Redemption: Lord Cemandorin's Court

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Redemption: Lord Cemandorin's Court

Postby SilverScribe » Tue Jul 12, 2005 8:46 pm

((OOC: July 19 - My deepest apologies to anyone trying to follow this humble tale . . . but it seems that my TORC problems of a few days ago actually ATE a post, and a rather important one at that. Number 9 to be exact.

So, in order for the story to return to making any semblance of sense, I have restored the missing post, bumped the rest forward and numbered them accordingly.))



Sorry about that folks . . .

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1 )

What has gone before . . .


This story has its beginnings in a Role Play thread in the Prancing Pony called "Redemption: The Curse Breaker's Journey". Unfortunately, due to writer attrition, the story as a Role Play had to be . . . closed.

However, the muse has insisted that the Scribe's tale be told. I will be providing the original Prologue and a summary of the Role Play thread here in a bit.

But if anyone is interested in reading the whole thing from the beginning, the story is in the Prancing Pony at this link . . .


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Okay, first the Prologue:

SilverScribe: She was born in the year 1002 of the Third Age, of an elven mother (Lethelian) and a Númenorean father, in a cave in the northern wilds of Rhudaur, hard against the western feet of the Misty Mountains. Foretold as a son, but born a daughter, her Father decided that he would have a warrior to follow him regardless. As soon as she was tall enough to hold a weapon, he gifted her a Númenorean broadsword (Angamarth) and trained her as a warrior, settling for nothing short of excellence. She is near matchless with a blade, but will fight only when pressed.

Tall because of her mixed elven and Númenorean blood, she has her mother's golden hair and high cheekbones, but her fathers tanned skin and dark blue/violet eyes. She has always considered herself plain, unremarkable. She is also spirited and deeply stubborn.

She also has a streak of the old man's pride, the same sin passed down from his ancient ancestor. It is this pride coupled with a deep, natural hunger for knowledge that she inherits from her mother, that finally caused her to walk away and seek scholarly pursuits. Tired of the drunken coarseness of her father's company of men, she travels to Rivendell and begs the chance of learning from Elrond, who has some clue of who she is but mostly because she is half-elven like himself, he kindly grants her request. She spends about 10 years there, buried in the Libraries, then returns home with a fair number of treasured books, gifts from her teachers.

Her father immediately expects her to go back to war with him. A messenger has come from the south, bearing news of great importance. A shadow is falling on the great Greenwood, and strangers have come to both men and elves. Istari, they call themselves, and rumour has it that they are of the Valar, come to aid the peoples of Middle Earth against a growing evil that is whispered to be none other than Sauron, evil servant of ancient Melkor. New curses are heaped upon the memory of Isildur, for not destroying the One Ring when he had the chance.

But she does not want any truck with war, not any more. When she refuses her fathers' orders, he flies into a rage and burns her books. Deaf to the calm reasoning of Lethelian, the old man slashes his hand with his dagger and takes his daughter by the throat, laying a blood curse on her:

"Long awaited, long desired,
born in the storm's last breath;
Cursed are you from that hour forth,
dross and emptiness is your worth,
shunned shall you be, from now 'til death.

Nothing are you, nothing were you born,
And nothing shall you ever be,
No land will keep you,
No man will have you,
No home or hearth shall you ever see.

'Til time itself, lays down to die,
no land shall you call home.
Whomsoever you should call friend,
Their death you shall portend,
forever, in all, shall you walk alone."

He then turfs her out into the cold with nothing but the worst horse in the place, her broken sword and a servants cloak. He does not even furnish her with bread or water, but drives her out of his hall with further curses and threats. She is not to return.

She heads over the Misty Mountains, coming down the northernmost source of the Anduin then turning east, travelling along the feet of the Grey Mountains. In the Withered Heath her horse dies and she finally succumbs to thirst, cold and exhaustion. It is there that one of the Istari (one of the two that never came fully into the West and into contact with the other people of Middle Earth) finds her, nearly dead.

He takes her to one of his many homes, this one cut from the living rock of the Grey Mountains. Here, she recovers and becomes his student, since he sees the hunger for knowledge in her. He does not tell her his real name, but bids her call him Luinil, which is a name in the Elven tongue given to a star that shines with a blue light. She tells him her story and her true name, but she begs him never to speak of either. Because of her love of study and writing, he gives her a Westron title - SilverScribe, and a fond nickname, Scribbles.

He is aware of her bloodline (and her destiny), but says nothing. After many years, she finally learns of her heritage on her own. Against Luinil's advice, she goes home to confront her father and finds that he has allowed her mother to fade into shadow from grief. Forced by her father into a fight, she ends up taking his life. With his last breath, he claims that she has now made the blood curse he has put on her permanent.

She takes the proof of her ancestry from his corpse and buries him, then drives the last of her fathers men out into the wilderness. She raises a cairn to her mother, rips down and burns her Fathers banner and halls and then leaves. She returns to Luinil.

She studies with him for another 20 years or so, until the restlessness of her father's bloodline begins to make her fretful. Once more, against Luinil's advice, she is determined to set out and "see something of the world while I am young enough to endure hard travel." He presents her with a gift, her sword hilt is now graced by an Elven blade, inscribed with Elven runes, which when invoked can gather power to the hand of the speaker. But he insists that she remain long enough to learn the invocations and the safe use of this gift. She consents.

Finally, she can wait no longer and takes her leave of Luinil, again against his advice. She travels south, along the mighty Anduin, but just north of Lorien, finds herself strangely drawn to the three peaks of Caradhras, Fenuidhol and Celebdil. She follows the Redhorn Pass and on the shores of Mirrormere, is drawn into an unfortunate incident with a dark sorcerer. He senses power in her, and he wants a companion. She refuses. So he offers her immortality, but at a terrible price. She refuses again. Enraged at what he views as an insult, he attempts to imprison her and a contest of wills ensues. She loses and he forces immortality upon her, chaining her spirit to the earth and taking the price she would not have willingly paid. In desperation, she draws on the power in the elven runes upon Celebamarth, and though she manages to escape it nearly costs her life, and the sorcerer is not killed but only wounded. His victory not only marks her by streaking her hair silver amid the blonde, but it has also left him with a thread of power over her. She flees north, back to Luinil, haunted and sprirtually broken. He takes her back in and begins the long healing process.

She passes centuries with him this time, training and learning while the history of Middle Earth is written. Evil is abroad again, orcs are multiplying and attacking the Dwarves. Hobbits migrate westward, settle at Bree and farther west. The witch-king rises and invades Arnor, Amon Sul is destroyed. Civil war and kin-strife begin, Osgiliath burns. War with the Harad comes and goes. The Great Plague comes, devastates Gondor and the White Tree in Minas Tirith dies. The plague spreads and even Eriador becomes desolate. Mordor is left unguarded. The white tower in Minas Anor is built and Gondor and Arnor form an alliance. Earnil II rises and the heirlooms of Arnor are given into the keeping of Elrond. The Witch King comes to Mordor and gathers the Nazgul, Durin VI is slain in Moria by a Balrog. The Silvan Elves of Lorien flee south, Amroth and Nimrodel are lost. Minas Ithil becomes Minas Morgul. Earur, King of Gondor rides to challenge Minas Morgul, is lost and so appears the first Ruling Steward of Gondor. News of all reaches Luinil, and he is often absent for long years, but still her studies go on.

Finally Luinil himself is stirred to travel once more. But now he must go far, and go alone. He and Scribbles finally part company. His route is unknown, hers takes her south to the Great Greenwood, now coming under a mighty shadow and called Mirkwood.

While the power of Dol Guldur grows, she enters Mirkwood, her errand is to seek the friends of her mother. She finds them and tells them of Lethelians fate. Some time later, while out on a long exploration, she is stopped by a party of elves out hunting for their elven lord, Cemandorin. The lords head steward, Lorfeldin, mistakes her for a male warrior and challenges her for trespassing on Lord Cemandorin's land, drawing his sword. He is surprised when the hooded and cloaked stranger draws a bright elven blade and bids him try his luck. Brilhennion, the youngest son of the elven lord, watches as the contest is joined. He is secretly delighted when the cocky steward is easily bested by the stranger and even more delighted when she reveals herself as a maid. He invites her to return to his fathers house as his guest.

It goes without saying that they become deeply attached. The old lord is not concerned, he has two older sons to carry on his house, so permission is given and they marry. The steward however, developes a deep hatred for Scribbles, mainly because she is only half-elven and because he senses there is something unatural about her. He spends his time spying on them, while she and Brilhennion spend a couple of centuries in bliss. Brilhennion gifts her with an Elven bow and teaches her to use it, she develops her musical and artistic side and together they entertain his fathers halls with many hours of song and poetry. Then news comes that the Watchful peace is at an end, and the three sons leave to travel to Rivendell, to get news from the first White Council.

On the return trip, they are ambushed by a large body of Orcs and slain. Only the Steward survives and badly wounded himself, returns to Lord Cemandorin with the news. Both the Elven lord and Scribbles are devastated with the news, and Lorfeldin immediately claims that Scribbles had secretly planned the ambush, so that she would inherit all Lord Cemandorin's lands and holdings through her dead husband. The old Lord, deep in his grief, believes the Steward and immediately orders Scribbles banished. She is thrown off Lord Cemandorin's lands by an armed escort and forbidden to seek his halls again. Suspicious and heartbroken, she steals a horse and rides swiftly to the place of the ambush. There she finds the two eldest sons dead and in the midst of a large number of dead orcs and other fell creatures, Brilhennion. By some miracle he is still barely alive.

She is not equal to the healing of his wounds, but carries him away from the carnage, to the sheltering edges of Mirkwood that border the battlefield. His dying gift to her is a simple mithril ring, a plain band adorned with a single, golden mallorn leaf. His last act is to speak the words that will transfer the ring's power to her, but he dies before the final words are spoken. Thus, she she cannot wear the ring nor direct it, only draw it's power. She places it on the mithril chain that bears her fathers amulet. Both are carried hidden next to her flesh and never worn openly.

She buries all three brothers, raises another cairn and begins a life of wandering. Between her father's curse, the black sorcerers hold and Lord Cemandorin's edict, there is no rest and no home for her now. While the shadow grows, she travels. There is little of Middle Earth that does not pass under either her feet or the hooves of her various horses, except for the far East. She sees the end of Dragonkind, and the rebuilding of Dale. She meets Gandalf the Grey and they travel together for a time. From him, she learns of the nature of the shadow growing in the East.

She is on the run from the Black Sorcerer during the War of the Ring, when suddenly his pursuit falls off. Returning to Eriador, she learns of the War's outcome. However, Saurons defeat does not rid Middle Earth of all evil, and she knows that old scores will someday still need to be settled.

Wandering into the Lucky Fortune Inn one evening a few months later, events are set in motion that even she could not have forseen. A Balrog forces her hand and in desperation, she helps the kind folk of the Inn. In doing so, she finds that there are stout and loyal hearts that will call her friend, thus holding her fathers curse at bay for a time. She becomes a Bard and attends a Beltaine festival, then is deeply honoured by being asked to conduct a Druids wedding for her own Guild Master and his beautiful elven bride. She dances for the first time in centuries with a tall, handsome Easterling. But the respite is brief. The time has come and she can delay no longer.

She will only have a future if she can cut what binds her to the past. The road awaits. Only this time, it seems that she will not have to walk it alone . . .


Next post: Redemption: The Curse Breaker's Journey - A brief Summary

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Last edited by SilverScribe on Sun Feb 06, 2011 8:43 pm, edited 9 times in total.
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Jul 13, 2005 7:18 am

2 )

Redemption: The Curse Breaker's Journey - A brief Summary

The Scribe is joined in her Quest by Bardhwyn of Dale, Thenie of Rohan, Wisteria of the Weaver's Guild, Leoba of Ithilien, SmaugsBane (Dirk) of Esgaroth, and the Easterling Matrim Calhoun, Commander of the Band of the Red Hand. They set out from the Lucky Fortune Inn, travelling south along the River Mitheithel (Hoarwell) through the Angle, where they are accosted by horse thieves and Matrim receives a blow to the head. They leave the surviving horse thieves tied up for the Ranger that they are certain is tracking them, and continue on their way. Later that night, their campsite is attacked by wolves. The next day, they cross the River Bruinen (Loudwater), push themselves hard and reach The Swan's Anchor in Ost-in-Edhil, a ruined elven settlement that is slowly being rebuilt. There, a close Eldar friend of the Scribe's named Guilhendar makes them welcome, and Elmissir, his sister and a skilled healer, looks after their various hurts. Their horses are stolen and all but one recovered, and they meet up with two Rangers, the very ones that were tracking the horse thieves. The company is also joined at this point by Juwel, a Hobbitess from Bree and neinor-niniel, a mortal woman and gifted Bard. Both ask to travel with the company when they depart and the Scribe, in spite of misgivings, consents.

After a few days rest they leave the Swans Anchor, striking south and slightly west to pick up the Old South Road, which they plan to follow through Dunland. The Rangers travel with them as far as the Old South Road, then they go their own way, only to find disturbing evidence of dark events moving in the ruins of Tharbad. Their superiors decide to send them to Imladris to take counsel with Elrond.

While camped just off the Old South Road, the Scribe's company is joined by another Eldar acquaintance of the Scribe's, the Lady Elenath. She offers to help the Scribe, especially when they get to Lord Cemandorin's court, where the Scribe will attempt to clear her name of the false murder charge.

At the end of the Old South Road, the company strikes south across country for the Gap of Rohan. Just beyond the Fords of Isen, they are stopped by Riders, and meet the Shieldmaiden Rholarowyn. Knowing of King Eomer's edict to close the Gap and that the Riders will not let them journey through Rohan, the Scribe pretends to betray the Archer, and poses as the company as the party who is bringing her back to Dale for judgement. Bardwhyn is nearly hung as a traitor but after a brief skirmish, goes free. Thenie of Rohan disappears with one of the Riders, Menon. The company learn of more dark events stirring in Rohan and the Rohirrim and the Scribe's group part company, the Hobittess Juwel leaving with the Riders to follow a possible lead to her missing father. The company then travels north to the edges of Fanghorn forest, where the shieldmaiden Rholarowyn also takes her leave.

The company meets a strange Avari, Dindraug, on the edges of Fanghorn, who turns out to be the Lady Elenath's brother-in-law. nienor-niniel is attacked by a Huorn and Matrim manages to save her. However, she suffers a more serious spiritual blow from the attack than anyone knows and slips away in the night. Bardhwyn and the Scribe settle the matter of the pretend betrayal to the Rohirrim and swear a blood oath to each other. Dindraug agrees to join them and guides them through Fanghorn on the old Lorien Road. At the nortern edges of Fanghorn, while crossing the River Limlight, the company is ambushed. Matrim and SB are separated from the rest of the group and the Scribe is knocked unconscious. Dindraug and the remaining company manage carry the Scribe to safety but are unable to help their separated comrades. Instead, they are forced to flee.

And that pretty much brings us to the current time . . .

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Last edited by SilverScribe on Tue Jul 19, 2005 7:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby SilverScribe » Thu Jul 14, 2005 7:34 am

3 )

This next portion of the tale picks up with the last scenes of the role play . . . with some minor corrections made in order to maintain the authenticity of the characters and establish a slightly more plausible time frame . . .


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The ambush . . .

Dindraug stumbled went down, a sheet of flames at his back turning the log across the river to ash. She heard the dark laughter and swore viciously, was their road to be dogged by sorcery yet again? Dindraug made to rise but Bardhwyn put a foot on him as a shower of arrows went over them both, then snarled something Scribbles couldn't make out.

Scribbles felt an arrow pass by one ear and turned to see a group of orcs on the slight ridge across the river and above them, firing steadily. Slipping behind the tree at her back, she pulled two slim throwing daggers from their hidden sheaths. Stepping out again, she took out two of the orc archers that were closest. She cursed silently as she realized that her elven bow and quiver were strapped to her warhorse, which Dindraug had sent back to the plains. A shout from her left made her turn her head, just in time to catch a glimpse of a large stone descending towards her head.

The blow rocked her backwards and she fell, then instinctively rolled to one side. She tried to gain her feet, but her vision was hazy and her ears were ringing. Something warm was trickling down the side of her head behind her ear and suddenly there was a clashing of steel and loud shouting from the other side of the river. Disoriented, she stumbled to one side, trying desperately to wipe away whatever was obscuring her vision and draw her sword at the same time. The next thing she knew, a sharp pain lanced her left arm, just below the shoulder.

She went heavily to one knee next to a large oak and grateful for the support, leaned against the rough bark. She looked to her left arm, there was an arrow buried deep in the large muscle just above her tricep. When someone took her by the other shoulder, she reached for her stiletto, but a hard grip closed on her wrist and a face slowly swam into focus. It was Dindraug.

Scribe! His mouth moved but the sound was garbled, fractured. She tried to answer, to tell him she was fine, but nothing came out. A mixed look of anger and concern crossed his face and she tried to shout at him that she was fine. Still nothing.

Finally, she understood. Swallowing hard, she focused her will and managed to croak out a few words.

"The others, safe? "

The elf shook his head, then jerked his head to one side to indicate something or someone, his lips moving. She still couldn t hear him clearly or turn her head and her vision was fading again. There was an almost unbearable pain on one side of her head and she realized that she had not much time.

