Redemption: The Reckoning

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

Postby Frelga » Tue Sep 20, 2005 12:01 am

Radesh followed his employer to the empty table by the hearth, he noted. Without speaking, they took the two seats away from the fire so that the Easterling and the dripping stranger could soak more of the warmth when they came in.

The common room was far from full at that time of day, but to Radesh it looked busy enough. After a summer spent in solitude of the Weatherhills, he felt ill at ease in this neat, friendly place. And that Halfling was certainly a new experience. The hillman rather took to the young Han, with his good natured, unruffled competence around Men and beasts so much larger than himself.

Scribe, it seemed, had something else on her mind.

"So, it seems that soon we will be joined by yet another foreigner from a land that was once our enemy," she remarked. "How do you feel about having yet another tongue that is not Westron spoken at our table tonight?"

Radesh shook his head slowly, thoughtfully. "It is no matter," he said at last. "The man is cold and hungry. He will be welcome. Do you know what he is, Scribe?"

"He's a Corsair, a sailor from the South," the swordswoman replied. "Though what he is doing so far from home I cannot tell."

"Ah." Radesh was silent a moment as he tasted his ale. The brew was excellent, far superior to the best Forsaken Inn had to offer. "This Corsair," he went on after a moment, "he would be a fighting man, would he not? You are looking to add to your company, yes?" And you want desperate men for that venture, he thought, those with nothing to lose. Who else would take on a sorcerer in his stronghold?

"And if I did?" Scribe asked, matching the Hillman's carefully measured tone.

Radesh sighed, looking down at his hands, folded around the flagon - good hand covering the mangled fingers. "It started badly between Htiet and me," he admitted softly, speaking the Easterling's name in a careful, neutral tone. "That was my doing, and I don't know if things can be mended now. I will not make the same mistake again if that is what you ask."

"I'm glad to hear it," Scried said dryly.

"Yes, but how will it be if the Corsair comes with us? He speaks no Westron. I know little Eastron and none of the other tongues Htiet spoke to him. Will you give every order twice? Or shall we wait for Htiet to translate between us? If we are in a battle, he won't know if I yell for him to duck or look behind him." The hillman's dark eyes met Scribe's, his look calm and a little sad. He shrugged. "Scribe, this is your quest. You do as you see fit. I will follow you as I said I would." Having said all he meant to say, Radesh lifted his flagon and drained it, swallow by leisurely swallow.
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Postby The_Fool » Tue Sep 20, 2005 1:04 am

“Fair enough,” Htiet replied with a grin and a nod of his head. “Can’t blame a man for wanting to fill his stomach.” Karma snorted, bouncing her head a little, jigging the reigns in his hand until he fastened his fingers tighter about them.

He watched the Corsair with interest and not a little pity. He looked sa kai terrible. Like he hadn't slept properly for weeks and eaten for only a little less. His hands were trembling from the cold, holding fast to the edges of the cloak. He looked just about as miserable as Htiet had when he had first arrived here. And that had been in the middle of this damn country’s summer. Or what passed for summer here anyway.

“So w-what about you?” Khiran asked, shrugging his shoulders to pull the cloak closer around him. “An Easterling out of the East. Ai, and t-taking orders from a woman.” He laughed shakily, the chatter of his teeth jerking the sound about.

“Kai man,” Htiet exclaimed, shooting him an uncertain look. “You sound like you’re trying to imitate the Shi’uri castanets with your damn teeth!”

Khiran shivered and managed a smile. “Well at least I won’t be cold for long. Anyway, I’m warmer than I was.”

“Sar,” Htiet agreed as he tugged the beaver fur hood up over the man’s bald head. “You’d be a damn sight warmer if you grew some bloody hair too. You look like ritsay, shivering like some newborn foal on a desert night with those big black bruises under your eyes. When was the last time you slept inside?”

“I…I err…I d-don’t know,” Khiran chattered.

Htiet rolled his eyes heavenwards. “You’re dal vinaf. I’d wager my mother you haven’t slept indoors since you got here. What have you been doing? Walking until you got to that stupid bridge and then just sitting there?”

That dark look showed in Khiran’s eyes again, though the same as before it was a contained anger. Based upon something or someone elsewhere. He did not answer.

Htiet shrugged his shoulders to show that it didn’t matter, side-stepping a particularly large puddle of mud and muck at the bottom of the bridge, spilling out along the dip as if to mark some invisible seam between it and the road. They continued on along the side of the road, staying away from the churned mess in the very centre where the mud looked thick enough to grab a man’s boot from his very foot.

“Is the inn f-far?” Khiran asked after a small silence had settled about them, broken only by the soggy thud of their feet, the small sucking slop when the horse’s hoofs stuck a little.

“Not so far,” Htiet replied, tugging his the gold-embroidered collar of his old uniform a little higher around his neck. The black fur he had sewn crudely into the inside tickled his chin. His nose felt cold, as if somehow it had been pressed against a bar of ice. Or perhaps this harak-damned snow Scribe and Radesh took so much pleasure in chuckling over. “Kai,” he muttered, rubbing his nose briskly with his leather-gloved fingertips. “What a miserable place to live. Cold. Filthy. Nobody washes. The women are not the same. Their passion is as pale as their skin. Hell, if I could buy just one night with a Southern or Eastern woman I’d be a happy man. At least I could remember what home was like.” He fell silent, brooding a little. “Only that isn’t really the problem. It’s because I remember exactly what home was like that I can’t become happy.”
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Postby SilverScribe » Tue Sep 20, 2005 7:57 pm

She was relieved to hear Radesh admit that perhaps his initial reaction to Htiet had been somewhat . . . exaggerated. But she kept her tone neutral, even a bit dry, certain that he already knew how she felt and that she would not further belabour the point.

"Will you give every order twice?" he asked, then followed with a stream of similar questions and concerns. She understood his points, but considered them moot. She was fluent in Haradrim, she had studied it under Luinil and had many opportunities to use it whenever she had sailed from Dol Amroth with her full blooded eldar friend, Guilhendar and they had encountered Corsair raiding ships. But she had no intention of blindly hiring the Corsair. She would provide the poor devil with a meal and a night out of the cold, it was the least she could do to show him some small kindness. Perhaps she could put in a word with the barkeep or another member of the staff to see if there was any work for the fellow. There was no faster way to learn a language, than being immersed in it. If the Corsair lingered and worked in the West, he would have a fair command of Westron inside a month or two.

"Scribe, this is your quest. You do as you see fit. I will follow you as I said I would."

She took a swallow from her own flagon. "I am pleased to hear that Radesh. I will keep my side of the bargain and make it well worth your while."

"And Htiet's? And the Corsair's?" Radesh asked with a grin. "Has your sword arm earned you so much then?"

She bit her lip. "Aye, there were many, many men who paid handsomely to have their homes protected, who were more than happy to offer riches so they did not have to feel guilty that they didn't want to sully their pretty little display swords with orc blood. War is a lucrative business, Master Hunter."

"So, you are a mercenary as well?" he asked.

Her face went grim, but she kept her voice calm. It was a fair enough question in light of her last words. "I suppose I can be accused of mercenary sensibilities fair enough, but no, Radesh, I am not a mercenary. I have never sold my skills for money. I have been . . . unexpectedly paid after the fact on occasion and well, money has its uses so I haven't always refused it . . ." She trailed off. Money certainly did have its uses, it was making it possible for her to get the support she knew she was going to need if she was to entertain even a glimmer of success facing and hopefully, destroying Delkarnoth.

She sighed. "But I was born and bred for war, and war has been my life for a very, very long time, though I have always looked to serve any and all who followed the Light."

Whatever else she might have said was interrupted by the sound of the doors to the common room swinging open and the sound of at least one pair of booted feet. Both she and Radesh turned to see the Easterling enter, with a shivering, barefoot Corsair in tow.

Scribbles turned back and grinned at Radesh. "So, the conquering hero comes at last, and with his catch of the day," she chuckled quietly.

.
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Postby Jiyadan » Wed Sep 21, 2005 6:03 am

Htiet spoke of home and Khiran felt his own longing strong and deep. Home was the heart of every fighter, whether soldier or pirate. He wanted to taste the flavours, inhale the smells, feel the warmth of the sun on his face and cool of the sea about his feet. Khiran frowned. The mud was starting to cake between his toes.

As the easterling continued, his words brought Khiran back to the dark-eyed woman from the dock the day he went to see that Hikha. Shariahi. Beautiful Shariahi. Oh, if only he had let her turn him aside before, he might still be happy and warm in Umbar. As it was, he still went back that night before he left. She was one of the last tastes of home he had and he was glad at least for the pleasant memories.

"Htiet, my friend. If there is life after this f-f-f-rozen hell then you must go to Umbar. The women, they are the m-most beautiful you will ever know. Th-th-the scent of their purfume is enough to int-t-t-toxicate; the breath of their mouths f-fresh as cool water. Their wine is like a sweet honey and their skin, kissed by the heat of the s-s-sun. Sa k-k-kai it's miserable here."

The Easterling laughed. "And you must come to Rhun. The food is not like the dog paste served here; it has flavour, aroma, spice. The women, they are as the food, all passion and fire. Their eyes they line with khol of Harad and wrap jewels all about their throat and wrists. And their veils, so fine you can see through them."

Khiran chuckled through his shivers. ""I must be s-sure to go that way on the journey home."

True to his word, the inn was not far from the bridge, sitting just off the road in a clearing of trees that would have probably seemed beautiful under different circumstances.

A boy, so it seemed to the Corsair, took charge of the horse but Khiran could not follow the westron words that were exchanged with the Easterling. Whatever details there were to discuss got worked out, it seemed. The smell of hay and a warm, dry stable would have been heaven at any point in the last week of constant rain, mud and cold. But now he was promised even more, fire and a place to sleep indoors. Warm and dry, he grinned broadly.

Khiran bundled up his wet clothes before the horse was led away and followed Htiet through the double doors into the common room. He felt the heat immediately as the doors closed behind them and he stopped for a moment, just letting it seep in.

"Come, you will not thaw standing there. By the fire," Htiet said, nodding to where the woman and hillman sat.

