~ The Mists of Eriador ~

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

Postby RavenTinuviel » Thu Jun 21, 2007 1:10 am

(By Morghan~Lachlan)

“I do not fear what you may waken Mistress Raven,” Ewen replied unclenching his hands and reaching for the tankard of ale. “Whatever happens will come to pass regardless of how I feel.” He took a swallow of ale then set his tankard down hard signaling an end to the conversation concerning Morghan. Ewen was a stubborn man. He would not stand in the way if Morghan sought to regain her memory, but he would step in is he felt the need to keep certain events of the past from her knowledge.

Raven perceived the subtle warning in the tone of his voice, but she proceeded nonetheless, wishing him peace and rest and at the same time cautioning him that he might not find it.

Ewen sat staring at the surface of the table beneath his hand while listening to Raven and the sound of the wind outside as it sought entrance through the nooks and crannies of the old Inn. The tabletop was scarred with years of use, its surface scratched and marred with the random carvings of people who had sat here once and for whatever reason wanted to leave their mark. Some of the marks looked like crude maps and he traced the lines of one with his finger. It ended abruptly and to the right of it was carved a single Cirith. He recognized it.

“But I have to ask this now. You say you know of some of the year which I spoke of. I seek news of a man, a soldier of Gondor named Forinor. Word had it he and his men were in Rivendell for a time, but they left one day and never returned...”

Following the movement of Ewen’s finger Raven saw the look on his face. He recognized the Cirith as she had. Turning, she tossed a small twig into the fire and watched as the flames consumed it, keeping her face hidden from him as she asked for news of the man who had left his mark.

“I wish to know of him, but I wish not to burden you of your memories.”

Remaining silent, Ewen traced the Cirith as an image slowly formed in his mind. A soldier from Gondor, tall- with hair the same shade as the Mistress Raven’s, Ewen had met him when called to a council at Imladris…

“Forinor of Gondor… Aye, I met him…twice...” Ewen said quietly.

A ray of hope sparked in Raven’s eye. For the past few years she’d been seeking news of Forinor, but none whose paths she’d crossed had heard news of him. “Can you tell me of him? Where did he go after he left Rivendell?”

Ewen picked up his tankard and drained the last bit of ale…it wasn’t enough…not near enough. He would need more before telling Raven of the fate of Forinor. “May I?” he asked abruptly, indicating his empty tankard.

“Of course,” Raven replied stating to rise. Ewen held up his hand. “I can serve myself,” he said rising to his feet. His legs needed stretching and he needed time to gather his thoughts.

Walking across the floor, Ewen steps echoed eerily in the empty room accompanied by the occasional sound of the wind seeking entrance through the nooks and crannies around the boarded up windows. He paused near a window and looked out. Pale light shone through the scattered clouds as they drifted across the face of the moon, casting the trees bordering the Inn in a dim silhouette against the darker background of the countryside. The trees, girded with the last dried leaves of the season, bent their limb in submission to the rising wind. The South Downs were out there, hidden by distance and darkness. It seemed as if the night wind was calling out to those long departed…

Ewen hoped that it wasn’t so.

Raven built up the fire and lit a nearby lanterns hanging from one of the beans overhead, perhaps sensing the same feeling from the rising wind as Ewen did. A soft, golden glow bathed the area around the hearth, dispelling some of the shadows creeping in. Satisfied, Raven sat down at the table in the chair recently vacated by Morghan.


*****

Morghan leaned against the door to the room, closing her eyes for a moment and letting the silence of the room seep into her weary mind.

Sighing softly, Morghan finally opened her eyes and looked around the room. It was a welcoming room, clean and simply furnished. A single candle, the flame flickering brightly, sat on a table near the door. Next to it was a narrow bed covered with a brightly colored quilt. Moonlight, filtering through the room’s only window fell wanly across a chair near the window and a small chest of drawers crafted of dark wood was positioned against the wall opposite the bed. A faint, familiar scent greeted Morghan as she walked across the room, rosemary, lavender and a hint of thyme. She almost smiled. The scent brought back memories of her small hut tucked beneath the trees of the Chetwood near the edge of the marsh and was coming from sprigs of the drying herbs hung in the corners near the ceiling.

But Morghan’s head was still throbbing and she was tired. Dropping her pack on the floor near the bed, Morghan sat on the edge of the bed, placing the small box on the table next to the candle. She rubbed her temples and lay back. The freshly stuffed mattress felt good under her shoulders after countless nights of sleeping on the ground. Without meaning to, Morghan drifted off…


*****

Setting his full tankard ale on the table, Ewen walked over to the fireplace and retrieved Raven’s empty glass from the floor. “I noticed your glass was empty,” he said as he poured her a glass of wine from the bottle he held. He set the wine glass on the table near her hand and then lowered his tall frame onto his chair.

“Thank you,” Raven murmured watching Ewen from beneath half lowered lids, patiently waiting for him to begin.

Ewen held the tankard cradled in his large hands, intent for the moment on watching the tiny bubbles rise to the surface of the dark amber liquid. Then he began in a low quiet voice.

“I first met Forinor in the spring of the year 2989. He arrived at Rivendell in the company of a band of Rangers…”

The image of a man gradually came into focus in Raven’s mind. Tall and well-built, with long black hair hanging down to the middle of his back, a handsome man with finely chiseled features and grey-green eyes the color of the ocean waves…

Ewen thought of Arkaeth, Elendur and Halasían, fellow Rangers whose paths he had not crossed these few years past. Were they still counted among the living or had they also perished like so many of his comrades who silently guarded the safety of Eregion?

“Elrond had called a gathering of his allies for counsel. He wanted to apprise them of a recently discovered threat; a threat that, by all appearances, was already far flung across the land…the Bloodcrows. Few came to the council. Either his messages hadn’t gotten through or his allies could not spare the time to respond…”

“I was at Rivendell, not for the council, but to report some troubling news I’d received from a small band of dwarves passing through the Shire. I could not stay for the council so Elrond had told me privately the day before what he had learned of them, so that, as I kept watch over the Shire, I would be forewarned. I left early the next day.”

“But that night, both during the feast and again after, my path crossed with Forinor’s. It was his first visit to the home of Elrond and he took to wandering the great halls. He was in the company of Halasían, who I knew, and it was from him I learned that they had known each other from the time Halasían spent in Gondor.”


Expectation clearly shone on Raven’s face as Ewen paused to take a drink of ale. So far he had confirmed what she already knew but she could tell that he knew more. She waited for him to continue.

Ewen wished that was all he knew of Forinor, he would have liked to leave Raven with the memory he imagined was forming in her mind, that of Forinor seeing wondrous Imladris for the first time… but it wasn’t to be. He took another swallow of ale and set his tankard down.

“It was months later when our paths crossed again. It was here, or rather in the field out past the barn.” Ewen lightly traced the Cirith. “It must have been then that he left his mark…” he continued quietly.

“I’d been in Bree, having stopped at The Prancing Pony to gather what information I could by listening to the idle conversation and gossip that one hears at an Inn. My patrol had been expanded because of the troubled times and I was headed west. Dusk was closing in as I drew near The Forsaken and I saw their campfire from the road.”

“Forinor greeted me warmly when I approached, remembering me from that brief meeting in Rivendell. He invited me to spend the night with him and three soldiers from Gondor who had joined him since we last met. We talked for long hours before finally seeking sleep. In the morning we parted ways, him to Gondor and me west toward Weathertop and the Lone-lands beyond.”

“I knew Forinor had to have been here.”
Raven exclaimed, a smile breaking out on her face. “See the little flare at the bottom of the stem? He always added it to make the Cirith distinctively his.” She leaned forward to touch the carved symbol. “He must be in Gon…” Raven’s hand brushed Ewen’s and she pulled back in shock as an image flashed in her mind.

“No…No...... Please tell me it isn’t so!” Her voice was an anguished whisper, carrying with it a pain from deep inside.

Ewen had no idea what had happened. One minute Raven had been happy in her belief that Forinor was still alive and the next moment…somehow she knew he was not.

He reached across the table and covered her tightly clenched fist with his hand. “I’m sorry,” was all he could manage to say. Raven bowed her head, hair falling across her face to veil it from sight.

For a long time they sat like that, Raven with her head bowed, mourning silently for Forinor and Ewen holding her hand. When Raven finally raised her face and looked at Ewen he saw that her eyes were bright with unshed tears. “Tell me what you know of…” She could not bring herself to say the word that described the gift Iluvatar had bestowed upon men.

“…his death?” Ewen finished the question for her. Raven nodded mutely unable to speak.

Ewen took a deep breath than let it out slowly. “My time in the Lone-lands lasted for weeks. I lost track of time as I scouted the landscape from Weathertop to the River Hoarwell searching for any sign of the enemy creeping closer to the settlements to the west. Some sign I found. Most were old, but a few were fresh and I followed a trail left by orcs south along the river until losing the tracks when a late summer rain washed away all traces of them.”

“Tired and low on supplies, I headed back toward Bree, knowing that Olben would be looking for word from me soon. I set out on a northwesterly track that would bring me across the South Downs before reaching Bree. It was there I found him and his men.”


He didn’t mention it was the smell of rotting flesh and a cloud of swarming insects that had led him to investigate the area. Weeks of being exposed to the sun and elements combined with the ravaging effects of small animals and scavengers had taken a toll on the remains found at the bottom of a steep scarp face. Strong as he was, Ewen had been sickened by the sight of the hacked remains lying scattered in grass stained a brownish color from blood and gore.

“What happened, I can only piece together from the remains I found. Forinor and his men were killed by a large band of orcs. The orcs must have been following them, moving stealthily in the dark until they were surrounded. The scattered remains I found point to that. It was a planned attack, an unusual move for orcs who are wont to attack quickly. There was a pitched battle, Forinor and his men killing many of the orcs before being overpowered.”

“I buried their remains in one grave, marking it with a shattered sword of Gondor.”


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(By Raven Tinuviel)

Raven listened to the recollection of Ewen and hoped he would be able to tell her where exactly the grave of Forinor and his men was, for though this would bring sorrow to many in Gondor, it would bring closure. Raven finally broke the silence that descended after Ewen stopped speaking.

"This is somber news, but not unexpected by some. I would have hoped he would have somehow lived. Forinor was quite the handsome soldier, and he knowingly or unknowingly had the hearts of many a young lady in Gondor. But his mind was only to his duty to the Steward. You have told me the wherabouts so I can tell of it when I am next in Gondor... so he may be honored in death."

Raven fell silent for a time, both she and Ewen lost in thought. Raven though tof asking Ewen of another, a Ranger whom she had met on several occasions in her wanderings in Eriador, Rohan, and Gondor. Word of him was lost a couple years later. Getting up, she went to the bar and retrieved a dusty bottle of wine and a crystal goblet. She hesitated for a moment with her back to Ewen, feeling his eyes upon her. A chill went through her and she wished she had on a winter cloak instead of her silken wrap. Trying to pull it ever tighter around her, it did little to ward off her chill. She realized the fire blazed as the flicker of its flames danced about the walls and beams. It was warm in there, and Raven was breaking into a clammy sweat. Still she felt cold. Was the thought of talking of him bringing this on? Standing still, feeling thousands of needles crawling all over her, she quickly uncorked the wine and poured a glass. She nearly drained it in one tip. The rush warmed her inside, and her eyes glistened with dampness. She nodded and turned, bottle in one hand and glass in the other. The chill was seemingly gone, and she walked back to the table.

Ewen watched her, noting an unusual hesitation in her step. She tet down the bgottle on the table and sat in the chair. her glass made a slight ting as it was set down, and Raven poured it full. She looked at Ewen and said,

"Pardon me my questions, but I have to ask.... do you know of the Ranger Halasían? Ill expressions and no words come from any in Rivendell except from his wife, Lady Forcwyn of Rohan. There also is his young son and daughter. Naught has been seen or heard of him since he left them there with the guard of the gates....

Raven was beginning to shake. The wine in her glass sent droplets over the side until Raven grasped her hand with the other, and she drank deeply. Ewens intense stare unnerved her as well, as she knew not his allegence, and wondered if she had made a mistake mentioning his name. Another pouring caused the bottle to rattle against the glass, and she drank deep into a third glass. She looked distraught as she met Ewens stare with her own.

"I ask only in the hope of telling the Lady Forcwyn of him. She deserves to know if he lives or dies. Yet I fell inside myself that he lives, and I see his eyes so close, looking into mine as he siad to never ask of him from anyone again."


The wine had Raven thinking of things she aught not, and she was suddenly warm. Her vision grew fuzzy, and the shadows danced around the room. Maybe she asked too much?


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

(By Morghan~Lachlan)

“I ask only in the hope of telling the Lady Forcwyn of him. She deserves to know if he lives or dies. Yet I fell inside myself that he lives, and I see his eyes so close, looking into mine as he said to never ask of him from anyone again.”

Somber gray eyes watched Raven drink the third glass of wine, judging and weighting in his mind what he should tell her…

Halasían. What could Ewen tell this woman of the man that could be of help or set her mind at ease? Halasían had a dark side to him, something Ewen had only learned about a few years ago. Did Raven know this about him? He could see that Raven was distraught and didn’t wish to add to any feelings of despair.

He glanced toward the crackling fire and his eyes narrowed as he stared deep into the flames.

“Halasían… I’ve heard very little of him these past few years…” he said quietly.

“Does he live?” Raven whispered hopefully.

Ewen thought of the rumors he’d heard over the years… Did Halasían live? Was he the one who was whispered about in the dark forests of Rhudaur? The one who was responsible for the slaughter of orcs and men of evil whose bodies had been found rotting on the ground by the few patrols who ventured there? He wasn’t sure.

“I’ve heard nothing of his death,” he said finally. He looked over at Raven, the spark of hope that had filled her eyes was fading and he hastened to add. “But then again I have not asked for news of him.”

The fire crackled and sputtered in the silence that followed and the shadows seemed to creep closer. Ewen drained the last of his ale, waiting for Raven say something else. When she didn’t, he glanced over at her and saw that her eyes were closed.

“You’re tired, as am I,” Ewen said quietly as he came to his feet. “And the hour grows late…too late to be speaking of those who are gone…” His thoughts had wandered back to Forinor. “If you wish, in the morning I will show you the place where Forinor and his men lay…” he added holding out his hand.

“I would like that.” Raven extended her hand, placing it Ewen’s large rough one. He towered above her, or so it seemed as she swayed slightly. His hand slipped to her elbow as he steadied her. “I’m… I guess I am tired,” she said as her vision cleared. She smiled up at him. “Thank you,” she murmured, stepping away from his side. Pulling her silken shawl up around her shoulders, Raven made a move toward the lantern but Ewen picked it up before she could.

“You lead the way, I’ll follow,” he said as he hefted his pack over his shoulder.

****

“I’m awake…” Morghan mumbled in response to a light rapping sound and someone softly calling her name as she turned to her side and hugged the soft goose down pillow closer. Then her eyes popped open and she listened. No one was there, only the sound of the wind. Had she been dreaming? Morghan pushed herself upright and rubbed her eyes, she had no way of knowing how long she had slept nor what time it was. The room was dark. She glanced over at the table near the door; the candle was out but she hadn’t snuffed it. Who had?

The light rapping sounded again startling Morghan and she looked around. It was coming from near the window. She rose from the bed and slowly walked over to the window and looked out. A broken branch was caught in the eave of the roof outside. A gust of window blew it out straight and she watched as it fell back, lightly tapping against the side of the building. She let out a sigh. “It’s just the wind,” she said quietly to herself as she rested her cheek against the cool pane of glass. Her head was no longer throbbing and she could think clearer now that she was fully awake.

The wind, coming from the west was easing slightly. The limbs of the trees outside the Inn no longer danced furiously, instead they waved their branches slowly as if bidding goodbye to a favorite partner. The clouds covering the sky grew tattered and thin, letting wan light from the stars and crescent moon through to shade objects below in shades of gray against the blacked landscape. Morghan sighed again as she tried to see through the darkness and beyond the surrounding countryside. ‘Why was I in Hollin? What happened? Why can’t I remember?’ she asked herself for the hundredth time since the day Ewen found her. She wished something…anything… would seep through the wall surrounding the memories of the past few years the same way the faint light cast by the moon broke through the clouds and shone on the darkness outside.

Stepping back from the window, Morghan’s leg brushed against the chair. Something fell to the floor with a rustling sound. She knelt, feeling around in the dim light until her hand found a slender tube of rolled parchment.

Unrolling the parchment, Morghan held it up by the window. The moonlight was dim but shed enough light so that she could see a few lines of script written at the top of the first page above what looked to be a drawing done in charcoal. She held it closer. It was a sketch of the Inn. She smiled. It was as she remembered it in years past, there were even a few hens scratching in the dirt along side a small coop. Quickly she scanned the other sheets of parchment; there were more sketches along with a few pages filled with writings. She strained to read what was written but the writing was to faint for the dim light. On the last piece of parchment was a drawing was crinkled and torn as if it had been thrown away and then retrieved again. Something caught her eye and she held it closer, her eyes narrowing with an uncertainty laced with excitement. Something tugged at her memory. The man depicted in the drawing looked familiar, but she couldn’t put a finger on why.

Light, she needed more light to study it closer.

Quickly striding to the table near the door, she fumbled around in the dark feeling fro a tinderbox to light the candle with. There was none. Quietly she opened the door. The staircase near her room was lit dimly from below but she could hear no sound, everything was quiet, even the wind no longer whistled around outside. Morghan stepped out into the hallway; the bundle of parchment tucked under her arm and made her way down the stairs.

The embers still glowed brightly in the brick lined fireplace as Morghan sat on the floor. She added a few pieces of kindling and then placed two small logs on top of them and waited patiently for the flames to flicker to life as she unrolled the parchment on the floor and carefully tried to smooth out some of the crinkles.

The flames spread warmth out over the room as the flames eagerly licked the freshly added fuel but Morghan barely noticed it as bent over studying the drawing. Yes, she had met this man before, but he’d looked different then. She placed a hand tentatively over the hair that hung down the side of his face almost to his shoulder, not wanting to smudge the picture further. Yes, that was better, more like she remembered him; shorter hair and less of a beard. She bent closer, staring intently into eyes that stared back at her. “What is your name?” she whispered.

“His name is Halasían.”

Morghan’s head jerked up sharply, fear and surprise in her eyes as she looked up at Raven who was standing behind her looking down at the picture spread out on the floor. She had not heard a sound at her approach.

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

By RavenTinuviel

“You lead the way, I’ll follow,”

Ewen said as he lifted the lantern. Raven smiled as she looked back over her shoulder at him. Her small feet stepped silently toward the doorway that led down the ground floor hall. Just after passing into the shadow, light wavering from behind, she turned to her left and was going through another opening that led up a stair, but the steps of Morghan could be heard coming down. Raven stepped back into the hall and Morghan passed her by. She brushed past Ewen as well, and both he and Raven followed her back to the fireplace. Morghan had dropped some scrolls on the floor as she stirred the embers and got flame going. She then quickly took a scroll and rolled it out. Raven curiously looked over Morghans shoulder as Ewen leaned over her holding the lantern high and adding its now feeble light to that of the freshly stoked fire. Morghan seemed not to realize others were there and she said as if talking to herself,

“What is your name?”

Raven saw the face on the scroll, and recognized it immediately. He was a man who used to come regularly to the Forsaken in years past. They had met and talked and shared drinks and more there years ago, when the inn was still alive before Raven had gone south to Gondor. She said in a soft voice,

“His name is Halasían.”

Morghan jumped, but Raven put a hand up. Morghan had suddenly realized Raven, and also Ewen was standing there. Raven said,

I meant not to startle you. Ewen and I were just going to retire for the night when you came down."

Looking at the drawing, Raven said in a near whisper,

"Yes, it is he in younger days. The one who drew it had quite an eye for detail..."

Raven pointed out to Morghan as she looked again to the drawing to the lower left corner. In a small scripted hand, the letters 'A.F.' appeared.

"Familiar, yet vague. There are so many..."

Raven muttered almost to herself. There were many many drawings such as this one in the scrolls she found, and they were obviously done by the same person. As her mind recalled some of the scenes on the scrolls, she heard a whisper behind her. Spirits shifted in the shadows of the room and she stood up. The sudden movement stirred the wine inside her and caused her to become dizzy. Stumbling back and grabbing a table, she fell slowly to the floor, sprawling out and losing consciousness...


.....Spirits of days past floated around her mind. The scrolls that held the drawings of many things came into and went out of focus. Many who had been here in life live still, and many whom have been forgotten live still in them. A lone figure stood in silhouette in a doorway as faces of two dwarves argue and drink ale. Rangers, always mysterious and grim, watched from where the sat or stood around the room. Halasian by the bar nearest the door, and another leaning over the rail from the stairway above. Yet another leaned by the wall next to the window sipping an ale while Courtney Ferny whisked flagons to him. Another sat alone in the far corner away from the fireplace, a lone candle flickering at the passing air. Parchments and charcoal, piled on the small table, a girl looking about and quietly sketching. As if she were capturing the breaths of the spirits of those in the room, she laid them down quickly but carefully. Her eyes looked up from her drawing, and turned to Raven. A slight smile spread across her face and she nodded before turning again to her work. Raven Watched her, and a foggy vision she saw of what the girl was looking at. Seeing herself, Ewen, and Morghan by the fire she tried to turn her gaze to the parchment she was drawing. But something held her gaze on the three figures. Familiar, yet vague.......

Raven could feel chill water trickle down her throat and down her neck. Jumping she sat up and coughed, spilling more water on herself. Blinking and shaking her head as the coolness calmed her.

"Are you ok?"

Ewens voice echoed in her head. Looking over at Morghan by the fire, then turning toward the table where she had seen the girl drawing, Raven strained to see, but there was only the dancing shadow of firelight. What had she seen? Why did she collapse? She crawled over by where Morghan was, and took a scroll and looked at its outer mark. She then took another an d looked at it. The third scroll was a bit crumpled, but it was the one Raven had looked at just that morning. Incomplete it was, and there were no faces on it. Only three figures of people. One standing, another leaning over, and another on the floor looking intently at a parchment. The fire was blazing and shadows stretched from the figures. Raven turned and looked again at the table across the room. She tried to make words but none came out. The parchment fell to the floor and Raven again looked at it. Either at sometime in the past there were three people right here exactly as they were just a moment ago, or the girl drawing was seeing into the years ahead. Who was this girl who drew so well?

Raven wondered if Morghan and Ewen would think if she told them? They would have to look for themselves.

"Raven?"


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(By Morghan~Lachlan)

Raven heard her name and looked up, lifting the parchment to show Ewen and Morghan...

Ewen took the parchment from Raven, looked it over carefully and without a word handed it to Morghan. Then he turned and stepped over to the fireplace, picked up the poker and knelt. He needed time to think. Raven’s collapse had unnerved him and he needed time to sort things out in his mind. He shifted the logs, staring at the flames as they blossomed along the edges of the wood.

Looking at the picture drawn on the crumpled piece of parchment, he had realized, as had Raven, the significance of it. But how could it be? Coincidence? No, the figures, the standing figure a man and the two others woman, had been too perfectly placed to be coincidence. A foreshadowing drawn in the past? The letters, ‘AF’ which Raven had pointed out, these he knew, for he had seen her sign her work this way before.

Anna… Anna Ferny.

……The place was Bree. He had arrived in town just as dawn broke over the horizon, to purchase supplies and take advantage of the chance to quaff a few ales and listen to gossip before heading out to patrol the Lone-lands. Done with his errands, he had stopped at the Prancing Pony. While there, he had spied Anna seated in the corner sketching on a piece of parchment and being curious had gone over to talk with her, having become slightly acquainted with her during previous stops at the Prancing Pony……..

………The same day he had met Michrel…..and the same day he had chanced upon Forinor camped out back in the meadow behind the Forsaken Inn……

There were strange, otherworldly happenings going on this night that seemed to point back to a certain time….. Why? Did it have to do with Morghan? Had her presence here woken something that had lain dormant and forgotten? Was Raven the catalyst? He wasn’t sure what to make of everything that was going on, but fear it, as Raven had implied earlier, he did not.

Ewen turned from the fire and looked over his shoulder at the two women seated on the floor. They were both looking at him, Morghan with a perplexed expression and Raven…. There was an air of expectant calmness surrounding the elven woman. It was as if she knew that one of them held key pieces to the puzzle of why, after months of her being back at the Forsaken Inn and only seeing fleeting glimpses of the past, they had been stirred up so now.

Morghan finally spoke. “Ewen, you know something about this. I can tell by the look on your face.”

“Aye. That I do. The initials AF stand for Anna Ferny.”

“Anna? I remember that name…”
Morghan replied. “Courtney had a twin sister named Anna…”

“I suspect she is one and the same,”
Ewen said slowly and told them both the little he knew of Anna. Then he looked directly at Raven.

“What is happening here,” he pointed to the drawings spread out on the floor, then paused and looked around the room, searching the corners that lay wreathed in shadows. “I can’t even begin to fathom….. But we can not ignore it. That some…” He hesitated. “…..force is at work here is obvious even to me. But what it is asking of us or trying to point out I can only hazard to guess…”

Here Ewen paused for a long time. He looked at both Raven and Morghan, trying to figure out just where to start. Finally he rubbed his face wearily and began to speak slowly.

“A shadow has hung over portions of Middle Earth since long before my birth. Slowly that shadow has grown, spreading ever further. It touches all of us, some more than others…” Morghan bent her head, looking down at her hands. She knew Ewen was referring to what had happened to her family in the past and more recently, to her. “....whether we realize it or not. The lives of those who at one time lived and worked here at the Inn, have been touched by it also I think…”

“Mistress Raven. You said earlier you had been here for some months. Before you returned, when was the last time you visited the Inn?”

“Two years or more. Why do you ask?”

“You knew then, some of the people who lived here?”
Raven nodded as Ewen continued. “Morghan lived in the Chetwood for some years and though she kept mainly to herself, she knew who many of the local folk were. As for me, I’ve traveled through Bree and the surrounding area for many years and seen many faces, some familiar, though many I cannot put a name to.”

Moving from where he was seated on the hearth, Ewen knelt on the floor. Picking up the stack of drawings, he began to spread them across the floor. “Let’s see what the three of us can make of these.”

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(By Raventinuviel)

Raven looked at Ewen as he spoke & nodded. But her thoughts were far away, in another time when she had been there at the Forsaken Inn. So many times, so many seasons between times. She had to think of the last time she was there. Few people were there then. The Rangers visited seldom then, for rumor of troubles at the crossings in the south were about. Who was here then? Was Anna here then? Raven had never met Anna, but the seeming shadow of Courtney on the hilltop in the moonlight must have been her. Raven had passed by the Inn that night, opting instead to go to Bree, but turning back at the sound of thunder....

