The Pale Road to Laketown and to Final Farewells

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

As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:46 pm

The Dúnedain, continued...



With a groan, Ellandar sank to his knees. He gently closed Alogar’s eyes and motioned to Cerrimir, who stood next to where Alogar’s sheathed blade leaned against a tent pole. Cerrimir took up the sword, unsheathed it and offered Ellandar the blade, hilt first. The second lieutenant firmly curled Alogar's hands around the sword hilt.

“Go well, my friend,” Ellandar said. “Give my greetings to my father and Aramir, my cousin.”

“And my father,” Cerrimir added quietly. The healer, Kaya watched nearby but offered no names for Alogar to carry with him; her face was immanently sad, almost haunted. She sighed heavily, looked at Cerrimir equally heavily, then turned away.

Cerrimir went down on one knee, next to his fallen comrade, and gently lifted the thin blanket from his left shoulder. There, underneath, was Alogar’s badge of rank, a Mithril star with four points. Cerrimir unfastened it and held it out to Ellandar.

“Here, take it,” Cerrimir said. He watched as Ellandar’s eyes widened; his hand came up, as if warding the badge away.

“Can’t it wait, Captain?” Ellandar asked.

“Can it wait?” Cerrimir repeated. “Yes, of course, Ellandar, it can wait. It can wait until we all done here and everything is nice and tidy and we’re all back home in our cozy cottages under tidy, thatched roofs.” Cerrimir shook his head in mock disgust and held out the badge again.

“Take it, First Lieutenant.”

Ellandar took the badge hesitantly and, once in hand, he stared down at it almost guiltily.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Cerrimir announced. “What happened to you, to Alogar, the boy. This is battle; this is war. We know this.”

Ellandar nodded silently and unpinned his old badge of rank, fixing his new rank in its place. He held out the Second Lieutenant’s badge to Cerrimir who waved it away. “Find Gowther, give it to him. He’s earned it; providing his alive and well.”

“Yes, sir,” Ellandar murmured. “He’s a good man, he’ll make a good officer,” he added.

“Aye,” Cerrimir agreed, rising to his feet. “He’s young but able, like yourself.” He cast a final glance down to his fallen officer. “You’ve got a pair of large boots to fill, Ellandar. Are you up to it?”

Ellandar rose to his feet and held his Captain’s eyes. “Yes sir, I am. For Alogar’s sake.”

“For Alogar’s sake,” Cerrimir repeated. “Come, let’s bring him out and set him westward, say our prayers and then take up our mission.”

“Our mission?” Ellandar asked; surprise now mixed with his grief.

“Yes, our mission; you, me and Gowther. The Knights are going home, back to Esgaroth so, not only are we charged to seek out our fellow Rangers yet afield with orders to regroup here but there is also the small, trifling matter of flying cold drakes and where they are nesting. We’ve got to find them and ground them, First Lieutenant or we’re bollocked.”

“Bollocked, sir?” Ellandar asked.

“It’s a Bree word, Lieutenant. It means ‘done for’,” Cerrimir explained. “And you need to get out of the woods more.”

“Yes, Captain, you’re probably right, there,” Ellandar agreed with a chuckle.

After Alogar was rightly positioned with honor outside the healing tent, feet westward and sword in hand, Cerrimir and a gathering of Rangers recited the prayer of farewell. He noted Kaya joined them and her clear, steady voice carried over the deep, somber voices of the men.

With Gowther located, and duly promoted, Cerrimir set he and Ellandar to the task of gathering what supplies they needed; food, water, bows and sufficient arrows to fight off the drakes and anything else they could find that would increase their chances. They would need medicines and remedies for poisons, too. Cerrimir, once again, found himself at the healer’s tent.

Kaya was tending a newly arrived Ranger who had taken a club to the head; the gash was messy but manageable. Cerrimir recognized him as Legan, a Ranger from Rivendell way.

“And what did the orc end up looking like?” Cerrimir asked jovially.

“Ah, Cerrimir! Well, he was definitely five or six pounds lighter from the neck up, by all accounts,” Legan replied with a smile. “And once Kaya is done with me, I shall resume the hunt...”

“No, you will not,” Kaya announced, putting the final knot into the bandage covering the Dunedain's head. “You will be ordered at least three days rest.”

“A day and a night?” Legan asked.

“Two days, minimum,” Kaya conceded. “But I shall be watching you. Drink this, then go and take rest over there,” she handed Legan a cupful of the green, thick potion and pointed to the place where Alogar had lain. The Ranger obeyed with a perturbed but defeated look. Kaya turned her attention to Cerrimir.

“You’re looking for someone else now, Captain?” she asked.

“Yes,” Cerrimir answered, suddenly feeling nervous. “I’m looking for you.”
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:39 pm

The Dúnedain, continued...




“Me?” Kaya asked with a voice edged with suspicion. “Why?”

“I, ah.. we’re.. ah..”Cerrimir forcibly shut his eyes and mouth, collected his thoughts and began again. “I have orders to go out in the field, find our people and give the order to regroup but more importantly I’m to collect what reconnaissance I can on those damn cold drakes,” he explained.

“And you want medical supplies,” Kaya added, curtly. She turned to the table next to her and began shaking various pouches and bottles, listening to the contents therein.

“Well, yes, but…” Cerrimir started.

“I can spare some supplies, but not much,” she said wearily, opening one jar. She gave it a sniff and put it aside. “Understand though, if I were to hand over supplies every time a field officer asked I’d …”

“No, you don’t understand. I was hoping you’d come with us,” Cerrimir interrupted.

Kaya expression first betrayed her shock, then her bemusement. “Why would you ask that of me? When all you really need are supplies?”

“But that’s not all I need! I need you!” Cerrimir blurted and, once the words left his lips, he felt incredibly awkward; he felt the skin on his cheeks burn. “What I mean to say is, I need your skills.”

“Just my skills?” Kaya repeated, wryly. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Cerrimir answered, suppressing a grin. He was careful not to add ‘for now’ at the end of the sentence; there was a mission at hand and he had to keep his mind on the matter.

Cerrimir cleared his throat and decided to pull his gloves free from his belt for close inspection. “I’ve watched you work here; you know what you’re doing and, more importantly, you take command of your charges. I, I mean we, myself and two lieutenants, we’re going out in the field to find Rangers – injured and wounded Rangers and give them orders to get back here. You could minister to them enough so they can,” Cerrimir nervously gripped his gloves in one hand and tugged at his black beard with the other; he was aware the healer was scrutinizing him with even, grey eyes.

“I’m a herbalist by training,” Kaya said finally, staring at her green-tinged fingers. “Though you’re not the first to tell me I have a way with the healing arts. My hands just seem to know what to do; it’s common sense really. I imagine helping to raise three younger siblings lends to my ‘commanding air’,” she added with a quiet chuckle. ‘If you meet my brother Zaiyar, you’ll know why.”

“I remember Beredic speak of you on occasion,” Cerrimir added, unsure how the recollection of Kaya’s deceased brother would affect the woman; her eyes merely saddened at the mention of his name. “He spoke of all his family. I recall him saying you were quite the fighter; good with a sword and canny on your feet. That would stand you in good stead as well and be of assistance to us. Tell me, can you use a bow?”

Kaya gave a smiling laugh and played with the silver torc about her neck; Cerrimir could only make out a bit of the rune-spell marked upon it. “As a matter of fact I can,” she answered. “And a useful skill to have when cold drakes fly, is it not?”

“Very,” Cerrimir agreed. “Seeing as we’re also ordered to do what we can to find their nest, perhaps even put an end to them, another bow would be good. Well? What say you? We leave in an hour.”

The healer took a deep intake of breath and cast a worried glance about the tent. “I have to think about it, Captain,” Kaya answered, bringing her attention back to Cerrimir. “I am as much use here as I would be out there, as you can see.”

Cerrimir nodded silently. It was a good idea but a faint hope. He took his leave and checked in with Casshern; the adjutant handed off written copies of orders for specific Rangers, if and when located, and three hastily copied maps of Carn Dum for Cerrimir’s use, each with a different aspect. She drew the Captain’s attention to a deep ravine that lay on the northernmost slope of Carn Dum on the most detailed of the three.

“We’ve had some unsubstantiated reports that drakes were seen concentrated in his area here,” Casshern stabbed an ink-stained finger at the western edge of the northern ravine.

“What does ‘unsubstantiated reports’ mean?” Cerrimir asked.

Casshern suppressed a grin. “It means we heard it from the Mithril Knights, though no Ranger has been able to confirm it.”

Cerrimir chuckled. “Understood,” he replied, smiling. “And these red marks; our deployments?”

Casshern nodded. “We have at least a half dozen along the western rim. Take the route north by northwest to the ravine's edge. We have another team taking the eastward route….”

“Who?” Cerrimir asked.

“Captain Sardal, Lieutenants Geffen and Dregan,” Casshern answered. “But you get the hard task.”

“Rightly so,” Cerrimir replied. “Because we’ll get it done and not piss our time away, which is something Sardal does too well.”

“I don’t really care what Sardal does, as long as he follows his orders,” Casshern said wearily. “But I do care about this: Harogal was very clear, Captain; you’re to send all our people back here and conduct reconnaissance along the way, full stop. That means you get your arse to that ridge, get your eyes onto that ravine, learn what you can and get back here. It does NOT mean collecting a small army of men as you travel northwards and launching a full-scale assault on an enemy you know nothing about. Do you understand, Captain?”

Cerrimir snorted and wondered whom Ellandar had run his mouth off too. “Yes,” he replied in a low voice.

“Sorry, Captain, I didn’t hear that; do you understand your orders?” Casshern repeated.

“Yes, ma’am,” Cerrimir replied through clenched teeth. “But you’re wrong about one thing: I do know this enemy; I’ve been fighting them to two days now!”

“Captain, I don’t care if you’ve been fighting them since the day you came out of your mother’s womb,” the adjutant said icily. “Your orders are clear. Follow them and bring your men back alive.”

'Bring back your men alive'. As if Cerrimir didn't. The adjutant’s final sentence drained the blood from Cerrimir’s face. If she weren’t his superior (Cerrimir didn’t care she was a female) he would have planted a solid right hook onto her pinched face. He bit his tongue, gave the woman a very sharp and formal salute and marched away.

Cerrimir noticed Gowther first, as tall as Ellandar but thicker in body; the young Dunedain carried himself with a calm assurance that inspired others around him and instilled confidence and trust. On his left breast was pinned his new badge of rank, that of a Second Lieutenant - a Mithril star with three points; Gowther looked as if he’d been wearing for years. In his hand he carried what looked to be a spearhead reforged onto a pruning hook, attached onto a tall spear shaft.

“Sir,” Gowther called out, holding up the weapon, “we’ve fashioned these out of some farm implements we found. Ellandar and I thought they’d serve to keep the flying vermin at bay long enough for another to sink an arrow in their gut, or…” Gowther made and lunge at the air above his head, thrusting the sharpened point of the weapon upwards. “We just might be able to gut one with it or, with the hook, pull them down and behead them.”

Cerrimir took the newly fashioned weapon and weighed it; it was sturdy but manageable and the head was sharp and bright from the forge. “How many did you make?” he asked.

“Just two, that’s all the smithy had time for,” Gowther replied.

“It’ll have to do,”Cerrimir replied. "We'll have plenty of opportunity to try them, of that I am sure." He noticed the packs and weaponry collected at Gowther’s feet. “Are we ready to leave, Lieutenant?”

Gowther nodded. “Waiting for Ellandar; he’s collecting something from the baggage train. Something his mother gave him.”

“Something his mother…? What?”

“It’s some kind of salve ... or cream his mother swears will cure anything, so he claims,” Gowther stammered. “He won’t be a minute… ah, there he is now.”

Ellandar jogged up, clutching a small, corked pot in his hand. “Got it,” he announced happily. “This is the most amazing salve, Captain. It will cure anything; an insect bite, it will heal a cut, I’ve seen the children’s pox clear up in days…”

“Will it kill a flying cold drake?” Cerrimir asked, angrily.

“Why, I don’t know, sir,” Ellandar answered, abashed.

“Then I’m not interested,” Cerrimir barked. “Let’s divvy up this gear and head out while we still have sun.”

“I’m interested,” a clear voice called out. The three men turned. Kaya stood nearby with walking stick in hand, dressed in the muted tones of a traveling Ranger and wearing a full pack. On her hip she wore a sword and lashed to her back was a carefully wrapped bow and a quiver of arrows.

“In the salve, Lieutenant,” she added. “If I’m to be your ‘medic’ – I think that’s the term – I need to know about all the remedies available to me.”


Follow the continuing tale of The Dunedain of the North: The Drake Hunt in a new thread, coming soon.
Last edited by Bardhwyn on Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:47 pm

In Minas Tirith, the preparations for the campaign north continue as night falls on the day of victory and loss


With a head full of lists and a gut full of a hasty meal in the officers mess and a bucket full of concerns (he was now overseeing the readiness of two contingents now that Culanir was off on ‘family business’), Lys’ feet finally began their journey down to the second tier; it had been one of the longest days he could recall.

The call to mobilise had come; there would be battle and blood.

The main thoroughfare down through the City was strangely quiet; as if the city was taking a deep breath before it let her men go forth northwards where many would stay, buried with glory. Lys exited the gate onto the second tier just as the dusk took on a deep, blue hue. The two Eriadorian Tower Guardsmen to either side of the gate snapped to attention as he passed; Lys saluted them then gave the merchant Carver a wave as he passed.

The artisan stopped packing up his stall and hollered out, bring Lys to a halt and despite every polite refusal he could think of Lys turned for home with arms laden with fresh vegetables and ripe, soft fruit; all gifts of Larisse, the greengrocer.

“You have to take ‘em, Commander,” Carver insisted. “Or else I’d not hear the end of it. ‘Keep and eye out for either of ‘em,’ Larisse said to me, see they get these.’” The old man waved at Lys’ armload. “Her back’s been aching today, see? She left prompt-like. And I’m set up right next to her, y’see?” The woodcarver pointed to Larisse’s closed stall. “All day, mind! Right next to her! I’d not hear the end. No, there’s nothing to be done. Take the lot and be off with ya’. You’re late as it is.” The old woodworker’s eyes then softened. “Our prayers go with all of ya’,” Carver added. “Be sure to come back to the tier in one piece, now.”

Lys quietly thanked the man and headed for home.

‘The tier’, Carver said, meaning the second tier. ‘Why the second tier?’ a few officers would ask. ‘You can afford the third tier, at least? Even the fourth! You get paid by two crowns, do you not?’

He and Bardy chose the second tier because the people were more like Bardings – friendly and willing to speak to a newcomer without pretence or judgement. Fewer officers lived there, as well, which meant fewer wives and fewer expectations on Bardhwyn to be ‘Bethellys’ while attending stuffy luncheons and afternoon teas. Not only would she hate them (both the wives and the functions) she’d have to weave and spin a deeper and deeper story about her past. It would be far too troublesome.

Pushing off the Rohirrim was troublesome enough: an eighteen-hour ordeal, with the Ambassador of Dale in tow, after a few, far too clever and far too curious Rohirrim uncovered Bardhwyn’s identity. Convincing the Rohirrim Marshal of Minas Tirith and other royal Rohirrim representatives that Bardhwyn, effectively pardoned, was no threat to any one, especially the Princess Royal, and that their acquaintance was a total fluke was a feat of diplomatic largesse on everyone’s part. The Barding Ambassador still hadn’t forgiven him for the loss of that night’s sleep. Lysandros wanted no more trouble if it could be helped. Life was too short, too precious. Dirk had reminded him of that. He never told Bardy how close she had come to her own end that day.

His jaw clenched at the injustice of it all.

Yes, life was too short.

Lys passed the Shadow and Ring and could hear echoes of familiar voices from within but he resisted the urge; in no way would the fruit and vegetables make it home afterwards. He walked on, quickening his pace slightly and turned the corner, up Hurin Alley.

The pardon. It wasn’t just her pardon, it was their pardon and it would have to wait, now. Wait until the campaign was over and no doubt much of the interminable process would have to begin again with new royal stamps, correctly dated, new triplicate, notarized ledger entries, new headaches. All waiting for him when he returned…

He arrived at the foot of the stair that took him up to their rooms and stopped. ‘What will happen when all is said and done? When she’s free?’ he wondered as he slowly climbed. He paused again at the first landing of the stair. ‘Will she stay? Stay with me here, in ‘the tier’ or go home, to Dale?’

He climbed the next flight, turned and began ascending the next flight of stairs. ‘And what am I going to do? Go with her, or stay here?’ he asked himself as he arrived at their door. ‘And what happens to her I don’t make it back?’

“I have to come back,” he said, looking at the dragonhead doorknocker. "I must."

