Riders of Rohan:Vengeance Unleashed 2005 Silver Thread Award

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

Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Tue Sep 19, 2006 2:16 pm

Before she could react, Cali had already pushed Rowyn behind him, drawing his sword. “Stay away from her,” he ordered. The pirates simply laughed, quickly moving to surround them.

Two of them immediately drew their swords on Cali, and while he struggled to fend them off, one of them grabbed Rowyn by the arm. “Now,” he started, “Just come along quietly, and we won’t…ow!!” He let go, clutching at his jaw in pain from the left hook Rowyn had just delivered to it.

The second pirate wasted no time, shoving Rowyn roughly to the ground and pinning both of her legs down with his knees while he grabbed her left wrist. She kept squirming as he tried to get a hold of her other hand, hoping to reach her dagger, but he was too strong for her and managed to get both of her hands pinned down with one of his. As he bent down over her, Rowyn slipped one of her hands out of his grasp, then desperately slammed her forehead into his face. He yelped and sat back enough that Rowyn was able to pull her leg free as well. She hastily pulled her dagger out, slashing at his face again, and the pirate shouted in pain, covering one eye with his hand.

She took advantage of his momentary distraction and pulled her other leg free, scrambling to her feet. Cali had managed to dispatch one of the pirates by that time, and Rowyn grabbed the slightly curved sword that lay on the ground next to him. “What are you doing?” Cali shouted at her.

“If you want to fight all three of them yourself, be my guest,” Rowyn retorted, turning back just in time to see that the first man who had attacked her was lunging at her again. The curved sword felt a little less awkward than it had, thanks to her clumsy forced practice back at the port in Tumaland, and so she was able to block his sword with the one she’d just picked up. But she overshot on her counterstrike, sending her stumbling past him. She recovered in time to keep his sword from slashing her arm, but the sleeve of her tunic still caught on the blade, cutting a gash in it from the sleeve hem nearly up to her elbow. Rowyn stumbled back as the pirate pressed his attack. She was tiring quickly, but Rowyn realized that once again, her opponent only wished to disarm her, not kill her. Anger bubbled up in her, since she could easily guess what he intended to do with her then, and with a shout she lunged towards him, shoving the blade of her sword between his ribs and then pulling it out with a fierce tug. The man blinked, apparently shocked to see the freely bleeding wound in his chest, then crumpled to the ground.

Her surge of energy depleted, Rowyn swayed a bit as she stepped back from him; clinging to the cliff had sapped most of the little strength she had regained while she’d slept, and her grip on the sword-hilt loosened as she dug the tip into the ground to help keep herself on her feet. Cali, who had apparently been having a bit of an argument with his opponent while they sparred—at least that’s what she thought from the raised voices she’d faintly registered while fighting the other pirate—decided he’d have the last word and swung his sword and severed the man’s head.

As the decapitated body fell to the ground, Cali turned back towards her. “Well, hopefully this little adventure should deter you from trying to run away again.” Rowyn didn’t answer him, her eyes fixed on a point past him. Then, without warning, she pulled out the small dagger and flung it past Cali’s head. Cali instinctively jumped back, his eyes widening, then turned to see the last of the four pirates, a deep gash across his now-sightless eye running blood down his face, falling to the ground with the dagger in his throat.

With the last of the pirates taken care of, Rowyn’s knees buckled and she fell to the ground, feeling dangerously light-headed. She shook her head in an effort to clear it, and looked up just in time to see Cali pulling the dagger from the dead man’s throat. “Where did you get this?” he asked in a low voice. Rowyn didn’t answer right away, and he stated, “You do realize you just saved my life.”

“I was saving my own,” Rowyn replied flatly, her head still bowed. “If he’d killed you, I would have had to fight him. He just happened to be going for you first. It certainly wasn’t out of any care for you.”

Cali shook his head slightly as he knelt down and began carefully cleaning the dagger on the dead pirate’s tunic. “All the same, thank you,” he replied, then paused and added, “I would think you’d be at least a little more kindly disposed towards me now. I didn’t have to pull you off that cliff, you know.”

Rowyn’s hand clenched into a fist, and she attempted to push herself to her feet. But her arms, wearied from the effort of keeping her away from the waves, couldn’t seem to support her weight long enough for her to get her feet under her. “And if you think your one moment of pity for me is going to be enough to redeem you in my eyes, you’re sorely mistaken, Calimahir,” she stated vehemently. “Besides, I still don’t know what you’re planning on doing with me now.”

Cali scowled at the verbal attack. “Give me the sheath to that dagger and maybe I’ll tell you,” he replied sternly.

“No!” Rowyn stated indignantly. “That dagger belongs to me. If you’re really as noble as you seem to think you are, you’ll give it back.”

“If you can throw it like that, I’d feel much safer knowing I’m not going to end up with your knife in my back,” Cali growled.

Rowyn shoved her loose hair back behind her shoulder. “I wouldn’t do that,” she replied. “There’s no honor in stabbing someone in the back.”

“Or trying to knock their brains out with your sword-hilt from behind?” Cali asked coolly.

Rowyn’s eyes narrowed. “I only did that to try to get Adrial back to her husband. You left me with no other option.”

“And the pirate I found by the creek?” Cali asked.

“That was self-defense!” Rowyn argued, then paused. “I killed him?” she asked in a smaller voice.

“Yes, he was quite dead when I found him.” Cali crossed his arms.

Rowyn frowned thoughtfully, torn between relief that he wouldn’t seek retaliation for his aching head and remorse that she’d had to kill him in such a fashion. He would have done worse to you if you hadn’t, she tried to tell herself, but somehow it didn’t help much. Then she looked up at Cali again, and all of the anger and frustration that had been building within her for the last several weeks bubbled to the surface once more. “You know what he intended to do with me,” she said angrily. “He’s not the only one among that crew. And yet you insist on leaving me with no way to defend myself?”

“I give you my word that your dagger will be returned to you once we reach Dol Amroth,” Cali stated. “Provided you promise not to kill me the moment it’s back in your hands.”

“And how do I know I can trust the word of a pirate?” Rowyn asked coldly.

Cali glared at her again. “I didn’t drop the rope, did I?”

Rowyn opened her mouth to protest, then glared sullenly at the ground. He had a point, she grudgingly admitted to herself. “It’s still my dagger, and you have no right to keep it,” she said.

“Fine.” Cali crossed his arms over his chest. “If you can come get it, you can keep it.”

Rowyn determinedly planted her palms on the ground and attempted to push herself to her feet. But her elbows gave way, and she sprawled back into the dirt. A few more attempts had the same result, and finally Rowyn glared up at him in frustration. “That’s completely unfair,” she complained.

“And if you can’t even get up, how do you expect to be able to use this dagger to defend yourself?” Cali asked. Rowyn shot him an icy glare, then slowly reached into her boot, pulled out the leather sheath, and weakly tossed it a few feet away. “That’s better,” Cali said. “I would hate to see such a fine weapon destroyed from lack of being properly sheathed.”

“So what do you plan to do with me now?” Rowyn asked flatly.

“First,” Cali stated, “I’m going to take you back to the camp, and I’m going to place you under guard so that you won’t be completely without defense. We sail for Umbar in the morning, and once all the repairs are made and our supplies are restocked, I swear that I’ll take you back to Dol Amroth.”

“And my friends?” Rowyn asked, her voice still having a dull, defeated edge to it.

“What about them?” Cali asked.

Rowyn finally glanced up. “You’re just going to let them wander around indefinitely, looking for me?”

“Rowyn, I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s very probable that they didn’t make it through the storm. Even if they did survive, undoubtedly their ship sustained damage, and they would have to limp back to the nearest port to fix it. As such, they could be anywhere by this point, and I have neither the time nor the resources to sail all over Middle-earth in an attempt to find one small ship.” He sighed impatiently, then added, “I know I’ve made many mistakes recently, and I’m trying to fix this as well as I can. Taking you back to your people is the best that I can do; I cannot promise to find that ship.”

Rowyn’s gaze drifted past the tall grasses she was sitting near towards the sea. “And if what you say is true, and they did not survive, I have no people to go back to,” she said quietly, her heart sinking. “Everyone in my life that was left for me to care about was on that ship.”

“I am sorry,” Cali said. “I never intended for any of this to happen.”

“There is no apology you can make that is adequate to cover this,” Rowyn snapped, an icy edge to her voice again. “What you’ve done to me, and those countless other innocent people you’ve involved in this, is simply unforgivable.”

“Look,” Cali growled in response, “I panicked, all right? I thought I would never see my wife again, and it clouded my judgment.”

“So instead, you forced Elrosar into the same position as you,” Rowyn retorted sharply.

“You don’t need to remind me of that!” Cali exclaimed, exasperated. “Believe it or not, I really was trying to help Adrial. And when I learned that Jahira had been captured, it drove the fact that she was still on my ship out of my mind. As for you, I cannot and will not take responsibility for your presence on my ship.”

“You still should have taken us back,” Rowyn replied with a scowl.

“Yes, I should have, but it’s too late for that now, isn’t it?” Cali’s own frown grew deeper. “I just couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing Jahira again. You’re a woman; surely you must understand that, given the chance to do it again, I still would have done anything to save her.”

Rowyn shakily attempted to push herself to her feet again; this time she succeeded, leaning on a nearby tree trunk for support. “No,” she said in a quieter voice, “I wouldn’t understand that sort of attachment.” She took a few steps towards the camp, each one seeming to take more effort than it should have. “And the blood of every one of my people that lost their lives on that ship is on your head.”

“Fine,” Cali complained. “I know that. At least you’re on your feet again.” He followed after a little ways. “Maybe I should have left you on the cliff,” he muttered under his breath.

“I heard that!” Rowyn called back, turning to glare at him, and Cali groaned. “Come on,” he said sternly, beginning the task of leading her back to the encampment. Thankfully, he said no more, leaving Rowyn to wonder if this nightmare would ever be over.
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Postby Gwenare » Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:20 pm

Adrial hadn’t been doing a lot while at the camp. In fact, she felt quite useless. Even when she tried to help, she was told not to worry about it. She supposed Elrosar had left orders when they arrived that she was to do nothing. She could understand why he would say such, but it was driving her crazy now.

She noticed that Elrosar has approached Donar to talk to him. “Nothing good will come of that conversation,” she thought to herself. She moved away from where they were talking. She had no desire to hear what they said.

As she did so, she noticed that she had become quite hot, more so than usual. She waited a few moments to see if it went away, but it only worsened. “If I go by the water, I’ll feel better,” she thought. She slowly got up noticing that she really wasn’t feeling very well at all.

“Adrial,” she heard her name being called and turned around to see Halas and Eothin standing there. “Yes,” she said very weakly. Eothin stepped closer to her and questioned, “Where are you going? I think you should stay here.”

Adrial retorted back very harshly, “I’m quite fine thank you. I am just a bit hot and wanted to be by the water to cool off.” Without another word, she turned quickly and started walking towards the water.

Eothin started after her, but Halas stopped him. “I think she just needs to be alone right now. We can watch her from here.” Eothin nodded and the two sat down on the beach where they could keep an eye on Adrial. “Besides Eothin, it’s not as if the Captain isn’t close by. He will be done with that scallywag soon and he’ll go check on her.” Halas took a drink of water before he finished. “I mean, let him get fussed at instead of us.” Eothin laughed as the two kept watching her.

Adrial was upset that those two suggested that she shouldn’t walk to the edge of the water. “Who do they think they are anyway? I can take care of myself.”

Adrial still felt odd with everyone watching over her and then not being able to help out with anything just made things worse. “I wish we were off this accursed island.”

Arial noticed that she was getting hotter rather than cooler as she stepped closer to the water. She bent down to scoop up some water in her hand and splash it on her face. The water felt very cool to her, but it did nothing about cooling her off. She was still hot and now she felt even worse, a bit sick to her stomach.

She decided that she probably should return to the camp. Maybe they were right, maybe she should have stayed there. She shook her head and slowly headed back towards the camp.

Adrial suddenly felt much worse and knew she needed to sit down. Before she could even get the thought out of her head, she had fallen to the beach not remembering what had happened or what was happening.

Eothin and Halas had noticed that Adrial was headed back to the camp. Some of Captain Magor’s men had walked in front of them and covered their view of Adrial. It was not covered enough that Halas couldn’t see that Adrial was walking and then falling down to the ground.

He jumped up and began running towards her, Eothin right behind him. He didn’t see Adrial fall, but he could tell from the urgency of Halas that something had happened. The sailors had also witnessed Adrial falling and went to see what was wrong.

Halas knelt down by her side and grabbed her hand. He saw that her eyes were opened, but it appeared that she was staring right through them. He called her name, but nothing. He looked at Eothin who was also very concerned for her. “What do we do?” he asked. They heard one of Magor’s men say they would go get some water for her.

Right after this, Elrosar appeared by her side pushing Halas out of the way. “Adrial, Adrial,” Elrosar said as he held her hand tightly in his.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:29 pm

Elrosar finally brought himself to approach Donar the morning of the 4th before the search parties were sent out. He had struggled with the thought of talking to one of his wife’s captors since it had been suggested to him, but he had convinced himself that Donar might indeed be able to help or tell them where they were.

Donar was sitting up against a large rock and he was sipping on some water when Elrosar approached him. Donar looked up at the tall man of Rohan and sat his cup down. “Good morning Captain,” Donar said

“Do you know where we are?” Elrosar had no desire for pleasantries.

“I might know where we are,” Donar replied. “Why do you ask? Its not like we can go anywhere.”

“I think I know the obviousness of our situation,” Elrosar’s voice was flecked with anger. “I only want to know where we are, so I will know whether we need to keep searching this place or not for a way off.”

“You will find no way off this island unless someone just happens to be here,” Donar stated. “And if any one is here, there are most likely not people who will be the helping sort.”

“Have you been here before?” Elrosar asked.

“Yes I have been on this island before, if it is the one I think it is,” Donar said.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, I have never been on this particular beach area, but that mountain behind us looks very familiar,” Donar answered. “How far have your search parties been?”

Elrosar told him of the search reports, and Donar told him that they should strike southwest around the mountain range. Donar paused for a few moments, as he contemplated telling the Captain this information, but he had no desire to stay on this island any longer than he had to either; prison would be a far better place. “I’m fairly certain you will be able to find a way to the other side of the island, if this is Gondolin.”

“Gondolin?” The name was completely foreign and unknown to Elrosar.

“Yes,” Donar answered. “I believe this is the island that the Corsairs use as a waypoint and repair base. The seas around here are mostly uncharted, but Calimahir’s father discovered this place many years ago.”

“I will inform the search parties of this then,” Elrosar said and turned to leave.

“Captain Elrosar wait,” Donar said quickly before he could leave. “I don’t tell you this because I have to. I am betraying my people for telling you, but I feel that I owe you for the sufferings of your wife.”

“That is one debt you can never repay,” Elrosar answered sharply, but did not turn to face him.

“We protected her with our lives Captain,” Donar said. “And Captain Calimahir saved her life.”

Elrosar spun on his heels and stared down at Donar. “Adrial has told me all about what he did, and I owe him for that, but his keeping her with him is not something I will let pass.”

“You love you’re wife don’t you Captain?” Donar asked seriously.

“Of course I do. What kind of a question is that?”

“Calimahir loves his wife as well,” Donar said with an even tone.

Elrosar’s eyes flashed with anger. “So that gives him the right to keep my wife from me?”

“No it doesn’t,” Donar said, as he turned his eyes away from Elrosar. “I just saw the same desperation and frustration on your face that I saw on Cali’s face after he lost Jahira.”

“I didn’t hold his wife hostage though,” Elrosar said firmly. “We don’t belong here and we shouldn’t have been drug into your treacherous schemes in the first place.”

“They were not treacherous schemes,” Donar argued. “We were working for Imrahil if you didn’t know that. We just didn’t plan on Cali falling in love with Jahira. Every thing just went wrong that day,” Donar continued and his voice trailed off, as he saw Elrosar suddenly run off in the direction of the beach. Donar had noticed that Elrosar had been casting several glances in that area during their conversation, and when Donar stood up he realized why. There was some commotion happening at the waterfront, and he could see that Adrial was lying in the sand.

Elrosar had spotted Adrial walking near the water’s edge while he was talking to Donar, and he was instantly concerned. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Halas and Eothin watching her. His relief instantly vanished though when he saw her collapse on the ground. He jumped up, completely oblivious to Donar’s last words, and ran to Adrial.

“Adrial, Adrial,” he said, as he reached her and dropped to the ground taking her hand in his. “Can you hear me? What happened?” Elrosar asked more to Eothin and Halas than Adrial. The two younger men only shrugged their shoulders in response. “Adrial,” he said once more, and it seemed that her eyes cleared and focused on him.

“Ro,” she said with a rather weak voice. “What happened?”

“You must have passed out,” he said, as he rested his hand under her head. His face was etched with worry and concern. “Are you alright?”

“I’m thirsty,” she said, as he helped her to a sitting position. Halas quickly handed Elrosar a water skin, and Elrosar held it to Adrial’s lips. “I got really hot, and then I don’t know what happened.”

“Did you eat anything after I left?” Elrosar asked her, as he brushed the sand from her hair and off her dress. Adrial shook her head in reply, and Elrosar stroked her hair softly. “Let’s get you back to camp and you can eat. I haven’t carried in you a while you know. I don’t want to get out of practice,” he said, as he tried to lighten her spirit and his as well, but his voice still carried a cautious and worried tone. Adrial gave him a half-hearted smile as he picked her up and carried her back to the camp.

After Adrial had eaten, Elrosar had her lie down to rest while he gave the orders for the search parties. Elwing asked and received his permission to join one of the parties, and as the last of them disappeared into the forest Elrosar walked over to where Adrial was resting. He sat down beside her and rubbed her cheek lightly with his hand.

“I thought you would be gone with the search parties?” Adrial asked, when she felt his hand on her cheek.

“I think I am more needed here right now,” he said. He smiled and leaned down and kissed her forehead. Adrial smiled and took his hand in hers and held onto it tightly before she closed her eyes again to rest.
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Postby whereismysam » Tue Oct 10, 2006 2:10 pm

“I’m not going with you, Déor. How many times do I have to tell you?” he could hear Elwing saying rather crossly; her voice was muffled due to the fact that she was laying face down on her blanket, her head in her arms.

Déor groaned in frustration. Elwing was being even more stubborn and moody than usual of late, and had grown even more so, if that was at all possible, since the two of them had brought Haleth back on shore. Déor could not understand why Haleth’s return had brought along with it the change in her temperament, considering he could take a pretty accurate guess concerning her feelings towards Haleth. And even though he had quietly kept silent about it at first, he had grown frustrated and sad watching her mope around, and had finally decided earlier that morning that it was about time that someone, meaning himself, should take Elwing aside and get her to talk to him.

Déor had approached Haleth at one point to see if he knew of the reason for Elwing’s mood, knowing how affectionate the two were towards each other, and received quite a surprise at Haleth’s detached and cold answer. Haleth’s only response to Déor had been that Elwing had confided nothing to him, only that she had had a splinter in her hand that had been starting to get infected, but it had been removed. Déor had been quick to see the dark look Haleth threw in the direction of Frúywine as he said this, and Déor promptly guessed that, whatever had happened over the last two days to set Elli into the her current disposition, her mood must have had something to do with both Frúywine and Haleth.

Déor had been planning to take her off by herself to try and get her to discuss all of this in the hopes that she might open up, but his plans were frustrated by Elrosar’s desire to send yet another search party out to scout out the island after lunch. Rather than say anything about it to Ro, however, Déor had managed to secure Elrosar’s permission to take Elwing out with him and his group, adding the suggestion that it might be better for at least one group to be trying to find another fresh water source, as they did not want to run the risk of having their current source depleted, to which Elrosar had agreed.

He knew that Elwing wouldn’t want to go with the group; he understood her well enough to know that she wouldn’t want to be around large crowds of people when she got like this, let alone try and talk about what had happened between Haleth, Frúywine and herself. But he was going to make her go even if it killed him. Or if she killed him first, he thought to himself ruefully. Maybe they would be able to find a way to get by themselves at some point; hopefully then, his cousin would start talking to him. He also knew that getting her up and doing something of a constructive nature, rather than sitting and brooding, would be of more help to her in the long run by getting her mind occupied on something else.

“You’re going to go with me and the search party, and that’s final,” he replied firmly. He heard a stifled groan. “I’m sorry if that doesn’t suit you,” he added a little sarcastically. “But your brother said you were to go with me, and so you are coming with me.” He did his best to keep his voice from betraying the half-truth he was telling.

“Oh, don’t try and put on an act,” Elwing snapped back at him as she sat up. “I heard you ask him to take me along.”

“So I did,” Déor retorted back. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, hoping to calm himself down. It wouldn’t do to have both of them arguing at each other. He opened his eyes, and, reaching out his hand to help her up, said evenly, “Please? I want you to come with me.”

He heard her muttering something under her breath as she stood fully, but he chose to ignore it, knowing that to say something about it would only increase the chances of a full fledged argument. He watched her as she silently got ready to go; he would have to tread gently when trying to draw out of her the reason for her mood.

Within a matter of a few minutes, the group was ready to go. Déor noted that Elwing said nothing to anyone as they started making the now-familiar trek into the island; nor did she take her eyes off the ground and soon she was last in the long line of Rohirrim. Déor guessed that she had probably did that on purpose, and knowing that she did not want to be around anyone, he couldn’t blame her. So he stepped aside, letting the rest of the Rohirrim pass him by so as to make sure he was the last in line.

The group remained silent as they continued to walk inland. Before long, Déor had spotted the large boulder and tropical looking tree that indicated that they had come to the last place his group had looked at the previous day. “All right, everyone,” Déor spoke up, causing those in front of him to stop and turn, circling up around him. “This is as far as the group came yesterday, so we’ll take things a little slower from here. Make sure you keep your eyes out for anything resembling a fresh-water source, or for anything that might be of use to us in general. Whatever you do, stay with the group. We’ll spread off a bit of this path so as to cover a bit more ground that way, and then we’ll circle around, coming back to this spot, which we well-marked yesterday, so you shouldn’t miss it. Once we have searched the area, we’ll head back to camp, as it isn’t that far of a hike from here.”

The Rohirrim had all remained silent during Déor’s instructions, a few of them nodding in agreement with his various warnings and instructions. As they fanned out and began their searching, Déor stayed behind with Elwing, who started slowing her step down, trying to put some distance between herself and the group.

Déor continued to stay behind her, trying not to get frustrated at how purposeful she was being in her attempts at not staying with the group. “Elwing, we need to catch up with the rest of them,” Déor said after several unsuccessful tries at getting her to walk faster.

“I don’t want to walk faster,” she grumbled.

Her complaining finally got the best of him and before Déor could stop himself, he blurted out in annoyance, “Will you please stop acting so childish about this walk and just stay up with the group? You’ve been in an awful mood for well almost two days now, and it’s starting to get rather bothersome. If it’s that much of a inconvenience to you to actually get up and do something rather than sit around and mope, then please, feel free to just head back to the camp.”

As soon as the words came out of his mouth, he regretted them, knowing that he had now made the situation worse. Elwing whirled around, the tears starting to form on the edges of her eyes as they glared at him.

“Fine.” She said nothing else as she took off the satchel she had around her shoulder and threw it at her cousin’s feet, but instead of heading back down the path the group had come from, she turned and ran off into the woods in an unfamiliar part, away from where the group was searching.

Déor let out a small groan. There would be no telling how far she would run off to; in fits like this, she would normally run to the stables to see Laurë, but he knew that was impossible. He did not entertain the idea of just letting her alone for a little while; despite the fact that this island appeared to be deserted, he did not want to leave her alone on it for any length of time, so he knew that he would have to go after her.

He scooped up her satchel, then quickly ran ahead and accosted one of the Rohirrim, letting him quietly know of the situation, passing charge to him for the time being, letting him know that he would be taking Elwing back to camp as so there was no need to wait for the two of them. The newer recruit just nodded, and as soon as that was taken care of, Déor ran off into the woods in the direction that Elwing had taken.

For a moment, he was afraid that he would have no idea which direction she had taken, but he was relieved to see that, in her upset state, she had made a trail that was easy to follow. He pursued her, and was surprised to find that she had covered quite a distance in such a short amount of time. He mused to himself that it must be because of how upset she had become, so he quickened his step so as to catch up with her sooner rather than later.

After a good bit of hard walking over tree roots and a good deal of underbrush, Déor thought he heard her crying just ahead of him and was not disappointed when he walked past a rather tall group of trees to see her sitting on a large boulder that was surrounded by low-growing bushes with her back turned towards him.

“Elli?” he said quietly. She said nothing, but Déor could see her back stiffen and she moved her arms about, no doubt to hastily brush away the tears that she had been crying. “I’m sorry I got so angry with you,” Déor said softly to her back, knowing that she wouldn’t turn around.

He heard her sniff, and she looked over her shoulder and gave him a small nod as she turned herself around on the rock to face him. Déor took that to mean that it was all right for him to approach her, and so he did. As he climbed up next to her, he added, “I just don’t like seeing you so upset.”

