running from the Watch would only make it worse, and maybe if I stuck around and said I was sorry I wouldn't get too bad a beating for it. That's how I was figuring things, anyway, based on what little I knew then – but it took longer than I expected for Wendy to come back. And Miss Ward didn't seem to know what to say to me, and mumbled something about checking on her friend, and went out after her.
And then, when Wendy come back... I thought waking up in Imladris when I shoulda been dead was a surprise! Not only did she not have the Watch with her, she came up to me with bundles of goods. I'm crying all over again as I write this, and mebbe not spelling so good no more. I don't wanna hear about that just now. The lady brung me new armour – brand new! And it fit me perfect! Even the boots! And besides that, saving the biggest surprise for the last – she gave me a actual dress! A nice, pretty dress! Brand new, just for me, and despite how rude my comment had been! And the dress had proper lady's slippers, and all of that fit me just right, too. She coulda had me for a slave – and I know she'd have been horrified to know that, though she was touched to find out later how much that moment meant to me.
A night or two later, Miss Ward kinda cornered me – I was too embarrassed about things still to make that very easy – and asked me what happened. When I told her what Wendy had done for me, she said she was glad because that meant she didn't have to. And that set the foundation of what was a good friendship with Mel, too.
With a nice dress, I didn't hide so much when going to those concerts and such, and I spent a lot of time with Wendy – whose name is really Wendiwyn, I found out, and she was from Langhold in the Riddermark, which turned out to be a long way from where Cwynbur is from. Apparently the Mark is pretty big. Anyways, I spent time with Wendy and Mel, and we'd dance together a lot. Over time, Wendy and I got real close – close enough that when I realised Drel was only keeping that house for me, I moved in with Wendy. And it wasn't long after that, given her inclinations and mine, and unlike Mel's, we were lovers, and talking of making something more permanent of our arrangement.
And there's a lot more to write about that, but I'm at the end of this parchment, and have a journey to make, so the more will have to wait.
The small woman put the page aside to try as she cleaned up her dishes, then her writing equipment, finally storing the parchment away in its makeshift folder before leaving the house.