He struggled with the door to their rooms, only to realise the door was locked. An awkward few moments later, after digging out his key and sacrificing a tomato to the pavement below, he entered their darkened rooms; the glow of a dampened fire lit his way to the table.

Their ‘rooms’ they called it, but it was actually one, very large room with screens that separated out a ‘bedroom’ and the ‘kitchen’, leaving an area in front of two very large windows as a ‘sitting room’; it was freezing in winter but bearably breezy in summer. On this summer evening the night air had turned cool yet Bardhwyn had left the window’s shutters open inviting a pigeon to roost on the sill.

He waved it, barked. The pigeon opened one lazy, disapproving eye and then closed it again, clearly unimpressed.
“Fine, stay there,” Lys said. “No messes on the floor,” he added, pointing at the bird and he took its second disapproving glance as an agreement.

A quick thrust at the fire with a poker and a few small faggots brought the flames up; he noticed then what lay on the bed: All his things; clean shirts, several pairs of hose, his spare tunic, undergarments, his grooming kit. His riding boots sat on the floor next to his large, leather duffle with the crest of Dale embossed upon it. He checked through everything; she’d pretty much collected all he would need for the campaign. There was even a small metal tin of boiled sweets and his short- stemmed rosewood pipe. She’d heard the news, but had she heard all of it?

The door rattled and Bardhwyn shuffled in with arms laden full of brown wrapped packages, tied with string and her unused door key in her hand.

“You’re here?!” she said, breathlessly. She would never walk up the stairs; she always jogged. “You were almost out of leaf, so I ran up to the third tier, to Hascom’s; I took the last of his Longbottom – it ought to last you a good while if you’re careful. I bought as much of the Southfarthing leaf as he’d sell me, and a few short-stemmed clay pipes; you can trade them for what ever you need once on the march. I really am surprised to see you – I figured you’d send someone for your things…’

“Sit down,” Lys ordered. He watched her study him; she then looked him directly in the eye, just as she did the first day they met.

“I’ll stand,” she replied with a firm voice. “What is it? What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Sit down,” he repeated.

“What?!” she asked again. He could see the fear now; it brimmed just below her eyes most days, carefully managed by her capacity to reason. Just then, however, it broke through and her voice trembled as she spoke: “Is it the Rohirrim? The pardon!? Lys?!”

Lys walked to her and took her firmly by each arm. “No!” he shouted. “No! For once it’s not about you!”

He then saw hurt mixed with the fear in her eyes and he felt ashamed. “Bardy, please, just sit down…”

“You asked me to come here with you,” she said, with tears brimming. “And I followed you, everyday knowing that tomorrow could be day my neck is in a noose…”

There it was again, that word – ‘noose’. He hated it, hated everything it stood for. He gripped her arms even tighter. “And I swore I would not let that happen; not when I have breathe in my body,” he replied.

Then the singular tear that had been pooling on her left eyelid slid down her cheek; Lys crumbled inside. She never cried, never. He closed his eyes and grappled with his own fears, anger, only opening them again when he felt the light touch of her calloused fingers on his beard and cheek.

“You’ve got to come back, Lys, please?” she whispered.

He folded her into his arms, pressing her tightly to him. Perhaps she saw; his cheek was wet as well.

“Yes, I know and I will. By the Gods, I will,” he whispered. He felt her head nod as she buried her face into his shoulder and her arms squeezed him tighter. She then looked up to him.

“You better, Barding,” she said with a short laugh. “Or I’ll be forced to ride to your rescue and I’ll give no quarter.” Lys felt another stroke of his beard and he snatched a kiss on her fingers as they trailed pass his lips.

“I wish I could go with you,” she said. Lys shook his head in answer.

“No camp followers, never with the Tower Guard, you know that,” he replied. Though she nodded with understanding, he could see her disappointment at not being allowed to ride at his side, once more into danger, as they had done so many times before. Her head nestled back into his shoulder and Lys held her, wondering how to tell her the rest of the day’s news. It was clear she had not yet heard about Dirk. He surprised himself with the truth that he didn’t want to tell her – not at that moment for that moment with her, just then, was too dear to him. He savoured it a while longer before his conscience urged him to speak.

“Bardy, there’s something I need to tell you,” he said quietly. “It’s Dirk – he fell in battle, at Carn Dum. He’s dead, Bardy. I'm sorry.”





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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:53 pm

Bardhwyn lifted her head, not believing the words she’d just heard.

“What?” she asked.

“Dirk…” and Lys’ voice faltered.

“That’s nonsense!” she blurted, pushing away from Lys. “Utter nonsense!”

“That’s what I thought at first; they’ve made a mistake…”

“Damn right, they have - he’s too good a fighter; no one could best him in a melee!” Bardhwyn insisted.

“He sacrificed himself, Bardy,” Lys said, pulling her close and holding her eyes with this own. “He walked into the firedrake’s cave, alone, and maimed the beast to give the Knights a fighting chance. He is dead.”

Bardhwyn struggled with the thought, her imagination flying into the dark, stench of a dragon’s cave. The deepest cavern of Erebor still reeked of Smaug and the odour would sometimes waft up to the Ambassadorial living quarters when her family lived in mountain. To walk into that and face the vile worm alone and give up one’s life…

“That’s something he would do,” she whispered as tears flowed once again. Lys nodded silently. Once again she buried her face into Lys’ shoulder. “Oh, Dirk…” she sighed. “You damn, heroic fool…”

Then, as if she’d swallowed a lead weight, the realisation hit her. “Lys! Leoba!?”

She looked up to see Lys nodding and his word were soothing; almost patronising: “Culanir has gone south, taking the official proclamations; he’ll find her and tell her…”

“He’s already left! Oh, Lys!! How could you?!” she cried, pulling back and swatting him on the arm.

“How could I ‘what’?”

“Let him go before I could write to her!” Bardhwyn cried, hastily wiping her tears.

“Before you could…” Lys’ lips flattened into an angry line and his brows furrowed. “It was everything I could do to keep him in Minas Tirith long enough to ‘explain’ why he was deserting his post and running down to Pelargir – never mind staying long enough to back a bag for himself!”

“By the Gods, he didn’t? He didn’t desert, did he?” Bardhwyn asked, aghast.

“No, no,” Lys replied. He dragged both hands down his face and moved to the sideboard where the ale flagon sat. “He requested the assignment, explained why he needed it and the old man agreed, with one proviso…” He poured a cup of ale and drank it down in one swallow.

“And?” Bardhwyn prompted.

‘..and Dirk is dead’ she said to herself, followed by yet another wave of sadness. ‘Oh, Leoba, my friend, my friend – I am so desperately sorry!’

“That I oversee the mobilisation of both our contingents and assume combined command until he re-joins us,” he answered wearily.

“Oh, Lys!” Bardhwyn exclaimed. She went to him and pulled him close. “Thank you, thank you on Leoba’s behalf and Culanir’s. She can only learn from him; must only learn from him. It will kill her otherwise!”

“I know,” Lys murmured. “I just hope it doesn’t kill me.”

“Please, don’t joke about such a thing!” Bardhwyn cried.

“You know what I mean,” Lys said, dismissively. “I’ll have a permanent stomach ache thanks to his men. What an unruly bunch of pirates…”

“They are from the south coast,” Bardhwyn said wryly. As Lys poured himself a second cup of ale she pulled a cup down from the shelf for herself. Lys filled it, nodding.

“I’ll get my fill of pasties in the coming days, that’s for sure,” Lys added with a chuckle.

“When do you leave?” Bardhwyn asked quietly, her eyes still tearing. She brushed at them, impatiently.

“I’ll be riding out mid-afternoon tomorrow; I want to reach our first camp by moonrise. The contingents will march out morning after next,” he answered.

“Are you here for the night?” Bardhwyn asked. She saw Lys’ eyes trail over to the bed, covered with his things.

“Is there room enough for me?” he asked, chuckling.

“Oh, I think I could make some room for the Commander of the Combined Dale and Pelargir Contingents of the Tower Guard,” she answered, nuzzling his neck. “And please tell me you’re getting a promotion out of this?”

“No,” he answered, gently taking hold of her damp chin. He kissed her firmly, pulling her close as he did so. The taste of his ale lingered on her tongue and she could faintly smell Old Toby on his beard.

“But,” he continued, “Culanir will owe me one very, very big favour.”



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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:08 pm

Tidings Travel South: Leoba in Pelargir

In the southern port city of Pelargir, the sultry heat of Urimë had become well nigh unbearable, so much so that birds had been seen to fall stone dead out of the trees. For weeks now, the populace had been waiting for the weather to break and on this particular morning at the house of Serindë and Carandil, the children had gone out into the garden to perform a complicated rain dance.

“This is how they do it in Harad” shouted Míriel gleefully as she led her younger brother and sister, Taron and Rian, in a cheerful riot of foot-stomping and arm-waving as she chanted something wild and incomprehensible. Little fifteen month old Thalion toddled along after his older siblings, squealing with delight.

From the shade of the terrace, Leoba and her sister-in-law Serindë kept a watchful eye on the parade, whilst Serindë nursed her fractious four month old baby. Despite the forenoon hour, it was already hotter sitting in the shade in the still warmth trapped by the spreading vines than it was out in the glare of the cobbled courtyard where the children were dancing.

Leoba shifted her skirts above her knees and stretched out bare legs and feet in an effort to cool down. She had pinned her chestnut hair up on top of her head to the same purpose but damp tendrils had escaped to curl darkly at her temples and the nape of her neck. ”It’s on days like this that I half wish I were a man” she said to Serindë. “I keep fantasising about the river. There were groups of lads down at Old Bridge yesterday evening, naked as the day they were born, jumping into the waters far below. It looked so cold and inviting.”

“Leaving aside the butt naked bit: you can’t swim.”

“No but all four of my brothers can. If I’d been born a boy they’d have invited me along too when they went off exploring – and skinny dipping.” Leoba replied.

“I can think of a certain vintner who’d like to see that!” giggled Serindë, giving Leoba a little nudge.

Leoba blushed brick red. “Oh don’t, Serindë, I don’t want to think about Turaglar that way!”

“Well, you know it’s how he thinks about you”, her sister-in-law retorted.

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: Turaglar is a lovely man.”

“And rich”, Serindë interjected

“…but I’m not in love with him and I never will be.”

“You can’t know that. Love often comes after marriage. It did for me and your brother and, for all his foibles, we’ve been very happy together for over twelve years now”.

“But I’m not going to marry him. You know I’m not on the market.” Leoba was starting to get a bit annoyed.

Serindë snorted disrespectfully.

“I don’t want to argue: it’s too hot for cross words. Besides which, you’re never going to win me over on this subject, so don’t you think it’s time to let go of it? You know full well that I have promised myself to Dirk. I do not take such an oath lightly, however long I have to wait. I put it to you bluntly and perhaps slightly crudely: if I married Turaglar – which I am not going to do – there would always be three of us in that marriage bed.”

“Actually, you’re right, Leoba. I’m not sure that Turaglar is into that sort of thing” said Serindë, raising one finely-defined eyebrow.

The two women dissolved into laughter, their good humour restored. The contentious subject of Leoba’s love life was shelved for another day.

From the house behind them, the two women heard the front door open and then slam back closed and then the sound of footsteps and male voices reverberated down the central passageway. Leoba hastily made her skirts decent and both women tried to compose themselves as Carandil and his eldest son, Thorondir, emerged from the shadows onto the veranda.

Carandil leaned over to kiss his wife on the lips and then caressed the dark head of his now sleeping baby boy. “What are you two giggling about then?”

Serindë and Leoba swapped glances: “Nothing!” they chorused unconvincingly

“I can tell you something to make you smile” said Carandil. “We’ve come straight from the covered market. There are rumours spreading like wildfire about a great battle that the Mithril Knights have fought up in the far north. Everyone is talking about it!”

Leoba clasped her hands to her mouth in fear and trepidation as she murmured, as much to herself as to her companions: “Sweet Nienor, Lady of Mercy, please let him be safe.” And then to Carandil: “Is Dirk. are they all alright? The Mithril Knights, that is?! Please, tell me everything you’ve heard”.

He put his arm about her. “Relax sister, I told you the news is good. They have fought and slain a Great Dragon on the slopes of Carn Dûm. It’s the stuff of which legends are made and if there was anything amiss we should have heard. I warrant, we’ll be having celebrations in the streets before the month is out, the warriors will be féted in Minas Tirith and you’ll be charming everyone with songs about their bravery.”

“Isn’t that strange” said Serindë to Leoba. “When you woke us up with that nightmare the other night, you mentioned a dragon.”

At word of a dragon, the children’s ears had pricked up and they came running over excitedly. “A Dwagon! Dwagon! Like Smaug!” squealed Rían, jumping up and down.

“Auntie Leoba, Sing to us. I want to hear your song about King Bard the Brave again” begged Míriel.

“Later, children. Run along and play nicely.” said Serindë. Taron spread his arms like wings and ‘flew’ off down the orangery with his older sister in hot pursuit yelling, in a most warlike fashion, that she was Bard and was going to shoot him down in the fountain.

Serindë, ever practical, asked her eldest son to fetch the nursery maid to take over supervision duties. “And ask her to bring towels” she added, “because I really don’t need dripping wet children trailing footprints through the house today.”

Just Leoba, Serindë and Carandil were left on the terrace.

“Maybe Dirk will ride south”, Leoba dared to give voice to her hopes. Her green eyes blazed like emeralds with longing for him. She wondered what Dirk’s part had been and whether he had fulfilled Glorfindel’s prophecy that he would perform great deeds.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:10 pm

Tidings Travel South: Leoba in Pelargir

Later that evening, Leoba climbed the stairs to go to bed. She had after dinner, as requested, sung the song of Bard of Dale which had delighted the children immensely. Dragons were to them, the stuff of myth and legend, not real creatures that could cause havoc and fear and dread in men’s hearts.

She hummed the tune softly to herself as she poured water into the basin and washed the dust of the day from her face and neck and hands and as she folded up her clothes neatly and slipped into her cool linen nightdress. Then Leoba carefully combed out the tangles from her chestnut hair, as half under her breath she sang the chorus again:

“Away, away oh Bardings, ho! To the Long Lake’s northern shore!

And there we’ll sing new songs of Dale to live for evermore!
”*

It was a traditional song she had been taught by Bardhwyn during her sojourn in Dale a year or so earlier, written more than a generation past by a true-hearted Barding in honour of their late King’s valiant deeds. On a night such as this when her mind was full of the news from the north and her heart full of the thought of her beloved Dirk of Esgaroth, there seemed nothing more appropriate.

Unwilling to try to sleep just yet, the young woman sat in the window seat and stared out across the city. Lights twinkled in the streets all the way down to the harbour side. From her vantage point, glinting through gaps in the buildings, Leoba glimpsed the mighty Anduin, where the moonlight caught its ripples in the burgeoning breeze. She heard the first hesitant raindrops fall and thought wryly that Míriel’s rain dance had worked its magic after all. Far in the distance, a rumble of thunder echoed and a first fork of lightening rent the skies. The weather was breaking at last. By the time that Leoba succumbed to the comfort of her mattress and closed her eyes and drifted off into dreams of happier times, the rain was coming down steadily. It cleansed the parched earth and it drenched the exhausted soldier who rode continuously through the night, switching horses as he came, down the road from Minas Tirith bearing news that he would deliver to his sister as soon as she awoke.



*lyrics courtesy of the author: Bardhwyn of Dale
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Sun Feb 17, 2013 12:13 pm

Tidings Travel South: Culanir on the road

Culanir swung his battered body up into the saddle again. This would, he presumed, be his last post-horse. This inn the last break on a long ride that had begun nearly two whole nights and one day ago in the White City. A thankless ride, without rest of mind or body. It would take him to Pelargir, to his sister's side and the knight was dreading what he had to say to her.

Once again he cursed the black woollen tunic which was standard issue and a standard curse-word for all the Minas Tirith guard. Under the unremitting glare of the Lebennin sun Culanir had sweated like a pig on a spit all the previous day. A sensible man would have removed the tunic of course and ridden only in shirt sleeves but the men of Gondor were not sensible where status and pride were concerned and, as a captain of the City Guard, Culanir would as soon have tweezered his own leg hairs as be seen abroad without the proper accoutrements. As the long summer evening had drawn in and the sun sunk down into the western seas, the cursed tunic had chilled. Then as dark fell, so did the rains. By the cusp of day-break, as Culanir left that last inn, he was drenched to the bone. Rivulets ran down his cheeks and disappeared into his close-cropped beard, drops dripped off his aquiline nose and the blasted tunic chafed: journey's end would hurt on every level.

