A Tale or Two

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A Tale or Two

Postby Kaya » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:00 am

Here follow the (short) tales of any of my characters who feel like sharing part of their lives with the outer world (that would be you). They may be sad tales, they may be lighthearted, but always they will be told in a way that is true to the character, for it is they who talk to me, while I am merely their hired scribe.
If you must know, my wages consist mainly of chocolates.

To not interrupt the flow of the stories, I beg you to keep from making any comments in this thread.

I hope you, dear reader, will enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed the writing.
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Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
User avatar
Kaya
Dúnadaneth
 
Posts: 5250
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2002 6:29 am
Location: Northern Wilderness (and otherwise, in Belgium)
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The Long Shadow - #1

Postby Kaya » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:02 am

There was a heavy mixture of scents drifting in the air, coming from the Wild Honeysuckle vines that had burst into bloom and arched across the outer wall in all their splendorous colour; from the bread baking in the oven; from the rabbits simmering in the crock pot along with chopped onions, bay leaves, leeks, sage and an indecent amount of garlic.

The latter two were only a part of a feast meal that was in the making. It wasn’t an everyday occasion for the patriarch of a family to turn 190 and as such, the ladies who had put themselves in charge of the cooking had been busy bees since before the break of dawn.

“I heard that soon there will be an arrival of new batches of wool at The Knitty & Gritty,” Dorah said, carefully turning the rabbit chunks in the crock pot; she wiped her brow with a tip of the veil that hung across her shoulders. “Maybe we could go into Bree next week and have a look? I know it is still too early to start thinking about the coming of autumn and winter, but...” She put the wooden spoon away and chuckled, “Zaiyar has grown out of his vest again, and it will take me some time to knit him a new one. Riyah needs new mittens. And Reni...” She clicked her tongue. “I don’t know where that boy’s mind is lately, to be honest. You should hear the words coming from his mouth since he started hanging out with that friend from Bree... Anyway, Reni needs new socks; Zaiyar’s old ones have been worn to bare thread!”

“Next week is fine, Ma.” Kaya vigorously scrubbed the wooden board on which she had been cutting up the rabbits; a few locks of hair had escaped from the loose knot on the back of her head and were glued to her temples.

“Excellent. Maybe I should add another clove of garlic. What do you think?” Dorah looked at her daughter, who leaned in next to her.

“Ma, seriously,” Riyah complained from behind them. “No one’s going to come near us for a week at the least!”

“Yes, yes... It’s just that your grandpa likes his garlic.”

“Fine then, ruin my life by making me smell like the Marshes! Unlike Kaya, I would like to find me a nice fellow one day, you know.”

Kaya blinked, churned a string of unfriendly words around in her mind to throw back, but eventually merely said, “There are worse smells than those of the Midgewater Marshes. Not that you even would know how those smell, Ri.” She nudged her mother’s elbow. “You remember that time when Da returned from the Ettenmoors? After that encounter with those Trolls?”

“Ah, do not remind me,” Dorah exclaimed. “Couldn’t get the stench out of his clothes for weeks. I’m still very much in doubt if it actually had been Trolls, mind you. Your father never was one to tell much, not even when he returned looking much like he had been mangled by an Orc horde,” Dorah chuckled, the look in her eyes momentarily distant; then she snapped back to the present and promptly added another clove or two to the simmering food. “Always so damned proud...” she added quietly. “And where is Reni?” she asked next, looking around the kitchen space: bags here, crates there. Her eyes came to rest on her youngest daughter. “I asked him to fetch berries ages ago.”

“Somewhere outside, probably,” Riyah answered, playing absent-mindedly with her long tresses while she stared out of the open window. She gave every impression that outside was where she’d rather be, too. The untouched eggs, butter and bag with flour that lay before her did little to prove otherwise. “How would I know? I’m not his guardian.” In a mutter she added, “Nor am I a scullery maid.”

“He should be helping. Everyone does his share in this house, as you know.” Dorah now looked pointedly at Riyah, but her teenage daughter was oblivious to her mother’s stare and remark; Dorah sighed. “Kaya lass, could you go find him?”

“Sure, Ma,” Kaya said, quickly drying her hands on her apron. She was already walking out the door and shielding her eyes from the steadily lowering sun when she heard her mother shout, “Riyah, drop that second left hand and make yourselves useful, girl. These pies aren’t going to bake themselves. And, mind you, no nice fellow wants a girl who is useless at running a home.”

Kaya didn’t linger to hear the string of excuses that for sure would follow, and picked up her pace while she walked around the house, her long skirts brushing her legs. Happy to be outside in the air she breathed in deeply, and enjoyed the sun on her skin. She called out Reni’s name, but no answer came, and she made straight for the smithy when she noticed her father and oldest brother on its roof.

“Zaiyar lad, keep it steady,” Balar could be heard saying from up above the rooftop.

“Aye Da, I’m trying.” Zaiyar, who kneeled near the roof’s edge with his booted toes pushing against the rim for support, replied around the nails he pinched between his teeth. He rapped repeatedly with a hammer on another nail he was wedging into the plank they both were holding.

Kaya came to a halt near the smithy. “What is happening?”

Balar grabbed his straw hat and pushed it back over his head; his face and neck were beaded with sweat. “Part of the roof needed fixing. We better do it now, before the weather turns ill. How is everything inside?”

“Going well. I’m looking for Reni. Have you seen him?”

Balar shook his head, while Zaiyar sat back on his heels and brushed his hair from his eyes with long fingers; he took the nails from between his lips. “Maybe he’s hanging around at the stables again. That’s where I saw him sneak off to after we returned from Bree.”

Balar raised a brow. “Usually, when you don’t hear Reni, he’s up to something,” he grumbled.

“Surely it can’t be that bad, Da,” Kaya laughed; waving she turned and crossed the small apple and pear orchard. The apples and pears were ripening; it would still take over two months of hopefully good weather before they could be picked. The fermentation vessels and oak barrels to produce cider, and the baskets to gather and sell the pears on the market in Bree would stand abandoned in the shed until then.

The cooler air in the shades of the trees was welcome; it was a pleasantly warm day, especially for Bree-land where autumn-like rainy days were not uncommon to occur in spring and summer as well. Almost as if the Valar wanted her grandpa to have a wonderful birthday.

“Reni, are you here? Reni?” Kaya called out once she entered the stables. She met nothing but the awkward dance of dust particles in golden sun rays that crept through a rare crack in the ceiling, and the smell of horse and hay, well-oiled leather, and a faint whiff of manure.
There was a corridor between the horse’s boxes at one side and smaller compartments at the other side where saddles, hay, oat and various tools were kept. The corridor lead to barn doors at the opposite end that stood open. Through them she could see the horses standing in the shade of the beech tree; it stood big and green in the middle of the pasture that was spacious and lush enough for the two resident horses.

Once Kaya walked into the pasture she noticed Reni who was seated near the water trough, the basket with berries next to him. He sat unusually still, with his head bent and his ash brown hair tussled. When Reni and Zaiyar smiled roguish dimples showed at the corners of their mouth - there was no trace of them on Reni’s face now. Kaya stepped towards him, wondering what caused her eight-year old brother, who was always so cheerful, to hide out here.

“Ma is wondering what is keeping you, little man.”

Reni startled and quickly pulled his arm out of the water trough. “I’ll be right there, just give me a moment.” He glanced at her with a tear streaked face, and brushed over his eyes with his sleeve. His other sleeve was drenched and clung tight to his arm; he plucked carefully at the fabric, pulling it away from his skin.

“What is the matter?” Kaya crouched next to him and she cupped the back of his head. “Why are you crying?”

Reni shook his head. Kaya now noticed his face was sweaty, and pale beneath the tan he had from playing outside; she put her other hand on his forehead. “I am fine.”

“I can see that,” Kaya muttered. “Why don’t you just tell me?”

Reni bit his lip and seemed to think real hard. “You can’t tell Ma. Or Da,” he eventually said. “Please, please don’t tell Da. He was really angry with me a couple of days ago.”

