First Snow Day. by curiouswombat

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Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only, and all rights remain with the estate of JRR Tolkien.


 

The Farmer

His breath formed puffballs of mist as he climbed from bed; the water in the jug was ice-crusted. He opened the door a crack and saw that outdoors the world wore a white shroud. The snow hid the imperfections in the buildings and regularised patched walls and roofs.

Handfuls of straw pushed into too-large footwear, and then feet wearing two pairs of well-darned socks, before he ventured out to feed his stock. Soon the children would waken and delight in snowballs.

Last year he had been a child – until the war – now he was too busy filling his father’s boots.

 

Morning Tasks

Water to bring in from the well, first. Praise Béma it was so deep that it hadn’t frozen totally. Put the water in the pot over the embers, quietly. It would be hot when the others awoke – and there’d be enough for them after he’d made hot mash for the horses.

He set off to the byre; it would be warmer there, but he stopped to break the ice on the puddle sized pond near the house.

His belly rumbled and he thought, ‘Lucky ducks that Grandmother values your eggs to come in spring more than your flesh, roasted, now!’

 

Dreaming of Flowing Water.

The cows eyed him sleepily but the horses were more alert. He spoke to them by name; promised them warm mash later. Beauty was heavy with foal; Grandfather’s Beald had covered her bare days before man and horse left with the éorlingas – both to end their lives far away. Father’s Greatheart stood beside her, returned home alone; his rider, too, buried on the Pelennor.

Those who returned spoke of Mundburg as beautiful even yet, with white walls and water fountains.

Osred stroked the mare and went back to the well muttering, “We could do with one of those, here.”

 

Snowballs.

Osred left the warm byre. Grandmother and Gytha would milk the cows and the goats; that was women’s work.

From the house came the sound of voices – soon the others would tumble out into the new snow.

Last winter he, too, would have thought firstly of fun. It seemed a long time ago. Grandmother said that time was a river and, try as you might, you could no more go back upstream than could a feather or a twig.

As the door opened he suddenly smiled, gathered up snow, and formed a snowball. Sometimes you could, he thought, tread water…

 

A Trick of the Light

They spent much of the day outdoors. Chores that could be done had been done; some were impossible and Grandmother, instead, told Osred and Gytha to mind the others at play.

They fought snowball battles and built a snowman – just as they always had on First Snow Day. But, this year, it had been Osred who lifted up small Liuba to give the snowman his head of golden straw hair, not Father.

Now their clothes hung before the fire, dripping water that caught the light. Osred tried not to imagine Father lying, dying, his blood forming a small crimson lake.

 

The Visit

From his high point Osred could see for miles. They said the plains were like the sea but Osred thought, more, that the sea might be like the Riddermark. Today all was glinting white and he could see, far away, riders.

Fascinated, he watched them close, as his feet froze in their too big boots.

By the time they wheeled into the farmyard, all the family were there.

“Gifts!” said the lead rider, “From Éomer King, to celebrate midwinter.”

Bacon, cheese, dried fish!

Best of all, though, was the knowledge that they were not forgotten, these children of the war.


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