Khiran's bare feet flopped across the wooden floor, leaving muddy prints behind and earning him a scowl from the maid. Weaving through the tables and straight for the hearth, the Corsair practically crawled into the fireplace when he reached it. He dropped his pack to one side and the bundle of clothes on the hearth and soaked up the flames. The heat burned his icy skin causing his fingers to ache and his nose to feel as if it were on fire but it was a pain he bore for the sake of the warmth.

The smells of food all around made his stomach growl and churn within him and he wrapped his arms around his waist, remembering the promise not only of fire but of food also. "T-t-tell her thank you," Khiran said, motioning to the Scribe but Htiet shook his head and grinned. "She speaks a little Eastron. You tell her."

Khiran's eyebrows raised in surprise and he turned to really look at the woman now. She was nothing like the women of Umbar. Her skin was pale brown as a sandbar and looked just as smooth. Her hair was the colour of cowry shells and pearls and her eyes a shade the likes of which he had only seen in sunsets. She wore no khol, no jewels, no fragrant perfume and yet he was utterly fascinated by her. Such a woman, no doubt, would need many men to protect her.

Htiet nudged him when it was evident he was staring and he found his tongue again. "Sa masalalt'di," he said in earnest.
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Sep 21, 2005 7:30 pm

She hid a smile behind her ale flagon as the Corsair dropped his pack and bundles and nearly backed himself right into the wide fireplace. The only thing that prevented him from setting Htiet's cloak on fire was the Easterling himself, who swore loudly as he snatched the prize from the Corsair's shoulders. "Ai, ai, sa kai hikhas!!! Burn your own clothes but not mine!!"

The Corsair quickly pulled Radesh's worn blanket close around his upper body and wrapped his arms about himself, looking about as happy as it could be possible for a man shivering hard enough for his teeth to still be knocking together.

When Htiet directed the Corsair's attention to her, she returned his appraising look calmly, her face impassive. She knew that she was not considered beautiful by any human standards, nor elven ones for that matter, but it had never troubled her in all her long centuries and she was not about to let it start now. Let the crazy man stare, she'd been stared at before and it mattered not a whit to her.

When Htiet nudged him, the Corsair coloured and ducked his head politely. "Sa masalalt'di," he said. She nodded, drained her flagon and then stood, watching the Corsair's eyes widen as she rose to her full height. "You are welcome," she returned in Eastron then glanced at Htiet, raising both eyebrows in an unspoken question.

"He is Khiran, a Corsair sailor from Umbar," the Easterling supplied. She nodded. "Who can speak for himself," Khiran muttered under his breath in Haradric.

Scribbles regarded the sailor, one eyebrow climbing high. His wet trousers were just beginning to dry, letting off the odd tendril of steam that made him look faintly like a haunch of roasting meat. But she stifled the urge to laugh, the man's gratitude after what had surely been a miserable string of days and nights under that bridge was honest, not ingratiating. "And act for himself too, no doubt," she shot back in his own language, then used her empty flagon to gesture at his bundle of damp clothing. Best then to act in hanging those over the chair backs by the fire to dry," she added with a wry grin, "or you'll be sitting half naked the rest of the evening. I'll be back shortly."

She turned and went to the bar, mentally chuckling to herself over the looks of surprise on all three men's faces that she had just witnessed. There were times when living a very long life had its benefits, one had time to learn many, many things and one of the most important was never to assume anything. 'Things are not always as they seem,' her Istari mentor, Luinil, had been fond of saying, a philosophy that she herself had firmly adopted long ago. Doubtless, all three men were discovering that particular truth, she had no doubt that she was not anything like any one of them had first assumed. For some reason, that thought pleased her.

The same barmaid came over with a frown. "'Here now, that barefoot barbarian gone and tracked up my clean floor," she remarked. "He with you?"

Scribbles glanced over to the table, then back at the barmaid. "Not as such, we found the poor wretch soaked and freezing by the river near the bridge. Do you know anything of him?" she asked.

The barmaid shrugged. "Not really. There's been talk the last few days of some crazy man sleeping under the bridge in the rain, but with all the trouble in recent years from the wild men coming out of Dunland and the like, no one wanted to look too close ta see what he was about."

"It appears that he's a Corsair, a sailor awfully far from his home and the sea," Scribbles supplied, then quickly held up a placating hand as the barmaid first stared then began to scowl. "He seems harmless enough and he'll stay with my . . . company for the night. Which brings me to business once more, what does the Fortune's most excellent kitchen offer tonight in the way of a meal?" she asked with a smile.

The barmaid relaxed, then laughed. "Ah, so our reputation spreads beyond our tiny village, eh?"

"Aye, the result of having a Master Bard for an owner, another for a cook and head barkeep and a bunch more that make this their second home," Scribbles chuckled. "You have no idea how many people know of Hobbituk's stew, yet have never even set eyes on the halfling himself."

"Well," the barmaid replied, sobering, "I can't promise ye any of that particular famous stew, but the cooks have plenty else on the fires. Tonight is . . . let's see . . . " She pulled a crumpled list from her apron pocket and smoothed it flat on the bartop. "Ah, yes, tonight is wild turkey, or mutton, take your choice. Both come with whole roasted carrots and taters and of course, all the fresh baked bread ye can eat."

Scribbles grinned as her stomach growled loudly in anticipation. "The mutton," she asked, "old or young?" The barmaid winked broadly. "Ah, now to serve old mutton is to invite a riot in these parts, don't ye know. We make sure ours is just old enough to be lyin' if we called it lamb. It's tender an' juicy enough, don't ye worry."

"Then I think we'll try some of each," Scribbles replied, "just as soon as the cooks are done. For now, we'll have another round of ale and if you have any about, send over a round of Harlindon Clearwater. The Corsair at least, needs a little fire in his poor, cold belly."

The barmaid gaped. "Harlindon? Ye sure 'bout that? I'm thinkin' that may well kill the poor barbarian if his belly is empty as well as cold."

"Make the Harlindon half-shots and send the ale first," Scribbles laughed. "That should temper the worst of the kick but still warm his blood."

"That type don't need their blood warmed, nor the Easterlings neither," the barmaid grumbled. "Seems to me they're hot blooded enough on their own. Even with a freezing dunk in the river. Ye just make sure they behave an' don't be treatin' me staff like dockside tarts, y'hear? This be a clean, decent Inn, I'll not have no whorin' foreigners thinkin' they can be makin' free with me girls."

"Aye, Mistress Barkeep, I shall keep them in order," Scribbles replied gravely.

"See that ye do, an' I'll see if the cooks can see to ye a bit early," she answered, then began pulling their round of nut-brown ale. When she was done, Scribbles picked up the flagons with a slight smile. "Allow me to save one of your girls the trouble, since I'm right here," she remarked. The barmaid chuckled and waved her away, then ducked into the kitchens.

Scribbles returned to the table and set the fresh flagons down. She held out one to Khiran, who was still standing as close to the fire as the hearth and intense heat would allow. "First, some ale, Khiran of Umbar, then some food," she told him in Eastron, so at least Htiet would also understand. Then she sat and pushed the other flagons towards the other two men. "Food is coming," she told them. "This Inn at least boasts good fresh fare, not all grease and Eru be praised, not oversalted." She glanced over at Htiet. "It will not be as spicy as you might like but I promise you, it will taste a damn sight better than the slop you've probably been getting in places like the Forsaken Inn." He nodded.

"Oh, and before I forget," she added, leaning forward to put her elbows on the table and look straight across the table at him. "This is a clean, decent Inn," she told him in Eastron. "The serving girls are not whores. Treat them with respect, or you'll be tossed out into the muck of the yard before you can blink."

Radesh's eyebrows went up, she was certain he had at least caught the reference to whores. She repeated what she had said quietly in Westron, not wanting to attract any undue attention from any of the late afternoon or early evening patrons that had been slowly filling the large common room, nor the suspicions of the cheery young woman that stopped to put the tray of Harlindon half shots on the table at the Scribe's elbow.

She handed the first one to Khiran. "I give you fair warning Corsair, this is strong,' she told him in Haradric. She handed the rest out then held her shot glass up. "Be warned, this is strong, but I think we could all use a little fire inside tonight. Bottoms up."

.
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Postby Frelga » Thu Sep 22, 2005 9:31 pm

Radesh cast a suspicious glance at the drink that was set before him. He'd learned caution around clear liquids ever since he took a large swallow of what he had assumed was water, which took his breath away much like Scribe's spell had done and almost made him cough up his kidneys. Now, glass in hand, he paused for a moment, thinking of that night far away in another inn, when he was bleeding and dizzy with fatigue, and a bruised wolf panted under the table at his feet. The night after the pit fight, when he won his freedom for the second time.

He picked up the glass and sniffed it cautiously, then took a small sip. The fumes drilled through his brain and hit the back of his skull, making his eyes water. Radesh grunted and set the glass back on the table. He was already unsettled and annoyed by the bursts of Eastron that flew between his companions. Strong drink like this served only to anger and grieve a man before it dropped him under the table, sometimes with a broken head. It held no joy, unlike the young wines of his homeland, golden and hopeful like a mountain dawn. He wondered why Scribe would offer such liquor to the three rough men she hired.

"I thank you, Scribe, but I am warm enough as it is." Radesh nodded at the blazing fire. "Too warm, in fact," he added as he took off his sheepskin vest and handed it to the still-shivering Corsair. The hillman didn't wish to be discourteous when Scribe meant to be generous, but… well, why not? "I would welcome a glass of wine, though," he finished wistfully.
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Postby Jiyadan » Thu Sep 22, 2005 9:56 pm

It didn't register to Khiran at first that the woman had used Haradric until she said she would be back. Then a look of surprise crossed the Corsair's face, followed by a broad grin spreading ear to ear. "Ai ai!" he said, nudging Htiet. "Did you hear that then? She speaks Haradric!"

"That is lucky for you. And for me, also. I have no wish to repeat everything the two of you say." Htiet said.

Khiran watched her with an interest he did not bother to conceal as she crossed the bar room and spoke to one of the maids. Her height was impressive to say the least, her bearing proud and strong like a woman should be! Not as graceful as the shells he plucked off the docks, nor perhaps as alluring; but still, she held his attention firmly.

