Cleaning the rented house was a long, slow process but he did admit he felt better for it. Anyway, he could hardly live with Kennick forever and he needed space to work. The main room of the little house was bigger than in Kennick’s flat and they would need the space for the practicum. Even if he had them work one at a time that would still be three living people and three dead (assuming he could find a third body for practice) to stuff into the room. It would have been ideal to have performed it in the dining room of the townhouse but the deed for the building sat now in a rough pile on his desk with every other bit of paperwork he intended to dump back in Lark’s hands when he had finished with this last, irritating bit of straightening up.
The cleaning was reassuring though, it (of all things) reminded him of being back home, of his apprenticeship. He would sweep and then wait until the hour was late enough that his master was sound asleep, and then he would sneak through the window. And there had been his brothers to visit or old friends or that girl who sold herbs in a marketplace. She married a butcher, he thought, or a blacksmith. It didn’t matter. She existed (like everything in Dale) as a pleasant memory of civilization and happiness. Some vague aspiration for children who would not exist.
He had written a letter to be read to father, though the man was in all likelihood too out of his wits to understand it. Like the money he had sent with it all it could do was assuage Athalbert’s own conscience. He had done what could be done, in the circumstances.
His thoughts returned to the present. Dissecting corpses might be best done on that hideous lacquered table Lark had purchased, and he did have a key… The thought danced helpfully in the back of his mind for a few moments before dissolving. The idea of returning to that house with its hideous yellow door and its pleasant wooden floors was nauseating in the extreme, he felt the same aversion to it as he had long felt toward the scent of cucumber.
Anyway hopefully she had emptied it and, with her name alone on the deed, she would be responsible for the land-tax until she bothered to sell it.
He carried on with his sweeping in silence and watched as the broom caught some little golden thing and sent it scurrying into the center of the floor. An earring, he observed, lifting it up into the light. One of Lark’s, presumably, though it might just as well have belonged to someone Kennick had brought in. He considered it for a moment and with a brief shrug tucked it away into his pocket.
It was, after all, still gold.
“I’ve just never been to Pelargir,” Sellion said unhappily, following behind his cousin with a basket in his hands. He was like a shadow, still dressed in black, marching behind Alduial’s effervescent blue morning dress. “What if I don’t like it?”
“You might not, at first, but it is a better opportunity,” she said dismissively, gathering up a bundle of herbs from a stall and smelling them. “And anyway you have already tried being home and you hated that.”
Sellion didn’t say anything to that, carrying on dutifully as the woman’s shadow.
“Right now you just do not know where you want to fit into, as I was saying to Hathlafel the other day, you are unmoored.”
“Please tell me you don’t talk about me to your…” he struggled to find the word and then just settled on the faintly disdainful and not entirely conclusive, “Knight.”
“Of course I do, you are my favorite little cousin and I worry about you. I tell all sorts of people about you. But, as I was saying, you need a mooring. You are either following me or sitting in the library or drawing. You need a task. Pelargir has all sorts of tasks to put yourself to. Go there, be free. You can still write and I will make a point to spend a month there visiting, every winter, no matter what. I promise.”
“They do need a lot of bridges…” he said thoughtfully.
“Exactly!” She declared and turned on him, gesturing with fragrant flowers like a baton. “And someday you might even feel it is home.”
“Does Dol Amroth feel like home to you, yet?” He asked curiously, watching her pay for her flowers and herbs and load them up into the overladen basket.
“No. But it will someday,” she said confidently and gave his cheek a little pat. “We should go buy a snack. I could use a bit of chocolate.”
Grandpa had been a strapping man in his youth, tall and broad shouldered with a shock of red hair like fire. At least, that was what Nan had always said. By the time Sadie knew him though he was merely another heavyset old man with a dropping mustache colored yellow by a pipe and a few whisps of hair clinging to the top of his bald head. His memory had been bad but he knew a lot about history and all sorts of old stories. His favorite topic was kings, the ones who lived in Fornost in the north before it became a ghoulish place of the dead.
“If gold can rust,” he would say of the dead kingdom. “What good’s iron?”
Pa used it as a curse sometimes, he would mutter it underneath his breath while he sat in bed after a coughing spell. “Gold and iron,” he’d mutter and sit back against the pillows.
Sadie muttered it now, looking at the things she had drawn out of that ancient grave. A half-rotting lacquered bracelet, a gold ring, a little knife, and a doll made of red hair; all four brittle and foul to the touch. Her fingers moved over each object. They had belonged to someone, once, they had been important and who buried things so important? Who sent someone again to dig them up? And why should this all be happening to her when she had been so content to be on a path with no ups or downs at all?
Why should she feel out of place in her own home, all those years of it being a secret sanctuary thrown off in a few months. She huffed under her breath and gathered up the little objects, swept them into sackcloth and tied that up with twine to bury at the bottom of a chest full of blankets and heavy clothes.
Sadiebell, sang a song behind her as she buried the objects again, under wool and cotton rather than dirt. The lid cried out when she dropped it and clasped her hands about her ears and screwed her eyes shut.
“Not listening,” she muttered and repeated it again, this time louder, “Not listening. Go away. Go away. Go away.”
The voice was gone and Sadie ignored the unpleasant, pit feeling in her chest; the guilty, lonely feeling that she had sent something away that, perhaps, needed her. She sucked in a breath and went back to her reckoning books.
Back in this little elven settlement Lunet made a quiet promise to herself never to become as bored of it as Thorold was. He sat on his cushion complaining about the way the light passed through the windows and how it was too bright in here to sleep any decent amount.
“I think you’re being picky,” she said dismissively and he groaned and covered his face with a pillow.
“You didn’t drink as much as I did. I’m never playing that bloody game again. They all cheat,” he groaned, his voice muffled.
“No they don’t, they’re just better at holding liquor than you. You’ve got to practice. You’re such a complainer,” Lunet huffed and threw a blanket at him before she pulled on her boots and marched outside.
She felt bad that she hadn’t had a proper goodbye with her family. She’d just packed up and left to get back on the road again. But that felt better. It wasn’t gone forever, she reassured herself, just gone to work. She might even be back for a few days in a couple months, when they turned to travel south along the old Greenway.
The road was just a home where the view was always changing and no one asked her when she was getting married.