"Dindraug! Get everyone away . . . find shelter, camp . . . I need to rest . . . the arrow . . . break it off, force it through . . . don t try to draw it . . . it s barbed, I can feel it . . . tell Bardhwyn . . . "

She watched him form her name again, then reached out and gripped the front of his tunic hard with her right hand, pulling him towards her.

"Just keep me warm . . . an hour, that s all . . . no fire, it will attract . . . I ll be . . . all right . . . warm Dindraug, warm . . . please . . . trust me . . . "

She could feel her grip on his tunic loosening, there was a roaring in her ears and her vision was growing dimmer and dimmer. She felt herself beginning to slump forward, towards him. Finally, she gave in, feeling her forehead touch his chest as she let the dark take her . . .


****************


Six weeks later.....

About three weeks later . . .


A red blanket covered her vision, with a bright crimson spot bisected by convoluted lines of purple, which she could not discern; but warmth fell on her face filling her with contentment. She could feel the ground beneath her, and grass tickled her cheek whilst the smells of trees and woodsmoke filled her nostrils. She could hear birdsong, a magpie chattered in the distance and swifts called overhead as they hunted fly and lacewing. Metal scraped on wood to her right, a spoon searching a bowl for the stew she could smell. Tentatively she opened her eyes to see the hunched form of Bardy who stared away at the woodland.

For a time she looked at her companion; the tired and tatty clothing, torn and stained as if with long travel, the back of her leather jerkin discoloured as if she had carried some leaking package.

"So, you are finally awake," said the voice of Dindraug to her left. "We were getting worried that you would only open your eyes for Mandos." Silverscribe watched Bardy turn to look at her, seeing the loss in her eyes, the cold nonchalance of her glance, before the Daler turned once again to her food.

"Have I missed much?" Scribbles croaked eventually. Something needed to end the silence.

"Most of the Anduin valley, the river crossing itself, the Wold and Talath Harroch plains south of Mirkwood," said the Elf.

"We are at Mirkwood?" said Silverscribe sitting up sharply; which sent ripping pains through her body. She finally looked around her, at the wall of trees, the tall oaks and beeches that rose before her. Looking closely, she could see that they were the Furry Oak and Chap-Beech of southern Mirkwood, the tall gnarled trunks showing the blight of Sauron's sylvan enclave.

Then she looked at Dindraug, who sat on a tree stump and ate stew from a silver spoon and a bowl of Oak.

"Where are Leoba, and Wisteria, and Elenath?" She could remember the troubled scene when the five of them had crossed the river, but that was all. In her dreams, she had reconciled the loss of Nienor, Dirk of Esgaroth and Matrim of the East, but she had no recollection of the loss of the others.

"They have gone Scribe, and you did not even notice them go." The Elf took another mouthful of food, as Bardy stood and reached down for a bow. Something passed between her and the Avari, and then Scribbles watched her walk away towards the plain.

"She will be back, but we will need more meat and it is her turn to hunt now. And she wanted me to tell you of our travels before I go."

"You are leaving too Avari? I thought you had agreed to stay until the end?"

"I had, but for me the end is now, and I have to find my sister. My part in this tale is over for now; like all stories we can only play our part, just as you have in mine. I have other places to be for now. For my part I am sorry as I would enjoy seeing how it played out, but it is no longer my quest, and others need my skills." He placed his bowl on the grass, and reached into his bag for a long wooden pipe. He filled the bowl with pipe-weed and herbs, and after lighting it took a long pull of the sweet smelling smoke.

"So, tell me of the trip, Avari. Why did the others leave?" Silverscribe stood and moved towards the fire. There was a small cauldron which still contained bubbling stew that she helped herself to; a selection of trail breads and freshly baked loaf with fresh cheese lay on a platter. She looked at Din, puzzled.

"What would you know first? The bread and cheese were traded off some Asdriag Easterlings we met three days ago, the cauldron we found in the ruins of a Rohirrium town on the banks of the Great River. The meat is venison; a fine red buck shot by Leoba before she left. That was the last of it. Herbs we picked on the way, I am sorry you missed the potatoes." He allowed his voice to trail off as he watched her chew at the meat, she could tell it was not fresh, and stared at Din again.

"She shot it just over two weeks ago, as we left the borders of Fangorn."

Silverscribe dipped her spoon into the thick broth and savoured the smoked meat, turning it round as she pondered. In the distance a hawk shrieked on the wind, and the trees creaked in the wind. "Tell me then Avari, what happened to my little group?"

Dindraug tapped his pipe against the stump, and went through the process of filling it again; all the time watching Silverscribe intently.

"You lost consciousness during the ambush. We were stuck on the North bank of the Limlight, and were forced to run. We did so for three days, I do not know how the human women made it but they did, until we hid in a cave and rested until we could decide what to do. The discussion was long and hard, but in the end we decided to separate." Din took a long pull of his pipe and blew smoke rings which twirled off into the morning sky.

"Leoba would do nothing but go back and find what they could of the Easterling and the Lakeman. My sister agreed to escort her, the way would be unsafe. I and Bardy agreed to take you at least as far as Mirkwood, and Wisteria came with us. You were in no fit state to join the argument," he smiled.

"I have been unconscious all that time, Dindraug?"

"Not unconscious; you have been feverish, delusional and delirious. We have carried you for near three weeks Scribe, whilst you babbled and swore; and told your secrets. It is a good thing neither Bardy nor Wisteria speak Quenyan." He almost laughed, but held her eyes with his own unfeeling ones.

"And where is the weaver?" asked the half elf, placing her half finished stew on the ground.

"We met some Gondorian traders shortly after we crossed the Anduin. She had been hurt in the Rohir ruins; a Wight had almost killed us there. So it was safer for her to travel south and take word to Gondor. From then we travelled through uprisings and bloodshed to here, where we have waited for you to wake. And now, I must take my leave of you."

"You would leave now?"

"The Daler will be back soon, and I have to find my sister and her ward. You will be safe now; I have healed you to the best of my ability." He looked away and let out a long whistle across the plains. It was answered shortly, by a neigh and the long golden streak of Ormal. The horse cantered up to the Avari, nuzzling him deeply, and searching for the carrot that Din fed him.

"You have your horse; you did not mention we rode to Mirkwood." She looked along the horse's flanks, long recently healed cuts almost marred the golden fur.

"No, I have Ormal; we walked here, although sometimes you rode. Sometimes my friend here took messages to my sister. Now he will take me to her." Din wandered round the camp, rolling his blanket, and packing his few belongings, whilst the half elf watched him.

"If you have heard from your sister, do you know the fate of Dirk and Matrim?" she asked eventually.

"Yes, I do."

Din mounted, settling his pack on his shoulders, and gazing about him. "The Daler will return, she has been successful in her hunt. I will ride now to Minas Tirith to meet Elenath and Leoba. We have much to discuss. If you are successful in Cemandorin s court, I would meet you again, and we can have many merry meetings; perhaps. Until then, I wish you well Silverscribe. I hope that Elvish justice prevails in your case, and your husband s murderers are brought to trial. And keep Bardhwyn of Dale safe; she knows nothing of what you said in your delirium and less from my sister on the fate of your friends. It is best."

With that, Dindraug of the Avari; oldest of the firstborn in middle earth, bar seven, turned his ancient mount towards the midday sun and was gone.

Silverscribe watched until he had vanished, then turned to the camp. The fire was in need of attention, and she could feel that she had not washed in far too long.

And on the edge of the wood, a bow shot away, Bardy stood watching her, a pair of plump looking rabbits held in her hand.



*************


Consciousness returned slowly and with it, pain. She kept her eyes closed and went deep inside herself, examining her injuries and the extent to which she had healed while unconscious. The head wound had all but disappeared, but the presence of a persistent pain in her left arm told her that the arrow wound was yet an unfinished thing. Something was very wrong, but she could not place it. She opened her eyes.

Bardhwyn was close by, watching her intently, then turning pointedly away. Scribbles winced inwardly, whatever the current situation, it was obviously not good . . .

"So, you are finally awake." She turned to the Avari, ignoring the residual pain that echoed through her limbs. She heard of all that she had missed while unconscious, her estimate of mere hours had somehow become stretched into weeks. Puzzled, her brows drew together, but she had little time to ponder it further, as Dindraug continued on, recounting their flight and answering her questions.

When he spoke of delirium, something small clicked in her mind, but again, she was unable to focus on it while being drawn on by the elf's narrative. She bit her lip when she found out that Wisteria had been hurt, it was yet another mortal life that she would be guilty of tainting with pain and violence. But the knowledge that the pretty weaver was safely headed back to Gondor brought her a small measure of comfort.

His remark of healing her "to the best of his ability" dropped the last clue into place. She knew now why she had been unconscious for such an unusual length of time and why he had been unable to heal her fully, but she held her tongue, knowing that she would only offend him with the obvious. She would attend to the last of her hurts later. For now, there were only more questions, most of which she realized would go unanswered as the Avari prepared to take his leave. What had she said while delirious? How much of her past had she revealed? Her only security lay in the fact that she had spoken Quenyan, there were few enough who remembered it, much less understood it.

She nodded silently in acknowledgement of his wish to see justice found for her cause. As he spun his mount, she called after him, "Pass the blessing of the Valar on to Elenath and Leoba for me, and may Eru guard your road, Master Dindraug!"

She watched him disappear into the plains, then turned to see Bardhwyn standing silently at the edge of the camp.

***

She raked both hands through her filthy hair and looked around the meagre camp, searching for but not finding her pack, nor Bardhwyn's gear either.

"First things first," she grated.

She took a deep breath, in her weakened state, this was going to be a long shot. Her left hand came up to clutch at her tunic front as she whispered a quiet command in Quenyan. Soft silver light glowed briefly as she raised her right hand, drew another deep breath and put two fingers between her lips. A low, ululating whistle sounded over the grasslands, once, twice then a third and final time. As the echoes died and the glow between her fingers winked out, she felt her strength give out and she went heavily to her knees, her head bowed.

Bardhwyn was beside her as the first few drops of blood hit the flattened, dusty grass of their campsite.

"You are not yet fit enough for that," the Archer commented quietly. "Your nose is bleeding."

Scribbles sat back on her heels and nodded, holding one sleeve to her face. After a few minutes the bleeding stopped, even though her ears continued to ring softly.

"Aye, but hopefully it is not in vain," she replied, looking out into the plains.

"Wisteria's mare was killed in the ambush. As for the rest, they did not come for the Avari," Bardhwyn observed. "Only Ormal returned."

Scribbes nodded. "But the Avari would only have called as the elves do."

"And how did you call?" Bardhwyn asked, puzzled.

"As only the Istari can," Scribbles replied. "If my horse is alive, he will hear. And if he hears, he will come."

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Thu Jul 14, 2005 7:37 am

4 )

and now, without further ado the rest of the tale . . .

*******************************************

Redemption: The Court of Lord Cemandorin


There was nothing to be gained by staring out into the grasslands of Talath Harroch. Her warhorse was elven trained and swift enough, but he was not mearas. If he returned, it would not be immediately. Wearily, she turned back to the rough campsite where Bardhwyn was dressing the rabbits. Scribbles went to the fireside and squatting down, stirred it to life, adding a few small pieces of wood. She looked across the firepit at the Archer.

"The arrow?" she asked quietly.

Bardhwyn did not look up from her task. "'Twas barbed, as you told Dindraug."

"Was it much trouble?" Scribbles added.

"Not really. As you doubtless know, it's far better when the patient is unconscious, the muscles are relaxed, so the arrow went through easily enough." The Archer glanced up, saw the fine lines of pain around the Scribe's eyes. "But it still looks . . . wrong," she finished softly. "No herb, nor poultice, nor infusion that either the Avari or I tried . . ." she trailed off.

Scribbles nodded. "It does not heal." Her right hand came up to feel the lumpy binding that encircled her upper left bicep. The skin above and below felt hot and the merest brush of her fingertips sparked intense, needling trailers of fire through her flesh. "The arrow tip was poisoned," she finished casually.

Bardhwyn snorted. "Since when have orcs bothered with poison arrow tips? Poisoning the victim spoils the meat."

"Aye, but these orcs were not after meat," Scribbles answered, wincing as she slipped the slim blade of her stiletto under the wrappings and with a deft movement, sliced through the layers of sweat stained cloth. As she suspected the "bandage" had been fashioned from her shirt sleeve, which had been torn off at the shoulder. The flesh of her upper arm was swollen and reddened, both the entry and exit wounds were still ugly and raw. She looked up at Bardhwyn, her face grim.

"I must deal with this now," she stated. "And I will need your help."

Bardhwyn regarded her cooly for a few moments, then nodded. "Fine."

When they were done, Scribbles was drenched with sweat and shaking with exhaustion as well as pain. But both wounds were now bleeding bright, clean blood and after dousing them with heated, salted water as the Scribe had directed, the Archer bound the peredhel's arm with a strip of somewhat less dirty silk, torn from the Scribe's undertunic. "What has the Avari left us in the way of supplies?" Scribbles asked.

Bardhwyn gestured to a small, woven carry sack that laid to one side of the fire, next to the meagre woodpile. "Two small pots, one of which contains the remains of the breakfast stew that you've already tasted, the remains of the breads and cheese, and a full waterskin. Elenath left us a small sack of flour and the Lady Leoba left us some tea and salt. We also have the oak bowls Dindruag fashioned and several quivers worth of beautiful new arrows, made in the elvish manner." A small smile ghosted her lips at the last few words, then she sobered once more.

"Arrows and only one bow," Scribbles mused wryly. Her bow was strapped to her pack, and her pack was with her missing mount. For all she knew, vultures were feasting on his flesh and her few belongings had been scattered to the winds. But there was always hope.

"How long will we wait here yet?" Bardhwyn asked, looping a spare bowstring around one leg each of the dressed rabbits. Scribbles watched as the Archer went to the edge of the trees and deftly tossed them over a branch, hoisted them up and then secured the bowstring. She returned to sit down, cross legged, across the fire from the Scribe.

Scribbles glanced out over the grasslands, then looked back. "Only until dawn. If my horse doesn't come by then, he is either too far away, or he is dead." She put her chin in her good hand and braced her elbow on one knee. 'I am sorry, Bardy, for the way things have turned out," she said softly. Bardhwyn's face went hard and she looked away, then shrugged. "You warned us at the beginning, every one of us. We knew the risk."

"But did you truly believe it?" Scribbles asked.

"Some more than others, I think," Bardhwyn replied, her eyes still locked on the horizon. "But I won't speak for the others, only for myself."

"And what do you say . . . for yourself."

"That you spoke the truth."

Bardhwyn looked back, her eyes intense. "But there is so much I don't know," she continued. "So much you keep hidden, so much I know you cannot tell me, but also so much that I think you simply will not tell me." She looked away again, out over the waving grasses to the south. "It's just as well, I have a feeling that the less I know the better."

She was silent for a time then spoke up again. "The Lady Elenath, she said to tell you that she would not willingly break her oath to you, but that you of all people would understand the need to inform the King in Minas Tirith."

Scribbles pressed her lips together briefly. "I do understand," she said quietly. She watched Bardhwyn watching the sun sinking slowly lower and lower. "Bardy, you should have gone with Dindraug to meet Leoba and Elenath. I want you to be safe."

Bardhwyn rose to her feet and coming around the fire, held out her right hand, where the faint pink scar of their recent oath still showed. "No Scribbles, I swore an oath and if I go anywhere, it will be into Mirkwood with you. The two eldar will see Leoba safe to Minas Tirith, I have no doubt of that," she finished quietly.

Scribbles reached up and took the Archer's right hand in her own, heaving herself to her feet then bracing her legs wide as her vision briefly swam. When the slight dizziness passed, she examined Bardhwyn's face closely.

"This will not be an easy thing Archer," Scribbles said quietly.

"Important tasks never are," Bardhwyn replied, thinking of the lessons she had been taught by Ani-La. "But still they remain to be done."

Scribbles smiled, a fleeting thing that quirked the corners of her lips then faded. "Aye, Bardy, that they do." Whatever else she was about to say died on her lips as her ears caught a faint but distinct sound. She turned to the grasslands and shaded her eyes against the glare of the lowering sun. She stood that way for long minutes, unmoving, her sharper eyes picking up movement long before the woman beside her stood and followed her gaze.

"Your horse?" Bardhwyn asked quietly.

Scribbles turned to her with a crooked grin. "Aye, Archer, and he is not alone."

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Thu Jul 14, 2005 9:05 am

5 )

Bardhwyn lifted a hand to shade her own eyes, but lowered it after a few moments. "Still too far away for me," she murmured, then moved back to tend the fire.

Scribbles watched for a few minutes more, then shrugged and went to join her. "It won't be too long now, perhaps an hour," she stated quietly.

"Could you make out the other horse?" Bardhwyn asked, her voice laced with faint hope.

"Aye," Scribbles answered. "It seems Courage has lived up to the name you gave him Archer," she added with a weary but genuine smile.

Bardhwyn grinned in return. "Darn fine horse that, Thenie chose well," she replied, then sobered at the thought of her close friend, hoping that the dark haired Rohirrim maid was safe. So many lost . . .