After a few minutes he remembered what she had actually said and began to shake out his clothing, wet but mostly clean at least, and hang them over the backs of some chairs to dry. The fire had them steaming like his trousers in short order and gave the area around the hearth an ethereal aura.

He made at least an attempt not to stare as she returned and set a mug of ale before him. His eyes glittered and he grinned up at her again; at last, something other than water! Closing his fingers around the mug he brought it half-way to his mouth, then realized he could not drink yet. Setting it back on the table, his words were stopped by the woman speaking again, this time cautioning against taking any of the women here. Khiran did not really want one of them anyway, not after Htiet's description of them.

He started to speak again but she then handed him a shot with another strong caution and the others began to drink. Khiran placed it firmly on the table. It was not time to drink yet. He tried to speak yet again but was interrupted this time by the Hillman handing over a fur-lined vest which Khiran eagerly accepted and pulled on, wrapping the blanket back around his shoulders again. He didn't mind that interruption so much, he decided.

The woman nodded at him to drink when he had settled, but he shook his head and her eyebrow arched slightly. "Is something wrong, Khiran of Umbar?" she asked in Haradric.

"Yes," he said, exasperated though grateful to at last get to speak. "Something is wrong. In Harad, we do not drink with strangers. I only know his name," he said, pointing to Htiet. Standing up, he brought his fist to his chest and said, "I am Khiran, proud son of Umbar. I want to know yours now, too, before I drink. Yours and his."

Khiran dearly hoped they would give their names, for that ale was almost more temptation than he could resist and the tantalizing shot was calling out to him.
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Sep 23, 2005 12:17 pm

She glanced at the hillman as he took a cautious taste from his shot glass before actually drinking. However, he put it back down onto the table nearly untouched. "I thank you, Scribe, but I am warm enough as it is. Too warm, in fact," he said, removing and handing his sheepskin vest to Khiran before looking back at her. "I would welcome a glass of wine, though," he added, and she shrugged.

"My apologies, please feel free to order whatever you prefer," she replied with a sheepish look, then turned to the Corsair, who had placed his own glass on the table before him and was looking at her expectantly.

She asked him what was wrong and was mildly surprised at the answer, though it made perfect sense. When he had introduced himself and asked for names in return, she put her own shot glass down and nodded.

"I am SilverScribe," she answered in Haradric, "but go by the name of Scribe, and the hillman's name is Radesh." She repeated the introductions in Westron, giving an apologetic look to Radesh for the delay. "This is Khiran, a proud son of Umbar, and I hope you will not mind, I have given him both our names in return."

She turned back to the Corsair. "So, now you know the names of the strangers you drink with, Khiran of Umbar," she said with a grin.

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Postby Jiyadan » Fri Sep 23, 2005 5:44 pm

A broad smile spread across Khiran's face. "Scribe," he repeated, grabbing the mug while still standing and raising it. "To your health I will drink!" he declared and took several large gulps of ale. He turned to Radesh and did the same, addressing him and drinking to his health, then repeated again for Htiet though addressed him in Eastron.

After he had finished, he sat down rather heavily with a grin that resembled a cat that had found the baker's cream. It would not be long before the ale hit his senses for even an experienced man of the drink like Khiran could not hold his ale on a three-day empty stomach. However, since the Corsair had never had much opportunity to discover this, he drank with great merriment. At last, something besides water!

When the mug was plunked empty back on the table he reached for the shot and, having by this time forgotten her warning, threw the entire contents down his throat in a single go. He missed the looks upon the other's faces for the tears that began to well in his eyes. For a moment he couldn't breathe as his body clenched, his hands gripping the shot glass in one and the table's edge in the other.

A moment later he was gasping, choking out breath and gulping more in. His stomach felt like he had drunk fire and his throat was faring little better. His inner nose burned like the fire-root of his homeland and the tears had jumped ship and were streaking his face. He tried to speak but all he managed was a pitiful, "Sc..sc...sc...huuuuuuuuhhh," as he attempted to say her name.

Already now his head was beginning to spin from the alcohol hitting his system but what he noticed also was his body now felt warm; almost too warm, he noticed as he scooted forward away from the fire somewhat.

He tried to say something again but instead ended up just holding his face up with one hand, elbow bent and resting on the table while pointing to the shot glass. He hoped she got the message; that was the best damn drink he had ever had in his life. He wanted another one of those.
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Postby The_Fool » Sat Sep 24, 2005 4:59 pm

"This is a clean, decent Inn," she told him in Eastron. "The serving girls are not whores. Treat them with respect, or you'll be tossed out into the muck of the yard before you can blink."

Htiet wondered for the briefest of moments if perhaps Radesh had told Scribe about the woman at the Forsaken Inn. He would have liked to point out (if this were the case) that she had been the one throwing herself at him and not the other way round. But before he had a chance she was repeating the message to the others at the table and he realised that it was, quite simply, a general warning to all of them. No doubt the female barkeep was not taking so kindly to their presence.

Leaving most of the space at the fire for Khiran the Easterling settled himself off to one side, gaining at least a little excess heat. He took his gloves off, slapping them down onto the table, but apart from that he stayed completely dressed. He was almost certain it would take longer than a few minutes for his nose to thaw out. At least the Corsair had stopped chattering his teeth together.

The ale was welcome, and he downed a good portion of it right off, only half listening to the conversations at his table. Sprawled across the chair with a languid sort of contentment that bordered on the feline Htiet let his gaze drift out over the inns other patrons. Assessing, analysing. It was a habit that would have proved hard to kill had he had any desire to suppress it. In all his years in service to Hazir, and indeed, to Ba’radan S’ravsahiv Bhenan, it had been a vital part of his job. Ensure the heir is kept alive. You do this with eyes that are not blind to the people around you.

His almond shaped eyes caught the stare of a Westerner and narrowed. The man gulped and hastily turned back to his meal, leaning forward over the table with insistent gusto. From the look of him he was no more than a merchant, with no armed guard and a little too much curiosity. He was drawn back into the circle of the table by the sudden coughing hack of Khiran as the man gaped and gasped like a fish, water streaming from his eyes as he propped his face up with his hand. Htiet grinned, despite himself. Perhaps he should try some of this drink as well. It certainly seemed to have a kick to it. Radesh it seemed, had left his own untouched.

Putting down his ale Htiet reached across the table for the shot Scribe had placed in front of him. The liquid was clear as water. Lifting it to his nose he took a cautious sniff and confirmed that it smelt as volatile as he had expected. Good. It had been a long time since he had had good strong liquor. He had thought wistfully of ‘tam'Pahi Ahi’ the Eastron liquor that went down like liquid fire and obliterated any food consumed within the stomach many times since his exile. Perhaps this would be a serviceable alternative.

With the glass in hand he raised it to Scribe, grinning. “S'jihuia daku,”* he said, the common toast of the Rhûn rolling off his tongue with as much thought as he would have given breathing. It had been a long time since he had said those words and yet they did not seem so unrecognisable as he had once thought they would.

Tossing back his head he gulped the entire contents of the shot glass in one quick movement. It took a fraction of a second for the heat of the drink to catch up with him and then he coughed, hard, and kept coughing. That heat rose within his stomach, searching for a release and he wiped at his eyes with his fingers, grinning like a madman. “Kai! What a drink!” he managed hoarsely. “The best I have had. Give me another, and make sure this one is a full shot. Right ko komat?” He nudged Khiran with his elbow and laughed, tapping the base of the shot glass against the table.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

*fire’s goin’
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Postby SilverScribe » Sat Sep 24, 2005 10:31 pm

Radesh rose and went to the bar, then returned with a modest pottery jug and a matching pottery goblet. He sat down and poured himself a measure of wine into the goblet, saluted her with a nod of thanks and then settled back to sip, a faint smile indicating that the vintage met with his approval.

Scribbles watched with some amusement as Khiran, after the introductions, picked up his ale and drank to hers , Radesh's, and Htiet's health and then drained the mug of nut brown ale in a few last, large swallows. He must have approved of the taste, if the smile plastered across his face was any indication. Scribbles then arched one eyebrow as the Corsair, seeming to forget her warning, immediately reached for and tossed back the half shot of Harlindon Clearwater. She supressed a smile as the man's eyes watered and his face became visibly flushed under the rich brown of his complexion. She shook her head ruefully as the next expected symptom appeared and the poor man found some difficulty breathing normally. And it was impossible not to chuckle as the most potent side effect of the fiery drink finally manifested itself and Khiran hopped his chair closer to the table and away from the fire. When he pointed at the empty glass, still gasping, Scribbles merely nodded but made no move to summon the barmaid just yet.

Though Htiet's body language indicated lassitude and a general disinterest in most of the room, Scribbles saw the subtelty in the Easterling's seemingly careless gaze. She wondered if it was a product of finding himself in the hostile environment of the West, or the result of his previous line of work. Probably a combination of both, she decided, then watched as he too, picked up the small glass of clear liquor. She inclined her head at his toast, it was certainly appropriate in this case.

The Easterling too, coughed and wiped at his eyes after tossing the liquor back. “Kai! What a drink!” he croaked in Eastron. “The best I have had. Give me another, and make sure this one is a full shot. Right ko komat?” Khiran's chin slid from his hand when the Easterling nudged him, and his answering grin was a pretty clear indication that he was feeling both the ale and the shot. Hopefully, their food would be arriving soon.

Scribbles picked up her own as yet untouched glass. She was acutely aware of all three men's gazes as she put the glass to her lips and with a slow, languid movement, tipped her head back slightly and let the fiery liquid slide down her throat. She put the glass down and breathed out slowly, feeling the searing heat of the Clearwater all the way down to her bootips. Unlike the men, however, her eyes did not water, though a telltale flush stained her dusky skin.

"Aye," she answered Htiet, her voice too was roughened by the strong drink. "Another to be sure, but not until we have put some food in our bellies. To do otherwise is sheer folly, especially for the little fish here," she grinned at Htiet as she said this, her eyes glancing to where Khiran sat with his head propped on one hand once more, his eyes drooping.

