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Branwyn's Baubles  by Branwyn

Two very different ways of explaining the eclipse of the moon. Written for Raksha's birthday.


"Soon only a silver rim will be left. My father says--" Faramir stopped; with the slightest catch in his voice, he carefully spoke again. "My father said the darkness was merely a shadow. The shadow of the earth, though I know that sounds strange."

In the pine tree above them, a ghost owl hissed and ruffled its pale feathers.

"For years, he studied the patterns of the stars." Wrapped in sable against the wind, Denethor had stood alone in the courtyard, endlessly searching the heavens. What wisdom had his father hoped to find in the black night sky?

Eowyn turned from the moon, her face very still; then, drawing near to his warmth, she rested her head against his shoulder. She could feel the muscles drawn tight over bone.

"A shadow? I had not heard this. In Rohan, we say a dragon steals the moon,” she said with a laugh. “He hides it in a grave, with his hoard of silver. That earthen hall is heaped with treasure -- rings and cups and ancient swords. But soon, a young warrior, eager for fame, steals life from the thief, slaying the dragon. Then he throws the silver moon back into the sky.”

An AU drabble about a favorite son of Gondor. Written for annmarwalk and Aeneid's birthdays.


"Your sons are skilled beyond their years."

Brandir inclined his head graciously. Watching them practice, he knew it to be true and not just the flattery of a friend.

"Hide behind the shield,” the armsmaster said, “Now bring your arm up. Good. See how your elbow is bent? Try to remember that.” His younger son nodded slightly, his body tensed in the unfamiliar position. The old armsmaster had taught them a different stance. ”You have lugged this shield across Ithilien, and now you need to use it. Baran, I want you to aim at the center and strike very slowly. Not too hard."

For once, his young hawks were paying heed, even without the threat of a switch.

“Is this new master a local man?”

“No, he came to us in the early spring.”

“Young and well-trained; why bury himself on this forsaken coastline? A deserter?”

“No, I think not.”

As the armsmaster strode across the courtyard to fetch a second practice sword, he glanced toward the keep.

“That cannot be! He looks just like—“

“Leave it, old friend!” Brandir interrupted sharply, adding under his breath, “Do not speak his name; it is best to leave the dead in peace.”

A short tale about the gift of a banner.


Unknotting the ties, Ragnvald shook out the banner. The men stared in wide-eyed silence; then young Elfhelm made a strangled sound and ducked his head.

"That looks like a pig," his cousin Freawine said doubtfully.

"Are you blind? It is a white horse!" Ragnvald replied then muttered unhappily under his breath, "Hildwyn said we must needs have a banner. What can I do?"

Freawine thought of his own wife. "Bear it with pride, or pay the price, kinsman." Seizing the banner, he held it aloft. "Ride now to the White Pig!" Shouting with laughter, the troop took up the cry.

A winter holiday drabble (not very cheerful, though...).


When days were waning and light seemed to fail, Finduilas drew a blue mantle over her hair and tucked a pruning knife into her basket.  Pacing through the closed door, she passed the houses of the dead.  

With lucid, gray eyes raised to barren slopes, she listened to the soughing of the wind; in this one place, it sounded like the sea.  Then she turned to her task—to fill her home with life in darkened days. 

Beyond the tombs, a tree grew by the path; amidst stone and sere, brown grasses, the holly bore its leaves of glossy green.

Note:  A pauldron is the piece of armor that protects the shoulder.


"Who mended this for you, my lord?" the grey-haired armorer asked with an incredulous look. "A wandering tinker, the patcher of leaky pots?"

Faramir’s solemn eyes widened slightly in surprise, but then he shook his head and laughed.

"Well, I will soon set it to rights." The armorer placed the battered helm on a low work table cluttered with bits and pieces of harness. As he straightened up from this task, he stepped quickly forward, asking, “My lord? Are you ill?” He steadied the young lord, grasping his arm. Then he followed his gaze to the table and sighed. "I see, then. Yes, he brought those here, the day before he left."

He picked up a huge, fluted pauldron, handing it to Faramir. "The best work I have ever done; I will make nothing like it again." The leather lining was stained with salt and still breathed the faint musk of sweat. The curved steel was etched with twining branches and eight-petaled stars and, almost hidden, a hunting horn.

