Mods - Please Lock - Yesterday's Arrows,

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Mods - Please Lock - Yesterday's Arrows,

Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:26 pm

It is said that the spirits of a river will sing the song of the mountains from which they’re born. The song of the River Hoarwell rings low and course with the echo of the northern Hithligir, the Misty Mountains.

As it travels, it tells of rock, and ice and snow. It sings of cold and wind as it courses down, through Rhudaur to meet its end at the banks of the Loudwater. Its song is deep, and compelling and the river can be heard miles from its bank.

It can be heard in the courtyard of a quiet little inn, some 5 miles east from the Last Bridge on the Great East Road. The song of the Hoarwell rings low over the cobblestones of the yard, curling around the wattle and daub walls, seeping into the gardgen hedges. It slaps in to the stable barn doors, calling out to the chill and the damp and the frost and curls around the feet of a woman, huddled in the dense brush near the Inn’s lamplit courtyard, invisible to the Inn’s patrons. She can just make out the name on the sign hanging proudly over the large oaken door: The Lucky Fortune Inn.

She’d hid silently in the dense brush for three hours, marking the comings and goings of this sleepy place and all the while, again, the horse that traveled with her stood as silent, if not more so than she. The moonlight reflected dimly off the white star on its forehead as the stallion kept his head low and motionless. He was an amazing beast. He never left her side, despite the fact she had no food for it, nor saddle or tack.

She stirred, daring to stand. The last person she’d seen was a willowy girl entering the building alone. It seemed safe.

“Stay.” She whispered to the horse, dragging her hand down its nose. It bobbed its head in agreement, blowing quietly as if to say ‘be careful’. She crept forward picking her way onto the path that led up to the door and gently pressed her ear to the cool, polished wood. The sounds from within were dull, common. She pulled the latch.

“Anyone hungry!?”

Food! It had been days now.

She stepped in, pulling the glances of those few in the common room from the food towards her. She walked up to the bar, up to the stew and up the woman with the kindly face.

“I am.” She said.

The woman behind the bar stopped, her ladle drifting in mid air.

Was it there? Could it be, at last?! The look she’d needed to see!? The spark of recognition she so desperately wanted to see?

“You know me, don’t you?” She asked, gripping the edge of the bar with both hands. “I can see it, in your eyes. Do you know me?” She shouted.

A cry from upstairs drifted down into the common room. The cry of a child, distressed.

The barmaid said nothing but dropped the ladle and turned toward the sound of the child.

“No, wait, please.” She begged. “Please, tell me who I am because I can’t remember.”
Last edited by Bardhwyn on Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Bryttar » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:28 pm

“No Bryttar, I’m telling you…” the young Gondorian man on the edge of 14 years vehemently protested, “that IS what she said!”

Bryttar chuckled as he opened the wooden door and the two men entered. ‘Ah, the enthusiasm of youth,’ the thirty year old Rohirrim thought to himself. Neither man had seen the lone woman who'd entered before them.

“OK,” Bryttar continued as he took off his damp cloak and hung it next to his young companion’s, “For the sake of argument, let’s say she did say that, what, is it, that you think I should do now?”

The youth turned directly to his friend, his voice softening for a moment, “Why Bryttar…why…why can’t you let it in? Why won’t you at least consider what it is she is…”

"…Please, tell me who I am because I can’t remember.”

An echo of the past entered the Rohirrim's mind and he turned his attention towards the voice...that voice...her pleading voice...a voice from a long time ago…reaching out from the plains of Rohan...

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Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:30 pm

As soon as the words fell from her mouth, she could hear how desperate she sounded. Collecting herself, she tried to relax and immediately began to doubt what she thought was recognition in the woman’s eyes.

“I’m sorry, forgive me,” She stammered, trying to force an embarrassed laugh, “ I am so hungry I don’t know what I am saying anymore.”

It was then she saw them, the fair haired man and the youth making their way to a table. The man’s brief but direct glance carried a spark similar to what she thought she’d seen with the barmaid – but it was different – it had an intense, searching quality.

Quickly and by reflex she sized the man up, noted what he carried, if he was armed and with what. She looked at his companion, gauged his age, what he carried as well. He was young, trained but untried. The man was seasoned; he’d be difficult to bring down…her body tingled with the rush of adrenaline…

Take the Boy first, this will distress the Man. He’ll be strong… fight dirty…

Anger and fear flared within in her – she would not succumb, she would fight this in herself, she had to! She forced the two men from her mind: “NO!” she said allowed.

The barmaid, meanwhile, stopped filling the bowl she had in hand. A dwarf meanwhile looked to be heading in her direction.

“No, please, keep filling the bowl”, she said, forcing another laugh, “It’s just, ..I …I .. don’t have any money. I will work for the food, I can wash your crockery, pots… whatever you need.”
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Postby Bryttar » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:30 pm

His eyes met hers and though she was an expert in covering up the confusion the Dale woman had voiced just moments before, Bryttar still saw deep in her blue eyes the fear. He’d see that look before, in those same eyes. That, and resignation..

Quickly he turned his gaze away, not wanting to cause the woman more distress, or fear.

“Let’s get a table,” he whispered to his companion.

The two men moved slowly and found a table tucked off in one of the corners, yet still close to the bar. All the while the Rohirrim listened to each word the woman said.

The young man slid into the booth, “Bryttar…” he said with curious tone that also contained a hint of concern.

But the memories started to flood back of those two fateful days; quickly he pushed them out of his mind…for now. Silent, he untied his belt releasing it and his sword which always hung against the right side of his lower body. Carefully he handed it to his companion.

Taking the sword, the Gondorian youth starred back, trying to read the thoughts reflected in his mentor’s eyes. He’d been with Bryttar for a year and a half now and knew him to be a man of wisdom and compassion, fairness and honor, but there were no words to explain what he saw in those blue eyes now. Was it sadness, shame, regret? He wasn’t sure but it unnerved him a bit.

As Bryttar walked away, he tucked the sword safely between himself and the back wall which the booth butted up against and waited.

Within a few strides the Rohirrim had reached the bar after carefully waiting for the dwarf to pass.

“No, please, keep filling the bowl”, she said, forcing another laugh, “It’s just, ..I …I .. don’t have any money. I will work for the food, I can wash your crockery, pots… whatever you need.”

Bryttar came to rest at the bar beside her, on her left, though he made sure there were several feet between them.

“That won’t be necessary.” He replied in a quiet, soft tone keeping his eyes on the barmaid, “I will pay for her meal, and whatever she’d like to drink…and I’d also like two more bowls of stew, some bread, and two ales as well.”

Then he placed several coins upon the counter.

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Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:34 pm

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Torn between the woman's pleading eyes and Beryl's cries, Heather stood rooted to the floor. There was something familiar under the wildness in the woman's eyes and memories stirred, but though the healer could almost remember the face, the name still eluded her. The rush for bowels of stew broke her from her reverie and still confused, she automatically turned back to dipping.


Heather froze in mid air and looked at the strange woman. Then everything started happening at once - New people coming in, several people talking, seemingly at the same time. Borin came to her rescue, taking the ladle from her hands and reminding the healer that Beryl was crying. Without a second thought, Heather hurried toward the stairs she turned back.

"Bardy? Bardhwyn!"

Heather ran and embraced her old friend. "Sit down and eat. I'll be right back."

She returned quickly with her daughter in tow, who ran laughing toward Borin. With a sigh, she sat down opposite her old friend.

"Bardhwyn. Your name is Bardhwyn. You were affectionately called a Barding, for you are a lady of Dale. You were once a good friend in the bard community, though you never became one yourself. That is where we met. My name is Lady Heather, though few use my title."

Now that things had calmed down, Heather's mind was working again and she was ready to help her friend and fellow bard.

"Ask me anything and I will do my best to help you." Bardy looked at this woman, her eyes thanking her before her voice could. "But don't talk now, just eat. Eat and rest; and don't worry about payment. If you need anything just let me know."

With gentle squeeze of the woman's hand, the healer rose to her feet, little Beryl running to her. "Momma! Momma!"

"There's my little one!" Heather said, scooping up her adopted daughter. "Hungry?"

The toddler nodded. "Hungry, Momma!"

"Blow Bardhwyn a kiss and we'll go get something to eat."

The little one smiled brightly at the strange woman and waved over her mother's shoulder before obediently blowing her a kiss.
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Postby Bryttar » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:40 pm

The barmaid appeared not to hear Bryttar or his request, but the woman seemed quite flustered all of a sudden and a dwarf came to her rescue. Bryttar repeated his request and then waited as the new barman went off to fetch the two ales.

It was then that the barmaid recognized the Dale woman, Bryttar watched.

"Bardy? Bardhwyn!" She quickly returned whisking the Dale woman off to the table.

At the mention of her name so loudly voiced, the Rohirrim cringed; his eyes quickly scanned the room, noticing if the name evoked any kind of response to the patrons. Most seem oblivious to what was going on, but there was one man, off in the corner, still wearing his hooded cloak, who seemed interested. Or was it a woman?

Bryttar looked at the figure long enough to let them know they'd at least been seen.

“Here ye are.” The dwarf replied. “I’ll bring the stew and bread over to yer table in a minute.”

The dwarf slid the Rohirrim’s money off the counter as Bryttar walked away. Reaching the table he set the two ales down and slid into the booth across from his friend.

“Pass me my sword,” the Rohirrim whispered. “Quickly, under the table.”

The Gondorian man did so and then leaned forward while Bryttar took his sword. The Rohirrim’s eyes, however, watched as the barmaid, who now had a young toddler in her arms, returned to the Dale woman's table and then sat down.

“What is going on?” The Rohirrim’s companion whispered. His dark Gondorian eyes showing more concern.

“I don’t know,” Bryttar answered, his eyes scanning the corner once again. Then he looked back at the young man. “But be ready, there may be trouble here tonight.”

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Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:42 pm

With a sweet smile and beaming eyes, the tiny Beryl waved and blew the kiss Lady Heather asked of her. One hand flew to her mouth and then waved out, her black curls bouncing as she did so.

“Bye, Bye Bathwe!” Beryl called out.

“Bye, bye, Beryl.” She answered. “And thank you, Lady Heather.” She added. The woman’s green eyes sparkled in reply as she took the child towards the kitchen.

She dropped her wooden spoon into her half eaten bowl of stew and took up the hand Lady Heather had squeezed. It was her right hand, the one she’d discovered injured when she awoke in the clearing weeks before. It no longer ached. It was if her benefactress had healed it just with a touch. She curled her fingers, opened and closed her fist with ease.
No pain!

She said my name was Bardhwyn.

It sounded foreign, unknown, yet it was her name. Lady Heather used it so freely and sat with her with such ease; it couldn’t have been a ruse, some quick minded trick. This woman knew her and she wasn’t afraid. Perhaps her worst fears about her past were just that – fears.

A lady of Dale?
Surely she didn’t mean a LADY like herself, look at me!?

This idea caused her to chuckle.

I’m from Dale? Dale? A Barding?

She knew of the place but nothing more – no details, nothing.

A loud scrape of wood against wood brought her back to the Inn and she turned round just in time to see one of the patrons slide off his bench and under the table to roars of laughter and some applause. An Elven lad stood, offering to help the man up and she smiled to herself. It was brave of any second born to take on an Eldar in a drinking game. Many lifted their tankards to the victor and to keep with the spirit, she lifted hers.

She noticed then the Fair Haired Man and his companion youth seated in a booth on the opposite side of the room to her left. They spoke quietly between them, oblivious to the merriment which seemed odd to her. She could just make out the man fastening his sword belt around his waist while scanning the opposite corner of the room; his eyes were grave. They rested momentarily on her before he returned his attention to his companion.

Hunching slightly she pretended to itch her nose on her right shoulder. She cast a quick and furtive glance in the far corner to her right. There, in a recess, sat a cloaked figure that had a clear vantage of the room and the door. So the man has his enemies, does he? What does it have to do with her, though?

Nothing, she decided. She would have nothing to do with it.

Lady Heather emerged from the kitchen, Beryl in her arms – happy with a piece of milk soaked bread – and the Lady settled on the bench opposite.

“More stew? Ale?” Heather asked. “Remember, eat and rest – in that order.”

She nodded and held her bowl out as the Dwarf came round with the pot and a full ladle.

“Lady Heather,” she said quietly placing her full bowl down in front of, “You say my name is Bardhwyn, Bardy for short I take it.”

The woman smiled and nodded.

“And I am from Dale, you said?”

Heather nodded, her eyes were bright.

“And this place - where is this place?”

“You’re in the Lucky Fortune Inn, in Eregion, west of the Misty Mountains. Is any of this sounding familiar?” Heather asked as Beryl leaned sleepily on her shoulder.

She shook her head. “No, I’m sorry”, she said. She fell silent as the Elven lad and a woman passed by making their way to the door. Her eyes began to burn with tears so strong she could not resist them.

“I… oh… I’m sorry! ” Her hands flew to her face, covering the tears that streamed from her eyes. She now had a word that was her name, a word that was her place of birth but they were meaningless and empty. Her shoulders heaved, and she clamped her mouth with one hand, desperate to keep her sobs silent while the Inn’s merriment surrounded her.
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Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:44 pm

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Heather quickly slipped around and put her free arm around Bardhwyn's shaking shoulders. "Tears and time. You need time. Eru will work all things out for you in time. I'm sorry now that I didn't know you better, but we'll just have to take things as they come and do the best we can. Perhaps in a few days when you're good an rested we can go try to meet some of the bards. They'll help."