She had no sooner spoken when the cheery serving girl appeared at her side. She collected the empty glasses and flagons, then began replacing them with platters from the large tray she had set on an adjoining, empty table. Scribbles felt a pang of sympathy as Khiran's eyes lit up, the hunger in his face almost painful to see. When the girl had put all the food down, Scribbles asked for a pitcher of water and another of the ale, along with clean flagons. The girl nodded as she set down four heavy clay plates and then hurried off.

She reached out and tapped Khiran on the arm, then nodded at the food. "Eat, while it is warm," she told him in Haradric, "but . . . nothing for three days and now only liquor in your belly means you must go slowly. Yes?"

The serving girl returned with the water, ale and flagons, as well as a low covered basket of fresh, whole grain bread. Scribbles thanked her and joined the men in helping herself to the food. Even though the half of a roast wild turkey looked and smelled enticing, she decided to try the mutton first, it looked tender and the aroma it gave off hinted of basil and honeyed mustard. The carrots and potatoes, as promised, had been roasted whole, no doubt basted with sweet butter as they browned. She poured herself a flagon of fresh water, then tucked in.

.
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Postby Jiyadan » Sun Sep 25, 2005 6:23 pm

Khiran managed to give a faint nod at Htiet's prompting, his face slipping off his hand. He couldn't seem to quite make himself say the words that 'yes, he would like another.' It didn't matter much, the next thing he knew food was being laid out on the table and his stomach turned and grumbled furiously.

"Eat, while it is warm," the woman told him in Haradric, "but . . . nothing for three days and now only liquor in your belly means you must go slowly. Yes?"

He managed to keep his focus on the bread long enough to reach out and take one of the chunks, his hand working oddly with his senses numbed. Slowly. He held the bread like it was gold and took the first bite. Like bread to a starving man, he thought as the bite found its way down to his stomach. Then he gave a humoured snort as he realized it was not like bread to a starving man, it was bread, and he was indeed starving.

Khiran now understood how someone could eat the vilest of foods and be grateful for them. He had no true idea what this bread tasted like. It was food and that was a feast to him of the most savory meats and spiced vegetables, succulent pastries and sweet wines.

He went to take another bite only to find his hands were empty. He looked around to see where it had gone but saw no sign of it. He must have eaten it already, which was in fact the case. Reaching for another piece, he ate this one slower, his stomach starting to gurgle with the sudden appearance of food.

It was more than he could have hoped for a few hours before, that someone would invite him to their table, give him drink and food and even speak his tongue to boot! Maybe he was dreaming, he thought. But then, he hoped he never had to wake from this dream. The thought stuck with him, however, and he began to wonder if this were a dream, did that mean he could do whatever he wished?

The second helping of bread now gone, he at last reached for some of the roast fowl, pulling off a leg and letting the aromas just wash over him. The bread was helping to ease the intensity of the effect the ale and shot had on him and he sat up a bit straighter now. He ate carefully of the meat, making sure with each bite that his stomach would not protest too much.

Now that his eyes were focusing better on things other than what was directly before him, he scanned the rest of the meal, noting all the things he did not recognize. One item in particular stood out and he wiped his mouth and swallowed before pointing to one of the dishes filled with long, orange things that looked vaguely familiar. "What are those?"
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Postby Frelga » Thu Sep 29, 2005 9:18 pm

Radesh took a sip of his wine. It was a rich, shimmering red and Radesh wished he had a glass goblet so he could enjoy the color as well as the taste. He felt the warmth spread over his body, not the searing fire of hard liquor but a glow like a friendly embrace.

The rest of the company seemed quite happy with their drink, once the men stopped sputtering over it. At least it stopped the flow of foreign speech for a few moments. Radesh paused, hand curled loosely around the goblet, as homesickness washed over him like cold rain. He felt estranged, shut off from the people around him - a ghost who doesn't realize he is dead. As if, were he to touch Scribe's arm, his hand would pass through her.

Radesh shook his head and refilled his cup, then pushed the jug to the middle of the table in case anyone else was interested.

"Well met, Khiran of Umbar," he said. The Corsair focused on him with some difficulty, and gave him a bright if vague smile. Radesh gave a polite nod to both Scribe and Htiet, drained the wine and refilled the cup again.

Food arrived, and for a while the hillman was oblivious to all else. The mutton, delicately flavored with herbs and honey, was perhaps the most delicious thing he'd tasted since leaving his home.

A little later the heaping platters were reduced to shallow puddles of gravy. While Khiran was asking Htiet about one of the dishes, Radesh leaned over to the swordswoman.

"Scribe, you said you would give us an advance at Lucky Fortune. If there is a market in the morning, I need gear for the cold days in the mountains." He nodded at his threadbare blanket, now wrapped loosely around Khiran's shoulders as the Corsair was warmed up by fire and spirits. "And so will Khiran of Umbar, if he is to come with us," he finished with a slight grin.
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Sep 30, 2005 8:32 pm

She sampled something of everything on the table, grateful that the Lucky Fortune's kitchen lived up to its name both in the quality and quantity of the food provided. She had to smile when Khiran pointed to the roasted carrots and asked, "What are those?" She realized that some of the more common Westron foods would be unknown to him.

"Carrots," she said in Westron, then translated the word to Haradraic. "They are root vegetables, they grow in the ground," she continued. "Try some, they are very good."

He gingerly picked one from the platter she held out, sniffed it and then took a cautious bite. "They grow in the ground?" Khiran repeated and Scribbles nodded. "Aye," she replied, "the tops are like feathers or ferns, nice to look at but not good to eat." An indecipherable look passed over the Corsair's face as he finished the carrot and Scribbles was unable to catch the quiet muttering that followed.

The serving girl replenished the bread twice as they steadily emptied the platters, all eating their fill. Scribbles knew that the other two men were probably thinking much the same as she, once their supplies ran low, they would be hunting for their meals. And if the weather turned nasty too quickly, game might get real scarce real fast. It was always best to fill one's belly when one could, against the days of hunger that often followed, especially on a hard trail.

When the platters were empty, Scribbles leaned back with a satisfied sigh and poured herself a flagon of ale, silently saluting the hillman that sat on her right. He returned the salute, then leaned over.

"Scribe, you said you would give us an advance at Lucky Fortune," he began. "If there is a market in the morning, I need gear for the cold days in the mountains. And so will Khiran of Umbar, if he is to come with us," he finished with a slight grin.

She nodded. "There is a market in the little village at the end of the road, back towards the bridge. It's smaller than the one across from the Forsaken Inn, but you should be able to find what you need. If not, I believe there is a Weaver's Guildhouse there, they carry some very fine items. I will give you you both the promised advance at breakfast tomorrow."

She took a deep draught of her ale before continuing. "As for the Corsair, I do not think he will be coming with us. What use have I for a sailor from Umbar, and one who cannot even speak our language?"

.
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Postby Jiyadan » Sat Oct 08, 2005 10:57 am

Khiran paid little attention to the conversation at the table, words he could neither catch nor understand. He showed only the slightest irritation at understanding his name spoken by the hillman in obvious reference to him but without directing it at him. Instead he finished his food, despite feeling a little sick at the amount he had eaten and drunk, and settled back in his chair.

Perhaps these people were not people but gods or servants of the gods; to take him in and feed him, give him a bed? Surely there was something unusual about them. The alcohol fuzzied his thoughts still and he tried to grasp hold of one that flitted through his mind like a dragonfly but it was gone again, out the other side and leaving him to wonder why who they were should be of such interest to him.

Things he had not questioned in days still did not surface in his mind yet. Where had the hawk gone? Had he missed the sign? Lost his guide? Perhaps tomorrow he would think on these things with his body warm, his stomach full and his head pounding from the night's drink.

For now, he was free of care and consideration for anything beyond the moment. The fire's warmth behind him cracked and seeped into his deepest bones. Eyes closed, hands linked behind his head, his face carried the hints of a smile and contentment as he relaxed. After a few minutes he nudged Htiet's foot. "What about another shot of whatever that ritsay ven was?"
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Postby The_Fool » Mon Oct 10, 2005 6:37 pm

Htiet picked at a spot between his teeth at the Scribe’s words, thoughtful. The food had indeed been good and he had to admit he preferred the company of Khiran to the solemn and slightly abrasive Radesh. If the Corsair could prove that he was capable of fighting then perhaps it would be possible for this entire journey to gain a rosier tint. Like dawn over the desert. He smiled a little wistfully and was bumped from the pleasant memories of the scent of the ocean and the warmly glowing whitewashed walls of the Hazir palace by Khiran.

"What about another shot of whatever that ritsay ven was?"

“Another shot, ko komat?” Htiet asked roughly, shaking his head in amusement. “Perhaps you had better know what it is my employer has said to Radesh about you.” He drew a concealed dagger from behind his back and tapped the blade against the tabletop meaningfully.

“Eh?” Khiran frowned, uncomprehending, his mind too full of food and drink to fully understand what it was the battle worn Easterling before him was implying. Across the table Scribe was watching with veiled interest whilst Radesh had begun to half rise from his seat, displeased by the sudden presence of the dagger and the low tone in Htiet’s voice.

“Here,” he exclaimed sharply, “what are you saying to him about me rakyi that requires you to draw steel?”

“Sit down,” Htiet barked, whipping his head around to glare at Radesh. The dark irritation in those almond eyes was unsettling; the frustration of a man who is used to giving orders and having them listened to who is now forced to hope for even the vaguest inklings of respect from those people around him.

Radesh’s jaw tightened, furious at being scolded like some Eastron recruit his fingers tightening around the table’s edge.

“You are too stupid to learn my tongue you keep your mouth shut,” Htiet snorted. “You don’t know. You watch.”

“Stupid?” Radesh began, the dangerous quaver in his voice like the first warning growls of a great wolf, shaggy and hungry. “By the gods rakyi you really are pushing your – ”

“Quiet,” Scribe said serenely, putting out a hand to let it rest on the hillman’s forearm. “This is not the time or place. I have asked the two of you to watch how you behave. Htiet, mind that tongue of yours.”

Htiet inclined his head slightly. The echo of blue-blooded trained courtesy, pressing his hand to his heart. “I was thinking to ask the Corsair if maybe he would fight me. So you can see if he is right for you and the Hrak Yatsir.”

