Redemption: Lord Cemandorin's Court

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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 22, 2005 9:09 pm

23 )

Scribbles cleared her throat and then spoke clearly into the suddenly hushed Hall.

"The night I was exiled and thrown from these halls, I stole a horse and rode to the place the Steward had only just narrowly escaped from with his life. I rode hard for the remainder of the night and arrived at the west edge of the Narrows just after dawn."

"The carnage I found is beyond description. However, I searched the entire field, corpse by corpse. I found Andorin first, he had been pulled from his horse and stabbed to death. Hildearn lay not far away, an arrow had taken him through the throat and he was lying half crushed by his horse. I searched for two hours more before I found . . . Brilhennion."

She paused, closing her eyes briefly to gather herself, then looked back out over the heads of those gathered in the Hall.

"He was nearly buried under several orc corpses and this is what saved him, the attackers had left him for dead. But he was alive when I found him, though only just. The dagger that had brought him down was still lodged in his chest and he had left it there, so as not to bleed too quickly to death. He instructed me to move a headless orc nearby and take what he had hidden there. I obeyed and then I carried him off that field of horror and into the Greenwood."

She stopped and brought her hands up to her face, passing the fingertips of one hand over her brow, the chains on her wrists clinking with a faint, silvery sound. "He was beyond my skill, I could not save him nor even begin to heal his wounds, though I tried . . ." she trailed off as her voice broke on the last few words.

"You lie!" Lorfeldin suddenly spat. "My personal guard returned to that very field later the same day and the bodies of Lord Cemandorin's sons were nowhere to be found! I always wondered why, and now you provide the answer and further prove your guilt by your own words! You went back to make sure they were dead! You found Brilhennion alive and finished what your hired killers had missed! Then you further degraded all three by destroying their bodies! What did you do Scribe? Cut them up and feed them to your pet orcs?"

"Enough!!" Lord Cemandorin suddenly roared, swaying unsteadily to his feet, a stricken look on his flushed face. Lorfeldin bit his lip and fell silent. Scribbles drew a slow, deep breath and made a conscious effort to calm the painful pounding of her heart.

"I did not degrade nor destroy them, my lord," she said quietly, though her voice carried clearly in the thick silence. "I laid them down together, in proper state in the Greenwood, and I built a proper cairn over them, a cairn which still stands today. Forgive me my lord, but it was as close to their home as I could dare to lay them to rest."

Lord Cemandorin sat back down, his face grey. "You found my son, alive?" he asked, his voice sounding as though it came from a long way away.

"Aye," Scribbles answered. "He asked me to pass on his love to you, my lord. Then he gave me his ring, though he slipped into Shadow before he could fully transfer it to me."

Lord Cemandorin looked up. "His ring? And where is it now?"

Scribbles wormed the fingers of one hand into a small hidden pocket that was sewn into the inside of one hip of her trousers. After a brief struggle, she raised her hands and there, dangling from one finger was a fine silvery chain with a ring strung on it. It was plain mithril, the only decoration a single small, delicately stylized mallorn leaf worked in gold, flush onto the band. Lord Cemandorin gestured and Lorfeldin snatched the thing from her fingertips and went to lay it on the table with her Bard pins.

The old lord picked up the ring and held it on the flat of one palm for long minutes, staring as though he would melt it with his gaze alone. Finally, he clenched his fist over it as he drew a ragged breath and looked back up at the Scribe.

"It is indeed Brilhennion's ring," he said quietly.

"Forgive me my lord," Lorfeldin interrupted, "but it hardly proves anything except that she found your son and for all we know, simply stripped the ring from his dead finger."

"If that is so, it will not answer her," Cemandorin replied. "Will it answer to you, Scribe?"

Scribbles nodded. "Aye, but not fully my lord. As I said, Brilhennion did not have enough time to complete the transfer. I can channel with it, but not wear it nor command its own power."

Lord Cemandorin held out the ring, the chain swinging below his fingers. "Show me," he said, then glanced at Lorfeldin. "Free her hands," he commanded.

Lorfeldin stepped forward. "My lord, is this wise? We all know the peredhel's physical prowess, to free her might . . ."

"She is hardly in any condition to be a threat and especially in the face of six armed guards, Steward," Lord Cemandorin answered, his voice clipped and hard. "Do as I command."

The Steward fished out a key and unlocked the mithril chains. Scribbles bit back a moan of relief and instead concentrated on gingerly rubbing some feeling back into her raw, chafed wrists as she walked to the high table. She took the ring from Lord Cemandorin and stepped back. He nodded.

She closed her fingers around the ring and held that hand up before her as she closed her eyes and gathered herself. In her exhausted state it was going to be hard to draw, channel and control even the smallest amount of power. Determined, she cleared her mind and reached out. She gathered a few pale strands of life force from the massive oaks that stood outside the Hall and carefully wove them together, visualizing a small, dancing flame. She heard the soft, collective gasp of the room and opened her eyes to see pale silvery light leaking from between her fingers and in the air in front of her, a quicksilver blossom of magefire danced and flickered.

Her eyes went to Lord Cemandorin's face, and when he nodded, she released her hold on the fine strands. The magefire winked out and the glow between her fingers faded away.

"So, is this your new evidence, Scribe"? Lorfeldin asked loudly. "All it proves is that you found Brilhennion alive. It does not prove that you didn't take his ring and then his life, and it certainly doesn't prove you are innocent of the crime you were found guilty of in the first place."

"True, Steward," Scribbles replied. "But no, that is not the new evidence of which I spoke."

The Stewards fair eyebrows shot up. "Then what is?" Lorfeldin grated.

Scribbles turned and called into the surrounding press. "Bardhywn, Trueheart, it is time. I would have that which you have kept safe for me."

Bardhwyn rose from her seat in the front ranks and approached. "What is this?" Lorfeldin snapped. But Lord Cemandorin held up a hand and the Steward subsided.

Pulling up her sleeve, Bardhwyn unfastened the vambrace and handed it to the peredhel. "Thank you . . . friend," Scribbles said softly. "Any time, friend," Bardhwyn replied with a slight smile, then spun on her heel and returned to her seat.

Scribbles held up the vambrace. "This is what Brilhennion bade me pull from under the headless orc when I found him on the battlefield, before I carried him from the field. He told me it was knocked from the arm of his murderer during the heat of battle, and he hid it beneath the orc carcass for as long as it took the traitor to leave him for dead and quit the field. I am quite certain at least some of you recognize it."

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Postby SilverScribe » Sat Jul 23, 2005 9:29 am

24 )


Lord Cemandorin beckoned her forward. " Lorfeldin, is that not one of the vambraces my son gifted to you?" he asked as he gazed at what Scribbles yet held.

Lorfeldin hesitated only an instant, then snorted loudly and stepped forward. He pushed back both his sleeves to reveal matched silver vambraces, identical to the one Scribbles held.

The silence in the Hall was deafening.

"Now the guilty peredhel attempts to frame me, my Lord," Lorfeldin declared loudly. "See here, I still wear the matched set of vambraces that Brilhennion gifted to me. She has secured a poor copy in an attempt to smear my name and transfer her crime to me."

Lord Cemandorin turned a hard look to Scribbles. "This does not become you, Scribe," he growled. "I had no idea you would stoop so low."

Scribbles' face paled but stayed calm, impassive. "You have but to examine them, my Lord," she urged. "There is an inscription within, is there not?"

Cemandorin nodded. "Indeed there is."

"And the language, my lord. Is it not an ancient dialect of the High Elvish that few, if any remember? In fact, is it not one of the forms of Quenyan that no surviving written translations have ever been found for?"

Lord Cemandorin's eyes narrowed. "Aye Scribe, all this is as you say. But none save myself and Brilhennion knew this. Ancient Quenyan has long been my personal passion and no one except my youngest son shared my interest."

"Ask Lorfeldin for his vambraces my lord," Scribbles replied softly.

Lorfeldin stepped up immediately, one vambrace already undone and in his hand. He gave it to Lord Cemandorin and turned to her with a sneer as he unclasped the other. "This will avail you nothing Scribe," he snapped. "These are the very gifts Brilhennion gave to me and your little staged performance will only prove how false you are and what further disgusting levels of trickery you will lower yourself to." He turned and handed the other vambrace to Lord Cemandorn, then crossed his arms over his chest and glared at her coldly.

Lord Cemandorin took the left vambrace and examined it, looking closely at the upper inner edge. Satisfied, he took the right vambrace and examined it as well. Nothing was evident in his face as he looked up. The Hall was silent, the gathered crowd seeming to collectively hold its breath.

"Both vambraces are inscribed," he said quietly. "And the inscription is identical on both."

'Ah no, Scribe . . . ' Guilhendar closed his eyes as his heart, and his hope, sank.