The sky steadily grew a lighter shade of grey and the rain turned to a saturating drizzle and the fresh horse kept up a steady pace until there were left only a couple of leagues between Culanir and his destination. He still didn't know what words he was going to use. How do you tell someone that their lover is dead? It would be hideous however he framed it. Yet Culanir was grateful all the same that the task would fall to him. He alone of all Leoba's family had met Dirk and Culanir had progressed from an unfortunate first introduction on opposing sides in battle, to a grudging respect for the man and a realistic understanding of the nature of Dirk's relationship with his little sister. Knowing the alternative, that the task would fall to his brother and his wife, Carandil and Serindë, with their reputation for lack of tact, turned his already chilled blood cold.

At the gate of the port city of Gondor, Culanir's hard ride at last came to a halt. He swayed in his saddle beneath the great sandstone towers of the north-eastern barbican. He was a redoubtable soldier but the past forty-eight hours had taken their toll and he was in desperate need of a good breakfast and a bath although he knew only too well that neither of those would be his until his duty had been done.

Moreover, before all that, there was a queue to negotiate. Culanir's mount stamped and snorted behind donkeys; their panniers spilling over with red and yellow peppers and green onions and sweet-scented garlic cloves. Carts blocked the entire width of the road. Women heedlessly gossiped, their shopping baskets balanced precariously on heads. Culanir had arrived on market day and the city officials were being as officious as only low ranking civil servants can be in checking everyone's papers meticulously before letting them in. Culanir was not patient.

“Make way!” he bellowed. “Make way for the messenger of the King!”

The crowds parted like breaking waves before him as Culanir forced his way through the throng. The gatekeeper took one look at the knight's grim face and at the white tree and stars on his stained tunic and moved aside respectfully.

Within the walls, Culanir took a hard look at the cobbled street which ran up to the citadel. The orders which he had carried all the way from Minas Tirith were almost burning a hole in his pouch, so great was the urgency with which they needed to be received by the commander. Instead, for the first time in his life, Culanir turned his back on his duty and spurred his horse onwards towards the old harbour quarter and his brother's house.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Sun Feb 17, 2013 2:10 pm

Tidings Travel South: Leoba in Pelargir

(Or: Delivering Details of the Doleful Demise)


A fresh breeze swept straight up river from the Bay Of Belfalas and whipped in through the open first floor window of the old town house and into the empty bedroom. It slammed one shutter hard shut and toyed with a shawl that had been strewn across the back of a chair. Then the gust skittered across the bureau and rifled shamelessly through the letters that had been left neatly stacked there; tossed them up willy-nilly and fecklessly abandoned them across Leoba’s bedroom floor.

Leoba was in the corridor beyond, distracted from her rumination by peals of laughter. They heralded a small herd of children who thundered over the wooden floorboards with all the confidence of the finest Rohirrim cavalry. They were armed to the teeth: the eldest boys brandished feather bolsters and each of the girls wielded a hairbrush. Thorondir was brave and made a swipe at his aunt’s knees with his pillow but Leoba’s sparring days were not so far behind her and she was both quick and relentless as she landed a counter-blow on his rear, which sent the boy sprawling in a cloud of snowy goose-down. She in turn was set upon by the other boys, in a brutal revenge attack and she too went down, outnumbered. Míriel leapt on top of her, followed by her other willing siblings until they were all a flailing mass of skinny limbs, sun-bleached nightshirts and squeals of excitement.

A loud rap at the front door sent them all into sudden surprised stillness and then there was an undignified scramble for the tall window at the end of the passage, which overlooked the street.

Míriel, flattening her nose against the glass, was first to spy the familiar flour-dusted cap of the baker’s delivery boy. ”It’s Col from the bakery” she squealed, “and he’s got cinnamon buns today!” She turned around to face the others, beaming from ear to ear; Rían started jumping up and down and squeaking with glee. Col hadn’t just brought the cinnamon buns, there were also the daily loaves for the household, with darker rye bread for the servants and soft white rolls for Serindë.

Leoba clapped her hands authoritatively and issued marching orders to the children to go and get themselves washed and dressed. The greatly-desired buns were at their best eaten warm and fresh from the oven and any moment of delay was considered criminal. A dozen bare feet scampered away in hasty search of facecloths and towels, tunics and dresses.

Abandoned by the window, Leoba twisted her dress lacings around her fingers, pricking her palms with the points: her nerves were on edge, despite her attempts to divert them and naturally she couldn’t avoid thinking about the previous day’s news of the battle. For all the glad tidings, she just couldn’t get the vestiges of her dream out of her head. There had been a dragon, as she had told Serindë, but that wasn’t what had woken her, screaming. She resolved that as soon as they had broken their fast, she would hasten to the citadel in search of more detailed news.

She gazed out of the window. The sun had still not deigned to show her sleepy head but had instead left the sky to steadily grow lighter grey, augmented unpleasantly by the ongoing drizzle. It was fairly uninspiring. Down on the quay, Leoba knew that the daily fish market would be in full swing, rich with the stench of brine and seaweed and alive with the calls of the salesmen. She knew too that later, their cook would venture up town to the big market and that there would in all likelihood be something special for supper. And no doubt at some point she would be prevailed upon to take some of the children out to go and stare at the caged monkeys and performing dogs that always accompanied the more serious stalls.

In the street below, the baker’s boy had moved on and it was peaceful again. Leoba heard the brass dinner-gong echo through the house, calling everyone to the breakfast table and she was about to answer its call when she saw something out of the ordinary turn the corner into their road: a mounted soldier, all in black, in what she knew to be the livery of the White City. They rarely saw soldiers down here amongst the villas and the larger old houses; it was too far from the barracks, and the taverns. She looked again at the rider, took in his bright auburn hair and matching close-cropped beard and the commanding air with which he held himself in the saddle; she would recognise her eldest brother a mile off. In excitement, faintly tempered by uncertainty, Leoba waved to him. Culanir saw the sudden movement and looked up and saw his sister framed in the window, dressed in the green of spring leaves; they made eye-contact and she smiled. He tried to smile back.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Sun Feb 17, 2013 2:12 pm

"Come on Leoba! Hurry up. They’re getting cold!” Thorondir hollered up the stairs.

The cinnamon buns. Leoba had totally forgotten about them and since there was going to be an extra mouth to feed and the possibility of sharing being necessary, there was considerable risk of a tantrum from someone; not necessarily the toddler. She gave her favourite brother one more smile through the glass and rushed down the stairs and into the dining room where everyone was politely waiting for her to take her place before they started.

“Carandil, you’ll never guess who’s outside”, Leoba said. ”I think we’ll be needing an extra place for breakfast.”

The children all looked at her excitedly. ”Who? Who?” begged Taron, wriggling in his seat with anticipation (for the buns).

“None other than a certain Captain of the Tower Guard. I’ve just seen Culanir ride down the road!”

The cacophony of chatter which greeted this remark was swiftly silenced by a loud knock at the door. Carandil thrust his chair back and with one commanding hand motioned to the rest of his brood to stay put in their places. ”Don’t wait for us.” Taron’s hand was already in the bread basket, helping himself.

Leoba closed the dining room door behind them as she and Carandil went to let Culanir in. Both of them were pleased and intrigued at the thought of seeing their brother. It was exceptional for Culanir to visit Pelargir; despite his position commanding the Pelargir contingent of the Minas Tirith guard, it had been two years since he had last graced them with his company, when he had been sent to the city on an ill-fated recruitment mission: the incident with the press-ganged son of the Seneschal was not one Culanir would forget, or be allowed to forget, in a hurry.

When they opened the door, the soldier who stood on the front door step was not the best advertisement for the glory of armed service. Culanir dripped into the hallway, smelling potently of wet wool and horse. Leoba grabbed him in a soggy embrace all the same. With his good arm, Carandil slapped him heartily on the shoulder in the manner of a man who would dearly love to be relaxed enough in his own manhood to join in the group hug.

“Come in, come in”, Carandil welcomed him. “You look like something the cat dragged in, and she’s not known for being fussy”.

“Lovely to see you too. You’re a born charmer, Randy” said Culanir with a look of tired, stretched patience.

“You were the best teacher” Carandil replied. “Truly though brother, welcome. You’re always welcome here.”

“We’re about to eat, Culanir, if you want to join us straight away?” Leoba asked. “It’s such a lovely surprise to see you and totally unexpected. Did we miss a letter?” She spotted the spread of muddy water puddling around Culanir’s feet, soaking dark rings into the hall rugs; expensive rugs, imported from Far Harad. Leoba could imagine what Serindë’s face would be like when she saw the damage. She also saw how Culanir stooped in his weariness and the concern that creased his brow into two deep furrows. She knew her brother well, knew that he was prone to melancholy and realised that he was in the grips of a bad spell. ”I’m sorry, the questions can wait. You look absolutely exhausted and I’m sure if you want to get cleaned up first, everyone will understand.”

“No, don’t worry: there’s no hurry to get clean and dry as I’ll have to go back out in it again anyway. Besides, I’ve left my poor horse tethered to the ring outside with no more comfort than a nosebag. How could I ask for more for myself?” Culanir looked solely and seriously at Leoba: “This isn’t a pleasure trip I’m afraid, I’ve got official business to see to. But you come first, always”.

She couldn’t hold it in any longer. After all, there was only one person on her mind at the best of times. Leoba clutched at Culanir’s sleeve in supplication. “Have you got news of the battle? Oh Culanir, please tell me you know something!”

“You’ve heard about the battle?!”, Leoba caught him on the back foot. He floundered and looked at Carandil. “Is there anywhere we can talk properly, other than the hall?” he muttered to his brother.

“Of course, of course, let’s go into my study. No one’s going to disturb us there”. That wasn’t quite true; Serindë had an irritating habit of blundering in without knocking. Only the previous day she had heedlessly wandered in and started talking to him about a singed table runner. It was, however, a relatively safe adult haven into which none of the children would dare set a foot.

Carandil opened the nearest door and ushered Culanir and Leoba into his sanctuary. The window faced onto the street and being small, on this dull day, let in barely adequate light. It was sparsely furnished but Serindë’s taste was in evidence even in this strictly male sanctum. The patterned rug which covered the tiled floor was of the same Harad extraction as the one which Culanir had already dripped all over and there were potent flowers arranged artfully on the rosewood desk. Leoba looked expectantly at Culanir and she couldn’t hide the worry in her face.

“Carandil, would you do me a favour?” Culanir asked. “Could you bring something for me to eat in here. I’m not up to massed company right now. Promise Serindë, I will make it up to her later; she can feed me properly tonight. And” he lowered his voice to whisper to Carandil, “I need some time alone with Leoba, so please, take as long as you need”.

The door closed behind him with a loud click.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Sun Feb 17, 2013 2:14 pm

“Culanir, tell me what in the name of the Valar is going on?” said Leoba. There was a cold wedge of dread lodged in the pit of her stomach and she didn’t like it one little bit.

Culanir unconsciously rubbed his beard with his thumb and fore-finger as he fished for the right words to begin what he had to say.

“The battle?” Leoba prompted. ”They said there was victory. But you’re not acting as though that’s right.” the longer he paused, the more the knot in her stomach tightened.

“Let’s sit down” Culanir said, doing just that and patting the space next to him on the oak settle. Leoba obediently responded, pulling out the embroidered cushion from behind him before that too was ruined. “There was a victory,” he went on, “there is truth in the rumours, though how you heard that before I got here is a mystery because I have outridden even the wind to get here from Minas Tirith so quickly. The Mithril Knights were engaged under the shadow of Carn Dûm, what must be a day or so ago now.”

Leoba said nothing, but shuddered; the name of that place and of the realm of Angmar which it had once ruled brought nothing but memories of Dirk’s struggles with evil.

“The knights killed a dragon, a great wyrm out of the oldest tales.”

Leoba carefully nodded; it tallied with what she’d heard. “And what else, Culanir, there’s something you’re not telling me. Is Dirk hurt? Tell me!”.

Culanir took a deep breath and looked straight at her. “Leoba, there’s no easy way… he didn’t make it. Leoba, Dirk is dead.”

Leoba’s face turned ashen white and for a time she could not speak. In the ensuing long moments of silence, those three words hung between them like full-blown seed-heads, set to spatter their debris irredeemably far and wide at a touch. He reached for her hands; she was as cold as marble but he felt her tremble. In the dimmed light her emerald eyes were dark as forest pools, glimmering with unspilled tears.

“I’m so sorry, Leoba. By Manwë’s breath I wish it wasn’t so.

“How?”

Culanir tried to explain though he knew as he said it that it sounded poor; he wanted to give his sister so much more. ”I don’t know nearly enough from despatches. But I do know that Dirk was desperately brave. He entered the dragon’s lair, on his own and he fought it, wounded it, deprived it of its fire. It was because of him that the other knights killed off the beast and were unharmed. They survived only because of his valour, his sacrifice.”

Leoba remained agonisingly silent. There were words in her head but she feared that if she opened her mouth they would issue as a scream and that once she started screaming she feared she would never stop. Just as if one tear dared to tumble it would unleash an unstoppable torrent. She tugged her hands free from Culanir’s and buried her face in them, bent double with the leaden weight of shock and grief. Leoba didn’t want to think. She willed her mind to be as numb as her body but in the enveloping darkness she saw the dragon of her nightmare again and knew the awfulness of Dirk dying alone and so far away. If only I could have held him she thought. She thought about their last goodbye; their last touch and the glint of the early morning sun on the hilt of his sword as he had melted into the distance. And she wanted, so much, to hold him again. I should have sent that letter. I hope he knew just how much I Iove him.

Then Culanir put an arm around her. His loving gesture tipped the balance so that she could no longer keep her fragile hold; the first tears seeped through her fingers.

“Oh Culanir, help me” she begged. ”What am I going to do without him?”

He looked at the young woman weeping in his arms and he truly did not know. ”I wish I had the right answers to give. But I will always be here for you”.

She lifted her head and looked at him through the mist. “Will you really? Dirk once said that to me.”

“He truly loved you. You know that. I’ve witnessed that. Don’t ever ever doubt it. If he could have come back to you, you know he would have done.”

“It should have been me first, Culanir, me, not him! We were so certain, we talked it over and over. I was going to grow old with him, bear his children.”

Leoba turned from her brother and knelt alone on the floor, wracked by choking sobs. Wait for me Dirk” she whispered. “I have never begged you for anything but I am begging you now, please wait for me”.

Culanir looked down at his sister’s bent shoulders, her face darkly shrouded by her hair, and he feared for her in the days and weeks and months and years to come. Grief was not a stranger to Culanir but seldom had it hit so close to someone he loved. He mourned for the passing of Leoba’s youth as well as for the passing of a valiant knight. He knelt down beside her and bowing his head in supplication, seeking comfort for them both in the familiar ritual, he began to recite the litany of the dead:

Erulaitalë. I have called on the One and He answered my cry;
Great are the sorrows of death
Greater still His is love for the Children of Illútvatar.
Though my spirit is sorely pressed I live in His love and trust in His Mercy
He is the Lord for Always who dwells beyond the world;
Who made it and is not of it nor in it, but loves it.
Despair shall not consume me
Though beset by the shadow of grief I shall not be afeared
For beyond the mask of darkness and beyond the Circles of the World there is light.
Aurë entuluva
I sing his praises and I give thanks unto Eru the Allfather for His Gift
For He is gracious and He is righteous and He is merciful. Erulaitalë


He finished the first prayer, and Culanir reached for Leoba’s hand. She was still crying, but he sensed from her stillness that she had been listening. He squeezed her hand tight. She joined her voice with his; together they prayed.







OOC:
Erulaitalë : ‘Praise of Eru’
Aurë entuluva : ‘day will come again’
With due credit to Tolkien for the line from The Book of Lost Tales Pt1 which I have incorporated into this prayer.
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From Carn Dum to Amon Sul

Postby Cock-Robin » Sun Feb 17, 2013 5:26 pm

It could have been but a few hours' flight from Carn Dum to Amon Sul, but Meneldor was in no hurry. He flew slowly, with measured wingbeats, partly because of his double burden, of the Stone of Amon Sul, the Eagle's Eye in his talon, and the grief for Dirk the Daring in his great heart.

But the other reason was that he took a wandering path. For he wanted to show his friend the places he would not see again, and he flew here and there, doing a continuing conversation with his friend, his mentor, his brother in all but flesh. He was with him in spirit, though not in body.

"We pass the eyries of the Misty Mountains, my friend, the eyries that now never welcome me as they did in the past." said Meneldor. "But it was the home of my brethren, after the fall of Thangorodrim and the Dragon there."

Many times, he looked westward, feeling the call of his long home, looking, hoping to pierce the distance of the long road between here and the holy mount of Taniquetil, the home of the Eagles who had made the long journey. There were many times he almost swerved in that direction, forgetting his promise to take the Eagle's Eye to Carn Duml, to go instead to his long home in the West, to await the time when he would participate in the last great battle, the Dagor Dagorath, spoken of in the Second Prophecy of Mandos.

