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)!

Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:29 am

In Pelargir, the same evening: a conversation between Serindë and Carandil

The house fell silent at last. It was a wary silence: heavy with wine fumes, with grief, with the promise of imminent wakefulness from several of the children,. Cocooned in a rare moment of privacy in their own chamber, Serindë curled her soft body around her husband's and nestled into the comfort of his shoulder.

“I didn't want to say it downstairs in front of Leoba or Culanir, but, it's for the best really. Don't you think?” Serindë said. There was no hint of malice in her words but just straight-forward honesty, offered up in a safe environment.

“You mean, best that Leoba's leaving?” Carandil asked?

“No, not that, not really. Although it's probably better for her than stewing over a bare handful of letters. No, I mean for the best that Dirk can never come back for her. That he's dead.”

Carandil wriggled out of her embrace and propped himself up on his arm. “Do you really believe that, sweetheart? Leoba's pretty cut up about him.”

“I do believe it.” said Serindë. “I know, I know, I've never met the man but I can't see that it was a healthy relationship. She's spent the best part of the past year miserable and we know it wasn't the first time he'd abandoned her. He's been a bit of a rat really”.

“He was a soldier, Serindë. Going away is what they do. Don't you remember the first years after we were married?”

“Of course I do”. She remembered those years before Carandil had been invalided out of the Ithilien Rangers, before they had kept their pound of flesh in the shape of his left arm and an eye. Serindë had spent months at a stretch on her own, juggling the care of her still small eldest children, who had only known their father fleetingly, meaning no more to them than a tall ship passing in the night. “That was different though, Carandil. I always knew you were coming back. For a start, I had a ring securely on my finger and, moreover, I had my own roof over my head. If Dirk was serious about our sister, he would have married her long ago and supported her properly. It doesn't take a genius to work that one out”.

“I know, I know, you're probably right.” Carandil acquiesced. If he was honest with himself, he had been experiencing a sense of relief about which he was a little embarrassed: that he would not have to politely welcome the son of Angmar into the family.

“Besides,” Serindë went, on riding on the momentum, “Leoba is still young. She can take this trip up north and hopefully get Dirk out of her system, and then she has her whole life before her. She'll find someone else.”


“Or another gentleman. Dirk gave her his blessing to move on and marry someone else, when he wrote to her earlier this year.”

“Yes you've already told me that. I don't think she's that keen on the idea!” Carandil said.

“Oh she'll come round. She's a hot-blooded woman for goodness sakes. She's hardly going to remain unmarried for the next two or more score years.” said Serindë, who couldn't imagine how any woman could be happy without a husband to take care of her.

“I hope you're right” Carandil said, as he settled down again under the coverlet.

“I usually am” Serindë replied.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Leoba » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:11 pm

In Pelargir with Leoba

Culanir had made it clear that they would be travelling fast, though perhaps not as fast as he had originally planned without his sister in tow, so Leoba packed as lightly as she could.  From under her bed, she dug out the two leather saddle-bags with which she had journeyed south nearly twelve months previously.   Laid out on the bed were her surcote, two good kirtles; one dove grey, the other expensively dyed with lichen to a shade of dusky pink and which had never really suited her that well anyway. Not that such things mattered anymore, she thought.  Leoba ran her long fingers over the pink dress, appreciating the delicate and lightweight woollen fabric, and she resolved that it would meet its fate in a suitably sombre dye bath in due course.  To the pile she added several clean shifts and drawers.  Veils too; they would be needed in Minas Tirith at least. If truth be told, Leoba was finding there was some comfort and reassurance in having a length of linen or wool to hide behind; it prevented over-eager suitors' dogging ones steps.

She crossed to the bureau, opened the drawer underneath and removed an olive-wood box.  Inside lay secreted a small bundle of precious letters. These she wrapped carefully in a scrap of oilcloth before adding them to her pack.

It was very late by the time Leoba reached the point of having no choice left but to go to bed.  She went to close the shutters and, as she had done every night since parting from Dirk, she gazed out to the far north.   Where somewhere the man she loved had fallen. The stars still twinkled in the heavens with shameless lustre but Dirk of Esgaroth would not be there to bear equal witness on this night. Or ever again.

Looking out on the great darkness of the night-bound world, Leoba felt desperately small and alone, so separated, so lost. It seemed so wrong that all around her the household had settled down to sleep. That all across Pelargir she knew that citizens were dancing and singing, fishermen would be launching their boats, couples were cuddling up under their sheets. That those same people would wake to a new dawn, would break their fasts, children would laugh, carts would roll, traders would call out their wares: the motions of the world continuing as they had ever done, and as she couldn't countenance them doing ever again. She missed Dirk as she had missed him for months before but now the ache ran deeper and was sharper; a bitter wound with a splinter cruelly buried.

Along the meandering road of the past Leoba wandered, taking the rough paths alongside the smooth, searching for the hidden dells of exquisite joy, for there had been such incredible happiness amidst the trials and tribulations; a love that Leoba knew she had been lucky beyond measure to know. She never wanted to forget a single memory of her all too brief time with Dirk; that was all she had left.

Culanir had insisted on bringing the glass of brandy up to help her sleep and now it leered across the room in the light of the guttering candle.  The trouble was, Leoba didn't want to sleep.  Didn't want it to be the next day and the next; an endless road of empty days.  When she had woken up that morning there had still been hope in her heart and she feared that if she closed her eyes now it would lock that moment too finally into the past.  Leoba dawdled over folding her clothes up, ready for the morrow.  Clad in only her shift, she climbed into her bed and sniffed at the spirits; she was not a great drinker but she knew that Culanir only had her best interests at heart. She closed her eyes and took a gulp, feeling the fire sear her lips and tongue; it numbed her throat as she hoped it might numb the rest of her.

Eventually she succumbed to the numbness and, curled up under the linen sheet, Leoba sank into an exhausted and exhausting slumber riddled with vivid dreams....

She was in the taproom at the Lucky Fortune Inn. The air was wreathed with pipeweed smoke and the smell of ale and the sweetness of the fresh straw on the floor. In the corner by the fireplace sat the obligatory hooded stranger, sending smoke rings dancing between the roof beams and glowering from under his cloak at two giggling barmaids. Leoba was trying to concentrate on pouring a steady pint of Golden Harp; a bright hoppy ale with a surprisingly intense heart. However her concentration was being eroded by the young man leaning over the bar, who had taken hold of her other hand.  Dirk played with her fingers, trying to capture her attention.  Leoba studiously ignored him, maintaining her friendly chatter with her customer.  Dirk redoubled his efforts, his grey eyes sparkling with laughter. He raised Leoba's hand to his lips and touched them lightly to her palm.  Then he moved his mouth to her wrist and ran kisses up her arm, sending ripples of distraction coursing through her body. She could restrain her longing no longer, she had to look at him, and she over-filled the ale.

"Now look what you've done!" as Golden Harp poured onto the straw below. Leoba wiped the tankard down with her apron and handed it to the customer with an apology.  She tried to frown but only ended up grinning at Dirk.

Dirk grinned back. "Don't worry, I'll help you clean up."  He climbed nimbly over the bar and wrapped his arms around her waist.  "Er, Dirk, the broom's over there" Leoba told him.  But she responded in kind, sliding her arms around his neck, sinking willingly into his embrace. She buried her face into the velvet warmth of his shirt, and drank deep, drowning in the earthy scents of leather, of woodsmoke, of crisp nights watching sparks drifting upwards to dance in the heavens.  Dirk ran a finger slowly along Leoba's cheekbone then brushed her hair back from her ear. He bent his head to her and Leoba looked up, thinking he was going to kiss her.  He didn't.  Dirk whispered something softly in her ear.  Leoba blushed brick red. She was still a little pink in the cheeks, though she smiled at him as she exclaimed: "You're incorrigible!  And I'm supposed to be working."

Leoba awoke. Dirk faded; his touch dissipated, transient as the morning mist, leaving only heartache in his wake.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Tempest » Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:44 pm

The journey to Esgaroth had been exquisitely painful for the Mithril Knights. The retelling of their tale in every village and wayside inn they came across seemed not to be make it any the more easy, but instead intensified the feeling that everything that had happened to them had simply been a dream. Or rather, a nightmare. An air of unreality seemed to hang over the procession, and Tempest could not help but despise the pageantry involved. It seemed to cheapen Dirk's death to have to share it with everyone else, when she would rather have kept her experiences in Carn Dum between Anorast and herself. Dirk deserved a hero's burial, but the cost to relive his death again and again was enough to make Tempest feel like she was going mad.

And to top it all off, Erinhue had left them to journey alone.

Abandoned them.

If anything, a bard was needed at this moment, and she felt a certain bitterness seep into her heart against him, fueled more and more by her grief. She found she could not meet Vana's gaze for too long, and she even snapped at Anorast a few times when he asked her simple questions. Djazi was wise enough to ride silently beside her, for he sensed that her cloud would pass eventually, that there was no need to rush her. Though, even he began to ride further and further from her side, thinking without mirth that yet again her name, Tempest, was a well-fitting one.

At times, when Tempest was keeping midnight vigil with Dirk's body, she would take out the handkerchief she had found with him in the dragon's lair, and she would turn it over and over in her hands as if searching for answers to questions she had not thought to ask him in life. Dirk's darkness she had understood, his struggle against shadows she had understood, his rage against his doom, but she knew nothing of any other part of his life. What other joys and sorrows had he carried that she had never sought to know? Now, it was too late. All she held in her hand was a scrap of fabric like some ancient relic that told her nothing of the story behind it.

Her eyes strayed often to the other Knights, each lost in their own memories, and she thought how little she knew of them as well.

She suddenly found their community suffocating. She steeled herself at the brink of every dawn not to leave them and finish the journey by herself. Maybe Erinhue had the right idea---it was better to be alone.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Cock-Robin » Tue Mar 12, 2013 3:48 pm

Meneldor kept a watchful eye upon Tempest. They all took Dirk's death hard, especially him, who had been closest to him at the end, and shared a bond with him. He understood the darkness that gnawed at him like a rat within. He had attempted to speak with Tempest, who had taken it harder even than him, but found that silence was the only way of comfort. He resisted the feeling that he needed to bear her away from this nightmare, but he knew she would refuse, and even resent his attempt.

Brondgast was the one who had known Dirk least. He rode at the rear with Vana, his mentor Knight, in silence. He didn't know what to say. He thought of his home in the hall of the Beornings, and how his brothers would receive them. The distant Carrock gave him no comfort now.

But, by a sense that was other than human, he sensed that Tempest needed somebody to be there, not to speak, but just to be there, to let her know she was alive. He dismounted at one evening, and when Tempest was again at her midnight watch over Dirk's coffin, he transformed to bear form and approached, not without trepidation. He gingerly sidled up to where she stood watch, and sat down on his haunches at her side.

He could say nothing, but nuzzled her hand as she watched. From then on, as she rode, the Beorning in bear form was never apart from her side, padding on as Tempest rode in silence. Just to be there was enough.

Happy New Year!

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 Vanaladiel » Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:10 pm

As the knights traveled to Escaroth with the body of Dirk, Vana remained silent. Her inner thoughts torn asunder by the memories of all that had come between the two. Often when she was on watch with the body she would sing softly songs from another time. Songs she knew he liked her to sing. But when she was not on watch she would walk into the countryside away from the others and pace. How was she to deal with this separation? She never dreamed that she would one day have to say goodbye to Dirk. His strong arms had protected her and held her as she wept over lost loves and his compassion helped to keep her strong. But over the last year or so he had changed. She wanted him back as he had been. She wished she could turn back time and return to those happier days of their meeting, the Lucky Fortune Inn and the memories of their time there.

She often thought of Leoba and how she would take the news. She knew she would not be the one to tell her or there to help her with her grief. A heavy sadness and burden rested on Vana's soul.

Vana felt lost but she would not cry in front of the others. It was not something she felt she could do, so she remained silent and followed the sad procession home to Escaroth. At each village and town she would melt away into the background. She even thought about disappearing into Mirkwood when they got there and never going on. It would be so easy to just turn for home and leave it all behind.

But this was for Dirk and she would not abandon him just yet.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Dindraug » Fri Mar 15, 2013 3:52 am

Four weeks after the death of the dragon, in sunnier places

Kalin el Dineen was flying. He soared like an eagle through the warm airs, spiralling through the ether as he went until he could gaze on the blue rippled surface below him. He turned his arms like the wings of a dragonfly as he tried to fly higher and further over the glistening water.
He hit the surface like a sack of foxes, momentarily disappearing under it before his head reared up and he sucked air into his lungs.
“And show your rotten face round here again, and I will have you skinned!” bellowed the angry proprietor of the Corsairs Haven, a rather seedy establishment on the outskirts of Umbar. Behind him, the pretty girl who it had turned out was his daughter smiled as she clutched the bedsheet to her, and shrugged.
Kalin waved, then ducked as his bag, sword and small but heavy chest was thrown after him.
“Missed!” he shouted, just before his expensive riding boots came flying out of the window and smacked him in the face.
Kalin dog-paddled across the Grand Harbour, past ancient buildings built at Numenors prime interspaced with more recent buildings and wooden shacks. Around him the ecclectic mix of boats that made up the floating harbour shouted out thier wares. He just waved and continued pushing his ungainly pile of worldly goods on a small raft that had somehow come adrift from a Klatchian fruit sellers canoe, as he chewed on an apple. The harbour was otherwise peaceful as he swam accross the main channel; at this time, the fishing fleet was out catching the sardine runs and there were only a few merchantmen wallowing in by the jetties. Most of them had left in the previous few days to take advantage of the great grain harvest in Far Harad.
“Hey Kaliiiiin,” yelled a man from the side of a Gondorian carvel “Looks like you lost another place to drink you crazy fool”. The man laughed out load, as did most of the ship’s crew, including the normally dour captain.
“Normally, a man in need is helped by those he calls friends,” he shouted back as he swam up to the squat Gondorian ship “And a berth would not go amiss, mates”.
“The day I let your scrawny feet sully my clean decks Kalin el Dineen,” laughed the captain, “is the day I crew my ship with Oliphant’s and sent sail for Numenor to look for Arphys golden-“ BAWAHOOOOOOOOOOO!
A great horn sounded over the harbour, echoed by more around the citadel. Kalin turned, and watched in horror as ‘The Lord of Tol Erresse’, the mighty flagship of the southern fleet was rowing into the harbour. Its mighty prow was aimed straight at his little raft, and sending waves of water from its bows.
“Oh AR-“ shouted the pirate, as the first wave of water hit him and sent him surfing towards the muddy shore, to more jubilation and laughter.

Kalin woke on a small damp beach to the stench of fish; the stench of badly decomposed and very dead fish. And the sound of breathing right by his face. He opened one eye to gaze into the eye of a monster.
"Yearragh" he shouted, and the beast retorted with a 'Yarcukk, Yaruckk, gag gag', as it shook its ponderous beak causing the great flap of skin below it to wobble like a becalmed sale.
"Looks like you have pulled a great bird for tonight, pirate" laughed a voice. Kalin scooted back from the pelican. He pushed of his hat and shook off the water, and looked up at the carval above him where a couple of sailors lounged.
"I thank you gentlemen, but my wooing is not yet finished so please do not confuse the lady with your caustic remarks." He stood, stretched, and brushed off his muddy trews. Reaching down, he pulled his frock coat off the pile of driftwood he had been using to cross the harbour, and shook off the dirt. The pelican squarked at him again, and vomited up a mess of partially digested fish and what looked like a letter that had obvously been stuck in its throat. Predictably, it splattered all over his bag.
"Lovely" muttered Kalin, as the sailors fell about in fits of laughter. He picked up his soiled bag, and wiped off the fish. To his obvious disgust the pelican set about it and immidiatly re-consumed it, leaving the square of parchment The letter was still sealed, and wrapped in very fine vellum.
"May I take this?" he asked the pelican, who shook its head and looked expectently. Kalin looked around, tipped up his boot and threw the eel he found curled up in there to the bird.
"Aww, must be love" laughed a sailor, as the other hummed a wedding march.Kalin threw them a foul look, picked up his gear and the letter and walked off up the beach, followed by the penguin.

Some two hours later, Kalin was found at the 'Iron Teapot; supping a fine local beer called 'Serpant King' and feeding dried whitebate to the pelican who sat at his feet.
"it says here," he said dramatically to the big white water bird "that one Dirk the Dareing met an...cant read that word, un tie me? No, well it's an end, under the....something firy...err of a great drake." he looked at the pelica, and at the harbour where a flotilla of mallards sailed past. "No, cant be that. Must be some beast, umm some.... dragon. And where ever there is a dragon, there is gold." He looked at his mostly empty purse, and back at the letter. "I think matey, that I am being called, and called a long way north. This letter is to someone called Agl something or other, a Knig- ugh, this fish sap is all over the letter. Couldn't you have at least swollowed before- No, nevermind. Looks like they are taking the body of this Dirk to some town by the Loony mountain. Loony?" he paused, and threw some more whitebait "Lonley, ahhhh, That will be Dale then. Once met a beautiful lady from Dale, who sadly was a lady. Still, if that's where they are going with the body, stands to reason the dragon hoard is with them. And I am sure I can help liberate some of it at least. Waht do you think?"
'Yaruuuckkkkk, yuk yuk yuk' said the bird.
"You know maty, if we are going to travel together I must find you a name" .
"YukkkaRRR" said his white featherd companion.
"Catchy mate, but how about Elwing?"
"OK, OK. Noit Elwing...."
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:39 pm

In Minas Tirith, on the day the main host left Minas Tirith, two days after the news of Victory, and loss, reached the City...

Two o’clock in the afternoon was just enough time; just enough time for Bardhwyn to circulate amongst her friends and acquaintances on the second tier and put to them the question ‘what do you know of Calmacil, the Earl of Tarnos?’

‘Why do you ask dear,’ Larisse, the fruit seller, asked.

“He’s one of Lys’ men and new to the White City; Lys asked me to keep an eye on him,’ Bardhwyn answered.

“He didn’t leave with the rest of them this morning?” Larisse asked, referring to the long, final exodus of men that flowed out from Minas Tirith that morning.

‘Ah, no, he didn’t,’ Bardhwyn replied wearing a sufficiently awkward expression.

A nod followed from the fruit seller, graced with a knowing look - one of disapproval - and the wheels were soon set into motion.

Larisse spoke to the basket maker on the third tier who knew the shop keep across the way (they went to school together as children, you know; such close friends they are). The third-tier shop keep then sought out the barber, also a childhood friend, who had a cousin, another grocer, who kept a shop on the fourth tier. It turns out that the fourth-tier grocer also had a business on the fifth tier, up-scaled for the clientele, of course: a rather stately little place and the ‘purveyor of fine foods and provisions’. That grocer’s cousin, a very good tailor, had the pleasure of fitting Calmacil when the Earl joined the Guard, making the young man several sets of new uniforms and suits worthy of polite society.

It turns out the Earl was living very comfortably with his maternal aunt in a large home on the fifth tier that looked eastwards (not the best of views) and, apparently, there is a rather special water fountain in the garden; jets of water sway back and forth, creating lovely arcs of water, all created by rather delicate engineering that miraculously survived the assault on the city during The War.

Calmacil, it seems, was a terse young man and not prone to frivolous conversation but he was known to frequent Madam Bellaswan’s ‘gentleman’s club’ on the fourth tier, but only once or twice, and never for the entire night; that would be unseemly for a man of his station, don’t you know.

“Why I’m sure the women go to his, dear, when he needs a bit more time,” Larisse added, blushing slightly.

He was punctual, courteous (as one would expect) and treated his Aunt’s servants with kindness and respect. (The family steward described how, one day, the young Earl assisted him with a spilled plate of fine persimmons and was most understanding…)

The young aristocrat had few friends, however. He’d arrived a little over a month prior, having been granted a commission by Pelargir’s Seneshcal (this information coming from the son of the barber who was assigned to the Guard’s h.q.). He came, however, with no clear assignment and rattled about the headquarters until, finally, the Earl was assigned formally to the Pelargir Contingent when its commander, Culanir, requested more men.

Then, by some strange event, he was re-assigned to the Dale Contingent and made the Contingent’s liaison to the senior staff while the main body was in the field.

“Strange, is it not, that a man as young and fit as he be left behind,” Larisse said with a sad shake of her head while fussing with some rather small cabbages. No matter how she arranged them, they appeared rather puny.

Not so strange,’ Bardhwyn thought, watching Larisse work. ‘His father is a Duke, and so will he be, someday. Dukes and Earls don’t go to war if they don’t want to.’

“Yes, I agree; very strange,” Bardhwyn intoned, picking her final peach from the selection on offer. “And most likely not to his liking, being, as you say, a man as young and fit as he.” Bardhwyn held out her coin for Larisse to take but the woman refused, as she always did – her way of repaying Bardhwyn, or Bethellyn, for her bravery ‘that day’. The day the young bullies came down to the tier. The day Bethellyn sent them home crying.