Scribe pressed her fingertips together, elbows resting on the table as she fixed those strange violet eyes upon Htiet, narrowing them slightly as if she were reading parts of his very soul. Things hidden from human sight. And perhaps she was, sorceress that she had revealed herself to be. Uncomfortable, Htiet shifted, fingers moving to make the sign to ward off the evil eye upon the air above the table edge. “Very well,” she said finally, leaning back in her chair and flicking her gaze across to Khiran. “Ask him.”

“What is she saying?” Khiran asked, nudging Htiet again, eyes flicking to Radesh then back to the Easterling. “And what do you mean by pulling the dagger? What does she say about me?” He rubbed his face suddenly with both hands then shook it vigorously as if he could dispel the pleasant drunken hum of the alcohol he had consumed.

“Do you want to keep warm, ko komat?” Htiet asked, toying with the dagger. Picking what little dirt was present out from under his short fingernails. “Do you want food and drink to eat?”

Khiran nodded enthusiastically, relaxing a little. It seemed he was more than willing to agree to anything that might include the possibility of pulling him free from the cold, wet existence he had been living prior to their chance meeting. “What does she want?” He leaned in and gave a sloppy, inebriated grin. “I bet you know Easterling. Western women probably know real men when they see them. Worth their salt. Worth the skill with which they can ‘swing a blade’.” He laughed and slapped the Easterling hard on the shoulder.

Htiet grinned and shoved the Corsair upright. “You’ve had too much to drink, ko komat.”

“Kai, and I’m better for it no!?” Khiran cackled, sprawling back in his chair and throwing one hand upwards in an overtly dramatic gesture. “Warm and fed. Now top up my glass you bo’risebrayn.”

“If you want anymore to drink Khiran,” Htiet replied, bringing the dagger up to eye level and running one roughened thumb along the edge. “You will have to prove you can fight for it. Maybe not tonight, but tomorrow. If you fight well, my employer will take you on and feed you. Most importantly Corsair, she will make you rich. Very rich.” He grinned, a carnivorous smile that exposed all of his white teeth in the close-clipped black beard. “And what pirate can resist the call of gold?”
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Postby Jiyadan » Sun Oct 16, 2005 5:48 pm

Khiran looked at him for a moment then broke into a side-splitting laughter, beating one hand on the table in uncontrolled mirth while the other clutched at his stomach. "Oiii!! Kai, I am not drunk enough to believe that pile of ritsay. Give me another shot and say that again, perhaps I'll be more gullible with my head numbed!"

"Do I look like a man who would fight for anything less, ko komat?" the easterling replied, not joining in the humour that had infected Khiran.

"Then if you are not joking, surely you have gone mad - the lot of you! But it does not matter, I can not fight you," he said with a secretive grin, digging into his bag.

The easterling seemed almost upset at the answer, or at the very least annoyed, but soon understanding lit his eyes as Khiran pulled out the Bisen-to. The blade was exquisite, skillfully made and held with a binding of gold. A crimson tassel hung from the end and small pearls were inset into it. The only thing missing was the pole to which it should be attached.

Bisen-to was a common pole-arm in the East and South, skilled users quite a sight to see when in battle. Khiran was skilled enough with it, wielding it well as a blade and a staff, when there was a staff to wield, that is. It was a versatile weapon and he was able to make good use of the advantages it gave him over swords and common staves.

Khiran looked at the blade a moment with pride before he dropped the weapon head on the table. "You see? I have no money to replace the pole. This is all I have, so I can not fight you. Well, not and win."

"A Bisen-to'," the Scribe breathed, leaning forward to examine the blade. She looked over at Khiran. "You will not be able to purchase a replacement for the pole here. But, there is a grove of young ash trees behind the Inn, surely it is not impossible to cut and fit a new pole yourself?"

"It's not that easy," he replied. "I have no tools. Nothing to cut a small tree nor fashion the pole as it should be. I have only this," he said, indicating the blade. "But I understand that you use staves here even in the west. One that has already been cut and fashioned will work. Again, I have not the money to purchase one."

Scribbles reached down and drew the elven long-knife on her right hip, then slid it across the table. "That will both cut and fashion the hardest wood, even ash."

Khiran let out a low whistle and reached across to take the knife, inspecting it in silence for a while. He showed a reverence to the blade, turning it this way and that in the light before at last setting it back on the table. "And you will just hang around for how long while I do this?" he asked with a laugh, wondering just where this woman got her brains. "Or were you thinking I could do this overnight? Perhaps you have some skill that lets you find and fashion wood so quickly. I do not."

Scribbles smiled a slow, wolfish smile. "Leave the blade with me then. In the morning, you will have a new Bisen-to," she said.

Khiran looked at her, then at Htiet. "Is she serious? he asked in a hushed tone, not sure if he was being toyed with or what.

Htiet raised both eyebrows and leaned forward a little, tapping two fingers to his lips, then beside his left ear and finally the corner of his left eye. An Easterling sign that portrayed the power of a witch to silence, blind and deafen a man.

Khiran sat back, his eyes wide. He was not overly superstitious himself but he had seen enough of dark powers during the War to know that such existed in the world. "I... I think perhaps I could use that drink now."
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Postby SilverScribe » Sun Oct 16, 2005 6:38 pm

She watched Htiet make the signs, and then Khiran's reactions. "I... I think perhaps I could use that drink now," the Corsair said, his voice suddenly hushed.

Scribbles rose to her full height, the silver flecks in her eyes flashing with anger. She reached across the table and picked up the elven long-knife, wordlessly slamming it back into its sheath with an audible hiss and snap. Several men at adjoining tables looked over and Radesh suddenly sat up, alarmed.

"I am no witch!!" she hissed in Westron, then repeated herself in Eastron, "Rala ba t'skha!" Htiet tensed, his hand going to rest over the hilt of his dagger which yet laid on the table before him. "No?" he snapped in return, careful to keep his voice pitched low. "Then who turned two men to stone the night we met?"

Radesh leaned forward, a hard look in his eyes. "The rakyi asks a fair question, one I would also like to know the answer to."

She knew Khiran was watching them closely. Slowly she raked one hand through her hair, exposing one gently pointed ear. "I am peredhel," she answered. "Rala An tam Johaini," she repeated in Eastron. "Not a witch, but merely one who studied for many centuries under an . . ." She hesitated, the word "Istari" or "Maia" might mean something to the hillman, but it would likely be nothing short of nonsense to the other two men and in any case, she did not know the proper Eastron term. She drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Under a wise man, a teacher of great knowledge and learning."

"Centuries?" Radesh breathed. Htiet looked puzzled.

She repeated herself in Eastron, watching the faces of the Easterling and the Corsair as her words sunk in.

"Dammit," she muttered, "I think I need that drink too."

.
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Postby The_Fool » Mon Oct 17, 2005 3:12 am

Htiet coughed, almond shaped eyes widening as he took in the woman before him. Centuries. The words ‘half-elf’ meant a little to him, whispers he had heard from travellers and storytellers of beings who did not sleep and who could ask the very earth and air to do their bidding. One man had claimed to have seen an elven sorceress hold a star in the palm of her hand.

He watched Scribe pour herself a considerably large shot of the volatile liquor and down it in one gulp, her frustration palpable. Was she angry with him because he spoke the truth? Surely she did not want it to be kept secret. The teacher she spoke of, perhaps he was like a Hikha. Even so there were things this woman could do, had felt her do to him, that were beyond the power of any holy man he had ever known. It was sorcery. The kind of magic that changed the air around a person and affected them deep in their hearts. At all four points of their sacred soul.

But did he have anything to fear from Scribe? He watched as she pushed the bottle across the table towards both Khiran and himself. The man he had served had opened his eyes to all sorts of horrors. Cold sadistic joys in pain and subservience. In Scribe’s violet eyes he did not see that dangerous madness. In silence he reached out and took the bottle, pouring the Corsair a full shot before making one for himself.

All around him the past grew. Crumbling ruins of memories’ buildings rising shattered brick by shattered brick. He had to believe he was serving someone for himself. He had to believe that Scribe would not compromise him. And despite the remembered gasp for air, his time frozen as stone had not been entirely unpleasant. There was a clean freshness to her magic, a natural order to it that rumbled like he imagined the earth would sound if it could speak. The cool drip of water over mossy stones. That whisper of a northern wind, weaving through long grass and the ruffled tops of tall trees. It was not magic to fear for it seemed to come from the very belly of the natural world. As if it drew its very strength from it. Even if he did not know yet if he could fully trust the wielder of this power he knew he could trust the power itself.

Strong fingers caressed the side of his shot glass and leaning forward Htiet spoke. “Do not give up what you are. Just because you say you are not a witch does not make me believe you. But just because I think you are a t'skha, a witch does not mean I dislike you. Not every priest will lead a goat to sacrafice. There is….” He paused and shook his head, frustrated. Unable to put in words the purity, the cleansing strength of the magic he had felt flow from her with one single word. He spoke thoughtfully, not pensively, tapping the nail of his thumb against his lip with gaze drawn inwards.
“There are so many things in this world I do not understand.”
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Postby SilverScribe » Mon Oct 17, 2005 7:44 am

At the Scribe's signal, the serving girl hurried over and left a half-full bottle of Clearwater on the table, along with clean glasses. Glancing at the tense faces of the three men, she looked at the Scribe, the question clear in her eyes. 'There will be no trouble,' Scribbles said softly, then reseated herself as the girl nodded and hurried off.

She poured a full measure of the liquor and tipping her head back, emptied the glass down her throat in one go, welcoming the heat that flowed into her stomach. 'Witch.' Why did they always lunge for that word, that answer, that refuge of towering ignorance that men so often hid in when they couldn't explain what they did not understand. She was no witch, no capering charalatan, no wizened, croaking harridan poking about in rats entrails and bat excrement. Neither was she some exotic beauty, lustrous haired and smoky eyed, beautiful on the outside but if one stood close, smelling of rotted things and worse. She could have lied, claimed it had been a simple trick, a bit of magicians smoke and mirrors that they had believed because of . . . because of what? Sleight of hand? A good sales pitch? No, the truth was too obvious, no man would convince himself that he could not move based on the whisper of an elvish word he would not even have understood.