Scribbles caught her mood and turned to her own memories and worried thoughts. Had Juwel made it to Edoras? Had Rholarowyn returned unscathed? What had become of nienor-niniel, was she safe? Would Wisteria make it, unharmed, to Minas Tirith? The Avari had said he knew the fates of Dirk and Matrim, but she had been unable to read anything past his impassive face and flat voice. Had they managed to escape the ambush? Did they live? Why had he witheld the information?

Frustrated, she rose to pace the edge of the camp, there were no ready answers to the mysterious and enigmatic behavior of ancient Elves like Dindraug. She stopped and passed one hand over her face, silently begging the Valar to guard the Eldar and the Lady Leoba. In spite of the time spent unconscious she was exhausted, her elven half taxed from protecting her human blood from the poison of the orc arrow. She would need to rest sometime before the morning, to take a bit of time in a healing trance and finish repairing the deeper damage of the arrow wounds.

They remained quiet in their own thoughts until the sun began to turn the horizon a deep, burnished orange. Bardhwyn's head came up immediately when the two horses finally cantered out of the edges of the grassland. The Scribe's tall grey warhorse nickered softly as he came to a stop near the fire, Courage following to stand with his nose resting on the grey's flank. Bardhwyn scrambled up to join Scribbles in examining the horses. They each showed scratches and cuts in various stages of healing and bore burrs along their legs, but otherwise they seemed sound enough in spite of being heavily lathered.

Scribbles was amazed and relieved to see that their saddles and packs seemed intact. Both she and Bardhwyn wasted no time in stripping their horses of everything but their bridles, walking them to cool them and then rubbing them down with handsfuls of dry grass pulled from the plain. When both mounts had been frugally watered from the waterskin and had moved off to graze, Scribbles turned to the Archer, her face serious.

"We are fortunate indeed to recover our mounts, it will make it easier to retrace our steps," she said.

Bardhwyn frowned. "Retrace? What are you talking about? I thought we'd continue east along the south edge of Mirkwood, doesn't your Lord Cemandorin have his holdings in that direction?"

"Aye, but that is the longer and I fear, more dangerous route. I distinctly remember settling our road before we entered Fanghorn, the Lady Elenath and Dindraug both agreed that coming this way was the far longer route. I remember deciding that we would strike north once over the Limlight and head for the south edges of Lorien. Yet, here we are, below Mirkwood and too far east."

"We had no choice Scribbles," Bardhwyn answered. "No matter what you had planned, it was impossible to turn north, parties of mounted orcs and Uruk Hai forced us to hide and travel wherever we could. Dindraug brought us through the safest route he could find . . . I don't think it was his intention to come this way either . . . " She ran down, shrugging.

Scribbles bit her lip, thinking. Judging by the organized manner of the ambush, she suspected that the remaining party had been purposely forced to come in this direction, which made her nervous and deeply suspicious that they were being been herded into a trap.

She explained her suspicions to Bardhwyn, who looked thoughtful before nodding in grudging agreement. "But what do we do now?" she asked.

Scribbles rose and retrieved the two rabbits Bardhwyn had dressed and hung, then squatted next to the fire and began to skin them. "First, we eat. Then we get some rest, I'll take first watch. At dawn, we pack up and ride back the way we came. If we can regain the heights along the Anduin and turn north there, we should be safe. I know many hidden places where we can make camp in safety."

Bardhwyn scowled at the thought of returning along a route that had been so dangerous only a scant week before. "I don't know Scribbles, it seems like a lot of wasted time to backtrack nearly two weeks of travel."

Scribbles nodded, then grinned. "Ah, but this time, we are mounted and can more easily outrun anything we may stumble across. I figure three days hard riding at the outside and we'll make the Anduin Valley."

"Besides," she added when the Archer still looked unconvinced. "I think we could both use a bath."

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:09 am

6 )

The evening meal passed with little said between the two. Scribbles took the first watch while Bardhwyn rolled herself into her cloak and blankets and was quickly asleep. Feeding the fire only enough to keep it going, the tall peredhel leaned back against the welcome support of her saddle and watched the stars wheel overhead. When four hours passed, she rose and stooping over the sleeping Archer, gently shook her awake.

"Bardhwyn, wake. 'Tis your time and I need rest as well," she said quietly. The Archer rolled over and stretched, rubbing her eyes with one hand while pushing her blanket aside with the other.

When the Archer was fully awake, Scribbles wrapped her cloak around herself and settled back against her saddle once more. She bowed her head and chanted softly to herself . . .

"An lend nûr, I mân lain, firieth rhaw remmen, na sen nestedrin îdh. " *

The first voicing soothed her mind, relaxed her body.

The second voicing brought the beginning of the mists, swirling around her and intensifying the feeling of warmth and security.

For the third and final voicing her physical voice dropped to a raw whisper, even though in her mind she shouted the words to the gathering mists. She felt the last link to the physical campsite dissolve and without a backward glance, slipped off into the now thick, swirling fog that surrounded her.

An hour later, it was done, the worst of her torn flesh knitted and the last of the poison burned from her bloodstream. Exhausted, she allowed herself to drop further, to the level of human sleep. Her human half desperately needed the rest.

Dawn had begun to pearl the sky when she began to surface, to return to the soft snorting of the horses and the sound of Bardhwyn stirring the fire and searching her pack for anything edible. Most of the food was spoiled from near three weeks on the grasslands, the contents of Scribbles' pack had fared no better. Aside from the Scribe's herb packet, a small sack of coffee and a bit of well-wrapped dried meat, nothing else was deemed safe to eat. The Archer managed to salvage a small sack of sugar and some dried fruit from her pack. The rest, they tossed onto the fire. The Archer shrugged. They would save the dried food for their supper, and to break their fast, it was the remains of the trail bread and cheese, with tea. Scribbles thought it was the best breakfast she had ever tasted.

They broke camp quickly and efficiently, packed and saddled their horses just as the sun lifted itself clear of the eastern horizon.

Scribbles pulled the elven bow free and quickly strung it. She gave the Archer a wolfish smile. "I won't be caught without this twice," she rasped, pulling her quiver strap quickly over her head and securing it.

Bardhwyn re-loaded her own quiver from the bundle of arrows Dindraug had left and tied the remaining bundle securely behind her saddle. "Mmm, I know what you mean," she agreed somewhat darkly.

Scribbles gathered the grey warhorse's reins in her free hand and with the bow, pointed west along the edge of the forest. "Let's move then, as quickly as we can," she stated flatly, then mounted the tall stallion. Bardhwyn nodded silently as she swung up onto her own mount.

They made far better speed going than they had coming. Several times, they had to change course or duck into the edges of Mirkwood to outrun or escape the notice of roving bands of orcs. Luckily, they saw none mounted on wargs that day.

They stopped at intervals, but only long enough to rest and water their mounts and themselves. They pushed hard and by the time the sun was getting low, they were nearly half way back to the Anduin valley, it's blue-grey outline showing clearly on the western horizon. Scribbles led the way a short distance into the edge of Mirkwood and in a small clearing, dismounted.

"Do you mean to camp in the forest overnight?" Bardhwyn asked as she followed the Scribe. "Isn't that dangerous? I mean, we can't have a fire, and with orcs roaming all over the place, I'm not so sure we'll be safe."

"Oh, we'll be safe," the Scribe replied over her shoulder.

"How?" the Archer shot back.

"It's quite simple, Archer," Scribbles chuckled. "We'll sleep in the trees."

"Somehow, I had a feeling that's what you were going to say," Bardhwyn grumbled, looking up nervously. "But, what about the spiders?"

The Scribe shrugged. "As far as I know, they do not come this far south, and not so close to the edge of the plains. It will be fine, Bardy. We'll have a quick, cold supper down here then unsaddle the horses and hoist our saddles and packs up with rope. Then, we'll climb . . ." She looked over at the Archer and winked.

Bardhwyn sighed and shrugged. "I don't suppose I have any choice?" she asked.

Scribbles laughed. "No, not really."

"What about the horses?" Bardhwyn asked suddenly. "Aren't they in as much danger from orcs as we are?"

Scribbles smiled serenely. "Any passing orcs won't even notice them," she said. "Trust me Bardy, they will be safe."

*********

The night passed without incident and in the dim light of a new day, Bardhwyn grimaced as she dropped the last few feet to the ground. Putting both hands into the small of her back she stretched and groaned.

"I hope I won't have to do that again anytime soon," she groused as she went to join the Scribe in saddling the horses. Scribbles chuckled.

"No, tonight we should be able to camp in relative safety. Orcs may roam many places, but they will not go too close to Lorien."

"You mean, Lothlorien?" Bardhwyn asked, her expression guarded.

Scribbles nodded. "Aye. Even the very outer edges of Galadriel's domain are safe, I mean to camp by the east bank of the Anduin tonight, where it joins the Celebrant. There is a place I remember, where the current slows and we can bathe in the river quite easily."

"And then what?" Bardhwyn asked.

The Scribe tightened the cinch on her saddle, then turned to Bardhwyn, her eyes dark and her face impassive, unreadable.

"And then, we hunt or fish and have a good, hot meal. In the morning, we will follow the Anduin north, as swiftly as we can for we must pass where Dol Guldur squats in the western edge of Mirkwood. Once we are well north however, we can slacken our pace somewhat. Then we will strike east, to The Narrows. There is a place I wish to stop before we enter the Greenwood proper."

Bardhwyn nodded and gave the last of her saddle straps a final tug. "Then let's go, the swifter we are shut of these open grasslands, the better."

Scribbles mounted and gathered her reins. Bardhwyn grinned. "Too bad the ground isn't more reliable and freer of rodent holes, or I'd offer to race you to the river," she chuckled, swinging up into her saddle.

"Oh, we will race soon enough," Scribbles replied. "But I have a feeling it will not be each other," she finished grimly, then turned her mounts head for the edge of the forest and the open plain. Bardhwyn followed,
silently steeling herself for the days ordeal. It would be yet another race for safety.



* To journey deep, the spirit freed, mortal flesh woven, by this healing sleep.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:59 pm

7)

ooc: sorry for the multiple short posts, but TORC is acting strangely . . .

IC:


They found the going much rougher and more dangerous than the day before, having to push their mounts to their limits several times. Both their bows found hard usage and the bundle of spare arrows lashed to Bardhwyn's saddle dwindled alarmingly. They could not stop and recover any shafts from the dead orcs they left behind, it was far too dangerous to be caught off horseback.

In spite of the endless skirmishes and chases, Scribbles doggedly led them west, leaving the protection of the southern edges of Mirkwood far behind around mid-day. The farther they travelled from the wood, the more sparse and far apart the roving bands of orcs seemed to be. Dindraug had warned them truly, Dol Guldur was no doubt being used by someone or something again . . .

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:00 pm

Bardhwyn let out a shout of relief when they gained the banks of the Anduin river. Scribbles reined in and after peering about for landmarks, turned north. They travelled more slowly now, walking their mounts to cool them down. Soon, the opposite bank of the river became heavily forested and the current picked up. They cantered around a low rolling hill near the bank and halted their mounts together.

There, below them, was the tremendous Y shaped confluence of the Anduin and the Celebrant rivers, the Anduin coming from the north and the Celebrant from the west. The joined rivers rushed headlong southwards, their combined waters giving the mighty Anduin it's volume and force.

The continued along the high bank for a while, and as the sun began to dip towards the horizon, short scrub gave way to taller trees. Scribbles led the way and where the bank dipped in a wide, shallow half-bowl, she turned her horse towards the river. The slope was gentle and ended in a wide arc of beach, thickly strewn with pebbles. Towards the northern end of the small beach, the land rose up gently to meet a deep overhanging embankment. Here, Scribbles dismounted and raked a hand through her hair.
.
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:01 pm

Bardhwyn slid off Courage and looked around appreciatively. "Quite the snug spot," she commented wryly. Scribbles was already unsaddling her warhorse and stacking the saddle and her pack up high on the sandy bank. "Aye, and the fishing is good at both dusk and dawn," the tall peredhel agreed, her head nearly inside the large pack while she rummaged through it. With a cry of triumph, she held up her prize, a spare bowstring to one end of which a tattered looking fishook had been tied. Scribbles eyed the hook critically, then shrugged. "It should still serve well enough. I suppose the next time I pass through Bree, I'll have to buy another one of these. No one ties a better hook than a hobbit," she grinned, then shed her cloak and stalked down to the river to find a good spot.

Bardhwyn finished unsaddling her own mount and took up her bow. "I'll see if I can't find us a fat ptarmigan or two," she called, then retraced their route to the top of the bank and set off into the small wood.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:03 pm

***

Later that night, with a small, bright fire crackling and popping over the fish and bird bones from their supper, Bardhwyn turned to the Scribe. They had both managed long, soothing soaks in the clear river shallows after they'd eaten, and the Scribe was pulling long fingers through her thick, unruly and still wet hair.

"How many days now?" Bardhwyn asked quietly.

Scribbles' eyes never left the fire, her restless fingers continued their work. "Two days to the Narrows, then just under two days to the borders of Lord Cemandorin's lands," she replied. "We'll likely cross over into his lands in the mid afternoon about four days from now."

Bardhwyn nodded silently. 'Four days . . . four days . . .'

Her thoughts were interrupted. "However, I think I mentioned that there is a place just at the entrance to The Narrrows that I wish to stop at," the Scribe added.

"You did mention it. What place is that?" Bardhwyn asked.

"The place I buried my husband and his brothers," Scribbles replied softly, then rose to her feet. "Get some sleep Bardy, I'll take the watch tonight."

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Sat Jul 16, 2005 11:31 am

8 )

They set out the next morning bathed, in fresher clothing, better fed and better rested than they had been in days. Both had full waterskins and though their other supplies were low, the countryside through which they now rode was rich with game both large and small. The sphere of protection cast by the Lady Galadriel seemed to extend well out from Caras Galadon, to touch even the east banks of the Anduin. Before they left the scattered woods that hugged the east bank of the mighty river, they had augmented their dwindling supplies by picking some fruit, mostly apples and a few early wild plums.

They continued north along the river for the entire day, seeing nothing except the occasional shy fox or foraging wolf pack. Keeping a brisk pace, they made good time and managed to find another good spot to camp well before nightfall. Though there was not as much shelter as before, the river banks were high enough to shield them from the brisk wind that had begun blowing in the early afternoon, and to allow them the luxury of another cookfire. Scribbles fished again while the Archer prepared trail biscuits from their diminishing supply of flour.
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Postby SilverScribe » Sat Jul 16, 2005 11:32 am

"We've made better time than I thought," Scribbles commented later that evening, after they'd eaten and the fire had begun to burn down. "Tomorrow, we should be able to make it to the Narrows well before evening."

"Does that mean we'll be spending the night in Mirkwood tomorrow?" Bardhwyn asked nervously. She had heard the tales of the huge, shadowed forest, none of them pleasant.

"Aye," Scribbles answered, stirring the fire back to life. "But we'll worry about that, tomorrow."

******

It was a less peaceful night, for all that they remained safe. Several times during the night, fierce howls pierced the air on the plains above them as wolves and less wholesome beasts went about their night hunts. Scribbles again took the watch and had let the fire burn down to glowing coals, so there was little chance of their camp being detected by sight. When dawn came and they broke camp, the Archer looked tired.

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Postby SilverScribe » Sat Jul 16, 2005 11:35 am

The crossing to the Narrows was made as swiftly as they dared, given that their mounts were tired and the long waving grasses hid their own dangers in the form of rodent burrows and the occasional snake. Their only comfort lay in the fact that they were not observed nor followed by much more than curious hawks or hopeful vultures. In the heat of the mid-afternoon, Scribbles pointed to the growing green smudge on the horizon, they were finally approaching the western edge of Mirkwood.

***

It was a bleak place, the terrain uneven and broken, stewn with large and small rocks, the long grass rough and unpleasant. Behind them, the valley of the Anduin was rendered invisible by the flatness of the land. Beyond the great river, the Misty Mountains were but low blue smoke against the horizon. And directly ahead of them was the area of Mirkwood called The Narrows, though the expanse of the Greenwood seemed endless, rising and falling in gentle waves, stretching north, east and south beyond their sight.

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Postby SilverScribe » Sat Jul 16, 2005 11:38 am

Scribbles reined in and sat for long minutes, silently studying the large, broken field. It was here, four centuries past, that her husband and his two brothers had been ambushed and mercilessly slaughtered. She closed her eyes and for a few moments, she could once more see, hear and smell the carnage . . . The bodies of horses, orcs and elves strewn across the broken ground, the harsh cries of vultures and carrion birds as they fought over bits and pieces of choice flesh, shattered shields and broken lances everywhere, bodies feathered with orc arrows, the stench of blood and worse, and the sting of smoke from the dying orc cook fires with their grotesque leavings, abandoned only scant hours before she had found the place in the early morning so very long ago.

She opened her eyes and nudged her horse into motion once more, skirting the place of one of her foulest memories and entering under the broad canopy of Mirkwood along what appeared to be a well travelled trail.

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Postby SilverScribe » Sat Jul 16, 2005 11:43 am

Barely a quarter mile into the trees, Scribbles held up a hand and stopped, reining her horse in and turning in her saddle to face Bardhwyn. Her face was pale, grim.