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Postby SilverScribe » Sat Jul 23, 2005 5:17 pm

25 )

Lorfeldin's cold gaze turned into a haughty, victorious sneer. "What did I tell you!! Now, let's see this bit of fakery she tried to pass off as her 'new' evidence!" He reached for the vambrace that Scribbles yet held.

"Steward!" Lord Cemandorin barked. Lorfeldin stopped and turned back to look at the elf lord. Cemandorin beckoned to Scribbles. "I will take it from her hands myself," he said firmly.

Scribbles handed the vambrace up to the elf lord. He examined it for long moments, then set it aside, carefully keeping it separate from the others. He turned a solemn gaze on the peredhel.

"Do you know what is inscribed here, on this matched set of Lorfeldin's vambraces?" he asked her. She shook her head. "No my lord, only what is inscribed on the one Brilhennion gave to me."

"You translated it?" Lord Cemandorin asked with no small surprise. "How? As you said, we have have never found that formal translation documents survived for this form of Quenyan. I believe that the poor bits of cobbled together reference Brilhennion and I constructed is all that there is. "

"Indeed my lord, no formal documents appeared to have survived. But I found the key nevertheless, masked by a sorcerous spell and hidden in the vaults of Imladris. It has very likely been under everyone's noses for thousands of years, yet none could see it."

"Hidden in plain sight," Lord Cemandorin mused thoughtfully.

"Exactly," she replied softly. "But when I triggered the ward, the scroll began to disentegrate," she continued. "I managed to slow the decay and copy all of the contents, but I was unable to stop the loss of the original, my lord. I am sorry, for it was a truly beautiful manuscript."

"And when was this?" Lord Cemandorin asked, now clearly intrigued.

"Just before the battle of the Pelennor Fields, my lord," Scribbles answered quietly. "Though I would have dearly loved to ride to the aid of the West that day, I had to choose between preserving something priceless and . . . preserving something priceless."

"Not an easy choice," agreed Cemandorin. "I wondered when I heard that you had been called but did not answer."

Scribbles bowed her head briefly. "I prayed that my absence would make no difference, and it seems the Valar were kind. The West prevailed and Sauron is no more."

"The copy you made, where is it now?" Lord Cemandorin asked.

"I left it with Lord Elrond, my lord, for it is a rough and poor thing. But I asked him to have a second, properly illustrated copy made, in the event that you should ever approach him . . ."

Lord Cemandorin nodded and pressed his lips together briefly, then picked up Lorfeldin's left vambrace and tossed it to her. "Read it," he snapped.

" Duty, honour and fealty are one," she translated clearly. Lord Cemandorin handed Lorfeldin's right vambrace to her. "And the mate?" he asked. She looked down and found the inscription. "It is identical my lord, as you said. 'Duty, honour and fealty are one.' " She stepped up close to the high table and reaching up, placed both vambraces back on it, then stepped back.

Lorfeldin drew himself up. "A perfectly matched set, exactly as Brilhennion gave me," he grated. "Your final, pathetic attempt at fakery has failed Scribe. You have done nothing except prove your devious nature and confirm your original guilt. Guards!!"

Guilhendar half rose from his seat. Carndruil rose and clamped a restraining hand on Bardhwyn's arm as she fairly leapt from her chair and shouted into the stillness . . . "No!"

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Postby SilverScribe » Sun Jul 24, 2005 9:10 am

26 )

Lord Cemandorin rose from his seat and held up a hand. "You forget yourself Steward!" he barked, and Lorfeldin flushed then dropped to one knee, his head bowed. "Forgive me my lord, I only meant . . . "

"I know, I know, you only meant to do your duty . . ." Cemandorin interrupted him then trailed off, turning to where Bardhwyn was struggling to free herself from Carndruil's strong grip. "Bardhwyn of Dale, please be so good as to resume your seat and let the proceedings continue. If you do not, I will be forced to have you escorted from this Hall, by force if necessary." Guilhendar, his face pale and strained, made placating gestures with one hand and with a wordless snarl of frustration, Bardhwyn subsided and threw herself back into her chair. Carndruil drew a deep breath and let go of her arm, though he stayed focused on the Archer, ready to sieze her again should she change her mind.

The Hall was once more quiet. Lord Cemandorin picked up the vambrace Scribbles had taken from Bardhwyn and tossed it back to the peredhel. "And what does the inscription on that one say?" he asked clearly, his voice hard.

Scribbles did not even have to look. Her eyes met those of the elf lord.

"It reads . . .
'Declared with this gift,
from Cemandorin's son',
my lord," she replied softly.

"Duty, honour and fealty are one,
Declared with this gift, from Cemandorin's son, "
recited Lord Cemandorin quietly. "Exactly as Brilhennion dictated to me over six hundred years ago." Scribbles saw the hollow look in the old elf's eyes, the old grief come back to haunt him along with the shock of disbelief and the pain of this fresh betrayal. Her face remained impassive, but she longed to reach out to him, to erase the lie of the intervening four hundred years. But to do so would be a risk to his dignity, and so she stood, motionless and silent.

Finally, he gathered himself, turned a carefully guarded look on the Steward and gestured to the guards. "Guards, please be so good as to disarm the Steward and restrain him."

Lorfeldin's jaw dropped. Bardhwyn cried out, leaped from her chair and punched the air then quickly sat back down, while Carndruil looked lost. Guilhendar closed his eyes and breathed deeply, thanking the Valar and all their agents fervently. Cemandorin pounded the table again as near pandemonium broke out in the Hall.

When order was restored, Scribbles turned to Lorfeldin, her face expressionless, cold.

"My compliments to whomever you found to copy that inscription, Steward. It takes no less than a master's eye to decipher that particular ancient script, much less copy it so exactly. Tell me, was it the same forger you used to create that false letter? Though surely not the same craftsman you used to copy my fletching colours, hmmm?"

She allowed herself a small smile. "How unfortunate for you that the inscriptions were not, as you assumed, mere decoration. It is also now quite obvious that they were never meant to be the same but are in reality, two halves of a whole. Of course, you would have had to been able to read them to notice that they differed."

"But . . . but . . . how did you know? " Lorfeldin sputtered as two of his own handpicked guards held his arms.

Scribbles shrugged. "I didn't, at least not until now. In fact, I didn't believe Bril at first when he named you as his murderer. But he insisted before he died that the key to the truth of your treachery lay in translating the inscription, even though he did not have time to tell me what it was or why. I couldn't very well return and ask Lord Cemandorin for help, so I had to search elsewhere."

She paused and looked over at Bardhwyn. "It took me over four hundred hears but now I know the truth, and so does everyone else." She returned the faint smile that the Archer gave her, then turned back to the Steward. "You chose poorly when you chose to betray Brilhennion, Lorfeldin. Did you truly think to replace him in Lord Cemandorin's heart? No wonder he never fully trusted you." She shook her head. "And you sealed your own doom when you thought to betray me as well."

"How did you find that key?!" Lorfeldin grated. "How??!!"

"Have you fogotten? I spent many, many years in the libraries and vaults of Imladris," Scribbles replied. "I came to know every scroll, every book, every map and every scrap of parchment intimately. You would have been better served had you hidden the key in Minas Tirith. There, a few new volumes would have gone unnoticed and I have long shunned Gondor. I am curious, Steward, why did you choose Imladris?"

"I didn't! It was . . ." he blurted, then suddenly stopped short. A deep flush of rage suffused the handsome elf's face, but he remained stubbornly silent as a slow hum began to once more build in the hall. Lord Cemandorin held up his hands for silence, but this time to no avail. He beckoned the Scribe to step up to the high table more closely.

"I must beg your forgiveness Scribe, for so much, for everything," he said quietly, leaning forward so she could hear him over the growing noise. Suddenly, he looked far older than he had at the beginning of the proceedings.

"Your deep grief blinded you my lord," she replied gently as she laid the vambrace back on the table in front of him and reached out to squeeze one of his hands. "But if forgiveness is what you seek from me, you have it. You have always had it, for I always understood. Otherwise, you would never have sentenced me to exile in the first place," she finished softly.

He looked up at her, his eyes bleak. "Thank you . . . daughter," he whispered, his voice hoarse. He held both her gaze and her hand for a few long moments, then cleared his throat, released her hand and straightened. He raised both hands high until the noise subsided enough for him to be heard.

"Imprisonment, Exile or Challenge?" the elf lord shouted, though he already knew the answer.

Scribbles lifted her chin. "Challenge," she replied clearly.

Lord Cemandorin nodded silently as the Hall erupted into fresh chaos.

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Postby SilverScribe » Sun Jul 24, 2005 7:52 pm

27 )

Lord Cemandorin pounded the table with his dagger hilt for a full minute before the noise in the Hall abated once more.