Raven's hand went for an unrolled parchment. Holding it before her, the flicker of the lamplight showed not a face, but a scene. The moon shrouded in heavy cloud, cracks of lightning and windswept trees and grasses. Along the road walked a figure shrouded in black. Was it Raven walking that night? Yes, it was. It was the moment Raven thought she saw the shadow of Courtney. Anna had known of her yet Raven had not known much of Anna. Was Anna still alive? Raven let the parchment slip from her hands. She whispered,

"We may discover much by searching all these, but te overall question really is what became of Anna?"

Raven sat down on the floor and spread again the parchment she had dropped.

"This was only a few years ago, when I last came to the Forsaken. Rumor then was the cold breath of Angmar, long quiet, stirred again, drawing strength from the darkening days. What became of everyone here since I have no clue. There was no sign of struggle, just abandonment. Little word in Bree of this place I heard while there recently too, and surely if there was word or rumor, many in Bree would tell of it."

It was hard to remember much of the days she spent there last. Dark indeed were her days, even til the time she had recently arrived there earier this year. But the inn gave her a new spark. Maybe it was by chance, or maybe it was a calling... a calling from those who were gone. Raven blinked and looked around th eroom, feeling as if they were being watched. But there was nothing but quiet. Raven looked at the bound parchments and said,

"I suppose we should try and go through these in some order, noting what we recognize. Maybe by all our perspectives we may know more of what Anna was seeing, and open to us knowledge of the days passed?"
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Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Wed Jun 27, 2007 11:03 am

*

“Anna’s in Bree.” Morghan spoke barely above a whisper. She had been silent ever since Raven had named the man in the drawing. Neither Ewen nor Raven heard her at first, their interest lay in the parchments.

“I suppose we should try and go through these in some order, noting what we recognize. Maybe by all our perspectives we may know more of what Anna was seeing, and open to us knowledge of the days passed?”

As she spoke Raven began to gather up the drawings, taking from Ewen those he held in his hand. She carefully smoothed them out and piled them one on the other according to what they depicted, be it a scene with many people, single portraits or what appeared to be landscape drawings only. The last she placed on the top, for these might be the easiest to identify. When she was done, she glanced first at Morghan who had moved closer to her on the floor and then at Ewen who had pulled a low stool over and was seated close to her but on the other side.

Suddenly Morghan leaned forward, laying her hand atop the pile and said louder. “Anna lives in Bree.” Her eyes were clear and bright as she looked up at Ewen and over at Raven. Ewen hadn’t seen them so since finding her in Ost-in-Edhil. He straightened, looking down at her. “Go on,” he said quietly.

“They all left the Inn after Courtney’s death.” She shifted her gaze, looking across the room into the shadowy corners, not looking at anything in particular, but looking inward as one did who had just wakened and was recounting a dream.

“Rumors flew after Courtney’s body was found in the forest. It was known that both Jarod, the innkeeper here and Burle, who worked here also, were both sweet on Courtney, though if she favored one of them over the other wasn’t known. Some said her heart lay elsewhere….”

“Fingers pointed and tongues wagged until no one who lived nearby came to the Forsaken any longer, even I heard the rumors though I normally kept to myself. It truly became the Forsaken… Both Jarod and Burle left…I can’t remember where it was said they went. But Anna….she had always lived in Bree…”

Morghan paused, drawing in a long slow breath. Her gaze was still fixed somewhere across the room. Raven, sensing that a path once closed had opened, quickly found the drawing of Halasian and drew it forth again before the path closed. Risking Ewen’s ire she asked, “And Halasían? What of him? When did you meet him?”

“Halasían…. I came upon him one morning as I returned from Archet…where I’d spent the night…” Morghan’s words were halting and her brow furrowed as she struggled to remember.

Raven glanced at Ewen. His body had tensed and his lips were drawn in a thin, disapproving line. She placed hand on his knee. “Let her continue,” she whispered. Ewen nodded mutely as he watched Morghan’s face for any sign of distress.

Starting out slowly, her words halting, Morghan recounted the day she had met Halasían.

“Day was just breaking…the path I traveled was seldom used…then I heard voices. I hid and crept closer… It was two men and a woman…the woman was ill. One of the men was Halasían…the woman, his wife…She was with child. I’m not sure….I think the other man was her son… he bore her likeness…she was an older woman, nearly past her childbearing years…”

“I tended the woman, but had not the herbs with me that would ease her sickness….I advised rest…that travel was too hard on her… Halasían mentioned they hailed from Rohan but now had no home and that he was being pursued…something about crows….no…..blood… Blood Crows….”

Instantly Ewen tensed further. The Blood Crows. Michrel Lachlan, Morghan’s brother, had joined the Blood Crows, hoping to become a trusted member in order to find out more about the closely guarded group. He had admitted killing for them already when last Ewen had seen him…all in the hopes of wiping clear the claim of ‘coward’ he had been labeled with.

Was he one of those who pursued Halasían? Michrel had told Ewen he had stopped to see his sister a few days before seeing him, but had he told Morghan about the Blood Crows? Silently Ewen prayed he had not.

Leaning forward, he listened and watched Morghan intently.

“I tried to convince Halasían to come to my hut…it wasn’t far. Finally he agreed, but said they could not stay long….it was too dangerous. We rested there awhile and then started in the direction of the marshes…then things started happening. Halasían sensed danger. They had horses and spurred them on, I was able to keep up for the track wound through the forest and they couldn’t ride hard with the woman. For many hours we played a game of hide and seek…then Halasían veered off in the direction of the road… I should have left them…I could have hidden in the forest…but I didn’t….”

“When we finally neared the road, two dwarves appeared out of nowhere. Halasían knew them and warned them that danger followed on his heels. The dwarves spoke to Halasían of finding the body of a woman in the forest…by their description he guessed it to be Courtney Ferny…”

Morghan’s voice trailed off, remembering the look on Halasían’s face and the quiet weeping of his wife. Ewen thought she was finished and was about to say something. Raven stopped him with her hand on his knee again. “She has more to tell.”

“...........and then it was decided to head toward Bree thinking it would be safer. Again I followed and the shadows lengthened as the day drew on. One of the dwarves was in the lead scouting out the road ahead when…when…” Morgan’s voice grew softer until she spoke barely above a whisper. “Suddenly arrows flew out of the cover of the trees ahead, someone screamed….one of the dwarves was hit…Halasían too.” She paused, biting her bottom lip as tears coursed down her cheeks. “I was so afraid…Then a man leapt out onto the road near the fallen dwarf. It all happened so quickly. He grabbed the other dwarf and with his word at the wounded dwarf’s throat, he used them both as a shield.”

“He spoke, asking for the woman. His voice was cold and ruthless…but his eyes…his eyes held a touch of madness. He looked my way for a moment only, but in that instant I felt a dread coldness touch my very soul…” She shuddered as if that same coldness touched her again and hugged her herself tightly. “He must have thought me of little consequence and focused his attention on Halasían and his son, taunting them by drawing the blade of his drawn sword across the helpless wounded dwarf’s neck....It hurt to see such wonton cruelty… ”

“I couldn’t stand by and watch any longer without doing anything.” She had not looked at Ewen the whole time in the relating of the past events and turned and looked at him now. Her eyes shone bright and the ghost of a smile touched her lips for a brief moment. “Da taught me fighting and defense tactics when I was young. I showed little interest then but the learning was there. In my basket was a knife used for cutting herbs. Unwatched, I was able to reach it. I threw….it hit the attacker in the arm… How badly he was wounded I don’t know, but he was hurt enough to release the dwarf he held as a shield, slashing him before escaping into the woods.”

“Hayna, Halasían’s son helped me with the wounded dwarf –Bungle he was called- but it was the other dwarf, the one used as a shield, who was mortally wounded.” She hung her head. “I didn’t know he was so badly hurt and so tended his brother first, pulling the arrow through and binding the wound. There was barely a scratch on the other dwarf, but he lay still and unmoving. His flesh was cold to the touch…. I’d not seen such before and knew not what to do…I could not save him…”

“Confusion reined after that and I’m not clear on everything that happened, for I tended the grief stricken Bungle. Halasían’s wife disappeared, whether from fright or confusion, I’m not sure, but he went in search of her. Hayna stayed with me for a time, but as soon as he saw that Bungle would be alright, he too went in search of his mother…”

“I…I don’t…don’t think I ever saw any of them again.” A veil clouded Morghan’s eyes as she ran a shaky hand through her hair pushing it back her face as she raised her head to look at Raven.


*
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Postby Hunter » Fri Jun 29, 2007 9:11 am

~

Imladris

Dawn was not far off, soon the first rays of the morning sun would break over the high mountain peaks to the east and cast their pale golden light on Imladris.

In the Hall of Fire, flames leapt high, burning brightly and chasing the shadows away from where Elrond sat. But the light they shed did little to chase away the troubled shadow that lay upon Elrond’s heart and mind.

Since the last meeting of the White Council, in the year 2953 of the Third Age, the darkness that had erupted and spread with the return of Sauron was ever increasing. Imladris, once peaceful, had suffered a number of attacks instigated by a shadowy, secretive group, who called themselves Blood Crows. Though the borders were quiet once again, Elrond knew that peace would not last long. News coming from the surrounding lands, though not grim of late, held hints of what was yet to come and if not for the vigilance of the Rangers of the North, the peace and freedom felt in the northern lands would be non-existent and fear would rule in its stead.

Little news came from the southern reaches and this was also cause for concern. Since the death of Finduilas his wife, Denethor II, Steward of Gondor had become more silent than before and from Saruman at Isengard few words came.

Malebranche…

The lines furrowing Elrond’s normally smooth forehead deepened as his thoughts returned to the half-elven raised within the nurturing confines of Imladris… From the moment of his birth, the lone survivor of two children born at the same time to the fair Seraniel, Malebranche seemed different. At a young age he separated himself from his elven kindred, keeping his own company, already sensing the difference the blood from his father coursing through his veins made in his own mortality. The brooding young man finally left Imladris and few except Elrond even noted his departure. Where he went and what he did, no one knew for sure.

When Malebranche did return, it was not to Imladris and he was not alone. He had brought back with him the band of Blood Crows and a deepened hatred for his own kindred. Of the traitorous half-elven- no word or sign had been seen- not even from the smallest creature that lived under Elrond’s protection. Did he, with his band of Blood Crows, still plot against Imladris?

Word still filtered in from the Rangers and from his own scouts that a few Blood Crows were still present in Eriador, through strangely silent ever since Elrond had learned, from Sorael, a young wizard, of Malebrache’s plan to waken the Valarauko written of in ancient dwarven scrolls who slumbered deep in Khazad-dûm. Elrond had sent a small party to Moria, but they had returned after many months with news that no sign of him had been found by them or by Balin and the dwarves of Erebor who had just that year returned and set up a colony there. Had Malebranche perished? If so, who led his band of Blood Crows?

Quiet footfalls sounded across the smooth wooden floors of the Great Hall as someone approached. Pushing the dark thoughts from his mind, Elrond looked up to see who approached. It was Erestor, his chief counselor. He stopped a few feet from Elrond’s chair.

“Sorael has returned from Lothlórien. He wishes to speak with you. A pair of Rangers also arrived shortly after Sorael. They bring news they wish to share and gain counsel from you.”

“Thank you Erestor. I will meet with Sorael first, have him join me here. Have a meal made ready for the Rangers and laid out in the small dining hall. I will meet with them there and hear what news they bring after I have met with Sorael.”

“I have already done so my lord.” Erestor bowed his head slightly. He had been one of Elrond’s counselors since the founding of Imladris and knew his mind well. “They will be waiting for you.”


~
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Imladris

Postby Hunter » Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:30 pm

~

The Hall of Fire was steeped in shadows as the three figures sat talking quietly before the bright flames of the fire. Elrond and Erestor listened quietly as Sorael spoke to them of Lothlórien and the news he brought from Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel. The light of Lórien shone in the depths of his eyes, lighting his face as he spoke of that fair place.

A realm of timelessness and beauty, Lothlórien lay west of the Misty Mountains at the joining of the river Celebrant with the might Anduin. It was protected, as was Imladris, from the probing eye of Sauron and was an isolated eleven haven. Elrond had sent Sorael there to seek information of the eastern lands from Galadriel and Celeborn who ruled that fair realm.

But soon talk turned to other matters and the light in Sorael’s eyes diminished and his laughing green eyes turned grave when he spoke of what he had seen during his journey. The movements of the orcs and goblins in the lands to the south of Imladris seemed to have increased over the past year after a period of diminished activity. Sorael had seen signs that they were venturing out of the foothills again and their range was spreading to the surrounding lowlands.

“Did you find any sign of Malebranche or the one called Irgeroth?” Elrond asked.

Irgeroth. That name had been mentioned very little in connection with Malebranche and the Blood Crows and little of this mysterious figure was known, but he had been linked with the Blood Crows a number of times. What of him? As with Malebranche, Irgeroth had also vanished from the face of Middle Earth.

“Not while traveling through the mountains or the pass itself.” Sorael’s brow furrowed as he remembered an old campsite he had happened upon. “On the return trip, once through the Redhorn, I changed into a crow and flew part of the way north. While flying over Hollin Ridge, something glinting in the sunlight caught my eye, and I flew closer to investigate. It was a small circular piece of polished metal laying on an outcropping of rock in the crook of the ridge where it joins the foothills of the mountains. It overlooked a small protected vale. I flew down and found an abandoned encampment that had seen much use in its time, by both orcs and men. It may have been a base camp of the Blood Crows, but found nothing that indicted if either Irgeroth or Malebranche had been there.”

Sorael rose from his chair next to Elrond and went to stand before the fire, his slender frame silhouetted by the dancing flames that leapt higher at his approach. Holding out his hands to warm them, he stared thoughtfully into the flames.

In his minds eye he saw first the form of an ebon horse, large and powerful. Then the image began to change, shrinking, its edges blurring and wavering as it diminished in size. Then it began to take form again, this time in the shape a large black crow. The bird shook himself and then stretched his wings and opened its beak as if to call out. The muscles in Sorael’s throat quivered and his body tingled. The knowledge of the bird’s anatomy was firmly ingrained in his memory, with each time he transformed himself the process became easier. The image faded and he turned to face Elrond.

“With your leave, I will return to the area and search further.”

Sitting and watching the young wizard while he gazed at the fire, Elrond could guess at the thoughts that were flashing through his mind. Sorael had proven himself before in his ability to gain information when he had, by a curious twist of fate, been brought into a Blood Crow camp while in the guise of a horse. It was he who had brought the news back to Imladris that Malebranche intended to wake the Balrog, escaping from them by changing into a crow.

But to do so again might not prove as easy as Sorael thought, especially if Malebranche was still with the Blood Crows. Elavanar had tried…and failed and his loss still weighted heavy on Elrond’s heart. His sister, Eleanorae grieved for him still and with each passing year since his death had been confirmed her spirit faded.

“No Sorael,” Elrond replied quietly. “Though I do not doubt your abilities, I have another task for you. Our borders have not felt the presence of any more intrusions by the Blood Crows. That Malebranche no longer lives might be the reason, and I pray that this is so.”

Sorael tried to hide his disapointment, but it clearly showed on his face.

Much of Elrond’s mind had been focused on keeping the boarders of Imladris safe and he had not had the time to spread his eye to the rest of the land. Was that the intent of those attacks; to divert his attention from what else may be happening in Middle Earth?

“Our attention is now free to be turned elsewhere.”

Elrond was thinking of the news Sorael had brought back from Lórien. Mordor was quiet; strangely so. Galadriel had sent word Sauron’s mind was turned elsewhere, away from the Eldar. Where was his attention focused? Elrond turned to Erestor.

“We must know more of what Sauron is planning. His silence bodes ill, not only for the Eldar, but for all of Middle Earth.”

Erestor nodded in agreement. “Little we know of the happening in the east. Sauron’s influence there has always been strong. I fear what may happen to Gondor if that is where his interest lies now.”

Elrond’s attention returned to Sorael. “The Rangers of the North are well aware of the Blood Crows and are ever vigilante for signs of them as they patrol the lands of Eriador. Two of their numbers await me now in the dining room. I will pass on to them what you have told me.”

Elrond rose from his chair and went over to Sorael. Placing his hand on the young wizard’s shoulder, his eyes were at the same time both grave and kindly. “Go and rest now, we will talk more on the morrow. You have much to learn yet before you leave on the journey I have in mind.”

Though disappointed at first on hearing Elrond’s words, Sorael was now intrigued about what exactly Elrond had in mind for him. He bade both Elrond and Erestor good night and left the Hall of Fire.

Erestor waited until Sorael’s footsteps had faded in the distance before speaking. “He is loyal and fearless. I have little doubt he would not hesitate to attempt to breach the confines of Barad-dûr itself if asked.”

“I know,” Elrond said quietly, a touch of remorse in his voice. Sorael was young yet in comparison to the years of Elrond and had much to learn. “But that I would never ask… Of anyone.”

“Where do you plan to send him?”

“To Harad.” Elrond replied.

~
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Imladris

Postby Hunter » Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:46 pm

~

The dining hall where the two Rangers sat eating was one of several scattered throughout the Hall of Elrond. This one was small. It held a trestle style table with room enough for eight chairs spaced comfortably around it, a sideboard near the door and a small fireplace on one end. It was plain, yet comfortable and suited Olben Hawkins well, for though he had been to Imladris many times before during his years as a Ranger and been included in the larger gatherings that took place in the larger gathering halls, he preferred the simpler things the place had to offer.

Durham Allendale, on the other hand, was a bit disappointed. He had been to Imladris only once before, during the springtime, and the elves had been celebrating the change of seasons. In awe of all he had seen, he had hoped to be a part of such festivities again.

Olben was leaning back in his chair, his legs stretched out beneath the table. His arms were crossed and lying across his large barrel chest and his bearded chin rested lightly on his chest. His eyes were closed.

Durham cast a glance at his partner then looked back at his empty plate as he savored the last bite of honey cake as it melted in his mouth. There was one honey cake left on Olben’s plate. He watched Olben for a few moments. There was a slight snore at the beginning of each breath. Slowly he inched his hand towards the plate, fork poised and ready.

“Touch that an you’ll be minus a few fingers,” Olben warned, his eyes still closed.

Durham grinned. He hadn’t really thought Olben was asleep. “I figured you didn’t need another,” he joked, taking aim and lightly poking the slight paunch beneath Olben’s arms before reaching over and a spearing a piece of cheese from the nearly empty platter in front on Olben.

Olben Hawkins was older than Durham by fifteen years and the younger man liked to joke about the paunch he had developed in the past few years.

“Humpf! Jest storing it away for the lean times,” Olben grumbled.

Suddenly Olben pushed back his chair and rose to his feet. Durham gave him a puzzled look, but a moment later he too heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Quickly he wiped his sleeve across his mouth to remove the stickiness left from the honey cake. Olben motioned for him to rise also.

“Welcome. Please, be seated.” Elrond greeted them as he walked through the door.

Olben sat down, resuming his relaxed posture as he leaned back and crossed his arms again. Durham sat down also, but remained sitting upright, unable to relax fully in the presence of the elven lord.

Elrond stopped near the table, resting his hands on the back of a chair opposite the two men. He smiled at Durham sensing his unease. “I see you have been well served Durham Allendale. Did you find everything to your liking?”

“Uh…uh…Yes, Lord Elrond.” Durham nearly tripped over his tongue. Elrond had remembered his name! “Especially…the honey cakes. They are…were…most grand!”

“Then I will see that you will have more of them before you leave.”

“Thank you Lord Elrond.”

“But where is Ewen Thane?” There was concern in Elrond’s voice as he turned to Olben. He knew the two were friends and often patrolled the lands of Eriador together. Elrond had not seen Ewen Thane for many months.

“Ewen is well sir and will be pleased when I tell him he was asked after. You will likely see him before winter sets in,” Olben replied. “He sent us on to report some curious findings to you.”

Elrond nodded for Olben to continue as he pulled out the chair and sat down across from the two men.

“I’ll start at the beginning so as not to leave anything out.” Olben leaned forward, pushing his plate aside and resting his arms on the table and looked at the elven lord seated across from him. Ewen usually did most of the talking whenever they had come to Imladris before, and though he was not tongue-tied as Durham had been, he nevertheless chose his words carefully.

“Ewen, Durham and me had traveled as far as the ruins of Tharbad and were about to head back north when we stopped at a farmstead nearby that we knew of. The farmer, him being from Dunland, had been friendly toward us before and bade us spend the night with him. He asked how things were to the west, that he was thinking of leavings his farm. We all felt some unease in him and finally he told us why. It seems that a few days earlier, he had had a scare. This is the tale he told.”

“Normally the few pigs he kept were allowed to roam freely around the farm, always coming back at feeding time. One day they didn’t. Going in search of them, he followed their tracks which led, as he’d thought, to the edge of the Swanfleet.”

The Swanfleet, so named for the many swans that nested and lived in the area, was where the Glanduin River formed marshlands as it reached the lower terrain and split into many rivulets before joining the Hoarwell above Tharbad. It was a favorite place for the farmer’s pigs to wallow when the weather was warm as it had been that day.

“Near the marshy edge was a small knoll with a few trees growing atop it. The farmer, thinking to save time, for the sun was just slipping past the horizon, climbed one of the trees. He’d done so before and was able to spot them easily. When he’d climbed as high as he normally did, he saw something moving in the distance. At first he thought it was his pigs, but then he realized they were too large and moved too quickly. Then he saw they were orcs. That’s what scared him. There were orcs in the marsh.”

“He watched them, too scared to climb down and stayed in the tree until dawn. All night he heard them, at times some of them coming close to his hiding place. A few times he heard the shrill squeal of a pig and knew one of them had been found by the orcs. But still the orcs stayed, until just before dawn when they left. Tired after a sleepless night, the farmer returned home. A few of his pigs had returned, but he knew the ones that had not, were in the bellies of the orcs. But then he got to thinking.”

“As I said before, he came from Dunland and was no stranger to the ways of orcs having lived in his youth among the foothills of the mountains. That’s why he’d moved and settled near Tharbad, to be further from any threat of them. He told us the way the orcs were out before the sun was fully set and stayed in the marsh all night was odd. He thought they were searching for something and it wasn’t food or they’d of left after catching his pigs. No, he said, they was defiantly searching for something. It’s what made him uneasy. He was afraid they might be back and if so, they might find his farm.”

“We all agreed, Ewen, Durham and myself, that the orc behavior was odd and promised the farmer we would check out the area before returning north.”

“And so we did. We spent a little time searching around the Swanfleet until we found the tracks they made as they left. These we followed to the ruins of Ost-in-Edhil.”

Ost-in-Edhil. For Elrond the name evoked memories of a long ago time and one eyebrow rose slightly as he listened to Olben. The Gwaith-I-Mírdain had lived there once, among them Celebrimbor, son of Curufin, the greatest craftsman of all time, save for Fëanor. There the Rings of Power had been forged by Sauron, who, having disguised himself as one named Annatar, gained the trust of the elves. But Celebrimbor alone had forged the Three Rings. When he learned of Sauron’s deceit and the forging of the One Ring, Celebrimbor hid the Three he had crafted. Soon after war followed and the land lay wasted. Ost-in-Edhil was no more.

“The orcs that we followed weren’t there, but the place showed signs that it had been used by them several times in the past.” Olben continued after a short pause. “And the ruins bore signs of disturbance; there were holes dug in certain places, some shallow while others showed signs of extensive work and it was clear to us that the work had been done by orcs. What they were doing, we could only guess, but it appeared that they were searching for something.”

“That is strange news you bring and is of interest and may bare further investigation,” Elrond mused and thought to himself. What could the orcs be digging for in Ost-in-Edhil; it had lain in ruin since the second age and was but a distant memory for most.

“We found some of these near one of the diggings,” Olben leaned over and picked up a small leather satchel. Laying it on the table, he took out a piece of wrapped cloth, pulled back the edges and pushed it across the table to Elrond. “Ewen told me to give them to you.”

“And where is Ewen Thane now?”

“He stayed at Ost-in-Edhil. As we were set to leave, he thought he saw something down by the river, a small orcish creature. I think he planned on trying to capture it, but he thought our find important enough to send me and Durham on ahead. If he doesn’t show up here before we leave, I’m to meet up with him at our usual meeting place outside of Bree.”

On the cloth lay a handful of small objects, a few were dirt encrusted as if they had been buried in the dirt for a long time, but two of them bore little traces of dirt. Elrond looked at them, picking them up one at a time. There was a silver buckle with a piece of leather still attached, a short piece of a delicate chain and a small glass orb no larger than a walnut. The last brought a faint smile to his lips. He wiped off more of the dirt and held it up to the light. Faint colors swirled in its depths. It was a child’s toy, but wrought with great skill by the craftsmen of Ost-in-Edhil.

Elrond then looked at the last two objects. Little dirt covered their surface and he examined them carefully. One was a button carved in the shape of an acorn still attached to a small scrap of fabric. The workmanship was fine and delicate, each small nub on the cap of the nut worked with care. He put it down and picked up the next, an arrowhead, with part of the wooden shaft still attached. This too was finely wrought, but their sharp edges bore a blackish stain.

Elrond’s brow furrowed as he examined them for several minutes.

“You found these near the others?” he finally asked.

“No. The button Durham found near an old fire pit and the arrowhead, well, Ewen found that near the rotted corpse of an orc.”

“Just this one? No others were found?”

“Just the one. It was odd. There were no others signs of an attack or fighting. Just the one, half-decomposed orc. We figured it had lain there for several months.”

“This puzzles me. These,” Elrond gestured to the first three items, “are from old Ost-in-Edhil. I recognize the workmanship.” There was sadness in his voice. “They’ve lain buried for a long time.”

“But these two…” Elrond was clearly puzzled. He picked up the button, holding it up between his fingers. “It looks to be very old and a design unfamiliar to me, but it is elven made.”

“Ewen thought the same. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he recognized the workmanship. He was hoping you might shed more light on the subject.”

“I will show it to the craftsmen here and see if any of them many be able to tell who crafted it. They are able to recognize each others work.” Elrond set the button carefully back on the cloth.

“We thought maybe it belonged to Malebranche. It was the only explanation we could come up.” Olben said hopefully as Elrond picked up the arrowhead.