He did fly over Fornost and Annuminas, reminding his friend of the adventures they had, the friendship they shared, before he left for his destiny on Carn Dum. Flying over the Shire, he looked one more time to the Havens and the Sea beyond, before he turned East.

It was hard for him to speak with the pain in his heart, so most of his conversation was in his thoughts.

"We go the path both Bilbo, then the Ringbearers took to Imladris now. The kingdom of Arnor is now safe and secure thanks to your sacrifice. Your place of honor in the Halls of Mandos are assured." Headed Eastward, he looked to the south. "The King is proud of you. An honor contigent will be sent to honor your memory at your memorial."

He circled high above Middle-Earth, showing his friend the length and breadth of the two kingdoms. "All look to you and miss you, singing your lament, as I do."

A song warbled from his throat, begging to be let out, and he did, singing aloud his grief for his fallen brother.

Where is the rider?
The brave, the daring,
The son of evil,
Who turned to good.

The scion of darkness,
Who served the Light.

From South, from East, from West,
They cry.

Where is Dirk the Daring?

From the North comes the tidings.
He took the dark mantle,
the one destined for him,
The mantle of the Zaugoth,
Son of the Nazgul-Lord.

A grim destiny,
but not as his sire intended.
He followed the doom of another.

The doom of Mandos
like my own, he followed
To the accursed mountain,
The mount of Angmar.

From there, he summoned
the dragon, the last,
Far darker than Ancalagon
was this one imprisoned.

He took out his fire,
by an ancient sword,
And so was the word fulfilled.

A star entered the darkness
And consumed him from within,
And so the dragon perished.

Your sacrifice was fulfilled,
Your doom was done,
The burden lifted,
Now and forevermore.


He flew over Imladris, circling three times, before turning back west.

Now, he turned to the stop where he would lay one of his burdens down.

Weathertop, the mount of Amon Sul,
where the King had sent some of his swiftest messengers to inform them that the Stone was coming to its long home.

As he darted towards the mount, his far-seeing eyes told him that a place was made in a rebuilt tower.
Named the Tower of the Ringbearers, it was over the very place where a Morgul-knife stabbed Frodo long ago. On top, was a high place, which had been in the planning for some time. And a platform was there, wider than that of the one at Annuminas, where its twin brother sat.

He circled downwards, hearing the horns that were sounding, not in challenge, but in greeting to the Last Eagle, Sorontel, Meneldor the Swift, a Mithril Knight in all but name, but that would come later.

Landing, he came to the place where the Stone would rest. Two guards stood at atttention as he laid the Eagle's Eye down in its place. "The Stone of Amon Sul, the Eagle's Eye has returned." said Meneldor. "And here it sits, and will never be moved from its place again while the Fourth Age lasts."

A ceremony began, hallowing the place, and the tower.
Last edited by Cock-Robin on Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Meneldor, Warrior Bard, and Brondgast, Mithril Knights

Gwaeryn and Robin, The Expected Party

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Dindraug » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:55 pm

In the shadow of the mountain that the dwarves of old called Kag zul Aradel, above the battered ruins of their old capital of the North, sat an old pine tree. A hundred winters had sapped its strength, twisted its shape and scattered its cones to the four winds where few had found good soil.

On a narrow branch, twisted like the wind, sat three dark forms. They sat huddled like dark riders, their sable wings formed like dark silken cloaks, the curve of their sharp talons clutching the branch. They waited, like they always waited, harbingers of doom, heralds of slaughter..

“..so the third troll said 'But I only ate the foot!'” cackled the first, nudging his comrades with his bony wing . “Get it, you see he-”

“We get it” intoned the other two, before the ground gave an involuntary shudder as if somewhere beneath it something great had belched. The shudder crept up the old pine and along the branch causing the three crebain to take flight.

“Wait...I mean Lo, great things are a happen-stancing 'neath Carn Dum's broken pillars”. said the second crow, landing back on the branch with all the grace of an albatross. His companions looked at him, and decided against passing judgement. They waited.

“I wonder how many of them will get it?” muttered the third, picking a bit of lemming fur out of his beak.

“All of them, except maybe the bird. I always root for feathered kin, be they pigeon or hawk.” pontificated Zarak'tig the second crow.

“Yeh but them eagles is not as intelligent as us.”

“Great sense of direction though, always fly, straight as an arrow to the destination. Zoom! I remember the Battle of Six Armies*, there we were supporting our allies, the goblins and the wolves and -wham! They came out of the west, you could draw a line between the eyrie and the Lonely Mountain.”

“You weren't at the Battle of the Six Armies. If I had a dead mouse for every crow who reckons he was there I would have a mountain bigger than Gundabad”.

“Was so”. sulked the first raven, whose name was Cawuk. Actually he was Cawuk Icebeak III, of a noble line who one day would reveal that his slightly mangled tail feather was actually a hidden balrog who had escaped Angband's demise and would come out when the coast was clear. Or so he believed.

The three birds sat, and waited. Something was happening, the ground gave another lurch, there was a gagging noise as if the world's greatest cat had choked on a hairball. Then a crash, then silence.

“Welllll, I wasn't expecting that”. Said Simon, the third crow.

Time passed, and then “Lo!” said Zarak'tig. He pointed, unnecessary with his dirty beak, as the slightly grubby back of an eagle started to force its way skywards out of the ruins.

“What's it carrying? Looks like.....looks like...dinner?”

“Yep, looks like it's carting off a body. And it's got something else in its beak. You have got to hand it to them eagles, take advantage of whatever situation. Grab the corpse the moment it hits the ground and Voom!”

“Look, it's circling. Can't get the height, it's going to have to drop something”. The three crows watched intently, waiting for the moment, and sighing with deep disappointment when the tatty looking eagle finally clawed its way into the sky.

“What made you such an expert on eagles? I mean, how did you understand the weight to awkwardness ratio of a body like that. Its wrapped up, should make it easier”.

“Well it depends on what it is wearing. Look whose missing, it's not the elves, or the bloke with the harp, or the pet bear. Its got to be that big bloke with the thigh high boots. Well, he was armoured up like an Olgi Hai at sunset, spiky bits on his armour, and that big ol' sword. So when Foghorn Leghorn over there tries to fly with him, he is going to struggle to get airborn”.

“But he's an eagle. And they have special powers, they can carry loads of weight. They carried old Gandalf from Isenguard, right under old Saurutips nose-”

“It was their king, and he flew him thirty miles in nice weather. We are at Carn Dum, winds out of the east; its three days flying to the Ettenmoors from here!” muttered Colin “I am going down to see what's pickings. I am hungry, and willing to try dragon!”

The three birds circled down to the glum collection of people who stood around the rather large and most tempting looking body of the dragon. As they looked for the way in, they listened to the talk, the tears and they finally understood.

“Oh, so he's a glory hound. Lets the guy die, then takes the body and the magic howzat and flies off with them. He will get to Amon Sul weeks ahead of these guys, with the body that is suppose to go to Dale, with the magic thingeymebob, and he gets to tell the tale before anybody else can get a word in. You have go to hand it to him, smart cookie for an eagle.”

“Can't be that smart, Amon Sul was levelled in 1409 of the last age, and not even high and mighty Aragant I, King of all of the West, has been able to do much more than post a couple of guys up there in the ring of blackened stones, with a tent and a crossbow to watch the road. Or he has a pre-fab castle we don't know about.” Cawuk took a big mouthful of something warm and squiggly, and sighed as it slipped down.

“He could say anything,” muttered Simon who stared after the disappearing eagle with something akin to awe “I am betting a song will be echoing from here to Umbar before you can say bunch-a-munchy-crunchy-giblets about how he flew into the fray, and he ripped the dragons throat open with a single swipe of his beak”.

“But he's not heading to Amon Sul. Look, he's going west”. Cackeld Cawuk.

“West, what's west?”

“Maybe he likes the sea air?”

“Ohh no, south by south west. There's no mountains that way. Oy, featherbrain. That way.....no, ah well. Bet he will surprise the soldiers at Weathertop. Great big eagle appears out of the sky with a corpse and one of the greatest magical artefacts in the whole of middle earth, and drops it at their feet. Hope they are trustworthy, and can keep that body fresh until his friends get there”.

But the smell of roasting dragon filled their nostrils, and that couldn't be denied. Like the carrion crawlers they are, the three crows fell onto the scaly corpse with gusto. Tonight the eating would be good.



* In crow-law, there were six armies, including the crows.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby erinhue » Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:04 am

Some miles to the east of Weathertop and just a little to the south, several hours after the Battle at Carn Dum

The end day light was waning and long shadows fell across a vacant plot of land where the Great East Road approached the Last Bridge crossing over the River Mitheithel. Long ago burned timbers and the wildly overgrown remnant of a stone foundation stood in silent testimony. These ruins were all that remained of the Lucky Fortune Inn.

A lone figure on horseback stood stopped on the road. The man pushed back the hood of his elven cloak and gazed at the sight through the eyes of memory. He could visualize the moss green door, the soft yellow light in the windows and the field of lucky clover that served as a front lawn. The thin sound of remembered laughter and beloved voices mingled with the sounds of early night.

The stationary rider let his thoughts slip further back. He thought of a young man, tall and strong, that came into the Inn one night seeking respite from his travels. The rugged face, all but hidden by the hood of his dark cloak, wore the expression of one who did not know how he would be accepted. The eyes changed when a friendly greeting was extended. In the days and weeks to come the young man would become a heart held friend.

Again the rider looked out over the plot, this time seeing the devastated ruin as it stood this lonely eve. He thought of how it ended, of how what started out a celebration had fallen into chaos, violence and destruction.
What initiated here on that traumatic day had come to full completion in the foothills of Carn Dum, resulting in a victory that had no sense of triumph, a victory worth the price, but not the cost.

The horse, a patchwork of black and white, scrapped at the dirt of the road with one hoof. Its restless shifting brought a cascade of tinkling sound from the silver bells braided into its white mane and tail. A meaningful snort emphasized its impatience.

“You’re right, Treble.” Erinhue leaned forward and patted the painted pony’s neck. “There’s nothing for us here anymore.”
Treble shook out his mane, setting the silver bells to tinkling once again. He bobbed his great head in agreement and began to follow the road west.
"Where ever you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Bonzi

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:07 pm

In Pelargir with Leoba and Culanir: later that evening


Leoba's seat in the dining room was conspicuously empty that evening; a tray had been taken up to her room. Even the children had picked up on the sombre mood and were less than their usual cheerful selves.  They ate their baked fish perfunctorily, including Taron who, though he eyed his supper with suspicion, managed to ignore the pearly white eyeballs for once and eat most of a plateful without mishap. As soon as they were done they begged to be set free and scampered off into the garden, all of a sudden as carefree as only the very innocent can be.

The adults hovered over the cheese and wine; a sprightly and quaffable red.  Carandil pushed his chair back from the table and loosened his belt a notch.  Culanir leaned forward and skewered a lump of the buttery, nutty sheep's cheese with his dagger. Serindë winced a little; she wished he would use a cheese knife.

"So, did you manage to get everything you needed to do done this afternoon?" Serindë asked her brother-in-law. She was determined to break up the weighty silence, if only with small talk.

"Aye. That I did." Culanir was in dour monosyllabic mode, ably assisted by his fifth glass of the Lebennin vintage. He had had a long hard day and had reached the point where the long-awaited and much-delighted-in soak in a bath and the dinner and the wine were all catching up with him.



His mind ranged back over his meeting that afternoon.  After a long time closeted in Carandil's study with Leoba that morning, she had gone to walk in the city in search of damp solitude. Culanir had bidden a quick greeting to Serindë and filled her and Carandil in on the sorry news before he rescued his patient horse from the street outside and took his official letters to the Pelargir Legate.  He was made to wait a long time for the audience, kicking his spurs in the dusty corridors of the citadel where he was reduced to counting cracks in the plaster. Countless flunkies were announced in and out and Culanir had been on the point of absconding in search of small ale and a pasty when the door-keeper bobbed up in front of him. "If you're ready Captain, the Legate can see you now".

Still stinking like a wet sheep, Culanir had obsequiously made his introductions. "News from the north Sir".

The Legate laid the papers on his desk, unopened. "Tell me the gist of it then Captain.  What do they want this time?"

"Yes Sir. The High Commander needs a company of good Pelargir soldiers to march north into Eriador with the rest of the army."

His superior interrupted: "I can't spare any and certainly not for that long. Tell him that."

"Sir?"

"We are stretched already here. The citizens are shaky. Still getting used to seeing Elves and even some Orcs out in the open. Only a handful of years since corsairs last came rampaging up the river. Do I need to elaborate?"

"No Sir. I respectfully suggest that you read the dispatches Sir". Whereas what Culanir had really been thinking was more along the lines of: 'I cannot believe I am standing in front of this pompous little peacock listening to this cack, still covered in three days' filth, wishing I had the wherewithal to soothe Leoba's broken heart. Whilst all the while my men are marching off on campaign ahead of me: Lys is good, very good, but he is not me and he is not a southerner and, by the Horn of Oromë, he does not know their ways and does not love my men as I do.'  He clenched his fists tight by his side and bit his lip. There was no glory in providing messenger-services. There was no glory in death either, he though sadly.

"When do you leave, Captain?"

"I ride to Minas Tirith tomorrow, at reveille. I will need to take your reply with me - in writing" Culanir replied.

"Understood.  Come back late afternoon and there will be a response waiting".

Culanir saluted and beat a hasty retreat.  In the relative privacy of the street outside he had let his frustration get the better of him; taking the innocent barracks wall to task with his fist.  The army simply could not afford for him to return to Minas Tirith without a promise of more men to follow.  He hoped that the letters penned by his High Commander were sufficiently insistent because weeks of to-ing and fro-ing navigating choppy small-scale political waters was the last thing anyone needed in this current climate; certainly not Culanir who, notwithstanding the stiffness from his long hard ride, was aching to get back in the saddle and out on the road under arms.

His stomach grumbled; the cold cinnamon bun he had eaten before leaving Carandil's had barely made a dent in his empty stomach. He knew of an exceptional little bake-shop just a stone's throw away, down Squitchey Lane and up the small hill into Littlegate Street, and the thought of one of their famous lamb pies had him hot-footing it over the cobbles.

In happy possession of his lunch, Culanir then made his way up to the square at the top of the road where he perched on a convenient mounting block, to watch the world go by and to enjoy his repast. A weak sun emerged at last but teased him mercilessly, flirting with the tendrils of cloud and smudging shadowy fingers across his face.  Nonetheless, he lapped up what rays he could and savoured every crumb of pastry and every last drop of gravy. For a brief moment only the simple things seemed to matter.

As he watched, he saw the door open in the long stone wall opposite and a lone female figure emerged, swathed in a demure veil and dark surcote, with flashes of bright leaf green at wrist and hem.  Culanir blinked and looked again and as she turned, he realised it was Leoba. Leoba, issuing from the House of the Daughters of Nienna. Culanir wiped the last crumbs from his beard as he leapt to his feet.  Somehow it didn't seem an appropriate day to be yelling at his sister, even across an empty square but he ran to catch up with her as she threatened to disappear down towards Cornmarket.

"Wait! Wait up!" Culanir hollered after her. "Do you want anything to eat?"

"No, no thanks. I'm not at all hungry." she replied.

He took her arm and they walked on together. He stole a look at Leoba's face. Her eyes were red and swollen and he could tell from the way she held herself, rigid as steel, that she was only just keeping herself together.

"What were you doing there then?  With the Moaning Maidens?"

"Don't call them that, Culanir. The Daughters are good women, truly.  I went to talk to them about Dirk, what else did you think?"

Good at praying but not so good at being women, being either virgins or dried up widows, Culanir thought.  Devotion for him was a natural part of life, a shirt he wore without thinking, like a second skin. But he was first and foremost a red-blooded soldier and that part of him thought the Daughters of Nienna to be a criminal waste of womanhood.

"For a moment it did cross my mind that you were petitioning for admittance.  Leoba, please promise me that you won't do anything rash."

"I'm not going to pledge my undying commitment to Nienna if that's what you're worrying about. You can rest easy on that count.  I wanted to ask them. You see I don't know what state Dirk was in when.." Her voice faltered a little as she struggled to continue. "I don't know how to explain."

"Try me" Culanir said gently.  "I can pick my way through quite a tangle if you need me to."

They stopped by the water conduit and Leoba looked furtively up and down the street. It was empty in the siesta hour but she knew full well that windows had keen ears.  She dropped her voice down very low.  "You know the troubles he had?"

