Tribulation

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

Postby Shadowfax » Tue Oct 04, 2005 7:10 pm

”A change in the weather.” said Jaxon. ”Good.”

“Aye.” Nodded Shadowfax, “But before I venture beyond Bree there are supplies that must be restocked.” Jaxon and those around agreed. “I’ll check on my horse and return here before I go out to the shops, few are probably open at this hour of the morning.”

Jaxon spoke, “Yes, there are many things I need before we travel.” She moved as she was going right then to get them, but Shaodwfax stopped her. “No, you need to rest and should be in bed right now. But I know the chance of that happening are as slim, no you must stay here.” Jaxon was about to protest but quickly gave the idea up, he was right after all. “When I return from the stables I’ll pick up a list of things you need.”

Jaxon agreed and the others prepared for their journey as well. Shadowfax left the comfort of the Inn and headed towards the stables. The morning sky was a gray slate and a cool wind from the north stirred the leaves littering the ground, winter was approaching. He opened the door to the stable and peered into the gloom, a few horses stirred and stamped their hoofs as he made his way down the long rows of stalls. As he approached the stall where Traveler was kept a swift shadow seemed to flit across a stall farther down!

He instinctively drew his dagger; he sensed danger even though he could not see it. He stood stone still and waited, the minutes passed. After a time he saw nothing else and continued on, the dagger still clutched tightly in hand. Traveler appeared well and eager to be on the road again even after his many days in the wild. “One more day of rest.” Whispered Shadowfax into the great black horses ear. Traveler understood and his ears dropped a little, he was ready for the road and adventure now!

Shadowfax returned back to the Inn, though not without many glances over his shoulders for slinking shadows. He found Jaxon and took her list, he skimmed over it quickly looking for anything that might be tough to get. “No…shouldn’t be any trouble here in Bree.” He was about to tell her about the shadow in the stable, but decided against it. At this point he wasn’t sure if there was anything really there. Jaxon pressed a few coins into his palm for the supplies, he didn’t refuse them. It would have been useless to argue with her about it, she was a proud woman and he understood that.

He soon found himself deep in the commercial section of Bree. Shops of all sorts lined the cobbled stoned street; he pulled out his list and started. He had been out for about an hour when the feeling he had in the stable returned. He sensed someone was following him, watching him. He tried not to look concerned about anything other than his shopping list, his mind raced! He looked down the street then back to his list as if pondering where to go next, but his eyes were not on the signs above the shops, he was looking at the people around him.

He saw no one at first that gave him suspicion but then a cloaked figure that had been clearly watching him disappeared behind a building. He looked up and down the street as looking for his next stop, not wanting to give the man the idea he had been spied. Quickly he decided to set a trap; the hunter would become the hunted! He stepped into a narrow alley and hid in the shadows in hopes that the man would follow. He stood there for a long time then he heard the light footsteps of man approaching. His muscles tensed as he prepared to spring out from his hiding place in the shadows, but the man never came into the alley. Shadowfax cursed under his breath and decided to confront the cloaked man before he got away, but when stepped back onto the street he found no one there.

With his list all checked off he returned to the Inn once more. He found Jaxon and handed over her things, “I was followed in town, “ he whispered, “A cloaked man……..best I could tell. I think he was in the stable earlier too. I set a trap but he avoided it. We must take every caution this night.”


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Postby strider- » Wed Oct 05, 2005 7:40 am

Thankful for Shadowfax’ offer to gather her supplies Jaxon made her way to the stable to check on Bydand. Freahelm had already tended to him but she wanted to see him herself. Jaxon entered the stable to the comforting and familiar smells and sounds of the horses. She smiled and breathed in the deep sweet smell of the hay and closed her eyes. The stable boy Kel appeared out of the feedroom with a large bucket of oats and a healthy sized scoop.

”My lady.” he said, surprised to see her standing there, when last he saw her it was upon the table in the Inn clinging to life. ”Your horse has been well tended. He was cautious at first and seemed distressed but with some time and sugar…he has accepted me.”

”He is a good judge of character.” Jaxon smiled nodding to the boy. He had done a fine job and his care and keeping of the horses was to be complimented. Jaxon made her way past where Traveler, Shadowfax’ horse stood grinding his hay. The boy spoke again, ”He is similar to your Bydand.” he said.

”Yes, but not quite the same.” she paused, remembering the difficulties Shadowfax had to overcome with the horse as a young colt. ”They are from the same sire.” Jaxon walked along and entered the stall with Bydand. He was cautious even of her, but once he caught her scent he sighed deeply and stood taller. Fear had released it’s bitter grip on the horse with time. He had been in great distress when she had fallen and sent him away. He had been lost, confused. He felt confident again, no longer in charge, he had settled into his place again. She left him in the good care of Kel and returned to her room, carelessly forgetting to check her gear, not noticing the obvious absence of Balchors Dragon Slayer sword she kept in the scabbard on her saddle.

A knock brought her to the door of her room. Shadowfax entered, closed the door behind him and handed over her things he’d just purchased, “I was followed in town,” he whispered, “A cloaked man……..best I could tell. I think he was in the stable earlier too. I set a trap but he avoided it. We must take every caution this night.”

”This and all others.” she said. ”What would he be lurking in the stable for? Was he there when you got there or did he follow you in?”

”His presence was there when I arrived. I am sure of it. There was an uneasy feeling in the barn. I could both see the shadow and sense it. But why he would be in the stable…I don’t know.” answered Shadowfax.

”You say you felt the shadow…” Jaxon paused, her mouth became dry. ”I have felt this before. At the Last Bridge Inn, before I left…” suddenly a sickly feeling came over her body in a wave. She stepped backwards, steadying herself on the dressing table. ”I…was just in the stable, checking on Bydand…” she seemed a million miles away.

”What is it?” Shadowfax pleaded.
”I fear…my foolishness, I should have demanded it be brought to me, but it was locked with my other things in the stable…. she stammered, and reached for her sword, fastening the scabbard to her back.

”What is it?” Shadowfax demanded, and grabbed her arm, catching her eyes he stared at her, it brought her back from the edge of panic.

”Balchor’s Sword. I don’t remember seeing it when I was out there. What if it has something to do with this? It was mystical, I slayed the dragon with it, I have heard those same hideous voices…what if, what if the sword has something to do with all of this?” she spoke quickly, and fear crept into her voice.

”Don’t panic, come we’ll go see to it. I know it was locked away, I made sure of it myself.” he said as they raced from the Inn to the stable.
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Postby Tempest » Thu Oct 27, 2005 7:08 pm

The woman had not recognized her. At least, not yet. Well, Akara thought with a sigh, it had been dark when they had met on that lonely road. But then again, Jaxon did not seem the type to forget a face. Perhaps she had been under the influence of magic or some strong drug even at that point in her flight, and would have little memory of a simple girl she met along the way. Perhaps the cloaked men had wanted something from Jaxon, something she alone knew, and had drugged her, seeking to elicit the information. She had escaped them, but Akara guessed that they must have gotten what they needed, because it was clear now that they only sought her death.

It didn’t really matter, Akara reminded herself, because even if Jaxon didn’t remember her, the people at Last Bridge Inn would.

She swallowed and moved aside as the group made plans and each departed swiftly to gather his or her things. Akara was still holding her belongings strapped to her back and she wandered aimlessly into the hallway as the others went about their business. Even Freahelm, after giving her a friendly nod, went to get his things. She suddenly realized how hungry she was, and it was impossible to think with her stomach growling and gnawing her insides, so she found her way into the kitchen, and after being directed toward the pantry, found to her delight that it was well stocked. After stashing a few small wheels of cheese and some very hard looking bread into her knapsack, Akara began chewing on a piece of leathery dried meat, trying in vain to determine what kind of animal it came from.

”Coming with us?” a voice said from behind, making her jump, and Akara turned and saw that Hunter had followed her into the kitchen’s pantry.

For some reason, the woman made her afraid. ”Maybe,” she managed with a weak smile, despite her mouthful of meat.

”Not thrilled with the idea of going back to the Last Bridge Inn?” the woman’s eyes were studying her intently.

”What do you mean?” she asked, her heart beginning to pound.

”I’m not blind. Your face blanched considerably when Jaxon recommended returning there. For someone who has something to hide, you don’t do it very well.”

