~Land of the Serpents~

Pull out your pack and head on down to the Prancing Pony for some great Role Playing (try to stay in character)!

~Land of the Serpents~

Postby Naveen » Sun Feb 07, 2010 5:52 pm

~

Large raindrops splattered the glass and ran in tiny rivulets down the window as Naveen turned to stare out the window. The room behind Naveen was crowded and was filling up fast as more people, who had been wandering out in the streets just a short time ago, entered seeking shelter from the rain.

She was seated at a table in the common room of the Prancing Pony Inn, the window fronting the Great East Road that skirted the foot of Bree-hill. A market festival, to celebrate the first year of rule by King Elessar, had been set up all along the road and the town was brimming with people from near and far who had come to celebrate. Now they were all hurrying about, covering temporary stalls and wares laid out in any available spot as the grey clouds that had begun building during most of the day began to open up. She watched in particular as an old woman bent with age tried without much success to cover the baskets of herbs and early spring flowers she had brought to sell. The burlap kept shifting and rolling away before she could get all the corners anchored with stones. None of the other vendors seemed to notice her difficulties or else they were too busy caring for their own wares.

“Are you all right?” Najhim asked as he reached across the table to put his hand on her arm. Naveen turned from the window. “Yeh, I’m okay. Your news just caught me by surprise.” Her eyes dropped to the mug of ale on the table and she picked it up and took a long swallow.

“How old is the news?” she asked when she was finished.

“A month or more when I learned of it in As soon as I heard I headed north to find you, so it’s been awhile.”

A picture of her mother’s face as she had been the last time Naveen had seen her rose to the surface of her memory; her handsome striking face had barely begun to show the lines of age. “She isn’t that old…how…” Something caught in her throat and she raised the mug to take another swallow. The news shouldn’t have affected Naveen as much as it did; it had always seemed to her that her mother had shown more affection and attention to the men in her life than to her own child. Why then this sudden, achy- empty feeling?

“The woman who told me about her said that it was a wasting illness that had first appeared soon after you left.” He squeezed her arm as she put the mug down again. He hated being the bearer of such news. “Naveen, there was never anything you could have done. This illness often strikes those…” he paused a moment as their eyes met and realized she already suspected what he was going to say next.

“…who have chosen the way of life my mother did.” Naveen finished his sentence for him. Her mother was a hōra; there was no delicate way to put it. There was no bitterness in her voice, nor any apologetic tone. She had known most of her life what her mother was, and if it bothered her she never let on, not even to Najhim. “Why didn’t she let me know sooner?” she wondered more to herself not expecting an answer.

“Perhaps she didn’t want anyone to know. In the first stages, the illness is mild, but if word ever got out…” he shrugged. “…you know.”

“Yeh, no more income. But still… I’m her daughter, her only child…” bitterness was creeping in her voice, a defense against the emptiness she didn’t want to feel.

“Naveen, she probably knew al Sahlid was still looking for you.”

Naveen’s eyes narrowed. “That slime! Don’t remind me! I’ll never forgive him for branding me!” She was referring to the small tattoo on the back of her neck, a coiled serpent with three heads. It was Sahlid’s mark of ownership within the Snake Triad, a widespread underground group who controlled much of the flesh trade in Harad. “I was a thief, not a hōra!” she hissed.

“And a good one. Remember how we first met?” Najhim said wanting to change the subject. How could he forget! Naveen had been but six or seven. He had stumbled upon her, dirty and grimy, hidden behind a pile of stinking rubbish piled in a narrow alley. She was hiding from the owner of one of the shops on a nearby street. He had seen her pocketing fruit from his display and had nearly caught her. What had surprised Najhim was that Naveen wasn’t afraid, just mad; mad at herself for being clumsy and nearly getting caught. He grinned. “You were a pretty sorry sight. Mad as a stray kitten backed into a corner.”

“I was mad, mad at myself. And I thought you were going to hand me over to that ol’ shopkeeper!” her mood changing a little.

“But instead I brought you into our gang.” The gang Najhim referred was a band of kids who claimed the neighborhood as their own. At the time she had had little choice; either join or suffer their wrath for stealing from a shopkeeper in their territory.

“And under your wing. Kestrel and mouse, what a pair we made!” Naveen laughed softly and shook her head. Kestrel and mouse were the names each of them was given by the ‘teacher,’ of their gang, an older man who taught the children the finer points of thievery and a lower member of the Triad. He collected a portion of each the children’s ‘take,’ and generally oversaw their actions. “Too bad we got separated.” There was a genuine look of wistfulness in her eyes that made Najhim want to look away and cringe. How different would their lives have been if he had not made the choice to leave the rag tag gang of children to study the ways of an assassin with a well respected sorcerer? Could he have prevented what had happened to Naveen in the years during his absence from Barazon, their village in Umbar.

It was Naveen’s turn to place her hand on Najhim’s arm. She gave it a quick squeeze. “I didn’t say that to make you feel guilty. You couldn’t have stopped al Sahlid; he was too high up in the Triad. Probably still is.” She waited until Najhim looked at her again. “But I’ll need your help. I want to go back to Barazon, to see my mother…if she yet lives.”

“You can’t! It’s too dangerous!” He pulled his arm away and sat up straight, looking her over. She had that familiar determined look on her face, the same one he remembered her having as a child when their teacher had tried to tell her something was too hard for her to attempt yet.

He leaned across the table and said in a low voice. “Look Naveen, I just came from An Sakal in Harandor, that’s where I heard the news, from one of the spies in my set of connections. I had told her before to keep an ear open for news from home. But she also said that since the war, things have gotten worse, not better. Suladan was killed at Pelennor, some say by the King of Rohan who latter was killed by one of the Nazgûl. Since his death, the Triad has gained more strength in Harad. Suladan may have been in league with the dark forces of Mordor, but at least when he was alive he kept the Triad in check.”

“I know all that, or guessed as much when I heard of Suladan’s death.” She crossed her arms, leaning them on the table and held Najhim’s gaze. “I’m still going.”

He could tell by the set of her jaw that nothing he said would dissuade her. Finally he let out a sign of defeat. “Okay, kestrel will take the mouse under his wing again. We’ll have to figure out how we’ll get there. By ship is faster, but it has its drawbacks.”

“Yes, like me not liking travel by sea,” Naveen interrupted. “My stomach doesn’t take to it. But if it’s faster, maybe…”

“No, I meant that it might be hard to get you into Umber by ship without al Sahlid finding out. He may have someone watching the docks."

Quietly Naveen and Najhim began to hash over different plans as the common room of the Pony grew more crowded and noisy as the rain outside continued.

~

minor typo edit.
Last edited by Naveen on Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Shadowfax » Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:59 pm

Del could hardly wait to get to the Pony! The ‘Festival of the King’ had brought large numbers of people to Bree and it looked as though everyone from the surrounding villages was in attendance. With these large crowds milling about he was certain the Pony would be filled with semi-drunk patrons eager to hear him play. The more the ale flowed, the more money he made.

All manor of folk gathered around the vendors that lined the Great Road. Everything was for sale, leather goods, knives, Herbs and lots of food. Del soon found himself gnawing on a large turkey leg purchased from a vendor he knew, the long walk from Archet had emptied his stomach! After he finished he wiped the grease from his fingers on his cloak as he debated to get a drink now or wait till he got to the Pony. His decision was made for him when the sky opened up and rain began to fall in large fat drops, the Pony it would be!

The Pony was starting to fill when he arrived due to the rain but he managed to get his favorite spot before the common room filled up. His ideal spot for playing to the crowd was sitting near large stone fireplace. It provided warmth and some light as the night wore on. Old Butterbur always keep a nice fire to keep the chill from the northlands at bay, even in May it’s a welcome convenience.

Del pulled a chair near the hearth and removed his cloak. From a small leather bound case he withdrew his prize possession, a well worn mandolin. He removed it carefully and began to tune the strings. A flagon of ale was brought to him and he quickly emptied it and placed it at his feet to receive the coins for songs played. Del was in a business contract with Butterbur of course, not just anyone could walk in with a flute or whatever and start playing to the crowds for money. Butterbur received a portion of the nights take and Del kept the patrons drinking, both benefited from this deal.

As he tuned the Mandolin a few of the locals called out requests for him to play, Green River, The Merry old Inn and other favorites. He strummed the strings and when all seemed ready to his ear he began to play softly. He often started out with slow songs and as the night progressed he played more of the drinking type melodies that everyone loved. His fingers worked the strings but his eyes scanned the crowd. His gaze came across a pair of foreigners seated near the window. A dark skinned man had his hand on a woman’s arm, she seemed to be in some sort of distress.

On he played, watching the crowd grow before him.
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Sea of Rhûn

Postby strider- » Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:04 pm

One look at the throne as he passed by the entrance to the great hall was all it took to lose his nerve.

