The Circles of the World (New RPers Welcome: See OOC)

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The Circles of the World (New RPers Welcome: See OOC)

Postby Istariquendi » Sat Aug 09, 2008 2:01 am

(Please see OOC Thread before joining.)

A man woke up slowly, consciousness reluctantly returning to him. He had a feeling he did not want to be awake just yet. Maybe a few more minutes and it would go away. Then he could open his eyes.

The first thing he realized was discomfort. It coursed through his whole body like a dull ache, although he was quite sure he wasn't in pain. He was just... wet. It was then that he began to feel little droplets tapping lightly against his eyelids, his arms, his body. They ran like tiny fingertips across his skin, pulling him deliberately from the darkness of sleep. He fought feebly against it, yet gave up to the inevitable. One of his eyes opened.

Light, bright and blinding assaulted him. He squinted and groaned, annoyed at the intrusion of daylight. This was exactly the reason he'd chosen the basement room of the inn, to avoid the sun interrupting in on his sleep. He didn't remember there being any windows when he'd purchased the room. And why was he wet?

He yawned and stretched, his muscles tingling in between his shoulder blades. A taste of ale, old and stale lingered in his mouth, which was slightly better than the cotton feeling that gummed over his teeth. He felt slightly queasy, but he could face the day if the it could just give him a moment. When his eyes opened again, his head swam, but at least the light was more bearable.

After his eyes adjusted and the room focused sharp from a liquid blur he realized that he had been right. There were no windows in this room. The walls ended without break right up to the ceiling. However, he seemed to be missing a ceiling, along with the rest of the inn he had decided to stay at. It was just him, four walls, and an open sky, as if he had fallen into a newly dug grave. Light spilled down along with rain, making the walls around him looked washed out and pale. He felt cold.

Groaning, the man pushed himself up, his joints cracking in a way that was painful but felt enormously better afterward. His head swam as he got onto his feet, this time colors dancing on the edge of his vision. He fell against a wall, feeling the water soak the back of his shirt.

As he looked up at the square patch of sky above him he wondered where the inn he had walked into last night went to. He was pretty certain he had walked into a building before he fell asleep. Although he also was sure he had fallen asleep in a bed. And here was now, basically in a hole with piles of rock at his feet.

He tried to remember the night before, but things were fuzzy. He remembered walking into a building. Then down some stairs, then drifting off to sleep. He didn’t remember drinking that much. In fact, he didn’t remember drinking at all. Yet the way the world was when he woke up made him think that perhaps he was wrong. A cold stone seemed to drop deep in his stomach, stealing all warmth from him.

He ran his fingers through his hair, and for a moment he could only feel how cool and soft it felt. He played with the strands, grabbing hold and then finally shaking free, making drops spatter in the puddles on the ground.

Well, there was nothing to do now other than to climb out of this hole. Maybe he could find out where he had landed himself once he had a look. Scanning the place he saw that the walls were very smooth. No cracks, no jutting stones to grab onto. Still, over in the corner there was a good amount of stone piled up. He went to climb up it, slipping a little on the rain slick stones sliding underneath him. Yet when he reached the top of the pile he could barely touch the ground above him, his fingers grazing the edge.

Looking down he saw the other piles of stone the littered the floor. He jumped down from his perch and started tossing them on top of the corner pile. After a while it rose to about halfway up so he mounted it again. This time his hands were able to touch the ground above him, feeling the grass between his fingers. He petted it slightly, as if coaxing it to pull him up out of this wet, uncomfortable pit. When that didn’t happen he tried it himself. It took him a couple of tries to get the right momentum. Still, in the end he lay on the grass, watching the yellow sky gleam dully above him. There was something haunting about the sky, something that made him watch it even though nothing stirred. Eventually he shook his head and pushed himself up, hoping to get a look around him and find familiar surroundings.

He was in the middle of a road, or rather what was left of it. Patches of grass had grown over it, leaving pieces of it here and there, gleaming softly like white bricks of soap. Buildings lined the road, spilling out white rock from cracks and holes along their walls. One across from him only had two windows and an empty doorway. It stared at him like the face of a skull, making him feel hollow. Some buildings simply weren’t there any more, the pits of their basements open to the sky like the one he had climbed out of. Birds chirped in the distance.

A vague question of how he managed to find these ruins when he had fallen asleep within a city began to form in his mind. Eventually the thought overrode his shock and he began to walk up the road. It rose up, winding this way and that, always surrounded by a jagged line of building, like gaps of worn and missing teeth along ruined gums. Here and there another road would cross his path, leading to more ruins along either side. Sometimes in these intersections a fountain would rise in the middle, tiny white spires twisting up to the sky while a stagnant pool lay within its bowl, waves forming from the rain crashing down into it. Or sometimes he found statues, their faces worn away and their limbs littering the ground, pale and lifeless.

As he walked, the man began to feel that there was something strange about these ruins, other than the fact that he had mysteriously arrived within them. They were oddly… clean. No stains marred the white stone, no cracks or chips. Every brick was whole, and lay untouched by time save for the stalks of grass that grew around it. It was as if the buildings themselves had grown weary over time and had come apart at the seams.

And he felt he knew this place, although nothing seemed familiar around him. He felt as if he were walking in a dream he had once before but could not remember his way. Yet if he just followed on he would find out everything he needed to know.

A broken archway loomed over his head and suddenly the road widened, climbing up to the summit of the ruins. A jagged tooth of a building was silhouetted against the sky that grew slowly as he made his way up. When he reached the top he realized he was in the middle of a courtyard, empty fountains and dismembered statues lying within. Pale flowers, white and blue grew wild within square gardens, their blossoms beautiful, but somehow faded, as if the rain had washed the brightness of the color away. The tooth was in fact the remnants of a tower, a broken circlet with its arms reaching out towards the man as if to embrace him, yet holding only desolation inside.

