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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.


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