“He’s not going to agree.” Whispered Aeron to himself. "He'll think it's crazy."

“So is talking to yourself.” Said a soft voice from the shadows.

“Kai. Do you often make habit out of skulking in the shadows?”

“Standing is not skulking.” She answered coolly, “and I’m not the one talking to myself.” She added as she moved past Aeron out onto the wall that surrounded the red palace that overlooked the desert Sea of Rhûn. She was young and fair and so different from the other women of Rhûn. She had come with her family from the west to serve his father’s house and in a way they had grown up together. Though to Aeron it had seemed he had always felt old and grown up.

Eldest son of his father, Aeron had always been conscious of his duty to his homeland, his family and the throne. Today, though he approached the throne with a heavy heart.

His father was only slightly fairer in skin than himself but with some silver running through his dark hair. His father had married a woman of Rhûn when he first came to the throne. Aeron's grandmother was also a desert woman - but his grandfather – and Aeron’s namesake – was a man of the West. A man neither he nor his father had ever known because he had been struck down when his father was but a child in a great siege in the west and was murdered by his own grandmother’s family. A long, dark and bloody history his family had and his father had gone through many trials to reclaim his throne. Much sorrow had touched their lives yet at times there had been peace and even joy. Still, there had been no joy in many years and Aeron’s father enjoyed only a few years of peace early on the in his reign. Still, ever the evil that surrounded pressed in upon them. Raiding parties of the old regime, forces from the Black Land that wished them to bid allegiance to the Dark Lord. Years they had fought many battles keeping dark forces at bay where they could. They had only recently welcomed the news that the King had returned to Gondor. Still it may be many years before any real lasting peace reached Rhûn for good. In the meantime scattering orcs and others hoping to hide or gain entrance in their lands had kept the Black Watch of the palace busy and diverted.

Aeron's father was standing around a great marble table scattered with maps and scrolls. Two of the king's closest confidants; his dearest friend and the captain of his royal watch, were deep in thought and quiet conversation about the latest unexpected raids and updates from the borderlands.

“Sire there has been no progress - it is as if they came in the night like a fog and were gone again. Surely it’s some devilry!” said Ruhk. "They weren't orcs to be sure though no one could really say. They killed most of the guardhouse keepers and several matrons. It just makes no sense."

“Devilry no,” said his fathers councillor Pun, “Perhaps some paltry magic. Parlour tricks. It's easy to make ones self disappear if you wish.” he continued, his bright eyes glinting. Years ago in his youth Pun was a great magician, though after a hard fought battle lost his power but was a learned scholar and had a keen wit and mind.

The king pounded his fist on the table. “It makes no sense. What was to gain? Why attack in that matter and then flee?”

Aeron approached the men spoke. “Sire, a word?”

“My son, you have returned! My heart is greatly relieved to set eyes upon you. Pray, what have you learned.” He asked, a quiet desperation in his voice. His eyes shone with both a pride and relief at seeing his son again. He struggled against revealing more pain than his pride would have liked.

“Little more than Pun, I’m afraid. I have ridden many roads and dark places though what little I have found may help.” Aeron breathed deeply. “Haradrim.” He said. The words like a foul taste on his tongue and his heart cringed at even thinking the word let alone saying it out loud. His father immediately spat upon the ground at the mention of that cruel race.

“Haradrim! They were defeated by the Gondorian King along with the dark lord – what of the Haradrim would be left, they had emptied their lands!” said the king.

“Perhaps emptied of the mightiest warriors, but not the most cunning of their thieves and any other miscreants looking for an opportunity to rise up the ranks and extend their claws into other less fortified lands. So many were lost in the great battles – it may not be possible for Gondor to root out all remaining evils alone. We should help them!” Said Aeron.

“Help them?” Said Ruhk bitterly, “where was our aid when Rhun was under siege in the before days? We have our own matters now to address.”

“Our battles were small compared to the battle against the great all Seeing Eye.” Said Pun coldly, “We have fared better than many others and owe much to Gondor, even now. Our isolation provides as much aid as many thousand men.”

“Which is why it makes little sense for Haradrim to be here in Rhun. Never have they ventured this far north. To what end? They are a menace surely to the southlands - yet my heart is troubled. Why here, why now? We need to cut off the head of this serpent before it strikes again. Before it gains strength and brings with it larger forces or unleashes whatever the true plans are. We should look on this as good tidings. Good because I think they were here on merely fact-finding mission of sorts though I suspect now they somehow got carried away. I don’t think they were supposed to cause any problems here or draw any attention to themselves. They probably couldn’t help themselves.” Said the King.

“Once a thief always a thief.” Said Pun.

“Exactly.” Answered the King.

“They revealed too much.” Said Aeron. “The lives of those fallen and those young women will not have been in vain if we can destroy them. Father, let me go to Harad and seek out these criminals.” He pleaded. He was desperate.

“No!” said the King sharply. Then he hesitated, who better? Besides, he too had been young once with purpose. He also had needed to prove something not only to his family but also to himself. The king softened but a little. “My heart would wish it if you sent another.”

“Sire, who better to go than I? Who else would do all that was needed to..." he hesitated, hardly believing the truth beginning to sink in. "Who better to bring my sister home?” Said Aeron.

From the window a woman approached the men surrounding the marble table. She laid a hand upon the king’s hand, tears in her eyes, she pleaded, “Aramere.” She whispered. “Let him go, let him find her and bring her back to us.” Her eyes met Aeron’s and she wrapped her arms around him. “May the blessings of the Sea be upon you she said.” And she kissed his forehead and returned back to the window casting her sorrow upon the sea.

Aeron turned to his father and king. “Father, please. I will return to you. Do not let fear take your heart as it has consumed my mother’s. You have taught me well. I will find her and destroy those who would dare to take her and desecrate our lands.”

Aramere breathed deeply and kissed his son. He had little choice so many of the captains were already busy on the borderlands and there was little time to waste. He placed his hands on his sons shoulders and met his eyes, feeling for a moment as if he were looking into a very old mirror. “Go, but go not alone. Find companions in whom you can trust to share the journey. There may be others who have suffered similar hurts and you may find renewed courage in men – and women on the road.” he said turning his eyes to Pun for a moment with a weak smile.
Last edited by strider- on Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby strider- » Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:04 pm

...
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Postby heliona » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:45 pm

(The day before)

Falmariel loved travelling in the spring. The flowers were blooming, their heady scents filling the air; the grass was green and lush; the leaves on the trees were bursting with life. The birds were flittering about, singing merrily with all their might. She loved the fresh, clean smell that the air had after a spring rain and the way that life just seemed a little bit lighter and more pleasant. Falmariel loved every season for the things it brought, but spring was a time when she especially felt the urge to move on from wherever she had stayed over the winter. Certainly Mith liked spring - there was a distinct extra bounce to the horse's step.

This year it had been Lake Evendim where they had spent the winter. Falmariel had lingered there longer than she normally did in her winter resting place because it had been so peaceful; in the recent past the years had not been so peaceful for many, with many feeling the threat of the Shadow. She had stayed well away from it all, keeping to the western coast, and spending time with the Elves in the Grey Havens. Now that there was once again a king in Minas Tirith, she felt that she could reasonably safely give in to the urge to travel to the more southerly lands.

Falmariel was never one to do anything in a rush unless absolutely necessary, more keen to enjoy the actual journey than the destination. She discovered that making solid plans never seemed particularly helpful in the long term, as opportunities arose that tended to upset those plans. With this in mind, she was making her way to Bree, to see if there were any opportunities to be had there - and also perhaps catch up on news: Lake Evendim was not the best place to gather news from afar.

Sunset was not far off, so Falmariel dismounted at a suitable glade and gathered together some wood for a small fire. When the fire caught, and she was confident it would hold, she turned to watch the sun disappear below the horizon. She wondered what life would be like in Gondor now there was a new king. Of course, he had not been crowned for very long, so she had no doubt that any change would take time to occur, but she was interested to see what King Elessar would implement. Falmariel turned to the south-east, to see the lights of Bree begin to twinkle in the twilight. "Only a day's ride away now, Mith," she said quietly to her horse, who paid her no heed, instead enjoying the lush grass. "Perhaps a bit less if we ride faster. I think you may have lost some condition over the winter." Her eyes twinkled as the only reaction from the dapple grey was a flicker of an ear and a small snort. She settled down in front of her small fire to eat her dinner of week-old bread and cooked rabbit that she had caught the day before.

Her hunger satisfied, Falmariel put out her small fire, wrapped her cloak around her as a blanket, and using her saddle as a pillow, lay down to gaze at the stars. They twinkled at her like mischievous friends and she recalled the stories the Elves had told her about them. It was fully dark by the time she realised how late it was. Taking one last look around - and noticing that the weather felt as though it was due for a change - Falmariel lay down to sleep.

