~ 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 ~Raven~Tinuviel~ » Sun Apr 13, 2008 9:17 pm

At the Forsaken Inn...

“Did you know Anna?”

Raven asked.

“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.”

Morghan replied, looking at a drawing of two men

“Yes, there is talent there. So you think she might still live in Bree?”

Raven went on... thinking of the drawing that as a glimpse into the future when it was drawn. Anna had a gift of foresight to be able to draw something years before that was to happen the night before. It left her wondering about Anna, and what else she may have sketched of her visions, visions of the future...
Morghan pondered the drawing of the two men for a moment, then spoke...

“Yes. Courtney lived here at the Inn, but Anna lived in Bree. 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.”

Looking up from the drawing, she questioned Raven with a look, then said,

“Why are you so interested in Anna?”

Raven was lost in thought and it was a moment before she replied, and when she did it was more an unrestrained ramble of her conscience than words spoken to another....

"I guess her ability to see things intrigues me. I have to wonder what all she may have seen that was yet to be. It is said that the Eldar have the gift of foresight, but I as one, have many times in my walk through the ages stepped down the path unwise. Had I this foresight, I may have been able to see the evil that would befall the twin sons of Feanor, or the dark end of Celebrimbor, or not be so enamored with so many men of Numenor. I, a daughter of the Eldar, but raised from infancy by the Edain, have walked a path immortal through the ages, making repeated mistakes of one with a mortal life. I wish it be that Anna, of mortal lineage, has the vision of the Eldar in her. Her gift could be used for good or evil, yet I feel this importance may have gone unnoticed by both."

Raven realized she was speaking her thoughts and paused, then said,

"I guess I am curious to know what has become of Anna. I feel she is not dead."

Silence for a time. Raven pondered this thought as she wondered about her. Outside the sound of a crow flying over the inn, cawing lightly as it passed could be heard. Something was afoot for sure, but to say this crow or the others are watching is not known for sure. For months they had flown to and fro, making their calls. No reason to fear them now. Just be ready for what may come...

Raven stepped closer to the table, and looked upon the drawing that Morghan held. Curious, she asked as she pointed to the one she did not know on the drawing,

"Is this the eldest son of Halasian?"

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

Rhuadur, Southern Ettenmoors...

What remained of Khul's clan quietly loaded up all they had of worth and quietly slipped away. Khul had ordered them to do so some days after he had left. Clan Argarth was abandoning their homes for places south near the road. Their hold over the other clans of Rhuadur had gradually weakened over the years, and it was only due to Khuls foresight that they had held sway for so long. But the clans one by one began to become un-ruly, as if a seed of Angmar was re-awakened in them. Truth be told, it was an evil that lurked in the north of the lands that had drawn them. One that few questioned, let alone acknowledged, but whose presence was intimidating.
The Order of the Bloodcrows.
Khul had unknowingly crossed one of them in a game, and word had gotten around to others. It was this that prompted his clans move.
They had planned the move with precision, and all went well. Soon they would be out of their reach, but would have to contend evermore with the elves of Rivendell. They would straddle an unseen line between the two.

~ ~ ~

After parting, Khul walked out of sight of the cave where Mavi remained. He signed with his hand to unseen men to wait and watch for awhile, and to come later and meet them at a specified place. Meanwhile he worked his way forward to reach Deruk who paused while the men moved forth. He said to the approaching Khul,

"She was full of crap, but then you know that, right?"

Khul smirked and said,

"Yeah, she is a Ranger, and her wounded cohort too. Maybe a scout for the ones who were slain. She was good at covering her emotion, but at the word 'Bloodcrow', she seemed even under her stoic mask, surprised. "

Deruk nodded as they started to walk among the last of the men. He said after a bit,

"They will make their way to the elvenhold, eager to pass word of news of the troubles here, and of word of the Bloodcrows, and of us."

"Yes, yes..."
Khul replied... "and they will ask the elves questions of the Bloodcrows, which will set afire the elves questioning of them about what they know of the Bloodcrows. The elven guard will in turn increase in the Coldfells north and into our lands west, and they will find we are no longer guarding them. It will take time before the other clans venture so far south, and when they do, they will find the elves on watch. Maybe in this way we have helped stave off the southward move of this influence for a time. if not, well, we wont be there to take the heat that is coming...."

Khul grew silent for a bit, wondering what news his spies would bring, then signaled with his hand that it was time for all of them to disperse, and they all quietly faded into the trees off the track.

------------------------------------------------
In the South Downs...and later Bree....

Early in the summer, Kulhar was among several men that Khul had sent out in search fr his wife Raven. Kulhar chose to watch the road south, and there was no better place to do that than at the gap in the downs called Andrath. One could remain well hidden there, yet see much. Se much he had, for he had watched the road for some time. He was nearly discovered by passing Rangers, who must have sensed him, but their vigilance in finding him was brief. They had more pressing matters elsewhere. Another time he was nearly spotted by what appeared to be Dunlanding merchant men, but they were strange, with some seeming orcish features. There were three of them. Two riding up front and one in the back. No doubt they were headed to Bree with goods, but the feel was wrong. But unless she was hiding in the wagon coming north, this was not his concern. He noted it, and remained on the watch for the elven woman of Khuls.

A gasp of waning summer breathed out in the pre dawn morning as provision grew low. So Kulhar set off to journey the 17 leagues to Bree. where he appeared as a traveler who needed stock after, and before a long journey. It was late that evening, after sundown, when he arrived at the Prancing Pony and he now stood at the bar with a tankard of ale. He sipped it slow, keeping alert and listening to the din of voices. Mostly idle talk amongst the locals it was, with frequent outbursts of laughter after boisterous words telling a joke or tale, with the occasional belch or a giggle of a maid carrying over the noise. Nothing really interesting. Kulhar lingered as men and hobbits went in and out of the door, and Barliman, the innkeeper hurried to and fro with his service But for tapping the pint for him, he had paid Kulhar little mind through the night, until a time when the crowd began to thin. Most of the locals were finding the door to go home, and the travelers and those who lived at the inn either lingered or found the way to their rooms, and the noise tapered back some.

Kulhar was leaning his back to the bar watching the people when Barliman asked him if he wished another pint. Kulhar was surprised at first, but he looked into his near empty tankard, tipped the last of the ale out, and handed it to him and said,

"Yes kind sir...."

Barliman was off and gone around behind the bar to tap the cask that rested on a shelf. Burned in the front of the cask above the tap was the inscription, 'T.Large'. Barliman turned and set the fresh tankard on the bar by Kulhar, who asked Barliman,

"What ale is it that I have the fortune to drink this night?"

Barliman looked worried, then said,

"Ah, we usually have our house brew, made local, but there was a problem with a batch that caused us shortage. So we paid dear to get some brought from the Shire... the Green Dragon to be exact, for some hobbits who had been there before said it was the best. But it has yet to arrive and we were caught short, so a local hobbit... Teddy Largebarrel ... was kind enough to part with one of his prized casks. is it good, mister...?"

Barliman looked at Kulhar questioningly, wanting to know about the quality of ale, and also the mans name. Kulhar obliged.

"...Kewler... Mr Kewler."

"Yes... you are not from around here...."
Barliman said as his voice trailed off while he looked at the mans face. Kulhar took control of the conversation while he had the innkeepers ear, hoping maybe to gain some information...

"Well, no. Just provisioning for my continued journey.
Where are you journeying to?"
Barliman asked.

"I came from the south, and will be heading west, looking for a friend." Kulhar replied.

Barliman went on as he started to wipe the bar with an overly used cloth, causing Kulhar to pick up his tankard.

"Who be your friend? Maybe they been here."

Kulhar shrugged and said as he took a long drink,

"She goes by the name of Raven."

Barliman kept wiping before pausing to speak his thoughts,

"Ah... short woman, dark hair, easy on the eyes..."

Kulhar interrupted him,

"Yeah... thats her."

She bought some old tables, stools, and benches from me not long ago... said she was going to run an inn... an old one, east of here."


Kulhar couldn't believe his luck. All these months watching and waiting in the hot summer sun and torrential thunderstorms in the South Downs for nothing. All he had to do was check the carcasses of old inns along the East Road. Most were deserted though. And likely one of the other men had taken the easy route. Still, it was a lead.

A loud call went up in a harsher than normal, Dunlanish accented common speech. Barliman turned and grabbed a bottle of dark liquid and worked on pulling the cork. an awful stench went up at its opening. Barliman apologized to Kulhar and said,

"I know. It is bad. I dont know what it is eitherI think it may be fermented prune juice mixed with a harsh distilled grain, but these bottles have been around here some time, and the men from the south seem to prefer it. I am glad really, for they pay in Southfarthing pipeweed, which has been increasingly harder to get here in Bree."

He hurried off to the table where some men sat. Kulhar recognized two of them as being on that wagon. They seemed happy to get the fresh bottle of liquor and they poured shots all around their table. The door opened and some late nighters, already a bit intoxicated, stepped in and Barliman was next busy serving them. Kulhar thought of leaving east in the night, but did not wish to raise suspicions. He would remain until morning. He downed the rest of his tankard and set it on the bar, saying to Barliman as he worked the cask tap,

"I say this is some great aged bitter ale. Pass my compliments to the brewer!"

Barliman barked back, not taking his eyes off his careful fill,

"You can tell him yourself if ya want. He is sitting right over there."

He pointed quickly with his hand to a table of four hobbits as he turned the full tankard to the bar and back again to fill the third. Kulhar looked and nodded, then went over to the table, saying,

"I understand I have the honor of addressing the fine master brewer of this nights ale? It is good indeed, and I would be interested in procuring some for my journey."

Teddy stood up on his chair, teetering just a bit, but it gave him enough height to address Kulhar eye to eye. Two of his friends said they were two tankards late and took the break as their cue to leave before getting into another. The third ordered up three flagons as Barliman passed by. Kulhar sighed and realized it would yet a longer night.

Many flagons later, with the common room near deserted, Teddy announced he had enough. Kulhar was glad, for he was unsure how much more he could drink, and was not sure where Teddy put it, for it seemed to have little effect on his jovial demeanor. But if Kulhar could remember, he had gained about all he could on the whereabouts of Raven. Teddy was considering setting up brewing operations where she was.... the old Forsaken Inn, a days ride east of Bree. Better yet, Teddy had a wagon of ale casks he wished delivered to her but as yet had not gotten around to doing it. So contracted Kulhar to do it, who agreed easily. Teddy and Kulhar both said goodnight to Barliman who looked relieved for they were the last to leave, and they swayed out the door. Teddy led Kulhar around to the stables where a wagon was loaded with casks and ready to go. Kulhar looked over the load, and paid Teddy the amount he said he would charge Raven. Kulhar would consider it an expense used to find Khuls wife. After counting out the coin, Teddy pulled a pre-written bill of goods and handed it to him, then dated another and handed it to him to sign. This was an older one, written out in a softer elven hand, but stating the same thing as the other. It was Ravens writing alright. This masterbrewer hobbit was not spinning ale-driven yarns afterall! Kulhar left his drunken Cirth mark, and Teddy was satisfied and left singing a tune. Kulhar climbed onto the wagon and went to sleep. Morning would be here soon enough and the weather would not likely be as summery as it was this day. The thought that Raven would recognize him didn't even enter into his innebriated brain.
Last edited by ~Raven~Tinuviel~ on Mon Apr 28, 2008 9:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:18 am

*

“Is this the eldest son of Halasian?”

“Yes it is Hayna. He was there that day in the forest. Whether he is the eldest, I know not.”

“And you never saw either one of them again?”

“No…” Morghan answered quietly then thought for a moment before adding. “I’m sure of it.”

“I once knew a shipwright in Linhir by the name of Hayna. This picture bears a striking resemblance to him.”

“Do you think they are one and the same?”

“They might be,” Raven replied seating herself across from Morghan. She leaned forward to look closer at the drawing. “Do not be afraid of memories, they cannot harm you. I have many fond memories of the Hayna from Linhir,” she added with a smile.

“It hurts only when I try to remember certain things,” Morghan said with a sigh. Leaning her elbow on the table, she rested her chin on the heel of her hand and stared at the picture voicing aloud her thoughts. “I wonder why they are so angry. They look as if they are about to fight each other.”

“I was wondering that myself,” Raven murmured. “I will ask that question…and many more when I find Anna.”

“You mean to look for her? When?”

“Tomorrow?” Raven answered with a grin and then shrugged. It was as good a time as any and be good for Morghan to go to Bree. “I want to meet this woman who draws intriguing pictures. Besides, I need to pick up a few more supplies and see what has delayed the shipment of ale I’ve been expecting. You mentioned that Anna lived with… a cousin, I think. We could go together. You have a horse, which would make the trip easier since I have none.”

The idea appealed to Morghan. She remembered the last time she had gone to Bree; it was autumn. She’d gathered a basketful each of hazelnuts and walnuts to trade for apples at the market. ‘Odd,’ she thought to herself. ‘It’s autumn now. It can’t have been a year since I was last there.’ She frowned as she tried to remember.

Raven mistook Morghan’s quietness for hesitation and added, “We might even spend a few nights there,”

“I’d like to go,” Morghan finally said. She couldn’t remember being in Bree after going to the market in the fall. It puzzled her, but she decided to think more about it later. Raven’s enthusiasm was infectious and the frown she worn turned into a smile. She would like to go to Bree.

“Then it’s settled,” Raven said as she pushed back from the table and stood up before Morghan could change her mind. “We’ll leave early in the morning.” Glancing out the window she saw that the sun was well past noon. “I have things to do before morning…”

“May I help?” Morghan felt the need to be active. She hadn’t done much while on the road when Ewen; he hadn’t let her

“You’re not tired? It was a long night.”

“I’m fine. I cannot just sit here, I need something to do.”

With a knowing nod, Raven thought for a moment and then said, “If you wouldn’t mind, there are some onions and potatoes left to harvest in the garden out back.”

“I’d love to!”

“Good, then I can check what supplies are needed.” She started toward the kitchen. “Come. There is basket with a trowel by the back door.”

*****

It was quiet and peaceful in the garden, the sun was shining and a gentle breeze stirred the air. It felt like summer though the turning leaves on the trees and the dried grass along the border of the woods hinted that cooler weather was not far off.

It was the first time since Ewen had found her that Morghan had spent any time alone and while she missed his presence, she enjoyed not having someone hovering around watching and worrying about her. The sun warmed her shoulders and the back of her neck as she knelt in the dirt and worked. The breeze had died down and the air was still. Her hair, cropped shoulder length, wasn’t long enough to twist up on the top of her head, so every so often she used the back of her hand to wipe away the beads of sweat forming along her hairline, leaving smudges of dirt. But she didn’t mind it, the work and the smell of the rich soil was like a tonic and reminded her of the small plot behind her cottage in the Chetwood and though of the day she’d return there.

Soon potatoes from one of the remaining hills were dug out as were the last two rows of onions and even a few carrots that had been forgotten. Most of the herbs had already been harvested and what was left had been allowed to go to seed for the next growing season but she did find a few fresh sprigs of sage and rosemary. She sat with one of the baskets Raven had given here and braided the onions tops together so that they could hang while they were drying and be plucked off as they were needed.

Reluctant to go back inside, Morghan looked around and decided to tackle the ever-present weeds that had sprouted since the last time Raven had tended the garden. While her hands were busy doing familiar work, it gave her time to think. There were so many unanswered questions still rolling around in her mind.

There were gaps in her memories of the past few years and many events were jumbled, fragmented, and out of order. As she had worked some events she began to remember, without even trying, bits and pieces that she had forgotten, but sometimes too the pain had returned.

The piercing, recurring pain troubled her. Sometimes the pain was so great it forced her to her knees and into forgetfulness again. She knew enough about healing to know it wasn’t caused by any injury she’d sustained, but there had to be a reason…. what was it? Had she experienced something so horrible that her own natural defenses stopped her from remembering? If that was the case, was it was better not remember? No, it was not in her makeup to avoid something just because it might be disagreeable. Besides, the pain occurred at other times too. Earlier when she had tried to remember if she’d ever seen Halasian or Hayna again after the attack, she’d experienced the pain, only at a much lesser degree. A pinprick only, but the same and she had managed to push past it. But the pain could be a clue. ‘Was what happened that day in the forest somehow connected to whatever had happened later,’ she wondered?

‘It’s like this thistle,’ she thought as her hands continued to work the soil around an offending plant she was digging at. The sharp needles of the plant irritated her skin of her bare arms as she worked around the root carefully to avoid severing it least it grow back again. ‘In order to rid myself of the pain, I must work at it slowly until it’s gone.’

*****

As evening settled over the countryside the two women sat on the floor in front of the fireplace. A slight chilling of the air had come with the setting sun and the warmth of the fire felt good to Morghan and helped to dry out her hair. After dinner had been eaten, water that had been heating during the meal had been used by both women to bathe with in preparation for their trip to town. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so clean and the fragrance of soap still lingered in her hair. She was wearing a clean linen shirt and a skirt that Raven had given to her. “They were left in a trunk upstairs. They looked like they might fit you.” Raven had told her.

Morghan had laughed. The clothes she’d been wearing were extra clothes of Ewen’s and they hadn’t fit very well, and after being on the road and then working in the garden all afternoon, she was glad to have clean clothes. For a brief moment she had wondered if the skirt might have belonged to Courtney, but brushed that thought quickly away. So far she had felt any of the strange feeling of the night before… and she didn’t want to. She glanced around the room as Raven unrolled the sheaves of parchment and spread them across the floor. The corners of the darkened room held nothing but shadows.

“I found a few more pictures that Anna drew,” Raven explained. “They were in the same trunk as those clothes.”

Many of the pictures were rough drawings, quickly drawn as if the artist intended to finish them later and most of them were of faces. A few Morghan recognized, but most of the faces were unknown to her. There was one of Jarod, the previous owner of the Forsaken. It was one of the more complete ones and it was remarkable how well Anna had captured his likeness, except for his eyes. They looked different and she picked up the drawing to look at it closer. They looked so very, very sad even though there was the hint of a smile on his lips... She put it down and began to look at the others.

Meanwhile Raven was looking over a few pages she held back. These were the ones which had writing on them, bits of poetry mostly and the quiet mussing of the unknown Anna. Skimming lightly over them she began to get a feeling for Anna as she read. Then she stopped, her hand going slowly to her mouth as she reread words filled with a pain that touched her heart.

Courtney is gone, never to be again. Who will I share my thoughts with, oh sister of the womb, twin of my soul? Twin spirit we were, one light, one dark, meeting where shadows mingled. You soothed my fear when the gift (or is it a curse?) I was born with troubled me. Who will I share my dreams, my visions with now? They frighten me as evermore they grow darker in aspect, for I fear the darkness will eventually cloud my sight forever.

I came to the Forsaken and have stayed these many weeks hoping to find some clue about your death. Every face who comes this way I study, waiting to see if a vision will appear to show me the guilt hidden behind the eyes, for they are a window to the soul of each being and surely the grievous injury done to you would show itself to me.

My visions have failed me thus far and I cannot stay much longer. Less and less travelers stop, and those that do have an unsavory air surrounding them. The locals have stopped coming, the rumors surrounding your death point fingers of accusation in this direction. Burle has already left, though he is innocent, back to Dunland where his father’s family is from causing tongues to wag even more. Now Jarod talks of leaving before winter sets in. Where he will go he will not say. Can it be that a curse lies upon this Inn since your death?

My presence also causes Jarod untold grief. He sees you every time I enter the room. He is a good man, why could you not see how much he cared for you and give yourself to him instead of to another whose heart would never be yours?

And where is the man who stole your heart? He has not been seen since before you died? Where is he? Where did he go? Does he know what happened to you?


That was it, the end of the writing. Raven sat staring at the parchment for a few more minutes. Morghan, absorbed with looking at the sketches on the floor, had not noticed the thoughtful look on her face. The minutes ticked away as the fire burned lower. Finally Raven began to gather up the parchments. “It grows late and we should go to bed,” she said quietly. “I’d like to get an early start.”

*
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Postby ~Raven~Tinuviel~ » Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:43 pm

Evening at the Forsaken Inn...

Raven noticed a change, subtle but distinct, had come over Morghan. The day was good to her. A glimmer in her eyes showed where there was little before. Maybe the thought of returning to Bree, and maybe the the wood near where she lived had reached deep, or maybe it was the thought of traveling without Ewen for the first time in.... a long time. Raven thought of asking her, but decided to leave it alone for now.

She now turned her attention to some writing. Other writings of Annas were lighter, but this was dark. It was a glimpse into the waning days of this inn, and the feelings of love reached for and love lost, by both feeling and death. Ravens mind reached through the writings to Anna, to Jarod, and to the men who were a part of Courtneys life...

The room glowed a dull orange as the coals klinked. A chill of winters air crept into the room, and Raven shivered. She stirred Morghan from her study of some of Annas drawings and said,

“It grows late and we should go to bed,” she said quietly. “I’d like to get an early start.”

An early start to Bree, and the wood north. Raven thought about this for a moment after saying it, then added,

"We should decide what to do with all the parchments, for I fear leaving them free."

Morghan nodded, and they decided it would be wise to put what parchments they were not taking with them away in the cellar where they were found. They would be well hidden there, safe from all except any who knew of the hidden door. They could disguise the door even more, making it hard for any but a keen eye looking to see. After they leave, the inn would again be empty, but only for a time. Raven thought to leave a note, cryptic in nature, in case Ewen and Eradan returned early for some reason. She used language she had learned from the Dunedain long ago, but wondered if it was still known to them today...

'The chill wind breaths even as the sun sets and the trees sing to its coming frost.'

Raven re-read it, and shrugged. Maybe they will know. no matter, they would likely be back before the two men returned. Raven then left a note below the encrypted message: 'Gone for supply and will return shortly. Raven'

The clear night indeed gathered frosts, surely to turn even the hardiest of the remaining leaves on the trees. The next day would be cooler, if still clear, for the summer vanished south with the setting sun.

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

Early Morning at the Prancing Pony...

Kulhar woke with a shiver. It was damn cold, and he had a kink in his neck. His breath filled the air with a misty cloud, and he climbed down off the wagon. His head was thick, but he had no headache; a sign of good quality ale. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and shook off the cobwebs. It would be good to get an early start.

A hobbit stablehand came in through the doors clapping his gloved hands together. He looked at Kulhar and said,

"Ready to go early I see. I will get Teddys mules."

Kulhar nodded and steppe outside. the sky was just beginning to blue in the east, and the dawn chill spread, making it even colder. He pondered going back into the inn for some warm tea and breakfast, but decided to go at once. The mules were hitched and ready fairly quick, and Kulhar tossed the hand a few coppers for his troubles. He was on his way toward the South gate which he had entered the evening before.

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

Morning at the Forsaken Inn...

Raven did not sleep too well, but she was used to that. She kept pondering the words of Anna, and a vision of the two men arguing seemed to come alive as she fell into a fitful doze...

'Clunk ... Caw Caw Caw'

Raven opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling.

'scratch scratch... flap flap flap... Caw Caw.'

Raven dozed into dreamworld again for a moment, but soon a chorus of Caws could be heard. Some far, some near. Raven got up and pulled her silken robe over her shoulders. It did little to ward off the morning chill. She looked about in a trunk in the room, and decided to dress in an old deerskin tunic and breeches, likely made for a adolescent boy long ago. It did not fit too well, being too big in places and too tight in other places, but it would help. She then dressed over it her black silks, and gathered a couple of winter cloaks that were in the room and headed to the common room. Hopefully Morghan rested better. Passing the room where Morghan slept, she tapped on the door and said,

"Daylight is here, and the frost is heavy. If it is early we go, it is now."

Raven came down the stairs and was itching to go. She found Morghan already up, sitting by the fireplace, poking at the coals. She was ready. Did she sleep at all? Raven knew not, but walked over to the warmer air around the fireplace and stood next to Morghan and said,

"You are up early I see. Did you sleep?"

Morghan looked at the coals as the end of the stick she held burst into flame and said,

"Yes, really hard for a time. But that drawing.... of the men arguing. It seemed to come alive in my dreams. I felt I was there. In the room. The din of talk and banter filled my ears as I strained to hear what the two men were saying. But I heard something drop. I at first thought it to be a wooden flagon hitting a table or the floor, but I awoke and heard the crows. One had dropped something on the roof, then it worked at it before flying off calling."

Raven knelt and looked at the flame slowly climbing the stick and said,

"Yes, I had that vision too, only I did not hear anything. The crows woke me as well, but I fell back into dream...."

They were quiet for a few moments as each pondered their dreams, then Morghan through the rest of the stick into the coals and said,

"Come, let us get on the road to Bree."

Raven nodded and went to gather up what they would take, and Morghan went out into the frosty air to get the horse ready....
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Postby ~Raven~Tinuviel~ » Thu May 08, 2008 9:41 pm

The Journey of Anna Ferny....

The visit by Halasian had left Anna chilled. She clutched the parchments he had given her, and even tried to read one of them. But it was brittle, and she did not want to risk damaging it further.

She sat at the table for a long time, not cleaning up the dishes, and wondering why her uncle never came. The heat of the day grew as the sun climbed, and finally Anna moved. She reached for her leather satchel where she kept her charcoal pencils and parchment paper. She carefully stowed the scrolls she was given inside, and then took a pencil in hand.
She began to draw.
It became a face. A face of a man, aged, unkempt, but proud. She drew the man who gave her the scrolls. detailed it was, with tattered leathers and a scar by his eye. The eyes were intense, if somewhat maniacal. His hand clutched some scrolls, and beside him she drew a woman. her back and hair was all, with her hand reaching for the scrolls. She was the keeper of the histories, and knew she had to recover the others.
Yes, she would have to go... go to the Forsaken where she had hid them... the remnents of the Annals of Arnor... thought lost in the sack of Fornost when King Arvedui was driven out. Now Halasian had brought her more.. she had to get them all and get them to Rivendell for safekeeping before it was too late.