He turned around then and looked back the way he came. The remnants of a city dotted the hillside. Collapsed buildings, broken walls, empty gates. They all glistened in the light that fell like layers of yellow cream from the sky. Down at the bottom was a bright green field that stretched out until it merged with the sky in a dazzling blur. He realized with a shock that there were no clouds in the sky, and yet the rain continued to fall.

The man felt familiarity tug against his brain, his memories screaming at him incoherently. His eyes scanned the area for anything to trigger his mind, anything at all. And then they found the tree.

There it stood, tall and proud and white as the stone that lay around it. Its leaves were open to the sun just as pale and tinged with silver, drops of water falling from their tips to land in a shallow pool and its roots. It glistened as if it were not a living thing, yet swayed in the wind that was bitter and cold. He shivered as he walked toward the tree, mesmerized by the forking paths the branches took, the way they danced with the wind. Without thinking his hand reached toward it, wanting to feel its bark against his palm.

“Do not touch the tree.” A voice cracked like a whip behind him.

“I beg your pardon?” The man looked behind him to see the hunched form of an old woman standing beside a white stone bench. A ragged shawl was draped around her shoulders and she had a bouquet of flowers in her withered hands. A few were woven within the white locks of her hair.

“You should not touch the tree.” She said. “You have no right.”

“But it is only a tree.”

“‘Only a tree’ he says!” She spoke right on top of him. “‘Only a tree’…” She shook her head before fixing him with a stare that he was certain could peel the skin off his face if she would only let it. “You ever seen a tree like that?”

The man said nothing.

“Nor have I, save this one. Be best if we left it alone.” She smiled then, an odd curve that wrinkled her small face. “It has done better than anything we helped make.” She gestured opened her arms as if to take in the ruins within her embrace. Something clicked within the man’s head.

“There was a city here…”

“Well of course there was!” The old woman cackled, walking closer to him. “Ruins do not simply sprout from the grass.” She bent down to pick up more flowers, bringing them up to her nose to smell them.

“Last night, a city stood here.” The man said with a surety he did not feel. The memories he had awaken with were fading, seeming less and less real.

“Is that so?” The old woman had stopped what she was doing and stared at him curiously. He could see now that she had bright blue eyes that were sharp as knives. It was like she was slicing into him with her stare.

The man said nothing.

“Well, I can tell you truly that this place has been a ruin ever since I have been here.” The old woman went back to her flowers. Though her movements seemed more to distract her from his presence than to be for picking the right bloom.

“And how long has that been?” The old woman froze, and when her eyes met his they were cold with fear, like ice about to melt in the spring thaw. Yet the moment passed and she smiled.

“It is rude to ask a woman her age.” She said and then a sad look swallowed her face. “You talk of dreams, child. There are no cities left in this land.” She reached up and rested a gnarled hand on his shoulder. Then, without a word she walked passed him and made her way down the uneven road.

“Where are you going?”

“To my home.” She called back. “Flowers are what I came for and flowers are what I have. Are you coming or will you leave an old woman to wander alone?”

Unable to think of anything else to do, the man walked beside her as they made their way down the mountain.
Last edited by Istariquendi on Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:13 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Istariquendi
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Postby Istariquendi » Tue Aug 19, 2008 9:27 pm

At first, the man had thought the old woman hunched, but rather she was just very short. Her head did not reach his shoulder, however she stood straight and did not hobble as she walked. He suspected her pace was more of a choice rather than an imposition of age. Every once in a while she would stop and turn her head slightly, as if listening in on a conversation just around the corner. The man did not mind, he was in no hurry. And for a while they walked together down the road, not speaking a word.

He did not know how long they walked as they passed through a maze of white walls. No longer were the streets the only paths through the city. Many openings had cracked through the walls, making little pathways lined with rubble. In some places the true road had completely dissolved and he felt completely lost within a labyrinth of intertwining paths. Yet the old woman picked her way, slowly and surely, never once hesitating even when the choices seemed many. After a while the man began to feel that it didn't matter which way they chose, that all ways led to the same end. And then he felt convinced that there was no end, that he had somehow become trapped within an endless ruin without time. Most of the walls were high enough that they blocked the sun. He supposed it must be either very early or late in the day. Although he felt they had been walking for hours, he could not be sure. At one point it had stopped raining, though he could not tell when. One minute he was soaked with no end to the rain in sight and then suddenly he was dry.

Finally she stopped at one part of the wall that seemed no different from the others. There were still many forking paths around them. A manor was across from them that had collapsed in many places, although up high there was a wall with jagged shards of colored glass hanging in the circle. They twinkled softly in the light and or a moment the man could only stare.

"We're here." She said, driving him out of his daze. He looked around, expecting to see an opening, but there were none.

"We're... where?" He asked, utterly confused. "I see no gate." Suddenly, he wondered if he was dreaming, and why he hadn't thought about that before. Then the old woman grabbed his arm with a soft grip and led him up the stairs of a ruined house.

"There are no gates into the White Maze." She said, leading him on. He followed without complaint, thinking that he was about to wake up and that he should maybe go ask the innkeeper to check on his ale. "We tried to make one a while ago. It ended badly. The wall we were working on collapsed and a boy's leg was broken. After that we realized we did not know what we were doing and stopped."

They walked up the stairs, and turning to the right came up to a tower. Here they walked up a small spiraling staircase that was quickly interrupted, broken open to the sky. The old woman ran ahead of him, moving much more quickly than he thought she should be able.

"Instead, we made this." Ahead of him there lay a makeshift staircase, made of stone and wood and crates and barrels. It led down to the ground where a great field of grass stretched before him, green with edges glinting with gold. The old woman stepped on to the stairs and was jerked to a stop. The man stood frozen, mesmerized by the open expanse ahead of him. He felt a strange urge to just run into it, to jump in and splash around as if it was a golden sea. But he also felt as if he could not move, that he was sinking slowly into the swirling grass.

"Come now, boy." The old woman's voice cracked and he looked at her. "It may not look much, but it's sturdy enough to hold ten men on. Should be enough for us." They began to walk down side by side. And indeed, the stairs held up, though it creaked at times under their weight, and swayed oh so slightly in the wind. And then they were in the grass, the stalks nearly rising to the old woman's shoulders.