The next morning dawned clear, but she could see grey clouds gathering on the horizon. Rain was coming and with that in mind, she tacked Mith up quickly and efficiently. Mounting up and ensuring that she had left no trace of their visit behind, Falmariel and Mith cantered slowly away towards Bree.

Upon arrival, Falmariel saw the market was in full flow. She had clean forgotten about the market festival and wished that she had remembered so that she could have foraged for extra herbs on the off-chance she may be able to gain a handful of coins from selling them. Still, she reflected, as Mith weaved his own way towards The Prancing Pony, she could take the opportunity to see what others were selling.

Mith pulled up in front of the famous Inn, and Falmariel dismounted, giving her horse a firm pat on the neck. He knew exactly where he was going. As she led him into the stable courtyard, a stableboy came forward to take Mith to a stall. Falmariel warned the boy about Mith's suspicion of strangers, and gave him a copper for the trouble the grey stallion may cause. Then she entered the Inn. The common room was quiet, considering it was about lunch time. Although, she concluded, most people were out taking advantage of the market before the rain came.

Speaking with the innkeeper, Falmariel secured a room and then made her own way out into the throng of people bustling about the market. With luck, she may pick up some rare herbs whose properties the seller didn't know about.
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Postby Arassuil » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:38 pm

With the approaching nightfall, rain started to fall on Darius as he walked north approaching the south gate of Bree. He didn’t mind it much for he had spent long days in the wild slopes of the Misty Mountains hunting, and farming long days trying to get food to grow in the poor land. When he was conscripted as a soldier in the Lord of Dunland’s army, it did take him away from trying to farm on rocks, but the skirmishing with the horse-lords was hard, and he lost some friends. But when the Lord of Dunland became a pawn of the wizard Sarumann in the war against the horse-lords, it didn’t do Darius any favours. Though the new king of Rohan and the great king of Gondor promised much in the aftermath of the great war, it would be long before they would be able to offer much for the oft-displaced men of Dunland.

After being released from prisoner service to Rohan, Darius ruminated about his homelands for a time caring for his older brother who had suffered at the hands of one of Saruman’s experiments. He had at one time been a spy for the wizard, and had just now told Darius of the time he spent in a town called Bree. Now, he was dying. So after he burned his brother’s body in the hut they had called home, Darius took what valuables he had, and set out north to visit this place called Bree.

There was a festival going on, and though Darius had some trouble convincing the gatekeeper to allow him to pass, he managed to get by. Rummaging around the markets, he traded some mostly useless, but odd enough trinkets that they attracted attention, for some vegetables and a bird wing. It may have been more the fact some merchants just wanted to close down due to the wet weather. One such merchant offered Darius some pay to help him load his craft wares into a wagon. Soon, Darius hade made a fair sum helping the vendors secure their wares.

It was growing ever darker as the heavy clouds poured forth more rain and wind gusts pushed it along in waves. Noticing the crowds making their way to an inn, Darius followed along. Inside it was rather crowded and loud, and Darius waited his turn to get to the bar. The mug of mead he had gotten tasted strange, but in a good way. He found an out-of-the-way spot to stand and sip his mead, where he watched the mannerisms of the people and the short people, and listened to their speech… common speech… Westron his brother had called it. He knew he would have to become more proficient in it to better communicate outside his own land. For now he remained quiet, smiling at those who smiled at him, and lifting his mug to those who lifted theirs to toasts and greetings.
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Postby Naveen » Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:29 pm

~

“By sea is still the quickest way,” Najhim argued. “We can go to Tharbad and from there find a boat to take us downriver to Sudúri. It’s a large enough port; there might be a ship there that will be sailing south.”

“Whoa! We haven’t decided yet if we‘re going by sea!” Naveen laughed sitting back and lifting her mug to take a drink. But it was empty. She glanced around for one of the serving wenches but neither one of them was close enough to hail.

“It’s crowded in here tonight,” Naveen observed and then added with a wink. “And there are probably more than a few fat purses and wallets.” Her mood was changing with the laughter coming from different parts of the room. No one seemed to mind the rain outside; it was festival time after all."

“I thought you didn’t do that anymore.” Najhim added under his breath as he casually looked around the room. His eyes were drawn toward the hearth and the sound of someone quietly strumming an instrument. He tried to see who was playing but there were people standing in the way. He turned back to look at Naveen noticed she was still looking around the room. “Ok, we’ll talk later. You going to share your room, I don’t think I’ll be able to get one tonight.” Najhim looked at his tankard and saw it was empty too. He reached for Naveen’s tankard. “I’ll go get us a refill.”

“Sure, you can sleep on the floor," Naveen replied absently as she continued looking around. She still wore a smile but a small line creased her forhead. She had glimpsed someone across the room and then lost sight of him as more people entered the common room. A Southron or Easterling maybe? He had turned too quickly to be sure and now she couldn’t find him again.

‘Must have been my imagination, probably just someone from Dunland or something,’ she told herself as she let down her guard. ‘If there is someone over there, Najhim will spot him and tell me when he comes back.’

Her gaze lit upon the fellow playing the music. The crowd had cleared a bit near the hearth and she could see that it was one of the Little Folk or Halflings from either Bree or one of the surrounding towns. She had seen them before on previous trips to the area but had never talked with one. She listened as his fingers worked the strings of the mandolin. He glanced her way once and then quickly away again. Had he been watching her?

‘Could have,’ she told herself. ‘Probably just as curious about me as I am about him.’ Her darker skin tone sometimes made her stand out in. She waited until he looked her way again and smiled, giving him a nod of approval.

Najhim meanwhile had reached the bar and was waiting while a happy, though a bit flustered, Butterbur, continued to reach for the empty tankards and flagons people were holding out to him. The rain was a blessing for him, he couldn’t remember a busier time in recent years. “Back for more so soon?” he said taking the empty tankard’s from Najhim. Then he looked up. “Pardon the error good sir; I thought you were someone else. Quite the crowd we have today what with the festival and now the rain. Hope the mead holds up, it was a slow year for the brewhouses. Now what would you like, ale mead, or a nice dark porter?”

“Ale good sir,” Najhim replied, then leaned closer. “You mistook me for someone else just now, another customer? Are any others here, from the southern regions?” He flashed a friendly grin while Butterbur filled the tankards.

“Why yes sir, one was here just a moment ago. Don’t know where he went though.” Butterbur quickly looked around. “Crowded today, can’t keep track of people you know, no not today.” He set the full tankards on the bar. “That’ll be two coppers each.”

“My thanks sir, you run a good inn,” said Najhim as he tossed an extra copper on the smooth well worn bar.

When Najhim returned to the table he told Naveen what Butterbur had said as he pushed one of the tankards over to her side.

“I caught a glimpse of someone in the corner as you were heading for the bar but then lost sight of him." She shrugged. "It could have been one of the vendors I saw earlier though. There were two, one down the street a ways selling spices and another, closer to the South Gate. He was selling fine cotton cloth, a few silks and ribbons.”

“Looked them both over carefully before I approached their stalls and then when they realized I wasn’t buying, they both pretty much ignored me. With my fairer skin, a lot of people around here think I’m from Dunland. An error I don’t correct often. You’re not worried are you?”

“Not, not really, just being cautious.” Najhim shrugged. “Aw…here comes one of the serving wenches. Let’s get something to eat before she disappears!”

~
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Postby Shadowfax » Fri Feb 12, 2010 8:27 pm

Del finished playing Up around the Bend and the crowd applauded lightly and more than a few coins found its way into the mug at his feet. Freebird!, Slurred a patron from the back of the room who seemed to have had to much beer. Del called back. “Perhaps after my break good sir!’ Lots of folk from the south here today he thought to himself.

Del placed his mandolin back into its case for safe keeping and gathered up the coins from the mug. He ordered another drink from one of Barley’s girls and gazed out over the crowd while he waited. The dark skinned lady who had smiled at him before was still there with her friend, he wondered who she was and where she was from. ‘Everyone has a tale to tell’ his mother used to tell him when he was younger. Del had a way to get people to open up to him, charisma they called it. With his bright green eyes, curly hair and child like smile, people just naturally felt comfortable around him.

With drink in hand he made his way to the couples table near the window thinking he could get some news from their travels, or better yet a song! ‘Hullo there!’ he said bowing low to them almost spilling his drink. ‘The names Del. Del Brockouse of Archet, pleased to make your acquaintance.’ The man and woman stopped eating and eyed him wearily.

Del cleared his throat, ‘I’m the local entertainment ‘round these parts, perhaps you heard me playing by the fireplace’?

‘We have.’ answered the dark skinned woman. Del smiled ‘Good then! I’m always interested in hearing news from the east or south…southeast….maybe a song or two you’d like to share with me? I have many of my own I’d like to sh...’
The woman broke in before he could finish, ‘Your music was pleasant to the ear, but we have no songs to share with you master Hobbit. You'll excuse us but we have private matters to discuss.’

