Voices Soft as Thunder
A Woman of the Town
Pairing: No Pairings at this time
Warnings: Bandying about of the word ‘Whore’
Summary: Haldir watches a lady of the night and becomes entangled in her life
Time: Before the events of The Lord of the Rings
Feed Back: Always welcomed
Disclaimer: All things from LoTR belong to J. R. R. Tolkien. Any other recognizable characters or situations are inspired by and belong to Victor Hugo. This is just for fun. No profit is made from this venture.
Beta: dragon_fly_1_23 (a big thanks for helping to keep my commas under control)
Voices Soft as Thunder
Haldir watched over the woman as she slept through the night, her fever-induced dreams did little to provide her with a restful slumber. Several times during the night Maegden had called out for the child that was not there. During the time Maegden slept peacefully, Haldir was able to contemplate his actions earlier that evening. It was unlike him to concern himself with the day to day life of mortals. To the Eldar the race of Man were like an ember in the flame, burning brightly before the light was extinguished forever. Time passed differently for the Elvish people than it did for Man. What were sixty or seventy years to one who would live until the end of time?
The disbelief on the faces of his brothers had asked the same question that Haldir asked himself. Why? What was it about a woman that sells herself for the pleasure of others that made him want to interfere with her life? Why her and not any of the others that were on the street?
The abuse that Maegden went through on the street was something that would have never happened in an Elvish community. The mere thought of striking a female sickened Haldir, even if she was an unfortunate ‘woman of the town’. He could not fathom why it was so easy for men to degrade their women so. Selling one’s self in the street should not be the only available option for a woman to survive.
“Diore. Diore, my sweet little girl. Come to me,” Maegden murmured as she rolled over, one hand falling over the edge of the bed.
Haldir reached over and placed her arm back under the covers. “Quiet, hiril nin, all will be well.”
Brushing her sweat soaked hair from her face, Haldir thought of the good Constable Stapa. He did not believe he was a wicked man, just one who was very strong in his convictions. In his long life Haldir had seen men who were so ridged in their beliefs that nothing could persuade them to think otherwise. Haldir believed Stapa was a man just like that.
Haldir saw that Stapa did not care that Maegden was simply woman trying to provide for her child or that she was ill. Stapa was so focused that the only thing he saw was someone attacking a Lord of the town and that someone was a fallen woman. Someone worthy of his contempt, not his pity. The sound of the door opening brought Haldir out of his musing on Maegden and Stapa as the old woman entered the room.
“How is our patient this morning?” The old woman asked as she walked to the bed. Placing a hand on Maegden’s brow, she shook her head at the heat coming from the sleeping woman. “Not good, I think.”
“Aye madam. Her slumber has been disturbed by her dreams. She has had very little rest.”
“My name is Ryd.”
Haldir nodded his head in respect to the old woman before answering her. “I am called Haldir.”
“You one of them Elves from the Woods, aren’t you?”
Again he answered by nodding his head.
“I’ve heard of you but I ain’t never seen one before. You folks stay pretty much to yourselves.”
“True. Very rarely do we travel beyond our borders these days.”
“Hurmp,” the old woman snorted before continuing, “Dark times are a coming. I can feel it in me bones.”
A low moan coming from the bed interrupted any further conversation that might have been held between the two ancient beings.
“Diore. Where are you?”
Sitting on the bed beside her patient, Ryd pulled a vial from an apron pocket. Unstopping the cork, she asked Haldir to sit Maegden up.
“Here lassie, drink this. This will help with your fever.”
Maegden struggled weakly against the foul taste of the potion, but Ryd was able to get her to drink most of the fever reducer. Harsh coughing wracked her fragile body as Haldir helped to settle her back against the pillows.
“Whatever you and that mayor are going to do to find her child, you had better make it quick.” XXXXXXXX
Haldir had left after the two village girls arrived to help Ryd with Maegden's care. The morning sun had cast a rosy glow over the snowy street as he searched for his brothers. He wanted them to return to Lorien and report their findings without him. Haldir had decided to stay and help Maegden in whatever way he could. Something about that poor woman touched him. The first priority was to find the child and then to help Maegden find a more honorable profession, one that would provide for her and the child. But right at this moment he needed to find his brothers.
Haldir turned at the sound of his name and was surprised to see the mayor. Dressed still in the clothing he wore the night before, the man looked as if he had not slept during the night.
“Mae govannen, Mayor.”
“How is Maegden this morning?”
“Sleeping when I left. Have you found any sign of the child?”
“No, but I found where Maegden lives. If you would come with me maybe we can find something.”