Culanir nodded; how could he forget Dirk's little experiment with the dark-side: it had nearly cost him good men,

"He wrote to me - his last letter" she paused again, swallowing back her tears. "He told me he was 'utterly black' and that he needed to claim his true heritage 'without shame or regret'. What if. What if he didn't conquer that?"

"Oh Leoba, of course he did. He sacrificed himself to save his fellow knights.  You don't get braver or more true-hearted than that."

"That's the other thing though.  What if the sacrifice was deliberate?  There's something else he wrote; I know his letter word for word. He wrote that he 'must be lost forever in order to do the good that was his destiny'.  Culanir, Dirk wrote to bid me goodbye. Somehow he knew months ago that he was going to do something like this."

The unspoken word hung threateningly between them. Neither of them dared to ask outright 'was it suicide?' but Culanir knew what she was suggesting and Leoba knew that he understood.  Culanir didn't want to heed the seed of doubt that had been sown in his mind.  It didn't tally in any way with the dispatches received in Minas Tirith or with the brave words that Lysandros had spoken but then he wondered how well the authors of the reports had really known Dirk. Not for the first time that day, Culanir wondered what on earth he was supposed to tell his sister.

"What did the Daughters of Nienna say?" he asked.

"They wouldn't pass judgement."

"But they offered prayers and intercession?"

"Of course" she replied.

Culanir gave a wry smile, which he quickly corrected.

Leoba went on: "I keep thinking that if I had written back to him, if I hadn't let him go, if.."

"Don't go there," Culanir begged, "and don't torture yourself with what might have been.  That way lies madness.  Dirk was a good man and I believed he mastered his demons; you need to believe that too."

With such words of small comfort as he could muster, Culanir walked with Leoba back to the house. She climbed the stairs to her room, and as Culanir watched her go he thought how much older and fragile she suddenly looked; a gossamer thread in the midst of a storm.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Dindraug » Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:37 pm

Carn Dûm, as the dragon dies...

A thin pillar of smoke trailed into the air above the broken ruins of the old city, a thin trace that faded into the clear sky. All that would mark the passing of so great a beast as Mauglar the Mighty.
 
On a branch, on a tree overlooking the twisted ruins of Angmar's great city, a mistle thrush cocked her head as she watched what happened below. As the mournful company emerged into the wan light, they held the broken form of the fallen knight before swaddling him in a blanket. As the cold wind whipped around them the thrush watched, and listened, and then took flight.
 
She skirted round the bowl of the city ruins, her sweet voice echoing around the cliffs as a counterpoint to the misery below her, before she flew towards the distant mountains. Up she flew into the thin air, her voice trilling as she passed the small copses of pine and spruce. ‘Mauglar is dead, the mighty beast is dead’ she sang. In her wake more birds took up her song; first the songbirds, then the harsh cries of the corvids and the thin piercing cries of the raptors.
 
Onwards she flew, as hours turned to days and the leagues passed beneath her wings. As she rose to fly through the narrow passes of the Hithaeglir, the dirty forms of the Gundabad vultures took up the cry, and in their dark holes and caves the remaining wargs bayed the news and great black bats of the north surged out of their roosts like a billowing cloud. And behind them in those dark holes, goblins lifted their dirty heads and their eyes glittered in the darkness. They knew, that when a dragon dies, it leaves behind a hoard; and this time there would be no army of men, of dwarves or of pointy eared Elves...
 
Down the thrush flew, across the snowbound grasslands where the mighty Anduin first trickled from the rocks, and across the distant woods where all manner of bird and beast took on the cry 'Mauglar the Mighty is dead'. And as the sun started to set on the third day of her flight she finally alighted in the shadow of mighty Erebor.
 
The thrush picked up a snail in her beak and brought it down against a hard granite stone. She cocked her head as she looked at Harc, great grandson of mighty Roac, and started to trill once more. The black clad raven listened with his head to one side. He cawed softly, twice, but the thrush sang on, 'Mauglar is dead, the dragon is dead' before she flew off to a rock where snails sat basking in the sun. The raven watched her for a moment, then took wind and swooped down the cliff side, past the great carved statues of Dain Ironfoot and Thorin Oakenshield which guarded the mighty iron doors of the mountain, and he headed towards the King and his council.
 
Thus the news had arrived in the court of Thorin III, and there was great joy. The last of the great drakes, the threat that Erebor could have once again fallen to dragon fire was over.

“I will raise a statue to the knight who ended this threat, a statue of gold and iron that will stand until these halls fall to dust and the world is ended” shouted the King.

“If we knew who it was,” muttered his aide, “the raven just said he was a man of this land.”

“I know this Guri, and we must find who it was. Send runners to Dale and Lake Town, see if anybody knows who it could be. And we must hire the best for his burial.”

“Aye Lord Thorin, the men of the Dale of old slept in mounds by the head of the lake. We should send our fossars to build a barrow that will cast a shadow across the whole field of them.”

“Make it so, Guri. As master of my purse, you may be generous. Whoever this dead hero was, we must honour him as we have honoured none since my father, and Thorin Oakenshield before him.”

And minutes later a runner left the mountain for Dale, and thence to Esgaroth. He told how the dragon Mauglar was dead, and that a great but nameless warrior of the North had paid with his life.
 
And like a breached dam, word spread........
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Dindraug » Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:05 pm

In the mountain of Erebor, some minutes after the Dwarf King hears of the dragons death

Mr Clagg, partner in 'Clagg & Gillot, Erebor's finest undertakers, put down his glass of mineral water with a tiny tink.

It rested, exactly, on a silver disc of finely burnished granite that he used as a coaster. It was only on closer viewing that the small disc could be seen to be shot through with thin lines of mithril. He ran his hand down his well-trimmed beard, and watched as a young well-appointed dwarf strode up to the entrance to the office. The younger dwarf was dressed in fine linens and rich fur, but by his short bright ginger beard he was too young to be more than an aide to Thorin III. A younger nephew, thought Mr Clagg. It did not matter, but manners did. The young dwarf knew his place and waited to be called forward.

Behind the young dwarf, Mr Clagg could see the concourse of the Moneylender's Road, which ran arrow-straight across the vast chasm of the great hall to the King's chambers. The view behind was split by great carved columns that rose to the distant vaulted ceiling, and fell thousands of feet to the mines below. Mr Clagg sighed, eventually, and waved the messenger forward. The young dwarf nervously laid a letter on the black marble desk, and stepped back, waved off by a nonchalant hand as the older dwarf picked up his letter opener, idly spinning it in his fingers as he looked at the fine vellum before him. It bore the King's seal, so he should treat it as a matter of some urgency. He took the letter opener and broke the seal, and carefully read the letter.
“Matters most urgent, Mr Gillot.” he said finally.

Across the room from him, at another desk of pure dark mahogany from Farthest Harad, his partner looked up. He was tall and thin, for a dwarf. He had a long face, thin cropped beard with a series of mithril and gold shot rings that framed the well-groomed face. He wore a dark silken shirt and a close fitting and immaculately cut waistcoat. At the side of his desk hung his dark grey cote, resting on the highly polished arm of a mahogany hat stand from which a pair of black woollen hoods with a lining of black fur hung..
“Really Mr Clagg, most urgent you say”.
“It would appear that there has been a death Mr Gillot.”
“A death you say. Well that would make it of interest to such as we. But most urgent?”
“It would appear that a notable individual has fallen. Fighting in the far north west, slaying a dragon or so the King himself tells me”.
“A dragon slayer? Well that is a notable event. Well that does make a great even Mr Clagg. Did your informant happen to say who this dragon was?”
“Sadly not Mr Gillot, sadly not”. He took a sip of his mineral water, “But I dare say the harpers will tell us soon.”
“Ahhh, harpers. I do like a good harper Mr Clagg. They make such a pleasant sound, a cadence to the usual caterwauling we get from some of our clients.” He sipped his hot tea noisily, and reached towards the gold rimmed plate besides him for a small but exquisite cream cake. He stared at the confection, taking in the fine spun sugar decorations and gold flaking, before swallowing it whole.

“That looked like a very nice sweet Mr Gillot”.
“It was, Mr Clagg. Very pleasant indeed.” He brushed a golden crumb from his lips and took a second slurp of tea. Outside a single bell rang, the funeral bell that would echo through the halls and walkways of Erebor whenever a person of note died.
"You see Mr Gillot, it has become a most urgent matter indeed", The distinguished looking dwarf stood, and walked over to the entrance to thier office. Across the high levels of Erebor, he could see dwarfs moving with more urgency and deliberation than normal, as if a great issue had been made but everybody had been told not to make a fuss over it. He smiled; not a pleasant smile, it barely reached the end of his lips and never touched his eyes. "I think this will be the making of us Mr Gillot". he said finally "and of course, any great death marks the ends of many things. Many, many things".
Mr Gillot just smiled at his partner and returned to fiddling with the carved handle of the needle-like stiletto on his desk, before he used it to clean his nails once more.
"It could get messy, Mr Clagg".
"There is always the possibilty that it could get messy, Mr Gillot. Too many things could go terribly wrong, funeral rites are a delicate thing". He shook his head, the gentle sound of small golden ornaments tapping against each other was barely audible over the sounds of the mountain. He looked somewhat pained, as if struck with remorse, as he walked back to his desk and picked up his glass. He looked once more at his partner, took out a well worn sharpening stone and started to run it along a beautifully crafted blade.

“It will, however, be good for business, Mr Clagg” he said, some minutes later.
“Very good, Mr Gillot” said his partner, sipping his mineral water once more.
 
 
 
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Guruthostirn » Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:32 pm

*Oops, realized I posted under the wrong username. Please ignore this space...*
Last edited by Guruthostirn on Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Synthia » Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:49 pm

"Have you heard the news?"

Synthia ignored the tall Dunedain warrior's question. Dismounting, she patted her horse before she unstrapped her saddlebags. As a groom led the horse away the young woman scowled at her departed mother's brother.

"I've been hunting for the last month, uncle," Synthia replied with a frown. Her clothing was very dusty and her boots were covered in dirt. Even if her uncle hadn't known of her hunting trip it was obvious she had been away from civilization for some time. "I've heard nothing at all, let alone any special news."

"Oh, right." Her uncle held out a hand. "Want me to carry those?"

"No thanks," Synthia said, shaking her head. Her uncle shrugged and led her towards the Dunedain settlement at Imladris. After her time in the wilds of the Misty Mountains Synthia welcomed the comforts of civilization, a soft bed and hot water to bathe in. She usually didn't look for such luxuries but her wanderings had been rougher than usual and her hunt had been fruitful. Synthia deserved a little relaxation after the yearly ritual of avenging her parents. Now she was free to go south, visit Gondor, attend the next bardic festival, and enjoy the changing realm.

Within the halls Synthia's uncle showed her to the small room that was kept for her as a ward of the Dunedain. Unmarried women were rare and usually stayed with their parents but after Synthia's father had died in the siege of Mordor she had been taken in by the rangers and given the room as a permanent home. It held her few possessions that she didn't carry with her; an extra harp, several cases of spare arrows, and a wardrobe full of elegant elvish garb. As she set her bags upon a chair and unstrapped her quiver and bow her uncle cleared his throat.

"There was an incident at Carn Dum," he said quietly.

The young woman stilled, recalling the dark capital of Angmar. In her travels she'd often wandered through the ruined realm of the Witch King, where trolls were still plentiful and easy to find. She hunted there frequently, though the land was barren, a tough terrain to live off of, with none of the beauty the natural world so often displayed. The evil of its ancient master still lingered in the stones, rode the wind, crept in the dust. It was a place where a person could test themselves.

"What sort of incident?" Synthia said curiously. "I don't recall there being much up there that could cause issue for the kingdom."

"Turns out there was, Synthia." Her uncle frowned. "It started with cold drakes assaulting Fornost. The Mithril Knights came to investigate, and they ended their quest at Carn Dum where an army of orcs had been assembled in the old fortress."

"I'd heard of the attack on Fornost before I left, but not the rest." Synthia smiled. "King Elessar broke the army, I assume?"

"A force of rangers was sent to assist the Mithril Knights, but something worse came up from the roots of that foul place. A great dragon of the ancient age, kept chained by the Witch King, was loosed upon the world."

"A dragon. And I wasn't invited to the party?"

"Synthia, be serious." Her uncle's expression was grave. "You know better than to joke about death."

"Which is exactly why I joke, uncle," Synthia replied, shaking her head. "I will not fear what is the fate of us all."

"It doesn't make it a laughing matter. Particularly now."

"How many?" Synthia asked, subdued by her uncle's solemn tone. Despite her light tone grief and loss had touched her deeply. Her flippant comments were part of her defense, part of how she coped with being orphaned before coming of age. She knew the fear and despair that came with death, and now she would witness it again, even if only from afar.

"Only one so far." The tall Dunedain ranger sighed. "One of the Mithril Knights was killed within Carn Dum."

"A Mithril Knight?" Synthia asked, surprised. She'd met several of the great warriors of the ancient order, and was often employed by one, Anorast i Thrandir. Only the best would have traveled into the north. To lose one of the champions of the Mithril Knights was remarkable, and cause for mourning throughout the kingdoms. "Who was it?"

"Sir Dirk of Dale."

"Sir Dirk." Synthia had not met the man but knew of him. There were many rumors of his past and his exploits. The knights had lost an exceptional member. "When was this?"

"Several weeks ago. The procession should be arriving any day now."

"Procession?"

"The Mithril Knights are taking Sir Dirk's body back to Dale for a memorial. He touched many people in his short life."

"I'm sure." Synthia sighed. "I'll have to pay my respects when they arrive."
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Cock-Robin » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:22 pm

Meneldor stayed at Amon Sul for the installation ceremony as long as he could, but had to excuse himself. He had promised to be back in time for the Knights to begin the procession to Esgaroth and do the first nightly vigil for his friend, his brother, his mentor, Dirk the Daring.

He was excused, and took off northward. He almost turned around, for he saw Erinhue upon his horse Treble on the road below. He did circle back and fly over, screeching a greeting. "My friend, you are going the wrong way. Eastward is the way the rest are going from Carn Dum." He hoped Agarak would talk sense into him.

He didn't wait to hear his answer, but sped off in a north/northeastward direction, in the direction of Carn Dum as fast as he could, a blur in the sky above for any who looked upwards at the time. As it was said before, he was not called Meneldor the Swift for nothing. He sped on, high aloft, the North Downs to his left, the Ettenmoors to his right. He would go swifter than the swiftest arrow, not stopping for anything over the plains of Eriador.

And all the time, he was thinking of Dirk. How could he not think of him? He remembered every detail of their last parting, how he had held the suffering Knight in his feathered embrace, leaving him finally to his destiny. How he had almost gone on to the West, abandoning the quest altogether, and it was a wrench to his heart to deny himself that journey.

The day would one day come when he would not be so torn in two, but it was not to be at the moment. Only Anorast knew the torment he felt, feeling the call of the West, and yet time and time again turning his back to his long home.

Carn Dum approached, a long distant hillock which grew in proportion as he approached. The sun was already going west, almost matching his speed now, would it set before he arrived back at the scene of the battle, or would he race the sun and be there when he promised?

The Eagle flapped his wings and increased his speed, not caring that he was driving himself to exhaustion. The Knights needed him. There was some discussion before he left for Amon Sul whether he would be the one to bear his friend eastward, but he turned them down.

As the sun was even on the western horizon, Meneldor glided down to the plain, where he saw that the coffin with the cart, and its four torches at each point of the compass were placed around the cart. The Palantir was already at its home on Amon Sul, but at the feet of the coffin was the accursed helmet instead, the helmet of the Zaugoth, which had adorned the phantom head of the Witch-King in a time that now seemed like a remote age ago.

He ignored the caws of the crows feasting on the dragon's carcass, he had other things to concentrate on. Let them feast! That was what he had called the carrion birds to do anyway.

Landing, he stood at the cart, in silent vigil over the cart and its coffin, which would remain until morning. He looked up as the stars appeared, Menelvagor with his shining belt, a sign of the downfall of Melkor long ago. And he knew Earendil in his ship would also traverse the sky.

A constant warbling in the Elven Tongue would come from his beak, softly, graeefully, in memory of his friend, which would not be translated until the day they arrived for the memorial.
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Use the Force!




Meneldor, Warrior Bard, and Brondgast, Mithril Knights

Gwaeryn and Robin, The Expected Party

Meneldor, Alatar and Pallando, Darkness Reigns: The Resistance


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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby erinhue » Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:13 pm

With little to no direction from his rider, the black and white painted pony, Treble had fallen back to older patterns in his movements West, following their old circuit. Treble walked slowly along the Great East Road thinking of the sweet clover the stable master at the Prancing Pony always put in with the feed. The bard was sleeping in the saddle, a common occurrence that did not trouble Treble. He knew the way to Bree without any human help.