"Challenge has been demanded, and is hereby granted!" Cemandorin's voice echoed over the now silent court. The center of the long, flagstone tiled hall emptied as everyone melted towards the walls. Several of the unarmed guards quickly set up short, slender stone pillars at intervals, the rope strung between them forming a makeshift arena, with Scribbles and Lorfeldin standing at one end, directly in front of the high table. Lord Cemandorin gestured to the two guards that were holding Lorfeldin. They released him and returned to stand aside with the rest.

"Call your seconds," Lord Cemandorin intoned, his voice now cold, formal.

Scribbles looked up to where Guilhendar sat. "I call Guilhendar Felandrillion," she said clearly. Guilhendar took up the cloth sack from under his chair, rose gracefully to his feet and stepped down to stand to one side in front of the high table.

Lorfeldin turned towards the crowd. "I call Elgaron Calanthiron." A shifting ensued, and the sandy haired elf that had chained Scribbles on the road stepped forward to join Guilhendar.

"Bring their weapons," Cemandorin commanded, then nodded at the two that stood directly before him. Scribbles turned on her heel and strode to one side of the center of the "arena", knowing that Lorfeldin went to the same point opposite her. They both turned to silently face the high table.

Lord Cemandorin's valet appeared from behind the high table, bearing her heavy pack and her weapons. One of the armed guards stepped forward with the ornate swordbelt of Lorfeldin. Guilhendar took charge of Scribbles' things while the sandy haired Elgaron received Lorfeldin's weapon.

At a nod from Lord Cemandorin, both seconds stepped away from the high table and approached either side of the center of the arena.

Guilhendar dropped Scribbles' pack and squatting next to it, pulled her boots out of the cloth bag. "Get my leather vest too," she asked softly as she took the boots and began pulling them on. "What about a clean shirt?" he asked as he began digging through her pack. She shook her head. "No time, just the vest will do." He nodded and dived back into the cloth sack, then wordlessly handed the vest to her. While she laced it up over her undertunic, Guilhendar rose, pulling the large sheathed broadsword and swordbelt from one of the pack's anchor loops. Silently, he handed it to her, watching calmly as she belted the weapon around her hips. He did not miss the fact that she had to cinch the belt to the next tighter belt loop either.

He leaned close. "Are you certain you must do this? He will face exile or imprisonment . . ."

"He deserves nothing less than death," she ground out quietly as she looked down and settled the sword belt more comfortably, then loosened the long blade in its plain scabbard. At his silence, she looked up.

"This is not for me, toror.* You know I seek no vengeance for myself, but Lorfeldin will pay for the lives of those he has betrayed, both the dead and the living." As she spoke the last words she glanced towards where Cemandorin yet stood.

"Let me fight in your stead, you are in no condition . . ." he began.

"My condition matters not!" she spat, then instantly regretted her outburst. "Please, do not worry," she added more gently. "He has never been, nor will he ever be my equal with a blade. Have you forgotten what I am?"

Guilhendar shook his head sadly. "No, I have not forgotten. But even you have a limit, and you are far too close to it for my comfort. Lorfeldin may lack imagination, but he makes up for it with guile. He had you beaten, ill fed and kept awake for exactly this unlikely possibility, he knew it would weaken you. I can see the exhaustion in your eyes."

"What you see in my eyes is blood lust," she growled softly, then paused and let a slight grin cross her lips. "You have done your part, it is time for me to do mine."

"Very well," he answered, then bent and picked up both the cloth bag and her pack and walked to one side of the arena. After dropping his burdens next to one of the stone pillars, he stood with his feet planted shoulder width apart, his arms crossed over his chest.

When Lorfeldin's second had taken up a similar stance on the opposite side of the arena both combatants, now armed, turned once more to the high table. Cemandorin beckoned to one of the guards and handed him something. The guard bowed, then hurried to Scribbles' side.

"Lord Cemandorin has asked me to tell you that if anyone has a right to wear this, it is you." He held out the silver vambrace. She took it and glanced at the inscription. " Declared with this gift, from Cemandorin's son."

Scribbles' face softened for a moment, grief and gratitude mixing freely, then she nodded and solemnly held out her sword arm. The guard took the vambrace and fastened it to her forarm, bowed slightly and then left. Scribbles looked up to where Lord Cemandorin stood, saluted him and then bowed deeply.

The elf lord inclined his head slightly, then bellowed, "You will prepare yourselves! At the signal, the challenge will commence! And may the Valar see that justice is served!" He sat down.

She bowed her head, closed her eyes and as she blocked out the noise of the Hall, the words she had spoken to Elmissir seemingly so long ago at the Swan's Anchor returned to echo in her mind . . .

"Death is death, no matter how noble we try to make the cause, it is still death. You who try so hard to preserve and prolong life, you should not see this, for it will be violent and it will be ugly."

Violent and ugly. Yes, it was about to be both. She cleared her mind, calmed the thundering of her heart, seeking that center place where there dwelt only icy calm and blade and blood and battle lust. If only she weren't so very tired . . .

When the Second Steward hammered his staff on the stone floor, the face she lifted to Lorfeldin could have been carved from ice. But a slow fire burned in her eyes, silver flickers lit the the blue-violet depths, and she smiled a terrible, feral smile as the Steward lifted his own sneering countenance.

Justice was at hand.




* Sind. Loose translation - 'brother'

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Postby SilverScribe » Sun Jul 24, 2005 8:23 pm

28 )

Lorfeldin drew his sword first and stood at the ready. She stood, motionless, for long moments, forcing him to wait for her. Finally, she reached across her body and brought the rune-etched length of the big broadsword hissing from its sheath. She lifted Celebamarth in salute to the high table and the Steward followed suit. Then they turned and saluted each other.

"So half-breed, will you light up your blade with witch's sorcery in order to win?" he taunted as he dropped into a loose, relaxed stance.

"I have no need of magefire Steward," she replied evenly, bringing her blade up. "Justice will be served with plain, cold steel and superior skill." He merely snorted, but said nothing more.

They circled each other for long moments, each taking the measure of the other. Scribbles knew how ill prepared she appeared and hoped she would be able to use it to her advantage, both to hide the truth of her weakened condition and lull Lorfeldin into sloppiness or carelessness.

Lorfeldin watched the Scribe closely, he knew how dangerous she could be under normal circumstances but he had seen to it that the circumstances today were anything but normal. He knew that his treatment of her during her recent confinement had weakened her, though he was not so foolish to think that she would be an easy kill, even now. He shifted slightly and was satisfied to note that the dagger he had hidden inside his left boot was still there.

But even with a second blade's advantage, he knew had to wear her down even more, further deplete her strength. She was only half-elven, in this condition her human half would tire rapidly and then she would make a mistake, one that he would exploit to the fullest. He wasted no more time, but lunged to the attack.

Scribbles saw his attack coming, like most average swordsmen he telegraphed most of his moves long before he actually executed them. She moved easily to parry, and the game was on.

Stroke for stroke, lunge for lunge, parry for parry, they moved back and forth, seeming equally matched in skill and strength. Scribbles fought by rote, conserving as much of her strength as she could, expending only what was necessary to keep his blade from her flesh. The ring and rasp of steel filled the Hall with constant sound.

Minutes stretched out, approached the half hour and she began to sweat. She knew the signs well, her human half was tiring, her muscles becoming more sluggish, her body getting slower to answer the commands of her brain as her elven half was being pressed ever harder to compensate. Guilhendar had been right, she was in no condition for a prolonged fight. She needed to end this quickly, her strength was disastrously low. She needed to distract her opponent.

"So Steward, I see you have not improved," she taunted, hoping to make him angry. Anger clouded judgement and often made an average fighter reckless.

But he remained cool. "So Scribe, you seem to have lost much of your former brilliance," he taunted back.

"Ten days in a dungeon without food or rest can dull even the brightest edge," she shot back. "But I'm sorry to tell you that you will not cheat your way to an easy victory."

He tied up her blade with his own and they ended up face to face, both pushing and straining and trying to gain the advantage.

"I expected better seeing as you have had four hundred years to practice," she spat.

"Indeed, and I have not been idle!" he hissed, then shoved her back and feinted to his left. She dropped the length of Celebamarth to block his sword and spun the other way, thinking to catch him before he had recovered. But exhaustion had taken its toll, she was a hair too slow. What she met was not his sword, but a dagger, and she saw it too late.

She grunted in disbelief as the keen elvish blade scraped over the top of the leather of her swordbelt and bit deep into the flesh of her left side, just above the hip. Shock and surprise warred with excrutiating pain as Lorfeldin bore down, she felt a horrible tugging and then a sharp tearing as the point broke through her flesh a second time.

The room tilted and time seemed to slow to a stand still . . .

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Postby SilverScribe » Mon Jul 25, 2005 8:16 am

29 )

Training took over, burning through the fog of pain. With a foul curse she leaned back and brought her right hand up hard, smashing the hilt of her sword into Lorfeldin's leering face. She heard the satisfying sound of crunching bone and knew she had just broken his nose. Blood began to flow freely from his ruined nose as she put her left hand against his chest and shoved him away, hard. Thankfully, he let go of the dagger as he staggered backwards, his free hand instinctively going up to his face.