She walked on and after a few moments became nothing but a floating head brushed by the grass. The man followed in after her, feeling the grass draw damp lines into his shirt. After a while he looked back behind him, seeing the ruins. They looked oddly alive, or rather something barely living. Like an onion that had been cut and its layers had cracked and peeled away from its center. He could still see the broken tower, a tiny jagged edge jutting from the top of the mountain.

When he looked back the old woman was nothing more than a grey dot far from him. He caught up with her quickly and for a while they walked side by side in silence.

"I think I like you, boy." She said, mostly to herself.

"Why is that?" The man asked her, the conversation feeling strange after so much silence.

"Because you know when to keep quiet." She said softly. "Most people don't know the value of silence." She stopped walking and looked up to the sky, closing her eyes. "There are just some things you cannot say. That you should not say." Her cold blue eyes grazed over him and she adjusted the flowers in her hair. "You seem like one who knows such things."

The man did not know what to say, and so said nothing. The old woman smiled and a sparkle lit in her eyes, like light flashing off a deep, still pool. "Exactly."

They continued on, walking through the pathless fields to where he did not know. He saw no signs of a camp, no ways worn through the grass. There wasn't even a sun out to guide them, though the day remained as bright as ever.

"Where is the sun?" He asked. "Surely it should be dark by now..."

"It is never dark here." The woman said, offering no explanation as to why. The man accepted this, though his mind reeled. Light without sun? It seemed impossible. And yet here he walked and the light did not dim though the sun was nowhere to be seen. It made him uncomfortable, his eyes trying to focus on the ground. He followed the paths the wind made as it cut across the grass, making them bend and straighten like waves in a living sea. Sometimes he thought he could see patterns being drawn by the lazy breeze, swirls and shapes that seemed to teeter on the edge of meaning. Yet just as he felt he was about to understand what the patterns meant, they would disappear, leaving a simple field behind them. The way the land rolled on and on it was almost as if it were breathing. The man felt disoriented walking across it, his feet unable to walk completely into a straight line. It seemed almost sudden when they reached the foot of a hill.

"Ah, we're almost there!" The old woman breathed excitedly. "Should be just over this hill." She hiked up her ragged skirt and began steadily to climb. The man followed and felt surprised at how quickly he became short of breath. Still, he pressed on and soon they reached the top of the hill.

Just as promised there was a little camp laid out within the arms of a curving, grass covered hill. Mostly it was made up worn, grey animal skins stretched across wooden poles. Tendrils of smoke drifted up into the sky and the man could see small figures milling throughout the camp.

"There it is." The old woman said. "Home, sweet home."

The man thought he heard a hollow quality to her voice. She stared intently, seemingly at the campsite. Yet something about the look in her eyes made it seem as if she were not seeing anything in front of her at all, as if she were still looking for something hidden in the grass. After a moment the light returned to her eyes and she looked back at the man, holding out her wrinkled, bony hand.

"Would you mind helping an old woman down a hill?" She asked. The man held out his arm and she weaved hers around it. Their descent was slow.

"I don't know why, but this hill always makes my joints ache." She went on to explain. "I make it up and down through the ruins, and there's nothing. I can even climb this same hill and it's like I'm not a day over twenty. But once I start walking down it's like there's a fire in my bones." She looked up at him, looking oddly like a child for a moment. "You don't know what I'm talking about yet, but you will!"

The man could still taste ale in his mouth, could still feel an ache pulsing through his head. He felt weary and his lungs were on fire. Perhaps he knew a little of what she was talking about.

The camp was growing as they grew closer, becoming more alive with people, tent flaps blowing in the wind and a distant sound of chimes tinkling in his ears. He heard a horse neigh in the distance and in the center of the camp was a big corral with stallions within of all shades. As he neared he realized that the camp was built around the corral in a tight circle. The smell of smoke mixed with cooked meat and horse sweat, like a well kept stable in a respectable inn.

As they neared what seemed to be an entrance, two men on horses rode toward them, one mounted on a white stallion spotted with red and the other on a brown so dark as to be nearly black.

The one riding the rowan was tall and thin, with hair that was so blond it was nearly white, though he was not so old, perhaps two score years. It was tied into a thick braid that ended in a club at his shoulders. He had no beard but his face was grizzled and unshaven. He had deep grey eyes that seemed to reflect the world around them. The other on the brown was shorter, with long brown hair intertwined with braids. He had a short, thick beard and shared the grey eyes of his companion. He seemed the older of the two, lines creasing the corners of his eyes and etching across his forehead. His face bore a smile seeing the old woman, whereas the other scowled at the stranger. Both bore crude wooden spears.

"Where have you been, Luinne?" The blond man asked, his eyes fixed coldly on the younger man. "Who have you brought with you?"

"You know where I have been, so I do not see why you ask." The old woman replied, obviously annoyed. The blond man broke his stare and looked at her for the first time.

"You should not wander in the ruins." He said, though how he spoke was strange. There was no reprimand in his voice, no tone of indignation. He was simply stating. "You know how dangerous it is."

"I will do as I please, Bron" Luinne said calmly. "I know the ways in and out."

"You have not answered my question, Luinne." The blond man smiled down at the old woman, his horse shifting its feet as it stood, eager to move.

"I thought we had just settled that there was no point in your question." Luinne countered quickly, folding her arms across her chest, her bouquet of flowers brushing her cheek.

"I mean about the boy. Who is he?" Bron said.

"I found him in the ruins." Luinne answered casually. The horsed men exchanged fearful glances and looked down at the old woman.

"And you brought him here?" The bearded man had a deep rumbling voice that was loud and penetrating. It had a sharp edge of fear in it.

"What is his name?" Bron questioned.

"Well, to tell you the truth I haven't yet asked for it..."