"The place I wish to visit is not far. We will press on towards the East Bight and make camp well before dark, but I would have a few moments here."

She dismounted and disappeared down a game trail between the trees. Bardhwyn slid off her horse and loosened his cinch. Should she follow the Scribe? She hadn't been specifically invited, but then again, she hadn't been specifically told to remain behind, either.

"Well, I can at least stretch my legs," she remarked quietly to herself, pacing nervously around on the wider track. "Thank the Valar it's broad daylight, eh Courage?"

Her mount snorted softly and moved to stand near the Scribe's warhorse. Bardhwyn grinned to herself, at least the horses appeared calm. And as long as they remained that way, she could relax.

.
Last edited by SilverScribe on Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby SilverScribe » Sun Jul 17, 2005 2:13 pm

9 )

Scribbles went down the faint trail quickly, her heart pounding. It had been well over a hundred years since she had been here last, yet the trail was still visible, having been adopted by the local game. But she would have found it nevertheless.

She broke into the tiny open space and breathed in sharply. There, standing as she had left it seemingly only a few short years ago, was the cairn of Brilhennion and his brothers. Four hundred years had not marred its tall pile, though the soft grass and hundreds of tiny wildflowers lapped at the base.

She walked over to stand in front of it, her face a mask carved in marble. For long minutes she stood, while brilliant memories of love and revelry and song reeled through her mind. Then the fateful day and the subsequent events played themselves out. Her hands clenched into fists as she relived the shock of Lorfeldin's arrival, bloodied and beaten near to death, his cracked voice relaying the events and his croaking accusation that she had engineered the entire thing. The subsequent shouting and confusion and finally, the shame of being chained like an animal and thrown out to lie in the dark at the foot of the walls, the precious gift of Brilhennion's elven bow tossed after her like so much worthless junk.

Then the inevitable end came crowding in, the stealing of a horse and the night's headlong rush to find . . . what? Betrayal, death, slaughter. A low moan escaped her lips as she bowed her head. Her hands came up to cover her face as the vision of finding him welled up again before her. The hopeless gesture of carrying him here, his wounds beyond her meagre healing skills. How he tried to pass his ring and its power to her, how he had died before he could do more give her the ring and promise her his undying love, undimmed by time or pain.

Scribbles went heavily to her knees, cursing silently that she could no more physically weep for him now than she could then. Slowly, her eyes burning behind their dry, closed lids, she bent forward until her forehead nearly touched the base of the cairn. The last of the memories faded as they always did, with the vision of his eyes going flat and lifeless. Slowly she lifted her head and opened her eyes to gaze at the stones. "How I have missed you, Meldanya," she whispered. She closed her eyes again and began to sing softly in Sindarin . . .


'Twas in the long and misty past,
a time of stirring blood,
came upon the weary,
a place, a reason to tarry,
'neath the roof of the Great Greenwood.

Before the shadow came creeping o'er,
the mighty wood so famed.
When the age was young,
no darkness begun
'ere the place was Mirkwood named.

A long, lonely road did quietly end,
in cool and whispering green.
Welcome rest was found,
where birds and scents abound,
beside myriad crystal streams.

Spring had come and in the early air,
the horn had sounded clear.
A Lord's hunt came that morn,
on a stranger, not Greenwood born,
who had dared to linger near.

In pride, a challenge was unwisely giv'n,
and in pride was accepted there.
A Steward's prowess for naught,
the stranger with greater skill fought,
and the Stewards life did spare.

The morning's silence broken "Show yourself",
these words the Lord did say.
The strangers face 'neath the hood,
revealed at last in the Great Greenwood,
when Lord Cemandorin, the warrior obeyed.

How can it be, in one same moment,
that hate and love entwine?
A Steward's blood did go cold,
when a warrior maid he did behold
and another whispered "She must be mine."

In days to come, in the Lords oaken halls,
oft filled with mirth and song,
there was welcome made sweet,
amid the wine and the meat,
so the warrior tarried longer and long.

A wonderous Spring was this, the first, the best,
of all its kindred behind.
A fathers blessing was said,
And a third son was wed,
to the warrior maid, she of half elven-kind.

Then he to his bride gave a gift of great love,
a mighty elven bow.
And so he polished her skills
with endless instruction and drills,
'til her prowess did equal his own.

So Spring followed Spring, and many years passed
away and apace and along.
So for Brilhennion the son,
and the heart he had won,
there was only the bow, the hunt, and the song.

A terrible tale ne'er breathed, ne'er spoken,
did the warrior finally tell.
So her true love did hear,
the root of darkest fear,
and the painful shame that long ago befell.

What else would bear this, but love so deep,
a heart so pure withall.
That could look aside
beyond failure and pride,
and claim faith in spite of all.

So for Brilhennion and his warrior bride,
bright Springs did endless abound.
But too soon and too late
black jealously and hate,
in a Stewards heart was found.

Long ages did the serpent lie watching, waiting,
'til one Spring did disaster come.
Three sons strayed,
into shadow betrayed,
and the hateful deed was done.

So came the whispers, and too the lies,
a tale with falsehood stained.
That she a bargain made,
with a sorcerers shade,
for immortality, unfairly gained.

So lately beloved, now blindly driven out,
forced from the oaken halls.
Bound and brought low,
but left with the Elven bow
thrown outside, at the foot of the walls.

A stolen mount and a desperate flight followed,
to find naught but bloodshed and ruin.
Barely time left to tell,
of love and farewell,
and a last gift freely giv'n.

Where are the tears that should fall and mingle
with the Elven blood so red?
A cairn here was made,
Fair Brilhennion was laid
to rest, with all his kinsmen, dead.

When long years passed and bright days had gone
the way of all natural things.
Came a warrior no more,
but a seeker of lore,
and a bard that rarely sings.

But the blood still pulses, coursing thick and hot
with the curse of Númenor.
So returns the day
and the warrior's way
with the blade and the bow once more.

There will come again, another bright Spring,
and another path will cross.
The road will be made,
old scores will be paid,
to gain freedom from pain and loss.

So ends the tale, a lonely Scribe�s lament,
for days forever gone.
Of a bow and a ring,
and an Elven prince I sing,
Fair Brilhennion, Cemandorin's son . . .


When the song was ended, she opened her eyes and rose back to her feet. Drawing Celebamarth, she held it aloft as tongues of silver mage fire began flowing along its length. A faint answering glow began to shine under her tunic and spreading her arms wide, she cried out in a loud voice,

"Melethen! An ngurth lîn acharn mebithon, le gweston! " **

With a blinding, snapping flash, the mage fire leapt off the tip of the uplifted sword and disappeared. The blade went cold and the glow under her tunic winked out. She lowered her arms, sheathed her sword and stood silently for a few minutes.

"And so, the Spring hast finally come. When this deed hast seen its end, Beloved, then wilt thou rest in honour. And I too will rest, mayhap also in death," she murmured, then turned on her heel to return to the main track.

She found herself looking into the face of the Archer. "I . . . . I'm sorry, I didn't mean . . . " Bardhwyn began, her face beginning to colour. "I heard the singing, it was so beautiful, I couldn't help it . . . the song, it drew me here . . . Scribbles . . . Eru, I'm so sorry . . . "

Scribbles bowed her head for a few moments, uncomfortable with the knowledge that anyone had observed her private grief. When she raised her head again, her face was calm.

"He has been dust for over four hundred years, Bardy," she answered softly. "You have no cause to apologize, I am grateful for your company."

"But I get the feeling you wanted to be alone," the Archer replied.

Scribbles reached out and put a gentle hand on Bardhwyn's shoulder. "No," she answered softly. "I have been too long alone. I am glad you are with me." She smiled.

"Come, there is a good place to camp very near here, if we hurry, we'll make it well before nightfall."


** Sind Lit. "My love! For thy death, vengeance I shall take (by force/seize), to thee I swear!"
Loose translation: "Beloved!! Thy death will be avenged, I swear it!"

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Sun Jul 17, 2005 2:22 pm

10 )

The first night passed quietly, the small campsite the Scribe led Bardhwyn to was abundant in everything they needed. There was lush grass for their mounts, a small, icy-clear spring and many varieties of wild herbs growing among the underbrush. Bardhwyn flushed several grouse and the Scribe found wild parsnip and carrots. They dried herbs to replenish their supplies, and ate and talked well into the evening. Inevitably, the events that had transpired since they had left the Lucky Fortune came up. Scribbles felt the heaviness of guilt settle over her once more, she should have taken up her road alone . . .

As the Scribe withdrew more and more, the conversation gradually stalled. Finally, Bardhwyn simply asked the question, bluntly and without preamble. "Why do you blame yourself for the free choices of others?"

Scribbles steeled herself, knowing that she would likely be misunderstood. Only Elenath and Dindraug might have understood fully, that sometimes immortality was in reality, a double edged curse. With longer life came more mistakes, more chances of being wrong.

"I gave my word they would be safe, and I failed. I allowed desire to cloud my judgement, especially where . . ." she ran down, one hand coming up to nervously rake through her hair.

She rose gracefully to her feet. "I need to walk," she announced quietly, then turned and slipped away, following the small spring upstream into the shadowed quiet of the trees.

Bardhwyn stopped in the task of rolling out her blankets, a mixture of emotions roiling in her head as she watched Scribbles slip away. It bothered her that the Scribe was unusually subdued whenever the subject of the lost company came up, and mostly so where the one particular mortal was concerned. There was more there than met the eye.

She rose and went to the bank of the stream where the Scribe had disappeared. Cocking her head, she could hear a deeper, fuller sound of water, over and above the burbling of the small spring beside her feet. Curious, she began following the stream, the Scribe had not tried to hide any sign of where she had passed and even in the dimming light, Bardhwyn could pick out her trail well enough.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Mon Jul 18, 2005 1:50 pm

11 )

She had been sitting, hidden by a large rock, near the small waterfall for fully a quarter of an hour before any sound disturbed the quiet music of the water. She looked up at the sound of a light, feminine step. It was Bardhwyn.

The Archer sat down on a mossy stump opposite and crossed her arms over her chest.

"Well?" she asked.

Scribbles raised an eyebrow. "Well, what?"

"You know very well, what. Don"t think for one moment that you have fooled me, Scribbles. Anyone else might take your words at face value, but I know better."

"And exactly what is it that you know?"

"All that nonsense about merely keeping your word. You cared more than you want to admit. Why is it so hard for you? Is your pride really so important? Do you fear someone will think you weak?"

"I do not fear anything of the sort."

"Then why do you avoid what is so obvious?"

"And what is so obvious, Bardy?"

"Matrim. Oh, I know you care for us all in your way, but don't sit there and tell me you felt nothing different for him."

Scribbles turned and gazed steadily at the falling water, but said nothing.

"Scribbles, I'm not blind."

"No Archer, I know your eyes work very well."

"Stop being so bloody literal!" the Archer exploded, standing up and clenching her fists at her sides. "You know what I mean!"

Scribbles looked back at Bardhwyn. "Yes, I know what you mean. But you are mistaken in this. I felt the same about Matrim as I did, and still do for the rest of the company."

"That's a lie."

"Excuse me? And why exactly do you call me a liar? I speak the truth." It was true. She did care for them all, Matrim included. What she left unspoken would not matter now, so for what it was worth, she did not technically lie.

"Oh?" Bardhwyn pressed. "And the sparring? The jokes? The kisses? Yes, as discreet as you were, I did see you but it was totally by accident, trust me. Now, you are not a dockside tease Scribbles, I know that much about you. Yes, you have sometimes enjoyed teasing the men, but it has always been good natured, not mean spirited or cruel. You would never have led Matrim to false assumptions, so don't sit there and tell me you did not feel something deeper for him."

Scribbles bit her lip and looked back at the waterfall. Damn the woman and her tenacity. She remained silent.

"Scribbles?"

"What?"

"Oh, you are the most exasperating . . . person, I have ever met!! What? What?!!! Matrim is *what*!"

"What about him?"

"For the love of Eru!! Do you love him?!!"

"No." The answer was flat.

"What?!"

"You heard me, now please, can we drop this?"

"I don't understand it. I just don't, and I doubt I ever will. What is wrong with you?!"

Scribbles' patience finally snapped. She turned her head and fixed the Archer with an intense, smouldering look.

"What is wrong with me you ask? Why do you pry so?!" she hissed. "Why can you not let well enough alone?!"

She rose from her seat and raked a hand nervously through her hair as she took a few paces away from Bardhwyn, knowing she should remain silent but also knowing that she could not. She turned back to the Archer, her expression fierce.

"You sit there and cry "But I do not understand!" No of course you do not, how could you?! You, whose life is but a brief flame, how could you know?!" She paused and swallowed, hard.

"Is it not enough Bardhwyn, that in less than a century hence, I will stand at your graveside and mourn? How many lives must I grieve for? Do you have any idea how much I dread the future?! Think!! Aye, what I do now, perhaps I was doing for Matrim as much as for myself, but was that a mistake? In the end, how would he have felt, watching himself grow old and feeble, while I remained the same? What would that have done to him?! Perhaps it is better that now I may never know for certain, but I think it would have destroyed him, his male pride slowly eroded and crushed. He deserves better, a mortal woman, one who will love him, bear him sons and grow old with him! Am I any of these things? No! What could I have I offered him? Nothing!"

She turned away, her voice gone bitter. "I could have offered him nothing Archer, nothing but pain and regret. If he lives, it is better that he remembers me only as a friend, a compatriot, a comrade in arms. Though the pain of his death will not be any easier for me to bear in the end, it may help to know his life was sweeter for my absence."

The silence stretched out, then she heard the Archer shift slightly.

"I think it is you who will suffer the pain and regret Scribbles. I think you avoid love because . . ."

"Because I cannot hold on to it!" Scribbles cut her off, turning back to face the blonde woman. She rubbed a suddenly shaking hand over her face and drew a deep breath, then let it out slowly.

"I cannot hold on to it," she repeated softly. "Ever does it slip away from me, like leaves driven before a winter wind, always ending in death and guilt and leaving me alone, alone and feeling colder than before."

"But isn't some warmth, even for a short time, better than nothing at all?" Bardhwyn asked. "Perhaps it takes a braver heart to love and lose, than to never love at all."

"Are you calling me a coward?" Scribbles asked, incredulous.

Bardhwyn shrugged. "No, I understand what your father's curse means. But answer me this, if there was no curse on your life, would you see love differently?"

Scribbles looked down at the ground. "I do not know, Archer, because I have never had that freedom," she answered softly.

"But someday, if the Valar are kind, you might," the Archer answered solemnly.

Scribbles looked back up, her eyes bleak.

Bardhwyn returned her gaze without flinching. "There is always hope, Scribbles," she finished quietly.

"Aye," Scribbles breathed in reply. "Though it is harder to remember as the centuries pass . . ."

Silently, they returned to their camp, the Archer rolling into her blankets. Scribbles settled before the fire and watched the stars through the small break in the trees overhead, fretting once more over the unknown fate fate of some of their broken company and trying to prepare herself for the coming confrontation.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Mon Jul 18, 2005 8:49 pm

12 )

The next two days went quickly, marred only by a brief but ugly skirmish with a few of Mirkwood's more famous residents. Scribbles had roused Bardhwyn just after midnight on the second night, waking her to ominous rustling sounds from the tree canopy above their heads. By the time they had the fire roaring, the surrounding forest branches were alive with the black, skuttling shapes of Mirkwood spiders. It took them nearly an hour with well-placed flaming arrows to kill the boldest and drive off the rest.

Bardhwyn found it nearly impossible to return to sleep afterwards but finally drowsed towards dawn. Scribbles let her sleep, she would need her rest, for the next day they would skirt the East Bight and enter Lord Cemandorin's lands.

*****

They broke camp later than usual. The Scribe's mood was subdued as they packed and saddled their horses. Before they mounted, Scribbles put a hand on Bardhwyn's shoulder, and spoke urgently.

"Bardhwyn, friend, I would ask a boon."

Bardhwyn"s eyes narrowed, then relaxed as a tentative, re-assuring smile crossed her lips. The half-elf"s face was tense, but there was no mistaking the silent plea in the dark blue-violet eyes.

"Aye, Scribbles, what is it?"

Scribbles let out a long, slow breath and looking down, rolled up her right sleeve and unclasped something. Bardhwyn watched with sharp interest as the half-elf slipped a silvery vambrace from her arm and held it up.

"I need you to hold this for me, to take it into the Greenwood. But you must wear and keep it hidden."

"How about I just stow it in my pack, Scribbles, it's no trouble . . ."

"No!" the tall peredhel cut her off, then bit her lip and spoke again quickly.

"No, please Bardy, I'm sorry to be so sharp, but you must wear it. Both our packs will be searched, but Cemandorin would not dare to have you physically touched. Trust me Archer, you must wear it."

Bardhwyn reached out and took the piece from Scribbles hands, turning it over and over. She gave a low whistle.

"Scribbles, this is incredible handiwork, and so light! It"s mitrhil, isn't it?" She looked back up, meeting the now veiled gaze of her friend.

"Mithril and silver both, less of the first and more of the second. Mithril alone is far too dear for a small court such as Cemandorin keeps," Scribbles replied softly.