Heather was willing to sit that way as long as needed. Presently the tears subsided and Bardy finished eating. The healer quickly whisked the dishes away and got Beryl's blocks down from the shelf.

"I'm getting Bardhwyn settled, Borin, can you keep an eye on our little mischief maker?" she asked quietly, with a wink.

The dwarf laughed hartilly. "Aye. You know I will."


She then led Bardy up the stairs, stopping off in her own room to get a clean dress out of her just minutes she had a warm bath ready, layed out thick soft towels and carefully layed her spare dress across a chair.

"Here we are, I've drawn you up a bath. My room is right next to yours-don't hesitate if you need anything, but for now I'll be down stairs."
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Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:47 pm

“Thank you, Lady Heather. I can’t say it enough – that and ‘I’m sorry’ it seems.’

“Get washed up. Go on…” Heather chided as she glided out.

The room was small, clean and faced south. Idly she dipped her finger in the bath water, then wandered to the bed and carefully picked up the dress’ sleeve. I was soft and fine and in a color that would suit her. To her surprise she wanted to wear it.

She began to feel a strange sensation. She was feeling happier.

Bardhwyn of Dale…that is who I am …

They were just words to her, but she smiled faintly. She would build on them. She would make this Barding woman anew and what ever old stories come to her, they won't be hers. She'll make new stories to tell.

Two quick steps took her to the window and she lifted the iron latch, throwing it open into the cool night. She could see in the dim light a couple seated on a bench below, laughing lightly and talking quietly.

Spring is a way off yet, but that doesn’t stop the young, she thought. Perhaps someday someone will sit with me on that bench and we can laugh…someday…
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Postby Bryttar » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:48 pm

Pressing his body back into the small, dark corner, Bryttar waited cautiously. Things were happening fast, too fast. The Dale woman breaking down, the small group of friends entertaining themselves with a fast and furious drinking game which was getting louder by the minute, but, it was the two men that had really disturbed him. They had entered the Inn and found their way over to the dark figure in the corner. The three watched intently as the barmaid had led Bardhwyn away.

“Go, get the horses ready!”Bryttar commanded his young companion just as he finished the last of his stew. “And be careful.” He had added at the last minute before they both slipped out of the booth.

A quick inquiry with the Dwarf at the bar confirmed what Bryttar had suspected. The three sitting in the corner were newcomers, the Dwarf hadn't seen them before.

The sound of the door opening brought the Rohirrim back to the present. He watched as the barmaid slipped out, closing the door behind her.

Bryttar waited till she was back down stairs and then emerged from the shadows.

When his knock prompted no reply, the Rohirrim leaned his head in towards the door. "Bardhwyn?”


“Bardhwyn.” He said again a little louder. "I am a friend and we need to talk." He paused and then added."May I come in?"

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Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:49 pm

A friend? Lady Heather said I once had many friends... Bards she called them.

She walked to the door and recognized not only was she unarmed but, in preparation for her bath she’d taken off her tunic and shirt mail it and they, along with her few belongings were all piled in a heap on her bed. Wearing just a shirt and trousers she was quite vulnerable.

“Bardhwyn…” The voice spoke.

“Just a minute… ” She called out. It was so strange to hear this word: ‘Bardhwyn’. She slipped to the bedside, rifled through her things and loosened her long knife from its scabbard. A sharp strip of pain sliced down the left side of her face, following the trace of her scar but she ignored it.

She looked towards the door, planned how to position herself to have the advantage against who ever entered.

She stopped and looked at the knife in her hand. No. She would not live this way- armed and frightened. Her scar ached a second time, momentarily blinding her. Pressing her left hand to her face she turned and with her right threw the unsheathed dagger back onto the bed.

She walked directly up to the door, slipped the locking peg loose and lifted the latch, her heart pounding loudly in her ears.

Standing in the door was the Fair Haired man from the bar still wearing his sword belt. His body showed all the signs of a trained warrior on alert. She forced a weak smile but stood firmly in the doorway.

“You say you’re a friend, well, speak friend. Tell me your name.”
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Postby Bryttar » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:50 pm

She’d opened the door; it was a good first step.

“I am a friend and my name is Bryttar.” He answered noticing the fresh change of clothing and a slightly calmer countenance.

"Bryttar," she repeated. "I remember you from downstairs. Are you one of the Bards Lady Heather mentioned?"

“I am.” He replied, and then paused seeing her momentary confusion. The look in her eyes then changed.

"Oh", she says. "Nice to meet you Bard Bryttar." Still standing firmly in the doorway her eyes were now sizing him up.

"Thank you for offering to pay for my meal earlier. That was very kind."

“You’re welcome.” He answered, and then paused again. His mind raced with what he knew from their past and what current threat might be upon her. His momentary hesitancy was a mistake.

A new look of determination crossed her face.

“You need to go now!” and in one fluid motion the door was almost shut in his face…almost.

He hadn’t wanted to force himself in; he hadn’t wanted to force anything here. He needed her to trust him if he was going to help, but she left him no choice.

Instinctively his foot blocked the door and in an instant he was inside the room. The woman turned away and they both eyed the unsheathed knife resting upon the pile of clothing. Bryttar moved fast.

Before she could reach it his arms were around her trim body and arms. He held her upright her back pressed firmly into his chest.

“Bardhwyn…” he too was struggling though it was against her resistance. “We don’t…have time for…this!”

Her fighting didn’t lessen.

“We’ve met before…” he tried again.

Her muscles hesitated for a moment, but only a moment.

“Please… I am not going to hurt you.” He said as he retightened his grip upon her. “Bardy!…I didn’t hurt you then…and I’m not going to hurt you now.”

Her body stopped, her resistance eased.

“Listen,” Bryttar said still on guard but his voiced filled with compassion. “I know you don’t remember me, I know you don’t know who you are. But please search your heart. See if you feel I have reason to hurt you.”

Several moments passed before he felt the tension finally leave her body. Bryttar also relaxed his grip though not entirely.

“Bardy,” his voice almost a whisper. “Were you followed here?”

"" she stammered, "No, I mean, I don't know...I would have seen the signs...They'd have to be very good... I don't seem to miss very much. How that is, I don't know. I just don't know."

“That’s OK.” He replied trying to reassure her. “However, there are some men down stairs who seemed to have taken an interest in you. I don’t know them, but I know of them. They travel in three’s.”

Bryttar relaxed his grip entirely and placed his hands gently upon her shoulders turning her face towards his.

“Bardy, I don’t know much about your past, but what little I do know…” He stopped and then started again, “If these men are involved we need to get you out of here and we need to get you out now!”

Bryttar remain silent giving her time to let in what he’d said. Finally he asked.

“Do you have a horse outside?”

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Postby Bardhwyn » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:52 pm

“Three men, you say?” She repeated. “Why me? I don’t understand..”

“Bardy, do you have a horse?” Bryttar repeated, tightening his grip on her shoulders, forcing her to focus. That name again, she would have to get used to the sound.

She took another search of his eyes and it was still there, the compassionate steadiness that reached some deep recess of her heart. ‘Trust me’ it said.

“Yes, yes I do,” she stammered, “...have a horse," she quickly added, remembering his question, "...but he’s half wild and I have no saddle or tack. I walk and he follows me.”

A momentary look of surprise flashed across the man’s face. “Can you ride him?”

“I haven’t dared, not bareback. He frightens me.” In her mind’s eye she flashed back to the clearing where she awoke, injured, next to the dead bodies of half orcs, the image of their crushed-in skulls of the half orcs still vivid in her mind – the lethal work of her horses’ hooves.

“You say he follows you. Will he follow you if you ride with me?” Bryttar asked.

“Yes, yes he will. I have no doubt of it.” Bardhwyn answered pulling herself free of his grip and moving to her pile of belongings on the bed. Tears were once again streaming down her cheek. This, now? Just when she was beginning to feel the edges of what had to have been Happiness?

She took up the dress lent by Lady Heather. “Who are these men?” She asked. She laid it carefully aside and began stuffing one of her saddlebags. The warrior bard didn’t answer, or didn’t hear. He was at the door with his ear close making sure no one was in the hall. She wiped her face free of tears with her shirtsleeve and stopped, throwing the saddlebag down.

“No, I am staying. These people here know me…they’re my friends.”

“Bardhwyn…the BARMAID knows you and yes, she is a friend.” Bryttar whispered hoarsely, “As for any other friends here, they have a strange way of showing it – IF they are your friends.”

“Like you?” Bardhwyn asked, turning to face him. “You walk in, see me then offer to pay my meals but say nothing to me?”

"The circumstances by which we met were...difficult...I did what I needed to do to save your life,” Bryttar left the door and moved to the bedside. He picked up the half packed saddleback and thrust it back into her hands. “BUT I never knew if you knew that. We never had a chance to talk." She could see a strong mix of emotions trickle behind his grave blue eyes. “I couldn't take any chances." He added. “And we’ve not met since.”

She was about to ask how long ago it was when another arc of pain sliced down the left side of Bardhwyn’s face. Bryttar’s concern for her was interrupted by what sounded like night hawk’s cry through the window. It was loud, piercing and urgent. The warrior bard left her side, paced quickly to the window. He made two quick gestures, some code to a watcher below and returned to the bedside.

“We leave, NOW!” Bryttar said and hastily thrust the remainder of Bardhwyn’s things in her arms. Taking her arm he began to pull her towards the window.

“What, are you mad??! We can’t jump out the window!” Bardhwyn barked. She did her best to resist his strength but he merely doubled is efforts and pulled her, her boots sliding along the floor.

“There’s a small roof the length of the building, overhanging the common room windows.", He explained. "We drop onto that and onto my horse below.”

“Your horse?!” She stammered. Bryttar swung himself onto and out of the window, dropping down onto the slight roof below. She could see his hand beckoning her to follow, which she did, clutching everything she possessed in her arms. He held her steady once on the roof and she watched as, with one quick whistle he called a horse out from the gloom next to the stables. It positioned itself right below them both. She then understood; this man was Rohirrim. No other race could command horses so.

Deftly he dropped, trusting wholly the horse would remain motionless and take his weight. It was her turn and she faltered. Bryttar waved her down and from behind the stable rode his young companion.

“Now, Bryttar…we must ride!” He hissed.

“Bardhwyn, jump. I will catch you.” Bryttar urged with a whisper.

She took a deep breath and leapt.

The lights of the Inn faded into the gloom. As they rode she could hear the steady cantor of her horse behind them. She needn’t look - she new the black stallion with the white flash would not lose them. She thought of Lady Heather and made a silent promise to someday pay the debt of gratitude she owed her.
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Postby Bryttar » Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:18 am

It was the diminishing light of the moon that finally forced the riders to pull up for the night near a small grove of pine trees. There was a rock outcropping to the right and a narrow creek that ran just the other side of it. A nearby owl voiced his protest at the intruders and with a loud swoosh let the three know he had departed.

Between the Inn and this place Bryttar had stopped twice, checking to see if they were being followed. Much to his relief there were no indications anyone was behind them. The three had ridden west down the Great East Road for a short time and then had turn north. It was a small dirt path, one that Bryttar and his apprentice had taken earlier in the day.

“Well be safe here tonight.” Bryttar said breaking the silence of their ride from the Inn as he helped Bardhwyn off his horse and then dismounted. Eriador nodded and also dismounted. Both men then began to remove the tack from their horses.

As he was about to remove his saddle, a snort from the third horse stopped Bryttar and he turn his attention towards it. From what little he could make of the animal’s silhouette, the Rohirrim could see enough. This stallion was a truly magnificent creature.

“Too bad were riding geldings.” The Gondorian whispered as he came along side his mentor. He too was captivated.

A smile and a nod were Bryttar’s only reply as he returned his attention to the task at hand. In one quick move he hoisted his saddle off the gelding’s back, turned, and then placed it down on the ground. Removing a wine skin from his pack, which contained water, the Rohirrim then set himself down and took a long drink as his horse walked away in search of a nice place to roll.

“Eriador, what happened back there?” Bryttar finally asked wiping his mouth and handing the wineskin to Bardy who was standing nearby. “What did you see?”

“As I was waiting, I watched through the window.” The young man said as he sat down next to his mentor and stared at the ground. “One of the two men, you know, the one’s who came late and sat in the corner…well he went over and started talking to the barmaid behind the counter, right after she came down stairs.”

He stopped again to catch his breath and then continued.

“Actually I think he was trying to flirt with her….anyway, the other man, he went over to where the drinking game was going on. At first he joined in but before long he shoved one of the elves…It was a diversion Bryttar, I know it because that’s when I saw the cloaked man get up from his table.”

Eriador then picked his head up and looked at his mentor.

“I waited, to be sure, but once he reached the bottom of the stairs I gave the call.”

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Postby Bardhwyn » Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:03 pm

Bardhwyn listened, her quick mind visualizing the action as the young man described it – one man occupying the Lady Heather, another executing the planned distraction, the third and the leader most likely, making a quick move to the stairs. He’d done well, this Eriador. She nodded her silent approval before helping herself to the water, an action not missed by the youth, who smiled – briefly, lest he showed any approval mattered – then busied himself collecting kindling.

