The Book of Aure Mandeo (See Aside)

Pull out your pack and head on down to the Prancing Pony for some great Role Playing (try to stay in character)!

Postby Muccamukk » Sat Jun 28, 2003 12:55 pm

The Southron warrior had long since become used to the stares, even the hostile ones. Eight years exiled to this cold, northern land had made sure of that. So he strode though the streets of the White City, head high, ignoring everyone else.<BR><BR>He reached a small inn in the third circle after climbing many stairs and passages. Small stone tables clustered about its entrance. Not seeing the woman he sought, the Man of Harad sat to wait. He ran a hand over his long hair, smoothing it. He had braided it just before he came, but he wanted to make sure. The other customers flinched away when he drew his curved sword. He smiled, which did not help, and checked his reflection in the polished surface, which did. Still, no one relaxed until he returned the blade to its sheath on his back.<BR><BR>He wondered where she was. The day was young yet, only the second hour, by the City’s bells. He refused to consider the idea that she might have decided not to meet him, distracting his mind with other thoughts. <i>I hope that she had not paid for a room yet. What will she think of my idea.</i><BR><BR>But before he could start to worry, he saw a familiar figure walking towards him. He smiled and rose to his feet.<BR><BR> * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *<BR><BR>“Where am I going, Master Altar?” asked the boy as he hurriedly packed his few possessions.<BR><BR>The old scholar chuckled and held open his apprentice’s saddlebag. “Why my good Daerín,” he said, “To the great Blackroot Vale. It lies at the very feet of the White Mountain, north and east of Belfâlâs. It is the home to the Paths of the Dead, the ancient Westernese Stone of Erech and the source of the River Morthond, for which the area takes its name. In days past…”<BR><BR>Daerín held up a hand, filled of scrolls, to forestall a history lecture. “Yes Master,” he said quickly. “I know where Morthond is. I was born there, remember. But <i>why</i> am I going there?”<BR><BR>Altar seemed a little puzzled but this. “Why?” he asked. “My dear boy, why do you do anything? I am telling you to.” He sighed, putting down the bag. “If you really must know, you are a favour owed. Some time ago, Scholar Domurad did me a great service. Now he needs my, or rather your, aid. His own apprentice has taken ill; he is in need of a replacement. A good boy with ready hands and a quick mind. That would be you.”<BR><BR>“But Master…”<BR><BR>Altar looked a little more sympathetic. “Do not worry, my boy,” he said softly, “It will only be for a month, two at the most. We shall simply have to manage without each other for a while.” He smiled. “In any case, it will be good for you to get out of the Minas Tirith. You have not been home in two years, have you?”<BR><BR>The boy nodded. He rather liked the idea, now that he thought about it. He had not seen his parents since he was ten. Still, two months did seem a very long time to live away from his Master. He had only met Domurad briefly, but he had seemed a very stern man. Not at all like the kindly old Altar. He got the impression that the two scholars did not get on terribly well. That might have something to do with his master’s notion that everything worth studying <i>had</i> been studied in the Golden Age of Gondor. All that remained was the careful study of what had been learned already. “What work will we be doing there?” Daerín asked, head buried in a clothes chest.<BR><BR>“Eh?” His master asked, cupping his hand around an ear. “I did not hear you, my boy.”<BR><BR>Daerín stood up. “What Work Will We Be Doing?” he repeated, speaking slowly and clearly.<BR><BR> “Oh, some survey or other,” The old scholar said. “The King ordered it.” He shook his head, clearly showing what he thought of royalty’s knowledge of such things. “I do not see why. The old records from Denethor’s time are perfectly good.” He paused then clarified. “I am, of course, speaking of the first of that name, not Denethor son of Ecthelion.”<BR><BR>“Oh,” was all Daerín could think to say. Denethor son of Dior had been of the first house of Ruling Stewards, five hundred and forty years ago. And with the Great War not ten years past… Well, many things had been destroyed, records, houses, lives. He had read accounts of the devastation, many stained with tears. Though he would never openly contradict his master, he thought that new records were a good idea. After compiling many a report, he knew that the old ones were less than ‘perfectly good.’ He finished packing in silence.<BR><BR>As he picked up the saddlebags, something occurred to him. “Master, I don’t have a horse.”<BR><BR>Altar smiled. “That is no difficulty, my boy. They will provide one for you.” He turned to the door. “Come, I will walk with you as far as the others. You are to meet them in Barrack Square in the First Circle.”<BR><BR>As they walked, Daerín questioned his master. “Is old Duinhir still Lord of Morthond?” he asked. “He had taken ill when I left.”<BR><BR>The old man shook his head. “No, death took him last year. His health had never been good. I think that the loss of both his sons of the Pelennor Fields was a blow from which he did not recover. He left no clear heir. King Elessar appointed a new Lord. Lord Erengil, I think they call him.”<BR><BR>Daerín nodded. He knew of Erengil. He had been a noble lord under Duinhir. “Master Altar,” he asked, “Why would the King appoint a Lord? I thought they were supposed to choose among themselves.”<BR><BR>Altar shrugged. “You are correct; they are. But on this occasion, the minor lords were unable to decide which of their number should rule. Therefore, the choice belonged to the King.”<BR><BR>The boy had the distinct impression that there was more to the situation than his master had told him.<BR><BR>Barrack Square was wide and paved with white stone. Young trees sprang up along the walls, beds of flowers at their feet. The Elves had promised the Queen to turn her City into a garden. Since then they had been fulfilling their pledge, one street at a time. The people of the Great Wood did not care to be surrounded by stone. Daerín smiled thinking of them. <i>Nether do I,</i> he thought. <i>I miss the fields and forests.</i><BR><BR>It appeared that they were the first of their party to arrive. A few people wandered through the square, but no one stayed. Daerín found a bench and sat, laying his bags at his feet. “Will you stay, Master?” he asked.<BR><BR>Altar nodded. “I wish to speak with Domurad,” he said and sat beside his apprentice. Together, they waited for the others to arrive.<BR><BR><BR><BR><i>(Aside: This will be this thread's <b>only</b> OOC note. All questions, comments and requests should be posted in the URL<a target="_blank" href="http://www.tolkienonline.com/thewhitecouncil/messageview.cfm?catid=25&threadid=67752">Aside</a><BR> thread.)
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Postby Nessamelda » Sun Jun 29, 2003 6:21 am

Cirion sat on the edge of the square, watching the passers-by, half hidden by a pillar. He sneezed, twice, rubbing his itching nose on the homespun grey fabric of his sleeve. He looked at the bed of flowers blooming next to him and sighed. He had grown up in a city of grey stone, filled by men whose demeanour and severity matched the cold grey city in which they lived. They had been forced to be so, fighting the long hard fight against the old Enemy. Now the city bloomed and turned green; yet it was hard to change the ways and attitudes that had developed in the time of war- especially when all this floral decoration made his nose itch so....<BR><BR>It was hard also to change his tasks of a life time. Cirion supposed that he was stuck in a rut, in many ways. But it was a safe, comfortable rut, one free of danger and excitement and he liked it that way. Like his father Varion before him he had served the rulers of this city as a scribe - but not with the same glory. He would never be a great scholar, never be the Keeper of the Records as his father had been. But he had felt somehow useful, doing the mundane tasks that fell to his lot, secure in his little chamber, copying out documents and records, collating information. For he could cipher and scribe, and add up columns of figures in his precise, neat, but not especially elegant hand.<BR><BR>And yes perhaps his mind did wander off sometimes, and he failed to copy in a line or two or miss out an odd word. But surely it was the responsibility of his superiors to check the work of such a lowly servant as himself? The problems with the contract for the building of the new ships could not be laid entirely at his door, although he did admit it had been very foolish not to double-check that he had put in all the numbers correctly. The King's Scribe had not seen it in the same way, though. There had been a painful interview, which had ended with Cirion being threatened with demotion from his status as a journeyman scribe to something less than the lowest apprentice, unless he could prove that he was worthy of continued employment.<BR><BR>So it was Cirion sat there in barracks square waiting for the rest of the party to arrive. The price he would pay for his inattention to detail was to be sent from the town that he had not set foot outside for all of his forty-odd years on one of the King's harebrained expeditions. Surely it was the responsibility of the local nobility to provide all the information neded to run the Kingdom? Surely there was no need to send scholars and scribes and a rag-tag of goodness knows who to waste time and shoe leather gathering information that should already be to hand? But these were his orders and while he disliked them, he had a strong sense of duty (not to mention a strong desire to keep on earning his bread-and butter).<BR><BR>Looking around he saw old Altar with a lad in tow sit down near him. Altar had been a friend of his father's - like-minded they were, but Altar was (not to put too fine a point on it) a deaf old windbag, although pleasant natured enough. Cirion fervently hopd that he was not to be one of the party. When he had asked who else was to go the King's Scribe had just laughed, none-to-pleasantly and said that he would find out in good time....<BR><BR>But Cirion had been brought up to be polite, so he stood and bowed to Master Altar, and asked him (in a slightly raised voice) after his health.
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Postby Elaine_of_Astolat » Sun Jun 29, 2003 6:48 am