She just sat there, her face downwards. Déor said nothing to her, hoping to communicate that he was more than willing to just sit there and be with her until she was ready to talk, and was rewarded a few minutes later when he heard her whisper, “I’m sorry too, Déor.”

He wrapped his arm around her and she turned her head to gently rest it on his shoulder. She sighed, and said nothing. “What’s wrong, Elli?” Déor asked gently after several more minutes of silence. “You’ve been so unlike yourself ever since we brought Haleth back to the shore the other morning.”

She wiped her eyes as she sat herself up, giving her cousin a skeptical look. “I knew there had to be a reason you wanted me to go out here on this silly walk. You just wanted to talk to me.” She stuck her tongue out at Déor, who laughed.

“Well my dear cousin,” he said with a slight chuckle, very glad to see her mood lightening up even just the tiniest, “you have been in this bad mood for quite some time, and you made no attempts to hide it. You needed someone to talk to, and so who better than myself, your favorite cousin?” He winked at her.

“My only cousin,” she retorted back. “Who is just too perceptive for his own good,” she added as she rolled her eyes at him.

Déor stuck his tongue back out at her, at which Elwing let out a small laugh as she playful hit him in his arm. “It is so nice to have you teasing me again.” He took her hand and gave it a small squeeze that she returned as she nodded.

“So are you going to tell me what brought on this mood or not?” he then inquired. She sighed in frustration as she said, “You’re not going to let this go, are you?” Déor shook his head adamantly.

She just rolled her eyes again and looked away, appearing to be unsure of exactly what to say. Déor tried to prompt her into talking by asking, “Does it have anything to do with Haleth?”

She nodded and said quietly, “I love him, Déor. I didn’t realize just how much though, until I thought I had lost him.”

He had expected no less than this, but he was still confused. “But you didn’t, though. We could all see how much the thought that Haleth had died in the storm upset you, but this mood set in after we were blessed to find him and bring him back. I would have thought his return would have made you happier.”

Elwing gave him a dark look, and didn’t say anything. Déor chose to ignore it and responded instead by asking, “Have you told him how you feel?”

Her face immediately softened, and he could see her cheeks turn pink. “Of course not.”

He nodded. “And why not?” He turned to see her looking rather appalled at him. At first she didn’t appear to know what to say. She finally seemed to find her tongue a few moments later.

“Well, if you really must know, I’m not sure how he feels on that, or if he’d even return those types of feelings and I’m not going to be the one to speak them first in case they aren’t, because I don’t want to even imagine the embarrassment that I’d begin to feel if that happened and so I’ll just sit and hold them in until I burst.” When she finished her ramblings, she breathed in heavily.

“It’s all right, couz’ – there’s no need to sound so defensive. I was just wondering,” he reprimanded her gently. “Oh.” She looked down again, her face red this time with embarrassment.

He said nothing after that, knowing that it was not his place to speak to her of what Haleth had approached him on the ship about. Instead he just gave her a smug look and rolled his eyes at her. “Well, if you wanted him to have the opportunity to possibly talk about that sort of thing, why have you been avoiding him since he’s returned?”

The dark look crossed her face once more and she let out a whispered something that Déor couldn’t hear. He leaned forward slightly with his ear turned towards her, and she said it again. “Frúywine.”

Déor pulled back and gave her a quizzical look, hoping to encourage her into giving him an explanation. She muttered, “I think he has feelings for me.”

Déor raised his eyebrows, clearly surprised. “After all these years? It’s been – what? Three years since he first disappeared?”

Elwing nodded. “Yes. Three years. Where he gets off thinking that I’d return any of that sort of thing is beyond me.” Déor could distinctly hear the sarcasm in her voice and wisely chose to ignore it.

“I’m just surprised to hear that he still has feelings for you, that’s all.”

She turned and gave him a strange look. “Wait. What do you mean by ‘still’?”

Déor let out a frustrated sigh, closing his eyes and leaning his head back at the same time; he had completely forgotten what he was saying and so consequently would now need to explain what Frúywine had spoken to him about all those years ago. He knew he would have to choose his words carefully, as he was unsure of how Elwing would react.

“Well...” he began after a few moments thought. It would be better to just explain it simply, rather then try and stall the obvious. Besides, there would be no point in trying to avoid talking about it, as Elwing would not let him get away with not telling her, now that he had practically given it away. She could see that he was stalling, as she gave him an exasperated look, indicating with her hands that he should continue.

He sighed again. “He came to me to ask me about you and what you thought of him shortly before he disappeared. It seemed that he had started to entertain the idea that there might have been a possibility for something between you two.”

He chanced a look at her face and he could see that hearing this saddened her. “I was afraid that something like that had happened, especially after yesterday.”

“Why? What happened yesterday?”

Her voice continued to sound unhappy. “He tried to talk about it yesterday as he was helping get the splinter out of my hand.”

Déor only nodded, as understanding started to dawn on him. This must have been what had triggered her melancholy state. As if Elwing was reading his mind, Elwing continued, “And so between that and not knowing what Haleth is thinking, it’s just ... I mean —” She hesitated for another moment, as she tried to figure out how best to describe what she was feeling before throwing up her hands in frustration and letting out a exasperated, “Oh, I don’t know.”

Déor’s only response was to grasp her shoulder with his hand and give it a comforting squeeze, hoping to convey to her that he could vaguely understand her frustration. He started to ask, “What if Haleth wasn’t—?” but did not get very far as Elwing looked at him sharply and shook her head.

“No. There’s no question on that. I’ve thought Frúywine dead for the last three years. That much time changes a person. How could I possibly have feelings for someone who I have thought to be dead for that long? It’s almost like I’m meeting a completely different person. No, if he had really wanted to pursue any sort of relationship with me, he shouldn’t have brought it up now, and he shouldn’t have decided to wait until now to just come waltzing back into our lives. He tried to explain it to me, and I think can understand his reasoning for not wanting to come back, but he said nothing of any feelings for me, and if I had been important to him, he should have attempted to at least get in touch with us or something. I’m sure he could have if he had really wanted to. And besides, I had always thought of him as a brother. No. There wouldn’t have been anything.” She seemed resolute as she lapsed off into silence.

Déor said nothing, instead allowing a comfortable silence to come between the two of them. Elwing’s mood seemed lighter now that she had gotten all of those thoughts out in the open, and for that Déor was thankful. “Are you feeling better?”

She gave him a small smile. “Yes, I am. It’s a relief to finally have told someone what’s been happening the last couple of days.”

“And are you going to at least explain all of this to Haleth? I think you should, as I know he would appreciate knowing.”

Elwing looked a little uncomfortable, as though she didn’t like the idea of explaining to Haleth the fact that Frúywine had feelings for her, but said, “I will eventually. I had been planning on it, I just didn’t know how to talk about it. And so I suppose that I’ll just need to figure out where and how.”

“Good. And now, if you’re ready, I think that we ought to be heading back to camp. I sent the others on ahead and they’re planning on—” Déor got no further as a loud crack could be heard from somewhere behind them. Déor quickly grabbed Elwing’s arm, indicating with his hand that she should stay quiet. There was good reason for the look of alarm on his face; none of the Rohirrim to their knowledge were behind them. They had not been expecting any noise coming from in that direction.
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Ranger of the North

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Postby whereismysam » Tue Oct 10, 2006 2:11 pm

Déor slid off the boulder and down into the underbrush that was surrounding it, turning quickly to help Elwing down. He sincerely hoped that it was nothing more than a small animal, but he didn’t want to risk the chance. As Elwing dropped down beside him and the two stooped down under the low-growing shrubs, Déor was thankful that they were there. He could only pray that whatever animal it might be hadn’t seen either of them.

A few moments later, they could hear something walking heavily through the forest. There was a rather loud noise, as if whatever was tromping through had tripped, and someone let out a string of curses rather loudly. Déor could see Elwing’s eyes widen; it could only mean that they weren’t the only ones on this island.

The one who swore spoke first. “Líam, can we turn around now and go back? I’ve done nothing but trip and fall the entire time we’ve been out here.”

The one called Líam let out a boisterous laugh. “That’s because you’re a great big oaf who can’t walk to save his life. It’s a wonder the Cap’n took you on.”

The other man didn’t seem to think Líam’s joke funny. “There’s no point in keeping up this search any longer.” The veiled threat in his voice could not be mistaken. “I thought that we had gotten across to Cap’n Calimahir the fact that there was just no other possible water source around here. It’s a good thing we’re planning on leaving soon, for we’re going to run out of water before too long.” Before long, the two were bickering back and forth with each other.

From where he was sitting with his back against the boulder, Déor could hear a sharp intake of breath from next to him. It couldn’t have come as more of a shock to both of them that they were not alone on the island, and of all the people to be stranded on a place like this, it just happened to be Captain Calimahir and his crew.

Which also meant that Rowyn must be nearby somewhere. Elwing must have had the same thought as Déor for she reached over to squeeze his arm and then pointed in the direction of the voices, indicating that she wanted the two of them to follow them, no doubt in the hopes that they might be able to find Rowyn. The voices then continued; the unnamed pirate clearly wanted to return to camp.

Líam let out a few choice obscenities. “Fine. I’ve had enough of your whining. We’ll head back. It doesn’t appear that there’s much this way, anyway.”

The other pirate let out a low growl. “’Bout time you saw it my way. Besides, maybe by this point, the Cap’n’s brought back that girl...” He let out a low chuckle. Their voices started drifting away as they began to make their way back towards where their camp must have been set up. Déor and Elwing could hear Líam saying as they walked away, “Now, don’t go getting that sort of thing in your head, you know very well the Cap’n won’t take to that sort of thing and I...”

After a few seconds, the voices trailed off. Déor turned around and gradually lifted his head up to view over the boulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of the two men as they were leaving so he would know which direction to take when following him. For there was no doubt about that – he was going to follow them. Maybe, just maybe, there would be a way to take Rowyn away from them without letting anyone know he was there. He had to at least try to find her; he knew it would never atone for what he had previously done, but he could only hope that he could somehow make it up to her one day. He could see the backs of the two men as they were leaving, for it was apparent that they both believed themselves to be entirely alone and were therefore making no attempts at hiding themselves or the direction they were going.

He turned to Elwing and, even though there was no chance of being overheard by the two pirates, whispered, “Elli, I want you to go back to your brother. Find him and Haleth and bring them back here. I’m going to follow them and get Rowyn and bring her back.” She had started shaking her head before he’d even finished his first sentence but did not get out her thoughts as her cousin continued. “No. You’re not going. I want you to meet me here at this rock with them so we can all bring her back to the camp. We’ve got to get her away from them. Don’t tell them what you’re bringing them to come and get, just get them here.”

“Yes I am, cousin. I’m not leaving you alone,” Elwing said in a hushed whisper, looking rather indignant. “I am not going back through those woods and the underbrush alone, especially if more of Calimahir’s men,” she spat out his name, “are nearby. I don’t want to think of what would happen if I met any one of them alone. What’s more, I’m not entirely sure where I am. You know these woods better than I do; this is only my first time out in them. And besides, if I know Rowyn like I do, she’s not going to be in the best of shape. Goodness knows what’s happened to her. You’re going to need help getting her out of there without letting them all know of what we’re doing, and so we’re both going after her.”

Déor could see that there was no point in continuing this conversation with Elwing, for the more time they spent arguing about it, the further away the pirates were getting. And she did have a point. He knew that her brother would never forgive him if he sent her off in the jungle and something happened to her there. “All right, fine,” he whispered back. “Just follow my lead and try and stay as quiet as possible.”

At that, Déor and Elwing stalked after the two pirates, who by this time had faded into the brush. Even though there appeared to be no other living person nearby, Déor took no chances of being spotted by anything unwelcome by keeping low to the ground, darting from tree to tree as he sped forward. To his surprise, Elwing was able to deftly keep up with him, even though she had much shorter legs. He shouldn’t have worried so much, for her survival instinct had taken over as soon as it had become clear to her that they were not the only ones on the island.

She followed her cousin softly, avoiding tree branches and anything that looked like it might make a loud noise should she step on it, and was pleased to see that within a few moments, both she and Déor had caught up with Calimahir’s men. The men continued their pointless squabbling, but Elwing paid it no heed. She was more interested in staying far enough away from them so as to not be seen or heard. Déor managed to always keep them in their sights, and after a rather back-breaking trek across a part of the island that Déor had not yet seen in all his traipsing, the cousins were rewarded for their persistence by finding exactly what they both expected to see.

They watched as the two men disappeared past yet another tree and when they arrived there a few minutes later, they crouched down and saw that they were finally seeing the other side of the island. Off to their right, they could see Captain Calimahir’s ship in the distance, looking as though it was in the middle of getting repairs made on it. Down below them, a camp had been set up, and there were many people, by the looks of them, all of the pirate-sort, milling about, some lounging about with bottles in their hands, some carrying wood back and forth, and many others doing things of the sort.

They were far enough away so that to hear individual conversation was impossible, but it was clear from seeing the camp that there was far too many of them to solely be from Calimahir’s ship. Elwing saw her cousin counting; he must have been trying to get an estimate of how many people they would have up against them should they be spotted. Elwing instead scanned the camp for any sign of Rowyn. There was none, but Elwing noticed several tents set up farther away from the main campsite. The tents were not far from where the cousins had staked out a spot on the edge of the woods and looked like they could possibly be where Rowyn was being kept. Or at least, that’s all we can hope for, Elwing thought ruefully to herself.

She turned to her cousin, waiting for his next instruction. When he finally turned back to her, she could see that nothing she said this time would make him change his mind. “I’m going to go and see what I can find out down there,” he whispered. “There seems to be more men than I remember being on Calimahir’s ship, and I want to know why. And we need to make sure that Rowyn isn’t being kept somewhere else down that way.” He pointed with his left hand down the beach in the opposite direction to indicate where he meant. “I’m going to follow the edge of this forest down that way in the hopes of finding out something that might help us. In the meantime, I want you to stay here. Stay low. Do not let yourself be seen. Try and learn what you can by listening intently. Hopefully someone will mention something about Rowyn from here.”

Elwing nodded, quite content this time to stay behind; she did not like the idea of going off to search any more of the surrounding area with so many pirates nearby. She said nothing, only nodding to indicate to her cousin that she understood his orders. She turned back to face the camp and felt her cousin take her hand and give it a comforting squeeze. “Everything will be all right,” he promised as he leaned in and kissed her forehead before turning quickly and silently making his way along the edge of the trees.

Within a few moments, Déor was gone and Elwing was left alone. She shivered in spite of herself, not because she was cold, but because of the situation. She knew that Rowyn was around there somewhere and it horrified her to imagine what kind of state Rowyn might be in. She could only pray that they find her soon and take her away from that dreadful place.

She sat on the hard ground, and then lowered herself all the way down so that she was lying flat on the ground on her stomach. She kept her head in her hands, and did her best to remain alert. She thought that in this way, it might be easier to hear whatever might be going on down in the camp, and she found that it did help. She could hear snippets of conversations, all of which held no meaning to her. If this was indeed where Rowyn was being kept, then these pirates were strangely avoiding that topic of conversation.

Déor had been gone for some time when she heard louder voices coming from somewhere off to her left and when she happened to glance in that direction, she had to force herself to stay low to the ground and not cry out in joy. For there was Rowyn, being half-dragged along by none other than Captain Calimahir. She could not hear what was being said, if anything, between the two, but Elwing could clearly see that Calimahir was not happy about something. Rowyn, for her part, looked about ready to collapse.

Elwing watched as Calimahir took her to the very tents that Elwing had hoped might contain Rowyn. He put her in the tent closest to the line of trees, stepped back out only to turn around and lean his head back in, and then a few moments later, flipped back around and left the tent rather quickly. She could see him point to a couple of his men, who came running over to him. Calimahir said something to both of them, and then walked away as his two men promptly went over to the tent that he had just deposited Rowyn in and posted themselves outside the front of it, no doubt acting as guards. Elwing couldn’t help but feel rather resentful of the man who dragged her best friend about and treated her no better than a petty criminal.

She watched as Calimahir went off on his own. The men who had been standing around watching him bring Rowyn in finally started to scatter and go back to their own duties or various other tasks. Elwing leaned up on her elbows and turned to her left, hoping that her cousin might be somewhere nearby, returning after seeing Rowyn brought back up the beach, but she saw no sight of Déor.

She hesitated for a just a moment. She wanted to go and see Rowyn, and let Rowyn know that help was nearby, but her cousin had told her to stay where she was. He probably wouldn’t be happy about what she was planning on doing, but she was going to do it none-the-less. She knew it wouldn’t be the easiest – sneaking up to a pirate camp and slipping into the back of Rowyn’s tent unnoticed. But she also knew that it would be possible, for Rowyn’s tent was situated closest to the line of trees, so Elwing need only slip down along the edge of the forest and when in view of the back of Rowyn’s tent, creep forward out of sight. Being that her tent was farther away from the main campsite, it would be rather easy to slip forward under the cover the various brushes and such. She would have to slip through the back of her tent, as the front was heavily guarded, but that shouldn’t be too hard either, knowing that to try and use her knife to get in would draw too much attention.

Without any more thought on the matter, she quickly left her spot, standing fully and began heading in the opposite direction that Déor had taken, making sure to stay silent as she weaved in between the trees and open spaces. She was shortly in line with the back of Rowyn’s tent, and so she crouched down and began the more treacherous part of her trek towards where Rowyn was currently lying. She knew that one wrong move would give away her position to any number of Cali’s men, and she made sure to stay extra quiet. It took her longer than she would have liked to half crawl, half slink along in the long grasses to her tent, but she made it none the less.

When she finally reached the back of Rowyn’s tent, she listened intently, and could hear Rowyn’s even breathing coming from behind it. With one more glance over her shoulder back in the direction of the camp, and when she was finally satisfied that there was no one paying attention to what was happening over at Rowyn’s tent, Elwing quickly left her low spot among the grasses and crossed what little of the beach was there quickly and knelt down behind it. Pulling the back of it up as much as she dared, she took one quick second to look in ahead of her so as to make sure she would not be falling onto Rowyn before unceremoniously barging in on her. Rowyn wasn’t lying next to the back of the tent, so Elwing quietly crawled in underneath the tent flap.

It was then that she noticed that Rowyn was asleep. She had no idea what Rowyn had been through, but Elwing could see that her time with the pirates had started to take a rather grave toll on her. Rowyn looked rather pale, as if she had been sick for quite some time. That didn’t come as a surprise to Elwing, as she knew that Rowyn had most likely spent her entire time on the boat being sick. Rowyn also looked as though she had lost some weight, and Elwing did not want to think about the sorts of things she had gone through the last couple of weeks. She did wish that there was some way she could change all of that, but knew that there was no way she could do that. Instead she did the only thing she knew how to do.

She crawled over to her best friend and called out in a voice barely above a whisper, “Rowyn!” When Rowyn did not respond, Elwing reached out her hand and touched her shoulder and gave her a little shake. “Rowyn!” she called out in a worried whisper again. Rowyn stirred in her sleep and let out a small moan, and Elwing looked cautiously towards the front of the tent, hoping that the guards in the front of Rowyn’s tent were far enough away from the front that she would not be overheard.

“Rowyn!” she whispered yet again, closer to Rowyn’s ear this time. Rowyn opened her eyes rather cautiously, and when she saw Elwing, shook her head slightly, as if to clear up what Elwing was sure was rampant confusion. “Whaa...?” she asked hesitantly. “Are you real?” Elwing closed her eyes, reminding herself that her friend was just waking up and would therefore be very confused, especially more so after not having seen her in a number of weeks. Rowyn tried to sit up, but Elwing pushed her back down gently.

“Yes, I am.” Elwing could see Rowyn looking at her skeptically. “I had to come and see you to let you know that we’re coming for you, now that we know you’re here.”

Rowyn said nothing to Elwing, and so Elwing took the opportunity to pull off the necklace that Rowyn had given her when Elwing had left Calimahir’s ship. She pushed it into Rowyn’s hand, and then gave it a small squeeze. “I am real, ’Wyn, and you will be getting away from this place soon, I promise,” she whispered to her friend. Tears started forming in her eyes, and she used her other hand to brush them away from her eyes. “I’m going to go see what I can do about getting you out of here, all right? Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Rowyn nodded, giving her a rather vague smile before squeezing Elwing’s hand in return, closing it around the necklace. She then turned her head back around and closed her hers, and within moments was back asleep.

Elwing composed herself before slipping back to the edge of the tent. As she lifted the tent flap and began to cautiously make her way back towards the edge of the forest, she could only hope that she’d be able to return soon with Déor and together get her out of there.

The scramble back up to the forest’s edge was easier going back up, meaning that Elwing was able to get there rather quickly without being seen. Once back, she headed back to the spot Déor had left her at, wondering if her cousin had returned.

When she arrived a few minutes later, she saw that he had indeed returned, and was looking rather worried. An expression of relief crossed his face the moment he saw her, but that immediately changed to one of annoyance, no doubt because she had left her spot when he had told her not to. When she finally stopped next to him, he couldn’t help but pull her down next to him and he whispered harshly to her, “Where were you?! I told you to stay right here and wait for me!”

She gave him a cross look as she pulled her arm out of his grasp and then pointed back to the tents. “I was over there, talking with Rowyn.”

His eyes widened in shock. “What do you mean?”

“Cali brought her from somewhere, goodness what was happening and practically dragged her over to that tent. He put her in there and set up the guards you see in front of it. I needed to make sure she was all right, so I snuck over there and into her tent through the back to see her.” Elwing saw the question on Déor’s face and answered him before he had a chance to ask it. “She seems to be all right. I don’t know what she’s been through, but whatever it was has taken its toll on her. She was fast asleep when I got in there, and so I wasn’t really able to say much. I woke her up long enough to tell her that we’d be coming back for her soon. I don’t know if she understood me or not, but she seemed to. She fell back asleep almost instantly.”

At that moment, Déor put his hand on Elwing’s mouth and pulled her closer to him and towards the ground, and when Elwing turned to see why, she could see that Calimahir, along with several of his other men had headed back in the direction of the tents. Elwing shook herself free of her cousin and whispered vehemently, “We need to go and get her now! Before they do anything else to her! C’mon, let’s go.”

She turned to stand back up again and head back over towards where she’d found the place to crawl to Rowyn’s tent, but her cousin prevented her from doing so by grabbing her hand and pulling her to a stop. “No, Elli! We can’t just go back there like that again! Not with more people around Rowyn’s tent like that. Luck must have been with you for you to manage doing what you did without getting noticed the first time, but I wouldn’t trust us to have that sort of luck a second time, especially with two of us, and with Cali and his men around.”

Disappointment surged through her; she’d promised to Rowyn that they would be back. “But I promised! We have to go back there!”

Déor looked torn; he desperately wanted to get Rowyn out of there but he knew that to attempt such a rescue now would be foolhardy. “Elli, think about what you’re saying. We can’t do it now; it’s too dangerous. It’s getting towards the end of the day, and so whoever has been out around the island will be making their way back towards this camp, towards where you and I are hiding right now. You can see for yourself that it would be all but impossible for the two of us to go in there and bring her back. From the sounds of it, she wouldn’t be able to get very far on her own, and it would do absolutely no good to try and carry her out of there for that would only call everyone’s attention to us and what we’re trying to do. Tell me, what good would come out of them not only still having Rowyn, but also kidnapping both of us?”

He could see that the point had hit home. Elwing didn’t like the idea of leaving her best friend for any longer than necessary, but understood how foolish it would be to do what she had been planning. “Well then, what do you suggest?”

Déor thought about it for a moment before saying, “Let’s head back to camp. I don’t think there’s anything that any of us can do about it today.” Elwing let out a small gasp but before she could protest, Déor continued. “I know. I don’t like the idea of leaving her for another night here any more than you do, but you said she was asleep when you left her, so that leads me to think that she’ll be left alone for at least the evening. Hopefully those guards will keep anyone unwanted away from her tent.”

Elwing looked at him doubtfully, not sure whether to believe him or not, but shrugged. “Then let’s go. Haleth and Ro are going to want to know about this.”

Déor nodded. “That was the other reason I figured we ought to head back to camp. We can go back there, tell them, and bring back reinforcements of some kind tomorrow morning. I’d feel a lot better knowing that there was more than just the two of us going up against all of them.” He jerked his head back towards the main campsite in indication. Elwing just nodded. There was nothing else that needed to be said to understand his reasoning.

Déor grabbed her hand and pulled her up and close to him. Together the two of them headed quietly back away from the camp, Déor making sure to follow the trail that he had marked out for them when they had made their way there earlier that day. He couldn’t believe that the day had escaped them so quickly, and did his best to hurry them along, as he wished to avoid anyone else. They did not say anything to each other until they finally reached the boulder they had been sitting on earlier.

By that time, they were both out of breath from trying to get out of there as quickly and quietly as possible. They had been gone for most of the afternoon, and they could see that the sun was quickly setting. Déor had been right, Elwing mused to herself. It would have been impossible for them to have tried to get Rowyn away from the camp at that point.

Elwing ignored the stitch in her chest as she breathed deeply and asked, “So what did you find out on the other edge of that camp?”

