Tribulation

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

Tribulation

Postby strider- » Sun Apr 24, 2005 2:22 pm

(ooc: Greetings friends, this story began at The Prancing Pony but since we didn't want to take over the Inn...here we are. I have pasted relevant story posts, hope that's ok. We follow basic RP rules here but we follow them strictly. Interaction of characters ok - but don't hijack them, or have them do something out of character. Write characters relevant to the story at hand, and let's try and keep the magic babies, lizard men and werewolves to a dull roar now shall we? ;) )
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strider-
The riders hand, black with dirt and blood reached for the door of the Prancing Pony. Gasping for air, barely able to stand, the dark cloaked figure shoved against the door with what little strength remained and pushed upon it.

The door opened into a room warmly lit by fire, laughter and flickering candlelight. The humming of conversation and clinking glasses stopped abruptly as the figure fell through the door to the floor of the Inn.

Hunter rushed to the door, irritated, she had had just about had enough of rowdy patrons; especially at such a late hour. ”Come now, it seems as you need a bit of coffee more than ale, get up and we’ll see to you.” she said.

The figure on the floor made no sound, save labored breathing, in reply. Hunter lightly tapped the figure on the shoulder with her foot. Nothing. Just then Freahelm walked back into the Inn from putting Blanca in for the night.

”What’s this?” he asked lightly.

”I’m not, sure, they just sort of fell into the door. Too much ale?” she said, quickly beginning to realize it was something more.

Freahelm knelt down and rolled the figure over, and immediately noticed the mark on what was left of the breastplate; it was of that of the kingdom of Arthedain. He quickly pulled back the hooded cloak revealing the face of a woman, stained with dirt and blood. She managed to open her eyes, for a moment, she tried to speak, but no words could get past her labored breathing before darkness took her. Freahelm’s face lost all colour, there was no mistaking those eyes.

Hunter turned to Freahelm, realizing this person was closer to death than drunk, said ”Do you know this woman?”

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Freahelm
Freahelm looked at Hunter, and then back down at the prostrate figure on the floor, completely astonished by her sudden appearance and condition.

"Yes. Her name is Jaxon and she is from the old kingdom of Arthedain." He made a slight motion with his hand toward emblem, nearly hidden under layers of blood and grime.

"She needs aid, badly," he continued. "We must stop the bleeding while someone fetches a leech. I fear for her life." His brow was bent in worry as he began to undo the clasp on the breastplate, dreading what wound he might find underneath the broken and rent armour.

From seemingly nowhere, Belle was at their side with a bowl of warm water and towels for swabbing away the dried blood. "Willem has gone to fetch the doctor," she said, as she wrung out the first towel and began to wipe the caked grime from Jaxon's face, revealing her deathly pallor.

Hunter had begun checking Jaxon for serious wounds, and Freahelm became suddenly wary. It was impossible to know how far Jaxon had come, but it could not have been many miles. It was likely that her attackers were already dead upon the highway, for Jaxon was no easy target for brigands and thugs. But if it was something more...

Freahelm knew Hunter's own experience in salving wounds far surpassed his own, so he rose and ran outside. "I must check outside," he said hastily as he went, half to himself, and half to Hunter. She nodded quickly, and continued to gently probe for wounds. His hand rested unthinkingly on the hilt of his sword as he rushed out and began to dart glances up and down the street. Jaxon had staggered into the Pony on foot...where was her horse, Bydand? In the growing darkness, the tracks were difficult to make out. Nevertheless, bent almost double, he began running backwards along her tracks, more able to follow the dark drops of blood than her actual footprints.

As the dusk grew deeper, the moon began to rise, large and yellow on the horizon, like a great wheel of cheese, and a dark cloud scudded across its surface. What strange chance had brought them all together in Bree that night, none could say.

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strider-
Jaxon could hear distant voices, as if they came from down a long corridor. She drifted in and out of consciousness, unable to focus on where she was, unable to decipher that which was real from what was memory.

The journey back home had started simply enough. She had left Gondor in the fall, heading for Laketown. She sent a message to Rohan for Verran about her delay. She departed from friends outside of Laketown, and headed home to Arnor, hoping to meet up with him as agreed. They were to meet in Spring at Rivendell, but when Jaxon had arrived none there had seen him, and she grew worried. They had been apart for many years, and she knew Verran, finally free of his command since the King had returned to Gondor, would hold true to his promise to her as she would to him.

Suddenly a wave of pain returned to her and she stirred, ”where am I?” she asked, though no sound left her lips, she again washed in and out of consciousness, vaguely aware of familiar surroundings. “Bree” was all she could manage in her cluttered thoughts, through pain and weariness. Her eyes opened wearily and she saw a woman above her, ”Don’t try to speak.” she said. ”Rest still.” Jaxon closed tightly her tear filled eyes as the pain of recent memory flashed back to her and she whispered, ”Bydand.” and despair and darkness took hold again as she drifted back to her dreams.

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Tempest
Her horse was weary, even wearier than she, and Akara wondered if they would ever find rest. She had avoided most towns in fear, as if they would somehow know she did not belong. It had been many months since she last held a true conversation with another, and the loneliness consumed her. She had come this far seeking answers to questions for which she was afraid to ask. She was not accustomed to being afraid, for by nature she had a bolder temperament. But here, among unfamiliar faces and customs, she was not on firm ground.

She had just decided to stop at the next inn when her horse began to stamp nervously, its weary muscles tense and quivering. Somewhere, off to the right through the brush, another horse whinnied softly. Akara stiffened and instinctively drew her sword. She dismounted, speaking softly in her own horse’s ear before creeping forward in the direction of the sound.

In the light of the yellow moon, she saw two horses, one whose side seemed stained darkly. It lifted its head cautiously as she approached, and Akara noted that the blood that stained it was not its own.

”Shhh. Shhh,” she said soothingly as she stretched her hand out and stroked the creature’s nose. ’“Where is your rider?” Her alert eyes missed little, though the surrounding ground told her little of what had transpired. However, in the distance, she could see several dark forms lying on the side of the road. There was no movement, and she shivered slightly.

”Better move on—don’t get involved,” she told herself, though her curiosity called equally as strong. She stood very still for several moments, straining to hear the smallest sound.

No, there was no one left alive.

Quietly, against her better judgement, Akara approached the bodies, noting the signs of struggle. She knelt beside one of them, but she did not recognize the weapons or armor. She had little experience with the people of this region, and she sighed, pulling the hood of her cloak over her head. It was no use. There was nothing to learn and nothing left to do. She had already lingered too.

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Shadowfax
Years of being idle wore thin on Shadowfax. Leaving his home in Fornost he traveled south to learn news of the world and he would find that much had changed. All roads lead to Bree it was said and the road he was on followed the rule.

Just outside the town he encountered an unusual site in this part of the world. Bodies lay strewn about the road. The hour was late and the moon had risen casting an eerie light on their faces, he now wished he had camped for the night hours ago. He loosened his broad sword from its sheath and silently slide from his mount. Cautiously he crept towards the bodies ready for any trick that highway robbers practiced on weary travelers.

They were stone dead and had been for many hours. A quick search of the bodies revealed nothing of interest at first, it seemed that Shadowfax was not the first to happen upon them. After some searching he found a small knife and took it, the likeness of a dragon was carved into its ivory hilt.

He remounted his horse and continued on his journey to Bree. He arrived late, much to late to get a room for the night. “Looks like we’ll be sharing a room tonight.” Traveler flicked his head in response and headed towards the barn.

The stables were quiet has he found an empty stall near the end of the structure. With bleary eyes he unsaddled Traveler and collapsed onto a nearby pile of hay. In the dim light of the barn his eyes focused on the horse in the stall across from his, it was familiar to him.
But his mind was groggy from the long journey and he gave it no more thought. His dreams were filled with faces and places from long ago. He slept deeply.

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Freahelm
It was about a mile out from Bree when Freahelm saw them. Several bodies, looking pale and cold in the moonlight. He slid his sword from its sheath and carefully crept up to each body, two fingers stretched out to press against the neck of each one, checking for a pulse. There was none.

The bodies were also obviously still where they had fallen, their limbs contorted freakishly in death. It was too dark for Freahelm to make out any more tracks, so he put his fingers to his mouth and gave one sharp, piercing whistle. He heard an answering whinny to the south, and a few minutes later Bydand and another horse trotted into view. With a few quick steps, Freahelm stepped up to Bydand, and had begun stroking the horse's neck and speaking quietly into its ear. After a few minutes, had began to lightly run his hands across Bydand's body, checking for injuries. He found none, only a dark patch of blood, dried and clotted in the hair and on the saddle.

Satisfied that Bydand was in good condition, he checked the other horse briefly, and rapidly concluded it must have been from the attackers. It had kept its distance at first, but soon warmed to his presence, and came near. Freahelm spoke quietly into its ear for several minutes, and then did the same once-over he had given Bydand. On the strange horse, however, he found a strange emblem on the saddle, though he could barely make it out in the moonlight - two dragons intertwined, locked in deadly combat. Freahelm whipped out his knife and cut away the stitching around the emblem, and tucked it into his belt. Then he mounted Bydand to ride back to Bree.

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Tempest
Akara had warily entered Bree, having at first decided against it, but then being forced by exhaustion to look for a place to rest. It was too late to lodge at an inn, but she knew she could find refuge in a stable, and at least that would be warm. In the moonlight she found an inn with a large stable attached, and a colorful sign that read "The Prancing Pony." It looked friendly enough, and there were a few empty stalls in the back, large enough for her horse and her to share. The smell of horses, sweet hay, and leather soothed her spirits. Once she was certain that her horse was comfortable, she settled down herself for what was left of the night.

She did not have long to rest, for she heard the creaking door of the stable open not half-an-hour after she laid down. Apparently, the same thought of seeking refuge in the stable had occured to another. Akara strained her eyes in the dim light to make out the form of a man and horse entering the stall next to hers. She could not see his face, but the image of the dead men she had encountered on her way here sprang to her mind and she wondered if this man was somehow involved. Why else would he be traveling so late at night?

"One might say the same about you,"
she quickly chided herself. The man was most likely harmless she mused, though she kept her sword within ready reach should he prove otherwise.

Of course, now she was wide awake, and even when she was certain that the man beside her had fallen asleep by his deep and even breathing, she remained tense and waiting for what she did not know. Only once did she get the nerve up to stick her head around the corner of his stall and take a look at him, just to see if he bore any resemblance to the men killed on the road.

