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Multicultural Interactions  by annmarwalk

Mad as A Spring Hare (Elboron’s Tale)

I was late for curfew again, the third night running, and only in my first week of training. At home I went to sleep when I was ready, whether right after sunset, when all the doves in the cote went to roost, or long after the midnight, as the nightingale sang her goodnight song. How odd to be told what time to be sleepy, or hungry, or how many hours a day should be spent reading or practicing with the sword or bow. I wished, for the hundredth time, that my father had warned me about these things, these endless rules and procedures and obscure traditions; on the other hand, it’s quite possible that he did warn me, and I just was too excited to listen.

The quickest way from the Library to the student barracks was through the Courtyard, so hauling my pack over my shoulder, I dashed – I have always been a good runner – straight across. The sky was trying to clear after an evening shower, clouds skittering across the moon, and the stones of the courtyard were dappled by the moonlight. I was distracted a moment, thinking about the oddness of the word “dappled” in terms of moonlight on stone, rather than sunlight on green leaves. I did not notice the child standing motionless, staring at the Tree, until I had knocked her over.

I was stunned; even as I was helping her up, I was wondering what a child was doing, alone at midnight, in the Courtyard of the White Tree. But then, as she impatiently brushed my clumsy hands away, I realized she was not a child at all, but a young woman, golden-haired and perfectly proportioned, dressed in a court gown, one of the simpler ones the ladies-in-waiting wear when they are not on duty. Yet she stood not three feet tall.

Then I knew who she was.

With a flourish I reached to remove my hated skullcap, or would have removed it, had it not been lying on the ground, white feather now bedraggled and damp. I tried to reach for it gracefully, as I bowed, but it was just out of reach. I ended up on my hands and knees before I finally managed to snatch it up.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Gamgee, for my carelessness. I am Elboron son of Faramir, guard-in-training of the Citadel, and there is no excuse for my behavior. Are you hurt at all? I am truly, exceedingly sorry.”

Despite the ridiculousness of the situation, she responded formally as well, though I thought I saw her lip twitch a bit. “I thank you for your care, Lord – or is it Prince? Elboron. I am quite unhurt, thank you, though I might ask why you felt it necessary to run, mad as a spring hare, across the Courtyard at midnight?” By the bare glimmer of moonlight I could see that her eyes were laughing. My father had told me of the incessant good humor of the periannath ; I was pleased to see that in this, as in so many things, he had spoken true.

“A trifling matter, miss, of yet another rule being broken. Nothing to worry about, they’re quite used to it by now. But might I ask you the same? What brings you to the Courtyard, at this hour of the night? Surely if you share your father’s interest in horticulture and forestry”- she startled, just a little – “then the daylight would be more suited for such a study. Or are your duties so onerous that you can scarce spare a moment for a glimpse of our Tree, shining in the sun?”

She laughed, a sound like water dancing in the fountain of my mother’s garden. “You are glib of tongue for so young a man of Gondor! Your words dance as merrily as that of any Took or Brandybuck of the Shire. I am here this night because my father told me, ‘Elanor, my girl, you’ll see many a sight in that White City, visions like stories of the past come to life, but the loveliest thing you will ever see there will be the White Tree, the Tree of the Kings, with moonlight and starlight all around.’ He had tears in his eyes when he told me that, so I promised myself that just as soon as I could, I would come see for myself.”

I felt guilty, then, for in my rashness I had spoiled a moment of beauty and joy for her, and her remembrance of her father. And then I missed my father, too, and all his tales of history and poesy and lore.

“Forgive me then, miss, for I have come between you and your happy memory. My father has told me many tales of Samwise the Brave, his courage and devotion, and his great service to us all, as well as of his humor, storytelling, and cooking skills. Father holds him in quite high regard.”

“And I have heard much of your parents, too, and have only today – I suppose it is yesterday, now – received a note from your mother inviting me to call upon her one day next week for tea. Though I’ve not yet learned my way around the city…”

“Excellent! I have been invited as well! It seems odd to receive a formal invitation from one’s mother, and to have to have it approved by the Commander of the Training Brigade…” I suddenly felt sick at the thought of those two, no three, now, tardy slips, and the upcoming demerits. Surely…..