"There is none in the City who could wear them now," the armorer said with a catch in his voice. "Forgive me," he whispered when he saw that Lord Faramir wept.

Feanor and basic chemistry. I had read that Feanor might have crafted the palantiri. Also, a play on his name--"spirit of fire."  Written as a birthday drabble.


before there was glass,
there was sand--
flecks of stone, white and salty,
scoured and sifted by the waves

before there was glass,
there was seaweed--
deep-drowned grasses, sleek green hair,
swaying and curling in the tide

before there was glass,
there were seashells--
cups of bone, empty houses,
holding the distant echo of Eldamar

before there was glass,
there was fire--
kelp rendered to ashes and light,
shells burned to lime, sand to glowing slag
melding the three,
the craftsman spoke soft words,
burning the dross, smoothing the surface,
as he bound the spirit of fire in the Stone

Young Elured and Elurin, sons of Dior, abandoned in the forest during the Ruin of Doriath. Thanks to Annmarwalk for beta help! Written for Werecat's birthday.


The dull thud of hoofs and cold jangle of harness had long since receded. The forest was still except for the measured dripping of rain; while high above their heads, a squirrel rustled softly in the chestnut tree.

Their daggers had been taken, so the boy had to strike the rough stone against a steel buckle instead. Crouched over the tinder, he scraped until his hands were bleeding and numb. At last, the heap of twigs seethed with yellow flames. His younger brother, his face likewise pale under smudges of dirt, returned with fallen wood from the forest floor. Once the fire burned steadily, they knelt beside it to warm their hands.

Suddenly, the smaller child looked up, glancing wildly at the encircling trees. Eyes dark with fear, he stared at his brother. "Elured, there is naught to eat; we will starve."

Silence except for the silver dripping of water. Steadfastly fighting his tears, the elder brother bowed his head.

From a low-hanging branch, the squirrel chattered and flicked her tail, as if to scold these strange, furless kits; then she scampered aloft. A chestnut, glossy-shelled and heavy with its starchy meat, fell and rolled to rest at their feet.

"…Dior was slain also, and Nimloth his wife, and the cruel servants of Celegorm seized his young sons and left them to starve in the forest. Of this Maedhros indeed repented, and sought for them long in the woods of Doriath; but his search was unavailing, and of the fate of Elured and Elurin no tale tells."
The Silmarillion.

Written for Tanaqui's birthday.


The faint scent of flowering trees drifted over the ruined walls. "Almond or apple," Faramir thought drowzily; trees of the lineage of the rose, with their sweet, five-petaled flowers.

Long ago, Ithilien was laid out in fields and orchards and well-tended woods, a chessboard with squares of brown and bright green. Apricots, apples and pears were sent to the markets of northern Gondor and south to Belfalas. He tried to imagine all those fruit trees in flower, acre after acre of shining, white branches.

"How beautiful it must have been," he thought as he drifted to sleep in the farmhouse.

Response to the "blue" challenge at Tolkien_Weekly.  An AU drabble about Denethor and Finduilas. 


Where the healers had failed, Lord Denethor made the diagnosis. With a kindly smile, he gave the half-empty cup to the toddler, bidding her drink.

"No, lord! Have mercy on my child!" The serving maid knelt at his feet and wept. What threat or hidden sin had turned her poisoner?

In the garden, the irises swayed like the sea. He felt his wife's cold hands, saw her bluish nails. The servants fetched a woolen mantle; Denethor drew the silver-spangled cloth around her shoulders. "I would give you the sun, the moon, and the stars," he murmured into her brittle hair.

Response to the "black" challenge at Tolkien_Weekly. 


I wake to the smell of earth, the rough graze of stone. The rusted point still grips my heart--
shouting, a heavy fall and then the thrust of spear.

No mourner's tread on the mound above, only the lament of wind in grass. I deem that we are long forgotten

Faint voices rustle in the blackness. Strange words, and yet I seethe with rage, for I was cheated of my span of years. I fling aside the crumbling wreaths of flowers.

The earthen door grinds open. Raising a battered sword, I shout, “Death! Death to the men of Carn Dum!”

"But, Theodred, I would ride with you!"