He did not, and she sighed. Morning could not come fast enough.

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strider-
Rivendell. Images of what remained of the fair folk in Rivendell swept in and out of her thoughts. Why had she gone there? Yes…yes…Verran. She was to meet him there, and from there they would head back to…Fornost, the tower of an old friend. One whom she had not seen in what seemed like an age. But Verran…wasn’t there; none had seen the handsome Captain of Arnor in some years. What could have kept him…her thoughts drifted from her dreams as she weaved back into consciousness again.

”Has Willem returned with the doctor yet?” asked a soft voice. Jaxon’s eyes tried to focus on the images and the room around her. Bree, yes…The Prancing Pony. She knew where she was and breathed deeply, and was quickly reminded of the pain from gaping wound in her side. The numbness of her body was beginning to slowly release the reality of her encounter on the road.

”No, no sign of the doctor yet.” answered another comforting, but unfamiliar voice.

”What is taking so long?" asked Hunter as she looked down at Jaxon whose eyes met her own. Hunter could see the woman lying before her was running out of time.

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Hunter
It was hard to discern the original color of the shirt the woman wore, so soaked with blood was it. Lifting a worried face to Belle, Hunter said gravely, “The wound is deep, and she’s lost a lot of blood. Help me. We’ll put her on that table over by the fire.”

As Hunter started to reach for the woman’s legs, someone knelt next to her; it was Englethorne. “Let me help,” he told her, then glanced up at Belle. “I’ll lift her shoulders; you and your mistress take her legs.”

Carefully the trio lifted Jaxon and carried her to a table near the fire. Englethorne stepped back when Belle returned a moment later with the basin of water. Wetting a clean towel, she held it over the wound slowly squeezing water over the area to wet the fabric as Hunter cautiously pulled the cloth away. Jaxon moaned softly and instinctively moved to shield her injured side she weaved back into consciousness again. “Has Willem returned with the doctor yet?”

“No, no sign of the doctor yet,” Englethorne replied stepping closer. Laying a firm, yet gentle hand on Jaxon’s arm to restrain her movements, his brow furrowed as the wound was revealed. It was almost the breath of Hunter’s small hand as she pulled away the remains of the cloth sticking to the sides. It was a clean wound with no jagged edges. "It looks like a stab wound, something short bladed..."

“Aye, it seems that way.”
With tender care Hunter examined the wound, carefully pulling back the edges and pulling out small pieces of thread that had become embedded in the wound. The woman stirred again and her eyelids fluttered open.

“What is taking so long?” Hunter muttered as she looked down at Jaxon then changed the tone to a more reassuring one as the woman’s eyes met her own. “Lie still now, you’re in safe hands.” To Belle said added in a low voice, “Get my sewing basket there by the fire, then run to the stables and fetch a few strands of hair from one of the horse’s tails. Hurry now. Englethorne, fetch a bottle of brandy and a glass from behind the bar.”

Forgotten in the commotion, Ol’Thom sat for a moment, quietly grumbling to himself about how, just as his luck was starting to change, the dice game had been interrupted. “’Tis a curse, to be sure,” he muttered glaring in Belle’s direction as she rushed from the room.

“Verran…”

“Shh, don’t try to talk, save your strength,” Hunter told Jaxon quietly. “I’m going to stitch up your side. The wound is a clean one, but deep. First I need to staunch the blood flow and clean it up a bit.” Englethorne arrived and was pouring a good measure of brandy into a glass. “This will help dull the pain. Englethorne, hold her head up so she might drink easier.”

As Englethorne held the glass next to Jaxon’s lips, Hunter took the bottle from him and slowly poured a small amount of the amber liquid over the wound.

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Shadowfax
The creaking of the barn door woke Shadowfax from his slumber. Slowly he crept to the edge of the stall and peered into the gloom. He saw a figure heading towards a neighboring stall and enter, moments later the person exited. The dark figure headed towards the Inn again. “Hail there.” He called out. The figure spun around in surprise, “Only thieves and cut throats are about in these hours. Which are you?”

The startled figure paused for moment then a female voice answered, “Neither. But I do not have time to wonder about you!” Shadowfax stepped a little closer, “I have a badly wounded customer inside that needs aid. Unless you are a healer it would but best not to hinder me!” with that she spun on her heels towards the Inn.

“I………..huh………well….” stammered Shadowfax. This was not result he expected. He stood there for a moment in thought. He was not a healer, but he did have something that might help. The women obviously worked at the Inn and it might prove useful to help out if he could after helping himself to the Inn’s barn.

With his sword at his side he walked briskly after the woman. Ahead he saw her enter the Inn through a side door, he followed but kept his distance. He passed through the door and could hear voices speaking in soft tones. Slowly he made his way forward and what he saw stole his breath!

There on a table lay an old comrade in arms! Jaxon! Lion of the North! Surrounding Jaxon were several people, one of which he knew well! “Hunter!" he cried, “Hunter! Long has it been!” He was filled with joy at the site of her and also dread as he saw more of the wound Jaxon had sustained!

He rushed forward to aid his friend of old, in his hand was a flask with a dark Elven liquid.

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Tempest
Akara had nearly jumped out of her skin when Belle had hurriedly entered the stable, and it took all her control not to leap up and draw her sword in fear. Apparently, Belle’s entrance disturbed the man resting beside her as well, for she heard him get up and follow the woman out. She could hear low voices talking outside, but she could not make out their words. At least the man did not return, but entered the inn with Belle. Akara waited for a few minutes before deciding to go slip into the next stall and see if the man had left anything behind. She had never considered herself a thief or snoop, but her distrust and survival instinct often pushed her towards actions she would otherwise have refused to do out of a sense of moral integrity in her formal life.

The man had little, but she did find an emblem among his things—an emblem she remembered from the corpses on the side of the road. She touched the fabric thoughtfully. Had he taken it as a trophy? Or perhaps was he just another curious traveler like herself?

Where she had come from, she had seen emblems like this representing different clans. But this one was more elaborate and precise—not like the crudely made tribal symbols of the East. She cringed slightly at the sudden memory and rush of pain that it brought. It was strange, for she never had been accepted among those of her clan, yet she felt more out of place here among those whose heritage resembled her own. Her mother’s death was still fresh in her mind and caused a rush of angry tears. The stinging words of the clan leader still haunted her, as well as the eyes of the people—people she had lived with all her life! And yet, she had always known that she did not belong to the Easterlings, that she was alone among the savage clans, whose dark hair matched their black hearts.

But, she was young, still a child in many ways, and to be abandoned, to be shut out of all she knew…it was bitter indeed and hard to bear.

She pressed her face against the side of her horse and wept.

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strider
She could feel a dark presence surrounding her, a low gravelly voice calling her name. ”I defeated you.” she answered. ”Do you think that was all there was? You took from me what was most sacred, and now I have taken from you Dragon Slayer.”

The darkness of her dreams continued and she walked out of the cave onto a green hill, an old castle lay across the rolling green field before her. She allowed a smile to cross her face, ”Home.” she said, but as she approached, her smile faded as the castle was now in ruins, and blood soaked the drawbridge that lay open before her. Her eyes were drawn upwards, as she looked over the open gate of the palace Maranduin. There was the body of the great Captain of Arnor, Verran, arms bound tightly in chains, and spread across the opening of the palace gate in a macabre greeting. His head was tilted down and resting on his chest. His blood dripped onto the empty courtyard below him. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly, willing herself into consciousness, willing the sight before her away.

She drifted back to the Prancing Pony and looked at the figure now leaning above her. Her brow furrowed, she knew this face. Rugged and kind, familiar and safe. She stared at the man above her. ”You could have found an easier way to get my attention.” the voice said, trying to be light, but strained with worry. Jaxon stared at the man and as she searched her memory she reached out and grabbed his wrist, she gasped to speak, barely able to form her thoughts into words, she whispered through gritted teeth ”Let me die.”

_____________________

Galhadrim
Galhadrim the Elf Raised hurried down the dirty, cobbled streets of Bree. He stepped across puddles of black water and dodged the occasional drunkard. While adjusting the bag slung around his shoulder, he tried to keep up with the shadow that led him onward and called out, "Willem, now what more can you tell me?"

"Just that there's a lot of blood, sir, and I'm supposed to collect you in a hurry."

"Yes, you said that already. I meant about the patient."

Willem did not look back and he drew a few stares from a gathering of old men out for a plug of ol' Tobey. "A woman dressed darkly. She's been in a bit of a row, sir."

Galhadrim concerned himself with keeping up the pace. He would be able to make a diagnosis soon enough.

They turned the corner that led to the Prancing Pony and Willem burst in ahead of him shouting 'he's here, he's here!'

The doctor unslung his bag and stepped into the warm light of the tavern to see a small crowd huddled around a mess of a human figure. He looked down at his patient just as she grabbed a fellow with sudden ferocity and growled, "Let me die!"

Galhadrim stopped suddenly. " 'Ere now. What's all this then?"

_____________________________

Freahelm

Freahelm rode into Bree, and the town was no more silent than usual. Under normal circumstances, Freahelm might have breathed deeply, and absorbed the atmosphere as a thing to be treasured, something far removed from constant clash of battle, something more innocent and peaceful.

But the night could in wise be called 'normal.' Under the pale light of the moon, every dark window seemed to hold secretly watching eyes. The calls of drunkards down the street seemed to disguise more sinister, quiet sounds that carried the threat of violence. The clop of Bydand's hooves seemed to rebound violently back from the stone walls of the houses.

As he entered the stables, he noticed a pair of new horses - horses that were not there when he left. Innocent travellers, or other of the party that attacked Jaxon? Freahelm was disinclined to think the latter - would they have knowingly left her alive? Besides, he had passed at least two travellers on the road. He hid himself from both out of caution, though one had seemed vaguely familiar. Still, his senses were highly strung at the moment, and he couldn't shake the thought of an attacker waiting in the dark out of his mind. As he stopped and listened, he could hear the breathing of another person: not the damp, heavy breathing of the horses, but almost inaudible, every few moments he could catch wind of a light, quick breath, drawn through the mouth, as though the nose was stopped up. The quick panting of a young Bree girl, most likely, seeking a quiet place to cry after some sort of unfeeling treatment from her father.