Bardhwyn put the coin down on the edge of a fruit box, winked at the woman’s scolding and walked away, sinking her teeth into the delicate, sweet peach fresh from the orchards on the Pelennor. It was almost two bells. She made her way east, down the Main Way, turned left at the wheelwright’s and into the dead end alley that was home to the tannery. On her back, wrapped and tied, were her practice swords and she wore a loose, linen tunic, close fitting Eastron leather trousers and good boots, as she oft did; no one looked twice now, though at first she turned heads.

Beyond the entrance to the tannery stood a disused mounting block, a legacy from the days when the tannery was a stable, serving the City when it was bursting to the brim with people and horses, decades in the past. Bardhwyn pulled of her practice swords and laid them on the block and wrestled, again, with her general sense of unease; her scar also tingled – take heed, take warning.

Her invitation to Calmacil was rash, she knew this now, but it was done and the young man would arrive in the tanner’s yard at two bells; he was, after all, conscientious and punctual. Bardhwyn spent the better part of the evening prior regretting her actions, however; she was once again flirting with the unwitting disclosure of her past, her identity – and why? Because of her pride. Because she hated being stuffed into a vain, shallow shape of an ‘officer’s wife’ when she was more that officer’s peer. There was no room in Minas Tirith for a woman to be her man’s peer.

She fingered the tied lacing that held her wrapped blades fast and nibbled the last of the peach flesh from the pit, considering her options: she could beg a headache and excuse herself, she could take up the practice duel but perform miserably or she could leave before Calmacil arrived. She could, in effect, lie and/or do a disservice to herself at every turn.

Or she could have a real practice duel with a well-trained swordsman and damn the consequences.

“Well, look who we have, here?” a sour voice said.

Bardhwyn looked up, over to her left. Standing there, before her, with three young men, all finely dressed, was Lout, her opponent from months previous. He and his companions effectively closed off the only exit from the alley. 'Lout' stood as tall as before, dressed as well as before but there was a dark, hard edge to his eye that Bardhwyn had seen too many times before in men’s eyes; it was an edge of hatred and cruelty. She noticed a fine trail of a scar beginning on his forehead only to bury itself in the young man’s hair - her gift to him.

“Go home,” she said blithely. “I have to time to teach you a lesson today.”

“Oh, it is I who will teach you a lesson today, Miss ‘Broomstick’,” the young man replied.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Kaya » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:42 pm

Several weeks prior to Dirk’s Demise - #1

There was a heavy mixture of scents drifting in the air, coming from the Wild Honeysuckle vines that had burst into bloom and arched across the outer wall in all their splendorous colour; from the bread baking in the oven; from the rabbits simmering in the crock pot along with chopped onions, bay leaves, leeks, sage and an indecent amount of garlic.

The latter two were only a part of a feast meal that was in the making. It wasn’t an everyday occasion for the patriarch of a family to turn 190 and as such, the ladies who had put themselves in charge of the cooking had been busy bees since before the break of dawn.

“I heard that soon there will be an arrival of new batches of wool at The Knitty & Gritty,” Dorah said, carefully turning the rabbit chunks in the crock pot; she wiped her brow with a tip of the veil that hung across her shoulders. “Maybe we could go into Bree next week and have a look? I know it is still too early to start thinking about the coming of autumn and winter, but...” She put the wooden spoon away and chuckled, “Zaiyar has grown out of his vest again, and it will take me some time to knit him a new one. Riyah needs new mittens. And Reni...” She clicked her tongue. “I don’t know where that boy’s mind is lately, to be honest. You should hear the words coming from his mouth since he started hanging out with that friend from Bree... Anyway, Reni needs new socks; Zaiyar’s old ones have been worn to bare thread!”

“Next week is fine, Ma.” Kaya vigorously scrubbed the wooden board on which she had been cutting up the rabbits; a few locks of hair had escaped from the loose knot on the back of her head and were glued to her temples.

“Excellent. Maybe I should add another clove of garlic. What do you think?” Dorah looked at her daughter, who leaned in next to her.

“Ma, seriously,” Riyah complained from behind them. “No one’s going to come near us for a week at the least!”

“Yes, yes... It’s just that your grandpa likes his garlic.”

“Fine then, ruin my life by making me smell like the Marshes! Unlike Kaya, I would like to find me a nice fellow one day, you know.”

Kaya blinked, churned a string of unfriendly words around in her mind to throw back, but eventually merely said, “There are worse smells than those of the Midgewater Marshes. Not that you even would know how those smell, Ri.” She nudged her mother’s elbow. “You remember that time when Da returned from the Ettenmoors? After that encounter with those Trolls?”

“Ah, do not remind me,” Dorah exclaimed. “Couldn’t get the stench out of his clothes for weeks. I’m still very much in doubt if it actually had been Trolls, mind you. Your father never was one to tell much, not even when he returned looking much like he had been mangled by an Orc horde,” Dorah chuckled, the look in her eyes momentarily distant; then she snapped back to the present and promptly added another clove or two to the simmering food. “Always so damned proud...” she added quietly. “And where is Reni?” she asked next, looking around the kitchen space: bags here, crates there. Her eyes came to rest on her youngest daughter. “I asked him to fetch berries ages ago.”

“Somewhere outside, probably,” Riyah answered, playing absent-mindedly with her long tresses while she stared out of the open window. She gave every impression that outside was where she’d rather be, too. The untouched eggs, butter and bag with flour that lay before her did little to prove otherwise. “How would I know? I’m not his guardian.” In a mutter she added, “Nor am I a scullery maid.”

“He should be helping. Everyone does his share in this house, as you know.” Dorah now looked pointedly at Riyah, but her teenage daughter was oblivious to her mother’s stare and remark; Dorah sighed. “Kaya lass, could you go find him?”

“Sure, Ma,” Kaya said, quickly drying her hands on her apron. She was already walking out the door and shielding her eyes from the steadily lowering sun when she heard her mother shout, “Riyah, drop that second left hand and make yourselves useful, girl. These pies aren’t going to bake themselves. And, mind you, no nice fellow wants a girl who is useless at running a home.”

Kaya didn’t linger to hear the string of excuses that for sure would follow, and picked up her pace while she walked around the house, her long skirts brushing her legs. Happy to be outside in the air she breathed in deeply, and enjoyed the sun on her skin. She called out Reni’s name, but no answer came, and she made straight for the smithy when she noticed her father and oldest brother on its roof.

“Zaiyar lad, keep it steady,” Balar could be heard saying from up above the rooftop.

“Aye Da, I’m trying.” Zaiyar, who kneeled near the roof’s edge with his booted toes pushing against the rim for support, replied around the nails he pinched between his teeth. He rapped repeatedly with a hammer on another nail he was wedging into the plank they both were holding.

Kaya came to a halt near the smithy. “What is happening?”

Balar grabbed his straw hat and pushed it back over his head; his face and neck were beaded with sweat. “Part of the roof needed fixing. We better do it now, before the weather turns ill. How is everything inside?”

“Going well. I’m looking for Reni. Have you seen him?”

Balar shook his head, while Zaiyar sat back on his heels and brushed his hair from his eyes with long fingers; he took the nails from between his lips. “Maybe he’s hanging around at the stables again. That’s where I saw him sneak off to after we returned from Bree.”

Balar raised a brow. “Usually, when you don’t hear Reni, he’s up to something,” he grumbled.

“Surely it can’t be that bad, Da,” Kaya laughed; waving she turned and crossed the small apple and pear orchard. The apples and pears were ripening; it would still take over two months of hopefully good weather before they could be picked. The fermentation vessels and oak barrels to produce cider, and the baskets to gather and sell the pears on the market in Bree would stand abandoned in the shed until then.

The cooler air in the shades of the trees was welcome; it was a pleasantly warm day, especially for Bree-land where autumn-like rainy days were not uncommon to occur in spring and summer as well. Almost as if the Valar wanted her grandpa to have a wonderful birthday.

“Reni, are you here? Reni?” Kaya called out once she entered the stables. She met nothing but the awkward dance of dust particles in golden sun rays that crept through a rare crack in the ceiling, and the smell of horse and hay, well-oiled leather, and a faint whiff of manure.
There was a corridor between the horse’s boxes at one side and smaller compartments at the other side where saddles, hay, oat and various tools were kept. The corridor lead to barn doors at the opposite end that stood open. Through them she could see the horses standing in the shade of the beech tree; it stood big and green in the middle of the pasture that was spacious and lush enough for the two resident horses.

Once Kaya walked into the pasture she noticed Reni who was seated near the water trough, the basket with berries next to him. He sat unusually still, with his head bent and his ash brown hair tussled. When Reni and Zaiyar smiled roguish dimples showed at the corners of their mouth - there was no trace of them on Reni’s face now. Kaya stepped towards him, wondering what caused her eight-year old brother, who was always so cheerful, to hide out here.

“Ma is wondering what is keeping you, little man.”

Reni startled and quickly pulled his arm out of the water trough. “I’ll be right there, just give me a moment.” He glanced at her with a tear streaked face, and brushed over his eyes with his sleeve. His other sleeve was drenched and clung tight to his arm; he plucked carefully at the fabric, pulling it away from his skin.

“What is the matter?” Kaya crouched next to him and she cupped the back of his head. “Why are you crying?”

Reni shook his head. Kaya now noticed his face was sweaty, and pale beneath the tan he had from playing outside; she put her other hand on his forehead. “I am fine.”

“I can see that,” Kaya muttered. “Why don’t you just tell me?”

Reni bit his lip and seemed to think real hard. “You can’t tell Ma. Or Da,” he eventually said. “Please, please don’t tell Da. He was really angry with me a couple of days ago.”

“Tell him what?” Kaya gently reached for Reni’s hand when he didn’t provide further information; she peeled the wet fabric away from his arm, and there was a sharp intake of breath when a nasty burn was revealed. A large patch of skin on Reni’s forearm had turned white and was blistering with a splotchy, angry red edge.

“What happened to you?” Kaya asked, shocked. “Reni?” she pressed when he remained silent apart from new tears rolling over his cheeks, “Tell me what happened.”

“It was an accident. You have to believe me. We just lit a small fire, Malgevil and I. Please don’t tell Da or Ma.” He looked really scared now; Kaya sighed. “Is it bad?” he asked, a croak in his voice.

“This needs to be looked after properly. I will take those berries to Ma and return with some compresses and ointments; they should ease the pain. Stay out of that water trough with your arm, before it gets infected.”

“Please hurry, Kaya.”

“I will. Don’t move.” Kaya grabbed the basket and retraced her steps quickly, through the stables and across the orchard; the asynchronous banging of hammers became louder with each step. She slowed down to a normal pace before she came within view of the smithy.

“Shall I bring you hard working men some refreshments?” she shouted while she walked past them.

“Yes, please,” Zaiyar said immediately. “You’re a life-saver.”

“Was Reni out there somewhere?” Balar asked.

“Yeah, he’s spending some time with the horses.”

Kaya sped up her pace until she burst into the kitchen. Riyah stood at the table, kneading dough with both hands; her face was smeared with it as well, but at least she wasn’t sulking and even seemed to find enjoyment in the task at hand. Dorah was taking the freshly baked bread out of the oven. With the oven, simmering crock pot and the outside warmth clinging to every nook and cranny inside, the kitchen could hardly become any hotter.

“Berries are here, Ma,” Kaya announced, putting the basket on the table. “The men are thirsty. I told them I’d bring them something to drink.”

“You know where the cider is stashed.” Dorah glanced quickly at the content of the basket. “Where is Reni?”

“Out in the back.” Kaya went into the pantry immediately, and poured two large pints of cider. She picked a small pot of honey from one of the shelves as well and put it in the pouch that was attached to her belt. While walking back outside she inconspicuously grabbed her shoulder bag that was hanging from a peg near the door, and sipped from one of the pints.

Father and brother were provided with the necessary refreshments, which they accepted thankfully.
Leaning against the side of the smithy with a pint in his hand, Zaiyar eyed Kaya's shoulder bag. “More herb collecting?” he chuckled way too loudly; Kaya swiftly kicked him in the shin. “Ow,” he groaned and, upon noting the warning look on her face, he asked, “What?” Balar tore his eyes away from the roof he had been inspecting from below and looked their way, a suspicious look on his face.

“I'll be going then,” Kaya said quickly. “I promised Reni to return.”

“Kaya...” Balar said. “Is there anything going on I should know about?”

Kaya looked at her father pleadingly, but that wasn’t enough to stop him from walking past her; she hurried after him. “Da, wait a minute. Please...” Balar stopped again, and waited for Kaya to catch up with him. “Reni hurt himself,” she said quietly. “I can ease his discomfort. Five minutes, that’s all I’m asking.”

Balar simply nudged his head towards the orchard, but his grey eyes showed unhappiness which was punctuated by a sigh she heard while she walked away from him.
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

Art by Lane Brown
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Dindraug » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:03 pm

On the ruins of the isle that was once the fortress of Himring, in the Sundering Seas, in the days after the dragon died

Dark skies boiled over a dark sea. For the briefest of moments, the clouds parted and a cold wintery sun shone down onto the waves and the frozen isle that burst from the sea of spray like a breaching whale; cold and stark. On the narrow beaches, long lines of thralls trawled for driftwood, or clawed frozen chunks from the carcasses of some beast that had been washed ashore in the winter storms, their uncured sealskin jackets salt encrusted and stiff in the icy wind.

The skies were filled with sharp eerie cries of sea birds, cold and mournful as the edge of the world. They filled the gaps between the crashes of waves on the rocky shore, lonly sounds that faded in the bitter wind. They sored on the cold winds, stark white birds that swept around the broken form of a ship smashed against the rocks, and spiralled up the cliffs where their hardy young clung to barren edges in the bitterest of upbringings.

And in the broken castle that clung to the cliff top, Woman of Secret shadow watched and listened. As the haunting screeches of the gulls surrounded her, she took in the hidden words. The dragon was dead, the dragon of Carn Dum, was dead, dead, dead, dead. She watched the birds fly off, her eyes like frozen pits.

The thrall shuffled into the room bearing a steaming goblet, the drink that was always brought to her at this time of day. It stood close behind her, with its tiny head bowed and eyes vacant, alonne in a haze of acrid steam.
“Naaargh” she shrieked, and smashed the small form of the petty dwarf against the wall; the goblet fell to the floor shattering the glass and spilling the steaming crimson fluid accross the cold stones. She shrieked again, and slammed the dwarf into the ancient stone again, and again. Then, without a second glance she hurled the bloody remains into the angry sky where it fell to the sea like a ragged spinning doll, to be feasted on by hungry gulls.

“Sooner or later, if you continue to waste them, there will be no more of those little dwarfs to help you, and feed you.” said a weary voice from the bed behind her.
“Then I will find more, there are always more.” she whispered.

“I take it that one of your erstwhile allies has died then; my love?” The figure in the bed sat up, and supported himself on the stump of his arm. It had long since ceased to concern him, the scars on his wrist where his hand had been hacked off. He had seen many worse tortures since then, at the hands of the creature before him. His torso was a patchwork of scars, and scars on scars, and the thin white tracery of ancient wrongs. He looked at her with an expression that was unique. He had loved her utterly and hated her absolutly her for two ages of the world now since she had found him wandering, not lost. He knew most of her secrets, and although he would gain no greater pleasure than to tell them to another, he knew he could never betray her.
She stared at him, her eyes pitiless holes, rimmed with scorn and spite.

“Yes Osgarcam, I am bereft of one more ally. Or more importantly, I have one less weapon against another of my other allies, and your worthless kin.” She stared out of the easterly window again, her eyes catching the distant peaks of the Erid Luin on the horizon lit by the distant light of the noon sun.
"Will you be away long?" he asked, the bitter reproach of longing in his voice. He may as well have talked to the wind.

As the sun was setting, Haz’tur looked down on the small cortege below him as it clambered along the broken paths of northern Rhurdur. He crouched in the ruins of the broken castle of Cammeth Brin, where in ages past the Dunedain had built the city to rule the third kingdom of the north. Long ago, his ancestors had helped pull these walls down, and turn the inhaitants to the rule of Angmar. The once tall towers still rose starkly against a winters sky, like a broken claw. It clung to the top of a stony ridge which hung over the wooded land below, like a tiny stone ship sailing on a frozen sea. As night drew in, the travellers below stopped and raised camp in a narrow cleft, hidden from any who would hunt them in this desolate land, hidden unless the viewer was above them of course.

“If these fools had kept that flying scout, they would not fall prey to us now” he muttered to the other who squatted by him.
"Nah, we would simply pluck its sweaty feathers from the skys, and they would know no better than it did not come back to feed on its bag of seeds and had gone back to its scavenging ways" laughed his companion in a siblient whisper. "Good eating, a bird like that". The years since the fall of the dark lord had not been kind to the hunters of the tribes of Gundabad. Better than the years after the death of Azog, but they had not prospered. The orcs of the north had scattered, or died in the cleansing by this new King or had fled to the east. But some had wormed their ways into the darkest mountains and survived. They were no longer bound to the dark lords desires, only to each other, and in the hidden valleys far away from Gondor, or Lorien, or Erebor they waited.

“Let them fly, they have nothing we want. They cart away carrion, we can always find more”. He stared some more whilst crows sounded there mournful squawks in the night, He turned to go back to his warg who waited in the ruins- and fell on his face cringing in fear.

“You can get up now”. She said in a sultry whisper. Haz’tur continued to lay there, his heart pressed against the cold stone. All he could hear was the whistling wind and the thin wheezing whines of the warg.
“I have no need or a worm, Haz’tur the unspeakable. I have need of a strong blade, and the skill to remain silent”. She let the other orc fall to the ground, his neck crushed by her pale hand. She pulled her black cloak tighly around her and turned to walk down the path between the towers.

After a moment, and a glance at his dead brother, Haz'tur followed her. His mind was racing, he did not know who she was, but he knew she was to be obayed, He knew that with every mote of his being. And he knew that a new order would be rising in the north, and that he would serve, and he would feed on flesh.

And far to the west, in the ruins he had once called home, a one handed elf stood at the window and the tears froze to his skin as he stared into the East.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Guruthostirn » Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:18 pm

It had to be raining. The procession wound its way southward through the wilds under heavy clouds, and now, as they approached Imladris, hooves splashed mud and cloaks dripped steadily. Perhaps the weather itself was mourning the passing of Sir Dirk; almost everyone else was. Each night the torches were lit, and the vigils continued, one or more Mithril Knights keeping the body company until dawn arrived to signal the start of another march.

The decision to travel to Imladris first had been unanimous. At the Last Homely House the party of knights and their escort could rest as messengers traveled throughout the lands, taking letters to the various associates Dirk had accumulated throughout his life. Silently watching the procession from a rise in the road Anorast grinned without mirth. His brother in arms had lived a truly epic life, with an equally remarkable end. The bards would tell his tale, compare it to Turin Turambar, though without the tragic romantic aspect. Anorast suspected Dirk had held some relationship close but the old elf had never known the details. But the handkerchief Tempest had found next to Dirk’s body indicated that something had comforted Dirk in his final moment. No one else knew that Anorast had seen something else in the darkness. Hidden under his cloak, now wrapped around Dirk’s body, a lock of hair lay against his breast. Anorast had picked it up and placed it there before carrying Dirk out of the darkness. Perhaps his life was more tragic than any of his fellow knights knew.

Irritably Anorast shook water off his hood. He’d put away his armor and now travelled, wrapped in his old robe and Mithril Knight cloak. The old elf had taken to riding away from the column, ostensibly to watch for any dangers. The other knights left Anorast alone, though they knew there could be no enemy who could cause the large group much problem. Anorast was aware that his companions thought he was riding apart to deal with his grief privately, but instead the elf was separating himself from the mourning of the others. He hadn’t lied to Tempest, he did feel the loss of Dirk, but he’d set the young man in his memory, never to be forgotten. Now Anorast waited patiently as his fellow knights went through their own ways of dealing with grief. If only Erinhue hadn’t left them, they could have dealt with it together.

With the thought of his vanished friend Anorast sighed, saddened. The other knights, Tempest in particular, did not understand Erinhue’s disappearance. Anorast had recognized that the Master Bard had been looking for a way to deal with his grief in his own way, away from his friends, from those he might hurt in his quest for closure. If only he could find his way back.

“It’s quite the honor for Dirk,” a voice suddenly spoke next to the old elf. Anorast nodded, not turning. He’d heard the faint tinkle of harp strings a moment before. It was oddly appropriate that Erinhue would make his reappearance just as Anorast had been thinking about him. Perhaps it was not a coincidence.

“He deserves it.”

“Yes, he does.” Erinhue sighed, looking down at the other knights, leading the column. “What do I say to them?”

“Don’t say anything, ‘Hue,” Anorast replied quietly. “You’re back, that will be enough.”

“Not for Tempest,” Erinhue growled. “She’ll try to kill me, you know that.”

“If she tries, it’s because she cares.” Anorast stared hard at Erinhue. “I know you had to leave. Your reasons are your own, I can only make guesses. It hasn’t helped, having you gone. This loss has brought us closer together, but we’ve been missing a piece, you.”

“How can I explain to them why I left?”