Wise creature that he was, Treble turned slightly south to avoid the Midgewater Marsh and the stinging, biting midges that delighted in horseflesh. Without command the horse stopped to observe something rarely seen by man or horse. The last of the Great Eagles, Meneldor, was soaring overhead. The eagle turned to circle the position and called out a greeting in it screeching voice. Treble bobbed his head and cried a loud neigh in response.

“My friend, you are going the wrong way.”

This message came down in the eagle’s call and again Treble bobbed his head in agreement. They were indeed going the wrong way. At this time of year the old circuit led towards Rivendell, not Bree. The seeming pointless time spent at the ruins of what once was home had some meaning for the bard. Left to his own devices, Treble decided that if visiting past places once called home was where the bard sought solace, he would take his bard to the very first among them. Unless and until the bard made some other indications, Treble was taking them to the Prancing Pony.
"Where ever you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Bonzi

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Dindraug » Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:05 pm

Three days after the thrush had brought the news

The snow lay thinly on the ground on a short narrow ridge that lay towards the northern end of Long Lake. Old Wuffalos, the venerable Sexton, leaned heavily on his shovel and looked at the long lines on the ground. It was exactly one chain in length, and three rods wide. When built, like in the old ways, it would be one rod high. This dragon slayer would lay with the old kings of Rhovanion, who had laim in this field for long years, since the days of Elendil or so local legend told
Old Wuffalos spat onto his palms and started to dig. The Dwarf fossors would be here within the hour and he at least wanted to make the point that the men of Dale had been here before the dwarf put mattock to ground. He called to his boy, a thin scrawny runt whom he could set to carry and fetch, just like he had been sent to carry and fetch when old Kind Bard had been buried. One day, this boy would have his own runner and he would be the panting old Sexton, and one day he too would contemplate a barrow that would be a lasting testament to his work, his life.
“Boy. I need you to find where the stones are. Need to get the chambers laid out. I want you to run to the mountain, and ask Mr Gillot and Mr Clagg, and make sure they will be here before the end of tomorrow. And remember to be polite, or you will be feeding the worms”.
“Yes Sexton” said the boy, and he ran off eagerly towards the distant mountain.
“Yes, you go and find a bit of warmth out of this bitter wind, and a nice warm pie for your lunch boy. Leave the hard work to an old man”. He muttered after the pair of heels that disappeared into the distance.
Grinning, Old Wuffalos raised his mattock and sank it into the hard ground. In a thousand years when he was dust, this barrow would still rise above the land and people would still know that a great man was buried there, and that a skilled man had built this tomb.

“The stones are still not there Mr Clagg”.
“Still not there Mr Gillot. That is unfortunate. I was assured by our colleagues that the stones would be there before Mr Wuffalos marked out his ground”.
The dwarf ran his hand through his beard, and took a sip of mineral water. His companion smiled at the quivering messenger boy, his most friendly smile which would not have gone amiss on the face of Smaug.
“Will you let Mr Wuffalos know, that the stones will be there before nightfall today”. He tossed the boy a small pouch, loose change to appease the beggars but riches beyond measure to a Sexton's apprentice. “and would you like to try one of these cakes”. The boy turned ashen as he took the small confection and slipped it into his mouth. Then he bowed, and ran from the room in a scattering of crumbs.

A week later


Old Wuffalos sighed, and watched as the dwarfs carefully laid the cap stone over the dolmen, sealing in the long narrow room where the knight would lay. Before it, a long corridor of limestone slabs, with two ante-chambers, pointed due west to the land that is lost and the halls of the death god, Mandos.
He ran his hand across his bald, sweaty and grimy pate, and stepped back to take in in his handiwork. The stones were getting covered in the hard soil that lay along the lake side. Hard lumps of granite washed down from the mountain, mingled with broken flint and shale in the earth, giving it a structure and hardness that would last millennia. And before it, a granite obelisk would stand, carved in the old runes of the dwarves with tales of the life of this man, this slayer of daemons and dragons. Behind him, he could hear the gentle chip chip as the finest carvers from Erebor told tales in the stone. Rumours abounded that the cart that bore him would be driven around the Greenwood soon, with a procession that included the finest of men from lands as distant as Gondor, Umbar the vast Southlands and the East, and the West where this man fell. They told of elves, of dwarf kin, or holbytler. Even those peoples who had once fallen under the sway of the dark lord were rumoured to pay their homage. All coming to see this mighty tumulus that Sexton Wuffalos had constructed.

Two weeks later

“I hear there was a problem with the barrow Mr Clagg, a bit of an issue, a failing?”
“Oh no Mr Gillot, nothing so serious. Not at all.” He took a sip of his tea, smacking his lips loudly. “There was just a matter of the intended recipient. We heard rumours, unfounded I am sure. Misunderstandings with some of those who would show an interest in this man. We just needed to make some preparations”.
“Preparations, Mr Clagg. I do hope they didn't cause a consternation”.
“Oh no Mr Gillot. We kept our preparations away from anyone who would be bothered by such things”. He reached out and picked up his glass of mineral water, holding it up to the light to gaze into its depths; his eyes showed nothing of what he felt. After a minute he burst out laughing, a strange thin harsh laugh, then he put the glass down.

A week before the procession arrived at Esgaroth


On the snow covered banks of the Long Lake, a small collection of huts and tents clustered around a newly built barrow. Men and dwarfs, all giving off the air of having come to the end of a job, stood around or stretched, laughed at some joke and slapped each others' backs. At the cooking place, a sheep's carcass was roasting in the flames, the two scruffy looking chefs occasionally turning the makeshift spit, or basting it in a concoction of their own design.
“We did it boy, we made a true barrow in the old ways”. Old Wuffalos supped his ale and ruffled the boy's hair. As the last glimmer of the sun shone down the long corridor and lit on the stone bier where Dirk of Esgaroth would finally lay, it caught the strange runes carved by dark skinned dwarfs. Three of them had turned up in the early hours of the morning in their thin black cloaks and with a faint smell of burning that clung about them. They had been sent by Clagg and Gillot, and had spent the hours before sunrise carving the stone. The old sexton just shrugged, and quaffed his ale as he thought about them, and how they had left him with a single blackened coin to lay on the knight's body.
“The old ways”, he whispered to the wind, before he and the boy shuffled off to feast on the roasted lamb.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:28 pm

In Pelargir with Leoba and Culanir: later the same evening


Culanir downed the last of his glass of wine.  Carandil was half asleep in his chair and the empty bottles on the sideboard stood in judgement on the evening.

I'm not far off finding my bed. I've got an early start tomorrow" Culanir said, yawning.  He stretched out luxuriantly; highlighting the lean limbs and, beneath his linen shirt, the well-tempered body which was the envy of his slightly younger but less active brother.

"Will you check in on Leoba?" asked Serindë.

"That was my intention" Culanir replied. "I might take her up a nightcap in fact; I suspect she may welcome it tonight."  Getting impressively steadily to his feet he helped himself to Carandil's decanter of finest Amroth brandy; he poured a glass for Leoba, swiftly followed by one for himself and for Carandil.

"She's been ever so quiet all afternoon and evening" commented Serindë.

"Yes. It's the silence I find most unnerving," added Carandil, taking the offered glass of brandy from Culanir. It was the first day any of them could remember without a snatch of song from Leoba; ordinarily her music drifted liked incense into every corner of the house but, since they had come home that afternoon the silence from that quarter had been suffocating.  Culanir wrinkled his brow in a frown and the two men shared a worried look.

"You have to promise me, the pair of you, that you'll look after Leoba properly after I've gone back up north" Culanir said.  "She needs to eat, to keep physically well, or I worry that she won't have the strength to fight this battle."

On the other side of the door, Leoba heard her name and froze. She set her tray of half-picked-at supper down on the hall table, hesitating whether to turn the door handle or not.  She knew full well that eavesdropping was unlikely to bear healthy fruit but curiosity was a powerful drug; she simply couldn't tear herself away.

"Don't worry". That was Serindë's voice. "We'll keep her well-occupied and the children will be a great distraction.  And we'll get her out and about before long. She won't need to go into mourning after all; it's not as though she was married to him."

Leoba heard Culanir bellow: "Araw's Teeth!  Serindë!  You can't say that to her!"

Her ears smarting, in that split second Leoba decided to intervene in the fray.  She entered the room, her appearance effectively silencing Culanir mid-oath, and they all turned towards her; faces riven with guilt.

"Leoba" said Serindë and Culanir together.

"Yes, it's me" she said, sounding bruised but far more measured than she felt. She hoped she had left her tears upstairs; bundled in a box with Dirk's letters.  "I heard my name mentioned.  And I heard the rest."

"But you weren't married.  That's all I said" Serindë said defensively.

"How does that make a difference? Having or not having a ring on my finger doesn't dictate how I feel," Leoba replied. "This knife-thrust in my guts could not bite any more keenly if we had been married for a lifetime."

In that moment Leoba saw the months in Pelargir stretch out before her:months of constant calendar engagements; months of forced smiles; months of Serindë clinging to her life-raft of social mores. She loved her sister-in-law and knew that Serindë spoke unthinkingly, not from malice but from a solid and deeply ingrained understanding of what Pelargirian society expected of its belles and its matrons, but that did not make the reminder any more palatable. Leoba knew what would be coming next: she would bet a purse on there being a dinner scheduled with Turaglar before the fortnight was out.

“Oh sweet Nienna, give me strength” Leoba murmured. “I don't think I can do this anymore.”

Culanir looked worried. “Don't say that, Leoba. Look, I don't want to dump a load of platitudes on you. It's not my style and I know how crass I would sound. But I know this is difficult, going to be difficult for as long as it is. ”

“You have to give it time” Serindë added, unhelpfully.

Leoba bit her bottom lip in a gesture equally open to interpretation either as pain or as frustration, and which was undoubtedly a bit of both. Her lips thus darkened as though berry-stained were in stark contrast against her face, pale like porcelain; she stood straight and proud. She gathered herself carefully, desperate not to give more offence than was likely to fall out in any case. “I don't have to give anything” she replied, before turning to address Culanir: “when are you going back to Minas Tirith?”

“First thing. I've got a letter to deliver as quickly as is humanly possible. Why do you ask? Do you want me to take a letter for you to anyone there?” he asked.

“I want you to take me there” Leoba said. She saw his face cloud; she could read Culanir like a book, especially after a few drinks and it was abundantly clear that he wasn't keen on the idea. “Lots of reasons, before you ask. I need to see B again. I was planning on making a trip to see her in any case and I can see no reason why not to bring it forward. I want to be where I have been with Dirk. It's probably a mistake but I will find that out when I get there. And I need to find out more...” She left the remainder unsaid: more about what had happened, certainly; more about where they had buried him too. The room before her faded and a great and strange stillness within seemed to consume Leoba. She resolved to go, she presumed to the far reaches of the north, to find Dirk.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:00 am

Minas Tirith, the day after victory is declared and the news of Dirk's death reaches the White City...

The wind was up, blowing southwards and down from the Anduin Vale and over the Nindalf, snapping at the flags that dotted the walls of Minas Tirith. The air was surprisingly fresh despite the blighted lands it crossed and it roared in Bardhwyn’s ears, pulling and tugging at her gorget. She checked the fastenings of her headdress and fussed with her kirtle; she’d dressed herself in her finest summer garb, befitting a ‘wife’ of an officer. She wore a surcoat of lightly woven Barding wool, in blue, of course, and she made sure to have her gold handkerchief to hand, a gift from Bard when she and Lys left for Minas Tirith. She would wave it, no doubt, when the men arrived and cheer. She’d most likely cry, as well. Pinned to the surcoat, a small patch of black, for Dirk.

From her seat on the Second Tier wall overlooking the Great Gate (or the remains of it) Bardhwyn could see Osgiliath brimming in the distance; the river’s water sparkled in the sun, cut frothy white by skimming boats tacking with the stiff wind. To her left arced the great stern of rock that rose up to the Embrasure - she could make out gaily-dressed personages of importance milling about on the windy platform above. Echoes of happy children rolled around the Second Tier tunnel – the shortest of the five tunnels that allowed the Paved Way to snake its cobblestones down from the Tower. To her right she had sufficient view of the Second Tier Gate and the pomery before it.

It was a glorious day and the day Lys was to begin the campaign ‘to the North’.

He was gone when she awoke and he’d taken all his belonging with him, leaving only a depression on the pillow next to her where his head had laid and some sweet memories. He had been particularly tender the night before.

She took a deep, shuddering in-breath at recalling his touch; it would be several months before she’d feel it again. He and his forces would be traveling the King’s roads for month, at best, before reaching Carn Dum: the last two hundred miles striking out over the downs. There was a dim hope they’d find the old road, somehow, in that sea of loam and peat, thus shaving a few precious days off their march. It would take six to eight weeks to execute what ever plans they’d made – most of which will be discarded upon arriving - and then they’d have to depart by the middle of Hísimë or else they’d be snowed in until spring.

“I’ll be back before the winter’s solstice,” Lys assured her in the quiet of the night.

“Either that, or the spring’s,” she’d replied, sadly.

“No, winter’s,” he retorted before kissing her, yet again. “Have mulled wine ready for me for when I return, hot,” he murmured.

She’d purchased the spices on her way down to the gate; the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg was pleasant, if not a bit out of place, in the summer sun. There was a flurry of activity down at the Great Gate as workmen and dwarves cleared the passage free of their scaffolding, piles of debris and materials to make way for the exodus of men that would soon occur. The stream of foot soldiers, mounted cavalry, carts and beasts leaving Minas Tirith would begin with Lys and his advance party and not stop, it was said, until the end of the following day.

The atmosphere was like a festival day; the lane was filling with spectators, hawkers, children with toys and noisemakers. A water seller lumbered slowly along, burdened by the harness and a water barrel that bowed his back and an acrobat wearing patchwork hose teetered past, walking on his hands.

A rather handsome minstrel strolled by, playing one of the new instruments out of Harad, a ‘guitar’ it was called and it was worn,hanging about the neck and shoulder, held close to the body with a silken cord. The young man's fingers artfully depressed the instrument’s strings, creating wonderful melodies and chords and he sang a soulful tune about a soldier returning home to find his ladylove thinking him dead. By the end of the song the lady was duly convinced the soldier was, in fact, her lover and they lived happily ever after.

A small audience clapped, a few threw coins and the wandering minstrel announced he’d be at the Shadow and Ring for the next week.

‘They will be singing songs about Dirk someday, I imagine,’ Bardhwyn mused sadly as her gaze drifted northwards. ‘But will they sing of his ladylove, forever waiting his return?’

“Care for a sweet, madam?” a voice asked. Bardhwyn started; her hand unconsciously slipped up her loose sleeve and grasped the hilt of the knife she had concealed there.
“Oh, I am sorry,” apologized the street vendor; a short, plump woman with wiry hair that seemed to only escape from her headdress, not be bound by it. “Didn’t mean to give you a start, love. Marshmallows?” she asked, holding out a box tray of small little parcels, each hand wrapped and tied with string.

Bardhwyn exhaled slowly and released her hold on the hilt of her knife; grateful she’d stopped her hand when she did. She then forced a smile. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“Marshmallows! I said ‘marshmallows’!” the vendor woman repeated, holding out the box tray. “They’re the latest sweet to come from Harad; each one is lovingly hand made from the exotic marshmallow plant and sweetened with honey. They’re chewy. Have you not tried one? A fine lady like yourself, I thought for sure…”

“How much are they?” Bardhwyn asked, trying not be irritated by the woman.

“A half gold crown a piece.”

“A HALF GOLD…?” Bardhwyn barked. For the price of a week’s worth of food for two (one being a hungry Master Archer) she could purchase just one of this woman’s ‘sweets’. “You cannot be serious!? For just one?”

Insulted, the woman’s smile faded. “They’re difficult to make you know; I’ve got to peel each stem and pull out the pith and a stem doesn’t give much. Then boil them up, dry them. It’s not like they pop out of a magic box, you know.”

“No, I suppose they don’t. I’m sorry,” Bardhwyn said with an apologetic smile. “That’s a little steep for my purse.”

The vendor-woman clucked her tongue and swanned off, donning a smile that was probably as sickly sweet as her marshmallows. Bardhwyn fiddled with the golden handkerchief, which was carefully tucked under the muslin covering her basket; she could have purchased a year’s supply of marshmallows with that hanky, she chuckled to herself; Bard had a habit of being extravagant with his gifts. She then recalled how, once, when they were children, Bard had given her, and all her brothers, ponies for her birthday, claiming he couldn’t bear the thought of her pony being all alone. They all perished when the Easterling’s attacked, she remembered sadly – all were burned to death in the small barn…

The thunder of hooves began to echo down the tiers, rumbling like thunder in between and around the numerous stonewalls and thin alleys that made the city. Mixed with the sound were the rattle and clatter of iron shod cartwheels and cheering voices; Bardhwyn felt a rise of excitement and pride. Trumpets blared, their notes dragged down to the crowds below by the buffeting winds; five short but lyrical bursts. The vanguard had exited the Fifth Gate. Four blasts followed, more clatter and cheering; louder and louder the noise became as the people’s cheers rose like a wave on the sea. Finally three blasts were heard; they were now on the Second Tier and the crowd about Bardhwyn erupted with a joyous clamor.