“Tell him what?” Kaya gently reached for Reni’s hand when he didn’t provide further information; she peeled the wet fabric away from his arm, and there was a sharp intake of breath when a nasty burn was revealed. A large patch of skin on Reni’s forearm had turned white and was blistering with a splotchy, angry red edge.

“What happened to you?” Kaya asked, shocked. “Reni?” she pressed when he remained silent apart from new tears rolling over his cheeks, “Tell me what happened.”

“It was an accident. You have to believe me. We just lit a small fire, Malgevil and I. Please don’t tell Da or Ma.” He looked really scared now; Kaya sighed. “Is it bad?” he asked, a croak in his voice.

“This needs to be looked after properly. I will take those berries to Ma and return with some compresses and ointments; they should ease the pain. Stay out of that water trough with your arm, before it gets infected.”

“Please hurry, Kaya.”

“I will. Don’t move.” Kaya grabbed the basket and retraced her steps quickly, through the stables and across the orchard; the asynchronous banging of hammers became louder with each step. She slowed down to a normal pace before she came within view of the smithy.

“Shall I bring you hard working men some refreshments?” she shouted while she walked past them.

“Yes, please,” Zaiyar said immediately. “You’re a life-saver.”

“Was Reni out there somewhere?” Balar asked.

“Yeah, he’s spending some time with the horses.”

Kaya sped up her pace until she burst into the kitchen. Riyah stood at the table, kneading dough with both hands; her face was smeared with it as well, but at least she wasn’t sulking and even seemed to find enjoyment in the task at hand. Dorah was taking the freshly baked bread out of the oven. With the oven, simmering crock pot and the outside warmth clinging to every nook and cranny inside, the kitchen could hardly become any hotter.

“Berries are here, Ma,” Kaya announced, putting the basket on the table. “The men are thirsty. I told them I’d bring them something to drink.”

“You know where the cider is stashed.” Dorah glanced quickly at the content of the basket. “Where is Reni?”

“Out in the back.” Kaya went into the pantry immediately, and poured two large pints of cider. She picked a small pot of honey from one of the shelves as well and put it in the pouch that was attached to her belt. While walking back outside she inconspicuously grabbed her shoulder bag that was hanging from a peg near the door, and sipped from one of the pints.

Father and brother were provided with the necessary refreshments, which they accepted thankfully.
Leaning against the side of the smithy with a pint in his hand, Zaiyar eyed Kaya's shoulder bag. “More herb collecting?” he chuckled way too loudly; Kaya swiftly kicked him in the shin. “Ow,” he groaned and, upon noting the warning look on her face, he asked, “What?” Balar tore his eyes away from the roof he had been inspecting from below and looked their way, a suspicious look on his face.

“I'll be going then,” Kaya said quickly. “I promised Reni to return.”

“Kaya...” Balar said. “Is there anything going on I should know about?”

Kaya looked at her father pleadingly, but that wasn’t enough to stop him from walking past her; she hurried after him. “Da, wait a minute. Please...” Balar stopped again, and waited for Kaya to catch up with him. “Reni hurt himself,” she said quietly. “I can ease his discomfort. Five minutes, that’s all I’m asking.”

Balar simply nudged his head towards the orchard, but his grey eyes showed unhappiness which was punctuated by a sigh she heard while she walked away from him.
Last edited by Kaya on Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
Image
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
User avatar
Kaya
Dúnadaneth
 
Posts: 5250
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2002 6:29 am
Location: Northern Wilderness (and otherwise, in Belgium)
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The Long Shadow - #2

Postby Kaya » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:50 pm

Carefully, Kaya put compresses drenched in Marigold tincture on her brother’s burn; with the second compress she noticed already how the painful grimace around Reni’s mouth slowly lessened. “Better?”

Reni nodded and wiped over his dried up tears. “Thanks.”

Kaya smiled, stroking the matted hair from his brow. “I’ll leave this on for a little longer.” She grabbed the pot with honey from her pouch, when she noticed movement near the stables’ entrance. Reni’s eyes followed her gaze, and instinctively wanted to hide his arm when he saw their father leaning against a supporting beam, but Kaya did not let go of his hand.

“What’s going on with you two?” Balar asked, casually; then he looked at Reni in particular, and he stepped up to them. Noticing the compress, he frowned. “What happened?”

Reni looked at his sister for help. “Just tell,” Kaya said quietly.

“I’m sorry, Da,” Reni started at last after a few hard swallows. He focused solely on the soil where hoof prints were caked into what had once been muddy patches surrounding the trough. “It was an accident,” he added with effort.

Balar crouched. “What was?” he asked, and then he watched how Kaya opened the honey pot and removed the compress from Reni’s skin.

“We were just playing,” Reni offered without any further prodding; he concluded that just having this over with was the better option.

“With fire?” Balar asked, incredulously. He grabbed around Reni’s chin when his son still didn’t look at him. “Reni, how many times...” Balar started, but then he noticed the tears trickling from Reni’s eyes. “Not around here, I hope at least. With the horses, and the hay.” The first salty tears ran over Balar’s fingers already; he lightly pinched Reni’s chin when no answer came.

“At Malgevil’s,” Reni whispered at last, and he pinched his eyes shut, which caused for the pooled up tears to flow quicker.

Balar sighed deeply. “Hadn’t I told you to stay away from him?” He let go of Reni’s chin, and gave him a light tap on his cheek.

Reni nodded, sniffing, and bit on his lips while he looked contrite at his father, but quickly found a new distraction in watching how Kaya smeared a layer of honey on his burn.

Balar did not let go of the subject yet, though. “You sneaked away this morning, while you accompanied Zaiyar to Bree to fetch those boards?”

Reni nodded again, and mouthed “I’m sorry”.

He hadn’t really sneaked away. In truth, Zaiyar hadn’t been unhappy when Reni asked if he could stroll around on his own for a bit; waiting for boards to be cut at the requested length was not a very exciting pastime, especially when Malgevil’s house was basically around the corner. But at this point that detail would make little difference, and Reni knew there would be no glory in getting Zaiyar in trouble as well.

“We didn’t really want to play with fire, Da,” Reni said with as much persuasiveness as he could muster. “But one of us had to play the Dragon. I wanted to be the Dragon’s Bane, really! But then Malgevil and I pulled straws, and I lost.” Reni sulked. “Malgevil’s cousin laughed at us afterwards, saying those Drakes hadn’t breathed fire at all. Is that true, Da?”

Balar straightened his back suddenly, his eyes alert. “What are you talking about?”

“The Ice Dragons,” Reni said exasperated.

Kaya smiled and tried not to laugh. “You mean Cold Drakes, I think.” She applied a bandage around Reni’s now sticky arm, and planted a kiss on top of it after she put a careful knot in it. “All better?” she asked; Reni nodded, and accepted the handkerchief she offered him to clean up his face.

Balar got up from his crouch, rubbing his bearded jaw. “I better go to Bree to have a look... see if there was any damage done,” he said to Kaya, who got to her feet as well.

“Not to worry”, Remi said. “We threw a bucket of water over it. And there are no smoke plumes rising from Bree.” He pointing towards Bree-Hill which hid the city of Bree from their sight.

“Really, Reni, and how is that supposed to put me at ease?” Balar clicked his tongue and from the shade of the beech tree a buckskin mare walked up to him; he patted the horse’s neck, and accompanied her into the stables. “You are not to go anywhere for quite a while, Reni,” Balar called from somewhere out of sight. “And I’m sure it does not need repeating, but anywhere also includes Malgevil, and for even longer.”

“Oh but Da...” Reni whined; he brushed the dry grass from his trousers.

“Do not start. I’ll not soon forget that ale fest the two of you had the other day. You are still but a child.” Balar poked his head outside for a moment. “Go with your sister, and give a helping hand with whatever is required. I do not want to hear about any new nonsense upon my return.”