"No, cousin, it is a long, hard journey to Eastwatch, and the sky looks like rain." With a glance toward their lord, he turned his horse and left. Just last summer, he would have swung her onto the saddle before him.

In the cold months, old Aelfwyn had ripped out the seams of her gowns, widening the sides under the arms. Her aged nurse had smiled and cackled, "Soon, my lady, soon." Yet Eowyn saw no cause for gladness. Stabled like a broodmare, she watched her cousin leave, cursing her own body's betrayal.

Response to the "green" challenge at Tolkien_Weekly


"You have a steady hand; with practice, you will make a fair archer." Old Aelfric drew the arrows from the target--close but not in the center.

Grima took these words to heart. Swordplay had earned him nothing but bruises; here he would make his mark. Round after round he shot, as long as there was light. His aching back grew strong; tattered blisters sloughed into calluses.

Yet still the arrows flew wide--close but not in the center. Slowly, frustration turned to envy, for others hit the mark with ease. Setting aside his bow, Grima cursed his lesser gift.

Written for Meril's (Allie's) birthday.


Kneeling in the dirt, the dark-haired man slowly pulled at the tangle of weeds. Above his bowed head, blood-red flowers nodded in the breeze.

“He has been out of bed for only two days. Fetch him in ere he does himself harm.”

“Leave him be, Ragnor. I have been dosing him with poppies for a week; else he stares at the lamp and does not sleep. Let him pull the weeds. At times, it is better to work than to think. “

Shaking his head doubtfully, Ragnor held his peace.

Later, they found Lord Faramir, under the poppies, fast asleep. 

Written for the White challenge at Tolkien_Weekly.


Pippin, Merry, and the younger elves went sledding after the early snowfall. Eyes grey and overcast, the man watched in silence.

"Boromir, do you not have snow in your land?"

"In the high mountain passes, far from my home."

Merry pointed to the back of the toboggan. "Come on!"

Legolas bit his lip. "It is not wise to put such heavy weight in back; you will go…"

Small boots pushed into the snow. "Boromir, tuck your feet in!"

A sliding drop--
“The Shire!”

Then fountains of white as they tipped over. The elf shook his head. "...Too fast."

Written for the birthday of Aliana, who wished for drabbles about discovery.


Rain clattered on the dugout roof and ran in muddy rivulets down the walls. The smell of coffee and woolen socks rose from the small stove.

“The lieutenant? He’s not a bad sort, as officers go. But when I first saw those books of his, I thought they were written in German — that gave me a turn, it did! The lieutenant says it’s some old kind of English.

“Then he’s always drawing maps, so finally I get up the nerve to ask. ‘Sir,’ says I, 'is that the eastern front?' He just gives me the oddest smile and says, ‘Yes.’”

Written for the Topsy-turvy (Alternate Universe) challenge at Tolkien_Weekly.


"What was he doin' way out here?"

The corporal picked up a lantern; behind cracked glass, light flickered for a moment then faded. "Signals officer. Stranded when the 11th pulled back. Look for his tags or some papers."

The private held up a small notebook. "Lieutenant To...Tolkine? Sounds like a Hun."

"Let me see that." An eight-pointed star was drawn below the owner's name. Like the compass rose on a map, the corporal thought. A raindrop hit the paper and ran in a trail of ink. He carefully tucked the notebook in the breast of his tunic. "Get his feet."

Written for the Topsy-turvy (Alternate Universe) challenge at Tolkien_weekly.


“Careful!” Denethor snarled as the household guards gently raised the litter.

Peregrin knelt before him. “Do not send me away, lord.”

“Indeed not, Master Halfling, for now you may be of great service. Go with these men to the healers.” Handing him the white rod of office, the steward commanded, “Keep this until my son should awake.“ He glanced at Faramir’s sweat-streaked face. “Or until the king should return.”

He donned his helm and took up a shield that bore neither charge nor device. After bowing before the vacant throne, Denethor departed to lead the defence of his City.

Written in response to HASA's "Your Favorite Poem Challenge."


The birch trees shone like a forest of sun-scoured bones.  The summer had been very dry, and already yellow leaves drifted from the branches.  Two riders trotted on the western road, all mark of their passing swiftly covered by leaves.  