Putting it out of his mind, Freahelm hastily unsaddled Bydand and found water and a feed bag. He would care fully for the horse in the morning, but for now he was still anxious about Jaxon. As he turned to go, he thought he heard a stir of movement in one of the stalls. He turned and probed the dark corners of the stable with his eyes, a hand on his sword hilt. He couldn't ignore the presence, though he suspected no malice.

"Show yourself," he said quietly. "Be ye friend or foe?"

_____________________________

Tempest
This must be the busiest stable in all the world, Akara thought angrily, and she had to pick this night of all nights to stop in it. Did this town even sleep at all? She was beginning to wonder. Through narrowed eyes she tried to make out the man who had entered, but she could not see clearly, for the moon was bright across the speaker’s back, casting a shadow over his face and making it impossible to discern his features.

"Show yourself," Freahelm had said quietly. "Be ye friend or foe?"

Better safe than dead, she had always believed. It was best to be careful. ”That depends,” she answered him in an even tone, ”On whether or not you remove your hand from your sword and go back the way you came.”

”If you be honest, you have nothing to fear from me,” the man said slowly.

”Nothing to fear? I think there is much to fear tonight. Or did you not notice the bodies that littered the road on your way in?” she replied, and noted that he had not removed his hand from his sword hilt. She drew her own sword, but realized her error immediately because the ringing metal sound was unmistakable, and sent the man into a defensive and more menacing stance.

Apparently he had taken her comment as an admission of guilt.

Akara gritted her teeth, remembering how her mother had always scolded her for her sharp, quick tongue. Yet again, she had spoken before weighing the consequences and assessment of her situation. The man was blocking the door. The only door. There was no other exit to the building, at least not one that she could see from her position. He seemed to be alone, though if he were a true warrior, she could not expect to defeat him. He was obviously bigger and stronger than she, and her speed and agility were the only advantages. Her only real hope was that he would run outside and call for help, and she could escape on horseback.

But he was not such a man. He seemed thoroughly content to remain where he was and wait for her to move first. Since she had gone this far, she saw no other alternative. She would bluff, and perhaps he would leave. If not, she would have to fight and hope that Ztula’s training served her well.

She did not lower her sword, but she stepped gingerly out of the stall so that she was facing the man.

___________________________


Shadowfax
”Let me die.”………the words struck Shadowfax like a thunder bolt! “Nay, you’re badly hurt but you still have strength to pull through this.” He soothed. At that moment another man entered the Inn, " 'Ere now. What's all this then?" The man turned out to be an Elf, this eased Shadowfax’s mind for Elves are renowned for their healing skills.

“She was attacked,” added Hunter, “Her wound is deep and perhaps is beyond our help.” Jaxon's body tensed from the pain, “She hasn’t long if something is not done quickly.”

Shadowfax pulled the stopper from his flask with teeth and spit it to the floor, “There is a little bit left of this elixir, hopefully it will be enough.” Hunter cleansed the wound one last time before the healing potion was applied. Slowly Shadowfax poured its contents on the hideous wound. Again Jaxon tensed from pain at the fluid seeped into the wound, it’s magic began to work. A pale bluish little glowed around the wound and much of the redness faded before their eyes, the wound was poisoned.

“How did you come by that?” asked Galhadrim. “Seldom do the Elves share gifts of healing with men.” Shadowfax looked up briefly, “Many adventures and many friends Master Elf. My healing skills end here though, can you lend aid to our friend?” Shadowfax’s eyes pleaded with Galhadrim for help.

“Let me look.”

_________________________

strider-
The room swirled around her and she felt herself again slipping into the dark place. She could not go back there and she tightened her grip around the wrist of the familiar face before her.

“Nay, you’re badly hurt but you still have strength to pull through this.” He soothed. He couldn’t understand that she didn’t want to, she deemed there was little left to live for now anyway. Such pain and darkness.

This was a woman of great strength and determination and Shadowfax had never known her to turn from a fight, or to give up on anything. Even through the darkness of their journeys she had never lost hope or strayed from her road. She had never turned from a foe and had even faced two dragons; slaying one after a great battle of will. Shadowfax wondered what darkness had haunted her path since they last departed in Rivendell, what seemed so many years ago. At the time, he had headed back home to his tower, and she to the far lands of Rhûn to honour and old friend. He had hoped she would eventually find her way back to Fornost, though he knew in his heart her path would lead her back to her promise, and to Verran.

She fixed her eyes on him. Her friend…yes…she tried hard to keep a thought formed long enough to grasp his name. ”Shadowfax.” she whispered, gripping his wrist more tightly. She clenched her teeth, the pain of her wounds was escalating, she didn’t have much time and she fought desperately to keep herself awake.

Another figure approached, luminous he seemed to her. There were more voices and she pulled his wrist closer, he leaned in to hear her, ”Shadowfax, there is only darkness now. I cannot fight it. Verran is gone.” she whispered, tears now streaming down her face. ”Bydand is lost, and home has fallen.” Shadowfax listened intently, his mouth was dry, he could do little more than stare into the pain in her eyes. He could see there was more than just the physical pain behind them. There was some devilry at work here beside the wound itself. ”Release me...I have no strength left...revenge is not enough to keep me.” she said, releasing his arm.

Anger welled up inside Shadowfax as he pulled a bottle from his side, ”There is a little bit left of this elixir, hopefully it will be enough.” he said. Hoping it’s magic had held, and he hoped that the effects of the poison would release her thoughts from darkness and despair.

The liquid went quickly to work, and Jaxon could feel a warm wave roll over her body as she lay there broken and bruised. She tried desperately to cling to consciousness, but at last she gave in to the power of the healing liquid and drifted into a peaceful calm and remembered no more.

The elf and the others went quickly to work. Shadowfax had done all he could do for her for now by releasing the poison’s hold on her, but she had lost much blood and her future was still very much uncertain.
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Last edited by strider- on Sun May 08, 2005 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Freahelm » Thu Apr 28, 2005 5:23 pm

At last she stepped into the pale gleam of moonlight. Her sword was out, naked and threatening. Freahelm drew his own in one easy motion as anger and frustration began to boil up inside him. It was wrong of him, but he had leaped to the conclusion that this girl, this unknown woman, was associated with Jaxon’s attackers.

“Only murders and assassins have anything to fear from me. I don’t know who your master is, but this attempt on Jaxon’s life was a move ill-considered.”

Freahelm held his ready stance, hoping to make her leak information in conversation before he had to subdue her. If at all possible, he would disarm her and take her inside to question her: but if the battle came to be too hotly pressed, he would not be sorry to slay her.

Akara’s eyes flashed with anger and confusion at his words. “How do I know that you are not a murderer yourself? But neither I am without defenses: choose your actions carefully!”

She shifted her weight onto the forward foot, and Freahelm saw in it the first moves of an attack. In response, he leaped into action. With a few quick steps he had closed the distance between them, and his sword flashed between them. Akara blocked the blow, and quickly darted past him, so that he was no longer between her and the door. But Freahelm pressed his attack hotly, giving her no chance to break away. The swords rang and flashed apart, and crashed together again, their blades glittering a cold, deathly silver in the moonlight.
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Postby Tempest » Fri Apr 29, 2005 6:15 am

Their swords met again, and then again, and each time Freahelm could feel her weaken under the strength of his blows. She felt it too, for she changed her strategy and instead pulled back slightly to defend herself, all the while looking for the opportunity for a quick, deadly thrust that he would not be prepared for. If she had her bow, he would have been dead before he had been within range of her, and she was reminded again how unlucky she had been. But then, what had the man said? Something about Jaxon. Why was that familiar to her? She pondered this, even as she parried blows with Freahelm, and then memory pricked her sharply. She had met a woman named Jaxon, briefly, as she had traveled this way. They had almost come to blows because Jaxon had stumbled onto her camp in the deep of night and frightened her half to death. Jaxon had spoken little. Once they had cleared up any misunderstanding, the woman had quickly been on her way again. Akara remembered little about her except her haunted eyes, for they had held a pain beyond enduring. The woman had been in hurry and left almost as quickly as she had come, but strangely enough had asked that Akara not mention her passing to anyone who inquired. She had the look of a hunted thing, though at the time Akara had believed that she was driven by inner grief more than any physical danger. Perhaps she had been wrong.

Of course, she would have time to think upon it later, when she herself were not in mortal danger. The continued fighting was wearying her quickly because of her lack of sleep, and she thought of the curved daggers and hidden poisoned knives which she had never used, but which could be thrown if need be.

But then, in a flash of moonlight, Freahelm finally got a good look at her, and he hesitated for a moment. She was fair, as fair as any daughter of Rohan. ”Are you of Rohan?” he asked with surprise, and the girl paused long enough to consider his question.

”Yes,” she answered.

”But how…From whence do you come?”

That was a tricky question, and she did not know how to answer him. However, she was relieved that he had ceased his blows, for it gave her a chance to catch her breath and think. If she could stall him longer…

”Edoras,” she replied, for it was the first thing that came into her mind.

”Edoras?” the man repeated incredulously, and his eyes narrowed slightly. He considered her for several moments, as if weighing something in his mind. Then, to her dismay, he said something to her in a language she did not understand, presumably in the Rohirric tongue. This is exactly what had happened to her when she traveled through Rohan, and she wasn’t any more prepared now for it than she had been then.

From her initial response, Freahelm could tell she did not comprehend his words and he shook his head. ”You lie, and not very well, I might add.”

”No? Well, it’s gotten me this far all right,” she snapped. Then, she fell silent, for she realized from what the man had said that it was unlikely that he was responsible for the slaughter on the roadway. She had to confess to herself that the more she talked, the more guilty SHE looked.

”Look here,” she began, ”I think we’ve gotten off to a bad start. I don’t particularly want any trouble...”

”That seems unlikely, since you drew your sword on me first,” he said dryly.

”Yes, well, one can’t be too careful. For all I knew, you had killed those people on the road, and I wasn’t going to take any chances.” She paused, and lowered her sword to show her sincerity, though she stayed far enough away from him that she could still defend herself if he decided otherwise. She dared not mention that she knew this Jaxon of whom he spoke, for such an admission would only make him more wary of her.
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Postby Hunter » Thu May 26, 2005 7:48 am

~

Standing over the unconscious Jaxon, Hunter slowly let the breath out that she'd been holding while watching the elixir her old friend had poured on the open wound. The immediate threat the poison had presented was past, but Jaxon wasn't out of danger. The wound was deep and she'd lost a lot of blood. Glancing briefly at Shadowfax, she smiled and nodded at him as he stepped back. "There is hope now," she said quietly then turned and watched as Galhadrim leaned closer, his long slender fingers lightly examining the wound.