“Don’t even try, my friend.” Anorast frowned. “You may explain yourself eventually, but it won’t be necessary. That’s the funny thing about life. It keeps moving forward. What happens finds a place in the past, but you can’t keep looking back. You’ll just run into something if you don’t look where you’re going. Down there, they’re mourning a loss. Up here, away, I’m remembering a friend. I can’t regret what I did, think about what I could have done to change things. That’s in the past.”

“You knew Dirk would die, didn’t you?” Erinhue asked quietly. “Just like I did. I didn’t do anything.”

“You couldn’t, Erinhue.” Anorast reached out and grabbed his friend’s shoulder. “He was walking his own path. Interfering with fate has always been disastrous. Neither of us could save him. Instead, we did what we could to make sure his choices were not wasted. We honored Dirk by finishing the work he’d started, by destroying that dragon. What you did there, the power you unleashed, you did that for your friend. There was no better way for you to honor him.”
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Kaya » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:25 pm

Several weeks prior to Dirk’s Demise - #2

Carefully, Kaya put compresses drenched in Marigold tincture on her brother’s burn; with the second compress she noticed already how the painful grimace around Reni’s mouth slowly lessened. “Better?”

Reni nodded and wiped over his dried up tears. “Thanks.”

Kaya smiled, stroking the matted hair from his brow. “I’ll leave this on for a little longer.” She grabbed the pot with honey from her pouch, when she noticed movement near the stables’ entrance. Reni’s eyes followed her gaze, and instinctively wanted to hide his arm when he saw their father leaning against a supporting beam, but Kaya did not let go of his hand.

“What’s going on with you two?” Balar asked, casually; then he looked at Reni in particular, and he stepped up to them. Noticing the compress, he frowned. “What happened?”

Reni looked at his sister for help. “Just tell,” Kaya said quietly.

“I’m sorry, Da,” Reni started at last after a few hard swallows. He focused solely on the soil where hoof prints were caked into what had once been muddy patches surrounding the trough. “It was an accident,” he added with effort.

Balar crouched. “What was?” he asked, and then he watched how Kaya opened the honey pot and removed the compress from Reni’s skin.

“We were just playing,” Reni offered without any further prodding; he concluded that just having this over with was the better option.

“With fire?” Balar asked, incredulously. He grabbed around Reni’s chin when his son still didn’t look at him. “Reni, how many times...” Balar started, but then he noticed the tears trickling from Reni’s eyes. “Not around here, I hope at least. With the horses, and the hay.” The first salty tears ran over Balar’s fingers already; he lightly pinched Reni’s chin when no answer came.

“At Malgevil’s,” Reni whispered at last, and he pinched his eyes shut, which caused for the pooled up tears to flow quicker.

Balar sighed deeply. “Hadn’t I told you to stay away from him?” He let go of Reni’s chin, and gave him a light tap on his cheek.

Reni nodded, sniffing, and bit on his lips while he looked contrite at his father, but quickly found a new distraction in watching how Kaya smeared a layer of honey on his burn.

Balar did not let go of the subject yet, though. “You sneaked away this morning, while you accompanied Zaiyar to Bree to fetch those boards?”

Reni nodded again, and mouthed “I’m sorry”.

He hadn’t really sneaked away. In truth, Zaiyar hadn’t been unhappy when Reni asked if he could stroll around on his own for a bit; waiting for boards to be cut at the requested length was not a very exciting pastime, especially when Malgevil’s house was basically around the corner. But at this point that detail would make little difference, and Reni knew there would be no glory in getting Zaiyar in trouble as well.

“We didn’t really want to play with fire, Da,” Reni said with as much persuasiveness as he could muster. “But one of us had to play the Dragon. I wanted to be the Dragon’s Bane, really! But then Malgevil and I pulled straws, and I lost.” Reni sulked. “Malgevil’s cousin laughed at us afterwards, saying those Drakes hadn’t breathed fire at all. Is that true, Da?”

Balar straightened his back suddenly, his eyes alert. “What are you talking about?”

“The Ice Dragons,” Reni said exasperated.

Kaya smiled and tried not to laugh. “You mean Cold Drakes, I think.” She applied a bandage around Reni’s now sticky arm, and planted a kiss on top of it after she put a careful knot in it. “All better?” she asked; Reni nodded, and accepted the handkerchief she offered him to clean up his face.

Balar got up from his crouch, rubbing his bearded jaw. “I better go to Bree to have a look... see if there was any damage done,” he said to Kaya, who got to her feet as well.

“Not to worry”, Remi said. “We threw a bucket of water over it. And there are no smoke plumes rising from Bree.” He pointing towards Bree-Hill which hid the city of Bree from their sight.

“Really, Reni, and how is that supposed to put me at ease?” Balar clicked his tongue and from the shade of the beech tree a buckskin mare walked up to him; he patted the horse’s neck, and accompanied her into the stables. “You are not to go anywhere for quite a while, Reni,” Balar called from somewhere out of sight. “And I’m sure it does not need repeating, but anywhere also includes Malgevil, and for even longer.”

“Oh but Da...” Reni whined; he brushed the dry grass from his trousers.

“Do not start. I’ll not soon forget that ale fest the two of you had the other day. You are still but a child.” Balar poked his head outside for a moment. “Go with your sister, and give a helping hand with whatever is required. I do not want to hear about any new nonsense upon my return.”

“I’ll tell Ma you’ll be back in time?” Kaya asked “You know, Grandpa’s birthday?” She heaved the strap of her bag over her shoulder and walked into the stables, Reni right behind her.

“Of course I’ll be back in time,” Balar winked, placing the saddle on the horse’s back. Kaya nodded - they would just have to see about that.

Kaya swung a jostling arm around Reni’s shoulders as they walked out of the stables. “Ale fest?” she whispered.

“Don’t ask,” Reni groaned. “I was really, really sick.”

Kaya sniggered, but upon noticing Reni’s glum face she quickly composed herself. “I’m sorry, I know that’s not funny at all.”

In the shade of the smithy sat Zaiyar, enjoying the last of his cider. “What did the squirt do this time?” he snorted as they approached.

Kaya ignored the remark. “Can you work on that roof by yourself?”

“No.” Zaiyar rested his head against the wooden wall. “I’m waiting for Da to get started again. Why?”

“That’s what I thought. Da is going to Bree. Which means you can make yourselves useful in the house.” Kaya halted when Zaiyar remained seated; she raised an eyebrow.

“What, you mean now?”

“No, Zaiyar, I mean when all the work is done,” Kaya deadpanned. “Come on, slow poke.” She stretched her arm upwards, and smacked Zaiyar across the back of his head when he caught up with them at last. “That’s for not keeping an eye on your brother, and for paying no attention at all when you did.”

“Ow, woman, seriously,” Zaiyar complained, rubbing the offended spot. The fact that Reni sniggered, which Zaiyar cut short with but a glare directed at him, did not help. “What has bitten you today?”

Without being aware, Kaya brushed the fabric covering her left side. “Nothing.” She sighed inwardly. Absolutely and completely nothing.

She loved Bree-land but, truth be told, nothing ever happened around here that could bite her - not since long. Not that she longed for that time with fights and frights again. Not at all!

There was air in Bree-land - free air, thanks to those fights and frights of long ago; wonderful fragrant air, and familiarity. But there was also suffocation.
There was, as there always has been, an ever present need. For her time, her skills, her aid, her decisiveness; even for her cheerfulness. But nothing was there to lift the weight that came with that need. Not even the love and tirelessness with which she accomplished it all. Laughs and family love were shared with her even though she lived on her own since long, but too often it seemed to hardly reach her, and for that she then felt guilty and ungrateful.
Like she already started to feel now.

Just another, ordinary day for Kaya, daughter of Balar, so it seemed.

There was only one cure for this kind of feelings, Kaya knew from experience, and she made a mental note to saddle her horse and set out into the wild at first opportunity. There, at the very least, peace could become part of her again.

“I’m sorry, Zai,” Kaya quietly mumbled, noticing Zaiyar’s scowl; she wrapped an arm around his and wearily prodded him. “Come on, let’s go.”
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

Art by Lane Brown
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Tempest » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:47 pm

Tempest had found the presence of the Bear to be strangely comforting, but even he was not enough to dull her dread as they approached Imladris. There were few places that Tempest truly loathed, and the elven city was one of them. She could never really place her finger on what made her uneasy, perhaps the vestiges of the prejudices against elves in which she had been trained in Mordor, but she could never really be at peace there, and the elves, sensing her discomfort, always provided a place on the bluff above the city for her to stay when business forced her to visit. She was fine during the daylight hours to meet and rest within Imaldris, but it was at night that she found the place claustrophobic.

They were close to the descent, and Tempest was riding in front when they were hailed by an elven guard sent to greet them. Preparations had already been made for them, for their coming had been no secret. Tempest was relieved because they asked no questions, but matter-of-factly preceded, sparing the Mithril Knights with having to explain their procession one more time. After discussing their accommodations briefly, Tempest rode back to the main group to give instructions, and it was then that she realized that their number had grown by one.

He was there, riding in the back beside Anorast.

She had expected him to return eventually, but so sudden was it that her face, unmasked, told both her surprise and fury in one terrifying glance that all the Knights saw as they quickly looked back to see what held her gaze. Immediately, there was the happy tumult of greeting, for Erinhue’s presence had been greatly missed and after several weary weeks of travel, they were in need of cheer. They crowded toward him, and only Anorast and Erinhue, because of their position, could see that Tempest’s face had lost the color of fury, replaced now by an imperious coldness that settled into her features like ice on an early spring day which threatens to kill the early blooms.

She said nothing, but turned her horse and rode towards Imaldris alone. Let them have their moment, she thought to herself. But she knew that if she stayed, she would cause a scene. The last thing this battle-tired group needed was another fight. And if Erinhue even tried to explain himself, or Eru forbid, attempt a SONG, she knew she would…lose it.

And that would not be good for anyone. Nor would it be a fitting tribute to Dirk’s memory.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Tempest » Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:52 pm

It had been an uneventful first evening in Imaldris, other than the fact that the mood was somber, even with the bard’s return. Tempest had removed herself from the group fairly early, and had rebuffed all attempts made for any to accompany her, even Brondgast. Those who knew her best assumed that she had taken up her normal camp position in the bluffs, and would sleep off whatever bad humor she seemed to be in. They would have been surprised to know that she had indeed NOT left the city at all, but was stalking up and down the various stables, frightening both stable hands and horses.

The rational part of her knew that some of the rage she was experiencing was misdirected at Erinhue. But that rational part was slowly being drowned in the rushing storm of her passions, which she was barely holding by a thread. If she had been a normal woman, she would have found some quiet place and dissolved into tears until they ran dry, or better yet, just hunted down the offender and screamed at him until she ran out of words.

But being who she was, she did not have access to these normal outlets, so Tempest did what she always did instead: she drew her sword and looked for something to hit. One of the stable’s wooden support beams became the unlucky focus of her frustration and she spent the better part of an hour steadily wearing it down with thrusts and blows until the air was filled with dust and wood chips.

”Ya know, darlin, I think you killed it, but if you go on much longer, you just might bring the whole structure down on yourself,” she heard the bard’s voice suddenly behind her.

She ceased immediately and turned, her sword still out and her eyes bright in the surrounding torchlight. ”You should have waited until I was done. I still have fight left in me,” she warned in a thin voice.

He didn’t move, but she noted that he wasn’t smiling and knew better than to try to charm her. Instead he asked simply, ”Were you planning on avoiding me the entire way back to Erebor? Kind of hard to do in so small a group.”

She stared at him, wondering how quickly she could cross the distance between them and if he would defend himself. At the same time, she felt ashamed that she would even consider fighting him and instead answered in a chocked voice,

”You left us.”

”I know.”

Her hand brushed the wood splinters from her sword. ”Must be nice to just pick up and go whenever you want. Get away from it all. Grieve alone from all this madness.”


”Don’t! Don’t explain to me. It’s been weeks since his death. Weeks of going from village to hamlet to inn, telling the same painful story over and over again, feeling like a little piece of you is dying each time. And looking around and being thankful, because we could have lost much more. More than I think we even realized at the time. But you left us, Erinhue. You left us to do the journey alone in the end. We should have finished together. All of us that were left, but you left us when we needed you.”

She forced herself to sheath her sword, and had now come within an arm’s length of the bard, her face flickering between shadow and light from the torches.

”I’m not like the others. My soul is dark and I find it….difficult… to forgive,” her voice shook slightly.

And then, because he did not answer, she wanted to hurt him. She didn’t know why she did it, maybe she hoped that he would fight back and give her a reason to draw her sword again, but at that moment she reached over and intentionally plucked one of Agarak’s strings.

Just one.

But deliberately.

She knew there were few things that Erinhue held as sacred, and one of them was that no one, not anyone ever touched his dragonharp. Let alone pluck a string so carelessly.

The chord rang out clearly and seemed to hang in the air between them like some sort of menacing bird, even as Agarak retaliated by shooting a jet of blue flame towards her offending hand.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Cock-Robin » Thu Mar 28, 2013 2:27 pm

Imladris had never received a visit from one of the Great Eagles. They were off on other forays, and were not needed there. First, Elrond and his crew protected the valley overlooked by the Last Homely House, then his sons after Elrond left for the West.

But there was always a first time. Meneldor had accompanied the Mithril Knights after delivering the stone of Amon Sul to its final home, flying slowly, unlike his moniker as the Swift. For he too was silent in his grief over his friend, his mentor. And he often, when they paused perched above, either at the roof of an inn they were staying at, or nearby in the tallest tree that would bear him.

But now, he circled down into the valley, accompanied by the singing of the Elves, singing the song of the Last Eagle. He had not visited Imladris when first he came up from the South, as he feared the disappointment he felt when he visited Lorien. No place in MIddle-Earth welcomed him now, he was a last bastion of the past that even now was fading into the mists of legend, like the Elves who remained. He landed, hearing the songs, then went to his perch atop the Last Homely House, only coming down one time to speak with Anorast.

And that was alone and secret.

"Anorast, I ask a boon of you."

"Anything, servant of Manwë."

The Eagle reached down with his beak and plucked a feather from his breast, laying it at the feet of the old elf. "When we reach our destination, please place this feather on the breast of Dirk. It is the honor I wish to bestow upon him."

Anorast nodded and picked up the feather, concealing it in his cloak even as Meneldor flew back up to his post.

As for Brondgast, this was his second visit to Imladris, and he was there as a bear then as well, for he had a long journey to make in a short time back then, to join the company in Fornost.

Tempest had driven him away, but she didn't know the Beorning. He would keep his respectful distance, but he would prove impossible to shake. He would often pad along silently in the woods, still as a bear, keeping silent watch. And he could keep unseen and unheard if he wished, not by the means of any magic ring, but by the animal cunning of a bear.

His ears had pricked up at the hammering of the sword in the stables, and lifting up his nose, he smelt the now-familiar scent of his charge. He silently padded in the direction of the stables even as Erinhue rushed by to meet with Tempest.

He kept out of the way, keeping his ears perked up, listening to the conversation, concerned about both.

The sound of the harp string being plucked entranced him, as it echoed through the stable. But it was a portent of danger.

Even as the jet of blue flame shot from Agarak, the bear moved fast as lightning. None saw it coming. The spark was all that the bear needed.

Whoof! He knocked Tempest down just in time, straddled on top of her, the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Before Tempest could react, Brondgast rolled away, squirming on his back, trying to extinguish his smoldering fur. For he had taken the flame intended for Tempest.

"BRONDGAST!" screamed both Erinhue and Tempest in unison. Her rage at the bear for interfering was great, but also her concern for him in his brave, or maybe foolhardy act. Erinhue's eyes were wide, and for the moment, he forgot the act of sacriliege. Not for long, but for the moment. A few chords struck from the dragonharp, almost in astonishment.

Happy New Year!

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 Bardhwyn » Thu Mar 28, 2013 5:44 pm

Minas Tirith, shortly after two bells on the day the Great Host departed for War in the North...

The walk down the Great Way was always of interest to Calmacil; he never tired of watching the people of the White City. He studied their faces, their manner of dress and, as he travelled down from one tier to the next, he noted the subtle changes of style and heard differing phrases spoken: on the fifth tier he heard ‘Hello’, while the third tier echoed with the more formal ‘Good day to you’. Those on the second tier merely nodded towards him with a simple smile, speaking only when spoken to.

Once on the second tier, Calmacil required no directions; he simply followed his nose and the pungent aroma of lime and old urine. Seeing a tanner at the top of an alley helped as well, though the man looked sorely distressed as he stood, his dyed arms akimbo, in his stained linen shift and battered leather apron.

“Guardsman! You!” the tanner barked, pointing. “There are four of them and a woman,” he said pointing down the alley behind him. “She fought like a wild thing. There’s blood!”

Calmacil was at a run with the words ‘and a woman’, passing the tanner just as the phrase ‘there’s blood’ was uttered.

“Bring the guards from the gate!” he cried as he passed the man. He pulled his blade free as he turned the corner, the wheelwright on his right. The tanner’s alley was longer than he expected; it ran straight by about one hundred yards but near to the end he could see the back of one man, young by his stature, dressed in fine green velvet standing behind and watching, what looked to be, two more men, all huddling behind a disused mounting block.

Off to the right, on the ground and leaning against a door lay another young man, curled like a babe, clutching his stomach. His moans and snatches of words and phrases from the others reached Calmacil as he ran, all mixing with the pounding of his boots on the cobbles.

‘Get them off…’

‘Damn…they’re laced…’

‘Cut them!’

‘Keep her down…’

And then he heard her voice, Bethellyn’s; it was a cry and a half shrieked ‘stop’.

Finally Calmacil could see the blood; a pool near the wounded man, another spattering near a small ivory handled knife that lay on the ground several feet away from him and another thin, slick trail that lead to the huddle of men standing off to the left.

“Stop!” Calmacil bellowed. “In the name of the King!”

The young man in green looked over his shoulder, his bitter expression quickly shifting to one of affability. He turned casually, and with a relaxed stride walked toward Calmacil and the point of his outstretched sword.

“Ah, Tarnos!” he called out. “Not to worry, we have the situation under control…”

“Eregred, son of Erethed,” Calmacil announced. “Move aside!”

Eregred smiled, and back stepping, kept himself between Calmacil’s sword; he dabbed his bleeding lower lip with the edge of a finely trimmed linen handkerchief. His two companions were now pressed tightly together behind him, struggling to keep control of whomever they’d overpowered.

“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'.”

Calmacil thought ruefully. ‘Two bells… and here…by the Gods!’

“Ah good, you remember”, Eregred replied; he came to a sudden stop, forcing Calmacil to stop as well. “We met at your aunt’s spring garden party. Lovely time, that. This, this is nothing…” the young man waved a green-swathed arm over towards his companions. “A low-life pickpocket; we caught her, red-handed. Things were dicey there for a moment but we'll…”

“STEP AWAY FROM HER!” Calmacil bellowed, inching forward; the tip of his sword was now perilously close to young Eregred’s chest.

“She’s nothing, Tarnos…”

“Nothing, you say!?” Calmacil seethed. “She’s a subject of the King and, if she be blond, blue eyed and bears a scar on the left side of her face, she’s also the wife of my commanding officer. STEP AWAY!”

Eregred’s affable face dropped and another took it’s place; a face of anger, rage.

“I don’t care if she’s the bloody queen! I aim to teach her a lesson!”

The youth’s dark eyes focused in on Calmacil as he pulled his weapon free and Calmacil could see the tip was bloodied; he breathed a curse.

Do you like to train with a blade?” she asked.

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

“Yes, several medals,” Calmacil repeated, though this time aloud and Eregred’s focus was momentarily broken, replaced with a fleeting look of confusion.

It was enough.

Calmacil moved in, speedily, meeting and parrying Eregred’s thrust, which Calmacil quickly turned into an opposition. He kept control of the young man’s blade and with three, firm twists of his wrist, the Guardsman moved down Eregred’s blade, ultimately disarming the young man; the blood-tipped blade clattered on the cobblestones. Eregred’s eyes followed his weapon; he did not see Calmacil’s fist. A solid punch to the young man’s face sent him sprawling; Calmacil quickly sprung towards the two remaining youths who immediately released their captive.

Fear overtook their faces; one attempted to draw his weapon but received the flat of Calmacil’s blade up against his head; a solid crack punctuated his dropping to the ground, slack jawed and unconscious. It was only then Calmacil noticed the young man recently lost his two front teeth. The second youth, this one dressed in fine yellow summer weight wool, turned; he sported a deep, black eye and his tunic was smeared with blood.

“I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t I...!” he stammered, holding up blood stained hands. Calmacil checked the urge to pummel the youth. He leveled his blade at the young man’s nose. “You’re a coward and a pitiful excuse for a man,” Calmacil announced. “Go to your injured friend and stay there,” he said menacingly. With a silent nod, the youth stepped aside, revealing Bethellyn, bleeding and crumpled on the cobble-lined street.

Her hands were red with blood – hers? Her assailant’s? Her linen tunic, torn and bloodied revealed a vicious wound on her ribcage and the lacings to her leather breeches had been cut with a knife, the leather hanging from their eyelets like bits of snapped string. Gratefully, the youths got no further; Calmacil breathed a sigh of relief. She was pale but dry eyed. Her face, however, was bruised and blotchy and her lip had broken open and was bleeding. She looked up to him and spoke: “Lys?” she croaked.