”The way I look at it, I don’t owe any of you anything.” Akara said, waving a small loaf of bread at her. ”I just stumbled into this like the rest of you. Let’s just say that the Last Bridge Inn wasn’t a pleasant experience for either of us, and I have little desire to return.” She tried to slip past Hunter through the pantry door, but the woman blocked her path resolutely.

In a steady, cold-as-ice tone, she said slowly, ”My friend’s life is in danger. If you know who or what hunts her, and you aren’t telling us, there will be no protection for you.”

Akara saw then that Hunter was too wise to be fooled by a novice such as herself. The woman had seen through her in a second, and her foolishness made her cheeks burn and her temper flare. Akara took an exasperated breath and let it out. Tears of fear and anger welled up inside her, and before she knew what she was doing, she was half-crying, half-yelling at Hunter. ”All I’ve been trying to do is find my brother! I’ve wandered too far, in lands I don’t know, with people I don’t understand! How was I to know that this cloaked man was trouble? He rescued me from bandits, and asked only that I carry a package for him to the Last Bridge Inn. Later, when your friend stumbled into my camp in the middle of the night, I told them where to find her. How was I to know they sought her life? That they were the ones to fear and not her?” she was shaking, but she couldn’t stop talking. It was like a dam had burst deep within. ”And now, now this same man tried to kill me! He knows that Jaxon lives, that his plan failed. He knows that she’s here now! You can think evil of me if you wish, but I knew nothing! I know nothing!”

Her confession was interrupted by Freahelm who suddenly appeared at the door. ”Hunter, there you are! Have you seen some kind of sword that Jaxon carries?”

”Sword? The one that killed the dragon? No, I haven’t seen it. Why?” she seemed startled.

”It’s missing. Stolen. Come quickly!”
Last edited by Tempest on Tue Nov 01, 2005 6:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Shadowfax » Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:54 pm

”Don’t panic, come we’ll go see to it. I know it was locked away, I made sure of it myself.” he said as they raced from the Inn to the stable. Jaxon led the way to the stables with Shadowfax following close behind; he hoped his words of reassurance held true!

The stable was more active this time of day as travelers prepared their mounts for long journeys ahead of them. They advanced towards Jaxon’s stall cautiously, with ears and eyes on the alert and hands on hilt of swords. Shadowfax stood in the doorway of the stall as Jaxon checked her things, “Gone!” she hissed. Shadowfax stepped into the stall; a cold chill ran down his spine. “Anything else missing?” Jaxon shook her head no, “Nothing.”

Long repressed memories rose from the dark past of Shadowfax’s dealings with Balchor. Lord Balchor he was known as ages ago in the North Kingdoms, a great leader of men he was. In those days dragons were more common and Lord Balchor led a group of hardy men to rid the land of them, but hunter became the hunted one dark night. A great dragon, Rogue as it has been discovered, attacked his camp late one night killing all his men. Lord Balchor suffered hideous burns over his entire body; he died a few hours after the attack. Before he died however he vowed he would have revenge on them, be he living or dead.

Shadowfax is now the last living ancestor of Lord Balchor and through him he fulfilled his vow! When it came time to slay the dragons Shadowfax became Lord Balchor, his flesh fell away revealing the grisly image of the long dead warrior. With super natural strength and cunning the dragons fell before him and once the deed was done he was free to rest peacefully in the life after. He had not slain the dragon Rogue, this honor he gave to Jaxon Na Gael. With his sword the great black dragon met it’s doom. After the worms fall he gave the sword to her, it was a mighty weapon!

When Shadowfax returned to himself after Lord Balchor’s appearance he had no memory of the events that had happened, until recently. The past few months he relived those battles in his dreams. He relived the all the dragon’s deaths though this time he remembered them clearly. He also relived the transformation from living man to a man long dead bereft of flesh and blood.

Jaxon stared at Shadowfax who was now lost in thought, “Are you all right?” He shook his head to clear the memories, “Yes………yes I think so. I’m just wondering why someone would want that sword. There was a Dragon to be slain somewhere…..or, perhaps not slain?”

A dark shadow crossed Jaxon's face, "Can I panic now.?"



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Postby strider- » Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:56 am

A dark shadow crossed Jaxon's face, "Can I panic now?"

Her head swirled and she had to sit down, Shadowfax grabbed her elbow and eased her onto a stack of straw bales. Shadowfax examined the door of the locked room. It was common to have valuables stored under lock and key in a barn and this door remained unmarked. ”Someone must have had a key…” he said absently, his mind going to the stable hand he had seen earlier. ”…though surely the boy..”

”Shadowfax, you must forgive me. I have lost a great heirloom of your house, you entrusted it to me and I have failed to keep it safe.” Jaxon said, her strength returning to her.

”Nay, it was a gift. How could you have known? It was covered by the sheath in your saddle, and who else could have known it’s power. This is not your fault.” he said. ”For now we must think.” he said taking his chin in his hand rubbing the stubble of the beginnings of a beard.

”You mentioned a key, surely you don’t think the stable boy…” she said, a sick feeling welling up inside her.

Shadowfax looked at her solemnly ”You are thinking what I am?” he asked, remembering the quiet and kind nature the stable boy had towards the horses.

”Something has happened to Kel, the stable boy, he would not have known the swords worth and his character would not have allowed him to be involved with thieves. Though I fear this is no simple band of thieves…whoever took that sword, took it with a purpose and Kel…has likely gotten in the way.” said Jaxon.

”Yes, and I fear more than that.” he answered, ”But come, we will speculate no darkness until we find the boy.”
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Postby Hunter » Sat Nov 26, 2005 11:50 am

~

"Hunter, there you are! Have you seen some kind of sword that Jaxon carries?"

"Sword? The one that killed the dragon? No, I haven't seen it. Why?" she seemed startled.

"It's missing. Stolen. Come quickly!"

Casting a glance at Akara, Hunter saw that she was just as startled by the news as she was, but to be sure she asked Freahelm. "When did this happen?"

"I don't know. I went to my room to check my gear and as I was heading back to the common room, Shadowfax and Jaxon rushed past me on the stairs. Jaxon asked me about the sword; asked if I'd seen it when I'd checked on Bydand last night. I told her that all of her gear was still in the corner where I'd place it as far as I could recall, but I wasn't sure. My attention was focused on her horse." He added, "For I know how much he means to her."

"Then we don't know for sure yet if it was stolen," Hunter said slowly, not wanting to jump to conclusions. "Kel, the stableboy, could have moved the sword to a safer place." At that moment Tam, his arms full of wood, entered the kitchen from the rear. Hunter called out to him.

"Tam, have you seen Kel?"

"No ma'm. Not since early this morn. Shall I find him?"

"No. See to the fire and then go and get Belle." She reached behind her back and untied her apron. "There is bread in the oven that must be tended to." She glanced at Akara and Freahelm. The young woman was calm now, no longer on the verge of tears. "Go with Freahelm to the stables," she told them both in a quiet voice. "I'll find Kel and meet you there."

Standing on the back steps to the kitchen Hunter paused, slowly surveying the Inn-yard. At this hour the young man was usually done with his chores and could be anywhere while he waited to be called to care for the horse of new arrivals. Everything looked normal. There was a horse tethered to a rail across from the Inn next to the stable, but she recognized it as belonging to one of the farmers who frequented the Inn on occasion for a quick meal and Kel would not have had to care for it.

Her eyes followed Freahelm and Akara as they entered the stable door to the left of the horse and some of the words the girl had said earlier came back to her. And now, now this same man tried to kill me! He knows that Jaxon lives, that his plan failed. He knows that she's here now! Lines of worry creased her forehead. There was only one entrance to the Inn-yard--through the archway. If someone had wanted to sneak into the stables...her eyes darted to the back of the yard where the Inn ran back into the hillside. That was the way they would come.

Hunter started across the hard packed earth of the yard, heading for the back entrance to the Inn near the storeroom. The door was propped open, maybe Kel was there resting and grabbing a quick smoke of pipeweed as he sometimes did. Then she spied the dried brown grass growing on the hillside next to the door. It was flattened against the ground as if something heavy had been dragged up the side of the hill. Her steps quickened.