Déor leaned his back up against the side of the rock and pulled out his waterskin which he handed to her before he answered. As she took a long sip of it, he answered, “Well, it seems that Calimahir’s ship full of men is not the only one on the island.”

Elwing’s eyes widened as she handed back the waterskin to her cousin, who also took a drink. “That explains the number of pirates on that shore,” she said, almost to herself as she propped herself up next to her cousin.

Déor nodded. “A little farther down the shore line, there was another ship pulled into harbor. If we plan this accordingly, we might be able to get off this island sooner than we all expected.”

“You’re right,” Elwing said in surprise. “Oh, that would be lovely! To have Rowyn back and to be able to go home.”

“I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but a lot will have to happen before either of those things could happen, so don’t get your hopes up too much,” Déor said cautiously. He wanted to hope those things, but didn’t trust himself, not after having let Rowyn and his cousins down so easily before, and he knew that if things did not work out this time, he would never forgive himself.

He heard Elwing sigh. “I know what you mean.”

Déor nodded. He took another swig of water before putting it away and reached out his hand. “Let’s get back to camp. It’s almost dark, and I’m sure they’re worried, and they’re going to want to know what happened to the two of us.” Elwing took hi hand and together the two made their way back to the camp.

It took them longer to find their way back, as they needed to get back to the point where Elwing had ran off from the rest of the group before heading back down the path to the camp, but they managed to do so. By the time they started hurrying down the main path, the sun had completely set but the path had become so well marked over the last couple of days from the number of Rohirrim walking on it that it was not hard to stay on it.

A few more minutes of fast-paced walking brought them back to their camp. They could see in the distance Elrosar and Haleth, both of them talking with one of the Rohirrim, the newer recruit that Déor had placed in charge after he had gone off to find Elwing. Elwing caught Déor’s eye and then started running towards Haleth and Ro, with Déor close behind her.

Ro and Haleth looked up a few moments later and saw the two of them running towards them, and started running towards the two of them. Déor and Elwing had a bit of a head start and therefore reached Haleth and Elrosar closer towards the camp. Haleth reached Elwing and pulled her into a close embrace which she did not pull out of. “Where have you both been? We’ve been so worried! Elrosar had others go out to find you but they came up with nothing.”

Elwing only looked over at her cousin, who was letting go of Elrosar. Déor understood her silent petition, and quietly told the two men to come take a walk with them. Their curiosity piqued, the two other men agreed and the four of them headed back down towards the shore.

Once down by the water, Elrosar asked the two of them sternly, “Where have you both been?”

“We’re not alone on this island, Ro.”

Elwing could hear the sharp intake of breath from both of them. “What?” Haleth asked sharply.

“Calimahir and his men are here. Rowyn is too. They’ve been on this island for the entire time. We managed to overhear a couple of Cali’s men in the woods and Elwing and I followed after them and saw where it is they’ve been camping out. It’s all the way on the other side of this island, which is why we haven’t found them until now.”

“And you didn’t think to bring Rowyn back with you when you came?” Haleth retorted hotly.

Elwing tried to calm him down, saying, “We couldn’t. I did manage to sneak into her tent, but she was fast asleep and it would have been impossible to bring her back. There were too many men.”

Haleth angrily pulled away from her, clearly frustrated. He started walking back towards the camp until Déor ran after him and stopped him. “What do you think you’re doing?” Déor asked.

“I’m going to do what you didn’t and go and get my sister,” he replied irritably.

Déor groaned. “Didn’t you just hear what Elwing said? We couldn’t. There was no possible way to bring her back.”

Haleth could only glare at him. “And I’m sure you tried your very hardest to bring her back,” he said scornfully.

By this point, Elwing and Elrosar had caught up with the two men. “Look,” Elwing put in, clearly frustrated, “if I could have carried her out of there on my back, I would have! But it would have done no one any good. There would have been two more taken by that rabble today if Déor or I had tried to attempt anything of the sort, and you very well know it.”

“And before you even begin to entertain the idea, you can not go off there alone tonight to try any sort of rescue,” Elrosar added. “That’s an order. We’ll need to sort through this mess tonight, and then go from there.” He could see that this was not what Haleth wanted to hear. “Everything will be all right, Haleth. We’ll find Rowyn and bring her back to us soon. For my part, I want to hear everything that happened, from beginning to end, so I can know what we’re up against.”

Déor nodded, ready to tell all; Haleth, however, cried out in frustration and ran off, heading in the direction of forest. Elwing let out a small groan. “I’ll go after him.” Déor nodded, understanding Elwing’s underlying reasons for being the one to volunteer to find him. “I’ll make sure to tell everything to Ro, so don’t worry about that.”

“And just be careful,” her brother called out after her as she began following Haleth. “I’m sure I’ll be fine,” she exclaimed over her shoulder. “He’s probably just gone off to sulk because he can’t do anything about finding and bringing Rowyn back right now.” She continued walking. “Besides,” she muttered darkly to herself, “I need to talk to him about some things myself.”
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Wed Oct 11, 2006 3:07 pm

The darkness within the group of trees was even deeper than on the beach, and Haleth didn’t make it very far into the forest before he gave up trying to see where he was going. He sat down in a small clearing with his back to the camp, his shoulders slumping in defeat and frustration. Part of him was still seriously entertaining the idea of disregarding Elrosar’s orders and going after Rowyn, but the soldier in him knew that to do so tonight would be stupid, since he didn’t even know where to find her yet. But he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her one more night, and hated feeling so powerless to help her.

The sound of approaching footprints caught his attention, and he automatically tensed up, knowing that the person was looking for him. So it was no surprise when a smaller figure knelt down beside him and rested a hand on his arm. “Are you all right?” he heard Elwing’s voice ask softly.

“What do you think?” he asked bitterly, and he could feel her recoil at the question. With a frustrated sigh, he added, “I’m sorry, Elwing. I don’t mean to snap at you.”

He could feel her arms slipping around his waist from behind as she sat down close to him, and the warmth of her cheek pressing against his back. “I know,” was all she said.

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Haleth hesitantly asked, “Could you see at all how she’s doing?”

Elwing sighed. “I managed to sneak into the tent where they have her long enough to talk with her a bit. She…” Elwing paused for a moment, then lowered her voice and admitted, “I don’t think she’s doing very well, Haleth. I could barely get her to wake up long enough to tell her that we were here, and even now I’m not entirely certain she understood. And you can tell just by looking at her that it’s taking its toll.”

Haleth’s head slumped into his hands. Part of him knew that what was happening to his sister right now couldn’t possibly be his fault, but the rest of him couldn’t help feeling guilty about it. “I guess it wouldn’t have worked to bring her back tonight then,” he reluctantly admitted. He felt Elwing shake her head slightly. “I just hate leaving her there again tonight. She should never have had to go through this in the first place.”

“No,” Elwing said. “She shouldn’t have.”

Haleth shifted positions and moved his arm so that he pulled Elwing in front of him, wrapping his arms around her. She didn’t resist his embrace, resting her head against his chest and sighing, sounding obviously unhappy. “I really am sorry that I got upset with you and Déor, Elwing,” he said, kissing her forehead lightly. “I know I shouldn’t have. It’s just, she’s all the family I have left, and this whole thing just makes me angry. But I shouldn’t take it out on you, and I’m sorry.” Elwing didn’t answer, and so he hesitantly asked, “Is that why you’ve been so upset with me?”

Elwing’s head moved up and she drew back a little to look at him better, as well as she could in the darkness. “You think I’m upset with you?” she asked in a small voice.

“It’s obvious you’re not happy with me,” Haleth stated bluntly before his voice softened. “Is it something I did?” Elwing shook her head, and Haleth swallowed hard, dreading the response to his next question. “Is it because of Frúywine?” he asked.

“What?” Elwing asked, sounding alarmed.

“I have to know, Elwing,” Haleth answered, a strained note creeping into his voice. “If there’s anything between the two of you, I need to know.” He let go of her and jumped up, feeling too restless to stay seated, and began to pace slightly as he continued. “I’m trying not to read too much into things or get jealous, but I can’t help seeing the way he looks at you, Elwing. I know you have history with him, and if you love him instead I’ll just have to learn how to let you go. But if you do, please, just tell me now before I fall any more in love with you than I already am!”

Elwing stood up slowly and stepped towards him. “Back up a bit,” she said. There was an odd note in her voice, and Haleth wished desperately that he could see her face clearly; it was hard to see her expression. “What did you say at the end?”

He ran a hand through his hair in agitation. “I said I love you,” he admitted quietly. “I should have told you sooner; I wanted to, but it seemed like something always happened to make it a bad time. But if you’ll be happier with Frúywi…”

His statement was abruptly cut off as Elwing grabbed him by the shoulders, standing on her toes and pressing her lips against his. By the time Haleth recovered enough to wrap his arms around her, she was already pulling back. “Say it again,” she said.

“What, that I love you?” he asked, still slightly dumbfounded at her behavior.

“Yes,” she said, kissing him again, then taking his face in both of her hands, her eyes looking directly into his. “I have to confess that you’re right in thinking that Frú has feelings for me,” she said quietly. “He tried to tell me yesterday, when he was helping me with my hand.” Haleth began to protest, but she laid a finger on his lips to cut him off. “But he was always like another brother to me, and that’s all he ever can be. You’re the one I love, Haleth.”

As her words sank in, a grin spread slowly over Haleth’s face. Then he pulled her into a tight embrace, burying his face in her hair and breathing deeply of the salty sea scent that clung to it. He felt like a tremendous burden had been lifted off of him, though only momentarily. “I’m glad,” he murmured into her hair. “I don’t think I could bear losing you now too.”

Elwing hugged him back just as tightly. “You haven’t lost her,” she replied, knowing exactly what he was talking about. “Just a few more hours, and we can go to get her back.” She slid her hands down his arms until she could take both of his hands in hers and said, “Will you come back to the camp now, Haleth? I’m sure that Ro and Déor would love to have your input on our strategy. After all, we have two pirate crews to deal with.”

“All right,” he conceded. “I’ll come back. In just a moment.” With that, he pulled her closer and kissed her fervently.

Once they broke apart again, he intertwined his fingers with hers and she pulled him back in the direction of the camp. “So what are you going to do about Frúywine, then?” he asked quietly.

“I don’t know,” Elwing said, a sad note in her voice again. “But that can wait. Right now, let’s just concentrate on getting your sister back.” Haleth nodded in full agreement as the two of them stepped back out of the cover of the trees and onto the beach.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:35 am

The next morning dawned bright and clear as Cali woke Jahira from her peaceful slumber next to him. Searching for Rowyn the day before had taken a toll on Cali, and he had fallen asleep soon after retiring to his and Jahira’s tent. Jahira had been glad to see him come back, and they both fell asleep in each other’s arms. “Is it morning already?” Jahira asked, as she rubbed her eyes and stretched.

“Yes it is,” Cali answered while stretching himself. “We will be sailing off right after breakfast.” They both packed up what they had brought off the ship, and Cali set about taking their tent down after Jahira had freshened up a bit.

The whole crew gathered and ate a warm breakfast, but one of Rowyn’s guards informed Cali that they couldn’t wake her to eat. After Cali finished eating he walked over to Rowyn’s tent and pulled back the flap. She was fast asleep still, so he and the other guard took her tent down around her. She did not stir as they did this, and it took Cali several minutes of shaking her shoulder to get her to open her eyes.

“Its time to leave Rowyn,” Cali said, as her bleary eyes looked at him.

“Elwing…here,” Rowyn mumbled in reply. “My friends…coming for me.” Cali shook his head at her delirious ramblings, as her eyes closed once more. “She’s been through too much,” he said softly out loud. “Carry her to Donar’s room, and keep watch at her door.” he said to two sailors that he had guarding her. “I don’t trust the other crew still. They may try something before we leave, but hopefully not.”

The two men acknowledged his orders and then gently picked up Rowyn and carried her to the Eagle’s boarding ramp. Cali gave his and Jahira’s packs to another sailor and Cali carried their tent aboard. Jahira disappeared to their cabin to make things more comfortable for their journey. Cali walked back down the boarding ramp to make sure that the ship wasn’t listing or too deep in the water. He was on his way back up the ramp when Mallor called out to him. “Fare thee well Calimahir,” Mallor said.

Cali easily noticed the sarcastic tone in his voice. “Thank you,” Cali returned sarcastically. “How much longer do you plan to be here?”

“We will be ready to sail later today,” Mallor said evenly, but there was malice in his eyes. “We might even be able to catch up to you by tomorrow. That is if you are journeying to Umbar?”

Cali saw the look Mallor gave him and he rested his hand on his sword hilt. “Perhaps you will if that is our course,” Cali simply answered, as he turned and walked up the ramp. He knew Mallor’s eyes were upon him, but Cali never looked back.

Cali took his place at the helm and began passing out orders, and as the ship was pushed away from the old dock Cali called most of his crew to him. “We need to put as much distance between ourselves and this island as we can today. Mallor will be ready to sail quicker than we think, and he will not easily forget the beating you gave his crew. They know we are not at full speed, and he will try and catch us and ram us. We have work to do, so be hearty and swift.” The crew gave a stern cheer and began to sing, as they set about their duties.

The main sail of the Eagle was raised as soon as she exited the harbor and the sail filled with wind immediately. Cali pointed the Eagle in the direction that would take them to Umbar, and they were soon moving swiftly ahead. The sea was calm, and no evidence of the storm from a few nights ago was left on the waters or in the sky.

After guiding the Eagle out of the harbor Cali stopped by Donar’s cabin to check on Rowyn. He dismissed her guards, since his entire crew was well aware that if any of them touched her he would kill them himself. He walked into the room, and he was immediately reminded of his friend. A lump formed in his throat at the memory of seeing Donar washed away, and he shook his head to try and clear the image.

He pulled out a bottle from one of Donar’s cabinets and took a long drink before replacing it. He then pulled out another one and walked over to where Rowyn was sleeping. He shook her a little, and after a moment she opened her eyes. “Drink this,” he said sternly, as he placed the bottle to her lips. “It will keep you from getting sick.” She protested at first, but she was too weak to argue with him. She sputtered and coughed as the liquid went down her throat, but she managed to drink almost all that he gave her.

“There is some food on the table when you get hungry,” he added, as he stood up to leave.

“My friends?” Rowyn managed to ask in a low voice.

“What about your friends Rowyn?” Cali asked in return. “I have yet to see them, so I am going to take you back to Dol Amroth. I will keep looking for them though, I promised you that.”

“But they were in the camp,” Rowyn answered.

Cali’s eyes were filled with sympathy as he looked at her pleading eyes. “Rowyn, your friends were not in our camp. I think I would have known if they had been, and if they had I would have sent you with them. You must have been dreaming. I’m sorry,” he added, as he gave her another sympathetic look before leaving her alone.

They made good speed that first day, and after the crew shared the evening meal together most of them retired to their cabins and bunks. Cali walked Jahira to their cabin, and left her there as he made one last check on the repairs done to the hull. When he returned to their cabin, Jahira was already asleep on the bunk that he had made for her so long ago it seemed. He kissed her on the cheek and then laid down on his own bunk, and was soon fast asleep.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:11 pm

She had quickly slipped back into unconsciousness once Cali had left her, and between her already-exhausted state and the effects of whatever Cali had given her to drink, it took quite some time for Rowyn to stir again. Even then, she wandered in and out of the vivid dreams that often came in that strange place between sleep and wakefulness for quite some time, and when she finally opened her eyes, it was a shock to find herself alone in the cool, almost damp darkness of what was obviously a cabin on the ship.

A choked sound somewhere between a sob and a gasp escaped her lips, and Rowyn rolled over to see the window. Only the faintest difference in the shade of black told her where it was, and when she realized she could see nothing, not even the faintest hint of moon or starlight, she curled up more tightly under the blanket to try to warm up and buried her face in her arms as hot tears stung her eyes. She could feel her solitude so keenly that it was almost a physical ache, especially when she thought back over the dreams she’d just had.

Admittedly, she couldn’t remember much of anything after reaching the encampment again—she’d been so completely worn out that she’d all but collapsed in the tent and had fallen asleep almost as soon as she’d hit the ground. She knew that Cali giving her the medicine had been real; the slightly sour taste in her mouth was enough to tell her that. But opening her eyes to see Elwing in her tent… part of her insisted it was real, it had to be, but the whole thing had had such a dream-like quality to it that she couldn’t be entirely certain. And Cali had insisted that if she and the other Rohirrim had really been there, he would have let her go. Oddly enough, this time Rowyn believed him; she was certain he was as ready to be rid of her company as she was of his. She fought hard to push through the cobwebs in her mind and remember what exactly Elwing had said to her, but it was still unclear. And she thought there had been something small Elwing had put in her hand—for some reason, a necklace came to mind—but her hands were empty now, and with that all tangible proof she might have had was gone.

The memory of the other dreams was even harder to bear. She’d almost been able to feel Wildfire’s powerful stride beneath her and the wind in her hair as she thundered across the golden plains back home. Her brother’s enthusiastic laughter still rang in her ears. But most vivid had been the intense blue of Déor’s eyes as he’d smiled at her, and the warmth of his fingers interweaving with hers as they’d walked through the fields, talking about everything and nothing. The first tear rolled down her cheek at the memory—more than anything, she felt like she’d lost something special as she thought of him.

It wasn’t that she loved him—after all, she reminded herself, she had barely known the man, and she’d wasted most of the time she had avoiding him for something that wasn’t even his fault. She bitterly regretted that now; looking back on it, the time that she had spent in his company had been among the most pleasant since she had left Rohan. But whether she was willing to admit it to herself or not, there had been something about him that had drawn her from almost their first meeting. Perhaps it was merely the knowledge that he had saved Haleth’s life on the Pelennor, or perhaps it was the obvious closeness between him and his cousins. Or perhaps it was that he had so quickly extended that care to her, though that could have been for Ro’s and Elwing’s sake since they were such good friends with her. Either way, she’d quickly become more comfortable around him than many other friends she’d had.

Including Natan, she suddenly realized. Perhaps that was why she had pushed Déor away for so long. The thought struck her that, given more time, she could have loved him. And it frightened her. After all, she had been with Natan for so long—could her affections really have turned away so quickly? Had that been why she had been so quick to walk away from him? “Maybe he was right about me,” she murmured to herself, a tear splashing onto her hand. It grieved her to think so, but perhaps Natan had been able to see something in her that she hadn’t. And if that was the case, then Déor had deserved better anyway.

Not that it mattered now. The memory of him lying unmoving in the darkened street, his tunic stained with blood, was burned too deeply into her mind. Still, she wished with all her heart that things could have turned out differently. Or that she’d at least had the chance to find out if they could have been.

“Stop it,” she whispered to herself. She had more pressing issues to think about—namely, where she was being dragged off to now, how she’d get back to Gondor, and if she was ever going to see her brother or Elwing or Elrosar and Adrial again. But she still couldn’t seem to stop thinking about him. So she pulled the blankets closer, too weary in body and spirit to fight her tears anymore, and cried until she fell asleep once more.
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Postby whereismysam » Wed Oct 25, 2006 3:44 pm

Elwing had not felt this tired in a long time. She had gotten little rest the night before, her thoughts and feelings a jumble. She had been happy and excited to learn of Haleth’s feelings for her, and yet saddened at the same time as the image of Rowyn laying sprawled out in her tent never strayed far from her mind. She also couldn’t help worrying over both Haleth and her cousin, for she knew that both men were taking Rowyn’s kidnapping and consequent imprisonment with Calimahir and his men personally. The little sleep that she had gotten the night before had been very unrestful. She could hear Haleth pacing to and fro in front of the fire a ways off, and she knew that none of them would be sleeping much that night.

The sun had no sooner risen when Haleth was at her side, shaking her awake, no doubt in the hopes that they could get an early start. She had half expected as much and had already been awake, but it was still some time before they were ready to head out. Ro had cautioned all of them before leaving that they needed to be cool and collected, keeping their heads about them in case any situation turned nasty. Elwing knew her brother was gearing the topic of discussion in this direction mainly for Haleth’s sake, as everyone knew by his agitated state that he was very anxious and almost desperate to have his sister back, as they all were. Elrosar had warned them to wait until they saw Calimahir, and then from there, to march out in the open and demand Rowyn back, offering to return Donar back at the same time. Elrosar had no idea what Calimahir’s intentions were with Rowyn, but he could only hope that Cali would not refuse their request for one of their own back in exchange for one of his.

When most of the entire group finally did head out a little while later, with the exception of Adrial and a few of the Rohirrim to keep watch on her, Haleth remained adamant at keeping up the pace. The sooner they returned to the pirate camp, the sooner they would have Rowyn back, Elwing reasoned to herself. Elwing and Déor did their best to stay ahead of Haleth, but Haleth kept pushing them to move faster, walking past them and then doubling back as he tried to urgently move the group forward. Elwing’s brother and the main group of Gondorians and Rohirrim were not far behind them, bringing along Donar with them.

The group had maintained an unspoken rule of silence throughout the entire journey, and now that they were finally approaching the spot where Déor and Elwing had encountered the pirate, Elrosar cautioned them yet again on their plan.

“You remember what you’re supposed to do?” he asked Déor.

Déor nodded emphatically. “Approach Calimahir and demand the release of Rowyn in exchange for Donar.”

“Good. Is the envoy ready to continue forward?” Elwing, Haleth and a few other Rohirrim that had been chosen all nodded and stepped forward.

“Remember to keep you heads level. Do not under any circumstances do anything rash, or Rowyn’s life could very well be at stake. We will stay back here and wait for your return.”

They all nodded, determined to make this exchange work, now that they were this close to having Rowyn back. Déor reached out and clasped Elwing's hand, and gave it a small squeeze in an attempt to be encouraging. Elwing returned it, giving him a look that clearly said that she was trying to remain optimistic, but having a hard time doing so.

From there, they turned, Elwing and Déor taking their places at the front of the group as they were the ones who had found the camp the previous day, and could therefore easily identify the trail that had been marked. No one said a word as the group cautiously and quietly made their way along. They did not want to give away their position to anyone who might be lurking about and so they managed to eventually make it back silently to the end of the line of trees that marked the beginning of the beach and Captain Calimahir's camp. Déor pointed it out, indicating to his fellow Rohirrim that they were almost there.

For her part, something about the entire situation did not sit right with Elwing. For one thing, they had not met anyone or anything on their trek in, and the lack of people made it feel eerie. There was also the decided lack of any noise coming from the direction of the beach, when she knew there should have been. She was almost afraid to look out on the beach, extremely fearful of what she might, or might not, see.

Déor must have also noticed the lack of noise, for the closer to the edge of the trees they walked, the paler he became. When they finally arrived and looked down, their worst fears were confirmed; Calimahir's camp had been abandoned. It was clear enough to those who had not been with Elwing and Déor the day before that there had indeed been a camp there on that part of the beach; there was garbage and the remnants of food and other paraphernalia strewn about the beach, as well as the remains of several fires that had been built, scattered along the edge of the beach.

From off to her side, she could hear Haleth cry out in frustration and anger, as a lone tear trickled down her face; she had been foolish to hope that they might have been able to rescue Rowyn so easily. She turned immediately to Haleth, who had taken a few steps out of the trees and down towards the beach, so that his face was obscured. “I'm so sorry, Haleth,” she said sorrowfully. She tried to continue to console him, but no words would come. What good would it be anyway, to remind him that they had been so close to getting Rowyn back, only to have the opportunity snatched away from them yet again? And we could have brought her back yesterday, Elwing thought bitterly to herself. The ironic thing was that she had wanted to bring Rowyn back yesterday, but knew that she wouldn't have been able to.

“She’s gone.” The words sounded hollow and strained coming from Haleth, as if he was forcing himself to utter the inevitable truth. Before she knew what was happening, Haleth had whirled around, facing Elwing, his eyes flashing steel. “You promised that she would be here!” The frustration in his voice was unmistakable.

“She was here!” Elwing retorted hotly, glaring back at him, her tone of voice raising to match that of Haleth’s. “She was! Her tent was just beyond that small mound of sand,” she said as she pointed to where just a short while ago Rowyn’s tent had occupied. Before she could continue to defend herself, Haleth continued his tirade, taking a step closer to her as he did so.

“You should have brought her home when you had the chance! Now who knows if I’ll ever see her again! If you had just—”

With each sentence, Elwing grew more exasperated at Haleth’s accusations; she could hear her cousin coming up to her defense behind her, saying, “Now, Haleth, it’s not her fault and you know it.” What happened next happened so fast that Elwing had a hard time believing it had taken place. Déor had stepped up to Elwing, who had never known Haleth to react this strongly before, and taken hold of her arm as Haleth advanced towards her, anger and annoyance clearly written on his face. He had held up his hand to Haleth in the hopes that he would calm down, and had begun to speak, but could not get anything further out in Elwing’s defense as Haleth in his fury swung around, his fist flying. It connected with the left side of Déor’s jaw and sent him sprawling backwards onto the ground. He landed roughly on the dirt, his arm hitting a tree that was behind him.