Though his saddle and boots were finely crafted, the first man was clothed in plain wool and bore no sign of rank.  Hair as yellow as corn fell in long plaits down his back.  The second man was very tall, yet he rode with surprising ease and grace.  He wore his black hair loose, after the fashion of Gondor, and his dark clothing was elegant and richly embroidered.  An ivory horn with silver fittings hung by his right side. 

They halted at a cairn of white stones.  To the north of the road, the trees were parted in a straight line, as if their branches were held back by some unseen magic.  The dark-haired man swung down from the saddle and led his horse between the trees.  With the heel of his boot, he scraped aside the rotting leaves until he reached the paving stones buried under the loam.

The fair-haired rider murmured a few words to his horse then slid lightly to the ground.  “From here I can guide you no farther, Lord Boromir.  None of my people has taken this path in years, and rarely do travelers journey from the North.  Yet may it lead you at last to the land that you seek.”  He placed his right hand on his breast and bowed. 

“Then I must find my own way, but I thank you for your help, Ragnvald, son of Aelric,” the other man said as he bowed in return, then he swiftly straightened up and stared into the trees.  A wild and rising horn call echoed from the north.

“’Tis naught but an ilfete, my lord.” 

“Ill fate?  That seems an unlucky name.”

Ragnvald thought for a moment. "A swan, my lord, in the Common Speech.  During the spring and fall, great flocks alight on the marshes of the Westfold, yet they do not tarry here.  I deem that their home is far to the North.”  The call came again, remote but clear.  “Strange that one lingers so late in the summer.”

Still gazing into the distance, the man of Gondor nodded slowly.  Then he shook himself and made a wry smile.  “Let me answer its summons in kind.”  He raised the horn and played the swan’s call--a deep, low note followed by a higher pitch.  The two men laughed when from the woods came a faint reply.

The stirrup leathers creaked as the dark-haired man swung himself to the horse’s back.  “Farewell.” 

Ragnvald’s horse whinnied, shifting her weight uneasily; he gently stroked her neck.  “May you ride to good fortune, my lord.” 

Without a backward look, Lord Boromir set out on the road not taken.  Ragnvald stared through the drifting veil of yellow leaves, until both path and rider were lost among the trees.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

   --Robert Frost

Author Note:  Ilfete is one of the Old English words for “swan.” 
While some swans are mute, the whooper swan (called the trumpeter swan in North America) has a loud, ringing call.

At the touch of the flame, the candlewick flared then glowed, the burnt end of the linen thread curling into blackness.  With a sharp breath, Faramir blew out the smoldering straw in his hand. 

“We burn one for each kinsman who died this past year.  For memory’s sake and to light their way to the Halls of Mandos.”

Eowyn stared at the row of tall candles.  Flames of mingled ivory and blue -- she counted four lights swaying in the darkness.  “A most worthy custom, husband; we have none like it in Rohan,” she said, her eyes alight with sudden tears. 

“Fifty cones of linen warp.

“Twenty cones of woolen thread dyed with weld.

“Forty cones of undyed woolen thread."

The housekeeper’s voice rose in a dreary chant as they walked the length of the storeroom. The old woman did not even glance at the open account book held in her hand.

As cheerful as the song beside a newly-raised barrow, Eowyn thought.

A row of wooden chests stood along the back wall. The two women pushed at the first lid until it creaked open with a sweet breath of cedar. Inside lay a length of blood-red cloth.

The housekeeper gently lifted the folded bundle and held it out to Eowyn. “Fourteen ells of wool dyed with good madder. Twenty ells were bought, but the tailor took six for Lord Boromir’s new surcoat last winter.”

So heavy and soft. Eowyn ran her hand along the cloth. She had met Boromir the Tall and remembered his restless mood; she could see this supple stuff swinging behind him with each long stride he took. Yet where now was that bright surcoat? She dared not think. “It is very fine,” Eowyn murmured.

Under the cloth of scarlet, they found a black brocade dappled with the simplest pattern of leaves. “This, my lady, was ordered from the weavers for Lord Denethor, but the tunic was never made.” The old woman offered it to Eowyn with a slight bow.

Her hands were still rough from days of riding and warfare, so the silk threads caught like burs on her calloused skin. Eowyn knew she would never use this cloth that was woven for a dead man. With a nod, she handed it back to the housekeeper.