"You brought a strange boy from the ruins back to our camp and you do not know his name!" Bron was scolding now, a fire burning in his eyes. He glared in fury upon the man beside the old woman, throwing down his spear and leaping off the back of his horse. Before the other man could react he was forced to the ground, a knee driving his face into the dirt. He tasted wet soil in his mouth and when he breathed puffs of dust would rise into the air.

"What are you doing?" Luinne's voice cried out.

"You said you knew of the dangers within the Maze, but it is obvious that you do not consider them seriously." Bron spoke with a cold fury that made the man's heart race thunderously. He wondered distantly if he was about to die and struggled feebly. The older man twisted his hand, sending pain shooting up his arm. He stopped almost immediately. "You know what sort of creatures dwell there. Have you no sense, woman?"

"Do not speak to me like that!" She waved her bouquet at the blond man. "I will not be scolded like a child!"

"And I will not suffer those who would bring danger upon our people." The man felt his hands being tied together tight with rough twine. Fibers stuck out and cut his wrists as Bron tightened his knots. He then tied twine around his ankles before flipping him over onto his back. "If you were younger and a man, Luinne, I swear I would force you from our camp for such foolishness."

"He is not what you think his is." Luinne said calmly. "He is nothing more than a boy who is lost."

"We shall see." Bron said turning his gaze back onto the younger man. "What is your name, stranger?"

The man opened his mouth to answer and was surprised when nothing came out. He felt as if he had fallen off of a cliff and was now flailing in nothingness trying to grasp something he was sure was there but could not find. He reached back deep in his mind for it, finding it just beyond his grasp. Almost he felt he had it, but then it would slip again from his fingertips, leaving him standing with a chasm opening wide in front of him. Suddenly he felt a sharp cold line across his throat.

"It is customary to answer a man's question when he asks it." Bron said coldly. "Especially when that man has such an important choice to make. Now, once again. What is your name?"

"I do not know." The man whispered, barely above the sigh of the wind. He was afraid that if he spoke more the knife would cut into his throat.

"Pardon?"

"I do not know." There was a long moment as Bron stared into the eyes of the man. He must have thought many things as he looked into their faded blue depths, but after a while he came to a decision. Without a word he grabbed the younger man and hoisted him onto the rowan's back.

"I will bring you into our camp bound." Bron told him. "Then we can decide just who and what you are." He mounted his horse as the bearded man helped the reluctant old woman behind him. With a short gallop they made their way into the camp.
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Postby anduin wraith » Wed Aug 20, 2008 11:43 am

The man awoke much as he had these past few weeks sore and hungry, the soreness due to the location of his tent what with it being on top of a long toppled arch support and him having been an outsider having wandered in from the outside lands, he had come upon this place by chance and had not been welcomed warmly.

For although he like the rest of the encampment was a human he was considered a traitor by many although nobody could seem to recall exactly why they distanced themselves from him and named him as outer watchman, due mostly to their mistrust of all outsiders and anything out of place.

He slowly rolled onto his back with his arms stretching out searching for his pack for he seemed to remember vaguely having some food in the bottom of it, pulling the pack towards him and slowly reaching his hand inside he felt a small warm furry lump move just under his fingertips, slightly alarmed he sat bolt upright and grabbed the pack to him upending it between his legs as he moved the pack away he saw sitting quite happily a small mouse with a tiny piece of bread in its clutches.

Not quite knowing what to do he just looked at the small creature as it continued to eat the last of his food, "well then my tiny friend it would appear that you have eaten my breakfast or at least i think its breakfast time i never can tell anymore" the mouse just sat there with its head cocked listening as the man talked away to himself.

"Oh well theres nothing for it" said the man slowly getting to his feet and scooping up the tiny mouse in his left hand placing it upon his shoulder as he lifted the tent flap aside with his other "time to get to work then my friend and earn us a meal at least."

Striding off towards the center of the camp he glanced to his left and right as he went occasionally acknowledging people as he passed by on his way to the corral area, he had almost reached the corral when two men on horseback passed him by giving him an evil look but he was used to the looks from the menfolk by now and paid them no heed as he continued onwards towards the smithy where he would earn his right to eat for another day.

"Morning or whatever it is to be" he said to the bare chested men as he entered the smithy to the sound of hammer on anvil and the oppressive heat, he moved to his bench and reached up and placed the mouse on the side in the little box he had found for it "you're late Niklioas you know the penalty for that another hours work for you today." great that was all he needed although truth be told he'd rather be working than sat about useless as many of the others at least he had a trade.

Several hours had passed and work had come and gone it was approaching the end of his shift when he heard a commotion coming from the east, thats the old city end of the campsite he thought with some interest and grabbing a spear he had been making he left the smithy moving off towards the sound of the ruckus.

It turned out only to be the mad old woman Luinne returning from one of her walks at least everyone called her man although he had not yet decided himself for she seemed to know things that few others did, she was being hassled by the two men he had seen ride past earlier that day as always thinking they had the right or power to hassle whoever they should come across.

Quite suddenly one of the men dismounted and lunged at a figure that until that moment he hadn't noticed being there at all, the figure was thrown roughly to the ground and bound hand and foot like a prize pig ready to be placed upon a spit.
The young man for that is what he saw as the two men passed on horseback looked as though he had not eaten in a long time and also had a pleading but confused look in his eyes as they briefly met his own as he passed.
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Postby Loopy » Sun Aug 24, 2008 6:37 pm

It was a cloudy day and she knew that it would rain a lot on the afternoon, but Serilen had to go… she didnt know why, but she had to; something was wrong although she couldnt tell what.

She had some breakfast and prepared somethings to be carried in a small bag and she left home. She didn’t know where to go, the road would tell her. She was on her own, her kind was not as popular as it used to be and there were no horses left. She left home and started walking.

After some time, she decided to take a break near the river, for she had been walking for a long time and she was hungry now. She opened her bag and had some lembas, she couldn’t trust the woods any more, so wild fruits were not an option these days, and continued her journey.