Elwing angrily screamed at Haleth, and before she knew what she was doing, had closed the gap between herself and Haleth and slapped him across the face. “Leave, Haleth! Now!” she cried, her gaze as fierce as his had been just moments before.

Realization seemed to sweep of Haleth’s face as he realized what he had just done; Elwing gave him one last cold look and turned to go to Déor. She felt him take hold of her arm as she started walking away. “Elwing, I—”

“Get out of here, Haleth! Just go!” she yelled, wrenching her arm out of his grip. She completely ignored him as she bent down to help Déor, who was just sitting up. She heard Haleth run off a moment later, but gave him no heed.

“Are you all right?” she mumbled to her cousin as she knelt down beside him, trying desperately to hold back the tears that wanted to spring free from her eyes; Elwing could tell that Déor’s face would be swollen and bruised for quite some time.

“I will be eventually,” he said evenly, gently massaging his jaw and cheek.

“C’mon, here, let me help you stand up,” she continued quietly. She grasped his hand and helped him stand, steadying him a minute later when he closed his eyes and swayed, dizzy from the hit.

“Where did he go?” Déor asked after a moment, his voice sounding garbled.

“Back to the others, I suppose,” Elwing said resentfully. “Which is where we need to get to.”

“Don’t be so upset with him, Elwing; he’s just beside himself about Rowyn’s disappearance again.” Even though he spoke full sentences, Elwing could tell it pained him to speak at the moment. “Besides, I probably deserved it,” he added more to himself at the end, but Elwing heard it anyway.

“Oh, be quiet!” she snapped at her cousin. “He shouldn’t have hit you, and you know it.” Her cousin said nothing in response, instead giving her a look that told her that he did not believe a word she said. “Besides, it’s no more your fault than it is mine or Ro’s or anyone else’s for that matter,” she continued glumly as the rest of the group began making their way back to where the rest of the Rohirrim were waiting.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Thu Oct 26, 2006 11:11 am

Elrosar buckled on his sword belt and tightened up the straps on his leather armor. Adrial was standing behind him watching him intently. “You’re expecting a fight aren’t you?” Adrial asked, as she stepped forward and helped him with his armor.

“I am,” he answered simply while pulling on his gauntlets. “I hope there is not, but I fear that there will be.” He turned to face her and placed his hands on her hips and waist. Adrial closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around him while placing her head on his chest. “Please come back to me and our child,” she said softly.

Elrosar’s heart broke as he held her close to him. “I will do everything in my power to come back. We have to save Rowyn,” he added, as he kissed her softly on the head.

“I know,” Adrial said. “I just wish none of this had happened.”

“None of us do my love,” Elrosar agreed. “But this is where we are. I love you,” he said. “And I will come back to you.” She looked up at him and saw the love in his eyes that she had fallen for so long ago, and she smiled at him before he kissed her warmly. They held each other for some time before they parted and Elrosar called for the Rohirrim and the Gondorians to gather.

Captain Magor addressed the assembled soldiers and sailors. “We expect that we will have to fight to gain anything out of this venture today. We are not just going for the captured Rohan woman,” he said more to his men then the Rohirrim. “We are going to try and gain passage or acquire a ship so we can get off this island. We are outnumbered but we will have surprise on our hands. Barriack and Linul you two will stay here at the camp to guard it.”

“Eothin, you and Halas will remain here as well,” Elrosar added, and the two men immediately knew that they were being left behind to watch over and protect Adrial. “The rest of us will follow the course that Déor and Elwing took yesterday to find this secluded harbor. Once there we will surround their camp as best we can and then attack if need be. You with bows have them ready. The rest of you wait for my signal to charge. Donar you will be coming with us as well,” Elrosar said while glancing over at the sailor. “I am hoping that your Captain will see fit to a trade.”

Donar’s face was blank, as at this moment he had no idea what Cali would do. He did know that his friend would go to whatever end to protect Jahira, but as he watched the Rohirrim and Gondorians gather their weapons he inwardly knew that trouble lay ahead for both parties. “I hope you’ve already left Cali,” Donar said to himself.

Elrosar caught Adrial’s attention again and he smiled warmly at her. He winked at her and then turned and led the Rohirrim into the forest. The early morning light was just enough for the group to see where they were going. Déor and Elwing led them on a straight course to where they had discovered the harbor, and a few hours later the Rohirrim and Gondorians were gathered together not far from the harbor.

Elwing, Déor, Haleth, and a few other chosen Rohirrim went on ahead to seek out a trade for Rowyn with Donar, but as Elrosar watched as they came back to the rest of the group he knew something was gravely wrong, because Haleth took off by himself away from the others. “What happened? What’s wrong?” Elrosar asked once they were close enough to him.

“She’s gone,” Déor said, as he ran his hand through his hair.

“What do you mean she’s gone?” Elrosar asked quickly in return. Elrosar noticed a deep bruise beginning to form on Déor’s jaw, and Elrosar made a point to question him about it later.

“Rowyn is gone,” Elwing answered. “Along with Calimahir’s ship too. We didn’t get back to her in time.”

“But we couldn’t have gotten here any sooner too,” Elrosar pointed out. “What about the other ship, is it still there? Maybe we can talk to them.”

“Who is this other crew?” Magor asked. Neither Elwing nor Déor could answer that, so the Gondorian turned to Donar and motioned for him to be brought forward. “Do you think you will know who the other ship belongs to by seeing it?”

“If it’s a Corsair ship I most likely can,” Donar answered. After a brief discussion, Elwing and Déor lead Elrosar, Magor, and Donar to the edge of the forest near the harbor to investigate the other ship. They moved silently to the edge, and Donar had a clear view of the harbor. Elrosar and Magor noticed Donar’s face darken and grow stern. “Who are they Donar?” Elrosar asked.

“That ship and other crew down there are Captain Mallor’s. He is one of the most ruthless and evil men you will ever meet,” Donar’s voice was cold and filled with disdain. “He’s not going to just let you walk to the harbor and parlay. Your best option is to fight them.”

“He’s right Captain,” Magor agreed. “I know of this Mallor, and he is not one we wish to bargain or parlay with.”

“Then we fight,” Elrosar said grimly after a moment of thought. He made a signal for the rest of the group to draw closer to the harbor. “Fire your arrows at those in the open, and then we will charge their camp while you fire another volley,” he ordered their archers. “Follow us after your third volley, but head for their ship and take out those around it.”

Elrosar turned and looked at Haleth and the others. “Don’t give up hope on Rowyn yet. If we can take that ship we might be able to get close enough to signal them,” Elrosar said. “Haleth, Déor, and Frúywine stay close as much as possible, and Elwing stay near me if you can. I’ll go for their Captain, but I will need help.”

A moment later Elrosar stood up from behind the cover of the underbrush and waved to the archers around them. The archers drew their arrows back and the sounds of the bowstrings quickly pierced the air. “Forth Eorlingas!” Elrosar shouted, as he leapt out from the trees onto the sand.

Elrosar watched as many of the arrows found a mark and men fell to the ground. He could hear the thumping sound of footfalls on both of his sides and battle fervor began to rise within him. The pirates were now scurrying about looking for weapons and cover from the second volley of deadly arrows.

Elrosar noticed out of the corner of his eyes some pirates with crossbows bring them to bear on the charging Rohirrim. “Arrows!” Elrosar shouted, but his heart quaked when he heard the sound of two of three men fall behind him. He had no time to worry about the fallen at that moment, because the final volley of Rohirrim arrows fell onto the pirates and then Elrosar and the others were upon them.

Elrosar brought his sword down hard upon one pirate who was trying to reload his crossbow. The man fell to the ground lifeless and Elrosar bore down upon another enemy. The sounds of battle were heard all around the harbor. Swords clanging, orders being shouted, and men’s screams of pain and death, but Elrosar only heard Adrial’s voice in his head. Please come back to me and our child, were the words that filled his mind, as the battle lust was upon him.

Elrosar looked for the Captain of the pirates, and he found him after a moment. Haleth was near Elrosar now with Déor and Elwing just behind Rowyn’s brother engaging two pirates. Elrosar moved toward the Corsair Captain, but a burly pirate who was swinging two curved cutlasses cut him off. “Haleth!” Elrosar shouted to the younger Rider. “Take out their Captain!” Haleth quickly moved to take on the pirate captain.

Elrosar parried the burly pirate’s swords aside and threw his shoulder into the large man. The man staggered back only slightly, and Elrosar had to retreat back a few steps to fight off the onslaught. Elrosar parried another series of blows from the pirate, but then he was fortunate enough to be able to catch one of the cutlasses on the hilt of his sword and knocked it out of the man’s hand.

Elrosar then had the advantage and he pressed it immediately. The burly man couldn’t move as fast with only sword, and he was completely on his heels trying to fend off Elrosar’s heavy blows. Elrosar slashed his sword after a parry and caught the man’s sword arm on the wrist. The man dropped his cutlass, but before he could pick it up Elrosar’s sword pierced his chest. Elrosar pulled his blade free and turned back to survey the battle.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:12 pm

Haleth rushed towards the pirate captain as soon as Elrosar gave the order. Mallor was engaging one of the older Gondorian sailors, and before Haleth could get to them, he slashed at the sailor and the Gondorian fell, clutching his side. Whether it was instinct or pure luck, somehow he sensed Haleth’s approach and whirled to meet him. The force of the two blades clashing together reverberated up Haleth’s arm, and if he had not had a firm grip on the hilt with both hands he would have dropped his sword. But he held firm—a good thing, too, as the pirate hurriedly pressed his attack.

Haleth parried each blow, his fury over his sister’s latest disappearance spurring him on. The battle-rage within him was strong, and it was all he could do to keep his mind focused enough to prevent a completely reckless defense on his part. Even so, he nearly lost it when Mallor glanced at Haleth’s hair and smirked. “It seems that hair color is more common among your kind than I thought,” he said.

“What do you know of her? Where is she?” Haleth demanded angrily, swinging at Mallor but only managing a glancing cut to his ribs, shallow enough that the pirate didn’t even flinch.

“Ah, she was special to you, I see,” Mallor replied with a wicked gleam in his eyes as he counter-attacked, forcing Haleth to jump back in order to avoid being gutted. “She was quite special to my crew as well—they found her company rather entertaining. ‘Tis most pleasant to have a warm body beside you when the wind blows cold from the sea here at night.”

Haleth’s eyes flashed dangerously, and he brought his sword down on the other man’s wrist with all his strength, severing his sword hand. Mallor instinctively clutched at the bleeding stump, allowing Haleth enough time to shove him to the ground, pinning his other wrist down with one hand so he couldn’t reach any hidden knives. “What did you do to my sister?” he shouted. Mallor didn’t reply, and Haleth pressed the tip of his sword into the other man’s neck. “Answer me!” he demanded.

There was no fear in Mallor’s eyes as they focused on a point past Haleth’s head. “You’ll never find her,” he said. “If Calimahir’s course is what I think it is, he’ll be in for quite a surprise when he arrives at Umbar only to find my people turned against him. And the true Corsairs are far less merciful to their prisoners than that lily-livered traitor. Besides, they’ll know far better what pleasures can be had from a fiery red-headed wench like…”

His taunt trailed off into a surprised gurgle as Haleth drove the sword into the other man’s throat in a blind rage. “And if any of your people so much as lay a hand on her, I’ll do far worse to them,” he said in a tight voice as the man’s eyes glazed over in death. Haleth jerked his sword loose in disgust and moved to stand up when he heard a shout behind him. He turned around just in time to see a pirate, his sword raised in position to cut off Haleth’s head, look down in surprise at the sword that was now protruding from his stomach. The sword disappeared as the owner pulled it free, and the pirate collapsed.

As soon as Haleth saw who had saved him, his eyes dropped to the ground in shame. He could see all too clearly the discoloration around Déor’s jaw from the punch he’d given him, a tangible reminder of how ill he’d treated his friend. “Thanks,” he mumbled, busying himself with wiping his sword on Mallor’s tunic.

“Come on,” Déor replied, reaching down to help Haleth to his feet. “We need to finish this.” Haleth gripped his hand, still unable to look him in the eyes, and the two men hurried over to where the battle was still going on.

With their captain dead, it wasn’t much longer before the remaining Corsairs surrendered, and while Maglor’s crew boarded the ship to prepare it to sail, Haleth quickly surveyed the beach. The element of surprise had been on their side, it seemed—though several Riders and sailors had fallen, the Corsairs’ casualties were far more numerous. Satisfied that they had won, his eyes drifted to a little further down the beach, where Déor was standing near the edge of the water and staring towards the horizon. Haleth sighed to himself as he headed in that direction; he knew what he had to do, but he bitterly regretted having put himself in this situation in the first place.

Though Déor glanced over at Haleth as he approached, neither of them spoke until Haleth finally said, “I’m really sorry, Déor. I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that.”

Déor shook his head sadly, not taking his eyes away from the sea. “You were right,” he said quietly, and Haleth could clearly hear the regret in his voice. “I should have brought her back when I had the chance.”

“And likely gotten yourself killed and Elwing captured in the process,” Haleth finally admitted. “Either way, that’s still no excuse for what I did.”

“I know you didn’t mean it,” Déor said. “You were just as angry and frustrated as I am.”

Haleth looked down, ashamed for letting his temper get the better of him again. Especially with Déor; though he didn’t talk about it much, Haleth knew he was already blaming himself for Rowyn’s capture, and so he had a very good reason for wanting to get her back so badly. “I didn’t hurt you badly, did I?”

The faintest hint of a smirk crossed Déor’s face. “I’d say you hit like a girl, but in this eored…”

Haleth snickered. “I’ve been on the receiving end of Rowyn’s fist too many times to comment on that.” His laughter quickly died as he wondered yet again where his sister was now. The pirate captain’s last words echoed through his mind again, and he couldn’t help questioning if there really was any chance of finding her in time now, or what had already happened to her.

As if in response, Déor put a hand on his shoulder. “Come on,” he said. “It looks like the others are gathering over there. We need to get moving so we can catch up with that ship.”

“Right,” Haleth said, forcing his growing doubts to the back of his mind as the two men headed back up the beach.
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Postby whereismysam » Sun Oct 29, 2006 3:11 pm

They could hear the sounds of the Rohirrim talking amongst themselves as the two men started to make their way back to where they were gathering. Their thoughts immediately turned to those who had fallen.

"Did you happen to see who got hit by those arrows when we were charging?" Déor asked Haleth, his voice hushed.

"No, I didn’t; I was too preoccupied in what was going on in front of me," Haleth said quietly in return.

Déor nodded his agreement. "Who do you think—?"

The words died in his throat as the group of Rohirrim parted and he could see who it was on the ground. He could see Elwing leaning over the body of one of the fallen Rohirrim, an arrow through his chest. Upon closer inspection, Déor was shocked and saddened to see that it was Frúywine. Another fallen Rohirrim lay several feet away, his body also strangely contorted in a position of death.

Déor stepped closer to Elwing, instantly ready to comfort her, as he felt that she would need it, but was surprised and more than a little alarmed by the calm and reserved look on her face. She made no sound, and said nothing to anyone and it was then that he noticed that she was holding his hand, caressing it gently. He felt a presence next to him at that moment, and turned to see Elrosar standing next to him, a grim look on his face.

Déor stepped back away from Elwing then, making sure to stay close to Elrosar's side. "He's really gone this time," he whispered sadly, hoping that his voice didn't carry down to where Elwing was kneeling. Ro clasped his cousin's shoulder, his face sorrowful and downcast. His eyes welled up over the loss of a comrade, friend and brother, and for a moment could not speak. When he did finally find words a moment later, it was in the most weary tone that Déor had ever heard his cousin use.

"Will you take charge here? I hate to leave Elwing at a time like this but time is of the essence at this moment, and I must return to camp to bring back Adrial and the others."

Déor nodded. "Just hurry." Elrosar looked his thanks as Déor muttered sadly, "There's been too much loss already..." His voice trailed off as Elrosar turned and, gathering the Rohirrim who were around him together to go back with him, headed back to the edge of trees and began making the trek back across the island. For a moment, Déor watched the group walk away, lost in his own thoughts.

A cry from behind him broke him out of his reverie and he turned his attention back on the crows. Unsurprisingly, it had been Elwing who had cried out. She had stood up, and was pulling her arm out of Haleth's grasp.

"No," she said angrily, obviously annoyed at something he had said. "I'm not leaving!" Her eyes flashed dangerously up at him.

"Please?" asked Haleth, almost desperately.

Instead of answering him, she turned and began pushing her way through the remaining Rohirrim. Déor was unsure of what it was his cousin was doing as she moved about that area of the beach until he saw her bend down and pick up several shovels that were amongst the cargo that would have gone on the pirate ship.

She brought them back and dumped them unceremoniously on the ground beside the lifeless body of Frúywine and, grabbing one off the pile, made her way over to one of the softer patches of sand. Without a word, she started shoveling.

Haleth stood there, despondent, running his fingers through his hair. Déor let out a sad sigh as he made his way over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

"It might be better if you went with Elrosar on this one, Haleth. Just let her be for the time being."

Haleth looked anything but willing and able to let Elwing alone, but nodded, and then turned quickly, in an effort to quickly catch up with Elrosar.

Déor turned again to his cousin, but knew that anything he tried to say to her would be for naught, and so instead he cleared his throat, saying to those still milling about, "All right. I need several more volunteers to help us dig graves for our fallen brothers. The rest I want to scatter along the beach, going through the remnants of what the pirates had. If there is anything that might be of use, pull it out, and get it on board. The rest of you, help Captain Magor and his men get the ship ready. We need to be ready to leave when Elrosar and his contingent return with Adrial."

The Rohirrim scattered quietly to follow Déor’s orders, their moods sobered by the loss they as a group had suffered that day. After he had seen them all off in the various tasks given, he turned his attention to the bodies of the dead, laying them out as best he could in preparation for their burial, while a couple of others went off in search of something to mark the graves with.

Elwing continued her shoveling, her movements by now almost frantic in nature. Déor’s heart broke as he saw the tears streaming down his cousin’s face while she wildly threw sand off to the side of the hole that was beginning to form. This continued for a few minutes before she dropped her shovel and fell to her knees, overcome with grief. Déor was by her side instantly.

He wrapped his arms around her, letting her cry softly on his shoulder, wishing he could take her pain and put it on himself, although he knew that was impossible. When she pulled away from his embrace a few moments later, her eyes were red, her face sad, but there was a determined look on her on her face.

"Will you help me?" she asked softly.

Déor smiled half-heartedly, and nodded, squeezing her hand as he helped her stand up. Elwing turned, and continued her digging as Déor found himself a shovel and began digging alongside of her.

The sad task took them a couple of hours to complete, and when it was done, those there gathered around as the bodies were lowered, and the appropriate last-rites were spoken. It was no small task after that, filling in the graves and then moving the rather large rocks, which had been found nearby and had been rolled over, onto the graves. When there was nothing left for them to do, Elwing sat herself down by Frúywine's, and rested her head on the rock. She looked so sad and yet so serene at the same time, and as he sat down next to her and took her hand, Déor was at a loss as to what to say or do for his cousin.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Mon Oct 30, 2006 6:27 pm

Elrosar was lost in thought as he led his men back through the forest of jungle to the other side of the island. He vaguely remembered seeing Haleth following them at the rear of the group, and he wondered why he wasn't with Elwing. The loss of Frúywine had struck Elrosar in an odd way. For so many years now he had thought the man was dead, and to see him alive in Dol Amroth had been astounding to say the least. But now his friend was truly gone this time.

Some time later Elrosar and the others came out of the forest to where their camp had been. Adrial saw her husband emerge from the trees and ran quickly to him. Elrosar took her in his arms for a much-needed embrace, and then kissed her tenderly on the lips. The rest of the Rohirrim began gathering up everything that they could carry from their campsite.

Adrial noticed the blood on Elrosar's leather armor, and the smell of battle was still on him. "You had to fight didn't you?" Adrial asked, as Elrosar escorted her to the place where their belongings were.

"Yes," Elrosar answered lowly while dropping his head.

"What of Rowyn?" Adrial quickly asked her voice filled with hope. "Is she alright?"

"She wasn't there," Elrosar answered, and he looked into Adrial's eyes. Both of them saw the despair in each other's eyes. "But how…where is she?" Adrial's voice was cracked with emotion.

"Calimahir's ship was already gone, along with Rowyn," Elrosar answered. "Donar recognized the crew of the other ship and he knew that they were not to be trusted. Magor recognized them as well, so we had to fight them. We won, and we have captured their ship."

"So we can get off this island now," Adrial said. "We can go after Rowyn now can't we?"

"I suppose," Elrosar answered. "But we are not for certain where he has taken her."

"Perhaps Donar might know," Adrial suggested, as they gathered what belongings they had salvaged. "He might be our only way of finding her now."

Elrosar sighed deeply in frustration. "I don't like having to trust him, because he was part of the reason you were kept from me, but I see no other way."

"He is not an evil man Ro," Adrial reassured him. "He was just caught up in this whole mess."

I'll reserve my judgment on that until I see if we find Rowyn or not," Elrosar stated, as he looked at her with concern on her face. "Are you sure you're up for a little hike?"

"Yes," Adrial answered quickly. "I'm ready to leave this place, and the walk will do me good." Elrosar linked his free hand with hers, and he began to lead her and the rest of the Rohirrim back to the harbor and their newly acquired ship.

A few hours later Elrosar, Adrial, and the others stepped out onto the sandy beach of the harbor. Elrosar was thankful to see that the Magor's crew had been busy getting the Corsair ship ready to sail, and Elrosar noticed that most of the Rohirrim were clustered together waiting for the orders to leave.

Deor spotted them and hurried over to meet Elrosar and Adrial. "I'm glad you're back Ro," Deor said. "We've loaded the ship, and Magor said that we should be ready to sail within the hour."

"Good," Elrosar replied. "What does that ship look like on the inside?"

"It's not pretty, but Magor said that you will be staying in the Captain's cabin. It's a lot nicer, because Mallor seemed to be a little vain," Deor answered, as he took the bags Adrial was carrying.

Elrosar and Adrial followed him to the gangplank of the ship and they walked up it. Deor led them to the aft section of the ship where the galley was located. The galley was fairly large Elrosar noticed, but the smell wasn't the most pleasant he had ever smelt. Deor led them through the galley to a large oak door at the end of the room. The room was the cabin that Elrosar and Adrial would be staying in, and they were thankful that it had a good-sized bed in it.

Elrosar left Adrial alone to tidy up the place a bit, as he and Deor walked back out to the deck. The Rohirrim were boarding now, as were some of Magor's sailors. Magor appeared at the top deck with Donar following him. "This ship is sea worthy at least," Magor said. "If the sail holds we should make it just fine on the sea, barring we are caught in another storm that is."

"Where do you think Calimahir took Rowyn?" Elrosar asked of Donar.

"I'm not certain," Donar answered. "But I know he would probably make for Umbar first to gather some supplies before he did anything else. He will do anything to protect Jahira, but he will not hurt Rowyn. He probably thinks that you are dead, so he will be trying to find a way to get Rowyn at least back to Dol Amroth."

"How can you be sure of this?" Elrosar asked. "He kept her and my wife from me before, what makes you think he won't do it again?"

"He kept Adrial and Rowyn to get his wife back," Donar answered quickly in defense of his Captain and friend. "I disagreed with him, but he saw no other options."

"So what makes you think he will risk getting caught taking Rowyn back to Dol Amroth?" Magor asked.

"No matter what you may think of Cali, he will not just abandon Rowyn on her own," Donar answered. "He will most likely go to Umbar and get supplies, and then some how get her back to where she was taken from."

"Is it safe for us in Umbar?" Elrosar questioned. "I want Rowyn away from Calimahir as soon as possible."

"Your best hope is to land there at night, and let me see if I can find him there," Donar said. "I know that is a lot to ask, but it is your best hope. Some of your sailors could pass for Corsairs, so they could accompany me."

Elrosar and Magor exchanged a glance at each other upon hearing Donar's suggestion. "We have time to make our plans later," Magor said, as he shouted some quick orders to his men to cast off. "But right now, we need to get this ship moving."
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Postby whereismysam » Fri Nov 03, 2006 3:14 pm

They had been traveling for a little over a day now. Elwing had vaguely heard her brother discussing various plans with the Captain and Déor as they got started on their voyage, but she had paid little heed to them; her mind was too focused elsewhere.

She stood at the ship’s edge, closer to the back end and away from the others, enjoying the wind as it swept her hair back out of her face. It almost felt as though it was taking all her sorrow along with it, and for that she was thankful. Her thoughts being the jumbled mess that they were, she would gladly get rid of the burdensome ones.

She watched as the sun set over the ocean, feeling surprisingly at peace as she watched the sky change from light blue to dark purple and pink. Understandably, Frúywine’s death had shaken her, but had left her feeling more out of sorts then sad. He had already died once; she had already grieved for him once. To have him return into their lives had been a wonderful thing, albeit rather hard for her to get used to. And then to have him confront her and try and confess feelings for her... She shook her head, willing those thoughts to disappear with the waves as they crashed up against the boat. It was all just so much.