Bardhwyn rose to her feet and turned towards the Second Tier Tunnel. From her vantage point she could see the tunnel opening thronged with revelers and well-wishers; a fool-hearty few had even climbed the rock and were clinging perilously over the tunnel’s mouth like scrambling orcs. The reverberant clattering of horse’s hooves rolled towards them and once in the tunnel rose into a roar; the cheers of the crowd rose with it.

Finally the vanguard emerged; there, riding in centre position was Lysandros of Dale, wearing a tall, bright helm and the black and silver of a Tower Guard but proudly displaying the bright blue flash on his sleeve denoting the Dale Contingent. To his left rode a Rohirrim officer with a helm resplendent with plaits of white horse hair, to Lys’ right an officer from Pelargir wearing the distinctive helm of that region; a barbute of bright silver with a t-shaped face, burnished blue and with a high crest, and behind them rode four flag bearers; in first position, a rider carrying Elessar’s Royal Standard followed by the Royal Standards of Dale and Rohan and the Pelargir’s Coat of Arms, riding three abreast.

As the flag bearers emerged from the, low and cramped tunnel they each unfurled and posted their colors, allowing the stiff wind to catch the colored silks, creating a spontaneous spectacle of pageantry.

The cheers from the crowd were deafening.

“I’ll be there, near the Great Gate but you will not see me, I warrant,” she’d said to Lys the night before.

“I will see you; I always see you. No matter how far away you are, my eyes go to you,” he’d replied. “Wear the blue coat I gave you,” he added.

Forgetting the foolish handkerchief, Bardhwyn began simply to wave and cheer; tears in her eyes. Lys looked splendid, truly splendid. And to her shock and surprise, he found her where she stood upon the high wall. With a small hint of a smile, Lysandros saluted her as he passed below her.

Bardhwyn, now tearful, kept waving and cheering as the vanguard approached and wheeled left before the Second Tier gate, was decorated with silver and gold bunting and banners which fought bravely with the wind, while above them, on the Second Gate’s ramparts, the trumpeters blew once more; two short but lyric blasts which told the city the vanguard would soon be leaving. Lys and his men turned sharply to the left and down, into the first tier while cart upon cart followed, squeezing slowly through the tunnel, followed shortly by a small squadron of mounted Rohirrim and three squadrons of men afoot. She watched the grand procession pass before her below on the First Tier’s Paved Way towards the Great Gate.

When the riders approached the Great Gate the crowd hushed as they watched the Tower Guardsmen wheel their mounts expertly to the right. Lys commanded a halt as they waited for the honour guard to position itself. Slowly the command went up the line to come to a halt; the procession of men, carts and the stuff of war slowly came to a standstill.

The Master of the Gate came forth, wearing a mantle of bright red velvet and a tall, winged helm.

“WHO COMES TO THE GATE!?” he cried in a voice that, though high, commanded attention.

Bardhwyn could then hear Lys’ strong, baritone voice call out the King’s command: the ceremonial pronouncement of the King’s call to arms and the demand that the gates be open so his might could go forth.

“OPEN THE GATE, AT THE KING’S COMMAND! WAR IS UPON US! FIRE AND BLOOD! OPEN THE GATE! FOR WE MUST UPHOLD THE KING’S LAW AND RESTORE HIS PEACE!!”

The Great Gate stood open already, of course, yawning like a mouth with broken teeth onto the Pelennor but the Master of the Gate turned and motioned to his left and to his right, as if directing unseen men to open doors equally unseen. The Gate Master then turned about, facing Lys and the Honour Guard once more.

“THE GATE HAS BEEN OPEN AT THE KING’S COMMAND! GO FORTH AND BE VICTORIOUS AND MAY THE VALAR BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU!”

The crowd then echoed the Master of the Gate, crying out in unison in voices loud enough so the Valar would hear cross the waters and through 'the veil' : ‘MAY THE VALAR BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU!”



Bardhwyn could barely see Lys’ motion for the company to advance for the tears in her eyes. He and his vanguard exited the Great Gate, the long line of men and materials followed and she eased herself back onto her seat, watching with sleeves dampened with her tears; the procession lasted about an hour yet she did not stir until the last wain cart departed.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:18 am

Minas Tirith, continued...



“Mistress Bethellys?”

Bardhwyn watched the vanguard snake it’s way to the Forannest Gate; the flags were still stiff with the wind and the procession was moving at a slow but consistent pace. They’d be well into the fields of Anorien by dusk.

“Mistress Bethellys?”

“Bethellys of Dale!”

The sound of a young man’s voice rang out, over the dull, constant roar of the wind, speaking the name she now owned. Bardhwyn turned away from the northwest and, steadying her head dress, pivoted in her seat to see, standing before her, a young Sub-Lieutenant of the Tower Guard, wearing the brilliant flash of Dale blue; one of Lys’ men – most likely a member of the main body departing the following morning.

“Sub-lieutenant,” she said evenly, with a nod of acknowledgement. “Forgive me, it’s difficult to hear for the wind and this headdress,” she lied. The young man placed his right hand over his left breast and bowed courteously; an aristocrat Bardhwyn noted, for he was graceful and well practiced.

“Allow me to introduce myself, Mistress,” he said with a slight accent: Lebennese, perhaps? “My name is Calmacil and I am newly assigned to the Dale Contingent. The Commander asked me to seek you out and present you with this…” Calmacil pulled a wax-sealed, folded piece of parchment from his sleeve and held it out to her. “He also requested you read it immediately.”

She took the letter, noted Lys’ strong hand on the front (Dale runes, spelling her adopted name) and, with hands slightly trembling she snapped the wax seal. ’Be calm, she assured herself, ‘it’s nothing of import. He’d not entrust a new officer with any thing dire…’

Gripping the letter tightly, lest it be carried off by the wind, she read:

B,

The young man before you is Calmacil, the Earl of Tarnos, the son of the Duke of Serni and Palantine of Lebannin. He joined the Dale Contigent yesterday, by way of the Pelargir Contingent (it's a long story). He’s not going north; he’s staying here in Minas Tirith as the contingent’s ‘campaign liaison’ to the HQ. Not my choice; that order came from above. And you know how I feel about the upper ranks interfering with my men and me. Damn quill-scratchers.

Calmacil took his re-assignment well, but I don’t think it’s to his liking, either. Or that is what I’d like to think.

I need to know what he’s made of; please find out for me.

I’ve asked him to ‘look after you’ - not that you need it!

He’ll be a good source of news and information; two things you cannot live without.

Play along, please, and don’t be gruff with him; be gruff with me when I return – if you have pause enough for breath, that is.

I needn't write here what you know to be true; keep me in your thoughts...

L
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:10 pm

Minas Tirith, continued...


Bardhwyn lifted her eyes over the top of Lys’ letter and took in this young Earl while she wrestled with her emotions. No, she didn’t need looking after, not in the least and yes, she would be ‘gruff’ with Lys when he returned – and she would wait - wait until she’s caught her breath, well and truly.

And now she was tasked with being a nanny to this southern-coast blue blood whose father didn’t want him traumatized by the brutalities of war when she’d planned to take the first boat down the Anduin to Pelgargir and Leoba.

And lastly, as was Lys’ wont, he’d played his hand very well and set them on one another; she was left wondering who was watching whom, in reality?

Calmacil must have been 22 years of age, at best; he stood a few paces away – a respectful distance, allowing her privacy. He watched the ongoing festivities down at the Great Gate with pleasant amusement; someone had produced a dancing bear on a leash, which tottered and swayed to the cranked music of a badly tuned Dwarven music box while a small dog ran about the bear’s legs, yapping incessantly. The children squealed, causing Calmacil to smile; the bear moaned loudly, it’s groans and grunts echoing up the stonewalls like a dozen ghosts unleashed.

The young Lebennese officer stood about 5 foot, seven, perhaps 8, inches tall, with shoulder length brown hair, healthy but fine, and he carried the traits of his people; his features were refined, with a long, thin face and nose and a strong chin framed with a goatee. He had olive skin, which, she knew, would tan quickly in the sun – reminiscent of the people of Harad who once ruled the Lebennin coast in centuries past. Calmacil carried a trim physique, not wide across the chest and shoulders but appeared strong for his stature – if his arms were any indication. A handsome young man, to be sure, and he had a sharp look to his eye as well; he appeared to be an intelligent young man and, being aristocracy, he would have had a good education.

Much like her self - but that was another life, an old and dead life.

Whether he benefited from his education, however, remained to be seen. But she would learn.

“Thank you, Sub-Lieutenant,” she announced while folding the letter. “I am most appreciative. The Commander was very considerate to think of me today, with so many other responsibilities to see to.”

“Yes ma’am, he was sore pressed, looking after the arrangements for two contingents, but he purposefully set about to writing you before he left, turning away several men to do so. He finally ordered me to guard his door so to finish it,” Calmacil said, bowing slightly. “I will be remaining here, in Minas Tirith as contingent liaison during the campaign,” he added, careful to announce his responsibilities evenly, with sufficient gravity. “And the Commander suggested that perhaps I could call on you from time to time, and relate as much news as I am able – if you would like that, ma’am,” Calmacil added, hastily.

“Mistress Bethellys,” she said with a broad smile, holding out her hand for Calmacil to take. “Or just ‘Mistress’ but please, Sub-Lieutenant, don’t address me as ‘ma’am’; you make me feel very old.” Calmacil allowed her to place her hand over his, not grasping hers – for that would be ungentlemanly – and he steadied her as she rose to her feet. She then fussed with her surcoat and gorget, trying her best to be an ‘officer’s wife’, which meant a certain amount of preening, as far as she could discern.

“And I would like that very much; I accept callers from two bells onwards in the afternoons until six bells,” she announced, taking her basket. She held her hand out once again. “Tell me, do you play Quadrants?”

“Yes, though not very well, I’m afraid,” he replied. Calmacil held his hand up, allowing her to, once again, place her hand over his. He turned with her she began walking towards the stair leading down to the Second Tier gate.

“Do you watch the boules?” she asked.

“Ah, yes, on occasion,” he replied, pausing at the top of the stair.

“Do you like to spar, Calmacil?” Bardhwyn asked.

“Spar, ma’ .. I mean, Mistress? I don't...”

“Sparring, you know, with a sword or short blade; training, Calmacil! Do you like to train with a blade?” she asked.

“Why, yes, very much so, Mistress,” he answered, smilingly. "I've won several medals for..."

“Good!” Bardhwyn cooed. “Tomorrow, two bells, I shall meet you in Tanner’s alley – the dead end alley just off the wheel-wright’s shop, and bring a sparring blade. We’ll soon 'see what you’re made of'.” Bardhwyn smiled sweetly and lightly descended the first step.

Calmacil’s face, however, wore a mask of utter shock.

“And Calmacil, I need to learn the cost of transport by boat from here to Pelargir; would you be a helpful dear and gather that information for me? Oh! And how frequent the trips are, the duration and what sort of accommodation there is? If overnight I think I shall require a cabin; not too small, not too big. Thank you.”

“Pelargir?” he asked, hesitantly. “You want to go to Pelargir?”

“No, heavens, I don’t ‘wan’t’ to go there, Sub-Lieutenant,” she said, patting his shoulder amiably. “I ‘have’ to go there. ! simply must!” she twittered. Inwardly, she cringed at the sound of her own voice prattling. “A friend needs me, Sub-Lieutenant! I simply have no choice!” She turned and tripped down the stair, calculating the odds that Calmacil would be inventing an excuse to travel to Pelargir in the not-to-distant future.



.
Last edited by Bardhwyn on Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby erinhue » Sat Mar 02, 2013 8:46 pm

Twilight was gradually deepening to early night when the lantern lit windows of the Prancing Pony came into view. Treble’s pace clipped double time in the stallion’s eagerness to reach the comfort of the inn’s stable. The bright tinkle of silver bells sounded with an impatient swish of the horse’s tail. Since the bard remained silent, Treble snorted and stamped his feet on the cobbled ground to announce their presence.

“Aye, I thought I heard bells.” The exclamation came as the stable doors opened. The stable hand stepped out to greet them. “Master ‘Hue, a long time it has been, sir, if ye don’t mind my saying it.”

Feeling ignored, Treble snorted again and nudged the stable hand roughly at the shoulder.

“Aye, right ye be, Treble, old boy.” The man reached into the side pocket of his woolen jacket and pulled out a few golden brown sugar cubes. Treble accepted the sweet tribute.

The silent rider pushed back the hood of his cloak and ran his left hand across his eyes.
“It’s good to see you, Nesbit.”

“Aye, it’s good to see you as well, Master ‘Hue.”

Nesbit raised an eyebrow at the sparse exchange. By this time he would have been laughing already as Erinhue greeted him. The somber mood did not seem to fit the man he remembered. Word had reached them, even in Bree, that the bard had been pursuing his other profession and was involved with the Mithril Knights in some battle way away to the east.

Erinhue dismounted. He stood for a long moment gazing towards the light and cheery noises coming from the main taproom. Nesbit looked that way too then answered what he thought the bard was wondering.

“Your old room under the eaves is just as you left it last. Mr Butterburr never lets anyone stay there. He always says “One never can tell just when the boy will decide to pop in’. He has the girls change the linen once a month even though them sheets never was slept on.” Nesbit moved closer to where Erinhue stood and spoke in a quieter voice.

“If it’s a quick way to a good rest you’re after, take the backstairs up. You know the way and where the latchkey’s hid.”

“Yes, Nesbit,” Erinhue responded without taking his eyes away from the inn, “I know the way.”

Nesbit raised a hand to stop him when he saw Erinhue reaching for a coin. “ No need, sir. You go rest. I’ll take right good care of old Treble here. He and I are good friends.”

“Thank you, Nesbit” Erinhue began to walk towards the narrow stairway in the back of the main building.

“No need to thank me” Nesbit called back. “ Least I can do for a hero.”

Erinhue froze mid step when he heard the remark. He shook his head as he continued towards the stair. His voice was so soft that Nesbit barely heard him reply, “I’m no hero.”
"Where ever you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Bonzi

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:43 pm

In Minas Tirith... later that same day, the day the Vanguard left for the campaign in The North...

The evening grew cool and the dusky evening sky took on a sultry blue that Bardhwyn found entrancing. She sat, balanced, on the window sill of their rooms, looking out over the Pelannor, sipping a small glass of Dale whisky; tiny lights shone out, from the windows of the cottages and huts that dotted the landscape and a lone blackbird trilled it’s song from it’s nesting box, somewhere nearby.
The great city was quiet, truly spent after a day of exuberance and she tried not to feel alone.

A patch of black; she could just make out the tip of it, jutting out from the folds of her blue surcoat as it hung from the peg near the door. A patch of black for Dirk, another ‘brother’, now lost. Did anyone notice it today, she wondered? Did anyone see it and note ‘there is a woman mourning a loss’? Yet another one?
If they had done, no one commented.

Bardhwyn slid off the window sill and placed her glass down, on the ledge. She paused for a moment, thinking, before stepping over to the large, four-poster bed. Sliding out a large, leather bound trunk out from underneath, she unclasped the heavy, wrought iron buckles that secured it and opened the lid. Inside she found a heap of oddments, bits of old clothes, old mementos, stacks of letters received and bound with ribbon and, finally, a leather roll tied with gut.

She pulled free the knot from the gut and unrolled the leather onto the floor. Inside were a collection of exotic and deadly arrowheads and a singular throwing knife, made of a hardened steel but rusty with age. She pulled the knife free and held it in her hand, carefully; the tip was missing. How many years ago was it, now? Three? Four?


“We go in, now!” Dirk hissed excitedly.

“No! No! We wait! We wait for the others!” she hissed in reply. “I saw six, SIX go in there, Dirk! Six against two?! Those are fool’s odds! We wait!”

“We need to clear that gate room! Those were Lys’ orders!” Dirk urged, pointing at the door. From where they crouched, in the dark, the Dorwinion stronghold looked more formidable and more impenetrable in the weak light of the few, flickering torches that than it had earlier in the day. The main gate stood to their right, shut fast with a spiked portcullis dropped down in front of it. On the ramparts strolled a singular Eastron guard, just one of the many that had occupied the fortress, and somewhere a dog barked manically in the dark.

“I know what Lys’ orders were and I don’t CARE!” Bardhwyn retorted. “We were told there would be only two guards! Now there are SIX!”