“No. The design is foreign to me. It looks to be elven made, though I can’t be sure.” He fingered the broken piece of shaft, feeling the smoothness of the wood. “I have never seen its like. This too I will show to the craftsmen.”

“Your findings give me much to puzzle over,” Elrond said as he placed the arrowhead back on the cloth and wrapped it up once more. “But the hour grows late. How long will you stay?”

“A week maybe.” Olben answered looking over at Durham who nodded in agreement. “If Ewen hasn’t shown up by then, we’ll leave to meet him near Bree.”

Durham grinned. A week, a whole week at Imladris. He looked forward to seeing more of Imladris…and enjoying more honey cakes.

“Good. That will give the craftsmen ample time to study these objects,” Elrond said as he rose from his chair.

~
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Postby Claymore » Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:42 am

Bree

Tough it was late in the evening the air was hot and stuffy. Eradan had taken off his cloak to take advantage of the tiniest breeze but none came. Heavy clouds were packing, promising a last summer-thunderstorm before the autumn would take over. Eradan was relieved when he saw the lights of Bree for he could hear thunder rumbling afar and a few raindrops were already falling. He urged his horse on. The gelding couldn't outrun the weather however and when Eradan arrived at Bree's gate he was soaking wet. The gate was shut and the gatekeeper only came out after the third time that Eradan had knocked on the gate. The gatekeeper had dour look on his face and seemed none too happy to have to leave his house in the streaming rain. When he saw who was before the gate he looked even more dour and spat.
'Cursed Rangers,' he muttered. 'Can't they enter the town at a more decent hour?'
Eradan caught the gatekeeper's words though he wasn't meant to and smiled. Had the man only known what the Rangers did to protect the Bree-folk. As soon as Eradan had passed the gate, the man shut it hurriedly and scurried back to his house. Eradan nudged his horse to gallop and headed for the Prancing Pony, throwing up clods of mud as they went through the streets. He slowed the gelding when they arrived at the Pony and led him under the arch. There he dismounted and shook his head like a wet dog. A cheery hobbit opened the door to look who had arrived. As soon as he saw the gelding he shouted: 'BOB! There's work for you!' Then he turned his attention back to the wet Ranger.
-And what may I do for you mister...?
'Claymore, 'Eradan answered, giving the name that the Bree-folk had given him. 'Hot food and some beer would be welcome, and maybe also a bed for the night.
-It will be taken care of, sir.


Eradan took his saddle-bags and followed the hobbit inside. As soon as he passed the door he was hit by a wave of sound and the smells of spilled beer, wet wool and roasting meat. He frayed himself a way to a table in one of the corners where he would have a clear sight on the room. The Inn was crowded tonight, many of the customers being people who had been caught outside when the rain started. Eradan couln't avoid to bump a few people and some turned around with a annoyed remark on their lips. But as soon as they saw his claymore's hilt sticking over his shoulder and his clothes they shut their mouths abruptly and turned back again. He left a trail of hushed murmurs in his wake.

-That's one of those Rangers...


-...What's he doing here...?


-...He'll be bringing trouble for sure, mark my words...


-...Why can't they leave decent folk in peace...?


Eradan ignored them, after two years he had begun to get used to it. He unslung the claymore from his shoulder, put the saddle-bags on the ground and sat down. He took his wet surcoat off and draped over the chair next to him. It was hot in the Inn and it would be dry soon enough.

He surveyed the room, searching for familiar faces. He saw none he knew however and certainly not his mentor, Ewen Thane. He sighed. He had seen strange things these past weeks and he had hoped to win the older Ranger's advice. Ewen had been to more places than he had and had more experience. Maybe his mentor would know what the things he had seen meant. Eradan closed his eyes and recalled the strange sightings, searching for a clue. Whole nests of young mice dead in their sleep, untouched. Healthy animals trashing in their death throes with no wounds to be seen. Carcasses of birds left to rot as if even the foxes sensed that something was not right. One such a sighting wouldn't have alerted him. It happened sometimes that a heart failed without a reason. But five times in a week couldn't be attributed to Chance alone. And there was that feeling that something wrong, something twisted was growing and spreading its shadow. Eradan shook his head as if to chase a bad dream. He couldn't make sense of it. He would ask a bit around and see if Ewen hadn't passed here recently. He asked for the older Ranger when the hobbit brought him his meal.

- Excuse me master hobbit. Didn't another ranger pass here recently?

-How did he look like?

Eradan tried to recall how Ewen had looked like last time they had seen each other. It had been almost a year ago but he probably hadn't changed much.

-Lean and lanky fellow with broad shoulders. He's more or less of the same height as I am. Rather weather-worn with a tanned skin and has grey-streaked dark hair that reaches to his shoulders. Has a slightly hooked nose and a strong chin. He was probably carrying a bow. Doesn't smile often.

The halfling was silent for moment. Then he shook his head.

- I can't say it sparks any memories. But maybe he passed at the Forsaken.

Eradan frowned. He had heard it mentioned before but he didn't know where. 'The Forsaken?' he asked.

-It's an old Inn a few miles outside Bree. There was a murder there some years ago and it was abandoned after that. But now there is an elven lady who is trying to revive it. You should ask Teddy. He's planning to build a brewery there and he just came back this morning. Maybe he has seen your friend.

The hobbit pointed to another one who was talking animatedly to a mixed audience of halflings and men.

-Thank you master hobbit.

Eradan quickly ate his meal and then went to Teddy's table. The halfling was eating his own meal now and eyed Eradan suspiciously. But Eradan looked less like a ranger without his claymore and his surcoat and when the little brewer saw Eradan's youthful features, he relaxed.

-I'm sorry to disturb your meal master hobbit but I would like to ask you a few questions.

Teddy swallowed his mouthful and asked: 'What would you like to know?'

- I've heard that you were at the Forsaken yesterday and I would like to know if a friend of mine, a ranger, passed there recently.

-There was a ranger there when I went back to Bree this morning. He was accompanied by a woman. They weren't planning to go away soon. They are probably still there.

- What did he look like?

Teddy gave a description of the ranger that fit Ewen quite well.

-How long is the ride to the Forsaken?

- Oh! You won't reach it before it's late in the night. If you want my advice you should stay here and go there tomorrow morning. At least the rain will have stopped.

- Thank you very much, master hobbit, and good night.

Eradan raised from his chair and asked Barliman where his room was. It was a small room with only a bed, a small table and a chair, but for Eradan who had spent the passing weeks sleeping on the ground it was more than sufficient. He fell asleep almost immediately but when needed he could wake up as quickly.

He woke early the next morning and when he descended the common room was almost deserted. A sleepy eyed Barliman stood behind the bar and gave him his breakfast rather distractedly. He ate it quickly and left immediately afterwards, leaving a few coins on the bar for payment. The sky had cleared overnight and though it had stopped raining it was also much colder. Eradan was glad that at least his cloak was dry now. His gelding seemed refreshed and greeted him enthusiastically.

-Hey boy. Had a good night?

The horse snorted. Eradan smiled and saddled the gelding. He took also a quick look at the gelding's hooves but there was no need for that, Bob had obviously done his job well. Soon they were galloping through Bree's gate. The roads were still muddy from yesterday's downpour, but they made a good time nonetheless. A few hours later he could see the old Inn behind a last bend of the road. It seemed abandoned at first sight but after a second look it became clear that someone had made some repairs and had tried to bring the Inn to it's old state. He led his horse to what still stood of the stable and discovered two other horses who where already stabled there. He smiled when he recognized one of the two.

He took care of his gelding and then greeted the other horse.

-Heyo girl, it has been a long time since I've seen you.

He stroked the mare over her nose. Then he left the stable and entered the Inn to see if Ewen was there too.
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Mon Aug 20, 2007 8:45 pm

In the Northwest Highlands of Rhuadur…

Khul was furious when news reached him of the escape of the elven wench he had taken as wife. True she had freely given herself to him in a drunken bet he had won, and true he had cheated to win, but what Khul gained he was loathe to lose. He would trust no one to find her, and so would have to get things in order before he set out to find her. Surely she would have headed either toward the elven home of Rivendell, or southwest toward the lands where the Rangers keep vigilance. He would have to be very careful to venture near either place, but with the eyes of the elves looking eastward toward the ever brewing darkness, and rumor the Rangers are spread thin in their watch, Khul, always a gambling man, would chance it. He and a select few of his clan would go, ostensibly because they have business with the wizard in Isengard, but Khul would be on the search for Raven…

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North of the Great Road East of Bree…

Eyes watched the rider go by in the shadowy night. Unnoticed and unseen in the dark wood, a rough aged face, heavily bearded in gray, hair long and tangled and shrouded in a well worn gray cloak sat unmoving. An aged shadow he had become since disappearing, becoming wild in his nature yet doing what he thought good for the men of the west whilst diligently avoiding them. Ever fewer of the men he once served with did he see, yet only a few had fallen. And younger men take their place, brought up and trained in the ways of the Dunedain Ranger.

Seeing the young man ride by, looking and sensing maybe that eyes observed him, he did not pause on his journey. Cockiness of youth, needing to learn to be evermore wary even on roads just outside of Bree, for had he a bow and a well balanced arrow, a silent hiss would be the last he would have heard in life. But not this day, for the eyes that saw held no ill will toward the young Ranger, and he would not forego his stealth, guessing the young Ranger would likely go to the old inn, the Forsaken, where again smoke rises from its chimney….

It was the spring of this same year when those same eyes watched as an elven woman walked westward upon the road. Pursued by rain, wind, and thunder, she trudged by him. She looked familiar, a face from his past… a face from a time of his younger days… in an inn not far away…unforgettable … Raven was her name. On this day, he itched to reveal himself to her, but who would she see? The young Ranger who had rode into battle that fateful day when Chieftain Arathorn was slain? Or would she see only this unknown, aged man? He stirred not and kept his stealth, and only shadowed her steps until she reached the deserted Forsaken Inn. It seemed to him though that up through these last few years, this elven woman seemed to shadow him… maybe by chance or by instinct… but too close she had come. That was, until the time he led her deep into the Ettenmoors and she fell into the grasp of Khul. This was the first time he had seen her since then, and she looked worse for wear. Knowing what he did of Khul, he returned east to watch the road by the Midgewater to watch for Khul’s pursuit. But he never came. Guessed Khul must have made some sort of deal with her, or lost a bet and was forced to free her, he abandoned his watch at the first sign of summers end and withdrew west toward Bree, watching the coming and going at the east gate. Maybe it was time to again watch the old inn. But he had not seen who he had come to see here yet. One more night. Would she come this night? A hand, wrinkled with age, gripped an oilskin. It was ornate, its design one of craft work. Its lower corner had an ‘AF’ inscription. Rolled tight, it was wrapped around scrolls and parchments, old and in ill shape that the man had unearthed from the ruins of Fornost. He had told her of them some years before, when he was still counted as one of the Rangers.She wished to see them, but things conspired to keep him away, and many, many seasons had passed since any have seen him. He had kept this gift all this time, and only now did he willingly give it up. Much lore thought lost were written on these scrolls, and he had heard rumor that she lived in Bree. Yes, she would keep them well…




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Inside the Forsaken Inn…

Hayna? The shipwright? She had known one named so in Linhir. She wanted to ask, but she could see Morghan was distressed. Her recall of so much was enlightening to her, but Raven could see the toll it was taking on her. Ewen had grown quite concerned with her state, and after Raven had some words with him. she grew quiet for a moment, pondering all that has come to light since Ewen and Morghan arrived. She then looked at Morghan and reached for her hand. Holding it she said,

”You remember much of a very dark day.”

There were so many questions Raven had running through her head. All she wanted to ask. Ewen seemed stressed at the burden Morghan carried, yet he too listened intently to her words. Raven decided to ask one question…

”Are we sure that Anna lives in Bree even now?”

It was then a sound could be heard out back by the old stable. Wind? No, footfall of a horse.

"Someone was here!" Raven went to the back door and put her ear to it. She could hear a voice in the stable. Fair was its sound, but the words were inaudible. She stepped back from the door and whispered into the common room to Ewen and Morghan,

"Someone was here!"

Ewen was alert and ready.

The man emerged from the stable as the morning sun broke forth over the inn, and he walked around to the front of the inn to the door...
Last edited by RavenTinuviel on Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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~At the Forsaken Inn~

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Thu Aug 23, 2007 2:07 pm

~

“I…I don’t…don’t think I ever saw any of them again.” A veil clouded Morghan’s eyes as she ran a shaky hand through her hair pushing it back her face as she raised her head to look at Raven.

It hurt to breathe. The air pained her lungs with a chilling numbness as she tried to draw in a breath. Fear filled her eyes as they darted around the room.

In an instant Ewen was kneeling between the two women. Tenderly he laid a hand on Morghan’s cheek, turning her face to his. The same look he had seen when he’d found her at Ost-in-Edhil shone deep in her eyes. “Morghan!”

Frightened and confused, Morghan’s eyes still darted around the room. She tried to turn her head but Ewen’s hands held her head firmly. She gasped and tried to draw a breath but it felt as if an icy fist was gripping her throat.

“Listen to me!” His grey eyes were intense as they captured her gaze, holding them with a calm steadiness. “Breathe…”

She felt the icy coldness began to recede. “That’s it…slowly….” A shudder wracked Morghan's body as her muscles began to relax. She was able to draw one short breath and then a longer one, holding the warm air in her lungs before slowly letting it out again. Warmth was returning to her body but she felt suddenly tired, as if she had run a long distance. Finally, when her breathing returned to normal, she closed her eyes and weakly leaned her head against Ewen’s chest. He wrapped his arms awkwardly around her.

As he held Morghan, Ewen looked over her head at Raven. Compassion, tinged with confusion shone clear on the woman’s face as she watched them. She reached for Morghan’s hand and held it in her own. It felt cold to the touch despite the fire blazing brightly in the hearth. She caressed it lightly.

“What just happened?” she asked quietly.

“I’m not sure what it is, but it has happened before.” He could feel Morghan’s slow even breathing as he held her, feel her tense muscles starting to relax. “Let her rest a moment.”

“I’ll get a blanket.”

When Raven returned with the blanket, Ewen was leaning against the wall next to the heath with Morghan curled up on the floor next to him. She was asleep, her head resting on his outstretched legs. After laying the blanket over Morghan, Raven stooped and began to gather up the drawings scattered on the floor. The weak rays of the early morning sun began filling the room, backlighting Raven’s form and shading her face in the shadows they formed. Even so Ewen watched her in silence for several moments before speaking. His voice was quiet, barely above a whisper.

“You see now why I seek to protect her. This…” He stopped, momentarily at a loss for words. “This happened a few times before…back at Ost-in-Edhil. It comes on suddenly. The first time…I didn’t know what was happening or what to do. I…I… had to knock her out.” It pained Ewen to remember how he had had to strike Morghan. All he had been able to tell was that something had seized her mind and would not let go. “I’ve since learned to be more gentle,” he said with a wry, apologetic look.

“What is it that grips her so?” Raven continued rolling up the pieces of parchment. She didn’t mean to pry, but Ewen had opened the door.

“Some kind of fear I think.” Ewen’s face was half in the shadows cast by the low burning flames of the hearth but she could clearly see his eyes. “She is afraid of something. Something that terrifies her to the deepest core of her being.”

“But what can she be afraid here?” Raven spread her hands and looked around. “There is nothing that will harm her here. There are spirits within theses walls.” She smiled a bit at look on Ewen’s face. “She felt their presence, as I do, though I’m not sure how much. And she was not afraid. Most other humans would have been so.”

“There is much I don’t know.”

He looked down at the head of tousled red hair lying on his lap. There was so much he didn’t know about Morghan; a smattering from her youth and even less of her life after her father’s death. The occasional visits at her hut in the Chetwood had been few… She was under his care now, but how could he protect her when he knew not what she feared? How could he protect her and still carry out his duty to guard Eriador? Who, when he returned to the Hills of Evendim could he leave her with?

Morghan stirred, throwing off the blanket and rolled over on her back him interrupting his thoughts. Ewen looked down at her as she rubbed her eyes. Blinking, she looked up at Ewen with a confused look.

“What happened?”

“You grew tired and nodded off as we were looking at the drawings.” Ewen answered carefully.

“I…I was talking about…Halasían…and then…and then my mind went blank.” Morghan rolled sideways, braced her arms against the floor and pushed herself up to a sitting position. Ewen cast a quick glance Raven’s way, his face obviously filled with concern and puzzlement. This had never happened before, usually on waking Morghan had no memory of recent events.

Holding the rolled up sheaf of parchments in one arm, Raven leaned over, reaching for Morghan’s hand. It was warmer now and her eyes were clear.

”You remember much of a very dark day.”

There were so many questions Raven had running through her head. All she wanted to ask. Ewen seemed stressed at the burden Morghan carried, yet he too listened intently to her words. Raven decided to ask one question…

“Are we sure that Anna lives in Bree even now?”

“Anna has no where else…”

It was then a sound could be heard out back by the old stable. Wind? No, footfall of a horse.

Morghan stopped abruptly in mid-sentence. Ewen was already on his feet. Poised and alert, he put a finger to his lips signaling Morghan to stay where she was.

Someone was here! Raven went to the back door and put her ear to it. She could hear a voice in the stable. Fair was its sound, but the words were inaudible. She stepped back from the door and whispered into the common room to Ewen and Morghan. “Someone was here!”

Ewen moved soundlessly to the one good window by the hearth and standing beside it, hidden from view by anyone outside, peered out, squinting in the bright light.

A muttered curse slipped from Ewen’s lips as his fingers relaxed on the hilt of the sword he had instinctively reached for as the man walked past the window. He frowned inwardly. What was Eradan doing here? Had he scouted out the unfamiliar surroundings before approaching as he’d been taught? If so, Ewen would have to caution him that he’d been heard.

He called softly to Raven. “It’s safe. A lone rider. He’s heading for the door.” Then he crossed his arms and leaned against the wall waiting.

“You know him?” Raven asked as she came out from the back room. She stood in the center of the room smoothing her skirts and tidying the stray hairs that curled around her face.

“Aye. A fellow ranger. Though what he is doing here….” Ewen shrugged.

Morghan had moved to one of the chairs beside the fireplace. She’d pushed it back, away from the light and wore the blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Her back was pressed firmly against the back of the chair and her arms, lying loosely along the top of the wooden arms, matched the curvature of the wood. Ewen knew what she was doing; she was trying to blend into the background and thus hope to remain unnoticed.

The door creaked open and a figure stepped through. Bathed as he was from the light at his back, it was at first hard to clearly see his features but as he stepped further into the room one could plainly see them. The fellow was lean and lanky and walked with an easy relaxed stride to the center of the room where Raven greeted him, welcoming him to Inn.

“Welcome to the Forsaken. You must have been on the road during the night to have found us at such an early hour. Forgive me. This place is yet newly opened and I have yet to prepare anything with which to break your fast.”

“Please, do not bother yourself. I broke fast in Bree early this morning,” Eradan answered, giving as little information as was need. “I’m searching for someone, and after learning of this place took a chance…”

“Morning Eradan,” Ewen said as he stepped away from his place by the wall. He knew that Eradan had seen him standing in the shadows.

“Ewen,” Eradan smiled at Raven before walking over to his fellow Ranger. He could feel her eyes follow him.

“Who are you searching for?” Ewen asked. “Is there trouble?”

“I was hoping to find you,” Eradan kept his voice low. “I’ve run across things that are…strange, and was hoping you could advise me.”

“You can talk freely here. Raven can be trusted.” Ewen nodded in her direction and noticed a slight smile touch her lips. “Come, let’s sit,” Ewen said as he led Eradan to the table in the front of the common room. He pulled out one of the rickety stools and sat down. Eradan followed his example. Leaning forward, Ewen questioned the young Ranger, wanting to test his former pupil.

“You knew I was here. How?”

“I asked after you in Bree and by chance happened to talk to a hobbit by the name of Teddy. He said someone matching your description was here.”

“Did you ask after me by name?” This question threw Eradan for a moment and he paused, thinking back to the previous day. “No… I don’t believe so.”

“Either you did or you didn’t,” Ewen snapped. “Think.”

“No, I didn’t. I described you.”

“To who?”

“One of the Halflings working at the Prancing Pony. He hadn’t seen you, but he mentioned this Inn and pointed out another hobbit to me, one by the name of Teddy, who worked here. It was he who told me that someone matching your description was here…”

It was then that Eradan remembered what else Teddy had told him and he glanced around the room. Finally, in the shadows at the far end of the room he spied a figure sitting very still in a chair pushed back in the shadows. It was a woman. He’d missed seeing her on first entering the room and he also knew that Ewen knew that he had missed noticing her.

“He also said there was a woman.” He turned his attention back to Ewen looking his former instructor in the eye. “I also checked out back and saw your horse was here before entering.”

“Never forget the details.” Ewen reminded him quietly. There was no need to scold Eradan. He had realized his error and Ewen was sure that he would be more vigilant in the future.

“Now, what brings you in search of me? Is there trouble?”

~
Last edited by Morghan~Lachlan on Sun Sep 23, 2007 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Claymore » Sat Sep 01, 2007 12:49 pm

Eradan thought for a moment. Where should he begin?
-I went to Dimwold last month to visit my parents. Baranor, my sister's husband, was there too. He told me that he had seen some strange tracks on his way to the settlement. He wanted to investigate but he was called away before he could. Some rangers had tracked a company of southrons and half-orcs up the Hoarwell. He had to hunt them down with his men so he asked me to look for those tracks in his stead.
Raven arrived with a mug of ale and put it before Eradan. He gave her a small, almost shy, smile. 'Thank you,' he murmured. Ewen let him take a sip but his impatience was poorly hidden.
-Did you found those tracks?
-They had already faded somewhat when I found them, I had trouble following them. I lost them when they arrived at the Baranduin river. There were traces of a small boat however, a canoe probably. I followed the river downstream in the hope of finding the tracks again but they were too old and it rained few days later. I found other strange things however.
-What?
-Young, healthy animals, dead without a sign of violence. Carcasses of birds, left untouched by scavengers, as if something was wrong with them. Deers too weak to run away when I approached them. Some even fell dead before my feet and again there was no wound to be seen. I thought it might be some kind of illness but if it is it's none I know of... I'm not the only one to have seen such things. My mother told me that several other rangers had asked her if she knew of an illness that killed without visible trace.
-She did?
-No, it confused her as much as the rangers. When I left Dimwold she had been poring over her scrolls for many a long night but she still hadn't found anything.
Ewen thought about Eradan's words for a moment.
-Can you tell me something more about those tracks?
-One person, on foot. He or she was travelling lightly, the tracks weren't deep. The tracks suggested that this person wore light boots or shoes, of elvish make maybe. Whatever that person was doing it made him or her very careful. The few campfires I found were small and had been hidden with great care.
-Anything else?
-Nothing that I can remember right now...
A silence fell in the old Inn.
Then Ewen spoke: 'It reminds me of something but I don't know what.... Ah I guess it will come later. But how are things going back home? Did you hear anything from Baranor after you left?
-No, not a word but they were well prepared. I guess they are done with it now. Elenien and Mallor returned from a mission down the Gwathló just before I left. They had found old traces of orcs but encountered none... I heard a similar tale from Hallatan. He too had found traces of orcs and Southrons near the river. Some weren't even that old. It seems that those b*stards are getting bolder by the year.
-Wait a second. When did they found those tracks and how old were they?
-Almost two months ago but the tracks where still a bit older than that, probably three months maybe even four.
Ewen thought for a moment.
-It might correspond. Durham, Olben and I found traces of orcs near Tharbad and followed them to Ost-in-Ethil. They might have been the same company.
-Ost-in-Ethil, what were they doing there?
- We don't know. They were traces of digging and we found a few strange things. Olben and Durham went to Rivendell for advice. I'm to meet them there or else at Bree.
-I'll come with you then, maybe does master Elrond know what was wrong with those animals.
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Mon Sep 03, 2007 12:36 am

At the Forsaken Inn...

Raven set the ale ordered by Eradan in front of him and bowed her head slightly to him, wondering how young men can stand it so early in the morn. But if he was riding all through the night, it may not be morn in his mind and such refreshment must be needed. Morghan and Ewen though have been awake all through the night, and it looked like with the news Eradan brought, the day would not bring rest anytime soon.

Raven went to stir the still simmering stew from the night before. Finding a wooden bowl, she pulled some out of the pot with the old ladle, and with a wood spoon, she set it by Eradan even though he asked not for food. Sometimes men, especially these rangers of the north, push themselves far. A moment of nourishment does them good, and such a simple gesture may remind them to eat. Raven looked at Ewen and Morghan, and readied some for each.


"Please eat. This day will be long and sleep will be short, and strength must be renewed."

Raven could not make them eat, but she could make it easy for them to eat.

Words spoken over the table told of strange events. Raven remembered seeing strange looking men in the camp of Khul in the north of Rhuadur. Raven pondered her thoughts, and said as the faces of the two men grew somber in thought of the signs. Only a moment before she overheard Ewens words to Eradan, and they now echoed in her mind...'never forget the details' She had to speak...


"You speak of southrons and half orcs coming north, but I have seen some of these folk. They are something else. Very mannish, yet with orc features. Some look more orcish, yet are still appear to be men, while others look more like men, yet have orcish traits. They are not the black men from the far south, but from much closer. They have dealings with Khul, a leader of men in the hills of Rhuadur. It was there were I saw them... where I served them..."

Raven got a chill remembering the times beginning a year ago. It was not good memories being Khuls wife, but she was remembering details. She seemed to be in a trance as she went on...

"I believe the sign found were of these men. Cunning and clever, and seeming to have a sort of eerie magic around them. They themselves could do no wizardry, but they seemed to have great abilities of stealth. I did not hear a lot of their talk, but did listen as best I could. There were mention of ones called Bloodcrows, and there was also mention at other times of Isengard. It seemed they were searching for something of great worth. Khul dealt with them for his own gain, offering to help search for it. It was later, after they had gone and come back did they accept his assistance. It was then Khul and some few of his men seemed to gain this stealth ness. Now I know how long it takes to go to Isengard and back, and these men could not have gone and gotten back in the time they were gone. I think they may have ways and places well hid in the South Downs or in the Misty Mountains. The days are darkening, but as yet, it seems that Bree, and the Forsaken are still safe by the vigilance of the Dunedain. Yet I fear that they are too few to keep all evil away from the peaceful lands much longer."

Silence rested on the common room for a moment, when Ewen asked Raven,

"Why did you not speak of this before?"