She heard voices coming from behind her, tossed about by the wind, and she turned to see who was speaking. Those Rohirrim who managed to not feel sick because of the tossing of the ship were out and about on deck, enjoying the sunset just as she was, roaming amongst themselves in smaller groups. The two that stuck out to her, however, were Haleth and Déor, standing next to the edge, talking quietly to themselves. Elwing’s brow furrowed when she saw them; there had been something else that had fixed itself into her mind that she did not like and would not be able to get rid of until she spoke with Haleth. She did not want to bring it up, but knew that if she didn’t, it would bother her until she did so. Besides, things between them had been rather tense since they had left the island; Elwing had remained closed off and withdrawn and Haleth had kept his distance, and she had learned the hard way that leaving unresolved feelings between herself and the ones she loved never led to anything good. With that thought in mind, she quietly headed in their direction.

Déor caught her eye as she headed towards the two of them, and he raised his eyebrows. She answered his unasked question by looking at Haleth and he nodded, then turned and said something quietly to Haleth. He then walked away, stopping next to Elwing as he did so. He only smiled at her, gave her a soft kiss on her forehead, and then left. His reassurance comforted her.

After he had walked away, she cautiously made her way over to where Haleth was standing. “Haleth?” she asked softly, placing a hand on his arm.

He responded by placing his own hand on top of hers, squeezing it as he turned and leaned up against the railing. “Yes?” he asked gently.

She looked up at him hesitantly, unsure as to know how to word her question, for even entertaining the idea was out of the ordinary. But still, she would rather ask him then be troubled by it. “About what happened the other day on the beach with Déor—”

He silenced her by placing his hand over her mouth, immediately looking downcast and crestfallen. “Elwing, I am so sorry I did that. It was wrong of me to loose my temper with both you and Déor like that.”

Elwing gave him a small, encouraging smile, gently taking his face in her hand. “It’s all right to be upset, Haleth. I’m just worried that you’ll resort to doing the same thing again the next time something goes wrong...” Her voice trailed off, and she hoped he understood her question in that statement.

“Oh, Elwing,” he said miserably. “I wouldn’t...” He wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her close to himself. She let herself be pulled in and placed her head on his chest, breathing in deeply, smelling salt and wind in his tunic. “Good,” she whispered quietly as if to herself, grateful for his reassurance.

The two did not let go of their embrace for some time, each silent in their own thoughts, as Haleth gently rubbed her back. Elwing smiled to herself as she heard the beating of Haleth’s heart and could hear him breathing deeply, thankful to be there with him in his arms.

A few minutes later, she heard Haleth stir from where he had been leaning up against the railing. “El?” she heard him quietly ask.

“Hmm?” she murmured, not willing to ruin the moment by lifting her head. She heard him say, “I know this may seem rather petty, but how are you doing?”

She sighed, and lifted her head anyway, knowing immediately what Haleth was talking about. He had a rather hesitant look on his face, as if unsure of how she would respond to his question.

She shrugged her shoulders. “I honestly don’t know.” When she hesitated then, he gave a small nod, encouraging her to continue if she wanted. “I mean, I already thought he was dead, and had only just really started to come to terms with the fact that he had come back. And now he’s really gone. I mean...” She struggled to find the right words to continue. “I’m saddened by his death, but it was like he was already gone. Am I making any sense?” She looked up, frustrated because her thoughts didn’t make sense to her.

“A little, I think,” Haleth answered, brushing the hair back from her face. “You’re not...you haven’t changed your mind?” he continued hesitantly, after a few more minutes of silence, a look of anxiety on his face.

It was Elwing’s turn to place a finger gently over his mouth. “Never,” she whispered as she shook her head ever so slightly, a small smile playing at the corner of her mouth, her face inches from his. She leaned forward and kissed him tenderly, wrapping her hands around his neck. He held her tightly as he returned it, and only after they heard a noise from behind them a few moments later did they pull apart. He continued to hold her close as he whispered into her hair, “Your brother and cousin probably wouldn’t be very happy if they saw that.”

Elwing smiled, burrowing her face again in his chest as her cheeks grew red. “Let them be upset,” she murmured, placing her head against his chest again after moving her hands down so they were wrapped around Haleth’s waist. She could hear him smile at her comment, and then held her as together, the two continued to watch as the sun dipped further and further into the ocean.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Fri Nov 03, 2006 8:07 pm

Jahira woke shortly after Cali came back in and she lay in her bunk staring at the outline of the porthole in their room. A single star was visible to her from her position on the bed, and her gaze was focused on it. The gentle rolling of the waves moved the star to different points in the window, and the creaking of the ship played its never ending melody of sorrow.

Jahira reached down and pulled her blanket up closer to her head. The cabin was very cool now, and the dampness of the wood around her made the room feel even colder. She had lain awake for about an hour or so she thought, and she could tell that she would not be falling asleep anytime soon. Her mind had been filled with thoughts and images of her father, and she did not understand why and that troubled her deeply. He was most likely far away some where in the desert, but that brought her only a slight bit of comfort.

"Cali," Jahira whispered into the darkness of their cabin. "Cali, are you awake?" She heard the rustling sound of Cali turning over in his bunk, and the unmistakable sound of him rubbing his head and eyes.

"Jahira, what's wrong?" Cali asked, as he sat up on his bunk.

"I'm cold," she answered softly. "Do you have another blanket?"

"No, but you can have mine," he said, as he stood up and walked over to her bunk and laid his blanket over her. He knelt down on one knee beside her.

"Won't you get cold?" Jahira asked, as she propped herself up on her elbow. She could see the outline of his face in the darkness, and she knew that he could see her as well.

"I'll be fine," he replied. "If we have time in Umbar I'm going to make one of these bunks bigger."

Jahira knew he had a smirk on his face, and she smiled in spite of her trepidation over her thoughts. Jahira reached out and placed her hand on his. "I think you can squeeze in here."

Cali needed no further motivation, and he smiled broadly at her. He slipped in behind her on the small bunk and drew her close to him after pulling the blankets up to their shoulders. The bunk was very small and Cali's back was against the wall, but both of them were willing to suffer a bit just to be close to each other this night.

"Is the cold all that kept you awake?" Cali asked after he had held her for some time.

Jahira blinked her eyes in the darkness, as she tried to gather her thoughts to answer him. "No," she said at last.

"What is it Jahira?" Cali asked, after she fell into a troubling silent state.

"It's my father," she answered finally. "I can't get the image out of my mind of him hurting you and our…"

"Oh Jahira," Cali's voice was soft and reassuring. "Your father is no where near us, but if he ever does find us I will deal with him. He will not hurt you again."

"I want to believe that," Jahira sighed. "I just…I don't know."

"I think the best thing for us to do after we return Rowyn back to Dol Amroth is for us to head north by land," Cali said.

"What about your ship and your business?" Jahira twisted her head to her left in an attempt to see his face.

"I'll leave them in the hands of Ondohir," Cali said. "He runs most of my business anyway, and the Eagle could use some overhauling."

"But you'll be giving up the sea," Jahira protested. She almost fell off the bunk as she twisted around to face Cali. "The sea is your life."

Cali gently placed a finger on her lips. "No Jahira, I gave up on the sea when I married you."

Jahira's heart began to race and she could even feel it beating in her chest. She knew his words were truth, and what would be a simple statement to some people touched her in a way that was foreign but extremely desirable and joyous. She placed a finger on his face and traced the outline of his lips with it. Her hand then drifted down to his bare chest and the warmth of his skin invited her to draw closer to him. "I don't know what to say Cali."

"Don't say anything," he whispered, as his lips brushed up against hers.

"Where will we go?" Jahira asked, as she felt Cali's arms wrap around her waist and back. The touch of his hands caused her to sigh in delight.

"We'll go wherever you wish to," he answered.

Jahira stared into his warm eyes for a time as she caressed his face, and she smiled as she realized that she wasn't cold anymore. "At this moment there is no other place I want to be."
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Fri Nov 03, 2006 8:16 pm

The next week passed quickly for them, and Cali and Jahira were very thankful for the time that they had alone with each other. Rowyn spent most of her time in Donar's cabin, where Cali was letting her stay on the voyage. Cali noticed that she was very withdrawn, and would only speak if absolutely necessary. He allowed her to roam the ship freely, and he noticed that she seemed to have overcome her seasickness. Every time Cali saw Rowyn on the ship the nagging feeling of regret of keeping her gnawed at him, and he wondered if those feelings would ever leave.

It was late in the day on the 12th of May when the port city of Umbar came into view. The port city of Umbar was old, but it was not dilapidated or rundown. The central part of the still showed its vast Numenorian background. Many of the main structures were original buildings from where the city had been first settled. The city had been under control of the Numenoreans for centuries, before the Black Numenoreans took it. Gondor held it on several occasions, along with the Haradrim, and of course the Corsairs, who still controlled it now. There was a large palace the southwest section of the central part of the city, where rulers had sat in their power. The dome of highest tower could be seen all around the city and from far off out to sea on a clear day.

Preparations were made for landing, and Cali guided the ship into the harbor, which was eerily void of activity. Cali remembered the evening times around the port as being one of the busiest, as the fishing vessels returned home. What vessels Cali could see in the harbor were all docked at the piers. Cali thought it strange, but he reminded himself that a great many of the Corsair ships had been sent to Dol Amroth for the attack there. Cali wondered to himself how he would be received in the city, and as they pulled into an open slip he reasoned that he and Jahira would be best served in finding a room for the night. He could seek out provisions and further repair work in the morning.

The Eagle was docked and tied off, and the gangplank was lowered. It was dark now, and only a few torches lined the pier. Cali and Jahira gathered up a few of their belongings and stuffed them into a pack. Jahira insisted that they remove their wedding rings before they left. Cali protested, but Jahira reminded him that the Corsairs had been helping the Haradrim, and she didn't want to draw even more attention to themselves. Cali finally agreed and he placed both rings into his vest pocket, and then looked down at their hands.

"I don't like this look," Cali said, as he held Jahira's hands. "Nor do I," she replied. "But it may be safer here for us for now. It doesn't change our love though," she added, and Cali's face brightened. They kissed each other and then embraced.

Cali escorted her up to the main deck and down the gangplank onto the pier. Cali walked behind Jahira carrying their pack. The water was lapping gently against the shore and docks, and Cali could hear no other sounds at all. He saw no one moving about in the harbor either, and he suddenly felt very uneasy.

They had just reached the far end of the pier that the Eagle was tied to when several dark shadows stepped out from behind a small shack. Jahira jumped behind Cali, and Cali quickly drew his sword. It only took a few seconds and they were completely surrounded.

"Well, well, well," a dark voice came from behind some of the others. "Unless my eyes deceive me I believe I see my chieftain's daughter before me."

Jahira gasped and almost stumbled when she heard the voice speaking to them. "Adham," she said weakly, as she clutched at Cali's arm.

Cali took a step in front of Jahira, but he knew not to attempt to draw his sword. "Who are you?" Cali asked with as much authority as he could muster.

"Ah, you must be the Corsair Captain," Adham spoke, as he stepped forward and looked up at the taller Gondorian. "It seems that you have grown fond of my chieftain's daughter."

"I was charged with protecting her," Cali said sternly. He could feel Jahira's hands tighten on his arm and he felt them quivering too. "What are you doing here in Umbar?"

"I am here with my chieftain and his army," Adham replied with a cold laugh, and Cali's face grew pale.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Fri Nov 03, 2006 8:22 pm

Rowyn quietly rummaged around the small cabin, contemplating yet another attempt to escape. The ship, thankfully, was nearly still in the water now, and Rowyn knew they had docked at Umbar. But she also knew that the odds were strongly against her this time. After all, the Corsairs that inhabited the city were obviously not friendly towards Gondor, so finding passage to Dol Amroth would be next to impossible. She entertained the thought for a moment that if she could just find a horse, she could ride back to freedom, but then quickly dismissed it. She had no idea where to go other than a vague idea that Gondor was to the north, and she had no money, no weapons, and though she had forced herself to eat most of the food left for her and had taken advantage of the opportunity to walk around the ship, she knew she hadn’t regained enough of her strength to make such a harrowing journey on her own, especially if misfortune would choose to fall on her yet again. The former occupant of the cabin had left little to help her either—she found no weapons, only a little money, and a surprisingly large stash of bottles, most of which seemed to contain some kind of spirits. And to top it all off, Cali had set two of his men to guard her cabin again—more likely to keep her in than to keep anyone else out, she knew. Rowyn sighed in defeat and sat back down heavily on the bunk, knowing she had no choice but to wait and hating every minute of it.

A shout from outside the cabin drew her attention, and Rowyn sat up straighter, then headed to the door to listen. As she pressed her ear against the wood, she heard a few more shouts, then the unmistakable clash of steel on steel. Rowyn’s eyes widened and she hurried over to the cabinet, yanking it open and pulling out the largest, heaviest bottle she could find. She gripped it firmly by the neck, then stood next to the door, trying to breathe as quietly as possible. Maybe if she was absolutely silent, no one would know she was there.

A strangled cry of pain sounded from outside, followed by a thud on the door. Rowyn’s jaw clenched as she held her breath. The door was locked, but whoever was attacking might think that meant that something valuable was inside. There was another thud, this time hard enough to shake the door within its frame, then a third. With the fourth, the door slammed open and a dark-clothed man half-walked, half-stumbled into the room with his scimitar out in his hand. He had the unmistakable look of the Haradrim about him. As his dark eyes surveyed the room, they rested on Rowyn for just a moment. Before he could react any further, she swung the bottle around as hard as she could, cracking it against his temple. He groaned as he fell senseless to the floor, the rum from the now-broken bottle spreading in a puddle underneath his now-bleeding head.

Rowyn hastily grabbed the sword from his hand, running it through the stomach of a second man as he tried to force his way into the room. As she pulled the blade out, she could see several other dark-skinned men outside of the door, and the members of Cali’s crew either lying on the ground or being bound as prisoners. One of them saw her and shouted something in their coarse-sounding language. The man she’d just wounded fell to the ground, and two more took his place. She managed to cut the throat of one, but the second grabbed her arm, forcefully yanking her out of the cabin.

Three of the men set on her at once then, and Rowyn was tiring rapidly. Still, she fought as hard as she could, and though she was unable to kill anymore, she did manage to wound several of her assailants. It wasn’t until one of them struck her hard on the wrist with the flat of her blade, causing her hand to fall open and the scimitar to fall to the deck with a clatter, that she realized they had not been trying to kill or even wound her. Just as this thought crossed her mind, two arms snaked around her from behind. One pinned her arms down by her waist, while the other pulled her into a headlock. Rowyn wriggled frantically, trying to get out of his grip, then brought her booted foot down hard on his instep. The man yelped and let her go, and Rowyn rushed forward, only to be knocked to the ground.

Her forehead slammed against the smooth wooden decking, dazing her. As she shook her head to clear it, she could feel heavy weights settling on her legs and back, holding her down as her hands were roughly yanked behind her. Rowyn struggled even harder as her captors bound her hands behind her, screaming as loud as she could in hopes that someone, anyone, would come to help her, but it was no use. A hand clamped over her mouth to stifle her cries, and Rowyn bit down on it until she tasted blood, spitting it out in disgust as he withdrew his hand, shouting some angry words that she couldn’t understand. There was a bit of arguing between a few of them, then she gasped as she felt a sharp prick in her arm. Rowyn twisted her head around in an attempt to see what they were doing to her, and could barely make out another dart stuck firmly into her upper arm.

Whether the drugs on it were more potent, or her weaker state made them take effect faster, or perhaps both, she didn’t know. But all Rowyn had time to do was groan, “Not again!” before her head slumped back onto the deck and she slipped into unconsciousness.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Fri Nov 03, 2006 8:23 pm

Adham had bound her hands in front of her—a touch more leniency than he’d been willing to bestow upon Cali, whose hands were bound behind him and unable to help him maintain his footing when one of their captors would occasionally take it into his head to knock him off-balance. But he had insisted that Jahira cover her face before being taken into the palace, and the borrowed head-covering felt stifling since she had grown unaccustomed to wearing one. Still, she was glad for it, as it hid her burning cheeks and the fact that she was biting her lip from the guards who jeered at them as the small procession passed into the main palace of Umbar.

The palace was an odd bit of architecture, a conglomeration of the peoples who had formerly held the city. Lofty windows that overlooked the sea reflected its Numenorean heritage, the richly patterned cloth hangings that decorated the walls were distinctly Haradric, while the marble floors reminded Jahira of the great halls of Gondor that she had recently visited. That dinner at Prince Imrahil’s palace seemed so long ago now, she thought as she glanced over at her husband. His eyes met hers briefly, and she could see remorse in them for getting caught. She wondered if he could see in hers how afraid she was.

Adham passed into the great hall, with the guards pushing Cali and Jahira behind, and announced loudly, “My lord, we have captured the pirate captain.”

Jadim was standing at a table to one side of an ornately carved chair at the head of the room, in discussion with several other men; Jahira recognized several of them as military officers. At Adham’s statement, he turned, his dark eyes briefly looking at Cali with a malicious light in them before settling on her. “Bring the woman to me,” he ordered, and Adham grabbed her by the arm and roughly jerked her forward. Jahira kept her eyes cast down, afraid to look at her father, but when she stopped in front of him, he removed the cloth veiling her face and tilted her chin up so she had to look him in the eyes. “Ah, Jahira,” he said quietly in Haradric, a humorless smile on his face that didn’t quite reach his eyes, “I have heard so many conflicting reports about you in the last few weeks that I did not know whether to believe you dead or alive.” Jahira didn’t reply, her gaze dropping again. Jadim’s voice grew lower and more threatening as he added, “I shall deal with you later.”

He then stepped away from her and said more loudly and still in Haradric, “You are either very brave or very foolish, Calimahir, choosing to come here.”

“Had I known you were here, I would not have,” Cali spat defiantly.

At a nod from Jadim, one of the guards holding Cali kicked his knees out from behind him, causing him to fall to the floor. Jadim then strode purposely over and kicked him sharply in the stomach. Jahira bit her lip hard to keep herself from gasping as Cali doubled over in pain and looked away so that her father’s guards would not see the tears that quickly stung her eyes. “You have betrayed me, Calimahir,” he said. “You know full well the penalty for that. But you have also dragged my daughter into this. Is that why she failed to complete her assigned task?”

Cali lifted his eyes again, and when he spoke, he sounded winded. “If you wish to put the blame on me, then I will accept full responsibility for her actions.”

“No,” Jadim said, turning back to look at Jahira coldly. “She has made her choice, and she will have to suffer the consequence for it.” Jahira swallowed hard, wondering if he had somehow found out about her and Cali’s relationship, and if so, how much he knew.

Before Jadim could elaborate any further on what exactly those consequences would be, one of the guards marched in, escorting an armed man who looked as if he were fresh from a battle. “My lord,” he said, bowing smoothly.

“Report, Fakhir,” Jadim replied, obviously not wishing to spend much time on formalities at the moment.

Fakhir straightened up. “We have searched the ship as requested, and the crewmen have been killed or captured.” Cali’s head slumped a bit, then jerked up as Fakhir continued, “But there is one thing we found that I thought you should see.”

“What is it?” Jadim asked. Fakhir motioned out the door, and a second man walked in, carrying a limp body over one shoulder in such a way that Jahira couldn’t see the captive’s face. Once he was a few feet from the chieftain, the man unceremoniously dumped the body on the floor, and Jahira groaned inwardly to see the red-blonde hair that had pulled out of her braid splaying across her face. I should have known, she thought.

Sure enough, Jadim’s eyes lit up with sudden interest. “Is she dead?” he asked.

“No, my lord,” Fakhir replied. “But we found it necessary to incapacitate her. She killed two of my men and wounded several others.”

Jadim knelt down, turning Rowyn’s face so he could see it more clearly. Her face looked very pale, and Jahira could see a still-darkening fresh bruise spreading from her temple down to her cheek. She had not seen Rowyn since before she’d been brought back to Cali’s camp, and was surprised to see how much thinner she looked and how tattered her clothes had become. Still, she noted with a shudder, whatever her father saw must have pleased him at least a little. “Did she, now?” he said with a calculating smile on his face. Then he straightened up with a laugh and continued, “It seems that you’ve captured one of the famous fighting women of the barbarian North, Fakhir.” He turned to Cali, whose face had also turned very pale, and asked, “Now, Calimahir, how is it that one of the horsemen’s women ended up on a ship full of pirates? I was led to believe you frowned upon keeping women captive. Surely she is not part of your crew?”

Cali didn’t answer, but Jahira could clearly see the guilt in his eyes. The corner of Jadim’s mouth twisted into a cruel smile. “I see,” he said softly. Then he turned to Fakhir and said, “Take her to the harem. And tell Alayah to see that she is cleaned up and given more…proper attire.”

“You can’t!” Jahira blurted out without thinking. While she certainly had no love lost for Rowyn, to be left among the girls kept for her father’s pleasure was a fate she couldn’t wish on even the stubborn Rohirrim. When Jadim turned to her, she swallowed hard and continued more meekly, “You are right in saying she is a soldier. As such, it might be wise to question her as one instead.”

Jadim walked over to her and, without warning, slapped her harshly across the cheek. The blow was hard enough to bring tears springing to her eyes, and through them Jahira could see Cali start to jump up before a hard blow across his back sent him back to his knees. Jadim looked back coolly, and Jahira knew with a sinking feeling that he had to have seen the anger on Cali’s face. Turning back to her, he grabbed her arm and hissed, “You dare question my judgment? It seems you forget your place, daughter.” He spat the last word out almost as a curse, then glanced down at Rowyn and added thoughtfully, but loud enough for all to hear, “You have been around these Westerners too long. Very well—let this be a lesson to her as well in what it means to be a woman. Take her away!” Fakhir nodded, and he and the other man picked her up, Rowyn’s head falling limply over Fakhir’s shoulder as they left the room.

“And the pirate, my lord?” one of Cali’s guards asked.

“Take him to the dungeons for questioning. As for Jahira, you may give her a room in the eastern wing for now.” As one of the guards stepped forward and took her arm, he added in a lower voice, “And see that she is guarded.”

As Jahira was led out of the room, she willed herself not to look at Cali. But she still sensed the longing glance he cast her way as she passed.

She was not the only one to notice. As soon as she had left the room, Jadim, who had also observed Cali’s reaction, walked over and stood before him. “Let us go then, Calimahir,” he said in a quiet but threatening tone as the two guards hauled him to his feet. “It seems we have much to discuss.”
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Mon Nov 06, 2006 6:46 pm

Adrial paced about the room anxiously waiting on Elrosar to come back to their cabin. She grew tired and sat down on the bed in the room, which she couldn't help but notice was bigger than the bunks on the other ships that they had been on. The Corsair Captain had been a bigger man, so he must have purposely made his bed bigger. She had thrown out the smelly blankets that were on the bed, and had replaced them with some cleaner ones that they had brought with them from the Andúnië .

She sat on the bed for a while and placed her hands on her abdomen. Her belly was growing bigger it seemed with each passing day, and that brought comfort to her heart in knowing that meant the baby was growing too. She knew Elrosar was meeting with Captain Magor, but she wished he would come back to her soon. She had no desire to be alone, but she didn't want to be with anyone else but him.

Adrial sighed in frustration and stood up and began pacing about the floor once more. They had already eaten, but she realized that she was thirsty again. She poured herself some fresh water and began to sip on it. She finished off her glass of water after pacing some more, and then sat down on the bed again.

Her mind was then drawn to thoughts of Rowyn and her plight. They knew she was alive, and they knew where the ship she was on was headed, but Adrial had a nagging feeling of fear and concern for her friend. If only they had gotten to the harbor quicker, or if there had been no storm then this would all be over with, and they would be going home.

That's what Adrial had a yearning for suddenly. She wanted to be home, with her husband and sleeping on their own bed. Images of them preparing for the baby to come filled her mind then, but they were broken by the sound of footsteps in the hallway outside.

Adrial jumped up and ran to the door and opened it. She looked one way, but didn't see anyone, so she turned to her right and peered down the hallway. Her heart sank when she saw that the footsteps belonged to one of the Gondorian sailors. She sighed and closed the door and walked back over to the bed and pulled the blankets back. "I want to go home," she said out loud, as a tear trickled down her face.

She wiped the tear away again, as she heard more footsteps approaching. She resisted running to the door this time, because she didn't want to be even more disappointed when the footsteps passed by. She took in a deep breath when the footsteps stopped at her door and the knob began to turn. She whirled around to see Elrosar walk into the room. He smiled at her, and she ran to him and fell into his arms.

"Have I been gone that long?" Elrosar asked, as he held his wife tightly.

Adrial buried her face in his chest, and she tried in vain to hide the sobs that came to her. She knew her emotions were getting the better of her right now, but she didn't care, she was just glad to be with her husband. "I hope you don't have to leave again."

"I'm not going anywhere until morning at the earliest," Elrosar replied while kissing the top of her head. "I'm going to wash off quickly if you don't mind," he said a few moments later. They released each other, and Elrosar poured a small amount of water into the washbasin. He pulled his tunic off and rinsed off his arms and torso before taking off his boots and tossing them in the far end of the room. As he washed off his feet he shared with Adrial Captain Magor's opinion on what to do when they got to Umbar, and how that they would most likely have to search the city at night, because the Rohirrim would stand out in the mostly Gondorian descendant society.