She transferrred her sword to her left hand and reached across her body to grip the hilt of the dagger in her side. Gritting her teeth, she drew the blade out and in one fluid, lightening fast motion, flipped it into the air, caught it by the bloody tip and sent it spinning straight at Lorfeldin, who had just straightened up. The dagger caught him in the shoulder, though he managed to turn just enough to deflect the blade. Instead of burying itself in his flesh, it left a deep, bloody gash then continued on, to skid ringing and spinning across the flagstones behind him.

She felt blood running down her hip, soaking her trousers. Muttering a quick delaying spell, she felt a faint answering warmth from the ring in her pocket as the worst of the bleeding was stemmed. But she could not stop it entirely. She was too tired and if she slowed her bloodflow too much, she would starve her muscles even further and be completely unable to fight.

Lorfeldin went on the attack again, almost as if he sensed her disadvantage. She paid closer attention this time and noticed that he was settling grimly into a steady rhythym, the form of his attacks now clearly repetitive. Her eyes narrowed as she realized what he was doing. He was now the one expending the least energy, knowing that she would tire long before him due to her half human half, her fatigued condition and now, the steady loss of blood.

White hot rage blossomed in her head, but she clamped down on it. Anger was not what she needed now, but ice cold reason, instinct and training. She appeared to follow his lead, her parries and blocks seeming merely automatic. Over and over, she repeated the same forms, letting instinct guide her body's responses while she prepared her mind. In her depleted condition, it was going to be a very close thing.

She reached deep, deep down, and far, far back. Gone were the flagstones of Cemandorin's court, gone were the tense elven faces that surrounded the contest, gone were the anxious looks of Guilhendar and the Archer. Instead, she tasted the choking dust of the hard packed practice field in northern Rhudaur, heard the voice of her father barking instructions and curses. Her heart and mind grew colder and colder, and in place of a beaten, bloodied and weary peredhel, there moved an efficient, passionless creature, bred for war and trained to do one thing and do it well - to kill.

The ice showed in her face, the silver flecks in her eyes flared and finally, with a contemptuous sneer on her face, she broke the repetitive pattern. Too late Lorfeldin realized his mistake in trying to lull her into complacency while wearing her down. He scrambled to parry as she turned the tables and stepped to the attack. His bloodied face visibly paled when he caught sight of her expression, the blood lust flickering clearly in her eyes.

He knew the time had come and now, he knew fear. Had he waited too long? Though the Scribe numbered years that were but a sliver of his lifetime, she had spent them almost exclusively at war. He realized with sudden clarity that no matter how hard he had trained in the last four hundred years, she had been training that hard and harder for nearly all of her twelve centuries. And now, she had more at stake than he did, which made her imminently more dangerous.

Impossibly, she picked up the pace. He began to sweat hard, it was getting more and more difficult to get his blade around, to be in the right place, to dodge the silver blur of her broadsword. In a desperate gamble, he decided to reverse direction again after a parry, thinking to surprise her as he had before. Instead, she was right there with him, blocking his way. Unfortunately for him, she blocked his way with the glittering tip of her blade and he was too far overbalanced to avoid it.

She had seen his intent, he telegraphed the feint clearly and she knew that this was the moment she had worked for. She had forced him to repeat his earlier deception, but this time she reversed direction as well, pivoting neatly to intercept him. Lorfeldin's eyes went wide as she effortlessly slid Celebamarth between his ribs, the razor sharp point piercing his heart before exiting out his back. "I told you once, long ago, that the next time you drew steel on me, I would personally send you to the Shadows," she snarled, her face inches from his. "My only regret is that your sorry life is a mere pittance compared to the debt you owe for Brilhennion, not to mention his brothers. May Melkor eat your filthy soul."

Slowly, the light in the Steward's eyes died with him and his body went limp, sagging to its knees and slumping over where she gripped the hilt of Celebamarth. His sword slipped from nerveless fingers to fall clanging to the flagstone floor. In a last act of defiance, she put one boot against the corpse's shoulder and shoved him off her blade. As the lifeless form toppled backwards, her own legs trembled and she staggered, going heavily to one knee. Guilhendar appeared at her side as if by magic, reaching for her.

She shook her head at him, planted the gory tip of Celebamarth against the stone floor and straightened, turning to the high table as she did so and pressing her left arm tightly to her side. She realized that her desperate gamble may have just cost her her life, she had spent all her strength in that last burst. She could now no longer even hope to slow the bleeding in her side.

Nevertheless, she drew a deep breath and called out the required formal words. "The Challenge is ended!"

Cemandorin bellowed the formal reply. "Justice is served!"

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Mon Jul 25, 2005 7:19 pm

30 )

It was over. The Hall remained eerily quiet as Guilhendar took her right elbow, preparing to escort her off the "field" of victory. Lord Cemandorin gestured however, and with an effort Scribbles approached the high table as a low murmuring finally began in the Hall.

"Come to my chambers, quickly, I will send for my healer," the elf lord urged in low tones, leaning over the high table slightly.

Scribbles shook her head. "It is not necessary, my lord."

"But surely there is something I can provide?" he pressed anxiously.

Scribbles smiled. "A cloth, my lord?"

Cemandorin handed one of the linen table napkins down to her and she quickly and efficiently wiped the gore from her blade, sheathed it, then insolently tossed the soiled cloth at Elgaron. She looked back up at Lord Cemandorin. "Your sons, all of them, have been avenged my lord," she said softly. "Their spirits can now rest honourably and my name, such as it was, is once more my own."

"And you may claim that which is rightfully yours," Lord Cemandorin added, flushing with embarrassment. "All of Brilhennion's lands and chattels . . ."

" . . . are not what I came for," she interrupted him softly. "I have brought you the truth, I do not need, nor do I desire, anything else."

She felt the warm blood seeping again, further draining her strength. Her ears were beginning to ring and now she also used her right hand to press her left arm even more tightly to her side. She needed to be alone, to go somewhere private where she could assess her wound and see to its healing. Her legs felt suddenly rubbery and a slight tremor ran through her. Guilhendar put a firm hand under her right elbow once more.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to her. "My lord," she said quietly, "there is something you can provide after all."

"Name it, daughter, and it is yours," Cemandorin answered gently.

"This court has seen and heard proof of my innocence, but the rest of your lands do not know. Will you prepare a letter of pardon and free passage and have it ready for the morrow? I will take my leave at first light."

"First light?" the elf lord breathed. "Will you not stay and let me at least try to make amends by extending all that my humble house has to offer?"

Scribbles shook her head. "Thank you my lord but no, for another errand calls me, one I cannot delay. Today and tonight however, I thank you for the gracious hospitality I know you will continue to extend to my companion Bardhwyn, and to our mutual friend Guilhendar."

Lord Cemandorin sighed. "Indeed. Very well, I will have a letter ready for the early morning and I will further provide an honour guard to see you safely to the markers. Surely you will also allow me to order provisions and supplies be prepared for you and the lady Bardhwyn? I would be a poor host indeed if I did not at least see you on your way freshly provisioned."

Scribbles inclined her head politely. "I will most humbly and gratefully accept your generosity my lord," she answered.

"Then go and may the Valar ease your rest and guide your way in the mists," he answered quietly as he straightened. "I will see you off on the morrow."

Guilhendar turned her and made for the large double doors at the end of the Hall. The journey though the still clear arena space seemed to take forever. The ringing in her ears had changed to a roaring, drowning out the growing noise in the Hall. She felt Guilhendar's hand tighten on her elbow and as they moved out of earshot of the high table, she leaned against the tall innkeeper ever so slightly.

"Get me out of here quickly," she hissed, "but on my own two feet!"

Guilhendar nodded silently and as rapidly as he dared, walked her through the doors. When they thudded shut behind them, Scribbles' knees finally buckled and she collapsed against him.

Without a word, he picked her up in his arms and strode quickly down the passageway.

"Where are you taking me?" she grunted, too exhausted and in too much pain to object.

"To my chambers," he answered, "where you will be safe. And don't even think to argue with me."

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Tue Jul 26, 2005 7:44 pm

31 )

With uncharacteristic violence, he booted the door to his chamber open and strode quickly to the wide bed. He laid the Scribe down gently, then piled an extra pillow behind her shoulders and another behind her head. She bit back a groan, her side was on fire. Reaching down with her left hand she clamped it tightly over both wounds.

"Rest Scribe, I will fetch Cemandorin's healer . . ." he began.

"No!" she cut him off, grasping his wrist with her free hand and bloodying the white linen of his cuff. "The Archer, Bardhwyn of Dale, she is the only one I will trust here. Find her Guilhendar, please, bring her. She will know what to do."

"So will Cemandorin's healer . . ." he began.