Del did not take the hint, ‘Well, perhaps we can share a few drinks and exchange news. I heard there was a Troll sited a few leagues down the Greenway the other day. I can hope that…’ This time it was the man that broke in, ‘Del! Del’s your name right? We really need to speak privately. We have a long journey ahead of us and we need to make plans……….privately.’

Del looked honestly shocked, “Ohhh……….pardon me! I forget my manors at times; it’s the beer I’m sure! Please for give me.’ The hobbit was about to leave them alone when one of the words that the man said stuck in his brain. ‘Journey? I’ve often thought about going on a long holiday myself! I’ve always wondered what’s beyond the Misty Mountains, I’ve heard tales you know, some I’m not sure I can believe some of them! Or maybe you’re going west? What incredible fortune it is for me to...’

‘Enough already!’ hissed the woman. ‘Leave us alone! Our business is none of your concern little one! We have no plans to travel with a half drunk minstrel from Bree!’

‘Archet. I’m from Archet.’ corrected Del. The little hobbits face grew serious, ‘I have more skills than just bending a few strings and singing you know.’

‘What skills exactly do you have then?’ asked the dark skinned man.

Del grinned slightly and leaned in closer to them, ‘We are in a similar line of work, you and I.......and her. There are few fat chickens to pluck in Bree, if you take my meaning? Besides, I have one thing that no one else has.’

‘And that would be?’ asked the woman narrowing her dark eyes.

Del gave a boyish grin and whispered, ‘Luck! Extreme luck! By rights I should have died twenty three……….no, twenty four times….no, maybe it was twenty three times. Stupid luck my uncle calls it, uncanny really. What do you say? Could you use a bit of luck on your trip?’



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Postby heliona » Sat Feb 13, 2010 12:35 pm

Falmariel enjoyed her time wandering around the market. She liked to watch people interacting. She even managed to buy some unusual herbs that the vendor clearly did not think were anything more than for adding taste to soups and stews. Falmariel knew that in combination with other herbs, however, they had other properties. Pleased with her purchases, Falmariel wandered back to The Prancing Pony. The rain had settled in for the evening, so she had her hood up to keep off most of the water.

When she entered the common room, it was very busy. Falmariel waved a quick hello to Butterbur, who looked rather red and flustered, and weaved through the crowd to her room. In the small room, she tucked away her newly bought herbs and hung up her cloak. She hid her bow and quiver of arrows in the corner closest to the bed. After giving her face a quick wash, Falmariel left to return to the common room and the quest to find a seat.

She had noticed that a hobbit was playing a mandolin in the corner near the hearth. It was a hobbit named Del who she had met before in Bree and also when she had travelled about The Shire. He was an amiable chap with a thirst for knowledge, and not just about songs. Although Falmariel could not carry much of tune with her voice, she did have an excellent memory, and had been happy to pass on to the hobbit the songs she had heard on her journeys. She counted Del as one of her small number of friends. He had a small space of his own in a corner and that was where she was headed.

Falmariel was able to make quick time through the crowd, and found a seat right next to the musician's. She grabbed a small table that appeared to be unoccupied and dragged it over. Del was not in his favourite place at the moment and his mandolin was tucked away in its case. A swift scan of the common room saw him talking animatedly to a couple whose darker skin showed them to be from a southern land. Falmariel smiled slightly; no doubt the hobbit was trying to get an interesting story or song out of them.

She signalled to a serving woman, who looked a little harassed. "When you get a chance, could I have a flagon of ale mead and a large bowl of stew? If there is any of Butterbur's lovely home-baked bread left, I'll have some of that too. Thanks," Falmariel said, smiling at the woman. The serving woman nodded and smiled back and then dashed off, carrying a load of empty flagons back to the bar. Falmariel leant back and enjoyed the warmth of the hearth and watched the crowds, comfortable in the knowledge that Mith was enjoying a horse-y evening in the warm stables.
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Postby shaggydog » Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:46 pm

Amel stretched luxuriously, throwing his arms wide and flinging the light curtains open. Though only an hour past dawn, the sun beat down brazenly, already heating up the small square below. The aromas of the various tents and stalls of the merchants mingled with those of the mud brick dwellings surrounding them. Above and under those wove the smells of the various animals, birds and humans that occupied those homes. Leaning his hands on the rough wood of the window sill, Amel breathed in deeply – and sent a prayer of thanks heavenwards that today he would be leaving for the coast again. Why so many humans chose to live in towns such as this, shoulder to elbow, stacked on top of one another like sardines in a pot, was hard for him to comprehend. Once, on a rare trip inland, he had been shown a termite mound. As tall as himself, and ten times as broad, the mound had been a constant bustle of activity, the insects crawling all over one another as they frantically went about their struggle for survival. This was always the image that leapt to his mind when he returned to port.

Such homecomings he tried to keep to no more than a few days in length. His Nightingale did not complain that he was with her for such a short period of time. For all he knew, she looked forward to his leaving her again as much as she might long for his return. As she was mute, she couldn’t tell him with words what her feelings were on the matter. And if, as they said, the eyes were the windows to the soul, those she kept tightly shuttered, as if she feared the storm that might reach her should they be left carelessly open. Her eyes were as equally silent as her tongue. So during his frequent, but short, stays, she treated him with all the respect he was owed, and never objected to anything he asked of her. When he took his leave of her, she continued on in her dutiful way, caring for their small home and their two small daughters. She would be ready to welcome him back when next he climbed the rickety outer stairway and stepped through the door and into her arms, those arms which kept him coming back to a place he despised.

A much smaller set of arms entwined themselves about his thigh, causing him to look down and smile, his teeth flashing white against the darkened tan of his skin. Two merry dark eyes, the mirrors of his own, flashed up at him as the child asked, “Ba, must you really go back today? I want you to take me to see the fish market. Remember? You said you would.”

Reaching down to lift his elder daughter in his arms, Amel chucked her under the chin and laughed. “You have a good memory, Rabet. Yes I did say that. Well, perhaps we can go for a short visit, before I leave.”

“Can we go too? In your boat, Ba?” The little girl asked eagerly.

Amel chuckled. “Soon, little one. Soon I will take you and your sister on my boat again. Not today though. I have a long way to go this time. And you must stay here and help your mama.”

Rabet pulled a face at this. Amel kissed her and set her down. “Go and eat. And bring me a piece of bread and a cup of wine. Then we’ll be on our way.”

The girl flew to do as he bid her. Amel turned back to the window. Yes, a long way to go this time. He hoped the journey north would be worth his while. He seldom ventured so far up the coast, and he had many reservations about doing so. A big port such as Dol Amroth made him . . . cautious. Not that he was well known there.

Anyway, he thought, catching a faint scent of the ocean over the others that crowded his nostrils, he had made a commitment. He would go. The sea gods be with us, he prayed.
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Postby Naveen » Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:13 pm

~

“Luck you say?” One of Naveen’s eyebrows lifted a fraction of an inch. “Extreme luck? What makes you think we have need of such a skill, if indeed your claim is true? Anyone can make such a claim,” she scoffed turning away and hoping he would go away. But when she looked across the table at Najhim thinking that he would add his rejection of the hobbits claim she noticed he had stopped paying attention to Del and was looking intently at something across the room. She turned and looked over her shoulder but there were people standing around the next table blocking the view.

“What’s up?” she asked quietly.

“Someone I know is here. The question is why is he here? He could be looking for me, but there’s the possibility he could be on your trail. I need to find out,” he mused as he thought quickly of a way to get Naveen out of sight. “Listen to me and for once don’t argue. He’s talking to the innkeeper right now so we haven’t much time. You need to leave and right now. Not to your room, somewhere else... ” His eyes narrowed as he looked over at Del. “You have a room?” Del nodded. “Yes, one of the hobbit…”

“Good.” Najhim interrupted. “Take her there and then come back and start playing again.” He turned back to Naveen. “I’ll go over and talk to him, which should make it easier for you to slip away. I’ll try and meet with you later, but if I can’t I’ll send word through him,” he nodded towards Del who was taking it all in with interest.

Naveen bit back the protest on the tip of her tongue. There was real concern in Najhim’s tone. And besides, he was already starting to stand.

“Okay,” she muttered, slipping the hood of her cloak up over her head and reaching for the pack at her feet. As she looked over at Del she couldn’t keep the sarcasm from her voice. “Lead on oh lucky one!”

~
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Postby Shadowfax » Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:37 am

“Lead on oh lucky one!”

Del could not believe his luck! Of all the people in the Pony he seems to have discovered a pair of southerners with some air of mystery about them, things were looking up for some excitement!

“This way………um…..ah……..” Del hoped the woman would give him her name but she only scowled at him from under her hood. With drink in hand he led her towards his small but comfortable Hobbit sized room. He thought about getting his mandolin for safe keeping, but decided against it. He has many friends in the Pony that look out for him and they’ve always watched over his things during his breaks from playing.

