Narn I Auros

First Impressions

Second Age 3223, Late Tuilë, Harlindon

by Eonwë-(Valar)
February 29, 2024

Dinmir stepped through the door into her new shop with a big grin, took a deep breath... and erupted into a fit of coughing. Ok, dusting is the first order of business. Windows and shutters creaked open as she let in the light to survey her new domain; the gentle breeze was a nice perk. The previous tailor had left behind some shelves and a couple of workbenches, so there was something to start with. She could already envision a table and chairs sitting by the fireplace at the back wall for warming up on cold days, with a hot kettle of tea waiting just like she had in Imladris. Peering into the back room, she found it more spacious than she was used to. The fireplace opened on both sides of the wall, so warmth would reach all her shop.

Thoughts of a cot for long nights and early days crossed her mind before she pushed them out. She didn't want to get too comfortable with that idea. Dinmir had a nice little house not far from town, and she needed to get it ready. Ready for guests, and ready for gatherings. Maybe not large ones at first, but it would be a great way to show off her talents as a tailor. She'd managed to get it at a good price. It was still sound, but it'd been uninhabited for a long time. The moment Auros saw it he got a gleam in his eye. He didn't see a house, he saw a purpose, a quest. He got the same grin he got at the anvil, right before he pulled the ingot from the forge and shaped it into whatever he'd been commissioned to make. Before she even took possession of the keys, he'd already had a list of work to be done.

Back to her workbench she glided, taking her seat to get a feel for her new shop. Her workbench. Her shop. She was glad to be in a new city, away from Imladris. Away from things she'd tried her darndest and couldn't seem to bring to fruition. That dear Muinassë had found such an opportunity for her, and right when she needed it... well, Dinmir knew it wasn't coincidence. Likely her mentor had more than an inkling of the situation before she sat down for tea. Dinmir needed the change: the space, the newness, the adventure; and Muinassë knew it.

The emptiness of the room pressed around her. Before a frown could take hold, she pushed herself out from the workbench and rose to her feet, setting a smile in its proper place. Through the window came a conversation about the bakery across the way: Auros and Farothel were contemplating lunch before it was even late morning. Alas, the wind carried those aromas in the wrong direction, but her heart was set for fresh bread and sweet rolls, hopefully with blueberry filling, for weeks to come. When bored, she could stand outside and study the arrangements decorating the flower shop next door. Of course the wind had no qualms carrying those scents to her.

The windowsill made for a comfortable place to lean as she watched them pull the boxes from the wagon, Auros testing each to make sure the heavy ones went on the bottom and Farothel seeing how fast he could get away with passing them to Auros before the latter told him to slow down. She wanted to chuckle when she heard a strained "Half a minute, if you please!" Farothel got to five that time, but if he wasn't careful, he'd find himself as the one trying to catch and sort all the boxes. Let Farothel have his fun. All those boxes are cloth and thread anyway. Once everything is set, I'll have to dive right in and get to work, so I might as well enjoy the entertainment while I can.

Aldawë would be along in a few weeks with the rest of her belongings, and she wasn't going to let him think she'd been sitting around doing nothing. She would be ready, but there was still so much to do. Her house had two guest rooms, so someone was sharing once Aldawë got there. Farothel declared he was cooking for the entirety of his stay. No one else was allowed to so much as touch a pot or pan. How many tailors could boast they had a chef trained in Lord Elrond's own kitchens? Auros, on the other hand, was going to wear himself out trying to make sure everything in, on, and around her house was repaired and in order before he left. He told her not to worry about finding carpenters. "Save your money," he'd said. "None of it's so difficult that Farothel and I can't handle it." Dinmir had no doubt they could handle the repairs, but could the two of them really finish it all in such a short time?

"Good day!" Without so much as a hint of her approach, a woman appeared in the open doorway, Dinmir's doorway, with the lightest of knocks on the doorpost. "You must be the new tailor. My name is Thiliel. Pleased to meet you."

Dinmir's musings were cast to the side with the greeting, but she still wore her excitement and determination as she turned towards her door. "Aye, my name is Dinmir. It is indeed a pleasure."

"I thought I should stop by to introduce myself. My shop is the one right next to yours."

"Ah. You must be the florist."

"The florist." Thiliel's grin widened as she found more height to draw up. "I like to think I am, though we have another in town, and a gardener or two who think themselves up to the task. I'm the one who's your neighbor, at least. Our previous tailor was a good friend. It was a shame when he set sail for Aman, but I'm sure you'll prove capable."

