Of Lihn and Margaret

Published August 2, 2017 by Lihn & Company

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Lihn was starting to feel old.

She knew, or at least suspected, that she wasn’t that old. Not even thirty yet, probably. Twenty-six? Was that right? Numbers had never been that easy for her, and when every day was about kicking flea-infested rats out of your soggy living space, numbers never seemed that important.

Besides, ‘lots of flea bites’ was a better thing to focus on than ‘one hundred and thirty-eight flea bites”.

But she suspected that this feeling, this feeling of slow, bone-creaking old, had more to do with how she lived her life and less to do with how much of it there had been. Twenty-whatever wasn’t old, but twenty-whatevers of dirty cobbles, strange lumps, insect bites, and fevers in the rain would wear anyone out.

No one lived very long on the streets.

“Da Albert” was the oldest beggar she knew of. He had never counted his age, but Lihn suspected that he was just over the middle of a normal person’s life. But it wasn’t ‘just over the middle’ for Da Albert. It was hard to tell past the wild bushy mane of white and grey hair that surrounded his face, but it was probable he didn’t have much longer in this world.

The streets aged you twice as fast, and put four times as much effort into killing you before the age did.

So it was stupid, really, to live on them when you were one of the only people who had a choice.

She was solely responsible for killing herself prematurely, and strangely, she couldn’t find it in herself to care. She didn’t want to die, certainly, but she was starting to wonder what the point in sticking around was. A lot of her friends had died. Maybe they were onto something.

She needed something new to latch onto, that was the ticket. Something to care for. A kid, a dog, a dark and mysterious stranger thigh-deep in nefarious plots. She couldn’t stand being alone, because keeping the company of herself was downright depressing.

Who in their right mind would want to spend every waking minute with a madwoman, after all? She wouldn’t wish it on anyone, least of all herself.

 

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The house was small, less of a cottage and more of a sturdy hut, but it was undeniably cozy.

It was about ten feet wide, or just over two Margarets, and double that the long way. The door had no hinges and had to be braced in place, and the windows were protected by shutters instead of glass. The floor was dirt, but covered in thick woven mats, and the walls- made mostly of stone and clay- were thick and sturdy and didn’t run in the rain.

It had taken Margaret the better part of a year to build the house, and now the rest of her free time was spent making sure it didn’t fall down again.

But when the morning sun, broken up by the leaves of the forest around her, streamed through the open windows and split into rainbows through her hanging glass bottles, she knew it was worth it.

The house was situated in the forest some six miles from Dol Amroth. It was far enough inland that one wasn’t really aware of the ocean while they were there, and the forested hills kept her well hidden. She wasn’t sure whose land this was, but she hadn’t made any effort to find out and didn’t intend to pay any taxes.

There wasn’t a proper road anywhere around her, and the nearest river- more of a stream, really- was a mile off. There was nothing of interest to anybody around her house, which was precisely why she had built it there.

She was alone, and it was wonderful.

Not completely, of course. She spent her days gathering herbs and creating tonics that she would bundle together twice a month and sell in Dol Amroth. While she was there, she would stop by to see Maludir, who had all of his outrageous duties to attend to. And after she had kissed him and fed him and played with his hair a little, she would gather together her earnings and supplies and disappear back into the woods, where life was quieter and safer.

Maludir would come to see her, too. Those times were her favorite. She would make a seasoned rabbit broth or fish garlic toast, and they could sit outside in the night and catch glimpses of the stars above the leafy canopy. She would tell him stories of her grandmother and her travels, and he would tell her about Dol Amroth and Carmanadh and his family.

And she could almost, almost, pretend they were free together, though he would never be.

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Of Kennick and Dorsett

Published August 2, 2017 by Lihn & Company

Soooo… I’ve been gone a while. My characters were in a sort of okay place to leave them a year and a half ago, but I’d like to think they’ve been at least a little active in that time. If I got something wrong about one of your characters, let me know.

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There was a lot to be said about being alone.

For a start, it could be rather lonely.

For Kennick, being alone wasn’t unusual. He had always been up in his own head, not trapped up there but choosing to be there because it was safe. It was easy. It afforded you an artificially high vantage point from which to look down on other people.

If you were far enough removed, you could place yourself in the role of the curious observer behind a transparent fence, watching the native wildlife do their quaint little things.