“No fires.” Bardhwyn spat out, startling Eriador upright. He looked in her direction, then at Bryttar who gave a curt nod of agreement causing the young man to spray what few twigs and branches he had back onto the ground.

“So much for a cup of tea,” He muttered, wiping his hands. “I will scout the perimeter, then…”

“No.” Bardhwyn said flatly. “Stay here.”

Eriador stopped and again looked at Bardhwyn and then to Bryttar. The Rohirrim straightened as he sat and again nodded in agreement.

“Why…I…?” Eriador sputtered.

Bryttar held up one hand, and with a knowing smile, stopped the lad. “Eriador, she’s right. Separated off you’re vulnerable, making us more so, too. We stay together we’re able to defend one another.” The young man tried to protest further. “You forget the horses,” Bryttar added, “they will alert us if anyone comes near.”

“Mine especially.” Bardhwyn said, handing Bryttar his water skin. “You’re almost out.” She added.

“Well, let me go over to the creek bed and fill it for you.” Eriador asked. “I will fill mine as well.” Bryttar tossed the skin to his apprentice. “May I fill yours?” he asked, his hand outstretched to Bardhwyn.

“I don’t have one.” She answered. “Didn’t you just see him hand me his to drink from. Open your eyes, boy.”

Blushing, Eriador turned and made his way around the rocks towards the creek, but not before Bryttar cautioned him; to the creek and no farther.

“He’s a good lad.” Bryttar said quietly, watching as Bardhwyn paced restlessly between two thick pines. “He was just acting on what he’s been taught.”

“If he needs to relieve himself, he should just say so.” Bardhwyn whispered.

Bryttar looked quizzical then, from behind the outcropping, the distinct sound of a forced stream of water could be heard, forcing the Rohirrim to bite back his own laughter. “How did you know?” He asked, grinning.

“He was hopping about like a jack rabbit in heat.” She answered.

“Sit down, please, Bardhwyn or are you in a similar situation?” Bryttar asked, hoping the humor would distract her and cause her to give up her pacing. It didn’t.

“When the lad returns, I want you both to saddle your horses and ride on. Leave me here.”

“No, Bardy, you don’t understand…” Bryttar began.

“No, you’re wrong, I do understand.” Bardhwyn interjected. “I don’t know what it is you think you owe me, Rider, but that was someone else, not me – not ‘this’ me – standing here.”

Bryttar's countenance changed. Slowly he stood, drawing himself to his full height while fixing the woman firmly with his gaze. He summoned a voice that was strident and clear:

“The woman standing here has a horse she can’t ride. The woman standing here has no real weapons to her name. The woman standing here has no idea who she is.” His voice then softened: “Your right Bardhwyn, I owe you nothing, but I once saw you come within minutes of being hung from a tree down near the Gap of Rohan. You, the woman standing here, have a bounty on your head for a crime you may or may not have committed.”

And with this pronouncement, yet another piece of her past was revealed and the weight of her worst fears pressed down on her. His directness carried with it a heavy, irresistible truth that she could not refute, not in the deepest recesses of her heart. Burying her face in her hands and falling to her knees she bit back a fury of tears.

“And what is to say then, Rider,” She spat, “That I am innocent of this crime? That I am not deserving of being cornered in the night, chased, killed? Can you say for sure because I cannot! And if I cannot, who can?”

She managed to stifle a sobbing wail and once suppressed she looked at Bryttar with eyes both tearful and pleading.

“If not for yourself, think of the lad.” She whispered, just as Eriador returned with two full but dripping wet water skins. He stopped short, aware he was being discussed.

“Think of me? Why? ” He asked.
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Postby Bryttar » Thu Sep 07, 2006 7:21 am

Bryttar paid no heed to her last comment, or to the questioning voice of his apprentice. Instead he knelt down in front her. One knee rested upon the ground while the other knee was outstretched in her direction. He rested his forearms upon his thigh and leaned forward just a little.

“Bardhwyn,” his voice gentle, “You are correct, I cannot say that you are innocent of this crime, but I can not say you are guilty either.”

“Isn't it plain? Those men... it is as I feared." She pleaded lowering her eyes. “Please, get as far away from me as you can."

The Rohirrim could hear it; resignation was setting in. "Bardhwyn, may I have your right arm?"

Instantly her head shot up, a new look of horror filled her eyes. “Why?” she asked protectively drawing her right arm in close to her chest.

"I want to explain something to you. I want to help you understand." He answered.

Bardhwyn looked down at her right arm, which was now being cradled by her left hand. “There is an ugly mark upon it...I don't know what it means. It is so deep... the pain ...” Through the tears she looked up at the Rohirrim her voice now containing a hint of awe as well, “It must have been so painful...”

Slowly she extended her arm and began to untie the cuff. Her eyes examined the scar as if they were examining the wound of a dear friend in consolation. She seemed slightly detached to both it and the moment as her fingers began to trace each letter and follow each path the deep angry scar formed upon her skin.

“It doesn't hurt, strangely enough. Not now.” She whispered.

Several minutes passed as the Rohirrim waited and watched this significant moment of reconnection.

“May I?” he finally whispered, reaching his right hand out towards her.

She nodded as she wiped the tears from her face. “Can you tell me, please?

The Rohirrim carefully moved his hand under the back part of her forearm to support it. “This is a brand.” He explained. “In the Land of Dale, this is the brand which is given to traitors.”

Her body reacted to his words with tension and retreat but Bryttar tightened his grip just a little.

“Please,” he whispered. It was enough. She kept her arm there.

“I did not see this when we met last time,” His voice was calm, his words fluent. “But there was one there who did…She was under the command of the Riders of the Mark at the time, though she herself wasn’t a Rider. The commander had ordered her to read your journal, which she did, though with great reluctance.” Bryttar then looked up from the woman’s arm and into her eyes. “Bardhwyn, I don’t know what all she read, but she read enough, enough to believe that you may be innocent. She read enough that she…and I…fought for your life that day.”

“My Life.” She replied.

"Yes' he whispered, with a nod. Closing his eyes one single tear fell.

“What makes you sad Rider?” She asked removing his hand from under her arm and then holding it within both of hers. “You were victorious - here I am, proof! I owe you and this other my life, it seems. Thank you."

“You’re welcome.” He finally whispered opening his eyes to look back at her.

Slowly the woman withdrew her hands. With one last look at her arm she then began to retie the sleeve as a shiver ran through her body.

"Eriador," Bryttar spoke up, "get my cloak."

A few moments later the young man was next to them with Bryttar’s cloak in hand. It was the same cloak he had worn into the Inn. The Rohirrim took it and then draped it around her shoulders. Slowly he untucked her hair from the cloak’s wrap.

As he loosened the last few strands, the sounds of approaching hooves caught his attention. They weren’t the sounds of an enemy’s approach, these hooves were moving slow and deliberate. A short distance away, the sound finally took form. The stallion emerged from the darkness, took three steps closer, and then stopped.

Bryttar tenderly reached out and gave Bardhwyn’s shoulder a slight squeeze. Then he rose to his feet. For each step back that he took, the stallion came one step closer, until the moment came when he reached her. Carefully the dark horse lowered his head and softly nuzzled the woman’s neck. She answered his affection with her hand which gently began to stroke his white blaze.

The two remained like this until finally she rose to her feet. Her arms embraced the stallion’s neck and Bryttar watched as the two shapes appeared to become one. The moment passed and they separated. She turned and began to walk away. The stallion turned and followed. They both disappeared into the night.

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Postby Bardhwyn » Sat Sep 09, 2006 5:03 pm

She stopped far enough so the gloom would enclose Bryttar and the youth but not so far that she lost the sense of their presence. The loud and sporadic riffling of dry leaves betrayed the presence of a squirrel – and though she knew it to be so, Bardhwyn focused and listened just in case it was used to mask another’s approach…all else was silent. The horse stood at ease. She slowly released her breath.

Not a good example for the lad, leaving like this.’ hailed her stern inner voice, ‘Hypocritical.’

‘But I’m experienced and have a murderous horse.’ she voiced silently, answering back. ‘And I am branded a traitor…perhaps innocent, perhaps guilty...were they, then fallen comrades, those half orcs in the clearing?’

The thoughts…the fears…and now the truths - she wavered under the weight of it all, her body swaying in the dark and, as it had done so many times on their long, wearying journey together, the horse leaned into her, steadying her upright. His earthy scent of dirt and sweat eased her mind and his warmth was comforting. Then a familiar upwelling came – from deep within the ache of her chest; a deep abiding of love and gratitude for this beast, and for more…for something un-namable – all quickly followed by the same, stifling fear.

‘Can you be trusted?’ She silently asked, pressing her face and chest into the horse’s neck, ‘Or will you turn on me, like those sorry creatures.’

A dark silence in her heart followed.

‘Can I be trusted? Will I turn…? ’

“You and I are too much alike.” She murmured aloud, her pained words reverberating deep into the horse’s neck. He reacted to her emotion as if objecting, tossing his head slightly and nickering, shifting his weight slightly as if to go and she, not wanting him to leave her threw her arms around the horse's neck a second time.

“No,” she ordered, Stay…” and then it pressed upon her, she felt its name. It was there and in a flash gone, eluding the grasp of her mind.

Terror followed, and then immediate anger and frustration. She hung on the horse’s neck, allowing the tears to once again take reign. Would she be forever chasing her past, and be chased by it?

“What am I to do?” She begged, her face still pressed fast to the horse’s neck. It was then she heard Bryttar’s short quick laugh ring out from the dark, carried to her by a trick of the slight wind that blew and echoed off and around the rocks. In its lightness, she could also hear his kindness. It momentarily brightened the gloom and her heart.

The sounds of the night soon returned, filling the space around her. She stood for what seemed a long while, resting against her faithful companion. She lifted her head from the horse’s neck and caught one his dewy brown eyes with hers. “You like him, don’t you?” She asked. The horse flicked its ears easily. “You must, you allowed him near me back there with me being so upset.” Another quick flick of its ears followed. He cocked his head briefly at the departure of a night bird, its clicking call rising into the night. Bardhwyn caught sight only of a tree branch, its former perch, bobbing in the gloom. She patted the horse's neck affectionately.

“You do, then! No doubt because he’s a son of Eorl, eh? Did you see how he worked with his mount at the Inn, were you watching? How it waited for him to drop onto it? Will you do that for me someday?” She asked. Her voice, now freed of the pain seemed to please the animal and it blew and stamped slightly.

She focused and listened, this time on the clearing. The low consistent murmur of the man and youth told her they were in a conversation that she should not interrupt.

“He’s all that stands between me and oblivion, it seems.” Bardhwyn said quietly to herself, finally releasing the horse’s neck. “I will not lie, my four legged friend, there are strong urges within me to distrust him and what he says but they conflict with a deeper knowledge, a knowledge no words can hang upon." She reached out again, grasping into the abyss of her past for a memory...but it eluded her.

She shook her head, now suddenly weary by the ride, the fierce tide of emotions and by the chill of the evening. She pulled his cloak around her, aware it carried his scent, mixed with dust and wind and sun.

“Nothing ill will befall him on account of me, I swear it.” She whispered.
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Postby Eriador » Tue Sep 12, 2006 10:33 am

He stood there motionless, staring out into nothing where the woman and stallion had faded minutes before. “Bryttar?” He finally whispered.

“Yes.” Came the quiet reply from behind.

Eriador turned to his left and then looked behind. His mentor was now sitting on the ground leaning up against his saddle. Afraid to move, though he’d break the spell, he then saw the outline of Bryttar wiping another tear from his cheek.

The young man looked back one last time at where the two had disappeared and then he slowly walked over and sat down next to Bryttar. Several more minutes passed as he stared down at the ground, uncertain as to what to do next. It was Bryttar who finally broke the silence.

“You did well tonight.”

The young man looked up surprised.

“I’m proud of you.” Bryttar added.

“Bryttar I…” he struggled, “thank you…but I don’t think…well, I don’t think she thought so.” That familiar, annoying ping of fear began to gnaw in the pit of his stomach breaking the eerie calm he’d known only moments before.

“I know, sometimes it’s hard not judge your abilities by someone else’s reactions.” The Rohirrim said reassuringly. “She’s afraid…like that young bay colt I helped you with last year.”

Eriador’s thoughts turned back in time, back to Rohan when he’d been with Bryttar only a month. Their mentor/apprentice relationship began working with the horses on Bryttar’s family ranch. Being from one of the poorer families in Gondor, the youth hadn’t had much experience with horses so in those early days he’d spent many hours just watching the Rohirrim work calmly, and patiently, with the large animals.

At the end of each day his head would be filled with questions, but when he asked, Bryttar’s reply was always the same. Keep watching, keep listening. He struggled with this answer for several weeks, especially since Bryttar rarely spoke a word when he worked. But slowly he found himself caught up in the magic that happened between man and animal and the day came when he understood it wasn’t words he was listening for.

It was shortly after this that Bryttar’s oldest brother brought home a 2-year old, terrified, bay colt. No one ever told the young Gondorian where the horse had come from or what had happened, but he took to the animal instantly and wanted to become his friend. He and Bryttar spent many hours just sitting next to his pen letting the young animal be while getting used to their presence. Bryttar had helped Eri to understand that nothing was going to happen until the colt understood they weren’t going to hurt him.