“I’ll tell Ma you’ll be back in time?” Kaya asked “You know, Grandpa’s birthday?” She heaved the strap of her bag over her shoulder and walked into the stables, Reni right behind her.

“Of course I’ll be back in time,” Balar winked, placing the saddle on the horse’s back. Kaya nodded - they would just have to see about that.

Kaya swung a jostling arm around Reni’s shoulders as they walked out of the stables. “Ale fest?” she whispered.

“Don’t ask,” Reni groaned. “I was really, really sick.”

Kaya sniggered, but upon noticing Reni’s glum face she quickly composed herself. “I’m sorry, I know that’s not funny at all.”

In the shade of the smithy sat Zaiyar, enjoying the last of his cider. “What did the squirt do this time?” he snorted as they approached.

Kaya ignored the remark. “Can you work on that roof by yourself?”

“No.” Zaiyar rested his head against the wooden wall. “I’m waiting for Da to get started again. Why?”

“That’s what I thought. Da is going to Bree. Which means you can make yourselves useful in the house.” Kaya halted when Zaiyar remained seated; she raised an eyebrow.

“What, you mean now?”

“No, Zaiyar, I mean when all the work is done,” Kaya deadpanned. “Come on, slow poke.” She stretched her arm upwards, and smacked Zaiyar across the back of his head when he caught up with them at last. “That’s for not keeping an eye on your brother, and for paying no attention at all when you did.”

“Ow, woman, seriously,” Zaiyar complained, rubbing the offended spot. The fact that Reni sniggered, which Zaiyar cut short with but a glare directed at him, did not help. “What has bitten you today?”

Without being aware, Kaya brushed the fabric covering her left side. “Nothing.” She sighed inwardly. Absolutely and completely nothing.

She loved Bree-land but, truth be told, nothing ever happened around here that could bite her - not since long. Not that she longed for that time with fights and frights again. Not at all!

There was air in Bree-land - free air, thanks to those fights and frights of long ago; wonderful fragrant air, and familiarity. But there was also suffocation.
There was, as there always has been, an ever present need. For her time, her skills, her aid, her decisiveness; even for her cheerfulness. But nothing was there to lift the weight that came with that need. Not even the love and tirelessness with which she accomplished it all. Laughs and family love were shared with her even though she lived on her own since long, but too often it seemed to hardly reach her, and for that she then felt guilty and ungrateful.
Like she already started to feel now.

Just another, ordinary day for Kaya, daughter of Balar, so it seemed.

There was only one cure for this kind of feelings, Kaya knew from experience, and she made a mental note to saddle her horse and set out into the wild at first opportunity. There, at the very least, peace could become part of her again.

“I’m sorry, Zai,” Kaya quietly mumbled, noticing Zaiyar’s scowl; she wrapped an arm around his and wearily prodded him. “Come on, let’s go.”
Image
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
User avatar
Kaya
Dúnadaneth
 
Posts: 5250
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2002 6:29 am
Location: Northern Wilderness (and otherwise, in Belgium)
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The Long Shadow - #3

Postby Kaya » Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:50 am

The sun was sinking in deep orange tinges in the background when Balar finally returned and walked into the frenzy of dinner that was about to be served. Dorah was particularly cool to him, especially since he offered no explanation when she inquired about what had taken him so very long.

“Same old,” Dorah muttered, pretending she was busy checking the table meticulously. She had gone over this process already a few times since the table had been set, and all the plates and cutlery would of course still be in place, as would be the tankards, and the jars with water, and the bee-wax candles that Zaiyar was litting.

“No damage was done, luckily,” Balar repeated the good news which his wife apparently had not heard the first time. He looked around for Reni, who kept a safe distance as much as he kept his gaze averted.

Before Balar could call Reni over, Bagor stepped up to him, jolly and grinning and already enjoying the ale. He smacked Balar’s shoulder hard, as was his custom.

“Pa,” Balar smiled, giving his father a tight hug back in greeting. The man who once had stood tall and strong now barely reached Balar’s chin; his hair was grey now, and his gait sometimes unsteady. In the past few years winter had become particularly painful to Bagor, and not even Kaya’s best salves and compresses and most honed skills could ease the pain once it had set in. But Bagor bore the scars that were proof of the decades of the hard Ranger life he had lived with grace, and he still regarded the world keenly. “190 years, my goodness.”

“Hush boy, no need to throw that at me like it is some kind of spell. Or miracle.” Bagor laughed at his own words, and it was possible the ale and mead had a part in his lighthearted behaviour. Then he took a better look at Balar’s face, and the deepest wrinkles in the corners of his eyes faded along with his smile. “What’s wrong, son?”

“I’ll tell you later, Pa,” Balar said in a subdued voice. Kaya who walked by carrying the last of the food caught the shift in atmosphere between them even so.

Kaya cast them a concerned look, which Balar answered with a smile, just like she had seen him do all those years before the war whenever something was amiss. She suddenly felt uneasy, and despite the day’s warmth that still lingered a chill ran down her spine.

The food was delicious and plenty; the ale, mead and cider even so. The pies and tea were excessive but none could find it in their hearts to leave a crumb on their plate, which pleased Riyah in particular. Dorah was complimented on her excellent cooking skills, and Kaya on her fine catch of rabbits.

“That’s your daughter, no doubt ‘bout that,” Bagor said, raising his pint.

Balar smiled; he looked across the table and noticed Kaya who nodded at something Zaiyar was saying to her, but she bore a faraway gaze. Balar’s smile became an etched line.

“And you, Reni? What have you been doing today?” Bagor asked next, winking. “You’ve been awfully quiet until now. I’m not used to see you like that.”

Balar, sparing his youngest the discomfort of having to talk about his misadventures, filled Bagor in on the events in brief lines. Still, with every sentence spoken Reni’s flush became deeper; he shifted uncomfortably on his chair when Balar finally explained the reason behind the fire.

Bagor, at this revelation, laughed out loud and smacked his thigh. “The lad has too much imagination, Balar,” he said in between laughs. “Dragons and... Ha... My, my... He is so much like Beredic, that one.” And then Bagor fell silent, for his thoughts were snatched away to a very private place where he saw only the faces of all the loved ones who no longer were amongst them. At his age, there were too many such faces.

Balar eyed Reni with a wry smile. “Aye, that he does.” He raised his tankard. “To those who we’ll be missing forever in this life - may their spirits fare well in the Halls of our fathers where, one day, we all will be reunited. All hail the honoured dead!”

“Hail!”

There was chatter until the hour grew late and the blue sky of day was darkened completely, the sun replaced with millions of miniature gems scattered all across the heavens.

Balar offered to accompany his father to his home down the road, even though it also lay on Kaya's route.
Bagor looked tired and drowsy from all the food, ale and ambiance, so Kaya offered no protest. She quickly gathered her belongings and, under the light of the waning moon, she joined her father and grandfather during their slow walk along the deserted paths of Combe.
Apart from the thudding of Bagor's walking stick and the scent coming from both men's pipes they walked much like ghosts, until at last they reached the point where their ways would part.

When Kaya motioned to kiss her grandpa goodnight, Balar’s words stopped her right in her tracks.

“Come, we have much to discuss ere the day breaks.”

Kaya looked at her father. In the dim shadows and bleak moonlight his eyes, their pupils so wide, were nearly onyx. He was clearly looking back at her, as was her grandfather. She swallowed and nodded, and watched as both men took the path towards the dark silhouette that was Bagor’s house.

The stars drew Kaya’s gaze upwards; she needn’t search long to find the one star she always looked for.

"What ill is coming our way? Do you know?" She adjusted her shawl tighter around her shoulders when a shudder ran down her spine.

Dreading what was to come as much as she was curious, Kaya walked along the darkened border of carnations and forget-me-nots towards Bagor’s house, drawn in by her elders’ voices, and the warm hues of lights being lit.

