The room in Ravenhold was just as she found it the day Oendir opened the door and motioned her inside. That evening seemed so long ago, but not even a year had passed since then. Cwen had not had the chance to see the fields lying thick and green with crops and blossoms and that saddened her as she stared at the empty room. She loved the lay of the grounds of Ravenhold and, somehow, she knew the view from the fountain would be spectacular when the grain fields were swaying like an ocean of gold before harvest.
But, she told herself, the view from her parlour at Gardeneve was spectacular, too.
The wagon was loaded. Neilia was already downstairs saying goodbye to the staff that rose to prepare for dawn. The girl remained chipper as she told everyone she would be back soon and that they should not be sad to see her leave. Most gave her pats and hugs and appropriately sad smiles that they would not give her mother. Cwen did not seek them. She did not want to see the rumours and the truths in their eyes. She only wished to be done with this journey and find the peace she desperately needed in the quiet life of the Shire.
As she turned her back on the room, she ran a finger along the edge of the letter she had spent most of the night writing over and over again. Each failed attempt found the fire; she had watched them curl in the flame as it consumed her words, and for some reason it calmed her. The uncertainty of her decision lifted with each tiny piece that floated on the hot air and faded away. The issue of Biramore could not be dealt with here in Bree. That chapter of her life needed to be finished before she could truly begin the next.
But still, it was hard to find the words to tell Oendir what she felt needed to be said. She struggled to capture each emotion and trap it on the page. Even now, she could still toss the letter on the fire and watch it burn until all that was left was a dark purplish stain of wax left on the logs. But she didn’t. Instead she turned from the room and walked with a stubborn purpose.
She looked up at the staircase that led to the third floor and then on to Oendir’s study. He wouldn’t be there, she thought to herself as she willed herself forward. She would leave it for him to read or discard. It was his choice.
The study felt small despite its size. The smell of woodsmoke and fresh air surrounded her, but she pushed it away from her thoughts as she crossed to his desk and slipped the note among other unopened letters on his desk.
The moment the letter left her hand, the desire to flee Ravenhold overwhelmed her and Cwen rushed down to the yard where Neilia waited with Cook and grumpy Benjamin holding the reins of Bean for her. The small band they were traveling with to Buckland would be leaving from the West Gate soon; swift goodbyes and an unusually stoic Neilia sat before Cwen on the great horse’s back as they rode away from Durrow and the family they had found there.
Home, Cwen thought as the sun rose high enough to warm her back. I’m on the road to home.
A week later, old Benjamin trudged up the steps of Ravenhold to discuss the quality of the remaining feed and oats stored for the winter with the commander. He held a bill of sale and several other envelopes and he was determined that something was amiss with the latest deliveries for the horses; and confound it, he was going to right it if it was last thing he’d do!
Unfortunately, the commander was not in. He was often ‘not in’ lately, though it seemed as though it was not because he was off gallivanting around in who-knows-where or anything of that sort. Being mayor must occupy much of his time and being a father ought to occupy the rest.
Benjamin grumbled despite this. He considered leaving the bill of sale on Oendir’s desk, but he knew the man would not understand without him to explain the discrepancy. Heaving a sigh for the time he would lose trying to explain it to the commander, he turned to trudge back down to the stables when the corner of an unusual envelope caught his eye.
Who in Stockard’s grave would be sending the commander a letter in a lavender envelope? Who went to such an effort to procure a bloody lavender envelope?
Without much consideration for the act, Benjamin snagged the lavender envelope and relieved it of the pile of other envelopes stacked atop it. The dark purple seal was already broken. He carried it against his side and kept it covered with the papers he held until he found sanctuary from prying eyes in the stables.
He opened the letter and read a simple note of affection and thanks:
Dear Comander Oendir Arrowheart,
Thank you for Songhorn. He is my most favorit present I have ever got. Even more than my dresses in Dol Amroth. I will miss you. You are brave and strong! I hope Solsey grows up brave and strong like you so he can fite bad people and safe us, too.
Please come visit me and Mama in Buckland. You are nice and I like it when you make me laff!
Benjamin felt a bit guilty for pilfering the note now that he saw it was from the little girl. The yard was much quieter in these cold days without her shrill shouts of laughter as she played. Often the children from the nursery would come to play as well and together they filled the neighborhood with their energy. Yes, it was quieter with her gone from Ravenhold.
Another slip of parchment was behind the little girl’s note.
I know that it seems as though I am running away. Many see it that way and there is little I can do to explain to them that I am not running. I think you understood when I told you that I did not have a home in Durrow and that I needed home right now. I hope you understood.
Now that I am looking at leaving Ravenhold, leaving you, my hope is that you can find it in your heart to forgi
Benjamin started to read, but quickly stuffed the papers back into the envelope and decided it was better to replace the thing at his earliest convenience. He tried to ignore the rumour mongering of the town gossips; he did not want to know what else Miss Cwendlwyn had to say to the commander. It was none of his business. It was none of anybody’s business.
And even though he had more than a few complaints about the know-it-all from the south, Benjamin felt sorry for Arrowheart as he turned back to the horses gazing out at him evenly. As one, their gazes shifted to the stall where Miss Cwendlwyn’s steed had been kept as if they knew what was on the old stablemaster’s mind.
Grumbling, Benjamin shoved the purple envelope onto a table where several harnesses lay to be tuned, the metal pieces polished. Horses were easy, he thought as he picked up a worn bit of leather strap. Women. Women were the tough ones.