Bardhwyn looked back down at the arm guard, it was an exquisitely crafted piece. Intricate carving wound around the centre and there was delicate scrollwork at the edges, which were rolled outward and rounded for maximum strength as well as comfort for the wearer. The top wrist edge had a graceful curve to it that would guard part of the top of the hand, but the underside was cut deeply, so as to not impede movement of the wrist. The hinges were nearly invisible and the clasp was low and smooth, done in the shape of several intertwined mallorn leaves. A series of graceful lines of tengwar were etched on the inside, just below one edge, but they were strange and completely unfamiliar. Bardhwyn looked up once more.

"I've never seen it on you, why would you hide such a beautiful piece? Where's the other one?" she asked.

"I have only the one."

"But why wear it hidden?"

"I do not usually wear it, much less wear it hidden."

"Why?" Bardhwyn pressed, puzzled.

Scribbles chuckled softly. "You sound like a child, full of questions, why this, why that." Then she sobered. Reaching out, she touched the Archer"s shoulder once more and looked at her earnestly.

"First of all, it is a . . . a keepsake. It is very old and very dear to me, dearer since I have only the one and no," here she held up her other hand and smiled as Bardhwyn opened her mouth, "do not ask me why."

When the other woman smiled in return but remained silent, Scribbles continued.

"Second, I ask you to wear it because there are some at Lord Cemandorin"s court who would see its value and seek to claim it. All our packs will be searched and if it is found, it will be taken from me. I ask you to wear it, and wear it hidden to keep it safe for me. The time may very well come Archer, when I might ask for its return but . . ." she ran down.

"Scribbles, why not just wear it hidden yourself?" Bardhwyn asked quietly. "You said that Cemandorin will not dare to have us physically searched."

Scribbles" face went grim. "He will not dare search you. However, I am a different matter entirely, I will be searched, and thoroughly. It is not safe with me."

"Then why not just bury or hide it somewhere out here and we'll come back for it when your business with his old Elf Lordship is done?"

"Because I may not live to return for it," Scribbles answered softly. "If that is so, I want you to keep it."

Bardhwyn bit her lip, as the clear realization of just what they were walking into hit her. Scribbles was not about to be treated very well, as she had tried to warn the company not so very long ago. Bardhwyn shivered slightly, knowing what arrest and interrogation meant for anyone considered a traitor. The soft voice of the half-elf brought her back.

"So Bardhwyn, Trueheart of Dale, will you help me?"

Bardhwyn looked up into the dark, blue-violet eyes. "Aye, you know I will."

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Mon Jul 18, 2005 9:03 pm

13 )

The sun was well past its zenith as they approached the carved stone marker that indicated the start of Lord Cemandorin's lands, Scribbles held up one hand and stopped her horse. Turning in the saddle, she spoke to Bardhwyn in a low and urgent voice.

"We have been marked and watched since we entered the Greenwood, this you well know." She paused, listening carefully. "Our escort approaches. Whatever you do, no matter what happens, you must trust me. Hold your tongue, do not touch your weapons and please, do not interfere with the Steward in any way. He is merely following orders. You must let him do his duty unhindered."

When the Archer nodded, Scribbles urged her mount back to a walk, passing the marker and turning onto a tree lined trail that soon took on the appearance of a narrow, little travelled road. Almost immediately, after only a short distance in, four armed elves appeared from the underbrush, two crossed onto the road and blocked the way, bows drawn and arrows nocked and aimed. Scribbles stopped once more and the Archer drew rein behind her.

From around a bend in the road ahead came three mounted elves and at their head, Scribbles recognized Lorfeldin. Her hands tightened on her mounts reins but otherwise she remained outwardly calm.

"Seems a small enough number, surely we could . . ." whispered Bardhwyn. "Wait," Scribbles hissed over her shoulder in return.

As the three riders approached, several more armed elves seemed to flow out into the open, followed by a dozen more. As the company's horses shifted nervously, another eight Eldar stepped into view. All the now visible elves were dressed in varying shades of the forest, greens, tans, greys and browns and there were now no fewer than thirty bows trained on the two riders.

The mounted elves stopped a few yards away, then the centre rider came forward. He was blonde and green-eyed, fair to look on but for the cruel sneer that marred the handsome face. He looked over the two riders, his eyes resting only briefly on Bardhwyn.

"You will dismount!" he ordered in Sindarin. Scribbles looked over her shoulder and nodded at Bardhwyn, then dismounted and stood calmly, holding her horses reins. She heard Bardhwyn slip from her saddle and stand next to her horses head.

Lorfeldin looked down at her.

"Soooo, finally tired of thine un-natural life, half-breed?" he spat.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Mon Jul 18, 2005 9:10 pm

14 )

Lorfeldin dismounted, as did the two elves in his escort. At a nod from him, the two elves moved to stand one on either side of Scribbles. She eyed them both, but said nothing. Lorfeldin came to stand in front of her and she noted once again the flicker of annoyance as he had to look up slightly to the taller peredhel.

"And who is this that thou hast no doubt tricked into thy false causes?" he sneered, jerking his chin at the Archer behind her. He was still speaking Sindarin.

"She is Bardhwyn of Dale and has not been tricked, but has freely offered her help on my road," she replied calmly in the same tongue.

"Help!!" Lorfeldin snapped. His eyes narrowed as he examined Bardhwyn more closely. "Even the bravest of Dale cannot help thee, old scribbler. But she can come and watch thee die, if that is her wish."

He nodded to the other armed elves, two of which quickly began moving towards the Archer. Scribbles stepped towards Lorfeldin, only to be restrained by the two elves that flanked her.

"Leave her be, she has no quarrel with thee nor thy lord!" she hissed.

Lorfeldin regarded her coolly. "Aye, true enough. But she is with thee, and thou art someone that Lord Cemandorin does have a quarrel with."

Scribbles switched to Westron. "You know the true heart of the people of Dale. She will cause no harm, nor any trouble. I give you my word, her honour is unblemished and above reproach!" she finished.

Lorfeldin stepped up and struck Scribbles hard across the mouth, sending her stumbling into one of the elves at her side.

"Thy word!!" he snapped, "is worth less than nothing here, half-breed!!" He too, had switched to Weston.

Scribbles recovered her balance and fixed him with a baleful stare, then spat a mouthful of blood at his feet.

"Do what you will with me, but leave her untouched!" she grated.

Lorfeldin looked beyond her at the Archer, who was standing in the road, silently eyeing the many arrows directed at her heart and throat. He waved a dismissive hand, and the armed elves turned aside and returned to the main body. He then turned a cold gaze back on Scribbles.

"You will both come to Lord Cemandorin's Hall," he stated icily. "But you, old scribbler, you will come in chains."

Scribbles put her head down and closed her eyes briefly. Chained. Again. Like an animal. But she had expected no less and she knew precisely what manner of chain she would be required to wear. She raised her head and looked directly at Lorfeldin. Slowly, she lifted her hands and held them palm up before her, crossed at the wrists.

"Chain me then," she replied calmly, "but my companion comes unhindered and unfettered!"

"And you are in no position to be making demands!" Lorfeldin shouted, motioning at a sandy haired elf that had moved up to stand behind him. "She may come unrestrained, but heavily guarded," Lorfeldin grated, jerking his chin in Bardhwyn's direction though his eyes remained locked on the Scribe's face. "But one suspicious move, and she will die in the road like a dog, I don't care who she is. And you half-breed, will die first." He finally looked over at Bardhwyn. "Is that understood?" he said loudly. Bardhwyn nodded, her face cool, unreadable. Lorfeldin turned back to Scribbles, a cruel smile curving his mouth.

"Disarm her and chain her."

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:41 am

15 )

As the sandy haired elf reached into a pouch at his belt and stepped towards Scribbles, one of the other armed elves spoke. "Will chains even hold the witch?"

Scribbles turned her head and looked directly at the speaker. "Aye," she replied softly, "for if your Steward knows his business, they are mithril chains and not to be broken by any strength nor art I possess. Is this not so, Steward?" She turned back to Lorfeldin as she finished speaking.

He said nothing as the elf roughly unbuckled her sword and knife belts and tossed them to another guard. Lorfeldin spoke up then. "She wears a stiletto hidden on her left forearm. Make sure you take it as well."

Scribbles flicked her wrist and the stiletto dropped into her palm. When the elf reached for it, she held away from him for a few seconds then let it fall to bury itself blade first into the dirt of the road. He held her gaze for long moments but was finally forced to look away from the icy, unblinking glare she returned to him. Finally, he bent to retrieve the slim blade, handed it off, then when he fitted the mithril chains over her wrists, he purposely pulled them painfully tight before he secured them.

"I say we kill her outright and chain the Daler instead," the voice spoke again. "Save us a lot of trouble."

"Save you trouble but not your lives!!" Scribbles turned and spat back. "I too know of Lord Cemandorin's standing orders, he alone will pass judgement! Do you think that he does not already know that I have come?"

Lorfeldin held up a hand. "Enough!" he growled. "You will both re-mount. Stay in single file and remember that you are sworn to come with no trouble. Either one of you does more than blink or breathe and you will all be dead before you complete the thought. Let's move."

Scribbles refused any help, but swung up into her saddle awkwardly. The reins of her horse were taken by the sandy haired elf and with Lorfeldin in the lead, the entire group moved down the road, riding towards the Hall she had once called home.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:02 pm

16 )

They entered the wide space in front of the graceful, soaring oak gates of Cemandorin's estate less than an hour later. Scribbles' wrists and hands were aching from the tightness of her bonds but she ignored them. Instead, she drank in the familiar sights and scents as they went through the gates and dismounted in a spacious, cobbled expanse of an outer courtyard, bordered by tall oak trees. Her heart ached at the fond memories, while her resolve hardened at the bitter ones. She placed her hope in the fact that so many years had passed since the ambush, perhaps Lord Cemandorin's heart had eased in the intervening time.

She was given no more time to ponder the past as they were escorted into the smaller, inner courtyard and then to the main complex . They entered and were herded down a wide corridor to the main Hall. Two guards went ahead to push the double doors open, then Lorfeldin took Scribbles by one elbow and pulled her into the hall, walking her briskly up the central aisle to the high table, where Lord Cemandorin was seated, conversing with several other elves, a few sheaves of parchment at his elbow. Bardhwyn of Dale followed behind the Scribe, flanked by two elven guards but walking untouched between them.

Lord Cemandorin looked towards them when Lorfeldin cleared his throat and announced to the entire room, "The traitor SilverScribe has returned, my lord, willfully trespassing upon your lands and flagrantly violating the terms of your edict."

The elder Elf put both his palms flat on the table before him and with an effort, pushed himself to his feet. His face was still handsome, his age evident only in the fine lines that radiated out from his blue eyes, which were now snapping with cold fury.

"You dare!" he rasped, fixing the Scribe squarely in his sights. "Why?! Why in the name of Eru have you come back to darken my doorstep and shatter my peace after all this time?!"

"To seek justice and clear my name, my lord," Scribbles answered, her voice calm.

"Your name?!" Cemandorin shot back. "Your name is cursed at this hearth and in this hall! As for justice, have you forgotten the penalty for returning here?!"

"I have not forgotten, my lord," she replied.

"Then you will not be surprised to learn that a cell has already been prepared for you," he grated, gesturing at the guards that flanked her. "Show the traitor to her accomodations."

"My lord, what about my companion?" Scribbles asked, shrugging off the grasping hands of one of the elven guards.

Lord Cemandorin seemed to only now see Bardhwyn, standing quietly just behind and to one side of the Scribe. He flushed, then nervously ran a hand over his chin. "I hope the lady will forgive me," he said, inclining his head politely, "Welcome to Oak Haven, Lady . . .?" he paused.

"Bardhwyn of Dale," Lorfeldin supplied.

"Bardhwyn of Dale," Lord Cemandorin repeated, his voice softer, more mellow. "My apologies for such a harsh introduction into my Hall. However, your companion's presence here violates an edict passed many years ago, surely you understand the value of laws and their keeping."

Bardhwyn lifted her chin. "I understand the value of just laws and their keeping, my lord," she answered in a clear voice.

"My laws are just," Lord Cemandorin replied evenly.

"Then the Scribe will get a fair trial?" Bardhwyn shot back.

"Bardhwyn, please, do not . . ." Scribbles said quietly.

"You are out of your depth, Lady Bardhwyn," Lord Cemandorin retorted. "She has already had a fair trial and was found guilty of murder and treason over four hundred years ago. I passed what was considered by many to be far too generous a sentence, she was allowed to keep her life on the condition that she would never, ever step foot inside my borders and darken my eyes ever again. She has wilfully broken faith and must now face the consequences of her actions."

Bardhwyn shrugged. "If the original sentence was handed down unfairly, it matters not whether it was considered generous or not," she replied.

Lord Cemandorin drew himself up, his blue eyes flashing. "Your ancestors were not even dust motes in the eyes of the Ainur when this occurred, how dare you presume to walk in here and question my judgement!"

"Bardhwyn . . ." Scribbles growled.

But the Archer was not to be put off. Unfair trials were something that she understood intimately. "I presume nothing my lord, I am merely curious as to what evidence was originally used to convict the Scribe of such a serious crime."

"I am not inclined to rehash a four hundred year old trial or my decision with you, my lady," Lord Cemandorin snorted.

"Why?" Bardhwyn pressed.

Lord Cemandorin's eyes narrowed and Bardhwyn suddenly realized that she may have pushed too hard. He turned to one of the elves seated down the table from him and beckoned. When the elf had reached his side, he turned back to Bardhwyn.

"This is Carndruil, he will show you to the guest quarters. You may freshen up and then go wherever you wish. My home and Hall is open to you . . . Bardhwyn of Dale."

Carndruil was excrutiatingly polite, but the hand he put on her elbow to escort her from the hall was hard as iron. He took her up several flights of stairs and down a long, elegantly appointed passage, broken by occasional doorways. When they stopped at one particular door, he opened it and stepped back, motioning her to enter.

Bardhwyn went in and was instantly captivated with how much the suite of rooms reminded her of the common room of the Swan's Anchor. The delicately carved arches that supported the ceiling and the rich hues of the wood brought back a rush of memories of Ost-in-Edhil. She bit her lip and swung around to find Carndruil observing her closely.

"May I ask if you know what evidence the Scribe was convicted on?" she asked softly.

The elf glanced left and right down the hall, then stepped into the room. "It would be best if you did not ask," he answered evenly.

"Why?" Bardhwyn asked again, her curiosity piqued even more.

"Because even after four hundred years, the Lord Cemandorin is still greatly pained by the whole business." The elf stepped back into the open doorway. "If you require anything, just ask for me."

"I could use my pack," she answered.

He sketched a shallow bow. "I'll find out where it is and have it brought," he replied and then, he was gone, closing the door gently behind him.

Bardhwyn walked over and tried the door, finding to her relief that it was not locked. "I'll bet old Cemandorin isn't any more pained by the whole business than Scribbles is," she mused to herself.

*****

When Bardhwyn had been escorted out, Scribbles was quickly shuffled off to the caverns below the main part of Lord Cemandorins sprawling complex. Lorfeldin sneered as he shoved her bodily into a large cell.

"Sweet dreams, half-breed," he said, then turned on his heel and was gone.

One of the guards noticed her flexing her fingers, desperately trying to restore the circulation. Without a word he held out one hand for the key. The other guard snorted but did not produce it.

"Give me the key, the chains are too tight," he pressed.

"Better too tight than have her escape," came the reply.

"She'd be more likely to use her feet to escape," his companion retorted, then gestured for the key again. After a few minutes the key was surrendered and the guard stepped into the cell where the Scribe was leaning against one wall and watching them warily.

He loosened the chains just enough to restore her circulation. "Thank you," she murmured as he moved off.

"Do not be too quick to thank me," he replied as he went out and shut the door with a clang.

"Why not?" Scribbles asked.

"Because sometime in the near future, I could very well be exchanging those chains for a noose," he answered softly, then turned on his heel and left, followed closely by his companion.

Scribbles slid down the wall, pulled up her long legs and wrapping her arms around them, put her head down on her knees. If she was going to survive the next few days, she needed sleep.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:12 pm

17 )


She was not disturbed during the night, and walked the mists for long hours, resting and gathering her strength. It amused her no end that even though she could not break the mithril chains on her wrists, she could still have been free of the prison they had put her in, merely by casting a few simple spells. As always, Lorfeldin saw her physical prowess as the greater danger, otherwise he would have ordered her gagged as well as chained. She laughed to herself as she strolled along, though the merriment was short lived. Everything now hinged on convincing Lord Cemandorin to allow a second trial, or at least allow her some sort of hearing. Otherwise all the searching and intense effort of the last four hundred years would be for naught.

She closed her eyes briefly, once more plagued with guilt. There were likely many who thought as the Ranger Cerrimir did, that her refusal to ride to the Pelennor fields was motivated by her well-known avoidance of anything to do with Gondor or Númenor. Of course, nothing was farther from the truth, it had been the discovery of they key to the four-hundred-year old mystery that had bound her to Imladris, instead of seeing her riding to the aid of Aragorn. She sighed and rubbed her face with both hands. There was nothing to be gained on this tired train of thought. What was done was done, and with or without her aid the men of the West had been victorious and Sauron was no more. She forced her mind to the more important problem at hand and concentrated on ordering her thoughts around what she would say and do at her trial, this time.