Through the rest of the afternoon Anna collected her drawings and writings and filled another satchel. She set out along the track toward Bree, where she would gain supply and maybe some trusty eyes, and then would go to the Forsaken. She had to battle her demons, and this was the hour. Anna had awakened again and her eyes saw a bit more light. But she was still blind. She would go as far as she could before resting for the night. her ears were keen and she picked her way carefully, walking out of sight of the house where she had lived since the darkness came...
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Postby Claymore » Wed May 14, 2008 12:55 pm

Ettenmoors

' Ready?' Elnien asked. Baranor nodded and readjusted the sling somewhat. Though his wound was healing nicely he still had to be careful with it.
-Let's go.
She stepped out of the cave and scanned her surroundings just to be sure.It turned out to be a good precaution. A few suspect movements to her left told her that there was at least one person hiding there.
Not dense at all this Khul
'It safe,' she said, turning towards Baran. Her hands however, now hidden by her back told another story. She brought her index finger to her eyebrow, an old Ranger sign to say that they were being observed. Baran frowned.
-You sure you haven't forgotten anything?
Elenien frowned not really understanding at first why Baran would suddenly ask this. When he nodded slightly back to the cave, she got the message.
-I don't think so.... wait yes. I forgot my pocketknife.
She entered the cave again followed closely by Baran. 'What did you see?' Baran asked as soon as they were out of view.
-At least one spy in the bushes at the left of the cave and I think there may also be one in the three on the right.
-Whose do you think?
-Khul's for sure.
-Okay so that's settled. What now? I'm for just avoiding them and go.
-Well I would like to have a little chat first. Khul wasn't here only for the hunting, I'm sure of that but I don't know what else he could be doing here. I want to know.
-And you think you can pull that information out of those guards?
-They have to know something
-What if they don't?
-That Khul knows we're going anyway, or else he woudn't have placed those guards.
Baranor sighed.
-Alright then. We take the right one. You sneak up front. I'll come behind. I won't be able to defend myself anyway if the guy decides to attack.
He lifted up his arm. Elenien snorted and dissappeared in the bush.



Five minutes later said guard was surprised by the sudden appearance of a very triumphant Elenien.
-Greetings. Care for a chat?
The poor man started for his weapons but froze when he felt the cold edge of a dagger against his throat.
-Ah yes. I wouldn't move to much. Even breath too hard would be dangerous. That's Baranor behind you and he's really pissed.
-Wh-what do you want?
-We just want to know what you are doing here.
-I-I won't tell anything
-Ah well we will be forced to kill you then, too bad.... Baranor?
The older ranger pressed the blade a bit more insitantly on the man's throat. A tiny trickle of blood began running down. Elenien was grinning. She was enjoying herself hugely. Of course they never intended to kill the poor man, but he seemed to believe it and the torn look on his face was worth a laugh.
-No-no please. I...
-Yes?
-I will tell you what you want
-Very well then.Go on. What are you doing here?
'We are hunting,' he said a bit too fast.
-Tsk-tsk lying to us aren't you? Do truly believe we would take that? If you don't give us the true answer right away we will have to torture you, you know.
She quickly took her pocketknife out of her boot and grabbed the man's hand.
-Which finger shall we cut off first?
The man's eyes widened even more. Behind him Baranor shot her a warning look.
' What on Middle-Earth are you doing,' He mouthed. Elnien simply winked at him. The guard seemed truly worried now.
-N-no need for that.
-Oh finally. Someone is being sensible here. So do tell us. We aren't really in a hurry.
-We are leaving.
-Who's 'we' and what are you leaving.
-W-we the clan Argarth. We are moving away from Rhudaur. It's getting too dangerous there. Old evil stirring.
Elenien shot a shocked glance at Baranor. The older ranger didn't look very pleased either.
The clans are moving? That doesn't sound good
-I didn't saw any children or women. Where are they?
-They are coming after us.
Elenien and Baranor looked at each other one more time.
This is really serious
-Well then master guard. Thank you for the information. I'm afraid we have to leave now.
She looked up to the older ranger.
-Baranor shut him up. He'll try to yell.
-Wh-what..
Before the poor man knew what was happening, Baranor had clapped his hand over his mouth and Elenien was coming near him with the knife. The guard struggled, but Baranor was still strong despite his wound. Before he could even flail an arm, Elenien had grabbed his shirt and was now cutting of longs strips to tie him with. As soon as he realized Elenien wasn't going to gut him he went limp with relief. Which helped Elenien a great deal when she began to gag him and tie him up. She bowed a last time, after she was finished.
-We must be going now. And again thank you for the information.
After that they disappeared. The other guard had never noticed a thing.
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On the road to Bree

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Fri May 16, 2008 7:25 pm

*

A layer of frost had formed during the hours just before dawn coating the low lying areas of the countryside with a thin layer of white and low lying mist crept along the ground in many places, drifting slowly upward and dissipating as the rays of the sun warmed the air. The cloudless sky held a promise of warmth as the two women rode down the lane leading to the road but for now the air was crisp bringing color to their cheeks.

Morghan, riding in the front, was wearing Ewen’s trousers again. She had cleaned them the night before, managing to get most of the dirt that accumulated on them during the past weeks off. They made riding easier and she was glad for their warmth.

She kept the horse at an easy walk as he grew accustomed to the feel of two people riding on his back and the two women talked quietly while they rode. Morghan told Raven about the surrounding land they passed through and named the families who lived in a few of the scattered farmhouses in the distance. When Raven questioned her further, she told her of the simple life she had lived in her cottage near the marshes; the herbs she had grown and the plants she sought and gathered that grew wild across the countryside.

Then Raven questioned her on why she had first come to live alone in the Chetwood and Morghan became quiet. No one who lived in Bree-land knew her story, to them she had seemly appeared out of nowhere and when questioned she had told them a vague story about being raised on a farm north of the Shire along the Brandywine. But it wasn’t the truth. She thought for a moment and then decided to tell Raven the truth; perhaps then she would understand why Morghan had been so determined to stay near Bree instead of going to Dimwold as Ewen wished.

“Our family lived outside of Dimwold in the Hills of Evendim,” she began slowly. “My father was a ranger. Eton Thane, Ewen’s father, and mine were friends. One day, while in the wild hill country near Rhudaur, the handful of rangers he was with was ambushed by a band of orcs they’d been tracking. My father, along with two other rangers, was killed. My younger brother Michrel was with them. He survived.” She paused for a moment, taking a deep breath before continuing quietly, her head bowed and the reins lying loosely in her hand. “He ran and hid instead of standing his ground with the others and was branded a coward by the men who survived. Ewen’s father was one of them.”

“When Eton Thane returned and told my mother what had happened, she went mad with grief…tearing at her clothing and hair… She called my father’s name over and over…but when my brother went to comfort her, she turned from him and wouldn’t let him touch her. She screamed at him, telling him he was dead to her for leaving his father’s side. We thought it was the grief speaking, but it wasn’t. From that day forward she never spoke to him and looked away whenever he came near.”

“Michrel’s heart was broken and he left. My mother was never the same after my father died. She fell ill a few months later. I nursed her, but nothing I did seemed to help and she died before the year was out.”

The last words were spoken so softly that Raven barely heard them although she was sitting right behind her. Raven gave her a comforting squeeze and Morghan sat up straighter saying, “I left Dimwold shortly after my mother’s death and have not been back since. When I reached Bree, I didn’t feel like staying in town, afraid of questions I guess.” She shrugged. "I wandered in the forest for a few days, sleeping rough and exploring. I liked it there…then I found an old abandoned cottage and…I’ve been there ever since.” Then she firmly pressed her heels into the flanks of the horse to step up the pace to put an end to any more questions.

After a half hour or so of riding in silence they slowed to a walk and soon pulled over to the side of the road. The road had curved up to skirt the edge of Bree Hill and trees were beginning to line the road. Morghan guided the horse to a grassy area and they dismounted to stretch their legs and break their fast with bread and cheese packed by Raven.

“It wouldn’t be long now,” Morghan said as she sat nibbling a piece of cheese. “Look, you can see part of the hedge through the branches of that tree where the road curves.”

“Yes, I see it,” Raven replied continuing to eat. When their short meal was finished they sat and talked about where they should go first once they reached town and it was decided that The Prancing Pony Inn would be a good place, for it was known that Anna favored the Inn. Brushing the crumbs from her lap, Morghan stood and excused herself for a moment and headed back into the trees. Raven took a drink from the skin of light sweet wine and then cocked her head. There was a muffled sound in the distance; the faint clink of metal traces and the sound of wheels as they rolled along the road; a wagon. It was coming closer. She watched the road a few minutes. Soon the wagon came into view.

Still tucking in her shirt, Morghan stepped from the cover of the trees. She saw the wagon also. “I see we’re not the only ones on the road,” she said tightening her belt and rolling the waistband of the trousers over it so they fit better.

“I wonder who it is,” Raven murmured. The wagon was drawing closer but the driver was sitting hunched over with his head down and hadn’t seen them yet.

"A frieght wagon of some sorts by the looks of it."

"If he stops, you talk to him. I'll be back shortly."

"What?" Morghan gave Raven a questioning look.

"Tis my turn to answer the call of nature." Raven whispered and then picked up the edge of her silk skirt and slipped quietly through the trees.

Morghan grinned at the retreating woman's back and then began to gather up the leavings of their breakfast.


*
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Postby ~Raven~Tinuviel~ » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:43 am

By the Road East of Bree

Raven disappeared into the bushes, having an unsure feeling about the approaching wagon. Feeling somewhat guilty for leaving Morghan there to tend to what may come, Raven did really have to squat. Lightly did Raven move through the undergrowth. Finding a place well away from the road, She listened to the faint sound of the wagon coming closer. A bush rattled behind her and she turned. A crow fluttered about and then silently flew up into a large nearby oak. Turning her head back, there was faint words being spoken as the sound of the wagon stopped…



Kulhar was sleepy, but had enough of his senses to listen close after he came out of the East Gate of Bree. He mainly thought about the price on Ravens head and his hoping to find her, get her back to Khul, and collecting. But Kulhar also knew of the seemingly long reach of Khul. For every man Kulhar knew of that Khul sent, it was possible there was another he did not know about…… It was then he noted there was someone up ahead at the side of the road.

”Hail and well met!”

Kulhar called out as he slowed the wagon. It was a woman dressed for travel, looking like she had rested and was readying to go.

“Greetings.”

Morghan said guardedly. Kulhar’s eyes quickly looked about before engaging Morghan in conversation. Everything looked as it should, but something didn’t feel right about it. Kulhar spoke as the wagon came to a stop just before Morghan.

”A fine day on the east road eh? Yes, quite nice.”

“Yes it is.”


Morghan said as she continued to secure her belongings. Kulhar continued talking but was keenly analyzing Morghan, her horse, track, and other sign…

”I see you are heading west to Bree. The road is in good order, and the gatekeeper is a questioning but friendly sort. The food and ale is the delight at the Prancing Pony and I wish I had more days to linger there.”

Morghan was starting to get a bit nervous with Kulhars wordiness and hoped he would move on, but that was not going to happen right away. She was also pretty much ready to travel. She caught herself starting to look toward the underbrush but caught herself. She looked back at Kulhar and said,

”Thank you, that is good to know. The road to the east is in fine repair as well.”

Kulhar caught Morghans feint to the bushes, and also noted the way the horse was packed. His eyes scanned hard the bush, then to the road east as Morghan spoke. He then said,

”Since you came from the east, I have to ask. I have here a wagon of ale kegs for delivery to one Raven…”

Kulhar picked up the bill of goods and made like he was looking for a name…

”… Raven Tinuviel, at the Forsaken Inn. Now I have not been by there in some time, but rumor had it that it was abandoned. So I was surprised when I was given this order for delivery. Maybe you could tell me if this is so?”

Morghan was silent for a moment, she turned her head and looked down the east road to appear to Kulhar that she was recalling her journey, but was really trying to gather her thoughts to respond. She also wondered about Raven, and felt that this man may be looking for her for reasons other than to deliver ale. She noted he was watching everything vary carefully, and figured she needed to try and get him on his way east as soon as possible so she and Raven could get moving west. Weighing her thoughts, she wished the Forsaken to remain empty so the chance the hidden parchments being discovered was lessened. Besides, he would find sign of their recent stay. Yet, the here and now dictated her words…

”Yes, the Forsaken. It is for the most part been abandoned, but an elf-woman named Raven Tinuviel does have it open for business. I believe she was hoping a shipment of fresh ale would come sooner than later.”

Too close this. But his suspicions were growing the more he looked about. A sudden flutter in the bushes turned both Morghan and Kulhars attention. Three large crows flew in and out and around, Kawing fast and hard, crashing through brush as if they were fighting. A smaller one made a break, followed by another, then a bigger one. One swooped by Morghan and Kulhar as it turned and flew off west. The second circled high, and went east, and the third turned fast and was lost in the trees north, victorious in gaining the territory. The break this caused in Kulhars concentration set him back, and he looked at Morghan. She had only flinched at the birds sudden activity, curious about it, but more concerned with Kulhar in front of her. She set to re-adjusting the packs on the horse, moving them to set more forward as if one was riding it. Kulhar decided his inquisitiveness of this traveling woman had gone far enough. She had in fact affirmed that Raven was at the Forsaken, which was in line with what the hobbit said in Bree. He was wasting time. He eased the wagon forward and said,

”Yes, well thank you for that. I would hate to make a days journey carrying ale to an abandoned inn. Maybe now the rumors will fade and word of its activity will help it flourish? But I must be on my way. Pleasure conversing with you m’lady”

A nod from Kulhar and a slight one returned from Morghan finished their meeting on the road, and Kulhar rolled away east. Morghan watched him as he went out of sight before calling to Raven…

“He is gone Raven. I think its safe. Raven?”

Morghan looked intently at the bush and walked slowly to where she had seen Raven disappear. The only sound that could be heard was the slight rustle of the wind in the leaves as a few fell to the ground, and the merry chirping of birds. She started to step through the brush…

“Raven?”



Raven listened intently. The voice of the man had a distinct sound to it. One Raven heard in a recurring dream. Yes, he was one of Khuls men, and she was being sought after. She listened to the exchange between he and Morghan, and thought it wrong of her to leave Morghan out there alone. She had after all promised Ewen she would keep watch on Morghan. No, she needed to confront this man now. But Morghan deflected his attention toward the Forsaken! Ok, not now. It is best he go east, and they could go west as soon as possible. Still, Raven would have to be on the look out for others. Khul had a long arm. She stood slowly and was about to take a step and reveal herself….

Everything faded to black in Ravens mind as the sting in the back of her neck was felt. A slight gasp she let out as she turned to see a face, seemingly familiar yet not. Her mind and body failed to work as she collapsed into his arms.




He heard womens voices and made his way in stealth to a place deep in the wood nearby. It was up the hillside some at a vantage point where the distant parts of the road could be glimpsed. Sound also carried up the small bushy ravine which would have a small creek in the rainy seasons. He could not quite make out what was said between them but caught words here and there. Both voices were somewhat familiar, but one voice was timeless. It was her! A complication it was that she was not alone! And now a wagon was making its way east on the road. He sat as still as stone and listened while a large crow landed easily on a branch beside him. Some rustling could be heard below, then the voices again, then they grew quieter as the wagon approached. There was rustling again, then voices. A man and a woman this time. He stood into a crouch and moved slow and easy, soft as an elf of Rivendell.

He was behind her, undetected as she was keen on the words spoken on the road. He pulled a small quill out of his vest and a skin pouch from a pocket. He stuck the quill into the bag and massaged it then held it tight in his palm. The crow quietly hopped from branch to branch of the oaks above, and then came down into a bush not far from where the elven woman squatted. Seeing the woman stand, he made his move. The crow crashed toward two other crows nearby . The quill poked the woman in the back of the neck and the poultice had its desired effect. He bundled the small woman in his arms and took quick but stealthy steps back the way he came. The only misfortune was he dropped the quill. Meanwhile the crows fought briefly and scattered, with the big one perching high in an oak atop the hill. They make the perfect distraction. He was glad for all the time in the past he sat with Radagast smoking and learning about birds. The crows and the jays were the most useful if they had not been perverted by evil. Yes, he had Raven, and having Raven could be very profitable. He made his way through paths unseen by most, and left the road well behind. Ravens friend would search, but he would not stop. North he moved into the thick wood, seeking a place he knows. The brambles thickened and tore at them leaving tears and lines of blood on them. A clearing of grass where a fire long ago had burned he came to and there lay Raven down. He checked her breath, and the slightness was just right. He did not wish to kill her as she would be no good to him dead. He worried that would be the case had he injected her with too much. But as it stands, she would be unconscious for quite some time. Her skins were tattered and he treated her bramble wounds before tying her ankles and wrists. He then went out of the clearing and returned by five different ways, making tracks as he went. He then lifted her dead weight and flopped her over his shoulder and moved carefully through a particularly thick bramble patch. Setting Raven down, he went back to cover his track and make the brambles appear closed. He then lifted her again and made his way through the wood to a place he had hidden many times before. They would be safe there until he went to seek Khul.
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Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Tue Jul 15, 2008 12:24 pm

*

“He is gone Raven. I think it’s safe. Raven?”

“Raven?”

Still there was no answer, only the rustling of the wind in the branches of the trees. Morghan turned her head and looked at the retreating wagon. The driver had his eyes on the road and had not turned to look back. She hesitated for a few minutes, one hand slowly pushing aside the branches where dried leaves still clung, as she waited for the wagon to travel further down the road. When she thought he could no longer see her Morghan parted the brush and stepped through.

“Raven!” she called again, keeping the tone of her voice low so it wouldn’t carry. The dried grass was still bent over indicating where Raven had entered. A worried frown settled across Morghan’s face as she slowly walked, turning her head from side to side to scan the trees and the brush and following the track she had taken when she had entered the woods. Where was Raven? The longer she searched the more worried she grew. How could Raven have disappeared so quickly…and why? The man on the road had posed a possible threat, were there others with him that she hadn’t seen? She walked back near the road, retracing the path she had already taken and began to search again, this time walking even slower and crisscrossing the area. Maybe she had missed something the first time, a bent twig or a footprint.

The ground beneath the trees was still moist from the morning’s frost in some places and this time as she walked she bent down every so often to look more carefully. The ground yielded few clues at first until finally Morghan found half a shoe print in the soft ground near the base of a tree. Raven had taken a different track once she had entered the trees than she herself had taken answering the call of nature. A short distance away she found a few more tracks near a stand of bushes. The ground was disturbed; the grass around the brushes trampled as if someone had stood here for a time. She stood for a moment looking and listening. The road was out of sight, hidden by the brush growing near it edge, but she could hear her horse back on the road as it moved around where it was tethered. Raven must have stood here and listened while she talked with the man in the wagon. Morghan thought for a moment. Had Raven become angry with her for telling the man about her?

She turned from the spot, her eyes cast down as she tried to recall her words to the man. Then something caught her eye. Sticking from beneath a pile of fallen leaves was something that looked like a feather but wasn’t. She stooped to the ground and carefully brushed back the leaves. A knot of fear gripped her stomach as she recognized the object. It was a throwing dart, one made from the quill of a feather. She’d not seen one in a long time, not since when as a young girl she had watched her father making one. She recalled him telling her how it was made and telling her that though he seldom used one, they were a handy weapon to have when the need of stealth was necessary.

Carefully she picked it up to examine it closer. It was well made; small dark feathers were bound with a silken thread around the shaft of a sharpened quill. She held it up to the light feeling the knot in her stomach tighten even more as she saw that the tip was stained red. Blood. Thoughts and questions started quickly swirling around in her mind until she rested she closed her eyes for a moment. Something had happened here and she needed to think clearly. When she opened her eyes a few seconds later, they were clear and bright with determination. Someone had used this dart on Raven. Who and why she didn’t know, but she would find out.

Slowly she stood and looked around, her eyes sharp and focused. The long ago training she had received from her father in the ways of a Ranger were slowly coming back to her. The longer she waited the colder the trail would be and the harder to follow. Pulling out her shirt, she tore a small strip of cloth from the bottom and carefully wound it around the tip before putting it into the pocket of her vest so that whatever substance was on the tip could do her no harm, for she had little doubt that something besides the dart had been used to subdue Raven so quickly and quietly.
Quickly she made her way back to the road and her horse, all thoughts of Anna and Bree gone from her mind for now.

*
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~The Great East-West Road and The Last Bridge~

Postby Hunter » Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:03 pm

~

Past Weathertop, the Great East-West Road curved northeasterly following the rugged contours of the Lone-lands. This land was desolate and wild, pathless except for the road along its border. Clumps of bushes and dense stands of stunted trees dotted the landscape that was otherwise filled with faded grey grass that was short and sparse.

Ewen and Eradan broke camp just before dawn. Heavy frost covered the ground and crunched under their boots as they walked the horses up out of the hollow. The sky was still a deep, dark indigo color that made Ewen feel as if he were walking through the landscape of the dream that had haunted him during the night.

It was an odd dream. It was night and he was standing in a barren wasteland surrounded by swirling mist or smoke. Something orange flickered in the distance; he thought they were flames but he couldn’t be sure it was too far away. Shadowy, insubstantial figures moved through the mist. Some were large and misshapen and appeared to be orcs while other, smaller figures resembled humans. He remembered trying to move toward one of the human-like figures but found his feet were firmly rooted to one spot.

As the sun rose over the tops of the mountains in the east, the frost covered grasses gleamed brightly and for a short time the landscape was transformed into a sparkling wonderland. All too soon it vanished as the sun melted and dulled the frost. By this time Ewen and Eradan were on the road riding at a fast steady pace. Ewen had little desire to spent the night in the Lone-lands so they only slowed their pace a few times to rest their mounts and grab a quick bite to eat from the supplies Raven had packed for them. As night began to fall they reached the point where the road sloped down the steep sides of the ravine where the Hoarwell flowed. Trees lined the ridge top and road creating deeper, darker shadows on the road and the bridge below. Ewen reined in his horse and dismounted as he waited for Eradan, who had lagged behind the last few miles, to catch up.

“We’ll make camp on the far side of the river a few miles past the bridge,” he said after taking a drink from his waterbag. He passed it to Eradan and while the younger man drank Ewen scanned the area.

Across the river the land rose steadily. Folded, tree covered hills gave way further to the east to deep ravines and rock strewn ridges. Rhudaur had once been a kingdom founded by one of the sons of King Eärendur of Arnor sometime early in the Third Age. The boundaries of the kingdom had stretched eastward from Weathertop all the way to the Misty Mountains. Further south where the Hoarwell joined with the Bruinen was the southern border and the northern borders had stretched all the way to the Ettenmoors. All that was left now to mark the once strong presence were ancient walls of stone and the ruins of towers crowning some of the ridges.

His eyes followed the road as far as he could in the growing darkness. He squinted and frowned as he sniffed the air. It looked like wisps of smoke? “What do you make of that?” he asked Eradan pointing to a hilly area just north of the road.

“Smoke from a fire?” Eradan answered handing back the waterbag. He was squinting too. “Isn’t there an old Inn near there?”

“Yes there is.” Ewen had intended to walk down the slope and across the bridge to give his mount a rest but now he mounted. The smoke didn’t come from just one point as it would from a chimney or firepit, they covered a larger area. “Just a few more miles,” he said soothingly to his horse and then turned to Eradan. “Come on. Let’s see what it’s all about.”

There was still enough light to see by as they rounded the stand of trees that hid the Inn from the road, but Ewen had already guessed what had happened by the acrid smell as they drew nearer and his suspicions were conformed as they pulled into the road leading up to the Inn. The Inn had burned down. Part of two walls were still standing, smoldering along the edges of the rough hewn planks that held it together but the rest of it lay in tumbled burnt remnants. Two of the outbuilding, a stable and another small house had also burnt down and the wisps of smoke trailing up from their remains accounted for the scattered wisps he’d seen earlier. Ewen held up a hand and motioned to dismount. The two men tied their mounts to the branch of a tree along the Inn’s road and advanced cautiously on foot.

An eerie quietness surrounded the clearing where the Inn sat. A light breeze rustled some of the drying leaves in the trees along the perimeter of the clearing, but that was all. That was no sign of any people or the animals Ewen had witnessed the last time he had passed the Inn. Where were the chickens and geese he’d seen last time? He glanced around. The coop was still standing a few yards from the stables but the door was hanging from only one hinge. Darkness was gathering and soon there would be little light. They had come to what remained of one of the ruined walls. Ewen kicked at the tumbled pile of burnt timber, moving it around with his boot until he found a few smaller lengths.

“There must be a woodpile back near the edge of the trees,” he told Eradan. “See if you can find some kindling or small, dried branches.” Eradan nodded and then left. Meanwhile Ewen walked to where the horses were tied and rumaged quickly in his pack. He returned to the ruined Inn with a piece of leather kept in his pack for emergency repairs to any of his gear. There was a well near one corner of the Inn; luckily the bucket and rope were still attached. He raised the bucket and set it on the ground and then quickly cut two thin strips of leather from the larger piece with his knife. He put the leather into the water and pushed it under, kneading it with his finger to hasten the soaking process.

Meanwhile Eradan had returned with a large handful of smaller pieces of wood and branches. He too had realized they would need light to continue their search of the area and set about preparing the wood for a pair of torches.

With the torches made Ewen and Eradan continued their search of the area, looking for signs of life and clues to what had happened. Eradan went to search around the perimeter of the grounds while Ewen walked carefully around the ruined Inn, stopping every few feet and stooping to the ground. He was in the act of examining a large footprint when he heard a sharp whistle and a low voiced call. “Ewen! Come quickly. Bring some water.”

Hastening in the direction of Eradan’s call, Ewen saw him near the edge of the woods. He was bent over the prone figure of a man lying face down beneath the branches of a low growing bush. At first Ewen thought the man was dead but then he heard a faint gurgle and saw the back of the blood soaked shirt rising and falling in slow labored breathing. Taking the torches, he stuck the ends in the ground nearby and helped Eradan carefully turn the man over.

The front of the man’s shirt was more blood soaked than the back. His face was dirt streaked and twigs and pieces of dried leaves clung to his matted hair. Both hands were pressed against his stomach and as Ewen tried to move one of the hands, one of them raised feebly in a defensive manner. “It’s okay, we’re here to help.” Ewen said quietly.