Several days passed by, and would camp alone, she came to the conclusion that she couldn’t trust anyone she didn’t know, it was for her own safety, so when she met another group of travelers, she would never join them, nor guide them anywhere, she was alone; and alone she was gona be. Watchful of her surroundings, she kept on going until something odd happened: she came across some dead men; two of them were killed by arrows, seemed to be quite old or rudimentary arrows, whereas they were very well dressed, even at this time. Serilen thought they were on an important mission, but of course, there was no way she could tell what that was. The third one was weak and almost gone, with an arrow in his left leg and another near his heart, was laying close to a tree. Serilen, observed each one, and when she was about to leave, she hear a whisper

-“please elf, help me. Im Barubo and I need to return to my city”

- “im sorry human, but I cant help you. You are on your own, just as I am…” she said, with sadness in her face

-“you don’t understand… it is imperative that I return to the city, I must deliver a message to the rulers!!” he said, weak, but sure of his words

-she came closer and sat by his side, while playing with some fallen leafs “im sorry, I cant help you” and stood and started to walk, thinking about this man, who despite the fact that was dying, his face was calm and very peaceful.

-“she told me I would meet an elf on my way… you must speak to her, she will help you with your doubts and fears”

-turning around she faced him again “who is she?” “what are you talking about?” “where do you want to go?”

-you ll see. You ask too many questions! May be you will get some answers… Now get my horse, we need to get going, Im afraid i wont last much.

She couldt explain why, but she did as she was told. She got the horse and sat the human on it, then she mounted. The man whispered again and the horse started a soft pace which later speed up.

They arrived to was used to be a glorious city, but now it was reduced to some buildings not in the best shape. In its heyday, it was by far one of the most important cities in middle earth, but she could remember been here nor the name of the city. As they were approaching the main gate, two soldiers stopped her.

-“who are you and how did you get here” one of the groaned

-“who am I is none of your business. Ive come with this man” and with this she showed them the human, who was even weaker and burning in fever. “he didn’t tell me the way, he whispered something to his horse and told me that some woman wanted to see me”

- “fine, get down here and you (pointing to the other soldier) get him to the hospital area. NOW! Move” as the sickone was carried away, the first soldier looked back to her “now elf, wait here until I decide what to do with you” and before she could react, he had tied her up.
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Postby Istariquendi » Fri Aug 29, 2008 8:01 pm

People were looking at the man. More than that. People who were obviously busy with important tasks had stopped what they were doing in order to stare at him. Some even walked behind Bron's horse, all the while their eyes fixed on his face. It was as if he were in a crowd of people who recognized him but could not figure out from where. His eyes met a couple as he passed. He wondered why so many faces had fear looking back at him.

After he got over the initial shock of so much attention he realized how much he ached. Pain shot through his arms like a dull fire. On the contrary he also realized that his right leg had fallen asleep. He tried to adjust himself but only succeeded in making himself more uncomfortable.

Luckily they did not go far. When they were well within the camp they stopped in front of a tent that seemed no different from any other. However Bron dismounted and cut the bonds that held the man’s legs. He felt immediately relieved.

"Get down." Bron said. "We're going inside." The man pushed himself off the back of the horse and immediately collapsed on the ground. His leg was still asleep and he could hardly hold himself up on it. Bron grabbed him fiercely and stood him up. This time the man was able to keep his balance, his leg feeling as if it were being stabbed by needles. He was pushed forward through the grey tent flap, finding himself standing on a strange animal's pelt. It almost looked like a fox, yet he didn't ever remember foxes being able to reach that size...

"Who are you?" The voice came from the older man sitting in a makeshift chair, grey furs piled on it to act as a cushion. He had bright orange hair with a darker red beard. Both had streaks of grey interlaced within them. He was holding a wooden cup with something hot steaming inside of it, his intense brown eyes boring into the other man. When Bron entered the older man spared him a glance and then his eyes snapped back to the man. "Why are you here, Bron? Who is this you have brought with you."

"I did not mean to disturb you, Arrek." Bron said in his odd, expository way. The man was certain there was meant to be sarcasm in his voice, yet he could hear none. "But I thought this was important. We seem to have a visitor from the ruins."

Arrek's eyes widened fractionally, yet his expression did not change. “Does he have a name?”

“He seems to have forgotten it.” Bron said, obviously not convinced.

Arrek considered the man for a moment, his brown eyes seeming to burn with an inner fire. The man could see a touch of fear in them, and also something else. Perhaps curiosity?

“What is it that you wear in your ears, stranger?”

The man was confused. He brought up his hands, his fingers feeling around his ears one by one. Each time they found small, hard spikes lining the edge of his ear, ending with something round and smooth in the lobe.

“I do not know.” He said softly. “I did not realize I had them until now.”

Arrek had an odd look on his face. Fear had relinquished its hold on his eyes, being now taken over by confusion and wonder. He scratched his beard idly, as if trying to find the answer within the depths of a riddle.

“Is that not odd to you?”

“Yes, of course.” The man answered. “But in a way not so at the same time. They feel as if they are a part of me. Do you notice everything that is a part of you at all times?”

Of a sudden, Arrek laughed. A loud, deep and pleasant sound that filled the tent. Bron stood in the corner fidgeting, while the man waited silently. Both did not understand what was so amusing.

“Ah, stranger.” Arrek said after he recovered. “If it were up to me I would release you right here and now.”

“Why do you say such things?” Bron said angrily. “You do not yet know who he is.”

“No, yet I am sure that I like him, whoever he may be.” Arrek said. “He does not have a bad feel.”

“We do not entrust the safety of this camp to your feelings, Arrek.” Bron said coolly, only just failing to keep the malice from his voice.

“Of course not.” Arrek smiled warmly. “We leave such work to horses.”

During the conversation, the man had drifted off, knowing that he had no part in it. Somehow his capture had managed to turn into a small confrontation between the two men. Their words had flowed over him like a tide of vague ideas. Now he was back, his curiosity rising in the thick silence that had followed. What did that mean, about the horses?

“You would do well not to mock our ways.” Bron said, his calm obviously shattered.