Though she had no source of outside light, she sensed when dawn approached and surfaced feeling rested and hopeful. When the distant clash of gates sounded down the passage, she pushed herself to her feet. Though she had spent some of the night carefully ordering her thoughts, rehearsing exactly what she would say to Lord Cemandorin in defense of her returning to his Hall and breaching his edict, she was still nervous. If she could just get to see him, she was certain that when she presented the facts and her recent findings calmly, he would see things much differently than that dark day so long ago.

When the guard arrived and unlocked the door to her cell, she was not surprised to see Lorfeldin step through the opening. He gestured to two guards behind him and though she held her ground, Scribbles was suddenly apprehensive.

"It seems you're to be our guest for a while," Lorfeldin stated, his voice calm and emotionless. Scribbles watched as the guards moved to flank her.

"When will I see Lord Cemandorin?" she asked.

Lorfeldin crossed his arms over his chest and smiled. "Not today, not tomorrow, in fact not the day after either. A delegation from Rhosgobel has arrived and he has no time for a traitor. However, I think you and I will have penty of time for a little chat."

"Nothing has changed in four hundred years, Lorfeldin," she answered quietly. "I have nothing to say to you."

"Oh, I think you have plenty to tell me," he sneered, holding out his palm. All of her Bard's pins were there, from Journeyman all the way to Master Bard. "Care to tell me what these are Scribe? You, who claim never to collect or covet jewels nor valuables, care to tell me what these baubles are then? This one, this is mithril and not exactly poor craftsmanship either . . . "

"You searched my pack." It was a flat statement, even though she had known he would search her things, she had not thought any of her meagre possessions would interest him.

"Aye, and discovered you have a love of pretty jewels like any other female," he shot back. "Now, why would you have such obviously valuable trinkets, hmmm?"

"None of your business," she grated.

Lorfeldin closed his fist around the pins and stepped forward. Without warning, he brought that same fist up and back to deliver her a ringing blow across her jaw. She stumbled sideways into one of the guards, who pushed her upright with a growled curse.

"Oh, I think it is very much my business," Lorfeldin snapped. "Especially when the evidence of your own pack makes your previous claims a lie. Or have you fogotten that?"

Scribbles tasted blood and her lip began to throb. Putting both hands up, she touched her lip, her fingers came away red and slick. She looked at the Steward then drew herself back to her full height. "I will tell Lord Cemandorin anything he wishes to know," she said. "But you, I will tell nothing."

Lorfeldin nodded to the guards. "Oh, I think you might change your mind fairly soon," he grated, then stepped back to lean against the bars.

"I don't think you'll be needing that cloak, it's rather warm in these caverns," he stated drily. "And since you're not going anywhere except perhaps to the gallows, you've no need of boots either."

She fixed him with an icy glare, but did not resist when the guards took her cloak, or pushed her to a sitting position and took her boots.

Lorfeldin laughed as they left and the door clanged shut behind him. "Enjoy your day, half-breed," he sneered, and then they were gone.

***

She soon lost track of the days. They all blended one into another, a tired march of endless questions she refused to answer. She bore the brunt of Lorfeldin's frustration and cruelty without a sound, she refused to give him the satisfaction of knowing it whenever he physically hurt her. At the end of five days with nothing but all the water she could want and the occasional piece of fruit, she was dizzy with hunger and feeling the need for sleep. But on Lorfeldin's orders, the guards made sure she stayed awake, passing her cell every fifteen minutes on their relentless rounds and running a steel dagger along the bars to wake her.

At the end of eight days, she was exhausted. Between the lack of food, her accumulating injuries and now, no rest, she felt her strength ebbing a little more every day. But the worst was the slow but steady erosion of hope.

'So Archer, where is my hope now?' she thought bitterly.

***

Bardhwyn found Carndruil a polite and pleasant enough companion, though she knew his real duty was to watch her and make sure she didn't wander into places she shouldn't. Like the caverns . . .

She asked him every day to seek Lord Cemandorin's permission to see the Scribe, but every day, she was politely refused. Either Cemandorin was too busy to see her, or his answer was a polite and diplomatic refusal. After a week, she was seething with frustration and feeling more helpless than she ever had. She needed a plan.

She was strolling along one of the sun dappled paths that led to the inner courtyard one afternoon, plotting how she could slip into the caverns unseen, when suddenly she heard a commotion. She hurried to the inner gates in time to see a tall, well-built elf vault off a horse and shout a demand to see Lord Cemandorin at once. She broke into a run and managed to get a hand on his arm before he strode through the double doors.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:19 pm

((OOC: Just for Frelga . . . ;) ))

IC:

18 )

Her sharp hearing caught the sound of advancing footsteps, long before the key sounded in the lock. Though she wanted to be wrong she knew, without looking up, who advanced a few steps into her cell and paused as the door clanged shut and the guard retreated back up the passage.

She raised her head as he approached and squatted down in front of where she sat against the cell wall, chained wrists crossed over her chest and her long legs drawn up, bare feet crossed at the ankles. The look on his face told her a great deal.

She knew how bad it looked. They had stripped her to just her fine silk undervest and blue-grey trousers, after they had taken her cloak and boots. The mithril chains still bound her wrists, dried blood matted the left side of her forehead, she had a swollen, split lip and bruises evident all down her arms, even under the dusky tan of her skin.

"It looks worse than it is," she volunteered, feeling the pull of the unhealed crack on one side of her lower lip.

"Then I don't have to tell you how terrible you look," he shot back.

She shook her head. He stood and removed his cloak, then slid down beside her. "Sit forward," he said softly. Exhausted and numb, she obeyed and did not object nor resist as he pulled the cloak behind her shoulders, put one arm around her and pulled her to rest against him. Instead, grateful for the warmth his body radiated, she laid her head on his shoulder and spoke softly.

"The guard will give you but five minutes."

He chuckled. "I bribed him, he promised me twenty." He was silent for a few moments, then looked down and tipped her chin up to look into her face.

"What are you doing here?" she whispered.

"Do you think that I could love you as I do and not be here?" Guilhendar asked softly.

"But did I not tell you that it would serve no purpose for you to share this road with me? Did I not say that to see you die would destroy me, and that if I am the one to die, I would not have you see that either? That if you ever loved me, you would stay behind?" She searched his face as she spoke.

"Aye, I remember it all," he answered gently. "But I do not intend to die, and certainly not here. I spoke with the two Rangers in Imladris, one of them was concerned for the lady Bardhwyn . . . even without their urging I would have come. . . I rode like a demon because I felt it was important that you have at least one friend in this court. Cemandorin and I have known each other a long time."

"And Elmissir?" she asked anxiously.

"Safe, trust me," he answered gently. "I sent her with an armed escort to Imladris, Tarmelril and Nendorar will manage the Anchor in our absence as they always have."

"Have you seen Bardhwyn?" she asked, concerned. "Aye," he answered, "she caught me as I arrived and do not fret, she is well. Though she is feeling inclined to rash action on your behalf," he added.

"You must not let her take any chances!" Scribbles answered. "Please, she must not be harmed . . . "

"Hush, I have already counselled her against anything dangerous," he replied. "She is spirited, but she is not stupid. She will be safe."

She nodded, humbled and grateful for the information and his presence, especially since the lady Elenath had been forced away from her party by the ambush. "Thank the Valar that you are here then," Scribbles murmured, closing her eyes. She was horribly tired and her head was beginning to throb in time with her split lip.

"Scribbles, where are the rest? Where is Juwel, nienor-niniel?" he asked gently. She stiffened, but did not open her eyes. "Dead?" he pressed softly. Slowly, she opened her eyes, bit her swollen lip and shook her head, no. She had failed them all so miserably, she didn't think she had the words to tell him of all the events, including the ambush and breakup of the group. "Bardhwyn," she whispered at last, her voice hoarse with grief and regret. "Ask the Archer." She felt him nod, and for a time, he was silent.

"Tell me, have they treated you any worse than it looks?" Guilhendar finally asked, his voice tight.

She shrugged slightly. "No. It's just bullying mostly, Lorfeldin lacks imagination. He is a good soldier, I think he feels that he is simply doing his duty to Lord Cemandorin by trying to wear me down. It matters not, they broke no bones and if they would stop keeping me awake, I would heal in a few days."

"They didn't, I mean, he didn't . . . have you flogged or anything, did he?" Guilhendar's voice was cold, sarcastic. "I wouldn't put it past the kin-hating cretin."

"No," she answered, "no flogging."

"In the end, it will not matter whether he did or not, I will kill him regardless," he stated flatly.

Scribbles sat up slightly and turned towards Guilhendar, putting both hands flat against his broad chest and ignoring the cloak as it slipped from one shoulder. "No," she answered softly. "You must not. Toror, listen to me, you must not do anything to him, do nothing to anger or offend Cemandorin. I must go to trial again."

"Is he to go unpunished then, for, for THIS!!" the handsome elf snapped. He clenched his hand into a fist, then relaxed, gently taking her chin again and raking his eyes over her injuries. "He keeps you awake to weaken you further, to prolong your injuries. What kind of friend would I be to let this go unanswered?!"

She clasped his wrist with both hands but did not pull his hand away. "The kind of friend who would trust my judgement in this, and honour my request," she answered softly. Guilhendar's blue-green eyes closed briefly in frustration, then flickered open once more.

"You leave me little choice," he said.

"Aye, but there is no other way," she answered. "Promise me toror, please."

He nodded silently.

"Your word, I would hear it from your own lips," she asked softly.

"You have it," he replied. "And I will seal it too," he finished, then bent his head and gently brushed her mouth with his own. He pulled the cloak back around her and grinned. "Though you try my patience very badly, and always have."

She smiled crookedly. "Aye, you have told me so often enough."

He sobered. "You have said you found the key, the proof of your innocence - is it beyond doubt?"

She nodded. "It is. There will be no question of the real traitors identity this time, trust me."

"And what will the real traitor's fate be?" he asked. "You are under penalty of death, but is that for ignoring the edict of banishment, or for the supposed murder of Lord Cemandorin's three sons?"

She shrugged. "It does not matter, they are one and the same for me. In the case of the true traitor, it will depend on Lord Cemandorin's judgement. Remember, he will have choices."

Guilhendar nodded, his face grim. "And if it comes to it, you will choose the challenge?"

"Aye," she said flatly.

He searched her face. "Will you have me as your second then?" he asked softly.

"Aye, and no one else," she replied. "But I will not get the chance to challenge if I am not granted a trial." Understanding flickered in his eyes and he bent to kiss her again, this time more earnestly. "You will be heard, I swear it," he whispered softly against her mouth. She broke away, listening. "The guard approaches, and he is not alone," she whispered against his cheek. "They pay you a great compliment, eight, no, ten are with him. We have but a minute more. Help me up," she whispered.

He looked at her quizzically. "I would be on my feet!" she added anxiously. Guilhendar rose quickly and grasping her upper arms helped her up. She bit back a quick hiss of pain, Guilhendar paled and began apologizing.

The footfalls grew louder, only seconds remained. She reached up and laid a long forefinger on his lips, shaking her head. "No, it matters not, and I meant it, I am truly grateful you are here . . ." she whispered and, at the sound of the key, she leaned against him and planted a firm kiss on his lips. Instinctively, as she knew they would, his arms went around her as he returned it.

"I expected no less!" a voice spat viciously behind them. They turned to see Lorfeldin standing just inside the door, several heavily armed guards visible behind him. "It is so like you half-breed, to attempt to seduce yet another First Born!"

"No!" she hissed as Guilhendar tensed. "Look at me," she whispered. The tall elf tore his gaze from the Steward and looked into her face.

"Remember your promise," she mouthed silently, then brushed his lips once more. There was time for nothing else, as two of the dozen guards stepped forward and pulled her away. Several more moved to flank Guilhendar, who glared at them haughtily. Lorfeldin yanked the cloak from her shoulders and flung it at the tall elf, who caught it without a flicker of emotion.

Without any warning, she was shoved back against the stone wall as Guilhendar was "escorted" out. Lorfeldin spat at her feet.

"Faithless peredhel!!" he barked. "Have you no shame?! Doubtless your beloved is spinning in his grave!"

She hung her head as he stalked out.

He did not see her smile.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:55 pm

((OOC: My deepest apologies to anyone trying to follow this humble tale . . . but it seems that my TORC problems of a few days ago actually ATE a post, and a rather important one at that. Number 9 to be exact.

So, in order for the story to return to making any semblance of sense, I have restored the missing post, bumped the rest forward and numbered them accordingly.))



Sorry about that folks . . .
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Jul 20, 2005 8:18 am

19 )

Guilhendar left the caverns with a determined step, the guards practically running to keep up with his long-legged strides. He went straight to the main Hall and shoving the doors open with a resounding thud, strode up to the table where Finardel, the second Steward, was poring over some accounts with another elf.

"Where is Lord Cemandorin?" he demanded coldly. "He was here when I arrived not an hour ago." Finardel looked up in surpise at Guilhendar's tone, the Swan's Anchor innkeeper was normally much more quiet and reserved.

"At present, he is seeing off the delegation from Rhosgobel, why?" The second Steward's reply was carefully neutral.

"Where, at the main gates?" Guilhendar pressed. Finardel nodded. "Aye. And when he is done with that, he has promised to take his nieces riding straight away."

Guilhendar paused, then began to turn on his heel. "Is there something I can help you with Master Guilhendar?" the second Steward called.

The tall innkeeper turned back to the high table, his thoughts turning over quickly. 'If you are ever uncertain, silence is the best course. That way, you reveal nothing to a possible enemy.' He recalled the Scribe's advice to him on one particularly delicate campaign they had shared. He had never been fond of the haughty first Steward, Lorfeldin, though he had a grudging respect for the elf's dedication to his duty. As for the second Steward, he had no idea if he was trustworthy or not. As in any court, Cemandorin's household was likely riddled with sycophants, factions, malcontents and informers, so he thought it prudent to err on the side of caution. He merely shrugged and smiled at the second Steward.

"Ah, you are indeed kind Master Finardel, no, it's nothing that cannot wait. Forgive my intrusion, perhaps I shall indulge myself with a relaxing stroll through the gardens. Good day."

With that, he spun on his heel and left the Hall. He suddenly wanted very much to find the Lady Bardhwyn.

***

A few polite and well placed inquiries helped him find the Archer in one of the small meadows that nestled among the thick forest that surrounded Oak Haven. She was dressed in travelling clothes and engaged in a lively round of archery with several elves. Guilhendar stood back and watched from the sidelines, admiring the skill of the Dale woman. She was clearly holding her own among some very fine elven archers, and yet was gracious in accepting their accolades and applause.

When she finally shook hands and stepped away from the lines, Guilhendar approached her, smiling. Her face was flushed, her hair wind-blown and her eyes sparkled with amusment and, he thought, a certain shy pride. She returned both his shallow bow of greeting and his smile.

"Master Guilhendar, how wonderful to see you.' She swept a hand towards the butts where the archery continued. "Observe, I have taken your advice and stayed out of harms way. Have you attended to your "business" then?" she asked with a mischevious wink.

He flushed under her direct gaze. He had not been entirely truthful with her when she had stopped him at his arrival. Her urgent and hurried expression of concern over the fate of the Scribe had alarmed him, but he had not wanted her to know just how much. The Ranger's reports he had heard at Imladris had already filled him with a feeling of foreboding that he couldn't shake, he had no sooner returned to the Swan's Anchor than he had arranged for his sister's escort to Imladris, switched horses and immediately set out for Mirkwood.

Unlike the Scribe's party however, he had struck straight east and crossed the mountains over the Redhorn Pass, coming down along the course of the Silverlode. He had travelled quickly through the northern edge of Lothlorien, skirting Cerin Amroth and crossing the Anduin far above Caras Galadon. Even with haste, he had found the Scribe's trail into Mirkwood already cold, but at least he had found it. It had troubled him immediately that there appeared to be only two riders, when no less than nine had left his Inn more than a month before. His relief at finding Bardhwyn at Lord Cemandorin's court had been immense, but there had been no time to speak at length. So he had assured her he would look into "things" when he attended to his own "business" and not to worry. Of course, Lord Cemandorin had been vague and evasive regarding the Scribe, he was pre-occupied with the delegation from Rhosgobel and clearly did not want to have anything to do with her until his business was safely concluded.

Guilhendar had been polite and understanding, but the moment he had left Lord Cemandorin, he had found his way down to the caverns and bribed the guard. How Lorfeldin had found out about it was just another one of the profound mysteries surrounding the whole situation, but he had refused to let it cloud his current purpose. Which was to find the Archer and find out what had transpired since they had left the Swan's Anchor in Ost-in-Edhil with a much larger group.

He realized she was still waiting for his reply and covered his embarrassment with a light cough. "Ah, yes, I have attended to it," he replied, "unfortunately, to no avail." She frowned slightly. "However, do not fret, I have seen the Scribe. She is alive and reasonably well, considering her current accomodations." He kept his voice light, there was no need to worry the Dale woman more than she already was.

"Tell me," he continued, taking her elbow lightly and steering her towards one of the meandering trails that would take them back to the main buildings of the estate. "Would you be willing to stroll back with me? I'm sure you will understand that I have a multitude of questions surrounding your journey here."