The woman followed close behind him stealing glances towards Butterbur and the man he was speaking to. Just then Del tripped on a patrons boot and cried out ‘Oh!’ and went sprawling to the floor in front her spilling his drink in the process. As the Hobbit hit the floor someone yelled from across the common room, ‘Look out!’ There was a solid ‘thunk’ sound; a large throwing dart had planted itself into a chair where Del’s head had been moments before he fell. The dart game across the room had gotten a little wild it seems!

‘Look here!’ squealed Del with excitement as he rose from the floor. ‘I found a silver piece in the floor boards!’ he held the coin up for the woman to see but her focus was on the dart stuck in the chair. ‘Oh………I wonder how that got there?’ Not only did Del avoid a serious head injury but he also found some silver to boot!

‘Lucky I tripped and found that coin!’ Del brushed himself off and they made their way to his room. ‘It’s rather small for one of the big folk, but it’s just fine otherwise.’ Standing before the door the little Hobbit fumbled around his pockets for the key, he noticed the woman was watching the way they had come. “Hurry up.” She whispered near his ear.

‘Ah, there it is!’ said Del as he unlocked the door and stepped through. ‘My home away from home.’

The woman was clearly not impressed. ‘Looks like a storage room! Except that a storage room would be larger!’

‘Yes,’ beamed back Del with pride! ‘It took some talking to get old Barley to have one of the stora…….this room converted for me.”

The converted storage room measured roughly eight feet by ten feet and was dominated by a small Hobbit sized bed along one wall. A small round window let in some light from the outside and well worn cabinet sat across from the bed. ‘Here we are…….um….uh…..’ again the woman did not volunteer her name.

‘I'll leave the key with you and I’ll return with any news.”



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Postby shaggydog » Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:45 pm

Amel eyed the repair work critically. “You say Yusef did this himself?” he asked his mate, leaning out to run his fingers over the sleek wood of the bowsprit.

Tajik shrugged. “Aye, but who’s to say? You know he lays up drunk half the day. And the other half, he’s down at The Bell cheating at dice. I don’t know why you even sent this to him.”

Amel laughed. “Well, even drunk he’s a better carpenter than any I know. Besides, he’s an old man and needs the work. And he’s discreet.” He straightened up and stood upright on the foredeck of the small sloop. The morning had gone well and he was pleased. They would make it out on the tide in the forenoon as planned. Stepping deftly up onto the gunwale and thence to the small wooden dock, he cast a glance at the few remaining provisons that waited to be stowed below deck. “Have Cal get these onboard and check the water casks one last time. I don’t plan on stopping any more than we have need to pick up our cargo. We have a long voyage ahead.”

Tajik grunted non-committedly. Seven years serving as Amel’s second in command had taught him that there were times it was pointless to press his captain for details of whatever was in the wind. This was one of those times. When he, or the rest of the crew, had a need to know, Amel would tell them where exactly they were headed, and why. The why would no doubt involve a cargo of some special variety. One which it was in their best interests to pretend was not going to be loaded aboard one or more of the three sloops under Amel’s command. Until then – well, there were very good reasons Amel trusted all his men to do what he told them, and why they trusted him to turn a trip to all of their advantage.

“I’ll pick up another pack of wicks in the market on my way back.” Amel called, as he climbed the wooden stairs up to the stone flags of the jetty. To the two crewmen of the second sloop tied up before Almira, he instructed, “That forestay looks a bit slack. You’d better tighten it before Halil returns, or he’ll have your skins for a coat.” Of all the men who shipped with him, the one he had given command of de Lal to, Halil, was the fiercest with his crew of three. But that same ferocity had served them all well in more than a few skirmishes. All in all, Amel had sought a balance between all nine of his men. Each had his own strengths. Each was a highly skilled sailor. And for almost three years now, the same nine men aboard the three sloops had worked together like a well oiled machine, much to the benefit of their respective pockets.

Running his hand over his closely cropped scalp, in a characteristic manner which bespoke his preoccupation, Amel wound his way through the narrow streets of the town. Salleck sat on the northern coast of the crook of land sticking out from Harad, which formed the northern arm of the haven of Umbar. As such, the majority of its inhabitants were a mongrel mix of the scrapings of all the ports south of Belfalas. The remainder were mostly slaves, brought from the far reaches of practically every kingdom in southern Middle Earth. The recent war had done little to make a dent in the trafficking of human flesh.

But it had certainly turned the hierarchy of the various corsair and Haradrrim warlords, criminal syndicates and corrupt political machines on its head. The newly crowned King of Gondor had done many a member of the fringe elements a huge favor by wiping out so many of the top players. Now the smaller players, like Amel, were scrambling to figure out where best to bestow their loyalty, and thus make the largest profits. This latest venture was, in part, a venture into unknown waters, testing the treacherously shifting swells of a newly forged partnership. If it turned out as expected . . . yes, well, that was the tricky part. For if it did not . . .

Having reached the squat, two story mud brick house, Amel climbed the steps two at a time. Pushing aside the curtain that served to keep some of the flies outside during the heat of the day, he was immediately greeted by a stern stare and an admonitory finger raised to her lips to silence him. Her deep brown eyes darted to the small cot set up in the common living room of their dwelling. Two dark heads rested close together. Their breathing rose and fell in a concert of rhythmic pattern. Worn out from their earlier foray to the fish market, his daughters were now napping. The woman motioned to him as she crossed to the one small sleeping chamber.

Pulling his shirt over his head, Amel followed her, pushing the door quietly closed behind him with his barefoot
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Postby strider- » Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:13 pm

A red sun rose over the still waters of the Sea of Rhun casting a warm curtain over the water. Aeron stood at the wall looking out, drawing strength from the air and closed his eyes praying for wisdom as his ancestors had done there so many times before him.

He had packed all that he’d needed last night stored it in the stable, and finally said goodbye to his mother and father. He’d take the lonely road south leaving the marks of his house and blood behind him for now. Better a lonely traveler than the heir to the kingdom be seen upon the roads at least until he was clear of his own lands.

“Have you enough wisdom yet?” asked a voice from behind him.

Aeron turned, “Father. You are up early. I did not expect to see you again before I left.”

“I am up on time." Aramere answered. "It burdens my heart to see you leave again so soon and under such dark circumstances.”

“It’s the only way.” Aeron replied, “I thought you…”

“I do understand, it does not mean that I like it.” He answered solemnly. “Have you chosen your road?”

“Yes, I will take the South road. It’s well populated and I may pick up some information along the way. The roads are freer now than in the before days, good for trade though also easier for enemies to pass through.” Said Aeron, “Yet perhaps less unnoticed than in years past.”

The two men stood silently by the wall overlooking the sea for some time. “I will find her father. I just have this certainty.”

“I believe you. Still, I would ask you to take these.” Said Aramere pulling two beautiful and intricately crafted swords from a cloth he had been holding .

“Father I can’t, I have not yet…”

“You can and you will.” Aramere answered. “Fate brought these back to me many years ago. They were my fathers and by some divine force they came to me. Now they have been restored to our house and will once again pass from father to son in the way they should have been all those years ago.”

“They are fine swords and so unlike those of the scimitar sword makers of Rhun. A traveller from a foreign land I will seem indeed!” Aeron said, smiling. He felt his heart would burst as he embraced his father and buckled the double sheath replacing the swords in their place at his back. “I will make you proud father.” He said.

Aramere swallowed hard, “You could not make me any more proud than if I had had 20 sons.” He said, “Go, before the sun is high and I change my mind." he paused, "Remember the wisdom of the Sea. Though you are already older and wiser than I was at your age.”

Aeron kissed his father and left the wall, not looking back. He walked down the great stone steps to the stables in the outer courtyard. He walked quickly to the end stall where a fine horse of the desert stood with a crimson coat and mane. Daughter of the desert - a finer horse would not be found anywhere from Rhun to Rohan.

“Do you really think to pull yourself off as a simple traveler with a horse such as this my lord?” said a familiar voice behind him.

Aeron turned suddenly, hand upon the short knife at his side. He relaxed, “Kai? Why are you here so early?”

“I might ask you the same, though I can probably guess. You’re going to find her aren’t you?” She said, a hint of both fear and hope in her voice for Aeron's sister, the Princess Savarna was her dearest friend.

“Yes he said, relaxing. I must leave at once.”

“Let me come with you.” She said, an edge to her voice that betrayed her heart.

“No. You know you can’t. You can do better here.” He said, then added smiling. “Besides you’re terrible with a blade.”

She smiled back, “But not with a horse.” She said truly, for horses had been her passion since she was a small child. She had even taught Aeron to ride when they were children. “Still, you cannot take Marea, she is too grand if you are trying to hide who you are.”