If any paused to look at the woman of Rohan as she passed through the city streets, her mare obediently following that of her Gondorian guide, she did not notice. Elaine’s head tilted this way and that, overwhelmed by such large quantities of smooth stone towering over her. Here and there were the familiar scars of war - buildings transformed to rubble, the black marks of fire.<BR> <BR>Much of the mare’s strawberry-roan hide was hidden beneath baggage. Elaine had not known how long she would be away when packing and much of her wardrobe had come with her. Her father too, had ensured that she was not short of supplies.<BR>A sad smile flickered across Elaine’s face as she thought of how much he missed her during her absence. But then, it wasn’t something either of them was used to – this was only the second time she had left her home in Astolat. Her first absence had brought her Mucca. Who knew what her second absence might bring? Elaine’s smile broadened considerably as she thought of her love, and her finger traced the curve of a bright silver band about her wrist, coming to rest at the base of an embedded sapphire. It had been a gift from him at their last parting - how long it seemed since she had seen him! And to know that he was here, somewhere in this same city, made her journey through unfamiliar parts of Rohan seem a small price to pay.<BR><BR><BR>Now if only she could find him!<BR><BR>She would have been lost long ago if it were not for her guide, Praidor. He had appeared one dewy morning upon the doorstep of her father’s tavern, seeking not only accommodation and a good strong drink, but her. He was a messenger, bearing a letter from Mucca.<BR> <BR>It was rather unfortunate that she was not able to read.<BR> <BR>Praidor seemed sorrier about this than Elaine when he realised it meant he had to read aloud the Southron’s scrawlings, which were at times very romantic and very personal.<BR> <BR>Praidor now checked the letter as they emerged from an arched tunnel that squatted over the path. “Not far away now, my lady, we’ve just got to go up another level.”<BR><BR><BR>As they drew closer to her destination, she saw him, his head of black hair all too familiar though it was arranged much more neatly than usual. For some reason he was peering intently at his sword. She asked for Praidor to wait, and dismounted from her horse. She took a few moments to run her fingers through her hair and try to brush a few creases out of the skirt of her dress. It was actually the same dusky blue dress he had last seen her in – the unusual fabric catching many an envious woman’s eye - but since then she had embroidered a vine-like pattern in silver thread along the hem and neckline to match the silver bead that hung from a fingernail piercing in her right hand.<BR> <BR>“My lady?”<BR>“Yes?” She looked to Praidor, wondering if he was about to inform of her of some smudge of dirt across her cheek or a spot on her nose.<BR>“Shall I take your ’orse to be stabled? Then I’ll be on my way.” Praidor seemed anxious not meet with Mucca again. Perhaps afraid of being sent on another errand.<BR>“Yes, please. And thankyou for your guidance.”<BR>The man gave her a peculiar glance, knowing he had had no choice in the matter.<BR> <BR>When next Elaine looked Mucca’s sword was sheathed, and she wove her way between people towards him. Her heart beat quicker with every footstep she took and it seemed to her that as he sat there he was surely the handsomest man alive! He turned dark eyes upon her and she fell into their depths, smiling all the way.<BR> <BR>“You called and I came.”
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Postby undomiel » Tue Jul 01, 2003 7:51 am

Domurad frowned his disapproval as he strode across the square in such a way as to allow his pristine black robe to move to the rhythm of his footsteps in a most regal way. His piercing grey eyes smote those who watched his arrival with apprehension. The scholar had a reputation for being quick to judge and less quick to admit himself wrong. Domurad looked over Cirion with a dismissing glance and spoke directly to Master Altar. <BR><BR>"Well, Altar," he said in a voice dripping with criticism, "I see you've brought your young charge. I HOPE that he will prove to be satisfactory." Daerin could tell already that nothing he could do would remove the judgement Domurad had passed on his appearance. "Being dragged out of the city like on some foolish errand, it's unseemly."<BR><BR>Altar nodded gravely. "I have my suspicions that there's more to your little outing than meets the eye, Domurad. I was wondering if you knew anything about it."<BR><BR>"What DO you mean?" <BR><BR>"I hear that there will be a Ranger acompanying you," Altar explained. "The King doesn't spend his valuable Rangers on foolish errands."<BR><BR>"Peculiar, indeed," Domurad returned with a sniff of his nose as if the subject was beneath him. "Stop rolling your eyes, boy," Domurad scolded the young apprentice.<BR><BR>Just then another man came across the square to join them. He was tall, and his scholar's robes were a deep crimson color which displayed his nonconformity from the traditional black or grey. His face held the sternness of nobility, but his blue eyes laughed all the while. <BR><BR>"Spendid day, isn't it gentlemen?" the newcomer asked. <BR><BR>"Ah, Dolezal, I've meant to congratulate you for some time, but work has detained me," Altar said.<BR><BR>"Think nothing of it, Friend," Dolezal returned with a smile. <BR><BR>"Congratulate? What in the name of Elessar are you talking about?" Domurad demanded. <BR><BR>"Now, Domurad, don't get upset. I've been named the new Keeper of the Records," Dolezal told him. <BR><BR>Domurad's face turned a dark shade of red. "And I suppose you have also been assigned to this mission?"<BR>Dolezal nodded. "Will you never cease to be a thorn in my side?"<BR><BR>"Apparently not, my friend," Dolezal answered in a friendly tone, despite Domurad's hostility. "You'll just have to get used to me."
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Postby Elmtree » Tue Jul 01, 2003 10:12 pm

A hiss escaped from the lidded pot over the small kitchen fire. A fat cook, unpreterbed by the relative darkness in the kitchen — she’d cooked here for thirty years, she could have found the her way around without even the hearth fire lit -- lifted the lid, stirred, sipped, and re-covered the pot.<BR><BR>"That smells wonderful, Maggie" said the young man wistfully. He sat at a nearby table, his tall thin frame hunched over numerous papers and scrolls, dark hair falling into his eyes. His candle was the only other light, save the cooking fire, in the kitchen. In the distorted shadows cast by the flickering lights, he looked rather like a large spider — his long limbs bent up by the too short stool.<BR><BR>"It will smell better tomorrow," she answered cheerfully. "Let it simmer all night."<BR><BR>"I won’t be here to taste it," he went on glumly, and cast his eyes back on the papers before him. "Maggie," he said in frustration. "I don’t understand *any* of this. I can barely keep the names of the towns straight. And you know what I’m like with figures."<BR><BR>"Now, now, Echarion. Don’t be too hard on yourself! You do wonders measuring in the kitchen!"<BR><BR>"If it were only as easy as a recipe." He muttered under his breath. "Oh," he said in a louder voice. That reminds me! I <i>must</i> finish this before tomorrow." He bent over the papers again, and began scribbling furiously.<BR><BR>After a moment another shadow crossed the kitchen threshold. A young man stood at the door, and coughed nervously.<BR><BR>"Sir?"<BR><BR>Echarion continued to scribble.<BR><BR>"Sir?" The second request was nearly drown out by the clang of a ladle on the side of the stew pot. Echarion looked up, startled. As soon as he saw the young messenger, his demeanor changed. There was a haughty and confident coolness in his eyes, and he sat straight and tall.<BR><BR>"Yes?"<BR><BR>"Your father wishes to speak to you, Sir."<BR><BR>Color drained from Echarion’s face only for the barest moment before his self assured gaze returned. "Very well. Tell him I’m on my way." He began to stuff a few of the scrolls into a pack that lay next to his feet. <BR><BR>As the page left, Maggie placed her hand on Echarion’s shoulder and squeezed maternally. "I told you, you’ll do fine."<BR><BR>The squeeze deflated his haughty posture. He slumped and sighed. "Well, at any rate, you’ll have this." He handed her the note he’d been writing. She broke into a delighted smile when she saw it. "Oh, thank you, dear! I’ve been dying to try this!"<BR><BR>"Just remember," he said, slinging the pack of scrolls onto his shoulder, "Just a pinch of sage. Not even a pinch—a <i>whisper</i>. A <i>breath</i>. Too much sage and it’s <i>ruined</i>."<BR><BR>"Just a whisper, " she said, and gave him a wink. <BR><BR>He smiled weakly in return, and as he turned to the doorway, he set his shoulders in what he thought was an appropriately "commanding" mode, and went to find his father.
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Postby Nessamelda » Tue Jul 01, 2003 10:39 pm

Cirion squirmed. He knew he was a nobody, and knew that he would never amount to much - yet it was still a shock to hear that this young man, (significantly younger than Cirion) had been appointed to fill his father's place. His father had been dead a year it was true, and the vacancy was expected to have been filled much sooner - and Cirion knew it would never fall to him - but it was still a shock<BR><BR>Altar at last registered Cirion's presence, and with a smile, patted him on his shoulder condescendingly. Altar's idea of a whisper meant that his comments could be heard half-way across the square... <BR><BR> "Well Cirion, it would not have happened in my time or your father's or in the time of his predecessor, your grandfather - now he was a fine scholar, no-one knew the old scrolls better. But this new King and his search for new ideas has changed everything. New brooms, you know, new brooms. And we must adjust ourselves to the new ways."<BR><BR>Cirion looked suitably embarassed. Domurad gave him a glance that combined dismissal, contempt and dislike.<BR><BR>"And what is your role to be in this little expedition?" the senior scribe asked Cirion.<BR><BR>"Sir, I know only that I am sent to serve the senior members of the party in the<BR>best way that I can"<BR>Domurad harrumphed, conveying with a combination of look and gesture that he felt that Cirion's best would be of little help to anyone. <BR><BR>Cirion groaned silently. The disagreements between Domurad and Dolezal had become the subject of amused gossip among the junior scribes, and with Domurad's antipathy to him, plus the company of a (no doubt) incompetent apprentice, this was going to be a painful experience. Although Dolezal seemed pleasant enough he was both much younger and now had taken Cirion's father's post...there was no hope of a friend or ally there he feared. The apprentice was grinning amusedly at Cirion, no doubt enjoying his discomfort. No doubt of it, the impudent lad!
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Postby Muccamukk » Thu Jul 03, 2003 2:35 am