"Aye," she agreed, as they began to walk slowly down the trail. "What do you wish to know?"

He smiled down at her and patted her hand where it lay in the crook of one elbow. "Everything." At her look of dismay, he chuckled. "Better yet, how about whatever highlights you deem important."

Bardhwyn nodded and as they walked, quietly related most of the tale. Guilhendar drew a sharp breath when she told of their meeting with the Lady Elenath, but he merely shook his head and did not interrupt her. She left out the Scribe's gamble with the traitor's mark on her arm, but included the rest of the events in the Mark and the meeting of the Avari, Dindraug. She described the ambush as best she could and sensed the tall elf's distress when he learned of the Scribe's injury and subsequent bout of delirium. When she trailed off with their arrival at their current location, he was silent for a few minutes.

"'Tis indeed a pity that the Lady Elenath and Dindraug were unable to continue here, they would have been an immense help to the Scribe. They are both older than even I and their word carries far greather weight with Lord Cemandorin. Still, I suppose it cannot be helped." He was silent for a few moments before continuing. "Hmmmm, do you not think it odd that Lorfeldin was so close at hand when you passed Cemandorin's marker?" he asked quietly. "Did the Scribe send to Oak Haven and tell him she was coming back here?"

Bardhwyn shook her head. "No, I don't believe she did. It wouldn't have served any purpose."

"I agree, yet you were met very quickly," Guilhendar noted.

"I wondered at that too," the Archer replied. "But Scribbles said, before we even passed the markers to Lord Cemandorin's lands, that we were being watched. She said, 'We have been marked and watched since we entered the Greenwood.' I know elves are diligent so I never thought to wonder who exactly would be watching."

Guilhendar nodded. "Aye, the elves have always guarded their borders but Mirkwood is a vast area. Perhaps one of the watchers marked your entrance at the Narrows and sent word ahead to Cemandorin? Though . . ." and here the handsome face drew into a slight frown, "how they would know to do so is beyond me. As far as I know, Cemandorin has kept the entire affair very private in light of his deep grief at losing all three sons at a single stroke. And his edict has never applied beyond his own, private borders."

Bardhwyn shrugged. "I have ceased to try and puzzle out the secrets of the Eldar," she said softly.

Guilhendar flashed a quick smile, then sobered once more. "And there is the dark presence you spoke of at the ambush, and the poison tipped arrow," he added, shaking his sandy head and causing the braids at his temples to sway gracefully. "More that just doesn't make sense."

"Well, it does if you take into account the other dark things that seem to be happening in the Mark," Bardhwyn offered. Guilhendar nodded, then after a brief pause, outlined some of the tidings the Rangers had brought to Imladris. Bardhwyn bit her lip thoughtfully.

"Dark events indeed," she mused, and wondered where Ellandar and Cerrimir were now.

"However, that is not my immediate concern," Guilhendar interrupted her thoughts.

"And what is?" Bardhwyn asked.

Guilhendar pressed his lips together briefly, then gestured ahead to where the trail widened out and joined the inner courtyard of Oak Haven. "Getting the Scribe another trial," he replied. "But this time, she will not stand trial alone. We are here."

Bardhwyn grinned. "Damned straight," she muttered.

.
Last edited by SilverScribe on Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby SilverScribe » Thu Jul 21, 2005 8:30 am

20 )

Bardhwyn left Guilhendar at the foot of the stairs, after accepting his invitation to sit at his table for the evening meal. When she had hurried off to "freshen up", the tall elf turned, strode past the main hall and continued to Lord Cemandorin's stables. There, he learned that the lord had only just returned from taking his nieces for a ride, and had departed for his private chambers. Guilhendar didn't hesitate and a few minutes later, he was standing outside Lord Cemandorin's chambers. There were no guards flanking his doors. Guilhendar lifted the knocker and rapped sharply several times.

One door was swung open by a young valet, but beyond him, Guilhendar could see another set of doors, which were the ones most likely securely locked or at least barred. He smiled genially at the valet. "I urgently need to speak with Lord Cemandorin," he said, keeping his voice calm and even.

"He is not to be disturbed," the valet replied. "He will however, be available at dinner." The valet started to close the doors, but Guilhendar stepped forward and stopped the door in its track. The young elf struggled to push it closed, but was no match for the larger, well-built innkeeper. The valet looked up, his face wary.

"Tell Lord Cemandorin that either he sees me now, or I will immediately go out and set fire to every oak tree for a hundred miles," the tall innkeeper growled. The valet gasped. "You wouldn't dare!" he squeaked. Guilhendar showed his teeth in a wofish smile. "Do you truly wish to find out?" he asked, his voice cold. The valet swallowed and shook his head. "Good," Guilhendar remarked as he pushed his way into the anteroom. "Now relay my message, and tell him that Guilhendar FireMaster will not take 'no' for an answer." He kept the fierce expression on his face until the valet had tapped at the inner door and when it opened, slipped through white lipped with fear. He nearly laughed out loud as he heard an inner bar drop into place. It too was wood, 'and all wood burns,' he thought wryly.

Several minutes passed before the valet re-appeared to usher him through the inner doors. He walked into Lord Cemandorin's solarium to find the elder elf pacing the room. When the valet closed the door behind him, Guilhendar crossed his arms over his broad chest but said nothing as Cemandorin looked up. The stern look on the old elf lord's face dissolved as loud laughter filled the room for long minutes.

"FireMaster?!" Cemandorin snorted at last, holding one of his sides.

"Aye," Guilhendar gasped in reply, "I thought that would get your attention!"

Cemandorin guffawed loudly again, then wiped at his eyes with one sleeve. "Eru's beard! Do you remember the look on her father's face when I used that name?! I thought he was going to explode!"

Guilhendar nodded his head and gasped for breath. "Aye, and the look on the Captain of the Guards face was enough to put the entire room in hysterics!"

After a few minutes, the two elves sobered and Cemandorin firmly clasped wrists with Guilhendar. "Ah, a nasty trick that, using one of my own names and threats against me," he chortled.

The innkeeper grinned. "I couldn't help it, it was just too good to let pass."

"Yes, well, you frightened a few centuries out of my valet," Cemandorin remarked as he went to a sideboard and poured two goblets of crystal clear water, then handed one to the other elf. "Threatening to burn the forest down around his ears . . . tsk, tsk, tsk. Here, water before dinner, wine with it."

Guilhendar chuckled as he accepted the goblet. "Thank you and aye, that threat had the exact same effect on your valet as it did on poor old Lord Goroldhim all those years ago when you asked for his daughter's hand. Nay, not asked, demanded! And at the tip of a flaming arrow, no less!!"

"And all wood burns!" they crowed in unison, then dissolved into laughter once more.

Once again they sobered and Cemandorin nodded, his wide smile gradually fading as his eyes slowly unfocused and turned inward. "Ah yes, those were heady days when we both had more bravado than sense. Still . . ." he trailed off and Guilhendar cleared his throat quickly to prevent the old elf from wandering off onto less pleasant memories.

"Old friend," he began, "we must speak."

Cemandorin's eyes lost their distant look and his face hardened, ever so slightly. "About the Scribe, no doubt," he said, his voice clipped.

Guilhendar nodded and sat down on one of the large chairs that faced the gracefully arched, open terrace that ran around the outer perimeter of the solarium. "Aye, the Scribe," he agreed gently.

The older elf sank down into another chair adjacent and took a deep draught of his water. "You have not known her as long as I have," Cemandorin said. "You were not here when Lorfeldin dragged himself back, bloody and near death himself, to bring us the news. You did not see how that peredhel's face turned to something cast in ice. By the gods!" the old elf swore. "She was an abomination then and she is no less an abomination now, when she returns to flaunt my law in my face!"

Guilhendar drew a deep, steadying breath. "'Tis true enough," he began softly, "that I was not here when the murder of your sons came to pass. And it is true that I have not known the Scribe as long as you have. But answer me this, why would she return here, knowing it will mean her death? She is not pure Eldar, true, but neither is she stupid, Cem."

Cemandorin scowled. "Why does she do anything, except to serve her own obscure and elusive ends? I think she has returned simply to wreak havoc and re-open old wounds as revenge for being exiled for her crimes. However, she will not get the chance. Now that the trade delegation is gone, I can deal with her. Tomorrow, she will hang."

"So," the innkeeper said, leaning back in his chair. "You will not even give her a hearing? You truly are afraid of her, then."

"I am not afraid of some half-breed witch!"

"Half-breed?" Guilhendar echoed, his eyebrows climbing high. "Cem, you've never had issue with the peredhil before now, or do you consider Lord Elrond a half-breed as well?"

Lord Cemandorin flushed. "Er, well, no, but then again, Elrond is not prone to casting spells or making deals with black Noldorian sorcerers, either."

"Casting spells? Noldorian sorcerers?" Guilhendar put his water goblet down and rose to pace in front of the open arches to the terrace. "Forgive me Cem, but you sound ridiculous. What on earth are you talking about?"

"The Scribe!" Lord Cemandorin snapped. "And it is indeed what, not who. She is an un-natural abomination, don't tell me you don't know the truth of her yet?"

Guilhendar stopped in his pacing and faced his old friend. "I have never pried into a past that clealy pains her, no. But I know she is not a witch Cem. She studied under an Istari and indeed, is skilled in many things that we are not. But so is a blacksmith, does that make him evil? I also know that she still grieves deeply for the loss of her husband, your son."

"Pah!" Cemandorin spat. "That one has icewater in her veins," he said bitterly. "She grieves only for the loss of the wealth she knows she will never have, no matter that she murdered three First Born to get it. She is as capable of mourning Brilhennion's death about as much as the Argonath are capable of weeping pearls."

"You are wrong," Guilhendar responded softly. Lord Cemandorin looked up and for the first time, noticed the pain on the innkeeper's face. "And how would you know?" Cemandorin demanded.

"Because I asked her to be my life-mate," Guilhendar answered. "She refused me and when I managed to get her to tell me why, her answer nearly crushed the life from my soul. Can you imagine how it felt to find out that there was no room in her heart for me because she yet carries another there? And that the one she still mourns is none other than the third son of my oldest friend?" He paused and looked away. "I should hate you, Cem, but . . . " he said softly then fell silent for a few moments. Finally, he looked back at the elf lord and cleared his throat. "But I am old enough to know that there is no reason, no logic to the heart and love cannot be bought or forced. The Scribe . . ."

". . . has no peer when it comes to lies and deception," Cemandorin snapped, interrupting the tall innkeeper. "I am sorry to hear that she has duped you as effectively as she duped me and my son, all those years ago."

Guilhendar drew a deep breath and folding his hands calmly before him, tried a different tack. "What evidence was there Cem? Truly?" Before the older elf could reply however, he held up one hand for a few moments. "But answer me with facts, not passion, for passion will only cloud your judgement and makes a fool of you."

Cemandorin flushed with anger, then he too rose to pace in front of the arches. "There was clear motivation," he answered, his voice calm, even though his steps were nervous, agitated. "If Bril alone were to die, all she would have gained was his modest house, grounds, several head of fine horses and whatever coin, plate and jewels he owned, which, knowing Bril, wasn't a lot. He invested everything in his beloved horses. However, since both my elder sons had not yet married, if they were also gone, she stood to gain everything, as the closest surviving member of my household through my son."

"The Scribe has never coveted wealth, nor lands," Guilhendar remarked. "Besides that, surely she knew that the greater portion of your lands and wealth would pass to your brother, since he is blood kin. She would still have gained nothing extra by killing your other two sons!"

The elder elf blinked rapidly several times. "She made the same arguments," he replied, "however there were other . . . things."

"Such as?" Guilhendar prompted.

Lord Cemandorin sniffed. "She erred in not making certain that her paid killers left no one alive," he answered. "Lorfeldin managed to escape and returned with several bloodied arrows, fletched with the Scribe's own blue and silver! She even supplied the murderers with the very means to snuff out my son's lives!"

Guilhendar snorted loudly. "Tell me old friend, if she was intent on getting away with murder, why on earth would she purposely give hired killers arrows that could be traced back to her? Think!!"

"I have thought. The fact is, Lorfeldin didn't recover the arrows from any of the corpses. He killed one of the ambushers while the foul creature was in the process of carefully collecting the Scribe's arrows. He went to great risk to bring them back here and if he hadn't managed to do that, none of us would have been the wiser for her crime!"

The tall innkeeper's eyes narrowed. "Cem, old friend, something is not right here. It would have been far easier for the Scribe to simply supply hired killers with plainly fletched arrows, or arrows fletched with someone else's colours . . . " he trailed off.

Lord Cemandorin stared at him for a few moments, then shook his head. "Perhaps friend, but sometimes the promise of gain will blind even the most clever. And even if none of these facts had come to light, there was still the letter."

"What letter?" Guilhendar asked. Cemandorin left the room for a few minutes, then returned with a cracked and yellowed bit of carefully preserved, folded parchment in his hand. The sealing wax was long gone, the stain of it's place barely discernable on the ouside of the aged document. He handed it to Guilhendar wordlessly.

The innkeeper very carefully unfolded the missive. There, in the graceful hand of the Scribe were the damning words. "The broken field just west of the Narrows. All three birds will arrive mid-morning. Leave no evidence. Balance will be paid with the lord's gold."

He looked up, stricken. "This cannot be," he whispered. "It must be a forgery."

Cemandorin sat back down in his chair heavily. "Would that it was," he replied. "But her hand is unmistakable, is it not?"

"Aye, but not impossible to copy for anyone of any moderate skill!" Guilhendar answered vehemently. "This is unsigned! Was there anyone who could say they saw her write this? Was there anyone who could say they saw her meet with or pay anyone suspicious? Cem . . "

Lord Cemandorin held up a hand. "Guilhendar, we went through it all over four hundred years ago. I do not want to go through this again, it is too painful. The facts stand, coupled now with her further crime of breaking the very edict that would have kept her alive had she only obeyed it. Enough. It is done."

Guildhendar realized he was going to have to break the Scribe's confidence. "What if there was new evidence?" he asked quietly.

The old elf's head came up sharply. "What do you mean?" he asked. "Don't tell me she has duped you into being an accomplice!! Oh, Guil . . ."

"No, no," Guilhendar quickly held up both hands. "She has duped me into nothing. But I spoke with her earlier and in her present state, she was far more unguarded than usual. She let it slip, but I pretended not to notice." It was not entirely the truth, but he didn't want to agitate the old elf lord with mere details.

"What do you mean, in her present state?" Lord Cemandorin asked, his eyes suddenly intense. "She should be merely cooling her heels in a somewhat bare, but comfortable cell."

Guilhendar sat down opposite his old friend. "Did you order her questioned?" he asked. "Or beaten?" he added softly, and had his answer in the striken look on the older elf's face, even before he spoke.

"Questioned? No!! And beaten?!! Are you completely mad? What sort of monster do you take me for? She once sheltered under my roof as my DAUGHTER!!!!" Lord Cemandorin shouted as he rose from his chair, his face flushed and his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

Guilhendar rose and put a hand on each of Cemandorin's shoulders. "Cem, calm down. Lorfeldin must have taken it upon himself to 'question' the Scribe whilst you were busy with the trade delegation. But that questioning has not been gentle, trust me."

Lord Cemandorin suddenly sagged, seeming older than Guilhendar could ever remember seeing him look. "Lorfeldin has ever been a loyal and steadfast Steward," the old elf remarked quietly. "He knows how stubborn she is, how strong . . . he seeks to protect me . . . he wants to discover what her hidden motives are in returning here to plague me yet again . . ." he trailed off. Guilhendar eased the older elf back into his chair and then went to one knee in front of him.

"Please, please old friend, if you ever loved me, listen to me now for you know my counsel has ever been sound." When Cemandorin nodded, the innkeeper continued.

"Give the Scribe a chance to explain why, against all reason, she would return here. You cannot deny that no matter how craven a creature you believe her to be, to willingly walk into a death sentence is sheer folly bordering on madness. And we both know the Scribe is . . . odd, but she is not that crazy. Are you not the least bit curious, Cem?"

Lord Cemandorin's eyes refocused on his friends face. "I simply assumed she was evil incarnate and had returned to torment me."

Guilhendar snorted softly. "Sauron was evil incarnate," he replied. "The Scribe could never even hope to attain that level or that distinction, trust me. Hear her, Cem. Grant a new trial and this time, really hear and truly see the evidence for what it is. Otherwise, you just might end up being guilty of executing the wrong person."

Lord Cemandorin drew a deep, heavy breath and let it out slowly. Long, silent minutes passed before the old lord nodded. "Very well Guilhendar, but I only do this for you, for the love I bear you and the friendship between us. But you must promise me, if she proves guilty a second time, you will not stay my hand or interfere. She will die."

The sandy hairded innkeeper bowed his head briefly in agreement. "You have my word. And in exchange, promise me that you will keep an open mind, and not be swayed by old passions."

Cemandorin nodded. "Agreed. Let the morrow prove the Scribe's guilt or innocence, once and for all."