"The bleeding has lessened. I think it best to close the wound now."

"I've a needle," Hunter glanced back at Belle standing a few paces away, motioning for her to hand her the needle. "And some good, strong horsehair." One of the healer's eyebrows raised a fraction as he watched the mistress of the Inn threading the strand of hair. "You've done this before?" he asked with mild surprised.

"A few times," She handed the needle to Galhadrim. "But never on a wound this serious. I'll hold the edges of the skin closed for you." With head bent she concentrated while the healer carefully started stitching.

Cringing slightly, Belle watched curiosity as the healer poked the needle through the woman's flesh and pulled the hair through. Suddenly she felt queasy. Turning aside, she nearly stumbled until a hand reached out catching her elbow. It was the man from the stables. He led her to a chair near the fire. "Put your head down."

"I'm all right," Belle protested.

"Do as I say!" He laid a hand on the back of her head, and gently but firmly pushed it down until her face was hidden in the folds of her skirt between her knees. "They don't need any distractions right now," he told her sternly.

Belle could feel her cheeks growing warm. Did he really think she'd been about to faint? It made her angry that someone would think the sight of blood would make her faint! She wasn't some sheltered lass who'd never seen this sort of thing before, she'd seen worse. It was the needle. For some odd reason the sight of the needle piercing the flesh had turned her stomach. It was a stupid thing when she thought about it now, though it still made her cringe.

"I said I'm all right. All I need is a drink to clear my head. There's a bottle of brandy." Her voice sounded muffled coming through the folds of her skirt but she raised an arm and waved in the general direction of where Jaxon lay on the table. "Somewhere over there."

With skillful, steady hands Galhadrim stitched up the wound while Hunter held the edges. As he finished tying the last knot, he motioned for Hunter to cut the hair while he wiped his hands. Then reaching for the bag he'd placed on the floor next to his feet, he began rummaging through it, drawing out a clean roll of cloth to bind the wound. As he wrapped the wound with Hunter's aid he told her quietly, "I've done all I can. The elixir appears to have saved her life,for now. The wound wasn't all that serious, I've seen worse. But... he frowned. "Can you tell me when this happened?"

"No, she appeared at the Inn in this condition. Why?"

"The wound appears to be only a few hours old, but there is no way of knowing for sure. If it happened longer ago than a few hours...

"The poison may have spread further, beyond the immediate healing powers of the elixir."[i/] Hunter finished the sentence for him, her face filled with concern. She looked over at Shadowfax. He was pouring Belle a glass of brandy. [i]"Don't say anything to him yet. They are old friends and I don't want him to worry needlessly. Come," she added in a normal tone of voice "I think we can all use a drink."

~
Last edited by Hunter on Wed Aug 09, 2006 10:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Shadowfax » Fri May 27, 2005 11:59 am

Belle accepted the drink from Shadowfax with an outstretched hand, “Thank you,” she whispered. “Do not think it silly that the Jaxon’s wound made you feel ill, even the most battle hardened warriors are overcome at times.” Belle sat more upright and sipped on her drink; it warmed her stomach and her color returned.

“I think we can all use a drink.” Hunter said to all. “Aye!” agreed Shadowfax, “It’s been a long road and an even longer night!” Belle, now feeling more like herself, washed her hands and headed towards the bar. She poured out the drinks to all, “We must get her a room and a proper bed soon.”

The company drank quietly; all eyes were watching the still form of Jaxon. “We’ll move her shortly, if she fit enough?” He glanced over to Galhadrim who gave him a quick nod, “Give her a few moments more, we must be very careful.” Shadowfax ran his hand through his tangled hair and sat down heavily in one the rooms many chairs. What a strange twist of fate all this turned out to be he thought to himself. Arriving in Bree just in time to help an old friend fend off death, or so he hoped! And then there was Hunter also! Were they traveling together? Many questions rolled through his mind. He gazed at Hunter through bleary eyes, she answered back with a short smile.

Shadowfax closed his eyes briefly and listened to the voices around him. His head lolled about a few times until the clear voice of the Elf awoke him, “Let us move her now.” Worry still laid heavily in his heart about his charges condition, but he showed no outward sign of it.




Shadowfax!
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Postby strider- » Sat May 28, 2005 4:20 pm

The flickering light of the fire in the Inn danced against the glass and the black night outside. Jaxon lay quietly still on the table near the fire. She hadn’t stirred, nor had Shadowfax taken his gaze from her lifeless form save for a few moments of restless slumber. Hours had past since the elf, Galhadrim had stitched up the gaping wound in her side. Shadowfax spent that time trying to figure out how she came to be here and in this condition. Where was her mail, her armour, her sword? Why did Bydand flee for that matter. Never a horse as stouthearted had ever been born upon the open fields of Arnor. What could have happened upon them on the road to have him flee and Jaxon be so completely overcome. Anger simmered inside him and he made a quiet oath of revenge should he ever come upon the truth.

“It is probably safe to move her, better now before questioning patrons begin to stir.” said Galhadrim. Shadowfax nodded silently, as Hunter got a long board to aid in their moving of her.

Jaxon was a tall and noble woman, able to hold her own against men or orc. Her frame was solid and lean and her skill with sword and battle had gained her reknown in the old kingdom. She had been the kings first counsel and accomplished leader of the small armies of Maranduin. Her rage in battled garnered her the nickname, “lion of the king” and she had struggled to control that inner fire her whole life. Shadowfax and Galhadrim carried the woman to a room not far off the dining room where Belle had prepared a place for her. Jaxon didn’t stir and they laid her lifeless body on the bed, covered her and left a small lantern burning.

”I’ll stay here for now.” said Shadowfax.

”I think you’d best serve your friend after some sleep, don’t you?” asked Hunter and pushed Shadowfax out the door. ”Belle will see to her now, perhaps by midday Jaxon will have improved.”

Galhadrim did not have a hopeful look about him, but none did after such an active evening and little sleep.

”Come.” said Belle, ”Rooms are ready for you all. Sleep. Morning brings new promise.”
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Postby Galhadrim » Mon May 30, 2005 9:00 am

Badger paused as he reached the top of the ridgeline and watched the darkness around him. Barely a star could be seen amongst the inky clouds that rolled in on a southerly breeze. The chill on his face brought the first kiss of dew that would set on the landscape by dawn. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the subtle shift in temperature.

In a moment he set off again, running at an easy lope across the moors. Ahead of him lay the road to Bree, though the bustling town's lights could not yet be seen. The tracks he followed were not well hidden and he was glad for it. Time had been lost. Death would come because of it.

Moss and short grass gave way beneath his feet with a wet rustle. His pack and weapons were strapped down tight and wrapped with wool. Soot from his quarry's last campfire streaked his face and hands. As he came down to the trees and underbrush near the road, he caught the first scent of blood and slipped like a wraith into the dark well of shadows under a tall elm.

He waited until he could identify every sound around him. Nothing lurked in ambush so he crept forward, watching every step and controlling his breathing. A little closer to the road and he caught the faint buzz of gnawflies. A shift in wind brought the thick stench of gore and punctured bowels. He waited again before crawling forward.

In the road he saw the carnage. He was too late. His shoulders slumped and he shook his head. There would be no blood for his blades tonight.
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Postby strider- » Tue May 31, 2005 8:53 am

Darkness subsided and was replaced by a warm and comforting calm. Jaxon slept more easily as the grip of the poison subsided. Her dreams drifted to the faces of old friends and happier times. Her life in Arthedain had been strictly regimented and lonely work, filled with garrisons and soldiers. Little time for seeking out the world of her youth and new friendships were hard made. More recently she had left the Kings service after his death and the return of the true King in Gondor. She had taken a road with old friends. Roads filled with both darkness and light. Still, she had long planned a return to Arnor and to Verran as she’d promised. Too long had they been parted and too long alone on the road had she been. Weary of the road and battle she had made her way back to Arnor along a long road.

Back at the Long Lake she had stumbled upon something that troubled her. A familiar and sinister presence she had not felt in many years. Jaxon had been haunted by a dragon many years ago as she and her fellow travelers sought to destroy a stone of power that controlled three dragons. One fell in the ice covered mountains of the north, and the other killed by a third, more cunning drake of fire – Rogue. Rogue’s sinister and mystical powers grew until he sought out Jaxon in her dreams until that fateful confrontation where an ancient sword allowed her to overcome his wrath and destroy him. Still…the voice had been clear back at Laketown and it haunted her steps on the journey home.

She had traveled to Rivendell to meet Verran, but none there had seen him in an age and she grew worried and set out to find him. At the edge of the forest she was visited by strange visions and dreams of the death of Verran and she became convinced of his death and sought to find answers. Through hill and valley, and inn and stable she searched, always following the leads she could find until at last she began to put pieces together. Pieces of a puzzle so unbelievable she dared not believe it herself, let alone tell another or ask for help. She had set her heart on finding Shadowfax again, perhaps he would believe her and not think her mad. There were few she could trust…and even fewer of those she could find anymore. She was getting desperate and after an unfortunate encounter at an Inn many miles south of Bree; she unknowingly drew the attention of some that would forever change her fate, some who had been seeking her for longer than she had known.
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Postby Freahelm » Tue May 31, 2005 10:04 pm

Freahelm felt somewhat insulted, but when she lowered her sword he followed suit. He decided on a course that would lay his cards out in the open, so to speak, in the hope that she would do the same.

“Those attackers assaulted an old and dear friend of mine. She is in yonder inn, badly wounded. I have just returned from there with her horse, which I set out to find. Now, that ends my part so far of that tale. I find it hard to believe you had no part in any of this, but I only care about things concern the friend of whom I spoke: Jaxon na Gael. If you know anything about her, or who attacked her, speak now, or else regard me as your enemy.”

Akara paused, wondering what to say, and Freahelm glared at her, taking her silence as an admission of guilt.

“Fine, then! Hold your tongue. Put up your sword and come inside with me. We will find out what you know eventually.”

However, he had chosen the wrong words or tone of voice, and Akara’s sword came back up defensively.

“I’m not going in there with you to be questioned. I can tell you nothing of what you seek!”

Freahelm snorted derisively. “Well, you can’t possibly think I’d let you stay out here with the horses without someone keeping an eye on you. You’ve already proven yourself a liar – it’s a small step to thievery from there.”

