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Branwyn's Baubles  by Branwyn

“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.

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