Aeron hadn’t thought of that. In all of this he had not thought of his horse betraying who he was. He had thought to get simpler gear but not a plainer horse. He frowned, the morning was growing and he had to leave soon before the rest of the palace woke with more questions.

Slowly Kai led a horse, already suitably saddled and ready with all of Aeron’s gear from a stall beside Marea.

“Verdad?” said Aeron surprised. “Are you sure? He hates me.”

“He does not hate you, he just doesn’t think you know what you’re doing.” Said Kai shortly. Verdad was her horse. A horse she had trained from the day his dam dropped him. He was a strong and intelligent horse – perhaps a bit too intelligent and almost as surly to all but Kai. He was slightly larger than Marea and lacked her finer elegance and was rougher in coat but was still a well-bred horse of the desert. Still, Aeron eyed the horse suspiciously.

“That’s the same thing to a horse Kai.” Said Aeron. “Look, couldn’t we just mess Marea's coat up a bit.”

“It would take more than that. Do you want someone to think you stole her? You’d end up in a dungeon somewhere and some horse trader would end up with Marea. You know I’m right.” She said. She had a habit of that, cutting through right to the point. No one spoke to him that way and he found it was refreshing. She knew him better than any and while he knew she respected his position and who he was – she was never afraid to tell him when he was wrong or being too haughty.

“No, I suppose not, “ he said taking Verdads reins from her, “but if your horse kills me in the process I won’t be rescuing anyone.”

“I had a talk with him.” She said and smiled. "He likes the princess well enough so he agreed not to kill you."

As Aeron tightened up the girth Kai came up along side him. “Be careful.” She said her eyes glistening as she willed them not to tear up. She placed a hand on his arm, “I couldn’t bear it if you too…”

He took her hand in his, “I will return Kai and I will have Sava with me.” He said, “Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death. Is that not what your father always says? Keep that close to your heart and keep close to my mother so that despair does not consume her. Promise me that.”

“I promise.” She said.

Aeron climbed into the saddle. “Thank you Kai, I am sure Verdad will bring us both back to you – if for no other reason than to be rid of me.” He smiled, leaned down, kissed her on the cheek and headed for the long road South.
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Postby shaggydog » Mon Feb 22, 2010 7:20 pm

Amel left her with a final kiss on the curve of her shoulder blade. She lay still on her belly, face to the small window, and did not turn to embrace him. But for all her seeming indifference, when he had descended to the square below, he glanced up and she was there, framed in the window, watching as he went.

After securing the needed wicks for their oil lamps, Amel proceeded directly to the Bell. It was a simple, one room below for drinking patrons, smaller chambers above for customers of the women. He quickly located Yusef in his usual place in the far back corner, where men played at dice around the clock. Catching Yusef’s eye, he motioned with his head.

Slowly and with many groans, Yusef rose from the floor, grumbling and puffing in complaint. His eyes were bloodshot and yellowing, testament to the hard night before and the hard life of the past 60 odd years. He shuffled forward, reaching out to grasp Amel’s elbow when he got close enough, to steady himself.

“Well, well, my slippery eel. And how did you like the repair work?” Yusef asked with a final grunt.

The two men sat at a table removed from the sparse mid-morning crowd. Amel grinned at the old joke. His name, or at least the name his old master had given him, was also the name of a popular stew made of eels. For the first ten or so years of his life, he had been Amal. But the aged fisherman who had bought him from the slavers had been hard of hearing, and spoke a different dialect than the terrified and tongue tied boy. So, when stammering, he had whispered his name, Amal, the old man had heard Amel - eel. Thus he had been rechristened, a fitting beginning for his new life. And it was a name of certain prophetic weight, for he had indeed become like an eel. Sliding in and out of night dark inlets, finding the entrances to small creeks only a few feet in width, weaving like a shadow amongst larger vessels with the grace of a true creature of the sea . . . yes, he had grown into the name, the boy became the man who had become the animal.

“Excellent, as always.” Amel replied. “I wouldn’t have sent for you if I had expected otherwise.”

It was Yusef’s turn to flash a mainly toothless grin at his younger friend. “Aye, aye, you know you can count on old Yusef. Always you can count on me.” The old sailor’s head bobbed up and down like a puppet’s, the wrinkled folds of skin on his neck wobbling back and forth. He leaned in a bit closer and said in a low wheeze, “Don’t worry. It’s all in order. The wheels are in motion. Din Abar will welcome you as an equal.”

Amel made a “tch” sound of contempt, shaking his head. “Not as an equal. Never as an equal.”

“An equal in the eyes of the triad,” Yusef countered. “You know his position now. The Black Captain is gone. Dead at the hands of the northeners. Din Abar will welcome the opportunity that you present. He knows of your reputation with Al Bashira. He needs you. He is desperate.”

“Aye. And when men are desperate it’s a good time to watch your back.” Amel replied quietly, his eyes roving over the other occupants of the common room. There were none close enough to overhear their low conversation. But in Salleck, as in all of Umbar, the very chairs and tables seemed to magically grow ears at the most inopportune moments.

Yusef, much more sober now than he may have appeared to be to the casual observer, nodded. “Yes, and you are just the man to exercise the utmost caution. If it doesn’t feel right, you can always glide away into the mist.” The old man slid one palm over the other, smiling.

Amel did not bother to argue further. He and Yusef both knew it wasn’t as simple as that. Din Abar was a snake that bore watching every second. And despite Yusef’s optimism, Abar still had a few powerful and equally as treacherous connections. But the negotiated price for Amel’s services was more than what he could hope to see in an entire year. Which in and of itself led one to question what was really in the wind.

“Well, I just came to say good bye, old man. And ask you to keep an eye on things for me while I’m gone.” By this Yusef knew Amel spoke of his woman and his daughters.

Laying a worn hand covered in the dark blotches of advancing old age on Amel’s arm, Yusef nodded one last time. “Always, my friend. Always, you can count on me.”

Amel took his leave, his reservations about the path that lay ahead undiminished, but his resolve to move forward unswayed as well. For in reality, he had no other option. To stand still was to invite disaster. With the current turmoil which had a stranglehold from the Harnen to Far Harad, from Umbar to the Harad Road, anyone foolish enough to believe he could safely go to ground and resurface in time unscathed, was either a complete idiot or looking for an early death. Amel was definitely neither.
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Postby Naveen » Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:30 pm

~

As soon as the door closed Naveen began to place but soon realized the floor space was too small to really help her think. A quick glance at the window had told her it might be big enough to squeeze through if she had too, but hoped it didn’t come to that. Frustrated, and just a bit worried, she sat on the edge of the bed. It was closer to the floor than the average bed and surprising comfortable to sit on. Elbows on knees, she leaned forward with her chin in the palm of her hand and stared at the wall, wishing it was possible to see through it all the way to the common room. Who was it Najhim had seen? One of the vendors she had seen earlier or someone else? ‘Dumb! Careless too! Just because times may finally be peaceful, doesn’t mean I should have let my guard down! Shouldn’t have approached either one of them!’ she fumed.

Najhim meanwhile had crossed the room, draining the last of his ale in one long shallow before he reached the bar. He needed an excuse to return to the barkeep again so soon. Butterbur wasn’t behind the bar, it was one of the serving wenches, filling tankards with ale and goblets with wine and placing them on a tray. He flashed a friendly smile when she glanced in his direction. “Be with you in a minute sir!” she called and turned back just in time to shut the spigot of the wine cask off as the red liquid reached the rim.

“What will it be sir?” Iris smiled her prettiest smile as she reached for the empty tankard. “I noticed Del talking to you and your companion a moment ago, hope he wasn’t bothering you too much. My, but he does go on sometimes.”

“An ale please,” Najhim grinned. She was a comely lass with reddish brown hair. “And no, the small one didn’t bother us too much. Bit talkative though like you say. Went on about how lucky he is.”

Iris chuckled and shook her head. “I’ve heard him claim that before though cannot bear witness to the truth of it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must deliver those drinks. Tah!”

As Iris left Najhim turned and leaned his back against the bar. He lifted the tankard to his mouth but just took bare sips as he looked around. He saw Del enter from the hall and pause. When he caught sight of Najhim, he gave a quick thumb up signal and then began to wind his way through the crowd toward the hearth.

Breathing a quiet sigh of relief, Najhim lowered his tankard. Then he spotted Latafat leaning against the wall. He was watching Najhim and nodded slightly when their eyes met and indicated with a gesture for him to join him outside. Najhim waited for a moment, taking a few more sips before setting his tankard aside, and then casually made his way across the crowded room.

It was grey and dreary outside, the light fading as the rain continued to fall. Someone had lit the lamps under the archway connecting the Inn to the stables although full dark was still an hour or two away. A young lad was seated on the steps cradling a hot mug of tea when Najhim stepped outside. He quickly rose to his feet.

“You be wanting your horse sir?”

“No, I’m not leaving yet.” Najhim said as he walked down the steps. “Just going to check on my horse.”