“A thief! As if you’ve shown yourself in any better light, attacking a lone woman in a stable!”

“You drew your sword first!” Freahelm shouted back. Then Freahelm paused, and attempted to calm himself. “But enough of this pointless bickering. Come inside – at the very least you can sleep on a bed and get a meal, rather than sleeping in the hay. And for Eorl's sake, put up that sword. If we aren't going to kill each other, we needn't be waving them about like children.”
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Postby Tempest » Wed Jun 01, 2005 6:10 am

Akara did not know what to think of this man. He seemed honest enough, but she had been deceived before, and while the promise of a proper bed sounded irresistible, the wariness that had kept her alive this long spoke out against it.

She was about to answer him hotly, but something else had dawned on her, a connection between this Jaxon woman and…

And suddenly, she was afraid. Afraid to be alone on the road again. Afraid to depend on her sword and bow alone. Why had she ventured beyond the borders of the familiar? She should have remained at home; she should have fought for her place among her clan. What was a lost brother to her? A face she had never known? Why had she thought she would find him, when everything within her told her it was a fool’s errand? And so it had been.

She reconsidered Freahelm’s offer. If he spoke truth, and was a friend of Jaxon, perhaps she could trust him for the moment, for the woman had been honorable.

”You probably have friends lying in wait for me in that inn,” she said, almost to herself.

Freahelm took a better look at her. There was a certain gauntness about her face, and he guessed that it had been awhile since this creature had eaten well. And the nobleness in him was stirred by the realization that she was truly afraid. ”I do have friends waiting in the inn,” he said more gently, ”But not for you. They are tending to the wounds of the woman I spoke of. Besides that, if you don’t trust me, surely you know that the people of Bree are not known for treachery. You are safe here. The Prancing Pony is well known in these parts.

[I]”And yet, sometimes, when you think you are safest, that is when the hidden dagger is thrown,”
Akara said with a slight smile. ”I have heard of the Prancing Pony. Indeed, it was here that I was headed before I ran into…” she paused, gave him one last searching look, and sheathed her sword. ”Very well, I will go with you into the inn.”
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Postby Tempest » Mon Jun 13, 2005 2:16 pm

Akara followed gingerly behind Freahelm as they made their way toward the inn. Both were wary of having their backs to each other, so needless to say it took longer than normal to finally reach the door. Freahelm entered first, and Akara trailed in a few steps behind. The immediate room was empty, but they could hear hushed voices and footsteps in an adjacent part.

Though weary, Belle’s sharp ears had not failed to note the creaking open of the door, and her head appeared around the corner, the relief upon her face when she saw Freahelm.

”I have found Bydand and have returned him to the stable. What of Jaxon? How does she fare?” he asked.

”She is resting now, thanks to the elixir that Shadowfax gave her. We will know more as the day goes on. It is hard to know how long the poison has infected her, or to what extent.” Belle paused as she noticed Akara for the first time, and she cast a questioning look at Freahelm.

”I found her in the stables, apparently preferring the hay to a nice warm bed in the Prancing Pony. I was able to convince her otherwise with the promise of a good meal and a proper resting place.”

Belle nodded. ”Of course. I’m still tending to Jaxon, but if you can find your way to the kitchen, you can help yourself.”

Freahelm was anxious to see his friend, but he was also loath to leave Akara unattended. He led her reluctantly to the kitchen, which passed the room where Jaxon lay. He went in while Akara stood in the doorway.

There was something in the air, something familiar that at first Akara thought to be the healing herbs used to dress the woman’s wounds. But the longer she observed it, and more certain she became that it was something else. She pressed in closer to the figure on the bed. Yes, she was certain.

”Bitter Solace,” she whispered. ”Perhaps she does not want to be saved.”

Both Belle and Freahelm turned and stared at her.

”Bitter Solace,” she repeated defensively. ”She must have swallowed it. Her wounds may also be poisoned, but I recognize the effect of the Bitter Solace.”

”I do not know that name,” Belle said.

”Nor do I,” Freahelm added. ”Are you certain?”

”Yes.”

”And is it fatal?”

”Indeed.”

Belle asked quickly, ”And the cure?”

”Oh, but the cure is simple. The crushed leaves of the golden rod, the common flower that I saw growing along the pathways here is the antidote, though it seems that whatever you gave her did the trick anyway. Bitter Solace is not used by assassins and thieves,” Akara said softly, glancing at the gentle rising and falling of Jaxon’s chest. ”It is used by the heart-broken and hopeless.”

The three were silent as her words sank in.

Freahelm finally cleared his throat and said resolutely, ”Impossible! She would never do such a thing. It must have been put into something she drank, probably by the same villains who attacked her.”

”That is unlikely.”

”How is that you know this poison?” Belle retorted.

”It is common enough in the North and the East, where sorrow spreads like morning mist. In small quantities, it is not lethal, but relaxes the body and mind. My mother took it as she lay dying, to ease her suffering. Perhaps your friend took it to ease hers!”
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Postby strider- » Mon Jun 13, 2005 5:30 pm

"Rubbage." said a gruff voice from the door way. "No, girl this woman did nothing to herself. She was on the trail of something or someone and I believe she was heading to find me." it was Shadowfax.
"You are learned in herb lore, that I'll give you. But that na Gael would knowingly take her own life, is an impossibility. You simply do not know her, she is not one to despair. Of that I can attest to."

"Which is why you knew there was more to her injury than the gash in her side." said Hunter. "Well done, you arrived in time then."

"But what of the poison? said Akara, "She had to have ingested it somewhere."

"For that, we'll have to ask her, if ever she wakes." said Shadowfax, a look of concern still furrowed on his brow. "That you found Bydand will bring life back to her heart, though it may be hard once she wakes to keep her here."

"He is uninjured but cautious, strange that he should flee, but judging by the scene back at the road....there was much to flee from. answered Freahelm. "I didn't recognize any markings of the band save they were all clad in the same garb."


"Hmmm..." said Shadowfax absently as his hand grasped the dagger he'd pocketed back at what he now knew to be where the attack had taken place.

"What is it?" said Galhadrim.

"It will have to wait until after I speak with Jaxon." he said.

The room emptied as the Inn began another day of serving food, tending to guests and filling mugs with ale and the room with song and tales. Jaxon slept long into the day and near the eventide meal she opened her eyes and stared at the rough hewn wood ceiling above her. She tried to sit up and with the attempt came a wave of pain that quickly had her back on her back again. She heaved a deep sigh and felt for her side, wincing as she felt the expertly dressed wound. Where was she, she began to scan the room for familiar signs, she could hear in the dining hall the soft playing of a pipe and a fair voice singing. She could smell the welcoming aromas of baked spice cake and aged wine.

"Well, I thought you would never wake up." said a strangely familiar voice.

Her eyes searched the dimly lit room and rested on a figure sitting by the fire, his face hidden by shadow. Jaxon instinctively reached to her side for a sword that was not there. Then a smile crossed her scratched and bruised face.

"Shadowfax..." she said, not daring to believe it at first...."Where....how? I was looking for you and I....was delayed. How did I come to be here..where is here?"

"I don't know how, but here I am. As for you, you never had a good sense of timing. You're at the Pony, and how you got here is a story I would very much like to hear myself."

Jaxon searched her cloudy thoughts...bits and pieces she could remember, but so much seemed hard to put together. She could tell little from what was real and what was dreamed.

"I...I don't..." she paused, "Bydand! Shadowfax he is lost, we were....attacked....there were....a fire, and men and...darkness"

"No, he is here. Bydand is not lost. Freahelm has found him."

"Freahelm? Here?" Jaxon smiled weakly, her thoughts returning slowly. "Perhaps my luck has changed...what has happened?"

"We were hoping you could fill in the blanks. You stumbled in here, a hair this side of death. You were pierced through, lost a lot of blood. But worse, when I arrived...you were...so full of darkness and despair. I, I believe you were poisoned....or....Jaxon, where is Verran?"

Jaxon slowly sat up, wincing. "I remember the darkness...and I don't know where Verran is. I fear the worst and my thoughts and dreams are full of darkness and filled with images of....his death."

"You said he was lost when you were…still under the poison’s influence. But what of the poison?" he asked.

"I don't know." she answered. "But things haven't gone right since I left the Last Bridge Inn. I was tracking someone...it's all so muddled. I can't think..." she was getting frustrated.

"Rest, you can't do anything about it now. You have been through a lot, perhaps in the morning light more will be remembered."

"Perhaps." she said with some uncertainty. "But for now old friend, I'd settle for something hot to drink."
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Postby Tempest » Thu Jun 23, 2005 10:14 am

The sun was coming in her window in high slants when Akara finally roused herself from her slumber. It must be late morning, and she didn’t remember the last time she had slept this long and well. With a sheepish smile, she stretched her arms and lay there for several more minutes, enjoying the warmth and comfort of the feather pillows and clean sheets. The fear of the night before seemed a distant memory; indeed, it was hard to believe that there was anything to fear at all. She peered out the window and quickly assessed the town of Bree. Yes, she liked it very much. One felt safe here with the gentle bustle of people in the streets and the occasional laugh of children playing. Perhaps she could find a fletcher or weapon’s shop where she could buy a bow. Hers had been broken for several weeks, and she had felt lost without it. While she had learned to use a sword, it was with the bow that her skill met its height.

She bumped into Belle as she was closing the door to her room. ”Are you leaving?” the woman inquired.

”Not quite yet. I have an errand in the town. Is the woman…does she live?”

”Yes,” Belle replied, the relief in her voice. ”She has awakened.”
____________________________________________________________

After an hour of trying, Akara finally settled on a bow that she found in a small shop on the edge of the town. The wood was a type she was not familiar with, but it was strong, and the shopkeeper allowed her to test it out before buying it. Well-satisfied, she had just left the shop when a man’s voice beckoned her from the side alley.

”A good weapon, may it serve you well.”

Her blood froze, for here was a voice she knew. She turned and observed with distain the cloaked figure. “Those who wear cloaks in the daylight have something to hide,” she spat.

”Perhaps, though you would know better than I,” the man replied without mirth. ”Tell me, does the woman live?”

”What woman?” Akara asked, though she knew very well to whom he was referring.

”Does she live?” he repeated.

”Look, I’m not your informant. You seem very capable of answering your own questions, whoever you are. Leave me out of it.”

”You forget how I helped you.”