“Don’t …touch. It’s all… that’s holdin’ my insides in…” the man rasped and then coughed painfully, spitting dirt from his mouth. Eradan scooped a handful of water and held it to the man’s lips while his other hand held the man’s head. He sucked at the moisture, asking for more.

“What happened?” Ewen asked when he was done though he had already guessed part of the story by the tracks he’d found.

“Orcs… orcs and men…. They attacked … sometime after midnight…” He coughed again and a thin spittle of blood appeared at the corner of his mouth. Pain wracked eyes looked at Eradan who was the closest. “Others… are they all…dead?” Eradan glanced quickly at Ewen before answering truthfully. “You’re all we found.”

“How many were here?” Eradan asked.

There was a sickening rattle in the man’s throat as a spasm of pain rippled through his torso. The man clutched at the wound Ewen tried to pry the man’s hand free so that he could look at the wound but somehow the man found enough strength to push his hands away again.

“Ain’t nothing…you can do. I know I don’t…have long… My two boys…their wives… a handyman and his young son…” The man coughed again and blood started flowing freely from in mouth. “One …….one traveler…”

One hand released its grip on his stomach as he reached for the arm near his head. Eradan was surprised by the strength of the fingers as they wrapped around his wrist. “…my…sons…” The man’s voice was growing raspier and Eradan had to bend closer to hear. “Promise……you’ll…find them…”

Before Eradan could reply, the man doubled over as a severe spasm racked his body. The fingers tightened their grip briefly, than loosened as the spasm suddenly stopped. The man had died. Both Eradan and Ewen sat in silence.

~

minor edit to add place in subject line
Last edited by Hunter on Sun Aug 17, 2008 1:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Arassuil » Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:24 am

The dark figure on his horse was silhouetted against the still, cold, frost-filled air of the approaching night. At times, the land would lighten as the moonlight tried to break through the ground fog, but it was a battle lost, for the fog would thicken again and cover the lands in its shimmery grey twilight.
Malassuil was cold. He had ridden the hard roads of the north, and was now making his way south for he hoped to meet other rangers at an inn farther south near Bree. Word was among Rangers that one could find another with word at the prancing Pony Inn, and it was here he was making for, but right now, he needed to rest.

The smell of woodsmoke in the air could be sensed, and Malassuil looked about the desolate land for its source. Riding over a rise in the track, lamplight could be seen... just barely through the fog.

"So there is life still at one of the old roadhouses in the outlands north of Bree! This is welcome indeed!"

He whispered to himself. Quietly he rode up, slow and easy. Stopping on the road in front of an old house, he noted the fresh scent of horse and hay nearby. Dismounting, he walked his grey filly around the side to the stables. A young boy was there tending a couple other horses, and noticing the approach of Malassuil, he hurried over and took the reins. Malassuil nodded approvingly and flipped the boy a small silver, saying,

"Her name is Cloud, for she is light of foot. See that she is fed, brushed, and well rested. It has been many leagues since she rested proper, and we still have many a league to to ride"

"Sure mister!"


The boy exclaimed, looking at the coin in the dim, shrouded moonlight and realizing its worth. Quickly he dropped it into his pocket where it jingled with his coppers and led Cloud to her own stall. She hesitated only briefly, and seeing that her master approved of the boy, she compliantly followed him, knowing she was going to enjoy to the fullest this rest.

Malassuil watched them for a moment as they went into the dim lamplit shadows. Being satisfied with her care, he walked back through the mist to the door of the house. Stepping in and feeling a bit of warmth, he quickly pulled the door shut before he removed his green-grey cloak. Hanging it by its hood on a free hook on the wall, it made a slight crunching sound as the collected frost on it gave way. His dark leathers had patches of darker stains where his cloak had seeped through water in the chill north rains, or where he had sweated in the warmth of the eastern steppes. He brushed his curly locks from his face and looked around the small room. There wasn't much here. There was only a bored looking man by a couple large crates that were pushed together in the near corner to make a counter, and a woman sitting in the far corner. Malassuil paused and gazed at her for a moment, and could see she had a parchment on the table crate before her and a pencil in hand.

Malassuil, guessing the 'bar' was over where the man was, walked over and sat on one of the few small crates opposite the man, who said whilst not bothering to look up from the parchments he had in front of him.

'What will ye have sir?"

Malassuil stared at the man's face and said,

"Hot tea, and I believe I sense a stew in the air? If so, then a bowl of that with some bread will do... oh yeah, a place to sleep by the fire."

The tender looked over the man for a moment, nodding and saying,

"Right. I'll get your food shortly, and as for room to sleep, what you see here is what you get."

Malassuil looked around the single room. It was indeed better than sleeping out in the chill foggy night. He nodded to the man and said before walking away,

"I'll be over by the fire."

Malassuil walked slowly, his boots making very little sound on the floor. He looked about as he stepped and nodded to a woman who appeared to be making eye contact with him. For a brief moment it appeared the eyes of the woman were looking through him, but as Malassuil paused she turned again to her parchment and her hand worked the pencil. Malassuil held his gaze on her a brief moment more, noting that she looked like she had a hard road as well. He turned back toward the fire box and stepped around a large wooden crate to pull back a smaller one to sit on, turning it to face the fire before sitting down. He put his long legs up on the hearth, stretching each one before leaning back against the table-crate. The steam began to rise in wisps from his warming breeches and boots as the warmth of the small fire struggled out into the room. This house wasn't much, but was a welcome rest on his hard road to Bree.

Without a word, a steaming cup of stew, along with a small plate of hard bread was set on the crate which he rested against. The scent woke him from the drifting nap he had obviously taken in the time between when he sat and now. How long that was he wasn't sure. Malassuil looked about quickly, and seeing that nothing had changed in the room, he turned to eat. The bread was days old and hard, and the only thing that made it palatable was letting it soak in the stew broth. Finishing what little he was given, he realized the only warm place in this room would be by the fire. As much as he would have liked to lay before it, he could see the woman was wrapped in a few cloaks. Only her hands and face were visible, and it was obvious that she was not that comfortable. Malassuil watched her a bit, then finally got up and went over to the woman. With the first sound of his movement, she tipped her head slightly and made like she was looking at him. She sat back and waited for him, knowing he was coming toward her.

As Malassuil drew closer, he could see she was young of age, and though blind, had seen more than her years led on. As he stood before her, she sized his height and a slight smile came to her. Malassuil too smiled and said to her,

"My pardon miss, but it is late and this night cold. I came to offer you the place by the fire to sleep, for it is likely it be the only place that will be warm the night through."

"You are a Ranger?


she asked. Malassuil whispered yes. She nodded, saying,

"I can tell by the step of your boots. Rangers have a certain stealth in their step."

Malassuil stood still, being in wonder of the woman's acute senses. It was plain that she was both wise and gifted. He said to her,

"Yes, the name is Malassuil of the North Downs. Rarely have I journeyed south. You have obviously met some of my mates before?"

"Yes."
she said.

"I have met a few.... Arkaeth, Elendur, Ewen, Halasian, Halbarad and others.... before the days of darkness. And now I meet Malassuil. Anna is my name. May your days not be darkened by my knowing thee."

Malassuil was taken aback for a moment, realizing this woman may know much, even if her eyes now saw little. He said,

"It is a pleasure to meet you Anna, and your company here has brought some light to the path which I now travel. For I fear it is a dark road that I now take. Tell me if you know, where can I find my mates which you name?"

The night's encroaching chill seemed to make inroads into the house, and Anna pulled her cloak tighter. Her eyes looked past him into the dim glow of the room, and she said slowly and in a whisper,

"I know not of them, only rumor and feelings."

"Then please if you will, tell me what you perceive of them? For I seek them and wish counsel. I am making for Bree and will be there ere tomorrow afternoon where I hope to find word of their whereabouts."


Malassuil's voice spoke with urgency. Anna nodded and said,

"I have not word of any for years. Maybe You will find word of them in Rivendell."

Anna did not speak of the visit she had recently as her hand clutched at her pack, and Malassuil sensed that she was not telling all she knew. She went on,

"But I heard Arkaeth has married and rides now only in the defence of the northern reach of the Shire."

Yes,"


Malassuil said,

"I attended the nuptuals. He remains a Ranger, and in need he will ride afar. But I fear a shadow of days passed is upon him, and he wishes to keep the watch closer to home.

Anna smiled slightly, and recalled others.

[i]"Of Elendur I heard he was slain, but of where, how, and why I do not know. Halasian it is said had gone mad and now wanders the wild. Ewen I heard rode away east, and Halbarad tries to keep word of all the Rangers. I spoke to him most recent, which I have to say has also been some time ago. He spoke then of others, young Dunedain that now ride among them, for he said that the hazards were many and the numbers few."


Malassuil nodded in agreement, then said,

"It is Halbarad who I wish to speak, for he will know much, more so than any other beside our Chieftain Aragorn who I had word many years ago had gone away south. Tell me, you say Halasian has gone mad? What evil caused this?"

A chill came over her and she shivered before continuing,

"I cannot say. I last saw... at the Forsaken Inn years ago, he fancied my sister who is now dead."

Malassuil sensed in her abrupt change of speech that she had seen him recently. His desire to push her on it was muted by his desire not to alienate this woman who was such a wealthy source of knowledge and information. He would learn more by being gentle. He just sighed the words stayed, and she could tell he had many questions awaiting. She let silence grow between them for a moment, before saying,

"Your offer of the place by the fire is very kind. Shall we go over to where you were sitting and continue our talk?"

"Yes, by all means."


Malassuil said as he took her hand. She stood with gracefulness and stepped around her table crate. She stopped to lift a pack, and into it she slid the parchment and pencil she was using. Taking Malassuil's hand once again, they walked to the fire, and Malassuil moved a crate for her to sit. Getting comfortable facing the fire, they sat and talked long into the night.

The icy morning light found them hovered about the hearth, and Malassuil lazily reached for a log and some tinder to stir the coals. The fire soon burst back into flame, and he stretched. Anna sat up and held her hands out toward the heat. She turned her head toward the movement of Malassuil and asked,

"I too am going to Bree though I am on foot. May I see you there ere tomorrow?"

"Nay lady. It will be today should you allow the honor of riding my steed."


Malassuil said. Anna smiled and said,

"I will accept your kindness, for though I am capable of making it on my own in my own time, one should not easily dismiss the kindness of the Dunedain."

There was no breakfast coming, and no sign of the man who had been at the counter the night before. Malassuil stood and gathered Anna's pack, and on their way out the door he grabbed his cloak and draped it around Anna.

"The morning is chill with winter's breath, though the warmth of the waning summer will once more come ere noonday. Come. For Cloud will bear us to Bree ere the afternoon wanes."

They walked out across the frost-covered grass to the stable where Cloud had spent the night. Steam from her breath told him she was ready to go. No sign of the boy this day, and the place was indeed deserted. The woodsmoke hung low in the cold air, and Malassuil wondered if it was fate that led him here to find this woman. He ho-ped her words would reveal more to him, and the ride to would give plenty of opportunity. They set out south as the sun touched the remaining coloured leaves in the nearby trees.
Last edited by Arassuil on Mon Aug 25, 2008 4:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Imladris

Postby Hunter » Sun Aug 17, 2008 12:59 am

~

The celebration in honor of Almarian and Lilion's visit was in its second day and the house of Elrond was ablaze with colorful lights as night began to settle across the secluded valley. Music drifted delicately in the air, carried to the most distant corners on the grounds so that even those who could not attend the evenings festivities were able to enjoy the sounds. Outside, small delicate lanterns resembling dragonflies were hung from the trees surrounding the house. They cast simmering pools of amber light along the walkways leading to the gardens and down near the river. The main feast had just concluded and people were starting to drift out of doors to walk off the effects of the scrumptious meal and enjoy the pleasant evening.

Olben Hawkins was seated on one of the cushioned benches on the back porch smoking a pipe and listening to the strains of music drifting through the open doorway. Someone was playing a flute. The light and lilting tune matched his mood as he stretched out his legs and watched the lamps softly swaying in the light breeze that had sprung up.

A young girl disappeared around a curve in the path leading to the garden, followed some distance back by a young man. The young man looked eager, yet his steps were hesitant. Olben chuckled as he watched the young man. ‘Ah, to be young again,’ he thought a bit wistfully and then shook his shaggy head. With the pleasant evening the garden was a busy place as he’d already seen a number of people out for a stroll and the young man was unlikely to catch the young woman alone. Taking a long draw from his pipe, he blew a series of rings into the air and watched as they drifted along the porch.

Tomorrow he would leave for the Ettenmoors. Briefly he wondered if one of the scouts who had just returned would accompany him or if Elrond would assign someone else. During yesterday’s the evening feast he had talked with one of the scouts who had recently returned. Feredir had spoken of following an old trail known to be used by orcs to travel down from the mountains and of coming across an old campsite of theirs. That was where he and Eglerion, the other scout, had discovered dried footprints in the mud made by men. They had tried to follow the tracks but because they were more than a week old by their reckoning, it was not possible.

Olben had questioned Feredir about the terrain and the surroundings land and thought he knew the area where the campsite was. There were still a few small fortified villages and land holdings scattered in the wilds of Rhudaur near the Ettenmoors, but when he had asked if they had talked with any of the people living there, the elf had unabashedly answered that they had not, that they rarely had any dealings with them.

Olben shook his head again and frowned as he took a long draw from his pipe. The people who lived in those small villages were pretty self-sufficient; they had to be, isolated as they were. Besides orcs there were the Hillman and roving bands of outlaws and brigands to contend with. Some of them utilized the old watchtowers and would have men stationed in them to be on the lookout for any signs of trouble in their area. If there was an increase in orc movement, surely they would be aware of it. Though they looked on rangers with distrust, he would make a point of stopping at some of theses settlements.

Someone was standing just in the doorway just out of sight behind him and by the shadow cast on the porch he could tell it was a woman. Light footsteps approached and Olben turned to see Almarian approaching him. She held a frothy topped tankard in each of her hands.

“I was looking for you and someone told me they’d seen you out here and thought you’d like a bit of ale.” She knew Olben well enough to know that sometimes when he wanted to think he would search out a quiet corner to be alone. “May I join you?” Almarian asked as holding out one of the tankards.

“Need you ask?” Olben grinned up at her as he took the tankard and shifted his bulk to make room for her on the bench. He took a long, slow drink from the tankard, savoring the taste of hops and grain flavored with a touch of sweetness as Almarian settled down next to him. “I’m glad you sought me out. It’s been a long time since last we shared a few quiet moments.”

“Yes it has,” Almarian smiled as she took a drink from her tankard. “I’ve missed you,” she told him honestly. Almarian considered Olben to be almost a family member; he had, after all, helped her father raise her after her mother had died. “And I missed Eriador too. How is everyone back in Dimwold? Your family, do they fare well?”

“My mother still tends the farm with the help of Rose and her husband Niles and Bridget has finally, after many years of keeping a number of different beaus dangling on strings, accepted one of their offers and was married last month.”

Almarian laughed at this. Bridget Hawkins was a saucy pretty girl and had always had a steady stream of suitors. “Who did she choose? Do I know him?”

“Nay, I don’t think so. His name is Caleb Anders, the son of a merchant from Rildolach, a village on the river Lhûn. He came to Dimwold occasionally, driving one of the wagons that delivered goods from further east.”

“I think she chose him because he wasn’t a Ranger,” he added quietly. “The death of Alastor upset her greatly…”

“Alastor! Oh Olben, I’m so sorry!” Alastor was second in age to Olben and the two brothers had been very close. “How did he die?” she asked after a long pause.

“I wasn’t there, wish to Eru I had been, for maybe it would have turned out differently.” Olben answered with a heavy sigh, talking more to himself than to Almarian.

Almarian sat quietly as pictures of Alastar flashed in her mind. He was a smaller version of Olben, red-haired and easy going, always ready with a kind word and a helping hand. But there was also a darker side to Alastar, one that was absent in Olben. Alastar possessed a quick temper, one that got out of hand at times. She been witness to it once and it had frighted her.

It was hard to imagine she’d never seen Alastar again, how many of the others she knew back in Dimwold were no longer there? She glanced over at Olben. His eyes had a sad, far away look. They sat for a few moments in silence and then Olben began to tell her about Alastar’s death.

“It happened in a small tavern on the outskirts of Cameth Brin..." he began.

Cameth Brin was a settlement near the northeast boarder of Rhudaur, some seventy miles up the Hoarwell River from the Last Bridge and was a stopping place for some rangers when they traveled in the area.

“...this past summer…the details are sketchy…but it appears to have happened in some kind of bar fight.” Olben bent his head and looked down. Almarian saw his fingers were clenched tightly around the tankard.

“Reece Weatherton brought the news back a few weeks after the incident had happened. He heard about the death by happenchance when he stopped at Cameth. He overheard some men in the common room of The Blind Pig talking about a death that had happened a few days past. When he asked the innkeeper about it, he was told it was a man known to him only by the name Trapper. Reece picked up on the name, it was one used by Alastar in some areas of Rhudaur.”

Many rangers never gave their names when they visited towns or villages; they were either given names by the townspeople or adopted others to use. Olben was known by a couple of different names; ‘Bear’ or the ‘Bear-man’ in Rhudaur and northern Eriador, and ‘Hawker’ in the southern reaches of Eriador and into Rohan.

“Reece questioned the innkeeper more, but he wasn’t much help so he went to the tavern where it happened, a place called The Red Gate Inn, but didn’t learn much there either. The owner was gone and the man he’d left in charge was pretty tight lipped.”

Suddenly he raised the tankard and drained the remaining ale in one large swallow. Droplets of foam clung to the tips of his mustache and he wiped them away with the back of his hand. The knuckles of the hand still clenched around the tankard were white with the force of his grip as he said, looking down at the now empty tankard.

“I plan on stopping there on the trip north to find out exactly what happened.”

Almarian had rarely seen Olben display anger, but it showed plainly on his face now and she was taken aback for a moment. He reminded her of Alastar. Then he shook his head and the anger left just as quickly as it had appeared as he turned to face Almarian. He just looked tired now.

“Forgive me Mari,” he said with downcast eyes. “I haven’t talked about Alastar’s death with anyone but Ewen before. I’ve been waiting for him; we planned to go to Cammeth Brin together.”

“I understand,” Almarian said quietly as she reached over to squeeze his hand.

The pair sat without saying a word, Almarian’s small hand resting lightly atop Olben’s large rough one. She felt the tension slowly leave him and pretty soon he turned his hand over and gave hers a reassuring squeeze as he turned to her.

“Tell me how it is with you Mari. Have you fared well in Mirkwood these past years and what news do you bring to Lord Elrond besides that of the lengthening shadows which are creeping over the land?”


~
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~Bree and the Prancing Pony Inn~

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Mon Aug 25, 2008 11:27 am

*

Morghan leaned wearily against the warm flank of her horse and closed her eyes. She was tired and needed to rest for a few moments.

The trail left by Raven’s abductor had come to an end here in this small clearing. Yes there had been tracks leading from it; too many and they all disappeared after a short distance. Whoever had taken Raven knew how to cover their tracks well.

Turning to look at the slight depression in the grass a few feet away, she could still see the minute traces of blood on a few of the blades. At first she’d been alarmed but then she’d noticed her own arms. They were covered with scratches from the thicket of bramble bushes surrounding the clearing and she pictured in her mind the same happening to Raven as she was carried this far.

Reaching for the wine skin, Morghan took a sip of the remainder of the wine leftover from their lunch and then looked up at the sky. It was late afternoon. Should she continue on? And if so which way? Unbidden her eyes grew moist as she hung her head. She didn’t know what to do. From here, Raven’s captor could have gone in any number of directions. Minutes passed and still she stood leaning against the horse.

Finally, after a long drawn out sigh Morghan straightened up. Tucking the wineskin back in the pack, she picked up the reins that were hanging where’d they’d been dropped earlier and started to lead the horse back to the road.

***

The road curved around the base of Bree Hill as it approached town and following, Morghan saw a wagon pull onto the road ahead of her from a track leading from the forest. It was loaded with freshly cut wood and was being pulled by a pair of oxen. It moved at a slow but steady pace and she reined in a few yards behind it and let her horse match pace with it. She needed a bit more time to think before reaching the town proper.

Was it a coincidence that Raven had chosen that moment to slip into the cover of the trees on the pretext of answering nature’s call, or had the elven woman had some forewarning of danger? The man driving had said he was delivering ale to the Inn; he had even had a bill of sale. She tried to remember if he’d mentioned who it was from but couldn’t remember that he had. She would stop at the Prancing Pony and make inquires of the local brewmasters. There might even be the off-chance that Anna would be there thought thoughts of the parchments and drawing where not as important now that Raven was missing. The Inn would also be a logical place to inquire about the driver of the wagon she had talked to.

She arrived at the South Gate of Bree and the gatekeeper didn’t stop nor ask any questions as she slowly rode through the gate behind the wagon, just gave a curt nod as if perhaps he had recognized her. The streets of town were fairly busy at this time of day. Carts and people afoot filled the main road through town, coming and going along the side streets. As she came closer to where the road from the West Gate entered town, it became even more crowded with people and carts. The market stalls and vendors set up in the main square of town would have started closing by this time she knew, heading back to their homes after a days work. It felt strangely comforting to be a part of the crowded streets even though some of those passing by had given her a curious look or two. She recognized some of their faces, but no one so far had stopped to talk. She didn’t find that fact odd though. In the past whenever she had come to town very few of the folks of Bree had really bothered with her. Most of them knew of her presence in the Chetwood, but she dealt more with the people of Archet, Staddle, Combe and the outlying area.

A group of children ran past laughing and giggling and she stopped to watch them for a moment. They were playing some sort of game as they wove through the crowded streets. Soon after they passed a much younger boy came after, calling out for them to wait. One of the older girls slowed and waited until the boy caught up and taking him by the hand, helped him along. A sudden pang touched her heart. She remembered doing the same with Michrel. She watched until they were both out of sight and then continued on.

Morghan tried not to think about Michrel and instead reached into the pocket of her vest and counted the coins there. There weren’t many, but she thought there was enough to buy a bed for the night and a bite to eat if need be. After that….well, she would just have to wait.


***

The common room of the Prancing Pony Inn was filled with the sounds of merry singing and loud boisterous voices calling out to each other from a mixed group of people gathered there. Breelanders made up the majority, though there were a few dwarves seated here and there, and a few strangers, though there were fewer of them on the road theses days, plus a group of local Bree-hobbits.

Most of the merriment was coming from the Bree-hobbits gathered round a pair of large tables at one end of the room near the fireplace with its brightly blazing fire. They were occupied in a good natured contest of sorts, seeing who could make up rhymes about one of the own gathered at the Inn that night.

It was Timothy Sandheaver’s turn. He was standing next to the fire, brown eyes dancing with mirth as he raised a hand to silence everyone.

“Listen everyone, for I’ve a rhyme about my good friend Thomas Claybottom here,” he winked broadly in Thomas’s direction, “That may shed a bit of light on why we’ve not seen much of him theses days.”

Thomas, seated next to a pretty, red haired hobbit maid, blushed all the way down to the tops of his feet. He ducked his head and groaned. He knew he shouldn’t have said anything yet.

Timothy raised his tankard and began…

There was a young hobbit from Bree,
Who bent to the ground on his knee;
To young Iris he said,
Will you please wed?
This poor young hobbit from Bree?

Laughter and cheers of hurrahs filled the room. Everyone in the common room was watching as Timothy Sandheaver went to stand in by the happy couple…everyone but one…

Bill Ferny sat at a table off to the side and a short distance from the celebration. He was watching a pair sitting across the room, a woman with shoulder length reddish hair and one of the local hobbits, a fellow by the name of Teddy Largebarrel.

His eyes narrowed as he studied the woman’s face. The resemblance was unnerving, the hair and clothing was different, the woman he remembered wore her hair long, nearly to her waist and he’d had never seen her dressed in man’s clothing before. Always she had worn long skirts…

Besides, he told himself, hadn’t he checked her cabin last spring? Every few days for a month he’d taken the long trek into the Chetwood and kept watch over it, sometimes sleeping in the forest to make sure that he wouldn’t miss her coming and going. Finally, the last time he’d visited he ventured closer. The door had been locked but he’d found the key and entered. He hadn’t disturbed anything, just looked around. It had seemed deserted then.

Staring down at the last dregs of ale in the bottom of his tankard, Bill frowned. Perhaps he would have to check the cabin again. After sitting for a moment longer, he pushed the tankard aside and stood up. He kept his shoulders hunched and his head bent so that his oily lank hair hid part of his face as he made his way across the crowded room to the door.

Meanwhile Teddy had stood up next to the table he’d been sharing with the woman, bowed lowly and then tottered back to the group of merry-making hobbits. Morghan watched his retreating steps and then ran a hand through her hair as she sat back. Teddy Largebarrel had confirmed that a wagon loaded with a few barrels of his ale had left for the Forsaken Inn early that morning, but he couldn’t tell her much of the man he had hired to drive the wagon, telling her that he’d only met the man the night before. It bothered Morghan that the hobbit had been so trusting with a stranger, but then she shrugged. Hadn’t he freely told her what she wanted to know and barely asked why she was curious about the man?

Sighing to herself, she leaned back against the wall and watched the hobbits who Teddy had rejoined. They acted as if their only concern was the merriment at hand. She envied them a bit and felt a smile tug at the corners of her mouth and gave in to it as she pushed aside her current concerns for a moment and let herself enjoy the sound of music as one of the hobbits started to play a merry tune on a fiddle.

*
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Postby Arassuil » Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:35 pm

Malassuil and Anna silently made their way south by tracks through the wood. It had been some time since Malassuil had been to Bree, but some things remain in memory forever, and the routes were unchanged. They broke from the thick woods and worked their way up the north slopes of Bree Hill, where the hard rock made vegetation struggle to grow. Here a large old oak, there a low hedge and areas covered in grass. Settlements on the outskirts of Combe stretched north and west over the rocky land toward the ravine they had come up. As they reached the rocky edge of the hill's western edge, the afternoon was warm and had the waning summer in it, and they stopped to rest and eat.