Elrosar joined Adrial on the bed, and he noticed that she had both of her hands on her abdomen. "Is something wrong?"

Adrial looked up at him and smiled and shook her head. "No," she answered while taking his hands in hers. "The baby is moving." She moved his hands and placed them on the spot where she felt the movement.

Elrosar's smiled broadened when he felt the gentle movement, and he held his hands in place not wanting to miss any of the experience at all. "Do you think the baby can hear in there?"

Adrial laughed at her husband's innocent question and she placed her hands on his face. "I have no idea Ro why do you ask?"

"I was going to talk to her or him," Elrosar said with a boyish grin. Adrial laughed at him again, and she leaned forward and kissed him. "You can talk to our child any time you wish."

Elrosar kissed her back and then dropped to his knees beside the bed. He grinned at Adrial again before he placed his face down near where his hands were on her abdomen. "Hello in there," he said softly. "This is your father. If you can hear me I want you to know that your mother and I love you."

Adrial smiled at her husband, as he continued to talk to their unborn child. He noticed her warm smile as he finished talking and he moved to sit next to her on the bed. He caressed her face with one of his hands, while he brought one of her hands up to his lips with his free hand. "I need to tell you something Adrial."

"What is it Ro?" Adrial asked, as he wrapped his arms around her.

"You have never looked more beautiful to me then you do right now," he said to her. Adrial dropped her head slightly. "Ro, I doubt that. I'm even afraid to look into a mirror, so don't say that."

"I'm being serious Adrial," Elrosar said with a soft but stern tone. He touched her chin and drew her head up so her eyes met his. "You know there is a glow about you, and now that we are finally alone with each other I realize again how beautiful you are. I have never seen anyone or anything more lovely than the woman that I see before me now, and I am more grateful today than ever that you are my wife."

A tear formed in Adrial's eye, as her husband's words touched her heart. He reached up and wiped it away with his hand. "I love you Adrial, with all my heart I love you."

Adrial leaned forward and placed her head on his shoulder and ran her fingers through the hair on his chest. "I love you too Ro. I could not ask for a better father for our child."

They held each other for a while there until Adrial raised her head and kissed her husband on the cheek. "I'm so glad that we are finally alone," she whispered to him.

"I am too," he whispered back. He pulled her close to him and kissed her lips. "It has been far too long since we were truly alone." Adrial did not answer him, as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his lips back to hers.
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Postby Gwenare » Mon Nov 06, 2006 6:51 pm

The morning came far too early for them. Elrosar rolled over to see his beautiful wife still sleeping soundly. She was on her side facing him, and he gently caressed her face hoping not to disturb her. How he wished he had her home! That was his goal now and as soon as they had Rowyn back safely, he would see to it that they all were headed home.

Elrosar didn’t notice how long he had been lying there watching Adrial. He heard a soft knock on the door and quickly, but very carefully got up to see who was there. As he was putting on his tunic and walking to the door, he saw Adrial roll over to her other side slowly and seemingly great difficulty. He hoped everything was alright. He would ask her later about this.

Adrial could hear the faintest bit of whispering going on. She rolled over slightly and moved her arm towards Elrosar’s place in the bed. It was empty. So he must actually be talking to someone, she thought.

She curled back up under the covers and closed her eyes. The morning air was chilly in their cabin. She longed for their home knowing that Elrosar would always make sure their bedroom was warm in the mornings. He never wanted her to be cold. She grinned as she thought about what he would do if she was cold; wrap his arms around her and hold her tightly. That would be most delightful right now.

Adrial was too preoccupied to notice that Elrosar had finished talking and quietly slipped in their bed. He wrapped his arms around her and began kissing the exposed skin on her neck. Adrial turned over with a start and asked, “Is this how you planned to wake me up?”

“I thought it was the perfect plan,” Elrosar said so innocently. “Did you not like it?” Adrial began to laugh and pushed him on his back laying her head on his chest. “I suppose it will be alright,” she said sarcastically. Elrosar only laughed and kissed the top of her head.

He held her for a few moments before asking, “Did you sleep well my love?” Adrial didn’t feel like telling him that she was not sleeping well, but she also knew he would see through her if she didn’t tell him. She tried somewhere in the middle, “I slept as well as one can when they have a protruding abdomen.”

Elrosar snickered at her response which quickly got him a smack on his chest before she abruptly sat up holding her abdomen. He became alarmed at her coldness towards him realizing that his reaction was not the best possible one to have. He sat up and placed a hand on her shoulder which she quickly shrugged off. “Adrial, I’m sorry if I hurt you. I never meant to.”

“I know you didn’t, but it’s just…” Elrosar could tell she was about to cry. He carefully slipped his arms around her resting his hands on her abdomen. “What is it Adrial? You know you can tell me.” She turned to face him, tears slowly rolling down her cheeks. He brushed them away and kept his hand upon her face caressing it tenderly. “I just hate feeling one way one moment and another the next. It’s really hard.”

Elrosar took her into his arms not knowing what to tell her. Adrial had always struggled with her confusing and conflicting emotions throughout her pregnancy. He wished he could help her, but he honestly had no idea how. She needed her mother and sister for this. He would make sure she had them soon.

After she stopped crying, she quietly began to explain to him about her sleep patterns. “I have to get up at least once during the night. You never notice because you have been sound asleep which I’m thankful for.” Elrosar felt a sting of pain at this. He wanted to be there for her, but at night it seemed she was all alone. “I also have to change my sleeping position frequently. It’s like I become numb on one side if I stay there too long.”

“Maybe you should try sleeping on your back?” he asked so innocently. She bolted up and looked at him with the most serious expression on her face. He really thought that something terrible had happened. “Elrosar, one is not supposed to sleep on their back in my condition.” He looked at her and asked another innocent question, “I have never heard that. Why is it so bad?”

“I really don’t know, but I’ve always been told that when a woman is with child, she should not sleep on her back especially towards the end.” Adrial wanted to add that her mamma would know, but she bit her lip instead. It was as if he knew what she was thinking because he whispered in her ear, “I promise you, I’ll get you home soon.” She gazed up into his deep blue eyes and mouthed the words, “I know.”

The two quickly dressed for the day and were about to head out to get them something to eat when Adrial suddenly stopped. Elrosar put his hand on her back and asked, “What’s wrong? Are you alright?”

“I am fine,” she said as she gently rubbed her belly. “The baby is just really active this morning. He or she must be hungry.”

Adrial laughed as she watched Elrosar’s eyes light up. He knelt down on his knee and began talking to the baby. He eyes widened with each kick he could feel. He looked up at her and said, “This one is definitely a boy and future Rohirrim.”

Elrosar did not see Adrial’s face as he said the last part. She secretly hoped that her children would not follow in their father’s footsteps like that. She has learned first-hand how dangerous that life can be.

She looked back at him and how happy he seemed right now. She placed her hand in his hair and said, “If this is a girl, she might not like being referred to as a boy.” Elrosar looked up at her, his hands still firmly placed upon her abdomen. “You know as well as I that boys typically come first in our family. I have no doubt that this one is a boy.” Elrosar seemed quite confident in this. Adrial spoke quietly to him, “I suppose our niece doesn’t count then, does she?”

Elrosar looked up with a puzzled look. “Of course she counts. There is always an exception you know,” he said with a wink. Adrial only laughed at this. She knew how much Hammona meant to them both especially since her father, Elrosar’s brother, had been killed in the war.

Elrosar continued to talk to the baby referring to it as a boy the entire time. His mouth was pressed close to Adrial’s abdomen. Suddenly the baby gave a hard kick right where Elrosar’s mouth was. He had the most startled expression on his face that she had ever seen. Adrial almost doubled over in laughter. “I told you; this one might be a girl and not like be referred to as a boy.”

Elrosar smiled and laughed at this. “I suppose you are right.” He carefully placed his hands and mouth back onto her abdomen. “Your mother and father will love you with all our hearts no matter if you are a boy or a girl.” He kissed her abdomen and the two then walked out of their cabin holding hands.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Mon Nov 06, 2006 8:50 pm

The two guards half carried-half dragged Cali to a door at the end of the room. A third guard opened the door and the small procession walked down a dimly lit hallway to another door. After passing through it Cali was drug down a flight of stairs, which ended at a metal-barred gate. Cali knew exactly where Jadim was taking him, because the Corsairs had held this city for some time, and Cali had been to the palace quite often.

Cali knew that he would most likely never see the light of day again, and he cursed himself for failing Jahira and Rowyn for that matter too. My foolishness has cost me everything and my stupidity has brought an unfair end for both Jahira and Rowyn.

Cali cringed at the thoughts of what would happen to Jahira now. She would probably be used as a possession in some wicked scheme of her father's to gain more power and control of the scattered Haradrim tribes. I'm sorry Jahira, Cali said to himself, as the guards steered him down a hallway with a row of wooden doors with small hand-sized barred-windows in them. The other side of the hallway was solid stone except for one larger door set in the very middle of it.

It was at this door that the guards opened and tossed him into. Cali fell and rolled up against the wall, but before he could rub his bruised shoulder the guards had grabbed his arms again. Cali then saw another man appear from his right and this man grabbed two chain shackles that were hanging from the ceiling. Cali knew what was coming, so he tried his best to make his stand now. Cali jerked and was able to free his right hand, and he punched both men holding him. Cali made a dash at Jadim, who was now standing in the doorway, intent upon at least killing Jahira's father to fulfill that promise he had made.

Cali was tackled before he could reach Jadim, and a blinding pain shot through his head when the third guard cracked a staff across his neck. A moment later Cali's wrists were in shackles and his arms and body were raised into the air with his feet barely touching the floor. The two guards that had hauled him into the room stepped back to the door, while the third man moved behind Cali.

Jadim gave Cali an amused look, as he approached the now helpless sailor. "It seems we have much to discuss Cali, but first I want to introduce you to Tanark. He will be assisting me with your questioning."

"This is pointless Jadim," Cali quickly spoke. "Our plan failed. We should just cut our losses and move on."

Jadim's eyes narrowed at Cali instantly and he nodded his head to Tanark. Tanark's fist suddenly slammed into Cali's lower back, and Cali groaned loudly in pain. "Yes Calimahir," Jadim began. "Our plan did fail it seems. What I want to know is the part that you played in its failure."

"I fulfilled my part of the plan," Cali finally answered, as he tried not to let his face show the obvious pain that he was in.

"Then why has word reached me that your precious ship sailed out of the harbor on the morning of the battle with the cursed flags of Gondor flying." Jadim walked closer to Cali as he talked, and Cali wished that his hands were free.

"I knew that the battle was not winnable, so I left before I became trapped there," Cali answered.

"You fled while your people died coward," Jadim spat. Cali clenched his fist, but the shackles would not give. "The coward is the man who chains his opponent's hands." Jadim's eyes flashed and drove his fist into Cali's abdomen. "Take him down, and follow me," Jadim ordered. Tanark grabbed the chains that held the shackles on Cali's wrists from the wall and pulled Cali out the door of the room. Cali was pulled to the other end of the hallway and up two flights of stairs to a balcony on top of the palace. The balcony overlooked the harbor, and Cali's heart sank when he saw the sight before him.

Bright flames were leaping up into the air from the dock area of the harbor. Cali forced himself to watch the Sea Eagle being consumed, and Cali watched as the main mast of his ship collapsed onto the deck below. "You see what happens when people fail me Cali," Jadim said.

"What of my crew?" Cali asked through his clenched teeth.

Jadim laughed and turned to look into the defeated man's eyes. "The ones that still live will make very good slaves. Take him back to the dungeon," Jadim ordered.

Cali was once more strung up in the air by his arms with the shackles on his wrists, and Jadim eyed him coldly. "Now is the time Cali to discuss the matter that is dearest to my heart," Jadim said, and Cali easily noticed the sarcasm in the older man's voice. "What of my daughter?"

"What about her?" Cali asked. "You had me protect her and that's what I did."

Jadim suddenly grabbed Cali's tunic, and with the help of the shackles he pulled Cali until both of his shoulders were stretched to their limits. "I saw the way you looked at her," Jadim said coarsely. "Did you touch her? Did you defile her infidel?"

Cali gave Jadim a cold stare, but he spoke not a word. "Answer me!" Jadim growled, as he tightened his grip on Cali's tunic. "My responsibility was to protect your daughter, and that's what I did," Cali spat back.

Jadim slapped Cali across the face with the back of his hand. "I'm tired of your deceit and half-truths," Jadim said. "I want to know if you touched my daughter.

"Leave her out of this," Cali answered sternly. His eyes bore into Jadim's, and Cali knew that he would most likely never leave this dungeon.

"Impetuous fool," Jadim said. He released Cali and made a motion to Tanark. Cali's tunic was suddenly ripped off of him, and Cali saw Tanark toss it at Jadim's feet. The sound of metal clinging and rolling across the floor reverberated throughout the enclosed room. Cali's eyes grew wide as he watched Jadim bend over and pick up a golden ring. Jadim brought it up to his eyes and he examined it closely. "This is no man's ring," Jadim growled lowly.

Cali kept his silence, but he swallowed deeply when he saw Jadim pick up Cali's tattered tunic and search it. Jadim narrowed his eye, as he pulled out another golden ring and examined it alongside the other one. Jadim closed his fist about the two rings and looked at Cali. "These are matching rings," Jadim said softly, as he came back to stand in front of Cali. "But then from the look in your eyes you already know that. Tanark I think I have the answer that I was searching for." Jadim paused and grabbed Cali's chin. "Tanark will teach you the penalty for touching a Haradric daughter."

Jadim released Cali and walked to the door and then stopped. "He is all yours Tanark," the Haradric Chieftain exclaimed, as he left and closed the door to the room. The sounds of a leather whip cracking soon echoed out into the hallway, but they were quickly replaced by the sounds of Cali's agonizing screams.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Mon Nov 06, 2006 8:54 pm

Jahira sat on the edge of the bed with the covers around her shoulders and stared blankly out of the small window. Jadim had been far from generous in the choice of her room—it was quite cramped with little furniture or light. The tiny fireplace seemed to do little to warm the room, and Jahira was chilly even though she knew that it was now late in the spring and the air should feel warmer to her. She knew it probably had little to do with the weather, though. She wondered where Cali was, and what her father’s men were doing to him; she could imagine it would be far from pleasant, and she was growing steadily more afraid for him as the day dragged on.

She also wondered what was to be done with her. After being left in the room, she had been completely ignored, with only the occasional movements of the guard outside her door to remind her that she was as much a prisoner as Cali, or Rowyn. Jahira shook her head slightly at the thought of the Rohirric woman; with her temperament, she doubted she would last long. Even if Rowyn knew how to play the game of how to survive as a woman among her tribe, from what Jahira knew of her she wouldn’t be one who would easily comply, and the price would be high. Of course, Jahira mused, I’m not sure how well I know the rules anymore either.

Her father’s voice outside of the door made her jerk her head up, and without warning, Jadim slammed the door open. Jahira quickly jumped up, bowing her head in an act of respect as she began to turn towards him, but in the next moment, Jadim gripped her arm painfully and jerked her around the rest of the way. Jahira knew even before his open palm smacked painfully against her face, causing her to bite down on the inside of her cheek hard enough to taste blood, that she was in deep trouble. “You little conniving harlot!” he shouted, shoving her roughly to the floor. “I sent you to Gondor to aid me in taking vengeance on the men of the West, and instead I learn that you have defiled yourself with one of those infidels?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Jahira said, pushing herself into a kneeling position and hoping her voice didn’t betray the cold, sick fear that was rapidly growing in the pit of her stomach. “You instructed me yourself to play off of the men’s weaknesses while gathering information, and…”

Before she could finish, Jadim yanked her to her feet again, then slammed her against the wall while painfully gripping her throat with one hand. “Do not play stupid with me, Jahira,” he said in a low, threatening voice as he pulled something out of his robe with the other. “Tell me, what did Calimahir offer you in exchange for selling yourself to him? Was there anything more than this trinket?” He opened his hand, and Jahira could see hers and Cali’s wedding rings lying in his palm.

Oh, Cali, she thought, feeling her heart beginning to crack at the sight, what have they done to you? But she steeled herself, knowing that Cali’s life could very well depend on her answer and, through the strands of hair that still hung in her face, she raised her eyes to Jadim’s and replied quietly, “You forget that your original plan was to plant me in the Night Orchid, Father. I only did what I deemed necessary to accomplish your purposes.”

“And yet you still failed,” Jadim answered coldly, his grip on her neck tightening. Jahira was beginning to find it hard to swallow or breathe. “I should kill you right now for defying me in this manner,” he continued. “But I think in this case, the punishment should fit the crime.” He released her, and Jahira took a deep breath and rubbed at her throat as he walked towards the door and called for the guard. “See that this woman is taken to Alayah,” he said. “Instruct her to see that she is properly dressed and prepared and then send her to me.”

“My lord?” the guard asked, glancing over at Jahira with an obviously-confused look on his face.

“Do it!” Jadim practically screamed, then turned to go.

Jahira took a step forward, her eyes wide with fear. “Father…” she started.

Jadim whirled back, anger and loathing in his dark eyes as he looked upon her. “I have no daughter,” he replied in an icy tone. “You are dead to me, Jahira.” With that, he stormed out.

Jahira felt her knees buckle, and she would have fallen to the ground if the guard had not grabbed her arm. “Come on, you heard him,” he said, all trace of emotion gone from his face, and Jahira had no choice but to walk with him down towards the harem.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Mon Nov 06, 2006 8:56 pm

Waking up from her drugged sleep was somehow even harder for Rowyn the second time, even though she was fairly certain that she’d only been hit with one dart on this occasion. If that had even been real, she mused—she had been expecting a cell or a dungeon of some sort, and whatever she was lying on seemed oddly soft for such. Maybe everything since Cali had brought her back to the encampment had been a dream after all, and her friends had found her, and when she opened her eyes she’d find herself on a ship headed back to Gondor. But the soft murmuring she could hear around her seemed wrong, somehow. Wincing slightly at how stiff her neck felt when she moved her head, she forced her eyes open, only to find a pair of dark eyes only inches from her own.

Startled, Rowyn shrieked, pushing herself into a sitting position as she scooted back until she found her back up against the wall. The dark eyes had jumped back when she’d cried out, and Rowyn could see now that they belonged to a girl, most likely younger than she, with dark skin and thick black hair that was partially swept back from her face by golden hair combs. Even more startling was her attire—it looked to Rowyn as if the middle of her blood-red dress had been cut out, leaving the skin on her abdomen exposed. Her arms were also bare, with thin straps over her shoulders keeping the tight, revealing bodice from falling off of her chest. She’d never seen any clothing like it, and Rowyn’s eyes widened as she noticed several other young women, all with varying dark shades of skin and hair and dressed in similar outfits, though the colors and the cut of the bodice seemed different on each, and all of whom were staring at her with wide-eyed expressions.

“Where am I?” Rowyn wondered aloud, shivering a bit—from fear, she thought for a moment, since this was unlike anything she’d even been able to imagine. The girls looked at each other, and one of them turned to the next girl and spoke quietly, but Rowyn couldn’t understand what she said at all. Then she looked down and gasped in horror when she saw that she, too, was dressed in one of these strange outfits; hers was as black as raven’s wings, with a long flowing skirt that seemed a strange contrast to the form-fitting top that left her entire stomach exposed and was cut far lower at the neckline than she was comfortable with. Noticing her hair was unbraided now—it seemed that somehow, it had been washed and dried while she was unconscious—she hastily pulled it over her shoulders in an attempt to cover herself some, drawing her now-bare feet up under her skirt as she pulled her knees towards her chest. “And where are my clothes?” she demanded.

The girls looked at her wide-eyed, but none spoke until a low voice behind her said in perfect Westron, “They were burned when you were brought in here.” Rowyn turned to see a young woman standing there; she had the same dark hair as the others, but skin nearly as pale as her own. Her eyes appeared to be a light, almost amber shade of brown in the light from the few candles that were still burning in the room. “All they allowed you to keep was your necklace.”

Rowyn’s hand automatically flew to her neck; sure enough, the familiar silver pendant was still there, the metal warm against her skin. Rowyn studied the girl a moment longer, then asked, “You’re from Gondor, aren’t you?”

The girl nodded. “From Belfalas,” she answered with a trace of bitterness in her voice. “I lived on the coast, and the Corsairs captured me and several other girls in a raid about five years ago. Then I was sold to the Haradrim and have been with them ever since.”

“I’m in Harad?” Rowyn asked, the blood draining from her face.

“No,” she said. “The chieftain I was sold to has taken over Umbar, and that’s where we are right now.” She studied Rowyn now, then asked, “I was one of the ones that helped clean you up. Obviously you’re not from Gondor, so where are you from? Are you one of the Northerners? And where did you get those scars, the ones on your shoulder and leg?”

Rowyn sighed. “Yes, I’m from Rohan. As for the scars, I got them fighting orcs.”

The girl’s eyes lit up and her voice dropped. “So is it true, then?” she asked in an excited whisper. “I heard the guards saying that you killed two men when they captured you.”

“I don’t know,” Rowyn answered. “I could have, but it all happened so fast that...”

The other girls had been staring at her the entire time, and one of them suddenly said in a harsh whisper, “Alayah!” The others looked alarmed, and Rowyn turned to the Gondorian, who frowned and explained, “She’s the mistress of the harem. And far more difficult to deal with than the guards.”

“Wait,” Rowyn blurted out, “did you say harem?” But before the other girl could respond, another woman was moving towards them. She was obviously older, nearly middle-aged, but the years had been kind to her and it was only a weariness around her eyes that marred her still-smooth face. She moved nearly as gracefully as an Elf, Rowyn thought, but there was no warmth in her eyes as she looked at Rowyn, obviously sizing her up. Rowyn straightened more, not wishing the woman to think that she was intimidated by her.

After a long moment, she looked at the Gondorian and spoke. The girl made a brief reply in Haradric, then turned to Rowyn and said, “Mistress Alayah wishes to know your name.”

“I have no wish to tell her,” Rowyn snapped, eyeing the older woman just as coldly.

Alayah stepped towards her; she was slightly taller than Rowyn, and so her deep brown eyes were level with Rowyn’s blue-grey ones as she studied her face. She reached out and fingered a few strands of Rowyn’s now-clean hair, and when Rowyn tried to pull away she grabbed her forearm in a surprisingly tight grip, forcing her to stay. Alayah then pushed Rowyn’s hair back behind her shoulders, exposing the revealing outfit again. As she eyed Rowyn, she frowned and poked a finger at Rowyn’s ribs, which were showing a bit more clearly than Rowyn had remembered. “Ow!” Rowyn protested as the other woman’s fingernail dug into her skin, and roughly pulled her hand out of Alayah’s grasp before shoving her away. “Just stay away from me, would you?”

The other girls gasped collectively, and Alayah’s expression darkened. She slapped Rowyn soundly across the cheek, and frowned even deeper when Rowyn refused to flinch. She made a few gestures as she spoke rapidly in Haradric, then turned away in obvious disgust. Once she was out of earshot, the Gondorian girl stepped closer and said quietly, “She says that Lord Jadim must be lowering his standards, that you lack both the grace and the beauty to survive here, and it if wasn’t for your unusual hair color she can’t see why he sent you here at all.”

“Good,” Rowyn said, crossing her arms over her chest. “Maybe I can leave then.”

“They’ll never let you do that,” the other girl said bitterly, “not until they have no further use for you. That’s all they see us as, you know. We’re just objects to be used at will and then discarded.” She contemptuously tossed her hair back over her shoulder, then said, “My name is Niniel, by the way.”

“I’m Rowyn,” she replied. “And thank you for translating.”

“It’s no trouble,” Niniel said, then added more softly, “It’s nice to have someone around that I can speak my own language with, though I am sorry that it had to be like this.”

Rowyn was about to answer, but then she felt a tentative touch on her shoulder and turned to see a younger-looking Haradric girl there, gingerly fingering Rowyn’s hair. The girl quickly averted her eyes and dropped her hand when Rowyn saw her, but then she spoke softly and stepped back. Rowyn looked over at Niniel, who translated, “Inaya says that she thinks your hair is pretty, and that it was brave of you to stand up to Alayah. And,” she added, “if you’re wondering why they’re all staring at you, I doubt that any of them have ever seen anyone with your coloring before. They thought I was odd when I was brought here too because my skin is so much lighter. With those eyes and hair, you look like you’re from a different world entirely to them.”

“Oh,” Rowyn said. She felt strange and oddly vulnerable, being surrounded by women of a people she had fought against on the Pelennor. She wondered if they knew that—they all seemed intimidated by her, somehow. But she also thought it strange that she saw no malice in any of their eyes; all she saw was open curiosity, or a little fear. It might not hurt to be friendly, she decided. After all, it seemed that Niniel wanted to leave as much as she did, if not more, and one of these other girls might know something that would help. “Tell her thank you,” she added. Niniel turned to Inaya and spoke a few words in Haradric, and the girl gave a small curtsy and smiled shyly.