Unseen by the two, Constable Stapa watched from a distance as the tall Elf and the mayor moved down the street. Stapa did not trust that Elf, despite what grand titles he might hold. And the mayor stirred a memory of a man long ago who broke his parole and disappeared. Stapa had spent his first years as a law officer guarding the prison near Bree. At this prison there was a prisoner named Godlean, a small man but very strong, working off his sentence for thievery. He had smashed a window and stole a loaf of bread, all to feed his sister’s children or so he claimed. The punishment for robbing a house was not that harsh, but when compounded with his numerous escape attempts the sentence far exceeded what had originally been given him. After he was paroled Godlean never reported in, instead he ran, never to be found. But surely the mayor is not this criminal Godlean, that man was probably long dead by now, done in by his wicked ways. Shaking his head at his foolishness, Stapa followed the two at a distance, making sure he stayed out of their sight. XXXXXXXX
Haldir knew they were being followed. Constable Stapa had been trailing their every move since the mayor had crossed the street this morning. He followed them to the poor section of the town, always just out of sight. The bright morning sun did little to dispel the darkness of this section in the town. The shadowed alleyways and streets reeked of despair and hopelessness. Most of the buildings were falling in ruin, far beyond simply needing repair. A small dark haired girl of no more then four or five winters stood on the sagging porch of her home. Her tattered dress showed her dirty legs as she played with the broken remains of what had at one time been a doll. One small hand clutched the doll head to her chest as she watched the two strangers move through the street. Haldir gently smiled at the young girl but she turned and fled through the curtained doorway of her home. Haldir merely raised an eyebrow upon hearing the frightened cries of the child coming from within.
Haldir wrinkle his nose in distaste, the open drainage ditch flowing in the center of the street emitted a foul smell. Dirty children played in the filth, oblivious to their surroundings. The racket they were making did not rouse the drunk in the stockyard, who was no doubt sleeping off last night’s meal. Haldir watched as the man mumbled something in his sleep and rolled over, tightening his grip on the pig he was sleeping with. A window opened above their heads and they had to move quickly to escape the rain of garbage that was dumped from the window.
“Why are conditions such as these allowed?”
“I am but one person. I do what I can to help the unfortunate but it is too much to do alone.”
“The townspeople care naught but for themselves,” Haldir simply stated.
“Yes, they only care for their own.”
“Tis a sad day when one does not care for their fellow Man.”
Dodging the muddy potholes, the Elf and the Man came to a stop in front of a rundown building. Wooden planks covered most of the windows, and several of the stairs had collapsed inwards, making for a dangerous path to the door. Treading lightly on the staircase, Haldir stepped over several gaping holes and reached for the handle. He looked over his shoulder to be certain that the mayor had reached the landing. The battered door gave a rusty groan as it was opened. Stepping through the doorway, they entered into a hallway that was dimly lit even at this time of day. Smells of unwashed humanity and cooked foods wafted through the corridor, the scent following them to the door at the end of the hall.
Stopping before the chipped and scarred door, Haldir was uncertain at what they would find waiting for them. Was the child there, left unattended for Valar knew how long? Or was there something more sinister waiting for them to open the door? Hand on the doorknob, Haldir paused, listening intently for any sound from within. Hearing nothing but silence coming from behind the door, he opened it and went in.
Dust motes danced through the sunlight streaming in from the dirty and smudged window. Most of the open surfaces of the small room were littered with trash and other refuse. A large brown rat stared at Haldir from one corner of the room, the long whiskers twitching at the intruder. The mayor picked a cup off of the counter and threw it at the rat. With a flick of his long tail, the rodent disappeared into the gloominess of his corner.
“Blah. Rats. I hate them.” the mayor answered Haldir’s unasked question.
“It appears that she does not have her child here with her.”
The room was completely devoid of any signs that a child dwelled within its walls. The mayor, standing in the middle of the room let out an exasperated sigh, as he surveyed the room.
“I truly had hoped to find Diore here waiting for her mother to return,” the mayor said as he ran a hand over his face.
“There must be some sign of her,” Haldir answered as he strode across the room to a chest-of-drawers. Opening a drawer, he searched the contents found inside. Nothing. Drawer after drawer was opened, each one not producing any results. Haldir moved on, searching another section of the room.
Taking the lead from the tall Elf, the mayor began to search the rest of the room. Flipping back the soiled covers on the bed, he found nothing but a black bug skittering across the grimy sheets. Dropping to his hands and knees, he peered under the bed. His eyes widened as he saw something. There, pushed to a far corner, a book rested in the shadows.
“Haldir. Come help me move this bed. There is something under here.”