Quietly, Kaya closed the door behind her, shutting the rest of Middle-earth out.
Image
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
User avatar
Kaya
Dúnadaneth
 
Posts: 5250
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2002 6:29 am
Location: Northern Wilderness (and otherwise, in Belgium)
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The Long Shadow - #4

Postby Kaya » Sun Apr 07, 2013 1:20 pm

“So, Dragons and Dragons’ banes, aye... There's always much truth hidden in a child's play,” Bagor said, eyeing Balar. He shuffled towards an oaken cupboard, pulled one of the doors open and held an oil lamp up to shed light in its dark corners. “Which direction?”

Balar poked the gently slumbering fire in the hearth and added fresh twigs and a log to it. “North.” He picked a few wood chips from a pocket, and lighted one in the frolicking flames.

“North, aye,” Bagor mused, not sounding surprised in the least; he rummaged through various parchment scrolls and leather bound books. “Far to the North?”

Balar drew the oil lamp that stood on the table to him to light it. “Fornost, and beyond.” A small flame flickered. Briefly deciding between extinguishing and kindling, it then steadily fanned, its yellow hues softening the grim lines on his face.

Bagor looked over his shoulder. “Angmar?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

“It could be.” Balar sat down at the table, and pulled another chair back. “Take a seat,” he said, glancing only briefly at Kaya.

Silently, Kaya lowered herself on the chair and watched both her father and grandfather who, even though she understood every word of their conversation, seemed to be speaking in their own, secret language. “What is going on, Da?” she asked, experiencing an empty feeling in the pit of her stomach. “What happened in Bree? What did Reni do?”

Balar rubbed his bearded jaw and did not speak immediately, but waited until his father returned with a few scrolls and books.

“About a fortnight ago,” Balar began at last, accepting a scroll his father handed to him, “there was an attack on Fornost. Reni must have picked up on one of the first reports reaching Bree. Margevil's cousin is a Ranger, and apparently a very careless one." He shook his head. "Typical for children to twist ill news into a game, and almost make it worse.”

While Bagor moved around to heat the kettle, Balar unrolled the scroll. Kaya grabbed for the other side of the parchment to keep it from rolling up again: it was a map of Eriador, reaching from the Blue Mountains in the West to the Misty Mountains in the East, and from the southern edges of Eregion all the way up to the Icebay of Forochel. It was an old map, marked by blots of greasy finger prints. There were notes written on it too, in a different handwriting than those marking places, mountains and rivers. Kaya knew from the handwriting that they were from her grandfather’s hand - they were unreadable.

Balar’s finger tapped on the parchment where in brown curly letters ‘Fornost’ was written. “Drakes. They attacked during the night.”

Bagor frowned. “I didn’t know there were Drakes nesting in the North Downs.”

“They weren’t from the Downs. They came through the air. ‘Like a dark cloud, coming from the North,’ so it is said.”

“Them winged Dragons, curse them,” Bagor muttered. “What did Fornost do to attract such malice? Never knew they were drowning in gold there.”

“They aren’t. About the why there seem to be a lot of rumours circulating, but there is one detail everyone I spoke with agreed on. They were not winged Dragons.”

Bagor, three mugs in hand, turned abruptly. “Then what were they? Megalomaniac cormorants?” The older Dúnedain shook his head, putting the mugs down.

Balar sat back against his chair, and he observed his father’s face closely while he let two short words tumble from his lips. “Cold Drakes.”

For a long moment the boiling of the water that steadily grew louder was the only sound discernable in the house. “Nonsense, lad,” Bagor eventually muttered. He dropped mint leaves into the cups and drowned them with the hot water. “On Elendil’s grave, it can’t have been Cold Drakes.”

“I know it sounds unbelievable, and I have a hard time believing it myself. But my contacts, which I’ve trusted for years and who have never let me down, were adamant on this.”

“Oh heavens, what will be next? You’re going to tell me that they breathed fire on top, is that it? I know it, and you know it: it can’t have been Cold Drakes. These creatures don’t have the ability to fly because they don’t have much wings to begin with.” Bagor sat down, and took a deep breath. “You know very well how these kinds of stories go around, Balar. First it was a thrush, then a goose, and before you know it everyone saw a Great Eagle while in fact it was a mere chicken all along. Someone along the line got their Dragon lore mixed up, is what I’m saying.”

“Well they were attacked by something, and from the damage that was done it seems unlikely your chicken could have been responsible.” Balar huffed, tapping on the map again. “Fornost isn’t that far from here. If they can reach that far, there is no guarantee they will simply keep ignoring Bree-land forever. We are prepared for a Drake attack as much as Fornost was, regardless of what kind of worm would strike.” He crossed his arms and rested them on the table, glancing at Kaya who had kept very quiet until now. The scroll rolled up and only Middle earth’s backbone that was the Misty Mountains was still visible, until also Kaya pulled her hand back.

“You want to go to Fornost to investigate what’s been going on?” Kaya asked.

“I might,” Balar nodded. “But if I do I won’t be going alone.”

Kaya felt a sudden lightness in her chest. “You want me to come with you?”

“Yes. Or, if you wouldn’t mind, you could go on your own.” Kaya wanted to say something, but before she could Balar held up a hand. “Ah, yes, I know, you haven’t wandered out that far on your own since a decade.” He smiled. “Utter rubbish, I say. I know that’s the kind of talk that keeps your mother out of your hair, but I’m not falling for it.”

Kaya set up straight in surprise; she wanted to say something but instead merely tilted her head and felt a flush creep up her cheeks. She glanced at her grandfather and to her surprise saw his lips were curved in a smile. When her father patted her entwined hands, she looked at him again.

“I wouldn’t suggest this if I had any doubt you’d be able to handle yourself,” Balar said kindly.

“But... How will I ever find out what’s really been going on in Fornost? Unless the city is attacked again while I’m there. Surely that is not what you’re hoping for?” Kaya swallowed nervously, but not because of the possibility of the threat; the lightness of before had disappeared, and she now felt a heavy knot in her stomach. “Ma will have a fit.”

“Oh, I'll have a talk with your mother,” Balar chuckled. “I don’t think it will be quite that bad.”

“You don’t think?” Kaya asked, annoyed, and she didn’t bother to conceal it, either.

“Maybe you have, but I have not forgotten what it was like after you returned from the War, Da. I have not forgotten the endless arguments between you and Ma over Beredic’s death. The reproaches flying back and forth, the coldness between the two of you at a time when you needed each other the most. When your children that were still alive needed you both the most.” Her words came quickly after having been stocked inside for too many years. Balar stared at her, silently.

“I know, you always waited until you both thought we were out of ear shot,” Kaya continued. “Well, maybe my hearing is better than that of my siblings, or maybe our walls just aren’t as thick as you both thought. I remember lying in bed, listening to it all, nights on end.” Months on end, in truth. When during that time Kaya found out her mother was expecting again, that was the first time she dared to believe there was still hope for her parents. And still, the road towards true reconciliation had been very long.

Bagor suddenly cleared his throat; startled Kaya looked at him. So engaged she had been by her raging emotions and memories that she had forgotten it wasn’t only her father who could hear her tirade.

“I am sorry," Kaya said, visibly started by her downpour of words. "I should not have spoken so heatedly. I just do not want to see Ma suffer like that again. Or you, Da. And you know she’ll blame you, were I to go.”

Balar sighed deeply and rubbed his knotted brow. “I am not ignoring your mother’s feelings in this. I just sometimes wonder what happened to my daughter who sneaked around enemy lines to deliver messages between Imladris, The Angle and the smaller encampments. Who used her sword and bow ruthlessly to help keep these lands safe during the War. Who can do the closest thing to magic with those hands that I’ve ever witnessed.” Balar grabbed her hands in his - her knuckles were white for she kept them tightly balled upon her lap. His eyes, however, were quickly on her face again, and he held her gaze.

“You were born with a talent. Or maybe just with an inquisitive nature. Whatever it was, it would have lead to very small achievements if it weren’t for your stubborn determination to develop that talent further than anyone would have thought possible. You are meant to do much greater deeds than the curing of colds and snaring of rabbits, as fine a catch as it was.” Balar glanced at his father who, to Kaya’s surprise, nodded in agreement. Still, Balar went on.