In this way, you didn’t have to worry about any kind of mental or emotional pain. They could do things to your body, but not to your mind. You weren’t one of them. You were something else.

So for Kennick, life without people on without much of a hitch. Business was booming; he was receiving shipments of fine cloth from as far away as Gondor, and receiving orders from the same.

He had purchased a storefront in Bree, just a tiny thing with a discreet and well-lettered sign. If you were this well hidden, you were either up to no good or very expensive. Kennick was, naturally, both- but only to a point. Bree had its limitations, and one of those was a lack of outrageously formal events. Bree was really more of a ‘dance in a barn’ sort of place.

He could sell to the upper-ups all he wanted, but the upper-ups around there were barely more than twenty feet above ground level. Become too expensive and you would have no customers at all.

But Kennick had no shortage of customers; they and the girl he had hired to man (hah) the shop were his primary source of human interaction. He would occasionally see or assist Athalbert with something, but he knew he was a terrible disappointment to the man so he tried not to look too fabulous while he did it.

Hallem was still around, but he felt it better to leave him alone. Certainly Hal still had Lichen to worry about, there was no reason to complicate his perfect life any more. He still loved Hallem, as much as he could love anyone, and to that end it felt better not to interfere.

Esthyr was around too, but it was hard to so much as acknowledge her. That chapter in his life felt… closed, and latched and bolted and set on fire. He knew she was out there being a better physician than he ever was, and that was enough. If he thought about it too much, it hurt, so it was better to not think about it at all.

He hadn’t spoken with Lark or sold to any of the brothel girls since she had abandoned Athalbert. He didn’t know where she was, or what she was doing. He wasn’t angry anymore, but it felt like too much effort to reconcile.

Raenarcam was the only one he still saw regularly. She remained magnificent. Unchanging, as the Elves tended to be. A constant.

But at the end of the day, he still went home alone, ate dinner alone, read alone, slept alone. It felt empty, sometimes, but it also felt better than the alternative, than letting people in.

It was worth the loneliness, to be by yourself, even just in your own head.

 

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Dorsett was never truly alone.

There was something in his mind with him, there always had been. Some hint or wisp of something other than himself, some strange bit or being that whispered at him all throughout his life. It loved books, loved words, spoke silently of things that were written, whether past, present, or future.

He didn’t think he had ever been truly aware of it before the past couple of years, writing it off as something his mind had conjured up on its own, like some kind of literary imaginary friend.

Perhaps it still was, but it was getting awfully elaborate and 31 was a bit old to be having an imaginary friend.

And yet, on one quiet rainy evening, when he had only his books and his cat for company, and when the constant whispering had been getting unusually loud, Dorsett ventured a tiny mental, Hello?

And the whispering had stopped completely.

It was the first time Dorsett had ever tried to speak to the voices as though they were something separate, and not merely thought alongside them as part of his own mind. For a brief, amused moment, Dorsett wondered if he had shocked the voices into silence.

Are you there? he asked, mentally. There was no answer, so he tried, Are you me, or something else?

And then he felt ridiculous, so he stopped. But the silence continued all throughout the evening, and when he went to bed he had no dreams at all.

The voices were back in the morning, but they all but disappeared every time he tried to think directly at them. It was… different. A shakeup to his routine. The silence was unnerving at first, but also rather nice.

So he started talking to it all the time.

Sometimes aloud, usually silently, he spoke to the voices. He narrated his day. This is Jade, my best friend, he would think even as he spoke aloud to the woman. Or… or maybe that’s Sage. They’re both good friends, the best. You’ve seen them before, haven’t you? Are you always watching?

It never said anything in return, but it felt like it was listening. That alone made Dorsett feel… peculiar. He wasn’t sure if he was more or less in control, knowing that this entity in his own head was aware of him.

But on those long and lonely nights, it felt nice to have someone… something… to talk to.

Even if it said just as much in response as his cat did.

 

 

 

 

Love and Friendship

Published January 8, 2017 by Lihn & Company

So during FFF we all participated in the speed writing challenge where we had fifteen minutes to do a piece. Or something. This came from all the way back then, and I just never posted it. Lihn has feelings, y’all.

I love you.

The words came unbidden to her mind, but once settled there, they refused to leave. They rattled around in her skull, gently kicking her in the metaphorical nadgers, echoing in her mind as though she were some mad sandy-haired bookworm as opposed to a mad sandy-haired cat lady.