There was a barb in the tone of those last words. Dinmir was certain of it. Perhaps she wasn't up to any sort of villainy, but this woman --- this Thiliel --- had managed to come to Dinmir's door unnoticed, and while it was a cordial greeting on the surface, it set Dinmir on edge. She refused to let it show through. "I'm sure I will. Muinassë wouldn't have recommended me otherwise."

"Muinassë? Ah, Muina-nassë. I'm familiar with that name, though it's been so long since I've heard it in Quenya. Had you said Dolennass I would've recognized it at once. I'm also familiar with who gave her that name. Dolennass was quite a tailor from what I hear, and quite a person. Despite our different professions, perhaps we'll find we have much in common."

"Perhaps. And yes, Muinassë is on both counts." With determination, the smile remained fixed. This woman seemed to think she knew more about Dinmir's mentor than Dinmir herself.

The emptiness amplified the rustle of Thiliel's dark blue dress as she glided further into the shop, coming to a halt by one of the shelves. A slender finger traced a path through the dust, then with a look of disdain she rubbed it together with her thumb. Hands dropped to her sides with a grimace. "This town can be rather busy during the warm seasons, when traders and other venturing folk come down the old Dwarf road. I imagine as a tailor you'll get to meet a lot of different people."

Dinmir's eyes narrowed as she straightened her back, fighting the twinge of indignation at Thiliel's affront. She realized what was bothering her. Appearing with no warning, drawing attention to the dust on her shelves, the barbed words, that smug glare; despite the outward pleasantries, this woman was trying to goad her. Too bad for her, Dinmir refused to be ruffled. "No more than a florist, I'm sure."

"Perhaps. You know, the gifting of flowers is a whole language of its own." Thiliel's tone remained measured and pleasant, but there was no disguising that critical glare watching her, studying, daring her to misstep. It made Dinmir feel like she was being tested. "One can learn much by what flowers a person buys for someone else."

"And sometimes a flower is just a flower." If Thiliel was testing her, Dinmir wasn't about to let her win.

"That is also true. Sometimes a flower is just a flower, unless it's your favorite flower, and then it's a sign the person who buys it knows it's your favorite ---"

"Or got lucky."

Thiliel shrugged. "Or got lucky. Either way, it behooves one to know the language of flowers. Much can be gleaned by those who take heed."

Was this the test? This small thing? Dinmir had plenty of practice reading when someone was trying to stifle a grin, and the way Thiliel's lips hinted towards one gave every indication that this was what she was supposed to catch. "Indeed. So, when was the wedding?"

"I beg your pardon?"

Thiliel's feigned ignorance didn't fool her. She'd caught the glint in the woman's eyes, that slight twitch in recognition when she mentioned the wedding. Still, if the woman expected her to spell out how she knew, Dinmir was willing to oblige. "The flowers you have in your upper window. Magnolia signifies nobility, which normally I'd take as 'nobility of spirit', but I suspect this is meant to signify a person of noble birth. Honeysuckle for devoted love. Myrtle for wishes of luck and love in marriage. Of course, I'd already heard a local nobleman was married not too long ago."

Thiliel grinned as she appeared to put herself at ease. "They were married three weeks ago. He's one of my best customers, actually. I'm glad to see you're so observant. We need more observant people around here. You've also started to learn about the town, and you speak the language of flowers! We might just get along famously."

"Dinmir, where do you want these boxes?" Auros couldn't see over the stack he had in his arms, but he moved like he'd been in the shop a hundred times before.

"Bah, I haven't even dusted yet. Over in the far corner, please."

Thiliel smoothed her dress and put her hands behind her back as she watched Auros' effortless navigation of the room. "Is this your personal guard? The journey must've been quite safe. I imagine the sight of him strikes fear in the heart of even the most hardened brigand."

The change in Thiliel's demeanor wasn't missed, nor the softening of her voice, but Dinmir refused to lower her guard. She wasn't the only one: Auros was sizing up the situation as he first glanced at her, then the new person in front of him. A tinge of self-amusement gleamed in his eye as he answered.

"Me? I'm just a humble boxer. Among other things." Auros patted the stack he'd just set down. It was a subtle bit of humor, even for him.

"Oh?" There was a look on Thiliel's face that had to be intrigue.

"Well, I'm a fencer too."

"Oh yes. You should see his fencing. Impressive skill. It's practically art." A smile had snuck past Dinmir's defenses. "This is Auros. Auros, this is Thiliel. She owns the flower shop next door."

"I see." Auros bowed. "Nice to meet you."

With the way the corners of her lips crept upward, Thiliel seemed to find Auros amusing. "The pleasure is mine."