As Hunter reached the corner of the building, her throat constricted and she steadied herself against the door. The flattened brown grass was stained with reddish brown streaks. Then she heard a low mewling whimper and a faint rustling. A row of low growing brushes, their small leaves barely turned brown yet with the changing of the seasons, grew further up the hillside. Hunter scrambled up towards them. Falling to her knees, she parted the branches. Kel was laying face down, the back of his head matted with half-congealed blood. As she tried to gently turn the young man over she heard someone entering the Inn yard heading for the steps to the Inn. In the shadowy recess of the archway she couldn't tell who it was as she called out, "Over here, help me."

Badger was returning to the Prancing Pony after spending the morning visiting one of the other taverns in the town of Bree. He had hoped to find some sign of the man he'd been following, but he'd come up empty handed. All that was on his mind now was the thought of a cool tankard of ale and the chance to talk again with Jaxon na Gael. Perhaps she could shed some more light on why she was attacked. There had to be a link, it couldn't be just a coincidence, that one of the men who had attacked her had been wearing a 'troth ring.'

As his booted foot came down on the first step of the short flight of stairs leading into the Inn he heard someone call out.

~
Last edited by Hunter on Sun Aug 13, 2006 1:11 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Galhadrim » Thu Dec 01, 2005 5:49 pm

Badger dismissed his thoughts of the confused morning. The voice shot through the courtyard air and his skin instantly tingled. A female voice, strong and determined, urgent and yet in control. He turned in mid stride and leaped out across the gravel. A figure was kneeling behind the stable wall, bent over something. With a few running steps Badger came up to her. She looked up with blood on her hands.

"Help me with him!" Hunter demanded.

Badger looked down at the boy and his bloodied head. Kneeling next to Hunter, he took a cloth rag from a pocket inside his travelling cloak. He handed it to her. "Keep his head steady."

The boy groaned at the touch on the cloth as Hunter pressed it onto the back of his head. "This was no accident," she hissed, her anger obvious. "There is danger here and it is not by happenstance."

Badger helped her turn the boy over and get him ready to be caried into the Inn. Could she be insisting that he had brought trouble with him? Surely there were plenty of other travellers about that could fill that role. Whatever was brewing in the happy town of Bree, it could only mean that long hard days awaited them.
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Postby Hunter » Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:36 am

~

"What do you mean this is no accident?" Badger asked as he tried to gently lift the young man in his arms and keep his balance on the sloping ground at the same time.

"Something was taken," Hunter replied shortly as she stood and started down the hillside. "And Kel must have seen who took it."

Waiting at the back entrance to the Inn Hunter watched the Ranger's face as he carried the boy. It was guarded, except for a slight show of concern as he shifted Kel in his arms and the young man moaned.

"Bring him this way," she said, her anger subsiding slightly as she led him up a short flight of stairs. Her room was the closest and as she opened the door she turned and watched Badger's face closely as she asked abruptly, "Where were you this morning?"

"In town," Badger answered looking the woman straight in the eyes as he added. "Shall I stand here while you question me more?"

"No," Hunter replied. "Put him on the bed." She followed him into the room and while Badger placed Kel on the bed, walked over to a chest of drawers. There was a ewer filled with water sitting on the top with a basin next to it. As she poured water into the basin she told Badger briefly. "Something belonging to Jaxon is missing, a sword. I went looking for Kel to see if he'd moved it without telling anyone." Carrying the basin over to the bed, she placed it on a small table nearby and sat down beside Kel.

"Then why question my whereabouts?" Badger asked. He clenched his jaw as he watched Hunter wet the cloth and began to wipe away the blood that matted Kel's hair.

"I thought you might have noticed if someone was hanging around outside. I was busy in the kitchen." Hunter answered matter-of-factly. Kel moaned again, his eyelids fluttering as he weakly reached for her hand as if to push it away and she turned her attention to him. "Lay still Kell. You'll be fine."

"Where are Jaxon and the others now?"

"In the stables."

Badger walked around the bed toward a window on the side of the fireplace and looked out. The Inn-yard was empty but the door leading to the stables was propped open. "They are good friends of yours." It was more of a statement based on observation than a question and a way for Badger to find out more about the dynamics of the people he was finding himself drawn to. He didn't really expect Hunter to reply, but she did.

"More like good friends of a good friend. I know a lot of their history though."

"Will you tell me more of this sword that's missing?"

"I don't know a lot about the sword," she hesitated briefly before continuing; not knowing how much she should say about what you knew. "It was used to slay a dragon..." Kel, half listening to the quiet exchange between his mistress and an unseen person, struggled to sit up. "The sword! I saw!"

"Hush now. Lay still while I finish," Hunter interrupted, gently pushing the young man’s head back onto the pillow. "Rest a few moments more and gather your thoughts. I think we need to have everyone concerned here when you tell what happened." She glanced over at Badger. "Would you mind going to the stables?"

~
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Postby Shadowfax » Fri Dec 02, 2005 8:25 pm

Jaxon and Shadowfax exited the stables just as Badger was leaving the Inn to find them, The Ranger came to them quickly, “The stable boy Kel has been attacked!”

“Is he okay?” Jaxon and Shadowfax asked in unison. “Yes, he’ll be okay. He took a nasty hit to the back of the head. He was found around back in the brush.” Shadowfax breathed a sigh of relief at the good news, “Head to Hunters room, I must find the others.” And with that the Ranger was gone.

After a short time all were gathered in Hunters room to hear what had befallen the young boy. Kel was lying on his side in the bed, his head neatly wrapped with a bandage.

“Now Kel,” soothed Hunter, “tell us what happened as best you can.”

Kel closed his eyes for a moment in an effort to recall what happened, “I was checking on the stall where miss Jaxon horse was this morning, not only hers mind you, but all of them as is my job. As I arrived to it a man appeared there and asked for the key to her belongings locked within ‘The Lady has asked me to retrieve something for her’ he said.”

Kel took a sip of water from a cup the Hunter handed to him, “I said ‘No, I cannot without her permission first.’ We’ve had trouble in the past and I’m forbidden to do so.”

Badger leaned in closer to the boy, “Can you describe the man? What was he wearing?”

“A dark cloak, maybe black or a dark brown,” replied Kel. “Average height around your build I would say Mr. Badger. He had his hood pulled over his head and that concealed most of his face, though I could make out a thin beard around his mouth. His accent was funny too; I’ve not heard it before. I felt scared just being around him!”

“What happened then?” asked Hunter offering him another drink of water. “He didn’t like me saying ‘No’ to be sure! The cloaked man stepped quickly towards me and I stepped back in turn. He kept coming and I turned to run…………and then………that’s all I can remember for now…” Kel went silent in thought.

“Most likely when he was clubbed from behind and dragged you away.” Hunter said quietly. “But you mentioned something about a sword when we found you?”

Kels eyes lit up, “Yes! The sword! The one with the dragon engravings!……………..but…it must have been after I was attacked. I remember lying in the leaves and my head hurting badly, sword lay on the ground beside me! It’s almost like trying to remember a dream after you’ve been awake for a few hours, the details are lost and only pictures remain in your head.”

Hunter eased Kel back into the bed, in his excitement of retelling the tale he started to get up forgetting all about his injury, “Lets let him rest for now.”

The company started to file out of the room when Kel added one more thing, “The sword……….maybe it was from my head wound but………the dragon engravings…………they were moving!”




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Postby Hunter » Sun Dec 18, 2005 11:14 pm

~

The company started to file out of the room when Kel added one more thing, "The sword....maybe it was from my head wound but....the dragon engravings....they were moving!"

Shadowfax, his hand on the door ready to leave, stopped as Kel spoke. His knuckles grew white as his fingers clenched the handle of the door and his eyes sought out Jaxon. Hunter didn't miss the look that passed between the two; it was one of troubled concern. Turning back to Kel, her face was calm as she tried to keep her tone light. "Your eyes were probably playing tricks on you because of the blow to your head. You need to get some rest. I"ll bring you a bite to eat later."

"Yes ma'm," Kel answered obediently as he lay back against the pillow. The room was starting to spin and his vision had blurred when he had moved his head too fast. Maybe the mistress was right. But when he closed his eyes, he again saw the image of the sword.

Slowly rising to her feet Hunter looked at the others. There were lines of tenseness around the eyes on the faces of Shadowfax, Jaxon and Freahelm and it was obvious, that despite what she had said to soothe Kel, they believed otherwise. She realized then how little she really knew these people. Yes, they were friends, but she had been included in their circle only because of her friendship with Naveen; and Naveen wasn't with them now.