“I’ll do that sir!”

“No, finish your tea. I need a bit of air, too crowded inside.” And he gave the lad a copper coin. The boy pocketed it quickly with a ‘Thank you sir’ and sat down again.

Slowly walking across the open courtyard Najhim scanned the Inn yard to make sure there was no one hiding in the shadows. Latafat was one of al Sahlid’s henchmen, a master thief and a dangerous man when crossed. He usually travelled alone but one couldn’t be too careful. There was a pair of lanterns lit by the double doors of the stable, one of them cracked open a few inches.

It was dark inside the stables, the only light coming from the lanterns outside. Pulling one of the door open, he slipped in to one side as he let his eyes adjust. A low voice came from the opposite side of the doors.

“Greetings Najhim. I had not expected to see you here.”

“I could say the same Latafat,” Najhim answered guardedly. He slipped his right hand under his arm on his left side, feeling along the seam for the hiding place of one of the small knives he carried. He drew in part way out. “What brings you so far north?”

“To scout out the region while the new king is still in the south. And you?”

“The same, though I’ve been here before. How fares things at home? I have not been back to Umbar or Harad since the war.”

“All is well. The Triad grows stronger and is coming into its own since the shadow Mordor cast no longer hovers above our heads.” A note of pride had crept into Latafat’s voice that wasn’t lost on Najhim. “Very soon a new leader will come forth, one of our own.”

The news disturbed Najhim. Many of the Triad’s leaders were cruel and merciless, which one would it be? “Can you tell me more about this?”

There wasn’t much more to tell, it was the only bit of information that had trickled down through the ranks to Latafat and he said as much to Najhim. The secrets in the higher echelons of the Triad were kept close. They continued talking for a few more moments when suddenly Najhim held up his hand to signal ‘someone’s coming.’ Latafat nodded and moved to the door and quickly looked. “It’s the lad from the steps. I told him I would fetch my own horse. I was preparing to leave when I saw you.”

Quickly he slipped from the door and into the nearest stall and came out leading his horse. Najhim started walking down the shadowy row toward the stall where his horse was stabled. Latafat turned around as he reached the door and looked back. He said softly to the retreating figure, “You should be more careful with the company you keep. Al Sahlid will not be pleased…”

For a split second Najhim froze, then in a flash turned on his heel and threw. But Latafat was gone and the knife embedded itself in the door where just a moment before Latafat had been. Swearing softly Najhim hurried to the door. Before he could reach it he heard Latafat ride away.

“Lor… he was in a hurry!” It was the stable boy. He was standing in the middle of the courtyard, looking out through the archway. Najhim hurried past him.

"Get my horse ready. I'll be leaving soon." Naveen had to leave Bree now, without being seen. And he had to go after Latafat... alone.


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Postby heliona » Wed Mar 17, 2010 2:08 pm

Falmariel watched as Del left the common room with some southerners. Content to wait until he returned, she settled into her chair and enjoyed the home-cooked food whilst watching the occupants of the room. People-watching was one of her favourite hobbies.

Some time had passed when Del the hobbit bard returned. He had a twinkle in his eye that Falmariel wasn't sure she entirely trusted.

"So," she asked as he sat beside her, clutching a frothing mug, "what did you learn?"

Del shook his head as he took a long drink. "No," he replied, wiping some excess froth from his upper lip, "you first. What did you learn?" He knew well her habit of observing others.

"There are many people from foreign parts. More people than usual. Plenty of people from southern lands too. The type of people who wouldn't have made it this far north in the recent past," she said, nodding at a scarred man staggered past them towards to exit.

Del nodded."Yes, I notiaced that. The new King in Gondor has changed things."

"Not just the King, but the events leading up to his crowning," Falmariel added. "The world is changing: Elves are leaving these shores. Men are becoming the sole main influence over this world. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen." Her dark grey eyes were solemn and there was a trace of wisdom about them that belied her age.

"And what about Hobbits?" Del said, puffing up his chest in indignation.

Falmariel smiled softly. "They will continue as they have always done. Generally having little or no impact on the history of the world, save for a few courageous individuals. And for that reason, they will probably remain the happiest race of people in Middle-earth." She clinked mugs with the bard and continued, "So, what did you learn?"
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Postby Lebasi » Sat Mar 20, 2010 8:46 am

Darkness was beginning to drift over the sky as Aeona came to Bree. She once again sighed at having missed the festives, yet knew she would have been unable to stay long in the town regardless. Pulling the hood of her cloak further over her head, she tensed: despite the celebrations of that day, an air of suspense and waiting seemed to hang in the town, helped by the thick air that had come as the rain finished, almost heralding the coming of unrest.

What could be seen of Aeona's face under her hood gave a nervous smile as she told herself to relax, her own worries elsewhere. Her slight form tensed again at a cry from somewhere off the road and she cursed herself. She had never lost her too mistrustful, guarded airs and even where others would believe her reassurances, she herself could not.

As the road went on and the blanket of darkness deepened people came out of inns, lighting lamps that hung on their walls. A strand of slightly wavy hair, of a burgandy so dark it was almost black, drifted from under her hood, and a slender, long fingered hand reached up to push it back. The skin was smooth, but perhaps very slightly darker, maybe a little rougher than was considered usual. Aeona paused wondering if she should persevere in the darkness or find an inn for the night. A lone figure walking in the darkened streets of Bree might attract unwelcome attention and she would welcome rest, yet should unwelcome eyes look out at night unless they were searching for something? Aeona needed to travel with speed, but did not wish to be caught outside of Bree hungry and with no food to speak of, even with her supple bow for company. She would at least need to replenish her store of arrows before she left.

The walker was jolted out of her own thoughts by a dark figure on a horse galloping by her along Bree's streets and she realised her steps had taken her to the entrance of the Prancing Pony's stables.

"...be leaving soon." a harassed voice came from inside and for a moment Aeona considered staying by the stables, but told herself not to for reasons she could not entirely be sure of, the guarded airs that she would never lose playing a part. Although as fate, it seemed, had stopped her footsteps outside the Pony, she turned to enter the inn. taking her hood down as she joined the crowds she revealed to all those who cared to look unchecked burgandy hair that now almost cascaded down her back, almost elegantly curved even features and the pointed ears of an elf, which contrasted starkly with her bare feet, adorned with a light growth of hair and her garb: travelling clothes from a realm of Men.
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Postby strider- » Thu Apr 15, 2010 8:33 pm

It had been many weeks since Aeron had left Rhûn. He followed the River Running west for many days then finally found a lost road South. There were no inns, no farms no outposts. Aeron had found little to track for days but now it was clear someone had travelled this road recently and in great haste. Many hoof prints and wagon tracks had left slight marks in the soil but it was something. It was so dry and the shifting sands made tracking anything difficult. Aeron was thankful for the cool weather and clear air moving up from the South.

He too was relieved so many of his father’s enemies had been destroyed in the Great War. It was a small miracle their kingdom had survived at all in the middle of such darkness and turmoil. To have survived all those years to only have thieves come in the night and steal his sister from under their very noses. That was a wound that he felt deeply and brought him great shame. The hand of an enemy can strike even from the grave he thought bitterly.

He made his way across the open lands of the Rhovanion, through sparse woodlands and came through a narrow strip of dark and stagnant land that cut its way south of the Brown Lands in the Shadow of the Ered Lithui and out onto the rocky plains of Dagorlad at the foot of Mount Doom – or what was left of the great shadow. It was a sombre place, quiet, desolate but still there seemed to be a peace about it. Aeron was tired, discouraged and road weary by the time he found anything closely resembling civilized lands in a small outpost East of the Anduin near the cross-roads at Minas Morgul. Here soldiers of Gondor had been busy setting up camps and restoring order along the roads that led to Osgiliath and into the White City. Aeron greatly desired to enter Minas Tirith, but his road was wherever news of his sister and the other captives would take him. He felt hopeful that someone at the outpost might be able to give him some news of the people he was looking for even if he didn’t know who they were himself yet.
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Postby Lebasi » Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:40 am

As Aeona stepped into the inn and her senses adjusted to the warm bustle inside in contrast to the cold air outside, heavy after a profuse wash from the rain, she heard some of the talk amongst others, some light, discussing no more than the festives that the young woman had missed or other such relatively trivial matters. Other conversation, however, was darker.

“...trouble from the south...”

“...queer people passing through...”

“...unnatural happenings...”

Aeona thought of all that she had heard and of what she was going to, in the homeland of her youth. She sensed something. Something deeper, that no region had considered as they dealt with their own troubles, something that linked everything, more dangerous than anyone had guessed, something dark that thrived even after the fall of Mordor. Yet only for a moment did she sense it before it passed and she continued through the inn, musing over the apprehension that had gripped her. Apprehension. That word almost made her sound uncertain. But to the young woman, this seemed unquestionably true.