She passed a hand over her face, then re-focused on Htiet, who was speaking as he ran nut brown fingers over the sides of his glass. “Do not give up what you are. Just because you say you are not a witch does not make me believe you. But just because I think you are a t'skha, a witch does not mean I dislike you. Not every priest will lead a goat to sacrafice. There is….”

She watched him pause, clamping down on the fresh surge of anger at his suggestion that she was denying something true, that she was indeed what she claimed she was not.

“There are so many things in this world I do not understand.”

"Indeed," she grated harshly, then forced her voice to a calmer tone. There was no reason to condemn the man for his ignorance, most men did not live long enough to remedy the condition. And those that did were often shunned because of their dedication to learning, and others, rightly so, were shunned because their dedication to learning often led them astray, into the darker side . . . even the elves were not immune to that . . . like Delkarnoth . . .

She shook the memory off and leaned forward, speaking softly.

"But understand this, I am no witch, use that term in my hearing again, and you are out of a job. You are not goats but men, and I lead no one to sacrifice, if you are skilled you will survive the Hrak Yatsir. I can, and will protect you, be sure of that. But it will not be with any dark or wicked traffic with unwholesome things. I never have and never will deal in Shadows.”

She looked over at Khiran but spoke to Htiet, purposely asking him to translate so that Radesh would know what they spoke of. "Tell the Corsair please, what I have said. And that I can shape the pole of his 'Bisen-to' because I am skilled in the ways of weapons, not because I am . . . anything unatural."

.
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Postby Jiyadan » Mon Oct 17, 2005 3:53 pm

Khiran took the drink Htiet poured him and held it, considering for a moment the implications of what Htiet obviously believed her to be, despite objections. He didn't mind fighting for gold, but it was another thing all together to fight in the service of anyone with mastery of strange powers, whatever name she chose to take for herself.

T'skha, hikha,sorceress... they were all the same to him, all equally unsearchable and never to be trusted entirely. The thought brought his mind back to the little wrinkled man in Umbar and his fist tightened around the glass as he threw it back in a single motion.

He reacted much the same way he had the first time though not quite as violently. He doubled over and coughed until he was able to gasp in a descent breath, his mind spinning. His forearms rested on the table and the rest of his upper body hung from them.

With his face hidden below the surface of the table, he grinned. He wouldn't really mind following this woman around Middle-earth, whatever she was. She had a way of holding him with her eyes, though they were not lined with khol. Her hair was not thick with perfumes and pearls yet many of Umbar's women would no doubt envy it. It carried pearl within, unnatural surely yet so enticing. Something odd was tugging at him, a memory he felt he should be recalling right about now.

Sitting up again, he set the glass back on the table with a heavy fist and stared directly at the kheha. "I will take your job," he said, his words slurring already. "I will fight if my weapon is repaired and I am fed."

He thought for a moment, one finger tapping sideways against his lips before waving his hand absently in a circle. "And closth..clo.. clothssd... and kept warm," he added. He cocked his head sideways, trying to focus again and bring the woman back into a single body. His eyes crossed slightly.

Turning to Htiet, one of them anyway - he picked the one on the left to talk to - he said, "If she fixes my weapon, I will fight you tomorrow."

Khiran squinted, wondering how Htiet was growing so tall all of a sudden. The Easterling was towering above him now, but hadn't stood up. The Corsair was just trying to sort out how that was possible when he was reminded of one last item of importance.

He stared at Htiet's booted feet. "And new boots," he said, remembering his had a hole. He wanted to remember what he knew he should be remembering but that was too hard to concentrate on so instead he closed his eyes with a contented little smile and fell asleep quietly on the floor.
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Postby Jiyadan » Mon Oct 17, 2005 3:53 pm

:oops:
(Khiran must be seeing double.. this post is not really here...)
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Postby The_Fool » Tue Oct 18, 2005 7:25 pm

“But understand this, I am no witch, use that term in my hearing again, and you are out of a job. You are not goats but men, and I lead no one to sacrifice, if you are skilled you will survive the Hrak Yatsir. I can, and will protect you, be sure of that. But it will not be with any dark or wicked traffic with unwholesome things. I never have and never will deal in Shadows.”

Htiet decided right then and there that he would never call her witch again. He needed this job. By all the gods in their heavens he needed it and even if he could not understand why she despised the word so much it was better to simply play along than try to explain that he did not mean it as an insult. In the East, although a witch could turn to dark arts, there were those who did not. It was like classifying men, some were evil, and some were good, but they were all men.

He had opened his mouth to translated her second request when Khiran began to speak, his words heavy and slurred. It seemed that he had decided life that was warm and dry was far better than any other he had been subjected to previously. After a small moment he turned his attention from Scribe to the Easterling: “If she fixes my weapon, I will fight you tomorrow.”

Htiet had been about to ask Khiran why he was looking two inches to the left of his face when he spoke to him when the man suddenly collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been unceremoniously cut. For a moment the Easterling stared at him, then looked at the shot in his hand and very firmly put it back down. If the drink was that good he wouldn’t be fighting anyone in the morning. And neither, it seemed, would Khiran.

“Ai ko komat,” he grinned roughly, nudging the Corsair with the toe of his boot. “Was the fire too much for you?” He got no response and with an amused sideways twist of his mouth he got out of his chair and knelt down beside him. He prodded Khiran quite firmly in the back then rolled him over, the sailor’s body limp as a rag doll, his mouth slack with eyes closed. Straightening a little the Easterling looked up at Scribe, brushing off his hands against one another. “I think he is gone. Kai! What a drink, Scribe! Knocked off his feet in 3 mouthfuls!”

“I am surprised he lasted that long,” she replied in return, rising a little from her seat to peer down at the sailor.

“What shall be done with him?” Htiet turned to look at the man who was smiling now, and apparently not at all uncomfortable despite the fact that he appeared to have half-fallen onto an abandoned piece of cutlery. “I can take him upstairs. If you accept his job offer then he will be sleeping with us. Perhaps I should put him on a bed and close the door before he starts snoring like Mordor thunder.” He grinned as Khiran gave a small snort then began the first tentative step in vocalising his suspicions. “Kai. He is in no fit form for fighting. Tomorrow, it will be like he has a dagger in his head.”
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Postby Frelga » Wed Oct 19, 2005 12:01 am

"But understand this, I am no witch, use that term in my hearing again, and you are out of a job. You are not goats but men, and I lead no one to sacrifice, if you are skilled you will survive the Hrak Yatsir. I can, and will protect you, be sure of that. But it will not be with any dark or wicked traffic with unwholesome things. I never have and never will deal in Shadows.”

Radesh raised an eyebrow, not entirely convinced. No witch? No, Scribe was no village wisewoman, who drew on her knowledge of herbs, stones, and the depths of human soul to heal wounds and give counsel. The power of her spell that held the two men at Forsaken Inn was greater than anything the hillman encountered. She had lived for centuries and studied - with whom? Could her teacher have been one of those who were said to come from the West beyond the Sea? But she was also the woman whose desolate grief spilled out in a sigh, in a horse stall back at the Forsaken Inn. Perhaps magic didn't make one invulnerable to sorrow.

"You know what I am now, Radesh. Now what will you do with that knowledge, I wonder?" a quiet, wary voice spoke in his memory. A young woman's face, skin black as Scribe's coffee; eerie eyes, red as rubies, fixed on him. Lykaios, the wolf-woman, who was the best friend he'd met on the road. Men had called her a witch, too.

The hillman's thoughts were interrupted by Khiran, as the Corsair babbled, his voice slurring more with every word. It wasn't long before their inebriated guest traded his chair for a comfortable piece of a floorboard.

Radesh looked down at the unconscious Corsair with open amusement. "Here's a man who is happy - until he wakes up," he said to Scribe, shaking his head. "Wah, what a find he is!"

The hillman ignored Htiet's investigation of the limp body. Since their last exchange, he hadn't looked directly at the Easterling or acknowledged his presence in any way. As far as Radesh was concerned, he was done with the rakyi. It was clear now that Htiet intended to go on the way he had begun - provoking the hillman every chance he got and relying on Scribe to protect him. It wouldn't be long before the scythe hit the stone, Radesh thought. But Scribe was right, this was not the time or place.

He drained the last of his wine and pushed back his chair. "I thank you for the dinner, Scribe. If the rakyi needs help carrying Khiran upstairs…"

"No help," Htiet snapped.

"Then I will meet you here in the morning." Radesh finished.
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Oct 19, 2005 8:15 am

She watched with a small, amused smile as the Harlindon Clearwater had the predicted effect on Khiran. Mentally, she began counting off the seconds . . .

"I will take your job," the Corsair announced blearily. "I will fight if my weapon is repaired and I am fed." His eyes began to cloud. "And closth..clo.. clothssd... and kept warm." His eyes began to cross as he turned to Htiet. "If she fixes my weapon, I will fight you tomorrow."

Scribbles took a swig from her ale flagon to hide a smile. The only thing the Corsiar would fight in the morning was the company of orc drummers that would be beating a painful tattoo behind his eyebrows.

Khiran's eyes closed as he slid to the well scrubbed wooden plank floor. Scribbles stopped counting, one eyebrow going up in grudging admiration. He had lasted longer than most. "And new boots," came up faintly from the floor and this time she could not contain a snort of quiet laughter. Boots. Ai . . .

Htiet grinned in his turn, addressing the now unconscious form, then squatting to check on him. “What shall be done with him?” the Easterling asked. Scribbles shrugged. "Bed, I think," she answered.

“I can take him upstairs. If you accept his job offer then he will be sleeping with us. Perhaps I should put him on a bed and close the door before he starts snoring like Mordor thunder.” Scribbles laughed again. “Kai," Htiet added. "He is in no fit form for fighting. Tomorrow, it will be like he has a dagger in his head.”

Radesh too, regarded Khiran with open amusement. "Here's a man who is happy - until he wakes up," he agreed. "Wah, what a find he is!"

"Aye," Scribbles agreed. "What a find indeed, and he will be an even sorrier find in the morning."

Radesh finished his ale and rose, offering to help Htiet carry the unconscious sailor upstairs and receiving a somewhat hostile refusal. Scribbles sighed. Were these two to be forever spitting at each other like overexcited tomcats? No sooner had they formed a sort of truce, found a measure of wary peace, than they were once again snapping at each other's throats. Perhaps the hardship of the road ahead would refocus their energy away from each other, fighting for survival tended to make peace between even the most fiercely independent men.