Acutely aware of the people watching him, Mucca did not pull Elaine into an embrace. Nor did he kiss her passionately, on the lips or anywhere else. Instead, he restrained himself to brushing her hand lightly with his lips. “My Lady,” he said. “My heart rejoices at your presence.”<BR><BR>“As does mine, My Knight,” she said, smiling. The Woman of Rohan looked directly at the nearest onlooker before wrapping her arms around Mucca’s neck and kissing him full on the mouth.<BR><BR>The Southron almost protested; he knew that the news of <i>this</i> would spread through the City in a matter of hours. However, the sweet taste of her pulled him in. He could feel her heart beating against his, even through layers of cloth and chain mail. Soon, speaking seemed a very silly idea indeed. <BR><BR>After what felt like too short a time, she pulled away. “I missed you,” she whispered into his ear.<BR><BR>Mucca gently unclasped her arms. Still holding hands, they sat, the table between them. He knew that he had little time, but he put off the crucial question as long as he could. He ordered wine, asked after her health, her journey, her hometown, brother and father. He almost asked after her lady mother but recalled she was dead just in time.<BR><BR>“When must you leave?” Elaine asked, while he was trying to think of another question.<BR><BR>“Well,” said Mucca, eyes firmly fixed on his goblet. “In truth, I have a contract that begins today.” He glanced up at the sun and added, “I must leave immediately.”<BR><BR>A moment of stunned silence followed. “But…” his Lady started. “But… I thought… that is… <b>NOW?</b>”<BR><BR>The Southron nodded, still not meeting her eyes. “Aye, my Lady, now,” he said softly. “I had not planned on this. I thought we would have at least a few weeks together. But I could not refuse this offer. It is the King’s work. Before this, my company has spent its time escorting grain shipments and peasants. This is our chance to prove ourselves worthy of greater things.” He looked up now, black eyes finding her grey ones. “Please, Elaine, I only learned of this two days ago. I had no time to send another message. If it were anything else save the King’s work…” His voice trailed off; he hoped she understood.<BR><BR>She did, sort of. Tears of disappointment in her eyes, she nodded. “I know,” she said. “But I just got here. And we haven’t seen each other for months and months. I’ve missed you so.”<BR><BR>He smiled reassuringly and squeezed her hand. “I know,” he said, “But we need not be separated. This journey should prove a safe one. Would you come with me?”<BR><BR> * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * <BR><BR>Daerín watched with some amusement as the older and wiser members of the party squabbled amongst themselves. He realized probably shouldn’t be smiling, he after all was going to have to put up with them for the next month. He had also noted that many masters tended to take out their annoyance on their apprentices. Domurad appeared to be permanently annoyed.<BR><BR>It was this thought, not the dark look Cirion shot him, that wiped the grin from his face. He wondered what it would be like to serve under this stern-faced man. The worst Altar had ever done was to send him to bed with out dinner or stay inside for a week. Though these had seemed like terrible things to do to a twelve-year-old boy, he now thought they might not be so bad. Not wanting to find out what bad truly was, he vowed to be on his best behaviour from now on.<BR><BR>Standing up a little straighter, he painted a look of quiet submission on his face. He tried to appear as though he was politely listening to his elders. This bored him within the space of about five minutes. Instead, he gazed about the square, looking innocently alert, or something.<BR><BR>Several people had trickled in since he had arrived. A hobbit maid tugged at that reins of a two ponies, one loaded with supplies. A brawny blond in worn leathers had brought more horses, a mix of pack and riding. All manner of bags and instruments rested onto the packhorses. Most things he recognised, but most he did not. He was about to wander over for a closer look when he remembered that he was supposed to be behaving. He resumed his survey.<BR><BR>A group of six men quickly caught Daerín’s attention. They sat in a rough circle at the far side of the square, lounging on the cobbles and playing at dice. Their weapons and martial bearing marked them as soldiers, but they wore no sign or uniform. In fact, they shared no common feature, appearing to come from almost every place in Middle-Earth. The boy spotted a huge Dunlander, a Southron and several men of Rohan and Gondor. They all wore clean clothes, but with the aura of those who were not accustomed to them.<BR><BR>Forgetting his vow, Daerín tugged at his Master’s sleeve. Fortunately, for him, Altar was not engaged in conversation and did not seem to mind. “What is it, my boy?” he asked, beaming down at his apprentice.<BR><BR>“Master Altar?” Daerín said, nodding toward the far end of the square, “Who are they?”<BR><BR>The smile left the old man’s face. “Mercenaries,” he answered shortly. “They will travel with you, I’m afraid. You are to neither speak with them nor even go near them, understand?”<BR><BR>The boy nodded. He had rarely heard his Master so adamant about anything, save perhaps the writings of Scholar Tarion from the time of the Ship Kings. He understood this to be an important point and silently added “avoiding mercenaries” to his list of things he vowed to do.<BR><BR>Still, he continued to stare at them, from a safe distance, wondering what they might be like. He barely noticed when Altar took his leave, disclosing that he had pressing matters to attend to. Daerín could think of no such things and suspected that the old man wished to escape Domurad and Dolezal.<BR><BR>The boy continued to stand at polite attention, wondering just what, or whom, everyone was waiting for.
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Postby Elaine_of_Astolat » Fri Jul 04, 2003 5:52 am

Elaine didn’t even blink, didn’t let the thought settle in her mind, before her mouth was open.<BR>“Of course.”<BR>She brought his calloused hand to her lips and kissed his fingertips before murmuring “Do you even need to ask?”<BR>Mucca smiled at her, pleased… but by the time he had her horse brought out from the stables he was struggling to keep the smile from slipping off his face entirely.<BR>“Is uh- <i>all</i> that baggage yours, my lady?”<BR>Last he had seen her she had only the one dress. Now it seemed she had brought the wardrobe of her entire family, including cousins.<BR>Elaine turned wide eyes upon him, “Of course. Who else’s luggage would I be carrying?” <BR><BR>One arm linked through Mucca’s and the other hand firmly grasping her horse’s rein, Elaine was led (though she failed to recognise it) back down the path that she had only just travelled up. People parted before the Southron, eager to get as much distance between themselves and his fierce appearance as possible, leaving them a clear passageway through the crowds. Unperturbed by the attention they were receiving Elaine smiled at the stunned or scowling faces and occasionally called out “Lovely day, isn’t it?”<BR><BR>At the first level they reached a square blossoming with flowers, which pleased the Rohan woman to see. What pleased her moreso, however, was the sight of a group of men lolling about on the perimeter. A large Dunlander scowled at the menial numbers that the dice dared to show him, and Elaine called to him, “Marnor!”<BR>Marnor looked up, his own face splitting into a broad grin.<BR>“Cousin Elaine!”<BR>He caught her up in a back-crushing embrace that lifted Elaine from the ground.<BR><BR>Any who witnessed the exchange must have been thoroughly confused as to how a Dunlander and Rohirrim could possibly be cousins. It had happened quite by accident, when Elaine had first been introduced to Mucca’s Company<BR><i> “So you are from Astolat,” </i>Marnor had said. <i>“That is good, we may be related. My people raped and pillaged yours for centuries.”</i><BR>And Elaine, in all her ignorance, had unknowingly asked to be adopted into Marnor’s family when she replied with <i>"Then I shall call thee cousin." </i><BR><BR>When Elaine was finally released, her spinal cord throbbing in protest to such treatment, she had a chance to look over the rest of the men and smile a greeting to the few faces that were familiar - Draun of the Far South, Wen Goatleaf of Bree, Halmund of Edoras, and Granhir of Minas Tirith who winked at her in such a way that it earnt a glare from Mucca and brought a blush to the Lady’s cheeks.
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Postby Arwen_Sol » Tue Jul 08, 2003 11:56 am

