The next morning I awoke early to make ready for the day. I was not expecting Deverell to arrive for another day or two yet, but I wanted to be prepared if she did.
I made my way downstairs for what I planned to be a quick breakfast before taking Dandi outside the gates for a morning ride. The music of minstrels was a welcome greeting as I came to the foot of the stair. “They have begun early today,” I mused.
The common room was busy and getting busier by the minute. I fetched myself breakfast and found a table, turning my chair to both watch and listen to the minstrels taking turns before the hearth.
There were a good many friends who shared the morning and gifted us all with song. After a bit, I was asked to take my turn at the hearth as well.
“But I do not have an instrument with me,” I pleaded. “And I have errands to see to today.”
That excuse only lasted me for so long, however. So, with a show of feigned annoyance, I made my way over to Master Oaks.
One of the bards employed regularly by Master Barliman for the Pony, Owen Oaks was known to lend out instruments to the Pony’s patrons from time to time.
“Master Oaks, might I borrow one of your flutes? Just for a few minutes, for I must away very soon,” I asked.
“Certainly, lass. I just need a silver for a holder’s fee,” he nodded.
“A silver! Is it made of gold?” I asked incredulously.
He shook his head and whistled, “I wish it were. I will make change for you upon its return,” he offered with a smile.
“I only need it for five minutes! And how can you ask for a silver even were I to run off with the thing?” I asked, hands on my hips and with an air of defiance.
He grinned, “Because I know you have it, for one. And I have seen you lot here enough to know that five minutes really means thirty, if not the entire day.”
With a sigh of defeat, I reached for my purse, “You heeded the wrong calling, Master Oaks. There are no merchants I have ever found at market that fleece me more.” I handed over the silver with a smile and a nod of appreciation.
He pocketed the coin and gave me a pat on the hand, “Next time you will do better, lass.”
…it was the game we always played, and this time I was bested. But the moments in which we surface from our cares and our worries, the moments in which we are able to set everything aside and truly appreciate our place in time and that which surrounds us, have a worth beyond mere coin.
…for the moment, I was home, and I felt at home. And I was not going to let this time slip away…
I took my turn at the hearth, playing a few duets with friends…
…and then joined in the dance with a few more, when it was time for others to play. It was now mid-morning, and someone suggested we take our music and dance out to the stage in the Pony square and into the sunlight.
As we were making to head outdoors, Master Oaks caught my eye and gave me a smirk. I made a face at him and waved with my borrowed flute before tucking it inside my belt and joining the others outside.
The day was breathtaking, the kind you make wishes for when everything you have planned depends upon it being so. Many joined us outside, and we each took our turns onstage, while taking part in the dance in between.
As more joined in, dressed in their finery, I decided that my leathers would not do any longer. I made my way over to the town vault, where I kept some things stored away.
Maud Foxglove kindly fetched one of my dresses for me. I walked back to the Pony with it and brought it to my room.
“Much better than creaky old leathers for dancing,” I mused. I knew it was to be a special day, for there was no way to know when the next day I might gather with my friends would come, even if it would come…
I hurried outside once more to make the most of the day.
…I rejoined everyone outside, and we spent the day in good company and good cheer, as kindred spirits sharing so many of the beautiful things that have been gifted to us…
Together, we danced, and we sang, and we played, through mid-day…
…and into the afternoon…
In the late afternoon, as we twirled once again, we found a Bounder spying upon us, sharing in the music and dance.
“Genny!” I cried, for it was Gennyrose Greenblossom, the Rose of the Shire, herself. “Goodness, what brings you all the way to Bree-town?” I asked her.
“Oh, we’re meetin’ here for alliancin’,” she said. “I’m jus’ waitin’ for when the meetin’ starts.”
She danced with us until the twilight came, when one of the bands that often performs concerts in town began to prepare for their show near the stables, on the northern side of the square. Everyone went to find a spot to listen, leaving the two of us alone.
I gave her a hug, “I am so glad I got to see you before I had to away, Genny.”
“Me, too!” she grinned. “From tha’ note you left on the door of the Station, we weren’t sure we’d find you in time.”
“Oh, I almost forgot! The Chief sent something along for you, for the road,” she said.
“He did? That was very nice of him. What is it?” I asked.
“I’ll be righ’ back!” she waved and ran off. I laughed as I watched her go.
Evening descended quickly, and it was getting dark by the time she returned. “Here ya go!” she said. “One of the Chief’s finest!”
I took the pie into my hands, wondering if I would be able to wait until Deverell and I were on the road before trying some of it.
“Thank you so much, Genny. And give the Chief and everyone my best, will you?” I smiled.
“Sure I will. I’ve got to get to the meetin’ now. Good luck out there!” Genny said as she waved and ran off again.
The concert, played under the full moon and with a star-filled sky, was a delight to each of our senses, as street vendors plied their trade and found many a willing patron for their brews and treats.
We danced under the stars and took turns playing for each other when the concert had ended. Some had to leave to rest or see to things, while those who were newly arrived came to take their place. But most stayed through the night and into the new day.
The revelry went on with no signs of slowing. A new concert began the next morning and we pressed on, making merry and wishing well for one another and the lives that we share.
…though I was still anxious about our journey and what was to come, my time spent in Bree-town helped to reawaken me to many things, things precious and worth defending, even at great cost. When we take the time to enjoy that which we endeavor to save, surely our efforts in that regard will be all the more inspired…
…I took one last turn about the square, wishing everyone well for the rest of their day and the days to come…
…as I made my way toward the Pony, with the sincerest hope that Deverell would not find the time to arrive until the morrow, I allowed myself one last backward glance, willing myself to remember the worth of friends, and of our ways, and other things which the haze of time and routine can cause to dim…
I let Barliman know to send Deverell to my room, were she to arrive later in the day, and then went to rest.
The Spirit Gauntlet Saga
Also, the entire saga, with full-sized renderings, can be found here!
(The full renderings make for a completely different experience!)