The women began to scatter around the room then, and Niniel grabbed Rowyn’s arm. “Come,” she said in a whisper, “Alayah is gone and now we can speak freely. The women know nothing of my homeland, and the men are unwilling to speak of it around me. Do you know anything of what’s happened in Gondor since the war ended?” The hunger in her eyes for any news of home was almost heartbreaking.

“Not as much as someone of your people might,” Rowyn admitted, “but I will tell you what I do know.” She began to quietly tell Niniel what she knew of the King’s coronation, the improved relations between Gondor and her own people, and the intended marriage between King Eomer and Lothiriel. “That was why I was in Dol Amroth,” she said, “but we got word of a Corsair attack that was to take place the morning of the wedding. But I and two friends were attacked by the Haradrim and then captured by pirates the night before, so I don’t know what happened there.”

“You were able to travel for the wedding? Are you a noblewoman then?” Niniel asked.

Rowyn snickered. “Hardly,” she said. “Believe it or not, I am—or was—a soldier.”

“But how is such a thing possible?” Niniel asked in wonder.

“Long story.” Before Rowyn could elaborate more, however, there was a pounding on the door and a male voice shouting in Haradric. When Alayah hurried to open the door—and the other girls hurried to conceal their faces, which Rowyn thought odd—she heard some instructions given that she couldn’t understand, and then to her amazement, Jahira was shoved inside.

The door was quickly pulled shut behind her, and Alayah began scolding her harshly. The other girls listened intently, some of them creeping closer, until Alayah looked over and shouted a command—it must have been something along the lines of “Go away”, because they quickly scattered as she pulled Jahira to a side room and shut the door behind her.

“I wonder what she’s done now?” Niniel mused quietly.

“You know her?” Rowyn asked, glancing over at the Gondorian.

“Of course I do,” Niniel said. “She’s the chieftain’s daughter. She’s the one who taught me how to speak her language—I think she felt sorry for me, because I couldn’t understand the orders I was given when I worked in the cooks’ tents and they would beat me for it.” Rowyn furrowed her brow; she wouldn’t have expected that from Jahira. Niniel mirrored her expression then as she asked, “Wait—how do you know her?”

Rowyn’s expression darkened. “She’s the reason I’m not on my way back home to Rohan like I should be right now.” She would have said more, but the two girls who had apparently been listening near the door of the room that Jahira and Alayah had gone into came hurrying back towards the others just before Alayah emerged from the room, a slightly smug smile on her face. The other girls gathered around the eavesdroppers, and as they spoke, Niniel translated. “It seems that Lord Jadim is very displeased with her. Something having to do with a man of Gondor. Do you know what she did?”

As the door opened and Jahira stepped out with a small bundle clutched to her chest, now dressed in an outfit similar to theirs of scarlet trimmed with gold and looking completely numb, Rowyn’s scowl grew deeper. “Ask her yourself later,” she said in a low voice. “I have some unfinished business with her first.” She waited until Jahira had sat down on one of the low pallets that served as beds, then walked up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. Jahira didn’t even turn to face her, so Rowyn stepped forward and glared down at her, her hand clenching into a fist. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t punch you right now,” she growled, “because I have no qualms about hitting another woman.”

“I have done nothing to you,” Jahira said softly.

“Unless what?” Rowyn interrupted angrily. “If it weren’t for you and your pirate husband, I never would have been dragged here! And yet you have the nerve to say you’ve done nothing to me?”

Jahira jumped up and whirled around to face her; there was a darker spot on her cheek where it seemed she had already been struck. “If you intend to blame me for your inability to find your way back into the city without getting captured, you can save your breath.”

“No, I don’t blame you for that, though I do blame your people,” Rowyn replied. “But if you hadn’t tried to kill the woman who was soon to be my Queen and needed to escape, I probably wouldn’t have been kept on that ship! And then I’d be back with my friends instead of trapped here.”

“I didn’t try to kill her!” Jahira retorted. “If you must know, I went there only to make the Haradrim believe I was going to go through with it. I was planning on killing myself instead—ask your brother if you don’t believe me, because he saw the whole thing.”

“If I ever see my brother again, no thanks to you,” Rowyn shot back bitterly.

Jahira’s jaw clenched as tears began filling her eyes. “Don’t you dare blame me for this,” she cried. “Do you think I haven’t lost something too? My own father is likely planning how to kill my husband as we speak, and selling me to another man’s harem. I am no better off than you right now.”

Rowyn released her fist. “So it would seem,” she reluctantly admitted. Then she paused, hesitating before asking, “What are they going to do with me?”

Jahira shook her head, and when she spoke again, her expression was hard. “It’s well-known that my father has a taste for foreign women. That is how I came to be.” Rowyn, after figuring out what she was hinting at, couldn’t quite suppress her shudder. “Now leave me,” Jahira ordered, picking up the bundle of the clothes she had worn on the ship.

Rowyn headed back to her pallet and sat down against the wall again. She hadn’t quite realized at first what this place was meant to be, and she couldn’t help the cold, sick fear that was growing within her. Somehow, knowing what the men would do to her unnerved her more than any of the battles that she’d had to fight, and the nearly uncontrollable shivering that began as she sat there had little to do with being cold at all. With her mind so preoccupied, she never noticed as Jahira watched the flames consuming the travel clothes that Cali had given her. Nor did she, or anyone else, see the small bundle that Jahira had slipped under her pallet before walking to the fire.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Tue Nov 07, 2006 9:45 pm

Cali was jolted awake by the sounds of heavy booted feet approaching the door to his cell. His entire body cried out in pain, but the worst part was his back. He had been whipped repeatedly for some time by Tanark, and then tossed into a tiny dark cell. He knew his back was ripped open in several places, and he knew that he had lost quite a bit of blood. He had never felt such pain before, and he feared that another wave of the malicious torture was coming.

Cali grimaced in pain, as he shifted on the floor from a face down position to his side. A sharp pain struck him from his left ribcage, and his heavy breathing confirmed that he most likely had a cracked or broken rib. He was cold and his body had grown stiff from lying on the hard stone floor.

The door to his cell was suddenly thrown open, and Cali raised his left hand over his eyes to cover them from the suddenly bright light of a torch. "Up with you pirate," a cold voice spoke. Cali tried his best to sit up straight on his own, but his body was stiff from the cold, and this sudden movement was breaking open the stripes on his back.

"You beat him too much too soon Tanark," another voice spoke.

"Just get him up and put that tunic on him," a third voice, which Cali recognized as Tanark's, ordered.

Four hands grabbed Cali's arms roughly and he couldn't suppress the anguished cry of protest that burst from his mouth. The hands hauled him up to a standing position, and then one of the men roughly pulled a tunic over Cali's head. He screamed again when the tunic was pulled down his back, and his arms protested being shoved through the armholes.

"Bring him," Tanark ordered, and Cali was dragged out of the cell and down the hallway and up a flight of stairs. A door was opened and Cali closed his eyes quickly as bright sunshine flooded the landing in front of the door. Once Cali's eyes adjusted he realized that he was standing on one of the sentry balconies overlooking the palace grounds and the harbor. Another door to his right led to the actual palace he remembered, and it was through this door that two heavily armed guards appeared followed by Jadim and some other court officials of the Haradrim.

"Ah Calimahir," Jadim said, as he approached Cali. "I hope you are enjoying your accommodations," he added with a laugh. "Come there is something that I wish to show you."

Jadim led Cali and the entourage to the edge of the balcony and Cali's heart instantly sank as he saw a plume of smoke rising from the harbor. "There was an eyesore in our fair harbor that we needed to remove," Jadim said. "I wanted you to witness our cleansing of the beautiful harbor of Umbar."

Cali could still see the mast of the Sea Eagle standing, but it was engulfed in flames, as was the rest of the ship. "What of my crew?"

"Oh they are my guests as well," Jadim answered. "The ones that still live that is. Most will be never sail again, but I'm sure they will enjoy the tasks that I will give them. Now come I have something else to show you."

Jadim whirled and led Cali, who was still being assisted by the two guards, and the courtiers to the door that led into the palace. They passed through three other doors until they came to the banquet hall. The tables were already laden with food and numerous empty wine goblets. The middle and far wall of the hall was empty except for a curtained enclosure that was facing the center table. Jadim moved to this center table, and Cali noticed that two other Haradrim were sitting to Jadim's right.

One of the guards kicked the back of Cali's knees and Cali dropped to the floor in pain. Each guard held one of the chains to the shackles on his wrist, and they pulled his arms backward until he thought his shoulders would separate.

"Bring out the wine!" Jadim suddenly ordered, and two men at the far end of the hall pulled back a pair of curtains and Cali watched as several serving girls began to emerge from the room behind the curtains. Cali's eyes widened and a pained expression came to his face when he saw the last serving girl appear, it was Rowyn. She was dressed in a deep black colored outfit that consisted of a long flowing skirt and a very revealing top.

Cali could immediately tell that Rowyn felt ashamed and exposed in the outfit that she wearing, and he could tell that she had no idea what was really expected of her. A thin black veil covered her face, but there was no mistaking that it was Rowyn with her red hair and pale skin. He had brought her to her doom. An older woman at the end of the line pushed her forward, and Rowyn glared back at her but finally took a step into the hall. He saw that her hands were bound by a gold chain that was attached to ornately decorated shackles on her wrists. Cali looked around at the assembly of men and he saw that all eyes were upon Rowyn. Disdain and revulsion boiled up within, but his heart failed when Jadim said the word entertainment in Haradric and the curtains on the enclosure in the middle of the room were pulled back.

The curtains fell backward revealing a scarlet glad Jahira standing there with a veil over her face. Cali could only see her eyes, but he knew it was Jahira. Her outfit was much like Rowyn's, but it was scarlet and trimmed in gold. He struggled with his chains, as he tried to free himself, but the guards held them tighter. He cursed Jadim, as the chieftain called out for the music to begin. Cali's eyes were focused upon Jahira's, but he knew that she would never look at him. He cursed himself for failing her, and his heart broke as a seductive melody of music began to play and Jahira began to dance to the rhythm.

Jadim laughed as he looked over at Cali. "Her time in Dol Amroth has not stolen all of her skills it seems. Cali may I introduce you to Ghazi," Jadim said, as a grim looking man stood up to Jadim's right. His hair and beard was starting to gray, and Cali noticed an ugly long scar running from his right temple to the side of his jaw. His beard was bare for the most part around the scar, and Cali knew the man looked upon the scar as a badge of honor. The man scowled at Cali momentarily and then sat back down.

Jadim then motioned for Cali to look back at Jahira, who was still moving seductively in step with the music. "You see what she has been trained for Cali?" Jadim asked, but Cali did not answer as he watched her dance. Cali caught a glimpse of her eyes for a second and he saw defeat and hopelessness in them, and he would have saw the same in his own eyes if he had been able to see them.

"She is not her own Cali," Jadim continued and then emphasized. "She belongs to me! I will do with her as I wish, and I have finally decided on what will become of her." Cali tore his eyes away from Jahira and stared into Jadim's cold and calculating ones. "I have decided to that she will given to Ghazi, the general of my ally Najid's army. She will be given to Ghazi in exchange for his military knowledge and the betterment of the relations between our two tribes."

Cali's eyes flashed with anger, as he once again struggled against his captors. He cursed Jadim once more, but before Jadim could react his attention and that of the whole room was drawn to the westward end of the hall.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Tue Nov 07, 2006 9:50 pm

Rowyn hung back from the tables as much as possible, her face burning like fire beneath her veil from both anger and humiliation. She hadn’t really known what to expect when she’d been dragged out of the harem and manacled—especially, she thought bitterly, since the other women who had been brought out were left with their hands free. But she certainly hadn’t been expecting being forced to serve at a Haradric feast, especially not dressed as she was. A fresh wave of shame washed over her; she felt completely exposed and defenseless against the dark eyes that watched her every move, usually fixed at an angle that made her feel terribly uncomfortable. At least her hair seemed to be enough to occasionally draw their gazes higher. Part of her was extremely grateful that she couldn’t understand a word any of them were saying.

She had also been surprised to see Cali in the room, though it was obvious he was not there by choice. His shackles were made of iron instead of the gold bands around her wrists, mocking her with their beautifully intricate carvings even as the chain between them fulfilled the desired purpose, and one brief glance at his face was enough to tell her that he was in great pain. Though even that was nothing compared to the anguish that crossed his face when the music started and Jahira was made to dance.

Rowyn had not spoken to Jahira again since their confrontation during the night, and Jahira seemed just as happy to avoid her. But, despite her dislike for the Haradric woman, she couldn’t help but feel pity for her as the curtains in the middle of the room pulled back to reveal the other woman. Rowyn had never seen anything like the graceful but decidedly sensual dance, and the spectacle disgusted her, especially the looks on the men’s faces as they watched her. Jahira’s own expression was a mask of indifference, but Rowyn could see that she was carefully avoiding meeting Cali’s eyes. Rowyn turned her head away from Jahira, feeling oddly ashamed for her. The thought struck her that it was her own father forcing her to do this, and Rowyn suddenly realized how fortunate she had been in her own father—though there was certainly much that they hadn’t seen eye-to-eye on, and Rowyn knew she would regret their final parting for the rest of her life, he never would have forced her into such a role as this.

Lost in her thoughts, Rowyn didn’t notice that the man seated nearest her was watching her intently until a dark hand clasped her wrist, pulling her down. Rowyn was caught off-guard and tumbled rather ungracefully into the man’s lap. His arm snaked around her bare waist, pulling her closer as he pulled a strand of her hair over her shoulder, fingering it as he made a comment in Haradric to his neighbor before eyeing her with a leering grin.

Though she couldn’t understand what he said, Rowyn was filled with a blind rage, even as the touch of his hands on her skin made her feel somehow dirty. She shoved her hands against his chest to give herself enough leverage to push herself back to her feet, then whirled around so she was facing his back Before he could react, she looped her arms around his neck in such a way that the golden chain keeping her hands shackled together was pressed into his throat. Rowyn jerked back on the chain, causing him to gag as his head shot back. “Maybe you can at least understand this,” she growled, pulling her hands back steadily as he grabbed futilely at the chain.

The choked sounds still coming from her attacker’s throat attracted the attention of the rest of the men, and Jadim rose from the table as the music stopped, with his dark eyes flashing dangerously. “Let him go,” he ordered, speaking in a heavily-accented but otherwise perfect Westron.

“Tell him to keep his hands off of me!” Rowyn retorted angrily.

Jadim’s glare grew darker, and he suddenly pulled a long, curved knife from his belt and grabbed the nearest serving girl, pressing the blade against the young woman’s throat. “Let him go, or I kill her,” he said sternly. Rowyn could see the fear in the other woman’s eyes, and knew she could not allow her to die for her own rebellion. So reluctantly, she relaxed the chain and pulled her hands away from her assailant. Instantly, each of her arms was grabbed from behind by a guard, and Jadim roughly shoved the other girl away; one of the other women steadied her, and the girl stayed close to her as she looked down, obviously trembling. He then walked over to Rowyn and slapped her harshly across the face. “You dare raise a hand against your betters?” he asked, quietly but coldly. Rowyn didn’t answer, but didn’t drop her eyes from his as she continued to fix a steely glare on him. Her refusal to back down seemed to anger him even further, and he tore his gaze away to look at the guards. He barked a quick order in Haradric, and the guards half-dragged her out of the hall.

Once out of the main room, she was led down the hallway and through a door. Rowyn could feel the damp, chilly air of the dungeon as soon as the door was opened, and couldn’t suppress a shiver in her half-unclad state. The two guards kept a firm grip on her arms, offering her no chance of escape as they pulled her down the stairs. There was a row of wooden doors on one side, and a solid rock wall with a single door on the other. After speaking to another armed guard, the door in the rock wall, and Rowyn was shoved inside. The guards followed, harshly yanking her towards the wall by the chain connecting her hands, then one opened a lock that was attached to a loop in the wall that was just about at Rowyn’s eye level. Once it was open, Rowyn could see that it had been covering a hook of sorts and keeping it closed; the other guard held her tightly enough to keep her struggling to get away in vain as the first man looped one link of the golden chain over the hook, then closed the lock over it, keeping her chained to the wall. They left her then, turning the lock behind them. Rowyn twisted her head behind her to look around the room, and could see that it was some kind of torture chamber; there were open iron shackles chained to several places in the room, including one pair dangling from the ceiling; she shuddered to see splatters of what appeared to be dried blood on the ground beneath them. She could also see a series of whips and staffs by one wall, and a weathered wooden table that had various other pieces of weaponry scattered across the top.

As she was contemplating what they would do to her, the door opened again and Jadim casually walked in, flanked by a few of his guards and a particularly burly man with a shaved head. Jadim stopped just within her peripheral vision, eyeing her for a long, silent moment. Finally, he said, “After the war, several horses that had been captured on the field were brought to Harad. I can only assume they were from your people’s stock; even in the desert we have heard of the finely bred horses of the Northmen. They were, indeed, magnificent creatures to behold, but willful and stubborn to a fault. It was all my men could do to handle them.” He stepped closer, resting his hands against her upper arms and leaning over her shoulder so he could speak softly in her ear. Rowyn tried to pull away, but he held her arms tightly as he continued, “They just needed to be broken. One by one, their spirits were crushed, and they became the most docile pack animals one could wish for.” He smiled grimly as he asked, “So that begs the question—are the daughters of Rohan truly like their beasts? How much will it take to break you?”

“I’m not going to talk,” Rowyn replied, forcing her voice to remain steady.

He laughed, and the sound wasn’t pleasant. “Do you honestly think you have any information that we do not already know? We had many spies in Dol Amroth, and they kept us well-informed of the activities of the men of the West. No, woman,” he said, emphasizing the word as if it were a curse, “this is merely to teach you your place.” Without warning, pain slashed across Rowyn’s back; she gasped and when she twisted her head around to see, she saw the bald man, with a thin but flexible reed-like staff in his hands. Jadim stepped back then, though he made no motion to leave the room. He spoke in Haradric to the bald man, then turned to her and said, “I have instructed Tanark not to damage you permanently—yet. After all, you will likely prove more useful without any further scars.”

The blows began to fall again then across her back and the backs of her legs. Rowyn closed her eyes, clenching her jaw and her fists shut in an effort to avoid giving him the satisfaction of hearing her cry out, but the effort left her feeling somewhat lightheaded and with her eyes watering from the pain. Her silence seemed to anger her tormentor, and the blows began to fall harder. Finally, she couldn’t help letting out a half-sobbed whimper as her knees buckled, grinding the gold chain against the iron. Still, the staff cracked against her shoulders a few more times until Jadim finally announced, “Enough. Take her back to the harem.” The guard who had originally locked her chains to the wall unbolted her, and she fell the rest of the way to her knees. A moment later, she was hauled to her feet, a guard on either side supporting her as her legs trembled and threatened not to hold her weight. Jadim leaned close, pulling her chin up so she was forced to look at him, and said, “It will be difficult, deciding what to do with you. I think I should enjoy watching you break.” Then he gave another set of orders in Haradric, and Rowyn was pulled out of the cell and back towards the slightly softer prison of the harem.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Wed Nov 08, 2006 5:41 pm

Jahira paced around the harem agitatedly, grateful that Alayah was not out to watch; the mistress of the harem had been given one of the private rooms that had their entrances in the main room where most of the women stayed, and it seemed that she rarely left it. She had never gotten along well with Alayah, and her current unrest would have likely pleased the older woman too much. But her mental state was also making it difficult for her to think clearly, and Jahira knew she needed to do so. She didn’t have much time.

She hadn’t been able to look at Cali until he was being dragged back to his cell; he was obviously in bad shape, and it tore her heart into a thousand pieces to see how mercilessly Jadim had taken out his anger on him. But even more painful had been the look on Cali’s face when Jadim had brought her over just after the guards had taken Rowyn away and informed her that she was to be given to Ghazi that very night. Jadim had left immediately after—no doubt to deal with the Rohirric woman, as she had not yet been brought back to the harem—but Cali had been left long enough that she’d had to watch as he strained vainly to escape his captor’s grasp as the allied tribe’s officer had been thoroughly looking her over. It would only be a few hours, if that, before the guards came to take her to his chambers, and if she had any hope of escaping her fate she had to come up with a plan, and soon. She still had Rowyn’s dagger—Cali had given it to her on the island, both for safekeeping and to allow her some protection from the rival captain’s crew, and she’d managed to keep it hidden from both the guards and Alayah so far. But she knew she didn’t have the skill to use it against her new master—at least, not before he would have taken what he wished from her anyway.

A soft movement behind her made her whirl around, her skirt twirling about her ankles, only to see Niniel behind her. “That man with the guards,” she said softly, “he cares for you, does he not?”

Jahira sighed and sat down on a nearby low pallet. “He does,” she replied.

Niniel sat down beside her. “Is it true what the other girl said, that you tried to kill the Princess?” she asked quietly.

Jahira looked over at her old friend. “It is true that I was supposed to,” she confessed, “but not that I did. Cali, he…he tried to find a way that I didn’t have to go, but I left him. I was so afraid that they’d kill him that I ran away. He gave up everything to get me back, and now my worst fears are about to come true anyway.” She could feel tears forming in her eyes and she looked down in hopes that she could push them away before Niniel saw. “I love him, Niniel. I would save him if I could,” she said, almost in a whisper. “But I can’t see how.”

Niniel sat quietly for a moment, an odd, almost wistful expression on her face. Then she stood up and walked away. A minute later, she returned. “Ask Alayah if you may have some food and wine brought to the man’s chambers,” she whispered. “It is not unusual for the men to wish some refreshment for when they are done with us. If she grants your request, pour this into the wine.” She pressed something small into Jahira’s hand, and when she looked down at her palm, she saw a small glass vial, not unlike the one that had been in her necklace. “You should find it easy to leave his chambers without him stopping you then,” Niniel finished.

“Where did you get this?” Jahira asked, her dark eyes widening as she looked up at Niniel.

Niniel looked down at her hands. “When things were being packed for the journey to Umbar, there was much confusion, and it was easy for me to hide this,” she said softly. “This is the closest I have been to home since I was first captured…I was planning on saving it for the night before we would return to Harad. I swore I would never go back there.”

“Oh, Niniel.” Jahira squeezed the Gondorian’s hand, understanding completely.

“Don’t try to give it back to me,” Niniel said, a hard glitter in her light brown eyes. “The only thing I ask is that if you and your sailor find a way to leave this place, that you take me with you. I don’t know if there’s any life left for me in Gondor, but I would give anything to have the chance to find out.”

“You have my word,” Jahira said firmly. “If there is any way I can come back for you, I’ll find it.”

“Thank you,” Niniel said, a faint hopeful look on her face—the first one Jahira had ever seen from her. But before she could say more, the door to the harem opened, and Rowyn was unceremoniously shoved in before the door closed behind her.

Immediately the other girls gathered around; some looked as if they wanted to help her, and two of them stepped forward, but then Alayah opened her door and glided out of her room. Rowyn had immediately fallen to the ground upon her entrance, and now she was pushing herself into a sitting position as well as she could, though her arms trembled from the effort. “Do not help her,” Alayah said sternly to the other women. “She is an enemy of your people and must bear this punishment alone.”

Niniel’s expression immediately hardened and she stepped forward, taking Rowyn’s still-shackled hands and helping her to her feet. Rowyn opened her mouth to speak, but Alayah whirled on her. “What did I just tell you?” she scolded angrily.

“She is not an enemy of my people,” Niniel retorted sharply in Haradric.

Alayah stepped forward and slapped Niniel’s face, then spoke in a low, threatening voice. “I will permit you to help her find a place to rest. But be careful, Niniel, or Lord Jadim may very well match your punishment to hers.”

Niniel just glared back at Alayah, then put her arm gingerly around Rowyn, who couldn’t quite hide a pained grimace as her arm came into contact with her injured back. “Come on,” she said softly to Rowyn in Westron. “You’ll feel better once you’re lying down.”

“Thank you,” Rowyn said, looking down at her hands. The shackles had begun to painfully rub the skin off her already-rope-burned wrists when she’d been forced to react against the man in the hall, and the beating had only made it worse; the abrasions were becoming quite obvious. She limped slightly as Niniel helped her over to one of the softer pallets and eased her down. Rowyn shakily lay down on her stomach, trying to find a more comfortable way to hold her hands and finally settling on stretching them a bit above her head, then closed her eyes and stopped fighting the haze of pain that was clouding her thoughts.

She opened them again when she felt something cool and wet touching the fresh welts on her back, and was surprised to see Jahira there with a wet rag. “What do you want?” she groaned. “If you’re just here to gloat, please, just save your breath.”

“What is there to gloat about?” Jahira asked. “I am no better off here than you.”

Rowyn opened her mouth to retort, then realized that Jahira had a point. After all, she’d ended up in the harem too. But even so she couldn’t quite rid herself of suspicion. “Why are you helping me?” she asked.