"The days are growing short with the autumn season, and we will likely arrive in Bree proper ere nightfall. It was good we took this way, for we will soon come to the crest road where no gate will stand before us. I myself don't like questioning gatesmen, but it is a necessary thing, especially in these darkening days."

Anna replied,

"It will be good to rest. A stretch and relief would be quite welcome."

Dismounting Cloud, the horse worked the dry grass for what she could, and Malassuil dug out some dried fruit and meat from a leather wrap. Anna took some without hesitation, and worked at eating it. Malassuil looked down to the lowlands and saw that the hedge came out from the hill nearly due west. They were farther than he thought. Maybe a way could still be found between houses and take some time off their journey? He would see, for he wished not to draw suspicion to them. So far the few who they had come across showed little interest, though Breefolk, men, and hobbits especially, seem to let nothing go unnoticed. Of course noticing something was only the first part; telling somebody who wished to listen was the payoff. He threw the last of his food into his mouth and chewed as he turned to Anna who had wandered toward a bush. Without turning she said,

"I'll be but a minute, then we can be on our way."

Malassuil watched her as she slid from sight. Cloud wandered up next to him and gave him a slight push with her side and Anna's satchel fell. Malassuil picked it up and saw a drawing. It was a sketch of a man asleep by a fire. it was quickly drawn, but he could make it out as himself last night before his food was served. How could she know such detail? She was indeed gifted. Unthinking, he leafed a couple more briefly looking at them. One was the man at the crate from last night, a couple he didn't recognize, and some toward the back that were old. A flowing Elven script, faded and stained, with edges crumbled and small tears in them. He only caught a glimpse of the header when he heard a rustle from the bush. He quickly closed the satchel and worked at securing it better to his own. He did his ranger best to keep what he saw to himself, but sometimes its harder to keep in check that which a blind person can sense. Anna could tell something had come to Malassuil's attention. She had heard him working to secure something to Cloud, and she thought she had detected the sound of the flap of her satchel close. She pushed back the momentary rush of anger that her secrets had been violated by someone she only met, but still she could sense his intentions. She smiled slightly and put her hand on her satchel and said,

"Maybe you could read them to me? I tried to feel the inscription, but they are old and it was very difficult, and I did not wish to damage them in any way."

Malassuil was silent for a moment, then said,

"My apologies for my curiosity. I would not have handled them if they had not come free of Cloud."

Anna replied,

"I know, for I heard it fall. I wondered if you would look, and now my curiosity arises as to what you saw."

Her fingers brushed along the satchel and the rope that secured it. Malassuil spoke,

"Yes, I saw several old parchments, but I read nothing on them. I had lingered at a sketch you made of me last night, and only saw them briefly. I can tell you they are quite old in the years of men, for the symbol and header was of the Kingdom of Arnor."

Curiosity filled him at the thought of what they may be, and Anna's hand toyed with undoing the rope and pulling them out, but hesitated with a strong westerly breeze.
She said,

"It will rain. We should go."

'Wise woman Anna' he thought. The sun, wind and growing humidity would make short work of the old parchment. It was best seen at night by a candle. And the sooner they got to Bree the sooner they could look at them. Malassuil gazed the horizon, and realized how much the sun had westered. High on the hill the sun was still bright and the air warm. But the shadow of the distant hedge in the valley below had grown long and the chill of the coming night could be felt in the west wind. Sign of towering clouds could be seen far off, and Cloud came ready to once again bear them. They mounted and were again on their way south.

Malassuil did find a cutoff not far past where the first houses of men near the crest of the hill appeared. They could continue southward to where the track they were on widened to become a small road, but it looped its way around and came back north below them. This cutoff led straight down steeply to the road. It passed down near a hobbit hole, and the hobbit who lived there seemed to expect people who wished to save time by that route. A sign and a wood gate stood by a steep cut in the ridge announcing that it would be three coppers to pass in the hours after noon. But the wily old hobbit would not open his gate for less than four. A wise profiteer this one, for the way would save near an hour at a horse walk, and half that at a run. Malassuil sighed and tossed him a silver coin, which was likely three times what he asked for. With that, some barter over the coin's worth, and a promise from the hobbit that he would let the next person who wished to pass but had no money to pay. Smiling at the deal he made, the hobbit opened the gate so they could pass through. A slight laugh came from him as they neared the road below. The gate shut, and he yelled out,

"Sir, we are now even and the promise paid, for the woman paid me nothing."

Malassuil figured as much and ignored his words, except to think that what once was a free shortcut was now a tollway. Changes were afoot, and somehow something dark seemed to dwell even here in this very little thing.

As they made their way down the road, the chill wind pushed the warmth of the day away with the lengthening shadows and approaching clouds. Soon the sun faded behind them, casting a darkening gloom upon the town. About the time they came to the junction with the road that led to the north gate, the twilight had swept in and lamps could be seen lighting in windows and porches. Bree proper was closed for th emost part, and the increasing gale made signs squeak and loose planks crack. Finally the sign of the Prancing Pony could be seen as it had an oil lamp swinging in the wind by a hook just next to it. A welcome sight it was, for they beat the rain. The first drops could be felt as they dismounted Cloud.

The door of the inn suddenly pushed open and for a moment the merry sounds inside spilled out into the street behind a greasy looking fellow who made his exit. A young hobbit came out from the stables and with a nod and a coin flipped to him, went to tend to Cloud. Malassuil pulled their belongings off and packed them over his shoulder. Nearing the door of the old inn, one could tell that the evening festivities were in full swing. It will be nice to stay here after that dreary roadhouse up north, which he remembered seemed a blessing at the time he come upon it. He watched Anna take the step up without hesitation, and he could see she was familiar with the place. She had been silent since their rest, and he wondered what was on her mind.

Entering the door to the common room, the sounds of the bustle of the inn again exploded on them. Anna paused before him and he looked over her and around the room. Malassuil instinctively looked about at the patrons, and noting the innkeeper who gave them a passing nod of acknowledgment. In the course of mere seconds, he saw a couple low tables of merry hobbits who played and sang and carried on in good cheer, a smile on every one of them. A couple tables over, three dwarves sat, where they appeared to be playing some sort of drinking game that had them draining their mugs of ale and slamming them together. A couple other dwarves sat farther back, deep in discussion in their own language. Local men lined the bar, tankards in hand and slurring loud drunk talk with each other. Across the room, a small table was open, back near the stair, and not far from it was another small table with a lone woman sitting, watching them. Malassuil put his hand on Anna's shoulder and said,

"There is a table across the way. Take my arm and I will guide you through the crowd."

Without hesitation she did. It had been some time since she had heard the bustle of an inn, and she was adjusting her senses. They stepped across and came to the table, and Malassuil sat Anna in the backed chair before sitting himself down on a rickety three-legged stool that had seen its best days long ago. The innkeeper approached and said,

"Pardon the crowd this night, but parties and gossip and a fair drink is to be had by all, and word is out that our local brewer may introduce a new ale though he seems pre-occupied with his usual fare."

He looked over at a rather jolly hobbit at the table, and Malassuil said to him,

"We need rooms and some food if any remains, and I will have some tea."

The innkeeper nodded and asked,

"And what about the misses? ... hey, are you not the Ferny girl... the quiet one?"

Anna nodded, somewhat surprised she was recognized so easily. He went on,

"Ah... well I have some things for you then.... some stuff you left, and some stuff left for you by others. I have then stored away, and when it settles down later this night I'll get them for you."

Malassuil hoped the innkeeper remembered what they asked as he scurried off. The hobbit playing the fiddle wound up his tune and a burst of laughter came from the rest. Malassuil turned to see the lone woman watching them, and he noted that and looked about the room once again. 'Out of place.' He thought to himself, looking for the briefest of moments back at her then at Anna. One of the hobbits, the heavier, jolly one, stood up on the table and banged a spoon on a wooden tankard, making a hollow resonance that got the crowd's attention. He said in a loud voice,

"Ladies and gentlemen, hobbits and dwarves. There has been some nasty rumors floating about me of late. One was that I, Teddy Largebarrel, was going to leave for parts east, and another was that I was off back to the Shire to open a new inn. Well, both those rumors are indeed untrue."

The crowd erupted in applause, and he along with Anna clapped their hands. The hobbit went on,

"A third rumor, which has been going about for some days now, has a ring of truth to it. I am indeed announcing a new ale this night..."

Again the crowd erupted, and there were many pint tankards and half-pint flagons banging together before their contents drained. The noise subsided some and he went on,

"It is something that I haven't made since my early days as an apprentice at the Longcleave Tavern, which was well before it burned to the ground."

Moans and grumbles at the loss of a tavern rumbled through the common room.

"Tonight I would like to announce the return of my spiced pumpkin ale! This first keg is on me"

With that, a loud cheer went up as the innkeeper pulled off a dark curtain from a large keg behind the bar. A tap was pounded in and with a rap of the mallet the top vent opened and the barmaids immediately started working to fill buckets and mugs. The din of merriment again filled the room, and comment on the quality of the newest brew were heard all around. Anna took a half-pint of it, but Malassuil politely refused any. he remembered the last time he'd drank ale, and remembered who he had gotten drunk with.

Suddenly, as if a candle was lit inside him, pieces fell together in his mind. He looked at Anna, then at the lone woman who this time wasn't looking their way, and back to Anna's satchel. 'Out of place all' he thought... he whispered to Anna who was enjoying the inn's atmosphere, and she nodded, and Malassuil stood and turned toward the lone woman and with a few steps bowed slightly before her, saying,

"My pardon miss, but I see you sitting here alone or waiting for someone. I would like to extend the courtesy of having you join us for a meal?"

Malassuil wasn't sure what her response would be, or what it would achieve, but if it took the edge off their mutual curiosity, that would be enough.
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The Prancing Pony Inn

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:45 am

*

“My pardon miss, but I see you sitting here alone or waiting for someone. I would like to extend the courtesy of having you join us for a meal?”

Morghan looked up at Malassuil. Who was he? He didn’t look familiar and almost certainly wasn’t a townsfolk of Bree or the surrounding area. She had noted his arrival in the common room but had been more interested in his companion, recognizing the woman almost immediately. There was no mistaking Anna Ferny, her resemblance to Courtney was uncanny and had given Morghan the eerie feeling of seeing a ghost again. She had tried not to stare as they walked across the room and seated themselves at a table not far away but evidently the man had noticed her interest, or had it been Anna? She hesitated longer. The desire to speak with Anna was strong. Should she wait for another chance or throw caution to the wind and join them? She glanced over at Anna. She wasn’t looking in her direction; her head was turned toward the group of small folk. Morghan wished, not for the first time, that Raven was here beside her.

Malassuil noticed her hesitation “I’m afraid I’ve been too bold. My apologies,” he said and then bowed before turning to leave. His cloak which had been pushed back on his shoulder fell forward and two points of a star shaped brooch were reveled. It disappeared from sight as he straightened, but that small glimpse was enough. Fate had sent someone who might be able to help her. “Wait!”

Malassuil stopped in mid-turn and turned back, one eyebrow slightly raised. What had made her change her mind?

“I...I will gladly join you.” She started to rise but then remembered the pack stashed under the table and bent to retrieve it. When she came to her feet, she gathered her cloak and then led the way over to the table where Anna was sitting. Pulling a chair from another table he placed it next to Anna.

“Greetings Mistress Ferny,” she said quietly.

The voice sounded familiar and Anna turned her head, searching her memory until the picture of a barefoot woman with a basket dangling from her arm came to mind. “Greetings,” she nodded slightly and smiled. “My sister used to visit your hut in the forest. It has been a long time since last I saw you. Your name is Morghan if I remember correctly.”

“Yes it is. Morghan Lachlan.” She glanced sideways at Malassuil to see if the name meant anything to him. Could he have known her father? His expression didn’t change. “And yes, Courtney came to buy herbs and tonics from me as did others who knew of me.”

“Morghan is known for her knowledge of the roots and berries and such that grow in the forest and the Midgewater. She lives in a small hut in the Chetwood,” Anna told Malassuil.

“And my name is Malassuil, from the North Downs,” Malassuil said in a friendly tone. “I met Mistress Anna at an old roadhouse north of here. When it was discovered we were both heading in the same direction, she kindly accepted my offer of a ride.”

Just then the landlord, young Barliman Butterbur, holding a laden tray filled with tankards from the newly broached keg approached their table. A thin film of sweat gleamed on his shiny round face as he set the tray down. “Compliments of the brewmaster,” he said pausing to take a sip from a half-empty flagon on the tray. “A very fine brew I must say” he added as he placed tankards all around. “Your food will be here soon. Sausages and potatoes is all we have left. Shall I send for a plate for m’lady?” he asked indicating Morghan.

Malassuil nodded. He pushed aside the tankard Butterbur set in front of him and leaned his elbows on the wooden plank tabletop as the innkeeper picked up the tray and continued making his rounds. Lifting her tankard, Morghan took a sip of the ale, stealing another glance at Malassuil. From the North Downs…that’s why she didn’t recognize him.

“This is very good,” she commented setting the tankard down. It was not too heavy, laced with just the right amount of spices and pumpkin and brought the sense of the season to her. Malassuil didn’t drink his, sipping instead from the tea Butterbur had placed next to his tankard. Anna was looking around the common room.

“I often used to come here to sketch. There was always such a wide variety of people…dwarves stopping in when they came this way with sell their metal goods, the small folk of Bree, they have such lively faces… Did you visit the market square today?” Anna asked.

“No, I arrived too late. I plan on stopping there tomorrow before I leave.”

“Back to the Chetwood… Perhaps I will stop at the market myself,” Anna said half to herself. “Before I continue on.”

“Where will you go then?” Morghan asked curiously.

“To the Forsaken Inn.” Anna replied.

Surprised, Morghan blurted out, “The Forsaken! I have just come from there,”

“Have you? I thought it deserted still. News is slow in reaching Archet where I live now with my uncle. Has Jarod, the owner returned?”

“No. A woman by the name of Raven Tinuviel runs the place now.”

“Oh…” She sounded wistful. “I have not been there…in a long time.” Anna paused for a moment. “Not since…” A loud thump and the clatter of a chair hitting the floor sounded above the steady din followed by a sudden burst of laughter from the other side of the room. Anna looked around. “What happened?”

Malassuil answered. “One of the small folk, the brewmaster I believe, missed his chair.” He smiled and proceeded to describe the antics he was witnessing.

‘She cannot see!’ Morghan sat back in the chair, silent and thoughtful. What had happened to her?

A few minutes later, Barliman reappeared with a tray holding platters filled with boiled potatoes and fried sausages, a loaf of brown bread and three blackberry tarts. She half listened to the steady stream of idle chatter as he served them.

“A good fellow that Largebarrel, though to my mind he samples his own brew too much sometimes. But his presence here has filled my coffer so who am I to complain.” He smiled broadly and then turned to Malassuil. “We’ve had an uncommon amount of travelers today; the group of dwarves heading west and families come for market day. Normally the families don’t stay, but because there has been talk of late, rumors and such, some fear to venture out after dark. I’m afraid all the rooms and beds have been taken sir. There might be a spot or two near the hearth at the end of the night…” He looked around the room. Many of the patrons who had stayed to sample the free ale looked as if they might be staying well into the night. “But I have a feeling this may last for some time yet,” he added indicting the crowded, boisterous room.

Malassuil frowned. It didn’t matter where he slept; he wanted a room more for privacy than anything. “What rumors?”

“Ach, it’s nothing really, nothing more than a few people seeing odd things. It’s the news we receive from other travelers that have people thinking the same will happen here.”

“And what news is that?” Malassuil asked.

“Mainly from northeast, the usual stuff about roving bands of scallywags making travel difficult for honest folk, though after what happened last spring to the kinfolk of a family from Combe…” Barliman leaned closer, lowering his voice. “A farm they had, down in the Angle, rather remote…too remote is you ask me. It was burnt to the ground with nary a sign of the family found. Not the only one either. A few other farmsteads in the area were found in the same condition. Some said there were orcish signs left. Mind you I don’t put much stock in those rumors, but it has some people seeing orcs behind every tree and bush at night.”

Morghan paled visibly as she listened to the news. Sharp needles pierced her mind and she gripped the tankard more firmly to stop her fingers from trembling. She took a drink hoping it would steady her.

“What of the parlor next to this room?” Anna spoke up suddenly. “We might sleep on the floor there.” From the many times that she had been to the Inn before, Anna knew that sometimes the parlor was used when extra room was need, whether it be for a more private meal or as extra sleeping space. There was a hearth there and plenty of room on the floor or in one of the chairs there to sleep.

“That you might!” Butterbur exclaimed, happy he might gain a few coppers for the use of the room. “I will have a fire lain there in a thrice and you may retire there as soon as you wish.” He started to leave and then turned back. “Oh and I have not forgotten about what I said earlier, I just haven’t had time to find them yet. I will look for them now and have them brought to the parlor.” And then he went off muttering to himself, “Now where did I put those parchments?”

“Have you a room for the night or will you be leaving the inn?” Malassuil noted Morghan’s wan face and the lines forming around her eyes.

“No…I haven’t,” Morghan answered, setting the tankard down. The pain had subsided a bit, only a dull throb remained. Her hands had stopped shaking but she was still pale. “I’ll find a spot near the hearth and hope the merry making doesn’t last too long,” she answered with a tired shrug.

“Let me offer you a place by the hearth in the parlor instead. There should be plenty of room.” Her paleness and trembling hands had not gone unmarked.

“Say you will,” Anna interrupted. “I would like to hear more of this…Raven Tint…Tinuviel who has taken over the Inn.”

“Thank you,” Morghan murmured gratefully. “I’d like that.” So many things were happening…Raven’s disappearance…the meeting with Teddy Largebarrel….finding Anna….

The rest of the meal was spent mostly in silence with an occasional comment by one or the other about the continued bursts of merriment from the group of hobbits. There were more songs played by the fiddler and once, many in the room joined in the well-known refrain of a song being sung by the group. Morghan felt herself relaxing, whether from the atmosphere or the second tankard of ale she drank with the meal she didn’t know.

The music coming from the corner where the small folk were gathered was mellowing as darkness gathered around outside and the noise in the common room slowed down to a dim but steady buzz. The keg was running low as everyone had their fill of the heady ale. Thomas Claybottom and his betrothed Iris had slipped away unnoticed sometime during the last hour as had a few of the other hobbits. But many of the men remained, as did the table of dwarves. They had quit playing their drinking game and instead were examining the workmanship of an ax lying atop the table.

Barliman had finished clearing away the empty platters and as the fiddler started playing a mellow tune, Morghan looked over at Anna. “What happened to your sight?” she asked quietly after a few moments, not wishing to pry.

Anna shrugged and then told her about the illness during the past winter adding, almost as an afterthought. “I asked after you, thinking perhaps you might have some potion or know of some herbs that might be of aid, but was told your hut was looked up tight and you were not to be found.”

“I’m sorry Anna.” The dull throb flared for a moment and Morghan put a hand up to rub at the spot near her temple. “I…was away…with Mrs. Pritchard from Combe.” Where that memory had come from, Morghan didn’t know, but somehow she knew it was the truth. Suddenly the heat and closeness of the room grew uncomfortably warm and the cracking sound coming from the fireplace disturbed her for some reason.

“It is no matter,” Anna shrugged again. She had grown used to her lack of sight. “My sight has not left me completely. I can see light and shadows. Perhaps one day more of it will return. As long as I can still sketch, I am content.”

“You still draw? But…how?”

“My hand draws what my mind sees, or so I have been told by those who have seen what I draw these days. I don’t question the hows or whys, I just accept.”

“I have seen sketches made in the past. They are wonderful.”

It was Anna’s turn to be surprised. Rarely had she given any of her sketches away. She leaned toward Morghan. “When?”

“They were in one of the rooms at the Forsaken.” This was the opening that Morghan had been hoping for. She hesitated before continuing. She didn’t know if she should mention all that had passed at the Inn, so she left out a lot and told her briefly. “I found them in the room where I slept. You had signed a few so I knew they were yours and the next morning I showed them to Raven, the landlord. She told me she had found them while cleaning… She was curious about you and wanted to meet you.”

“And we shall meet…tomorrow. I was on my way there,” Anna replied thoughtfully. What drawings had been found? When she had left the Forsaken, grief over the death of her sister still had a stranglehold on her mind. She had always intended to return to retrieve the things she had forgotten, bits of clothing and her sketches. But then Jarod left and she could not bring herself to visit the inn when it was deserted…too many memories….too much bitterness since.

And then Halasían had reappeared, bringing with him more parchments as he’d done at times in the past…

“She’s gone now,” Morghan said quietly. She looked at Anna then at Malassuil. She’d thought he wasn’t really listening but she saw him looking at her intently. “We were coming to find you” she began “when she disappeared on the way here. I…think someone took her against her will.” Haltingly, she told them both what had happened.

*
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:20 pm

At the Forsaken Inn...

Kulhar arrived at the inn just as the light waned. It looked dark and deserted, but it did not look as it did when he was last by. Halting the wagon in front, he jumped down and went to the door.

"Hello? Is there a Raven Tinuviel here?"

Silence met his call so he went in. Finding a tinder and flint, he struck alight a candle on the bar. A small parchment lay there with a fine, fluid script. Kulhar did not understand it all, but recognized that it was indeed written by Raven. Something about getting supply. Isn't that what he was delivering? Oh well, she was not there, and he was tired. Checking the inn to make sure nobody was there, he was satisfied that there was nobody. The warmth of the hearth did speak of someone being there recently though, and that woman on the road said that she had been by the inn and that Raven was here. Where would she go for supply? Bree of course. There was something he could not quite finger about that meeting on the road. The way the woman s horse was first packed. That strange disturbance with the birds in the trees and all. A certain scent... Raven was most likely there...

"You are thinking too much Kulhar, and you were rightly duped by your own thick head as much as by that woman. You went righ on by Raven."

He said aloud to himself. Relax, and rest here for now. Besides, it was pretty much dark and it looked like it would rain soon, so he decided to unload the wagon. The kegs would go behind the bar, for he was not going to put them in storage. The sooner he did that, the sooner he could relax and ponder his next move.

He was tired and sweaty when he was done rolling the kegs to the porch and in through the door. He then stowed the wagon out back and let the horse forage for the night. The rain began to fall and it felt good. Sure he was wet, but now he would find what he could for food and drink in this inn and give thought to where Raven is. He would take the wagon and horse back to the hobbit in Bree tomorrow.

It was maybe an hour that Kulhar sat by his small fire, dozing off after eating some provision. He had only a mug of the old ale as it tasted bitter and thick, and after the fine fare in Bree, he really did not feel like too much. The rain was falling full on now, and drips fell through the roof here and there. A fat drop of water found its way through and hit him on the forehead, splashing him awake.

"Forget this!"

he said aloud,

"I will go back to Bree tonight. If all goes well I could be back by morning."

He donned a dark overcoat he had in his pack and went out to get the horse and wagon ready to go once more. It was near midnight when he set out west toward Bree. Kulhar had rigged one of the inn's oil lanterns on a pole he he fixed to the wagon. It hung above and slightly behind him so as not to shine in his eyes but it would light the way forward. With the rain falling steady, he set out toward Bree.
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:57 pm

North of the Road, East of Bree

The day passed hot and the sun faded behind dark westering clouds. Carrying the smal elf was not too hard, but dead weight is just that, and it became tiring and unweildy in the close bush. Taking a track again to the south, he searched for the old oak that had been a haven at times past. It was not really that far north of the road, but well east where the wood started to thin into the grassy scrublands and fens west of the marshes.

He stood and looked about in the graying skies, seeking it. For some reason he could not see it. It should be close by. Raven moaned as he set her down in tall grass. She was waking up. She would not be fully conscience for some time, and will only feel it a waking dream for now. He had hoped to be well hidden by then, but it wasn't to be. He would have to carry on, all through the night if he could not find the oak. Still, he hoped he would find it.

It had been a year since he had come that way, and he remembered the strong wind and hard weather than came through not long after he left. Some of the tracks had changed here, and some went off into nowhere, blocked by wind-fallen trees and a years growth of brambles. But as the wind came up from the west, he found the oak.

Its mighty bough was broken and lay into the ground, blocking the opening at its foot to its hollow. It had grown upon a stump of an older oak, that was likely cut sometime in ages past. Its roots spread out and the old stump rotted, leaving a sizable cavern under the great tree. But a man had to squeeze into a gap between two mighty roots, and that way was closed by the broken boughs great trunk. There would be no place to hide and rest there. He would have to make his way east without rest.

Going near the road could be dangerous, especially if Raven woke enough to make some sort of noise. But he really had no choice other than to go back into the Chetwood, or go due north betweeh them and the marshes, or go through the marshes. He would chance it, staying well enough away but close enough to follow. He would make for the old Inn.

It darkened quickly and rain began to fall. He was tired from the load and distance, but he would not stop except to drink and rest. It had to be well into the night when he was sure he heard a horse. Trying to push out the sounds of the falling rain and wind, he could make out the sound of a wagon. It sounded like the one that had passed when he took Raven. He lay down and held Raven tight. She struggled against him slightly, but had no strength. She was awake now and her eyes were big. The sound woke in her the monent she was taken, and she suddenly pushed away from him. He tried to grab her as she snaked her way on her belly, but she could not get far being bound. He was worried she may have caught the drivers interest, but he seemed intent on getting on. He crushed Raven into the wet grass as he peered forth to the road. The glow of a lantern flickered and swayed forth, and it disappeared west down the road.

He could feel the elf struggle against him, and he leaned toward her ear and whispered,

"You, it seems, are worth much to one named Khul. What are you to him Raven?"

Raven stopped her struggle, and concentrated on the whispering voice. She knew it! A whisper it was from days past, but where? She was still groggy and confised from whatever he had dosed her with. She could not see him in the dark wet night, but he was familiar. She did not struggle any longer and he moved his weight from her and pulled her to a sitting position. She could now see his face. Tough and wrinkled beyond its years, her eyes combed all for more clues. He sat back and she leaned closer to him. Why could she not speak? Her mouth opened and closed twice. No words or sound came from her. She again started feeling tired, like long days without rest. It was only the cold rain that kept her awake. Suddenly he stood and wrested her to her feet. She could not stand. Her world turned upside down and she bounced upon his shoulder as she watched his legs and feel and the ground move by. She was soon in troubled dream again.