“My daughter, you are my eldest now. No, before you say anything, I am not dismissing Beredic of his place, and I do not ever wish to see you follow into his last footsteps. But hear me out on this, before you come to your decision. Please?”

Kaya pursed her lips, bit back tears – in anger, frustration and sadness. But because of the love she felt for the man regarding her with a pleading look, she nodded.

“Thank you,” Balar whispered. He let go of her hands, and straightened the curled up map anew. His finger this time tapped on a spot generally known as ‘The Angle’. What was little known about it - for obvious reasons - was that somewhere amidst its hills and patches of forest, the main base of the Rangers was located. Close to Imladris, close to the Great East Road, and in between the rivers Bruinen and Mitheithel. His finger then followed an imaginary line that was far from a straight one, through the Lone Lands, past the Ettenmoors and Mount Gram until it reached beyond Eriador’s borders, and came to a stop on the Mountains of Angmar. Balar tapped that spot several times.

“What are you thinking, lad?” asked Bagor. “That them Drakes came from there?” From the jolly, slightly stooping grandfather who had told stories and had laughed loudly earlier that night a veil was lifted, and a glimpse of the watchful warrior he once had been surfaced.

“Yes,” Balar said. “I’ve gone over it a hundred times in my mind since I learned what had happened in Fornost. Nothing else makes sense to me. The Rangers have the North Downs and the Emyn Uial covered. Much of the wilderness between the Ettenmoors and Annúminas is patrolled regularly as well. There are the Misty Mountains too, yes, but why would these Drakes hide there?” He shook his head, not liking his conclusion one bit. “The Grey Mountains is their habitat of old, but habits can change and... The only possibility left that I can see would be beyond our Northern borders. We don’t have that many of our people there. A little more now that the cold of winter has deserted the area, luckily, but still not many. News from them will not reach us quickly.”

Bagor nodded. “I fear I have to agree with you.”

“How do you know all these things?” Kaya asked suspiciously. “Are you still part of the Rangers, then?”

“No, although I do keep in touch with old contacts and comrades.” Balar smiled, almost apologetically. “It is the nature of the beast.”

“So Fornost...” Bagor started. “Is there even any point going there, then? Because you’re right, Balar, whatever kind of worm, they need to be stopped.” Bagor swiped at invisible crumbs on the table top. “The terror that dwelt before in Angmar might have been driven from this world, but who knows what has been brooding in the dark pits of its mountains since. It is a vile place. Vile beyond measure.”

“Something like flying Cold Drakes, apparently. Or not. Maybe it were winged Dragons... I mean, how many of these witnesses have ever even seen a Dragon before, to know one from the other?” Balar wiped his hands over his face with force and, finally dropping them onto his lap, he sighed deeply. “You’re right, Pa... Fornost would be a waste of time.” He eyed Kaya, his lips pursed. ‘What say you?”

“If not to Fornost... You want me to go to Angmar?” Kaya asked, and she could not deny there was a hitch in her voice.

“I’m beyond sure that, even at this very moment, in various other places Rangers who also caught this news are gathering, sticking their heads together, making plans to muster and eventually steer Northward. You could-”

“Da, I am no longer a Ranger,” Kaya cut in. “I abandoned that life years ago, just like you. And most likely for the exact same reason as you. There is no glory in dying.”

“I'm hearing your mother speak now, not you. If I for one minute thought I’d be sending you to your grave, I would have let you walk to your home.” Balar’s words came out louder than had been his intention. He shifted on his chair and, with knitted brows, stared at the wiggling of his boot.

“In truth, it only comes down to one thing, Kaya lass,” Balar said after pondering his words carefully. “One thing. There will be a battle, eventually, and where there are battles, good men get hurt. Without the proper care, good men easily could turn into dead men. Don’t let someone else’s son, someone else’s brother die, if you can prevent it. Be it with your healing skills or, if needs be, with your sword. There might be no glory in dying, but there is glory in defending that what you love.”

Balar repeated his question of earlier; he gave Kaya’s hands - they had gone cold as if she had washed them in the icy water that ran from the northern mountains’ slopes already - a pinch.

“What say you?”
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Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
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Kaya
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Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2002 6:29 am
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The Long Shadow - #5

Postby Kaya » Sun Apr 14, 2013 10:10 am

“I will go.”

Simple, short words. Enormous, complicated implications.

Five hours into the next day and with hardly any sleep to speak of, Kaya closed the door of her house, her dress exchanged for trousers, comfortable leather boots, a tunic and a jerkin; her quiver on her back and her bow in hand. She felt a little hazy, due to the brandy her grandpa uncorked - cold tea wasn’t to anyone’s liking, and apparently this suited the occasion better. Not that there was much to celebrate, but some unwritten family tradition required that important decisions were toasted with the memory of their words rolling over one’s lips still fresh. The brandy had somewhat blurred that memory now, but its meaning lingered, as did the certainty of the decision.

She met her father at the shooting range, which was not much more than a few targets of various sizes attached to the farthest outside wall of the smithy, from which she had the largest radius. Some targets were vines braided into a circle, others lucky targets - a square fixed one angle upwards and divided into smaller squares marked with a flower: a Rose, Lily, Columbine, Marigold; and still others were as small as coins.

I will go, and there be Drakes out there. Flying Drakes.

So the Dúnedain woman, who had never claimed to be an excellent archer, merely good enough, drew her bow, aimed, released an arrow. From nearby, from afar. Static targets, moving targets. Arrow after arrow. Again, and again. And again.

Working on the roof, Balar once in awhile tossed one of the apples that had fallen prematurely up in the air; Kaya could hear Zaiyar beg on several occasions if their father please could stop doing that, each time his voice a little shriller. She missed the targets most of the time - they were small and rapid after all - but much to her pleasure not always.

After two days Balar was satisfied - which he was not easily - and Kaya grabbed a few essential items and disappeared into the wild, carrying nothing more than a waterskin, her hunting knife, a dagger, bow, arrows, and a small pack with basic tools, like snares and a flint and steel. Besides the fact it had been too long since she survived on her skills alone, her stock of medicine was insufficient and the Northern lands were too barren to provide the necessary herbal supplies she was familiar with.

The next five days, Kaya wandered through moors and hills, woods and grasslands that surrounded Bree-land. Meanwhile her falcon, Faradaew, circled high above her in the sky, in search for his own meal.

I will go, and there will be deprivations.

Kaya walked to the tree trunk she had aimed at from over 50 yards away; a pheasant dangled head down from her belt and bounced limply against her leg with each step. A couple of hours a day she roved, from mark to mark, seemingly without a goal but with a clear purpose as she shot at shrubs, tree trunks, mole hills and flocks of fowl. Each time she collected her arrow again, and moved on to a next target. It was a way of training her judgement of unascertained distances to impromptu targets or ‘keeping the length’, as it was called amongst the Rangers. Even more than an essential skill in hunting, it was one in warfare.

Behind her the sun nearly touched the horizon when she pulled the arrow from the trunk - another hit. Smiling satisfiedly she propped it in the quiver on her back, while she observed the trunk’s irregular surface more closely. Had it been a healthy, living tree she would have cut some of its bark, but this tree’s contribution to the world of medicine stopped long before it was felled by a storm, in that moment where root rot affected it.

By the time the darkness crept across the heavens, Kaya settled in a secluded spot in the midst of uneven but open terrain; she dropped the collected wood on the soil. Faradaew’s talons dug deeper in the thick leather glove she wore as he set off, spreading his dark brown wings. It was said that male birds of his kind were smaller than females, but in Faradaew’s case she could hardly believe such a thing was possible; his wingspan was impressive, to say the least. He flapped and hopped gracefully onto a nearby rock, looking around as if he was the Dúnedain’s sentry.