With Thiliel's curtsey, Dinmir noticed for the first time the gentle scent of flowers that clung to the woman and she couldn't stop her brow from furrowing. Did she manage to walk this far into my shop without so much as disturbing the air, or does she have some fresh petals in a hidden pocket she keeps to crush when she wants to make an impression?

Thiliel locked eyes with Auros and tilted her head. That precise, scrutinizing focus once aimed at Dinmir had found a new target. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to settle a discussion for us? If you were to buy a woman flowers, what would you give her?"

"The flowers I bought her." The frankness, the straight face, the dry delivery. Auros was unfazed by whatever Thiliel thought she was going to accomplish.

Dinmir, on the other hand, had to turn around to hide how much she wanted to laugh. You didn't even hesitate. Auros, sometimes you're too much. She turned back in time to catch Thiliel, gaze cast to the floor, holding in her own laughter with only a sliver more success.

Once she'd regained her composure, Thiliel looked back up at Auros, her smile broader and a shine in her eyes as she smoothed the dark hair spilling over her shoulders. "Of course. How silly of me. What flowers would you buy for her?"

"That depends on who she is."

"Who would you want her to be?"

His gaze darted from Thiliel to Dinmir and back again. Hints of a smile flashed through his studious visage. "I don't think they'd survive the trek to my mother." Auros gave a slight bow of his head. "Excuse me ladies. I have more boxing ahead of me."

Auros disappeared through the doorway as Thiliel watched with a gentle shake of her head. "He's a tough one, isn't he? Box mover and fence maker? I'd wager my best bouquet he's more than that."

"He's been trained to resist all forms of torture and interrogation." Dinmir let a smirk show through. She couldn't help but feel a bit of satisfaction that Thiliel hadn't learned anything from Auros. She hadn't even caught his subtle bit of wordplay. "Boxer" indeed.

Thiliel tapped a finger to her lips. "A challenge can be interesting."

The tone of those words triggered an impulse in Dinmir she wasn't prepared for. Her amiable visage dropped as Thiliel's every word, every motion was dissected anew. "What are your intentions?"

Thiliel met Dinmir's gaze, and her hands clasped in front of her. Uncertainty replaced the steady, discerning glare. "I- I don't think I've given it enough thought to have intentions. I mean, I wouldn't ---"

"I won't have anyone cause Auros or Farothel any sort of mischief. The same naturally goes for my brother."

The measured tone Thiliel had used to prod Dinmir wavered. "Perhaps... I should have waited until you were settled in before paying a visit. I only meant to... We'll get a chance to talk later. I'm sure we'll have an amicable association." There was only a moment's pause at the doorway as she retreated to her own territory. "I may not have learned much about your friend, but I've certainly learned something about you."

Auros and Farothel entered with more boxes a few minutes after Thiliel left.

"Just put them next to the others, please." Though her eyes remained fixed on the book, the pages she skimmed didn't hold her attention. Too much was going through Dinmir's mind to care about the symbolism of flowers. It'd been so easy, not just to confront Thiliel, but to go on the offensive; easier than she thought it would be. This wasn't some disagreement; this was an urge that flared, an unexpected need to defend someone she cared about from an outsider. Even more surprising was that it was Auros of all people she'd felt needed protecting. She hadn't been concerned with any of the maidens in Imladris. She knew most of them, or at least knew someone who knew them. This was a new town, with new people and no one she knew or trusted to vouch for any of them. How fast it was that it became her duty! In less than a morning, getting to know everyone had become more than just meeting the townsfolk of her new home. Dinmir found herself smirking. Despite how her visit began, how it ended may have been genuine. I suppose I'll have to see what kind of person she is, for Auros' sake.

Farothel set a box in front of her. "We wanted to give you your shop-warming gift right at the start, but then your neighbor appeared, and we thought we should wait."

From the box Auros pulled a fine crystal vase holding some violets. "Farothel got curious, so I thought I'd better come in and see what was keeping you. She seems nice enough, but I got the impression you two were in the middle of something, and I had no desire to be caught up in it." Not that Auros needed help finding reasons to be wary.

Dinmir couldn't resist bringing the flowers to her nose. "Rest assured, she would have to contend with me before she involved you in any such foolishness."

"I feel safer already." Of course he'd find that amusing, but he knew she meant it and knew she'd carry through. After that encounter, she had no doubts left either.

She smelled the violets again. "I don't think you have much to worry about anyway, unless you bought these from a different florist."

"Should I leave town now while I still have a chance?"

Dinmir shook her head and chuckled.