“It’s related,” Eriador said quietly looking up at Bryttar after another long pause. “For us to help the colt we needed to wait until he trusted us.”

“Yes,” The Rohirrim replied.

“But that took two months Bryttar…Tonight, here, what happened with her, I mean with him we had time…” The young man’s voice trailed off as he tried to piece together this complicated puzzle. Finally he shook his head, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand how you did it?”

“How I did what?” Bryttar replied.

“How you were able to make her trust to trust you so fast.” Eriador answered.

Bryttar let out a short quick laugh and smiled as he leaned forward and rested his forearms atop his upright knees.

“Eri, trust is not something that can be coerced or demanded. Think of it as a gift, like what I’ve told you about respect. It is something that someone chooses to give to you freely…of their own will. Tonight, I didn’t make Bardhwyn trust me, what I did was to show her I was someone who could be trusted, then I let her decide.”

“Like with the horses," Eriador finally spoke up nodding his head in understanding. "You ask, let them choose, and then respect their decision”

"Yes.." Bryttar smiled, “Now where this can get more difficult is when there is another threat they aren’t aware of, but we’ll save that conversation for another night. It would be good for you to get some sleep now.”

The young man nodded, rose to his feet, and went to his saddle. A few moments later he was lying upon his bedroll, covered by his cloak, and staring up towards the stars. The strange sense of calm had returned replacing the gnawing fear he’d known earlier, and for much of his life. He still didn’t understand how Bryttar’s words could affect him this way, but he was glad that this man had let him into his life. Eriador’s final thoughts before he drifted off to sleep were on trust and the little bay colt who was still back in Rohan.

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Postby Bardhwyn » Thu Sep 14, 2006 5:45 pm

Confounded by the early setting of the moon and with their horses winded, three riders anxiously rested their mounts while standing in the middle of the Great East road. Their sharp and heavily accented voices rang out into the dark:

“They turned off the road long ago, I say!” One barked, yanking hard upon his horse’s rein, causing the poor beast's head to jerk, “I say we double back…”

“And WHAT? Ride into the wood on a moonless night, you DOLT?! NO! I do not fancy meeting an Elven party; they’d smell us before they’d see us.”

“There are no elves here, in these parts…”

“They travel at night, westward, to the sea, you nachbah!”

“Insult me one more time, you son of who..”

“ENOUGH! Enough of this!” The third commanded. “We wait until dawn! Then the sun will favor us as she always has.” And with this comment, he touched his forehead reverently. His two companions did likewise.

The third rider, taller in stature and clearly the leader, was by far more at ease on this dark road. He urged his mount closer to his two companions and with a cold and even tone said: “They cannot get far, we cannot allow it.”

And with that, the leader directed his mount off the road, behind a small copse of mayflower and holly. The two riders tarried a while, smarting with the rebuke, then followed, walking their horses slowly. Despite the gloom they could make out the glint of metal and the outline of a sword’s hilt protruding from a blanket roll strapped to their leader’s back, who had, by right, first claim to their spoils. It was sword of Dwarven make, worth a fortune, and also, a clue.


The soft trill of crickets filled the air and the horse, content that Bardhwyn was calm and free of fear, was some feet away, grazing on thick tufts of grass. The low, dull murmurings of Bryttar and the lad had long ceased and she new she could return but she tarried, alone, thinking. She stared hard into the dark, her eyes struggling to define the terrain around her.

She had decided what needed to happen next.

Picking her way back, she followed the line of the creek and carefully scaled it’s bank upwards, choosing her toe holds mindfully, feeling the soft spongy moss give way under the toe of her boot until the footing was sure. Bryttar’s cloak, too long for her, rustled and caught on the brush and young trees as she climbed making discernable noise – which was her purpose. Able now to take hold of rock outcroppings to steady her climb and aware she was approaching the two men she called out:

“Bryttar, 'tis I,” and she faltered, recollecting the name by which she was called, “’tis I, Bardhwyn.”

“Yes,” he replied in a hushed tone. “The lad is sleeping.”

She entered the small clearing, able to make out Bryttar’s darkened silhouette as he sat leaning against what had to have been his saddle. Off to the right lay the blanketed form of Eriador, his soft, rhythmic breathing telling of a deep, peaceful sleep.

“He knows how to rest in the wild. That’s good.” She said quietly, listening to his breath.

“Consider resting as well.” Bryttar added.

She said nothing in reply but knelt down and began to sort through her pile of belongings as best she could in the dark, handling and quickly folding her outer tunic, her mail and the spare shirt she carried. Setting them aside she laid hands upon the long knife, belt and pouch she carried, along with the saddlebags but the bedroll was not there.

“Oh, no…” She gasped.

“What is it?” Bryttar asked, stirring slightly.

“My bedroll, its not here!” She exclaimed, keeping her voice soft. She extended her search outward in the dark, sweeping her hands around where her things were piled.

“You had no bedroll,” Bryttar said, “Here, use mine.”

Bardhwyn groaned, fell back upon her seat and buried her face in her hands. “Now I understand you: ‘The woman standing here has no real weapons to her name.’ No, I do not! Not now!” She threw her head back and looked to the stars. “In the bedroll I had wrapped a sword, a beautiful sword of Dwarven make! I found it in the clearing I woke in. It was…important.” She said, surprising herself. “It is important.” She repeated. Instinctively she looked eastward, towards the Inn.

“We cannot go back, Bardhwyn.” Bryttar said rightly. “You have to let it go.”

This truism, sensible and wise as it was, nonetheless produced a flash of anger in her heart. She glared at the Rohirrim and if it were light, he’d no doubt feel the need to be on his guard, ever so slightly. The gloom, however, veiled her response and Bryttar unaware of her mood handed her his bedroll. She hesitated and then took it from him.

“Take back your cloak, at least.” She offered unfastening the leather straps ‘round the blanket as she spoke.

“No, I have another. I will keep watch.” He said, lowering his voice just as Eriador stirred, rolling onto his side in his sleep.

“Wake me. I will take the second half.” Bardhwyn said, throwing out the blanket.

“It would be best for you to get some sleep.”

“I will not run and leave you unguarded.” She retorted, her voice sharp.

“When is the last time you had restful sleep in the wild?” Bryttar asked, avoiding her barb. “Tonight would be a good opportunity, I would think. Stay awake if you will but I will keep watch.” He reached out, motioning to the blanket she’d spread out on the ground.” Please, rest.”

His words, once again, moved her. She silently admitted to herself that it had been many days since she’d slept deeply, without the lingering alertness that kept one only skimming the surface of sleep, an alertness that was needed to survive. She eased herself down, wrapping the cloak about her, then the blanket. She then remembered what she’d wanted to say to the Rider.

“In the morning we have much …”, She stopped herself, reconsidering her words. “I would like to discuss matters with you in the morning.” She asked.

“All right.” was his response. She rested her head down onto her pile of clothing and slept, deeply…

…and dreamt…

She dreamt she was a child, no more than eight years of age, standing on a sunlit field and with her was a young man teaching her how to use a bow. He was tall, blue eyed like her and his smile was warm and patient. When she shot and hit the target, he would cheer, lifting her up on his shoulder, and spinning her around.

“Do it again!” She would cry, “Spin me again L…”

And even in her dreams her past would elude her. The name of this young man skirted her mind, leaving her saddened.

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Postby Bardhwyn » Fri Sep 15, 2006 6:46 pm

As the dawn broke, she woke - a habit of survival. In the light one can see, and be seen. The lad Eriador was awake, preparing the horses for riding and Bryttar was climbing up the bank, from the creek, his water skin slung over one shoulder.

“Good morning.” He said, “You slept well, I take it?”

“Yes, thank you. I dreamt.” She replied, “I’ve not dreamt before.”

Bardhwyn pulled herself up onto her elbow and studied their position with the benefit of light. The clearing was indeed secluded and they could conceivably stay they undetected for weeks. She checked the sky, there was weather moving in. High cirrus clouds spread west to east like eerie, iced fingers harkening the coming of rain.

“Yes, I see them too.” Bryttar said, noting how she looked to the sky. Pointing northwest, he called to his apprentice. “Eriador? Do you see?”

The young man turned and looked, scanned the sky, then looked at the trees both near and distant. This impressed Bardhwyn.

“The leaves are calm.” He commented, “I’d say we have six hours until the weather hits”

“I agree.” Bryttar answered. “We have time to seek shelter before that.” Squatting down by his packs, the Rider rummaged for a moment and took out small bundles, that ,when unwrapped, produced dried fruit and salted meat, hard cheeses and, to Bardhwyn’s surprise, nuts from the south.

“Macadamias!” Bardhwyn exclaimed. “I know these. How do I know these?”

“You have a memory?” Bryttar asked, “I’ve heard tell it could be the smallest thing that brings ones past back to them.” He gave Bardhwyn a handful and settled, cross legged on the ground opposite her. “Eriador, come, sit and eat with us.”

“Do I have a memory? Of how I know this nut? Yes and no.” She answered, sitting up fully. “It is a strange thing, I know and recognize things,” She held up the macadamia nut, “but I cannot place why. It’s as if I feel the pressure of the memory on me, like a hand pushing on my back. If I turn towards it, there is nothing there.” She bit into the white nut, smiling at the taste. Eriador sat beside Bryttar, eagerly taking a nut for himself.

“That must be quite frightening.” Eriador said innocently.

“Yes, it is.” Bardhwyn said quietly.

“I cannot imagine not knowing who I am or where I am from.” Eriador continued, “If that happened to me, I…” Bryttar lightly placed his hand on the lad’s knee, pausing him in mid sentence, causing Bardhwyn to suppress a grin.

“Would you care to tell us how this happened?” Bryttar asked, “Perhaps in the telling, you may remember more?” Careful not to look at Bardhwyn, lest she feel pressured, he casually took out his knife and proceeded to cut a piece of cheese.

She watched him, how he did not weigh his eyes upon her. This man was patient and so contained. He was intelligent, too, this she could tell as well, and it was rooted in compassion, which was to his credit. Too many other intelligent men, lacking this, would turn their minds to hatred and power. Not this man. She bit off another morsel of the macadamia and chewed, considering his request.

“There isn’t much to tell. All that I remember begins at the time I woke up in a clearing, on a mountainside; some ten days ride northeast of here. The Misty Mountains I soon learned.” She answered, taking up the cheese Bryttar just set down and holding out her hand, silently requesting the knife. Eriador, on hearing her begin, looked up in awe - not to her but at his mentor. Bryttar, dispassionate, handed her the blade.

“I received a deep blow to my head; I cover it as best I can with my hair. It is healing well, thanks to the kindness of an old woman I met. I had other injuries; a broken rib, a sprained hand, some blows to the face – those have healed or are still, but it was the head blow that drove my memory from me.” She sliced off a piece of cheese and offered it to Eriador, who took it with a nod.

“I woke, on the ground, with the stallion hovering over me. At sight of me awake, he reared, neighing loudly – I thought he aimed to trample me then and there but he did not. Instead he pranced and frolicked, happy I was alive, I think. He’s not left me since.” She looked southward, through the pines to where the horse stood, idly waiting. “It took me several hours to regain my senses - I propped myself against a tree, an ash, mightily old and the horse stood guard, amazingly…I find it hard to think he belongs to me, he’s such a fine animal.” Bardhwyn said admiringly, momentarily lost in thought. She collected herself, cut a slice of cheese and reached for a weathered apple.

“I found the dead bodies of two half-orcs in the same clearing; half orc, half man. They were gruesome to the eye but what was worse was how they died – they were kicked in the head by that stallion.” She said, looking soberly at Bryttar, “So, you can see why I have some fear around him.” She bit into her slice of cheese, and chewed, thinking.

“I managed to stand after a while, searched the bodies, found water but no food, a few coins. I also found these saddlebags, the long knife and the sword and blanket that were left behind at the Inn last night. Everything else you see, I had on my person – these clothes, this pouch. I managed to walk away, fearing more orcs would return, and the horse followed me. I wore the sword for a while but I soon wrapped it away. I felt it necessary not to draw too much attention to myself - difficult to do when a stallion follows you about like a dog!” She added with a laugh before biting into her apple.

“I walked south, met with kindly people, willing to offer food, medicines, an empty hay loft to sleep in. I met some not so kindly people, too. I was careful as I traveled; waiting to see if anyone recognized me but no, I was a stranger everywhere I went. And then, I eventually found the Inn and someone who knew me.” Bardhwyn leaned over and took up what looked like a dried fig. “Two people, in fact; the Lady Heather and Bryttar of Rohan. Both offered me their help but in different ways.” She finished with a wry smile.

She bit the fig between her teeth and pulled, tearing the tough leathery fruit in two. She chewed and reached for the water skin that sat between the three of them. She took it up, uncorked it and drank, washing down the fruit.

“So, now I know my name, where I am from and what I am.” She said, emphasizing the last three words while corking the water skin, rapping it with each syllable. “Confirming, I may add, all my fears.” At this, she heaved a sigh. “When I woke and found myself in the company of dead half orcs in a clearing near the Misty Mountains I had to ask myself ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ In light of what you say, Bryttar, that I am a traitor from Dale it is clear – they were my companions in some fashion, if not the dead then some other treacherous band at odds with them. There was a clash of arms, I was injured and they left me for dead, the scum that they are.”