As she wove her way through the tables in the tight crush of the almost full inn, she approached the bar and secured one of the few rooms left for the night, at the same time as buying a drink and promising herself that she would acquire what she needed with first light at the latest and leave immediately after, not losing any more time than she had to. Aeona found a free table, close to one occupied by a woman and a hobbit. The two different races deep in conversation made Aeona look more closely and as she did she found that their talk hinted at a link to the sense that she had felt earlier and slipped her hood back over her burgundy hair, so dark, especially in this light, that it seemed almost black, and melted into the shadows, an inconspicuous form that would go unnoticed would see unless it was being searched for.
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Postby Shadowfax » Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:44 pm

"So, what did you learn?" asked Falmerial.

Del looked into his nearly empty mug, “I’ve learned that that Folk in these parts fared pretty well during the great war. There was trouble in the Shire to be sure, but nothing like what the lands to the east endured, armies of Orcs and such destroying everything. Very lucky we are.”

Falmariel nodded in agreement “Lucky indeed.”

“Folks can now travel more freely, just look at the amount of people here in Bree! I’ve never seen so many in one place before.” Del leaned in a little closer, “There’s even a couple of travelers from the Sun Lands here, though they seemed to be having a little bit of trouble. One of them is even hiding in my room out back!”

Falmerial whispered, ‘Hiding? From who?”

Del eyes shown with excitement, “I don’t know! It’s all really exciting though, don’t you think? Mystery, intrigue……………adventure!”

A worried look came over Falmerial, “Del you must be careful in dealing with these strangers, especially strangers from Harad. Do you even know their names?”

“Names?………well….no. I’m working on that at the moment, but I think I’m a pretty good judge of character.” Del finished off his mug and was looking around for a refill when he spotted the other Sunlander enter the Inn. “Wait here a moment. The other Sunlander has come back and I must get news from him.”

Falmerial watched as the young Hobbit made his way towards the dark skinned man. They spoke together for several minutes and then the Hobbit returned, the dark skinned man left the Inn once more. Del sat back down grinning, “The plot thickens! I must help the lady escape from Bree!”

“Escape? Escape from who master Hobbit? What are you getting yourself involved with?” Falmerail’s patience with Del was wearing thin; she did not want to see him get hurt.

“I don’t know….yet!” replied Del. “I must pass word to her about the escape from Bree. Wait here, I’ll return shortly.”

Once again she watched as the Hobbit wandered off into the crowd on his secrete mission. It wasn’t long before he returned, “There! All is set! We leave tonight under the cover of darkness and I have a name!”

“We as in who Del? You haven’t included me in any of your plans, have you?”

Del beamed a big white toothy smile, “Why me, you and Naveen of Course.”

“The man’s name is Naveen?

“No, Naveen is the lady hiding in my room. I have no idea what the mans name is.”

Falmerial glared at the Hobbit for a moment and the flagged a serving girl for a fresh mug of ale.




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Postby Cock-Robin » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:53 pm

Meanwhile, Robin had been packing his belongings and found a pony to take him. The hobbit needed transportation since his friend, the Eagle Gwaeryn had gone, taking his path to the West. He would miss his ancient friend, and miss the skies that he shared with the Eagle. Now travel would be a lot slower for him.
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Postby Lebasi » Sat May 01, 2010 1:11 pm

The converation between the hobbit and the woman shot through Aeona's mind, a hundred wild-shot arrows, each containing a thought. The hobbit she now knew to be called Del, and her uncanny memory recalled him from the few times she had seen him when she had visited the Shire and seen him in Bree playing music. She knew very little of him, basically only his name and had seen him only once or twice. It was his quest, however, that really enthralled her and made her wish to find out more.

The elf considered leaving immediately and following the man, then thought she would find out very little from that. The man would be riding fast, and following him would take enough energy alone. She could follow the small party and find out about their quest. Aeona checked herself. Haste was needed if she were to reach her own destination in the time she had allowed herself, not a diversion. And yet... the ... the presence that she had sensed earlier, some sort of evil that knitted everything together. That would need to be addressed and there was always the chance that it was an urgent problem, not just her own, or theirs, but that of everyone. She resolved to follow them as far as her destination, or the parting of their roads at least, or perhaps further, after she had visited the land of her youth and heard what she needed.
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Postby heliona » Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:23 pm

Falmariel drank her ale faster than she usually would, as she continued to glare at her hobbit friend. She may have been yearning for some excitement in her life, but she had not wished for it to start so early, without even a sleep in a proper bed and proper supplies. She intensely disliked doing things in a rush unless it was absolutely necessary.

Of course, even though Del had said that "we" included herself, she could always refuse to join the escapade. Still, she was rather fond of the hobbit and found a part of herself concerned for his wellbeing. Perhaps she had better accompany him on this "adventure". No matter how good a judge of character Del was, Falmariel did not trust Haradrim.

She finished her ale and looked at Del. "Fine. I will accompany you on this mad venture. We leave tonight, you say? I shall gather some supplies and be ready at the stables. Mith is not going to be pleased," she added. "I presume that I will have to secure you a pony as well?"

Del looked slightly abashed - in his excitement, it was clear he hadn't thought about the more mundane aspects of sneaking out under cover of darkness. "I'll make it up to you," he said.

Falmariel waved her hand dismissively. "I doubt that, but consider it nothing between friends. I will see you later." She left the common room quietly and returned to her room.

There she rumpled the bedding to make it seem as though someone had slept had in it, gathered her possessions and made her way to the stables. Mith initially was pleased to see her, clearly anticipating a treat, however when he spotted her belongings, he gave her an extremely dirty look and turned away. "Don't blame me, blame Del," she whispered to him, storing her things in his stall. A snort was the reply.

After leaving the stable, she quietly made her way to Butterbur's cellars. If necessary, Falmariel was not adverse to turning her hand to thievery and she had yet to meet a lock that she hadn't been able to pick. Her footsteps were silent as she descended the stairs.

Keeping both ears open for footsteps, she quickly and efficiently gathered as much food as she could: bread, fruit, meat, both cured and fresh, cheese, wine. She made sure to take a large variety so that it would not be very noticable that some was missing, although she had no doubt that Butterbur would notice. Falmariel hoped that he would put it down to absentmindedness.

Once she was satisfied that she had taken as much as she could, she silently returned to the stable and secreted her vittals in her saddle bags. The goods safely hidden, Falmariel left the Prancing Pony and headed to the edge of Bree.

Her next task was going to be somewhat more difficult: finding a pony for Del.
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Postby earendil81 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:58 pm

She hated newcomers; always had. No, in fact once a long time ago she was one of them and looked at those who had been there for long with contempt. She had never thought she’d get used to being caged and she had despised those who accepted those bars no matter that they be made of silver or gold. But then she had grown up; she had learnt that every newcomer was a wild card in a game that was already hard to play. And in truth, what does a 14-year-old girl know about the real world? What does she know of power?

And now she had heard of this woman; a girl really from what she was told. And they had spent a fortune on her; she remembered blushing when she’d heard the price. It was indecent, which meant she was probably still a virgin, probably of noble blood too. Only those were costing that much money these days; and she was from Rhûn. That made her even more despicable in a way; and yet. There were few “royal” families in Rhûn; Easterlings were mainly tribes even though they were highly organized and strength was an important factor in the bearing of power. There were in fact very few places where leadership was handed from father to daughter or mother to son.
Rhûn had been free of Harad’s raid until earlier this year… well her case had been something else. Since the fall of the dark Lord though, men had gone to Rhûn and they had brought dozens of slaves, women to be sold as raw flesh or servants but none compared to her until this one. So had the master of the women's house said before he asked her to go get some “things” for the newcomer who would arrive the very next day.

Her thoughts had accompanied her to the market; covered from head to toe as was fit for a woman she looked behind her. The eunuch that had been assigned to accompany her was – as was proper – walking three steps behind. Not that she had doubted it, but the game she was playing right now was dangerous and she could not take a chance of being alone. She had played her cards well until now but this one woman could change a lot of things. She needed to know her name as soon as possible if she was going to save her own options. And because there were not many choices left, she could not afford losing another possibility.

She entered the shop; she would not be forgiven a faux-pas in the choice of cloth for the garments of the new woman. Al Sahlid was not a man to cross in any ways; she had not needed a long time to understand that. And she knew what would happen if she did. She would not become a hora ever; she would rather die. Some would say that was what she was already… She shook her head. It was not the time to think of what could happen if she lost what she had won. She passed her hands over some silk of a pale pink; a colour that was fitting her black eyes and brown skin, but she did not know about this woman. The skin might be similar, the eyes, maybe not. Maybe Ashar knew; she turned to him a question in her eyes. He knew her well and nodded. Before long they were out with a satisfying cloth that would be revealing enough for the man this newcomer would have to call Master, a fate that they would share. Maybe she was not so despicable after all. And maybe she would tell her of home.
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