“Mistress!” Calmacil breathed, quickly sheathing his sword. He dropped to his knees and took up up her bloodied hands into his. “Tis I, Calmacil. You’re safe now. Safe.”

“Not like this, no,” she muttered, shaking her head.

“I don’t understand. You’re injured, we must get you home…”

“No, not here, not now,” she said through clenched teeth. “Not like this.”

"No, of course not," Calmacil repeated, not fully understanding. "Not like this."

Bardhwyn took several deep in breathes; the pain was extraordinary. It was a thrust to her side that caught a rib, slicing along it lengthwise, that brought her down, taken after she’d sunk her own, small knife into the gut of one of them. Which one? The one in blue; he was the slowest. Lout disarmed her; she could remember how he laughed- it was a cold, cruel laugh. Like Malthus'; he had a cold laugh.

She wasn’t about to die in this stinking ally, however. Not like this, not after what they tried to do.

“I’ve got to stand, Lys. Stand up…” Bardhwyn muttered, aware, despite the shock and pain, she was dangerously close to passing out. Always stay conscious, always…

“No, stay where you are,” Calmacil answered.

“No, up!” Bardhwyn repeated, pulling herself onto her knees. Lys should know this! She gasped in pain. “Help me, damn you!” she barked.

Calmacil complied, helping the woman he knew as ‘Bethellyn’ to her feet. He held her firmly as, fumbling, she tried to pull the remnants of her tunic close to her in a bid for modesty.

“I’ll bring the Healer from the Guard’s Tower, Mistress. We’ll see to your wounds and we’ll see justice done,” Calmacil said gently. “They’ll each answer for what they did.”

“Mistress? Lys? Why are you calling me that?”

“No, Mistress Bethellyn, tis I, Calmacil.”

“Bethellyn? That’s my mother’s name…my mother,” Bardhwyn whispered.

The guardsmen from the gate arrived, as did a small host of merchants and residents of the second tier and Calmacil noted how the elderly green grocer, Larisse looked more pale than his Mistress. The woman gave a cry of shock and called out for a cloak or coat; several were offered.

“Larisse,” Bardhwyn said with a feeble smile as the woman bustled forward, a stranger’s cloak in her hands. “I could’ve used your broomstick today.” She pulled the cloak closely around her as it was draped over her shoulders.

Larisse’s eyes, filled with tears, flitted between Bethellyn and Calmacil. “Hush now, child,” she replied. “Let’s get you home and let the King’s men manage the King’s justice.” Larisse motioned for help and two men stepped forward, the tanner and Carver, the wood wright, each gently wrapping a supportive arm around Bethellyn.

“I’ll send for a Healer from the Tower,” Calmacil said. “And I’ll come as soon as I’m able.”

“Aye, my lord,” Larisse said with a nod. “You’ve done right by her; we’ll not forget it,” she added. “See they get their just reward,” she added, throwing dagger glances at the youths lying in the street.

The small, silent crowd parted, allowing Larisse to escort Bethellyn through. Calmacil then heard soft weeping. He turned to see the youth in yellow crying over the body of his companion who now lay dead on the ground, still curled like a babe. Eregred and his other friend still lay unconscious and Calmacil knew the three would spend an uncomfortable night in a dark cell but most likely would go home with a set of rapped knuckles and a pale admonition not to harass lower tier women.

High up on the sixth tier Calmacil could hear the alarm bell begin to ring.

“Bit late,” he murmured.

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:00 am

Some hours later...

The doctor’s hands were directed but gentle. He rarely spoke but when he did, he spoke kindly. Finally, once her wounds were cleaned, stitched and dressed, he eased himself slowly and watchfully onto the edge of her bed, and asked her the question.

“No,” Bardhwyn replied with a slight shake of her head. “They didn’t get that far.”

Larisse, who stood in between the two large windows opposite the bed, stifled a sob and praised the Gods. Collecting herself, she then quickly apologized and busied herself with the pot of soup that now hung over a low fire in the hearth. Calmacil shifted uneasily on his feet where he stood, awkwardly, near the sideboard.

The doctor nodded thoughtfully. “If you remember anything else or wish to tell me anything else, you must send for me,” he added quietly. He reached out and placed a gentle, reassuring hand on her arm. “This wasn’t your fault, Mistress Bethellyn, in no way, whatsoever. Know this.”

“Thank you,” she whispered. She felt a tear slide down out of the corner of one eye. The first one; hopefully the last. She wiped at it carefully, so as to not disturb the new stitches and bandages on her right side. Yet another scar, she thought. The doctor didn’t comment on all the others she bore; he was clearly a considerate and discreet man but they must have given him pause for thought.

He collected his things and motioned for Calmacil to follow. They left together silently, leaving Bardhwyn in bed listening to Larissa’s calm and gentle humming.

Calmacil followed Doctor Garen down the stairs, stopping with him once they were both at street level.

“Sub-Lieutenant,” he said lowly. “I’m going straight back to headquarters where I shall inform the High Commander your assignment is now changed.”

“Sir? Changed?”

“She’s the wife of one of our Contingent Commanders who is now in the field, more so, this is Lysandros we speak of, who is overseeing two contingents. He will learn of this tragic occurrence, he must. In no way can we keep it from him. We must set his mind at ease and assure him we are doing everything for the sake and the security of his loved one,” the doctor said. “Also, Sub-Lieutenant, she’s from Dale. You know what happened to Dale during the War? The Easterlings attacked brutally? You’ve heard the stories?”

Calmacil nodded, the full implications of what the doctor was alluding to pressing in on him.

Doctor Garen gave a sad, sobered look back up the stairs to the door they just exited. He sighed heavily. “I can see she suffered greatly when the Easterlings attacked. You saw how she reacted when I tried to remove the bandaging hiding her burned arm? There was real fear in her eyes; it must be a ghastly scar she carries there. Now she’s been attacked once again; are you following me, young man?”

“Yes, sir,” Calmacil replied. “It’s difficult to accept such barbarity…” He stopped and swallowed hard.

“War is barbaric, Sub-Lieutenant. This is why we fight for peace,” the doctor interrupted. “You understand your task?”

“You want me to remain here, with her, in case she needs further assistance…”

“Yes, and you are to report to me daily on her progress, but send for me immediately in the case of an emergency, and above all, keep the place free of unnecessary visitors, as friendly and helpful as they are. She needs rest, Tarnos.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Tarnos,” the doctor added, lightly touching Calmacil’s arm. “Those young men, the ones who did this; their parent’s have - let’s say - influential friends. Be on your guard.”

“Yes, sir,” Calmacil replied. “I shall.”

“Good. I’ll send your things down. Shall I send word to your aunt?”

“No, sir, that won’t be necessary. I’ll send a note up.”

Doctor Garen smiled and nodded. Calmacil saluted and the doctor returned the same before turning down Hurin’s alley, towards the Great Way and back up to the Tower.

Calmacil watched him until he turned out of sight. With a saddened heart he turned back to the stairs, preparing himself for the awkward climb up; they were poorly made steps, each differing in height. His fortunes, it seemed, we’re destined to be strange; now he was no longer a liaison but a bodyguard. Still, it was honorable, perhaps more so than being a ‘glorified quill scratcher’.

There was a noise from above and the face of Larisse peered over the rail of the stair.

“Ah, Lieutenant,” she called out. “I must fetch something from my stall; raspberries. She’s asked for fresh raspberries! A good sign, I’d say!”

The elderly woman began bustling carefully down the stairs, still chattering. “She asked after you and I said you were seeing the doctor off… such a nice man, so gentle. But you must go up, I don’t want her left alone, not just yet,” Larisse added.

Calmacil stopped a quarter the way up; aware they’d not have enough room to pass if he continued. “Yes, Mistress Larisse, I’ll go up immediately. It seems I’m to stand watch over Mistress Bethellyn, until all is said and done,” he replied.

“Oh! I am so pleased to hear that!” Larisse exclaimed. “I’ll tell Carver. He’s organized a group of men to stand guard as well; they’ll walk the alleys and keep and eye on the gate. Those ne'er-do-wells won’t get onto this tier without raising the call, no indeed!” She pushed past him and lightly stepped onto the alley.

“I shan’t be long,” she called out as she bustled away.

Calmacil climbed the stairs carefully and slowly, arriving at the door with his knees slightly aching. He stopped, thinking he heard voices inside, or rather a voice – Bethellyn’s. It sounded as if she were speaking to herself. He knocked lightly and waited a moment, opening the door after hearing her call out to enter. His eye caught the flit of a bird’s wing at the open window.

“I thought I heard you speaking,” he asked with an awkward smile.

Bardhwyn smiled and chuckled. She relaxed heavily into her pillow, grateful for the softness and warmth. “I talk to myself, Lieutenant” she replied groggily. “A sign of genius, as we say in Dale.”

“Ah, of course,” Calmacil replied, sitting himself in a chair at the table. “I’ve been asked by the doctor to remain here, with you and Larisse…”

“To stand guard? I figured as much,” Bardhwyn interrupted. “I’m amenable to that, Lieutenant. Are you?”

“Why yes, of course,” he answered, surprised by her forthrightness.

“I hope you’re very bored, then,” Bardhwyn replied. “And that nothing happens, save me sleeping a great deal. Speaking of which, you must forgive me, Lieutenant, the draught the doctor gave me; I feel so very tired.”

“Of course, Mistress. Sleep well,” Calmacil said softly.

“Thank you, Tarnos,” Bardhwyn replied as sleep overtook her. “I hope to.”
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Fri Mar 29, 2013 4:34 pm

A short time thereafter...

Heart pumping, wings flapping, air tussling and wind bustling! Must fly! Musn’t stop! Must find a True-Hearted Barding to ask the way!

The small, female thrush quickly found the road and the western gate, and followed it along in the deepening dusk. She’d promised the Barding woman to take her time and not rush, but her tale was so sad and it was clear she missed her loved one so. How could she not fly as quickly as her little wings allowed? Perhaps it was the two simple tears the Barding shed in the telling of her tale that touched the thrush so; Bardings hardly ever cried.

The thrush came upon a cart upon the road; upon it two farmers heading back to their homestead after a day of trading in the White City.

“Are you True-Hearted Bardings?” the thrush called out.

The men looked up.

“What be that?” one asked.

“That be a thrush; out rather late in the day. Be careful of hawks, my pretty!” The farmer called out.

“Hawks? I haven’t seen any hawks!” the thrush replied. “I’ve seen a falcon, but she’d already fed. Is this the direction the army went?”

The farmers merely chuckled between them and turned their attention back to the road. They weren’t true-hearted, after all. The thrush heaved a small, thrush-like sigh and flew on.

She flew and rested, then flew a bit more. It had become quite dark but that did not deter her. A kind and aged Crebain informed her the host was near the house with the golden roof and to keep flying in the direction where the sun had hid. The thrush thanked the Crebain kindly, offering the old gent a few of her worms. He refused, saying they gave him gas and he was on a diet of leaf tips.

“Keeps you fit,” he added, before flying away.

The thrush took to the wing once more, looking for the signs of Man below: torches, noises, horses and wheels, smells, and laughter, and iron and steel. Such were the things of men. The Elves were all music and light footfalls, though sometimes they used steel and sometimes they lamented long into the night. Dwarves where all foot stomps and hammers; bang, bang, bang.

She flew on, through a light rain shower, dodging the droplets as best she could. Finally, the house with the golden roof! And around it, all about, were the signs of men.

The thrush dipped low and flitted in and about the men; some were tall and dark, others were tall and fair. Every man seemed grim and unhappy. There was far too much iron and steel.

“A True-Hearted Barding! I need to speak to ta True-Hearted Barding!” the thrush cried as she flew. Men looked up and pointed; some laughed but none replied… until…

“A True-Hearted Barding! I need to speak to ta True-Hearted Barding!”

“Hey, little thrush,” a young man replied. He was fair-haired but not so grim; he wore a black tunic that glittered with silver and on his sleeve he wore a flash of blue, vibrant like an early morning sky over the Lonely Mountain. “And one you have found! What brings you here on so dark a night?”

“Ah! At last! A Daler who can hear! I’ve come from the White City! I look for one Lysandros!” the thrush called out, hovering just above the young man’s head.

“Lysandros? Our commander!?” The Barding asked.

“That would be he,”
the thrush replied. “Take me to him, if you please.”

The Barding agreed and soon the thrush stood upon a simple wooden plank that served as a desk in a simple canvas tent before this Lysandros she so desperately sought. He was a sober man, fair like all the Bardings, and handsome, but with eyes that had seen much of the world – so the thrush surmised. She related her tale, even mentioned the two tears, and he listened with a growing concern on his bearded face.

“… but above all she wanted me to tell you she’s all right and all is well and you should not worry,” the thrush concluded. “She quite sure the young officer she’s looking after will no doubt, be looking after her.”

“And the wound, how bad is it?”

“Twenty stitches.”

“Twenty!?” Lysandros repeated. “Another scar, then.”

The thrush nodded. “More character, she said.”

Lysandros chuckled, despite himself. “Yes, she would say that. And the motherless dogs who did this, what are their names?”

The thrush recounted them and Lysandros wrote them down. He sat back in his camp chair for a moment, thinking, while the thrush helped herself to water Lys had provided in a low, shallow dish.

“Do you know the pub on the second tier, called the Shadow and Ring?” Lys asked the thrush. The small bird cocked her head, thinking.

“Why yes, I do. Opposite the laundresses?”

“That’s right. There’s a scullery maid there by the name of Kate, she’s True-Hearted. Tell her I have a job for Kresso and repeat those names. She’ll understand.”

“Find Kate at the Shadow and Ring, tell her Lysandros of Dale has a job for Kresso and repeat the names?” the thrush repeated. “You intend to see these three young men meet with their comeuppance, don’t you?” The thrush asked.

“Yes, I do," Lysandros answered, impressed by this little thrush. "But I understand if you have an objection, Mistress Thrush; I wouldn’t ask you to do something you’re morally opposed to.”

“We have a sense of justice, we thrushes,” the thrush replied. “And I know the workings and the ways of men; they’re sometimes so very, very strange, so very unfair. But sometimes they are bold, and courageous. Sometimes they are so very kind and tender. I shall do as you ask,” the thrush replied.

“I would be most appreciative, my small feathered friend, as would Bardhwyn,” Lysandros said, smiling.

“Mustn’t tarry! Mustn’t dally!” the thrush trilled, taking to the air. It flitted and darted about Lys’ tent. “Find Kate and through her, Kresso!” It then shot out the door, into the night.

Lys sat back once again, thinking. Kresso would be costly but he’d be worth every crown, every half crown and every tuppence; and the incidents would appear as accidents, every one of them.

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Kaya » Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:38 am

Several weeks prior to Dirk’s Demise - #3

The sun was sinking in deep orange tinges in the background when Balar finally returned and walked into the frenzy of dinner that was about to be served. Dorah was particularly cool to him, especially since he offered no explanation when she inquired about what had taken him so very long.

“Same old,” Dorah muttered, pretending she was busy checking the table meticulously. She had gone over this process already a few times since the table had been set, and all the plates and cutlery would of course still be in place, as would be the tankards, and the jars with water, and the bee-wax candles that Zaiyar was litting.

“No damage was done, luckily,” Balar repeated the good news which his wife apparently had not heard the first time. He looked around for Reni, who kept a safe distance as much as he kept his gaze averted.

Before Balar could call Reni over, Bagor stepped up to him, jolly and grinning and already enjoying the ale. He smacked Balar’s shoulder hard, as was his custom.

“Pa,” Balar smiled, giving his father a tight hug back in greeting. The man who once had stood tall and strong now barely reached Balar’s chin; his hair was grey now, and his gait sometimes unsteady. In the past few years winter had become particularly painful to Bagor, and not even Kaya’s best salves and compresses and most honed skills could ease the pain once it had set in. But Bagor bore the scars that were proof of the decades of the hard Ranger life he had lived with grace, and he still regarded the world keenly. “190 years, my goodness.”

“Hush boy, no need to throw that at me like it is some kind of spell. Or miracle.” Bagor laughed at his own words, and it was possible the ale and mead had a part in his lighthearted behaviour. Then he took a better look at Balar’s face, and the deepest wrinkles in the corners of his eyes faded along with his smile. “What’s wrong, son?”

“I’ll tell you later, Pa,” Balar said in a subdued voice. Kaya who walked by carrying the last of the food caught the shift in atmosphere between them even so.

Kaya cast them a concerned look, which Balar answered with a smile, just like she had seen him do all those years before the war whenever something was amiss. She suddenly felt uneasy, and despite the day’s warmth that still lingered a chill ran down her spine.

The food was delicious and plenty; the ale, mead and cider even so. The pies and tea were excessive but none could find it in their hearts to leave a crumb on their plate, which pleased Riyah in particular. Dorah was complimented on her excellent cooking skills, and Kaya on her fine catch of rabbits.

“That’s your daughter, no doubt ‘bout that,” Bagor said, raising his pint.

Balar smiled; he looked across the table and noticed Kaya who nodded at something Zaiyar was saying to her, but she bore a faraway gaze. Balar’s smile became an etched line.

“And you, Reni? What have you been doing today?” Bagor asked next, winking. “You’ve been awfully quiet until now. I’m not used to see you like that.”

Balar, sparing his youngest the discomfort of having to talk about his misadventures, filled Bagor in on the events in brief lines. Still, with every sentence spoken Reni’s flush became deeper; he shifted uncomfortably on his chair when Balar finally explained the reason behind the fire.

Bagor, at this revelation, laughed out loud and smacked his thigh. “The lad has too much imagination, Balar,” he said in between laughs. “Dragons and... Ha... My, my... He is so much like Beredic, that one.” And then Bagor fell silent, for his thoughts were snatched away to a very private place where he saw only the faces of all the loved ones who no longer were amongst them. At his age, there were too many such faces.

Balar eyed Reni with a wry smile. “Aye, that he does.” He raised his tankard. “To those who we’ll be missing forever in this life - may their spirits fare well in the Halls of our fathers where, one day, we all will be reunited. All hail the honoured dead!”


There was chatter until the hour grew late and the blue sky of day was darkened completely, the sun replaced with millions of miniature gems scattered all across the heavens.

Balar offered to accompany his father to his home down the road, even though it also lay on Kaya's route.
Bagor looked tired and drowsy from all the food, ale and ambiance, so Kaya offered no protest. She quickly gathered her belongings and, under the light of the waning moon, she joined her father and grandfather during their slow walk along the deserted paths of Combe.
Apart from the thudding of Bagor's walking stick and the scent coming from both men's pipes they walked much like ghosts, until at last they reached the point where their ways would part.

When Kaya motioned to kiss her grandpa goodnight, Balar’s words stopped her right in her tracks.

“Come, we have much to discuss ere the day breaks.”

Kaya looked at her father. In the dim shadows and bleak moonlight his eyes, their pupils so wide, were nearly onyx. He was clearly looking back at her, as was her grandfather. She swallowed and nodded, and watched as both men took the path towards the dark silhouette that was Bagor’s house.

The stars drew Kaya’s gaze upwards; she needn’t search long to find the one star she always looked for.

"What ill is coming our way? Do you know?" She adjusted her shawl tighter around her shoulders when a shudder ran down her spine.

Dreading what was to come as much as she was curious, Kaya walked along the darkened border of carnations and forget-me-nots towards Bagor’s house, drawn in by her elders’ voices, and the warm hues of lights being lit.

Quietly, Kaya closed the door behind her, shutting the rest of Middle-earth out.
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Kaya » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:43 pm

Several weeks prior to Dirk’s Demise - #4

“So, Dragons and Dragons’ banes, aye... There's always much truth hidden in a child's play,” Bagor said, eyeing Balar. He shuffled towards an oaken cupboard, pulled one of the doors open and held an oil lamp up to shed light in its dark corners. “Which direction?”

Balar poked the gently slumbering fire in the hearth and added fresh twigs and a log to it. “North.” He picked a few wood chips from a pocket, and lighted one in the frolicking flames.

“North, aye,” Bagor mused, not sounding surprised in the least; he rummaged through various parchment scrolls and leather bound books. “Far to the North?”

Balar drew the oil lamp that stood on the table to him to light it. “Fornost, and beyond.” A small flame flickered. Briefly deciding between extinguishing and kindling, it then steadily fanned, its yellow hues softening the grim lines on his face.

Bagor looked over his shoulder. “Angmar?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

“It could be.” Balar sat down at the table, and pulled another chair back. “Take a seat,” he said, glancing only briefly at Kaya.

Silently, Kaya lowered herself on the chair and watched both her father and grandfather who, even though she understood every word of their conversation, seemed to be speaking in their own, secret language. “What is going on, Da?” she asked, experiencing an empty feeling in the pit of her stomach. “What happened in Bree? What did Reni do?”

Balar rubbed his bearded jaw and did not speak immediately, but waited until his father returned with a few scrolls and books.