She shook her head. "No, no, it must be Bardhwyn. And don't even think to argue with me," she turned his own words back on him as she fell back, releasing his wrist. He nodded grimly, then hurried out.

She pressed her hand more tightly over her side, knowing it was a nearly futile gesture at best. To avoid the pain she let her conscious thoughts drift, flashes of recent days flitting through her mind like butterflies. Time took on a dreamlike quality, impossible to keep track of. A voice close by her head pulled her back, she squinted and a face swam into focus.

Bardhwyn.

"Bardy," she croaked, "thank the Valar."

"Yes, I'm here Scribbles," Bardhwyn answered, quickly turning the Scribe's sword arm over and removing the gore covered vambrace. When her arm was free, Scribbles gripped the Archer's hand tightly.

She drew a deep breath, there was little time and what she needed to say was already prepared in her mind. "I cannot stem the bleeding any longer, I am too weak and I have already lost too much blood. You must stitch the wounds Archer. The dagger struck nothing vital but the bleeding will not stop, I suspect the blade was tainted. Guilhendar will send me to walk the mists, so you can work without worry. But you must be quick." Bardhwyn bit her lip and nodded silently. Scribbles looked over the Archer's shoulder to Guilhendar, who hovered near.

"I need your help again toror," she whispered. "Quickly now, send me deep."

Guilhendar knelt next to the bed and reached out to place one hand gently on her forehead. She closed her eyes as he softly began the chant.

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


She joined in on the third and last repetition and felt slightly surprised but comforted as she heard Bardhwyn's voice come in as well. She had no more time to ponder it however, as the soft mists closed in and she drifted away from her physical body.

*****

Bardhwyn finally straightened and stood up, hands kneading her lower back to ease the built up tension there. Guilhendar put a hand on Scribbles' forehead and closed his eyes for a few moments. Seemingly satisfied, he opened his eyes, removed his hand and looked at the Archer.

"How does she fare?" Bardhwyn asked.

"She journeys far, but her body will heal," he answered quietly, rising from the chair he had placed by the bed. "You have helped her more than you know."

Bardhwyn pursed her lips and looked over at the unconscious Scribe. The stitches on either wound were small and neat and the cuts had ceased to ooze. As she had done with the arrow wound, Bardhwyn had flushed the wounds with warm, salted water before and after her work, which had been as quick as she could make it without being sloppy. She was well pleased with her handiwork, but the Scribe was still a mess. In addition to the old injuries from her stay in the caverns, fresh blood had soaked the left side of her trousers, both arms were spattered and her hands were red and slick. There was no telling how much of the blood was hers, and how much was the dead Steward's.

"I should get her out of these bloody clothes and wash the worst of it off her," Bardhwyn remarked quietly, looking around the richly appointed chamber. "Can you bring me warm water? Where is her pack?"

Guilhendar nodded towards a chair by the hearth where he had flung the Scribe's pack. But when Bardhwyn went towards it, he moved to intercept her.

"I will see to her," he said quietly.

"You!" Bardhwyn answered with surprise. "Oh no, I think this is something for another woman . . ."

"I understand your concern Bardhwyn of Dale," Guilhendar interrupted, "but there is no need. I have tended her often in the past, just as she has tended me." At the Archer's look of skepticism, the tall elf let one corner of his mouth turn up in a shadow of a grin. "We have no secrets, for we have shared many battlefields," he explained gently.

"You mean you're lovers," Bardhwyn blurted, then bit her lip. "I'm sorry," she began.

Guilhendar held up a hand. "There is no need to apologize," he said quietly. "The Scribe and I are not lovers, but we have been . . . close friends since before you were born. I do not expect you to understand the . . . odd . . . nature of our . . . relationship," he finished, then gestured towards the door.

"Go, relax and refresh yourself, it has been a trying day for us all. Take comfort in the fact that the Scribe rests comfortably because of your skill, and that she sleeps deeply. I will ensure that she is kept warm, and she will heal." He cocked his head to one side. "And you should also begin preparations to leave, she will ride in the morning."

Bardhwyn gaped. "The morning? Tomorrow morning? I don't care what she's said, she won't be in any condition to ride in the morning!"

The handsome elf nodded. "She would be better to wait, true, but if she remains in the mists for the rest of this day and the coming night, she will be able to ride well enough. If you would accompany her, then you must be ready by first light."

Bardhwyn opened her mouth to argue, then realized it was futile. With a gracious nod, she went to the door.

"Bardhwyn of Dale," Guilhendar said softly and she turned with the door ajar. "My deepest gratitude is yours. Truly, you are a most remarkable woman," he said, then gracefully bowed his head and laid his hand over his heart in the elvish manner.

"I bid you good day and gentle rest. Namarie, Trueheart."

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Tue Jul 26, 2005 8:16 pm

32 )

She was not aware of Bardhwyn cutting away her undervest, nor Guilhendar turning her onto her uninjured side and arranging pillows around her so the Archer could work unhindered. Instead, a feeling of wild abandon flowed through her, making her blood sing and her heart race as she moved further and further away from her physical pain and further into the welcoming mists.

Slowly, it was as if a gentle wind stirred the tendrils of fog, pushing at them at first then shredding them and finally dispersing them from around her. She tilted her head back, then spread her arms wide and began to turn slowly, watching as a canopy of golden mallorn appeared above her and spun gracefully with her movement. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, it was the softly scented air of Lothlorien, and she smiled as a few golden leaves drifted down, touching her face with the softness of butterfly wings as they passed.

She stopped turning and lifted her head, opening her eyes as a quiet, silvery sound grew in her ears, beckoning her forward. She knew the sound and she knew this place, she had been here before. She walked confidently, following the gently twisting path that opened before her, here she was truly safe. As always, as she drew nearer the sound, there came the resumption of physical pain. Her side throbbed in time with her pulse, and even the cuts in her scalp and on her lip began to burn anew. She found the source of the sound at last and dropped, exhausted, to the mossy bank of a deep, clear pool, fed by a small waterfall. It was the sound of the falls that had always guided her to this place, long known to her mother's people to be a place of healing and rest.

She leaned forward and dipped her hands into the cool waters. Tiny sparkling gold particles glittered and danced, showing long streamers of shifting sunlight that seemed to reach down into the depths. Cupping some of the water into one hand, she gingerly bathed her split lip and the still unhealed cut on her forehead. With each touch of the waters, the burning and throbbing subsided. Once her head stopped pounding, she rose and stripping quickly, walked straight into the pool. As she felt the bottom drop away, she leaned forward and with a few weak strokes, moved out into the water. She rolled onto her back and breathing deeply, let herself drift.

She felt the twin punctures in her left side tingle and knew that true to the promise of the ancient chant, her physical flesh was being re-woven and renewed. The waters would allow the wounds in her side to knit on the surface, under the the Archer's stitches, but the deeper healing would happen normally, back in the physical world. The time that remained before the coming day was not long enough to completely heal the deep wounds.

The water also eased the myriad smaller injuries, her badly bruised arms and a wrenched shoulder all tingled then warmed as the healing trance took effect. She sighed with both contentment and regret, all too soon the waters began to turn icy cold and she knew her return to the physical plane approached. She turned over and doubling up, drove herself deep into the water. A few slow, smooth strokes allowed her to assess how much had been repaired and how much was still wanting. Aside from a sharp warning pinch in her side, she did not feel that bad.

She broke the surface close to the bank and climbed out, shucking water from her limbs with her hands. She took a very long time dressing and finally, with a last look of longing and regret, re-entered the path she had come down.

As she walked, the air cooled and more and more leaves drifted down. A mournful wind rose behind her and her limbs were suddenly leaden. She knew that although her surface injuries had been partially healed, her energy levels were still dangerously low. The realization that she was extremely hungry almost made her laugh. Of course, how simple it was, her body needed fuel. She sank to the grass and leaned back against one of the ancient mallorns, then closed her eyes.

***

She woke to a languid sense of well-being, of ease, and to a familiar warmth and scent. She opened her eyes to find exactly what she expected, a view of Guilhendar's strong jaw and neck, the pulse in his throat slow and steady, her hand resting on his upper chest. The room was dim, lit with the dark golden glow of lamplight. She looked up and was greeted with his smile.

"Did I keep you warm enough?" he whispered softly.

"Aye," she answered. "The extra warmth helped the healing a great deal, thank you . . . toror."

He sighed. "It has been a long time, far too long in fact, since you woke in my arms."

She shifted and stretched, then winced as a sharp stab of pain in her side reminded her that she was far from fully healed. "Aye, well, "tis probably just as well that we have not . . ."

He cut her off, sliding one hand along her jaw and covering her mouth with a soft kiss. She froze but could not seem to pull away. Guilhendar deepened the kiss, his arms tightening albeit carefully, around her. An overwhelming sense of déjà vu washed over her and without thinking, she found herself responding.