Quietly ushering them from the room, Hunter closed the door behind them before turning to look at Jaxon. Now that she knew that Kel would be all right, she let the anger and frustration that had been roiling around inside of her come to the surface. Her eyes were on the same level as 'the lion of the kings,' and she spoke in a quiet, but uncompromising tone. "Trouble has followed you to this Inn...and an innocent has been hurt. It was not your fault, at least not directly; you were injured and only sought safety and aid." She glanced at Shadowfax and Freahelm who had unconsciously moved closer to Jaxon. "Why were you attacked? Was it because of the sword? What was so special about it other than it had slain a dragon?"

Taken aback by the bluntness of Hunter's words, Jaxon's back stiffened. "I'm sorry. It will only take a few moments to pack and I will leave." Shadowfax put his hand on Jaxon's shoulder as she turned to leave. "Wait," he cautioned her as Hunter continued.

"I don't want you to leave; I want to help, but how can I help without knowing why." She glanced at Badger whose impassive face only lent fuel to her frustration, then let her gaze rest briefly on Akara. The girl shifted uneasily under the older woman's scrutiny. "Lack of knowledge can be just as dangerous as too much."

"I've already told you all I know." Jaxon answered curtly, her lips drawn into a thin line.

Shadowfax stepped forward. "The story of the sword is mine to tell," he stated quietly. "But not here in the hallway. Is there somewhere we might go that is private?"

"Yes." Hunter breathed a quiet sigh of relief and walked a few paces past the tall warrior. "We will not be disturbed in here," she told him as she opened the first door past her own room. It was a dining room that was used when guests wanted privacy.

~
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Postby strider- » Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:36 am

He had lost count of the days he had been in the deep dark. Darkness surrounded him, it engulfed him, it was all he could remember. Gone was the flame of Arnor from his blood. He lay silently on the cold stone floor pleading with the dark to take him. He had no recollection of how long he had suffered the long dark. Weeks? Months? Years? Every muscle in his frame ached with pain and weariness. His wounds hadn’t healed and he was desperately thirsty and weak from hunger. A desperate panic took him - he couldn’t remember her face. He frantically searched his memory…how could he have forgotten her face…her eyes. He drew in a deep breath in the dark...relieved....her eyes he could see in the darkness of his mind and he drew strength from it. Why had they kept him alive in this dungeon? He feared the answer as soon as the thought crossed his mind. To set a trap, and he – in his pathetic weakened state was the bait. He cursed the dark and despair but refused to give in to it. He hung on to the memory of her and somewhere in the deep dark an ember remained.
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Postby Shadowfax » Wed Jan 04, 2006 7:09 pm

Shadowfax stepped forward. “The story of the sword is mine to tell,” he stated quietly. “But not here in the hallway. Is there somewhere we might go that is private?”

“Yes.” Hunter breathed a quiet sigh of relief and walked a few paces past the tall warrior. “We will not be disturbed in here,” she told him as she opened the first door past her own room. It was a dining room that was used when guests wanted privacy.


The group filed into the small room and seated themselves in the many chairs that surround an old oak table, all eyes were on followed the warrior fro the north. Shadowfax walked by the rooms only window and peered out of it for a moment, golden leaves fluttered past from a nearby tree. After making sure there was no spies about he sat down in a chair, it creaked loudly under his weight. He began his tale and his eyes often wandered to the window during its telling.

“I’ll tell you what little I know of the sword that was taken. “ he began, “It is true that it did slay a great black dragon with Jaxon wielding it. Lord Balchor, an ancient blood relative of mine, gave it to her. He was himself slain by the worm a thousand years ago and vowed revenge.” Shadowfax visibly flinched as the name Balchor rolled of his lips and those around him noted it. “He returned through me, used me………..sort of. I’m became him, I became him and my flesh fell away from me revealing his grisly image. The image of death.”

“And he aided you?” asked Badger

“Yes,” nodded Shadowfax, “I did not remember the any of the events that took place when he possessed me. Though lately I’ve been having dreams of those times, reliving it, remembering it. He was as powerful as he was grim, no weapon could damage him. For a long time I felt like pawn, but in the end I was happy that I could help an ancestor regain peace in the afterlife.”

Hunter spoke, “So the sword came from him then? He gave it to Jaxon as a gift then?”

The tall warrior nodded yes once again, “He did. He deemed her worthy of it. I was forged long ago when dragons were more common and plagued the earth. No doubt the Elvin craftsman who made it endowed it with great power. But what special power it really holds is beyond me, though someone must know of it.”

“That is why it was stolen then.” said the Ranger, “A weapon born for the sole purpose of slaying dragons. It seems then that someone has a dragon they want done away with. Or there is one that fears it will slay them, but I’ve traveled much and have had no news of any active dragons. Even more strange is the fact that one these creatures could make troth rings and ensnare men to aid them.”

Shadowfax leaned back in his chair and the creaking wood protested, “Dragons are magical creatures, they have powers beyond reckoning. It’s said that some could take the shape of other beings if the need suited them. No…….dragons do not make rings though, the riddle grows more and more.”

“Could it be the black worms spirit perhaps…returning for revenge as Lord Balchor had done? If it was it could take on any shape…but still fear the sword. I’m guessing at this point my friends, it may be something different altogether” With a shrugging of the shoulders Shadowfax fell silent.

“Whoever has the sword now will be long gone.” Said Hunter, “We’ve little chance of catching them even with a Ranger among us, no offense to your skills Badger.”

Badger grinned, “None taken and I agree with you. They’ll make all haste back to their master and they already have a head start on us. But lets not give up so quickly.”

“With the sword gone Jaxon is safe now, right?” asked Akara.

“No. I’m afraid not.” Shadowfax’s stared out the window, “There’s a cloaked figure that’s been watching this Inn from across the street. There………behind that tree….” Badger shifted in his chair to get a better look……..”Yes….I see him now. I don’t think he’s watching this particular room……he’s just watching, waiting.”

Jaxon who had been silent the whole time now spoke, “He’s waiting for me.”


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Postby strider- » Thu Jan 05, 2006 5:37 am

Jaxon knew all too well what dreams may come from dragons. For months she was hunted by the dragon Rogue in her dreams. Stalking her, perhaps the dragon had had some foresight and knew Balchor’s plans before she had. It all seemed like so long ago. She had thought to be rid of the dark worms long ago. Memories of dark dreams more recent returned to her and she cast her eyes downward, absently listening to Shadowfax’ tale of the sword.

”He’s waiting for me.” she said without emotion of any kind. ”Bit of memory return to me now and I remember seeing this figure at the Last Bridge Inn, though of their intent…I don’t know. I care not for safety, I care only for finding Verran and being done with dragons.” she said.

”Jaxon, you mentioned before you heard a dragon’s voice in Laketown, a familiar dark feeling you said…could this be connected.” asked Shadowfax.

”All things are connected, but if you wonder if I have found meaning in any of it, then I have not. Dark have my dreams been, whether real or imagined. Simply poison or more. I don’t know, but it just doesn’t feel right. A less learned sort would chalk all this up to poor luck, nothing more. But again…it doesn’t feel like that. All I know, is I can only put one foot in front of the other and try and find Verran. He is not someone who just goes missing – and I have to find him.”

”Suppose it’s a trap?” asked Hunter, sensing there was more to these circumstances than chance. She gave little credit to chance.

”Then I must play it out, or try and remain a step ahead. But I must keep going. I will leave within the hour and head to the Last Bridge Inn, it’s a days ride hard going and I should get moving.”
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Postby Hunter » Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:56 am

~

The hollow tone of Jaxon's voice and air of resigned acceptance as she said Then I must play it out sent a foreboding chill down Hunter's spine. It did not fit the picture she had always had of the King's Lion from the stories Naveen had told her. She looked at Jaxon, noting the tired lines around her mouth and eyes. Were there still minute remains of poison in her system from her wound that was sapping the woman's resolve?

"Surely you don't mean to go alone?" she ventured to ask at the same time that Shadowfax stepped away from window. He glanced at Hunter as he walked over to stand behind Jaxon's chair. He laid a hand on her shoulder. "I'll be leaving with her."

"It will be hard pace. The day is half gone..." Badger replied, his face thoughtful. "And if someone is watching, waiting for you to leave..."

"It is a risk I must take," Jaxon said with a spark of her old determination.