She nodded at Radesh and rose to her feet. "In the morning," she agreed then turned and pointed towards the stairs. "As for your beds, you will not have far to go nor stairs to climb. Your room is on the main floor there, down the hall behind the stairway."

She turned back to face the men. "It was used regularly by another Easterling . . . some years back . . ." she trailed off, thinking of Matrim and that disastrous first journey that had commenced from this very Inn . . . Returning to the present, she shrugged apologetically at Htiet and Radesh. "Erm, yes, well, the point is that he also hated the cold, so the room has a fireplace and a thick carpet on the floor. The staff have put extra cots in and stocked the woodbox. I think you will be quite comfortable."

She grinned. "And if you want a bath, the bathing rooms are at the very end of that same hallway."

.
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Postby The_Fool » Mon Oct 24, 2005 3:26 am

That there would be no stairs for Htiet to carry Khiran up was a small miracle as far as the Easterling was concerned. As he cast a critical eye over the limp body before him he was certain that the Corsair would be a rather hefty burden. ‘Ko komat’ indeed.

He ignored Radesh, keeping his attention on Scribe and the information she passed along to him. That the room would be considerably warmer than the others the inn boasted pleased him. Although the new clothes his employer had bought him had served to take the edge off the Western winds he had yet to become used to it. In fact often he wondered if he ever would. At least he knew he could find company in misery in the Corsair where temperature was considered. Ai, and women. He must not forget the women.

“Well,” he said eventually, standing up to scoop up his mug of ale. “To bed.” Knocking back the last of the drink he deposited the now empty mug back on the table, wiping his mouth roughly with the linen napkin the serving maid had left behind. He paused a moment, rubbing the back of his neck as he regarded Scribe. “I am sorry...if I offended you by calling you a witch. It was not my intent. I....” he finished, letting the sentence hang. “Kai!” he swore suddenly, a look of utter frustration passing over his face. “I know you are not harbouring evil spirits Scribe. Believe me when I say, I know evil inside a person. I have stared it in the face. I have stood beside....”

He cut himself off. Abruptly and completely. “It doesn’t matter,” he finished. “Nothing matters now. I am what I am. We all are. We cannot change the path the gods write for us. Everything happens for a reason. So it is written, has been written, will be written in the Dawn.” Strong brown fingers rubbed absently at the crescent scar on his cheek and he gave a pale smile. “I will see you in the morning.”

Stooping he hoisted Khiran up onto his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, a small grunt accompanying the full weight of the solid and inebriated form. A couple of nearby patrons hid their grins behind their glass rims, pleased that it was not them who was in charge of bringing a drunken companion home to his bed or room. Shifting his hold Htiet scooped the dagger off the table, sheathing it in one fluid movement behind his back. With a final nod in Scribe’s direction he carted Khiran off in the direction Radesh had taken, heading for their room with a heavily hindered gait. The dead weight of the Corsair was beginning to make him wonder if ‘little’ was so accurate an adjective for the sailor’s nickname.

By the time he reached the room he was breathing a little heavier than usual, not so much as to gasp in a pronounced fashion but enough to warrant a few sharp puffs from his nose, teeth gritted as he used his free shoulder to push open the door. Stumbling over the threshold he dropped Khiran rather violently and in an exceptionally unceremonious manner onto the first piece of furniture in his path. The sailor’ head rolled to one side, and one heel bounced upon the floor as Htiet stretched out his back, easing the small amount of tension out of his spine. He wondered if he should go back for the Corsair’s pack but decided it was unnecessary as Scribe would undoubtedly take care of it just as well as he.

Smothering a yawn with one hand he wondered if he should take a bath. He was feeling unclean, all those memories of Bhenan curling like dragons of smoke about his mind. He needed calm, serenity and clarity. None of the demons of the past. None of the pain and sickening hate. Rubbing the crescent scar he looked blankly down at Khiran, looking without really seeing. “Ritsay,” he swore softly to himself. Why couldn’t he get rid of the past?
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Postby SilverScribe » Mon Oct 24, 2005 10:10 pm

She watched Radesh head off towards the indicated hallway, then turned back as Htiet picked up his ale flagon and finished it off.

“I am sorry...if I offended you by calling you a witch. It was not my intent. I....” the Easterling offered. Her face remained impassive as Htiet continued with what seemed the beginnings of an explanation, then abruptly turned into a surprisingly accurate philosophical observation about life and fate in general. It mirrored her own thoughts closely enough to make her eyes narrow slightly in mild surprise. There were hidden depths in these men, but that was not what surprised her. It was, rather, the concept that one of them, from a land and culture so different and so foreign to the West could think along a track that was so close to her own.

“I will see you in the morning.”

She nodded silently and watched as Htiet hoisted the unconscious Corsair over one shoulder, retreived and sheathed his dagger and then made his way out of the common room.

She leaned back in her chair, suddenly grateful to be alone. The few patrons that had the poor sense to stare received a cold glare in return, which sent them hastily back to their own flagons and conversations. She ignored the few furtive glances thrown her way and instead, poured herself another shot of the Clearwater. By now, it generated only a pleasant heat down her throat and into her stomach. As the gentle fire subsided into a comforting warmth in her belly, she reached out and took up the blade of the Corsair's 'Bisen-to'.

It was magnificent, the craftsmanship better than any she had seen outside of what came from the Elven forges. She ran a careful finger along the edge and found it satisfactorily sharp for a blade of its nature. Examination of the rest of the weapon showed that any broken remains of the previous pole had been removed, the weapon was clean and ready for re-mounting.

She hooked the Corsair's pack over to her with one foot and carefully re-wrapped and replaced the head of the 'Bisen-to' inside, on top of the jumble of Khiran's belongings. She would stow the Corsair's pack with hers for the night, while she fashioned a new handle for the weapon. And of course, there was the other business of 'wages' to attend to.

After a comfortable quiet hour and the rest of the pitcher of ale, she returned what was left of the Harlindon Clearwater to the barmaid and was assured that no extra payment was required on top of what she had pre-paid earlier. Hoisting both her own pack and that of the Corsair over one shoulder, she thanked the barmaid, then climbed the stairs and went the entire length of the upstairs hallway, stopping finally at the very last door on the right. It was narrower than the other doors and lacked a number, but she set down the packs, fished a key from one of the hidden pockets in her vest and unlocked the door.

She took the packs in with her and stood for a few moments just inside the entrance, taking in the sight of the narrow space that was really little more than a storage room with a tall, narrow window on the wall opposite the doorway and a series of locked cupboards on the left wall between the door and window. She closed the door behind her, leaned back against it and drew a deep, steadying breath. Soon, she would head east, into the mountains. Her fate was that much closer.

She placed the packs along the wall behind the door, then squatted down and in the brilliant moonlight coming in at the window, fished out the blade of the 'Bisen-to'. First things first. She would cut a straight young ash pole for the weapon, bark it, shape it and smooth it, then fit it. Then, while the rest of the Inn slept, she'd indulge herself in a long, hot soak. She had both needed and wanted a bath back at the Forsaken Inn, but there was no way she could bring herself to use their bath house. Tonight, here, well that would be a different story. But first, the 'Bisen-to'.

***

She went down the back service stairs, passed the rear kitchen doors and went out into the moonlit kitchen yard behind the Inn. A stand of young ash bordered the meadow that led away from the yard and she spent long, careful minutes examining several suitable trees before choosing one. She drew the elven longknive and with a few deft strokes, cut opposing v-shaped notches and quickly took the young tree down. Dragging it out into the brightly moonlit meadow, she cut the few lower branches from it, then cut it again, slightly longer than she needed. After stripping the bark, she began the long process of shaving the remaining length down, removing the stubs of branches, rough spots and imperfections.

She worked quickly, efficiently. When she was done, she took the head of the 'Bisen-to' from where she had strung it on her belt and sheathing her longknife, pulled out a diminutive knife and began shaping one end of the pole to fit into the haft of the blade.

When she was done, she secreted the little Rhudaurian stealth knife away again and with a few grunts, worked the blade onto handle. It was a perfect fit, but she knew that as the wood dried, it would shrink slightly and would require a few shims in the future. However, for the moment, the blade was seated tightly and the weapon was, once more, whole.

She took the discarded branches, bark, and the rest of the remains back into the woods. It was a beautiful night, the sky was clear and the air was crisp but not bitter. Returning to the meadow, she stood for a long while, leaning on the 'Bisen-to' and remembering the last time she had been here before a journey . . .

.
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Postby Frelga » Mon Oct 31, 2005 5:29 pm

Radesh did not like the room. It was meant to keep a man from the East comfortably warm in winter; to the hillman it felt hot and stifling. At night, crowded with three men, it would be unbearable. Too much like the dungeons of Gondor, the dreary place that had come closer to breaking the hillman's spirit than anything he had to endure. There, a prisoner would be locked into a tiny cell next to a huge fireplace and left to gasp for air in the sweltering darkness, as a punishment for whatever the guards didn't like about him.

The hillman pushed his pack under a cot by the window, and sat down to think. Before long, Htiet shouldered his way into the room to dump the limp Corsair on the bed nearest the door. For a moment the Easterling stood lost in thought, looking inward at some past hurt, as Radesh had done earlier.

The hillman threw a quick glance at Htiet. There was an instant when he could see an exile like himself - homesick, marked as an alien by his dark looks and strange speech. Radesh stood up; words formed on his lips on a generous impulse, unchecked by thought.

"Ritsay,” Htiet swore softly to himself.

Whatever Radesh was going to say was forgotten in a surge of annoyance. Already on his feet, the hillman fished out his pack and rolled up two blankets off the cot. "Too hot to sleep here," he said to the Easterling as he passed him by the door. "I go out."

Radesh stopped by the stables and lingered there for a while, helping Han with his evening chores while the Halfling chattered about the small, wholesome affairs of his family. Han found a grateful listener in the hillman, starved as Radesh was for cheerful company. At last the hobbit headed home, and Radesh went out of the yard and into the dark woods beyond.