Glaring squinty eyed at the two impudent ponies, Fernleigh took hold of the reigns and continued to pull the beasts along. As if purposefully thwarting her every movement, they continued to gaze lazily around the teeming street and nibble on any leafy-green thing unfortunate enough to be within reach of their teeth. <BR><BR>Turning to look inside the small Inn, the one she’d been searching for all day, Fern caught sight of boy, about 12-ish or so, staring at her with unabashed curiosity, and not a little humor as he watched her continued struggle with the ponies. Lifting her chin defensively, luckily, the boy’s gaze had moved on so he missed the baleful look she leveled his way.<BR><BR>Hoping the nags would behave better if offered some enticement, the hobbit lass plunged a sun-browned hand into her voluminous yellow and scarlet skirt and withdrew a withered bushel of orange-ish carrots. Waving the treat under their equine noses, Fern managed to lead her mounts to the relative safety of the stables. <BR><BR>Ensuring all the ‘special equipment’ she’d brought along with her was still intact; she asked a loitering stable-hand to rub down the animals while she ventured into the Inn for sustenance. If any inhabitants of the Inn looked her way, they soon dismissed her as just another child wandering the streets, thus Fern was able to slip in unnoticed; narrowly missing a collision with a large black-haired fellow and his lady as they exited. <BR><BR>Muttering under her breath, something about the rudeness of Men in general, Fern clambered onto a nearby bench and ordered a drink and a small snack while she waited for her opportunity to strike… so to speak. She was here on a mission of great import, to her at least, and she’d run away from home, no less, to carry it out. <BR><BR>The only collective group seemed to be a group of scholars whose discussion seemed be getting quite heated. Fern noticed the cheeky boy from earlier, seemed also to be part of the scholarly group, and she groaned as she realized that this was the party she’d been sent to join. She looked them over indignantly: none of them, she thought disgustedly, could probably cook if their lives depended on it. <BR><BR>So she’d left Great Smials looking for adventure, and instead found herself enlisted as chief-feeder to a band of itinerant lords and bookies! Luckily a group of mercenaries had joined nearby as well, and Fern studied them delightedly. She fervently hoped that these rugged men would be part and parcel with the assembly--- Surely if such guards were needed, troubled was expected along the way! And she: Fernleigh Took of Great Smials would be right in the thick of things!<BR><BR>Settling down happily on the overlarge seat, Fern sipped her foaming drink, grinning happily to herself over the frosted rim and managed to stuff a requisite meat-pie in her mouth with anticipating relish.<BR><BR>
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Postby Nessamelda » Tue Jul 08, 2003 10:59 pm

Cirion retreated to the low stone wall where he had been seated previously. There was no point in arguing. No point in any of it really. He silently watched the apprentice taking in the scene eagerly. He followed Daerin's glance at the mercenaries. Both his and Daerin's eyebrows were raised at the presence of the woman, who seemed to know all the men.....A woman of Rohan by her dress Cirion thought. But her companion! A Southron! Now there was something different. The King had made only too plain his willingness to accept all people of good faith into his kingdom, no matter what their past doings as long as they foresook their old allegiances. Cirion had as one of his recent tasks lettering some notices to this effect to go up around the inns as a reminder to some of the patrons that the war was over. Brawling because someone dressed differently or spoke in a strange tongue was not acceptable in the changed world they now dwelt in.<BR><BR>It was one thing to nod his head sagely in acceptance as he carefully lettered the signs on cheap parchment, as his master watched him and made acid comments about the blots of ink. It was another to have to travel with a former enemy.<BR><BR>Cirion closed his eyes and thought back nearly ten years. He had defied his father (and that had been a dramatic step despite the fact that he was then close to forty!) and unlike most of the scholars and scribes had taken up a sword while the city was under siege. He closed his eyes and thought back to the terror and the fire and the fear; the screaming of an enemy, who looked not unlike the tall man who seemed to lead the mercenaries; the screaming as Cirion had run him through with a blade, scarce knowing what to do with it, knowing only that if he did not the man would do the same to him.<BR><BR>A Southron. Cirion opened his eyes again and looked back at his companion scribes. This was going to be an interesting trip. He idly wondered whether Domurad and Dolezal could ride - traditionally the men of Minas Tirith rarely used horses. Even their soldiers still marched rather than rode into battle. But the mercenaries appeared to be horsemen. Cirion grinned maliciously. A day or two in the saddle should wipe the supercilious sneer off Domurad's face. But no doubt that blue-eyed boy Dolezal could ride as well as he could letter and do everything else. Many of the younger men of the noble houses could do so. And surprisingly enough so could Cirion. More than twenty years ago his sister had badgered him into learning so he could act as chaperone for her and that young upstart Duke when they went riding. Not that it did her any good - in the end the good-for-nothing got her into trouble anyway.<BR><BR>Still he hadn't been on a horse for years and wasn't looking forward to the pain that he knew he would suffer in the first few days.
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Postby Isolde » Fri Jul 11, 2003 11:34 pm

Firiel stood by the great doorway which led from the courtyard of the manor to the streets of the city. In one hand she held the fine leather bridle of her mount, in the other, she held the cord of a pack slung about her shoulder. Taking slow steps, she spoke to the two pople who stood beside her. The first was an elderly woman, with a long, straight nose, and eyes bright and small as a birds. She wore a plain, unbelted surcoat, and a dowdy wimple that gave the very accurate impression of a very modest woman. She had been a maidservant of the ranger's grandmother, long ago. Now, she lived alone in the great house, occupying only three of the many rooms.<BR><BR>The other who stood beside her was her mentor, cousin, and tutor. He much resembled her, with his tall, slim figre, dark hair, and a set of gray eyes framed by thick, dark lashes. He was named Morion for his looks, though he was perhaps one of the friendliest individuals whom one could meet in these times. Slowly and to the point, he spoke. "Times are still dangerous, Firiel. The war with Mordor is over, but one amongst us may soon begin. Take heed." He drew her chin up with a hand, to see her expression. "If you are anything like I think you are, you will."<BR><BR>Smiling, and brushing back a wisp of dark hair from her face, she replied. "I will do as you advise, though I believe I shall not have near as much trouble as yo predict."<BR><BR>Morwen, the elderly woman shrouded in her burgundy raiment cackled and whispered audibly, "Don't believe anything ust yet. Watch yourself." With a final goodbye, Firiel left her ancestral home, leading her horse to the barack square, pondering the rather bleak words of parting. She knew well, of course, of the remaining discontent and hardship in Gondor, but she had not thought that Morion hwould make a point of it to her. <BR><BR>He would know that she wasfamiliar with trouble, she had aided him on a sundry of occasions. She shook her head. Keeping the warning in mind, she continued to where her first assignment would begin. <BR><BR>*************<BR><BR>Arriving at the barrack square later than she imagined, she saw that the rest of the party had assembled. She made her way towards a tall, long haired Southron, who had the bearing and look of a leader. On a hunch, she greeted him. "Well met. I'm the ranger the king has sent to assist this party. Are you the leader of the Black Dragons?" She could not remember if she had been told any of the names of the travellers.
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Postby Muccamukk » Sun Jul 13, 2003 2:21 am

As Elaine greeted the others, Mucca pulled aside Kepson, a boy from Ânfâlâs. “All is ready?” he asked. “Good, then put Elaine’s horse with the others.” He sighed. “Try to spread her belongs out amongst the packhorse. The poor beast looks over burdened.” As the scout left, Mucca wondered if he should buy another horse. He had forgotten just how much… stuff a woman was capable of packing. Oh well, if it made her happy, he certainly wasn’t going to say anything against it.<BR><BR>“Seven! Ha!” cried one of the men playing dice.<BR><BR>Mucca glanced down at them, frowning. Six of the players had jumped to their feet on his arrival, but some continued the game. Elaine, free now, turned to her knight. “And who are they?” She asked.<BR><BR> “I do not know,” he said. “I have never seen them before.” He turned to his second-in-command. “Marnor?”<BR><BR>The giant Dunlander shrugged. “Off duty guards, I think.” he said. “They joined in when we started dicing.”<BR><BR>Seeing the puzzled expression on Elaine’s face, Mucca explained, “My Company is at half strength just now. The king only needed six men. I gave the rest leave. The only man of mine you have yet to meet is Kepson over there.” He pointed to the horses tied nearby. He could see his mounts, those of the company and a wrangler, but couldn’t make out the scout in the confusion. “Somewhere,” he added.<BR><BR>Before he could say anything else, a young Woman of Gondor interrupted them. "Well met. I'm the ranger the king has sent to assist this party. Are you the leader of the Black Dragons?"<BR><BR>It did not surprise Mucca to learn that she was a ranger. He had heard that the Women of the North were freer than those in Esht. “I am Muccamukk ret Selom of the Black Dragons, yes,” he said in answer. “This is the Lady Elaine of Astolat.” He looked over the new comers. She appeared a little older than Elaine, but he was pleased to have her along. He had worried that his Lady would want for female companionship. This hardy looking warrior probably wasn’t what she was accustomed to, but she was better than nothing. He was about to say something along those lines when he realized that she had not told him her name. “I apologise, but you are Lady…?”<BR><BR>The ranger smiled. “Feriel,” she said. “But I am a Ranger of the South, not a lady.”<BR><BR>“Ah,” said Mucca. Elaine giggled. He decided that he should probably change the subject. He glanced around the square again. Kepson had finally made it free of the horses, with Halmund’s aid. The two of them were re-sorting the loads. A group of academic types bickered in a corner. “Have you seen the Lord Echarion?”<BR><BR>* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *<BR><BR>Daerín leaned against a wall, stifling a yawn. The novelty of people watching had worn thin quite fast. He hoped that the entire trip would not be sitting around listening to old men argue. He had a sinking feeling that it just might.<BR><BR>A shadow fell across the ant he had been watching. He looked up to see the Southron towering over him. He jumped back with a yelp, catching his foot and ending up flat on his back. Face flushed, he scrambled to his feet. He could see that the warrior was trying very hard not to laugh. Daerín flushed even darker, this time with anger. “Can I help you?” he asked stiffly.<BR><BR>The Southron nodded. “We are looking for the Lord Echarion,” he said. Only then did the boy notice the two women.<BR><BR><i>Who?</i> “Ah, no, Sir,” he said, “I haven’t seen him.”<BR><BR>The Southron scowled. Daerín took another step back, careful his footing this time. He could see why Master Altar had ordered him not to speak with these people. They were obviously violent by nature. However, under this circumstance, he didn’t see that he had much choice. “Why don’t you ask, my master, sir?” the apprentice suggested. “Perhaps he knows where your Lord is. Scholar Domurad, sir, over there,” he added, pointing behind him. <BR><BR>Anger tinged His relief at the warrior’s departure. He distinctly heard the Southron mutter something under his breath as he strode away. It sounded suspiciously like “Brat”
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Postby undomiel » Mon Jul 14, 2003 8:41 am