Between the two of them they were able to move the heavy bed. Haldir picked up the slim book. It was bound in a dark green cloth, the cover stamped in gold. He drew a finger over the lettering... TO MAEGDEN, MY BELOVED DAUGHTER. A clue perhaps? Moving to the table, Haldir cleared off a space and sat down with slim book. With the mayor standing over his shoulder, he began to read. XXXXXXXX
Today is my birthday and papa gave me this journal. He said...
Haldir flipped through the pages, skipping what was obviously written in a childish hand. The mayor was surprised that the girl was educated, very few females were given the opportunity to learn how to read or write.
“Maegden must have come from a noble family to be educated as such.”
“Are your females not educated?” Haldir asked, disbelieving.
“Very few. Even if they were born into a noble family.”
Haldir shook his head as he continued to read...My husband has made the choice to leave Edoras. Theoden-King is slowly falling under the spell of Grima Wormtongue. Our home is no longer the place it once was. Ever since the death of the Queen, that slithering little snake has gained the ear of the King. My husband has gone to make his farewell to Theodred and Eomer. We do not know when, if ever, we will return. Maybe once the King is free of the influence of that worm, we will return. But that remains in the future. Today I discovered that I am with child and the very thought of a journey frightens me...
Skimming through the pages, Haldir read her expectations of traveling to a new city, of the early discoveries of pregnancy, of the uncertainty of the future. One entry caught his attention.My child was born today. My sweet Diore. If only her father was here to see his child. He died on the journey to M--. His horse stumbled in a rabbit hole, throwing him to his death. We were just a day from our destination. I arrived alone, pregnant and grieving. The townspeople at first were kind, but after awhile they stopped believing that I had a husband. I am too tired and heartsick to return to Edoras, there is nothing left there for me to return to. My parents had succumbed long ago to sickness and age. My husband was an orphan. He was the only family I had left.
Haldir turned the tear stained pages, stopping at an entry that was dated several years later.Today Diore turned three. Each day I see her father in her, whether in a glance or a gesture. I miss him so much. I wish at times we had never left Rohan. The only thing that keeps me going is my darling daughter. Times are hard here in this place. I have heard of a town four days journey from here. It is said that the work is plentiful and easy to find. I meet with a Ranger named Halbarad and he has agreed to escort me there next week. I am to met with him at the Kings Head Inn. Thankfully Diore is young enough that I will not have to explain too much about why we are leaving the only home she has known.
Haldir looked up as the mayor pulled a tattered bag from a closet.
“What are you doing?”
“I am packing some of Meagden’s things. I figure she might want a few of her belongings.”
Haldir nodded as he continued to read.
“A good idea.”The day was rainy when we met with the Ranger from the North. The proprietor of the Kings Head Inn and his wife seemed very nice. They warned me of the dangers of traveling with a small child and offered to take Diore and care for her as one of their own, for a small price. The Burhisittends’ have two daughters themselves. Their girls looked happy and well fed. After much deliberation I decided to leave Diore with them. It will be easier. The journey to a new town will be difficult and then to find work and a place to live. I have agreed to send the Burhisttends’ money each month and when the time comes they will send Diore to me. I hope I am doing the right thing.
The next few entries were sparse. She was busy with finding a means of supporting herself. Working for money was something she had yet to become adjusted to, for her father had been a nobleman of Rohan. After the death of her father, Grima had done everything in his power to destroy her family’s House. Maegden had never understood what grudge the King’s advisor held against her family. It was not long after the ruin of her House that Meagden’s mother was placed in the burial mounds alongside her husband.
Things started to look brighter after she had found work in the mayor’s house. Wages were good and it provided a place for her to live. Soon she would have enough money to send for Diore. The Burhisttends’ were such good people for caring for another’s child. Or so Maegden had thought. The innkeeper sent several letters reporting Diore’s progress, on how much she was growing, and would Maegden send more money, for the darling child was growing so much that new clothing was needed.
Haldir raised an eyebrow as he continued to read. I received a letter today. My child is sick and needs a healer. I must send more money right away to pay for the healer. I do not know what to do. The wages I make at the mayor’s house are good but with rent and the money I send to Master Burhisttends I have very little left over. I guess I can sell some of mamma’s jewelry to help pay for the medication that Burhisttends says that Diore needs.
The more Haldir read of the good Master Burhisttends the less he cared for him. With a snap Haldir shut the journal and stood up. The room was empty, the mayor had long left. The morning sun had given way to afternoon snow as Haldir left the dilapidated building and went in search of his brothers. XXXXXXXX
The lack of a town name (M--) is deliberate, it is taken from something that was written over a hundred and fifty years ago.