"Ah, Scribe," he breathed against her mouth, "does a spark yet smoulder for me . . ." His lips were soft, his mouth sweet.

She broke away, moving to rest her forehead against his chin. "Perhaps," she answered softly, surprised at her answer. He let her go as she rolled away from him. She pushed aside the thick down coverlets and carefully raised herself to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. She looked down at herself, then chuckled. She was clad in a clean, pale ivory silken undertunic which looked like it would cover a generous length of thigh when she stood up.

"And whose is this?" she asked knowingly, glancing back to where he lounged against the pillows, clad in trousers and an open, rumpled linen shirt.

"Mine of course," he answered with a wry grin as he threw the coverlet off the rest of the way and rose to his feet. "My best one as a matter of fact. Keep it. Yours was ruined, it was soaked with blood, not to mention having two neat slits cut through it. Your trousers, however, were salvageable, I draped them over that chair by the fire to dry."

"Thank you," she said, then rose to her feet. She spied her pack and weapons lying near the hearth and crossed the room, squatting carefully to rummage through her pack for a clean change of clothes. Rising to her feet she looked back to where Guilhendar was pulling on his boots and watching her, an amused smile playing over his lips.

"Bathing facility?" she asked.

"Door to the left of the hearth," he answered. She grinned as she snagged her trousers off the chair, then left him chuckling to himself as he rifled his own saddlebags for a clean and more presentable shirt.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Jul 27, 2005 9:05 pm

33 )

She stripped off the silken undertunic and examined her side carefully in the small oval plate of polished brass that she took from where it hung on one wall. Bardhwyn had done an excellent job, the stitches were small and neat, the closures smooth. Of course, though the surface was all but healed, underneath she knew the flesh was still mending, it was very tender and still vulnerable to injury. The stitches would stay another day at least, but she could function again and that was all that mattered.

After a long, hot soak she carefully dressed in clean clothes and came out of the bathing room to find Guilhendar fully dressed, banking the low fire. He straightened as she moved her pack near the door and then sat on a low stool to pull on her boots.

"It is yet dark, you could have stayed in bed," he said quietly.

"With you?" she asked bluntly.

He flushed, a look of hurt indignance on his face. "Ah, how you wrong me Scribe, I merely kept you warm so you could heal, and would have left you to get more rest."

Rising, she buckled on her sword.

"I know," she answered softly, then sighed. "Forgive me old friend, but I want to check on our mounts and see if Cemandorin's supplies are ready."

"What you should be wanting is food, hot and plenty of it," he answered.

She sighed. "Aye, and ravenous does not even begin to describe how I feel right now. I could single handedly put a serious dent in a roast oliphaunt. Trust me, I will eat as soon as I have done checking . . ."

"I will come and help you," he offered.

"I can manage," she returned, bending down and hefting her pack over one shoulder. She could not quite hide a grimace of pain.

He walked over to place his hands on her shoulders, looking closely at her face. "You are not fully healed, to ride this soon is folly and you know it. Let me come with . . ."

"You cannot come with me, not on this road!" she snapped, then stopped and closed her eyes briefly in frustration. "Cemandorin's court is one thing but . . please Guilhendar, you know I must ride this last stretch without you." She opened her eyes. "And you know why."

He set his jaw. "Aye, all too well." He opened the door for her and they stepped into the dim, torch-lit hallway. "Delkarnoth knows me too well, even shielded, my presence will draw him like a moth to a flame," Guilhendar finished quietly.

She nodded. "And so I cannot hide you, not like I can with a mortal like the Archer. Any chance at stealth would be gone. Go home Guilhendar, go home and look after Elmissir." She reached out and touched his face briefly.

He pulled her close and buried his face in her clean, still damp, hair. "If you do this, if you commence the Blood Hunt, I fear that neither she nor I will see you again," he whispered. "I fear you ride to your death."

She closed her eyes and fought the urge to drop everything and simply disappear into the vastness of the Greenwood with him. But it was impossible. Delkarnoth would not rest, he had never stopped pursuing her no matter where she had gone or with whom. The respite of her marriage to Brilhennion had been far too short, the only time she could remember being free of his prying. Her brief time with Guilhendar too had ended before anything had even begun, and long ago. It was the way it had to be, otherwise his life too, would be forfeit. She must remain alone.

"I have no choice," she answered softly, her free hand absently stroking his soft, sandy hair. "This is my only hope for freedom, and you know it."

He raised his head and looked deep into her eyes. One shadow was gone, true enough, but the other remained. And now, it had a much clearer shape. He shuddered at the sight of it; a dark, lurking spider, poised to strike.

He bent his head and placed a soft kiss on her temple. "May the Valar guard your road, mellonnin. Live, Celeb Tegilbor, live and come home, you know that you will ever have a place at the Swan's Anchor." She bit her lip and nodded silently, unable to answer him. The end of this road was one she had never been able to see.

"Namarie," he whispered, then turned on his heel and walked away, his grey cloaked form soon lost in the dimness of the long passageway.

With a sigh, she turned to head in the opposite direction, for the stables and all too soon, the road.

.
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Jul 27, 2005 10:43 pm

34 )

She found a certain solace in the stolid familiarity of her warhorse and the quiet warmth of the stables. She checked her mount over carefully, but he had been treated far better than she had. His coat, mane and tail were glossy from regular currying, his hooves were immaculately clean and had even had all of the rough cracks and chips from their hard journey filed smooth. He nickered softly when she was done and pushed his nose against her shoulder, looking for a treat.

She laughed. "Ah, shameless old beggar!" she told him softly in Sindarin. "Sorry old son, I did not think to stop in the kitchens and nick something for you. Later, I promise." The big stallion snuffled loudly and she left him to check Bardhwyn's horse.

She was surprised when the Archer slipped into the stall a few minutes later. "I thought I might find you here well before the sun came up," Bardhwyn said with a crooked grin. Scribbles raised a single eyebrow but said nothing. "Guilhendar told me you were planning to leave early, so I figured I'd come and see if the horses needed anything," Bardhwyn admitted. "Do they?"

Scribbles shook her head as a ghost of a smile passed over her lips. "They have been very well tended," she replied.

Bardhwyn leaned closer and squinted up at the tall peredhel in the light of the stable's lamps. "You don't look half bad," she remarked, "how do you feel?"

"I am alive due in no small part to you, Bardy," Scribbles answered, her eyes solemn. "'Twas surely the will of the Valar that gave me the great good fortune of crossing your path."

Bardhwyn coloured slightly. "Scribbles, I just put a few stitches in and made sure the wounds were clean, it's no big . . ."

Scribbles reached out and laid a hand on Bardhwyn's forearm where it rested on Courage's flank. "Aye, Bardhwyn, it is a very big thing. It was not just your skill I needed, but you yourself. Aside from Guilhendar, I do not fully trust anyone here, but your heart is true and I could descend into the mists without fear. Without you, it would have been far harder, perhaps even near impossible. Please, do not discount nor make light of yourself, not in this."

Bardhwyn ducked her head mutely, feeling pleased and awkward at the same time. She was spared further discomfort by the sudden and very loud rumbling of the Scribe's stomach. She looked up in surprise, then burst out laughing at the look on the peredhel's face, a mixture of mock horror and embarrassment. Suddenly, Scribbles joined her and clapped a hand on the Archer's shoulder.

"Come, let's get something to eat, I have never been so hungry in all my considerable lifetime," she chuckled. Bardhwyn wiped her eyes as they left the stables and made their way back to the main buildings. "I could really use some coffee, especially coffee that you haven't made," she answered. Scribbles put on a look of mock hurt. "Really Bardy, there's no need to disparage my coffee so badly. It's merely strong . . . " Bardhwyn hooted with laughter. "Strong?!" blurted the Archer. "No Scribbles, strong is not a word that applies to your coffee. Your coffee is so far beyond strong as to be laughable. Horrible, Awful, Undrinkable. Those words describe your coffee, strong doesn't even enter into it, trust me."

Scribbles sniffed as they entered the kitchens. "Well fortunately, Lord Cemandorin's kitchens boast your kind of coffee, so drink your fill. Me, I'm going to see if there's anything hot to eat this early . . ." she trailed off as the head cook shooed them to one side of the already busy kitchens.

"If it's food you're after sit down and stay out of the way and I'll see what I can do," said the oldest looking female elf Bardhwyn had ever seen. Her hair was snow white and pulled back into a sleek french roll and her face was like ancient porcelain, with lines finer than the finest hair radiating from the outer corners of her eyes and framing her mouth. They sat down where she indicated and not very long after, she sent several elves over with a thick ceramic carafe of coffee, a platter of freshly baked sweetened bread, a cloth padded basket with warm, freshly boiled eggs and several bowls of fresh cut up fruit. Scribbles didn't hesitate to ask for some ale, to which the white-haired elf snorted in disgust, but sent over a foaming tankard anyway. Bardhwyn raised her eyebrows but with a mouthful of egg, said nothing, merely rolled her eyes. Scribbles grinned, downed a mug of coffee first and then attacked the food and ale with gusto.