"It is entirely unseemly that you should have a position of such prestige, young man," Domurad was informing Dolezal in his most imposing voice. "An older, wiser Scholar should have untertaking that responsibility, not some upstart, arrogant Numenorean. We see in this," Domurad glanced at Cirion for approval and continued, "how traditions have been thrown out the window under this new King. He waltzes into Gondor, deposes our more than capable leader, and starts instituting new policies right and left. I do not think that I need to convey to you how thouroughly I disapprove of this change. You, Dolezal, given more than you deserve, are just the beginning of what is in store for us now. You think this is better, you think that now the war is over and the world is safe under our new King. You will soon see that it is not s-"<BR><BR>Dolezal's eyes narrowed and his voice became deadly calm as he interrupted Domurad's rampage. "Domurad, you are an irritating old windbag." Domurad turned crimson and his temples began to throb, but before he could return to his tirade Dolezal grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. "Have some sense, man, there's a ranger over there." Dolezal directed his gaze toward the newest addition to the group gathering in the square. "Do you think it wise to criticize your King in her presence?" <BR><BR>Domurad was forced to look in the direction of the other group amassing in the square. He seemed to notice them for the first time, and a look of genuine fear came over his plain features. "A Southron!" he whispered in a voice filled with hate. "What is such a person doing here?"
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Postby Elmtree » Mon Jul 14, 2003 8:44 pm

After several wrong turns, Echarion had decided to simply fall behind Mattias. That young man hadn't said a word at each dead end they hit. He'd kept the same slightly bored expression on his face. <BR><BR>Echarion wondered how much of it would get back to his father. He'd grown up in the city and surrounding area, true. But true also, was the fact he could not find his way out of a sack.<BR><BR>He both resented his father's insistance he take Mattias as his personal servant, and appreciated it.<BR><BR>Finally, the barracks square opened before them. Echarion cast a quick look behind him-- he could have sworn it was in the other direction.<BR><BR>"Lord Echarion." Mattias' voice matched his expression. "Shall I take the horses and--"<BR><BR>"Ah, Mattias. Not just yet. If you would be so good as to ... round everyone up. Father did brief you on this expedition, and it's members, did he not?"<BR><BR>"Yes, m'lord," said Mattias. With tremendous difficulty he succeeded in keeping the expression which had kept him his job for the past five years.<BR><BR>"I'll ah..." began Echarion. His eyes fell on the group of mercenaries on one side of the square. ''Ah! The Southron! Excellent!"<BR><BR>Mattias gazed at him, one eyebrow raised.<BR><BR>"Well, they are tremendous fighters, you know. They showed themselves as much in the War! Good thing these men are on our side, eh?" said Echarion with what he hoped was a confident smile.<BR><BR>Mattias nodded. "Yes, m'lord.'' <BR><BR>"I will go make myself known to the leader. Be a good fellow and gather everyone else together."<BR><BR>Echarion remembered Muccamukk's name, because it was so unusual. His appearance made him easy to spot as well.<BR>The scribes were another matter. For some reason, they all looked alike to Echarion. AND two of them had names beginning with "D". He'd never keep them straight! He suspected they were among a group of men he saw bickering across the square, but he couldn't be sure.<BR><BR>Which is why, of course, he chose to approach Muccamukk first. The Southron and a few others had just begun to cross the square towards the bickering group (Aha! those *must* be the scribes!" thought Echarion).<BR><BR>He wondered what attitude he ought to display. He would have to be lordly, of course, and obviously in command. However, he understood Southrons were dangerous folk, and although he found that somewhat exciting, it worried him as well.<BR><BR>Then he noticed the woman speaking to the Southron. That worried him more.<BR><BR>"A Ranger?" he said under his breath. "Why on earth is a ranger coming? We have the Southrons, we have *me*. We don't need a Ranger."<BR><BR>No one heard his complaint, except, perhaps, Mattias, who did afford himself a slight smile as he turned towards the rather cranky looking group of scholars in the far corner of the square.
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Postby Nessamelda » Wed Jul 16, 2003 5:21 am

Cirion's face took on a faint expression of worry and surprise as Domurad turned towards him, seeking his support. What need had such as Master Domurad for support from such a lowly person? The last thing Cirion wanted was to get caught up in the squabbles and backbiting between his superiors. <BR>Whatever Domurad thought, the new king was here to stay - and although the passing of the old certainties had been painful for those such as Cirion's fatherwho had done well under the stewards, it could not be said that King Elessar had made change for change's sake. All was done with an eye to things that were best for the kingdom, all was done fairly and without favoritism. But change is always hard for those caught up in its whirlwind. And the men (and women too) of the White City were slower than most to bend to the wind - here was Domurad calling him the "new' king when he and his beautiful Elven Queen had ruled for nigh on nine years now. <BR><BR>A young man dressed in livery marked with the insignia of one of the noble houses approached the group of scribes with a low bow. Cirion racked his brain to remember which lord the man served; as a scribe of course he should have all the heraldic details at his finger tips. And being Cirion, the details did not come quickly to mind.<BR><BR>"I am Mattias; I serve Lord Echarion, who requests that the scribes Master Domurad and Dolezal, and their accompanying assistants would gather themselves and their belongings so that we may prepare for departure. "<BR><BR>He bowed again and turned quickly back across the square towards Echarion, who was trying (with only limited success) to attract the Southron's attention. <BR><BR>The scribes began slowly to gather their things, Domurad ensuring that Daerin and Cirion were carrying most of the heavier items - the bundles of parchment and vellum, the inks and quills, and books. He strode ahead unencumbered, still quietly seething. <BR>
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Postby undomiel » Tue Jul 22, 2003 8:04 am

Domurad had absolutely no intention of tolerating these "most distressing circumstances". He strode with grim determination toward the offending Southron and neither his instinctual fear of the ancient enemy of Gondor or Dolezal's urgent pleas could dissuade him. <BR><BR>The aproaching contingent of scholars and scribes with the scowling Domurad in the lead, did not gain much notice from the group of mercenaries. A few looked briefly and then turn to disguise their snickers. Meanwhile Domurad changed his course and instead of assaulting the unsuspecting Southron, veered toward the Lord Echarion.<BR>With an self-important puff of his chest he confronted their new-come leader. <BR><BR>"What," the balding scholar demanded, "Is the meaning of this?"<BR><BR>Echarion looked suprised. He had been too busy trying to gain the attention of the distracted Southron to notice the others arrive. "Excuse me?" he stammered. <BR><BR>"This foreigner, this alien," Domurad continued, "Exactly what is he doing here?"<BR><BR>Echarion's lips moved but no sound came out. The not-so-baffled Mattias answered for him. "The Southron, Muccamukk, and his band of warriors have been appointed by King Elessar to be your protection on our journey, Honored Scholar Domurad. Your life is precious to the King and we may be grateful for their presence in the weeks to come."<BR><BR>Dolezal smiled. Mattias knew exactly when and how to use flattery to avoid unpleasant situations. Domurad was nearly placated when the Southron himself approached them. "Is there a problem, gentlemen?" he asked with the confidence of a man who was not unaccustomed to conflict. <BR><BR>Domurad, his feathers ruffled once more by the presence of the offender, was about to speak when Dolezal interrupted him. "No problem at all. I am Dolezal, Keeper of the Records in Minas Tirith, and this is my colleague Domurad. Cirion, the scribe, and Daerin, an apprentice, will be assisting us. Unfortunately, we have not yet been made aware of the details concerning this expedition. We were hoping that perhaps Lord Echarion would be so good as to apprise us."<BR><BR>The group of intellectuals looked expectantly toward the overwhelmed aristocrast. Mattias shook his head in dismay, but did not come to his rescue this time. It was instead the Southron who proved to be the wealth of information. "It is a simple enough task we will untertake," he began.
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Postby Muccamukk » Wed Jul 23, 2003 11:36 pm

<i>Fire and Darkness</i> thought Mucca. <i>Please take my life. Elaine’s as well, I do not wish her to suffer either.</i><BR><BR>But as his prayers were not immediately granted, he turned to face the young lord behind him. He felt depressingly sure that this fool would turn out to be the Lord Echarion. He had seen the type many times in the Red Court back home and had not wished to encounter it again up here. Ever. Sighing faintly, he consoled himself with the knowledge that at least Elaine would be with him. This trip wouldn’t be so bad.<BR><BR>"What," demanded a balding scholar, "Is the meaning of this?"<BR><BR>Mucca was forced to reconsider his last thought. Ah well, at least the Lord’s aid had some sense. Still, the warrior thought it best to face this things head on. He had seen what happened on missions were tensions were allowed to build. That was something else he never wanted to see again. "Is there a problem, gentlemen?" he asked, trying to sound as professional as possible. <i>Just let me do my duty,</i> he prayed.<BR><BR>He watched the interplay of the other members of the party. It seem that prejudice wasn’t they only discord in this happy little party. Long years as a warrior had taught him to read faces. Not that he needed the skill to tell that the senior scholars detested each other. Or that old Cirion resent just about everyone. Or that their young lord didn’t have two wits to rub together. And, of course, that everyone either hated or feared their protector.<BR><BR><i>Time to get moving,</i> he thought. And it was a good chance to prove he knew his work. They didn’t have to like him, just respect him. "It is a simple enough task we will undertake," he began. “Under my command, the Black Dragons will escort you to the land of Morthond, the town of Murkwater, to be more accurate. Once there, the King requests that you survey the surrounding lands. His Majesty ordered a report written, after the fashion of the Scholar Thelverion of the First House of Stewards, I believe.” He smiled blandly at Echarion. “I am sure that My Lord possesses all the specifics.” He glanced over at his company. Kepson and Halmund had finished sorting the baggage; his company stood ready. “If you will excuse me, Gentlemen, I must attend to my duties.” The Southron offered all concerned a half bow and turned sharply on his heal.<BR><BR>He gave Marnor the order to mount up, which the Dunlander bellowed to the others. They were under way at last.
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Postby Elaine_of_Astolat » Thu Jul 24, 2003 1:07 am