Raven replied sadly,

"It was only the words of Eladan that caused me to remember strange things I saw at the time, and your words to cause me to recall much."

Words that awakened much. Ravens mind turned to thoughts of the Mighty Dunedain of the north, and how they had dwindled over the many years. From a kingdom men mighty only second to that of their brethren kingdom of Gondor. Yet they dwindled and broke into three smaller, weaker, kingdoms ruled by sons of a king. Then disputes between them bred wars between them, and the swords and sickness took their toll. One remained, but the Witch-king came forth in fury and they too fell. All that remained was a remnant who through the long years since kept the vigilance alive. Yet with the days growing black, they are evermore hard pressed in their watch. Raven remembered now a parchment, one older than most found there, that was hidden in a room wall. She should go get it and bring it to Ewen and entrust it into his care, for it was penned long ago in the days of Arnor.

The two rangers meanwhile had started to talk of the events spoken of by Eradan and herself. Raven looked at Morghan, well hidden in the shadow of the hearth and looking at a parchment, and turned to the men and said,


"I must take my leave for but a few moments, for I need to get something for you to read. It has little to do with these recent events, but I think will be of great importance to all Dunedain."

Raven curtsied gently and swiftly, and moved on down the hall in a flutter of shadowy silks. She gone to the farthest room down the hall and went in. With its door open, she could hear muffled talk, likely of all that was spoken this morning. The dim light filtered into the room through the door for this room had no windows. She found what she was after, and soon returned to the end of the hall that opened into the common room. She stood there, noticed by the rangers as they spoke together. She would wait until they had finished before reading the parchment...

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

Morning in the village of Archet...

The hut looked the same... worn but lived in. A light, near invisible whisp of smoke drifted up from the stone chimney, likely a morning meal warming near the flame responsible. It was a hard place to find and seemed a good a place as any. She was likely there but he did not wish to go. Yet he had to, Too much he wished to see and know to wait longer. He had seen the young ranger ride east, and after all grew quiet after his passing, he knew by the air that much was afoot. He had to go see her...

The rough man had come to the door, and after standing there a moment in the warm rays of the sun, he tapped a rhythm.


"Come in slow."

The voice was hers, even though thoughts of Courtney were awakened. He put them promptly asleep as he slipped silently in the door.
It closed just as silently.
He stood there and looked at the woman busy stirring batter by the fire. With her back to him, he noticed her hair cascaded down her back in unkempt strands.
The silence was soon broken.


"You care to eat?"

Her voice rang out matter-of-factly as the hiss of the batter being poured over an iron plate by the fire started to bubble.
The man could not speak.
He had been away from people for so long that this simple interaction was turning out to be more difficult.
Words.
He had to speak words. His voice, halting and rough said,


"Anna, I... I have the scrolls I told you of so many years ago."

"Yeah? I no longer have the others."

"That is not my concern. I did say I would bring these to you, and I have done so."


He stepped across the small room, and she turned around, knife in hand ready to defend herself.
He stopped in his tracks... not because of her knife, but because of what he sensed.
Her face was fair and shined in the plain beauty of her youth. Yet her eyes were searching, unseeing.
She was blind.


"Anna?"

She turned and used the knife to remove the cake from the iron and let it turn. The aroma and sound filled the room as she turned again to the man.

"You see..."

She began to say, halting as she reached for the parchments.

"...I cannot read them."

The man nodded even as he looked about the room. He had not noticed the drawings that were hung everywhere.

"I still draw what I see, but seeing is not always done by the eyes."

She turned and took the cake from the iron and poured more batter on the iron. Setting the cake on a plate she sat it on the table.

"You eat. I have not shared a breakfast in some time."

The man sat and wasted no time eating. A smile came over her as he did, and he was half finished when she had another done. She sat and too started eating. He watched as she worked the fork. It had been some time since he had seen her. He had to ask,

"Anna, When did... how did..."

His words halted as his thoughts ran too fast. She carried them on...

"I come to have no sight? It was one morning in the winter last. Only a few in town got sick, and all but two recovered well. But I woke up the morning after the big snow and I could not see. A hobbit fellow in Staddle did not wake up that same morning. I knew him not, but talk was the cold breath of old was coming again, and it was feared the winter would be longer and colder than it has been in over two hundred years, awakened by the ill days of some years ago. But though these winter days were well colder than most winters here, it passed within a week. Yet I have yet to be able to see again, and the poor hobbit fellow was dead."

He stopped eating and watched her. She finished her cake. He asked her,

"Anna, what time of day is it?"
Early morning, for the birds have been singing for an hour."


She paused, then guessed what he was trying to get at. She went on,

"I can see lighter and darker, I just cannot see the images."

He wondered if she had any healer look at her eyes. There were few with the knowledge here in Bree, and the Rangers who know of these things he could not go to. What of the woman? She had not been seen or heard of by him since the dark days of 89. He knew not where to look for her, and her old cabin has been abandoned since... he was thinking when she said,

"I will be fine, I will safeguard the scrolls, and you will remain unseen. Uncle will be by to check on me soon, so if you wish him to not see you, I think your time here is short."

This was the longest he had stayed with Anna since before those dark days, and he could hear she was growing uneasy having him there. He stood and prepared to go, but she had stood and came around to him. Her hand felt his face and remembered. An aged face, worn with time and care she sensed. She nodded and turned away.

"Goodbye Anna. If I find more I will bring them to you..."

"No, we will not meet again old ranger. I could feel that when I touched you.... I had the same feeling when I last saw and ...touched my sister"


She stepped toward him and he toward her. Embracing long as good friends would, they lingered there for many moments. Then without words, she turned away and he turned and slipped out the door. Anna went to make new cakes to eat again with her uncle when he arrived, and he worked the shadows and made his way into the Chetwood and headed east in haste.
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Postby Sirion » Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:53 pm

EDIT: Sorry, didn't mean to post yet. I feel...so...stupid.
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~At the Forsaken Inn~

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Wed Sep 12, 2007 10:27 am

*

“What both you and Raven have said is interesting,” Ewen mused aloud between mouthfuls of stew. “About the Southrons and orcs… the signs of them found in different places… And the signs Elenien and Mallor found near the Gwathló could belong to the same band in Ost-in-Edhil…except we found no traces or signs that Southrons were among them.” He was about to tell Eradan of the strange items they found when the young man interrupted.

“But they could be the same band Baranor and his men were tracking near the Hoarwell.” Eradan lifted his mug to take another drink of ale. His bowl of stew lay untouched near his elbow.

“Perhaps.” Ewen added and then paused for a moment, distracted by movement across the room. Raven stood in a doorway on the other end of the common room. The morning sunlight did not reach that end of the room and standing as she did with her dark hair falling framing her face and her black silk gown blending with the shadow-filled hall behind her she looked almost ethereal. The long night with no sleep and the talk of past events and people long dead was catching up to him. He rubbed his face and turned his attention back to Eradan. “It is known some of the Blackcrows hail from the lands to the south.”

“Or they could be something else as Raven suggested. Don’t forget, in ages past, a race of men known as the Hill-men were once allied with Angmar. If the Hill-men, hidden away in the Ettenmoors and Rhudaur have grown in numbers and have now allied themselves with the Bloodcrows…This is a possibility that bears looking into.”

Ewen’s face was grim and Eradan remained silent as both men thought of those dark times written of in the books of lore held by their people. The relentless attacks led by the Witch King in the north caused the numbers of the Dúnedain to dwindle greatly and many of the lands once held by them were lost and remained so to this day. If a new threat was looming in the north it was a serious matter.

Finally Eradan broke the silence. “All the more reason to make haste for Imladris and seek Elrond’s guidance. His lands border Rhudaur and he may have knowledge we are unaware of. He may also be able to shed some light on those other tracks I found near the Baranduin.”

Ewen didn’t say anything for a few moments; instead he sat staring at the half-finished bowl of stew thinking. He’d not told Eradan about finding Morghan at Ost-in-Edhil, only mentioned she was the daughter of Ruark Lachlan, a fellow Ranger now dead and they were traveling together. The news Eradan brought was important. His mind kept going back to what the young Ranger had told him about the carcasses he’d found… The answer was so close, yet he couldn’t grasp it… It kept slipping away as more immediate concerns came to the forefront of his thinking.

He must see to Morghan’s welfare. He had vowed to himself to take Morghan somewhere safe, somewhere she would be looked after. But duty bid him to seek out Elrond’s counsel as soon as possible. Even if they rode hard, it would take most of a week to reach the Hills of Evendim… from there it would take even longer to reach Imladris. He glanced over at Morghan sitting by the hearth.

She was looking in their direction. Had she been listening to their conversation? He couldn’t tell, but he lowered his voice.

“I had planned to return to Dimwold before going on to Imladris.”

“Can’t it wait?” Eradan exclaimed setting his tankard down with a loud thunk. “This is important!”

Ewen didn’t answer right away. He looked down at the half-eaten bowl of stew. He wasn’t hungry anymore and pushed it away. Then he looked over at Morghan. She was standing next to the chair looking at him intently. The blanket had slipped from her shoulders and there was the look of the old, independent Morghan in the set of her jaw and the tilt of her head.

“Yes, it can.” Morghan said from across the room. “Go to Imladris. I will stay here until you return.”

“Here?” Ewen sat back, surprise clearly showing on his face before it changed and became stern. “No. We will leave for Dimwold in an hour.”

“You must go to Imladris. It is important.” Morghan crossed the room, stopping a few feet from the table. “I can stay here. I want to return to my home in the Chetwood.”

“The Chetwood! It isn’t safe. You can’t stay alone.”

“Safe? And where is it perfectly safe? Dimwold? If there is trouble brewing in the north, then nowhere is it truly safe.”

“In Dimwold you would be surrounded by friends of your family.” His eyes grew hard and his lips drew into a tight line as he reined in his warring emotions. To leave her here alone, unprotected? No, he didn’t want to think of that. She needed looking after. This was not a solution he would willingly accept.

“I have friends here. In Bree, Archet, Staddle and Combe… and now here, at the Forsaken.” She continued speaking in a low, calm voice. “I’ve always felt safe in the Chetwood. If trouble should come, I know many places in which to hide. Few know the woods and marsh better than I.”

Had she forgotten he had found her far from ‘the safety of Chetwood’ and had no memory of how she had come to be there? Pushing back his chair, he stood next to Morghan for a moment, looking down at her. She held his gaze in stubborn silence. No, she hadn’t forgotten, her eye said as much, but they also pleaded with him to grant her this.

“If you bring me to Dimwold I will return here after you leave,” she said in a whisper. Turning abruptly, Ewen walked with long strides toward the door, opened it and walked outside without looking back.

Morghan bowed her head and let her breath out slowly. Ever since they had reached the first outlying reaches of the Midgewater she had known that she didn’t want to return to Dimwold, but she hadn’t known how to tell Ewen. When he had glanced her way and she had seen the troubled look on his face she’d seized the opening, hoping that he would be relieved at her decision. Instead she had angered him… She shouldn’t have said what she did, even if she did mean it. Morghan raised her head and looked toward the door. Should she follow him outside and tell him she didn’t mean it? She bit her bottom lip to stop it from trembling. She didn’t want him to be angry with her. Hesitantly she started toward the door.

“Let him be. He just needs time to accept your decision.” Eradan spoke up quietly. “He’ll be back.”

“Eradan’s right.” Unnoticed, Raven had come up and was standing beside Morghan. She still had the parchment; it was tucked under her arm. She hadn’t forgotten about it, but now was not the time. “I’ll go and talk to him.”

Ewen stood on the porch of the old Inn looking out into the bright sunlight of the new day. The sun felt warm on his face, but the air held the cool crispiness of autumn. He turned to face the direction of the marsh and the Chetwood. They were not visible from where he stood, the strand of trees surrounding the Inn hid them, but he knew they were close, just beyond the small stretch of open land beyond the trees. And Morghan’s small cabin? It was closer to the Forsaken than the distance between the Inn and Bree. He tested the strength of one of the pillars holding up the porch roof. It was study enough to bear his weight and he crossed his arms and leaned his back against it as he tried to gather his thoughts.

There was truth to what Morghan had said. The seclusion and isolated location of her cabin in the Chetwood might offer her a safe haven. She would be alone, he argued with himself, with no one close to protect her. What if she became frightened again, so frightened she forgot to breathe? What then? No, he couldn’t let her stay alone.

Suddenly he kicked the post behind him hard and stood up straight. Arghh! She’d said she’d leave Dimwold as soon as he left!

He should just leave. He wasn’t used to feeling so responsible for the wellbeing of one person. All he had ever had to do was watch out for himself… Guarding and protecting the whole of Eriador was easier than dealing with this! He started to leave the porch for the stables and then stopped. His anger was cooling just as suddenly as it had erupted.

Back in Ost-in-Edhil when she was so helpless and afraid he had treated her as a child, a child who needed to be protected and cared for. But she wasn’t a child, she was a woman; a woman who had once been strong and capable of looking after herself. He thought back to the times he’d seen her before, stopping at her cabin. He’d admired her independence then… why was he angry now when it once again rose to the surface?

He didn’t get a chance to think about the answer as footsteps sounded on the wooden planks behind him. He didn’t turn around. He could tell by the lightness of the steps that it was Raven.

“Have you come to plead her case for staying?” he asked harsher than he intended.

“No. Morghan presented her feelings quite well. I have come to see how you were faring.”

“Me? What does it matter?” The tone of his voice was laced heavily with sarcasm and Ewen winched inwardly the instant he heard it. He turned around to face Raven.

“To me you matter little,” Raven was blunt and she did not mince her words. “But to Morghan… you matter more than you can imagine. She has clung to you as a person caught up in raging flood waters clings to a life line suddenly found in their hands. You were her salvation when she believed herself lost. Now, as she treads the waters of her life again and is finding the rocky bottom of the shoreline under her feet, she feels the life line being withdrawn before she is steady on her feet. She needs your support.”

“How can I support her choice when I don’t believe it to be the right one?” Ewen asked in an exasperated voice. “I don’t want her to stay here.”

“Because it is what she needs. Morghan needs to know that she can return to her former self, the woman she once was. Perhaps then she can face whatever happened to her instead of being afraid.” She paused for a moment and watched Ewen. Her words had an affect; she could tell he was mulling them over in his mind. She waited a moment and then said, “Remember your words to me last night? You said ‘Whatever happens will come to pass regardless of how I feel.’ Let this happen Ewen.”

“Aye, I did say that.” Ewen sighed. “I will let Morghan stay. But this I ask of you Mistress Raven. Watch over her. Let her stay here for a few days before she returns to the Chetwood. After that, watch over her still. I will return here after I’ve been to Imladris.”

“I will, you have my word.” Raven nodded gravely, but she was smiling also to lighten the air between them. She had spoken bluntly to Ewen so that he would listen and think. And so he had.

“And now,” Ewen said feeling just a little relieved that the matter had been settled. He wasn’t happy with the decision but realized he should step aside…for Morghan’s sake. “You mentioned something of great importance to the Dúnedain. What is it?”

“This.” Raven answered indicating the parchment under her arm.

“Then let us return inside so that we may all hear what is written down.”

*
Last edited by Morghan~Lachlan on Sun Sep 23, 2007 11:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sirion » Thu Sep 13, 2007 5:18 pm

One Week Previous, Morning, Ered Luin…

It was cold. It was not unnaturally cold. The high peaks of the Ered Luin more than warranted cold, and yet even they did not bring the same chill as that of the Misty Mountains. Snow came with the cold, as did ice and a lack of animals. Though there were animals that populated the Ered Luin, north of Mithlond and the Gulf of Lhun; great animals, tough of skin and thick of fur and broad, fat and sturdy. Much like the dwarves that dwelled beneath, they were. And with them came predators.

These predators were not simply animals, as they were. Of similar, perhaps even lesser intelligence, true, but the more precise word would be monster. Those that wished to sound fancy would call the creatures spawn. And on this particular morning in the Ered Luin, at dawn high in the snowy peaks, with a view so clear as to see the Misty Mountains far, far away, the spawn were not living.

As the sun shone and hit the white slopes, light flashing out everywhere, the one living creature amongst the goblins that lay strewn across the hillside pulled the cowl of his cloak further over his eyes. Elves did not feel cold to the extent of suffering for it, but they saw the light, especially at dawn in the painful sense that it bounced everywhere off the snow. From where he sat on a rather large outcrop of rocks, it was not so bad. Far down below him were the bodies of the filthy creatures. He pondered how they’d gotten here, though the answer was quite simple. Descended from spawn of Morgoth, as all fell creatures were, and thus they simply stated in the Ered Luin instead of moving east with the rest of their band. Otherwise, it was only natural that goblins populated an area that dwarves also populated. It was not so natural for an elf to be in the mountains where dwarves dwelt, but it wasn’t as if they often ventured out into the snow, save to hunt for the great beasts that roamed about the snowy woodlands.

It might also be noted that this particular elf was slightly different from the stereotypical High Born of Imladris, in the most ambiguous and the most obvious of ways. Still, on the outside, he looked like any other traveler. Robes, he wore, and not the finest of sort. Once they were fine, of dark, deep green that had long since rumpled and stained and frayed at the hems. At the belt that clasped it to his waist hung several pouches, and a worn, thick leather satchel hung from about his shoulder. He bore no weapon; only a staff he had, gnarled and yet fair. It was stout and quite heavy, and yet not thick. Taller than he was, he held it in one fair hand. He was invisible beneath this and the cowl of the flowing gray cloak about his shoulders.

He was waiting. It wasn’t long before what he awaited arrived, in the form of a rather large eagle. It dipped its beak once, and he stood. For the first time in the days he had spent atop the mountains, his voice rang out.

“Greetings, my friend.”

The great eagle hopped forward slightly, leveling his head with the man’s own. There was an unspoken order in the eagle’s eyes, speaking volumes of just how adept at hiding the face of its wearer this man’s cloak was. Remove your cowl. And he did.

This was not the face of an elf. It was a man’s face. And yet he truly was an elf. Peculiar, this was, or certainly seemed as if it should be so, but the magnificent creature took it quite as if he had been expecting it. Appearing to nod once more, it dipped low, and the elf that bore the features of man climbed onto his back, and they soared.

Four Days Ago, Dusk, Imladris…

“How can you be sure?”

“I am not sure.”

“He may not even yet be alive.”

“I am sure he is, though I may wish it were otherwise. You know as well as I he has not left this world. This is not a time for foolishness.”

The light was fading in the valley surrounding Rivendell, though shadows never grew in the creeping dominance of other regions. It was a soft darkness, that of evenfall at all times, and never the black of the depths. Even in the twilight, with streaks of yellow at the end of the day flashing over the hills around the haven, Imladris was a place of wonder and beauty. Elrond and a man stood under the coming night, and the light vanished entirely just as the man spoke.

“You have friends in the Rangers, of course. Aragorn will not have let his watch falter.”

“The Dunedain are ever watchful. Their quarry is no different. He vanished. He has not been found in all this time. You know the way he follows, Thildor. It is not a way that can be easily contested.”

“There is no taint in the west that has not been present since the
sundering of the land. New taint can hide in old taint, it is true, but none has entered save for those of Morgoth’s bestial children.”


Elrond turned to Thildor, who had just spoken.. Between them, there was no resemblance in anything but the eyes. And yet, one could have been man and instead was elf. The other was elf, doomed to forever resemble that which they were not and could not be. And yet he was much more like a man than even he, Thildor, cared to admit. He leaned heavily on his staff, letting his weight sag against it. They had spoken much this evening, about many old things; about Malebranche. Thildor had not been present those years ago; in fact, he had not been in Imladris before now in a decade. Though they had spoken for hours, he did not believe he had spoken enough to compensate. Now he spoke again as he turned to the great elven lord.

“I will do as you have instructed.”

“Tarry not, Thildor. I keep company here in your absence. It would be good of you to visit Sorael, but we have no time.”

“West again, I go.”

Morning in the Village of Staddle…

It was midday when Thildor called upon an old friend in Staddle. It was funny, how folk already thought him queer in the way he dressed and the odd timing with which he often appeared, and it wasn’t just in Staddle. He had a handful of true friends in Staddle and surrounding villages, both man and hobbit; this one was the latter.

It came as a rather rude knock on the door just during lunch, a well-known hour, and one where visitors didn’t usually show up. As such, Nodell Bolger wasn’t truly the most welcoming of people to start off, and when he opened the door, a string of harried, and rather rude words flew out. An amused, rather far taller-than-the-hobbit man put a stop to that.

“Hello, Nod.”

“Oh!” One can imagine just how surprised the Bolger was right now. “Emyn! Blessed! When did you get back?! What are you doing standing there?! Come in. In, I say!”

To be frank, Thildor, or Emyn at this point, would not truly call Nodell’s home a beautiful place, but it was homely enough. All in all, the poor hobbit just didn’t know what to do outside of a hobbit hole and in an actual house. He’d never even been in a part of the Shire where they had houses before traveling out some years ago during his tweens. In all that time, he appeared to have gained some measure of his own sense of homeliness.

“What happened to your beard?” the hobbit chirped, waddling over to a table covered in snacks for the whole day long. “You cut it, I see. Where’s that bush I was so used to?”

“It’s not as if it’s all gone missing, my friend,” Emyn protested, taking a seat in a rocker.

“I suppose not. Well, you still have that dreadful hair hanging down. I thought I told you to get a cut the other way around.”

“I suppose I got confused.”

“Rubbish. Pastry?”

The friends continued their banter. It wouldn’t be until later that Emyn actually began to ask some more serious questions of his friend and long time confidante, Nod.
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Sat Sep 15, 2007 4:41 am

The warming sun wasted no time driving the dew back, and though the days spoke of the change in season, this day promised to be a breath of summer. It would get warm, maybe hot. Weather aside, Ewen was hot when he left the confines of the inn. Raven followed for she had to talk to him. Easing his mind about Morghan was difficult, but he seemed a wise man when thoughts were unclouded. His care for Morghan and the lack of sleep may have played their hand, but he seemed to be well with her re assurances. He turned his thought to what Raven had in hand, and said,

You mentioned something of great importance to the Dúnedain. What is it?”

“This.”
Raven answered indicating the parchment under her arm.

“Then let us return inside so that we may all hear what is written down.”

Ewen pulled the door open and waited for Raven to enter. But a nearby caw of a crow, and the clicking of another in the trees across the road caused her to pause. Her eyes sought them out, and when they found one of them in the boughs of an ols oak, it flew off to the northeast, and three others gave up their hidden watch to follow. Raven pulled her robe close and whispered to herself, though Ewen was right there,

"There is much afoot here, more than we know..."

Ewen turned to watch the crows disappear over the rise, looked ar Raven, and she turned and entered the inn. Morghan was standing at the the end of the bar nearest the door, and Eradan was still seated finishing his ale. Raven broke the silence as she walked to the table where Eradan was sitting...

"A chill came ove rme just before we came back in here, and I think this day and the decisions made her right now may decide what evil we will attempt to thwart, for I perceive many nearby. Alone and uncoordinated they can be dealt with as they come, but I fear they are gathering together and are becoming of one mind. If the Dark Lord of Mordor get sway of them, it will bode ill for the lands. But right now I feel they are still working for their own purposes, which may cause them to cross each other. Be they these strange orcish men, hillmen, Dunlanding, or even the black men from the far south, much evil is afoot. As Eradan said, the sign he spoke of is important, and it should be looked after...

Raven walked around the table as she spoke, turning as she ended and looking at the scroll. The seal was broken, but a close look at its remains showed that it was the seal of Elendur, ninth king of Arnor in the line of Elendil. As Raven unrolled the parchment, a script, ancient and flowing, was revealed. Eradan and Ewen noticed the emblem of the rayed star inscribed on the back, barely visible. It was the same as that which the Rangers wore on their cloaks! Morghan walked to the table and stood by Ewen who had stepped next to Eradans chair. Raven went on,

"Yet this scroll has upon it the emblem the Rangers have, and it was written by King Elendur of Arnor."

Eradan stirred in his chair and said,

"But how could this be? Rangers have only been known of since the days of Aranarth, our first Chieftain, at least that is what has always been commonly believed... that the Dunedain Rangers were formed sometime after the fall of Arthedain when the eldest son of the last King King Arvedui gathered together the remnents of the lost kingdom."

Ewen nodded slightly. Raven nodded also and agreed as she looked at them,

"That is the belief from that which has bene known. But let me read this to you..."

This day, Yestarë, beginning the year 655 of this age of the world, brings with the snows and cold wind, a dark omen on me. I have been king not quite 3 years after the untimely death of my father, and there is still much I do not know about ruling. The lands are great but the people few, and the leagues between them are many. Dissention of the peoples in the rugged hills of our northeastern lands was quelled by my father, but for how long? With the rumors that he was assasinated while in Rhuadur still flowing beneath the surface, despite all the healers saying it was a case of his eating tainted meat, something seems now amiss. For bad meat should have only caused sickness for a time, for Valandur was a healthy man. Yet all accounts of those in his party say they hunted fresh game. Arnor is a great Kingdom of Numenor in exile, but I feel an illness creep over us. The Kings Guard itself is ripe with factions, even though all are on the surface loyal. Ministers call for works for their lands, and though they say arnor is great, their thought are divided. Ill is my feeling, and though Arnor may weather my days, will it weather those of my heirs? I will have to do what I can to preserve this kingdom now...

I have called to me some few captains of men in arms whom I know to be unquestioningly loyal to Arnor. I have served with them in my younger days and know them well. They are not many, but their worth is great. They have in turn called to themselves some few of their men whom they have complete confidence. It is of these men I have asked to do the impossible. Though they are high in stature they give it up to be seen as the lowest. They do what is needed to be done in the shadows of the day and night. In stealth they move, and ever vigilent is their watch. Unlike the regular army or the Kings Guard, they are adorned in plain gray and green, with a distinct emblem on their cloaks. It was an emblem that was once worn by good men who kept Arnor from dissolving in the days of young King Valandil. After the war and the news of the death of Isildur and his elder sons, there were some who wished a new line would rule. These few men who had come home from battle rallied around the young king, and the line endured. Valandil himself awarded each man a brooch with the rayed star for their bravery and continued service to the King. Little is known what became of the men, but it is assumed they all aged and died and the brooches were passed down and lost. But I have found one in the depths of the palace in Annumnas, and this will be the symbol of these elite men. I call them Rangers. They will be my eyes where I cannot see. They will be my ears where I can not hear. They will watch ever vigilant, and they will know and learn ways of the wild and of the elves, and try and remain unseen. For the time is now to look far into the days ahead, and if Arnor...