“I do not mock, Bron.” Arrek said. “I merely observe with amusement.” There was another moment of silence as both men’s eyes met. The man felt as if it were getting hotter in the tent, sweat starting to glaze his forehead.

“Now if you are ready, you may bring him to the corral.” Arrek continued. “Call the camp as well. I will be joining you once I have prepared.”

Without a word, Bron grabbed the man by his shoulder and led him outside of the tent. He felt relieved leaving it, a breeze brushing across his face and billowing in his clothes. He breathed in the air outside. It smelled more like horse than ever. Soon they were next to the rowan, Bron untying the horse from a post to the side of the tent. For a moment the man thought of running, but he saw that a crowd had already gathered around him. He was not sure he would have better treatment at their hands if he ran.

With the horse freed Bron used the rope to tie a knot between the man’s wrists, making a sort of leash he could hold onto. With one hand he led the horse by its reins, with the other he held the man’s leash. The man himself walked alongside Bron, his leash dangling in a loop between them. As he walked his eyes wandered around him, taking in empty tents and swirling grasslands. He did not look a prisoner, but rather a guest who had just happened to be bound. Soon enough they stood in front of the gate of the corral. Bron picked up a metal rod and began to bang on a small black bell that rang dully and out of tune.

The bell ended up being unnecessary. The rest of the camp had been following them in a small trail and had started surrounding the corral before it had even begun to ring. Still, Bron rang the bell a few more times as if to make sure. They all waited, the man next to Bron in front of the gate and the rest of the camp around the corral as if in appointed places. The horses walked around idly inside, completely unaware of the people around them. There was one though that seemed to look at the man, a black stallion with deep brown, intelligent eyes. He stood across the corral, completely still save for when his tail whipped up to swat a fly.

“You have not asked why we have taken you prisoner.” Bron’s voice made the man break his gaze with the black, turning around to see a look of confusion on his face. “Why?”

“I am still alive.” The man said. “Sooner or later you would let me know.”

“I suppose you are right.” Bron said distantly. “I would not let a man face this trial without knowing what he was getting into.”

“So you think I am a man, then?”

“I do not know.” Bron’s expression did not change, yet somehow his face seemed to soften. “One can never be sure of anything these days.” They stood together in silence for a few moments, a sad look in Bron’s eye.

“There are creatures that dwell in the ruins.” Bron whispered to him. “Fell things, wicked things… It is not wise to trust any that come from them. Some take the guise of men and women to be welcomed by a camp, only to slaughter its people. I will not let this happen. Do you understand?”

Before he could nod a hand dropped on the man’s shoulder and he turned to see Arrek behind him cloaked in thick furs and holding a chipped clay bowl. He gave the man a half smile, meant to be reassuring, though it did little to comfort him. Bron handed Arrek the man’s leash and opened the gate for them. They made their way inside and Bron closed the gate behind him.

Once inside the man immediately felt his skin tingle, heard the wind rush across his ears and smelled the earth mixed with horse sweat. Every nerve within him felt sensitive, oddly attuned to everything around him. He felt raw, exposed. He was not sure on whether he liked this feeling or not.

The man noticed they were making their way toward a large wooden pole thrust into the ground. At its top a stone was wedged into the wood and tied tight to it with twine. He was not sure, but the man thought he could see a dull brown smudge upon the rock. He tried not to think as to what this meant.

“You must wonder why you are here.” Arrek said.

“That, among other things.” Arrek smiled at the man again. They had reached the pole and the man realized that the rock was head height. It was becoming very difficult to ignore its purpose.

“Lift up your hands.” The man did as he was told and Arrek fed the rope he was tied to through a hold bored through the top of the pole.

“You see, the corral is a camp’s heart, its very life.” Arrek said. “Without our horses we would have nothing. They give us our very ability to survive out on the plains. Our ability to ride.

“Yet it is more than that.” He continued, securing the rope so that the man had to stand on the tips of his toes. “In some ways a horse has more sense than a man. It listens to things we have chosen to ignore, or perhaps it just has a better nose for these kinds of things.”

“Judgment.” Arrek said. “That is why you are here. To be judged. Since men have lost their ability to see into another man’s soul we leave it to our horses, who are not so foolish as to forget such things.

“If they accept you, you have nothing to fear. You will be freed. If not, your head will be crushed against this very stone.”

For the first time since the man had woken up a thrill of fear erupted in his heart. He held his breath as he looked into the genuinely sorry eyes of the older man. Arrek put his hands upon the man’s shoulders and gave him that half smile again.

“Here.” He said, bending down to pick up the clay bowl. The man could see now that an orange resinous powder lay inside. Arrek drew out something that looked like a fragment of paper and it somehow caught aflame. He let the fire fall from his hands and it landed in the bowl, igniting the powder with a soft sizzle. The man smelled something earthy and spicy, like and yet unlike cinnamon. Smoke curled from the lip of the bowl and Arrek brought it up to the man’s face, using his other hand urging the man’s head down. “Breathe. It will strip you of whatever layers you may have given yourself if you are one sent to deceive us.”

The man did as he was told, feeling the smoke burn his mouth, his nose, his lungs. He thought it would pass yet instead it built up becoming more and more intense until he coughed harshly, his eyes tearing up, snot dripping from his nose. At last, Arrek pulled the bowl away, leaving the man hacking and bleary eyed. His head was light and he felt a soft buzz somewhere at the base of his skull. Arrek turned to the surrounding crowd.

“There is no need for words.” He called. “You all know what passes here. Let us watch and wait.” With that he made his way back to the gate. It opened for him and closed with a soft thunk, leaving the man alone with the silence and the horses.

At first nothing seemed to happen. The man’s cough softened until it was nothing and his vision began to clear. Suddenly everything became beyond clear, as if his vision kept on adjusting beyond reality. He could see impossible details, every blade of grass, every grain that lined the wood that made up the fence. Oddly, he could not see the faces beyond. They seemed to blur and swirl until all features were lost in a soft pink slate, as if he were surrounded by tall incomplete figurines looking in at their new toy.