“If we DON’T clear that gate room, then Themedes and Maeglin risk being stranded on the other side! Everything we’ve done with be for nothing! We’ve got to get that gate up, Bardy!”

Bardhwyn buried her face in her hands in exasperation and stifled a howl. “You think I don’t KNOW that?!” she moaned.

Dirk was adamant; he had that familiar ‘battle-mad’ look in his eye that always put Bardhwyn on edge. “We have the element of surprise, Bardy! SURPRISE!!” he said, excitedly. “How many throwing knives to you have left?”

“What? Two,” she answered.

“I have three. We break in the door, a knife in each hand – that’s four down then it’s a fight, two against two… better?”

“Hit two different targets from two different hands!? You’re mad!” she gaped.

“You throw with your left as good as you throw with your right!” Dirk said, grabbing her arm with a shake.

“Better than you do,” she sniped. “And you taught me!”

“Alright then, it’s settled! We go in!” he said, jumping to his feet.

“No! NO! That’s NOT what I meant! DIRK!”

It was too late. Dirk was on his feet and halfway to the gatehouse door, a polished silver throwing knife gleaming in each hand. Bardhwyn lunged forward, pulling her knives free as she ran. The door burst open in splinters under Dirk’s boot to sounds of shock and surprise within.

Blades flew.

An Eastron eating soup took a knife in the neck and fell forward, face down into his stew. A second was taking a piss, in a pot by the window; he dropped with his pants down. A third took a knife in the eye, falling backwards with an expression of shock frozen onto his face but the fourth, and last, had those few extra seconds his comrade’s deaths allowed him to pull free a short, curved blade from his belt. With a smooth, quick motion he deflected Dirk’s silver knife, spinning and arcing the blade directly back towards Dirk.

Bardhwyn pulled her sword free, and swung, as she had done so many times as a child, low and up, catching the throwing knife with the flat of her sword a foot before the knife met Dirk’s chest. She thought she’d shouted ‘BACK’ to Dirk, but she couldn’t be sure. She did hear the sharp, brittle sound of metal snapping and, to the surprise of all three; Dirk, Bardhwyn and the Eastron, the guardsman staggard backwards with the broken throwing knife lodged firmly and deeply into his chest.

The remaining two guards surrendered, convinced that Dirk and Bardhwyn were magical beings, capable of sucking their souls from their bodies – or at least that’s what they could glean with what little Eastron they knew between them as they bound and gagged the Easterlings.

After a great deal of physical exertion, the portcullis was lifted, the gate opened and together Dirk and Bardhwyn had succeeded in opening the fortress.

Many Easterlings perished that night. With the coming of the dawn the fortress was returned to the King of Dorwinion. Before the Bowmen withdrew however Bardhwyn sought out the body of the last Easterling to die in the gatehouse. She pulled free the blade from the man’s chest and said a brief prayer for his quick admittance into the Halls of Mandos, citing his skill and valor in battle. She inspected the blade with its broken tip, wondering if the man had family back east.

“Thank you,” Dirk said.

Bardhwyn turned; Dirk stood in the doorway with an unsheathed sword, dark with dried blood. He, like all the Bowmen that morning, looked tired.
“You saved my life,” he added.

“Don’t mention it,” she replied, rising to her feet. “You’ll repay the kindess some day, I’m sure.”

Dirk flashed a smile and nodded before walking on. Bardhwyn cleaned the broken tipped knife, reclaimed the others they’d loosed and rejoined the Bowmen. They rode off before noon, onto the next town, the next Easterling encampment and as the weeks passed, many more ‘thank you’s’ were said.




.

Bardhwyn put the broken throwing knife to oneside, rolled the leather and retied it and replaced it in the trunk. Once the trunk was clasped and returned to its place under the bed, she rose to her feet, the broken knife in hand, and went to the side board.

She reverently placed the knife down onto a piece of clean linen and lit one of the candles. With a clear mind she recalled Dirk at his most happiest; a bright, clear day in Dale with Leoba on his arm.

"Mandos, receive him," she whispered. "He was a good man, despite all that befell him."


.
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Taking stock from the desolation

Postby Hidden_Ring » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:14 pm

Much to the south of Carn Dum, some hours after the battle...

It had taken much time to sort and scavenge among the ruins of the city. The devastation was great and, though the land still remembered the Elves that once dwelt here, the white-blond Elf was forced to admit that not even that memory could hold back the tides of Time forever. The city that once was the home of the Ring-crafters and great smiths was slowly being lost to the creeping fingers of nature. Not all had been lost, though. Orion, during his many travels back to the land of his birth, had come across a few of the forges that hadn't been completely razed. Even a share of the forge fodder and stock for the anvil had escaped. Thus it was that he would come to this place when craving solitude, and practice his newest craft. Many of the tools that he now had were rough, inelegant and born of necessity, but he had made them and found their work good.

The quiet of the place was profound and Orion found he could spend some weeks without seeing another soul or hearing a voice other than his own. The ring of hammer on metal and much time available meant that a different kind of leaf was taking root in the forgotten forges. Ost-in-Edhil was blooming again, with leaves of copper or steel that did not wilt or fade easily. He was sketching out plans for a new project, not merely leaves but a complete tree with leaves of copper and bronze and a trunk of steel. A noise unlike any that had been heard in that realm echoed across the rolling hills and pried the Elf's attention from his plans. It was an echoing shriek, like one heard years before while delivering messages to the Wood-elves. A Fire-wyrm had died. "Odd. I didn't think any were still alive since Smaug fell into Esgaroth."

Even then the shriek seemed to carry something else with it, someone else's death. Fainter. Almost at peace. Almost... familiar. Human.

It shouldn't have bothered Orion. The children of Men often died. Sometimes for noble intents, more for less wholesome reasons. Something was bothering the Elf and nothing could be found out by remaining down here. He rolled his drawings and left them in an oiled leather case, meant for just such caches. A few minor supplies, his sword, the Shadow Cutlass Lymrist and then he whistled for his horse which had been grazing free. The animal came eagerly, anxious to travel somewhere. "Come on, Kemenroch. This isn't going to be, I suspect, a pleasure tour. A friend died, or at least an acquaintance has. We need to go west to Tharbad." Climbing astride the massive horse, the pair rode for some hours as they alternated between a canter and a trot. The Greenway might be more traveled in these latter days. It was no less long.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Dindraug » Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:18 pm

Sometime after the dragon died

They say that the turning point in any given battle, is the loss of a single warrior. The chroniclers would tell you it is a king who leads great armies, or a great knight, or a great beast who has slaughtered dozens. But the truth is, that it is usually one nameless man who is known only to his few companions, sometimes not even that. And they do not die in some duel, they die unnoticed except by those around them. They start a cascade, and if it spreads, it will destroy all it touches. Once this unamed and unmarked soldier falls the battle is lost or won, the battle lines crumble and the rout begins. And with the rout, empires fall.
 
The elf lay on a stone pillar, as he had for two days. He watched the army gather around him on his pillar that had been cast onto the torn land of Arda when the lamps fell. Now only the stumps remained to tell what had happened here, like the long line of broken stone that led to the horizon and through which men marched.
The stone was worn by millennia of rain and sun which had fallen on the plains of Hawas’Hio. This morning bright sunlight fell around the rubble on the long lines of soldiers marching tall in their finely painted lamella, their banners snapping against tall poles which floated above a sea of spears. The noise surrounded the elf; the snorts of the Asdig’s horses, and the low grumble of the Kuric mercenaries who would fight for money not for honour, the creak of leather and the scrape as men shuffled and waited for the fight. In the centre in a block around their great King Mi'san Wo who sat in his armoured palanquin and gazed at the enemy ahead. He had a reputation for fear, stories of his cruelty controlled the plains nations. Since he had returned from the west at the head of his army after the Dark Lord's War, he had never told his people that the Dark Lord was no more. About him marched the remains of his housemen, the warriors who had returned from the west who dressed in the colours of the clans. The host stopped when Mi'san Wo did, his guard stood in tidy silent ranks; staunchly professional. And around them stood his other soldires, the men of Hawas'Hio who had trained to keep silent, the need to exclaim whipped out of them as boys, but the sheen of naked fear could be seen in the whites of their eyes and the sweaty grips of their hands.
The land was silent, as they gazed at their foe ahead. Barely a fifth of thier number, armed only lightly with bow and spear, with long curved shields laid at thier feet.
Mi'san Wo smiled, and waved Not'cha Ka, his ceremonial mace..

A single voice screamed, a single word. "Mi'Shaaaaw"..

The army bellowed a reply. "Mi'Shaw Wo!" The five thousand men of the plains started to bang their spears into the dusty soil or crash huge curved knives against their wicker shields. The beat of drums took up the tempo, and the host started forward. The elf looked down across it as it surged around the pillar of stone, and not one of the men of the east looked up. The sounds of the army changed, the careful tread of feet, the sounds of thousands of scabbards rubbing against armour like the waves on a sea, or shields tapping that was like rain falling on a city made of wood. There were the calls of the leaders of units of men, the occasional curse of a man who slipped or just felt fear. The smell was of leather, and sweat, and of fear. And it was overwhelming, but the elf knew it would pass. Men sent to die for a cause they could not understand, they would soon be lost, and forgotten.

On either sides of the host, the Asdig cavalry started to surge forward . Grim little men on their short shaggy ponies with re-curved bows and a quiver of short brutal-looking arrows. And following slower behind them rode heavy cataphracti cavalry in a great armoured wedge. Heavy warhorses with armour that fell to their knees, ridden by men in fine mail shirts that reached from the tops of their heads where plumes flew in the light wind as they started to gather speed. The grunts and heavy hoof -all of the horses added to the dull cacophony of war as the army crashed towards their foes, unstoppable and heading straight for the fine silken banners on the ridge line ahead. 
The Asdigs filled the air with the thunder of their hooves and the stench of defecating horses as they rode towards their foe with drawn bows. They took aim at random, and the thin arrows were loosed ahead of the horde and fell against the thin line that stood against them. The figures on the ridge bent down as they came, pulling up their beautifully carved shield which looked like so many leaves . The arrows thudded into the solid shields that rose on the ridge, only occasionally slipping through. The horsemen jeered and on his palenquin mighty Mi'san Wo stood and shouted his anger as he watched the horsemen peel off. Then the leaf shield fell and the whistle of returning arrows split the sky. Cloth yard arrows sliced into the retreating horse archers, scattering them and the small forms shrieked as they fell under thier own ponies' hooves. Riders cried out in terror as they were catapulted from the saddles. Or were pinned to them. The Asdigs bent backwards on their small mounts and loosed further arrows, the small bolts fell amongst their tormentors and this time some figures fell, but more of the long arrows were sent horizontally into the Asdigs, and they had no protection. With a shrill cry the archer who bore their standard, a cross of wood from which hung skulls and the wings of an eagle, fell. And the Asdigs scattered. They ran into the approaching cataphracti who could not stop and who crushed the smaller horses and riders under nearly a tonne of armour and beast. But the bigger horses were tripped, and many fell shrieking as legs snapped, the riders thrown into the ground where bones snapped and men died lost in a sea of sound. And behind them more horse rode on, and more men fell, and the cloth yard arrows surged in and toppled riders who had stopped.
And Hi'san Wo cursed again and his footmen started to canter towards thier enemy. And behind him now, on the pillar of stone, the elf watched.
The charge of the cavalry was over, they had not even reached their foe. But in the centre, the footmen were gaining momentum. They started to jog, then run, and spears lowered like rain as they ran towards the huddled foe. A multi-coloured wave of men lost in anger, lost in fear. 
The elf now stood, he could see his target now. An unnamed standard bearer on the right, who kept the flank steady. The elf took aim, and loosed, the arrow flying true and splitting the man’s spine from behind. He fell, into the surge, and men ran over him, and fell, and the discord ran like a flame through the bodies of men. Another standard fell, and a third. Men stopped running, and were crushed from the momentum behind. At the edges, men just ran. Along, in small groups, in whole households. They ran.  
And those that had stood against them took aim, and loosed arrow after arrow into the broken ranks.Men died in droves, they had no armour on thier backs. And others fell under the mass of men who routed, or under riderless horses, or were cut down by groups of men who still banded together in single units.
Hi'san Wo fell from his palenquin as the elf watched. He had stood for a moment, then fell in the seething morass and did not surface again. If he died in the crush, or to the blade of one of his subjects, it would never be known, except to Mandos who knows how all die. It did not matter now, his army had broken, his little empire would be dust as his spirited but stupid offspring would slaughter each other to regain the fragments of kingdoms and they too would fade to dust.
On his pillar, Dindraug looked at the chaos around him, and took a drink from his flask. He could see the last traces of the army of men staggering below him to escape. The wounded, the broken, men who would probably not see the night out. One man he saw carried the tattered standard of the Hi'san Wo, and his companion held the mace that had united the men of the plains. Dindraug loosed a pair of arrows into them, so they fell in the dust and were lost amongst the throng.

As the sun rose, and the scavenger beasts started to appear out of the wilderness, and the vultures from the sky, Dindraug climed down from the pillar. He walked towards the group of figures who were riding now amongst the uncounted dead, and dying. They were tall, like him, with long black or red hair which hung in plaits tied with feathers, and charms and ties of gold. They sat on the backs of tall riding birds, with exquisite black and white plumage and tall necks. The leader road up to Dindraug, and slipped from his mount, running his hand through his auburn hair to push it away from his upswept ears.
"My friend Alvaric," he said to Dindraug in his ancient tongue.
"My brother Kansturi" said Dindraug, in the same tongue. It sounded as old as the hills, and as wild as the woods, but it gave hints of what it later became when the Eldar travelled west.
"We appear to have broken this human king. I hope he will be last to trouble us here". Smiled Kansturi. He inclined his head, then focused on a small brown bird that skirted the battlefield. It circled three times, then flew down to the Avari, alighting on Kansturi's shoulder.
"It would appear that another great wyrm has finally died, killed in battle it would seem".
"Yes, and it would appear that I must travel west".
"You knew this man, this warrior who died?"
"I have travelled with him, and I have fought with him once". Dindraug smiled, a momentary deluge of emotions crossing his face.
"Was he worthy, this human, was he worthy of your honour?" the Avari leader looked at Dindraug, his eyes showing surprise.
"He was worthy of many things, and my work here is finished for now. I will travel west, and see him buried. I have some unfinished buisness there. Maybe I will return to our lands, in time."
"Then seek us out, where the gates of the morning shine down upon the last tarn, where once we were born in the light of only the stars. We will be there, or we will not." Kansturi turned, and alighted on his mount, turning away from Dindraug. The elf watched them go, as they slowly rejoined the other Avari who still lived in this land and the jungles and wild forest beyond, since the dawn of the firstborn. They numbered less than a thousand, these warriors, and he could see that they bore a dozen bodies of those who had fallen. A dozen whose spirts would even now be travelling to Mandos, and be reunited with thier long lost kin. Every time they fought like this, thier people were diminshed, and one day they would be gone from this place. Dindraug bowed his head for that lost dozen, a great sadness filling him.

Then he turned and walked through the fields where two thousand broken human forms lay in the grass. He looked around for one of the loose horses, and found one of the shaggy Asdig ponies. He whispered a few words, calming the beast, then mounted. It was three hundred leagues to Dale, across the endless plains of Rhun. He could see no reason to walk it, Dirk of Esgaroth was not that worthy of his honour.
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Dindraug
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Hidden_Ring » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:44 pm

Hours passed with little but the steady clop of the sound of hooves on packed, dirt road as evening fell. It was monotonous for both, and tiring for the horse so that Orion dismounted and let the massive bay-coloured animal walk beside him as they picked a way across the ford at Tharbad. The waters were cool but the melt flow from the mountains had a long time to reach here and it felt refreshing to feel the water about his feet and legs. Kemenroch stopped mid-stream and bent his head down, drinking deeply of the flowing water.

As the drink was finished, the pair finished crossing and a few mouthfuls of grass were promptly trimmed from the riverbank. The white-blond Elf swiftly remounted the horse and they took to the Greenway at a brisk canter, the long legs and quick pace eating the miles as he closed towards Bree. It wasn't close and Orion regretted the time lost amid the leagues between his sanctuary and this journey's halt, but it couldn't be denied that Bâr Tamin, the Forge House, was far off the beaten path. Bree, on the other hand, was enjoying almost a renaissance of growth and it was sure to have more genuine news.

The sun began to rise in the east, setting a blaze the hazy snow brushed Misty Mountains. The distance still to go was far, although the swift steady ride had been reducing that to a more manageable chunk. "Hmm I ought to be getting there by late this evening. Hopefully, the rumor mill will not have decimated the truth of what happened. Even better might be someone that was there."
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Hidden_Ring
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