It was times like this that Elaine wished she kept her dagger handy. Sure, she couldn't actually <i>use</i> it for Mearas, but at least she would feel better after threatening to gouge out the eyes of several of these narrow minded men.<BR><BR>She suspected, however, that it wouldn't help the situation one hay-bale, and instead consoled herself by standing with arms crossed, glaring at the offenders.<BR><BR>As Mucca turned away from the men she slipped her hand inside his and planted a consoling kiss just below his ear lobe. Glancing back over her shoulder, she dared the disapproval of their companions.<BR><BR>She felt rather less sympathetic, however, when she discovered that many of her belongings had been relocated from her own horse to several others. How in Middle-Earth was she supposed to find things when she needed them now?<BR>But given Mucca's present mood she decided not to push the issue. If all else failed she could employ a few of his men, or Mucca himself, in the search.<BR><BR>As Elaine mounted her mare and settled herself side-saddle style she chanced a look across at the other woman, the Ranger Firiel, wondering what sort of companion she might make on the journey. Any hopes she still held were dashed somewhat as the ranger determindly swung one leg over her horse.<BR><BR>But she supposed that was one of the advantages... or disadvantages... that a woman had if she was wearing pants.<BR><BR>As the Black Dragons started to lead the way towards the Gates a small figure clad in a red and yellow skirt ran out of a nearby Inn. At first Elaine supposed it to be a child, perhaps excited by the sight of such an unusual gathering, but as the person drew closer she saw that upon the face there were marks of age and experience not known to any child.
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Postby Nessamelda » Thu Jul 24, 2003 1:44 am

One of the mercenaries came up to Cirion and grinned as he handed him the halter of a tall lively looking mare, who put her ears back and stepped smartly away as Cirion put out his hand. <BR><BR>"Here you are old-timer - see how you go with her! If she's too much for you we have an alternative". He laughed again and pointed to the donkey that was at the rear of the procession, loaded with bundles of book and parchments. <BR><BR>Cirion looked at the man for a second and then said slowly, making the man uncertain whether he was serious or in jest "I fear that as the donkey would be a little short for me. I must make do with what I am given." He paused and added almost to himself "and I am not old; not yet."<BR>Indeed at just less than fifty (he was in fact almost the same age as Domurad) he was still only in early middle age for one of his lineage. Those of Numenorean blood were longer lived than some of the other folk of Gondor - a fact that tended to cause some friction. He admittted to himself, however, that his dull acceptance of his tedious role in life no doubt made him seem older to these younger and more active folk. The long hours spent bent over books and papers left him with a habitual stoop and pale complexion which made him appear older than he actually was. And yet it was not quite ten years ago that he had put down his pen to defend his city with a sword. He was not old yet, not by any means; perhaps this trip would do him good, he thought suddenly.<BR><BR>Cirion restrained the mare with some little difficulty. Much to the disppointment of the disreputable young man who had delivered the horse, he managed to mount her with no assistance and even pointed her in the correct direction to join those already slowly walking out of the square.<BR><BR>The beast was so enthusiastic to be on her way that Cirion had to bring her up quite sharply to avoid overtaking the others; and she jumped a bit at the sudden pressure of the bit on her mouth. Cirion held on firmly and finally regained control of the twitchy mare, but at the cost of a black look form the woman who accompanied the mercenaries' leader as his horse jostled hers.<BR><BR>He turned in the saddle now he and the horse seemed to have come to some sort of agreement, and looked around to see how the other scribes were faring with their mounts.
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Postby Arwen_Sol » Fri Aug 01, 2003 11:08 am

((OOC: Incomplete, no time, sorry <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-sad.gif"border=0>))<BR><BR>Patting her belly with satisfaction, Fern looked up from her table of empty mugs and plates that only minutes before had been filled with ale and food. Sparing a lazy glance at the door, she bolted upright at the sight of <i>her</i> party making its merry way out of the square without her! Of all the nerve, she sniffed and proceeded to swiftly leave a few coins for her meal on the scratched wooden table. Brushing bread crumbs off her favourite skirt, Fernleigh hurried to the stables as quickly as her short legs allowed, all the while trying to keep her eyes on the retreating party. After a haphazard near stumble, the hobbit-lass managed to retrieve her ponies--- which luckily were still ready to travel. Holding onto the leading ropes with a firm hand, Fern pulled her mount and packhorse along, trying to catch up with the swiftly disappearing group. <BR>
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Postby Elaine_of_Astolat » Sat Aug 02, 2003 5:40 am

The horse snorted as Mucca pulled it up short. A frown on his face, he glanced around at the rest of their company.<BR>Elaine blinked curious eyes at him, wondering what concerned her love.<BR><BR>"What's the hold up?" A voice brimming with its own authority barked from behind them. "Has one of the scribes fallen off their horse?"<BR>Mucca flicked his eyes skyward at the strain of hopeful delight in this question and turned towards Echarion.<BR>"No, my Lord. We are merely missing our cook."<BR><BR>"I don't suppose that might be her?" Elaine asked. The small figure was now trying to coax a couple of ponies over to the party with what looked like radishes.<BR>"I believe it is."<BR>Mucca dismounted and exchanged a few words with the girl, the Lord Echarion trying to interrupt with a few commands of his own.<BR><BR>When Elaine was riding alongside Mucca once more she leaned in close to him and whispered, so that none might hear,<BR>"What exactly <i>is</i> our cook?"<BR><BR>Elaine hated it when Mucca looked at her like she'd spent her entire life locked in a cupboard.<BR><BR>"She is a halfling, from the Shire, m'lady."<BR><BR>Elaine wondered if this was supposed to mean something to her.<BR><BR>She tried to distract herself in the scenery, but it did not change rapidly enough to hold her attention for long and she was soon shooting glances at the strangers out of the corner of her eye, taking note of their various attires and statures. One of the scholars was certainly not unpleasant to look at, and she watched as he absently scratched his nose, trying to remember who he had introduced himself as.
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Postby undomiel » Tue Aug 12, 2003 12:15 pm

Dolezal was trying his hardest to hide his embarassment. It was his pride that had gotten him into trouble again. Not arrogance like Domurad, but pride in his heritage. He had the blood of Numenor in his veins, and there was a certain feeling of dignity that went along with that knowledge. <BR><BR>"Do you ride?" one of the mercenaries had asked him as they prepared to leave. <BR><BR>"I'm a Numenorean," he had replied, "Do you even need to ask?" <BR><BR>The mercenary had chuckled as he handed Dolezal the rein of what the scholar was now sure must be the most evil tempered mare in the whole of Gondor. The truth was he had never ridden a day in his life, in spite of his father's best efforts. His father had been a valiant man, one of the northern Dunedain and had ridden with Halbarad. Despite his best attempts to encourage Dolezal to follow the same course, the young man had always found his solace in paper and books. He had come to Gondor at the young age of 13 to study as an apprentice to one of the great Masters, and his father's hopes had dies there. Lore had always been one of the areas Dolezal was most interested in and he loved to boast that he had once met the great Gandalf while he studied in the Libraries of Gondor. Dolezal had not even been outside the city since his arrival so many years ago. <BR><BR>He winced as they trotted out of the square. There was no way to disguise his lack of horsemanship as he bounced up and down on the horse's back. The lady who rode with the Southron leader glanced back at him and smiled. Dolezal's face turned red but he held his head high and hoped she wouldn't notice. He did not look forward to the sore muscles he would have the next day.
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Postby Muccamukk » Tue Aug 19, 2003 12:33 am