A breeze stirred in the grass and suddenly he was in a golden maelstrom. Swirls spread like ripples in a great sea, drawing incredible patterns that seemed to leave a lasting impression. On and on the lines were drawn over each other, becoming a confusing mass of swirls and half-written words. It was as if he were witnessing the birth of an intensely complicated language from his wooden island.

The man breathed and as the air flowed into his lungs the fence receded back, becoming hazy mountains shadowed in the distance. The buzzing in the back of his head spread throughout his skull making it hum like a plucked string. As he looked above him the sky opened wide, the land around him falling off until he was alone with the endless heavens. Something shifted and suddenly orange lines painted themselves into the firmament, merging and blending until it glowed like one great shining flame.

All at once the sky began to swirl, great streaks running down like candle wax. With a silent crackling boom that he felt inside his ears a gentle colored rain began to fall, hot droplets pelting his skin. He held his head down, letting the waxy liquid soak his hair. When he looked up again he saw black swirl ahead of him that focused into a horse’s head as it came closer. He recognized it as the black that had gazed about him before, his eyes impossibly huge and glowing with a fire that danced around its pupils. He stared long into those eyes, feeling that he could almost recognize a pattern within the varying shades and that this pattern drew the outlines of the creature’s soul.

The black drew closer, his mane swirling in the wind as if it were swimming underwater. The rain fell into it, blurring, merging, blending until it was like a halo shining around the stallion’s face. And still he drew closer.

At last the black halted, his face hovering just ahead of the man’s, waiting. The man felt a pressure in the back of his eyes, as if something were probing through his pupils, yearning to get inside. With a jerk, he felt himself pulled forward and suddenly his face met with the black’s.

Explosions of sensation shot through his skin, growing like waves crashing against the shores of his bones. The fire burning in the stallion’s eyes flooded into his own so intensely that he saw his own eyes, a faded scintillating blue glistening in his vision. They faded slowly and he could not describe what exactly happened next.

He felt as if he were falling, like a burning star fleeing from the sky only to crash into the trembling sea. And as the waters surrounded him he felt everything melt away from him, layer by layer until he was less than nothing, a shadow of a memory that burst and spread to every corner of the world.

As the pieces of his consciousness began to mend themselves back together he saw the black rise, looming over him like a great plume of smoke. It leaned toward him billowing forward like the birth of forking rivers. He felt a great tremor and heard a deafening crack and again he felt himself fall, being drawn in slowly by thousands of tiny golden arms. They opened and closed around him, both shielding him and exposing him to the world outside. The light above him began to brighten, leeching everything of its color until he felt he was in a ghost of a world, and then that too became nothing but a slate of brilliant white. There were vague sounds just beyond his hearing, mimicking melodies that twisted and wrapped around themselves in a discordant dance. And then all once darkness overtook him. The light, the world, everything was snuffed out like a candle in the night.
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Istariquendi
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Postby Istariquendi » Sat Aug 30, 2008 10:27 pm

The man woke once again to rain. He heard its gentle drumbeat against the soft earth, the tinkling splatter as the blades of grass sliced through the droplets on their way to the ground. He felt them covering his body once more, paths forking and weaving together on his skin. The sensation seemed to throw echoes through him, so that he became aware of his own heart beat against their rhythm, felt the blood coursing through his branching veins. He breathed in the air, feeling his lungs fill, the coolness of it spreading like ripples out to the tips of his fingers, the bottom of his feet.

Something warm and wet slid across his face, leaving a sticky trail. His eyes flipped open, seeing the black stallion’s head hovering above him, his brown eyes regarding the man warmly. The black licked him again, making him scrunch his face against the warm sticky wetness but he laughed, cradling the horse’s head in his hands. It was then that he realized his hands were no longer bound.

He sat up, still sitting in the field in the middle of the corral. Behind him lay the post he had been tied to, broken. The bottom of it stood up like a jagged stump whereas the top lay in the grass, its stone and ropes still intact. The black nuzzled him and he rubbed his face against his muzzle, taking in the smell of him.

“See?” He heard Luinne’s voice crack around him. “What did I tell you? The boy is fine people to be sure.” The man had not noticed that he was now completely surrounded by people. They all stared down at him with wide eyes, as if he would spring to the air and fly over their heads if they blinked.

“We had to make certain, Luinne.” Bron told her. “You know that.”

“You had to make certain of him.” Luinne said. “I was certain of him from the very beginning. It is a sad day when a horse has more sense than a man.”

“Perhaps you would rather live with them, then.” Bron said. “Simply run in the fields wild and naked like a beast.” This sent ripples of laughter buzzing through the rest of the people. The man could hear whisperings as well, the voices blending in just the right way so that he was sure they were speaking of him, yet unsure of what they said.

“Quiet, all of you.” Arrek’s voice came out from the crowd and the red-haired man emerged into view. “I must see to him.” He looked down onto the ground, obviously expecting something mangled and messy on the grass. On the contrary he found a whole man who sat and took in the world around him.

The man himself was inexplicably happy, considering that he had recently been bound, drugged and attacked. And yet he couldn’t help but also notice that the wind was blowing in his hair or the feeling of the horse’s fur against his lips, or even the cool wetness against his skin as the rain continued to pour.

“So.” Arrek said. “You’ve met our black. I had very little hope when he came up to you.”

“Why do you say that?” The man asked.

“Well for one thing, I would like to examine you.” Arrek answered. “But this is about as close as he will let me near him.” It was then that the man noticed that the crowd had given him a wide birth, and that more than a few of them kept a wary eye on the stallion’s hooves. His smile widened.

“I thought your horses were your camp’s heart.”

“True,” Arrek said, returning the man’s smile. “But the heart can be a fickle thing. Now if you would rise we can all come in out of the rain and I can examine your wounds, if indeed you have any.”

The man put his forehead between the horse’s eyes, feeling his smell become a part of him, watching his pupils dilate back and forth in the light. “I’ll be back.”