Kaya cleared a small area of the soil and surrounded it with boulders. In the circle of stones she lay dry grasses and twigs, and started a fire to which she on occasion added more wood. With the fire kindling, she plucked the pheasant under Faradaew’s unimpressed stare. Once in a while, she popped a berry in her mouth, and when finally her meal was roasting on a temporary spit she retrieved the gathered herbs, roots, flowers, bark and seeds from various pouches and wraps of cloth, and inspected them closely in the playful, orange light.

She had longed for the quietness of the wild again, and one couldn’t possibly be anymore insync with the wild than like she was, those days and nights in the open air and under the stars.

Kaya sniffed at crushed sorrel leaves. “This is the good life, isn’t it, Farad?” she said quietly, but her bird was already asleep, his head turned around backwards and his beak tucked into the dark feathers on his back. “Off duty already, aye?” she chuckled.

A mix of down and feathers, Faradaew had become hers in days of unbearable desperation.

“You keep him,” her father said, putting a wriggling bundle in Kaya’s arms. It were Balar’s first words upon his return and she was crying already, because he needn’t say anything to explain how it came that months ago two had set out for Gondor, but only one returned.

During many weeks they traveled in each others company, the falcon wrapped in a woolen cloth and tucked against Balar’s chest. Many leagues, making the long road home for the Ranger not less lonely, not more bearable, but Balar took the effort to carry him and nurture him with chunks of mice and small birds even so. Maybe, as Kaya learned over the years, because the falcon was the best kind of listener. Never interrupted her, never talked back, never judged her; with his solemn eyes he often seemed to tell her that he understood, and that it was alright.

Faradaew grew quickly beyond the size of any of Eriador’s native falcons, his wingspan now over one meter. It took several years to learn he was a Saker falcon, its natural habitat being the wide steppes of Rhun.

Watching the falcon suddenly ruffle his feathers Kaya wondered, as sometimes happened, if he was lonely here, so far from his own kin. Or if the fact he was well fed and looked after, was enough for him.
If he opposed to the idea of, one day, being buried far from where he should have lived all his long years.

Her falcon attentively looked at her, when Kaya pointed at the heavens. “Did I ever tell you why it is I always look for that one star?” Of course she had, dozens of times even, and Faradaew would never tell another soul, nor would he object to another repeat of her explanation.

“You see that group of stars there? Well, the second star to the right, that’s Beredic. When we were children, he used to make up all kinds of stories. Those about the stars were my favourites.” Kaya briefly smiled with the memory. “We couldn’t give him a proper family burial. Never could say goodbye. Giving him his own star, it is the least I could do..” She sighed deeply, and turned the pheasant over to roast its other side. “He was a good man. Honest to the core.” Swallowing she sprinkled herbs over the pheasant, while drops of dripping sizzled in the flames. “I miss him so much.”

I will go, and there will be blood, and dying screams.

Upon her return from the wild, Kaya spent evening upon evening trying out new decoctions and tinctures. By the sparse light of bee-wax candles and under the scrutinizing stare of Faradaew’s beady eyes, she sorted and selected herbs, roots and leaves. She experimented with the minerals she purchased recently from a caravan of traveling Easterlings, and threw up for almost a full night after trying out a thick mixture of mustard seeds and Ipecac roots - the latter she had exchanged with a merchant who did business with the South for one of her own infusions. Faradaew sat unfazed while she, in between heaving, jotted down next to a brief description of the particular mixture: ‘Excellent to expel strong poisons taken in orally; Remark: lower the dose.’

Aside from stocking up on medical supplies, it was time for Kaya to pick up her sword. She always strapped it to her horse’s saddle wherever she went, but in truth there had been no reason to unsheath it since years. Upon closer inspection, the dark, worn leather of the scabbard was badly in need of some oil and touchups. The blade was lustreless, and it wasn’t sharp enough to take it into battle but for a little sparring, it would do.
She held it; it lay awkward and heavy in her hand, not feeling at all like the extension of her arm it once was.

I will go, and there is no way of knowing what I might run into.

With quick, forceful strikes the blades clang against one another. Balar stepped aside and swept hard; their blades crossed in mid air, and the clear sound of steel biting steel rang out coldly in the morning air. He whirled around then, striking anew, but Kaya jumped aside just in time to evade the blow. Still, Balar anticipated quickly and hit her sword close to the hilt, hard.

Kaya lost her grip and, cursing, she followed her sword’s curve with a frustrated stare as it flew through the air. Then, her world spun as her legs were swiped from underneath her, and she smacked hard against the ground, the wind knocked out of her - one couldn’t get closer to seeing stars at daytime.

There was the cold flash of steel close to her neck when she looked up. She shielded her eyes from the downpour of rain, and noticed her father’s tall silhouette looming over her.

“You die.” The ‘again’ remained unspoken, but the gruffness of Balar’s voice implied it was exactly what he was thinking. Again, for the fifth time today alone.

Now, two days after Balar and Kaya had started practicing her swordplay, they were back to using their real swords. After Balar almost chopped her hand off on day one, he replaced their swords with ordinary sticks. Zaiyar, following the ongoing daily spectacle from within the smithy where he hammered on a red hot piece of metal if not heating it in the forge, found this rather amusing. Kaya, on the other hand, not so much.
Now they were back to sparring with real weapons, that sentiment remained.

Even the skies wept over her pitiful attempts to firstly, disarm Balar and secondly, get a chance at victory.

She turned onto her side, her elbow digging in the mud, and she lifted her head to look up into her father’s grim face.

“You are not concentrating,” Balar concluded, calmly. It took visible effort, composing this calmness. He stepped away to pick up Kaya’s sword and his footsteps gurgled in the soggy soil; his tunic sagged beneath his leather jerkin with the weight of the water, and the fabric was glued to his shoulders and arms. He weighed her blade in his hand as he held it.

“I am,” Kaya grumbled. She pushed herself up from the mud, and bit down on her teeth so hard she should have feared they would shatter and her jaws would snap, would she have cared. There wasn’t a muscle that didn’t hurt, and she had no doubt she was covered in bruises. Finding no clean spot on her clothes left to wipe her hands, she pushed the loose strands of wet hair from her face with mud covered fingers, smearing some on her skin as well.

“What did you say?” Balar bit, turning back towards her with speed.

“Nothing,” Kaya mumbled. She held out her chilled fingers to accept her sword.

“I could have sworn you said you were concentrating.”

“I am,” Kaya said, losing her calm a little as well.

Balar leveled his eyes with hers. “Then pray, do tell me why it is you are beaten each time like someone who is holding a sword for the first time in her life?”

That stung, and despite herself she felt tears prick; quickly she swallowed. “I am not-”

“Do you want to live?” Balar asked, loudly.

Kaya stared at her father, clenching her teeth. “Yes.”

“Do you want to live?” Balar repeated, yelling now.

“Yes, dammit, yes!”

“Then fight like it! Focus, speed, strength! Stop analyzing everything like it’s some damn concoction. Trust your instincts. And never let your guard down, no matter who you are up against. Remember this well.” He thrust the hilt of her sword into her hand while his grey piercing eyes held hers unwaveringly. “Fight, or I’ll make sure everything you eat today will taste like mud.” He walked a few measured steps away from her, and retook his position.

At that point, Kaya, planting her feet firmly into the mud and gripping her sword tightly, was grateful for the first time in days that her face was dripping with rain. But she was too angry, mostly at herself, to let those other emotions faze her.

“Again!”

I will go, and I will walk away from there by my own strength.

Balar approached, sword at the ready; Kaya lunged forward, bringing her sword up over her shoulder, and swung it, a roar building up behind her clenched teeth.

Hours later, when dusk was setting in, Dorah sat quietly in her chair near the fireplace, her fingers moving quickly and the knitting needles ticking against one another. She had been very quiet ever since Kaya told her she’d be going away for a while. Very strained.
‘How long?’ Dorah asked; Kaya could not tell, because there was no way of knowing. ‘To where?’ Some things were best left unspoken, not to Dorah’s surprise.