When they were done, she pocketed a few apples and they headed back to the stables to saddle their mounts and pack. They were nearly done when Lord Cemandorin arrived, with a pair of younger elves who brought four large woven cloth carry bags filled with provisions. The bags were tied in pairs, Scribbes and the Archer each slung a set over the back of their saddles before securing their regular packs.

The old elf lord held up one hand. On his palm rested a fair sized suede pouch and a smaller, dark blue velvet pouch swung below from one finger. She looked at him and raised both eyebrows in a silent question.

"Your Bard Pins are in the velvet pouch," he explained. "The other is merely a bit of coin to aid you on your way and don't refuse me Scribe, I'm not getting any younger and I don't want to argue with you any more." She grinned and sketched a shallow bow, then accepted both pouches from him, stowing them in her saddlebags. "Thank you my lord, you are most generous."

He fidgeted nervously and then beckoned his valet forward, taking something from his hands and holding it up. It was the other vambrace. "You should have the pair," Lord Cemandorin said bluntly. Scribbles shook her head, then pulled up her right sleeve to show the mate. "If it please you my lord, this is the only one I wish to keep. And only because it was given into my hand by Brilhennion himself and was the instrument that exposed his murderer. I do not wish anything that Lorfeldin so recently wore and of course, I do not want the copy."

Lord Cemandorin nodded. "I understand. They will go into the fire with the traitor's corpse then." Scribbles shook her head. "A just and fitting end for the forgery, but you should keep the other original," she suggested softly. The old elf lord smiled sadly, then sighed. "Aye," he agreed quietly.

The sun was just over the hoizon, and they were finally ready to leave. Lord Cemandorin looked around, a puzzled look on his face. "Hmm, I wonder where Guilhendar is, I was sure he'd be here to see you off," he mused. Scribbles shook her head. "We have already said our goodbyes, my lord," she answered quietly. Behind her, Bardhwyn moved away and quietly mounted her horse.

Lord Cemandorin squared his shoulders and cleared his throat. "Ah, yes I see. Well Scribe, it is a far more pleasant leave taking this time, though I truly wish you would stay a bit longer and rest. I feel more than a little guilty for the way you were treated . . ."

Scribbles held up a hand. "Please my lord," she interrupted him softly. "I understand, but 'tis done with now and best put behind us. I am truly sorry about Lorfeldin, but . . ."

"But it is best to flush the serpent from one's house and cut off its head," Cemandorin interrupted her in his turn. "Bril always suspected something and though he could never say exactly what, it seems he was right. I thank the Valar that you found him in time, that you found them all. I will visit that cairn Scribe, and finally bid a proper farewell to my sons," he finished. She nodded. "Then, 'twill be time to look forward my lord, it is what Bril would have wanted," she replied softly.

The old elf lords face softened and he came forward to clasp wrists with the tall peredhel. "Indeed, thank you daughter," he replied with a small, awkard smile. " Remember that you will ever be welcome here. I hope your journey goes well, the blessing of my house goes with you both."

She inclined her head and placed one hand over her heart, then turned and mounted her warhorse. She followed Bardhwyn, who followed the two young elves that formed their mounted escort. Thus, they parted in the elvish way, with no backward glances but with their eyes turned firmly forward to the road ahead.

.
Last edited by SilverScribe on Fri Sep 08, 2006 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby SilverScribe » Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:02 pm

35 )

They thanked their escort at the markers and then rode hard, stopping only long enough to rest and water their horses. They passed the site of their previous second night's spider infested camp and pressed on to the far more comfortable and safe camp closer to the edge of the Narrows. Lord Cemandorin's provisions provided them with the means for a savoury vegetable stew, accompanied by fresh, fragrant bread. They finished the meal off with sweet, fresh fruit and some roasted nuts.

Scribbles took the first watch, but was grateful for some additional sleep when the Archer took over. Her side was aching fiercely from the longer and harder ride and the extra few hours helped a great deal. She convinced the Archer to remove the stitches after they had eaten breakfast, and had to chuckle over Bardhwyn's surprised comments about the nearly healed state of the wounds. When the stitches were out, Scribbles stretched carefully and was pleased to note only a dull ache instead of the sharp stab of the day before.

The run for the Anduin river valley was brutal. Several times they had to use their bows from horseback and push their already stressed mounts to the limit of their endurance to outdistance one or another particularly determined group of orcs. By the time they caught sight of the river valley, they were drooping with exhaustion and both horses were heavily lathered. They found a reasonably secure spot to camp just as the sun was sinking behind the horizon and were too spent to do much else except unsaddle and rub the horses down and build a small fire. It was fully dark before either of them could stir themselves enough to rummage through their provisons. They settled for a cold but no less welcome supper of cheese, bread and fruit, washed down with fresh water. Once again Scribbles took the first watch and once again, she took the opportunity to get a few additional hours of rest when Bardhwyn took her turn.

The next morning, they headed southward, keeping close to the river and ducking into the low brush several times to avoid being seen by far ranging parties of hunting orcs and the occasional wolf pack. They made good time, mostly because Scribbles urged them to go as fast as the horses would tolerate.

When they stopped to water the horses at mid-day, Bardhwyn turned to the Scribe after they had dismounted. "Where are we going in such an all-fired hurry? I hope we're not retracing our steps and going back to Fanghorn . . ." She trailed off with an involuntary shudder.

Scribbles grinned and shook her head. "No, Archer, we are going to cross the Anduin north of where it joins the Celebrant. Tonight, we will camp under the eaves of Lothlórien."

"Lothlórien . . ." Bardhwyn repeated quietly. "Do you mean to go through it?" she asked.

"No, but I do mean to spend at least a day or two resting and going slowly along the borders there. We need it and so do the horses."

"And where to then?" Bardhwyn pressed.

Scribbles gathered her reins and swung up into her saddle once more. "We will follow the north edge of Lothlórien to the feet of the Misty Mountains. There, we will climb to the Mirrormere and from there we will follow a high pass to Fenuidhol, or Cloudyhead as the edain call it. I believe that the sorcerer I now hunt is hidden there."

"Mirrormere, mountains, Cloudyhead, sorcerer . . . juuust great," Bardhwyn muttered as she also remounted. "Sounds fabulous."

*****

The sun was well west when Scribbles found a wide bow in the Anduin where they could cross in relative safety. They had to dismount and swim next to their horses, but because of the width, the current was not overly strong. The river deposited them downstream from their entry point, but since it worked to their advantage, no one was inclined to complain. Aside from that the rich golden-green of Lothlórien was in clear sight to the south, so they remounted and kicked their weary mounts to a ground-eating canter.

Scribbles found a quiet spot near a small pond just inside the forest edges, and they enjoyed a good hot meal and a welcome dip before Bardhwyn turned in. Scribbles was feeling rested enough that she didn't bother waking the Archer to take a watch, but let her sleep the entire night.

The next day, they moved at a liesurely pace along the northern fringes of Lothlórien. Scribbles was tempted to travel inward and seek out some of her mother's kin, but she knew that most of them had already sailed West. She satisfied herself with the sights, sounds and scents of the ancient elven wood. They were not challenged, but that was likely due to the fact that they travelled along the fringes during the day and had not entered far in the evenings to camp.

On the third day, they reached the western edges of Lothlórien where it lapped against the feet of the Misty Mountains. They decided to camp just inside the forest one last night before beginning the next, and more arduous leg of their journey.

They were lounging comfortably around their small fire when suddenly, Scribbles sat up and stared into the dark shadows of the surrounding trees. Bardhwyn followed her gaze and gasped as a strange figure stepped out of the darkness and into their circle of firelight. The figure was clad in a hooded cloak of bluish wool over a long, belted tunic of the same colour and carried a tall staff made of several saplings woven together in an intricate pattern and crowned with a small wreath of carved leaves. Bardhwyn gazed in astonishment while Scribbles rose to her feet and bowed deeply.

"Mae govannen, Luinil," the Scribe breathed softly as the figure rested its staff against one shoulder and reached up to push the hood of the cloak back. White hair and a neatly trimmed white beard framed a kindly face, the bright blue eyes alive with both knowledge and mischief.

"Mae govannen, SilverScribe," the old man replied, then looked over at Bardhwyn. "Ah, you are Ani-La's student, yes?" he asked, then smiled. "She chose well," he continued, not waiting for the thunderstruck Archer to respond. "Sit, sit," he admonished, then snapped his fingers and muttered something unintelligible. A tree stump appeared behind him and the old man abruptly sat down.

Scribbles and the Archer resumed their own seats by the fire. Scribbles leaned forward, elbows braced on her knees and her eyes intensely focused on the old man's face. "Master," she said softly, "why are you here?"