She did not awaken until she felt the ground. Opening her eyes she blinked. The light was gray and barely enough to see anything with. The scent of woodsmoke was in the air, and other familiar scents. She sat up, and leaves stick to her wet skins. The man was not there, but Raven could only sit there watching from the eave of the small wood. They were near the Forsaken Inn, and she sat where she had words with Ewen just the morning before. The smoke came from the inn, but it was a lingering smoke of a fire spent, not of a fresh kindle. She worked at the binds on her legs with her fingers, but the wet rope would not give. Suddenly she heard a faint step, and turning her head, a man stepped close. She looked up at him and nodded, remembering the whisper and times past. He helped her to her feet, and cut the rope on her feet. She said to him,

"Halasian. So you do live. Word has it you were dead, though no account of it could be found. Other words say you fell into madness and a darkness covered your eyes. What I see is not the man who I met long ago."

"And you are not the elf you were then, though the years do not burden you. Tell me Raven, what are you to Khul?"

"I am his wife, or so he considers me. Yet how that came to be is rather unclear to me. Tell me Halasian, why did you take me?"


Halasian put his hand to his chin, scratching at his unkempt beard. Ater a moment he said,

"For the bounty. He puts a great price on you, and there are many who scour the lands far for you. But somehow you are so close, and eyes looking far sometimes do not see things close. Come, let us go to the inn and dry off."

Raven thought it ironic she had again come to the inn again. She would wait until they got inside before making her move...
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Postby Arassuil » Sun Nov 23, 2008 6:44 am

Malassuil had grown silent as the two women talked, for their words were enlightening. Much had happened here in the years past that he only heard distant rumor of in the north. But in hearing Anna and Morghan talk, and the names spoken woke memories in him. And the words of the innkeeper spoke of darker days coming.

With Morghan's tale of the day on the east road, Malassuil grew uneasy. The inn was near deserted now but for a couple stalwart hoppits, and of course the threless dwarves still drinking and talking. But gone un-noticed until now was a strange looking fellow standing by the bar. He was short, and had the features of the lesser men that lived in Rhuadur, and there was an unfavourable aire about him. He seemed just another patron, but his ear was always cocked toward them. Malassuil watched him as he listened to Morghan, and it seemed every time Raven's name was mentioned, he would cock his head as if to hear more. Morghan was telling about Raven's disappearance and her talking to the waggon driver and of the strange antics of the crows in the trees, when Malassuil leaned in and interrupted. In a whisper he said,

"I think its best that any further talk be done away from the common room. The guy by the far end of the bar is attempting to listen to our talk, and seems to be interested in news of this Raven. Don't look... just stand up and go. Morghan, help Anna. I'll be there shortly."

The two women quietly made their way to the parlour, and Malassuil walked over to the bar and stood next to the man, who sipped his mug. Reading him, Malassuil got a flagon of ale from Barliman as he passed and he held it. The man took another drink, and Malassuil turned to him and smiled, saying,

"Good ale eh?"

"Not bad."


the man answered. Malassuil held the flagon up and took a deep breath, enjoying its intricate aroma, then looked at the man who was now watching him, and said,

"So, you're looking for her too?"

The man paused and after a moment, said,

"I'm just passing through and am enjoying the beer."

Malassuil chuckled,

"Yeah, me too. Then I'll go out and check how she is doing. She's a wily one, and has been known to get out of trouble as easy as she gets into it. But I don't plan on letting that happen. Thats why she isn't in here."

With that Malassuil set down the flagon and walked out the door. As soon as he was outside and around the corner, he paused. The man came out the door and walked right into his trap. Taking him down and locking him fast with a blade to the throat, he asked,

"Tell me what you know and you will be free to leave..."

Malassuil returned to an empty common room. He made his way to the parlour, and tapped on the door quietly. It opened after the bolt was moved, and Morghan peered through a crack. Seeing Malassuil, she let him in and the door closed and was bolted again. Malassuil said in a low voice,

"It seems this Raven has a price on her head. One of the clan chieftains of Rhuadur had married her, and she left him, and he is willing to pay a fair sum to get her back. It's likely a bounty hunter grabbed her by the road. It may be wise for us to head east in the morn. Anna wants to go to the Forsaken Inn, and maybe I could track them. Either way, we would be days behind. But we will sleep on that and decide after we wake."

He sat down and ran his hand over his face, his fingers pushing through his hair. He had not been gone too long... maybe an hour as he drained all knowledge from the man. It looked like the women had started looking at some of the parchments. Malassuil picked up the one he had glimpsed at on the road, and looked now at it closer. The dim candle light wavered, but the script was clear. It was written by King Elendur of Arnor, and read as if he was writing his thoughts. Anna sensed him reading it and asked,

"Will you read it to me as promised?"

Malassuil looked at her in the dull light of the candles and the hearth, and looked back at the scroll and began to read,,,

I write this reluctantly, for the order of Valandil had not been needed since that time. But I have no choice, for I fear for this kingdom. The rayed star will again ride the shadows, and be my eyes and ears. For my grandsons are plotting even as I rule. Yes, they love and respect me, but they do not respect Arnor. They wish to have lands of their own, and toward this means, they plan. My son Earendur will one day soon be King, and he will rule fair. But he has not, by his own shortfall or by the strong wills of his sons, cannot get his house in order. So I call upon ones who have been chosen, to go to the Rhuadur highlands and to Tharbad in the south to watch and listen. They will be as soldiers of Arnor, but they will answer to me. I wish it did not have to be so, but evil times are coming, if not in my day, in the days that come...

He paused and looked at Anna, then at Morghan. After some silence the sound of moving scrolls filled the room. Malassuil looked through several sheets, and would move one to the back as he looked at the next. Finally he said,

"There is much here that has been thought lost. Whe the armies of Angmar sacked Fornost, the great library hall was destroyed by fire. But these seemed to have been stored in a way that they were largely unaffected. Some have had a bit of water damage, but most are in fair to good condition. I think it would be best if we got these, and any others that you may know about, into the hands of Elrond Half-Elven for historical safe-keeping. Hthere they may last the long ages under Elven care, whille generations of men come and go. What say you?"

Malassuil looked briefly at Anna, but concentrated his gaze on Morghan, who seemed somewhat uneasy at the suggestion. Silence again filled the room, but for a slight hissing of a damp log burning on the hearth.

Malassuil thought long about it when Anna spoke,

"It was the Ranger Halasian that brought these to me. Where he found I know not. If they speak of the times deep in the historiy of Arnor, then I suspect they were found in the ruins of Fornost. Maybe they should be taken to Rivendell where all knowledge lasts? But there are some Dunedain who would wish their history did not live with the Elvenkind. Halasian is one who believes so. He has been banished from Rivendell, even though he took his wife and children there to live. I believe they still dwell there. But should these be taken there, it must be known that I did not agree to do so, for I promised Halasian, and he is not one to let go lightly a promise broken."

Malassuil nodded. and whispered more to himself,

"Halasian..."

A bit of fire welled up in him, but it faded quickly as memory of old was pushed away. He nodded, and said,

"Maybe we should leave Bree east toward the Forsaken, and on to Imladris? At least after any business you may have here or nearby is finished."

He was looking at Morghan while he spoke. Either way, and no matter what they would do in the day coming, this night they would rest the best they could.
Last edited by Arassuil on Mon Jan 26, 2009 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Arassuil » Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:22 pm

After arriving at the Forsaken Inn, Halasian seated Raven in a chair and he checked the light elvish rope before he went to the hearth. Embers of orange were easily stirred, and some dry sticks had it flaming again. A few logs atop that and it settled into a nice heating burn. He returned to Raven, her dark wet locks letting drips off down her shoulders, and looked into her eyes. She would try her Elven trickery on him, that which she had done so on him many years before. He drew his knife and let it flash before her, but she seemed un-nerved. He said to her,

"So you left here how long ago? This fire has been burning recent. Tell me who else was here."

Raven didn't speak, but looked somewhat defiant as she spoke,

"Why should I answer your questions Halasian when I have many myself. And what is my incentive when you keep me bound, and will return me to Khul without question?"

Halasian stood straight and started to walk around the chair, saying,

"You Raven, elven wench of the ages, are in no position to bargain. I know Khul, and though he is rough, he still has some honor, at least what passes for it among the hillmen of Rhuadur. His blood has a ribbon of Dunedain in it, and whether it is a blessing or a curse to him I will not say. But if he says you are his legal wife, then whay should I not take him at his word? Especially, Raven, since you can't seem to recall how that came about. You will go back to him, by my hand and no other, or you will not return to him. You must give me reason why I should do otherwise."
"
Will you not, Halasian, free me of my bonds? I promise I will not escape you. For if what you say is true, and I believe it is, then you are my best protection from all others seeking me."

And if I free you..."


Halasian said,

"... you will use your subtle ways to ease me into complacency and will indeed escape my hand. Tell me Raven, what is it you are scheming?"

Raven was silent for a moment, then said,

"I scheme nothing. Somehow I became Khul's wife as a part of a wager. I was playing a game of cards, taking this band of hillmen I met on the road for their gold and silver. We were drinking a homebrewed ale they had, and I believe something was slipped me, for though I was winning, the last thing I remember was a high wager. The next thing I remember I was bondslave wife of Khul's with his underlings always having a go with me while he was away. Halasian, please do not return me to him!"

Halasian let the edge of his knife drag across her shoulder blades as he walked behind her. His fingers brushed her behind the knife, and suddenly he grabbed her dark locks and jerked her head back, The knife came to her throat and pressed in, and a trickle of blood began to run down her neck. Halasian said in a whisper,

"Should I send your spirit to Mandos for its judgement right now? Or should I carry you to Khul where you will live, and outlive him, and me, and other mortal men, and you will move on and stir troubles into the years ahead as you have all the years behind you? Too many tales of my family speak of you and your doings Raven, and though I fell into your webs of deceit once before, I will not do so again! I shall slay you here and now!"

The fine red line on her neck where the knife tracked beaded with blood, and in a few places it began to run down to her collarbone. There, her silks drank it up in their blackness. With a flash of the knife, Halasian squinted, and the blade went from her neck to the ropes, and she was free.

"Do what you will Raven, for you are free to go. Khul still owes me from the last game of Tonk we played. I claim you as payment, and in turn free you. It's not what you deserve, and I almost left you to bleed out here on the floor. But though I know not what it is, you still have a part to play."

Raven turned and looked at Halasian, who had stuck the knife in the nearby table and gone to face the fire. She reached for the kniife, pulled it out and walked silently toward him. As she approached him, she reached around him and embraced him from behind. Pressing herself to his back, she held the knife to his throat and he began to bleed. Halasian seemed un-moved, and only said in a whisper,

"Kill me Raven. You want to do it. But know you will be doing all a favour."

For a moment she thought of doing it, but a tear rolled down her cheek. She could not. The knife fell from her hand, landing on its tip between Halasian's feet and lodging in the wooden floor. Halasian turned and embraced Raven, and no words were spoken.

It seemed surreal to Halasian. Here at this old deserted inn, the same inn that he had been many times before. His wife Forcwyn had been away south in Rohan, and courtney Ferney had kept him company here. Now, silence was all that echoed within its walls, except for the whispers of recent visitors. Raven was not saying all she knew, and Halasian wasn't going to force her to do so. But Halasian could read sign, and it spoke of Raven being here in the morning of the day passed, with some others. Footfall spoke to him that they were Rangers, and what they had in mind to do he knew not. But there was sign newer, of another. Raven knew not of it, but it spoke as plain as the daylight dancing on a leaf covered in morning dew to him. Someone had been there since Raven left, and had left before they had arrived. Surreal... here, holding Raven the elf of years timeless in his arms... with so much he did not know or realize had passed this common room. He knew he was being bewitched by her charm, but right now, he didn't care....

The morning's first light began to turn the eastern sky blue when Halasian awoke. Rain was falling outside making a subtle drone on the roof. Raven was fast asleep, if elves sleep. Maybe it wa sher way of bonding with the Edain. She was unconscience and there was no waking her. What was he to do? Bind her now and take her to Khul? No. He had given his word last night that she was free. But she is dangerous! Yeah, he knew what to do.

Halasian arose, and in short order he made ready the last of the poultice, and gave it to Raven. Binding her and lifting her over his shoulder, he carried her down to the common room. Into the rush of the steady rain, he slipped out the back door of the Forsaken Inn, even as the sound of a horse could be heard approaching. They slipped in through one of the ruined stables, and out the back, disappearing into the blackberry brambles and through the bushland in the dull grey morning shadows. They didn't stop until they reached a near-collapsed log cabin, shrouded in overgrowth. He wished he could see who was coming down the road, and if they would stop at the Forsaken Inn, but he decided what had to be done. It was his turn to deceive Raven with his words...
Last edited by Arassuil on Sat Feb 14, 2009 11:54 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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~Somewhere in the Ettenmoors~

Postby Hunter » Sun Jan 25, 2009 2:20 am

~

The forced march from the small village and scattered farmsteads took most of the night. The Orcs set a grueling, ground covering pace that covered nearly thirty miles. The prisoners were carried part of the time, tossed over shoulders like sacks of grain when they could no longer keep up, not because the Orcs cared for their welfare, but because Bryna commanded them to do so.

By the time they reached the Sir Morva, a river running from Mount Gram southward along the edge of the Ettenmoors, the captives were on their last legs and Bryna called a halt. The Orcs grumbled, for they knew dawn was approaching, but they obeyed Bryna, for she was the daughter of Malebranche and had fought with them at Khazad-dûm.

Khazad-dûm, carved from the mountains during the First Age by Durin’s Folk, was once a great Dwarf Hall. Expanded many times, it was filled with a vast array of tunnels, caverns, halls and mines delved by the dwarves and encompassed the area beneath three mountain peaks. Mithril had been discovered there, deep within the roots of the mountains during the Second Age and during the Third Age, while extending the mithril mines, an ancient demon, a Balrog, was awakened and released. Soon after the dwarves fled and Sauron began keeping Orcs there.

Six years ago Malebranche had entered Moria intending to bring the Balrog under his control and use the fiery spirit in battle against the Elves of Imladris. But Moria had once again been inhabited by dwarves, this time by Balin who had led the Dwarves of Erebor back to Khazad-dûm. Thwarted by this turn of events, Malebranche left. Where he went, no one knows for sure, but when he returned it was in the company of an army of Orcs and trolls. They engaged the dwarf colony in many battles, fighting their way in through the East-gate and deeper into the mountains. Eventually the dwarves were pushed back to the Chamber of Mazarbul, their last line of defense.

Swelled with the thoughts of imminent victory, Malebranche called for the drums to be sounded throughout the halls and in the deepest tunnels, signaling to the dwarves the doom that awaited them. But the drums did more than sound the death knell of the dwarves. Unbeknownst to Malebranche, it woke the Balrog which had lain slumbering deep in to bowels of the mountain. As the fighting intensified, Malebranche, caught up in the heat of the battle ignored the frightened cries from behind until it was too late.

Cloaked in darkness, the Balrog had appeared and in its maleficent fury and fiery rage it did not care where or who it lashed out at with its whip of flames. Malebranche was struck before it focused on the dwarves behind their barrier. The very thing which he had sought was now the instrument of his death and Malebranche fell before the battle was won.

Wazzog, a Stone-troll, walked next to Bryna as she rode at the rear. More intelligent than most trolls, Wazzog spoke Westron and a bit of the orcish black speech, though he rarely spoke to any but Bryna. He had been with Malebranche when he fell and after had stayed with Bryna after delivering to her Malebranche’s sword and war hammer. The former hung at Bryna’s side while the latter hung from a thick leather strap around Wazzog’s waist.

When they reached the slow moving waters of the Sir Morva, Wazzog wadded into the river barely feeling the chill waters as he pulled across the temporary bridge they had hidden in the brush growing along the river banks. The Orcs dread of water had been taken into account and crude floating bridges had been built in preparation of this raid and the others that would follow. Water glistened like oil as it lapped and swirled against the thick, grayish hide of his massive torso in the dim light afforded by the star filled sky as Bryna sat her horse and watched, waiting for the signal that it was safe to cross.

Finally the gravelly voice of Wazzog called out, “Come,” and the Orcs slowly began herding their human captives across in small groups. When the last group was safety across Bryna dismounted and undid the ropes secured to posts driven into the ground and signaled Wazzog to pull the bridge across. Mounted once more, Bryna guided her horse into the river until the water reached well past its belly, and then let the animal have his head, trusting that he would find the safest way across as he had done on the outward trip.

Soon after they crossed the slow moving waters, the first blush of dawn began to color the sky above the ridgeline in pale colors of pinkish gold and the Orcs began to show signs of agitation. Sunrise was approaching and they were still miles from the safety of the warren of caves that was their temporary headquarters. A few cast furtive glances back at Bryna and began snarling at each other in the guttural Black Speech of their kind.

Bryna riding in the rear turned to Horgarth, a stout Hillman who had ridden up next to her. Ever leery of the huge troll who was never far from Bryna’s side, he had positioned his horse so that she rode between them. “I’m going to send the Orcs and Wazzog on ahead. We should be able to handle this lot now,” she waved her hand at the rag-tag bunch, “without much trouble.” Horgarth nodded and gave an assenting grunt.

“Wazzog,” Bryna turned to the troll. “Lead them to camp and let them have whatever wild game Shahla brought in while we were gone.” Wazzog raised the war hammer and brought it down to strike the ground three times. The Orcs broke rank and started out. Their fast pace soon had the canyon walls resounding with the echoing thumps of their pounding feet.

Horgarth was eyeing the prisoners. Clearly they were exhausted from the long forced march. Some looked ready to collapse. “A short rest?”

Eyes on the retreating figures, Bryna shrugged. “For a few moments.” Horgarth called a halt, signaling his men to pull in around the prisoners.

Four of the Hillmen marching along with the Orcs positioned themselves around the prisoners as they sat down, while the rest, mounted on small sturdy horses, spread out around them. Slowly walking his horse in a circle around them Horgarth studied them closely for the first time in the growing light. There were twenty men, five women and seven children. Only two of the men looked too old or weak to be of much use and only one child was small enough that it had to be carried. ‘A good mix,’ he thought, ‘some of the boys are old enough to go with the men.’ As he turned his back on them to ride toward Bryna, a rock hit him in the back with a ‘thunk.’

Wheeling his horse to face the prisoners Horgarth saw one of the young boys standing stiffly, the point of Dram’s spear pressed against his chest. Luth stood back and to one side of him, his spear lowered and ready. An old man next to the lad struggled to his feet and put an arm around the boy’s shoulder. Horgarth let his horse step forward a few paces. The boy looked to be around ten years or so and his chin lifted as he glared back at Horgarth. His hands balled into fists at his side and defiance shone in his eyes. The old man had the same defiant tilt of his chin as the lad.

Horgarth met the boy’s glare and held it before barely nodding to his men. Luth drove the blunt end of his spear sharply into the old man’s lower back and then up to smash down on his shoulder. The old man fell to his knees with a grunt and the boy stifled a cry as he bent to the ground next to him.

“Any trouble will be met with more of the same.” His tone was menacing as he gazed over the rest of the prisoners. Then, without another word, he turned his horse around and went over to Bryna.

Her lips were set in a grim line, the effect heightened on one side by the permanent downward slant of a jagged scar running from the edge of her mouth down to her jawline. The distant troop of Orcs was nearing the deeper shadows along the canyon walls as daylight began to spill over the highest ridge. She shaded her eyes. There was movement further along down the canyon. A lone rider was approaching.

Rising in his stirrups, Horgarth shaded his eyes to see better. “A Southern by the way he rides. They were standing sentry.”

“I’ll ride out to meet him,” Bryna said gathering up her reins. “Bring them along soon,” she said nodding at the encircled prisoners.

Yousef reined in his mount, slowing to a walk as the rider approached. He could tell it was Bryna even before she came close enough to make out her features because of the horse she rode. It was small and compact, with a powerful front end know to denote great hardiness and stamina. It was one of the desert-born breeds from the land of Yousef’s birth; a horse known for it fiery temperament; a trait shared it shared with Bryna. How she had come to own one of those highly prized horses Yousef didn’t know, but she sat it almost as well as any of his countrymen.

Bryna brought the horse to an abrupt stop in front of Yousef, the animal pawing the ground and snorting as steam slowly rose off of its warmed hide in the chill damp air. It was sheer black with not a single shading of reddish or brown hair in its coat. It tossed its head and rolled its eye at Yousef’s mount warning it to stay back.

“Nárello arrived last night,” Yousef said without preamble as Bryna ran a hand along her mounts neck. “I thought you’d like to know before you reached camp.”

She frowned. What was Nárello doing here? Their last meeting in Ost-in-Edhil had ended on less than friendly terms. Had he had a change of heart? “Alone?”

“No, he brought more men.” Yousef was from Umbar and had come north with a small group of Easterners and Southrons led by Nárello earlier in the year. One of Bryna’s eyebrows rose slightly.

“Has there been any sign we were followed?”

“Before I spotted you, Akhtar signaled that all was clear beyond the river.”

“Good.” She turned to look back. The prisoners were stilled seated on the ground with the Hillmen standing guard.

“Ride and tell Horgarth that I’ve gone on and then return to your post until relief is sent.”

*****

The sun had risen over the ridge and sunlight streamed into the hidden valley by the time Bryna rode into the camp. Steep cliffs lined both sides of the entrance before gradually widening into a small gorge carpeted with short, tough grass that still showed green along the base although the season was changing. Ringing the gorge were more cliffs, steep sided and high enough to preclude any attacks from above. The only way in was the way she had ridden and that way was guarded by sentries. A narrow stream nearly dry this late in the season, flowed from the base of one of the cliffs and formed a small pool around which a herd of horses were gathered.

Bryna’s sharp eyes spied the entrance of the cavern where the Orcs who had been sent ahead would be. She couldn’t see him, but she was sure Wazzog waited just within the shadowy recess waiting for her. That cavern was a last defense should it be necessary. A natural tunnel, carved long ago by the forces of nature, led from it to another cavern that opened on the other side of the cliff.

Guiding her horse across the grassland, Bryna saw that the small enclosure that had been started before her departure was nearly finished. It wasn’t very large now, but the walls of dried shrub could be easily expanded as the need arose. She let a grim smile creep one edge of her crooked mouth up. Her plan was beginning to bear fruit.

A short distance from the entrance of the cave a fire was burning in a ring of rocks. Nárello squatted in the dirt beside it adding more sticks. He knew the rider approaching was Bryna. As she drew nearer he stood, waiting until she dismounted.

Angular and bony, the dark leather breeches and long, heavy leather vest she wore accentuated lean, muscular lines. Hair nearly as dark as his hung down to her shoulders alongside her face but the rest was pulled back and tied with a leather thong at the back of her neck. When he had first met her, he had nearly mistaken her for a man. He had quickly been set straight. That had been five years ago.

“Greetings Bryna,” he said, extending his arm. Bryna stood for a minute, looking at his outstretched hand and than up into his face. His eyes were dark and reminded her in way of her father’s. She reached out to clasp his foreman, feeling the strength of his fingers as they clasped her forearm in return. It was the manner in which Bloodcrows greeted another they considered their equal.

“Well met,” she responded before breaking contact. She circled the fire picking out a spot where she would have a clear vantage point to watch for Horgarth and the prisoners and sat down, crossing leather clad legs beneath her. A pot was hanging from a metal hook above the fire, the aroma of the Southron brew called khaffi wafting from it. She reached for the pot and poured thick black liquid into a metal cup. Nárello squatted on the ground next to her and she poured a cup for him before taking a drink of her own. The bitter brew tasted sharp on her tongue.

“What brings you here?” she finally asked.

“I brought more men from the south.”

“So I was told by one of the sentry’s before I came in.” She took another drink. “I thought you didn’t approve of my plan.”

“I don’t. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t aid you. The men I brought came in search of Malebranche. They didn’t know he was dead.” Nárello paused to take a drink all the time watching Bryna’s face. Her eyes had filled with pain at the mention of her father. She lowered her head.

“Why do they seek him?”

“I’ll let Efrem tell you. He is the one who led them north.”

“I’ll speak with them after I rest. It was a long night, but a successful one.”

One eyebrow raised a fraction. “How so?”

“You will see soon enough.” Bryna drank the remaining khaffi and set it down. Then she rose. “Tell this Efrem I’ll meet with him in an hour,” she said and turned, starting to walk away. Nárello reached out and caught hold of her wrist. Dark eyes glared down at him. They sparked dangerously as her fingers closed into a tight fist.

Tightening his grip, he stared back at her and then slowly loosened his grip enough to slide one finger up under the coarse fabric of her shirt. There the skin was softer and his touch was light, almost caressing.

Hissing she jerked free from his grip. “I cannot be brought round so easily.”

Nárello’s eyes smoldered with barely concealed desire as he watched her walk away.


~
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Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:57 pm

*

"Maybe we should leave Bree east toward the Forsaken, and on to Imladris? At least after any business you may have here or nearby is finished."

He was looking at Morghan while he spoke. Either way and no matter, what they would do in the day coming, this night they would rest the best they could.

“I have no other business here, for as I said before it was Raven’s wish to seek Anna out, not mine. What questions she had about the parchments… I can only guess at…” She bit her bottom lip in hesitation.

“Raven is of the Eldar race…” she began clumsily as if that simple statement would explain a lot. “And I think she saw… something… in your writings and drawings… She called it a gift… The gift of foresight. I think she might have wanted to talk to you about it,” she ended in a low voice. There, she had avoided answering the last part of his question. Why go toward Imladris? Because of the scroll? Ewen had thought the scroll Raven had found belonged with the Rangers not with the Elves.

Anna sat back, a thoughtful look on her face. “A gift?” She murmured quietly. “Or a curse… It is something I have wondered at oft times myself.” She sighed. “It has ever been so, even as a child. Sometimes it will come in the form of a picture in my mind. That’s why I started to sketch…it helped me to see them clearer though I don’t always understand what I see and don’t know for certain if it is past events or future ones they portray…. I wish now to meet this Raven also.” Her words drifted off into a few moments of silence where nothing was heard but the crackling of the fire. Then softly she added, “I feel I might have seen her before… and may do so again…”

“Then there is hope she will be found,” Morghan replied. She wanted to believe Anna did posses some type of foretelling.