She turned over in her bed, and gazed at the lump of blankets near the fire that was Valthier. He didn’t move, didn’t make a sound. He could have been dead, the way he slept. It was why Lihn took special care to snore loud enough for the both of them.

I love you.

Shaddup, Lihn thought back, fully prepared to get into an argument with her own mind. You don’t. On account of not being stupid.

Besides, maybe she did, but not like that. Like a mother, right? Right.

Wasn’t anything he wanted to hear, anyway.

Should just forget about the whole thing. Better that way. Easier.

Then he let out a quiet little sigh in his sleep, and Lihn knew that forgetting about it was bollocks.

Mothers and Daughters

Published August 6, 2016 by Lihn & Company

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For the writing prompts “Write about several NPCs having a conversation about your character(s)” and “Write about your character from the point of view of someone else”.

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“I don’t know what you’ve gone and done with her, but she’s not been back in months. Not even a bit of writing.”

Fina glared at her mother over the bread she was kneading, her hands pounding into it as she envisioned her mother’s face in place of the dough. Her mother continued to observe her with her cool, impassive stare, which only infuriated her further.

“Your daughter left me of her own accord over a year ago. It is hardly my fault that she chose to wander, Feen,” said Isolade, and Fina scowled at the nickname.

“It is your fault, and you know it. You stole her away when she was little, and you filled her head with the same sort of rubbish you tried to fill mine with. Always with the prattling on about herbs and Elvish magic and spiders–”

“The spiders are of her own devising.”

“–and now she’s gone again, and even you don’t know where she is?”

Fina’s voice broke at the end of her words, and she thumped the dough spitefully and sunk into a nearby chair. “Why’d you go and do this to her, mother?” she asked, quieter now, and she hated that she could hear her voice trembling. Her little girl was gone, her baby, and what if she never came back…

“She did this to herself,” Isolde said, her demeanor still infuriatingly calm. She reached out as if to touch Fina’s hand, but Fina grumpily hid it under her dark hair. “It’s clear at this point that the women of Argamel’s line do what they will to spite their mothers. You chose to marry and bear sons, and your daughter chose to roam freely over hill and dale. Would you force her otherwise?”

Fina was quiet. She hated her mother, hated and loved her, but she too would wander off soon and then Fina would have only her husband and boys in her life again. For all their oddities, however much they butted heads, Fina wished dearly that Isolade and Margaret would stay.

“I just want her to be safe,” she whispered finally, not daring to meet her mother’s eyes, despising the weakness she showed.

But when Isolade spoke, Fina could hear the smile in her voice. “She’s of Argamel’s line. She will be.”

A Day or Twelve

Published July 10, 2016 by Lihn & Company

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The first two days, it was easy to stay in Valthier’s cabin because she had just had a shock, you know. A terrible shock, involving rooftops and barrels and Valthier nearly chopping off one of his own toes or pulling a tooth or some such thing in order to get her down. Just a nasty shock, all around. Two days of recovery in the safety and comfort of a proper bed was hardly something to be ashamed of. She’d leave on the third.

On the fifth day, she was two days into a cold, and it’d be downright foolish to leave a dry, safe place when you had a cold. What if it turned into the Hacking Black and you died a horrible, bubbling death?

Yes, Lihn thought as she reclined on the bed (which actually had a blanket, and didn’t feel like a burlap sack over cobblestones), no one could blame you for staying in someone else’s cabin as you got over an illness. It wasn’t the same thing as going soft, it was practical. Sensible. Reasonable thing to do, that.

At the turn of the week, she lay in that same comfortable bed, still glowing happily from her last conversation with Valthier, and tried not to feel guilty about still being in the place she should have left by then. It wasn’t as if she had anywhere better to be, she supposed. And someone had to keep an eye on Valthier, in case he did something stupid. Sure, the little Mossfoot filled the role of eye-keeper, but she could always help, a bit.

It wasn’t unreasonable for her to still be there. If she weren’t there, no one would consistently nag Valthier to stay alive and in one piece, which was important. She liked having him in one piece.

Ten days in, Lihn knew it was getting ridiculous. She hadn’t spent that long in four walls and a roof in at least two years. Tomorrow, she had vowed, she would get back to the alley. No more of this mess. Valthier was a clever fellow, he didn’t need her around to bandage him up.

Twelve days later, she was still there. And Valthier was still enjoyable company.

But tomorrow, this time.

Definitely.

For sure.