Daerín watched the whirl of action, wide-eyed. All of a sudden, everyone had started to move and talk at once. He thought that the mercenaries knew what was going on at least, but he couldn’t be sure. If they did, they were the only ones. He jumped back as the Dunlander near ploughed him over. Between barked orders, the big man grumbled darkly about the difference between nursemaids and soldiers. He hadn’t even seemed to notice the boy, whose head didn’t reach his waist. Daerín shuffled to the wall pulling his and Domurad’s bags with him. From then on, he did his best to stay out of the way.<BR><BR>He saw that all the scholars had already mounted. The mercenaries had herded them all out of the square, while they managed the last of the baggage. Daerín felt panic rising in his throat. What would he tell Master Altar if they forgot him? What would Master Domurad do without an apprentice? Perhaps they meant for him to walk. He wondered if he would be able to run after them and carry all the bags at the same time. He decided that he would have to try.<BR><BR>But as he moved the gather the luggage, strong hands scooped it up. “I’ll have those, lad,” said a cheerful voice. Daerín looked up to see a redheaded mercenary grinning at him.<BR><BR><i>“Mercenaries… You are to neither speak with them nor go near them, understand?”</i><BR><BR>Well he couldn’t avoid it now. Besides, this might well be his one chance of getting a horse. He said the first thing that came to mind, “You can’t take them.”<BR><BR>The man almost dropped his burden. “What?”<BR><BR>Daerín decided that he should probably clarify that. “Without me,” he added hastily. “You can’t take them without me. I need to stay with them. My master said.”<BR><BR>The mercenary shrugged, “Fine, lad,” he said, “If that’s what you want.”<BR><BR> * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * <BR><BR>Mucca rode next to his Lady as they passed out of the Minas Tirith. Pelennor stretched to before them and to the East. It still wanted for a little care. Not all the fields had been ploughed, nor houses rebuilt. What the land really needed was more hands to work it. They took time to grow. He suspect that in another ten years, no one would be able to tell the greatest battle of an age had taken place there.<BR><BR>Led by the Lord Echarion, or rather his servant Mattias, the company turned east, making its way around the City. Looking back, Mucca he could see a company of Dwarves, high amidst the scaffolding. They too worked for the King, making his City invulnerable once more. Even in shadow, the Mithril Gate gleamed.<BR><BR>He smiled and took Elaine’s hand for a moment. “‘Tis a fair day My Lady,” he said, “Even if we made a slow start in it.” He glanced behind him. The line of travelers seemed to have stayed in order. The scribes and lords rode in front with their servants, save Mattias, behind. The packhorses trailed after. Mucca had set his own people on all sides, sending Kepson ahead to scout out the root. He did not expect trouble, but that was no excuse to become lax. He saw his second near the back of the line. Letting go of Elaine’s hand, he said, “I must speak with your cousin, My Lady. I will return soon.”<BR><BR>He slowed his horse, allowing the company to pass him. As Halmund rode by, the Southron assigned him to keep an eye on Elaine. Then he scanned the line, everything seemed in order save…<BR><BR>“Marnor?” Mucca called, turning to his second. “What is that boy doing in the middle of the baggage train?”<BR><BR>The Dunlander glanced back, making sure they spoke of the same person. Seeing the small, blond head amidst the swaying piles of luggage, he grinned. “Riding,” he said then, after a moment’s observation, added, “He’s no good at it.”<BR><BR>“Neither is anyone else,” Mucca grumbled. It usually took his company six days to travel from the City to Morthond. At this rate, he reckoned the journey to be ten days at least. “Why isn’t he up here with his master?” he asked, returning his attention to the boy.<BR><BR> “Master told him to stay with his gear.” Marnor snorted. “He doubtless thinks that we’ll try to steal it.”<BR><BR>The Southron couldn’t help but to sigh. He liked Scholar Domurad less by the minute. “Marnor,” he said seriously, keeping his voice low, “Make sure the men understand to be careful. If anything goes wrong, we will probably take the blame. I want them to stay away from the others as much as they can. Their grasp etiquette leaves something to be desired. It’s best just to keep their distance. And tell them to keep a sharp eye on everyone, and on the bags. If an order doesn’t come from me, it’s not an order.”<BR><BR>His lieutenant nodded. He knew what this contract meant to the company. “Trust no one?” he asked.<BR><BR> Mucca shook his head, “Trust yourselves, trust each other and trust me. Anyone else may be the enemy.”<BR><BR>* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * <BR><BR>From alleyway to dark corner, dark corner to slum, the word had gone out out. In the Valley of Morthond, a killer was needed.<BR><BR>They wanted only the best, someone subtle, someone with experience and skill. The assassin could expect a fee that he would find more than generous, but a still higher cost should he fail.<BR><BR>Come alone. Come armed. Dress inconspicuously. Meet an agent in the Faithful Bride tavern in Murkwater in ten days time.
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Postby undomiel » Tue Aug 26, 2003 7:17 am

"Stop!" Domurad cried out as they rode through the countryside of Gondor. The train came to a sudden and messy halt. Domruad dismounted and headed back to where Daerin guarded his valuable supplies. "Stop daydreaming, you worthless boy. There's work to be done." The young apprentice scrmabled down from amid the baggage and Domurad put him to work assembling the many parts of Domurad's portable work station, specially designed for this journey. "Don't just sit there gauking," Domurad yelled at Cirion. "Get down here and be ready for dictation." Cirion, responding to the air of command in the Scholar's voice, immediately complied.<BR><BR>"What do you think you are doing?" <BR><BR>Domurad looked up to see the leader of the Mercenaries glaring down at him from his horse. Lord Echarion was next to him looking a bit confused and Mattias watched in amusement behind his Lord's back. Domurad assumed his most self-important attitude and answered the question. "I'm preparing to survey the surrounding area and make accurate records, as I was assigned to this party to do."<BR><BR>The southron looked like he was nearly beside himself with frustration. "Who gave you these instructions??" he demanded.<BR><BR>"I do not take orders from you," Domurad responded. "You are merely here to serve as my protection." He looked pointedly at Echarion. "Tell him."<BR><BR>"Well, um, you see... uh..." Echarion stammered looking back and forth between the southron and the scholar. He obviously didn't know what to say. Domurad began tapping his foot, waiting for the unquestion support of their leader. Echarion fell silent and looked down. <BR><BR>"Pack up your things," the southron ordered.<BR><BR>"I will not," Domurad insisted. <BR><BR>Dolezal watched the faces of the mercenaries as they gradually became more angered. He knew Domurad and knew that he would not give in. He also knew that Domurad was fool enough to get them all killed over this. He began to pray.
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Postby undomiel » Tue Aug 26, 2003 7:17 am

"Stop!" Domurad cried out as they rode through the countryside of Gondor. The train came to a sudden and messy halt. Domruad dismounted and headed back to where Daerin guarded his valuable supplies. "Stop daydreaming, you worthless boy. There's work to be done." The young apprentice scrmabled down from amid the baggage and Domurad put him to work assembling the many parts of Domurad's portable work station, specially designed for this journey. "Don't just sit there gauking," Domurad yelled at Cirion. "Get down here and be ready for dictation." Cirion, responding to the air of command in the Scholar's voice, immediately complied.<BR><BR>"What do you think you are doing?" <BR><BR>Domurad looked up to see the leader of the Mercenaries glaring down at him from his horse. Lord Echarion was next to him looking a bit confused and Mattias watched in amusement behind his Lord's back. Domurad assumed his most self-important attitude and answered the question. "I'm preparing to survey the surrounding area and make accurate records, as I was assigned to this party to do."<BR><BR>The southron looked like he was nearly beside himself with frustration. "Who gave you these instructions??" he demanded.<BR><BR>"I do not take orders from you," Domurad responded. "You are merely here to serve as my protection." He looked pointedly at Echarion. "Tell him."<BR><BR>"Well, um, you see... uh..." Echarion stammered looking back and forth between the southron and the scholar. He obviously didn't know what to say. Domurad began tapping his foot, waiting for the unquestion support of their leader. Echarion fell silent and looked down. <BR><BR>"Pack up your things," the southron ordered.<BR><BR>"I will not," Domurad insisted. <BR><BR>Dolezal watched the faces of the mercenaries as they gradually became more angered. He knew Domurad and knew that he would not give in. He also knew that Domurad was fool enough to get them all killed over this. He began to pray.
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Postby Nessamelda » Tue Aug 26, 2003 4:27 pm

Cirion had been daydreaming and only became aware rather late that the column had stopped and that Domurad had ordered him down from his horse. Almost without thinking he obeyed the command and found himself in the middle of a rather angry knot of mercenaries. He too closed his eyes and prayed to whichever of the Valar looked after thick headed fools to endow Domurad with some commonsense. Cirion might be rather woolly headed as a scribe, but he had had enough experience with the temper of fighting men in his months on the walls of Minas Tirith defending the city to know that this could lead to trouble. <BR><BR>"Master Domurad" he ventured, politely and with little hope of being listened too, "As it is still some time until we get to our final destination, would it not be more practical for us to keep a running tally of the things that we see as we travel, and then do a final recording of them after we make camp for the night?" <BR><BR>Domurad glared at him. Cirion appealed mutely to Dolezal for support, and continued, with a litttle apologetic bow. If he could draw Domurad's anger from the mercenaries to him (he was used enough to being yelled at and brow beaten) then perhaps Domurad would vent his aggression less on the mercenaries. "You know sir, that I am but a poor scribe, sent on this journey more as punishment than reward. I fear that I would not be able to record your no doubt perspicacious observations with the clarity and neatness that they deserve if done in this makeshift fashion. However if we wait until camp this evening, I will be able to give them all the attention and concentration that they deserve and do a far better job." He bowed again and waited for the coming storm to descend upon his head.<BR><BR>
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Postby Arwen_Sol » Wed Aug 27, 2003 3:39 pm