Luinil looked from the flames to the Scribe's upturned face and drew a deep, thoughtful breath. He studied her for long moments, then cleared his throat and licked his lips.

"I am here because your timing, as usual, is off," he replied.

"My timing?" echoed Scribbles.

The old man nodded several times. "Indeed Scribe. You are very skilled in many things, but your sense of time in other things has never been, well, it's never been very good. Comes from spending too much time buried in vaults and libraries you know, you lose all sense of time when you can't see the sun for weeks on end, but you've never listened to me on that score, now have you? Buried yourself in Imladris I don't know how many times, and why Lord Elrond would never listen to me either is quite beyond my understanding but . . ."

"Master," Scribbles firmly interrupted the Maiar, much to Bardhwyn's chagrin. "You were speaking of my timing. Please, will you explain to me what this means, and why it is important at this particular moment?" Her voice was gentle, cajoling.

Luinil blinked several times, slowly, like a very patient owl. "Ah, yes, timing. Yours to be specific." He looked around then looked back at the Scribe. "The significance of where you happen to be camped is not lost on me, Scribe. But, this is not the time you know, you are here too soon, far too soon. The old spider knows you are here and if you force this meeting with him now, you will lose. And when you lose, you will die."

"I will not lose," Scribbles grated, then rose to her feet to pace along the edge of the firelight. "I have been preparing for this for many, many centuries, Master."

"Aye, and yet skilled as you are, a mere Steward very nearly took your life," Luinil remarked drily. Scribbles stopped pacing and faced the wizard with something akin to shocked anger on her face.

"A mere Steward who made it his business to put me at as large a disadvantage as he could!" she shot back.

"And if a mere Steward could put you at a rather large disadvantage, what do you think a fully trained Noldorian mage will be able to do?" Luinil countered calmly, his blue eyes intense.

Scribbles opened her mouth, then shut it, then opened it again, then snorted with disgust and threw up her hands. "I have the distinct feeling you are about to tell me!" she snapped. Bardhwyn shook her head. One just didn't speak to one of the Istari like this . . .

But Luinil merely folded his hands more firmly around his staff and leaned slightly forward. "Aye Scribe, indeed I am. And you would be wise to listen, for I do not seek to do anything except protect you from your own pride and foolishness. To walk into that citadel now is to invite a quick and undignified death . . ."

"I am not unprepared for this!" Scribbles interrupted.

"Foolish, prideful peredhel!" he answered. "Will you continue the sins of your father and allow your pride to blind you!"

"It is not pride . . ." she started.

"IT IS NOT THE APPOINTED TIME!!" Luinil suddenly thundered as he surged to his feet. The fire flared and a shower of sparks swarmed up into the night sky. The very air itself seemed to crackle and spit and Bardhwyn felt all the hair on her arms and the back of her neck stand up.

"Do you not yet realize that neither of you have any choice in this?!" Luinil continued, his eyes now blazing. "You will meet on the appointed day and not one hour sooner! I will hear no more argument!"

Scribbles bit her lip, then inclined her head slightly. "As you wish Master. We will turn back, cross the Celebrant and . . ."

"And walk right into a nest of orcs waiting for you on the northern edge of Fanghorn, oh yes, they serve the spider and they have been warned that you might return that way." The old man shook his head. "No, there is a much safer way, much safer . . ." he ran down muttering to himself.

"Master?" Scribbles prompted.

Luinil looked up. "Eh, what? Oh yes, in the morning, yes that's soon enough, after a good breakfast eh?" He turned to the Archer.

"Can you make coffee Bardhwyn of Dale?" he asked with a mischevious twinkle in his eyes. She nodded, surprised that he knew her name and still somewhat apprehensive with his presence.

"Good!" he exclaimed, then rose and pulled a blanket from the gear piled with the Scribe's saddle. "The Scribe's coffee is like enough to kill me, so don't let her near the coffeepot in the morning, eh? Good lass."

And with that, he rolled himself in the blanket beside the fire, pillowed his head on one arm and was asleep almost instantly. Bardhwyn looked over at the Scribe, still standing at the edge of the firelight. Scribbles shrugged. "I guess even a few centuries was too short for him to get used to my coffee," she grinned, then returned to the fire and settled herself beside the Archer.

"Let's get some sleep Bardy," she said quietly. "There will be no need for a watch tonight."

*****

In the morning, after a hearty breakfast, they broke camp at a liesurely pace. Once the horses were saddled and packed, Scribbles turned to Luinil. "Would you like to ride?" she asked, offering him the reins. The wizard only smiled gently.

"That won't be necessary," he replied, then looked at Bardhwyn. "How long has it been since you visited Ani-La?" he asked. Bardhwyn smiled, then sighed. "Probably too long, I promise I'll look her up just as soon as . . ." She was still speaking as she began to thin and fade, her image slowly dissolving along with her horse. When she was gone, Scribbles turned to Luinil and raised both eyebrows.

"Her teacher will be overjoyed to find her student in her garden in Les this morning," he chuckled. "As for you Scribe . . ."

She crossed both arms over her chest and opened her mouth, but Luinil raised one hand to forestall whatever she was about to say.

"It is Rhudaur for you," he answered her unspoken question.

"Fine. But Master, when will I know the appointed time has come?" she asked. "You said that the gate would not be sprung by anyone of the First Born. I thought Matrim . . ."

"The Easterling Matrim had another destiny before him which he was unwise to ignore," Luinil interrupted. "He has gone to meet it and should concern you no more."

She frowned. "But . . . "

"Care for any mortal at your peril, Scribe," Luinil reminded her softly.

She bit her lip and nodded. She should have known, there was no escape from her father's curse. She was simply not free to make certain choices.

Once again, Luinil raised one hand, but this time it was in farewell. "Do not fret Scribe, when the time comes to commence this road, you will know," he said as she began to fade. To her eyes, it was Luinil that seemed to become more and more transparent, along with the cleared camp and the surrounding trees of Lothlórien. His last assurance was faint but she heard it clearly.

"When the true gate opens, it will be as a knife in your heart, and there will be no doubt in your mind, trust me."

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


And so, there ends this portion of the Scribe's tale.

Thanks to anyone who was reading this humble tale. The next leg of her journey, "Redemption: The Reckoning" will continue in the Prancing Pony.

Namarie.



**Scribbles

.
Last edited by SilverScribe on Fri Sep 08, 2006 8:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Frelga » Fri Jul 29, 2005 12:20 am

w00t!

Frelga rushes in with some bottles of Dorwinion Red to celebrate the completion of this adventure!

Great job, Scribe!

:drink:
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Postby Eltirwen » Fri Jul 29, 2005 6:42 am

:clap: :horse:

Wow! It's amazing to finally read the end of this portion. Only puts me in even more awe of your skills. I really enjoyed reading this. Only problem is, I don't know who to root for - Matrim or Guil. :D

Um, you aren't looking for writers for the next part, are you?
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Postby Jiyadan » Fri Jul 29, 2005 11:23 am

It is a great pleasure to see such a remarkable tale come to a fitting conclusion... made even more wonderful by the promise of the next to come.

HUZZAH!

Raises a tankard of cider to his friend and looks forward to reading the next installments...
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jul 29, 2005 4:32 pm

erm . . . :oops: thank you everyone for such wonderful and kind words, I'm really pleased (and embarrassingly flattered) that y'all followed the poor old story to its somewhat long arriving conclusion.

clinks glasses with everyone And thanks for the Dorwinion Red frelga, it's a nice touch and y'all know the Scribe would never turn down a drink. ;):D

:D:D:D

Edited to add: I've edited all the posts to fix the strange and sudden appearance of question marks instead of double and single quotes. How very odd.
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Postby earendil81 » Thu Jan 31, 2008 8:29 am

I know this tale has long been finished but I only managed to read it in its entirety over the past few days... and when I say that I mean from Redemption : the Curse Breaker's Journey to the end of this one tale. I am now re-reading the sequel.
And each word of all of these 200 pages or so (yes I had to print the thing I can't read on a computer) have been worth it. I plead guilty of reading the end at work yesterday and it was amazing.

Great great. Thank you for such a fantastic adventure ;)
Never forgetting those who have passed into the West :rose:

Sharing a story with Rholarowyn: Once There Were Words

Laesha is taking her first steps in the RP world with Eilathen and a bunch of great characters in The Expected Party
Fan of Redemption: the Reckoning

Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.


It's funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all
It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I'm free
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:20 pm

earendil81 wrote:I know this tale has long been finished ...

Thank you for such a fantastic adventure ;)


Gracious! I had no idea anyone was reading this anymore, so I've sure been late and remiss in thanking you for your wonderful words of encouragement. I'm glad you enjoyed it Eari, and I hope our ensuing humble efforts will continue to entertain . . .

:D:D:D
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