Kaya pulled the arm chair closer to the hearth. Her hair still dripped from scrubbing the last of the mud out of it. Happy to be wearing dry clothes again she stiffly sank back in the chair while she watched how the wool slid through her mother’s fingers; it was a beautiful dark green colour. “What are you knitting, Ma?”

“Mittens.”

Kaya smiled. “They’ll look good on Riyah.” She fell silent, and curled up in the chair. She enjoyed how the heat of the fire warmed her chilled bones even deeper than the bath had done; allowed the soft crackle of the fire and the steady ticking to lull her into a deep sleep.
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Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
User avatar
Kaya
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Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2002 6:29 am
Location: Northern Wilderness (and otherwise, in Belgium)
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The Long Shadow - #6.1

Postby Kaya » Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:13 am

It was a curious thing, Orc blood. Dark red, near black, with a texture thicker than that of humans. It didn’t run from your blade like its clear red variant either; it meandered, like mud, to fall in long, lazy drops onto the soil.

Beredic’s blade was covered with it, the remainders of two Orcs whose blood he had taken laying sprawled on the grass nearby. He stood, blade held firmly in both hands, and slowly turned around, making sure no other of the vermin were sneaking up on him. His eyes were focussed underneath his straight, dark brows - they always were focussed when in battle and, all too often, even when not.

He looked down at the corpses at last, slashed in several places with the bone visible beneath dark skin and ripped muscles. One of them was crumpled on his side, his face pointed at Beredic’s feet. But it wasn’t its lifeless eyes, rolled back in its head, that got the Dúnedain Ranger’s attention.

Holding the point of the blade close to the creature, he hooked his boot behind its hip and rolled the Orc over, face down. An arrow stuck from its back - a clean shot, right next to the spine. If it had a heart, the arrowhead might have impaled it.

The sly smile that curled the corners of Beredic’s mouth faded as quickly when, suddenly alarmed, he looked over his shoulder.

The footsteps that approached him from behind, he knew they could not be hers; just like him, she could walk without making a sound. Only just in time he swung his blade to deflect the first blow, and the second.

The yellow eyes that glared at him, the sharp teeth visible behind the snarl; the simple, dark grey blade against his steel one. Still, this time Beredic saw it, a flurry from the corner of his eye: movement, behind the bushes near the tree line. This time, he heard it too, that silent whoosh of an arrow flying through the air, and then the sudden gasp as it hit its target.

It wasn’t a clean shot like the one before had been, but it was enough to distract the Orc for a brief moment. Beredic didn’t need much more.

With quick, hard strikes he drove the Orc back. Back towards the woman who now stepped from the shadowy undergrowth, her bow drawn between gloved fingers and her gaze following the line of the arrow.. The clanging of the blades muffled all other sounds, but Beredic noted when the next arrow hit his target, for the creature faltered. Beredic finished it with one swipe that cleaved the Orc’s windpipe and cut through deeper, until it glanced on the vertebras. He planted his blade in its chest for good measure.

Wiping his brow with a blood stained hand, Beredic released a slow breath. He was running on adrenaline, his heart pumping rapidly, his senses on high alert, but he knew that soon the blowback would come; his muscles already trembled a little from the strain of the fight. He realized the blood on his hand was bright red and not dark only when pain flared and Kaya ran over to him, an alarmed look on her face.

“We really should reach a consensus on the meaning of ‘hide’,” Beredic breathed, watching how Kaya ripped the sleeve from his tunic open over its length until a gash above his elbow was visible. It wasn’t a large wound but deep enough to have blood pour out of it like he was some slaughtered pig; he couldn’t even remember being hit. “Yes?”

“I thought we had,” Kaya smiled, ignoring Beredic’s grumbled response. “We should seek cover quickly. There could be more of them.” She tied the rips of Beredic’s sleeve tightly around his upper arm to stop the bleeding. “I’ll look after this properly when we’re sure we’re safe.”

“No doubt there are more of them. They’re everywhere. Bloody whoresons.” Beredic spat at the Orc at his feet. He looked straight at his sister before they headed for the cover of the undergrowth, and gave an amicable tug at her chestnut braid. “It’s good to know someone has my back, though.” A crooked smile mellowed his features.

“I’ll always have your back, Ber.”



It was night still, with no sign of the blue and purple veil of dawn within sight. It was quiet, peaceful, the only sounds being those of nature: squirrels venturing from the nearby Chetwood forest, owls hooting afar in the trees, bats flying around.

Soon the first human activity would mingle with those sounds: Ergar the baker heating his oven, yelling at his apprentice; the Prunilla sisters on their way to the early market in Bree, passing by on their rickety cart; the neighbour’s rooster crowing sharply.

But not yet. For now, the world was Kaya’s. Just the night, nature’s sounds, the scent of her father’s pipe. He had arrived shortly before, as if he knew he’d find her awake long before sunrise, and now they sat quietly on the steps in front of her house, both huddled in their cloaks. Her sword, which he had carried, sharpened and polished with care and skill, rested against her thigh; her fingers caressed the patched up leather cover of the scabbard, while in her other hand she clenched a package - something else her father had carried. The ribbon lay on the floor, but she hadn’t opened it yet.

“A gift from your mother. You know her, she’s not one to say goodbye without crying rivers. And she didn’t want you to leave carrying that burden.”

Kaya knew indeed, and she could imagine her mother busying herself in the kitchen right now despite the early hour, crying softly. She had witnessed it all too often in the past, after all.

“Kaya, do you remember Jashiah?”

The question, as much as the breaking of the silence, caught Kaya unaware. She frowned, and her fingers ceased their fidgeting. Looking aside she knew that Balar was looking at her as well, but she caught nothing from his face within the shadows of his hood, apart from the glister of his eyes, the tip of his nose and his bearded chin. “I do, yes. I especially remember how he looked, blood pouring from his nose, his hands cupping his crotch.”

“That would be him, yes,” Balar said, all but rolling his eyes. “Apparently, he climbed in ranks since then.”

“Did he now?” Kaya furrowed her brow, then shook it off. “Good for him, I guess.”

“I just thought you should know.”

“Duly noted. Chances are small I’ll run into him, I guess. Though, if I do, he would stand out.” I crooked smile tugged at her lips and could be heard in her voice. “I once heard the one who set his nose didn’t do a very good job.”

Balar grumbled and pursed his lips in disapproval. “Well, I suggest you make a wide detour when you do,” he said, pointedly.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

“Who says its you I’m worried about?”

Kaya snorted. “He was lying scum, but those were altogether different times.”

“They were.” Balar took a slow, deep breath. “I’m sorry that I can’t give you more than the reassurance that Beredic didn’t die a coward. The rest... I try to forget the rest.” He swallowed. “But I still see the images, almost every night.”

“Looks like your way of trying to forget doesn’t work very well then, aye, Da,” Kaya said quietly after a moment of thought.

“I could never find the words to tell,” Balar said in a subdued voice. “There are no words... Maybe there is no forgetting, either.”


There was no one to have Beredic’s back when the lethal blow came.

No one close enough to prevent the worst from happening after he sank down to his knees, his grey eyes wide and his mind not yet grasping what had happened; his sword fell from his hand with a dull thud.

The White City swam before his eyes. The corpses of the Orcs he fought surrounded him; behind them lay his horse on its side, its coat bloodied by the spear and arrows that had pierced it. All across the plains warriors were fighting to vanquish, fighting for their lives.

He saw movement then, not far ahead. Someone turned sharply towards him after pushing an orc from his blade. He swiftly ran over and swung his sword narrowly above Beredic’s head. Beredic heard a screech; it seemed to come from further away than the few feet it actually was. An orc dropped down next to him, lifeless.

‘This is bad,’ Beredic wanted to say. The searing pain throbbed wildly now that the numbness he experienced after the impact had vanished. But his dry mouth could but stutter feeble words while he gasped for air that suddenly seemed too thin. His eyes, however, looked up, pleadingly.