Bardhwyn placed the water skin back on the ground and looked Bryttar squarely in the eye, prepared now to announce that which she decided the night before:

“Because of what I am, and who might be after me, you must take me to the nearest town and turn me over to the Crown.” Bryttar stirred, wanting to object but Bardhwyn spoke over him.

“No doubt I will be sent to Dale and to my fate. If I am innocent as you say, then all will be well. It is your duty, Bryttar, to the King, to yourself, to your young apprentice here. Please I want you to take the bounty for yourself, for the lad here. Just deprive those men, who ever they are, of their spoils. Do it, please, Bryttar,” She begged, “I can’t… no, I will not live like this."

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Postby Bryttar » Thu Sep 21, 2006 8:33 am

Bryttar listened to her words as she described the events of her recent past, making no judgments or drawing any conclusion. When she mentioned the acts of the stallion, inwardly he was surprised, but showed no emotion to the others. There were two things about the details that disturbed him, but he would not voice his concern now. However, when she told him that he must take her to the nearest town and turn her in, this is when he finally spoke up.

“Bardhwyn, what is it you want?” He watched as she changed her position from one of leaning forward to one of sitting back.

Her voice sounded surprised. "Isn't it clear? I want you to turn me in…I want you...” she stopped and looked down. “I want you both to be safe,” she added.

“And what is it you want for yourself?” He asked clarifying his question.

She nodded her head and the Rohirrim could sense she was holding back tears. He said nothing and waited until she finally spoke again. “I see no other way," she whispered.

Carefully, and reassuringly, he reached out and grasped her right shoulder as she wiped a falling tear from her cheek.

“I want to know... really know what I am.” She answered looking up. “I cannot explain it. If I am a criminal, were a criminal, I cannot live with that on my head. I feel deep remorse, to the point of heartbreak. I cannot live with that. I must atone...somehow. Perhaps the Gods have taken pity on me. Perhaps this is my second chance."

“So you want to know the truth about who you are and what happened in your past.” He asked and then followed with. “Is that all?”

Bardhwyn shook her head. "No, I will not be the cause of any harm to befall you or this lad, here.” Her eyes momentarily looked at Eriador and then turned back to the man who sat next to her. “As I said last night, you must be rid of me. Innocent or Guilty, leave me to my fate, Bryttar, please!"

“You ask me to leave you to your fate, yet you also ask me to turn you in and take the bounty for myself. Which is it?” He asked removing his hand from her shoulder “Am I to be an instrument in determining your fate, or should I just leave you here to meet your fate now?”

Despite the dark night, Bryttar could see the change in her eyes. The softness which he’d seen only moments before was now replaced with a look that was cold and hard.

"How do I answer this clever fellow?" She asked, the icy tone couldn’t be missed. "My quality will be revealed depending on my answer. All right, Bryttar. I will say it. Yes, I am frightened and I need...and want… your help. I want to live, not dangle on the end of a rope or slide off some brigand's blade.” Shaking her head, the Dale woman’s voice then became calmer. “Clearly a bounty does not sway you but does honor? Duty?" She chortled." "Help me or leave me, regardless I know what I must do..."

Bryttar let the conversation pause for a minute and took time to collect his thoughts before he then replied with these words. “Honor and duty...It makes one wonder sometimes. Bardhwyn,” The Rohirrim then pointed to her right arm.

“If that brand upon your arm is deserved, then duty and honor to King and country should be recognized and given. If it was not deserved, then where was honor? Where was duty? Where was the protection owed to you by your Homeland? Why should they allow injustice and if so, then why should I?”

The woman from Dale answered quickly. "Men in power allow injustice, Bryttar because it suits them. And their plans. Men like you, good men, are led to believe in ideas like 'justice' and 'right' so you do the right thing. Always the right thing." She laughed knowingly. "Until it conflicts with the men in power. I am sorry, such is my cynical side. Injustice happens, Bryttar, innocents suffer, the guilty walk free in the sun. All that matters is how we each wear our conscience, so again, I know what I must do…You cannot dissuade me. I see you have a quick mind. So do I. And I am stubborn."

When she had finished, the Rohirrim watched as a weary, forced, smile crossed her lips. There was no doubt in his mind this woman’s journey had been difficult. How long it had gone on before their paths had come together in Rohan, he could only guess. But in her words of this evening he had learned two things. One was that she wanted to live, and two, she did want his help. He silently agreed with her personal assessment. She was quick minded and stubborn, traits that had probably kept her alive longer than most, but beyond these, and more importantly, he saw that she still had her spirit. This woman was a survivor and she was going to fight. The Rohirrim only hoped that this part of her was something he could come along side of and not turn against him. After several minutes of reflecting upon these thoughts and others, he finally spoke up.

“Yes Bardhwyn, the innocents do suffer, I’ve seen it happen too many times. And sometimes the guilty go free….so which of these are you? You cannot answer, and neither can I….How long have you lived in your prison? Free to wander the hills, yet not free because of the curse you wear upon your arm...There is duty and honor to one’s King and country, but Bardhwyn there is a larger duty, a duty to truth. Truth honors justice. I will not try to dissuade a quick minded, stubborn woman, I know better. But I would ask you to think about where it is you want to run to.”

Her reply came fast. "I have thought, Bryttar, long and hard in the dark last night. And what suggest may defy logic and reason, I know. Still, there is a deep, wordless force that compels me to this. Besides, were this an injustice,” she held out her right arm. “Do you think you, along with a lad of 13 can challenge my fate? Take on the Crown of Dale? Champion me?” She then let out a laugh.

“Do you think you have a better chance alone?” Bryttar answered. “Or with the very one’s who may have done this to you? This deeper force may be driving you, but until you know what it is, I would caution you to listening to it’s voice. I’m not saying don’t listen, but I am saying to be careful of what actions you take because of it.”

She looked directly into his eyes, “Bryttar I am listening. Are you?”

“Bardhwyn,” he replied calmly. “I am listening, but there is something else you don’t know of, or don’t remember. There are changes in the land, the King has made new decrees and there are also some laws which have changed. It’s taking some time reach these outer Northern areas and I don’t know what state it is in up here. If you feel you must turn yourself in, I would ask something of you first. Let me investigate these things, let me talk to some people, see if I can get a feel for what situation may be awaiting you. Would you at least let me do that much?”

“You would do this where?” She asked.

"Less than two days ride from here is a small, newly established town. It's at the base of Weathertop. Eriador and I were planning on going there eventually. We could ride there now, today"

“Weathertop…Weathertop…”she mumbled a few times under her breath as if chasing a memory. "And who would these 'people' be?” Her eyes narrowed as she asked.

“Just and trustworty men.” He smiled, winked, and then added, “Until they conflict with the men in power.” But then his voice became serious again. “I would talk only to the Magistrates, men I know I could trust ...and I would not reveal your name to anyone.”

Her countenance relaxed as she took time to consider his words. Finally she appeared to reach some kind of conclusion within herself. “Alright, Bryttar. We will go to Weathertop Town..."

"New Weathertop, they call it." Bryttar gently corrected.

"New Weathertop then, and you can do your investigation. Who knows what you will learn. Someone may else may bring up my name and provide you with all either of us need to know. I want your word, however, that if I am wanted and these new laws are to your liking, you deliver me to these Magistrates."

“Bardhwyn,” he replied, “If these new laws are to my liking, and I trust the people who are implementing them, then yes. But if I don’t, then we will discuss a different plan, agreed?”

“Agreed!” she answered affirming their agreement.

Bryttar then turn to the young man who had silently watched the entire conversation. “Eriador, please go get the horses, we ride now, before the weather turns against us.”

Last edited by Bryttar on Thu Sep 21, 2006 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Cerrimir_and_Ellandar » Thu Sep 21, 2006 10:06 am

Annúminas, the ancient seat of the Kings of Arnor, nestled on the shores of Lake Evendim was long desolate, its ruins home to migrating birds and a constant wind. With the fall of the Eye and the return of the King Annúminas stirred to life again, planned as the King’s northern seat and home to the headquarters of King Elessar’s men; the Dunedain, Rangers of the North who once followed him in the wild.

The Headquarters, a collection of rough hewn buildings, barracks and barns hugged the Lake’s shore, east of the ancient ruins that scraped and rung with the hammers and tools of Dwarves of Erebor, sent to revive the City’s ancient stone. Men and horse could be seen departing and arriving, maneuvering around the numerous carts that serviced the new locale. They’d arrive then unload, only to turn around and travel south, towards the White City.

The newly appointed Commandant was always in his chambers before his staff arrived in the morning, his shut door a message he was not to be disturbed until the allotted time. His clerk, the young Lieutenant from the North Downs, listened carefully to the bells of the watch, the 9th hour of the day being his signal to enter.

The watch sounded and the Lieutenant prepared himself to enter the ‘old man’s rooms'. He pulled his tunic straight and wiped either boot on the back of his calves. Standing at attention before the door with his Commandant’s paper’s carefully cradled in one arm he knocked and waited for the familiar grunt to sound from the inside before lifting the large, cast iron latch and entering the room.

“Good morning sir, I have collated all of the morning’s dispatches for you. The outpost logs are on the bottom but I have taken this one out for you to read.” The young man pulled a parchment from the top of the rather thick stack and handed it to his commander. “I think it warrants your attention.”

The parchment curled into a scroll and Cerrimir, Commandant of the King’s Rangers in Annúminas, took it, looking incredulously at his young aid as he did so. Cerrimir read the document, his dark eyes skirting from left to right, panning down the page. His clerk, well versed in his Commander's ways, watched until he was near its end before he cleared his throat slightly, in preparation to speak.

“I can have two Rangers ride out within the hour, Sir, to follow up on this woman’s whereab…”

“No.” Cerrimir replied in a curt monotone, tossing the parchment to a far corner of his desk.

“But sir, clearly…”

“No, Lieutenant.” Cerrimir repeated, sure to look the young man directly in the eye as he spoke.

“Yes sir.” The Lieutenant repeated his tone subdued. He carefully placed the stack of dispatches onto the Commandant’s desk and turned to go.

Cerri, watching this young man’s careful motions and obvious stiffness, inwardly sighed. ‘You did it again’, he heard his second in command’s voice say, ringing clearly in his mind. ‘You’re the old man now, Cerri. You have to bring the men along with you, not drag and push them. Not everyone is as accepting of you as I, you know.’ Cerrimir glanced out the open window westward, towards the coastland where Ellandar, his second, was stationed, overseeing troops Cerrimir himself had posted.

“Lieutenant, wait.” Cerrimir ordered. The young clerk turned on his heel and snapped to attention.

“Let me explain myself, Lieutenant so you have a better understanding of why I do what I do.” Cerri stretched back in his chair, and studied the young man for a moment, reminding him of just who was in charge.

“Three points.” Cerrimir announced. He held up his index finger. “First: I don’t need to tell you we’re thin on the ground here. Between half our men surveying the Halfing’s border in preparation for it’s closure come spring and sending the other half of our troops to be spread all along the Lindon coasts, just in case more bored and brutally thorough Corsairs decide to raid our fishing villages and interfere with the Grey Ships we are, shall I say stretched. I can’t spare the men.” Cerrimir waited a moment, allowing the import of the first point to sink in. He then continued.

“Second,” The Commandant held up two fingers, “I receive regular reports about increased brigand activity on the western slopes of the Hithaelgir, and have done for some time now. Classified information, young man, so keep your trap shut. It is Dale’s responsibility to clean the scum up, not ours. Bard II can spread his men thin for a change. Third,” Cerrimir held up a third finger, “Clearly this woman, by her own observations, is no innocent. She’s one of these brigands, and no doubt got caught up in one of their internal skirmishes or was chased down by some local militia. She will either be picked up by her ‘friends’ or picked off her enemies in due time.”

Cerrimir pushed his three upheld fingers at the young man to assert his points and slapped his hand down onto the arm of his char. He sat, watching and waiting for this young man to respond - which he did silently, of course, but blatantly all over his unschooled face.

Cerrimir rested his chin onto his hand, reflecting on how this Lieutenant reminded him of Ellandar when he was a raw recruit. For his gruff exterior and curt ways, Cerrimir was quite intuitive and quickly guessed the young man’s disease.

“But you being a King’s man, good and true, you worry for her welfare? Is that correct?” Cerri asked.

“Yes, sir, I do. She’s a woman, after all, and we should...”

Cerrimir pounded his fist onto the arm of his chair, and sitting forward, allowed the young man ‘the benefit of his thinking’:

“Lieutenant, if she be a brigand, she’ll resort to a brigand’s ways, be caught and be taken in. If the local towns and villages are abiding by the King’s new edicts, she’ll be arrested, treated fairly and given trial. That’s when she’ll get help - prior to trial. Gone, soon, will be the days when a stranger can be hung on sight because he, or she, may steal a loaf of bread or someone makes an unfounded claim or worse, they just ‘look foul’.” Cerrimir eased back into his chair, assuming a relaxed posture. “Which reminds me, have the new Judge Magistrates left for their respective seats yet? They’re getting underfoot here – this is a military post, not an Inn.”

“A few still wait for their legal libraries to arrive by cart but most are still waiting for their official papers to arrive from the White City. Until those papers arrive, there is no point them going to their assigned towns to take up their judicial duties, they’d be ignored. Even with the King’s seal and official appointments, they’ll have a difficult time of it. Some towns are not happy about all this, as you well know, sir, sending Judges in to take the law into the King’s hands. An usurpation of their self governing rights, some call it.”

