Eichi spit out a mouthful of dirt and blood while the other children laughed at him. The boy who pushed him, a tall lad named Halas, put his foot on Eichi’s ribcage and pushed slightly on his chest.
“St-stop it,” Eichi whined breathlessly. “I can’t breath.” Halas laughed arrogantly and pushed harder. “I mean it!” Eichi cried. “You’re hurting me!” Halas leaned in to his face so close that Eichi could feel his breath on his skin.
“Maybe I should keep pressing harder,” he jeered. “After all, you deserve it! You and you’re mother don’t belong here, Eichi Tatsuro. Go back to the dung pits of Harad, back to your useless father!” Eichi’s eyes narrowed in anger.
“Don’t you dare say that about him,” he said, his voice trembling with tears. “Shut up!” With a swift punch, he hit Halas in the jaw and knocked him off. Halas was even more enraged now. Eichi got to his feet and ran as fast as he could away from the other boys. He tasted the blood in his mouth, but he dared not swallow it. In fact, he had to get home before his mother saw his wounds.
I can’t let her worry about me all the time, he thought. It’s bad enough that we’re poor and always hungry. I have to hurry before she finds out what happened.
Eichi ran through the streets of Gondor, weaving around soldiers and civilians alike. He knew the way home better than his mother: the way around the cranky elders who beat him, and around Halas and his gang. As he approached home, he could see a small plume of smoke rising above the trees. His mother had beaten him home.
I’ll just use the back way, he thought. I’m sure to get around her that way.
Or so he thought. His mother Keitaro was outside hanging wet clothes to dry in the warm Gondorian sun. At a glance, Eichi and his mother looked nothing alike. Her appearance was that of a pure Easterling from Harad: caramel-colored skin, ebony black hair, and black eyes. Eichi, on the other hand, looked more Gondorian like his father; his dark red hair and silvery grey-green eyes were particular to the people of Gondor, whereas his skin was only a shade or two lighter than his mother’s.
Eichi desperately made an attempt to wipe the blood from his chin as he came up the path. His mother’s smile welcomed him, but her sunken cheeks made her look lonely and starved.
“Eichi,” she smiled. “You’re home.” Her smile quickly disappeared when she saw blood on his sleeve. She let the laundry fall from her slender fingers and land in the dirt. “Eichi, what happened to you?” she asked as she gently grasped his sleeve and pointed to the blood stains.
“Nandemonai,” Eichi replied. “I fell in the street really hard. I’m fine.”
“Well, let’s get you inside and washed up anyways,” said Keitaro. “You look like you’ve been in a fist fight again.” Eichi forced a joking laugh to reply.
“Yeah,” he said. “You know me, always getting into trouble. Heh heh.”
Once inside, Keitaro set him by the ashes of the fire and began wiping his face with a damp cloth. Eichi noticed that her eyes were red; she had been crying again. He always heard her crying at night after the night his father passed away, and they were forced to leave Harad. It was over a year ago when that happened, but Keitaro still grieved.
“Mother, do you still miss Dad?” he asked quietly. Keitaro slipped his robe off and put with the other clothes to be washed.
“A little,” she replied, putting a clean, white tunic over his head, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him anymore.” Eichi was surprised that she took no notice of the bruise on his chest from Halas’ foot. Instead, she stuck two of her fingers in his mouth and cleaned out the blood. “Let us just be thankful that King Aragorn has bid us suffrage into Gondor,” she murmured. “Otherwise, we’d be living somewhere much worse.” Eichi shuddered in fear. He knew well enough which place she spoke of. He often heard stories about Mordor and how terrible it was. Now it was a wasteland where nothing, not even orcs, could survive.
Eichi slid off his chair by the cinders and hurried to the window. He heard the sound of an old man singing and small bells tinkling. His eyes lit up with delight as he struggled to reach the lock on the door.
“It’s Gandalf!” he grinned. “Gandalf’s back!”