“Because I need you to help me,” Jahira replied in a whisper. “I think you will find my offer will work to your advantage as well.” Rowyn’s mistrust was written all over her face, so without another word, Jahira unrolled another rag. Two small objects fell out onto the pallet, and Rowyn’s eyes widened as she saw that one of them was the dagger that Cali had taken from her. The other was a small metal file. “Your knife is small enough that you can hide it under your skirt if you tie it to your leg,” Jahira said quietly. “And the chain connecting your shackles appears to be damaged now. If you can cut through the link with this,” she touched the file and continued, “the gold should be soft enough that you can bend it back to appear as if your hands are still bound.”

Rowyn lifted her head slightly to look at the chain; sure enough, several of the central links had been damaged by the hook in the dungeon. “I’m not certain I understand how this helps you,” she said cautiously.

Jahira’s hands nervously twisted her skirt as she spoke. “I do not know what the chieftain intends to do with you, but I believe you would fight it if you had the chance. And I need some time if I am to find Cali and get him out of here.”

“I take it I’m the distraction to buy this time for you?” Rowyn asked dryly.

Jahira’s hands clenched her skirt tighter. “Do you wish to face whatever fate he intends for you with no way to defend yourself?” she asked.

“Of course not,” Rowyn snapped. Then she added more quietly, “But to ask me to fight him like this…” Jahira could hear a note of fear in her voice.

Jahira looked down. “I know I am asking a lot of you,” she said, “and that I probably have no right to ask this. But from what I have observed, it seems to me that this life would be worse than death for you.”

Rowyn didn’t answer right away, her eyes settling on the dagger and file. Jahira sat there tensely, looking at the angry red welts that crisscrossed the other woman’s back, standing in stark contrast to her pale skin. She was about to stand and leave when Rowyn’s fingers closed around the dagger’s hilt, moving it so that it was hidden before taking the file and moving it to begin cutting through the link. “You’re right,” she said softly without looking up at Jahira. “I would rather die fighting.”

Though her voice was resigned, Jahira could see a determined gleam in her eyes. Jahira felt oddly touched by the calm courage with which Rowyn accepted a path that could easily lead to her death, and blurted out, “If we can come back to get you…”

“We both know that’s not going to happen,” Rowyn interrupted. Before Jahira could reply, she continued, “Besides, it’s not as if there’s anyone left to find me. At least this way I can die honorably. Now please, leave me.” With that, she began the process of filing through the chain as quietly as she could without sitting up. Jahira stood up and walked away, glancing back at the injured woman as she did, then picked up a hairbrush and began her own silent preparations.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Thu Nov 09, 2006 7:04 am

The ship, which the Gondorian sailors had dubbed as The Gimp, because of its lackluster sailing abilities, finally brought the Gondorians and Rohirrim in sight of the city of Umbar. They had lost precious time when the ship's main sail had ripped at one corner. Captain Magor had been afraid that it wouldn't hold for a lengthy journey, and his fear came true when the corner of the sail tore free from it's holding.

It took several hours for the crew to repair the tear in the sail, and it put them to their estimation almost a full day behind Captain Calimahir's ship. As they came into view of land, Captain Magor pulled out his scope and surveyed the harbor in the distance. "There is a ship burning in the harbor," he said, as Elrosar came to stand next to him.

Magor handed his scope to Elrosar, and Elrosar took it and focused it in on the burning ship. "That almost looks like Calimahir's ship," Elrosar said with a pained expression on his face.

"I was thinking the same thing," Magor replied. "Bring Donar to me," Magor ordered a nearby crewman, and the young man hurried off to find the former first mate of the Eagle.

Donar was soon standing by them, and Elrosar handed him the scope. "Is that your ship?"

Donar took the scope and peered through it. His face suddenly went pale and he took a step backwards, as he lowered the scope to his side. "It is," Donar answered weakly. "I don't understand."

"We do not either," Magor agreed. "It seems that your city is no longer a safe haven for even the Corsairs."

"We are not Corsairs any more," Donar corrected. "Perhaps Cali's deception has reached the city though?" Donar had told Magor and Elrosar the complete story of Cali's working for Imrahil, of which Magor and Elrosar had only known a little. The full story lessened to some degree Elrosar's anger with Cali, but he still held him responsible for the detestable holding of his wife and Rowyn.

"Do you think Calimahir is dead?" Magor asked of Donar, as he peered through the scope again.

"I have no way of knowing that," Donar replied. "What ever has happened to him cannot be good for the Eagle to be burning."

"My concerns are with Rowyn," Elrosar said quickly. "What might have happened to her?"

Donar was silent for a moment before he answered. "You friend is most likely still alive, unless there may have been fighting in which she may have fallen. The governor of the city is a lover of women, so I would wager a good sum on that your friend and Cali's wife are in the palace right now."

"What will he do with them?" Elrosar's voice grew dark and grim, as he moved to stare into Donar's eyes.

"He will either sale them as slaves," Donar answered, but then lowered his head from Elrosar's boring stare. "Or he will keep them for himself."

Elrosar's eyes flashed with anger and a loud growl of frustration burst from his mouth. He rubbed his head with his hands, as the soldiers and sailors looked over at the three men on the deck. "Can we get into the city unnoticed?" Elrosar asked after a moment of thought.

"What is you plan Elrosar?" Magor asked.

"I have to get to Rowyn if I can," Elrosar answered the ship captain before turning back to Donar. "Is there a way into the city that we can sneak into?"

"They'll see us coming before we can even get to the harbor," Donar answered. "They may even see us now."

"Is there a way?" Elrosar asked, his anger growing, and Donar knew that the man was not going to back down. "There is a harbor on the south side of the city on the ocean front that is not used anymore. It is very run down, and may even have collapsed by now. You can probably still land the ship there at least, but you cannot do this in the day time."

"We'll need to sail north northwest until we are out of sight of the harbor," Magor said. "That way if we have been seen they will think that we have spotted the burning ship and will not be landing. We can then turn back south under cover of darkness and land at this harbor Donar speaks of."

"Just get me and a few of my men to the shore," Elrosar stated, as he stared at the outline of the land on the horizon. "What about the palace Donar? Is there a way into it that we might be able to use?"

"There is one way," Donar answered grimly. "It will not be easy, and you will only be able to get a small group through most likely. I can show you the way into it."

"No," Elrosar said. "Only me and a few of my people will go. Can you draw me a map?"

"Can you truly trust this man Elrosar?" Magor interrupted.

Elrosar and Donar stared at each other for a lengthy time. "My wife trusted you, and she spoke well on your behalf. I will have to trust her instincts."

"Elrosar I am sorry…" Donar began, but Elrosar cut him off. "There is no time for that. Just give me directions to the palace, and tell me how I can get into it."

"I will take care of the ship and landing Captain," Magor said, as he began barking out orders and left Elrosar and Donar alone.
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Postby Gwenare » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:30 pm

Elrosar had left Adrial in their room earlier while he attended to the last minute workings of their rescue plan. Tonight was the night they would have Rowyn back with them. Adrial was very excited about that, but nervous as well. She was always nervous when her husband would go off to do something dangerous. Now she was becoming nervous when he would leave her for long periods of time.

She walked over to look out the small window and looked out into the black night. She felt a sudden chill and wrapped her arms around herself. "It must be my nerves," she said quietly. She tried not to think about what was about to happen, but she couldn't stop it.

She heard voices outside the cabin and turned around to see the door open. Elrosar walked in and smiled when he saw her. She ran over to him and threw her arms around his neck. "Well, you seem glad to see me."

"I'm always glad to see my husband," she said before kissing him. Elrosar held her tightly as he returned her kiss. He wanted nothing more than for her to be safe, safe at home. He was working on making that a reality.

He broke the kiss and leaned his forehead into hers. "Remember what I said." She laughed and tried to repeat what he had said exactly as he had spoken it, "Stay in our room. Don't come out for any reason. Halas and Eothin will be here to make sure you have what you need." He laughed at her imitation of him, but then became very serious. "You know why I ask this of you don't you?"

"Yes," she said as she laid her head on his chest and he buried his face in her hair. "You want me safe."

"Exactly," he replied to her as he squeezed her tightly. "I can't bear to lose you again Adrial and I won't." She looked up into his eyes and saw that tears were beginning to form and her heart broke. She ran her hand across his cheek and said softly to him, "I'll be fine. I'm not going anywhere." He nodded his head and held her tightly. "I'm counting on it."

The two stood there for a long time just holding one another. Elrosar hated to leave her, but this was the only way. She had to be safe, and on this ship she would be safe. When he returned he would see to it that they got to Dol Amroth quickly, and then he would ask his King for leave for his eored to return back home. He really didn't know what the outcome would be, but his plan was for Adrial to have their child at home where he wished she was at right now.

In a low voice he said, "I have to go now. I hear the others assembling." She nodded as she pulled free from him. "Be careful Ro and come back to me and our child."

"I will," he replied as he cupped her face with his hands. He then kissed her tenderly on the lips. "Remember what I said." She smiled at him and told him she would.

Elrosar walked towards the door with Adrial holding his hand. He opened the door and stood out in the hallway before he turned to face her once more. He felt the same as he did so many years ago before they were married when he left her home and went off with his eored.

"I love you Ro," Adrial said while she placed her arms around him. "I love you too sweetheart." He kissed her once more and was off.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Thu Nov 09, 2006 8:42 pm

Captain Magor gently steered The Gimp into the abandoned harbor. Clouds were obscuring the partial moon now, and the only sounds that could be heard were the soft lapping of the water and the gentle creaking of the ship. Three sailors laid out long poles to help ease the ship to the rundown dock area. Once the ship was close enough another couple of sailors hurriedly tied it off and lowered the gangplank.

Donar was standing on the deck next to Elrosar giving him some last minute instruction on how to get to the palace unseen. "Follow the tree line closely, you will not be seen on this dark night," Donar finished.

Elrosar thanked him, and then passed the word to leave to Déor, Haleth, Elwing, and the ten other Rohirrim who would be accompanying them. "Keep the hoods of your cloaks up at all times," Elrosar ordered. "Even if we are seen they may just think we are Corsairs."

"I have a bad feeling about this," Déor said, as they gathered by the gangplank. "Something feels amiss."

"I feel it too," Elrosar stated. "But there seems to be no other course of action we can take."

"I know," Déor agreed. "We have to get to Rowyn, but I fear it will not be easy."

"I will kill everyone in that palace to get to my sister if I have to," Haleth said, as he pulled the hood of his cloak up over his head.

"As we all would Haleth," Elrosar agreed. "But I hope we can find our way in and out with as little fighting as possible. As long as Donar's directions are good, we just might be able to do that too."

The group crept down the gangplank onto the dilapidated pier. They walked as quietly as they could across the weather-beaten walkway to the partial beach that lay on the other end. It was a grassy beach and not as wide as the one on Gondolin. A grove of trees lay ahead of them, and after a few minutes of examination the Rohirrim made their way to the trees.

They saw no one on this area of the beach, but they continued their journey amongst the trees just in case. Elrosar sent Beornhelm to scout ahead, seeing he was the nimblest of the party. He was soon out of their sight, and Elrosar and the others continued on at a slower pace among the trees. The light of the city could be seen through the openings in the trees, and it was easy for them to make out the palace even in the dark of the night. Its dome was well lit and most likely heavily guarded.

As Elrosar trudged forward he recalled Donar's instructions. I don't know what you will find when you reach the place, but from the look of things it will not be good. Look for your friend in the dungeons first. She's a fighter, so she would not have been taken easily. The governor is a lover of women, but he is weak and only operates through fear and intimidation. He would most likely put her there for some time most likely. There is a chance that Cali would be there as well. If you find him, he might be able to tell you where Rowyn is if she isn't in the dungeon. There is a postern door that opens up into a small storage chamber that is seldom used. The door is concealed by a mass of ivy growth, and you will have to search for the hidden switch to open the door. The switch is almost on the ground on the left side of the door.

Donar had shared some other instructions with him, but as Elrosar was leaving Donar had stopped him. If you see Cali, tell him I live, and if you can at all please help him and Jahira. Elrosar did not promise his aide, but he did promise to pass Donar's message along if he saw Calimahir. So it was with mixed emotions for Elrosar when Beornhelm returned and informed them that the way to the palace was guarded. "The wall gate is being guarded by three Haradrim. There are no signs of any Corsairs about."

"Haradrim?" Elrosar asked in wonder. "What are they doing here?"

"I knew something was amiss," Déor said worriedly.

"No matter," Elrosar replied. "We continue as planned. If the Haradrim have taken over Umbar then perhaps that will help us more. The governor Donar spoke of is probably dead or deposed, and if Rowyn still lives then she is most likely in the dungeons."

"She's alive," Haleth said sternly in the dark. His eyes were fixed on the palace in the distance. "I know she is." Elrosar placed a hand on Haleth's shoulder. "Then let us find her. Lead on Beornhelm."

Beornhelm led them to edge of the trees that stood off to the right of the gate in the wall. There were four guards at the gate, two were leaning up against the wall and the third was pacing back and forth in front of the gate. "We need to take them out quietly and quickly," Elrosar said. "Guthrum and Beornhelm, I want you two to work your way in the shadows to that corner part of the wall there. We will try to take them out with bows from here, but you will need to be ready to strike if we miss one."

The two Rohirrim nodded their understanding and disappeared into the trees. Elrosar watched as the two men stealthily made their way to the farthest end of the wood and then crawled to a place where the wall obscured the view from the gate. "Take them out," Elrosar whispered to four of the men, and they drew their bows back and fired. When the first arrow struck one of the guards, Guthrum and Beornhelm jumped out from their hiding place and rushed the gate. Two of the guards were killed instantly, while the third and fourth ones were struck in the shoulder and leg respectively. Before they could sound any alarm though, Guthrum drove his dagger into one man's throat and Beornhelm impaled the other with his sword.

Elrosar and the others quickly made their way to the gate, and they hurriedly carried the dead bodies to the trees and hid them there. Once they were all together again, they quietly passed through the gate. Elrosar took the lead again, as he went over Donar's directions in his mind. Several times the group would have to hide in the shadows of a building to avoid being seen by a passing group of Haradrim. There were still no signs of any Corsair people in the city. At last Elrosar spotted the ivy-covered wall of the palace. "There it is," he said. "Déor come with me. The rest of you watch for any guards. I'll motion for you once the door is open and the way is clear."

Elrosar and Déor made their way to the ivy-covered wall, and Elrosar began examining the bottom of the wall trying to find the hidden latch. Déor stood watch over him, and he quickly grew anxious as Elrosar had trouble finding the latch. "Ro, someone is coming," Déor whispered. "Hurry." Elrosar began searching faster for the latch, and Déor's voice rose in alarm, "They are almost here Ro."

Elrosar could hear the footsteps now himself, and he heard Déor began drawing his sword. Suddenly Elrosar's hand found a hole in the stone with a metal rod inside. He quickly pulled on the rod and a click could be heard from the wall. The wall suddenly cracked open and Elrosar stood and opened it enough for him and Déor to pass through. They quickly passed into the dark room and Elrosar pulled the door closed.

They waited with bated breath as the footsteps passed, and then they breathed a sigh of relief when it seemed that their presence had gone unnoticed. Elrosar and Déor then examined the room that they were in. It was small with empty dust-covered crates and barrels. Another door was at the other end and Elrosar eased it open. The hallway outside was just as Donar had told him, and he could see the stairway that descended to the dungeons to his left at the end of the hall. "This is it," Elrosar said as he closed the door. He did not notice the small shadowy form suddenly appear from the other end of the hall and make its way to the dungeon stairs.

"Let's signal the others," Elrosar said, and Déor eased the postern door open and motioned for the others to join them. After a few uneasy moments the Rohirrim were all gathered in the small storage room. "The dungeon stairs are nearby," Elrosar informed them.

"I hope we can find Rowyn quickly," Elwing said worriedly, as she stood next to Haleth.

"I hope we can as well," Elrosar agreed. "Be as quiet as possible. I'll lead," he added. "Guthrum, you and Beornhelm bring up the rear. Be alert for anything, and show no mercy should we be attacked." Everyone understood the grave danger that they were all in, but their faces were etched with determination as they filed out into the hallway.
Last edited by Elladan_Elfhelm on Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Thu Nov 09, 2006 9:43 pm

Jahira stood by the door, nervously listening for footsteps. It seemed like hours ago that two guards had come to the harem to escort her to Ghazi’s chambers; they had not bothered to stay long themselves, choosing instead to lock her inside. Apparently Jadim was holding a feast in honor of the newly-forged alliance between himself and Najid—though the two tribes had long been rivals, it seemed they had put their differences aside in order to better strike at their common enemy of Gondor. Several of the girls had been taken to serve the food and wine, as well as provide other entertainment. Jahira had not been among them, of course, and oddly enough, Rowyn had been spared as well. She wondered what was to be done with the Rohirric woman. She had heard a rumor from several of the girls that Rowyn was to be gifted to Najid himself, but others believed that her father fully intended to claim her for himself and no one could tell her for certain. Fortunately, Rowyn seemed to be completely unaware of her possible fate at the moment; she had fallen into a restless sleep before Jahira had left. Jahira had been unable to get close enough to tell if she had succeeded in breaking through her chain, but both the dagger and the file had been hidden, so she could only hope that she had.

She had been fortunate; Alayah had complied with her request that she be allowed to bring a bottle of wine to Ghazi’s chambers. She’d had plenty of time to make her preparations; she’d lit several candles and placed them about the room, the wine had been poured, and Niniel’s vial had been emptied into the goblet and discarded. Now she had nothing to do but wait until Ghazi left the feast.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she heard footsteps heading in her direction. Jahira hurried over to the bed and stretched out on top of it, carefully moving into a pose that she knew would display her figure to full advantage. She could feel her stomach twisting into knots, and the knowledge of what she was about to do made her feel almost ill. I’m doing this for Cali, she firmly reminded herself, and with that, forced her expression into a relaxed one as she heard a fumbling turn of the key and the latch of the door being opened. A moment later, Ghazi half-stumbled in; it was obvious that he had been drinking, and when he saw her lounging on his bed, his scarred face twisted into a pleased grin. “A good ending to a good night,” he said, unbuckling his sword belt and placing it carefully on a nearby chair. “The chieftain of your tribe has been most generous indeed.” He took a few steps towards her, an eager gleam in his eyes.

Jahira rose slowly and gracefully from her position, demurely lowering her gaze. “My lord,” she said softly, “with your permission, it is customary among my tribe that when a woman is given to a man, she must first entertain him before…before he…” She couldn’t bring herself to continue; even the thought of being forced to be unfaithful to Cali was making her lose her nerve.

“I see,” Ghazi replied thoughtfully, and she breathed a sigh of thanks as she dared to glance up at him; apparently he had taken her hesitation for nervousness. “What kind of ‘entertainment’ did you have in mind?”

“If it please you, my lord, if you would make yourself comfortable, I will show you.” She motioned to another one of the cushioned chairs, and Ghazi gave her a curious look before sitting down. Jahira moved past him, stopping just short of brushing against him, as she moved to the small table where she had put the wine. He turned his head as she walked by, watching her walk, and Jahira smiled grimly to herself while her back was still turned to him; perhaps she hadn’t completely wasted her efforts in the many she’d spent perfecting this act back at Varook’s tavern. As she turned back, she forced her lips into the most alluring smile she could muster up, even though she knew he would be unlikely to see it from behind her veil. “Some wine, my lord?” she asked.

Ghazi accepted the goblet she offered, taking a sip without taking his eyes off of her. Jahira watched him nervously, but his expression didn’t indicate if he thought there was anything strange about the way the wine tasted. “Now,” he said, lowering the goblet, “I would wish to see this entertainment you speak of.”

“Yes, my lord,” Jahira said softly, stepping back and bowing her head. Then she began to move her bare feet across the floor, dancing in time with music she heard only in her memory. As she twirled and swayed in the most seductive steps she had ever learned, a few stolen glances indicated that Ghazi was watching her intently, his eyes never leaving her body. His expression was a study in stoicism, and the only indication that she was, indeed, having a significant effect on him was that when he raised the wine goblet to his lips now, he drank in far larger gulps. Good, Jahira thought. Maybe this would be easier than she had anticipated.

Ghazi drained the rest of the cup and set it down beside him as she moved closer to where he was sitting in the final steps of the dance. She spun around one last time, then bowed her head humbly. But before she could back away from him, Ghazi stood and grabbed her wrist. “A most pleasing performance,” he said, pulling her towards the bed. Jahira did not resist, though her heart began to beat more rapidly as her mind frantically searched for a way to stall him. He sat down on the bed and pulled her down next to him before unfastening her veil. “It seems your time with the Gondorian has not completely ruined you.” Jahira instinctively tensed at that, and Ghazi’s eyes narrowed as he asked, “Or has he spoiled you after all?”

“No, my lord,” Jahira hastily said, hoping to cover her error. “As for the Gondorian, I only did what I had to in order to survive.” She raised her eyes to his, hating herself for every word she’d just spoken as she continued, “Forgive me if I am a little apprehensive, my lord. It is the first time I have been with a true man of Harad.” She raised her hand and lightly brushed the jagged scar across his cheek, hoping that she seemed sufficiently impressed.

“Oh?” Ghazi asked, though he seemed to be a little tongue-tied at her touch.

Jahira noticed that a thin sheen of sweat was beginning to break out across his forehead, and decided to press her advantage. “Am I too forward, my lord?” she asked, shifting positions so she was nearly sitting in his lap and resting a hand against his chest. “I fear I have grown too accustomed to the ways of the barbarian West. The women there are far bolder in their dealings with men than those of our people.”

“N…no,” Ghazi stammered; it seemed he was growing a bit agitated. “Not at all.”

“Good,” Jahira murmured, running her hand down his cheek the rest of the way until her hand was at his jawline, then she tilted his head to the side and began lightly kissing his neck. A pleased groan escaped Ghazi’s lips as he grabbed her and pulled her fully onto his lap. Jahira forced back a disgusted shudder and pressed her lips more firmly to his skin, loosening the lacing on his tunic. Ghazi groaned again, but it sounded more pained this time. Jahira pulled back, her eyes widening as she asked, “My lord? Did I cause you pain?”

“No,” Ghazi replied, a grimace on his face. “My stomach…”

“Perhaps you have had too much to drink, my lord,” Jahira said. “You might feel better if you lay down.”

“Yes, I think you’re right,” Ghazi said, clutching his stomach. “I should not have had that last glass…” his voice trailed off and a look of realization crossed his face. “What have you done to me?” he asked in alarm.

“Only what I needed to do to survive,” Jahira replied, all warmth gone from her voice as she stood up and wiped her mouth off with the back of her hand.

Ghazi’s face twisted in anger. “You deceitful little wretch…” he growled, standing up and taking a step towards her. But a moment later, he doubled over in pain, then all but collapsed back onto the bed, his breathing rapidly growing more labored. Jahira couldn’t help but look away as his body began to spasm, his eyes widening horribly.

A minute later, it was over; Ghazi’s body grew stiff, then relaxed as he exhaled his last breath. Jahira waited a moment, then cautiously stepped over and placed her fingers on his neck. Seeing that he was dead, she closed her eyes for a moment, then got to work. She pulled his outer robe and the already-loosened tunic off of him, tossing the latter onto the floor before wrapping the former around herself, then pulled a blanket over him. She closed his eyes then with her hand, jerking it back as soon as the task was done. Then she grabbed his sword belt and pulled a wickedly curved dagger out of its sheath; once she had wrapped the rest of the belt and the scimitar in the tunic, she grabbed that bundle and her knife and opened the door.

The hall was deserted, and Jahira fled down it as quietly as she could. The door at the end led to some stairs, which she descended until she reached a second hallway and another set of stairs. There was a door nearby which appeared to not have been used in some time. For a moment Jahira paused; it sounded almost as if there were voices on the other side, but she quickly dismissed it as her imagination and began her final descent.

It was obvious where Cali was; there was only one guarded doorway in the entire dungeon. Jahira pulled the dark borrowed robe around her more tightly and crept forward. The guard seemed not to notice. She scarcely dared to breathe as she moved to just behind him, trying to remember everything she had been taught about how to quietly kill a man as she set her bundle down. Then she suddenly leapt on him, clamping one hand firmly over the guard’s mouth and drawing the blade of the knife across his throat with the other. The man’s struggles and muffled groans quickly grew weaker, and Jahira released him as he slumped onto the ground.

It was easy to steal the keys from the guard then, though it took Jahira several fumbled tries to find the right one, and a few more after that to get it to actually turn in the lock. Once the door swung open, Jahira gasped at the sight of Cali on the floor of the cell, lying in an awkward-looking position on one side. He wasn’t wearing a tunic and his back was to her; Jahira felt the bile rising in her throat at the sight of the brutal gashes criss-crossing on his skin. The blood had dried on his skin, but there was enough to know that he had lost a good bit. Jahira ran out, taking the water-skin from the dead guard, then hurried back in and sat down in front of Cali, resting her hand on his face. He murmured something unintelligible at her touch, but didn’t open his eyes. “Cali?” she whispered. His skin felt warm to her, too warm. “Cali,” she pleaded again, tears filling her eyes as she shook him gently. “Come on, Cali, please wake up!”
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