The next chest held scraps of sea-green velvet sprinkled with silver beads, pieces left from the making of a gown. “No more than two ells at most, but the mis--the lady Finduilas asked me to save them.”

Eowyn smoothed out the folds in the velvet. Enough for a gown for a maid child.

Together, they placed the textiles back in the chests, layering them between garlands of lavender and wormwood to ward off corruption and pests.

“You have kept this storeroom well,” Eowyn told the housekeeper when they were finished with their work. “I see no sign of rot or beetles.” Then gladly she left to tend to other duties, for this accounting of the household had left her strangely downcast.

Written for the "Ghosts and Ghouls" challenge at Tolkien_weekly. Rather AU.


With the creak of tackle, the standard of Isildur was hauled up the mast. The faithless dead watched from the shore.

“Depart and be at rest!” the lord Aragorn shouted. Even as he spoke, he espied a shadow less blurred than the others. Still housed in flesh, it had not faded.

“Bide awhile, Boromir of Gondor!” he longed to cry, but he feared to burden the dead with a curse. His eyes stung from the smoke of battle, and he wept. Gray mists closed around the tall shadow; then the wind blew them aside, leaving naught but empty darkness.

Written for Acacea's birthday.


“I am drawing a battle, Father. And Captain Beregond is helping.”  Elboron held a red stone clenched in his fist; all around them, the white paving stones were scrawled with dark pink lines.

“Merely as a councilor, my prince. The drawing is Elboron’s work.” The captain of the guard rose to his feet; he had been sitting cross-legged on the ground.

“Elboron drew the ratchets on that catapult?”

“Well, no. I did add a few touches here and there.”

A pink Oliphaunt smiled cheerfully at Faramir from the pavement. It reared above a troop of Rohirrim, dancing on its hind legs. “That is a fine likeness of an Oliphaunt, Elboron. And that must be your uncle Eomer.” One horseman towered above his comrades, nearly as tall as the smiling mûmak

Beregond shook his head. “I never deemed it wise to use Oliphaunts in battle. In the press of the fight, they cared not who they trampled.”

“Poor beasts. No doubt they thought only of fleeing the slaughter.  They were far from their home in the South.” Faramir reached down to stroke his son’s hair.

Elboron looked up, his eyes dark with worry. “Did they ever find their way home, Father?”

“I never heard what befell them, but wild creatures can find their path without the aid of a map.  So perhaps, in the end, the Oliphaunts returned to the land of their birth.”

Seeming content with this answer, his son bent over the pavement and sketched another happy, pink Oliphaunt.

Written for Altariel's birthday and posted at HASA.  She asked for Faramir and luck or fate.


Faramir stretched the linen bowstring between his hands, searching for frayed threads; then he drew its length across the block of wax. The waterfall's damp breath soon ruined their gear.

When his kit was made ready, he unfurled a map from its oilcloth covering. Again he considered the tidings of the scouts, were it wisdom or folly to hazard this chance. Then he called the chosen men. Standing before him, they repeated their orders; he questioned each closely until he was certain they understood the plan.

After the ambush, the rangers would say, "Our Captain has indeed the soldier's luck."

Written for the "Other Characters" challenge at Tolkien_weekly.


Yes, I helped them bear the litter. Why do you stare? I swore to serve our lord in all things.

Would I stand aside and watch him burn? Not gladly. From the time he could reach their flanks with a brush, he helped me groom the horses. And I held the line as he first rode his pony. I loved him like a son. Yet I am merely a servant. When the steward called for oil, I dared not disobey. Do not fool yourselves--you would have done the same.

Boy! Fetch me more wine. I weary of this talk.

Written for the "Other Characters" challenge at Tolkien_weekly.


The servant bowed as he held out the scroll. “This arrived for you, my lord.”

“My thanks.” The young elf unrolled the parchment then started to read. Glancing at his brother, he drew a hand across his mouth. “‘Melethron nin, it is too long since I have felt your touch on my—’”

“Give me that, you troll! We are two hundred years old; when will they learn to tell us apart? We are no more alike--”

“Than two peas in a pod, brother.” The elf suddenly frowned, biting his lower lip. “Wait, let me see that letter again.”

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