Hunter quietly rose from her chair. All eyes had been on Jaxon during the past few minutes, except for hers. Akara hadn't taken a seat, but had chosen to lean against the wall near the door. She had remained still while Shadowfax had told his story, but when he had mentioned seeing someone across the street, Hunter had noticed her slowly start to slide toward the door. Her hand was slowly reaching for the handle. Hunter's eyes caught hers and she hastily dropped her hand.

"Not if you headed north," Hunter said quietly as she started to walk around the table. "Come over and join us Akara," she said as everyone's head turned to follow her. She pulled out a chair at the end of the table and gestured for the girl to sit down.

"You mean if we led them a false trail and then tried to lose them?" Shadowfax spoke up.

"Not if it wasn't Jaxon they were following." Hunter continued to pace, already mapping out a route in her mind. "What if someone left here, wearing Jaxon's clothes, riding her horse and heading north? Whoever is watching is bound to follow that person, right?"

"Perhaps," Badger answered watching as Hunter continued to pace. He guessed where she was going with this. "But it would be dangerous."

"Not for someone who knows the surrounding lands like the back of her hand."

"Do you mean to be the decoy?" Jaxon asked surprised at the plan.

Stopping behind Akara's chair, Hunter turned and faced everyone seated at the table. "Who else?" she answered with a determined look on her face and then laid a reassuring hand on Akara's shoulder. "But before you discuss or discount my plan, I think that Akara had something to tell to you."

~
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Postby Tempest » Fri Jan 06, 2006 3:08 pm

Akara had listened with a mixture of interest and skepticism as Shadowfax relayed his tale. Her tribe had been rather practical when it came to such things as magic and monsters, so she had heard of dragons only in myth and had never actually believed they existed. When the man continued by speaking of an ancestor’s ghost possessing him, she had to suppress the urge to laugh. The whole story sounded ludicrous to her, and she would have thought the man jested had he not told it with so somber a face.

However, when Shadowfax mentioned a cloaked figure watching the inn, all mirth left her thoughts and she became serious again. That fear was real, and not imagined; she could almost feel his knife upon her throat. She had as little desire to entertain any society that would force her into a confrontation with him again as she did to return to the Last Bridge Inn. As stealthy as possible, she inched her way towards the door.

Her progress was checked by a look from the woman called Hunter, who, to her horror, offered her a chair. Reluctantly, she sat down, feeling suddenly exposed and without escape. Her fears were realized when she felt the woman circle behind her as she put forth her plan, which Akara found difficult to focus on as she was too distracted by the woman’s obvious intentions towards her. At any moment, Hunter would reveal what she had learned from Akara and then who knew what would happen? Maybe they would arrest her and she had no weapon close enough to defend herself with!

“But before you discuss or discount my plan, I think that Akara had something to tell to you.”

There, it had been said and all eyes now turned to her, waiting expectantly. She looked at her hands for a moment, and then met Jaxon’s eyes.

”You do not recognize me?” she asked softly. ”We have met before.”

Jaxon’s brow furrowed slightly. ”What do you mean?”

”We met, not far from the Last Bridge Inn. You were coming back from there, as I had the night before. You stumbled into my camp.”

”I have no memory of…”

”You told me to tell no one you had been there. But you see…” Here her voice trailed off for a moment and she looked at her hands again. When she lifted her face again, there was a trace of defiance in her eyes.

”I am a stranger in these lands. I come from the East, though my features suggest otherwise. I was looking for something…someone. When I was near the Last Bridge Inn, I was attacked by bandits. Just when I thought all was lost, some men came to my rescue. They drove the bandits away and recovered my things. They were kind to me, in a land that had not been. They asked little of me, except to carry a parcel for them to the Last Bridge Inn. It was the least I could do to repay them since I was traveling that way.

A few days later I arrived. I left the package with the innkeeper and thought no more of it until…until…

I stayed but a night, for the next morning I awoke to screaming. Not the sound of battle or of a maiden in need, but the sound of someone dying…in agony. Then, there were many voices. They were all screaming, screaming in that terrible way. I hid under the bed and stuffed my ears to drown out the cries. It went on for what seemed hours only to be replaced by a deathly silence afterwards. I climbed out the window and ventured into the stables for my horse. Then I fled.”
Again, the girl looked up at Jaxon.

”I met you two nights after. We nearly came to blows because you surprised me in the night and I was frightened that you came from the Inn. You said little and stayed only a few hours to warm yourself by my fire. Then you departed, telling me to reveal to no one that you had been there.

So I would have done, but not two hours after the man who rescued me also appeared in my camp. He was alone, but inquired if I had seen you. I was afraid, and told him all, remembering the screams at the Inn and wondering about the parcel I had delivered. He told me to wait at my camp until he returned, and then he disappeared into the darkness. After he was gone, I packed my things and departed, mistrusting his intentions, and rightly so.”


Hunter interrupted her. ”Is this the same man who tried to kill you?”

Akara shifted uneasily. ”Yes, he is cloaked. He sought me in town, but he came for Jaxon.”

”Why did you not tell me this earlier?” Freahelm finally burst out.

The girl’s eyes darkened. ”I was deceived by this man, but how was I to know if you were any better than he? I am sorry that I led them to you,” she said to Jaxon, ”But I know nothing of importance. I fear I was only a pawn in this game.”
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Postby strider- » Fri Jan 06, 2006 6:32 pm

Jaxon searched the face of the girl before them. There was no deceit in her eyes.

”I have no memory of you.” said Jaxon, doubt filled her heart as she whispered, ”What is happening to me…” All stared at Akara. The young woman before them was filled with fear and Jaxon knew all too well the mistakes of youth, though it had seemed like an age since she herself was so young.

To Akara’s relief Jaxon turned to her, ”It is not your fault. Whoever they are, they would have found me without your aid – you merely saved them a little work. But take heart.” Jaxon said, placing a hand on Freahelm’s shoulder. ”Peace.” she said to him softly as she could see his anger building towards the young girl he had trusted.

Jaxon continued, ”I am more troubled about your tale of your experience at the Last Bridge Inn. I am more convinced now that I should head back there, and I am in the debt of any who come with me.” Jaxon turned to Hunter, ”Your plan was brave, but it seems the mystery is up and the figure will follow. Better to keep your enemies close, besides – you are shorter than I and more fair – I think Freahelm would pass more easily for me than you.” she said smiling weakly.

”True…true…” said Shadowfax with a wink and grin.

”There is little use veering from the trail fate has put before me. I will see it to its end, for to live in hiding would have me die a little each day.” Whatever lay before them on the road, she had to keep moving. It was the only way she could think of to get closer to the truth about the dragons…the troth rings…and the missing Captain of Arnor.
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Postby Galhadrim » Mon Jan 09, 2006 5:16 pm

Badger stood and nodded to those assembled. "So we set out quickly to the Last Bridge Inn. I'll stay with you, and pledge my swords to you. Whatever trouble is brewing will not rest just at one death." He looked over at Jaxon. "There'll be more suffering headed this way."

Everyone in the room began to pick themselves up and steel their nerves for what was before them. Badger glanced out the window but could see little. Dash it all, he thought. I'm going to have to buy a horse.
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Postby Hunter » Thu Jan 12, 2006 2:24 pm

~

Hunter looked around the room as everyone began to pick themselves up. Her glaze rested on Jaxon, her face was still pale, but there was determination plainly written across it. “My pantry can supply what foodstuffs will be needed for now,” she said thinking of the hard ride ahead.

“Thank you,” Jaxon nodded to Hunter as she rose to her feet. “Time is fleeting and the day will not wait…”

“I will need a horse,” the ranger interrupted. Badger looked at Hunter. “I don’t suppose your pantry could supply one?” he asked half-jokingly.

“My stable can. Nothing fancy, but of good stock, able to stand a hard day of riding without tire.”

Jaxon looked around the room at everyone. “Whoever plans on leaving with me, gather at the stables as soon as possible.”

*****

‘So much to do and so little time. First I must pack and then talk to Belle.’ Hunter was going over a list of things in her mind of what she had to do before she left. She opened the door to her room and peered in. Kel was lying in the bed on the other side of the room. The color had returned to his face, it was no longer the pasty shade of white that matched the bandage around his head and he was sleeping peacefully. Noiselessly walking toward the bed so she wouldn’t disturb the young man, she knelt beside the old trunk sitting at its foot and her thoughts turned in a different direction.