Raven turned the parchment around, and back again. She then rolled it and tied it, and handed it to Ewen.

"These belong with Rangers. The chieftain may want to see it. There seems to have been other pages, but if they exist I have not found them here. I also believe that Aranarth had knowledge of these elite shadow warriors that apparently came into existance in the days of Kings Elendur and King Valandil before, and adopted their ways in the absence of a kingdom"

Raven looked at Ewen and Eradan, and a smile came over her face.

"It is good that these walls are again a meeting place for Dunedain Rangers."

Her smile faded slowly, for this day was only beginning, and it would be long...
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Postby Claymore » Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:50 am

Ettenmoors

Elenien examined the ground more closely. Here it seemed that the company had been joined up with another bunch of orcs and men. How many precisely she could not tell but fifteen to twenty was probably a good guess. How could it be that such a big company had passed unnoticed until now? She knew that Baranor and his men where hunting in the region and she knew Baranor's skill. Orcs weren't known for their particular skill in stealth but these had somehow remained unnoticed until one week ago when her father and she had found their tracks near the Last Bridge. She was still amazed by their boldness to pass so close to Rivendell. She stared a while at the tracks.
There was something strange about them she discovered. When one knew where they were and looked directly at them they were plain enough. But when Elenien looked at the tracks from the corners of her eyes they seemed to fade away. This made her very uneasy. If their enemies were using some kind of magic what hope was there left for them?
She rose from her crouch. Another mystery to add up to all the others the Rangers had encountered this past year. She began to run at an easy but mile-swallowing pace, keeping a sharp eye on the ground all the while.
Later on the day Elenien noticed that the company had become smaller again. She cursed. She hadn't seen when the group split. She began to walk back, scanning every square inch. A bit past noon she found the place where the company had split.
They seemed to have rested for a while for she discovered the hidden remnants of a small fire. After their rest the company a split into two smaller groups of equal size. She followed the tracks of the other group for a while but they seemed to follow more or less the same direction as the company she had followed earlier. This puzzled her. Why split up if they where going to the same place anyway? Unless... unless one company was to lay in ambush while the other baited a prey in the trap. But who was to be the prey? It couldn't be her, these tracks where already a few days old and why lay a trap while she was only a lone ranger? They could simply have overwhelmed her with their numbers if they had discovered her. Then a chilling thought came over her. The only other big company in this region was Baranor's. Was the ambush meant for them? She quickened her pace. Maybe she could warn them in time.
She had been running for more than an hour when the stench told her she was too late. A cry escaped from her lips and she started to sprint crashing through the underbrush without a thought for her own safety. She skidded to halt when she arrived at the place of the ambush.
It was a real butchery. The whole company seemed to have been slaughtered but not without taking a great number of orcs and southrons with them. It seemed to have happened two or three days ago and the whole groove was already beginning to stink of death.
Elenien gagged and a strangled whisper made it's way to her lips.
-No... no please!
She staggered in the open and went from body to body searching without hope for survivors. She tried to hold back her tears but she finally cracked when she saw Aldor's body nailed to a tree. Aldor had only been eighteen and this had been his first mission. She recalled how excited and nervous he had been when the company departed. And now he was dead. She had trouble accepting it. Suddenly she heard a twig snap behind her and even in her confused state she reacted almost immediately. She took a fighting stance and scolded herself for having let go of every caution. She should have scouted the area before rushing off like that. Sentinels might have been left behind and she was alone. But it was too late now.

Let them come. If it's my fate to die here, then so be it.

But the person who came stumbling out of the thicket wasn't an orc. It was a man and in a pitiful state at that.
-El... Elly?
-Baranor!
-Elly is that you?
Baranor stumbled and would have fallen had Elenien not caught him. His skin was feverish to the touch and she saw now that he had bloody bandage his left arm.
- Easy Baranor, easy. It's me, it's Elly.
'Thank the Valar...' he whispered and passed out.
Elenien cursed and helpless tears flowed now freely. What should she do? She had never been very skilled in healing. She wished that Eradan was here. He knew a bit more about herbs than her, thanks to his mother and at least he was strong enough to transport a tall man like Baranor. But wishing would not help her now.
She wiped the tears away, angry at herself that she showed such weakness. She had to take action, Baranor's life depended on it. She began to search for two spears of the same length. She found Aldor's near the tree and took also Ragnor's. She tied those together with bowstrings and draped her cloak over it.Then she grabbed Baranor under his armpits and dragged him to the makeshift stretcher. She covered him with a few extra cloaks that she had taken from the dead. She didn't like the idea of scavenging from them but the living were more important than the dead. She began to drag the stretcher away from the groove. The hilly Ettenmoors where full of cliffs and caves and she had seen one earlier that seemed dry and sheltered enough. She had been running however when she passed it and though it had only taken her an hour to get to the groove from the cave the backward way took her almost three hours. By time she had reached the relative safety of the cave he shoulders were burning from exhaustion and her legs were trembling. She laid down the stretcher and began to examine the cave. She had evaluated it well. It was rather deep and it would keep the fire she was about to start hidden. She left Baranor in the cave and searched for wood, all the while erasing the traces she had left when dragging the stretcher. When she had gathered enough branches and erased the tracks to her satisfaction she went back.
A faint voice rose when she entered the cave.
-Elly? Were am I?
Elenien let the bundle of wood clatter on the floor and walked over to where Baranor lay.
-You're safe. I dragged you away from the butchery to this cave. I've erased the tracks so unless someone saw us we are safe.
-How..How did you find us?
He grabbed her arm and tried to rise. Elenien noticed he was trembling. She gently pushed him back on the stretcher.
-Calm down. Questions can wait. What you really need now is care and rest. Lay down.
-You.. can tell me.. while you look at my arm.
-Agreed.
She took her knife and began to cut off the bandage. The wound underneath wasn't a pretty one. It was ragged and the edges were red and hot to the touch.

Infected

-Well...
-Oh yeah. After you left from Dimwold I set out with Dad to take another look at those old orc-traces. When we arrived at the Last Bridge we found new ones. We split. Dad was to follow them to where they came from and I was going to follow them up the Hoarwell. They led directly to the place of the slaughter.
A silence fell. Elenein thought a moment about what she should do. She tried to recall the few lessons in herblore she had followed with her aunt.

Clean it with willowbark tea. That can never hurt

She started her fire and fixed her cooking skin above it with the help of three branches and a piece of string. Her waterbottle was still full and she poured all the contents in the skin.
She began to rummage through her bag in search of the willowbark. Her fingers finally touched a small pouch but when she opened it the sweet smell told her it wasn't willowbark. She took one of the small dried leaves in her hands.

Athelas! I didn't know I still had it! This is even better.

Even she knew of the healing power of that little plant. She would use the kingsfoil instead of the willowbark and make Baranor drink the willowbark tea. Strengthened by this unexpected find she set to work. She finally found the willowbark pouch and took two small wooden bowls. In one she put some leaves, in the other some bark. Now she only had to wait until the water was warm enough.
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~At the Forsaken Inn~

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Sun Sep 23, 2007 11:14 pm

*

A feeling of awe washed over Ewen as he took the scroll from Raven’s hand. He held it gently, suddenly struck by the weight of importance such a light and delicate piece of parchment held. This scroll recounted the history of the Rangers, a history that predated by far the common belief all Rangers shared. Suddenly he felt humbled by the knowledge of the long line of loyal service and guardianship he was a part of.

His voice was filled with earnest reverence as he thanked Raven. “You cannot know… what this means…” He stopped unable to explain his feelings. But as he looked at the small elven woman standing in front of him, he saw she did understand and his eyes conveyed to her the feelings he could not find words for.

“This belongs in a safe place. It is a part of our history hitherto unknown,” he said solemnly, holding the parchment close to his heart for a moment before handing it back to Raven. “I entrust it back into your keeping, until it can be safely delivered to Halbarad. I dare not take it with me to Imladris, though I will inform Elrond of its contents.”

Standing quietly by the side of the table during the solemn exchange between Ewen and Raven, Morghan wasn't sure at first if she'd heard right- Ewen was going to Imladris! Did this mean she would stay here when he left or did he mean for her to go to Imladris also? She looked at Ewen but could read nothing on his face that hinted at his thoughts concerning her.

The importance of the scroll was not lost on young Eradan either. He felt the same reverence and awe as did Ewen but after a moment of silence he asked Ewen quietly, “When will we leave?”

The look youthful mixture of enthusiasm and solemnity on Eradan’s face was hard to conceal and Ewen tried to keep a smile from creeping over his usually stern face.

“In an hour or two. There are a few matters to be taken care of first.” He looked in Morghan’s direction and she nodded slightly guessing he wished to speak with her in private before they left.

“Mistress Raven,” he said, turning his attention back to the elven woman. “May we beg of you a few supplies from your larder for the road?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you. We don’t need much. Eradan will know what we need and can assist you.”

While Raven and Eradan headed for the larder, Ewen took Morghan’s hand and led her to the door. He wanted to talk to her alone. Once outside he continued walking until they reached one of the trees growing a short distance from the Inn. A gentle breeze was blowing, a warm breeze from the south. Ewen looked skyward; it would be a fine day for traveling. Reluctantly he dropped Morghan’s hand and turned to face her with a grave look on his face. “I am loathe to leave you here…”

She was staying. Hastily Morghan started to reassure him but he held up a hand to stop her.

“Nothing you say will make me feel any different. If Eradan had not shown up here, you would have gone to Dimwold with me.” He paused letting his words sink in and Morghan knew from the look on Ewen’s face that he meant what he said.

“Even now I’m unsure. Perhaps I should take you to Dimwold...or even Imladris,” Ewen continued. “The Lady Raven sensed something… Something ‘afoot’ as she said and I trust the instincts of the Eldar. The words she spoke rang with many truths.”

Both Raven’s and Eradan’s words bothered him more than he let on. He wanted to tell Morghan of the niggling suspicion that had been awakened by Eradan’s description of what he had found, but to do so now before his suspicions were confirmed might do more harm than good. The last thing he wanted to do before he left was cloud her mind with unfounded fear.

“A veiled mist swirls through the lands of Eriador and beyond, hiding many things from sight. I have sensed this for many years as have the other Rangers. The reports of strange occurrences have grown the past years and too few are the answers.”

Placing a hand on each of Morghan’s shoulders, Ewen looked at her with a mixture of sternness and grave concern. He didn’t want to frighten her, but he had to make sure she realized the hazards that could be lurking anywhere during these troubled times.

“I have asked the Lady Raven to watch over you. Listen to her and heed her advice. I wish you would not go to the Chetwood and stay,” He smiled slightly, reaching out to touch her face lightly. “But I see the same stubborn look of your father on your face as I say that and I will not ask for your promise on this. But heed this. Be very careful when you go. Use all the stealth and care your father taught you and do not stay long. Can you promise me this?”

“Yes.” Morghan nodded solemnly sensing the importance of what he said, realizing also the implication of what he didn’t speak of… the strange circumstances surrounding what had happened to her. “I will be careful Ewen, I promise.”

Withdrawing his hand, Ewen reached toward the sheathed knife at his side. He undid the clasp from his belt and handed it to Morghan. “Here, carry this with you at all times. I know you remember how to use it.”

Morghan slowly pulled it from its sheath, turning it over in her hand and testing its weight. It was a long thin blade, longer than her fingers spread wide, and came to a deadly tapered point. The perfect size, it could be concealed easily, yet be withdrawn swiftly when needed and used either at close range or thrown. Sheathing it, she clasped it around the belt she wore under her leather vest.

An impulse seized her and she reached out and wrapped her arms around Ewen’s chest. “Thank you Ewen.” She buried her face against his chest. “For everything,” she whispered realizing she had never really thanked him for all he had done for her. She would miss him terribly.

Awkwardly Ewen returned her hug and then let his arms relax around her for a moment before pulling away. He smiled down at her. “Now, I’m going to rest here under this tree for a moment before I leave.”

“Would you like me to stay with you while you rest?”

“Aye I would lass, but I’d like to talk with Raven before I leave, can you ask her to join me first? And I need you to let Eradan know what supplies I already have so that we aren’t doubled up on something and short of another.”

Morghan turned and started back towards the Inn away to do as Ewen bid but stopped halfway and turned to look back at him. He was already seated on the ground and leaning comfortably against the tree with crossed arms and eyes partway closed.

“What to you want to talk to Raven about?” she asked tilting her head and looking at him curiously.

“I want to ask her a few questions about the scroll she found.” Ewen replied lazily. He spoke the truth, or as much of it as he wanted Morghan to know. He did want to ask Raven how thorough her search had been of the old Inn and if there were any other scrolls he should see before he left, but he also wanted to warn her about something.

*
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Postby Sirion » Mon Sep 24, 2007 1:40 pm

It had taken less time than he might have initially deemed necessary, but Emyn had discovered what he wished to know. He left his friend not more than an hour after arriving, to obvious protest from the hobbit in question, who believed more cheese was necessary—more than necessary, even. In reality, Emyn hated cheese, but he never would have told Nod such.

He did not leave from the front. Well, he did, technically speaking; he walked right out the front door of Nod’s house. Had someone been standing just outside, they still would not have seen him. There was the soft noise of oiled hinges, and nothing more under the shade that the great trees about Staddle offered.

Emyn was already far off, and moving quickly through the trees, his staff the lightest of twigs beside him, held with an ease that didn’t quicken his breathing at all; neither did his pace do such. He was headed for Bree, to meet with someone that could well prove more important than Nodell had for him…

“Friend Nod, it is time.” He didn’t stand from the chair he was sitting in, but it seemed as if he, and the world about him, had suddenly grown that much more still. Nod reacted nervously.

“Ah…right…”

“The trouble will be paid for, I promise you,” he said. He always paid for trouble caused, equally.

“No, no, it isn’t that. Not a problem at all! I had just hoped you still weren’t doing this business.”

“My dear Nod, it isn’t that business, I assure you. This is Lord Elrond’s business.”

“Ah! Oh, rightyo! No worries. Eh, well, oh, okay…” The hobbit paused, as if searching for what he should say now. Lord Elrond’s business and that business were different, and yet Emyn seemed to turn them into the same…

“Go on, Nod.”

“Right. Basically, wounded have increased. ‘As if overnight, too. They just pop up, woodsman, farmers, the like. None to deal with myself, but some o’ the neighbors had some guests. Woodsman droppin’ by, rare occasion; askin’ questions. Not to me, ‘course. I ‘aven’t been to Bree in a bit, but I asked some friends o’ mine to keep an eye out. I said it was for some “friends” o’ my cousin, so no questions. Ranger went through two nights past, and rode out down the East-West Road on horseback, speedy-like, so ‘tis they say.”

Emyn did not stir once, nor did he interrupt. To a stranger Nod’s speech would make little sense, even the darkening tone of the words and the implications. Nod could take the obvious and make it totally invisible in his words, without conscious process. Annoying in some cases, though Emyn had long grown used to it. He waited.

“Oh, and there was one other man,” Nod said, nearly jumping from his chair. He seemed innocent enough, but he looked a tad bit crooked, his face scrunching as he thought on it. “He dressed like any traveler, asked simple enough questions, but I caught a glimpse of a mark on his palm, like a curve thing…sort of…whatnot…”

Emyn’s brows sank for only a moment, before they rose in alarm. He leaned forward, turning Nod towards him with the hand that did not still hold his staff. “What color was the mark?” No answer came. “Nod!”

“Red! Red, it was! Red like blood and…fire.”


His face darkened even more, his shadowy form passing by tree and tree again. He was making for Bree, and he knew exactly where he would find whom he sought. And it was not long before he reached his destination, and when he did indeed enter Bree, he did not go where most newly arrived travelers did. He went away from the Prancing Pony, moving down a back road on silent feet that seemed to leave no prints in the dirt. He left his cowl down; he needed it not.

It was into a darkened building that he slipped, an old and dusty tavern that had been about before the Pony had been established, though not long, and lost business to the place under the first moon of the first night that place was set up. It was a dejected place. Emyn didn’t bother saying anything to the barkeep; the man wasn’t there.

He moved up the stairs, his feet making no sound, but he slowed to less than a walk when he reached the top. To any ear, there was silence. To his, endless noise, on a scale so small that it was impossible for any but the most trained ears to hear, and even then, he had the edge of his birth against them. And then he seemed to hear what he needed to, something akin to a scuffle, and he turned to his left and burst open the door in a twirl. He continued to spin, and in his hand was no longer a staff but a gleaming, wickedly sharp sword, and it pierced flesh then and there, nailing the victim to the wall through the arm. Emyn’s speed was ferocious, and in the same instant he struck his hand was up against the man’s neck, pushing him bodily into the wall…
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Thu Sep 27, 2007 11:22 pm

“Mistress Raven, may we beg of you a few supplies from your larder for the road?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you. We don’t need much. Eradan will know what we need and can assist you.”


Ewen said, and Raven bowed her head briefly before turning toward the kitchen. Eradan followed, obviously deep in thought about all that was afoot. Raven paused to lift down an empty jar, and she dropped the scroll into it. closingthe top, she set it up on the shelf before taking a candle and descending down into the celler. She set it on a beam end as she 2watched Eradan descend as well.

"Here, master Eradan, is all that is stored. Most is quite old, but it all seemed to have been packed well."

"It will do us well on the road."


Eradan answered as he looked about. He chose well their supply; dried fruit and vegetables that were easy to carry, and a bag of tea leaf. Raven squatted down and pulled a dusty barrel from under the beam. It had not been opened, and a quick swipe of her hand moved the dust from the top to reveal an 'r' cirth burned into it. The top came loose with slight pressure, revealing dark, salted meat slabs. Eradan took some as well, and Raven took a small piece and bit a corner off. Old and dry, but still well preserved. It would be good to have on the road.

Gathering what Ewen and Eradan would need, they readied to ascend the ladder. Raven looked at the young ranger, and in him saw so many Dunedain men of the years. Young and strong, eager and driven. Yet already the fleeting years she could see upon him. Reaching and gently touching a dark indention on his wrist, she whispered to him,

"Dunedan, have a care and keep alert. May your days be long and bountiful."

A tear found its way slowly down her cheek, for too many times she have seen the strength of the youth of the Dunedain taken away so quick. Chieftain Arathorn, having ridden off, leaving his young wife and son and never to return to them. Or the darkenss taking the Ranger Halasian from his wife of many years, and their young children. Rivendell was a refuge for them all, but there too the shadows shroud ever closer.

Eradan paused at Ravens touch, and he asked,

"My Lady, are you well?"

Raven blinked, and wiping the tear away, she nodded. Her hand reached and brushed his cheek, and she went on,

"Yes, yes... its just..."

She looked into his grey eyes

... "for a moment, in the dance of the candles light, you reminded me of someone... someone I knew long long ago. Come, we should get you two ready to go."

Eradan climbed the ladder and set his stores on the floor, then lifted himself up. Raven set her stores and followed, and they carreied it all to the large table in the common room.

Morghan and Ewen were not there, but Eradan wasted no time in packing a couple satchels. Raven went to stir the coals of the fire and lay a log on it. She turned when the door opened and Morghan walked in.

In a voice that seemed a little edgy, Morghan said,

"Lady Raven, Ewen wishes to speak to you. He is out under the oak grove."

Raven bowed her head and lightly stepped to the door. pushing it out, she stepped through and let it close. Sh edid not look back even though she felt eyes upon her. Lookng to the trees, the seasons change was really now apparent. the vivid colors of the outer leaves contrasted against the still green lower ones, and more than a few littered the ground. There against one of the trees sat Ewen, and Raven approached slowly, lightly. His ranger instinct would detect her, but she never missed a chance to test a dunedan. Drawing near, she could see he had a leaf in hand and was turning it by its stem in his hand. The sun was warm and the air still, and she said in a near whisper as her shadow approached him,

"You wish to speak to me master Ewen??"
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Sat Oct 06, 2007 10:09 pm

Rhuadur, north of the great East Road...

Khul was in a quandry. His spies had told him that the Rangers were evermore on the watch in the south by the Sarn, but here he had word that they still incurred into the highlands of Rhuadur. The southerners had taken some by suprise and said they killed them all, but Khul was skeptical. He asked the orcish black leader of the band,

"You say you killed a whole company of Rangers?"

"Yes, in a wooded grove by a small creek. Their watch was pitiful."


He answered. It was this that made Khul skeptical, for the Rangers never have pitiful watches, especially if they be in the highlands. He asked more questions...

"So you're saying you six did this? And how many are we talking when you say 'company'?"

The orcish black men from the south leaned toward each other and spoke in an unfamiliar dialect before the leader answered,

"There were two groups of five, but after the fight we could not find some afterward. My guys assured me they were likely too hurt to live. We had two of them captured, but one lashed out and turned a knife into one of my guys, so the rest jumped him and beat him bad. We caught him and tortured him long and slow. He seemed a young man, but he was assuredly old before he died. In all the excitement, the other wounded man managed to crawl off and avoid re-capture."

Khul listened and was silent. He really did not wish trouble with the Rangers, and these idiots had surely brought it on. Hopefully there would not be any more, but they take the deaths of their own to heart, and it would only be a matter of time. He did not need this especially while he wanted to look for that elven wench Raven. Khul looked at one of his men who stood well back and his left eyebrow raised ever so briefly, and then he asked the southerner,

"So how many were in your party?"

We were many, now not as many... Unh...."


An arrow cut into him, before the others could react, they too fell impaled. Archers had taken aim in the shadows after Khul had given his second a signal. A little distance in the wood there was yelling and clashing of steel when Khuls men turned on the rest of the southerners. Khul had quickly thought about what he was about to do before giving the signal to take the southerners down. Not necessarily wise when one does not know the count of their foe, but it was a gamble he was willing to take. Khul and his men who had been with the southerners went to join the fight, but it faded well before they got there. The man he had given the signal to came to him and said,

"A hand of them got away, but we took the rest. cannot explain how they managed to slip us, but it seemed like some sorcery was on order. Others we killed tried to do something with their hands and strange words."

Yes,"
Khul answered him,

"I figured something of that sort. It would explain how they managed to get by the Rangers watch. Come, let us go see if their claim about the Rangers is true."

They made their way in stealth through the bushes and trees, watching for sign of the remnent of the southerners, or any Rangers.

It was not long before sign was found of what the southerners had spoken of.
It stank!
They first found a half eaten carcass of an orc with a sword in him. Next to him was a ranger whose head had been split. They found sign of battle everywhere, but the worst was in a grove of oaks. Wolves had torn apart some of the bodies, and there was sign that some of the rangers had been stripped. One was pinned to a tree and the crows had picked his face apart. Khul looked around and grimaced. It looked like the Rangers gave as well as they got, and only failed due to sheer numbers. That was why the southerners had as few as they did when Khul and his men ran into each other.

Deruk, one of Khuls trackers came to him to show some strange marks. Someone had been there since the massacre. It may have bene a renegade southerner, for would not a ranger bury their dead or bring them home? Yet these tracks did not look like the seemingly faded and hard to see sorcery track of the southerners, but like one of natural stealth. A solitary ranger maybe? Khul looked around further. Some fine weapons were still laying about the rangers bodies, and other valuable things were still on some of them too. It was a puzzle.

Khul thought about it all while his men started to scavange. He stood and put a stop to it, saying,


"STOP! You are men of Argarth, not scum of Angmar! We will bury these men here WITH their belongings!"

There was some grumbling, but the men started immediately on a grave. They all would be buried together and marked with swords. If their kin come to take them home, they will find them here in peace. If they do not, then they will sleep here eternal. Maybe if the tables were turned they would do the same...

Khul let his mind think back... to a time when the men of Rhuadur and the men of Arthedain were not sundered. Too few were his ancestors in the days of old, before the darkness of Angmar came.

Deruk came to him, bringing him back to now, and said,


"We have found sign. Someone dragged off another, and though they were careful in concealment, we can follow."

"Show me."


Khul answered, and they went off to a grassy opening in the trees. On the other side through a low cluster of vining maples were sign. Blood, light footfall followed by two tracks. Khul got down and looked close. The boot track was that of one light on their feet, but they were struggling to pull their load. The direction they were headed would not be easy no how. He sent Deruk onward with another, and Khul returned.

After the Rangers were buried and the men rested, they set out to follow Deruk. Khul thought it was possible that Raven had donned boots and helped a wounded man to safety. Maybe this will be easier than he thought at first... that is if it is Raven. Khul pushed his tired men onward through the crags and brambles and weatherworn trees where Deruk had left sign.

It was dark when he caught up with Deruk who signalled for silence. He pointed up toward some rocks that the damp clouds blew upon. Khul winced his nose slightly, and Deruk whispered,


"Smoke. You smell it? Its light and barely there, but when the breeze comes down the ridge with the clouds its the strongest. They are in one of the caves. They had obscured their trail well, but the blood of the wounded man left a stench of death. The last I found was on this bush here. I did not go any further for I wished not to alert them until you all joined me."

Khul patted Deruk on the back. He knew the land some, and guess they were in one of three caves. Two were close to each other, and one was further back. Khul guessed it would be that one as its approach was more difficult and was harder to find. He whispered to Deruk as he lifted his hand and made several handsigns. The men dispersed into the cover of the rocks, grass, and trees and set watch while the two looked into the shadows of the dark rocks,

"They will be tired and will rest. We will wait until first light."

The warmth of the day was quickly replaced by the damp chill of the autumn night, and the clouds obscured the land. Deruk and Khul waited until before first light to go up toward the caves. They came to one that had the scent of smoke and death, and waited until the dawn lit the land just enough. Khul then called into the cave,

"Hail you in the cave! Be ye Raven the elf, then I have come for you. If ye be a Ranger, then I bring no trouble and have avenged those who slew your kin"

Silence. They waited.
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The Forsaken Inn

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Tue Oct 16, 2007 10:17 pm

*

Raven bowed her head and lightly stepped to the door. Pushing it out, she stepped through and let it close. She did not look back even though she felt eyes upon her. Looking to the trees, the seasons change was really now apparent. The vivid colors of the outer leaves contrasted against the still green lower ones, and more than a few littered the ground. There against one of the trees sat Ewen and Raven approached slowly, lightly. His ranger instinct would detect her, but she never missed a chance to test a Dúnedain. Drawing near, she could see he had a leaf in hand and was turning it by its stem in his hand. The sun was warm and the air still and she said in a near whisper as her shadow approached him,

“You wish to speak to me master Ewen?”

“Yes I do,” Ewen replied, barely glancing up. He’d heard the rusty squeak of a hinge as the door of the Inn had opened and guessed it was Raven, though he’d barely heard her approach. Her shadow lay across his outstretched legs.