Cerrimir pulled the deposited stack of dispatches toward him and spoke into them drolly, as if bored by the subject. “The King’s law is everyone’s Law, whether they be in Forlond, Staddle or New Weathertop, as disorganized as it is.” He then looked up. “Why the delay with these papers? Are there problems with the roads?” Cerrimir asked, curious.

“No sir, the roads are clear - rumour is there is a shortage of paper in Minas Tirith which is slowing everything to a standstill, from Harad to Forochel.”

Cerri grunted; a wry grin pasted on his lips. “We can break Saruman, destroy Sauron, and unify the land but our new King risks defeat on account of the lack of paper!? Amazing…” Cerrimir picked up a quill, thrust it into an ink pot and began to scrawl across one of the documents.

“Oh, I do have news, sir.” The Lieutenant chirped.

Cerri grunted again, his cue for the Lieutenant to continue

“Another vein of iron ore was struck on the southern foot of the Weather hills, Sir. That makes three new mines in the last month. Of course more people will be moving into New Weathertop to work them. Population estimates are now at close to 400 people.”

“How many men do we have rebuilding Amun Sul?” Cerrimir asked looking at the map hung on the wall opposite him and to the right of the door to his chamber.

“Rangers, sir?” The clerk asked, “Overseeing the rebuilding? We have fifteen and they’re managing close to 70 workers. Between that duty and trying to keep the peace…”

“Yes, I know…they could use reinforcements.” Cerrimir muttered his exasperation evident.

“Yes, sir.” The Lieutenant clerk replied, quietly.

“Reinforcements we don’t have!” Cerrimir barked, taking his quill and launching it at the map opposite him, hitting the south eastern quadrant squarely, sending a splat of ink dripping down into Khand. “Blast!! Let’s hope things calm down on the Rhun and Khand borders, eh? Then those troops can head back north.” Cerrimir looked to the young man and gave him a curt nod. “That’ll be all, Lieutenant.”

“Yes sir.” The Lieutenant saluted, turned on his heel and left the room.

The young man emerged into the large hall which housed the desks of the various other Headquarter staff assigned to the post. They all looked to the Lieutenant as he stepped out, stopping what they were doing until the door was firmly shut behind him.

“He’s in an interesting mood today, people.” The Lieutenant announced as he approached his table. “He actually took the time to explain something to me! Still, though…” He trailed off, shaking his head.

One of his comrades spoke up, “When will the Commander return from the coast?”

“Commander Ellandar?” The Lieutenant asked. He pressed his lips thinly together, “Could be 3, 4 weeks. I hope no longer.”

His comrade shook his head, his face grim, “With the gypsies gone and without the Second to jolly the guv into a good mood, we best watch our step,” He said, making his way to his own desk. “Keep your boots clean and your tunics pressed everyone; it’s going to be a long month!”

Back in the Commandant’s chambers, Cerrimir sat staring at the now ink-stained map on his wall. He then looked to the parchment that balanced precariously on the far right corner of his desk. He leaned forward, took it up and read it again deciding that, yes, he made the best decision. Cerrimir pulled on the silver chain that hung about his neck, and pulling it free from his head, took the silver key that hung from it and unlocked the lower left hand drawer to his desk. Rolling the parchment tightly, he tucked it into the drawer and relocked it, replacing the chain and key round his neck.

“Good thing you’re not here Ellandar,” he said aloud to the empty room, “Else you’d be driven by that lovesick and spurned heart of yours, riding west like the damn fool idiot you are, looking for her.”

Cerrimir picked up a fresh quill and stabbed into the inkpot on his desk muttering: “…it’s best she be left alone.”

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Postby Spirit_of_the_Willow » Sun Oct 01, 2006 4:03 pm

Tasar flicked Breccia's reins, clicking her tongue to urge the mare forward. The old beast, a friend from her youth, had developed a tendancy to plodding whenever Tasar was not actively urging her ahead.

"Come on girl," she murmured encouragingly, reaching an absent hand to rub the horse's forehead. "Next town we find, we'll make a nice long stay. You'll get to rest up, eating oats, sleeping on nice warm straw. Maybe I'll even get you some new shoes." Though the oats and shoes would have to wait until later in the stay, Tasar thought ruefully. She was very low on gold, having spent so much time travelling recently. She had not had time to make anything, and she only had a few small carvings left, and those the type which would likely not sell out here, being mostly decorative, and not the sort of thing to sell in small towns.

But still, her current monetary situation was not insurmountable, she thought, smiling. The new villages which were springing up all over the West were perfect for pedaling her skills. She already had a few projects in mind, and hastily sketched plans rested in the satchel which hung at her side.

Her contemplations were interrupted when the reins were jerked nearly from her grasp, as Breccia stumbled, and released a pained cry. Heart in her stomach, Tasar released the reins and began to soothe the distraught mare, holding her head, and stroking her brow, rubbing the soft skin at the base of her ear, patting her neck.

Breccia gingerly tried her leg once or twice, before resting the hoof gingerly on the ground, and looking at Tasar in what she took to be an accusing gaze. Tears started in Tasar's blue eyes as she bent to examine the mare's leg, running a hand soothingly down her side to let the horse know her continued presence.

Tasar was not an authority on horses, but it seemed the leg was badly strained, but it did not appear to be broken, for which Tasar sent a prayer of thanks. She'd not need to be put down. But Tasar knew she should also not travel much farther at all, much less pulling the weight of the cart, nearly empty though it was.

Fighting tears of frustration, Tasar looked up and down the road. She had passed a couple of farms a little way back, and she knew that she was getting close to the village which had sprung up around Weathertop. The question was, would it be faster to go back? or to continue on? Which would be most likely to afford her the help she needed? When she had left Bree, there had only been a few intrepid homesteads. She had heard though, that the tiny village had begun to blossom, and they had even given it the name New Weathertop, and were rebuilding the watch tower.

The hour was beginning to grow late. Best move on. There was like to be more farms ahead, even if she did not find the village first. But what should she do about the cart? It could very well damage Breccia's leg permanently if she had to pull the cart who knew how far. Decisively Tasar began to undo the harness. The next question was, what should she take and what should she leave?

She was pulling the strap out of the buckle when she heard another horse on the road, approaching from the direction she herself had come.

"Ho there!" a deep voice called genially, Tasar looked, and saw a light haired man, with the looks of a farmer. Stubble shadowed his chin. He pulled up beside her, resting his hands on the pommel of his saddle. "Had an accident?" His accent spoke of Gondor. A Gondorian homesteader most likely.

"Hello!" she replied, smiling in a friendly manner. "Yes, my horse has had a bad sprain. I'm going to have to walk her into the town. How far is it?"

"Another four, five miles," he replied, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Tasar's heart fell. She'd not make it into town before dark, not leading a lame horse. The farmer echoed her thoughts, "You're not like to make that before dark. You'll have to come home with me." He dismounted as he spoke, "M'wife'd be glad t' see a friendly face. She's not seen many folks since 't baby come. And not too many womenfolk round here anyway. Mostly miners in town." The man's voice showed deep disapproval of that class.

"Are you certain it won't be too much trouble?" Tasar asked, "I don't want to intrude on your wife and your new baby."

"Nonsense. Tis only right we show some hospitality. Lass like you shouldn't be wanderin' around here all on your own. M'name's Ven." He held out his hand in greeting.

Tasar took it willingly, and shook, supplying her own name in return.

"I think Lylith here will take your cart alright, and you can lead your mare."

As they released Breccia from the cart, and began to put Ven's mare in her place, Tasar said, "You must allow me to do something for you in return for your hospitality and kindness."

"We'll see about that when we get your horse taken care of," was all the farmer said. "Where were you headed anyway?"

"Just to New Weathertop for now," Tasar confessed, "I've been travelling about for a while now. I thought I'd see a bit of the world before finding some place to set up permanently as carpenter," she chuckled, "But I seem to have gotten some kind of travelling sickness. I so much enjoy seeing new places, meeting new people. I just can't see myself settling down to one place any time soon."

"Seems a little strange for a lass as young as you," he said hesitantly, "And a bit dangerous."

"I've found people to be very kind," she replied earnestly, conveniently ignoring her encounters with Norvaen, whom she had decided was quite simply mad. "I think that everyone is good at heart, if only people give them the chance to be. After all, you stopped to help me didn't you? You could be home by now, but instead you are putting your horse to work pulling my cart, taking me into your home, and not even demanding payment, though I shall of course insist upon doing something for you in repayment, but you did not intend to ask it. You offered out of the goodness of your heart."

Ven rubbed his beard, and looked at the young women concernedly from the corner of his eye as they walked, matching their pace to that of her lame beast. She may have had only good experiences before now, though how he'd no idea. But he thought worriedly about the miners in New Weathertop. They could be a rough bunch. If she was intending upon making any length of stay there, she might find herself in more trouble than she reckoned. An idea occured to him, but he had to speak with his wife before making any mention of it to Tasar.
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Postby Bardhwyn » Sat Oct 07, 2006 5:33 am

“Eriador, please go get the horses, we ride now, before the weather turns against us.”

Eriador hurriedly pushed two dried figs in his mouth and jumped to his feet, quick to do as his mentor asked with eyes sparkling. Bardhwyn watched as the young lad worked expertly with the two horses, fitting them with their bits and bridles; throwing the blankets and saddles over each while Bryttar collected his and the lad’s belongings.

She stood, slipped on her mail and tunic, took up what few things she had and packed them in her saddle bags. She opted to belt the long knife around her waist, securing the sheath’s rawhide cord around her thigh. It felt right – the sheathed hilt resting easily in her hand, despite looking foreign. Feeling the grit on her face she quietly picked her way down to the creek bed. Young Eriador’s voice was freed upon her departure and she could hear him engage Bryttar in conversation, his voice eager. She was intruding, she knew this.

The young boy was most likely overwhelmed by all that had transpired despite his obvious love and trust for the Rohirrim, she thought to herself, rubbing the cold water into her face and neck. Reflected in the creek’s water she could see her face rippling in the slow moving water– the discolored arc of the scar clear on her left brow and cheek and her blue eyes, intense and searching but distorted and restless, like her memory and her mind.

‘My name is Bardhwyn… Bardhwyn of Dale…’ she chanted silently, the words now sounding somewhat familiar.

A rock splashed into the creek – thrown from above. Bardhwyn turned to see Bryttar beckoning her to come with a friendly smile

‘He’s good.’ She mused to herself. ‘He did not call out.’ Scrambling up the bank, Bardhwyn emerged into the clearing to see both men mounted. Bryttar kicked his foot out of his stirrup in expectation of Bardhwyn needing it and held out his arm for support.

“Ready?” He asked. “I’ve secured your bags.” He added, nodding towards the horse’s load.

“I’m to sit in front again.” She stated.

“Yes, of course. We’ll be cantering a fair bit of the way - can’t risk you falling off from behind.” Bryttar replied, his voice congenial, “Come, it will be safer.”

‘There’s that tone again.’ She remarked to herself. ‘…the one that says ‘please trust me.’ With each new kindness you make the betrayal of my word all the more difficult, Bryttar of Rohan.’

Reluctantly she obeyed, stepping forward and placing her left foot up into the stirrup. With her lifting and him pulling she was quickly seated astride on the pummel of this saddle, which was artfully cushioned with a blanket. Bryttar’s arms were quickly around her, holding each of the reigns and Eriador set off at a posting trot leaving Bryttar and Bardhwyn at a walk.

“Eriador will ride a little ways ahead to pick out the surest footing for the horses.” Bryttar explained, “I’ve instructed him to choose paths on the northward sides of the hills and lea slopes, the East Road being to the south. Do you agree?”

Bardhwyn stared forward over the head of Bryttar’s horse, concentrating on what ‘seat’ there could be had while conscious of his arms to either side of her. She sat stiffly, feeling uncomfortable for a host of reasons.

“Bardhwyn?” Bryttar repeated. “Do you agree?”

“I’m sorry, agree to what?”

“That we keep to the northward slopes?”

Bardhwyn scanned the terrain quickly – the rolling hills were green and lush, dotted with knots of trees and thick hedges of holly. Clearly this land was once worked by men but was left to nature long ago with only a suggestion of wide open farm lands. It offered hardly any consistent tree cover, as a consequence. “The Road is to the south you say?” She asked. “Yes, the land needs to hide us if the trees cannot.” She replied simply.

‘How do I know this?' She asked herself. Bryttar nodded silently, his look knowledgable.

“Yes, that’s a strategic use of the terrain.” He said quietly.

In the distance Eriador had stopped, pointing northwestwards in the direction of what had to have been a passable way for them both. Not waiting, the boy urged his steed forward into a canter.

“Right.” Bryttar said curtly, not sounding pleased. “We’ll need to catch up. Ready?”

Bardhwyn braced herself and rocked first to the short trot and then into the canter. Bryttar’s bay was stalwart, keeping the pace as Bryttar directed, cantering, walking - never trotting for long out of consideration for her, their passenger. They rode in silence with Bryttar occasionally steadying Bardhwyn was they rode, for he was aware she was holding her seat with pure leg pressure and without the benefit of stirrups to work against.

They rested at intervals, careful to choose thick dense clumps of the ever present holly to mask their repose. The clouds built on the western horizon, collecting and amassing at an ever increasing height, their grey underbellies billowing with the threat of rain.