They should have met compassion, solace, if only because of their mutual purpose; they should have met respect, even. Instead there was naught but a cold, hard stare. And then, as those cold eyes looked around hastily Beredic saw it, the hunting knife held firmly in the man’s bloodstained grip.

Beredic’s hair atop his head was grabbed in a tight fist and his head was yanked back. Only then he finally understood.
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Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
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Kaya
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Location: Northern Wilderness (and otherwise, in Belgium)
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The Long Shadow - #6.2

Postby Kaya » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:42 am

His fingers groped for his sword but he could not find it. He saw a vicious smile tugging at lips that spoke quick but measured words; saw the glister of the rayed star brooch on the man’s shoulder in the bleak sun.

Beredic screamed as the tip of the knife impaled his eyes, but the scream was lost in the sounds of battle that surrounded him.

The last thing he should have seen was the sight of the enemy; young warriors should die at the hand of a worthy opponent, at the very least. But not Beredic. Beredic saw nothing. He wasn’t even sure in whose arms he died after his blood had been seeping slowly into the Pelennor Fields for, what seemed, an eternity. In truth it might have been minutes or even seconds; he could not tell for the excruciating pain turned every second, every heartbeat into another slash into his core. At least the pain chased away his fright for the coldness that coiled around his limbs, the herald of what was to come.

He only hoped the one who held him was someone who’d pass on his last words to his father.

“I’m sorry...”



“I know Beredic didn’t die a coward, Da. My brother might have been many things, but a coward he was not.“ Kaya lay a hand on her father’s arm. “And if you can’t talk about what happened... It’s hard for me to understand, but I will never forget the sight of you approaching, alone.” A man suddenly looking much older than his years, his spirit to live on lost on the battle plains of Gondor, fled along with the dying breath of his son. “So alone... I see how it haunts you still.”

Kaya got to her feet. Her sword loosely in one hand and the package clutched to her chest, she put her shoulder to the front door of her house. “I pray daily that, one day, you’ll find peace with all of this.”

Inside, Kaya put the sword with her other packs and her saddle bags. The package she lay on the table, and at last she unfolded the soft cloth to find a pair of beautiful green fingerless mittens inside. She picked them up, a puzzled look on her face. They were quite long, felt soft, and warm. She pursed her lips. “Oh, Ma...”

Balar, who had followed her inside, raised his brows at the sight of the winter garment and looked as confused as Kaya had at first. “Well, your mother always has been a hard one to fool. Always could get the gist from only half a word.”

“There is no greater truth,” Kaya nodded. She opened one of her bags and crammed the mittens inside. “Thank her, please.”

“I will.” Balar cleared his throat and looked around; he still bore that haunted look, like he always did when Beredic’s dying became a topic of conversation. “You’re almost ready, I see.”

“Almost.” She picked up a small leather bound book in which she kept a detailed account of her herbal concoctions and added it to her packs, when a soft kiy-ee call grabbed her attention. “Look well after Faradaew, please?” They both looked at the falcon who sat quietly on a beam, his stare unblinking. “He’s been restless since days. He must be sensing I’m going away and he’s not.”

“Don’t worry, there won’t be a squirrel or rabbit in the wider area of Combe that will be safe. He’ll be one big fat bird by the time you come back. Maybe we can roast him then, to celebrate your homecoming.”

Da!

“I am kidding, you know this,” Balar smiled; it was a little forced, but he tried at least. “I’ll take excellent care of him and he will still be here when you return, just like the rest of us.” His smile became fainter, his expression more thoughtful. “We’ll still be here if you ever need us, wherever you would end up, Kaya.”

Kaya gave her father a curious sideways glance while she strapped her quiver on her back and hoisted a pack across her shoulders; she grabbed a waterskin and her sword, an oil lamp, and cast one last glance at Faradaew. Balar followed her with her saddlebags and bow past the overgrown bushes that bordered her house to the patch of pasture in the back where her horse stood. She hung the oil lamp from a hook in one of the small stable’s beams.

Her horse was a beautiful blue roan gelding named Cýron - ‘New moon’. A far more pricey horse than she would ever have been able to afford, which made him being hers all the more special. It was not a bad thing, being able to bluff, especially when holding a bad hand of cards.
She grabbed the saddle and saddled him up.

“Have I been pushing you?” Balar asked suddenly; he patted Cýron’s robust neck after he pulled the bridle over the horse’s head; the horse snorted.

Kaya looked directly at her father, bemused. “What do you mean?”

“The other evening, after we had been sparring... you were asleep when I entered. Your mother was unhappy with me, said I was breaking you. I responded that I was making you, but...” Balar’s eyes reflected doubt and pain. “I’ve been wondering, maybe I have been too hard on you. I’ve not meant to push you away. You needn’t proof anything to me. I just have the impression you are not really happy here, sometimes... a lot of times.”

“I am happy here, and sometimes I am not. Which makes me not so much different from you, I think.” At this, Balar briefly looked away, blinking. “I know you haven’t meant to push me away. You showed me the options, but the choice in the end has been mine. You should not feel bad nor worry over me, Da. And about being too hard, you know how I feel about that.” Kaya chuckled, ignoring the fact her clothes hid still a number of various fading bruises.

“I do. But it was long ago that you wouldn’t speak to me for days after I treated you differently than Beredic.” Balar snorted and shook his head. “I have made you live to regret that silent request on many occasions since then, I’m sure. But not once you complained.” He grew serious then. “It’s just, Kaya... I lost one child in the South already. I do not wish to see the North turn another one into a muted angel.” He took in a quick breath. “I could not live with that as well.”

Kaya turned a shade paler. “Da-”

“No, you listen to me.” Balar grabbed her arm, his eyes dead serious and not without a glister, which stood in odd contrast to his face that all too often looked too grim. “You listen good. You come back, you hear me? You focus, you follow your instincts, you help, and you walk away from there. Promise me this.”

“I promise,” Kaya said, nodding quickly, her eyes big. “I promise.”

Balar nodded in return, satisfied with her resolute answer, and picked a folded piece of parchment from a pocket. “This is where you’ll meet others at sunrise. It’s a small group, five Rangers, who need to catch up with their deployment near Amon Sûl in three days. They will be waiting for you to join them. And from Amon Sûl-”

“To the north.” She accepted the parchment, unfolded it to have a quick look in the sparse light of the oil lamp, then she held it into the flame and let the crumpling, blackening paper drift to the soil where she extinguished it with a kick of her boot.

Awkwardly they stood before one another for long moments.

“I should go, then,” Kaya said, hesitantly.

“You should.”

“Take good care of Ma. She needs you, Da. And the others...”

“I will.”

“I left a whole bunch of mixtures on the table for Grandpa, for when winter comes and I-”

“Kaya...” Balar grabbed her shoulders tightly and leveled his eyes with hers, ignoring the tears that welled in her eyes. “You must go now, and you must not look back.”

Kaya nodded, and wiped over her face with the back of her hand to tears that in the end would not come. She set her jaw. “You are right.” Giving her father a hug she felt a gentle pat on the back of her shoulder.

Balar held Cýron while she mounted. Looking down at him, she smiled. “I’ll let you know if you win that bet you took with Grandpa on those Drakes.”

Balar snorted. “You do that. I could do with a good bottle of Dorwinion.”

Kaya clicked her tongue then, pulled the reins, and after a gracious turn Cýron trod towards the road. A veil of purple and blue tinted the Eastern horizon. She still could hear Faradaew’s loud, distressed call as she passed the last house of Combe, and headed towards the Great East Road, not looking back despite the urge, just as she promised.

With each of Cýron’s steps, the weariness in her heart diminished just a little, and the unknown that was her destiny drew steadily closer.

And thus commenced the long journey of Kaya, daughter of Balar, to the barren North, where unknown adventures awaited her.



The end - but it does not end here, for the mysterious drakes lurking in the North are being hunted by a band of Rangers in The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt.
Image
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
User avatar
Kaya
Dúnadaneth
 
Posts: 5250
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2002 6:29 am
Location: Northern Wilderness (and otherwise, in Belgium)
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