“Come closer, sit a moment.” He continued twirling the leaf by the stem while Raven sat down beside him, tucking the folds of her dress around her legs.

“Thank you again for showing me the scroll. If you find any others of importance to the Rangers will you show them to me when I return?”

Raven was about to reply when something rustled the leaves of the branches overhead. Ewen tensed and held up a hand to remain silent. With narrowed eyes he searched among the leaves for the source of the noise and then relaxed when he found it. It was a squirrel running along the branches of the tree, no doubt in search of acorns to store away for the winter. A smile crossed his face as he pointed out to Raven the bulging cheek pockets of each side of it face. Then a crow flew into the tree and tried to land on the same branch. Raising its self on his haunches, tail puffed, the squirrel started chattering furiously and ran at the bird chasing it away.

The smile on Ewen’s face disappeared, replaced by a frown. “Do you know what a crebin is?”

“Yes,” Raven answered. “Do you think the crows here earlier were such?”

“I don’t know… That they did not stay speaks to me that they were not crebain. But still they could have been sent out as spies. The Blood Crows have used crows and their presence here today worries me.”

“Or they could have been ordinary crows. It is the time of year they gather together,” Raven replied. Trying to lighten his mood, she took the leaf from his hand and held it up until an errant breeze caught it and send it swirling through the air before dropping to the ground a few feet away. “Just as it is time for leaves to fall.”

“True,” Ewen replied as he leaned back again against the rough bark of the tree. A wry grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. “It only goes to show what a suspicious mind I have.”

“As I have witnessed,” Raven grinned back at him. Ewen let his guard slip for a moment and in that moment she caught a glimpse of a different person beneath the solemn face he usually presented. All too soon the grin was gone as he became serious again.

“I’ve been thinking of all we talked of last night… You mentioned Halasían’s wife, the Lady Forcwyn of Rohan… She lived near Annúminas for a short time and when we learned who she was, some of us Rangers went to visit her. It was shortly after she had given birth to twins.”

“Her son Hayna led us to believe she sought no news of her husband. He made it clear that Halasían was dead to them, whether or not he lived. We respected their wishes and never spoke his name whenever one of us stopped to see how she fared.”

Raven bowed her head. She knew from Halasían himself of the enmity that lay between father and son. “Hayna was bitter toward his father. The Lady Forwycn regrets the ill feelings he bares his father and she wishes to learn the fate of Halasían so that his children may know of him and not bare the same bitterness. She told me so the last time I saw her at Rivendell.”

“She is in Rivendell? I did not know that.” He frowned and thought of the many times he’d been to Imladris in the past and not known Forcwyn was there.

“She lives a quiet life, one almost of seclusion and wishes only to raise her children in safety.”

“Then I must seek her out while I am there.”

“Why?” Raven tilted her head and looked at Ewen closely. “You told me you’d had no news of Halasían.”

“Pieces of a puzzle.” Ewen said quietly as he thought back over the past few years. “When she first arrived at the Inn near Annúminas we heard from the Lady Forcwyn the same story Morghan told last night though neither she nor Hayna ever named the hermit healer who had come to her aid in the Chetwood. I guess they didn’t think it important,” he said with a frown and shrugged.

“Forcwyn said she ran and hid in the woods soon after the attack started. We had most of the story from Hayna. And because of her feelings for Halasían, we never questioned her of the time before the attack… All we know is that she spent time here,” he gestured toward the Inn. “I’d like to talk with her about it.”

“Such as any strangers who may have been in the area?”

“Yes. Sometimes what seems small and inconsequential may turn out to be important later. I was in the area around the same time and have been trying to remember…”

A dull, gnawing feeling gripped his stomach. Michrel… That day in the Pony, Michrel had admitted killing someone… Could it have been Courtney?

Abruptly Ewen stood up and looked eastward with a grim look on his face. How long had it been since he’d had word from Morghan’s brother? A hastily scribbled message left at one of several, prearranged places had said little…something about heading east, beyond the Misty’s, to meet someone and he expected to return in less than a year.

Where was Michrel now? Had he returned? More than a year had passed since the last message? If he had, Ewen knew he would have tried to see Morghan…

Raven had been watching Ewen. A change had come over him. She stood up and walked over to stand beside him. “What is it?”

“Something I should have thought of earlier…”
Ewen muttered darkly under his breath.

Nárello. If Michrel had returned, then the man who had taken him into the ranks of the Bloodcrows more than likely was with him. He spun around to face Raven, his eyes gleaming with a fierce intensity. He gripped her arms, his fingers pressing hard into the soft flesh of her arms.

“Be wary of any travelers who may find their way here now that you have reopened the Inn. Promise me this!”

Stunned by the sudden change in his behavior, Raven struggled, trying to break his grip. He seemed not to notice. Eyes flashing dangerously, she called out his name as he fingers dug into her flesh. “Ewen!”

“Promise!” he demanded again.

“I promise!” Raven’s temper was up. “Now release me,” she said in a low angry voice, rubbing her arms as he loosened his grip. “What has come over you?”

“A remembered threat from the past,” Ewen replied brusquely as he started toward the Inn.

***

Sitting at the table, Eradan and Morghan were talking quietly of Dimwold. The young Ranger was pleasantly surprised when he found out she knew of his father. Then the door opened and Ewen stood into the room. One look at his face and Eradan was on his feet in a flash. Something had happened to set Ewen on edge.

“Is everything ready?” Ewen asked curtly as he walked over and picked up his cloak from where it had lain all night. His pack was on the floor nearby and after he fastened his cloak, he picked it up.

“Yes,” Eradan replied picking up the satchel of food stuff lying at his feet.

“Good. We’re leaving now.” Ewen said offering no explanation as he headed toward the door.

Raven was still standing under the tree. Her anger was cooling as she mulled over Ewen's last statement. What had he meant by it? What threat from the past worried him so? Or was it fear? She turned at the floor to the Inn flew open. It was Ewen, closely followed by Eradan and Morghan.

Ewen glanced at Raven, nodded in her direction and then quickly turned his face as he winced inwardly. She wore a frown and was rubbing one of her arms where he had gripped it. He had probably hurt her, but there was no time to explain or tell her he was sorry.

“They're leaving now,” Morghan called out as she came through the door. She had a worried look though she tried to hide it with a wan smile. She waited for Raven and together they walked around the building to where the horses were stabled.

It didn't take Ewen long to saddle his horse. When he was finished, he led his horse outside into the early morning sun. Eradan was talking quietly to the two women. When he saw Ewen was ready, he mounted his horse.

Morghan took the reins from Ewen and held his horse steady while Ewen tied one of the satchels behind the saddle and then mounted with an easy grace. “Take care Morghan,” he said quietly as she handed the reins back to him.

“I will Ewen, I promise,” Morghan replied, then bit her bottom lip to stop it from quivering. This leave-taking was harder than she thought. She stepped aside as his horse danced a few steps in its eagerness to be off.

Reining in his horse with a firm one-handed grip, he looked around for Raven. She was standing on the other side of Eradan biding him farewell. Feeling eyes upon her, Raven lifted her head. Their eyes met and she held his gaze for a moment before raising her hand in farewell. “Namárië, Ewen Thane. Ride with care.”

*
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Postby Claymore » Wed Oct 24, 2007 9:43 am

Ettenmoors

Baranor quickly fell asleep after Elenien had tended his wound. When she had made sure that he was comfortable she went away to hunt. She managed to shoot a rabbit, fat from a whole summer of plenty. She also found a little stream near the cave. Though she was now confident that Baranor would live, it wouldn't be before a few days that he would again be able to travel. During that time they would need water and she was relieved that it could be found near the cave.There still was a company of probably angry orcs roaming the region and she didn't want to stray to far from their hiding place. She checked once again if their tracks where well hidden. Baranor was still sleeping peacefully when she came back and though it might have been her imagination he seemed to be a bit less feverish. Reassured she began to skin the rabbit. Soon it was roasting gently above the fire. The smells woke Baranor up and he eyed the meat hungrily. Elenien caught his gaze and frowned.
-How long is it since you last ate something?
-Two days ago.
Elenien took her bag and fished an apple out of it.
-Here, eat this while the rabbit is roasting.


' What happened?' She asked after he had devoured the apple.
Baranor closed his eyes as if holding back tears. He took a deep shuddering breath.
- We found the trails of a bunch orcs and southrons about a five days ago and we tracked them down. We were close on their tails when we discovered that they had joined with another group and had split again. I decided to follow the biggest bunch while Arthad, Surion and Minastan would scout the second trail. They did not come back however though we didn't worry about that at that time. I think now that they must have been discovered and killed too. If they had lived I do not doubt that they would have warned us about the trap. They didn't however and when we discovered the big group we didn't know that the other one was also there and waiting for us to attack. I wanted to wait for the scouts and attack in the night but I guess the orcs became impatient and they sprung the trap too early. We were fending ourselves well and we would probably have retreated without losing to much men hadn't the bigger group noticed what was going on and attacked us in the side.
Baranor fell silent and breathed heavily.
-It.. it was horrible, we fought fiercely and we killed many but they kept coming. It was forty or more against our seventeen and we didn't stand a chance. An orc hit me on the head with a club and knocked me unconscious. Aldor found me later and woke me up. The orcs were searching the area for survivors and we had to go. We were found however and Aldor tried to defend himself. He knifed one of the orcs down and they did not like that. When they caught him again they tortured him.
- I saw it. They have nailed him to a tree.
Baranor quickly closed his eyes and went on: 'They were so absorbed by it that I got away. I was feverish however and still a bit confused because of that blow on my head. As soon as I found a safe place I slept and when woke up again I was so feverish I couldn't think clearly anymore. I don't remember much of what happened next. I guess that's how you found me.
Elenien nodded. By now the cave was filled with delicious smells. Elenien always had some salt and spices with her. It didn't take much place and it made life in the wild far more pleasant. She was rather sure however that it wouldn't even have bothered Baranor if the meat had been charred black. He ate his part like an hungry wolf. He almost immediately fell asleep afterwards and Elenien readied herself for a long watch. With orcs and southrons in the region she didn't dare to sleep. She was exhausted however and needed some rest so she slipped in a state between waking and sleeping. It wasn't as restful as real sleep but at least she could keep some awareness of her surroundings.

It was during the first hours of the morning, when real sleep beckoned hardest that she suddenly noticed that the forest had gone silent. This woke her up as effectively as a bucketful of cold water. Something or someone was there. Baranor stirred and woke up too, alarmed by that kind of sixth sense that Rangers developed over the years. He opened his mouth to ask something but immediately shut it when he saw Elenien's face and noticed the unnatural silence. He made an asking gesture. Elenien pointed outside and shrugged to indicate that she didn't know what was waiting.Baranor frowned. He made a walk away sign. Elenien shook her head.The only entry of the cave as far as she knew was the one through which they had entered and they would be very visible if they tried to get away through that one. They were effectively trapped. They would have to wait until the unknown presence went away. Unless it was waiting for them. Baranor pointed to her and made a sleeping gesture and then pointed to his chest and made an exaggerated mimic of someone mounting guard. Elenien shook her head and pointed to his arm. He replied by putting a hand on his forehead and shaking his head. She frowned until she realized that he was saying that his fever had broken.'You're sure?' she mouthed silently. He nodded. She gratefully laid herself down on the ground and despite the possible thread outside she only stayed awake just long enough to see Baranor draw his sword awkwardly.


When she woke up again the first thing she noticed was that it was still unnaturally silent. Baranor was looking outside with an anxious expression. Without looking at her he beckoned her closer and pointed. At first she couldn't see what had drawn his attention but after having rubbed the sleep out of her eyes she saw to what he was pointing. A bit down the hill were several men clad in green barely visible in the false morning-light. Two were discussing something and casting glances to their cave at several occasions.
' They know we are there,' Elenien whispered.' I thought you had erased your tracks.' Baranor replied.
-I have but they must have followed us from the battle-place. I only have erased the traces around the cave. I didn't want too leave you too long.
-It may cost us dearly. We don't know who these men are and what they want from us.
-I think we will soon know it.
Indeed the two men they had noticed earlier were know climbing the slope. When the sun had finally risen above the rim of the hills the foremost man, who seemed to be the leader called them: 'Hail you in the cave! Be ye Raven the elf, then I have come for you. If ye be a Ranger, then I bring no trouble and have avenged those who slew your kin.'
The two Rangers looked at each other. 'I will go, ' Elenien whispered. 'You go under the blanket and hide your sword. Do as if you're still very ill. If it's a trap it's better that they underestimate us.' She undid her ponytail, letting her long hair tumble loose and pulled her trousers out of her boots that betrayed her as a Ranger. With her cloak she hid her rapier. Like that she looked far less like the fierce Ranger that she was and more like some innocent traveling woman. She couldn't let her quarterstaff pass for anything but for what it was, but in these times no-one traveled without a weapon. She stepped out of the cave.
-Hail my Lords. I do not know this Raven you 're speaking of. As you can see I am not even an elf. Like you I do not wish any trouble. I am but a traveler who wishes to be left in peace.
Both men looked a bit surprised to see that she was a woman. The man who had called reacted first.
-Well met my Lady. What does a woman like you do in such barren regions?
Elenien almost bit on her lower lip. She hadn't thought of that one. Almost no-one lived in the Ettenmoors so she couldn't pretend she was visiting someone here. It was dangerous and people only went here if there was no other option or if they did not know of the danger. She would have to use that.
'I am Mavi from Laketown, I was on my way to visit some family in Bree,' she improvised, Esgaroth was far enough to pretend to be ignorant of Ettenmoors' dangers. ' But I discovered a man yesterday near that horrible carnage a few miles away. I've brought him here to take care of him. But what are you gentlemen doing here?'
She was not entirely sure whether they believed her but at least they didn't challenge her tale.
' I am Khul ,' the leader answered.' And my companion is called Deruk. We are hunters.'
Elenien nodded.
You're not telling me everything friend. But then neither am I.
-Can we offer you some help, mistress Mavi? One of our hunters will soon return with something for breakfast
Elenien wanted to refuse but that would have been suspicious.
-I would be glad to break fast with you my Lords.
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Postby heliona » Fri Nov 02, 2007 8:50 am

Mirkwood:

Almarian mounted her horse, Finduilas, and rode towards the path. The young Ranger had matured considerably in the five years she had been living with the Mirkwood Elves. Discovering the lineage of her mother had been a turning point in her life. All the little hints that she was more than human; the ability to see particularly well, an almost sixth sense about danger, and a feeling of belonging when she was with the Elves had been explained.

It had not all been sunshine and flowers, however. She was not the only one to have felt unrest in Middle Earth; a growing menace that had begun to encroach even the Elven havens of Imladris, Lothlorien, and Mirkwood.

As Almarian rode, she reflected that the days of happiness she had enjoyed felt as though they were coming to an end, and that dark times were upon them once again. Her mind wandered back to the events of five years ago and, not for the first time, she wondered how her fellow Rangers were fairing. On her occasionl trips to Imladris, she heard news, but it had been a while since she had ventured west of the Misty Mountains.

Once Almarian reached the path, she turned her mare's head towards home. Soon they were met by Lilion, Almarian's constant companion, and his horse, Fleetwood. Fleetwood, a nervous filly who had once belonged to Almarian's friend and fellow Ranger, Halasian, had blossomed under the care of the Elf, and was now a feisty mare, who would do anything for her rider.

The pair rode back to Thranduil's cave in companionable silence. Upon crossing the drawbridge and leaving Fleetwood and Finduilas in a nearby field, the Ranger and the Elf entered the cave to discover a tense atmosphere.

Thranduil himself waved them over, and they joined the King and his son, Legolas, exchanging worried looks as they did so. "Lilion, Almarian, I fear that something is brewing that even the Elves can not stop," Thranduil began gravely. "Here, with our many interactions with the Men of the Long Lake, we hear plenty of news, and recently none of it has been good. I know it has been some time since you last visited Imladris and Lord Elrond, but I believe that another visit is due. I wish to hear Elrond's opinion; he is usually has news of all the events in Middle Earth." The King looked between the two Elves and the woman standing before him.

"Lilion," he said, putting his hand on the Elf's shoulder, "my nephew. I do not wish to impose upon you once again, but you are the most experienced of us at travelling to Imladris. Will you go again?"

"Of course, Uncle," Lilion answered without hesitation.

"Almarian," Thranduil then said, "I love you like a daughter. I know that you wish to cross over the Misty Mountains and enquire after your Ranger friends. Go with Lilion, and be careful."

"I will." Almarian gave the Elven King a hug and a smile. "When should we leave?"

"The sooner the better," Legolas answered. "The way is not getting any easier; the Orcs are multiplying, and have been eager for vengeance ever since the Battle of the Five Armies." He looked at his cousin and Almarian seriously. "Be careful. I would like to see you both again."

Lilion grinned. "You will never be rid of me, Legolas."

Almarian smiled and hugged the Prince. "Nor me. At least, not for a long time yet," she added, slightly more soberly. Being constantly surrounded by Elves, she was quite often in danger of forgetting that she was mortal herself.

"Good," the King interjected. "Now, it is time for a feast!"

The other three exchanged a glance. "Is it ever not time for a feast?" Almarian asked.

"No," Legolas answered with a smile. "Come, let us get you organised for your trip."

"It is lucky that we have not being doing that many patrols recently," Lilion commented. "Fleetwood and Finduilas are well-rested."

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

Travelling to Imladris:

The two friends travelled West swiftly, stopping infrequently. The road West was no longer as safe as it had once been. Although they did not mention it, both Ranger and Elf felt a shadow encroaching upon Middle Earth from the East. They encountered few other living creatures whilst travelling through Mirkwood.

Their journey across the Misty Mountains was somewhat less uneventful, for they encountered a party of Orcs. It was a small group seemingly heading south-east. Unluckily for them, Lilion heard them long before they realised there was any threat nearby, and all twenty one Orcs were dispatched without a great deal of fuss. Nearly all were slain by Lilion and Almarian's arrows, and those that were left decided to make a run for it.

They were quickly ridden down and either shot by bow or slain by sword. When it was over, Almarian and Lilion began to collect their arrows. It was a gruesome business, pulling the shafts from the bodies of the dead Orcs, but arrows were precious, and they did not know when they would next need them.

As they did, they quietly discussed the likelihood of encountering more on
their journey to Imladris. "I do not wish to," Lilion said. "I would rather reach Imladris without meeting any more Orcs, although dispatching them has always been satisfying. Right now, however, it would slow us down, and I feel that we should travel to Imladris with all due haste. The way we travel has always been avoided by Orcs, anyway." He looked at his blood-encrusted arrows with distaste.

"We need to find a stream," Almarian noted. "I think there should be one not far up ahead."

She remembered rightly and they were soon washing away the blood from their arrows and replenishing their water supplies. Lilion was right: they didn't meet any other Orcs on their way through the Misty Mountains and not too long after found themselves riding through into the valley of Imladris once again.

Almarian looked around and smiled slightly. It always felt good to arrive in Imladris; she had many fond memories there. She exchanged a smile with Lilion. "Let's hope we hear good news," she commented as she dismounted.

"We can hope," Lilion agreed, as they let Finduilas and Fleetwood loose in the field they always grazed when they visited Imladris. The friends made their way up the steps to the main house, where Elrond was waiting for them.
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~The Avari~

Postby Hunter » Sun Nov 04, 2007 11:09 pm

~

The northerly wind was blowing briskly across the western slopes of the mountains to the north of Caradhras carrying with it the chilling numbness of the far off Northern Waste. It would not be long before more than the tallest peaks were covered with a fresh coating of snow and ice.

Halfway up the mountainside, above the tree-line where little grew except scraggly brush and tufts of dried grass, a figure sat crouched not far from the edge of a steep precipice. Cloaked and hooded in shades of grey, he blended into the surrounding mountainside and until he moved, one would have had to possess keen eyesight to even see it was a man crouched there instead of some variation of the uneven rock face. The wind eddied and swirled, tugging at the edges of the cloak held tightly in one hand as he sat facing the sun. It felt good to be out in the open, away from the darkness of the caverns and tunnels.

He stayed on the cliff edge staring out at the distant lands to the west as the sun continued its journey across the sky, sinking closer to the rim of the world. The Hollin Ridge stretched out from the foothills below. It looked like a great arm of the mountain pointing westward and even with his sharp eyesight he could distinguish little past the tip as it faded in the distance.

But what Rácino searched for could not be seen, no matter how keen one’s sight was. He closed his eyes, a look of deep concentration crossing his face.

Finally, just as the edge of the sun a hands breadth above the horizon and the wind slackened, though it still keened softly through hidden cracks and crevices, he had an answer to what he searched for. Satisfied he straightened from his crouch and pushed back his hood, letting his hair spill around his shoulders. Dark as a raven’s wing was the color of his hair, except for a bold streak of white that framed his face. Like a man savoring a fine Dorwinion wine, he briefly closed his eyes as he absorbed the last of the sun’s warmth and breathed deeply of the cold crisp air.

Reaching for a staff of oak at his feet, he planted the end firmly against the rough surface of the rock and pulled himself erect. Or nearly erect; one shoulder drooped and his back had a curvature which gave him a hunched appearance. Slowly he began walking toward a rocky outcropping where a jagged scar slashed across the surface of the wind polished bones of the mountain. It looked as if nature had created a fissure when a large slab of stone had cracked and fallen forward, but it cleverly hid the entrance of a tunnel. Pausing to look back at the setting sun one more time, he watched as the clouds along the horizon changed from gold to orange and finally to a crimson red before fading into a darker shade of blue and indigo before entering.

The tunnel led to a cavern carved into the mountain by dwarfs when they first came east from the Ered Luin region. It had once been used as a sentry post during one of the many wars they fought against the orcs and trolls who also inhabited the Misty Mountains and was now being used in the same way by a small band of Blood Crows. A stack of wood sat neatly piled next to a stone lined pit where a fire burned. A man was crouched down next to it adding more fuel. Three dead rabbits, one of them already skinned, lay on the floor next to his feet.

A trio of orcs hunkered down on the opposite side of the fire casting sullen glances at the man as he skewered the carcass of the skinned rabbit on a stick and held it over the flames. Game was scarce this high up the mountain and they preferred to eat their meat raw. Ruzdúsh, the largest orc sitting in the middle, cuffed the snaga to his right with one hand as he snatched up one of the rabbits with the other. Tearing off a hindquarter, he began peeling back the skin with his teeth as the other two orcs each grabbed one end of the remaining rabbit, pulling and tugging until it ripped in two.

Shutting out the sickening crunching and sucking sounds coming from the Orcs, Michrel Lachlan kept his eyes on the meat over the flames, turning it slowly to make sure every bit of it was thoroughly cooked. Then hearing a sound from the direction of the tunnel, he glanced up. It was Rácino. Michrel turned his attention back to his supper.

On the other side of the cavern a spring trickled down the wall into a finely crafted cistern near the floor. Rácino made his way over to it, stooped down and cupped his hands. The water was cold and tasted faintly of minerals. As he dripped his hands a second time, someone called out his name. He looked over his shoulder. It was Rávion. She was sitting with Arvarno in one of the small shadowy alcoves once used as a sleeping area by the dwarves.

The pair had arrived the day before. Rácino had met them on the eastern slopes of the Misty’s to lead them through the mountains.

He stood and walked over as a woman leaned forward into the light. Her long dark hair was pulled back from her face in an intricate braid that fell over her shoulder as she rested her arms on her legs. She looked up at him as he stopped and leaned on his staff in front of her.

“Any sign of Nárello?” she asked in a low voice.

“None,” Rácino shrugged a gesture that looked odd with his crooked shoulder.

Rávion frowned. “Where is he? You said he would be here waiting for us.”

“We were delayed and Nárello waits for no one,” Rácino replied softly with a sarcastic lilt to his voice.

Rávion glared at him with narrowed eyes. Rácino had caused the delay. They had to travel over the mountains in easy stages because of his disfigurement and what should have taken only a few days had taken a week.

It unnerved her to look at him too long and she averted her eyes. His face had once been fair, but only half of it was so now. The other half looked as if someone had tried to cleave in his skull with a crushing blow. A jagged scar ran from his forehead down across one eye to his jaw, the cheekbone flattened where the scar crossed it as was the line of his jaw. His eyes were startling bright blue, or at least one was. The eye on the marred side was a pale blue that looked like a broken piece of ice. He was Avari like she, or so he claimed, yet there was something different about him besides his disfigurement.

A dangerous gleam sparked in his eye before being extinguished and she bit back a retort on the tip of her tongue. Crossing her arms, she leaned back into the shadows and began whispering to Arvarno as if Rácino were not there.

Rácino turned and sat down in a second alcove next to them, leaning back and closing his eyes. Rávion didn’t like him and didn’t even try to hide the disgust in her eyes whenever she had to look at him. The feeling was mutual though Rácino hid his feelings behind a façade of indifference.

He had no trouble hearing what they said in the alcove next to him.

“I wonder when we will go to Ost-in-Edhil.”

“I thought Rácino mentioned they’d already searched the ruins?”

“So he said,” Ravion scoffed quietly. “But he also mentioned the search was disrupted… Something about a dispute between the orcs and one of the Bloodcrows…” She glanced over at Michrel’s sullen face, wondering if he had been involved.

The ever present pain in Rácino’s back flared and he sat up, hoping to ease it a little. As he shifted his weight he opened his eyes and glanced around the cavern. The three orcs looked restless. The one called Ruzdúsh was sucking on a piece of fur, one baleful eye still on the man seated across the fire. Michrel’s attention had been focused on the alcove next to Rácino, but dropped his eyes when he saw Rácino was looking in his direction. Could he hear what Rávion and Arvarno were saying? They spoke an old form of Sindarin. Did Michrel know it?

Suddenly Ruzdúsh stood up, a wicked knife in his blood stained hand. Michrel jumped to his feet, a feverish look in his eyes. He drew his sword and turned to face Ruzdúsh.

Rácino was on his feet. “Ruzdúsh!”

His voice held the power of command that the orc could not ignore as he called out an order in the guttural black speech. Reluctantly the large orc put away his knife muttering something under his breath to Rácino. Rácino came over to stand in front of them. He spoke to the orcs and watched as they gathered their weapons and left the cavern. Then he turned to Michrel. There was a crazed look in his eyes that made Rácino think Michrel resented his interference. Even armed with a sword, he would soon have been overpowered when the other two orcs joined Ruzdúsh, as they surely would have. Was he mad or did he wish to die?