”I’m seriously beginning to wonder if you helped me at all, or if you didn’t set the whole little scenario up just to get information from me. I told you what I knew, as payment for your assistance. I even delivered your little “gift” for you, because I believed your story. Now, however, I seriously doubt that you’re a trader at all. More like an assassin.”

The man advanced to where she stood with a speed that she found impossible, and she felt the vice-like grip on her forearm even as she attempted to pull away. ”You, my dear, are not among friends. If you were to “disappear,” no one would look for you. No one would weep.”

Akara, being brash and young, failed to recognize the grave danger she was in, and was more angered by the man’s threat than afraid. ”Let go of me! Don’t try to threaten me like some common thug!”

With a low, strange laugh, the man said, ”I am no common thug. Now, I will ask you one last time: Does the woman live?”

”I don’t know what’s going on here, and I don’t want to. But last time I told you something about this woman, she was attacked and nearly killed. I won’t have her blood on my hands!”

Nearly killed? So, she lives,” the man released his grip. Akara backed up several paces, rubbing her arm, aware that she had yet again betrayed this woman whom she knew so little.
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Postby Shadowfax » Fri Jun 24, 2005 6:26 pm

Shadowfax returned a shortly to Jaxon’s side with a steaming cup of tea, it’s fragrance carried a soft hint cinnamon. “Nothing magical here, but it is hot.”

Jaxon drink the tea and sleep took her once again when she had finished. Shadowfax collapsed into the room’s only chair, fortunately it was very comfortable even for one of his size. Jaxon’s last words ran through his mind once again as he tried to figure out what was going on.

"I remember the darkness...and I don't know where Verran is. I fear the worst and my thoughts and dreams are full of darkness and filled with images of....his death."

Darkness? Verran slain?

“we were....attacked....there were....a fire, and men and...darkness"

What men?

“I was tracking someone...”

Who? Why?

These were many questions he hoped would be answered soon.


Morning broke clear and bright. Surprisingly Shadowfax woke refreshed from his short rest and was glad to see Jaxon still resting quietly in her bed. Silently he arose from the chair and as he did so the door to the room creaked open slowly. Instinctively his hand went for the hilt of his sword that hung at his side. He let out a breath of relief as Belle poked her head through the opening, “Good to see you’re awake.” She whispered.

“Yes……very good…….”.whispered Jaxon in response. Both Shadowfax and Belle looked towards her in surprise. “He snores less when he’s awake.” A grim smile crossed her lips and Belle let out a small laugh.

Shadowfax’s jaw dropped a bit, “I see your tongue is still sharp! Lets see if it can cut through some breakfast.”



Shadowfax! :horse:
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Postby Galhadrim » Sat Jul 02, 2005 9:36 am

Willem burst into the common room of the Prancing Pony. Belle looked up from where she stood and wondered if the lad ever didn't burst into the room. She stood at a table with Freahelm and Shadowfax. They discussed Jaxon's condition, the lion having just slipped back into a normal and restorative sleep.

"There's a Ranger here," Willem shouted. "He's come in from the road where the fight was. The whole town's talking about it so I led him here."

Belle shushed him and sent him into the back on an errand. The gossip couldn't be helped in a town this size but Jaxon did not need her situation brayed by the crier.

The three of them watched the door as a ranger wearing leathers and various equipment came through. He approached the table directly as Willem pointed to it on his way past. "The boy tells me you know something of the scuffle up the road."

Shadowfax stood. "We do. How does it become your business?"

The ranger smiled, appreciating the man's direct manner. "Folks call me Badger. I run between Fornost and Rhudaur. Came upon a camp of some fellas that just didn't seem tp be up to any good so I followed them. Next I found them, they were all dead in the road. I searched the area and found where they lay in ambush. Also found that one of them got away, probably the ringleader."

Shadowfax and Freahelm exchanged worried glances. "Which way did he go?"

"Straight down to the black land once I put a knife in his gullet. Tracked him for most of yesterday and last night. Found him curled up in a hollow up north. He felt more like fighting than talking so I didn't get much out of him. But interestingly enough I found these when I searched him." Badger threw a cloth wrapping on the table. It opened with a clink of metal and several gold rings spilled out. Shadowfax reached down to pick one up. "I'd be careful with that one. Think they were all being returned to their owner."

"What are they?"

"Sorcerous little baubles, they are. Troth rings. Before today I'd have pegged them as legend but now... there they are. Someone with a wee bit of knowledge crafted them for a dark purpose. Lore around these hills says that those who hunger for dominion are themselves enslaved. Power makes a dangerous supper."

"Someone was controlling these assassins?"

"Aye, and they want their secrets kept."
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Postby Galhadrim » Sat Jul 02, 2005 9:38 am

(Double Post.)
Last edited by Galhadrim on Sat Jul 16, 2005 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Freahelm » Wed Jul 06, 2005 11:12 pm

Freahelm stared hard at the rings, and one hand softly tugged the beard on his chin. The other hand was digging in some pouch tucked behind his belt, and from it he produced a nearly identical ring.

"Is that, er, what this is?"

Badger looked at him sharply. "How long have you had that?"

Freahelm smiled slightly, but seemed ill at ease. "Well, I would say some few weeks, perhaps a month or two. It isn't mine - I took it off of someone I killed a little south and west of the Sea of Rhun. But it's a long story. I doubt it even has any connection..."

Badger interrupted. "The story of those who wear these rings is often quite short. Where did it come from, who wore it?"

Freahelm seemed to weigh something in his mind a moment, and then replied. "Well, to put it simply, I was riding for a lord in the region. Haimar, if you have heard of him. A very honorable man, and he had done a friend of mine a great service and had requested aid. There is much infighting among his nobles, as well as a very hostile king to the east. I was...but that is of no matter. What is important is this: that ring belonged to a man who tried to assassinate Haimar and failed. I took it from his dead body, which was dead by my hand. I left Haimar's service two days later. Nothing more. It has never graced my finger, nor shall it ever. As I said, I doubt there is a connection, but it eases my heart to be rid of that cursed ring."
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Postby strider- » Thu Jul 07, 2005 6:05 am

The sun was high when she finally awoke again, feeling strangely refreshed. Slowly she attempted once again to rise and with gritted teeth managed to sit upright. Her side was healing quickly – probably more quickly than was natural but then again, elven healing methods always surprised men. That she still lived at all was more the wonder than quick healing. She slowly slid her legs over the side of the bed and grasped the bedpost.

”Going somewhere?” said a soft voice. Jaxon, startled she had not heard her come in, looked up. ”With your help.” she answered. Belle squinted her eyes at the tall figure of the woman before her. Even in her unsteady condition Belle could see the determination in Jaxon’s eyes. A woman, but a warrior first and Belle understood the pride of a people such as this. ”Of course, though I’m sure it will get both of us in trouble.” she smiled.

Jaxon smiled weakly, ”Thank you. Belle opened a cabinet where Jaxon’s clothes hung. ”We had to discard your shirt and jerkin, but we managed to find replacements.” said Belle. Belle went quickly to work changing Jaxon’s dressing. ”This is healing….amazingly.” she said. ”Probably more than I deserve for my stupidity.” Jaxon replied. ”Well,” answered Belle, ”well I consider it a blessing we don’t get what we deserve all the time.”

”True.” said Jaxon, wincing slightly as Belle wrapped the bandage tightly around her midsection. After she dressed, and Belle graciously braided her long hair into a single simple braid down her back, Jaxon pulled the leather jerkin on and stood before the mirror. ”None the worse for wear.” she said to herself.

”Perhaps, answered Belle, ”Though your eyes tell another tale.” she smiled and headed for the door.

”Thank you...” said Jaxon, ”I feel a bit more alive, you are kind.” Belle smiled and closed the door behind her.

Jaxon stood for a moment alone staring at her reflection. ”I know more is coming. I will endure.” she said. Jaxon turned to the closet again where her sword hung on the scabbard. She winced as she attached the scabbard and replaced the sword to its holder. She felt more balanced, more herself and more determined to find Verran and the cause of her attack.

She quietly closed the door behind her and made her way into the common room where the others had gathered.

Freahelm was speaking, ”As I said, I doubt there is a connection, but it eases my heart to be rid of that cursed ring."

”That’s the funny thing with rings…they almost always are cursed.” said Jaxon as the others turned to look at her in shock - a stark contrast to the worn and nearly dead figure of two days ago.
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Postby Shadowfax » Thu Jul 07, 2005 7:46 pm

Shadowfax eyed the magic rings with suspicion. In his youth he had studied under Malbeth the Seer from Fornost, but magic was not his true calling as the Seer had hoped. Even the simplest of spells challenged him greatly, he found better luck with steel. Steel was stable, predictable and in his powerful grip deadly. The warrior from the north lands had always respected magic though in all it’s forms, rings, swords………and men.

It had been many seasons since he and Jaxon had parted ways, he now wondered what trouble she had found. Or perhaps trouble was looking for her? Revenge? Jaxon had few enemies, most died at the tip of her sword. But someone was after her.

Freahelms story only confused matters worse, Ruhn? The plot against Jaxon grew even larger. Freahelm spoke, ”As I said, I doubt there is a connection, but it eases my heart to be rid of that cursed ring."

”That’s the funny thing with rings…they almost always are cursed.”……..the words were Jaxon’s! All eyes turned toward her and a few mouth’s gaped open! She stood there watching them with a hint of satisfaction and pride in her eyes.

Shadowfax stepped forward, “Aye…………curses. But why are the cursed ring holders after you? Whatever trouble you’re in you know your friends will aid you, we always have! Do you know who hunts you and why?”


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Postby Tempest » Sun Jul 10, 2005 8:16 pm

The man had said nothing after her initial revelation about Jaxon’s condition, but he had drawn a slender dagger from a hidden pocket so silently and swiftly that Akara was flooded with the sudden knowledge that he meant to kill her. She was wise enough to know the Eastern art of throwing daggers and had seen many planted securely in the backs of unfortunate victims who had tried to run.

And yet, the impulse to flee, the hope to escape was almost overpowering. She steeled herself to stand, for it was better to meet fate face to face than be taken from behind.

He had gotten what he needed from her; now all he needed was to tie up the loose ends, all memory of his presence from this place. They were on the edge of town with no one to hear a struggle unless the girl should scream. Looking at her, though, she did not seem the type to cry for help, or even plead. He found this mildly disappointing. The only amusement he had was watching the realization of her impending death dawn on her like the first rays of the morning sun, and he relished that moment of fear in her eyes.