What was it that Jaxon had said, she asked herself, resting her hand on the trunk lid. ‘There is little use veering from the trail fate has put before me. I will see it to its end, for to live in hiding would have me die a little each day.' Those words had struck a chord somewhere deep inside of her and she finally realized why. Jaxon’s appearance at the Inn was fate working in its own mysterious fashion. Why else had Shadowfax arrived at the Inn in time to give Jaxon the elixir he carried or thrown Akara in the path of the men who had attacked Jaxon? Even Badger had been drawn to the Inn by fate’s subtle weavings…and with him had come the troth rings. At the sight of them, Hunter had again felt a compelling urge to offer aid in Jaxon’s search for Verran.

‘Fate works in strange ways,’ she reflected thoughtfully as she opened the trunk, wondering if the decision she had made was right and what, if any, impact her choice would make on where the tangled threads that fate was weaving around Jaxon would lead them all.

A well worn, lightweight woolen shirt lay atop a pile of clothing in the trunk. She picked it up held it to her cheek as her eyes closed. It had belonged to her husband Wilm…

‘When was it that I first came to this Inn? Five years ago?..... It was fate that brought me…I sought answers to questions, just as Jaxon seeks them now…And it was fate that led other people to help in the finding of those answers.’ A strange sense of peacefulness settled around her and she knew then that, no matter what happened, the choice she had made was right.

'No time to dally,' she scolded herself suddenly, brushing aside all her musing about fate and quickly pulled out the rest of the clothing; two pair of trousers-one of dark green wool and the other of soft, well worn brown leather, another woolen shirt, cream colored like the first, and a dark green, boiled wool vest. At the bottom was a cloak, once black, but faded now to a dark grey and underneath this was a pair of worn, brown leather boots and an old pack. She stuffed the extra clothes into the pack, and after checking to make sure Kel was still sleeping, began to change her clothes. As she was pulling on the vest, there was a light tap at the door. Hastily fastening the clasps of the vest she walked over and opened the door a crack. It was Belle.

“The roast is done…” Belle’s voice trailed off and her eyes grew wide as Hunter stepped out into the hall. “I was wondering…when you’d be coming... to carve it…for the noon day meal,” she finished lamely. She’d never seen her mistress dressed in anything other than dresses or skirts before.

“I’ll be leaving within the hour,” Hunter began. “With Jaxon. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone...” She paused, not knowing exactly how much she should tell Belle. If there should be any questions about the group’s departure, the less Belle knew, the better. “I’ll talk to you more just before we leave.”

“Yes, ma’m.” Belle replied knowing she’d been dismissed and that she'd have to be content with whatever explantion she was given later. Shaking her head as she walked down the hall to the kitchen, Belle glanced over her shoulder one more time. It was hard to reconcile the sight of Hunter dressed in men's clothing. Slightly bewildered Belle thought to herself, ‘I guess there’s a side to her I’ve never seen.’

Back in her room, Hunter quickly finished dressing. Time was growing short and she still had one thing left to do before going to see Belle. Seating herself at a small table near the window, she took out two sheaves of parchment.

Quickly she began to write. The first note was easy enough to write; the message was short and when finished, she rolled it up, tied it with a piece of twine and put it in her vest pocket. She would have Belle send it on. The second one took a bit of thinking. She paused a moment, the quill poised just above the surface of the paper while she thought of how to word the message and then hastily scribbled a couple more lines before signing her name. She placed it in the drawer of the desk. That done, she picked up the pack and left to talk to Belle.

~
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Postby strider- » Mon Jan 16, 2006 1:09 pm

Jaxon looked around the room at everyone. “Whoever plans on leaving with me, gather at the stables as soon as possible.”

She was immediately relieved to see those around her nod in solemn agreement to accompany her at least to the Last Bridge Inn. The others left to make ready to leave and only Shadowfax remained. He placed his large hand on her shoulder.

”Why so anxious? We have faced much worse in our day.” he said with concern, and confusion.

”The road grows weary on my heart. Too long have I been gone from the cool waters of Lake Evendim in the West. she said.

”Nay, this is more than homesickness.” he said.

”Perhaps. But the road grows heavy on my mind and heart. I fear what lies ahead.” she answered. Sorry she had said anything.

Shadowfax couldn’t manage to stifle a laugh. He immediately was sorry, but it was too late, ”Fear? That is a word I would not have dreamed you ever saying. Surely you are not yourself.” he said.

”Perhaps.” she turned toward the window, the cloaked figure had disappeared. ”I made a promise to Verran. And I fear the worst for him. My dreams…I…” he cut her off, remembering the dark dreams and what she’d said while still under the poison’s influence.

”We’ll find him.” Shadowfax said with such certainty that even Jaxon began to believe. ”We’ve not failed yet. You have a strength in you – do not quell it with these dark thoughts. Come, it’s time to go.” he said.

Her heart felt a bit lighter. ”Thank you,” she said as they headed for the stable to gather their gear.


The warm sweet smell of hay met them as they entered the stable. They quickly had their horses laden with their gear and left the stable. There was a familiar comfort with the two old friends as they walked their horses silently to the gate to meet the others. For the first time in a long time Jaxon felt a fire of hope begin to smolder in her heart. She smiled at her long-time friend.

”What?” he said sharply, he thought he must have something on his face.

”Nothing.” she said as she left a laugh escape her lips. ”I’m just glad you showed up when you did.”
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Postby Tempest » Mon Jan 16, 2006 4:08 pm

Her story had been told, and she felt a great burden lift from off her heart at the telling. Though Akara shuddered still hearing the echoes of those terrible screams at the Last Bridge Inn, somehow it seemed lessened in its horror being revealed to this small band of people.

Faint had grown the trail she followed. The brother she longed to find was becoming more and more of a dream. Still, to follow these people meant to leave that trail behind for the moment, to intentionally let it go cold. She was afraid to do it, for that was the only thing left to her.

And yet, she was also weary of the lonely nights by lonely fires. For one so young, she had traveled alone too long with grief heavy on her heart. These people had been the first to show true kindness to her and that had awakened a desire for companionship that had long lay dormant within her.

But she was afraid to return. Afraid to discover what had happened at that inn. She had the distinct impression that whatever it had occurred was beyond her understanding and involved forces or powers that her people had long distrusted or denied the existence of. She felt ignorant and knew that such things were beyond her control. Fear of the cloaked man, of his wolfish eyes, of the sound of calm, cold voice penetrated her thoughts and made her skin crawl.

But then, she remembered what Ztula had always said, “Fear is the warrior’s greatest enemy.” Hiding had not been the answer, nor had been the shield of lies that defined her life. These had never brought her what she wanted.

She would at least accompany this group to the Last Bridge Inn to confront whatever horror waited there.

She would not live her life in fear anymore.
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Postby Shadowfax » Tue Feb 07, 2006 7:41 pm

The small band of travelers left Bree through the South Gate; their eyes watched every dark alley and corner for spies. They saw none and continued along their way and as they went their spirits lifted a little. The trees along the road were decorated in red, yellow and gold leaves. A light breeze stirred the leaves laying on the ground and for a long time the only noise they heard was the gentle foot falls of the horse’s hoofs.

After a few hours they came to what was left of the Forsaken Inn, its original name lay lost in time. A small road branched of to the right leading to its entry door some three hundred yards from the trail. The road now was over grown with thickets and weeds, the Inn faired worse. The building itself was in terrible shape, its siding was faded and large black holes gaped in it crumbling roof. “It looks as if that Inn has not seen a visitor in many a year.” remarked Shadowfax.

Badger stopped his horse and slide to the ground near the road, “One would think at first glance.” The Ranger stooped low to the ground and studied it carefully, “There are fresh marks here and some older ones. Several horses had come and gone down that road recently” The company eyed the Inn suspiciously. “It could have been anyone though...” He added.

Shadowfax stared at the black windows, they looked like empty eye sockets in an old gray skull, “An excellent place for a hideout I’d say.” The others agreed but decided not to explore the ruins. The old Inn was a large building and could hide a large number people who wish not to be found. Akara’s horse seemed agitated and flicked its head from side to side “Let us leave this place quickly then. It reeks of ill deeds and foul spirits.”

They continued along their way and the day grew older with each passing step.