“Ruzdúsh thought you had an unfair portion. I told him night had fallen and that I had seen a herd of wild goats not far down the mountain and that he could take the others and hunt for them.”

Glancing at the retreating back of the last orc as it left the cavern Michrel let his shoulders slump as he pushed his sword back in its sheath. His eyes lost their feverish look and his face looked haggard and worn. There were dark smudges beneath his eyes from lack of sleep.

Nárello had left three days before Rácino arrival, taking the Easterner Khalid with him and leaving Michrel alone with the orcs. Michrel knew it was punishment for what had happened back at Ost-in-Edhil. The three orcs hated Michrel for killing one of their numbers and given the chance, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill him. Michrel had slept little in the past three days.

Rácino looked carefully at Michrel. “They will not bother you again.”

Michrel just shrugged and knelt down by the fire. Rácino stood for another moment looking down at him, then turned and returned to the alcove.

Michrel picked up the piece of meat that had dropped. It was covered with ash. Going over to the spring, he rinsed it off and then returned to the fire, trying to act as if nothing had happened. He didn’t feel hungry anymore, but he finished eating anyway. Besides, he needed something to do to keep his hands from shaking. He would have welcomed death at the hands of the orc, welcomed the release from the torment that was gnawing at his heart. But now that the moment had passed, Michrel felt drained and numb.

As the fire burned low, Michrel spread out his cloak and lay down. He heard the whisperings of Rávion and Arvarno, but their voices were pitched low and he could only make out a few words. But it didn’t matter, he was too exhausted to try and figure out what they said. He knew Rácino was watching him, but he didn’t care and he kept his eyes on the alcove until he could no longer keep his eyelids open. Finally he gave in to the tiredness that was creeping over him and closed his eyes.

*****

In the grey hours just before dawn, the orcs returned from their nighttime hunt. Their heavy plodding steps woke Michrel. He stretched and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. For the first time since leaving Ost-in-Edhil no dreams had visited him.

Someone had already tended the fire, it burned low shedding its light across the cavern and Michrel could see that he was the only one in the cavern besides the orcs. And there were more than just the three that had been with them since Nárello had led them to the cavern more than a week ago.

Michrel sat up. Someone had arrived. Was it Nárello?

~
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Postby Hunter » Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:24 pm

~

Blasted double post! :x Sorry about that!

~
Last edited by Hunter on Sat Nov 10, 2007 1:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Hunter » Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:26 pm

~

On the second day of his stay at Imladris, Olben was up early as usual and decided to walk along the terraced path next to the river before going to the stables to check on his horse. Not that he was worried about the welfare of his mount; it was just his normal routine. Besides, he enjoyed the gardens and walked them often when he stayed at Imladris for any length of time. His mother came from a long line of farmers and from her he had inherited an interest in growing things, be they the fruits of the earth or flowers. Often he would inquire about different plants he’d found in the garden during one of his walks of the head gardener, if he happened to be around.

The gardens were alive with color as the sun climbed higher in the sky and shed its light past the looming cliffs. The faint chirping of birds could be heard as they hopped along the branches of the trees or flitted through the air in search of food. And except for a few touches of gold in some of the trees, time seemingly was suspended as butterflies still flitted among the flowers that grew along the path. It was the perfect place to clear his mind of the turmoil and trouble of the outside world if only for a few minutes.

Olben idly following the flight of one of the butterflies, watching as it lit on the flower of a bush growing near where the path skirted the banks of the river. Then he frowned. The bush looked familiar, yet the flowers it bore were a different color than he remembered. Walking near to it, he stopped to examine it closer.

The leaves were the same dull green with soft hairs growing on the underside, but the bell shaped flowers were pale yellow instead of the familiar shade of purple he’d seen before and where there were berries, they too were a different color. He picked a few and was looking at them lying in the palm of his hand when he heard a voice.

“Have care Ranger. Those are not safe.” An elf maiden with hair the color of the sun stood on the path in front of him. He couldn’t see her face clearly for the sun was at her back.

“The flowers of the plant I’m familiar with are a purplish hue and the berries are darker. We call them Nightshade. They are the same then?” He asked, shading his eyes with one hand and holding the berries out to her with the other.

“A different variety, but the same plant. Morgoth’s Cherries are what we call them and they may be even more deadly than the ones you are familiar with.”

“I thank thee than,” Olben turned and threw the berries under the foliage and wiped the palms of his pants thoroughly against the rough suede sides of his trousers. When he turned back, the maiden was already walking down the path. He stood and watched as she rounded a curve and disappeared behind the drooping branches of a willow. He was about to follow and ask her more of the plant when, this time, he did hear the sound of faint footfalls approaching. He turned and saw Erestor, chief counselor of Elrond.

“I thought you might be here.” He knew of Olben’s interest of the gardens and many times in the past had answered various questions about herblore if he could. “Then I saw you talking with Eleanorae and waited.”

“She warned me of the plant I was examining.” Olben pointed to the low bush.

“Ah! The deadly cherries…” He was interrupted from further comment by someone calling his name. It was Eleanorae. On hearing Erestor’s voice she had returned. He smiled as she walked up to him. “Eleanorae!”

“Lord Erestor! I thought I heard your voice.” Remembering her manners, she turned to Olben. “Forgive me for interrupting…”

“Olben… Olben Hawkins m’lady.” Olben bowed his head slightly. Now that he could see her face more clearly he remembered seeing her before, a year or so ago, in the great hall during a feast. As always during the feasting there was music and Eleanorae had played the lyre, coaxing music so sweet from the slender strings that everyone had stopped eating just to listen. He smiled at her.

“And I am Eleanorae.” She smiled at Olben in return, bowing her head slightly, but he noticed the smile didn’t reach her eyes. To him they looked sad. “Please forgive me Ranger Hawkins. I need to speak with Erestor for a moment. Do you mind?”

“Of course not.” Olben bowed again. Spying a rose bush nearby he walked over and bent down to smell the fragrant blossoms.

“I will only keep him a moment,” She said over her shoulder as she drew the counselor a few steps away.

“I heard Sorael arrived last night.”

“Yes, very late. He returned from Lórien with news from the Lady Galadriel.”

“Had he any other news?”

He understood without her saying anything more what she meant. She wanted to know if Sorael had seen or heard any news of Elavanar, her brother.

It had been over five years now since anyone had seen or heard from Elavanar. Against Elrond’s wishes, Elavanar had infiltrated the Bloodcrows, with the intention of learning their plans and then returning. He’d been successful, they knew that much. Sorael, already with the Bloodcrows by a quirky chance of fate had seen him and reported that Elavanar was still alive when he had finally made his escape. But after that…nothing. Erestor laid a comforting hand on Eleanorae’s shoulder.

“No Eleanorae. He said nothing of your brother.”

Eleanorae bowed her head to hide the disappointment on her face. “Where is Sorael now?”

“Eleanorae…”

She interrupted him before he could go on. “Sorael spent time with the Bloodcrows and knows some of their ways. I’d like to talk with him about the Bloodcrows…and about Elavanar. I know it’s been over five years, but I can’t give up hope. Malebranche has disappeared and yet everyone believes he may still be alive. Sorael was the last one to see him. Perhaps Elavanar is still with him…”

She knew she was grasping at straws but until proof was found that Elavanar no longer lived she would hold tight to the slim chance that her brother might yet be alive. To do otherwise…well, it was not something she wanted to think about just yet.

“I never had the chance to talk with Sorael since he and Almarian and Lilion returned from Moria…I was out on patrol and he had left again by the time I returned.”

She raised her head and looked Erestor, her eyes pleading with him to understand. He sighed. He hadn’t the heart, nor did anyone else in Imladris, to persuade her to give up hope. Finally he said, “I haven’t seen Sorael since last night, but you might check the aviary.”

“Thank you Erestor,” she said, the corners of her lips turning up into a smile. Gathering up her skirt, she turned and quickly walked down the path leading out of the garden.

Olben joined Erestor and stood quietly beside the chief counselor as he watched Eleanorae disappear around a bend in the path. He hesitated a moment. He didn’t want Erestor to think he’d been eavesdropping, but he wanted to know if he’d heard right.

“I overheard her mention the name Sorael… is it the same one who learned of Malebranche’s plan to raise the Balrog?”

One of Erestor’s eyebrows rose slightly. Not many knew of the young wizard or the part he had played in discovering Malebranche’s plan. Sometimes, against his advice, Lord Elrond shared information with the Rangers that Erestor felt should be kept secret. The fact that Sorael was wizard was one.

He looked at Olben shrewdly, wondering how much he knew. “Yes. He arrived from Lothlórien shortly before you and Durham,” he answered cautiously.

“And word from there?”

“As of late the Lady Galadriel’s attention has been turned to the east and south for signs of trouble brewing there,” Erestor said after a moment. “I will leave it for Elrond to tell you what he knows.”

“Is that why he wishes to see me?” Olben asked as the two men started walking up the path back towards the house.

“No. There has been no word yet, it is another matter. This morning one of our scouts returned from the northern reaches of the realm with a report. There have been signs found of renewed activity in the Coldfells and the foothills of the Misty’s.”

“Orcs?”

“Yes. A number of tracks were found, some mixed with those of men.”

Olben’s bushy eyebrows knit together as his brow furrowed. “Malebranche?” He asked, casting a sideways look at Erestor to gauge his reaction. The chief counselor shrugged slightly.

“Possibly, though Malebranche is skilled enough not to leave tracks. Elrond is thinking perhaps Hillmen.”

“Hillmen? Have there numbers strengthened?” Olben looked surprised at this news.

“Who can tell? Their numbers have been vastly depleted since the time of the Witch King in Angmar.”

“As were our numbers,” Olben murmured in response. “I have heard nothing, though it has been some time since I’ve had the chance to speak with Halbarad back in Dimwold.”

*****

A dark eye rimmed with gold regarded Sorael even more cautiously than the young wizard regarded the falcon as he slipped the leather hood slowly from its head. A few tense moments passed and then, as if realizing that the being standing in front of him posed no threat, the bird shifted its attention and began to survey its surroundings.

Sorael stepped back slowly, not wanting to startle the bird. In the wild he rarely had the opportunity to study a bird such as this, not this close or this long. He’d seen them flying in the air and a few times perched in trees, but they’d been too far away to really study and examine. Now, here in Imladris he had the chance and he was using the time before he was to leave to observe the bird up close.

It was a magnificent bird, small and slim, built for flying through the air with speed. The white face had a bold black mask with stripes running down each side of it small, slightly hooked beak. Thin white eyebrows framed each eye giving it a rather stern look as it turned once again to watch him. Suddenly the bird lunged forward. Sorael didn’t flinch, the falcon was still tethered to its perch by a thin leather cord wrapped around one leg, but his green eyes grew wide with excitement. The fierceness of the bird surprised him and as it resumed its perch and settled down again, Sorael continued to watch it, memorizing each movement it made. He wished he could watch it fly.

So absorbed was Sorael in the falcon, he didn’t hear the door to the aviary creak open until the bird called out. “Klee, klee!”

The loud warning call of the falcon startled him and he called out a warning of his own. “Wait. Stay there. Don’t come any closer.”

Taking a small piece of raw meat from its hiding place in his pocket, Sorael reached out with his gloved hand. Greedily the falcon opened its beak. While the bird had its attention focused on the tender morsel, he carefully slipped the leather hood back on.

“It’s safe now.” He kept his attention on the falcon as it ate, watching the movements as it grasped the meat with one claw and tore off small chunks with the sharp point on its beak and didn’t turn his head to see who approached until the person spoke.

“Sorael…”

“Eleanorae! What an unexpected surprise!” Irritation faded away as Sorael turned to look at Eleanorae as a smile broke out on his youthful face. He hadn’t expected it to be her; he’d thought it was someone sent to find him and inform him that Elrond wished to see him. He clasped both her hands in his as he looked at her.

“It has been too long,” Eleanorae replied, smiling back at the young wizard. “Lord Erestor said you might be here… and so I sought you out.”

“I’m glad he did. I was hoping to see you before I left.”

“You are leaving again, so soon? I thought you just arrived.”

“And so I did.” Sorael released one of her hands, but tucked the other in the crook of his elbow. “Come. Let’s go outside and talk.”

As they left the dim interior of the aviary and stepped out into the bright morning sunlight, Sorael could see that Eleanorae had changed. She was pale and the light that had once shone brightly in her eyes was gone, replaced by a look of infinite sadness.

They walked for a time along a path that wound around the well manicured lawns of Imladris. Sorael tried to keep their talk light wanting to forget, for a few moments at least, the troubled times they lived in. That was part of the magic of Imladris; one could easily forget what was going on outside Elrond’s protected realm.

He talked of Lothlórien, where he had just come from and the splendor of that glorious realm. He touched briefly on the time he’d spent with Almarian and Lilion in Moria and after, of the time he’d spent with Radagast, his teacher and mentor, learning more of the secrets of shape-shifting.

Eleanorae listened politely, finally steering the conversation to the time Sorael had spent with the Bloodcrows.

“It was by chance alone that I found myself with the Bloodcrows and most of my time was spent with Bryna, Malebranche’s daughter. She held some power that enthralled me and forced me to remain in the form of a horse or I would not have stayed so long,” Sorael replied in answer to a question she asked.

“But you gained knowledge of them.”

“Yes I did,” Sorael answered reluctantly, “but very little really when I think back on that time. I learned nothing of their numbers or how widespread their influence is.”

“But you were there when Elavanar arrived. They did not kill him outright and he was accepted.”

“On the surface…maybe, but with Malebranche, who can tell? I don’t know if he truly trusted anyone, or accepted them, except perhaps his daughter. Remember, I was in the form of a horse and not always close enough to hear what was being said.” He sighed. "It was shortly after Elavanar arrived that I managed to escape. Whatever power held me in its thrall had been suddenly removed. When last I saw Elavanar, he was leaving camp with Bryna.”

“Elavanar left with Bryna?” This was information she’d not heard before and her hand went instinctively to her neck, lightly touching the scar there. Bryna had tried to kill her…

“Do you know where they went?”

“No. All I know is Malebranche set some task for Elavanar to prove his worth. Bryna and some creature who was Malebranche’s lackey were set to watch and make sure he carried it out.”

Eleanorae was silent for a moment, thinking of the possibilities this news brought. Could Malebranche have set Elavanar some task that sent him far from Eriador? It would explain why no word or sign of him had come. Hope fared anew in her heart and then nearly died again as a new thought entered her mind. Was the daughter as ruthless as the father? Did her hatred of the elves run as deep as her fathers? She didn’t know.

“What of Bryna? Has any sign of her ever been found?”

“No, none. It is as if they both vanished.” Sorael face grew dark as he thought of the treacherous half-elf and his daughter. Bryna was as twisted as he father was, nay possibly even more so. Sorael had been a witness to the savagery inflicted upon her by the Ranger Halasían and Bryna had not survived such a brutal beating unscathed. It had changed her for the worse; he had felt it while in the form of a horse as he had dragged her in Trollshaws until stumbling on the camp of Malebranche.

“I pray that they both are dead and gone from Middle Earth,” he said with vehemence.

“No, don’t say that!”

Sorael stopped and looked at Eleanorae, aghast at what she had just said. He pulled away from her.

“Sorael, don’t look at me that way. I too wish death to Malebranche and his daughter for the agony and destruction they have caused, but I cling to the hope that Bryna yet lives, for it would mean there is hope yet that Elavanar is still with her.” Eleanorae’s eyes glistened with unshed tears as they pleaded silently for understanding.

“Not knowing where Elavanar is or what happened to him is madness sometimes. If I knew for sure that he was dead, I could grieve properly… But until then, I cannot let myself think that he is. Our parting was bittersweet…” And the tears that had she had been holding back fell softly down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry Eleanorae,” he murmured as understanding dawned in his mind. The hope she clung to was double-edged. She dared not wish for one to be true without giving in to hopelessness for the other. Eleanorae and Elavanar were but two of many causalities in the constant struggle against the darkness that threatened the land. Their lives had been torn asunder in a maelstrom of events that had placed Elavanar on a doomed course and left Eleanorae with little hope of ever finding out what had happened to him.

Eleanorae’s hand trembled slightly as she reached up to wipe away the tears and Sorael vowed silently to somehow find the answer that she sought so that she may find peace.

“And I’m sorry Sorael for letting my emotions show. Please don’t tell Lord Elrond. I know he is concerned about me, but he has more important matters on his mind and I would hate to add needlessly to his burdens. I’m fine, really I am,” she tried to smile and almost succeeded.

“I will promise not to tell,” Sorael smiled at Eleanorae as he took her hand in his and placed it in the crook of his arm again. “If there is no more talk for now of Malebranche. Tell me instead of the goings on that has happened at Imladris since last I was here. Something that will chase away the shadows.”

This time Eleanorae managed to smile. She knew what Sorael was trying to do; he wanted her to forget about her brother for a time. It was an impossible thing he asked, but she didn’t tell him so. Instead she tried to think of something to talk about, but it was hard. She had withdrawn into herself for so long, concentrating solely on her duties of guarding the borders of Imladris and ignoring all else. Finally she remembered something that might make Sorael smile.

“This is gossip only mind you, but it is said that Erestor has become enamored of late.”

“No! It can’t be true,” Sorael chuckled out loud. It was hard for him to imagine Erestor taking any interest in someone; he took his duties as advisor to Elrond seriously and seemed to have little time for anything else. “Tell me who has finally caught his eye.”

“Someone relatively new. She arrived at Imladris around this time a year ago. I can’t remember exactly where she came from…somewhere east of the mountains…” Eleanorae chuckled along with Sorael and their voices faded as they continued walking along the path once more.

*****

As Olben and Erestor rounded a curve in the path, the house came into view. Elrond was standing on the porch talking to two people who had obviously just arrived. They wore traveling cloaks and packs sat at their feet.

Olben squinted. The stance of one of the pair looked familiar, but he couldn’t see their faces. “Who has arrived?” he asked Erestor knowing that the elven eyesight was better than his.

“I believe it is Lilion. And that is Almarian with him.”

“Almarian!” A grin broke out on Olben’s face and his pace quickened.

Elrond was quietly talking with Almarian and Lilion about their journey, listening to Lilion recount the events surrounding the skirmish with the orcs that had happened when he spied Olben and Erestor walking across the lawn toward the house. But he wasn’t prepared for the loud booming call of Olben as he neared.

“Mari!”

Only one person ever used that shortened version of her name. “Olben?” Almarian whispered as she turned around. Two men were walking across the lawn, one was big and burly, almost bearish.

“O-bear!” she called, using the childhood name she had given him, as she lightly ran down the step of the porch and started across the lawn. Her steps slowed as she suddenly realized she was not a young child any longer. She stopped, holding out both hands in a gesture of greeting and friendship.

Olben came closer, stopping a few feet short. “Is this how you greet me after so long a time?” he asked in mock sternness as he crossed his arms across his large chest.

Almarian grinned shyly and then slowly shook her head. “No O-bear,” she answered as she flung her arms wide. In three large strides Olben was in front of her and he scooped Almarian up, hugging her as he twirled her around once. Then set her down again. She laughed as she looked up at his grinning face. Placing a hand on each check, she tugged lightly on his beard. Olben ducked his head and Almarian kissed him lightly on the forehead, just as she had always done when she was a child and he gave her one of his ‘O-bear hugs.’

“I’ve missed you Olben,” she said.

“And I you Mari,” he answered. Looking up he saw that everyone was smiling as they watched the greeting between old friends. “We have a lot of catching up to do, but it can wait until later. Elrond wishes to speak with me,” he said catching the elven lord’s eye.

“Lord Elrond said there will be a feast tonight,” Almarian told Olben. She blushed slightly when she saw Erestor standing a few feet away. In her excitement on seeing Olben again, she’d not noticed him. “Greetings Erestor.”

“Greetings Almarian, it warms my heart to see old friends meet.” Almarian blushed again and then placing herself between the two men as they walked back to the porch where Elrond waited.

After introducing Olben to Lilion, Elrond turned to his advisor. “Erestor, will you shown Almarian and Lilion the rooms prepared for them. I will meet with them after they have refreshed themselves. Unless,” he paused looking at Almarian and Lilion, “You would like to join us?”

Almarian and Lilion glanced at each other, the same thought occurring to each of them. “Lord Thranduil seeks news of events on this side of the mountains. Perhaps it will be best if we join you now instead of having you repeat news to us later.” Lilion spoke up. “If it is alright with Ranger Hawkins, we will join you.”

“Of course it’s alright!” Olben exclaimed. “This way I will hear the news from over the mountains. It has been many years since I last traveled there.” A frown crossed Olben’s face and he looked around. “Is Durham not joining us?”

“I looked for him in his room and in the dinning hall before seeking you in the gardens,” Erestor explained. “I could not find him.”

“That’s odd,” Olben mused scratching his beard. Then he shrugged. “It is his first time here, he may be off exploring. No matter. If he does not show up, I’ll fill him in later.”


~
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~Imladris~

Postby Hunter » Fri Nov 16, 2007 11:22 am

~

Elrond stood near the center of an ornately carved table, a map spread across the softly polished surface of the wood. It was a map of Eriador, drawn with great accuracy by the mapmakers of Imladris. Erestor stood next to him while Olben, Almarian and Lilion gathered on the opposite side.

“There have been reports of activity in the hill country, here and here,” he pointed to two places on the map, one some fifty miles or so north of the Last Bridge and the other even farther north and east along the Edge of the Wild near the Coldfells. “My scouts have sighted orcs in these areas, groups of ten or so at a time.” He paused looking around at the small group assembled, his gaze resting on Hawkins. The burly Ranger had both hands resting on the table as he leaned over the map studying it intently. The Rangers worked mainly by memory of the land they traveled through, not with maps, and he was memorizing details of the finely drawn map and storing them away.

It isn’t unusual for orcs to be sighted in the Ettenmoors and Coldfells. In the past random bands of roving orcs have raided remote settlements and homesteads and then returned to their hiding places in the foothills and mountains of the Misty’s. Since the beginning of time it has been so.” There were nods of agreement. The orcs were an ever present threat.

“The sightings have increased of late. The first were reported in the early spring. I gave little thought to them then for with the melting snows such sightings normally occur as the orcs wander further from the mountains in search of food. But during the waning months of summer, reports started coming in of more sightings and the number of the orcs in each band grew larger. While first they were small bands of two and three, now there have been sighted bands of at least ten or more.”

“There is trouble afoot.” Olben murmured. He stood up straight and crossed his arms. His face wore a worried look.

“Those are my thoughts also. The last few scouts who returned reported finding track of men mixed with those of the orcs.”

“Hillman.”

“That is my guess. A small group of then were sighted in late spring traveling south, though they had no orcs with them at the time.”

“Do you know the numbers of the Hillman?” Olben asked.

“They are unclear. The Hillman are clever and their strongholds have ever been well hidden, but they are increasing. But it is not only Hillman. It has been reported that Southrons have been seen.”

“Southrons?” Almarian asked in a troubled voice. “I did not know they ventured this far north.”

“These are troubled times. More and more there are reports of strangers entering the lands of Eriador.” Erestor spoke up.

“As there are to the west of the mountains,” Lilion added. “Lord Thranduil has had reports of strangers crossing the southern reaches of Mirkwood.”

“Lord Elrond will hear the news from Thranduil later,” Erestor said quietly to Lilion who gave him an answering nod. He knew later meant when they were alone.

“For now,” Elrond continued. “I would like Ranger Hawkins opinion on something.” He looked at Olben and though it was not easy to read the thoughts of the Eldar, Olben saw that his eyes looked troubled.

“What is it Lord Elrond?”

“The last few reports have concerned sighting in the two areas I pointed out on the map. It is where larger groups of orcs have been sighted. This worries me. This hints of gathering spots. When large bands of orcs gather together, it bodes ill. There have been no reports of random raids in the areas. Tracks have been found and a few sightings. But the tracks seem to disappear and no trace has been found of them leading back to the mountains.”

Olben rubbed his breaded chin and was silent for a few moments. If the orcs were gathering it could mean that they were preparing to mount an attack into the heart of Eriador. It had happened before, long ago when the Witch King held sway in the Mountains of Angmar. There had been not hint that the Witch King had returned. Was someone else gathering an army of orcs? Had Malebranche reappeared?

He leaned forward over the map again. “This spot,” he pointed to the first area indicated by Elrond earlier, “is not that far as the crow flies from Mount Gram and there are many places where groups could remain hidden. Caves riddled the area, some large enough to hide large bands. Have the orcs been seen coming from that direction?” He was thinking of the past, when a band of orcs from Mount Gram had attacked the Shire.

“I do not know. My scouts have not ventured that far north. Our numbers are few and some scouts have never returned.”

“As are ours. We cannot patrol everywhere, but this needs looking into.” He looked up at Elrond. “When will your scouts be going out again?”

“Tomorrow or the next day.”

“I would like to join them. I know the area well. If sign is found of anymore orcs in the area, your scouts can return here while Durham and I return to Dimwold, warning the landholders and villages along the way to prepare.”

“Will they listen?”

“To a Ranger you mean?” Olben shrugged and gave Elrond a wry grin. “They may not trust the messenger but they will listen and take precautions. Their memory is long and they will remember times past.”

~
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~Leaving the Forsaken Inn~

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:01 am

*

As Ewen Thane and Eradan left the yard of the Forsaken, Ewen could not help but glance over his shoulder one more time. Morghan and the Lady Raven were still standing near the stable watching them leave. The image of the two women stayed in his mind as he turned out of the lane and onto the road. ‘One could become lost in those eyes,’ Ewen thought to himself as he urged his horse into a cantor. ‘Good thing I’m leaving. I’ve enough on my mind…’ He pushed away the lingering picture of Raven with her unfathomable dark eyes standing with the sunlight glinting in her hair and turned his thoughts to the question that had come to mind earlier. Had Michrel returned and with him the man called Nárello?

He glanced over at Eradan as they rode down the lane and turned onto the road. Eagerness and anticipation shone in the young man’s eyes. ‘Just like Michrel’s did when he rode out that day with his father,’ Ewen thought with a sigh.

Michrel. He had been not much older than the young Ranger who rode at his side when he had run from the orc attack in which his father had been killed. Too young to become a Ranger, in Ewen’s mind, but then it was not his place to decide. The ranks of the Rangers had dwindled over the years. Their numbers were too few and Eriador was vast. The young men of the Dúnedain (and women also) were eager to prove themselves and allowing them in the field increased the area they were able to patrol. With their help they had been able to keep the darkness that was creeping over Eriador at bay.