Malassuil had turned his attention back to the drawings for a moment before beginning to roll them up. “It has been a long day and the hour grows late. We should get an earlier start tomorrow.” First things first he guessed since Morghan had said nothing about Imladris and seemed hesitant to do so. Time enough to decide, he thought to himself, after we reach the Inn.

“I don’t mind sleeping on the floor if you want the chair by the fire.” Morghan said to Anna as she rose from the table.

“Agreed.”

Morghan led Anna to the chair and helped the woman arrange her cloak to use as a covering. Then she arranged her own pack on the floor and lay down, pulling her worn cloak up around her shoulders. Malassuil finished rolling up the sheaves of parchments and then walked over to the window. He dug in his pocket for a pipe.

The fire in the fireplace burned down low while Malassuil stared out the window and the room grew quiet with only an occasional muffled sound coming from the direction of the common room on the other side of the wall. Soon those too ceased.

Morghan lay with her eyes closed. She was tired and her body ached from the long day but she couldn’t sleep. There were too many unanswered questions running through her mind.

What had happened to Raven? Malassuil had said there was a price on her head and figured that to be the cause of her disappearance. Was he right? What other answer could there be?

Sighing Morghan rolled over on her back and opened her eyes. She stared up at the ceiling. The dying flames cast faint flickering light dancing across the smoke stained panels of wood. She tried to count the rows of wooden slant to take her mind off of the questions but too soon lost track of them in the shadows. She lifted her head and glanced over at Anna. Her face was half in the shadows but by the slow even sound of her breathing Morghan knew that she had fallen asleep. She looked across the room and saw that Malassuil was still standing by the window. He looked over as she slowly sat up.

“Malassuil, how did you find out about Raven?”

“I had a chat with the man who was so interested in our conversation earlier.”

“Oh. Was the information given freely? He didn’t seem the sort.”

“He wasn’t. I had to persuade him.”

“I thought as much,” Morghan knew enough about Rangers to know what type of persuasion was more than likely used. “What about this man Raven’s supposed to be married to…a Hillman you said? What’s his name?”

“Aye. A clan chieftain no less. He is called Khul. Why?”

“I just figured I should know the man we’ll be looking for.”

“We?”

“If you mean to track Raven, I’m going with,” she said quietly as she rearranged her cloak around her shoulders and lay back down.

Malassuil took a long draw from his pipe and then let the smoke curl slowly out of the corner of his mouth. He was still turned toward the window and Morghan couldn’t see his face in the dim light to read what he might be thinking as she waited for some kind of response. Finally, after taking another draw, Malassuil took the pipe from his mouth. “Get some sleep,” he told her quietly.


*****

Dawn came early and Morghan lay for a moment in a half-dazed sleepy state until remembering where she was. She sat up and looked around. Anna was still seated in the chair by the fire but her cloak was around her shoulders instead of covering her. She looked as if she had been awake for awhile. Bright flames were licking hungrily along the sides of the fresh stack of logs in the grate. Rubbing her eyes, she murmured a quiet ‘Morning,’ to Anna as she stretched and looked around.

“Where’s Malassuil?”

“He left to see about the horses. Said to let you sleep until he came back. He figured you didn’t get a good night’s rest…said you tossed around and were muttering.”

“I did?”

“If you did, I didn’t hear you,” Anna replied with a shrug.

Perplexed, Morghan thought for a moment. She didn’t remember dreaming nor having a hard time sleeping once she had finally fallen to sleep. Shaking her head, she stood up and went to splash some water on her face from the basin someone had left on the table. She had just finished running her fingers through her tangled hair when Malassuil opened the door. He looked at them both.

“Good, you’re ready. Butterbur has laid us a bite to eat and then we’ll be off.”

The low morning sun gleamed brightly as it slowly climbed in the pale morning sky. There were few clouds and the sun gained in strength as the morning wore on feeling warm against their faces and the air was crisp and clean smelling after the scattered showers that had fallen during the night. Anna was riding behind Morghan with Malassuil riding abreast of them. He set a pace that was brisk until they reached the fringes of the Chetwood and then slowed the pace.

As they neared the place where she and Raven had stopped to rest the day before, Morghan pointed it out and Malassuil called a halt. He wanted to have a look at the area. Leaving the horses tied to a bush and Anna settled not far from them, Morghan retraced her steps into the brush with Malassuil.

Every now and then Malassuil paused, sometimes bending to the ground and brushing aside leaves and sticks and other times just standing still and looking around with a practiced gaze. When they came to the spot where Morghan had found footprints, Malassuil told her to stay back as he went forward a few steps. Then he asked Morghan to show him again the small dart she’d found.

Such a small, insignificant thing it seemed laying in the palm of Malassuil’s hand, but it had served its purpose well. Telling Morghan to stand over by the brushes, Malassuil left with the quill.

She listened to the sounds of movement through the brush until it faded in the distance. She guessed what the Ranger was doing and though she knew no harm would come to her, still she couldn’t help but feel a bit of fear, something akin to what a hunted animal might feel. Then silence filled the area.

There was a slight tingling on her neck mere seconds before a sharp prick was felt on the back on her shoulder. She whirled around to face Malassuil has he stepped forward. “What?!”

“Don’t worry; I used one of my own.”

“Why didn’t you warn me?” There was a touch of anger in her voice as she glared at Malassuil.

“You knew what I was doing,” he stated calmly stooping to pick up the small quill that had fallen to the ground. “See,” he said showing Morghan the small object in the palm of his hand. It looked nearly the same as the one she had found until he removed from his pocket another one and placed it next to the one in his hand. Then she saw there was a subtle difference. The feathers of the quill that had pricked her shoulder were faintly lighter in color, less black, more of a brownish hue.

“Whoever it was had to have been quite close before it was thrown,” he continued, carefully wrapping both quills in a small piece of cloth before stuffing them back in his pocket. “You heard nothing?” he asked already knowing the answer before she shook her head no. “That would not have been easy. Great stealth is needed to catch one of the Eldar race unaware.”

Slowly understanding dawned on her and she was about to say something when Malassuil suddenly raised his hand. “Hush!” Morghan stopped to listen. There it was, faintly in the distance, a familiar sound. A feeling of déjà vu washed over her. A wagon was approaching on the road.

“Come on!” Malassuil said as he quickly turned to leave.

Out on the road Anna also heard the wagon as she sat on the ground sketching on a worn piece of parchment. It was a small sketch, draw quickly as she tried to capture a feeling she couldn’t quite shake. Pictures of smoke and fire kept coming unbidden in her mind and she had a feeling it had sometime to do with Morghan. From behind her came the sound of Malassuil and Morghan returning through the brush and trees. She started to put away her drawings as Morghan stepped out by her side.

“Someone approaches,” Morghan said in a low voice as she gave a quick glance down the road. It looked like the same wagon and driver as yesterday. “Malassuil wants to see who it is before he comes out, so just play along with whatever I say.” Anna nodded as she continued to rill up the piece of parchment. When she was finished Morghan took the pack from her and tied it on the back of Malassuil’s horse. “Just pretend this is your horse,” she whispered as she placed took Anna's hand and helped her find the pommel. “I’m going to help you mount.”

Nervously Anna fumbled for a firm handhold whileMorghan guided her foot into the stirrup. She had not set a horse alone since she lost her sight.

“Good day again,” Morghan called out as Kulhar approached. She thought she detected a look of surprise at seeing her again and noticed that he was looking keenly at Anna.

“And a good day to you also,” Kulhar pulled back on the reins and the wagon slowly rolled to a halt a few yards from them. “I see you are early on the road again.”

“Yes, a shorter stay than I expected,” Morghan said with a short wry laugh as she turned to mount her own horse, the reins of Malassuil’s horse held loosely in her hand. “But my cousin here was anxious to be home again.”

“And so would you dear cousin if you had to contend with our dear uncle.” Anna piped up in a convincing voice.

Kulhar frowned as he looked back and forth at them. Then Morghan saw his gaze settle on the trees behind her. “I see you have delivered your goods. Did you have a pleasant stay at the Inn?” Kulhar turned his eyes back on her and frowned.

“No one was there so I left the barrel in the shed out back,” Kulhar grumbled. He gave Morghan a long look. “I thought you said the Inn was occupied?”

“And so it was when I stopped there.” She shrugged as she pressed her heel gently against her mounts flank. Her horse moved slowly forward. “I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to meet the new proprietor. She seemed most courteous when I stopped there.”

“So you say!” Kulhar mumbled as he picked up the reins again and slapped them against the rumps of Teddy’s mules. The wagon started forward with a jerk.

Quickly Morghan faced forward so that he wouldn’t see the grin creeping across her face. She waited until Anna was riding close beside her before saying in a low voice. “That was a nice touch.”

“Did he buy it?” Anna whispered back. She felt more at ease now that she could feel the closeness of their mounts.

“I think so.”

“Shouldn’t we wait for Malassuil?”

“He’ll catch up as soon as the wagon is out of sight.”

“Was he a Hillman?”

“I don’t know,” Morghan frowned. “I’ve seen so few. EWe'll have to wait for Malassuil and see what he thinks."

They rode for a short distance down the road before Morghan chanced a glance back over her shoulder. The wagon was nearly out of sight. She pulled up to wait and it wasn’t long before Malassuil stepped out onto the road.

“Well?” Morghan asked as he took the reins from her.

“He was a Hillman alright.” Malassuil answered, then turned to Anna as she made a move to get down. “Just move forward a bit Anna, I’ll ride behind you.” That said, he swung up easily behind her and then nudged his horse.

Morghan didn’t have a chance to ask anymore questions for Malassuil set a faster pace than before. He seemed as impatient as she was to reach the Inn.

*
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Postby Claymore » Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:34 am

Not far from the Wheatertop
Ewen and Eradan buried the unfortunate man in silence and immediately set out early the next morning. They had no plan whatsoever. They were only two Rangers against what seemed to be a whole companion of orcs and there was very little they could do with such bad odds. But they couldn't go without even trying. They wouldn't be worthy of the name of Rangers if they did.

The orcs had taken great pains in hiding their traces and the going was slow. They didn't miss though that the company was joined with another about a day later. And they didn't miss either that they too had prisoners.
-Orcs almost never take prisoners. They usually kill them on the spot or take them away to torture them later. Why did they change that?
Ewen shook his head.
-I don't know Eradan but I don't think it means anything good.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ettenmoors
-Are you sure you are okay Baranor?
Baranor grimaced but nodded. Elenien gave him 'the look'.
-You know you look just like Mairen when you do that.
-She is my cousin after-all. And I've seen how well it works.
Baranor sighed in defeat.
'I could use some rest,'he admitted at last.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Still in the Ettenmoors
They had been following the trail for a couple of days now and had been steadily going deeper into the Ettenmoors. The prisoners where still with them which gave the Rangers a bit of hope. If they hadn't killed them yet it was highly unlikely they would now. They had also noticed to their dismay that the company had become even larger.
'There isn't much we can do, can we ?'Eradan abruptly asked during one of their few breaks.
-Not on our own, no. But I was hoping we could find Baranor's company.
-If they are still here.
Ewen nodded.
-Aye if they are still there. If not, I will ask you to go to Rivendell for help as soon as we find them.
It was Eradan's turn to nod.
-Now let's go.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It was a muffled snort, that warned Elenien of another presence in the forest. She motioned Baranor to stop and listened more attentively. There it was again, the muffled clip-clopping of hooves on the forest floor. Two horses as far as she could hear and the faint, very faint sound of booted feet. She frowned, very few except the Rangers were able to move like that. She cast a glance at Baranor, who nodded. He too thought it was worth the risk. She cupped her hands around her mouth and produced a peculiar call. To anyone but the Rangers it would only sound like another animal-call. To a Ranger it meant that there was another Ranger seeking the permission to approach. The sound of hooves stopped followed soon after by the same call she had just given. Elenien smiled. Friends at last. She pushed the last branch out of her way and her smile became even larger when she saw who the other Rangers were.
-Little Cousin!
-Elly!
Next thing everyone knew Elenien was hugging her not so little cousin. The greeting between Baranor and Ewen was a more sedate one.
-Elly! What on Middle-Earth are you doing here? I thought you were scouting up the Hoarwell?
Elenien gave him a playful punch in the arm.
-I could ask the same thing to you. Last time I heard of you, you were following someone along the Baranduin.
'Where are the others,'Ewen suddenly cut in. Baranor and Elenien fell silent.
-Where is the rest of your Company. What happened?
-They died.
Eradan was the first to speak up.
-How?
-An ambush. We were heavily outnumbered and I was the only one to survive, mainly thanks to Elenien.
Eradan looked at Elenien as if asking her to deny it. She sadly shook her head.
-I saw it.
Eradan closed his eyes, forcing the tears back that were threating to fall. An entire Company, gone. Many of them had been Ranger he had known. Rangers they couldn't afford to lose with the growing shadow.
-There is more. The Hillmen Clan's are moving. It's getting too dangerous for them.
Ewen nodded grimly.
-Somehow it doesn't surprise me. Another question. You are going to Rivendell?
Elenien nodded.
-Baranor may already have recovered somewhat but he needs rest.
-Good, take our horses. They are not of much use here anyway. Mark your path and ask for back-up as soon as you are back.
-Why?
-We are following a company of orcs, who have taken prisoners. We wanted to ask Baranor's comapny for help but your news means we will need help from elsewhere.
'I think Elenien can stay with you, I can go on my own.'Baranor said. 'I feel well enough and with the horses I will probably reach Rivendell within two days. '
-You sure Baranor? Mairen will kill me if something happened to you.
-And me too.
-I'm fine. It's not as if I will have to walk anymore.
-Alright.
They quickly took their provisions from the horses and then helped Baranor on Eradan's gelding.
-May the Valar's blessing be on you.
-And on you. Be careful friends. Our foes are craftier than usual.
With those words Baranor nudged the gelding and soon dissappeared out of their sight. WIth a quick handsign from Ewen, the small company of three set out again.
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Postby Arassuil » Wed Apr 15, 2009 6:23 am

Malassuil watched the exchange of words between the wagon driver and the the women, not moving or making a sound. He studied the man on the wagon, and could tel he was a hardy sort that still lingered in the highlands of Rhuadur. Hill blood mostly, but some features told of a strain of Dunedain blood of old. He waited until the wagon was well out of sight and sound as it rumbled west. It could be he was just a delivery driver, but Malassuil suspected he was one who sought this Raven.

Stepping out into the road, Malassuil still watched west where the wagon had gone.

"He was a Hillman alright.”

he said as he turned to Anna. She started to make a move to get down fom the horse when Malassuil put his hand on her leg to stop her.

“Just move forward a bit Anna, I’ll ride behind you like we did before.”

He was soon up and they quickly moved east down thedeserted road. After they rounded a bend in the road, Malassuil said,

"Let us make for the inn in haste and see what awaits us there. I do hope to find this Raven, for all I have heard of her, she must be a remarkable woman. But though we make haste, let us also take care, for surely there are others who seek this Raven, and they may not be as amicable as this waggon driver!"

Quickly but quietly they moved down the road. The weather was no help in lifting heavy thoughts for the rain and grey mist lingered. If there was something good that came from it, it shadowed their own movements from ill eyes, but so too it shadowed their own eyes from seeing any who were near. It was good that Anna was with them, for she kept her keen ears attuned to the sounds of the familiar land aqnd would alert them if anything alerted her.

The dripping water from the tree limbs worked evermore in weighing them down with soggy wetness and chill. All the more reason to get to shelter as soon as possible he thought. He pushed the horse as fast and as stealthy as it was able, and Morghan followed likewise. She could handle horse well, and knew ways of Rangers. The few times Malassuil looked back at her, he could see she was pondering questions. There will be much to ask and tell this night. Hopefully it would be under a friendly roof with a fire to take the damp chill away. At best, this Raven would await them. At worst, more of these hillmen searching for her would be awaiting them. Malassuil was hoping the former, but any middle ground without ill will awaiting would be much appreciated. He kicked a bit more from the horse as he patted her side. She was always willing to give more in need...

The road seemed to have gotten longer since he had last travelled it, or so it seemed. Maybe it was the cold water working its way down his back under his cloak that made it feel so. The rain had lessened to a heavy drizzle, making the air more like a thick gauze than actual rain. Still, its ability to soak through was ever diligent, and it made visability even worse.

What had seemed to be twilight had come by the time they reached sight of the inn, but it could not have been that late in the day. They had left early, and made fair time on the road. The cloud had settled thick around them making it seem darker, but the last rise brought a dark shadow of a building into sight. Malassuil held up a bit and put his hand out and made sign to slow Morghan several yards behind. Again she saw and understood. She knows the silent signals of the Rangers! He would test her again soon enough.

At first gaze of the old inn, a slight whisp of smoke could be seen above the stone chimney as it mixed and disappated into the low mist. It spoke of a recent fire not yet out still smouldered in the hearth. Morghan had rode silently up beside him as Anna turned her head to listen in the direction of the inn. Malassuil spoke quietly,

"Well ladies, we have come to the Forsaken Inn in good time. Warmth will be found inside, but whatever else that waits for us, I do not know. We should approach as travellers in need of a room, and present ourselves as such. If thie Raven is there, she will know you Morghan, so maybe you should enter first, but Anna and I will be right behind."

As the three approached, Anna turned her head suddenly and Morghan hesitated. Malassuil took notice and was off the horse quick. He looked at the ground in the dim grey light and could make out old muddy tracks of the wagon, but fresher still were two sets of footprints. One was a booted man, moving light on his feet. The other was even lighter, and barely noticable. Bare feet, small, but here and there they set down heavy. Elven they were, and Malassuil took heed the warning.

"I think maybe Raven has come this way, but not alone, or even willingly. The only time I ever knew an elf to leave heavy track was when they hoped someone would spot them. She may be here, but not alone. Approach with caution!"

Malassuil took the horse and led it ahead slowly. Anna sat quiet, listening for anything that may be out of place. Morghan lingered back, watching behind and to the side, quiet. As they came to the front of the inn, Malassuil dropped the lead and went to the door, silently listening. Anna tended to securing the horse, and Morghan dismounted and handed Anna the lead to her horse as well. She wasted no time coming up behind Malassuil as he stood before the door.

Silently they stood there, thankful to be under the porch roof, but noit entering. Malassuil was satisfied there was nobody inside, and Morghan pushed the door open when Anna came up behind them and said,

"Sombody lingers nearby. I know for a brief moment I heard breaths, and maybe a rustle of grass and such, but I'm not altogether sure."

Malassuil looked at her and said,

"I will trust your greater instinct and gift if hearing in this. for the eyes see grey and shadows in everything. You go inside with Morghan, and I will take the horses around to stable them while having a good look-see. I too feel someone nearby."

Morghan pulled the door open, seeming comfortable enough with the place having only left the day before. Anna followed and pulled the door closed. Malassuil walked around with the horses, all the while looking for sign.

He found it.

The grass showed the track of the wagon, and booted feet from the driver. The kegs of beer were where they led to and from. But there were heavy track of booted feet going off behind the stable, but no other track. In the stable, he found recent sign of someone sitting and another laying in the dry hay. Malassuil tethered the horses under the roof and they took to the hay as if lunch was served on a platter. Malassuil walked out the back and followed the track in the wet grass. They sank into blackberry brambles and the skill to move through them so told him it had to be one keen on the wild. Hillmen, especially if they had some Dunedain blood in them, could do it. The heavy footfall would suggest this if it was only one man. But for the sign that whoever made the tracks carried another spoke that it may have been a Ranger. Malassuil looked puzzled, and his eyes searched the foggy grey bush. Being a Ranger in the far north, fog and drizzle was common, sand he knew it too well. He followed sign a short way before he stepped back. He would have to follow this lead later. Right now, he would go back to the inn to tell the ladies what he found, and see what sign could be found there.

Morghan and Anna stood in a deserted inn. They looked at the embers aglow in the hearth, and Morghan wasted no time getting over there to kindle the fire. They were chilled to the bone from the wetness, and Anna felt along the bar and around behind it.

"It has been many years since I have been here. My sister lingers. I can feel her."

Morghan, using a kindling stick to light candles on the nearby table, stood still as she looked at it. A knife stood there, straight up from the floorboard near the table. The building light of the fire also made her aware of the small dark spots near it. Blood. Much had happened here since she and Raven left the morning before.

Malassuil came in through the back to see Morghan gaze at the knife. He walked slowly over to her, and they both knelt and looked at it.

"Just as I thought. A ranger was here. This is a common Dunedain blade. You have seen one like it before?"

"Yes, I have."


Morghan replied faintly.

"But it's the blood I wonder about"

She went on. Malassuil looked close at it, and also at another splattering of drops not far away from those by the knife. Malassuil stood and stepped by the building fire, staring into it. Anna brought a pot of water to heat, and silently busied herself with making tea and anything else that could be eaten. It had already been a long day. Malassuil turned and asked Morghan.

"You and Raven were here the morning yesterday. Tell me what all has changed in this room since you left. Try and recall every little detail, for there may be sign in the smallest thing. I will tell you that someone has recently left the stables, and track says they were in here. I would follow, but suspect who it is will not allow himself to be found. I think it is the owner if this blade that stands before us embedded in the floor.... the Ranger Halasian."

Both Anna and Morghan turned to him as he went on...

"Yes. I know. This could be a good thing had I not heard rumour of him of late. A hardy Ranger he was. But now, I don't know if it is any better than Raven being taken by one of the hillmen. There are many puzzles here, and many clues. Morghan, do you see anything in all this? Anna, do your senses speak to you of anything of all this?"

He bent down to look at the blood by the knife closer, and his hand went to his chin as he thought and Morghan spoke.

"Much has changed here in the last day...."
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:12 am

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Too much like a living dream it all seemed. What all has happened since being kidnapped? How long has it been? Raven, despite becoming conscience, was still quite a bit dazed by whatever it was Halasian had given her. Try as she may, her mind was so fogged that any attempt to try and comprehend the passage of time since she last saw Morghan, or what this potion being used on her was only led to more confusion. Somehow she would have to try and get her head clear. She would have to try and act as if she was still quite affected. Hopefully he will not give her any more, and it would wear off enough so she could think and know when the time was right to make her escape. Maybe after they get to the inn....

Halasian seemed different after they arrived at the Forsaken Inn. The fire lighting the room. His words filled with anger and pain, spoken by a man wounded in heart and soul. Her own anger at being taken by force seemed to fade as she listened to him speak. She would try to be honest with him, hoping it was the right thing to do to disarm him. Suddenly it seemed not as her surprise was complete when he had taken his knife to her throat. She did not feel the cut, only the warm wetness as her blood trickled down her neck. Was this the end of her long and tortured life? No... too fast things changed. She was dizzy, and it all seemed surreal. Suddenly she found her hand on the hilt of the blade and she pressed it into him. She could easily kill him and be on her way. He was clearly a dangerous man, to her and to others, but in the past when they had encountered each other, it always came to be that in he she trusted. And here he spoke words of paying her ransom. Khul would never accept Halasians reasoning on the matter, but it was the sincerity of his whispering voice that touched her. He hand wavered as his blood ran down his neck.


"Kill me Raven! Do it! You want to do it! You know you will be doing all a favor."

He wanted to die then and there. The man, though showing the strain of life in his face, had many mortal years to live still in vigor, yet the ensuing silence spoke loud as he wanted to give it all up. Was it the state of her mind still altered or the way he said those words that caused her to waver? She could not take his life from him, no more than he could send her to the Halls of Mandos moments before. Her hand shook and the knife fell, lodging its point straight in the floor. He turned around to face her, and she grabbed hold of him and lost herself in his embrace.

So much seemed to pass through Ravens mind as waves seemed to break upon the shoreline. She wondered what Morghan was doing, and if anybody besides Khuls men was searching for her. She thought of Anna and her gift of foresight, and if she would ever meet the woman. Spirits of the dead smiled upon her as they appeared and disappeared. Wave after wave of sound, light, color, and movement spilled through Raven and the intensity was overwhelming. Suddenly she relaxed, for she seemed to feel safe here. All form of thought, real or imagined, retreated back into the blackness of her mind as if it were the space between the stars, and she fell into a deep sleep, wondering if Halasian had somehow slipped her more of the poultice.

She had no idea how much time had passed when she managed to open an eye. It was daylight, she was not at the inn, and Halasian was nowhere to be seen. She tried to move but she could not, though from what she could tell she wasn't bound. A thick fur covered her and she could see there was some food nearby. Dried meat and some dried wild berries was all, but how was she to get to it? Her body ached all over, but in time she managed to roll herself over to her stomach and pull herself along with her arms. Her legs were totally useless as her backside was severely cramped. She had not felt like this since… well, a few times in the years passed. Right now she wanted to eat, and she made short work of the meat and berries.

She managed to lean herself against the wall of this... place. Where was she? A broken roof fallen down to the ground with two walls struggling to hold one end of it up. Brambles grew about a door frame and had crept into a window opening, covering what appeared to be the only way out. Dripping rain from nearby trees could be heard, and some birds made their way around unconcerned. Nothing else could be heard except a dull ringing sound inside her head. Struggling with her legs, she managed to stand. She slowly stepped her way along the wall to where her clothes hung. Her blood-stained and tattered skins were there, as was her black silk wrap. She removed this from the hook and covered herself, surprised they were clean and as dry as the humid air would allow. But it was cold and clung limply to her. Looking at her skins, she saw they were worse for wear, and she let them fall to the ground. It was then her fuzzy vision could see something else hung there on the hook.

There, hanging by two thin straps was a long dress of twilight blue silk that shimmered with a silvery sheen as a light breeze stirred it about. Hanging with it was two silken slippers of the same color. Ravens eyes fixated on it as she ran her fingers over the dress. Faded memories trickled through her foggy mind. She took the slippers off the hook and looked at them. Worn, but in good condition. She went to hang them back when she saw a thin silver thread hanging there. Looking closer, she could see it was a tiny chain of fine workmanship. Upon it was a small silver ring with a light, intricate weave ever so slightly cut into it. Familiar. Too familiar! Ravens mind drifted back to another time and place....