“About a fortnight ago,” Balar began at last, accepting a scroll his father handed to him, “there was an attack on Fornost. Reni must have picked up on one of the first reports reaching Bree. Margevil's cousin is a Ranger, and apparently a very careless one." He shook his head. "Typical for children to twist ill news into a game, and almost make it worse.”

While Bagor moved around to heat the kettle, Balar unrolled the scroll. Kaya grabbed for the other side of the parchment to keep it from rolling up again: it was a map of Eriador, reaching from the Blue Mountains in the West to the Misty Mountains in the East, and from the southern edges of Eregion all the way up to the Icebay of Forochel. It was an old map, marked by blots of greasy finger prints. There were notes written on it too, in a different handwriting than those marking places, mountains and rivers. Kaya knew from the handwriting that they were from her grandfather’s hand - they were unreadable.

Balar’s finger tapped on the parchment where in brown curly letters ‘Fornost’ was written. “Drakes. They attacked during the night.”

Bagor frowned. “I didn’t know there were Drakes nesting in the North Downs.”

“They weren’t from the Downs. They came through the air. ‘Like a dark cloud, coming from the North,’ so it is said.”

“Them winged Dragons, curse them,” Bagor muttered. “What did Fornost do to attract such malice? Never knew they were drowning in gold there.”

“They aren’t. About the why there seem to be a lot of rumours circulating, but there is one detail everyone I spoke with agreed on. They were not winged Dragons.”

Bagor, three mugs in hand, turned abruptly. “Then what were they? Megalomaniac cormorants?” The older Dúnedain shook his head, putting the mugs down.

Balar sat back against his chair, and he observed his father’s face closely while he let two short words tumble from his lips. “Cold Drakes.”

For a long moment the boiling of the water that steadily grew louder was the only sound discernable in the house. “Nonsense, lad,” Bagor eventually muttered. He dropped mint leaves into the cups and drowned them with the hot water. “On Elendil’s grave, it can’t have been Cold Drakes.”

“I know it sounds unbelievable, and I have a hard time believing it myself. But my contacts, which I’ve trusted for years and who have never let me down, were adamant on this.”

“Oh heavens, what will be next? You’re going to tell me that they breathed fire on top, is that it? I know it, and you know it: it can’t have been Cold Drakes. These creatures don’t have the ability to fly because they don’t have much wings to begin with.” Bagor sat down, and took a deep breath. “You know very well how these kinds of stories go around, Balar. First it was a thrush, then a goose, and before you know it everyone saw a Great Eagle while in fact it was a mere chicken all along. Someone along the line got their Dragon lore mixed up, is what I’m saying.”

“Well they were attacked by something, and from the damage that was done it seems unlikely your chicken could have been responsible.” Balar huffed, tapping on the map again. “Fornost isn’t that far from here. If they can reach that far, there is no guarantee they will simply keep ignoring Bree-land forever. We are prepared for a Drake attack as much as Fornost was, regardless of what kind of worm would strike.” He crossed his arms and rested them on the table, glancing at Kaya who had kept very quiet until now. The scroll rolled up and only Middle earth’s backbone that was the Misty Mountains was still visible, until also Kaya pulled her hand back.

“You want to go to Fornost to investigate what’s been going on?” Kaya asked.

“I might,” Balar nodded. “But if I do I won’t be going alone.”

Kaya felt a sudden lightness in her chest. “You want me to come with you?”

“Yes. Or, if you wouldn’t mind, you could go on your own.” Kaya wanted to say something, but before she could Balar held up a hand. “Ah, yes, I know, you haven’t wandered out that far on your own since a decade.” He smiled. “Utter rubbish, I say. I know that’s the kind of talk that keeps your mother out of your hair, but I’m not falling for it.”

Kaya set up straight in surprise; she wanted to say something but instead merely tilted her head and felt a flush creep up her cheeks. She glanced at her grandfather and to her surprise saw his lips were curved in a smile. When her father patted her entwined hands, she looked at him again.

“I wouldn’t suggest this if I had any doubt you’d be able to handle yourself,” Balar said kindly.

“But... How will I ever find out what’s really been going on in Fornost? Unless the city is attacked again while I’m there. Surely that is not what you’re hoping for?” Kaya swallowed nervously, but not because of the possibility of the threat; the lightness of before had disappeared, and she now felt a heavy knot in her stomach. “Ma will have a fit.”

“Oh, I'll have a talk with your mother,” Balar chuckled. “I don’t think it will be quite that bad.”

“You don’t think?” Kaya asked, annoyed, and she didn’t bother to conceal it, either.

“Maybe you have, but I have not forgotten what it was like after you returned from the War, Da. I have not forgotten the endless arguments between you and Ma over Beredic’s death. The reproaches flying back and forth, the coldness between the two of you at a time when you needed each other the most. When your children that were still alive needed you both the most.” Her words came quickly after having been stocked inside for too many years. Balar stared at her, silently.

“I know, you always waited until you both thought we were out of ear shot,” Kaya continued. “Well, maybe my hearing is better than that of my siblings, or maybe our walls just aren’t as thick as you both thought. I remember lying in bed, listening to it all, nights on end.” Months on end, in truth. When during that time Kaya found out her mother was expecting again, that was the first time she dared to believe there was still hope for her parents. And still, the road towards true reconciliation had been very long.

Bagor suddenly cleared his throat; startled Kaya looked at him. So engaged she had been by her raging emotions and memories that she had forgotten it wasn’t only her father who could hear her tirade.

“I am sorry," Kaya said, visibly started by her downpour of words. "I should not have spoken so heatedly. I just do not want to see Ma suffer like that again. Or you, Da. And you know she’ll blame you, were I to go.”

Balar sighed deeply and rubbed his knotted brow. “I am not ignoring your mother’s feelings in this. I just sometimes wonder what happened to my daughter who sneaked around enemy lines to deliver messages between Imladris, The Angle and the smaller encampments. Who used her sword and bow ruthlessly to help keep these lands safe during the War. Who can do the closest thing to magic with those hands that I’ve ever witnessed.” Balar grabbed her hands in his - her knuckles were white for she kept them tightly balled upon her lap. His eyes, however, were quickly on her face again, and he held her gaze.

“You were born with a talent. Or maybe just with an inquisitive nature. Whatever it was, it would have lead to very small achievements if it weren’t for your stubborn determination to develop that talent further than anyone would have thought possible. You are meant to do much greater deeds than the curing of colds and snaring of rabbits, as fine a catch as it was.” Balar glanced at his father who, to Kaya’s surprise, nodded in agreement. Still, Balar went on.

“My daughter, you are my eldest now. No, before you say anything, I am not dismissing Beredic of his place, and I do not ever wish to see you follow into his last footsteps. But hear me out on this, before you come to your decision. Please?”

Kaya pursed her lips, bit back tears – in anger, frustration and sadness. But because of the love she felt for the man regarding her with a pleading look, she nodded.

“Thank you,” Balar whispered. He let go of her hands, and straightened the curled up map anew. His finger this time tapped on a spot generally known as ‘The Angle’. What was little known about it - for obvious reasons - was that somewhere amidst its hills and patches of forest, the main base of the Rangers was located. Close to Imladris, close to the Great East Road, and in between the rivers Bruinen and Mitheithel. His finger then followed an imaginary line that was far from a straight one, through the Lone Lands, past the Ettenmoors and Mount Gram until it reached beyond Eriador’s borders, and came to a stop on the Mountains of Angmar. Balar tapped that spot several times.

“What are you thinking, lad?” asked Bagor. “That them Drakes came from there?” From the jolly, slightly stooping grandfather who had told stories and had laughed loudly earlier that night a veil was lifted, and a glimpse of the watchful warrior he once had been surfaced.

“Yes,” Balar said. “I’ve gone over it a hundred times in my mind since I learned what had happened in Fornost. Nothing else makes sense to me. The Rangers have the North Downs and the Emyn Uial covered. Much of the wilderness between the Ettenmoors and Annúminas is patrolled regularly as well. There are the Misty Mountains too, yes, but why would these Drakes hide there?” He shook his head, not liking his conclusion one bit. “The Grey Mountains is their habitat of old, but habits can change and... The only possibility left that I can see would be beyond our Northern borders. We don’t have that many of our people there. A little more now that the cold of winter has deserted the area, luckily, but still not many. News from them will not reach us quickly.”

Bagor nodded. “I fear I have to agree with you.”

“How do you know all these things?” Kaya asked suspiciously. “Are you still part of the Rangers, then?”

“No, although I do keep in touch with old contacts and comrades.” Balar smiled, almost apologetically. “It is the nature of the beast.”

“So Fornost...” Bagor started. “Is there even any point going there, then? Because you’re right, Balar, whatever kind of worm, they need to be stopped.” Bagor swiped at invisible crumbs on the table top. “The terror that dwelt before in Angmar might have been driven from this world, but who knows what has been brooding in the dark pits of its mountains since. It is a vile place. Vile beyond measure.”

“Something like flying Cold Drakes, apparently. Or not. Maybe it were winged Dragons... I mean, how many of these witnesses have ever even seen a Dragon before, to know one from the other?” Balar wiped his hands over his face with force and, finally dropping them onto his lap, he sighed deeply. “You’re right, Pa... Fornost would be a waste of time.” He eyed Kaya, his lips pursed. ‘What say you?”

“If not to Fornost... You want me to go to Angmar?” Kaya asked, and she could not deny there was a hitch in her voice.

“I’m beyond sure that, even at this very moment, in various other places Rangers who also caught this news are gathering, sticking their heads together, making plans to muster and eventually steer Northward. You could-”

“Da, I am no longer a Ranger,” Kaya cut in. “I abandoned that life years ago, just like you. And most likely for the exact same reason as you. There is no glory in dying.”

“I'm hearing your mother speak now, not you. If I for one minute thought I’d be sending you to your grave, I would have let you walk to your home.” Balar’s words came out louder than had been his intention. He shifted on his chair and, with knitted brows, stared at the wiggling of his boot.

“In truth, it only comes down to one thing, Kaya lass,” Balar said after pondering his words carefully. “One thing. There will be a battle, eventually, and where there are battles, good men get hurt. Without the proper care, good men easily could turn into dead men. Don’t let someone else’s son, someone else’s brother die, if you can prevent it. Be it with your healing skills or, if needs be, with your sword. There might be no glory in dying, but there is glory in defending that what you love.”

Balar repeated his question of earlier; he gave Kaya’s hands - they had gone cold as if she had washed them in the icy water that ran from the northern mountains’ slopes already - a pinch.

“What say you?”
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:09 pm

Minas Tirith, the next evening...

The night had taken on a chill; it was preamble to a change in seasons. Autumn would soon be upon them all, with its cold rains and cloudy skies, followed soon there after by the winter, with more of the same. Kate pulled her shawl closer to her and looked about, once again; she knew the first tier well, having lived there for many years before affording the move up the second, but she never felt at ease there, ever. Several acquaintances have said the same, many attributing the feeling to the ire of dead who, since the assault on the city, linger there, unwanted by Mandos. But Kate recalled the feeling of unease long before the attack; Minas Tirith was an old city, people forget, with old, old ghosts. Like Dale and though True-Hearted, she’d left that city for similar reasons. Too many ghosts.

She tucked a loose strand of her blond hair back under her headscarf and tried to relax, worrying slightly she’d not followed Lys’ instructions properly. She’d acted quickly after receiving the thrush’s message and followed the directions Lysandros had given her before he departed, though the situation was not as she expected. She was to place a number on a potsherd and hide it under a plant pot out behind the barber’s, two doors down from the Shadow. Then wait on the corner of Lamplighter’s street on the first tier on the hour of the number she’d chosen. She was to do this if the Guard ever took Bethellyn in custody.

“Taken into custody? Why in the name of Eru would she be taken into custody?” she’d asked, aghast. “Commander, I don’t understand?”

“She angered someone, Kate, a Rohirrim, a very influential Rhorrim,” he’d said.


“She’s outspoken, single minded. She said something she shouldn’t have,” the Commander replied with an impatient shrug. “She now has enemies, Kate, and I can’t protect her but this man will. His name is Kresso.”

Beth was under guard, yes, but not in custody. Bethellyn lay deep in a fever, watched over, in her rooms, as she fought to recover from yesterday’s vicious attack; the lower tiers were all abuzz over it. The names the thrush repeated to her were not lost upon her, not at all.

“Are you ‘Kate’?’ a voice asked. She started and stifled her cry. To her left stood a shrouded figure, a man, who, despite the street lamp overhead, seemed to be surrounded in shadow. He could have been one the first tier ghosts so many people spoke of.

“Yes,” she whispered. “You’re Kresso?” she asked, hesitantly.

“That’s right,” he replied. “You needn’t be afraid. I won’t harm you. You have a message for me?”

Kate fumbled into the pocket of her apron. “Yes, from Commander Lysandros. He asked me to give you these,” she said, passing a small, folded piece of flax paper to the man’s black-gloved hand. “He said you’d understand.”

“Oh, the Commander and I understand one another very well,” he replied. “Run along back to the Shadow and Ring, Kate. Derwesk is beginning to wonder where you are.”

Kate blinked in the lamplight, surprised. “Derwesk? Is he? How do you know…?”

“Go and forget all about this meeting,” Kresso interrupted. He leaned, whispering: “Do you understand me, Kate?”

She didn’t answer. She turned on her heel and walked as quickly as she could back to the gate onto the second tier and the pub.

Kresso unfolded the note, read the neatly transcribed names, and chuckled quietly to himself. It was as he expected. How frustrating for Lys, he thought, unable to deal with the ‘situation’ himself. Lys’s misfortune was his own boon, however. He’d not be bored, not for the foreseeable future, at least. And he so hated being bored. Nothing good ever came of it.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Apr 01, 2013 2:11 pm

Minas Tirith, the small hours of the morning, the next day...

Bardhwyn opened her eyes and they focused, immediately, on a low burning candle that stood on an unfamiliar table next to her bed. Next to the tallow stood a few small bottles, each filled with tinctures of different colors, an earthenware cup and a small wooden spoon. But it was the jug of water behind them all that immediately made her feel the dryness of her mouth and her sandy, swollen tongue.

“Water,” she croaked. She tried to sit up, wanting desperately to reach the jug but she was completely, utterly, powerless. She could not move.

“No, no…” she murmured, fear creeping into her heart.

“Mistress,” a soft voice called out. “Just a moment!” There was a rustle of bedding from somewhere in the room and a slight flare of light as a second candle was lit on the embers of the fire. Bardhwyn heard the sleepy murmurs of a woman and the first voice encouraging her to go back to sleep.

“I’ll see to her Larisse; go back to sleep,” Calmacil coaxed. He slid a small stool next to Bethellyn’s bed and carefully placed the second candle on the crowded bedside table.

“Water, please,” she croaked a second time.

“Yes, water and more medicine, I think,” Calmacil replied, pouring water into the earthenware mug. He chose the bottle with the blue fluid and poured a portion into the wooden spoon, occasionally looking to his charge as he ministered the dosage. He had slept in his clothes again, second night running and vowed in the morning he’d go to the Guard’s and have a good wash.

“How long?” Bardhwyn rasped. “Asleep?”

“How long?” Calmacil repeated with a kindly smile. He poured the spoonful of tincture into the cup and stirred it. “You’ve slept for two days, mostly, you’ve come down with fever. Your wound, it’s infected. Here, can you sit up to drink this?” he asked. He watched as she tried; he helped her sit up in the end, propping her upright with pillows and fed her the medicinal water in small sips.
She drank it all and asked for more. After the second cup her eyes seemed to clear and her voice steadied.

“Two days?” she repeated, her eyes filling with concern. “No, no… I’ve slept too long.”

“Nonsense!” Calmacil chided. “The Doctor says you’re to rest in bed until the fever breaks and the infection clears…”

“No, no, you don’t understand, Tarnos,” Bardhwyn replied, her head shaking. “I have to speak to him, before its too late – Kate, I have to see Kate.”

“Who do you need to speak to, Mistress? The Doctor? And who is Kate?” Calmacil asked. Larisse, now fully awake, had come to Bethellyn’s bedside, still wrapping a gown over her nightdress.

“What is it, my lord? Is she delirious again?”

“No, no she’s awake, Larisse, and please, call me Lieutenant,” he replied, struggling to mask his exasperation.

“Calmacil, Earl of Tarnos, Sub-Lieutenant of the Dale Contingent, The Tower Guard,” Bardhwyn murmured.

“Yes, that’s right, dear,” Larisse replied, taking up a damp cloth from bowl on the table on the opposite side of the bed. She pressed it to Bethellyn’s brow. The Lieutenant is here, guarding you, as ordered. You’re safe.”

“They’re not,” Bardhwyn whispered, pleadingly. “I’ve got to speak to him! Lys…”

“Oh my dear, the Commander is many, many leagues away.” Larisse replied.

She knew that. Bardhwyn knew that Lys was many miles away but she couldn’t form the words to reply to Larisse, any more than she could describe to the Lieutenant who it was she needed to speak to. Kresso. She needed to speak to Kresso and dissuade him from doing anything rash - because she knew that’s what Lys would request of him. Rash, sudden action.

“Kate! Kate!” Bardhwyn cried.

“Who is ‘Kate’?” Calmacil asked with growing distress.

“She’s a Barding, she works at the Shadow and Ring,” Larisse replied, making for the coat rack by the door. She pulled down a heavy cloak and fastened it around her shoulders.

“Where are you going?” Calmacil asked, alarmed.

“To get Kate, of course,” Larisse answered, perturbed.

“It’s the wee hours of the morning!”

“So?” Larisse replied, matter-of-factly. “I shan’t be long.” The elderly woman summoned a gentle smile and raised her voice slightly, as if fever was also accompanied by hearing loss. “I’ll fetch Kate, Bethellyn, right away! Don’t you fret.”

The door closed with a soft slide of the latch and Calmacil quickly thought to lock the door behind her. Upon returning to the bedside, he could swear he saw relief on Bethellyn’s face.

“Do you still need to speak to ‘him’, Mistress,” Calmacil asked, curious.

She nodded her head and managed, with great effort, to pull herself a little higher onto her pillows.

“Is it the Commander you wish to speak to?” he asked gently.

“NO!” she replied, firmly. “You find Kresso, bring him here, to me. You wake me,” she said in a hoarse whisper. It was accompanied with with a piercing look; Calmacil could see this was an order.

“Kresso? Kresso is a man?” Calmacil asked. Bethellyn nodded.

“How do I find this ‘Kresso’?” Calmacil asked.

“Kate. And soon, Tarnos. Soon. Today. You must.” Bethellyn’s eyes then fluttered shut and she sank slightly in her seat. “Two days, too long,” she murmured.

“Too long for what?” Calmacil asked but Bethellyn had dipped back into sleep; he couldn’t erase the urgency he’s seen in her eyes. Who was this ‘Kresso’?

Some fifteen minutes lapsed before soft footfalls coming up the stair told him Larisse had returned with Kate in tow; Calmacil quickly pulled his Tower Guard tunic over his head, covering his linen shift and hose. He finished clasping his belt just as a soft knock sounded at the door.

He unlocked the door and opened it; in trundled Larisse and a sleepY-eyed blond woman, about Calmacil’s age, with strong blue eyes and a proud carriage; she was a Barding, no doubt about it.

“My Lord Tarnos, may I introduce Katelyn ferch* Katrect of Dale,” Larisse announced with careful pronunciation. “Katelyn, the Earl of Tarnos…”

Kate dropped her eyes and curtseyed; Calmacil had to catch his own inpatient intake of breath and the urge to ask, once more, to be addressed by his military rank.

“Miss Katelyn,” he said with a slight bow.

“My lord, it’s an honor to meet you,” she said, looking at the floor.

“Please, call me Lieutenant,” Calmacil asked, taking the young woman by the arm. “Now, if you’ll please accompany me back outside, we need to speak,” he looked pointedly at Larisse. “Alone.”

Kate followed, her sleepiness now replaced with shock, and once on the landing outside, Calmacil dutifully waited for Larisse bolt the door inside before he turned away.

“Now, Miss Katelyn, tell me everything you know about his man, ‘Kresso?’ Calmacil asked, leading the young woman down the stair.

“W..who?” she stammered, picking her way down the uneven steps.

“Kresso. The man’s name is Kresso and I’ve been asked,” he stopped and reconsidered this. “No, I’ve been ordered by Mistress Bethellyn to find him, as soon as possible.”

“I don’t know anyone by that name, I’m sorry,” she whispered. The young woman was trembling.

“I think you do, Katelyn, and so does Mistress Bethellyn,” Calmacil said gently. “Please, help me.”

* ferch: daugther of (Welsh)
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Hidden_Ring » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:33 pm

On the road to Bree and beyond...

The Greenway couldn't be entirely rightly to be called that, if one were to speak of its current condition. Orion found that, instead of the slowly vanishing and overgrown trail, it was showing signs of recent and regular wear. To be fair, it was not a muddy track, although that was more on these ends farther from the town of the Bree-landers. Closer in, of course, the Old North Road and the Greenway, resembled more of the Great East Road. While not numerous in the trailing twilight, the white-blond Elf found a few humans and pheriannath that were out of the gates and on their way back to their homes and holes. Enough such that the gates were still open and no questions asked as he passed through from the west.