With that he patted the stallion’s neck and stood up slowly, feeling an ache throb gently through his muscles. He walked a few steps, stumbling a little as he became familiar once more with being stuck onto the world’s surface. Arrek threw an arm over his shoulder when he reached him and they both forged a path through the crowd. At some point Luinne appeared at his other side.

“Well done, boy.” She said. “I have been wanting them to tear that awful thing down for ages. I knew I liked you.”

“Give him some room, Luinne.” Arrek said. “I shall make sure that he is taken care of.”

“Do not dare shoo me away like the rest of these gawkers!” Luinne glared at Arrek, the daggers of her eyes stabbing at him. “I am just as versed in healing lore as you and you should be grateful I’m giving you that much.”

“And yet this camp chose me as their shaman.”

“You know as well as I the ignorance of these people.” Luckily by this time the three of them had broken away from the crowd. They remained around the broken pole, unsure of what to make of it. Arrek frowned at the old woman, unsure whether to be amused or offended by her words. Luinne, of course, did not care either way.

“Very well.” He said. “Let us continue inside the tent then and we can show our skills in healing rather than boast idly of them.” He entered through the tent, leaving the man with Luinne and the tent flap waving in the air.

“After you.” Luinne said with a graceful bow that left the man feeling oddly impressed. He made his way inside the tent, feeling strange that his hands were not tied. Instead his wrists were bound by burns, raw rings etched with red lines where the twine had cut into his skin. He winced, feeling them for the first time.

“Do not worry.” Arrek said. “We’ll be taking care of that.”

“Right.” Luinne said as she walked through the tent flap. “We most certainly will.” Arrek shot a look at her before rummaging among shelves full of clay bowls and pots, picking items seemingly at random and pouring them into a rough hewn stone mortar. Without even looking he started to mix it all together with a pestle.

“Let me look at your wrists, boy.” Luinne told the man as she sat across from him. Before he could think to comply she grabbed his hands, turning his palms upward. Her eyes leered at his wounds, her concentration so intense that for a moment he thought that perhaps her glance would heal the wounds all by itself. Then her look turned sour.

“These are terrible.” She hissed. “That man needs to learn the meaning of tenderness. It does not take much to mar skin.”

“Oh, he knows.” Arrek came around with another clay bowl that the man eyed like a snake coiled around his wrist. “It is just that you do not see it.”

“What was it that you gave me before?” The man asked. Simply thinking about it made the world vibrate around him and gave him this odd sensation in his stomach. Like he could jump up and he wouldn’t stop, but rather simply burst through the canvas of the tent and fly up into the sky.

“I already told you.” Arrek said with a smile as if he had explained everything. The man’s eyes remained locked onto the bowl, almost afraid to let them out of his sight. “Do not worry, all this will do is heal your burns.”

“I will be the judge of that.” Luinne said, snatching the bowl from Arrek’s hands and sniffing it. With an expression that the man couldn’t quite place as acceptance or disapproval she dipped her fingers inside and began to rub a green paste onto his wrists. He winced as an icy cold burn seeped into his cuts, yet the pain dissolved quickly, like a soothing breeze had lifted it from his skin.

“I suppose I will get the bandages.” Arrek said, walking back to his shelves and producing strips of soft brown cloth. Luinne grabbed at them yet only managed to grab one from his hands. He set to work wrapping the cloth around the man’s wrist.

“Oh, you are doing it all wrong!” The old woman screeched while taking the man’s other hand. “You must do it like this.” She started wrapping his other wrist in a tender yet determined way. When they were finished the man couldn’t tell the difference between either of their bindings, although he did not dare say as much.

“There,” Arrek said. “That should serve you for now at the very least. Now come, you must be hungry. We will feast around the fire in just a moment. There is not much variety but our meat is good.” With that he left his tent. Luinne sat across from the man, her eyes and her expression vague, as if she were looking out to a great distance. At last they became sharp once more and settled on the man.

“Give me your hands boy.” The man held them up to her, thinking that she wanted to redress his other hand and feeling it would be useless to argue against her. Instead she grasped his palms, her old, bony fingers rubbing them softly. Her skin felt thin as paper and he felt warmth radiating from them.

“Your hands are old hands.” She said, her voice soft for once. Her eyes tore across his hands, roving around every line and mound and vein. “Worn with work and yet delicate. They have touched many things, these hands. They are rough, yet gentle. And yet, I sense that they have much work to do still.” She brought his hands together between her own and patted them softly, her eyes looking into his own.

“Come, I am hungry and I am sure the people outside will be waiting for you to join them.” With that she left the tent, leaving the man by himself.

He sat there for a moment, looking at his hands. They were familiar, which was to be expected since they were his own, and yet he did not see what she saw. To him they were simply hands, made of bone and blood and skin. He saw calluses and lines where the skin folded in on itself and yet there was no meaning behind this, no memory, nothing.

For a moment the strangeness of the day struck him, so that he felt lost. He almost forgot that he was sitting in a tent in the middle of a field of grass. That he did not know his name, or where he was from, or what he had done in his life. Instead he closed his eyes and remembered looking up at the stars twinkling between a vale of clouds and a pale moon that reached out with its milky light and coated the grass around him with a silver sheen. And ahead in the distance was a white city, not in ruins but complete in magnificence.

Yet when he opened his eyes the vision faded and he wondered if he remembered any of these things at all. If in fact his mind could tell him any truths when it was so unsure about the very things that made him who he was.

The smell of smoked meat leaked in through the tent and he breathed in deep, feeling hunger grip his stomach and shake it till it groaned. He let out his breath in a sigh and walked outside the tent into the endless golden glare. The rain had gone again, back to where it came from, he supposed. Outside a fire burned some ways away from him and people sat around it, laughing and eating and talking. He thought he heard the sounds of rude instruments but was not sure as the wind blew across his ears. With a small, sad smile he gave in to the urgings of the wind and made his way towards the fire.
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