.
Last edited by SilverScribe on Sat Jul 23, 2005 5:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 22, 2005 8:11 am

21 )

Guilhendar nearly arrived late and had to apologize to Bardhwyn for keeping her waiting. The evening meal seemed to pass excrutiatingly slowly for him. When it was finally over, Lord Cemandorin rose and rapped on the table for attention. Slowly, the normal hum of after dinner conversation ceased.

"Tomorrow, at mid-day, we will pass judgement on the traitor SilverScribe, who was apprehended inside the borders of these lands in direct violation of the edict passed at her previous trial."

A low murmur began to rise in the Hall. Guilhendar watched the face of the Steward, but the look of unruffled calm never left the elf's face. Fiercely protective of Lord Cemandorin, he was doubtless looking forward to seeing the Scribe found guilty a second time. Guilhendar sighed silently. He had never believed the Scribe capable much less guilty of the crime, not when she had first spoken if it and not in all the long years of silence since. However his opinion would not prove or disprove her innocence or guilt, only she could to that. He hoped that the new evidence she claimed to have was iron clad, otherwise, he was not certain he could stand by and watch them execute her.

As the murmur rose to a low roar, he touched Bardhwyn's arm and motioned with his chin towards the doors. She nodded, and he escorted her from the Hall. "An evening stroll to aid the digestion, lady Bardhwyn?" he queried softly for anyone that might be curious. She caught the look in his eye and played along, smiling demurely and accepting his offer graciously. "Aye, but 'tis no lady I be, Master Guilhendar. Merely Bardhwyn of Dale."

They walked in the lamplit quiet of one of the manicured gardens that flanked the large main Hall. "So, you managed to convince Lord Cemandorin to allow the Scribe a fair hearing after all," the Archer murmured quietly when it was reasonably certain they were alone.

"Aye," he answered.

"Thank you Guilhendar," she added. "I am relieved to know the Scribe has at least one proper friend in this world."

"You mean besides yourself?" he asked quietly, then smiled at the look on her face. "There is something about loyalty that cannot be hidden, Bardhwyn of Dale," he explained. "I hear it in both your voices whenever each of you speaks of the other. It is a good thing."

Bardhwyn simply nodded and they strolled on in silence for a short time. "Where will you be tomorrow, may I sit with you?" she asked.

Guilhendar looked down and smiled, but shook his head. "You honour me, but I will be required to sit with the elven council at the high table. However, I can ensure you get a good seat close to the front . . ."

"Yes, please," Bardhwyn quickly interrupted, then flushed. "Um, I want her to see as many friendly faces as possible," she explained. Guilhendar laughed softly.

"Of course and that too, is a good thing," he said as they headed back.

He escorted her to her chamber and bid her a gentle good night. He returned to his own rooms and spent most of the night pacing, fretting at the slow passage of the hours and anxious for the new day to begin. When dawn finally did lighten the sky outside his windows, he went to the stables, saddled his horse and went for a long morning ride to clear his head and calm his nerves. He returned in time to take a light meal in his rooms before making his way to Lord Cemandorin's chambers well before the appointed hour of the trial.

He was admitted with no question this time. He found Cemandorin at his own mid-morning meal and accepted the offer of a chilled fruit juice and a chair from his old friend with a smile.

Once the valet had left, he turned a serious look to the old elf. "Cem, let me escort the Scribe from the caverns myself, instead of Lorfeldin," he asked. Lord Cemandorin arched an eyebrow. "Why?" he asked back. Guilhendar laughed nervously. "Any answer I give will sound insane, trust me," he answered. "Please, just grant me this, I will ask nothing further," he finished.

Lord Cemandorin waved a hand. "Very well, very well," he said.

Guilhendar stood. "Put it in writing, for your most loyal Steward will rightfully question me," he prompted. Cemandorin nodded and rang for his valet, then asked for parchment, ink, quill and wax. He hastily scribbled the order then handed it to Guilhendar after pressing his ring into a softened wafer of wax on the bottom next to his initials. Guilhendar swept a low bow and smiling, hurried out.

He stopped the valet in the anteroom. "Please make sure that the Lady Bardhwyn of Dale is seated at the front of the hall, closest to the high table, will you?" he asked with a smile. The valet sniffed disdainfully, but just until Guilhendar pressed a heavy gold coin into his hand.

*****

"He what?!" Lorfeldin snapped, when Guilhendar stopped him a short time later at the guardroom that housed the entrance to the caverns and handed him the signed order.

"He granted me permission to escort the Scribe to her trial, alone," Guilhendar answered calmly, though there was a steely edge to the tall innkeepers voice. "He wants you to attend him in the Hall, now." Without waiting for further comment, he snatched the order back from Lorfeldin's fingers and beckoned to two of the guards that were lounging about. "You, and you," he instructed, then held his hand out to the Steward. "The keys, Master Lorfeldin."

The Steward shrugged and handed over the keys, then spun on his heel and left the guardroom. Guilhendar led the two guards quickly down the passages and arriving at the Scribe's cell, laughed out loud. "Tsk, tsk, tsk Scribe. You will take those clothes off at once," he ordered.

She looked up from where she sat, fully clothed, against the wall. "What?" she asked as he unlocked the cell door and pulled a cloth sack from his belt.

"Your clothes Scribe," he answered, "off they come and into the sack they go."

"Are you mad?!" she spat. "I just got them back this morning!"

He looked at the gauntness of her face, the dark shadows under her eyes that gave her a haunted, hunted look. "Aye," he agreed softly. "And why do you think that is?" She stared at him for a few moments, then shook her head, as if he was an idiot child from the back alleys of some dockside town. "Because I am going to trial this morning, and it wouldn't be proper to march in there barefoot and . . ." she trailed off, suddenly realizing where his line of reasoning was leading.

"Exactly," he said softly. "So no one will know how you have been treated these past nine days. What few injuries show can be claimed as resisting arrest or some other such nonsense. I think it would be far more honest if you appear for trial exactly as you have spent the last nine days in Lord Cemandorin's prison, don't you?"

She started to smile, but stopped when her lip began to bleed.

*******

Every bench and every odd chair that had been assembled along the outside margins of the main Hall was filled. More elves stood in groups in the central area, which had been cleared of tables and benches. The ebb and flow of conversations created a sound not unlike the surf on a smooth ocean beach, it rose and fell with an almost hypnotic regularity. Bardhwyn entered the Hall with Carndruil and was quickly met by Lord Cemandorin's valet, who escorted the elf and the mortal woman to a pair of empty chairs that stood in among a loose grouping to one side of the front of the Hall, a loose grouping that commanded a clear view of the high table and the large clear space in front of it.

The high table sat on a low dias that rose a single tall step up from the flagstone floor and spanned the entire end of the Hall. In front of the high table stood a smaller, desk-like table that was bare. Lord Cemandorin was already seated at the center of the high table, his council of advisors seated on either side of him.

The Steward entered the main Hall and made his way quickly to the high table. "My lord, you sent for me," Lorfeldin said quietly and Cemandorin beckoned him closer.

"Aye, loyal friend. I wanted you to attend me now, so you can personally choose a suitable number from my personal guard here, then take custody of the traitor when she arrives. That way, when you begin your summation, there will be no delay or interruption, yes?"

Lorfeldin nodded, he was not about to question the old elf lord. He quickly picked out the six heaviest built of the squad assembled and formed them up just as the doors at the end of the mail hall thudded open and a herald cried, "Make way for the traitor SilverScribe!"

The silence in the hall was palpable and served only to highlight the soft gasps and whisperings that began to ripple through the room as anyone standing quickly shuffled aside to create a wide aisle. As Guilhendar and his charge came into view, Lorfeldin felt the colour drain from his face.

Lord Cemandorin rose to his feet, quickly suppressing a flush of rage as the Scribe came to a stumbling halt several yards from the high table. A glance at his Steward's face told him a great deal, though the old lord forced his face to remain impassive, impartial. But his heart quailed at what he saw, the once proud peredhel barefoot and clad only in trousers and her silk undervest, her chained wrists held close to her chest. He did not miss the cut in the hairline above her left eye, the split lip, the bruises nor the fact that her face looked markedly more gaunt than it had nine days ago. He signalled Lorfeldin forward to take charge of the prisoner and waved the rest of the hall to their seats. Guilhendar smiled encouragingly at Bardhwyn as he passed her on the way to take his place at the end of the high table, but she never noticed. She was staring with undisguised dismay at the Scribe.

Cemandorin rapped his dagger hilt on the table for order.

Guilhendar found his seat, dropped the cloth sack under his chair and swallowed hard. 'Now, it begins,' he thought.

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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 22, 2005 6:33 pm

22 )

Lord Cemandorin waited until the rustling and stirring in the Hall subsided, then rapped his dagger hilt on the table before him once more. The remaining noise in the Hall quickly subsided to a dull murmuring.

"The traitor SilverScribe has returned, in direct violation of an edict that was passed over four hundred years ago, when she was found guilty of the murder of all three of my sons, namely Brilhennion, her husband, and his two brothers Andorin and Hildearn."

He paused and looked out over the room, avoiding the sight of the Scribe standing calmly next to Lorfeldin and flanked by six burly elven guards.

"The penalty for violation of that edict . . . was and still remains . . . death."

The Hall went ghostly silent. Guilhendar held his breath as did Bardhwyn.

"However, I wish to know why the traitor SilverScribe has returned, when she knows very well what the consequences of her actions are. She has requested a fair hearing, in order to state her reason for returning and to request justice. We will grant her that hearing."

He looked over to Lorfeldin as he picked up and held out a large packet of folded leather, topped by a sheaf of papers that had lain on the table in front of him. "Before we begin, we will review the charges and what has gone before. Steward, will you summarize the proceedings of the previous trial?"

Guilhendar could see the folded "letter" resting on the top of the pile, and his heart sank as the Steward came forward and accepted the packet and the papers with a nod and a shallow bow.

"Indeed I will, my lord," he answered in a clear voice, then turned and placed the materials carefully on the small table. Then he stepped forward and cleared his throat.

"The prisoner known as SilverScribe was charged and found guilty of murder and treason. She arranged for the three sons of Lord Cemandorin to be ambushed and killed as they returned from a White Council that was held in Imladris. Not only was she found thrice-guilty of murder, but she was also found guilty of treason, in that by their deaths she also hoped to destroy valuable information from Imladris, or prevent it from reaching Lord Cemandorin, the lord she had sworn fealty to upon her marriage to Brilhennion."

"And what evidence was found to support the charges?" Lord Cemandorin prompted.

Lorfeldin crossed back to the small table, withdrew one sheet of parchment from under the folded letter and glanced at it briefly before he turned and spoke once more.

"First, there is motive. In the event of Lord Cemandorin's passing, his eldest son, Andorin would have inherited the bulk of his lord father's holdings, with the second son Hildearn inheriting the balance. As third son, Brilhennion's share would have been the least. However, with both elder sons dead along with her husband, the Scribe stood to obtain it all when and if Lord Cemandorin's life should end."

A low murmur rippled through the Hall.

Lorfeldin returned to the small table and replaced the sheet of parchment under the folded letter. He then pulled the folded leather packet out from under the papers and reaching in, removed an arrow encased in a thick, clear coating of heavy wax. He held it up.

"Then there is the physical evidence. I took several arrows like this one, fletched with the Scribe's own blue and silver, from one of the ambushing orcs. He was, like many of his fellows, carefully combing the corpses and removing every one of these arrows from the battlefield."

The low murmuring rose slightly in pitch.

He replaced the arrow in the leather packet and laid it back under the sheaf of papers. Finally, he carefully held up the ancient folded parchment letter and advanced slightly farther into the clear space in front of the high table.

"And finally, this letter was taken from the leading orc of the ambushing party, whom Andorin managed to kill before he himself was outnumbered and cut down. It is in the Scribe's own hand and reads "The broken field just west of the Narrows. All three birds will arrive mid-morning. Leave no evidence. Balance will be paid with the lord's gold.'"

As Lorfeldin returned to the table and laid the aged note back with the other papers, the murmuring in the Hall rose to a hum. He shot a look at the Scribe, but Scribbles' face remained impassive, a study in carved marble.

"The prisoner was unable to offer sufficient evidence to counter that which was presented against her," he continued. "She was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to permanent exile, such sentence to be elevated to death if she ever set foot within the boundaries of Lord Cemandorin's lands and estates."

He turned to the high table where Lord Cemandorin nodded as he rose from his seat.

"Thank you Steward, an excellent summation." He glanced at the Scribe briefly then addressed the Hall once more. "The sentence was generous, but the prisoner has chosen to ignore the edict and has returned. I am within my rights to order her immediate execution, as dictated by the terms of the sentence handed down at the previous trial."

The low murmuring now rose to a buzzing. Guilhendar tensed and Bardhwyn leaned forward in her chair, wishing that she had her bow in her hands. She might have been able to give the Scribe a chance, no matter how small, to make a break for freedom. However, she was interrupted by Lord Cemandorin rapping his dagger hilt on the table again and calling for order.

He spoke into the following silence. "However, let it not be said that I am without mercy or reason. The prisoner has asked to be allowed to speak, and I for one am curious to know why she is here . . ." 'to darken my days and poison my peace,' he thought bitterly to himself, but did not voice out loud. Instead, he simply turned to look towards the Scribe.

"Have you a defender to speak for you?"

Scribbles shook her head slightly, then cleared her throat. "No, my lord, I beg your indulgence and ask that I be allowed to speak in my own defense."

"As you wish," he answered, waved Lorfeldin to return to his place with the Scribe's guards, then sat down heavily.

"Thank you my lord," Scribbles answered, then stepped forward, walking to stand in the clear space well forward of the high table. She glanced at the Archer and nodded nearly imperceptibly, then began to speak, her voice even, calm.

"I will answer the evidence thus. The motive the Steward speaks of is true enough and certainly possible. However, anyone who knows me also knows that I have never wanted lands nor wealth, for I have no use for them. If I were to desire these things, I could be possessed of far more wealth than even Lord Cemandorin possesses, accumulated as the spoils of the vast number of wars that I fought long before I met Brilhennion."

"I also knew that Lord Cemandorin's lands and chattels would pass to his blood kin. Why would I murder his sons and let his brother live? The evidence of motive is therefore unsupportable because it is incomplete."

The Hall remained oddly quiet. Scribbles continued.

"There never was and still isn't a single shred of solid proof that the physical evidence that was presented is genuine. I would certainly not be stupid enough to use my own fletching, nor would I put anything in ink that could be traced back to me. So the physical evidence is merely that, physical. But it is completely unprovable as genuine."

She lifted her chin. "I, however, do have solid and irrefutable physical evidence that will prove the identity of the true traitor, the one who murdered the three sons of Lord Cemandorin and attempted to frame me for the crime. To answer your question Lord Cemandorin, I have returned to bring you solid proof of my innocence in order to clear my name and to see the true traitor brought to justice."

The Hall broke into a roar of babbling, broken sound. Lorfeldin came forward and stopped within a few feet of the Scribe, while Lord Cemandorin rose and pounded the table with his dagger hilt, shouting at the top of his lungs for silence. Slowly, the room quieted.

"New evidence? The true traitor? Who framed you?" the Steward asked clearly. "What about my own new evidence, Scribe?" He dug in the pouch at his belt and produced her Bard pins. He turned to the crowded Hall.

"I have here several very fine, very valuable pieces of jewelry that happen to belong to this very Scribe who claims not to covet nor collect any form of wealth!" he said loudly. "Do you deny that these are yours, Scribe?" he asked.

"I do not deny it, they are mine," she answered calmly.

"Oh, so now you will answer me," he growled softly, then raised his voice once more. "So, you who claims to collect NO wealth of any kind, admits to collecting these very fine and expensively crafted pieces! Are these but a tiny portion of your 'spoils of war' then?" he sneered.

She shook her head. "No, Master Lorfeldin. They are Bardic rank pins, which I only recently earned as a member of the Bard's Guild, under Guildmaster Erinhue, the Master Bard of Belfalas."

Another soft ripple of sound went through the Hall. Lord Cemandorin interrupted from behind them. "Is that the same Erinhue who keeps the dragonharp Agarak?" he asked, the admiration and respect evident in his voice.

"The very same, my lord," Scribbles answered evenly. "Though I daresay, it is the Dragonharp Agarak who keeps Master Erinhue."

Lord Cemandorin brought his hand up to cover a purely spontaneous grin. A few moments later, he was once more stern and composed. "Your GuildMaster is a man to be respected to be sure. Lorfeldin, give me those. Simple Bard pins, while well made, are not 'jewelry' nor can they be considered wealth in anyone's imagination, except in the obvious honours they represent." The Steward strode to the high table and carefully laid the pins in front of Lord Cemandorin. "My lord . . ." he began in a low whisper, but Cemandorin waved him off. "She's making a fool of you Steward," he answered softly. "Stop playing about with trivialities and get on to shooting down this new evidence she's chirped off about, eh?"

Lorfeldin nodded and returned to where the Scribe was waiting calmly. Tired as she was, there was nothing wrong with her hearing, she had followed the whispered exchange with some measure of private mirth. Her face however, remained without so much as a twitch in her expression.

The Steward resumed his place a few paces away from her. "Very well Scribe, suppose you present this 'new evidence' of yours then."

This time, her expression did change. A ghost of a smile flickered across her lips.

.
Last edited by SilverScribe on Fri Sep 08, 2006 7:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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