The sign over the doorway was still marked by the image of the fat white pony. The song coming out from the door was in Erinhue's voice but it was no bawdy pub song. It was melodious, almost a delight to the ear, and yet bittersweet such that few could hear its tale and not show a tear. Orion allowed his horse to be led back to the stables, knowing Kemenroch needed time and rest from the great race out of seclusion. Stepping across the threshold, he listened to the song as he learned what had troubled his mind those days before when first he heard the echo of the wyrm's death cry. Orion tapped the shoulder of a barmaid and asked first for wine and then,
When did the Lord Erinhue arrive?

"Barely a day since I saw him enter, and this is but the first time since he has come to the taproom, Highborne."

Thank you, maiden. And please if your master allows, take a cup of wine for yourself. I fear you may need it 'ere the end of this night. The Elf sipped at the wine brought with his head bowed and mourning quietly the passage of Sir Dirk. The soft ping of harp strings ended and Orion looked up as he heard his old friend and fellow Bard whisper his desire to be at home. Just as Hue blinked, the Elf caught his eyes and a look of understanding passed between them. That brief glance spoke of the peace of family.

He turned and stepped out from the forlorn taproom, flagging Nesbit aside as the man struggled to dry his tears.
I shall need my horse readied at first light. I have an old friend to meet. And an acquaintance to say 'farewell'.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:28 pm

Minas Tirith... the next night...

Once again, Kate stood on the corner of Lamplighter’s Street, under the feeble light of a sputtering street lamp, waiting. The lamp popped and hissed, as if it were about to run out of oil; it’s flickering and spitting added to her disquiet. The dark, chill air once again forced her to huddle underneath her shawl while late night revelers called to her as they passed.

Across the lane the Lamplighter’s Inn was filled to bursting; the latest song to spill out into the night being the tune about the Rohirrim woman taught how to ride by a Gondorian, replete with the bawdy verse that always set the company into riotous laughter. She could just make out the cloaked and shrouded form of the young Lieutenant in the shadows by the Inn’s door, only because she knew where to look. He’d left her with kind words, reminding her she need not be afraid, that he’d be near but she still felt a sickening dread as the minutes dragged on.

Kresso had told her to forget; yet there she was, waiting, the very next night.

High up on the sixth tier she heard the bells strike the hour and, just as the final peal rang out, a shrouded form emerged from the dark. As the cloaked figure walked towards her, she suppressed a shudder.

“Hello, Kate,” Kresso said quietly. “I didn’t expect another summons, nor did I expect you to bring a friend. Call the Lieutenant over…ah, here he comes.”

Calmacil walked quickly, keenly aware of Kate; she was trembling when he left her and now she seemed decidedly pale. His pulse began to race the closer he walked; under his cloak he rested his left hand onto the hilt of his sword, as if to steady him self and he breathed deeply. The man ‘Kresso’ was hooded and his features obscured but Calmacil could tell he was larger, fitter than he. Calmacil reached up to pull his hood down from his head, his hand and his sword hilt flashed in the lamplight; suddenly the sharp ring of metal on metal cut through the air. Kresso pulled not just a sword but also a short dagger free from their scabbards and held them out before him; with a sharp cry Kate placed herself between Calmacil and Kresso’s blades.

“No! Wait!” she begged.

“Move out of the way, Kate,” Kresso ordered. His voice was even, monotone.

“Kate, do as he says,” Calmacil urged, carefully guiding her by the shoulders to one side. He then kept both hands raised and out before him. “I don’t want any trouble…” he began.

“She’s asked to speak to you!” Kate cut in, pleadingly. “Please, Kresso…”

Kresso eased forward and, taking the tip of his sword, carefully pushed one edge of Calmacil’s cloak aside; the brilliant white threads of several tree branches sparkled in the lamplight, as did Calmacil’s sheathed sword and hilt. The Lieutenant stiffened slightly but remained motionless. Slowly Kresso’s blade withdrew though he kept both blades level with Calmacil’s guts.

“She?” Kresso asked.

“Yes, Bethellyn,” Kate said nervously. “She asked the Lieutenant to find you. She needs to speak to you…”

“Are you sure?” Kresso asked.

“Am I sure?” Kate repeated, confused.

“Are you sure it was Bethellyn?” Kresso asked, looking at Calmacil.

“Why, of course I’m sure; she spoke to me directly,” he replied.

“Bethellyn did? Directly?” Kresso asked.

“Yes,” Calmacil answered, his ire rising. “What’s this about?”

Kresso chuckled low and allowed his blades to drop. “Just being sure of something, Lieutenant, and I am satisfied. Make haste and take me to your ‘Mistress’; my time isn’t cheap.”

Kate and Calmacil walked ahead, Kresso several steps behind, as they snaked their way back up to the second tier, arriving at the foot of the stair leading up to Bethellyn’s rooms. At the bottom landing stood a Tower Guardsman who, upon seeing Calmacil, stood at attention.

Calmacil turned; Kresso was nowhere to be seen.

After dismissing the Guardsman, Calmacil and Kate made their way up to the door, where yet another guard stood. He, too, was dismissed and after a soft rap on the door, Larisse admitted them, closing out the night’s chill behind them.

“So, where is this mysterious visitor who can only come at the most absurd hours?” Larisse asked.

“Larisse, I have to ask you to leave for a short while,” Calmacil announced, ignoring the woman’s question.

“What?” she blustered.

“Yes, Larisse, please, let’s go to the Shadow and get some spiced wine; the night air has chilled me…” Kate added, pulling down the elderly woman’s cloak.

“No, no… Bethellyn needs another draught at the next bell and I …” Larisse stopped once she felt the weight of her own cloak on her shoulders and Kate’s firm grip on her wrist. Larisse allowed her self to be led out the door, wide eyed and stammering; Calmacil bolted the door behind them as they left.

A few moments later he unbolted the door and stepped to the end of Bethellyn’s bed. His ‘mistress’ slept soundly but her skin looked ashen and her lips were pale and colorless.

The latch to the door lifted and Kresso entered, closing the door behind him silently. He made no motion to remove his hood or cloak but stood, instead, like an ominous shadow in front of the door.

“Wake her,” Kresso ordered. “Then leave.”

“I shall wake her, yes,” Calmacil replied. “As she requested, but I will not leave her side.”

“Just wake her, boy,” Kresso hissed.

Calmacil, disliking this man more by the minute and the situation even more so, stepped over to the far side of Bethellyn’s bed and touched her arm lightly, calling her name.

Her eyes fluttered open and slowly she looked from Calmacil to Kresso.

"Good. Help me sit up,” she whispered weakly. Calmacil obliged, propping Bethellyn up with several pillows. After drinking a cup of water she handed the empty cup to Calmacil and motioned to the door. “Leave,” she said quietly.

Calmacil gawped. “You wish me to leave?” he repeated in disbelief. “I don’t think that is wise, Mistress…”

“Tarnos trust me. Leave,” she repeated.

“Leave,” Kresso repeated.

Calmacil, perturbed, looked back to Bethellyn who merely looked coolly back at him. “If that is your wish,” he said angrily. “But this door will remain unlocked and I shall wait on the opposite side. If you need me, call for me and I shall hear.”

“She will not need you,” Kresso answered. “Go.”

“Please, Tarnos,” Bethellyn whispered.

Calmacil walked around the bed and towards the door, closely regarding Kresso as he passed. The faint smell of cedar wood lingered on the man’s clothes, which stuck him as odd. Calmacil stepped out, onto the landing and into the night air and closed the door behind him, hoping that Bethellyn’s trust in this man ‘Kresso’, and in Calmacil, himself, for that matter, was not misplaced.

'Cedar?' he murmured to himself.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Kaya » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:43 am

Several weeks prior to Dirk’s Demise - #5

“I will go.”

Simple, short words. Enormous, complicated implications.

Five hours into the next day and with hardly any sleep to speak of, Kaya closed the door of her house, her dress exchanged for trousers, comfortable leather boots, a tunic and a jerkin; her quiver on her back and her bow in hand. She felt a little hazy, due to the brandy her grandpa uncorked - cold tea wasn’t to anyone’s liking, and apparently this suited the occasion better. Not that there was much to celebrate, but some unwritten family tradition required that important decisions were toasted with the memory of their words rolling over one’s lips still fresh. The brandy had somewhat blurred that memory now, but its meaning lingered, as did the certainty of the decision.

She met her father at the shooting range, which was not much more than a few targets of various sizes attached to the farthest outside wall of the smithy, from which she had the largest radius. Some targets were vines braided into a circle, others lucky targets - a square fixed one angle upwards and divided into smaller squares marked with a flower: a Rose, Lily, Columbine, Marigold; and still others were as small as coins.

I will go, and there be Drakes out there. Flying Drakes.

So the Dúnedain woman, who had never claimed to be an excellent archer, merely good enough, drew her bow, aimed, released an arrow. From nearby, from afar. Static targets, moving targets. Arrow after arrow. Again, and again. And again.

Working on the roof, Balar once in awhile tossed one of the apples that had fallen prematurely up in the air; Kaya could hear Zaiyar beg on several occasions if their father please could stop doing that, each time his voice a little shriller. She missed the targets most of the time - they were small and rapid after all - but much to her pleasure not always.

After two days Balar was satisfied - which he was not easily - and Kaya grabbed a few essential items and disappeared into the wild, carrying nothing more than a waterskin, her hunting knife, a dagger, bow, arrows, and a small pack with basic tools, like snares and a flint and steel. Besides the fact it had been too long since she survived on her skills alone, her stock of medicine was insufficient and the Northern lands were too barren to provide the necessary herbal supplies she was familiar with.

The next five days, Kaya wandered through moors and hills, woods and grasslands that surrounded Bree-land. Meanwhile her falcon, Faradaew, circled high above her in the sky, in search for his own meal.

I will go, and there will be deprivations.

Kaya walked to the tree trunk she had aimed at from over 50 yards away; a pheasant dangled head down from her belt and bounced limply against her leg with each step. A couple of hours a day she roved, from mark to mark, seemingly without a goal but with a clear purpose as she shot at shrubs, tree trunks, mole hills and flocks of fowl. Each time she collected her arrow again, and moved on to a next target. It was a way of training her judgement of unascertained distances to impromptu targets or ‘keeping the length’, as it was called amongst the Rangers. Even more than an essential skill in hunting, it was one in warfare.

Behind her the sun nearly touched the horizon when she pulled the arrow from the trunk - another hit. Smiling satisfiedly she propped it in the quiver on her back, while she observed the trunk’s irregular surface more closely. Had it been a healthy, living tree she would have cut some of its bark, but this tree’s contribution to the world of medicine stopped long before it was felled by a storm, in that moment where root rot affected it.

By the time the darkness crept across the heavens, Kaya settled in a secluded spot in the midst of uneven but open terrain; she dropped the collected wood on the soil. Faradaew’s talons dug deeper in the thick leather glove she wore as he set off, spreading his dark brown wings. It was said that male birds of his kind were smaller than females, but in Faradaew’s case she could hardly believe such a thing was possible; his wingspan was impressive, to say the least. He flapped and hopped gracefully onto a nearby rock, looking around as if he was the Dúnedain’s sentry.

Kaya cleared a small area of the soil and surrounded it with boulders. In the circle of stones she lay dry grasses and twigs, and started a fire to which she on occasion added more wood. With the fire kindling, she plucked the pheasant under Faradaew’s unimpressed stare. Once in a while, she popped a berry in her mouth, and when finally her meal was roasting on a temporary spit she retrieved the gathered herbs, roots, flowers, bark and seeds from various pouches and wraps of cloth, and inspected them closely in the playful, orange light.

She had longed for the quietness of the wild again, and one couldn’t possibly be anymore insync with the wild than like she was, those days and nights in the open air and under the stars.

Kaya sniffed at crushed sorrel leaves. “This is the good life, isn’t it, Farad?” she said quietly, but her bird was already asleep, his head turned around backwards and his beak tucked into the dark feathers on his back. “Off duty already, aye?” she chuckled.

A mix of down and feathers, Faradaew had become hers in days of unbearable desperation.

“You keep him,” her father said, putting a wriggling bundle in Kaya’s arms. It were Balar’s first words upon his return and she was crying already, because he needn’t say anything to explain how it came that months ago two had set out for Gondor, but only one returned.

During many weeks they traveled in each others company, the falcon wrapped in a woolen cloth and tucked against Balar’s chest. Many leagues, making the long road home for the Ranger not less lonely, not more bearable, but Balar took the effort to carry him and nurture him with chunks of mice and small birds even so. Maybe, as Kaya learned over the years, because the falcon was the best kind of listener. Never interrupted her, never talked back, never judged her; with his solemn eyes he often seemed to tell her that he understood, and that it was alright.

Faradaew grew quickly beyond the size of any of Eriador’s native falcons, his wingspan now over one meter. It took several years to learn he was a Saker falcon, its natural habitat being the wide steppes of Rhun.

Watching the falcon suddenly ruffle his feathers Kaya wondered, as sometimes happened, if he was lonely here, so far from his own kin. Or if the fact he was well fed and looked after, was enough for him.
If he opposed to the idea of, one day, being buried far from where he should have lived all his long years.

Her falcon attentively looked at her, when Kaya pointed at the heavens. “Did I ever tell you why it is I always look for that one star?” Of course she had, dozens of times even, and Faradaew would never tell another soul, nor would he object to another repeat of her explanation.

“You see that group of stars there? Well, the second star to the right, that’s Beredic. When we were children, he used to make up all kinds of stories. Those about the stars were my favourites.” Kaya briefly smiled with the memory. “We couldn’t give him a proper family burial. Never could say goodbye. Giving him his own star, it is the least I could do..” She sighed deeply, and turned the pheasant over to roast its other side. “He was a good man. Honest to the core.” Swallowing she sprinkled herbs over the pheasant, while drops of dripping sizzled in the flames. “I miss him so much.”

I will go, and there will be blood, and dying screams.

Upon her return from the wild, Kaya spent evening upon evening trying out new decoctions and tinctures. By the sparse light of bee-wax candles and under the scrutinizing stare of Faradaew’s beady eyes, she sorted and selected herbs, roots and leaves. She experimented with the minerals she purchased recently from a caravan of traveling Easterlings, and threw up for almost a full night after trying out a thick mixture of mustard seeds and Ipecac roots - the latter she had exchanged with a merchant who did business with the South for one of her own infusions. Faradaew sat unfazed while she, in between heaving, jotted down next to a brief description of the particular mixture: ‘Excellent to expel strong poisons taken in orally; Remark: lower the dose.’

Aside from stocking up on medical supplies, it was time for Kaya to pick up her sword. She always strapped it to her horse’s saddle wherever she went, but in truth there had been no reason to unsheath it since years. Upon closer inspection, the dark, worn leather of the scabbard was badly in need of some oil and touchups. The blade was lustreless, and it wasn’t sharp enough to take it into battle but for a little sparring, it would do.
She held it; it lay awkward and heavy in her hand, not feeling at all like the extension of her arm it once was.

I will go, and there is no way of knowing what I might run into.

With quick, forceful strikes the blades clang against one another. Balar stepped aside and swept hard; their blades crossed in mid air, and the clear sound of steel biting steel rang out coldly in the morning air. He whirled around then, striking anew, but Kaya jumped aside just in time to evade the blow. Still, Balar anticipated quickly and hit her sword close to the hilt, hard.

Kaya lost her grip and, cursing, she followed her sword’s curve with a frustrated stare as it flew through the air. Then, her world spun as her legs were swiped from underneath her, and she smacked hard against the ground, the wind knocked out of her - one couldn’t get closer to seeing stars at daytime.

There was the cold flash of steel close to her neck when she looked up. She shielded her eyes from the downpour of rain, and noticed her father’s tall silhouette looming over her.

“You die.” The ‘again’ remained unspoken, but the gruffness of Balar’s voice implied it was exactly what he was thinking. Again, for the fifth time today alone.

Now, two days after Balar and Kaya had started practicing her swordplay, they were back to using their real swords. After Balar almost chopped her hand off on day one, he replaced their swords with ordinary sticks. Zaiyar, following the ongoing daily spectacle from within the smithy where he hammered on a red hot piece of metal if not heating it in the forge, found this rather amusing. Kaya, on the other hand, not so much.
Now they were back to sparring with real weapons, that sentiment remained.

Even the skies wept over her pitiful attempts to firstly, disarm Balar and secondly, get a chance at victory.

She turned onto her side, her elbow digging in the mud, and she lifted her head to look up into her father’s grim face.

“You are not concentrating,” Balar concluded, calmly. It took visible effort, composing this calmness. He stepped away to pick up Kaya’s sword and his footsteps gurgled in the soggy soil; his tunic sagged beneath his leather jerkin with the weight of the water, and the fabric was glued to his shoulders and arms. He weighed her blade in his hand as he held it.

“I am,” Kaya grumbled. She pushed herself up from the mud, and bit down on her teeth so hard she should have feared they would shatter and her jaws would snap, would she have cared. There wasn’t a muscle that didn’t hurt, and she had no doubt she was covered in bruises. Finding no clean spot on her clothes left to wipe her hands, she pushed the loose strands of wet hair from her face with mud covered fingers, smearing some on her skin as well.

“What did you say?” Balar bit, turning back towards her with speed.

“Nothing,” Kaya mumbled. She held out her chilled fingers to accept her sword.

“I could have sworn you said you were concentrating.”

“I am,” Kaya said, losing her calm a little as well.

Balar leveled his eyes with hers. “Then pray, do tell me why it is you are beaten each time like someone who is holding a sword for the first time in her life?”

That stung, and despite herself she felt tears prick; quickly she swallowed. “I am not-”

“Do you want to live?” Balar asked, loudly.

Kaya stared at her father, clenching her teeth. “Yes.”

“Do you want to live?” Balar repeated, yelling now.

“Yes, dammit, yes!”

“Then fight like it! Focus, speed, strength! Stop analyzing everything like it’s some damn concoction. Trust your instincts. And never let your guard down, no matter who you are up against. Remember this well.” He thrust the hilt of her sword into her hand while his grey piercing eyes held hers unwaveringly. “Fight, or I’ll make sure everything you eat today will taste like mud.” He walked a few measured steps away from her, and retook his position.

At that point, Kaya, planting her feet firmly into the mud and gripping her sword tightly, was grateful for the first time in days that her face was dripping with rain. But she was too angry, mostly at herself, to let those other emotions faze her.


I will go, and I will walk away from there by my own strength.

Balar approached, sword at the ready; Kaya lunged forward, bringing her sword up over her shoulder, and swung it, a roar building up behind her clenched teeth.

Hours later, when dusk was setting in, Dorah sat quietly in her chair near the fireplace, her fingers moving quickly and the knitting needles ticking against one another. She had been very quiet ever since Kaya told her she’d be going away for a while. Very strained.
‘How long?’ Dorah asked; Kaya could not tell, because there was no way of knowing. ‘To where?’ Some things were best left unspoken, not to Dorah’s surprise.

Kaya pulled the arm chair closer to the hearth. Her hair still dripped from scrubbing the last of the mud out of it. Happy to be wearing dry clothes again she stiffly sank back in the chair while she watched how the wool slid through her mother’s fingers; it was a beautiful dark green colour. “What are you knitting, Ma?”


Kaya smiled. “They’ll look good on Riyah.” She fell silent, and curled up in the chair. She enjoyed how the heat of the fire warmed her chilled bones even deeper than the bath had done; allowed the soft crackle of the fire and the steady ticking to lull her into a deep sleep.
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby nienor-niniel » Thu Apr 04, 2013 2:58 pm

On the way to Rivendell – shortly before Erinhue’s return

Imladris, they had said, Imladris in a choice which seemed undiscussed, undiscussable. All the Mithril Knights agreed on passing in Rivendell and then to Dale with the funeral procession. An honour to Dirk, a moment of rest for all of them – and a much needed moment, after the battle, the vanishing of Erinhue, after the sting of their loss, the moments of despair which followed and the certainty that this was the ultimate sacrifice that they might be requested from them all. Dirk had had the courage to do so, to sacrifice himself, to abandon his own life and his hope for a future and a son or a wife –so that others could live in peace. That was the aim, the goal, the mission of the Mithril Knights – but how many of them would be ready to do so in the moments of bitter need? Would she be able to do so? Nin wondered inwardly, knowing that she had joined the Knights for that reason: as a chance for redemption for her wasted life, her failures, her guilt. Would she be able to deliver a sacrifice such as Dirk’s? She had already abandoned the Knights once and even if her devastated memory did not give her the pieces of the jigsaw which would allow her to know why, she felt in the look of the others that questioning and that reproach: why have you left? Why have you come back? Tempest had expressed it upon her return and it was in Anorast’s glance at every look she caught. But she could not answer.