Yet, just at the moment when his dagger meant to taste her flesh, there arose a commotion from the town, a murmur as if the town itself was speaking in several voices. People began streaming into the streets, and the shopkeeper next to where Akara and he stood came out, straining his neck to see what was going on.

Too many witnesses, if only he could drag the girl further into the alley, maybe he could still….

But when he looked up, she was already gone.

_____________________________________________________________

Akara made it back to the inn faster than she thought possible and saddled her horse even more quickly. She had only to retrieve the rest of her things in her room and she could be gone. But then, she was stopped by the sudden image of the cloaked man awaiting her outside the town’s limits. Where could she go to escape him? She trembled at the thought, the fear and anger at herself for yet again getting into trouble mixing together into something very like self-loathing. She pressed her face into her horse’s neck and breathed in the warm familiar scent, trying to think.

There was no way around it. She had to leave.

She retraced her steps to the inn and slipped in a side door so as not to be noticed. She could hear low voices, but she quickly made her way up the stairs to her room and gathered her things together. Before leaving, she took a hard look out the window and surveyed the town for any sign of her ominous friend.

She crept down the stairs making sure not to make any noise, but when she reached the bottom, she nearly jumped out of her skin as Freahelm’s head appeared around the corner.
”Oh, there you are,” he said. ”Belle told me you had gone out and I was just coming to check on you.” His eyes narrowed as he noted her belongings. ”Not thinking of leaving without saying goodbye, or paying for your room, for that matter?”

”I don’t stay in one place for long,” she mumbled.

”It’s none of my business, and you are free to go” he replied, ”But you don’t need to go slinking around like a criminal.”

”I wasn’t slinking,” she protested half-heartedly. ”I just…I just didn’t want to cause a commotion. It was…it was very nice to meet you. Thank you.” She turned to go, making a beeline for the door.

His voice stopped her again. ”Well, you’ll be pleased to know that my friend is back on her feet again.”

She turned slowly. ”That’s good. Very good. I hope she recovers fully.”

”Why don’t you tell her yourself?”

”No, no. That’s all right. I really need to be going,” she said, too quickly. What if Jaxon recognized her? They had only met briefly, but the woman was sure to remember her. Then Freahelm would know she had lied to him and then they would all think she was involved in this whole mess. They would never believe her story.

”What is the matter with you? You have this perpetual look of a cornered animal on your face,” Freahelm's voice interrupted her agitated thoughts.

”Nothing’s the matter with me. It’s all your stupid questions. I’m leaving now,” she said angrily.

"Not quite yet, there's a few things I'd like to clear up first..."
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Postby strider- » Thu Jul 14, 2005 9:45 am

“Aye…………curses. But why are the cursed ring holders after you? Whatever trouble you’re in you know your friends will aid you, we always have! Do you know who hunts you and why?” asked Shadowfax.

Jaxon smiled, ”If I knew that, perhaps I wouldn’t have failed so terribly, but having your aid is most welcome.” she answered moving her way towards the table where the rings lay spread open before the group on the table. She placed her hand on Freahelm’s shoulder, ”Thank you for finding him. she said quietly, Freahelm nodded and Jaxon moved closer to the table and moved her hand towards the rings, then pulled it back, thinking better of it. She looked up at the ranger and searched his eyes. ”Ranger…” she began..

”Badger will do. he interrupted briefly. ”But that is not your true name.” Jaxon said, eyeing him keenly, knowing there a more to this ranger than he was ready to share. ”Badger, the lore of the Troth rings are not familiar to me,” her eyes met Shadowfax’ ”Stones…now of those I have some knowledge, but Troth rings…can you tell us more?”

”Yes, but first a bit of your own tale I would hear first.” Badger answered. ”But not on an empty stomach.” he said as he took a seat at the table, the others settled in for the afternoon meal.

”Excuse me but a moment, I too wish to hear your tale and have many questions about your recent time in Rhun..” said Freahelm, remembering the young girl he’d met earlier, he spoke to Belle at the bar and then slipped from the dining hall.

The others gathered around the table, and as the food and ale arrived Jaxon began to relax in the moment. Shadowfax leaned in, ”How are you really feeling.” he asked, knowing she was hiding more than she showed.

”Weary,” she said, ”But glad to be alive among friends. Thank you…” she said, knowing she owed her life to him, ”They tell me you arrived just in time…that I…”

”You were not yourself.” he replied solemnly, knowing how close she had come to slipping into darkness. ”But I expect you to return to your usual ill humoured self at any moment now…it’s the least you could allow an old friend.” he grinned, seeing a light returning to his old friends eyes at last as they both laughed and began to hear the tales of those gathered around the table.
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Postby Hunter » Sun Jul 17, 2005 11:43 pm

~

Hunter set a platter of fresh bread on the table in front of Shadowfax and then left, promising to return after the scattering of new arrivals in the common room had been seen to.

A portly gentleman wearing a traveling cloak entered the room followed by a woman whose thin face looked as if she had just bitten into something sour. Hunter walked over to them.

"We'd like a table..." the man started to say, but was interrupted. "That one, over by the window will do." The woman sniffed, looking down her thin nose at Hunter. "I hope it's clean."

"I run a neat Inn." Hunter replied politely, holding her tongue as she had done many times in the past and smiled graciously at the man as she led him and his wife to the table near the window. But her mind was on the rings left in a small pile on the table top. Their presence disturbed her and she glanced over at the table where Shadowfax, Jaxon and the Ranger called Badger were sitting and eating. Belle had brought another pitcher of ale and was wiping something off the table as the others talked amongst themselves. Her attention was caught by something. "Excuse me," she said hurriedly.

"Humph!" The woman snorted scornfully as her eyes followed Hunter. "She didn't even seat us properly!"

"Now, now Agnes, I'm sure she didn't mean to be rude. We can seat ourselves." He held out a chair for his wife and a look of resignation crossed his face as she drew out a lace handkerchief and flicked it across the surface of the seat before sitting down.

Belle was just walking away from the trio's table when Hunter walked up beside her. Smiling at the young woman, she said quietly. "Give it to me Belle." A guilty look flashed across Belle's face followed briefly by a flash of defiance in her dark eyes. She stood for a moment looking at Hunter, then reached into her pocket. "I was only going to look at it more closely." Her shoulders rose slightly and she shrugged as a small grin lit her face. "Honest."

"I believe you Belle." Hunter answered holding out her hand. Belle placed one of the rings from the table into her palm. "It's not your fault," she added cryptically under her breath. "Now, go and see to the couple by the window."

Following the quiet exchange, Badger looked up at Hunter with a questioning look. "You know something of the nature of these rings?"

"I know nothing about these particular rings," Hunter answered placing the ring back in the pile. She looked at Badger and then glanced around at the faces of Shadowfax and Jaxon. She wasn't sure if either one of them knew much concerning her background, few people did. "But I know something of the nature of such things from experience." She hesitated, running a hand through her hair. How could she explain what had happened so long ago when she herself had never fully understood everything? She sighed deeply. Shadowfax pulled out a chair for her and she sat down. Her eyes were on the pile of rings as she started to speak.

"At one time I had a stone that possessed the same attributes as you describe those rings as having." Hunter looked up at Badger. "Could you put them away? I don't like them lying out in the open." Badger nodded, scooping them into the cloth and tucking them into his pocket. "Thank you." Hunter smiled slightly and then continued. "The stone was very dangerous. It subtly manipulated the thoughts of whoever carried it. The man who crafted the stone was powerful; but he is gone now, this I know for certain." Hunter lowered her eyes for a moment before looking up again. She glanced around the table, her eyes settling on Jaxon. "It scares me that there might be someone like him behind the attack on you."

~
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Postby strider- » Mon Jul 18, 2005 3:33 pm

Jaxon could see the fear in Hunter's eyes and at her mention of a stone of power Jaxon and Shadowfax traded knowing looks. Jaxon said in a low voice so only those at the table could hear, "Hunter, we too have had experience with Stones of Power, though I can't say there is any connection to your tale or any of the lore of the Troth rings. Come, tell us your tale, perhaps it will help, for I have no idea who attacked me or why. I won't flatter myself to simply think my reputation has earned me enemies, but I will confess," she paused, and her eyes locked with Shadowfax', "I feel something has stirred again that has something to do with the old stones of our journies." Shadofax looked at her, not knowing what she was meaning.

"Those stones were destroyed and so was our enemy." he said, "I was there, I saw you slay the dragon Jaxon...I"

"Then why did I hear his voice again at Laketown?" she said too quickly, sorry she'd revealed it yet at all.

"What? I..."

"Later...for now I would hear the tale of Hunter and of the Troth Rings if you are willing..." she said, her eyes pleading with Shadowfax to forget what she'd said for now.

"You grow more cryptic as you age." said Shadowfax as his eyes absently gazed at Jaxon's sword, there was something different about it somehow...Shadowfax was certain where once ruby eyes had adorned the golden lion's head on the pommel of her sword now stones of black onyx sat in their place...but just then Belle arrived with more bread and honey and Hunter settled in to reveal her tale...and for the moment Shadowfax forgot to Jaxon about the change in her sword...
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Postby Shadowfax » Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:22 pm

It was the way Jaxon said ‘later’ that told him she meant it. She voiced the word with a concern that only he caught; she wanted to hide something from them. He recalled their last quest many seasons ago now, the stone, the dragons and the Black Magi! The Magi desired the stone that contained the sprites of three dreadful creatures, owning the stoned owned them. They succeeded in destroying the stone, the dragons and the evil Magi. But it seemed now to him that not all was destroyed………….

Shadowfax tore into the bread and honey placed before them, his mind raced to uncover any lost detail from their previous adventure together. Malbeth and his assistant Pun had slain the Black Magi in Mirkwood, of this there was no doubt. Also they had slain the dragons……….Shadowfax suppressed the urge to ask Jaxon which voice she heard…the black dragon’s or the Magi’s. Answers would come later he guessed.

Until then he chewed his bread and listened to Hunter’s tale…………


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Postby Freahelm » Thu Jul 21, 2005 10:21 pm

Freahelm looked at her carefully as he chose his next words. "You may keep silent, but there are some things you can't deny. You fear something or, more likely, someone. You flee from that someone. You readily defend yourself with weapons and you mistrust strangers. You also have a curious ability to identify strong poisons from the east with a single glance. You lie quickly and easily, if not very well."