At that moment the Watchman of the Courtyard chose to appear, coughing discreetly. “I believe it may be past curfew for guards-in-training, though I am not exactly certain what time it is at the moment. And you, miss, might I escort you to the palace gate? These flagstones are still a bit slick from the rain. I wouldn’t want you to stumble along your way.”

Another quick bow, a curtsey, and we were both on our way. I walked briskly, whistling, thinking about all the marvelous kinds of folk there were in the world, and how pleasant it would be to get to know them. And wondering if we would have lemon bread at the tea party next week, because I surely missed lemon bread. And my mother, too.

Something To Write Home About (Elanor’s Tale)

I was not the slightest bit sleepy, despite the lateness of the hour, for I had discovered that much of being a lady-in-waiting really does involve just standing and waiting. For one used to long hours spent in household tasks, or gardening, or the care of obstreperous hobbit-children, attending the Queen took little energy at all. The rain had ceased around mid-evening, and the air was cool and fresh, smelling of unfamiliar flowers. I had been watching the waxing and waning of the moon over the past few weeks; this seemed a good night to try to catch a glimpse of the sight my father had described so many times.

It was just as he had said, and more – for the White Tree did glisten, not only with moonlight and stargleam, but droplets of rain still on the leaves. The breeze off the mountainside rustled them, and the gentle pattering disturbed a flock of tiny yellow birds. They fluttered sleepily, muttering, then settled back down. The sight seemed almost magical, like something out of one of my fathers’ tales. My little sister Daisy adored those tales, her mouth always open in a perfect O as she listened, spellbound. I simply stood in the quiet, drinking in the beauty of the scene, savoring each sensation to describe later.

…until something large and solid and sweaty-smelling came hurtling out of the darkness and crashed into me, toppling me to the ground. Whatever-it-was knocked the wind out of me, but then helped me up, mumbling what seemed to be both curses and apologies.

I barely caught his name – he spoke quickly, nervously, his thoughts seeming to dash madly from one thing to another. He reminded me instantly of my younger brother Pippin, who Da always says could talk the legs off of a frog. But then I realized what name the young man had mumbled, and who he was: the son of Prince Faramir, whom Da had always spoken of with such awe. “Actions speak louder than words, my girl, and that Lord Faramir had his quality shining through from the very start, in just the way he treated poor strangers, wayfarers in his land.” And now this gangly boy stood in front of me showing the nobility and quality of his house even as he tried to stuff the ridiculous cap, with its sodden feather, down over his tangled hair.

I could barely keep from laughing, but it would not do for either of us to surrender our dignity altogether. “I accept your apology, my lord, and thank you for your care. I was lost in thought, or would not have barred your path.” He twitched his nose, seeming to stifle a little choked laugh. I asked him how he came to be running so, and he asked me how I came to be standing so, and eventually we came around to the subject of our fathers. I was surprised that this young man knew so much about mine – his interest in green growing things, flowers and trees, and how he traveled all through the Shire sharing the knowledge he had learned in these mysterious lands.

The boy smiled broadly when I mentioned that his mother had invited me to tea, though there seemed to be an odd flicker of distress to his face afterward. We only had another brief moment to speak, for the Watchman had finally approached us, reminding Elboron of his curfew, to the boy’s chagrin, and tactfully offering to escort me to the Palace. As we walked, though, I heard the Watchman chuckle. I looked up – it seemed I spent most all of my time craning my head upwards, and blessed my mother for sending a jar of peppermint-scented muscle balm - and he winked broadly at me. “Quite a boy, that Elboron,” he murmured. “He’ll run us all ragged, before he’s done. But a good friend for you to have, miss.” I smiled back, already imagining the tale I would have to tell in my letter tonight.

2007 MEFA Award Winner First Place in Races: Cross-Cultural: Gondor

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