Had any of the members turned to look back at the Inn before it was lost amid the trees they would have seen a dark shadow pass by one of the Inn’s many windows.
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Postby Hunter » Fri Feb 17, 2006 12:11 pm

~

The sun hung low in the western sky and the surrounding air was loosing the warmth that its late autumn rays had brought to the small band of travelers as they rode along the Great East Road. They had ridden for nearly five hours, at times pushing the horses hard, and had reached the stretch of road that skirted the southern edge of the Midgewater Marshes. The first frosts had come earlier in the month and the gnats and midges that normally swarmed in dark moving clouds above the scattered pools of water lay dormant among the withered brown rushes.

In the lead, Shadowfax reined his horse in and looked around, signaling the others to pull up along side.

“It will be dark soon, but the moon will be out, and though it won’t be full, it will be enough to travel by if we stick to the road. If we push on, we can reach the foot of Weathertop by midnight. There we can rest a few hours.” He looked at the others, especially Jaxon who was still recovering from her wound. No one objected. “Good. We’ll rest the horses for a few minutes.” He dismounted and pointed to a spot not far from the road. There was a small pool of water edged by grass that still held traces of green near the ground.

While the horses drank and grazed, Hunter dug in the leather pack slung across the rump of her horse and brought out a loaf of bread, a brick of cheese and some apples. She passed the around the apples and then taking out a knife cut the bread into slices and passed them around with the brick of cheese. Everyone cut off a few thin slabs and ate while they stretched their legs. Glad of the break, Hunter chewed thoughtfully while she looked back along the way they had come.

Badger stood nearby drinking from his flask of water. He passed it to Hunter and after taking a swallow she asked. “Do you think we were followed?” She squinted but could hardly make out where the road was, let alone see if there was any sign that someone was behind them, for the road was obscured by the bright fiery rays of the setting sun.

“I’m not sure.” He looked at her as she shaded her eyes from the setting sun. There were lines of worry creasing her brow. “Why? Did you notice anything?”

“No…just a prickly feeling on the back of my neck.” Dropping her hand, she looked up at Badger and shrugged her shoulders. “Guess I’m not used to keeping my enemies close,” she smiled wryly. “I’d prefer them to be on the other side of the moon.”

“But then you’d never really know for sure if they were there,” Jaxon commented as she walked over to the pair. She looked at Hunter. In the back of her mind she’d been wondering if the woman would be able to stand up to the arduous ride; she didn’t look the type. But so far Hunter looked no more tired than she. “We should be going.”

Thin threads of swirling mist began to form and rise out of the dampness of the marsh as, with the loss of the suns warming rays, the air cooled. Ahead, in the distance, loomed a range of hills. One of them, the tallest, stood a short distance from the rest, its conical top slightly flattened while the remainder extended northward, their outlines blurred in the gathering dusk.

As they started out at a slow trot, Hunter found her gaze drawn to Weathertop, the lone hill that was their destination. Slowly a feeling of dread began to creep into her mind and emotions long buried away stirred like the rising vapors of the marsh behind them. When Shadowfax had first mentioned they would rest there, she hadn’t given it much thought; after all, it would only be for a few hours.

The pace set by Jaxon in the lead quickened and Hunter shifted her eyes to the road ahead, thankful that for now at least, her attention would be on the ride in the growing darkness.

~
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Peace and Despair

Postby strider- » Tue Mar 14, 2006 7:12 am

A great uneasiness was on her and she could not shake it. As she focused on the steady footfalls of her horse, she allowed the rhythm of his gait to steady her heart.

She was reminded of her fortune of finding such worthy companions and it both comforted and troubled her. She worried she was leading them into ruin. Her luck of late had all but run out.

Shadowfax pulled up alongside her, matching the steady forward pace set by Bydand.

”They come because they desire to see evil fail.” he said.

”So your skill has moved past healing into reading my thoughts?” she said.

”It takes little skill for one who knows you, what your thoughts are.” he replied knowingly. ”Times are getting darker in every corner of Middle Earth, have you not felt it?” Jaxon nodded solemnly. Shadowfax continued, ”Those with us want the same things we do. Peace.”

”I will not hope for peace.” she said and an odd laugh escaped her lips.

”Why? So you can spend your days in misery and darkness?” Shadowfax said to her sharply. A shadow hung over her and it angered him to think of what could have changed in his friends life so dramatically that she would cling to doubt like this. But he had his suspicions.

”No.” she said sharply, perhaps too sharply. ”I will have no peace not in this life. My life has been spent learning to fight, to lead, to battle. What part would peace have in the life of a warrior? I chose this path long ago, or it chose me. No, peace will forever be out of my reach.” she said.

”Warriors fight to win a good end. If you thought peace would be forever out of your reach, why did you agree to come home to Arnor? Why did you agree to return to Verran? If peace was not your desire for the end of your road, why did you promise to return to him? Had you no hope for a new life?” Shadowfax was pressing hard on her, pushing into areas most would fear to tread. Pushing her into a corner.

Jaxon said nothing but glared at the road ahead, her face hot with anger.

”That’s it isn’t it?” he said, ”You weren’t coming home to peace at all. You were going to release Verran from his promise to you, release the bond he made to you so you could be free to be miserable and alone.”[I]

[I]”You know nothing.”
she said, a fire welling up inside her.

”I see more than you think.” he said. A long silence passed between them before he asked the question he had been afraid to ask since he first healed her. ”How long have these dreams haunted you?”

She did not answer. On their last journey together Jaxon had been hunted in her dreams by the great worm Rogue, tormented in her sleep by his pursuit. It was so many years ago, but Shadowfax saw the same darkness in her eyes again. The same hunted look, he chided himself for not addressing it sooner.

”How long Jaxon?” he demanded, grabbing the reins of her horse. Bydand stopped and reared up. Jaxon reached for her dagger and Shadowfax grabbed her wrist and sliding off his own horse pulled her to the ground on top of her. ”How long?” he screamed at her, desperate for an answer. He squeezed his grip around her wrist as the others stopped short, Hunter slid off and grabbed their horses. Badger too was on the ground in an instant, sword drawn

”What are you doing?” he yelled.

Jaxon would say nothing as the dagger slid from her hand and she fell limp beneath him. ”How long?” he said again more calmly. The others looked on in confusion. Her eyes met his in the moonlight, in them she could see hope, and peace and promise. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly, fighting back bitter despair. ”Six months. Since Laketown.” she said finally. She immediately felt a weight begin to lift.

He pulled her up from the ground. ”This will stop.” he said with an authority she didn’t recall him having before. "You will fight against this as you have done before, and you will tell me every dream no matter how insigificant." Still she clung to despair, unwilling to part with it there on the road, ”You are wrong.” she whispered to him, "Verran is my peace and without him I will be forever lost.”

”What’s going on?” said Badger confused.

”Nothing.” answered Jaxon. ”Come we should be away again.”

They moved to gather their horses, Jaxon’s eyes met Hunter’s. ”Thank you.” she said.

As they started off again Shadowfax handed her back her dagger. ”Leave despair behind, it is an enemy worse than any that await us on the road ahead. We will find Verran.” he said, and she almost believed him. Hope flickered as she once again allowed her heart to desire the peace it longed for.
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Postby Tempest » Mon Mar 20, 2006 7:26 pm

Akara watched the brief interlude between Jaxon and Shadowfax with intense interest that bordered on panic. She did not know if, at any moment, these newfound companions would turn on each other. It seemed likely from the way Jaxon’s hand slid to her dagger, and Akara felt her body tense as every voice within her told her to dig her heels deep in the sides of her horse and retreat from the scene.

But a different voice, a stronger one, steeled her to stay and wait. When it all came to nothing, and the two mounted their horses and continued calmly, she marveled and shook her head. If this was a friendship, she did not understand it.

Glancing at Jaxon though, she saw something in her eyes she did understand. The woman was exhausted, but her fatigue had little to do with her recent physical injury. Her eyes held a despair Akara knew far too well. Here was loss unending. Here was pain so deep there were no tears to express it. The thought entered her mind again, that perhaps this woman did not want to be saved.

Akara’s head drooped a little to the side and she turned away. As she did so, she caught a glimpse of something. Something crawling near the tree line. She felt suddenly sick, something about the way it was moving, as if it were some sort of animal wishing to follow unseen. Icy fingers seemed to be closing around her neck. The way it moved…

She dared not let her eyes leave the crawling thing, but she found she could not speak to warn the others. Surely one of them had seen it! But they seemed to be going on, whispering softly to each other, unaware.