Akara reacted with a start. "What do you want from me? Just let me go."

Freahelm held up a warning finger. "Do you know what all those things say to me? They say this: you are running from death, and death pursues you. And I think that it is the same death that pursues my friend and nearly killed her. I also think that it is still near; why else would you then flee in this manner? However it is, I think you are caught up in something greater than you or I am aware. Do I speak the truth?"

Akara was silent, but her face betrayed to Freahelm that at least one of his shots had hit the mark. He allowed himself to smile briefly. "This is what I propose. Stay here, remain with us, and perhaps we can uncover this conspiracy of death that overhangs us. Help me and my friends with what you know, and I in turn will pledge to defend you with my sword against all enemies, so long you remain with us."

Akara replied quickly, "I don't need your protection!"

Freahelm raised an eyebrow. "Protection? Indeed not. No one of your skill and ferocity would need a thing like that. Nor am I some cheap bodyguard to ward off thugs. But everyone needs a friend to fight by her side. So long as you do not betray me or hinder this quest, that is exactly what I will be."

There was a long pause as Akara hesitated. Freahelm pushed forward. “I admit I misjudged you at first. At least allow me the courtesy to correct my impression?”

He waved his hand back towards the common room and gave Akara a searching look. “Perhaps we can rejoin our friends?”
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Postby Galhadrim » Fri Jul 22, 2005 4:43 pm

Never one to turn away from hearty food and ale, Badger ate while the others talked of quests and dangers from days past. He gauged them to be a close group that neither distance nor time could tear apart. They had shared both laughter and misery, both joy and pain.

They had bled for one another.

More than anything, Badger sensed the underlying goodness that ran amongst them. It would be an honor to ride with them and discover what new peril arose from the dark mists of the night. He cleaned his hands and started telling them what he knew. "The legends of the Troth Rings are murky at best. Discounted by most." He lowered his voice a bit. "Most travellers know of the rings of power. The rings given to the dwarves, the elves, and the kings of Men. As well as the One Ring itself." He saw some slight nods from them and the unsurprised nature of their looks told him much about them. They seemed like it was perfectly natural to discuss the greatest evil Middle Earth had ever seen around a table full of empty ale glasses.

He continued. "Well, the stories of the various rings are well known. But what some don't know is that over the last thousand years or so there have been imitators and pretenders that have tried to fashion themselves as great powers. Wizardlings, I call them. Some good, some bad. But all of them with some kind of magical power that I can't say I could explain. Barraketh, Malbeth the Seer, even Tom Bombadil whom I could never figure out."

Shadowfax leaned forward with intensity in his eyes. "Are you suggesting, Ranger, that Malbeth has something to do with a thing so evil?"

"Well, no, I was just using him as an example of some of the unique individuals who are capable of it. No offense meant. I've never met him; I just know of him by reputation. What I'm trying to say is that several attempts have been made over the years to duplicate the rings of power but all have failed. Nothing but shadows of power that fool the wearers into thinking they have true might when they have done nothing but turn themselves into slaves of another master." He paused and looked around at the people at the table. "Where the magic comes from I don't know. How the troth rings are made, I don't know. I only know the stories and what I've now seen with my own eyes."
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Postby strider- » Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:52 am

’If that be true,” said Jaxon, ”Then it is a good thing a ranger of your character has come upon them.”

”Character? said Badger in a way almost as defensively as Shadowfax’ response to Badger’s comment of Malbeth. ”Do you doubt mine?” Badger asked, his brow furrowed.

Jaxon had emphasized the word “character” to test Badger’s reaction. ”No, for had you desired a power beyond what is already yours you would have kept the rings secret from us, and not been so keen to track down my one remaining attacker and finish him off.” she said, ”Nay, I say this for if we are to share our road” Jaxon hesitated. …though I may be assuming too much…save Shadowfax here, I do not know if any of you would choose to follow my road, forgive me for speaking too forwardly.” she continued. ”I have many questions myself, most I am still piecing together myself. Where the men who attacked me came from I do not know. If they were Easterlings they bore no outward sign of it and their look was not of that land. I have a powerful friend in Rhun, and did not count their kind among his enemies. If these men came from there…it was by another’s hand, or from a land forgotten among the desserts of Rhun.” Jaxon paused, as if light had entered in again to her thoughts, ”Still…there was something familiar though I cannot bring it to my mind. The last clear thought I had was at the Last Bridge Inn. I was to meet Verran, a comrade from Fornost, Captain of Arnor.” at this Shadowfax raised an eyebrow in Jaxon’s direction, “comrade”, he thought. So like her to keep her heart so closely guarded.

”We were to meet at Rohan, but I was delayed and sent word for him to travel on to Rivendell where we would meet in the Spring. I arrived at Rivendell late Spring, and Verran was not there. Thinking he had grown tired of waiting, I asked if any had seen him or heard of where he was heading – none had seen him. He had not arrived at all. Messengers were sent to Rohan, and at an outpost not far from Rivendell the messenger inquired if the Captain had traveled by. He had, not a fortnight before I had arrived, the tower keeper said Verran stayed the evening, but seemed distraught, with an almost hunted look about him, if the gatekeeper hadn’t known better he would have said Verran was afraid of something. He then said Verran intended to make for Rivendell in the morning to seek counsel in a grave matter. In the morning he was gone, but he never made it to Rivendell. I journeyed myself to the first tower, followed his trail to the Last Bridge Inn. Where, of course, no one remembered seeing him – so typical of an Inn. Though, I had managed to get an answer from the stable boy that a man wearing a similar breastplate to my own had arrived a few days ago. He remembered his horse more than the man himself, but I am convinced Verran made it there. After that…it’s all choppy. My memories are dim, faded and intermingled with dreams and bits of thought. I no longer can distinguish past that point what was real or imagined. Though dark thoughts and dreams have haunted me ever since I left the gatetower. I fear Verran is dead…or worse.”

”What could be worse than death?” asked Galhadrim, for to an elf death would most certainly be a distant and disturbing thought.

”There are worse things than death.” said Hunter solemnly.

”Sounds like you stirred something up.” said Shadowfax, ”But what? And what could Verran have been running from?”
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Postby Tempest » Mon Jul 25, 2005 12:08 pm

Freahelm meant well, and he seemed kind, Akara thought to herself. But how long would that last once he discovered that she lied?

Yet, he was good. The cloaked figure who had cornered her in the alley, whose finger marks still bruised her arm, he had been evil. He would have killed her and she had no doubt that he still would if ever given another chance.

But, to stay here? With these people? Did she dare to?

She glanced towards the door and sighed. She supposed she owed it to the woman Jaxon to at least let her know that trouble was coming. After all, she had been somewhat at fault, and her mother had always told her to "clean up your own messes." Somehow, though, she didn't think her mother ever imagined she'd be here at this moment, in the situation she found herself.

Freahelm pushed forward. “I admit I misjudged you at first. At least allow me the courtesy to correct my impression?”

He waved his hand back towards the common room and gave Akara a searching look. “Perhaps we can rejoin our friends?”

"Perhaps," she mumbled. "But I should warn you: trouble follows me wherever I go. That's why I usually travel alone. I don't think your friend needs more trouble coming her way. I tend to bring division where there was none, so says my clan."

"Clan?"

"My clan. Oh, but I remember: you do not have such things in Rohan, not in the same way as we do. It doesn't matter; I was simply warning you that I might not make an ideal companion."

Freahelm smiled. "I'll take my chances."

"Then I will follow you," she said, much to her own surprise. She decided to keep her things with her in case she needed to make a quick exit once she saw Jaxon. As Freahelm guided her near the common room, she could hear wisps of conversation, something about "rings" which she didn't catch, but she swallowed as she clearly heard something about Easterlings.

They were through the door shortly and Akara hung back behind Freahelm, as close to the door as possible. The others were at various places around the room, but their attention at that moment was on the woman in the center who was speaking. Akara was impressed with the quickness of Jaxon's recovery. How close she had been to death, but now even the color was creeping back into her face, replacing the paleness of yesterday.

Yet, Akara thought with a pang, how close she still was to death, with the cloaked man hovering nearby, ready to strike once again when she was vulnerable. She wondered what the woman had done to gain such an enemy.
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Postby Galhadrim » Fri Sep 16, 2005 4:06 pm

The cloaked man stood in an alley across the street, well back in the gloom and shadows of the overcast morning. He stared through the dusty windows at the common room and watched the pawns form themselves on the board. His enemy thought she gathered strength but in truth she only broadened her target.

A flutter of movement caught his eye. A leaf fell from the maple tree behind him, red like the blood that would soon be spilled again. It lighted on his shoulder and began to slide down his arm. He moved slowly and intercepted it, holding it in the palm of his hand.

The Lion will die, he thought. Then her purpose will have been served. He closed his gloved hand and the crisp, red maple leaf crumbled to dust.
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Postby strider- » Mon Sep 26, 2005 7:13 pm

”So our choices are limited then.” said Shadowfax. ”We will return to the last Bridge Inn. That is where Jaxon last heard any word of Verran, so it’s as good a place to start as any.” Shadowfax grew weary of talk, he was a man of action at heart. Years spent in the wizards tower had helped him in his power but a deep longing for the road eventually overtook him, that and a strong feeling his presence had been needed. And luckily for Jaxon he had crossed her path in her greatest need at the right time.

”A good place to start or a good place to get killed.” said Freahelm who had just arrived at the table in time to hear Jaxon’s tale and Shadowfax’s plan. A young girl, eyes downm accompanied him. ”I would wager whatever, or whoever's eye Jaxon caught would still be there. We should go. But with great caution.”

”Agreed.” said Jaxon. ”But I will not live my life in fear of what or who may be hiding in the next shadow. This is not the black land of the past, we are free men and I will not be bound by fear.” said Jaxon, relieved at least Shadowfax and Feahelm would accompany her. She would not ask the others, though she would be glad of their skill and company.

”Are you well enough to travel?” asked Hunter.

”Probably not.” Jaxon smiled weakly. ”But I will make ready to leave by dawn. Precious time has already been wasted, and a darkness grows in my mind – I must find Verran.”

The door of the Inn opened and a young man, arms loaded down with firewood bustled in, closing out a gust of wind and falling leaves behind him. Still some of the colourful maple and oak leaves whirled and tumbled in onto the wood floor of the Inn.

”A change in the weather.” said Jaxon. ”Good.”
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