“ ‘<i>Of course</i>,’ he says! ‘<i>You can have this mount</i>,’ he says! Well I don’t suppose the fool has noticed that the animal is nigh twice as big as me! And that pompous lordling, what does he think of himself? ‘<i>Refined palate</i>,’ hmph! I’ll give him a refined palate all right!!! Just you wait... grrr...” <BR><BR>Unnoticed by the rest of the party and grumbling over the indignity of it all, Fern concentrated on staying atop her precarious perch. She’d been practically pitched in the saddle by that... that man! Then there’d been that snooty lady of his… staring at Fern as if she were some kind of foreign creature. Unable to march up the line and give the lady a piece of her mind, Fern had settled for sticking her tongue out at the wench. Unfortunately, the lady had by then turned her back on the little creature so missed Fern’s little act of defiance. <BR><BR>They’d been on the road for… who knew how long! Fern couldn’t care less; her mind was on other things--- mostly the jarring pain in her rump every time the beast took a step. Trying to find a comfortable spot on the hard leather saddle, Fern didn’t notice that the party had stopped until she was almost thrown from her seat as the horse came to an automatic and rather abrupt halt. <BR><BR>The gray gelding whickered in agitation as the hobbit scrambled back to her seat, spitting out horse hairs along with some imaginatively colorful curses. What was the hold up! She watched as the line reluctantly parted, letting through a short, balding man. Said person walked up pinch-lipped and began barking orders at a tow-headed boy, who was weighed down with enough baggage for ten times as many people. <BR><BR>Feeling a small twinge of pity for the boy, who’s face had turned red either from his exertions of from embarrassment, Fern began to clamber down to lend him a hand. Her gaze still directed at the boy, the hobbit-lass watched as his eyes were suddenly redirected... the boy seemed to sigh with relief and admiration at the sudden appearance of the Southron. <BR><BR>However, said appearance had cured her of any sympathetic feelings and she sat back down hard enough to make her mount sidestep nervously. The mercenary and the scholar faced off nose to nose... or rather nose to chest, as the warrior was significantly taller than the portly academic. And as the rest of the mercenaries began to loom around their leader, Fern couldn’t contain her glee, perhaps a fracas would break out and the mercenaries would be forced to tie and gag the pretentious scholar-person. Then they could finally get this show on the road... <BR><BR>Again.
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Postby Muccamukk » Mon Sep 01, 2003 10:23 pm

Mucca knew he should not have lost his temper. He should not have let this… this… person drive him over the edge so easily. They had trained him better than that, or they should have at least. He realized that he had spent too much time away from nobility. He had clearly grown accustomed to people possessing some small measure of good sense and manners.<BR><BR>As the junior scribe tried to appease his superior, the Southron turned away. He closed his eyes and counted slowly to ten, listening to the beat of his heart. When he finished, he repeated the process in Weston and the Eastern Traders tongue. His nerves calmed somewhat, he opened his eyes.<BR><BR>His company had started to gather around, looking concerned. He noted that their protective circle included Elaine, who had dismounted. His Lady looked as though she felt caught between embracing her knight and murdering the scholar. Mucca offered her a weak smile, before turning to Marnor.<BR><BR>“Ralhan,” he said softly but firmly. Though none of his Dragons spoke the language of Esht, they had all learned battle commands in it. They grudgingly took up their former positions, changed slightly as they no longer travelled.<BR><BR>As the Dunlander passed, he grinned and muttered, “I’m glad I’m not the Captain.”<BR><BR>The Captain grimaced and stepped back into battle. Domurad was in the midst of upbraiding his unfortunate flunky. Mucca didn’t really listen, but the major themes seemed to centre on presumption, ignorance and disrespect.<BR><BR>Mucca waited until the scholar paused for a breath, longer than one might think, before speaking. “We are wasting time,” he said, this time managing to keep his voice almost level, if clipped. “This land has already been covered. Our only duty is in Morthond.”<BR><BR>Domurad’s face, which was already red, turned purple. “And what would <i>you</i> know of such matters?” he demanded, his voice rising half an octave. “What could a rude Southron barbarian possibly know or the Kings work?”<BR><BR><i>Probably more than you,</i> Mucca thought, but kept his peace. He also felt strongly tempted to inquire after his what the old witling meant by ‘barbarian,’ but there was the matter of time. Comparing lineages with idiots was never anything but a waste of it. So he stayed to something simple and easy to understand. “This is the second survey, and the King has more planned.” He kept his tone low and as cold as the Ice Bay of Forochel. He drew himself up, all five and a half feet of him, and did his best to look imposing. “The others are larger and will cover more area.” <i>And hopefully better organized,</i> he added silently. “One will cover the Field of the Pelennor and the Anórien as far as the border of Rohan. Another will soon depart to the regions Lebennin, Belfalas, Lamdon and Ânfâlâs.” He did not mention that the reason the latter group could not cover Morthond itself, was that King could not spare those lords and scholars for more than a few months. He would need them back in the City for the Trade meetings with the Southrons. Mucca doubted that telling Domurad exactly where he was in the social order would help.<BR><BR>“But…” the scholar started. Mucca cleared his throat; a hand casually rubbed his neck near the hilt of his sword. The older man got the point and shut up, long enough for the merc to finish at least.<BR><BR>“My mercenaries also bid on the other contracts. We lost all but this one to Lord Faragon’s Silver Harts.” <i>Again,</i> “This company was no more my choice than I was yours. But for both our good, I suggest we do our best to get along.”
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Postby Elaine_of_Astolat » Wed Sep 03, 2003 3:02 am

Elaine tried, rather unsuccessfully, to refrain from watching Mucca's movements as he skillfully directed his horse around the party. She smiled quietly to herself, her eyes shining with delight to watch the sun rippling across his dark hair as he talked to Marnor.<BR><BR><i>She was really here!</i><BR>Elaine remembered mornings that dawned somberly without Mucca's presence and the knowledge that duty called him to places where she could not accompany him.<BR><i>This was not one of those days.</i><BR><BR>"Stop!"<BR>The shorter of the leading scholars with a disproportionate sense of social order and his own place in it disrupted the paths upon which Elaine's mind was happily wandering.<BR><BR>"Pack up your things."<BR>She had never heard Mucca speak nor look so sternly, but the blunt comments - <i>such arrogance!</i> - of the scholar did not earn him any favours from either Elaine or the other mercenaries, who dismounted and flanked around Mucca.<BR><BR>Mucca said something Elaine did not understand, but which caused the Black Dragons to disband their circle of support, frowns upon their faces.<BR>Elaine stayed where she was. Took a step closer to Mucca's side.<BR><BR>“What could a rude Southron barbarian possibly know of the Kings work?”<BR>Elaine lunged for the scholar.<BR><BR>But somehow as she lunged she was also turned so that she was no longer facing the right way. Someone with enough experience to know when trouble was about to strike gripped her arm.<BR>It was probably just as well that that someone was Marnor so that with very little effort he had spun Elaine around and, for all intents and purposes, appeared to merely be directing her away from the fray.<BR><BR>Perhaps it wasn't the best of ideas for Elaine to attack someone that Mucca was supposed to be protecting, which is why neither Elaine nor Marnor said anything as they returned to their mounts.<BR><BR>Elaine still thought he would have deserved it, though.<BR><BR><BR>When Mucca had managed to get the entire party moving again Elaine brought her mare close up beside Mucca's steed. She took his hand in hers, and caressed the rough skin gently with her thumb.<BR>Careful to make sure she had a good grip on her horses tack with her free hand, as soon as she was sure that the offending scholar was watching Elaine leaned over and kissed Mucca on the cheek.<BR><BR>If any of the mercenaries dared chuckle Marnor soon silenced them.<BR><BR>"I'm very proud of you," she whispered in his ear. He had managed to do what she had not, he had maintained his composure like a true knight and a true gentleman.<BR>Elaine defied anyone who tried to condemn him as being anything less for his ethnicity or his occupation.<BR><BR><BR><i>In the West the sun began to stretch its arms out, like a child defying its bedtime. The horses seemed to step a little slower in anticipation of being released of their burdens and given the chance to graze. Daerín fidgeted in his seat, wanting to give his tired buttocks a rest and his empty stomach a feed. He was careful to keep his mouth shut, however, lest he was forced to share accommodation with the mercenaries as punishment for complaining.</i>
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Postby Elmtree » Thu Sep 04, 2003 10:56 am

Echarion had listened to the dispute, trying frantically to figure out how to approach this. He really wasn’t quite sure what they were supposed to be recording.<BR><BR>Of all the persons in the party, it appeared to him that the Southron leader had the best idea of what they were doing, although he had developed a blend of respect and empathetic pity for Cirion during the short time they’d journeyed. Echarion glanced at Mattias, who gave a very slight nod in the direction of the Southron.<BR><BR>Echarion cleared his throat authoritatively. No one seemed to notice.<BR><BR>He strode forward, and faced Domurad. "Enough of this!" he said rather sharply. Quickly he changed his demeanor, working in what he thought might be the "friendly, affable comrade" approach he’d seen his father use at times. "Now, now." He said. "Let’s all get along. " He smiled ingratiatingly. "We all have a job to do. Our only duty is in Morthond. Let’s work on getting there, not take notes of every rock and shrub between Minas Tirith and Morthond!" That sounded good. And he added a little laugh at the end to show his good humor.<BR><BR>Mattias was coughing into a handkerchief. Echarion glanced over, making sure it was not a signal of some sort. No, it was just one of those asthma attacks Mattias was prone to when they traveled together. Echarion hoped Mattias was well enough to make the journey. His eyes were watering from the effort of keeping his cough restrained.<BR><BR>As Echarion mounted, he turned to Mattias. "Are you quite well?"<BR><BR>"Yes, M’Lord. Thank you for your concern," Mattias replied, brushing away a residual tear and glancing over at the dumbfounded scribes.<BR>
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