But sometimes youthful earnestness was misplaced…as Michrel’s had been. The mission he had taken upon himself was one even few Ewen’s age would have chosen. In his memory only one Ranger had undertaken such a task…and the consequences of Halasían’s successful attempt to infiltrate the Bloodcrows had borne bitter fruit and was, Ewen suspected, the reason behind the change in him. Living among such ruthless men as the Bloodcrows…how could one not remain affected? Not wanting to think such thoughts he dug his heels into the flanks of his horse hoping they’d be brushed away with the wind.

Less than a mile past the Inn Ewen slowed his horse to a walk. Eradan soon caught up and they rode side by side at a leisurely pace, the soft clop-clop of the horse’s hoofs on the hard packed dirt raising little puffs of dust even though it had rained during the night. Ewen seemed to be looking for something as he glanced to his left across the grassy, rolling plain of sun dried grass stretching to the north. He reined his horse in and sat staring out at the line of trees that marked the border of the Chetwood in the distance.

“Keep to the road until…” he started to say but Eradan interrupted him.

“Where are you going?” he asked drawing up beside the older Ranger. Ewen looked thoughtful and his brow was creased with frown lines. Something was bothering him.

“A short side trip,” Ewen had made up his mind and answered curtly. “I want to check on something. I won’t be long and will catch up with you later. Wait for me at the campsite near the bottom of Weathertop. If I’m not there by morning, go to Imladris without me.”

“If it’s only a short side trip, then I’ll come too,” Eradan replied stubbornly and the look on his face told Ewen it would take too long to argue against it. He nodded and then turned his horse into the field. The ground was uneven but nonetheless Ewen urged his horse to cantor. Eradan followed his lead and soon was riding alongside.

The pace slowed to a walk when they reached where the fringe of marshlands encroached closer to the line of trees that edged the forest. Ewen was looking for something. Finally he motioned Eradan to follow as he turned his into the forest. There was a path of sorts, more a footpath than a trail for horses, through the alder brush that grew there. The brush was thick in places but it soon gave way to an older growth of trees and the going was easier. Within a few minutes the trees opened up into a small clearing.

A hut stood on the far side of the clearing nestled between two large elm trees. It was small but looked deserted; no smoke came from the chimney and the windows were dark.

While still within the covering of trees Ewen reined in his horse and waited for Eradan. “This is Morghan’s place,” he said quietly as he dismounted and handed him the reins. “Wait here.” This time Eradan did as he was told.

It was quiet and peaceful but still Ewen approached the hut cautiously, scanning the ground and surrounding trees as he walked across the small open patch of ground. There were no fresh tracks to be seen but he had the odd sensation of being watched…a small thing really, just the prickling of the hairs on the back of his neck, and he soon shook it off, telling himself it was nothing.

When he reached the hut the door was locked. Knowing Morghan he began searching around the door. There was a pot sitting on the ground, the plant in it dried and withered as if it had not been cared for in a long time. He lifted the pot. Beneath lay a key. He stood and unlocked the door.

Standing in the doorway, Ewen looked around with a critical eye at the small hut Morghan called home. It was tidy and neat except for a fine layer of dust and the cobwebs filling the corners. The door had been locked and by the looks of the place there was no indication that anything had happened to cause her to leave in a hurry. He looked at the floor. It was covered by a layer of dust but he could see the faint outline of footprints leading from the door into the room and then out again. Stooping to the floor he ran a finger lightly across the worn floor boards where the footprints were. ‘Someone wearing boots with mud on them was here,’ he thought to himself as he looked at the streak his finger left and rubbed his fingertip against his thumb. He stared at the floor, trying to learn more from them but they were too old and faint.

He wiped his finger against his pant leg, looking around again slowly as he stood up. There were a number of small tracks across the floor made by the mice and squirrels who had gained entrance to the hut. He listened to their skittering sounds coming from one of the dimly lit corners as his eyes followed the path of the footprints. They crisscrossed the floor, going to every corner of the room and even into the curtained off corner where Morghan slept. What were they looking for? Nothing looked out of place, except for a stool pulled part way from beneath a small table under the window. Ewen walked over to it

The table held an odd assortment of clay pots. He lifted the wooden lids one by one looking at their contents. They appeared to be filled with what looked to be dried roots or herbs. There was a book lying on the table, a dried leaf sticking from between the pages. He picked up the book, carefully lifting the leaf to examine it. The leaf was brown and dried, curling at the edges where it had escaped from the weight of the book. It had been lying half-exposed for a long time. Had someone looking at the book moved it? He began to read.

The book was a record of sorts of the plants and herbs that Morghan had found growing in the forest and the marshlands. There were detailed descriptions of where she found them, what season it was and the uses she had found for them. A few pages held sketches or had carefully pressed samples of the actual plant. But scattered amongst the records were bits and pieces of the daily life Morghan led and the people who sought her help. Ewen smiled as he skimmed over these; Morghan may have lived alone but there were many people in the surrounding area who relied on her and he felt a little better about the prospect of her returning.

He was about to close the book when an entry at the bottom of one of the last pages written on caught his eye.

Tomorrow I leave with Mrs. Pritchard. She has been so good to me, letting me stay with her last year when I was afraid to stay alone. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been anywhere.

What was Morghan afraid of? Ewen scanned back a few pages looking for the last entry that had been dated. Trewsday, the thirtieth day of Thrimidge in 2991… Not long after the attack in the forest. He stopped reading. As a young man he’d promised Ruark he would watch over his family if ever anything were to happen. And what had he done? He’d turned his back on Michrel and only occasionally stopped to visit Morghan. Not much thought was given to her safety after he’d heard about the attack on Halasían. He’d assumed she was safe…uninvolved. A feeling of guilt washed over him as his heart sank. She had no one to turn to except this Mrs. Pritchard.

More determined than ever to find out more, Ewen looked back through the pages for an entry that might tell him where she’d gone. He had a feeling it would provide a clue to whatever else had happened. He didn’t find anything. Placing the dried leaf back in place and carefully closing the book he looked at the other books. Maybe one of them contained the answer. He thumbed through them one by one, looking for one with dates that preceded the one on the table.

When he found it, he started at the beginning, reading each entry carefully so as not to miss anything until a shadow fell across the pages causing him to look out the window. The sun had passed behind a cloud but he noted its position and closed the book sharply. He’d tarried long enough. He tucked the book inside his leather vest.

Eradan was trying to remain patient but it was hard to do as the time passed. What was taking Ewen so long? It irked him just a bit that Ewen Thane was being so close-mouthed about the reason for the side trip. He hunkered down on his heels and pried a stone loose from the soil near his feet and began idly rolling it from hand to hand as he waited.

The sun shone down in the small clearing, the shadows gradually shifting as time passed. Everything was quiet and peaceful. Birds from the northern climates twittered and chirped filling their small bellies with whatever berries and seeds they could find. The leaves of a low growing bush rustled faintly as a thin white snout, followed by a pair of bright eyes, moved them aside. A fox settled down at the base of the bush, its russet colored fur blending with the leaves. It surveyed the clearing and then sat down on its haunches and regarded Eradan.

The young Ranger saw the fox and for a brief moment considered throwing the rock in his hand to scare him away. He could easily hit the fox; the distance was not that great. Then the door of the hut swung open and Ewen came out. Eradan stood up, the fox forgotten as he watched Ewen replace the key and start toward him. The fox stayed where it was, watching the two interlopers in his territory with bright, curious eyes. The man who had been in the hut joined the other one. They stood next to each other for a few minutes before mounting their horses and leaving.

A few minutes later a crow swooped down on dark silent wings, landing near the door of the hut. It strutted back and forth a few times, cocking its head and looking at the ground. The fox sounded two sharp yips and then ran over to the path the men had taken as they left. The crow looked at the fox and bobbed its head before taking flight.

*****

As the hours wore on, the autumn sun warmed the backs of the pair of Rangers as they rode along the Great East Road. Ewen Thane set a fast pace, slowing the horses to a walk when needed and stopping only a few times to stretch their legs and rest the horses. The landscape changed as Weathertop loomed closer on the horizon and the road began to rise steadily, the grassy marshlands falling away to a rolling landscape of shorter, drier grasslands and brush with fewer trees. The miles and time passed in this manner as the sun began its decent in the western horizon.

Twilight softened the harsh, rocky edges as they reached the foot of Weathertop and turned off the road. Ewen led the way along the edge of a steep bank, following a path he’d taken many times in the past, until they came to a small hollow. The hollow followed the natural curve of the hillside, guarded on two sides by outcroppings of rock that offered protection from the weather and provided concealment for it could not be seen except from the higher reaches of the hillside. It was a campsite both of the men had used before and even though the light was fading fast they were able to care for the horses and set up a rough camp without too much trouble.

As darkness settled in, Ewen built a small fire from a store of wood hidden beneath a shelf of rock jutting out from the hillside and after eating of the store of foodstuff provided by the Lady Raven, they settled down.

“Do you think we were followed?” Eradan asked, looking out into the darkness beyond the protected shelter. “You kept scanning the road behind us.” He was sitting on a stone close to the fire. Ewen was seated on the ground next to him with his back against the grassy hillside. He had his knapsack on the ground between his legs and was looking through it.

“No, just being cautious,” Ewen replied as he took out an old clay pipe and began filling it from his precious store of Southfarthing pipe-weed. He packed a small pinch in the bowl and drew on the stem as he lit the bowl from the end of a glowing stick from the fire. At times such as this, after a long day of riding, he liked to indulge his fondness for pipe-weed. “There is reason for caution in these troubled times,” he continued once he was satisfied the tobacco had caught. He took a long pull, held it a moment and then let the smoke out slowly. “That’s why I wanted to check out Morghan’s hut.”

“Why didn’t she want to go to Dimwold?” Eradan asked. He was curious about Morghan from their brief meeting at the Inn. “She sure made it clear that she didn’t want to go.”

“Dimwold does not hold happy memories for Morghan,” Ewen said choosing his words carefully. “Because of her brother, some don’t look very kindly on anyone with the name of Lachlan.”

“Michrel Lachlan? The coward!” There was a trace of contempt in Eradan’s voice as he blurted the name aloud. He had not made the connection between the two until now. “I didn’t know…” His voice trailed off as Ewen looked at him through the wisps of smoke from his pipe.

Ewen didn’t say anything at first. He sat looking into the flames of the fire and drawing on his pipe. He had held the same disdain for Michrel…until chance had led him to meet up with him at the Prancing Pony. His opinion had changed since then. Finally he said something.

“Aye. Michrel Lachlan is Morghan’s brother,” he said quietly. “She’s the elder of the two and was trained by her father to become a Ranger. She was good. She could hold her own with the boys her age in sword play and close fighting and better than most with a throwing knife or a bow…she had a keen eye. But she was different…she had not the heart for the ways of a Ranger and so she chose a different path. Some folks remembered that…and the sins of the brother were transferred by some to his sister. People pointed at her and began to whisper that she was a coward also. It isn’t true.”

“Then why were you taking her to Dimwold?”

“It was the only place I thought she would be safe,” he answered after a moment and then hesitated. “We were not merely traveling together. I found her near Ost-in-Edhil…” And Ewen told Eradan the same story he had told Raven the night before

Eradan sat quietly listening, asking questions every so often but mainly letting Ewen talk. It wasn’t often that he did, and Eradan had learned that a few well-placed questions were better than badgering him with a barrage of them. Finally, coming near the end of the story with their arrival at the Inn, Ewen paused. So much had happened last night and in the early hours of the morning that he still needed to think about.

“Now you know why things were as they were between us at the Inn,” Ewen added with a wry, but somber trace of a grin. “I could not deny her staying with the Lady Raven, thought I’m not sure I made the right decision.”

The fire had burned down to a glowing bed of coals and the chill of the night air could be felt. Ewen pulled his cloak around his shoulders and felt the book pressing against his ribs. He was tired after the long day, weary in both body and mind. He found a comfortable position and leaning back stretched out his legs and closed his eyes. “I don’t think there’s a need to set watch this night,” he said tiredly ending with a yawn. “We’ll get an early start in the morning.”

*****

~Somewhere in the Ettenmoors~

To the west a reddish glow lined the far horizon as the large troop of orcs moved with uncharacteristic stealth through the rugged lands bordering the foothills of Mount Gram and the Ettenmoors. The path they followed was well known to them by now and they would have moved swifter but for the frightened band of humans they drove before them.

A lone figure crouched next to a horse on the heights of a ravine watching as the troop of orcs marched past below. The darkness hid her features but her lips curled into a satisfying smirk as she saw the captives. She tried to count them and thought they numbered around twenty but it was hard to tell for certain in the darkness as they walked closely together. Some were children, she could hear their muffled sniffling, and few of the older ones helped the maimed and wounded

It would be hard to keep them alive on the meager store of supplies back at camp, but it would be worth it if her plan were to work. Tomorrow night she would send a small party of Hillmen back to the outlying farms near the small settlement they had attacked to see if any supplies could be salvaged.

Bryna stood as the last orc marched past. She turned for one last look at the reddish glow to the west before taking the reins and leading her horse down the embankment.


*
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Mon Jan 28, 2008 11:47 pm

At the Forsaken Inn......

The change in Ewen bothered Raven, and his harsh grip had bruised her some. Yet, she kept her anger in check while she promised him she would be wary. Yet strangers come to inns all the time. To be too unwelcoming would drive away business. She would be wary, but welcoming. It was not like patrons were knocking the door in for rooms, food, & drinks. But Ewen's words, A remembered threat from the past. kept echoing in her head. Maybe the troubles of the past linger too close still?

Raven lingered by the tree a bit as she watched him walk away, both cooling off and debating with herself all that had passed. Raven had been in Eriador through the ages, seeing the great Numenoreans come and go, and seeing the exiles come and dwindle to the meager remnant of Dunedain living in the shadows. The Rangers always have too much to do. They watch and listen, and guard unwary folk, but evermore their numbers dwindle. They are too few to see and hear all they need or wish, and they spread themselves thin like too little butter over too much bread. It is why there is infiltration from the south, and evil creeps westward from the Misty Mountains. And its why dangerous people from recent years past go missing.

Ravens thoughts were broken by Morghan calling out to her.

“They're leaving now,”

She walked back silently, and joined Morghan and took her hand as they walked around to the stable. There, the two Rangers wasted little time readying their horses. Eradan was eager to go and was ready first. Ewen came out a bit later. Raven stood silently and was silent. Looking at Eradan, she could see the youthful Dunedains determination to go. We would do well if he stays wary. Ewen will sharpen his skills much these coming days she thought. Their eyes met momentarily after he mounted his horse, and Raven gave him a slight expressionless nod. His eyes acknowledged her briefly and he turned his horse. Ravens eyes then turned to watch Ewen. She did not take her eyes from him as Morghan helped with his horse Raven studied him, trying to read his face. Too many concerns weigh on him. The stress that shrouds his eyes wears on him. Yet strong and aware, he would see to that which his mind is set.

A stiff hot breeze blew by, raising the temperature a couple degrees. The hot gust from the south billowed Ravens hair about her face, and her hand brushed it back. The wind spoke as if it were the last breath of the summer, for early leaves flew in its grasp. It will be a warm day for travel. While Morghan and Ewen spoke, Raven stepped to Eradan and said,

"Be wary young Dunedain. See what eyes cannot, and hear what ears cannot. You will know by the other senses...."

Raven paused as his horse cocked an ear back, and Raven looked that way. A crow glided in the distance just above the treetops to the northwest beyond the road. It disappeared into the trees. She went on in a whisper as she looked down

"Be wary."

A warmth fell over her, warmer than the breeze a moment ago. She looked up to Ewen, seeing his eyes now upon her. She froze, expressionless, gazing into his eyes. A softness was there, and Raven felt that she would miss him. It would be long before she would look upon him so again, but a slight ease she felt deep inside that he would return. After what seemed like minutes, but was in reality only the briefest of moments, shesmiled, and said,

“Namárië, Ewen Thane. Ride with care.”

There was nothing left to say. Raven stepped to Morghans side as the Rangers walked their horses out to the road. She watched Ewen, and he turned around one last time. They were soon out of sight, and the sound of the hooves faded. There was nothing left but the sound of the wind in leaves, sending a few adrift. Silently the two women stood, watching the horizon of the road, when a slow, easy yet dawn out caaaaw of a crow could be heard from the woods where Raven saw one land. A crebin she suspected. They were being watched. But by who? There could be of many allegiances....

"We should go inside... Im going inside." Raven said in a whisper, and started around to the door of the inn. She had to put that scroll Ewen entrusted her with in safekeeping. There were others to look at as well. They could not be seen inside, but come what may, they would have to deal with any and all who may pass and stop.

Morghan followed her and as they stepped to the door, the sound of several crows could be heard in the wood across the road. Raven paused and turned to Morghan as she came closer. She heard the crows too. One now cawd repeatedly for several seconds. Sometimes there would be another joining in. Raven looked into her eyes and said,

"Morghan, I have to tell you... as much as Ewen wishes me to watch over you, you are your own person and are free to do as you will. I promised him I would be wary of any who stop here, and that I would watch over you. But I will not interfere with your will on his behalf. You know him, and you will heed to his wishes if they also be yours."

Raven could not make Morghan stay, but she hoped she would. She opened the door and looked at Morghan again.

"I would hope you would want to stay and search the parchments that are here with me, and that this inn would go unnoticed as it has for a little longer."

The indirect light inside showcased the smoke-filled room. The scent of the stew mixed in with it. The beams of sun cutting through the holes added a strangeness to the air. Raven walked to the table where the scrolls and parchments were, then went into the kitchen to retrieve the scroll she had shown Ewen. Coming back out, she watched Morghan as she unrolled a scroll.


* * *


In the Ettenmoors...

Khul did not buy a word that Mavi said except maybe the part about finding the wounded man. No matter. She was not bad to look at, and everyone was hungry. Soon his men returned with a young stag, and it was quickly and expertly prepared for roasting on a fire. They ate, and Khul finally spoke again, he asked Mavi,

"It is a harsh way to come from Laketown to Bree. Why not stay to the road? Much evil and unrest lurks in these parts, even from my own people. You are lucky to have me find you, for others would have been less inclined to dine and more inclined to take other liberties. You saw what happened down there."

Khul watched as Mavi seemed to get unnerved a bit, but she kept on eating. She took a bite and Khul offered some more bits of news...

"There has been rumor and rumbling among the clans of a darkness that had crept in from the east. We had not found who or what it be, but soon many will know. I myself believe it is the Bloodcrows. Maybe you have heard news of this in the Mistys?" Mavi tried to divert the talk some She asked, not really interested but feigning so,

So,is this one you seek? This elf Raven? Is she a Bloodcrow?"

"She is my wife, be she think so or not. She ran off, but I want her back. I will find her. I would not put it past her being one though."


Khul gruffed out. Her question got him thinking again why he was on this trek. It was no matter to him these two anyway, so if they get waylaid by more foreigners or another clan, or the evil hand thats been raised in the Ettenmoors these last years, so be it. He would find Raven and they would go somewhere where they would be left alone. He ordered the men to prepare to leave, and said to Mavi,

"We are going toward Bree, for I think she may have gone through there. You are welcome to move with us if that is your choice."

They were ready to go quickly. Deruk had the men lead off back toward the south and west. They would try and stay north of the road well back, shadowing it before having to cross. There, Khul would have to weigh his options....
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Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:51 am

*

Watching Ewen ride out of the Inn yard Morghan no longer felt the protective cloak wrapped around her that she had felt just by being with him. She felt suddenly alone even though Raven was still here and she wasn’t quite sure what she was going to do. She’d meant what she’d told him about returning to her home in the Chetwood but at this very moment she felt a cold finger of fear creep up her spine at the thought. The repeated caws of the crows in the trees outside added to those doubts as she followed Raven inside the Inn.

“Morghan, I have to tell you... as much as Ewen wishes me to watch over you, you are your own person and are free to do as you will. I promised him I would be wary of any who stop here, and that I would watch over you. But I will not interfere with your will on his behalf. You know him, and you will heed to his wishes if they also be yours.”

“I would hope you would want to stay and search the parchments that are here with me, and that this inn would go unnoticed as it has for a little longer.”

Those words eased her mind a bit. She was welcome to stay and didn’t have to leave right away. “I’ll stay,” she murmured in response. “I…don’t know what to say…You’ve been so kind.” She gave Raven’s hand a quick squeeze. Raven smiled and then excused herself, telling her she would be back in a moment.

Morghan glanced around the common room. It looked so different in the light of day and she could see the disrepair and neglect that had happened over the past years as it lay empty and forgotten. The muted whisperings of the past were still there, hidden deep in the shadowy corners. She could sense their presence, but that was all, she had no way of knowing if they meant ill or good or if they were merely biding their time until they were awakened.

The parchments she had found the night before lay stacked in a neat pile near the fireplace and the ones Raven had brought in earlier were on the table beside her. Morghan went over to the fireplace, gathered up the drawings and brought them back to the table. The light was better here than it had been by the fire during the night and Morghan wanted to look at some of the drawings she’d only had a chance to glance at the night before. She smoothed out one of the rolls, carefully pressing it flat against the hard surface of the table and sat down.

Returning from the kitchen area Raven paused in the doorway. Morghan was sitting at the table looking at the drawing found the night before. She watched her for a moment before walking over and joining her.

“Did you know Anna?” she asked, glancing down at the picture Morghan was looking at. It was a hastily drawn sketch of two men facing each other. They looked angry as if they were arguing and were about to start fighting. One of them was Halasían but Raven didn’t know who the other was, though he reminded of Halasían in his younger years.

“No, not really. I knew of her. I had heard she had a talent for capturing the likeness of people but I’d never seen any of her work until last night.”

“Yes, there is talent there,” Raven replied but was thinking of the one picture, drawn sometime in the past, which had eerily portrayed a scenario from last night. It had escaped Ewen’s attention, but not hers. “So you think she might still live in Bree?”

“Yes. Courtney lived here at the Inn, but Anna lived in Bree.” Her forehead crinkled in thought. “There was a cousin Courtney mentioned once….Will…no Bill Ferny is the name. He did odd jobs on occasion here at the Inn. I think she mentioned once that Anna lived with him.” She gave Raven a questioning look. “Why are you so interested in Anna?”

*
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Postby Claymore » Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:32 pm

Ettenmoors


-We are going toward Bree, for I think she may have gone through there. You are welcome to move with us if that is your choice.
Elenien did as if she thought hard but finally she said with a sigh:'I am afraid I can't accept your offer my lord Kul. The man I dragged from the carnage yesterday is still in a very bad shape and he won't bear to be transported untill he becomes stronger.... And besides I can defend myself quite well.'
To demonstrate the fact she showed the surprised Kul a few passes with her quarterstaff. She ended with a whistling sweep just above the leader's head. She suspected by now that he hadn't believed her tale so she didn't bother to hide her rapier anymore. She now just tried to discourage him from pressing the matter... or trying anything else. She wanted to go as quickly as possible to Rivendell and Bree lay entirely out of her way. The news Kul had given her, so casually , was new for her and she didn't know how much the other Rangers knew. And even if they already knew she would have to report the loss of Baranor's company. The death of thirty-nine valourous Rangers would be a great blow to the already small community.
Kul's eyes narrowed somewhat when he noticed the rapier dangling from Elenien's belt but he seemed to get the message.
'Very well lady 'Mavi',' he said with a somewhat ironic emphasis on the name.
-If that seems to be your wish, we will be going without you.
She saw them go with a huge feeling of relief. Kul hadn't seemed to be bad but she didn't trust him any farther than the end of her quarterstaff. She went back to the cave.
-So what was it all for?
She smiled. Baranor was obviously grumpy that he'd had to lay for at least a half hour under the warm blanket without knowing what had been going on.
-Hey I managed to sneak some food for you. Why don't you eat and take some strength instead of growling at me like a bear.
She gave him the food she had taken with her. He took it and began to eat it. He wasn't wolfing it down like last evening but he was still eating pretty fast.
-So now tell me what these guys were all doing here?
-They said they were hunters but I don't entirely believe that. They weren't telling everything. I think the leader suspected me of being a Ranger all along but I'm not sure. I didn't left much doubt about in the end though so he surely must know it now. He didn't look like the dense type.
-Then why did you make it obvious?
- I don't know. I wanted him gone, he made me really edgy. He didn't seem really....bad. But there was something about him that made me distrust him. I have the feeling he is the kind of person who above all cares about himself.
-You should get used to that Elly. There are many of such folks walking on this Earth.
-Arg whatever. Nevermind. I want to talk with you about something that guy said. What do you know about the Bloodcrows?
Baranor suddenly coughed violently, trying to dislodge the mouthful of bread that had ended up in his windpipe.
- The WHAT!
-The Bloodcrows.
-What did he tell you about it?
-Well that he suspected that the problems we were having lately might be caused by them.
-You sure he said the Bloocrows?
-Pretty much
Baranor slumped against the rock wall.
-The Vala protect us. If that's true we are going to face a hard time.
They fell silent for a moment. It was Elenien who spoke up first.
-Baranor, who or what precisely are the Bloodcrows? I had just begun running missions with Dad when all of it happened and we were pretty much kept away from it. Can you tell me more?
- Well actually I don't know much more than you. Only that they used to have a very extended network and that they were extremely dangerous. I've heard tales.... you don't want to hear them really.
Elenien sighed.
-Well if they seem to be so dreadfull I think we should go on as quickly as possible to Rivendell....Besides I don't want to be around in case this guy suddenly decides he isn't finished with us yet. Do you think you could move now?
- I guess I can try. We'll have to be careful though, even if these "hunters" have really cleared up the orcs that attacked my company, there are still other unwanted visitors roaming here.
----------------------------------------------
On the road to Rivendell

The following day Ewen and Eradan continued their travel in silence. Ewen's wariness and Raven's comment just before they had left the inn, had rubbed of on Eradan, and he too was now watching his surroundings closely. He couldn't keep his mind from returning to one question however. Somewhere a bit past noon he finally came around to asking it.
-What happened Michrel by the way? He can't be that cowardly that he can't even protect his sister.
Ewen stared hard at him. Then speaking with a somewhat iced tone.
-I can't tell you everything it lest I endanger him, but I can tell you one thing. He left off on a mission to restore his honor...the hard way.
Then he nudged his horse to trot leaving a somewhat stunned Eradan behind.
Why of all the times you didn't say a thing you didn't chose that one he berated himself.
He too nudged his gelding on but took care to stay behind Ewen for the rest of the journey.
Claymore
Rider of the Mark
 
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