What the heck is this? Read part one :)
The shadow and sun alternated as the morning chased away the last remnants of yesterday’s rain shower.
“Like this,” coached Gwilminawyn, speaking human once again. For that is what the small child turned out to be, a little human girl. Gwilminawyn ran her finger gently over the strings of her toy harp in a murmuring cascade of tinny notes. “Now you try.”
But the girl only stood and stared, keeping one short, and to Gwilminawyn’s eyes, stocky arm wrapped around Galanian’s elbow. Gwilminawyn stared back, marveling anew at how round the eyes, the face, the ears all were; how red and short curly the hair was; how mottled the skin looked. Freckles, her mother had called them. And they were normal, for a human at least.
Gwilminawyn sat down near the child and held her harp where the girl could reach it. “Like this,” she said, and ran her own slender grey finger along the strings again.
“Don’t push her, Gwilminawyn,” her mother cautioned. “It’s enough that she sat and ate with us. She’ll play with you when she’s ready.”
“I’m not pushing her. I’ll just sit here still and quiet and hold my harp for her. It’ll be like holding nuts for the chipmunks in the garden.”
Once again Gwilminawyn sat on the floor of her family’s front room. The thick rug had been unrolled and served as a soft surface to play on. Gwilminawyn had her doll, Sarananae, and her plush floppy ear bunny and her little wooden dishes on the rug near her. Also sitting on the rug was the small human girl wearing Gwilminawyn’s tunic as a short dress. In two days, she still hadn’t spoken, so the elves did not know her name, but she was playing a little now. While Uncle Galanian had to remain in the same room with her, she had become comfortable enough to venture a few feet from him.
“What. Do. You. Think? Which. Dress. Shall. The doll. Wear? The blue dress? Or…. the white dress?”
A short pudgy finger touched the white dress.
“The white dress? It is good. Let us. Get. The doll. Ready for tea.” Gwilminawyn had no idea why humans would need to change their clothes before drinking tea, but Uncle Galanian had assured her that he had watched a group of human girls engage in just this sort of pretend play.
“She is making progress, Galanian,” Gwilminawyn’s father observed from the doorway. “Though, I am still not sure why you brought her here. Would she not be better with her own people?”
“I tried, Thurvial. I tried, but…..here, let me start from the beginning. Perhaps then you will understand how I could not…. Let me start from the beginning.”
A little hand grasped the blue dress and laid it on the head of the stuffed bunny.
“I do not think. Rabbit. .. will go.. into.. the blue dress.”
In answer, the hand patted the dress and the rabbit twice, insisting.
“It is good. We shall. Try. The rabbit is… bigger… than… the dress. But.. we shall try.”
“I came across the remains of another village. The orcs have been particularly brutal in their raids against the human frontier. The humans had taken to clustering their homes together for protection, but a dirt embankment around a group of twenty to fifty small hovels is little defense against a orc raiding party. There is often little left. They have little enough to begin with, and the orcs just leave a cluster of smoldering heaps when they go through. I always make a search for survivors, but what I usually find--“
Gwilminawyn ducked her gaze back down to the dress tangled around a set of felt ears. Too late, her uncle had already noticed her eyes on him as she was listening to the tale.
Her uncle cleared his throat. “This time,” he continued, “the little girl was the only one I found alive. I made a sweep of the area, looking to see if any others had fled and hidden nearby. But I found no one else. I traveled with the child for several days before I came to a properly walled town where I thought it safe enough to leave her.”
“The Rabbit wears the dress. The dress will not….. close. But… the rabbit wears the dress. Is it good?”
“And then, where should I leave her? With whom could I entrust her? She still had not spoken, no matter how I coached her. I began to wonder if she could speak. That made the choice of how to place her even more difficult. Which family could I trust to raise an orphaned, traumatized, perhaps mute child as carefully as they would their own? I spent several more days in the town, calling upon a few of the families there. When at last I had made my choice, the child had to be pried from my arms and given to the woman that would, I hoped, be her new mother. And then, for the first time, she made a sound. She started crying so piteously, not loudly, just the barest, heartbreaking weeps. I turned to leave, but if I had walked out on that sound, it would have haunted me forever. I took her back. What else could I do? We had both seen too much, been through too much. What else could I do?”
In the quiet that followed her uncle’s question, Gwilminawyn lowered her voice to a whisper. “Rabbit sits here. Doll sits here. I sit here. You sit there. Here is a cup… for the rabbit. Here is a cup for the doll. Here is a cup for you. Here is a cup for me.”
“We cannot call her ‘Little One’ indefinitely.”
“Of course not, Galanian. But you have been spending too much time around the short-lived humans if you think a few fortnights an ‘indefinite’ period of time.”
“You tease me, as usual, sister of mine.”
“Of course I do. She speaks now, give her more time.”
“She speaks only to Gwilminawyn.”
“But she does speak.”
Under the blanket draped table, Gwilminawyn paused when she heard her name. But the adult conversation seemed nothing new. “Can you find your nose? Good! Can you say nose?”
“Right! That is your nose!”
Gwilaminawyn held the book carefully, balancing it on her lap, cradling the spine in one hand and not letting either cover fall completely open….just as she had been taught. It was awkward to do since the book was so large, but being considered mature enough to enter the library unsupervised was a privilege, and not one which she wanted to lose through carelessness. She scanned through the pages of history.
“Hel-eh-wi-sa”, she sounded out. She looked up to study Little One who sat playing with lengths of ribbons. “No.”
She turned a few pages and tried again. “Maz-a-lin-a.”
Little One showed no interest.
“Oh, yes, the doll is named Sarah.” Sweet Sarananae surely wouldn’t mind having a human name as well. Gwilminawyn turned more pages.
Gwilminawyn gently put the book down. “Evelyn,” she said again.
“My name is Gwilminawyn. What is your name?”
“No, your name is not Min. My name is Gwilminawyn. Is your name Evelyn?”
“You say Ev-eh-lyn.”
(Go to part 3.... )