Yet, she could not go to Rivendell. There was no way of going there, not after Elrond’s judgement, not now and not in this lifetime. As much as the weeks and months after he initiation were missing – the impact the sickle had on her during the battle of the Red Hammer, the encounter with Anorast in the snow storm, their romance, her departure in grief – it was all lost in that fog which surrounded her mind far too often – as clear were the years of childhood and youth in Rivendell in her mind. How could she ever forget Elrond’s voice: “Go and never come back.” How could she forget the terror in Liudares’ eyes and the fear – fear of his own death, fear of the passion unchained he had not seen as such, fear of her. There had been so much blood. Unwillingly, Nin touched the scar on her throat. Why had he died and she had not? What had taken her? Even now, years, even decades later, she could not tell. Only, her life had been stained forever after and there was no chance of escaping from her guilt.

While the other knights, were preparing their packages and bundles, Nin sat apart form there, doubled frozen inside: The reality of Dirk’s death was still growing on her as on all of them. And in the mean time, she wondered how to avoid going to Rivendell. She had spoken to Elbren about her crime and her punishment and he had encouraged her to join the knights nevertheless, insisting that all of them had encountered guilt in battle, had ended lives. But none of them was a murderer, and Nin did not remember opening herself to anyone else among the knights. Yet, she could not go there. Rivendell, if she went there, would inevitably mean a trial: Elrond would never let her go without that, so much was clear. And of course, the knights could not stay for a trial, they were on the road to Esgaroth and their duty, honour and friendship called them there. Regarding that, Elrond might be tempted to set her free, but not out of conviction that she deserved it, only out of pity and honourbound to let her go to Dirk’s funeral. And this, Nin did not want, not for anything in the world. Over the years, her sentence had become so much part of herself, that if ever it changed, she wanted to face that change in full knowledge of its meaning and in full acceptance. Or rather no change at all. Even Elrond’s grace could not take her guilt from her, it was with her, all the time, all her life would not be enough to pay for it.

She sat alone, darkness in her thoughts and felt her hands starting to tremble. Again, she wondered, knowing that since the months missing from her life, since she joined back, never she had been really well. She would have to find the reason – but not now, not during this trip, now first they had set their friend to peace and rest.

The other knights seemed too lost to their own thoughts and grief to pay attention to her hesitation. And soon they’d be ready for the road. Nin still did nothing to prepare herself for the impendent departure.

“You will not come to Rivendell.” Anorasts’s voice almost made her leap. She had not heard the elf approach – how could she, no one could hear an elf if he did not want to be heard.

“I cannot go there… it’s a long story.”

“I know. But it could be different now.”

He knew? Nin was astonished. She had not thought that she would ever confine in any other of the knights, except Elbren. Especially not – an elf. Yet, there was no doubt, she must have told Anorast one day in the pieces of her life which were missing.

“If you knew, why did you not ask or tell when the decision was made? It is not a shallow reason that keeps me from accompanying Dirk all along his road to his last dwelling. I would not want anybody to think of me denying him his last escort, yet, I cannot go to Imladris.”

“Why not? In those times, Elrond might reconsider his judgement. And he is the greatest healer in Middle Earth…”

Nin had thought of that too – who could help her finding back the time that was wiped from her memory if not Elrond? But she could not walk this road.

“No. I have become a Mithril Knight to pay for my crime, to act against the evil in this world, to help the needy, to fight for those who are too weak to do it. I have no aim for personal glory – and I don’t even aim for forgiveness. I don’t think I can ever forgive myself – so I don’t want it from anybody, lest Elrond. Maybe you’d want the Lord of the Last Homely House to fix me – to pardon me, to make me recall the missing winter of my life – so that the strain from the Mithril Knights would be taken. But it’s not so easy. It’s not what I want and not what I think I deserve – and especially not if it were like a request under pressure.”

Nin was hesitating for words. In her mind, it was all so clear, but it was hard to put in words, especially when she felt already how her hands were beginning to shake again, how her thoughts went blur – she knew she’d need something to sooth her down again… but not now, not now not while a fellow knight – especially an elf – was watching her. What WAS wrong with her?

“So, if you don’t come to the hidden valley, what is your plan? Leave the knights again? Like you did before?”

It seemed to Nin that there was a strain of grief in his voice which she could not classify, but maybe it was only the loss felt by all of them, the gap in their midst left by the death of Dirk. She took a deep breath.

“No. I do not know, Anorast, what made me leave the knights, but I feel no urge for it know. I want to understand what is amiss and I want to find the memories I have lost.”

Her voice sounded firm, but her hand were shaking so badly, that she folded them to fists in her back to hide the trembling. Once, this conversation was over, she’d need to have some salt and there was so little left now, so worrysome little left…

“I could join you again after you left Rivendell… in a few days…”

And so, it was decided. While the other knights set off for Imladris, Nin kept one of the horses from the fallen and decided on a way around the valley. She said her personal farewell to Elenath, Vanaladiel, Tempest, D’jazi, Brondgast and Idril…. , not wishing any of the knights to think that she would vanish now like Erinhue had just done – or that she would leave them again like she had done in those months she would have to look for after having put Dirk to his last dwelling.

Nin feigned not to see the questioning in their eyes about her reason to avoid Rivendell, but she did not want to admit more now than was necessary. More than ever she feared that once they knew her past the knights would exclude her – more than ever, for now, her memories still forsaken to her, she did not see any reason why she should be kep in the order.

So, for a while, they separated again and Nin was not there when Erinhue returned to the group and did not see the Tempest rage grow. She only found the way to the other knights back several days later, as they were on the road to Esgaroth and the memorial.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:16 pm

Minas Tirith, continued...

Kresso pulled his hood down and looked casually about the room before returning his attention to the woman looking deathly ill in the bed before him. His hair, full and brown, fell to his shoulder, the same color as his eyes. A strong nose and jawline and a clean-shaven chin would have marked him as ‘handsome’ save for the constant frown he wore, which he forced briefly into a small smile. “Bardhwyn, you look terrible.”

“And you look the same,” she replied with a feeble smile. “Why is that?”

Kresso laughed, darkly. “Don’t start,” he replied. “I was sorry to learn about Dirk; he died well.”

“Better than either of us will, most likely,” Bardhwyn answered, her eyes trailing to the broken tipped throwing knife still sitting, reverently, on her sideboard. “The funeral’s to be held in Lake Town,” she added.

“So I gather,” Kresso commented, walking to her bedside table. “They’re conveying him in a coffin filled with medicinal spirits, I hear told, so all may gaze upon his face, pristine and unmarked, before being interred.” He picked up each of the tincture bottles and examined them. “How serious is it?”

“I’m told I will recover with sleep and rest,” she answered. “The infection is clearing but it hurts like a motherless dog. A conversation about my health is not why I’ve asked you here.”

“No, I imagine not. What is it you wish to say to me?”

“Has he contacted you?”

Kresso smirked and opened the small bottle with the red tincture. He took up the spoon sitting on the table. “The Master Archer? Yes.” Kresso poured a spoonful of the tincture and carefully transferred it into an empty cup.

“What has he asked of you?”

“You know what his instructions are; to act in his stead and do what ever is necessary to ensure your welfare and liberty.” Kresso poured water into the cup, stirred it briefly and passed the cup to Bardhwyn; faintly, in the distance, a bell tolled the hour. “This includes administering medicine; drink.”

She took the cup and grimaced: “Tastes like yak piss. Does it include murder, Kesso? They’re just boys.”

“They’re animals.”

“They’re young and the young make mistakes, sometimes very grave ones. I should know…”

“You were a victim of dire circumstance,” Kresso retorted. “These ‘youths’ are products of privileged indolence and they are cruel. Look at you; proof of what I say. You would see this befall another woman?”

“No. But must they die?” she asked, pointedly. “Must they?”

“You ask me to spare their lives?”


“And trust their rehabilitation to the authorities? You fool yourself; there will be no accusations brought against them, Bardhwyn. The authorities do not care about their indiscretion; ‘rich, privileged boys will be rich, privileged boys’. You being an officer’s ‘wife’ is of great inconvenience to them, I can assure you. They can’t ignore you easily, but they will try. Better you were some lowly artisan’s spouse or a servant woman, easily blamed, accused of flimsy attire, and then dismissed, or worse.”

“Please, Kresso,” Bardhwyn whispered. “No dealing in death…”

“You’re not blaming yourself, are you?” he asked quietly.

“No, though I did turn them into enemies…” Bardhwyn answered, bringing the cup to her lips.

“You defended the defenseless. They were your enemies before you met them; such are the nature of the their hearts. We are done here; you’ve said all you intended,” Kresso announced; a statement, not a question.

“But you will you comply with my request?”

“I’ll consider it,” Kresso replied, lifting his hood over his head. His face was immediately lost in its shadow. “Their actions will not be without consequences, that much I can assure you,” Kresso added, lifting the latch to the door and pulling it open. He immediately faced the young Earl of Tarnos.

“Lieutenant, I have a request,” Kresso announced. “Do not contact me, do not attempt to locate me, do not even think you can find me; know that I am far more knowledgeable about you than you will ever be of me.” Kresso pushed past the young officer, leaving him speechless on the landing, and quickly descended the stair.

Calmacil watched the cloaked figure blend into the dark before entering Bethellyn’s rooms. She was already asleep, surrounded by a mound of pillows; any questions he had would have to wait. He slid the bolt on the door, hung his cloak onto one of the pegs on the wall and dropped into his chair next to the table. Silently he watched the gentle rise and fall of Bethellyn’s breathing; acutely aware sleep would elude him for many hours to come. Before long Kate and Larisse would return, and with them Larisse’s ceaseless banter. Calmacil reveled in the silence and turned his mind to cedar wood and all the possible places it was used, milled, sold in Minas Tirith.

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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Kaya » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:27 am

Several weeks prior to Dirk’s Demise: #6

It was a curious thing, Orc blood. Dark red, near black, with a texture thicker than that of humans. It didn’t run from your blade like its clear red variant either; it meandered, like mud, to fall in long, lazy drops onto the soil.

Beredic’s blade was covered with it, the remainders of two Orcs whose blood he had taken laying sprawled on the grass nearby. He stood, blade held firmly in both hands, and slowly turned around, making sure no other of the vermin were sneaking up on him. His eyes were focussed underneath his straight, dark brows - they always were focussed when in battle and, all too often, even when not.

He looked down at the corpses at last, slashed in several places with the bone visible beneath dark skin and ripped muscles. One of them was crumpled on his side, his face pointed at Beredic’s feet. But it wasn’t its lifeless eyes, rolled back in its head, that got the Dúnedain Ranger’s attention.

Holding the point of the blade close to the creature, he hooked his boot behind its hip and rolled the Orc over, face down. An arrow stuck from its back - a clean shot, right next to the spine. If it had a heart, the arrowhead might have impaled it.

The sly smile that curled the corners of Beredic’s mouth faded as quickly when, suddenly alarmed, he looked over his shoulder.

The footsteps that approached him from behind, he knew they could not be hers; just like him, she could walk without making a sound. Only just in time he swung his blade to deflect the first blow, and the second.

The yellow eyes that glared at him, the sharp teeth visible behind the snarl; the simple, dark grey blade against his steel one. Still, this time Beredic saw it, a flurry from the corner of his eye: movement, behind the bushes near the tree line. This time, he heard it too, that silent whoosh of an arrow flying through the air, and then the sudden gasp as it hit its target.

It wasn’t a clean shot like the one before had been, but it was enough to distract the Orc for a brief moment. Beredic didn’t need much more.

With quick, hard strikes he drove the Orc back. Back towards the woman who now stepped from the shadowy undergrowth, her bow drawn between gloved fingers and her gaze following the line of the arrow.. The clanging of the blades muffled all other sounds, but Beredic noted when the next arrow hit his target, for the creature faltered. Beredic finished it with one swipe that cleaved the Orc’s windpipe and cut through deeper, until it glanced on the vertebras. He planted his blade in its chest for good measure.

Wiping his brow with a blood stained hand, Beredic released a slow breath. He was running on adrenaline, his heart pumping rapidly, his senses on high alert, but he knew that soon the blowback would come; his muscles already trembled a little from the strain of the fight. He realized the blood on his hand was bright red and not dark only when pain flared and Kaya ran over to him, an alarmed look on her face.

“We really should reach a consensus on the meaning of ‘hide’,” Beredic breathed, watching how Kaya ripped the sleeve from his tunic open over its length until a gash above his elbow was visible. It wasn’t a large wound but deep enough to have blood pour out of it like he was some slaughtered pig; he couldn’t even remember being hit. “Yes?”

“I thought we had,” Kaya smiled, ignoring Beredic’s grumbled response. “We should seek cover quickly. There could be more of them.” She tied the rips of Beredic’s sleeve tightly around his upper arm to stop the bleeding. “I’ll look after this properly when we’re sure we’re safe.”

“No doubt there are more of them. They’re everywhere. Bloody whoresons.” Beredic spat at the Orc at his feet. He looked straight at his sister before they headed for the cover of the undergrowth, and gave an amicable tug at her chestnut braid. “It’s good to know someone has my back, though.” A crooked smile mellowed his features.

“I’ll always have your back, Ber.”

It was night still, with no sign of the blue and purple veil of dawn within sight. It was quiet, peaceful, the only sounds being those of nature: squirrels venturing from the nearby Chetwood forest, owls hooting afar in the trees, bats flying around.

Soon the first human activity would mingle with those sounds: Ergar the baker heating his oven, yelling at his apprentice; the Prunilla sisters on their way to the early market in Bree, passing by on their rickety cart; the neighbour’s rooster crowing sharply.

But not yet. For now, the world was Kaya’s. Just the night, nature’s sounds, the scent of her father’s pipe. He had arrived shortly before, as if he knew he’d find her awake long before sunrise, and now they sat quietly on the steps in front of her house, both huddled in their cloaks. Her sword, which he had carried, sharpened and polished with care and skill, rested against her thigh; her fingers caressed the patched up leather cover of the scabbard, while in her other hand she clenched a package - something else her father had carried. The ribbon lay on the floor, but she hadn’t opened it yet.

“A gift from your mother. You know her, she’s not one to say goodbye without crying rivers. And she didn’t want you to leave carrying that burden.”

Kaya knew indeed, and she could imagine her mother busying herself in the kitchen right now despite the early hour, crying softly. She had witnessed it all too often in the past, after all.

“Kaya, do you remember Jashiah?”

The question, as much as the breaking of the silence, caught Kaya unaware. She frowned, and her fingers ceased their fidgeting. Looking aside she knew that Balar was looking at her as well, but she caught nothing from his face within the shadows of his hood, apart from the glister of his eyes, the tip of his nose and his bearded chin. “I do, yes. I especially remember how he looked, blood pouring from his nose, his hands cupping his crotch.”

“That would be him, yes,” Balar said, all but rolling his eyes. “Apparently, he climbed in ranks since then.”

“Did he now?” Kaya furrowed her brow, then shook it off. “Good for him, I guess.”

“I just thought you should know.”

“Duly noted. Chances are small I’ll run into him, I guess. Though, if I do, he would stand out.” I crooked smile tugged at her lips and could be heard in her voice. “I once heard the one who set his nose didn’t do a very good job.”

Balar grumbled and pursed his lips in disapproval. “Well, I suggest you make a wide detour when you do,” he said, pointedly.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

“Who says its you I’m worried about?”

Kaya snorted. “He was lying scum, but those were altogether different times.”

“They were.” Balar took a slow, deep breath. “I’m sorry that I can’t give you more than the reassurance that Beredic didn’t die a coward. The rest... I try to forget the rest.” He swallowed. “But I still see the images, almost every night.”

“Looks like your way of trying to forget doesn’t work very well then, aye, Da,” Kaya said quietly after a moment of thought.

“I could never find the words to tell,” Balar said in a subdued voice. “There are no words... Maybe there is no forgetting, either.”

There was no one to have Beredic’s back when the lethal blow came.

No one close enough to prevent the worst from happening after he sank down to his knees, his grey eyes wide and his mind not yet grasping what had happened; his sword fell from his hand with a dull thud.

The White City swam before his eyes. The corpses of the Orcs he fought surrounded him; behind them lay his horse on its side, its coat bloodied by the spear and arrows that had pierced it. All across the plains warriors were fighting to vanquish, fighting for their lives.

He saw movement then, not far ahead. Someone turned sharply towards him after pushing an orc from his blade. He swiftly ran over and swung his sword narrowly above Beredic’s head. Beredic heard a screech; it seemed to come from further away than the few feet it actually was. An orc dropped down next to him, lifeless.

‘This is bad,’ Beredic wanted to say. The searing pain throbbed wildly now that the numbness he experienced after the impact had vanished. But his dry mouth could but stutter feeble words while he gasped for air that suddenly seemed too thin. His eyes, however, looked up, pleadingly.

They should have met compassion, solace, if only because of their mutual purpose; they should have met respect, even. Instead there was naught but a cold, hard stare. And then, as those cold eyes looked around hastily Beredic saw it, the hunting knife held firmly in the man’s bloodstained grip.

Beredic’s hair atop his head was grabbed in a tight fist and his head was yanked back. Only then he finally understood.
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Kaya » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:28 am

#6 continued ...

His fingers groped for his sword but he could not find it. He saw a vicious smile tugging at lips that spoke quick but measured words; saw the glister of the rayed star brooch on the man’s shoulder in the bleak sun.

Beredic screamed as the tip of the knife impaled his eyes, but the scream was lost in the sounds of battle that surrounded him.

The last thing he should have seen was the sight of the enemy; young warriors should die at the hand of a worthy opponent, at the very least. But not Beredic. Beredic saw nothing. He wasn’t even sure in whose arms he died after his blood had been seeping slowly into the Pelennor Fields for, what seemed, an eternity. In truth it might have been minutes or even seconds; he could not tell for the excruciating pain turned every second, every heartbeat into another slash into his core. At least the pain chased away his fright for the coldness that coiled around his limbs, the herald of what was to come.

He only hoped the one who held him was someone who’d pass on his last words to his father.

“I’m sorry...”

“I know Beredic didn’t die a coward, Da. My brother might have been many things, but a coward he was not.“ Kaya lay a hand on her father’s arm. “And if you can’t talk about what happened... It’s hard for me to understand, but I will never forget the sight of you approaching, alone.” A man suddenly looking much older than his years, his spirit to live on lost on the battle plains of Gondor, fled along with the dying breath of his son. “So alone... I see how it haunts you still.”

Kaya got to her feet. Her sword loosely in one hand and the package clutched to her chest, she put her shoulder to the front door of her house. “I pray daily that, one day, you’ll find peace with all of this.”

Inside, Kaya put the sword with her other packs and her saddle bags. The package she lay on the table, and at last she unfolded the soft cloth to find a pair of beautiful green fingerless mittens inside. She picked them up, a puzzled look on her face. They were quite long, felt soft, and warm. She pursed her lips. “Oh, Ma...”

Balar, who had followed her inside, raised his brows at the sight of the winter garment and looked as confused as Kaya had at first. “Well, your mother always has been a hard one to fool. Always could get the gist from only half a word.”

“There is no greater truth,” Kaya nodded. She opened one of her bags and crammed the mittens inside. “Thank her, please.”

“I will.” Balar cleared his throat and looked around; he still bore that haunted look, like he always did when Beredic’s dying became a topic of conversation. “You’re almost ready, I see.”

“Almost.” She picked up a small leather bound book in which she kept a detailed account of her herbal concoctions and added it to her packs, when a soft kiy-ee call grabbed her attention. “Look well after Faradaew, please?” They both looked at the falcon who sat quietly on a beam, his stare unblinking. “He’s been restless for days. He must be sensing I’m going away and he’s not.”

“Don’t worry, there won’t be a squirrel or rabbit in the wider area of Combe that will be safe. He’ll be one big fat bird by the time you come back. Maybe we can roast him then, to celebrate your homecoming.”


“I am kidding, you know this,” Balar smiled; it was a little forced, but he tried at least. “I’ll take excellent care of him and he will still be here when you return, just like the rest of us.” His smile became fainter, his expression more thoughtful. “We’ll still be here if you ever need us, wherever you would end up, Kaya.”

Kaya gave her father a curious sideways glance while she strapped her quiver on her back and hoisted a pack across her shoulders; she grabbed a waterskin and her sword, an oil lamp, and cast one last glance at Faradaew. Balar followed her with her saddlebags and bow past the overgrown bushes that bordered her house to the patch of pasture in the back where her horse stood. She hung the oil lamp from a hook in one of the small stable’s beams.

Her horse was a beautiful blue roan gelding named Cýron - ‘New moon’. A far more pricey horse than she would ever have been able to afford, which made him being hers all the more special. It was not a bad thing, being able to bluff, especially when holding a bad hand of cards.
She grabbed the saddle and saddled him up.

“Have I been pushing you?” Balar asked suddenly; he patted Cýron’s robust neck after he pulled the bridle over the horse’s head; the horse snorted.

Kaya looked directly at her father, bemused. “What do you mean?”

“The other evening, after we had been sparring... you were asleep when I entered. Your mother was unhappy with me, said I was breaking you. I responded that I was making you, but...” Balar’s eyes reflected doubt and pain. “I’ve been wondering, maybe I have been too hard on you. I’ve not meant to push you away. You needn’t proof anything to me. I just have the impression you are not really happy here, sometimes... a lot of times.”

