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Shelter in the Twilight by Urloth

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AU ALERT! Very Au. Written with encouragement and inspiration from Encarion though I doubt she knew this was what she was encouraging. 

 

It was a bad time. There was a dark figure in the woods, and he sought fire. This much they knew and it made them fearful of lighting even the smallest clay lamp for fear he would come devour them in the night, seeking this flame he could not find.

He did wonder how one could seek fire and douse every camp fire lit in seeking yet not find it. Later he would realise that the flame the dark figure sought was nothing of mere tinder fed brightness.

She came through the rain to his door, and knocked till he answered it, wrapped up a magnificent cloak sewn with humming birds in blue and green upon it. Lightening flashed, illuminating the white throats of the birds, and then the pale oval of her face, eyes shadowed by her cloak’s cowl, with the hectic flush of fever upon her high cheek bones.

“Are you Eöl descendant of Tata?” she asked him, ignoring how the water was dripping down her face in rivulets.

Another lightening flash revealed to him a garnet at the base of her chin, over her throat, securing the cloth tightly about her head. Her hands held the rest closed, protecting her body futilely from the driving forces of nature. There was a pack on her back which was too large; twice her size and strapped mercilessly to her shoulders which were hunched from the effort of holding it.

“I am,” he confirmed, fearing keeping his door open long. He had small stove of his own invention, the flames carefully caged in its belly, but fire and fire and the dark figure might see it. He had curtained his windows with dark cloth, but the door had no such protection.

“Then I am beholden to you kinsman of my man,” she replied, tilting her head up to look him in the eye. Her eyes were the colour of the finest quality of carnelians, and swam against an onyx background instead of the white he was familiar with. He resisted making the sign against evil on his chest.

“Your man is dead then,” he asked, stepping aside. It was the sleeping time and the rain was like fists against her. He would have to be a crueller men to leave her standing out there to answer his questions.

“He is.”

“I am his closest kinsman?”

“That lives,” her voice brought him dread.

“Then who was this kinsman of mine?”

“Finwë son of Tata,” she set her pack down with a groan. In the better light of his hut he saw that the cloak extended out from her front. She was pregnant then.

Heavily so.

“Tata and Tatië have ten children,” he frowned.

“All dead.”

“And those children also have many fine children.”

“All dead.”

“Then it is the third generation you turn to,” his stomach tightened in pain. It had been four times seven wakings since he had last heard from his mother, the third youngest granddaughter of Tata.

“Yes. I have had to look very far for any who could take me in. My time is near.”

It was for the closest kinsmen of a man to take in that man’s woman should he die, until she could return to her parents, or until children she had by that man were grown to full maturity.

“What of your parents?” he asked, thinking that maybe she had overreached herself because of tradition, when her parents might have been closer and more inclined to take her.

“Dead.” She stared at him. “I can leave. I am sure you have cousins.”

“Not if what you say is true,” Eöl shook his head. He lived alone, up here in the higher woods where he could easily get to the rocks that supplied the ores he experimented with. He travelled very rarely, usually down to the Nelyar settlement at the base of the mountain to trade for cloth and other such things.

“Stay,” he bid her, “I am the great grandson of Tata and I will not turn away the woman of Tata’s son. I know and honour the creed of my clan.”

She bowed to him.

“What shall I know you as?” he asked her, this woman who would now be a part of his life until the child inside her was an adult.

In another world, the child in her stomach would not have been born for another few centuries, and the flame of his spirit would not have drawn the dark figure to massacring the main village of the Tatyar. In another universe he would never have known this woman. She would have departed West without him ever knowing he had a great uncle named Finwë, nor that Finwë had a wife.

He would have known of her son and grandsons though. Oh yes.

And the bastard children of her husband that Finwë got upon a replacement woman; indeed he would have married the daughter of one such.

“Míriel,” she bowed to him, her hands emerging, long and pale as she clasped them before her in traditional gesture, “Míriel but some do call me the Þerindë, and I bring my skill with cloth to your house. You shall never want for clothing mended or linens clean and crisp.”

“And I am Eöl, and I give my house to you. While you are here you will never want for food in your stomach, nor clothing on your back, nor kind hands to help raise your child.”

“I thank you” said she, “for such hands I will greatly need.”