”We shouldn’t have left the town,” she finally managed, very quietly.

Badger reined in his horse. ”What?” he asked her.

”We shouldn’t have left the town. That’s what he…they wanted. I don’t think he…” She paused now, her eyes searching wildly the brush and low tree limbs. She had blinked, and the creature was gone. If it had been a creature at all. ”Didn’t any of you see that?” she gestured, still wild-eyed, toward the forest.

”We’re being followed.” Hunter replied simply.

”Was it…human?” Akara asked, but she knew the answer. Such things were used for tracking purposes, but not for battle. Memory flooded her. She remembered the little that Ztula had taught her about strategies used by other tribes, about scouts, usually followed closely by…

She barely had time to give a stifled scream before they were upon them.
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Postby Galhadrim » Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:22 pm

Badger heard the rustle in the brush next to the road. He swung his head as three shapes rushed from around their leafy hiding place. White fur that looked like clothing caught the moonlight like ghostshine. They leaped with gangly arms and could only be called man shaped if one was having a nightmare. Badger couldn't avoid them.

Bad choices.

That was all Badger had. He stabbed one creature through the throat while sidestepping into another's attack. Before he could reach for his second sword, his arm went up reflexively and bony hands grabbed at it. The body followed, lightweight but with force of movement. The ranger toppled backward, trying to twist and bring the creature down under him. The third one raked at his leathers with clawed hands.

As he fell he caught glimpses of other bounding shapes and heard scuffling. He thought it curious that the creatures made no animal sounds and apparently had no scent. The horses only just now started to buck. The chaos of combat erupted all around him.
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Postby Tempest » Mon Apr 24, 2006 5:12 pm

Strangely, the attack was over almost before it began. The scrambling of figures, the snort of the horses, and the high-pitched, animalistic screeches of their assailants became a blur, until there was a momentary pause, as if a call had sounded that was not audible to any but those who it was meant for. The trees stirred and branches cracked, and all was silent again.

Akara was still in the process of drawing her sword.

The woods were deathly quiet and the party was acutely aware that there was a watcher somewhere, who had abruptly ended their seige, though for what purpose, remained to be seen. The element of surprise had been with the enemy, so it was unnerving that they would withdraw.

"Do you think...they're gone?" someone asked.

"Not on your life."

"But why..."

There was no answer.

"Is anything missing? Is anyone missing?" Jaxon's voice came sharply.
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Postby Tempest » Mon Apr 24, 2006 5:12 pm

:oops:
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Postby strider- » Fri May 05, 2006 10:09 am

The horses had scattered into the thick, dark safety of the nearby wood.

The travelling party, though surprised but the sudden attack by their strange assailants, was even more perplexed by their equally sudden departure. They still stood at the ready, swords in hand, their eyes darting from tree to tree in the pale moonlight, as if they could will the mysterious attackers back into sight.

"Is anything missing? Is anyone missing?" Jaxon's voice came sharply.

”The horses…for one...” replied Hunter looking around still uneasy.

Jaxon, her heart beating, sheathed her sword into the scabbard at her back and whistled sharply. Bydand, not immune to the fear that had just set upon them was a loyal beast and was less fearful than most so returned to Jaxon and the others followed him cautiously.

”That is quite a trick.” Hunter said.

”Not easily won, but of more value than a sword at times.” Jaxon replied. The horses appeared unharmed and though still flighty were easily rounded up again.

”What were they?” said Akara, ”And what did they want?”

Jaxon searched the ground around the site of their attack, ”Where are the bodies? I saw Badger kill one, and I know I pierced one in the side, though it’s possible it got away…where is the blood?” The others looked around, no evidence could be found of their attackers anywhere. ”I have never seen a creature of its kind anywhere before. Have any of you?” Her gaze fell upon the graven expression of Badger, Ranger of the North.

Badger’s eyes met Jaxon’s, ”Tell us Badger.” she said.
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Postby Tempest » Fri May 05, 2006 5:06 pm

"I have never seen a creature of its kind anywhere before. Have any of you?” Jaxon's gaze fell upon the graven expression of Badger, Ranger of the North.

Badger’s eyes met Jaxon’s, ”Tell us Badger.” she said.

"Jaxon." Akara's voice suddenly cut through before he could answer. She did not say anything more, but lifted her hand and pointed to something hanging from Bydand's saddle. There was something there, an object that caught the light a little and glittered silver.

It had not been there before the attack.

Slowly, Jaxon reached out her hand, but paused before it touched the object, as if she were suddenly stricken.

"What is..." someone started, but Shadowfax was at her side in a few strides and had lifted the object, which turned out to be a chain with some sort of large pendant attached to it.

"Do you recognize it?" he asked in a low voice. "Is it his?"

"So, they weren't attacking at all, but leaving this behind?" Freahelm said, bringing the rest of the horses around to the group.

"They knew...they knew Bydand was your horse. They left it for you." Akara noted. "What is it? And," she said, looking at Badger again, "what were those things? I feel as though I knew them from somewhere. Is that odd?"
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Postby strider- » Tue May 09, 2006 6:49 am

Jaxon’s fixed her eyes, almost trance-like at the pendant in Shadowfax’ hand. She reached for it, staring but no words left her lips.

Badger cleared his throat, ”They are the Daorsainn.” he answered. ”In the service of a Taibhsear. A seer of sorts.” Badger paused, uncomfortable, ”Both like and unlike a sorcerer.” he said.

”A witch?” asked Hunter, getting to the point quickly.

”Both like and unlike.” said Badger. ”They serve their own interests, evil or not, one can never be sure. They are both enemy and not. If their purpose is served by aiding another they will, if it does not. They will not. They are subtle, alluring, spellbinding. Many a man has been caught in their wake, one must keep their wits about them. They are riddle makers, sirens. Many names are they known by – but what purpose of their own they serve by this…I don’t know.”

Shadowfax placed a hand on Jaxon’s shoulder, she drew her eyes away. ”Is it his?” he asked again, as she focused back on the moment, stepping back into time.

”Yes.” she answered, uncertain of what it meant.

No one heard the woman approach from the wood until her soft melodic voice said, ”Pale, was the wounded knight.” she said making her way towards Jaxon, who turned and drew her sword. Badger lost all colour from his face as he stood motionless.

”Who are you?” Jaxon demanded, still clutching the pendant once worn by Verran, Captain of Arnor. She held it up as the woman ran her hand along Bydand’s neck, slick with sweat. He flinched at the Taibhsear’s touch but was unwilling to leave his master. ”What have you done with him?” she said, anger welling up inside her, a fire burning in her heart.

Jaxon lifted her sword to the seer’s neck, Shadowfax placed his hand on Jaxon’s arm ”Wait, we may learn something. Do not give in to your anger.”

”My name is Ceangail, the Taibhsear said, making her way closer to Jaxon, her eyes fixed on her. ”And I know your name Rider of the Moon.” she said to Jaxon, her voice melodic and sweet. Shadowfax moved in between Jaxon and Ceangail.

”You will come no closer witch.” said Shadowfax as the others seemed to snap to attention at the sound of his voice, they had become fascinated with the woman before them, all but Badger, who stood still, head down focusing on the sword in his hand flexing his grip around it’s handle.

”You.” Ceangail hissed, revealing for a moment her true voice, ”You have the stench of a wizard.” she said.

”Then I shall take that as a compliment.” Shadowfax countered.

”Where is Verran…you said he was wounded…and how do say you know my name?” said Jaxon, ”Rider of the Moon is no name given to me.”

”True, but it is your name nonetheless Lion. For I have seen your coming before you arrived.” she answered, ”But the one you seek is not here.”

”Then why attack us? Why leave the pendant?” now it was Shadowfax’ turn to give in to his rage. ”Speak now without riddle and I will spare you.”

Ceangail laughed mockingly, ”No sword can pierce me. Can it ranger?” she said, her back to Badger who stood still, unmoving in the moonlight. ”Your captain near death, came seeking the healing power of the water and I obliged. He was near death, and full of visions of a dark horse, a woman and seeking someone else…or something else.”

”You are lying.” said Badger finally as all eyes turned toward him.
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