They rode on, north of the Great East Road and westwards, face on into the steady wind which carried dampness in its wake. As the hours wore on Bardhwyn, with her stiff riding posture, felt the ache of the weather in her bones. Her shoulder, ribs and head throbbed, forcing her to pull from her tunic’s inner pocket the small bag of remedies given to her by the old woman she’d met on the road; Willow bark for pain, arnica flowers for bruising, Yarrow and St. Johns Wort for wounds. Taking a sliver of Willow bark, Bardhwyn placed it in her mouth and chewed, steeling herself for the stomach upset she knew would follow. Better a sour stomach than an aching head, shoulder and side. Her scar troubled her as well with a dull, droning ache.

“It grows colder,” She said, pulling Bryttar’s cloak closer to her. “The weather moves faster than we anticipated.”

Bryttar directed his mount into a trot, then a walk, aiming for a copse of tall cedar aside the drover’s path they’d found. He motioned to his apprentice to doubled back and join them, which he did, his cheeks ruddy with the cold.

“Eriador, free up other my cloak,” Bryttar asked, pointing to the packs tied farthest away to where he sat. “It is in the larger pack, there.”

A drop of rain splashed upon Bardhwyn’s nose, then on the crown of her head. A low rumble of thunder rolled in the distance signaling for the rain to begin. Skimming the far ridge line of yet another hill Bardhwyn made out the peak of a small barn, a drover’s barn no doubt, used by the herders who once traveled this path regularly. Several of the roof’s clay tiles were noticeably absent even at this distance.

Bryttar’s arms closed in around her as he combined both reigns together and held them for her to take. She held her breath as he did so, taking the reigns without a word. The cloak Eriador had freed for his Mentor was splendid, of wool dyed a deep midnight blue, too good for journey-wear. Elven runes were fashioned along its hem embroidered with brilliant silver thread and to her shock she could read and understand those she caught sight of. A glint of bright metal her caught her eye and she half turned, curious to see the clasp that fastened this magnificent cloak, but turned away lest he think her rude.

“Do you see, Bryttar?” She asked, handing off the reigns and pointing in the direction of the barn. “We should make for that barn else we’ll be drenched within the hour.”

“I agree. Eriador!” Bryttar motioned towards the barn and the young man was off, cantering in its direction with the intent to scout their new resting place.

“Why walk when you can canter, eh?” Bardhwyn said with a chuckle.

“Yes, such are the prerogatives of youth.” Bryttar replied with a smile.

“Let’s hope he doesn’t meet with any surprises.” Bardhwyn said askance.

Bryttar acknowledged her concern with a brief nod. “He’s young but he can handle himself.”

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Postby Spirit_of_the_Willow » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:02 am

“Mari, I’m home!” Ven called out as he led Tasar along the lane which led to the small farmhouse. The building had the look of having seen only a few seasons. The door opened and golden lamplight spilled out into the evening. A woman stepped out, wiping her hands on a flour covered apron.

Ven’s wife was a cheerful, motherly looking young woman, only a little older than Tasar, who liked her immediately. Her curly brown hair was pulled back and coiled at the nape of her neck in a vain attempt to keep it under control.

“You’re just in time to take the baby for a bit,” she said cheerfully, then paused in surprise as she saw Tasar.

“I’ve brought you a visitor, this lady’s horse fell lame, so she couldn’t make it into town. I’ve offered her a spot for the night, if that’s all right.”

“Just a space in the barn is all I need,” Tasar hastened to assure her, “I even have some money to pay.”

“Nonsense, we wouldn’t think of accepting anything you poor dear, I only wish we could offer you a proper bed. We’ve plans to add on to the house but . . .” Mari was interrupted by an infant’s cry. “I must get the baby. Ven, you and our guest can stable the horses, and then do you come in and take your turn with Duilin.”

“Yes ma’am,” Ven responded with a twinkle that showed he considered hit no hardship. “The stable’s just around to the back of the house,” he continued, turning back to Tasar, “There’s not enough room for your cart I’m afraid, but your mare should be comfortable next to Lylith.”

Tasar was surprised to find, when they entered the stable, that the second stall was already provided with bedding and feed. “I hope you are not allowing Breccia to put out your other horse,” she said worriedly, “I don’t want to be an imposition. She would be plenty comfortable if you have more space in the barn.”

“Don’t worry about him, he’d rather stay in the paddock,” there was a wry note in Ven’s voice, “And I’m fine with not makin’ the effort of brining’ him in.” At Tasar’s questioning look, he continued, “He’s a bit of a wild brute. His last owner called him after the Dark Lord. I don’t hold with that, and Mari changed it to Zephyr, because . . . well, I’ll show you that in the morning. But let me tell you,” he said, shaking his head ruefully, “His temperament is much more like the Dark Lord than it is like a Zephyr.”

If Tasar wondered why a farmer would acquire a wild horse that he couldn’t handle, she did not ask. Breccia limped meekly into the stall, and immediately took a long drink from the trough. Tasar felt a strong sense of remorse as she faced something she had been putting off for more than a year. Next to the farm horse, Breccia seemed extremely tired. She had maybe a few more years light work in her, but not a few years of near constant traveling, pulling a cart. If she had remained at home, she would no doubt have retired Breccia more than a year ago.

“My dear friend,” she murmured, massaging the old horse’s ear. “I’ve not been fair to you.”

“She’ll be wanting a nice long rest methinks,” Ven said over Lylith’s back.

“I hope she can get it,” Tasar said, not voicing her fears. Her troubles were her own. Ven might guess, but he did not say anything further.

Immediately upon entering the house, Ven was confronted by his wife, who deposited a squirming bundle into his arms. “Here you go Father,” Mari said, casting a laughing glance at Tasar as Ven took the baby and whirled him around, bringing a cry of laughter from the infant.

“Might I hellp with dinner?” Tasar asked, receiving an affirmative.

“It’s nothing fancy,” Mari apologized.

“That is good, because I’d be sure to ruin anything fancy.” The honey haired lady said with a grin.
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Postby Bardhwyn » Fri Nov 03, 2006 7:41 pm

The orc half breed smashed into the wall with such force, the latch of the nearby door jumped and the door swung open into the adjacent room. The heads of the occupants therein jerked up with eyes wide, their dice game interrupted as Harlond, their leader strode past the open door, towards the heap of half orc on the floor. His burly frame practically filled the door's expanse as he past and his bald head glistened with angry sweat.

"Shut the damn door!" Harlond hollered. A thin, weedy Southron obeyed, standing up from his barrel seat. He slammed the door quickly but not before a squeal of fear eeked out of the prone half orc and pierced the room.

"Please... No more beating." The half orc whimpered.

"You just LEFT HER?" Harlond hollered down over the cringing half orc.

"The Dale woman was dead, I'se say." The orc answered, cringing. "Tell him, Zhnag!" He begged, looking plaintively to a second half orc cowering in the opposite corner.

"Aya, deads she was, Harlond. Aksh says true." The half orc said, his gravely voice wavering slightly."We'se were watchin'. Saw Carnad's troop attack..."

"They'se split her head open, they'se did." Aksh added.

"Like an egg..." Zhnag said.

Harlond stood upright, his grey eyes shifting from one half orc to the next. "Hold on here," He said, turning to the half orc huddled in the corner. "You 'WATCHED'? You mean to tell me you left her to fight Carnad's men alone?!"

"No!" Aksh cried, "No, we'se tried to fight, there were too many.."

"The Archet man, he fought!" Zhnag said.

"And was killed..." Aksh added, pulling his mishapen hand over his grotesque face.

Zhnag nodded. "Then dragged off, he was."

"For food, no doubt." Aksh said with a laugh.

Upon hearing this Harlond's face twisted with rage. Carnad's orcs were eating manflesh? Despite all the parlays and agreements made between the brigand clans? He walked to the room's open window and gripped the window sill hard, the cool night air easing his burning face and head. All was descending into chaos, just as Bardhwyn had warned weeks earlier. He had hoped that between them they could keep the shaky alliance together - a consortium of bandit clans that would abide by The Code, keep to their boundaries and wreak havoc in a orchestrated fashion. The eating of manflesh would turn even the lowest of men against them. And now she was gone. Harlond looked out over the foothills of the mountain - Gram's peak glistened in the waxing moonlight - it's peak covered with snow even now, so early in the autumn. For a brief moment he felt as if he were back in Dale, looking up at Erebor from the rear of his mother's cottage- so long ago.

"We tried to get her body, Harlond." Aksh said, breaking the man's brief moment of silence. "But for that infernal horse of hers."

"Wouldn't let us near her."Zhnag said with a shake of his large head."We couldn't even get hold of her gear but it chased us down."

"They'll not be draggin' her off for food, Harlond. Rest easy." Aksh said.

"Aye," Zhnag agreed. "They'd have to kill that horse first, if it not already be some demon."

Harlond pushed himself back from the window and turned back into the room. "I expected you back with the raiding party - why she chose you two to go along to the parlay, I'll never know. So where in the blue blazes of Dale have you been this past fortnight?"

"After the ambush we ran." Aksh said sheepishly.

"But we picked up Garia's trail. Snuffed him out." Zhnag added, snuffling loudly to prove the point."Took us southeast but we lost him after some rains."

"He still owe's ya, Harlond? Doesn't he?" Aksh asked. "He can't run forever."

"No, he can't." Harlond replied, his voice cold and quiet. "Then what happened?"

"We came across a merchant, an old man..."

"Aye, and we robbed him."

"He shouldn'tve fought back..."

"No, it took a while to kill him and wasn't worth the trouble in the end." Zhnag said, casting a quick glance to Aksh.

"He only had a few coins." Aksh said, waving an arm as if to dismiss the whole morbid affair.

"You're both lousy liars." Harlond said, his grey eyes storming into a bluish black, boring into Aksh's skull. "You know the code." He added, speaking through clenched teeth.

Aksh nodded with eyes downcast and rummaged in his pocket. He pulled out three copper coins and held them out to Harlond. "Zhnag's got some too." He snuffled, hoping to gain a little favor.

"I figured as such." Harlond snarled, grabbing the coins. He stepped over to the second half orc. "Deliver, Zhnag or I'll do my best to make you look a bit more beautiful." Harlond said with a sneer, the implied thread being, of course, some quick surgery to the half orc's face. Zhnag peeled himself out of the corner, pulled at his torn and filty tunic and produced three coins as well.

Harlond accepted them and promptly punched Zhnag squarely in the face.

"You were due." Harlond said, watching the half orc regain his balance. "If either of you try to steal from the clan again, you'll pay with more than just a cracked tooth. Abide by the code and we all survive. Break it and you alone will die."

"And Carnad?" Aksh snarled. "He breaks the Code!"

Harlond nodded silently at this, dropping the coins into a strongbox that sat before him on a rickety table. "We'll have to take care of Carnad." Harlond answered with a low growl. "The Clans can't have that Lebennin son of a whore jeopardizing all we're trying to build up. And he has the blood of our own on his hands. He has to pay."

Zhnag and Aksh both nodded at this, cackling lowly.

Suddently the door to Harlon's room flew open and the weedy Southron stopped in his tracks, wide eyed and speechless, his hand gripping the door latch as if it were a lifeline.

"Visitors, we got visitors." He said in a whisper. "And they used 'the word'."

Harlond steeled his face. "Get out, all of you. Clear the cottage - then send them in." Harlond said lowly. He sat behind the table and faced the door, careful to look both relaxed and yet commanding. After the hustled scrapes and footsteps of his men rereating there came the tramp of booted feet; three men, as always and no doubt they were heavily cloaked and heavily armed.

The door to his room opened and from where he sat he could see one of his 'visitors' remain by the cottage's entrance as watch while the other two entered. They said nothing. One man exited immediately into the cottage's small back hall where he took up watch by the rear door. The third man remained and stood before the table and the seated Barding.

"Harlond Loya?" He asked, his hand coming to rest on his sword hilt.

"Aye. What brings you here? We had no word of your..."

"We want the Barding woman, the one with the scar. We're told she's with you."

Harlond allowed one of his thin, blonde eyebrows to lift. Why her? He had to wonder. "She was with me." Harlond replied. "She's dead."

The man standing before Harlond gave a slight start and gripped the hilt of his sword forcibly. "Dead?! You saw the body? You're sure?"

"No, I haven't seen her body. She was left where she fell, on the western slopes of Hithligir." Harlond answered standing slowly. He walked casually to the window, where on another small table there sat a bottle of Clearwater and a glass. He poured himself two fingers. "I'm sorry, I'd offer you a drink but I don't have another glass." He said with a casual smile turning back to his guest. "But you don't drink, do you? Not this stuff, anyway."

"Why was her body left?"

"My men were under attack. They..."

"If you haven't seen her body," the cloaked visitor interupted, "How can you be sure she is dead?" He spoke as if through clenched teeth. The hood to his cloak obscured his face but Harlond could tell, the man was not Southron born - his accent betrayed as much.

"I am sure because I take the word of the men who saw her die." Harlond said coldly. "And why would they lie?" He threw back his drink, grimacing upon swallowing it. "Why would they lie when they know how much she meant to our little organization?"
He slammed the glass down and glared at his visitor. "So, now you have the information you need, I suggest you leave. The agreements we made with you people never included handing clan members over upon demand."