She was at a ball. She could not remember when or where, or what it was about. She had attended so many through the ages. But this one seemed not long ago. Flashes of memory danced through her mind, and surly she remembered that dress being ruined then. She had lost this very necklace that night as well. Lifting it, she put it around her neck and let her hair loose. Raven then looked at the dress closer. It seemed right, but how could this be? This could not be the same dress she was remembering from that night, but had to be another like it. She lifted the hem and turned it in the dull gray light of the day, and she could barely make out the lightly veiled black weave worked into the material. In this light, it dulled the blue with a slight cloudy sheen. This made the blue seem a bit darker, more like the twilight skies at sunrise just before the sun broke free of the horizon. Yes, it would change its hue depending on the surrounding light. In the night it would appear deep and dark and in the full sun it would appear bright and iridescent. Try as she may, she could not remember exactly what happened to that dress. If it were the same, how had it gotten here? Searching her thoughts, she groped for memories of the last time she had last seen it, and even more so, last worn it.…


"You remember these I see."

Raven jumped with a start as she turned around, the voice shaking her out of the deep thought and memory. Still feeling strange feeling from being knocked out that she did not hear the old ranger approach. Halasian stood amongst the brambles just outside the roof of the old cabin; a grin etched slightly on his weathered face.

"Where did you find these? How did you come to have them?"
"Raven, Raven..."


Halasian answered,

"... its not like the Eldar to forget so much. But then you are different from most Eldar. What do you remember about the year 2939 of this age? Do you remember Gondor? The White City?"

Raven thought about that time intently…

"Yes..."

she remembered being in Gondor then. Almost as if in a trance she stared at Halasian, speaking slowly…

"There was a prestigious ball in the high chamber of the White City hosted by Steward Turgon. I attended, though I do not recall why exactly I was in the White City at the time. I believe I was wearing a dress like this.“

She let the dress slide through her fingers, but suddenly stopped it as she stared at a dark spot on it.

“See this small stain? I remember a bit of wine splashing over the lip of my glass as it was being poured. It spilled right here! It was blotted the best it could be, but the discoloration remained. That night was the last time I remember wearing it, or even seeing it. But… but how can this be? I do not seem to remember..."

"I remember."


Halasian interrupted,

"I too was there, along with a two others from the north. We had carried dark tidings of unusual stirrings in the north. The Steward was interested in our words, and words of the northmen of Dale. But he seemed unconcerned seeing that things were unquiet near his own borders. He said that dark times were coming for all in the years to come, likely sooner than we thought. He wished to lift the mood, of those days while so many were gathered, and so came the Spring festival. I stayed while my colleagues returned north, for I had drawn the short straw. So I lingered among the shadows of the ballroom, talking and listening when converse drew near. I remember seeing you enter the ballroom..."

Raven interrupted him…

"Yes, I remember. I looked about at all the fine guests, and saw you standing in the shadows of the room... In fine dress, but seeming a bit rough… very out of place you seemed to me. It was not long before I was standing beside you, and after a time asked me to dance."

Halasian stood just outside the cover of the roof as the rain started falling harder. He said in a heavy whisper,

"I took your gloved hand and led you out onto the dance floor. Having not paid attention to my formal dance training while a lad learning, it was a test. I was hoping I would not make a total fool of myself, and you. But you made it easy for me... so graceful next to me, and most beautiful. Afterward we sat and talked. You told me that you felt at home with the Edain, and you even appeared so much so. Yet the air of Elvenkind surrounded you. I was full in stature of years, but my mind was so young. Remember we walked across the courtyard as the crowds outside dwindled in that chill spring night? You told me recent tales of yourself, but I laid my soul bare before you. I was smitten.... If I only knew of the pain that would come."

Raven caressed the dress as the sound of the rain filled the air. She turned and looked at him, but said nothing. A tear ran down her cheek. Halasian went on as he looked up to the sky.

”It started to rain that night too. A spring shower it was, with a cold bite. I threw my cloak around you as we stood there in silence. Our eyes spoke for us. Then, no evil news could shake me from where I was. That was, until the next day. It seemed you had forgotten…”

"I had to forget! I could not allow myself that pain again!” Too many times I gave my love and thought to the Edain and each time I watched them die! If it were not a sword, arrow, or spear taking their life away, then I would watch them grow old and die. Each time a part of me would die with them, except I would go on… Damm this curse of the Eldar! A wall I had built around me, protecting my heart from the pain, and I would go on, living, feigning love, and breaking hearts. I had become comfortable in this, playing with chances that challenged my end. But I would find my way out and go on. It was that night that scared me. A fracture in my wall threatened me. I wanted to just let myself fall, and we would have had happiness for a time. But look now! You age as I do not. So I killed it then and there, and I repaired my wall. In so doing, I pushed the pain upon you. That in itself caused me such grief that I had until now shut it out of my thought.”


Yes, Raven had come across Halasian some few times since then. Maybe she sought him out after he had returned north, but she could see he was a changed man. A darkness had crept into him that could not be extinguished. She wondered how he would have been had she not spurned him that fateful day. She looked at him standing there in the rain, and he turned slowly around to face out toward the brambles. An arrow lodged in the doorpost, followed by another that bounced in through the door. Halasian drew out two short swords and let out a horrible growl as he charged down the small track through the brambles. Raven stood frozen, listening. Steel on steel rang out, and shouting arose. Again the growl could be heard, and yelling and the clash of steel. Each time it drew further away. Raven was torn between running or staying. Several minutes passed and the sounds faded. She stepped out from under the roof, straining to hear through the dull roar of the rain. The rain was all she could now hear. She decided that it would be best to try and get back to the Forsaken than to stay here. She took the dress down and rolled it up, then wrapped her old skin breeches around it and tied it off. Expecting either Halasian or the attackers to block the track she slowly walked out through the brambles.
Nothing.
Nobody.
Just sign of three pairs of feet, and a forth familiar set. Blood and water, mud and grass. No bodies, but a short sword lay before her. It was not Halasians, and she thought of picking it up, but sounds of footfall was heard behind her. She decided to make her way quickly in the opposite direction. She was free for now. She had collected some long-lost garments and jewelry as well. Strange this day has been. If only she could get back to the inn before nightfall, without Halasian, their attackers, or Khuls men finding her.
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RavenTinuviel
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Postby Arassuil » Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:40 pm

Knives in the early morning's darkness. Shrouds of mist filled the air around the last ember of the fire from the night before. Two men slept near it while a third rested nearby on watch. First to die was the watchman as he was wiping the moisture from his mustache. He slumped forward with a light crunching of the fallen leaves and dead branches. The men by the fire never awakened again. It only took a few seconds and the camp was theirs... horses, supplies, and all. The the killers were two rough-hewn hillmen and the Dunlanding from the south. They wasted no time settling right into the comfort of the camp while they waited. They waited for a fourth man, their leader, Dhazuk, who had left them some days ago to scout south toward the road.

They had to be careful, for this country was watched over by the feared Dunedain Rangers. The Rangers were few and their watch widespread, but they had the senses that knew... It took skill to avoid them, and even then, it could only be done to a degree. Dhazak would not be happy about this raid on fellow hillmen, but Wuhle the Dunlanding convinced them to do it. If it were not for the fact they were quite hungry, the other two would have been harder to convince. But now, after dragging the bodies away and pushing them over a small rock outcropping, they sat and relaxed, and ate.

The day was lightening into the greyness of drizzle when one found a scribbled parchment. It told of the commission given to find Raven the elf and to return her to Khul.

"Hey, this may gain us some gold!"

Wuhle said as he listened to one of the hillmen read it.

"All we have to do is find this here she-elf."

It was then another voice spoke... it was Dhazak.

"I leave you to watch the north way and I find you here? And with blood on your hands?"

The hillmen, fearing Dhuzak more than the Dunlanding, explained how he had been late by a fortnight, and their supply had run out, and their hunger... Dhuzak wasn't interested in their excuses. But what he was interested in was what was being read when he walked into the camp.

Snapping the parchment away, he looked at it while the others stood silent. A slow grin came across his face. He barked an order for the kid, called that because he was the youngest, to get out and watch.

"And watch better than the one you took out too"

Dhuzak barked at him as he wandered away, being answered by un-intelligible mumbling. Turning to the others, he said,

"Now I would have been mad about your kill here, but it seems their grub is decent, and better their news. I have been away watching the road south, and for a time there was little activity except for the smoke coming from the old deserted inn near Bree. I saw a small woman there at times, and thought of visiting her, but for the watch of the Rangers. There were two that came, with another woman. and then they all left. Then last night, another man came with a waggon and left not long after. I took some sleep, but was awakened by soft voices. It was the small woman with a grizzly old man. I about left my skin when I realized it was the rouge ranger. He was being careless in the presence of this woman. Anyway, what I'm saying is they left the inn this morning, and are not far from here. Maybe we can collect this bounty if we're careful..."

He signalled for silence as a chill came over him. They had to move quickly. They took what they stowed the captured horses with what they wanted to keep of the camp, and disappeared into the bush.

Halasian had found sign of trouble, blood by a tree, and much disturbed ground. He wanted to get back to Raven and get moving quickly, for too close was these signs. But in the presence of the she-elf, it seemed he always lost himself Senses were dulled, and his mind would lose that which was necessarily important.

Meanwhile, Dhuzak and his men closed in. Wuhle was working his way around through the brambles while the three watched the track. Being scared the old ranger would sense them, they were slow to move forth, but they finally got close to watch the two. Dhuzak steadied his men as they waited for sign from Wuhle.

Maybe it was an itchy finger or fear, but it seemed to happen too quick. An arrow was loosed, then another. Dhuzak turned and growled at the two for giving away the surprise first, and missing the old ranger second. They quickly made haste out.

They were pursued. Halasian charged after them like a mad man. One of the hillmen turned to take him down as he emerged from the brambles, but he was knocked to the ground by a boot and gutted. The other two turned and gave battle. between them they parried their attack on Halasian, wearing him down. Dhuzak finally kicked him to the ground and the other man kicked him in the head. With Halasian down, they made a hasty retreat to the horses.

It slowed Halasian down, but it didn't stop his pursuit. He dragged himself up and followed their track, again catching the two men. Again after a fierce fight, they managed to escape him. Thrice more he chased them down, and the last had Dhuzak mounting a horse while the other tried to. But the horse turned and made it hard, being unwilling to carry any except his dead owner. Halasian let loose with a boot-knife, catching the man below the shoulder blade, piercing his lung. He fell bleeding. Halasian stepped on him as he pursued Dhuzak, but knowing the land was not an advantage when the one you pursued knew it well enough, and was mounted. Halasian finally collapsed in ehaustion, wounded from the beating and blades.

Wuhle heard the commotion and froze. He was well hidden in the brambles, quite unable to move quickly in them. Being adept at moving through rough lands of Dunland, brambles were no barrier, just a time-consuming inconvenience. He could do nothing as the sound of a fight moved away. He continued to crawl under the brambles when he could no longer hear anything. He was wet and cold, and guessed the ranger found out the hillmen. He would go after the elf alone.

Thinking it an illusion in the greyness of the rain, he thought he saw a woman running off down the track. He freed himself from the final arms of the brambles and set off in pursuit...
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Arassuil
Shield Bearer

 
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~Rhudaur~

Postby Hunter » Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:10 am

~

The news of the Hillmen clans moving from the remote Hills of the Wild and the Ettenmoors puzzled Ewen Thane more than he let on to the two younger Rangers. What did the movement mean and why now after so many years of relative inactivity? In the distant past the Hillmen had allied themselves with Angmar against the ancient kingdoms of Arthedain and Cardolan and were considered evil in nature because of the alliance. Over a thousand years had passed since then. Could anything have changed? Had allegiances shifted with the growing shadow growing over the land or did the movement portent some greater evil was afoot?

He frowned as he watched the retreating figure of Baranor. The orc attack that had killed the company of Rangers was vaguely reminiscent of another attack; the one in which his friend Ruark Lachlan had died. He looked around and a thought suddenly surfaced. If his memory was correct they were but one days distance from the place where that attack had taken place. Was it a coincidence or just a quirk of fate? He brushed the thought from his mind and gave the sign to move out.

The pair of younger Rangers talked quietly, catching each other up with news of their doings since the last time they had seen each other as they followed along behind.

The trail more or less followed the remnant of one of the old roads built long ago when Rhudaur was a prosperous kingdom. Little more than a track in some places, it lead northward through a shallow valley where thick forests of fir mingled with beeches and elms. Thick-growing hazel began to crowd the path, the tips on their branches bent and broken by the recent passage of the Orcs. After some hours of walking they came to a fork in the ancient roadway. The left fork turned westward while the other one continued in a more northeasterly direction. There was no sign to tell them which way the Orcs had gone so Ewen told Eradan and Elenien to take the left hand one, follow it for a short distance, while he took the other one. They were to meet back at the fork soon and make a decision.

No more than an hour had passed when Eradan and Elenien returned. As they neared the fork Ewen stepped out from the shade of one of the fir trees growing nearby.

“I found nothing,” Eradan said. Elenien, a few paces behind him stopped and was leaning her head against her staff as she looked up at the sky. Low lying clouds dark along their bottoms were scuttling across the already leaden colored sky. She wiped a thin line of sweat from her brow with the cuff of her shirt and frowned. The air was growing thicker; a storm was coming as evening approached.

“There is sign further along that way.” Ewen pointed back along the path he had followed. The coming storm hadn’t escaped his notice either and he was just as concerned as Elenien. A low rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. “Come on,” he said, starting out at a quick lope.

The trail ran in a northeasterly direction as it entered a long narrow valley with tree covered sloping sides and numerous rocky outcrops. Halfway through the valley some sixth sense of Ewen’s warned him of possible danger and he slowed their pace to a walk. The brush and trees hid the view of nearly everything up ahead and he cautioned Eradan and Elenien to be on their guard. Light rain started to fall.

Suddenly the wind picked up. It tore at their cloaks and the rain stung their skin. Ewen paused, holding up his hand and signaling for silence. He stood for a minute head cocked, listening.

“I hear something…”


*****

Olben left just before dawn walking out along the trail leading from Imladris with Minyair and Feredir, two scouts Elrond had chosen. Feredir was the one who Olben had talked to the previous evening and he knew of Minyair from one of his previous visits.

The weather was cool and clear, and as they crossed the stone bridge over the River Bruinen, Olben turned for one last look. Almarian was still standing on the porch with Elrond. She raised an arm high in farewell when she saw him look back. Durham was still there also, leaning back against the wall in the shadows with his arms across his chest and even though Olben was too far away to see his face, he could tell by Durham’s stance that he was still in a sour mood; he hadn’t liked it when Olben had told him he was to stay and wait until he returned or word was sent back with one of the elves.

By late afternoon, after finding their way across the steep cliffs surrounding the hidden vale of Imladris, the trio came to the northern branch of the Bruinen. A small, elven made raft, hidden along the shoreline was used to cross the deep swift water, and they entered into the land of Rhudaur.

Here the landscape changed from the rugged, steep slopes of the foothills of the Misty’s to a hilly terrain of thickly forested land filled with tumbled rock and old ruins. The weather had slowly changed also, seemingly to fit the land they now traveled through. Grey sullen clouds were slowly moving in from the northwest and they hid the westerly sun most of the time.

An ancient roadway roughly followed the shoreline of the river and it was this that they followed. In places small patches of the cobblestones that had once surfaced the road still showed among the thick coarse grass and reddish dirt while in others they completely disappeared and the only trace left of the roadway was the swath of cleared area between strands of brush and trees. The roadway was but one of the traces of the once great kingdom that was still visible; old watchtowers in various stages of ruin could still be found scattered across the landscape along with the traces of where former fortresses and settlements once stood.

They traveled far that first day, much further than Olben would have done by himself or with another ranger. The sun had set more than a few hours ago and still the elves kept up a steady pace. They had travelled nearly thirty miles or so Olben guessed the last ten miles or so in the dark. The way had become more rugged since the road had left the river and headed northward and Olben was tiring, but kept going nevertheless. Finally, Feredir called a halt.

“It is best if we stop now Ranger Hawkins. Minyair and I will stand watch. We are near one of the main trails which the orcs and trolls from the Hithaeglir use on their travels from the mountains. Now that night has fallen they may be making use of it. We will wait and listen.”

“Good. My legs need a rest,” Olben replied starting to unclasp the belt buckled across his chest that held his broadsword.

“No, not here,” Feredir said. “Up there.” He pointed, but all Olben could see was a large mass of darkness looming in front of them against the comparative lighter darkness of the night sky. Olben sighed and groaned inwardly, ‘That’s a bloomin’ large hill!’ He reclosed the buckle. “You lead the way.”

“Don’t worry, the way is easy,” the elf replied as if reading his mind.

Olben had to admit that while the way was not exactly a walk down a shady lane, it was easier than he imagined. There was a path of sorts, with steps carved into the side of the hill in the steeper areas. Some of the steps were worn and weather beaten; washed away from the weather or overgrown with protruding roots and brush. Feredir and Minyair had gone slower than on level ground knowing that Olben could not see as well as they could in the dark and for this he was grateful. Within an hour they reached the top.

“This place is known to the elven people but to no others still alive who walk the ground of Middle Earth,” Feredir explained after leading them on for a short distance when they reached the top. “We have kept it thus for many years. We hope it will remain so,” he added quietly holding aside a heavy pine bough while Minyair ducked and walked forward. He was quickly swallowed up by the darkness. “Go ahead. There’s a doorway straight ahead.”

It was a mark of trust that the elves had shown Olben, one not taken lightly, for it was not often that the Eldar shared any of their secrets. “I understand,” Olben nodded quietly before entering.

Olben stepped through and could immediately sense a difference in the air. There was the smell of cold dampness usually associated with shallow caves along with the scent of moss and old timbers. He jerked his head around at the sound of a flint striking. Feredir held a thick tallow candle that lit up the small space.

“Don’t worry. There are no openings on this level except the door. The light will not be seen.” He held the candle higher so that Olben could look around.

It was a small round room, built of stone and not more than 20 feet across. Patches of moss and lichen covered the walls in places but otherwise they were in good repair. It was bare except for a couple of crossed spears and a small battered shield secured to the wall. They appeared to be very old and he wondered if they had once belonged to the kingdom of Rhudaur for they were plain, an ordinary soldier’s he wondered, and bore no signal. Above he could just barely see large timbers that formed the roof and the floor of the next level overhead. There was a wooden ladder propped against the wall on the edge of the circle of light. Minyair was already moving toward it. Bracing it at an angle, he tested it before climbing up as quickly and quietly as a squirrel.

“Minyair will take the first watch,” Feredir explained as he held the candle tipped over a small flat rock. Melted wax dripped down forming a small puddle and he firmly pushed the end of the candle onto it. The rock had obviously been used as a makeshift candleholder before. He bent and set it on the ground then followed suit and sat down next to it. Unclasping his broadsword Olben laid it on the ground, ready to hand if trouble should come, and joined Feredir.

“We are within sight and hearing of the trail up here,” he explained. “Atop the tower Minyair stands and listens. The valley below where the trail runs is funnel shaped and any sound made naturally echoes against the rock. Up here we can hear all the sounds and see from which direction it comes. Even in the dark.” he added with the faintest of smiles. Then he told Olben how the tower had first been found by some of the elves of Imladris after the fall of the Kingdom of Rhudaur during the reign of the Witch King of Angmar. He continued with a brief history of the time. “It had long been deserted, even back then,” he explained. “I was one of them.... All that was left were those two spears and shield.” He pointed in their direction. “The spears were broken. We melded them and hung them on the wall with the shield in memory of those who fought and died in defense of Rhudaur.”

For a short time Feredir talked about that long ago time with Olben asking a few questions now and again. He was a bit in awe to be hearing stories told of long ago from one who actually lived them. It was not often elves talked so openly about such things in the company of men. He gained a newly heightened respect for his two companions. But soon Feredir ended the session. “I’m keeping you from your rest. Sometimes we elves forget that men have different needs than we have.”

“Wake me if need arises.” Olben said pulling his cloak up around his shoulders and stretching his large frame on the ground and settling his shoulders as flat as he could against the hard packed earth. “I would hear more if there is a chance during our time together,” he said by way of thanks as he closed his eyes.

Feredir moved away to lean back against the moss covered wall and soon extinguished the light. As Olben drifted off to sleep he heard ever so faintly Feredir start to sing and even though it was in Quenya, the High Elvish language, he could distinguish enough words to know that it was a lament for those who had fallen long ago in the lands of Rhudaur.

When Olben woke he was alone and it was hard to tell at first what hour it was for very little light filtered in from the single opening in the ceiling above. But he could see the door and went out to relieve himself and look around.

The tower itself was not large; it only rose about thirty feet from the ground as far as he could tell and was perched near the edge of a steep cliff. The outside walls, or what he could see of them as he lifted a branch out of the way, were covered with moss and lichen and blended with the towering pines completely surrounding it. ‘Clever,’ he thought. ‘It is hard to tell anything is even there, even standing this close. It could only be found if someone were searching for it. No wonder it has remained hidden.’

When he went inside, Minyair was just descending the ladder and bid Olben to follow him back up. The next level was bare but in good repair just as the ground floor was. It was also pretty much the same as the main floor only there were four large openings evenly spaced around the circumference. Light filtered in through the branches of the concealing pines but the view was mostly obstructed. There were metal rungs protruding from the curved wall leading up to the next level and Olben followed Minyair up to the roof.

There he found Feredir was standing next to the waist high parapet. The elf motioned him over. The tops of the pines had been carefully trimmed on the cliff side so that the tops barely reached the top. When Olben approached the parapet, the landscape below and to the north, east and west opened up and he had a clear view. It was spectacular. To the east lay the foothills and heights of the Misty’s, or Hithaeglir as the elves called them. Except for the peaks, already capped with the season’s first snow, they lay still shrouded in shadow for the sun’s rays had yet to touch them. To the north and west the lands of Rhudaur stretched out before him; a rugged land with many folds, tumbled rock and heavily forested areas. He knew full well that there were many places to hide or get lost amongst the numerous hidden valleys, gullies and deep valleys.

“Minyair heard movement,” Feredir said as Olben took in the view, “from the direction of Dol Aglardin.” To the north, at the base of a large rocky cliff lay the ruins of an ancient fortress and town. “The place is known to be favored by the Orcs from the mountains ever since they gained control over it. The cliff nearby holds caves that they use and there is a good supply of water.”

“Does it bear checking out?” Olben questioned.

“That is up to you. It is risky to move closer; we will have to cross open ground.”

Leaning his forearms on the stone ledge, Olben stared at the far off ruins of the town. It was growing lighter out and he hoped to see some movement or clue to what was going on. “Your sight is better than mine; there is something moving down there, in the break in the brush near the cliff. Can you tell what it is?”

Feredir held up a hand to shield his eyes and was silent for a few moments as he peered down on the ruins. “It is a band is orcs, about a dozen or so.”

Olben’s brow furrowed as he shielded his eyes and squinted. He could see the movement but still had trouble distinguishing that it was, let alone count their number.

“It looks as if they are getting ready to leave…” Feredir paused. “Yes, see, they are starting to move westward.”

“That settles it then,” Olben replied as he stood up straight. “We’ll follow them.”

“It looks as if they’re following the remnants of the old road leading from Dol Aglardin. If we cut across the valley,” Feredir pointed to the rocky cliff on the other side of the valley from the tower. “We should be just about on top of them by the time they reach the other side.”

The morning that had begun cool and cloudy began to change soon before the sun climbed to a midway point in the sky. More low lying clouds crept up from the west and the air became oppressive and heavy by the time Olben and the elves reached the top of the rocky cliff. Lying in wait near the edge they watched the shallow valley below. Soon the band of orcs they were waiting for strode into view. They were fifteen strong, led by a large Uruk-hai, and heavily armed. Their pace picked up when the trail reached more open ground.

“Looks like they’re expecting trouble,” Olben said quietly to Minyair and Feredir who were lying on the ground close to him. “Wonder what’s afoot?”

The troop of orcs continued following the ancient roadway as it wound its way northward across an area of open country of tree dotted folded hills. Olben and the elves followed them at a distance, always keeping them in sight but being careful to remain hidden. As the hours passed by, so too did the miles. Whenever Olben felt his legs tiring he broke of a small piece of the lembas Feredir had given him that morning and found himself invigorated and ready to continue.

By late in the day as the afternoon waned closer to the hours of evening, the orcs slowed their pace as heavily forested land encroached on both sides of the ancient roadway. Then, at a signal from the Uruk-hai, all but two of the orcs scattered and hid themselves in the trees. Not long after, another band of orcs appeared, led by pair of men.

“Halt!” growled the Uruk-hai in heavily accented Westron. “This land is claimed by us of the mountains!” He crossed his arms across his mailed chest, each hand holding a wicked curved blade and scowled.

The two Southrons looked at each other and then signaled one of their orcs to come forward. “Tell him we have leave to cross the lands; that we belong to Bryna, daughter of Malebranche.” The orc walked forward and exchanged more than a few words with the Uruk-hai. The Uruk-hai grumbled loudly, raised a sword arm and made a quick slashing movement before pointing westward.

“He says we have strayed too far east and are in his land now. We must forfeit our prisoners and leave,” the orc called back to the two men.

“Never!” shouted one of the Southrons. But as soon as the word left his mouth the Uruk-hai sprang into action. When he had raised his sword earlier it had signaled his men hiding in the trees to make ready. Now he gave a quick backhanded slash that caught the orc standing near him a blow in the side, nearly slicing him in two. Then all-hell broke loose as the two opposing orc tribes attacked.

Feredir and Minyair spied the prisoners from afar as soon as they stepped out from the cover of the trees. They both broke into a sprint, loosening their bows from their backs and setting arrows. As soon as they came into range they sighted on those orcs nearest the prisoners and let their arrows fly. Olben, unaware of what was happening, ran as fast as he could after the elves. He was too far away to see clearly yet and wondered why the elves had chosen to join the fray. Nevertheless he drew his broadsword from his back and crashed through the brush with it held high, ready to strike.