Cold mist tangled in the bushes like ghostly cobwebs. Radesh wrapped his cloak tightly about him, for warmth and to keep it from snagging on the branches, and let his ears guide him to the water. The path brought him to a narrow stream that hurried down from the hills to meet Hoarwell. Someone must have camped on the edge of the water, under the steep bank, leaving behind a fire-circle and a small pile of firewood. Some of it, stashed in a sandy hollow, was still dry. That was lucky, Radesh thought, as he started a fire. He needed light, more than was provided by starlight reflected off the fast water.

Radesh made a small seat out of his blankets near the fire. Then he drew his shashko and sat down, placing the sword across his knees to inspect it. He winced at finding a few rust spots. Still, for a blade that spent months, perhaps, in its leather sheath, it was in good shape, and the edge was sharp and smooth. Radesh guessed that the sword seller left off caring for the shashko when it became clear that it would be hard to sell.

The hillman began by wiping the old oil off the blade. The intricate wavy patterns of the steel gleamed in the firelight, like a quiet river at sunset. Radesh worked slowly, having no wish to lose more fingers. Daylight would have been much better for the task. But how could he concentrate around the Easterling, who started like a pheasant every time Radesh so much as thought about the sword. At least now he could give the job his full attention.

Satisfied at last, the hillman sheathed the blade and put out the fire. The small sand strip was too narrow and chilly to spend a night comfortably, and Radesh set back up the path to find a better spot or to look for place in the Inn's stables if he couldn't.

Now that he knew the sword was in fighting shape, Radesh gave some thought to the shape of the fighter. He had handed Scribe too easy a victory back in the market by the Forsaken Inn. Granted, she had centuries to practice the art - the thought made him shiver - but it was also true that his swordcraft suffered from misuse and was not up to his past speed and cunning. Radesh stopped in a mist-swaddled clearing on top of a small hill. From there, the path ran down to the ash grove and the inn behind it. He set down his pack and drew the sword.

For a few moments he stood straight like a young tree that waits for a gust of wind. Then the sword whistled in a loop, and another. Feet gliding over hard earth, Radesh moved in a cautious circle to get the feel for the ground. The sword sliced the mist as the hillman sent his full weight behind the blow while ready to spring back in a blink. Speeding up his movements, Radesh turned and turned again, as if facing several opponents. The blade blurred into a shield of moonlight, leading the swordsman in an ancient dance.

For a dance it was, set to the beat of drums that ran through the his memory. So the young men danced at home, in the hills, both to boast of their skill and to hone it. Faster and faster, now falling to one knee, now leaping into the air. Then the dancer would freeze, to give spectators a chance to admire the long legs and broad shoulders, before setting off again. At last, he sent the sword high into the air. It soared, spinning twice, before returning to its master's hand where he stood tall and still.
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Postby SilverScribe » Sun Nov 06, 2005 11:28 pm

((OOC: My thanks to Frelga for Radesh's side of the conversation ;) ))


IC:

Her thoughts were interrupted by a flicker of movement, caught out of the corner of one eye. Still leaning on the Bisen-to, she turned and looked past the ash grove, to the slight rise that bordered the slope to the stream that ran past the Inn and on to join the Hoarwell just beyond the tiny village down the road. A mist had risen with the moon, the hollows were thick with it and the slight hill itself was wreathed in ever shifting tendrils. Whatever it was, it was staying on the hilltop . . .

She narrowed her eyes and focused her will, bringing the modest distance closer and clearer. She watched with fascination when she recognized the hillman, going through a series of patterns and forms with the shashko. Perhaps she should have had the hillman challenge the Corsair . . . but Radesh's ability was not in question. The Easterling's was, and certainly the sailor from Umbar as well. The morrow would be the telling of the tale.

Thinking of the morning, she watched with detached interest as the hillman finished his routines with a flourish, then sheathed his weapon and recovered his cloak. She waited as he trudged down the path towards the Inn, the mist hiding then revealing him as the night breezes alternately thickened then shredded it. She held up one hand in a silent salute when he finally saw and recognized her.

They fell into step, moving across the meadow towards the Inn. "A most interesting routine Radesh, almost more a dance than anything," she mused quietly.

Radesh started, visibly uncomfortable with having been seen. "It was a dance," he admitted. "It is a way to practice," he added after a moment, a bit defensively.

Scribbles nodded. "An excellent one too, from the looks of it. I have seen many practice forms, all have their purpose. I am thinking that as we travel, sparring on a regular basis will benefit us all."

The hillman brightened at that. "Would you, Scribe? Spar with me, I mean, as you did in the market." He paused, running the fingers of his good hand through the rough beard. "To tell you the truth, though, I don't know how wise it would be for me to spar with the rakyi, the way things stand now."

"Then change the way things stand," she answered softly. "At some point in this journey, your life may depend on the skill of the rakyi, just as his life may depend on yours. Practice keeps the mind and the body sharp and in tune. Even I need this." She drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You will learn more of him if you spar with him, to both your benefit."

"I know what his training is," was all Radesh would say.

"But a man is more than his training," she replied. "Are you not more than that dance?"

"No. I am less." The words came out rough and bitter and the hillman looked away. "No matter, Scribe. I said I would treat the Easterling as I would any stranger, and I hold to my word. Beyond that, I don't know what I can do."

Scribbles shrugged. "What we all will do, our best," she answered. She was curious why the hillman seemed so bitter, but she would not pry. She couldn't afford to, for to learn too much of any man was to learn to care. And she could not make that mistake this time. She cleared her throat. "On a different note, how do you find the accomodations?" she asked.

"Too hot," Radesh answered with a faint grin. Scribbles chuckled.

"Aye," she agreed. "Luckily, the Lucky Fortune's hay loft is clean and warm. I've used it on many occasions myself."

"And tonight?" Radesh asked, his voice neutral.

"Tonight," Scribbles replied, "you will have it all to yourself. I have a small room here that the owners graciously allow me to use whenever I need it. And tonight, I will need rest. Our road will only grow harder from here."

Radesh nodded. "Then I will get some rest myself. I bid you good night, Scribe."

She smiled. "Good night Radesh, I will see you at breakfast."

He continued along the path, heading towards the stables. She went back into the Inn the way she had come out, in the rear doors, past the kitchens and up the back service stairs. She let herself into the narrow room and stood the completed Bisen-to in the corner by the window. By the moonlight, she found the fat pillar candle and licking her thumb and forefinger, she pinched the wick and lit it with a single soft command . . . 'naur' . . . *

When the candle was burning well, she set it on the window sill and went to the wall of cupboards. Taking a small key from an inner vest pocket, she unlocked one of them and drew out several items.

One was a neatly folded pile of fine clothing. Two pair of soft, suede trousers, one pair a dark forest green and the other a dark, cobalt blue were on the bottom. A dark green vest and a fine, creamy silk shirt were topped by a soft, dark blue silk shirt. She set these items aside on top of a crate that stood below the window. Reaching back into the cupboard, she pulled out a small iron bound box, closed but with no visible lock.

She replaced the clothing into the cupboard, then set the box on the crate. Closing her eyes, she ran sensitive fingertips over the top and a few moments later, there was a soft snick. She opened her eyes and lifted the lid, her eyes moving quickly over the contents.

It had taken the better part of two years to accumulate what lay in the box. Ever since Luinil had intervened on the last time she had undertaken this journey, she had laid by every coin, every jewel, every single valuable she had come by. Determined to endanger no more friends or acquaintances, she had gently sidestepped any subsequent offers of help, and remained firm in her decision to hire mercenary help. Though they were mortal, her father's curse would not touch hired men who had no emotional attachment to her or her cause.

She went to her pack and found her journal, her well chewed pencil and a couple of small cloth drawstring bags. In the back of the journal, she carefully recorded Htiet's and Radesh's names and the amount she would advance them, along with the amount that would be due them at the conclusion of the Blood Hunt. If they survived, that was. 'If any of us survive,' she thought grimly.

She entered the Corsair's name but left the space next to it blank. He would have to prove his ability before she would even consider taking him on. And of course, there was the language barrier too, what good was a man who could not understand the rest of the group? Probably he'd be more trouble than he was worth . . . She rubbed the tips of her fore and middle fingers between her eyebrows, Eru's teeth but she was tired.

She carefully counted out the two advances in coin and placed them into the bags. Her journal went back into her pack and the box was closed and replaced into the small cupboard, which in its turn, was locked. She turned, picked up the candle from the window sill and squatted down, placing the candle carefully on the floor next to a small pile of odds and ends of supplies.

She arranged a stack of spare blankets into a pallet and rolled one into a makeshift pillow, then unbuckled her sword belt and stretched out. She pulled her cloak close, though one hand remained on the hilt of her weapon. After a deep sigh, she blew out the candle, closed her eyes and let the mists gather.


* naur - Sindarin; fire

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Last edited by SilverScribe on Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Jiyadan » Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:48 pm

The rain had stopped. Khiran stared out the window at the road that ran beside the inn and towards the bridge. It the center of its span, the hawk had alighted, picking at a mouse or some such creature in its talons. As soon as Khiran's eyes landed on it, however, it looked up and locked eyes with him, holding his gaze fast.

It seemed it lasted for hours, staring unblinking into the hawk's golden eyes as if it was trying to tell him something that he was too deaf to hear - some message hidden in the unbroken hold the bird had on him. A rush of wind came roaring down the road, bringing in its wake a shower of leaves that all but blinded Khiran in a hail of gold and brown and red. When the leaves settled once more, the hawk was gone.

He blinked and looked up and down the road, up into the sky and all around but saw no sign of it. He was just beginning to question this when he saw a sword of pearl stuck in the mud half-way up to its hilt not far from the window. As he watched the black and gold snake approached and curled around it, settling into a tight coil about the blade.

The hawk's piercing cry was the only warning as the talons closed around the snake and carried it away east. He didn't know why, but somehow Khiran knew the snake was not dead, rather being carried. How odd.

With a start, Khiran's eyes flew open and his whole body jumped slightly until he was able to orient himself in the room. It was warm. Oh thank all the gods in every land there was, it was warm and he was... oh kai! Kai, sa kai kai. His head was about to explode. He gave a pathetic little whimper and closed his eyes again as he realized the nails being driven into his head were from the light coming through the window.
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