“I am happy here, and sometimes I am not. Which makes me not so much different from you, I think.” At this, Balar briefly looked away, blinking. “I know you haven’t meant to push me away. You showed me the options, but the choice in the end has been mine. You should not feel bad nor worry over me, Da. And about being too hard, you know how I feel about that.” Kaya chuckled, ignoring the fact her clothes hid still a number of various fading bruises.

“I do. But it was long ago that you wouldn’t speak to me for days after I treated you differently than Beredic.” Balar snorted and shook his head. “I have made you live to regret that silent request on many occasions since then, I’m sure. But not once you complained.” He grew serious then. “It’s just, Kaya... I lost one child in the South already. I do not wish to see the North turn another one into a muted angel.” He took in a quick breath. “I could not live with that as well.”

Kaya turned a shade paler. “Da-”

“No, you listen to me.” Balar grabbed her arm, his eyes dead serious and not without a glister, which stood in odd contrast to his face that all too often looked too grim. “You listen good. You come back, you hear me? You focus, you follow your instincts, you help, and you walk away from there. Promise me this.”

“I promise,” Kaya said, nodding quickly, her eyes big. “I promise.”

Balar nodded in return, satisfied with her resolute answer, and picked a folded piece of parchment from a pocket. “This is where you’ll meet others at sunrise. It’s a small group, five Rangers, who need to catch up with their deployment near Amon Sûl in three days. They will be waiting for you to join them. And from Amon Sûl-”

“To the north.” She accepted the parchment, unfolded it to have a quick look in the sparse light of the oil lamp, then she held it into the flame and let the crumpling, blackening paper drift to the soil where she extinguished it with a kick of her boot.

Awkwardly they stood before one another for long moments.

“I should go, then,” Kaya said, hesitantly.

“You should.”

“Take good care of Ma. She needs you, Da. And the others...”

“I will.”

“I left a whole bunch of mixtures on the table for Grandpa, for when winter comes and I-”

“Kaya...” Balar grabbed her shoulders tightly and leveled his eyes with hers, ignoring the tears that welled in her eyes. “You must go now, and you must not look back.”

Kaya nodded, and wiped over her face with the back of her hand to tears that in the end would not come. She set her jaw. “You are right.” Giving her father a hug she felt a gentle pat on the back of her shoulder.

Balar held Cýron while she mounted. Looking down at him, she smiled. “I’ll let you know if you win that bet you took with Grandpa on those Drakes.”

Balar snorted. “You do that. I could do with a good bottle of Dorwinion.”

Kaya clicked her tongue then, pulled the reins, and after a gracious turn Cýron trod towards the road. A veil of purple and blue tinted the Eastern horizon. She still could hear Faradaew’s loud, distressed call as she passed the last house of Combe, and headed towards the Great East Road, not looking back despite the urge, just as she promised.

With each of Cýron’s steps, the weariness in her heart diminished just a little, and the unknown that was her destiny drew steadily closer.

And thus commenced the long journey of Kaya, daughter of Balar, to the barren North, where unknown adventures awaited her.

The end...

Of my little saga, that is.

But even then, it doesn’t end here. For the mysterious Drakes lurking in the North are being hunted by a band of Rangers in ‘The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt’.
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
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Re: As The Battle Wanes...

Postby Bardhwyn » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:22 am

Minas Tirith Court Circular, 9 Yavannië

The King and Queen will be attending the opening of the Osgiliath’s primary school today. The Steward of Gondor and his wife, Princess Eowyn, will be in attendance. A reception for teachers and staff will be held directly after in the Pavillion in Osigiliath.

Alasar, Assistant to the sub Steward of the White Tower, and his wife, Melisir, are pleased to announce the birth of their third daughter, to be named Eowyth. The naming ceremony will be held in their home on the west side of the fifth tier on 11 Yavannië.

Burial rites for Turrick, son of Turrigon, High Juristconsult, will be held tomorrow, officiated by the Daughters of Nienna in their mourning chambers on the sixth tier.

Turrick, who tragically lost his life defending a lower tier woman from a vile assault two days ago, will be cremated immediately after.

In lieu of flowers, Turrigon and his wife Serimea request donations are made to the Daughters of Nienna.
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Re: The Pale Road to Laketown and to Final Farewells

Postby Bardhwyn » Wed Jan 08, 2014 2:12 pm

Minas Tirith, 10 Yavannië

It hurts like a motherless dog…
It hurts…

Bardhwyn surfaced briefly the next morning, long enough to sip another foul concoction and peer into Larisse’s anxious face before slipping off, again, into another restless period of sleep. Bardhwyn would call out in her fevered sleep; spit out broken Eastron and curse, furiously, in Westron, sometimes speaking in old Dalish with mournful tears streaming down her face, as if begging for very life. She’d fret over her left wrist, pulling at an unseen manacle and call the name ‘Zar Calech!’

‘A slave you must appear, Bardhwyn, for no Westron woman can walk free in the East. Rest now; you are fevered and ill…’

‘Please, please, just for a short while…’

“What, Bethellys, what do you need for a short while?” Larisse would ask, carefully wiping Bardhwyn’s brow. But ‘Bethellys’ wouldn’t answer, at least not in Westron.

“Do you understand what she says?” she asked Calmacil. The Sub-Lieutenant just shook his head, futilely. “It’s Eastron, that much I can tell.”

“I think she’s speaks in Dalish at times,” Larisse added. “Perhaps Kate could come up? Tell us what she says?”

“She’s delirious, Larisse,” Calmacil answered carefully. “Kate could listen but I doubt Mistress Bethellys is making much sense, if what she says in the Common Tongue is any indication. ”

Larisse nodded and dropped the damp cloth into the basin by Bethellys bedside, recalling how, in the dawn hours, Bethellys had awoken, tearful, begging Larisse thank the King for sparing her face. ‘He’s a just man, the King! A good man! May the Gods keep him! I still love him so.’ she’d said.

“She was doing so well, up until last night,” Larisse said. She turned worriedly to the Lieutenant. “You don’t think last night’s mysterious visitor worsened her in some way?”

Calmacil bit the inside of his mouth, for he had wondered the same. He smiled reassuringly, however and shook his head. “No, Larisse. It was clear he was a friend.”

“So you’ve said,” Larisse answered, heaving a sigh. “I take solace in the times she rests peacefully, wearing such a lovely smile. She’s dreaming of good things, I’m sure. Perhaps even of the Commander?”

“Perhaps,” Calmacil repeated, touched by the elderly woman’s sentimentality. Far up, on the sixth tier, the bell sounded the hour. With a sigh, Calmacil rose from his seat and a knock sounded at the door.

“My relief is here,” he said. “I will return in the mid afternoon. Is there anything I can bring you?”

Larisse shook her head but there was a question behind her eyes.

“What is it, Larisse?” he asked gently.

“Could your replacement stay on the landing, Lieutenant? I’m convinced she becomes agitated when strangers are in the room.”

Calmacil smiled and nodded. “Of course. Though you may have to offer the man a cup of something from time to time.” After a few, quiet words of instruction on the threshold, Calmacil left to report at the Guard’s headquarters, leaving Larisse alone with her charge.

Larisse slid the bolt across the door, wondering how long Beth would be a prisoner in her own rooms.

‘As long as those criminals walk free,’ she mused to herself. She stepped back to Bethellys’ bedside, taking up the damp cloth from its bowl of water and wringing fully before placing it on Bethellys' hot brow.

“There, there, my dear,” she said quietly. “It is just you and I, now. You and I and whatever sweet dreams you are having. And I pray to the Valar they be sweet and wholesome and aid your swift recovery. So, dream of your handsome Barding, eh? Your tall Commander - who must be worried so about you. May you dream of your Lysandros…”


Dirk’s bellow filled the small common room of the Dorwinion inn the Bowmen had commandeered for the night. The two gold sovereigns bearing the Royal Sun of the Dorwinion King Lysandros placed in the palm of the inn-keep’s hand silenced his tongue and closed the door to all the locals; his wine casks, kegs and larder were thrown wide open wide. The Bowmen ate and drank better than they had in weeks.

The Master Archer sat along with Themedes, each content by the fire, each smoking long stemmed pipes with flagons in hand and an ale cask between them. Maeglin and Canamarth had long since retired, Menon was grooming the horses and the Peredhel was out, ‘taking in the night air’. The Scribe had not been at ease since they’d arrived.

“Come over here and join us, Master Archer!” Dirk barked. “Or are you afraid we’ll beat you!?”

“Don’t goad him, Dirk!” Bardhwyn said, staggering slightly. She steadied herself against the tall column of knotted and worm-riddled wood that stood next to her.

“Besides, there is only room here for two here.” She pointed at the small, but long, area in which they stood, reserved for the playing of darts. On this night it was devoted to the throwing of knives, however, and the wooden dartboard hanging on the wall opposite them was splintered beyond recognition, mauled and splintered by their efforts.

“True,” Dirk agreed. “There isn't enough room. Another game!”

“Another!” Bardhwyn echoed. She counted her throwing knives. “Eight shots, this time.”

“Eight?” Dirk asked. It was his turn to sway where he stood. “After which I shall be well and truly drunk.”

“Where as now you are just ‘somewhat drunk’?” Bardhwyn asked with a wicked grin.

“Yes, that’s correct. You, however,” Dirk pointed a finger at his Barding comrade. “You are assuredly drunk.”

Bardhwyn shook her head. “I disagree! I am ‘merely drunk’ and I shall prove it by taking my hand away from this column where upon I shall stand upright until the count often.” She lifted her hand, began counting in old Dalish, only to sway at the count of seven. She grabbed the wooden column and steadied herself once more.

“All right, yes, I am assuredly drunk,” she conceded with a giggle.

“See? I told you!” Dirk said, wagging a throwing knife at her. “Eight shots, then!”

“Eight!” Bardhwyn echoed, lining up eight small glasses on the table before them. Next to each glass she stabbed a throwing knife into the table’s top. Dirk did the same, lining up glasses and knives, before reaching for a full bottle of distilled spirits sitting on a shelf to his right.

“What is this liquor called again?” Dirk asked, pulling the cork free. He sniffed the open bottle.

“Usk-bay,” Bardhwyn replied, pulling the bottle from his hand. “From the north. It get’s you drunk, cleans a wound, it'll light your way, it’ll wake you from a sound sleep or send you soundly to sleep if awake,” she said, pouring the liquor sloppily into the sixteen glasses they’d lined up. She handed the bottle back to Dirk who promptly took a swig from it. Two gulps had the man shaking his head and gasping.

“An excellent vintage,” he announced, re-corking the bottle. “All right, the same rules apply; we drink one glass, then throw a knife –as fast and as accurately as possible. No stopping and the one with the most points wins.”

“Except we cannot see points on the board any longer,” Bardhwyn added, pointing at the destroyed dartboard. “I think we should just try to hit the board.”

“And not the wall?” Dirk asked.

Bardhwyn looked at the plaster wall to either side of the dartboard; it was in as bad a shape as the board itself.

“If we can help it, yes,” she answered. "Not the wall and not each other.”

Dirk nodded in agreement and took his stance. Bardhwyn followed. In unison they counted to three.

The first drinks were downed, the first knives thrown. In rapid succession the alcohol disappeared and the knives flicked through the air, sinking with remarkable accuracy into the soft, scarred wood of the dartboard until the last two sank themselves deeply near the center of the round target.

Not a single knife had met with the plastered wall.

Bardhwyn and Dirk roared with victory, falling into each other’s arms with howls of laughter and much backslapping. And they were both, most definitely, decidedly drunk.

Themedes allowed a thin, long trail of smoke to seep out from under his hood; the thick wool cloaked his features. Few saw his face these days and when they did, they didn't speak of what they saw. He eased back into the leather of his chair and pulled his tankard towards him.

"Well," he said before raising the tankard to his lips

Lysandros glanced at him. "Well, what?" he asked, his pipe stem firmly clenched in his teeth.

"Are you going to show them up, or not?" Themedes asked.

Lysandros shook his head slowly. “No," he answered. "Let them improve a bit more.”

"You have to admit, they're pretty damn accurate despite being nine sheets to the wind,” Them added. He then grunted, aware Lys wasn't listening; the Master Archer's eyes were on Bardhwyn and Dirk; they had fallen quiet and were now clasped in each other's arms.

“You," Bardhwyn said heavily, poking her index finger into Dirk's chest. “You're so much like my brother Ellys, you know that? Like a brother...”

"A brother," Dirk repeated, his head nodding slowly, unaware the Master Archer was scrutinizing them both; the Laketowner allowed his brows to furrow, briefly. "Big brother or little brother?" he asked

"Just brother," Bardhwyn replied hugging him once more. "Because I don't know how old you are and I'm not going to tell you my" She shook her head theatrically.

"I'm twenty-one," Dirk replied, returning Bardhwyn's embrace.

"Little, then," she whispered. "But you're nothing like Brand, nothing like him at all..."

"Brand? How many brothers do you have?" Dirk asked, swaying slightly with drink; he rocked Bardhwyn with him as he carefully righted himself.

"Had," she whispered painfully. "Three."

"I'm sorry," Dirk replied, feeling the Daler press her face into his shoulder. She shrugged in silent reply. Dirk smoothed Bardhwyn's blond hair with a careful hand. "I have three, or none, depending on your point of view," Dirk added with a dark chuckle.

Bardhwyn pulled back and gave him a drunk, quizzical look. "What?"

"Never mind," Dirk answered, shaking his head. He looked into her eyes. "I'm drunk and you’re..." He stopped.

"And I'm? I'm 'what'?" Bardhwyn asked, smiling. Dirk's eyes were no longer on her, however. They were looking beyond her, towards the fire. There was a loud scrape of a chair sliding roughly over flagstones and the slam of a tankard sounding heavily against a wooden trestle; someone left the room, noisily.

Dirk pulled himself free, and, squeezing her arms once he'd parted from her, he smiled.

"You, you're drunk, too," he said, dropping his hands with a sloppy smile. "It's late. I'm off to bed. Get some rest, yourself. Goodnight 'big sister'." Dirk moved quickly towards the stair and climbed them with care, two steps at a time.

Bardhwyn let a deep, shuddering sigh escape her and turned. Themedes sat like some enigmatic stone statue, alone at a table, holding a pipe up to his shrouded lips; a thick curl of smoke escaping the pipe's bowl being the only sign the man lived and breathed.

"Goodnight, Barding," he growled.

Bardhwyn looked about; the room was empty but for them both. She threw the man a nod and walked carefully towards central stair.

"Better luck next time," Them called out. She turned and scowled at him; Them chuckled heavily.

She climbed the stairs slowly, careful to keep a firm grip on the rough-hewn hand rail; not so tightly as to pull splinters free, however. She momentarily longed for the long, polished mahogany railing that swept down into the entrance hall of her father's country house; the hours she and Brand would spend speeding their way down from the first floor, curving and sliding at silly speeds, squealing with delight...

She stopped at the first landing; the Bowmen had taken the entire floor for their own, forcing what few guests there were up into the landlord's quarters. Her room was last on the right; a small closet of a space with a thin bed shoved up against the outside wall, set under a small window with a crack in the glaze.

Short, pale flames flickered from the oil lamps hung at intervals down the length of the hall and the carpet at her feet looked far better in the feeble light than it had in the afternoon sun; she could just make out the elaborate Eastron motifs woven into the carpet: winged serpents carrying jewels in their mouths, swirling about one another in complex patterns, their talons clasping flaming balls of light.

She glanced at her boots; they were filthy. A weird but compelling urge overtook her - to not cause any further damage to the venerable carpet at her feet. Turning her back to the hall, she stepped over to the top stair, hooking the heel of her right boot onto the bottom edge of the step. With a grunt, she pulled, waiting for the force of her efforts to liberate her foot. Her calf moved slightly at first, then a thin, cool rush of air slid past her stocking and her right foot came free.

Holding her muddy right boot in her left hand and holding herself steady with the rail on her right, Bardhwyn proceed to remove her left boot.

It wouldn't budge. No matter how hard she pulled, her foot remained firmly encased in the now badly scuffed and muddied leather boot. It has always been a bit tighter than the right boot, but she could always remove it. Another pull, another grunt; she swore more loudly than she intended.

Behind her Bardhwyn heard a latch lift on one of the doors, followed by the pad of bare feet. Lysandros appeared at the top stair, hands on his hips, dressed in naught but his long under tunic.

"I'm alright," she said with irritation. "I just can't get this boot off..." She pulled again, with too much force, causing the heel of her left boot to slip; she tottered, first back, then forward. Lysandros took hold of her arm, preventing her from hurtling forward, down the stair.

"Steady on,” he said. "Here, let me..."

"No, I can do this.."

"No, you can't, or else you would've by now," he snapped. Keeping hold of her arm, he went down two steps before turning to face her. "Besides, I'd like to get some sleep sometime tonight and you've been grunting out here for fifteen minutes. Where's Dirk?" he asked.

"In his room?" Bardhwyn guessed. "I don't know which, though."

"You don't?"

"No. Bang on doors until you find him." She watched as a strange expression passed over the Master Archer's face. "Are you going to help me or not?"

"Hold the rail," he said pointing to her right hand. He released her arm only once she'd grasped it firmly.

"Don't let go of that rail. Leg."


"Give me your leg. Lift it."

Bardhwyn felt her face flush as she lifted her left leg, allowing Lysandros to firmly wrap his right arm around her boot's calf. The inside of her leg rested comfortably above his hip. Lysandros pulled.

"Point your toes," he said, still pulling. She complied; the boot did not budge.

"What did you do, fill this boot with cement before you shoved your foot in it?" he asked, taking a further step down for leverage.

"It's coming loose, I can feel it," she replied. Lysandros pulled once more and suddenly the leather slipped free, surprising them both. Lysandros' eyes flashed wide as the force sent him tipping back. Still grasping the rail, Bardhwyn leaned forward, reaching for his right shoulder and Lysandros, grasping at the first thing in his reach, took firm hold of Bardhwyn's leg, pulling himself forward as well.

They met, forcibly, chest to chest, Lysandros' hand firmly holding Bardhwyn's upper thigh, and Bardhwyn's arm thrown over tightly over his shoulder; Bardhwyn's left boot clattered down the stair, noisily.

Neither of them moved. Bardhwyn could see the blond lashes of his eyes and the thin line of a scar on his cheek she'd never noticed before. His beard was musty with the smell of Old Toby and his breath smelled faintly of the pale ale the inn brewed. Her heart pounded in her chest and she felt her blood rise to color her face. He was far too close.

"Thank you,” she whispered, dropping her eyes. "You can let go of my leg now."

Lysandros shook his head. He lifted her chin gently with a crooked finger and took her eyes once more. In the sea blue of his eyes she saw the glimmer of something new and different, something she'd longed for: desire. Her breath caught in her throat; she daren't believe it.

"Please, Lysandros . . ."

"Sshh." His lips gently met hers, kissing them softly.

Bardhwyn's mind reeled and her chest heaved with the thrill and confusion of the moment. She wanted to pull him even closer, kiss him hard but it was so opposite - so contrary to everything she'd come to understand about him; Lysandros was cold. distant, having flatly refusing her in no uncertain terms. He was nothing more than her superior officer. Until now.

He broke of the kiss as softly as he began it. Bardhwyn breathed in slowly, scrambling for words as they raced past in her mind.

"I don't understand," she whispered, careful not to release the hold. "Before, when I told you I how I felt ... you said you had nothing but 'the mission' and' your duty' and 'no fraternizing' ..."

Lysandros looked momentarily abashed; a strange sight to her, for the man always held his face rigid in a mask of stern competency. His eyes were now soft, almost sad.

"Tonight we're off duty and the mission will be there in the morning," Lys answered, pushing his hand further up her thigh, pulling her even closer. "Besides, duty and mission have nearly got us killed on more than one occasion of late. I..."He stopped and lightly traced Bardhwyn's jawline, trailing his fingertip softly across her lower lip. "Life is short, too short. As for 'no fraternizing', the rule isn't stopping Can and Meaglin..."

"No, it isn't, is it?" Bardhwyn cut in with a grin.

"No,” Lysandros agreed with a smile, "and if you're going to fraternize with anyone, Archer, it's going to be with me."

"Is that an order?"

"No, Bardhwyn," Lysandros said quietly with a shake of his head. "It's a request. Will you have me?"

Not answering, she sank her lips onto his, kissing him with as much passion as she could muster.

The sound of another door latch opening filled the hall, soon followed by the sound of another pair of bare feet padding upon the carpet.

Lys and Bardhwyn broke off their kiss as Dirk, carrying a large, empty water jug, passed them both on the stair as he descended.

''Bout bloody time," he murmured. Lys could readily make out the broad grin on the Lake Towner’s face as he turned and stepped off the stair, out of sight. Bardhwyn had buried her face into his shoulder, giggling madly.

"Your room or mine," he whispered.

"Yours," she replied, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "My bed is too small."

"Mine, then."

Lysandros lifted Bardhwyn up, allowing her to wrap her legs around his waist. Three long strides was all it took to reach his door; once inside, and still holding his Archer tightly, Lysandros managed to drop the pin into the latch, securing the door and locking out duty and mission for the night.
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