~
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At the Forsaken

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Thu Aug 20, 2009 9:12 am

*

“Much has changed here in the last day....” Morghan said walking slowly around the room. “I mean, besides the knife which obviously wasn’t there when we left. This chair, it was pushed under the table, I’m sure of it. Someone sat here by the fire…look, there are crumbs scattered on the floor.” Her hands resting lightly on the back of the rickety chair she slowly turned her head a few times as if looking for something. “And there, on the mantle, a tankard.” She walked over and picked it up; it smelled like stale brew. “I know this wasn’t here when we left.” With it still in her hand she walked over toward the bar and looked behind. There on the floor sat three small kegs.

“The man in the wagon, he lied! He told us he left the kegs in the shed out back, but here they are!”

“So he came in even knowing the Inn was deserted. I wonder what he expected to find.” Malassuil mused as he continued looking down at the knife in his hand.

“I don’t know. Maybe something that would tell him if Raven was the one he sought. But I don’t think he found anything,” Morghan continued. “He sounded awfully disgruntled.”

“Aye that he did. Is there anything else you notice out of place?”

Morghan slowly shook her head. The concealed door to the cellar where the parchments were hid didn’t look as if it had been disturbed, and nothing else looked out of place. “I… don’t think so…”

She put her hand to her head, gently massaging the temple area. So many mixed thoughts running through her mind; Halasian. Why did the mention of his name again trigger the throbbing in her head? Or was she just tired from the trip and the other events that had happened? She sat down on a chair.

“It was Halasian,” Anna said entering the room from the kitchen. She walked carefully across the room, one hand out while the other held a tray with a bit of food from the kitchen.

“How do you know?” asked Malassuil.

“I felt Courntey’s presence, here in this room and in the kitchen, while I searched for this.” She held out the tray which held a loaf of bread and a slab of cheese. “She was happy, just as she was before whenever he was around.”

“Then this belongs to him?” Malassuil asked taking Anna’s hand and placing the blade in her hand. “Can you tell whose blood is on it?”

“That I do not know, nothing comes to me.” Anna shrugged after a moment. “As I said before, the gift is selective. But this I can say. There was no great violence done in this room in recent times. If there was, I’m sure I would have felt it.”

Without any warning, Morghan slumped forward in her chair and would have fallen to the floor if not for the quick reflexes of Malassuil. She was unconscious; her breathing shallow and gasping.

“What happened?” Anna asked anxiously.

“Don’t know. She just slumped forward.” Malassuil said as he eased Morghan’s limp body to the floor. He brushed the hair from her face, her skin felt clammy and moist, her face almost the color of the linen shirt she wore. He moved his hand down to her neck, lightly feeling along the side until he found a pulse. It was throbbing wildly.

Anna bent to the floor, hand lightly moving through the air until she found Morghan’s head. Then she lightly laid her palm on her forehead. “Get a wet cloth from the kitchen.”

When Malassuil returned a moment later, Anna was sitting on the floor next to Morghan. One hand was resting lightly on Morghan’s brow, stroking it lightly as she stared off into space. Malassuil stood still, instinctively sensing something was happening and he didn’t wish to disturb it. Another moment passed and then Anna motioned him forward.

“She’s sleeping now,” she said softly and the ranger could see as he stepped near and handed Anna the wet cloth that although Morghan’s face was still pale, the color was starting to return and she appeared to be breathing more normally.

“I’ll move her closer to the fire.”

“No leave her be, don’t disturb the sleep now that seeks to heal her. Can you find something to cover her with?”

As Malassuil fetched Morghan’s cloak, Anna stood up and went to stand next to the hearth. She was cold to the bone and hugged herself, rubbing her arms until she began to feel the warmth from the fire began to creep in. She barely heard Malassuil come over and stand next to her.

“You felt something.”

Anna didn’t say anything at first. She was still trying figured out herself what had just happened.

“Yes,” she said as last when she felt she could finally put the feeling into words. “Something completely foreign… I’ve never had an experience like it before and don’t know how else to describe it.” Anna sighed shaking her head and sat down on the hearth holding her hands closer to the flame. “I’m cold from it,” she said, “chilled to the bone.”

Without saying a word Malassuil looked around. The pot of water hanging on the hook over the flames was steaming but he felt more than tea would be needed this night.

Going over to the bar he rummaged around until he found an old two handled jug. Taking out the cork he sniffed. Yes, it was what he had hoped. He returned to the hearth carrying the jug and two tankards. He squatted on the floor and reached for his pack. After searching inside a moment he withdrew a small box. It contained numerous packets. He opened one of them and then added a pinch of the contents to each of the tankards. Next he added a goodly measure of the dark liquid from the jug and topped it off with the hot water.

“Here, drink this,” he told Anna holding out one of the tankards. He took up the other one, blew on and then took a sip. Although Malassuil wasn’t cold he felt the warm liquid take effect. Anna held her tankard up and inhaled the fumes. She knew from the smell that there was some kind of brandy in the hot liquid, but something had been added. “What’s in it?” she asked after taking the first sip.

“A spice from the east, brought north in small quantities by traders. Don’t worry, it only has a mild calming effect when taken in small quantities.”

“What about large quantities?”

“Don’t know,” Malassuil answered honestly. “Never asked.”

They sat together for a time by the fire, sipping the spiced, hot brandy in silence, listening to the creaks of the old Inn and the crackling fire beside them. A few paces away Morghan lay on sleeping on the floor. From where he sat, she looked to be sleeping peacefully although her eyes would move every so often beneath the closed lids. Was she dreaming, Malassuil wondered.

Finally he turned to Anna and asked, “Has the chill gone away?”

“Almost.”

“Can you describe what happened now?”

“It’s hard. As I said I’ve never felt anything like that before. I don’t even know if my so called gift had anything to do with what I felt or not.”

“I felt nothing unusual,” Malassuil said quietly.

Anna bowed her head. “What I felt was a presence of some sort… It was strange... I don’t know, but I think it may have been… guarding her.”

“Guarding her?” Taken aback by the statement, Malassuil thought for a moment. More puzzles to ponder. “Then what caused her to lose consciousness?”

Anna shrugged and then paused for a moment. Her brow was furrowed as if she were puzzled by something. “I think the same presence did.”

“I wonder if,” he nodded in the direction of Morghan, “she knows anything about it.” Malassuil asked more to himself than to Anna.

“It’s something we’ll have to find out when she wakes” Anna said stifling a yawn with the back of her hand. “I think your ‘spice’ has made me sleepy.”

“It can have that affect on some. Go ahead, lie down and get some shut eye. I’ll keep watch.”

*
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Postby RavenTinuviel » Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:21 pm

To be an elf raised by the Edain of the first age made her adept at walking silently. Her experience through the ages had honed her skills of survival greatly. Yet she found herself in trouble again. Her love for the Edain had brought her much joy but in the end it only brought her grief. The bundled garments and that which she and Halasian had spoken of reminded her only too well of it. So too was her relationship with Khul. It was not pleasent but in time he woud die and she would continue. Too many times through the three ages did she repeat this pattern. Weariness weighed on her as she worked the tracks of game. She knew she was being pursued. By who she had no idea, but she was making it as hard as she could for them to follow.

The rain made it hard to listen for footfall, but she was able to pick up the heavy boots of her pursuer. The step was not that of any she knew of Khuls clan. No, these sounded different. Familiar but different. In the depths of time in the days she lingered in the old Numenorean port of Vinyalonde and the old forests that used to be nearby. The wild men of the woods stepped like this! One from Dunland pursued her! Khuls bounty must be great to attract men from afar!

Silence was all she heard except for the rain dripping from bare branches. Wet, cold, and miserable she was, but so to her pursuer. She had not heard him in some time, and darkness was closing in on the grayness around her. She decided to make a more direct path to the inn she had called home for the summer.

She rested in the withering grass across the pasture field south of the inn as night chased away the last light. Smoke was coming from the chimney! Maybe Morghan had returned? Maybe a ranger or a passer-by had taken refuge from this rain. Soaked to the bone, Raven rose to her feet and started toward the inn. She watched the road to her left for sign of anyone, but all was quiet. That is except for the rain. The clouds in the night started to let go of their swollen waters, and the rush started to fall hard. Raven started walking faster, then running. She was nearing the inn from the side, and decided to turn to the right and head for the stable. She did not wish to bother whoever was inside, more for her own sake than for theirs. She started passing the remnents of her garden and slowed to a walk again. she did not notice that the rain had eased some, and the faintest of light from the night sky above the clouds allowed her to see a lone flower on an herb bush. It struggled to finish its life and make seed, being fooled by the recent warm summerlike weather that was before the fall rains and chill came. Raven stopped and looked at it. She bent down and picked it and its sweet scent filled her. She tucked it behind her ear and let her dark wet locks fall over it and took a step for the stables.

It came silently, but a whisper in the air. The dripping trees masked it well. Raven looked down and saw the arrowhead and shaft protruding out from below her left breast. The shooter would have seen the shaft and black feathers protruding from below her left shoulderblade. Her bundled garmets fell from her right hand as it reached for the arrowhead. It never got there, and Raven fell face first to the ground.
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Postby Arassuil » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:05 pm

Watch Malassuil did as the two women slept by the fire. For a time he went out and sat in front of the door, letting the sound of the rain and chill breeze sing to him.

"Quiet." he said to himself. Too quiet he thought to himself. Long looks down the road to the east and the west as the skies darkened revealed nothing. Still, something didn't feel right. He went back inside and added a log to the fire. The drips of the water still finding ways through the roof made a steady yet subtle rhythm. Malassuil went behind the bar to tap a bit of the old ale to chase away a bad taste in his mouth. A note on the floor caught his eye and he picked it up.
'The chill wind breaths even as the sun sets and the trees sing to its coming frost.
Gone for supply and will return shortly. Raven'

An ill omen it was, telling of winter's coming darkness. Surely it was meant to tell of something else ill was felt by this Raven. He looked across the room at Morghan and Anna who had bundled close in comfort in their sleep, and wondered if Morghan had any insight as to what Raven was thinking...

A chill fell across Malassuil, and he leapt over the bar. The crack of his boots hitting the old floorboards caused Morghan to stir a bit, but she showed no sign of waking. He went out the front door for a listen. Rain, wind, leaves rustling about the ground and branches breaking. He moved to the side of the inn and looked out into the misty night. Something was amiss! His knife was out and he crouched down and leaned against the wall. Thinking he heard some light movement behind the inn, he started to move slowly to look.

A slight hiss finishing with a dull, muffled thud. Malassuil froze and looked toward the treeline by the stables where he estimated the sound to originate. A man stood there in shadow, armed with a bow. He had let fly an arrow, making the sound he heard. Sure the man didn't see him by the inn, he froze and watched. Having no bow on him right now, the man was too far away for a knife-throw. He waited as the man started to step out into the grass, slowly making his way closer. He was intent on looking behind the inn, trying to see his target. Malassuil worked his way to the back corner of the inn so he could see. A slight gurgling sound he heard as he saw a mound on the ground with a feathered shaft sticking up in the air. Looking back, the man had approached his target, still unaware of Malassuil's presence. The man spoke as he knelt down next to his target.

"So you are this elf the bounty is on eh? You weren't so hard to kill..."

Westron with a deep Dunlandish accent. Malassuil moved quickly as the man set his bow down and drew a knife. He had grabbed a handful of long dark hair and was about to scalp, when Malassuil's knife hit him in the left shoulder. Wasting no time, Malassuil set into a sprint as soon as he let go his knife. The man looked at the blade and went to pull it out, but Malassuil's boot-heel hit him in the face. The man reacted well having been bladed and kicked in quick sucession, and turned the knife he still held into the back of Malassuil's calf. It caught the top of his boot, but it still managed to bite through his leather legging. Malassuil rolled to get away from the armed ma, and turned to meet the attack that would surely come. But the man yelled as he pulled Malassuil's knife out of him and held both blades high. The stream of blood shot out of the wound in pulsing spurts, and his eyes rolled back and he fell backwards.

Malassuil stood and stepped toward him as blood still pulsed from his wound at an ever slowing amount. He was dead. The knives still gripped in hands. Malassuil pulled his own knife from him and wiped the blood upon the man's sleeve before sheathing it. He looked around for others, for surely he had companions, but there were no sign of any. He then knelt by the elf woman and brushed her wet, tangled dark hair from the side of her face. She looked asleep but for the blood and the arrow head and shaft protruding from her. She was covered in lots of blood, but he couldn't tell how much was hers and how much was the dead man's. She lay there on her side and he looked at the arrow's entrance and its exit. It had missed bone and went through clean, but her heart was pierced. Malassuil sighed...

"You must be Raven."

He wasn't sure, but Morghan would be able to identify her....

The rain fell harder, as if in an attempt to wash the blood clean from her. The darkness of the blood on her cheek gave way to lighter skin and rain. He lifted her warm body up and carried her toward the inn. There by the back door stood Morghan and Anna, likely having woken when the fighting started. Emotionless they both appeared as they moved aside for him. He carried her to the common room and lay her on a table on her side. He wanted to make sure she was truly dead before breaking and pulling the arrow out. To do so would cause her to bleed out. But Malassuil was afraid the damage had been done, and he was sure of it. He didn't want to meet her like this.... so many questions unanswered....
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At the Forsaken

Postby Morghan~Lachlan » Tue Sep 15, 2009 1:57 am

*
Stunned, Morghan slumped against the doorframe as Malassuil walked by carrying the limp form. Her hand went to her mouth as she felt a lump rise to her throat.

“What is it?” Anna asked quietly. “What’s happening?”

“It’s….Raven…. I think… she’s…” But she couldn’t give voice to that final word; to do so might make it true and she longed for it not to be.

Understanding dawned on the blind woman and mutely she reached out a hand until she touched Morghan. Gently she reached pulled Morghan close. They stood there alone by the door for a moment each touched by grief for a woman neither one of them really knew. Then Morghan straightened. She had to make sure…maybe she wasn’t…. Wrapping her arm around Anna’s waist she guided the woman back into the commonroom

In the warm golden glow of the firelight, Malassuil laid the still form he carried onto the table. Carefully he laid Raven on one side with her back to him and felt the smooth shaft of the arrow down along its length to where it pierced her back. Reaching around, he laid his other hand on her ribcage. There was no movement; not even the slightest hint of a shallow breath being drawn nor the faintest trace of a heartbeat. He turned his head slightly at the sound of footsteps approaching the table. It was Morghan and Anna.

“She’s gone.”

Morghan couldn’t say anything; there was a lump in her throat and she was biting her lip. Tentatively she reached and touched Raven’s brow smoothing back a strand of dark hair that had fallen across her face. Her skin was still warm, but it was only a lingering warmth that was fading even as she withdrew her hand.

“Is this Raven?” Malassuil asked.

“Yes,” Morghan whispered fighting back tears. “What happened out back? I woke and heard noise. You weren’t here…”

“I went out on the front porch after Anna fell asleep. All was quiet, but it was an unsettling silence. I came back in and added more wood to the fire, but still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.”

“Seems I was right, but too late,” he added quietly as he thought back. If he had gone out the back instead of the front could he have prevented the shooting? Perhaps, but this was not the time to be wondering such things.

After a pause he continued, telling them what had happened. When he stopped, Anna walked over and stood beside Malassuil. “Do not blame yourself,” she said softly as she touched him lightly on the arm. “How could you have known?”

Morghan raised her eyes from Raven’s face and looked at Malassuil as she asked, “So whoever did this is dead?” she asked as she wiped at her damp cheeks.

“Aye, he is.” He winced slightly as he shifted his weight.

“Who was…” The initial shock of what had happened was wearing off and for the first time she noticed Malassuil’s wet hair and dirt streaked clothing mixed with blood. “You’re hurt!”

“It’s just a scratch. It can wait.” He replied as he turned his attention back to Raven and placed his hand on the arrow shaft “I’m going to pull this out. There will be a lot of blood.”

Morghan nodded and stepped back, watching as he slowly moved his hand to the end of the shaft. Then he pushed firmly until a few more inches more came through the other side. Then he stopped, broke off the fletched end and moved both hands into different positions, one near the broken end and the other near the tip. A small trickle of blood started seeping through, pooling beneath Raven’s breast. Morghan didn’t look away, even though she flinched and wanted to close her eyes when, after a short pause, he gave a final push and pulled the shaft through. Blood started to flow freely onto the table and Morghan stepped forward, taking up the edge of Raven’s silken wrap, balling it up and pressing it against the open wound.

“Is there anything I can do?” Anna asked.

“Come and hold this while I go into the kitchen and get some water. We’ll clean her up before…” She stopped. Before what? She didn’t know the customs of the Eldar…should they bury Raven in the ground or burn her remains on a pyre? She shook her head to chase away the thought for now, it could be decided later. She noticed Malassuil watching her. “Go sit by the fire and dry yourself,” she told him quietly. “This is woman’s work. I’ll look at your leg as soon as we’re done.” And she headed for the kitchen, taking a lamp to light the way.

The sound of water splashing from the pump into the bowl beneath masked the sound of Malassuil’s steps as he entered the kitchen. There was a creak from a rusty hingle as he pushed on it and Morghan spun around, nearly dropping the bowl of water. Ready to cry out, she stopped herself when she saw who it was. “Where are you going?” she demanded in a worried tone.

“Outside to look around some more before the rain completely washes away any sign. There was something lying on the ground near her body. I won’t be long. Besides,” he nodded toward the other room. “You said it was woman’s work.”

“But your leg!”

“I told you it was just a scratch,” he said gruffly as he went out the door. Morghan frowned as she stood looking at the door, then shook her head as she picked up the pile of towels she’d found earlier from the table.

It was nearly daylight when Malassuil came back and the fire in the commonroom had burned down again casting the room into mostly shadows and dim light. As he stepped from the hall he paused. At first glance Raven appeared to be only asleep as she lay on the table, her body covered by a blanket. He was struck silent by the sight of her beauty and then noticed the women around her. Anna was seated on a stool guiding a comb slowly through the long curling locks of dark hair that tumbled over the edge of the table while Morghan was on her knees scrubbing with a towel at a few drops of something on the floor. She looked up as a board creaked when he stepped into the room. She looked relieved to see him. “Did you find anything?”

“This,” he said indicating a sodden bundle in the crook of his arm.

“What is it?” Morghan asked frowning as she brushed back a piece of damp hair from her forehead before getting to her feet.

“Some clothing. I think Raven dropped it when she was struck.” Malassuil walked closer to the fire and knelt on the floor. Morghan knelt on the floor close by, recognizing the pair of old skin breeches that comprised the outer wrapping as Malassuil started to unroll the bundle. “Raven was wearing these when I last saw her,” she told him quietly. “Beneath the silken wrap.” Then her eyes grew wide as the first glimpse of the blue silken fabric was revealed. Tentatively she reached out and stroked the fabric before picking it up. “I’ve never seen this,” she said giving him a puzzled look.

“Maybe she had it with her all the time.” Malassuil said as he picked up a small pair of matching slippers that fell from the folds as Morghan pulled the dress free.

“But why?” Morghan whispered.

“Another piece of the puzzle.” Malassuil sighed and placed the slippers back on the skins. He was reaching to take the dress from Morghan when Anna spoke up. She had been listening to them while she continued to comb Raven’s hair. “Perhaps they meant something to her.”

“They did,” a low voice answered from the direction of the kitchen. Morghan’s hand went to her mouth as the color drained from her face while Malassuil sprang to his feet, ready to let the small knife in his hand fly.

“Put it away, I mean no harm,” the rough looking man said as he stepped from the shadowed hallway.

“I was wondering when you would come Halasian,” Anna said calmly from her place near Raven. “I saw you while I slept…”

*

(minor edit it clean up writing)
Last edited by Morghan~Lachlan on Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Arassuil » Sat Sep 19, 2009 9:33 pm

A haggard man, with old and new wounds on him had appeared in the kitchen doorway. Malassuil was too much pre-occupied with the puzzle surrounding the dead elf known as Raven that he missed any sign of Halasian's approach. He was dressed in un-kempt, badly worn leather breeches and vest, covered over with tattered grey cloak. It was typical of what the Dunedain Rangers wore, but this man had not cared for himself in many a year.

Malassuil did not put his knife away, but seeing Anna's ease with the man, he relaxed some. He had heard a bit of the tale of this man from one who had served with him some few years ago, Arkaeth. At the time the name brought darkness to his eyes when asked, and it was a time of happiness and marriage, so Malassuil didn't push with any further questions of those dark times. Of Halasian he only met when they both carried a lot less years, and they said little at that time. Now he stands here, where fate has drawn them...

Anna walked over and gave Halasian a hug, and as a father would hug his daughter, Halasian held her close, taking scent of her hair. Malassuil didn't like it, not at all. He took the knife that was found in the floor of the inn and tossed it at Halasian as if he asked for it, and the man's reaction was spot on, taking the knife by the hilt. He quickly sheathed it, and Malassuil said to him,

"Ok ranger, tell us then, what did this mean to this woman. Then, you can tell us from the beginning, starting six years ago."

A look of pain came across Halasian's face as he and Anna stepped to where Raven lay. His finger brushed away a lock of wayward hair from her cheek, and then a few ran through her hair. He looked at the wound and blood, and the both parts of the shaft that had been removed from her. Ignoring for now what Malassuil said, he was lost in thought, and Anna seemed connected to him. Her face became pale but not frightened, as if she could feel some deep pain inside him. Silence for several minutes while the four stood around Raven; that is, except for the rain on the roof and the drips through it, and the sporadic snaps and incessant hiss of the fire. Halasian then spoke in a soft raspy voice, near a whisper but it seemed loud in the quietness.

"Yes, I think it is time I tell the brethren what has become of me. But let us lay lady Raven to rest. Clean her, dress her in this dress, and put this about her neck. Of what I know of her, though she be Eldar, she would wish to be laid to rest as one of the Edain. In barrows the kings of old lay to the west of Bree, and so too will lady Raven rest. It will not be of such grandeur, but it will be solid. And it will be a place where we four will know of. We would not want her many enemies desecrating her."

Halasian looked at Morghan and a deep sense of familiarity came to him. Those dark days have been hard on her as much as he. They would have much to speak of But Malassuil spoke and the thought receded for the time.

"Yes, we will lay her to rest as Halasian has said. My wound and those suffered by Halasian will wait until she is ready. Then Halasian will tell of that which Raven carried, and we will speak of the one who killed her, and of events of the past days. Then we will lay Raven to rest in the thick wood behind the stables where a large silvery rock rises from the ground. It will mark where Raven will lay, for we will lay her before it."

There was much to do. Anna and Morghan took care of Raven while the two men went out and prepared her resting place. Malassuil and Halasian spoke not one work as they turned the earth in the morning greyness. The rain was only a drizzle now, but it soaked through everything. The only thing good about it was it had softened the earth for them. The stones were set aside and would be used for covering.

It was mid-day when they returned. The sun broke free of cloud for a brief moment, giving hope the weather was changing. But too soon the skies darkened, and too soon the rain fell hard once again. Wind too ripped at them as they entered into the Forsaken Inn's back door. Inside, the fire roared with fresh wood and water was into boil in a large iron pot. Raven lay upon another table, clean and dressed in the finery she had carried. She looked beautiful, as though she was asleep, waiting for the ball to begin. Anna brushed her hair in slow drifting moves, and Halasian froze for one moment looking at them. Morghan spoke,

"We have done the best we could. She was worthy of more. Now, let us sit and rest all, and we will have some tea. Halasian, please tell us of this raiment Raven now wears?"

They sat at the table that first held Raven. Dark stained it was all across the top. Darker was the indented carvings of the past, the dry oak holding Raven's blood hard. It had not been cleaned, but simply absorbed into the wood. The two women had moved Raven from it to the other larger table, and no thought was given about her blood. And so it remained.

Seated now, Malassuil faced Morghan, and Halasian sat to her left, across from Anna. Silent they were as they all contemplated the day. Some sips of tea would break the silence that is as silent as it could be with the rain falling and leaking. It had been raining so much that it was forgotten in the sounds of things. It was autumn in Eriador, and the rains may not stop for a long time. Malassuil looked at the other three in turn, and then spoke,

"I didn't know Raven, only heard rumour and tale. It was quest to come south looking for answers to questions, and seeking other Rangers, Halbarad in particular as I heard our Chieftain was far away. I had wished to meet and talk with her, but my first sight of her was that which I found her, with this Dunlanding arrow through her. Yet in seeing her in death, I wish to know all I can of her in life. If you three can tell me of her, it will be a joy to me to know her in this way"

He rested his chin on his folded hands, staring at the table. Halasian spoke after a few moments,

"The first time I saw the lady Raven was in Minas Tirith in my youth. A palace ball... I was lingering about near the wine and the keg of Green Dragon beer we had brought for the Steward. I did not much go for these sorts of things, and the small elf woman came to me. She was dressed in this very dress and shoes, and wore the necklace. Immortal she was to the years, but the years passed me by. I had a love for her, maybe infatuation it was, like a young boy has to an older woman he likes. I professed my love to her then, but she would not love me. This dress held a place in her mind, though I knew not all that it was. Memories she had... so many memories through the ages. She had spoken to me that night of how she tired of immortality and envied the Edain in their ability to age and pass away. Too many time she said, did she love one of the Edain, and they would age and pass and she would not. The times her loves were slain in war were easiest for her she said, but one had some effect on her that she vowed never to love one of the Edain again."

He sighed at the memories of that ball. He saw the others were listening carefully. He went on,

"From sometime in the First Age to this day in the Third Age, Raven walked the world. What sundering she suffered from her own kind I don't know. Like myself, when her name was mentioned in the halls of Elrond, faces darkened and little was said. Unlike Me, she was not banned from there, except by her own doing." I just have to say that now, may Raven be at peace. I don't know what fate she will have as her spirit enters the Halls of Mandos."

He lay his head down in his arms, spilling the last of his tea on the table. Where it ran over the edge, it lightened the table. He sighed and covered his face with his hands...
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Arassuil
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Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:10 pm
Location: Somewhere in Eriador
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