"Loya, don't forget the age old saying about 'the hand that feeds'." The man hissed.

"You don't feed us, we feed ourselves. Ours is a 'business' relationship." Harlond retorted."One we've kept true to."

"A 'business relationship' you say? So it is perceived by some. By others it is a much more intimate connection." The cloaked man replied. "As for the Barding woman it is said she leads a charmed existence, so until I see the body myself I will assume she lives and as long as she lives, I will search for her."

"Do as you please." Harlond said dismissively. "I trust your search will end soon. As always, a pleasure 'doing business' with you." He added, motioning out the door with a broad sweep of his arm.

The cloaked visitor glared momentarily at Harlond then barked a word in Haradrim, recalling the second man from his watch at the back entrance. Together they left the room, taking the third man along with them as they vacated the cottage.

The pounding of their horse's hooves receeding in the distance was the cue for Harlond's men to trickle back in. The all sat about their dice table, speaking quietly. The reedy Southron, stepped into his Captain's room. "They're gone." He announced. "Do we have another job?" He asked, his eyes large and hopeful. Harlond shook his head no and motioned the man to shut the door. The Southron did so, wearing a look of disappointment.

Harlond sat in silence for a good long while pondering over everything that had transpired in the last hour. His people attacked at a parlay, the death of two one being Bardhwyn and then the arrival of the Southern 'visitors'. Everything stank like a Staddle wheel of cheese but he couldn't see how it all fit together.

The words that kept returning to him were spoken by his cloaked 'business associate': '...she leads a charmed existence..' Long years of thieving and banditry had taught him not to get emotional attached to anyone or anything. Use people, of course, line 'em up and utilize them like soldiers. Head over heart but on this evening, if only for a brief moment, he succumbed and hoped the Southron was right.
Last edited by Bardhwyn on Fri Nov 10, 2006 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Kaya » Wed Nov 08, 2006 8:39 am

The sun was elevating on its journey to its zenith and the light of the early morning was on the desolate land. The first signs of the approaching autumn already were noticeable for those with a sharp eye for all that grows, and all that lives. Orange and yellow would soon dress the surroundings with a different look. The colder temperatures arrived sooner every evening, and lingered longer every morning. Any vestige of sun made the days so glorious, any moon ray revealed the crispy veils of night.

The blue roan gelding stood still, grazing from the soft moist grasses that lushly grew in the areas surrounding the Midgewater Marshes. The scraping of his hoof was one of the sounds that broke through the lulling sounds of nature, still not quite awake. The other, more prominent, was a continues whooshing. The sound changed intensity quickly, from a low buzz to a higher vibrating tone, all repeated with rapid cycles.

Cýrawn snorted, his warm breath visible in the chilling air. He turned his head towards his rider whose focus lay in the distant sky, where the dark silhouette of a bird of prey commenced its charge downwards against the brightening background with deep, strong wing beats.

“C’mon, Roäc,” Kaya whispered encouragingly. “Come fetch your bite."

The bird approached quickly in a steep dive, her wings spread wide as she hovered motionless. As the woman watched, the bird opened her claws and reached out towards the prey she was lured with. Swiftly she turned in mid-air, snagged the small leather pouch with its offering of meat as it swung past and took her food to the ground to dine, her wings graciously spread.

The ranger approached the kestrel head on yet remained at a reverential distance until the entire vole had been devoured. Then she kneeled and stretched an arm. Softly she touched the feathered belly with her vambrace. Roäc willingly stepped on it and remained calmly on her vantage point while Kaya gathered the lure and tucked it safely in her shoulder pack.

She got to her feet and turned towards the outstretched land that surrounded them, eyeing it in awe as if it were the first time ever that nature unfolded its wakening beauty for her. Soft strings of fog, remnants of the past night, still circled in between the turfs and shrubs, and she could hear the warbling of little hidden birds. For a moment she closed her eyes, inhaling deeply.

Long years had passed since Kaya last had wandered in the Wild. Long and winding had been the paths previously walked in her life. Her heart had silently yearned for a life on the road again. And in as much silence she had hated herself for such selfish wants – there was one who needed her, and his need was more important than all the desires of her own heart.
Ever since she had taken to the road, now 3 days ago, there hadn’t been a day, an hour even, that had passed without her considering going back. And still her feet took her further and further away from her home, for she had promised her father to take this trip. Remembering the argument they had had, she now pinched her eyes, then looked over her shoulder to where her horse was still grazing. His horse, to be exact.

The pack attached to the saddle was heavy: a collection of beautiful cloths woven by her mother’s hands that had found no buyer in the Bree-land last winter, bundles of her own lovingly cultivated herbs and plants, and a few pieces of jewellery which designs had sprouted from her sister-in-law’s mind and nimble fingers.

“We better get moving,” she decided while looking around. It was still a good walk towards the woods where she hoped to find the necessary shelter against the chill of yet another night. And from there, it was still a good amount of miles travelling to New Weathertop, where hopefully she would encounter some folk interested in the items she had for sale.

Her hand trailed along the muscled neck of the gelding before she grabbed for the saddle with her free hand, and then she mounted with a supple movement. The kestrel had remained calmly on her arm, looking at her with dark eyes.

“You already had your breakfast, don’t complain,” Kaya mumbled, while she grabbed for an apple in her pack, yet meanwhile her thoughts went to the back of her saddle, where a poached rabbit was attached. Her stomach growled. It would make a good dinner, or supper. Yet this was not the right environment for her to start to set up camp, even though she was hungry enough, and so far had not met a single soul on her route – being good or bad company.

“Never trust a fair and open place. Your eye might reach far, but so does that of he who is watching you.”

The days since the War were long gone but still there was word of orcs and highwaymen roaming the area, surprising unaware travellers and merchants, leaving none of their victims behind. Not even their soul. The weight of her sword resting against her hip was a reassuring feeling.

Gently the woman nudged her horse into moving.

These few days in the open, in the company of her own voice, already had brought back great memories triggered by small events. Some had brought back a smile on her weathered lips; others had made her think back with a sadness lying heavy on her heart.

“Why do you ask this of me, father?” she whispered. “Why do you want me to… to…” She felt tears welling and momentarily hung her head, brushing the salty drops away in a way as if she was embarrassed for anyone to see her crying.

But there was no one here. No one but she, the animals in which company she travelled, and the elements of nature for which she had longed for such a long time, but now seemed to remind her only of what once had been but maybe never again would be experienced in a similar way.

“You’re being silly,” she then reprimanded herself. “You know why and you know it very well. Because we all have a goal here in this life, and he reckons yours lies beyond the boarders of Archet.” ’And, if you’re honest, you’ll have to agree with that sentiment.’
Her fingers grabbed for a pocket of her tunic, and when she unfolded them in front of her on her palm lay a small silver broach in the shape of a rod, seven of the tiniest gems set in on its length. In its simplicity it radiated great beauty. After looking at it for a few moments she tucked it away again.

With the sun now slowly dipping over its highest point, they had travelled for hours already, rider, horse and bird, when a strange feeling broke through Kaya’s reveries, causing her to suddenly pull the reigns. Her horse immediately stopped and snorted. A sudden gust of wind whirled Kaya’s brown hair. She turned to look over her shoulder, brushing the strands out of her eyes.

The sky had grown a lot darker quickly, and looking back she noticed why. A wall of thick black clouds had accumulated at the horizon, and like a monstrous wave rolling towards a helpless ship, the cold wind blew the gathering storm in her direction, making her horse restless.

“Cýrawn, my lad… we’ve got to speed up a bit, or we’re going to get soaked,” she muttered through clenched teeth. With one swipe of her arm she launched the kestrel into flying. There was no use in trying to keep the bird with her during a fast paced race – she trusted Roäc would follow, or find her again. Then, after one last look at the darkening sky, she spurred her horse, and neighing the gelding took off.
Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

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All that is gold does not glitter,
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Postby Bryttar » Tue Nov 14, 2006 10:16 am

With a slight pull on the reins, Bryttar brought his gelding to a stop along side Eriador’s horse, which had been tied outside the barn. The rain’s tempo increased warning the two riders of the torrent to come. Effortlessly Bryttar dismounted and kept his horse still until Bardhwyn was on the ground beside him.

“It’s empty,” Eriador said as he peered out from the barn door..

“Good.” The Rohirrim acknowledged checking the sky while handing the reins to the young man. “We may be here awhile.”

Once the three riders and two horses were inside, Eriador busied himself with the geldings while Bryttar investigated the barn. It was not large, not by Rohirrim standards. The length was twenty feet and the width close to thirty. Most of the mud walls were still solid with a few square openings acting as windows, but the roof had been neglected long ago. Small scattered holes exposed parts of their refuge to the showers above.

Two small lofts, one at each end, were the barns best feature. Bryttar wasted no time in checking the back loft first. It was small about 6 feet wide, just enough room to hold two or three sleeping men. With a quick glance out the small window the Rohirrim searched the view. A thick grove of trees stood off to the right. Towards the left they thinned out allowing him to see the gentle roll of the grassy hills.

A few minutes later he came along side Bardhwyn who he found in the front loft. She stood in front of a large doorway centered on the front wall. At one time it must have provided access from the outside but the door was no longer there. Instead the ledge dropped off to the wet, muddy ground below.

“How’s the view?” He asked.

“We have a better view to the right, the trees to the left are dense.”

Bryttar rested his left hand against the ragged door frame taking note that as the sound of the rain crashing upon roof increased, their view decreased. Shifting his gaze slightly to the left he could just make out the black horse now seeking shelter at the edge of the grove.

“Bardhwyn, could move him? Could you move him under the trees at the back of the barn?”

“Why?” she asked.

“He’ll be an extra set of eyes and ears for us.” Bryttar replied turning to her. “He’ll know before we will if someone is coming. Eriador knows how to read horses. They could work together.”

Bardhwyn nodded in agreement but voiced concern. “I don’t know that I can move him though.”

Stepping away from the doorway, the Rohirrim knelt down and flipped open the leather flap of his pack.

“Try this.” He said after closing the flap and rising to his feet.

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Postby Bardhwyn » Tue Nov 14, 2006 10:41 am

She took the apple, its skin felt leathery but the fruit was firm – a fine treat for her black horse. “Yes, I imagine that will get his attention. I can draw him to the rear but I cannot guarantee he’ll stay there.”

“You have to try.” Bryttar said, encouragingly. “He’s needed there.”

Bardhwyn stood, careful to wrap Bryttar’s long cloak around her before she attempted to walk. She turned and stepped backward, onto the first rung of the ladder and into a pocket of drizzle – some of the heavy rain had made its way through the weak and ancient roof. Aware she could not descend the ladder and keep hold of the horse’s treat, she bit firmly into the apple, keeping it lodged between her teeth. Taking a firm hold, she climbed down. One, two three steps – Bryttar disappeared from view.

Below her right foot she felt a sudden, strange sensation – the wooden rung was there, then it was not. A loud crack filled the air and she fell, her foot hitting a second rung which also gave way – and as she fell, she cried out, losing her bite on the apple. Bardhwyn flailed out, her hands grasping at one of the rungs above her head and she dangled, dazed for a second or two. The weight of Bryttar’s body falling on to the loft floor above her caused the ladder to shudder.

“Bardhwyn! Are you all right?!” He called out, his arm reaching down in an effort to help. She was just out of the man’s reach. He then made motion as if to descend, himself.

“No! No, stay there, Bryttar.” Bardhwyn gasped, finding a foot-hold on one of the broken ladder rungs. “I’m fine, I am fine but this ladder may not take the weight of two again, if one. Damn, I dropped the apple.” She added, looking down as she struggled to find another foothold.

“Damn the apple,” Bryttar called down. “Please, just get your footing and take care.”

Bardhwyn flashed a look of irritation up at the Rider. Words of ‘care and caution’ fell strangely on her ear. She’s realized earlier in the day that with was not joking or making fun at her expense. He meant them and she, for some reason, wished he didn’t.

The jagged ends of the broken rungs proved sufficient to regain her balance and finish her descent. Bardhwyn found the apple near the barn’s entrance covered with dirt and old sawdust which she brushed off. Pulling up the large hood of Bryttar’s cloak, she stepped out into the down pour.

Some thirty feet away stood the black stallion that had followed her so faithfully. At sight of her, the horse whinnied and walked slowly towards her, his coat slick with rain and his mane matted about his eyes. Bardhwyn had tucked the apple into her tunic but the horse, of course, knew it was there. He poked her chest with his nose, nibbling vainly at Bryttar’s cloak. Bardhwyn quickly pulled the matted mane free from his eyes and turned, looking over her shoulder with a smile. “Come!” She said as she walked, directing her steps around to the rear of the barn.

The stallion nickered and began to walk while also reaching forward with its long neck. With a quick bite and a tug, the horse pulled down the hood, exposing Bardhwyn’s hair to the pouring rain.

“Oi there!?” She cried out, spinning on her heel. “Why you cheeky little…”

The horse did not wait to be chastised. As if playing a familiar game, he dashed forward, trotting along side the barn to the rear pasture beyond. It was Bardhwyn who followed the horse, running and laughing, momentarily forgetting everything.

Once in the rear pasture, Bardhwyn felt compelled to play but was deterred by the rain, already being quite soaked. She pulled out the apple and the horse came forward, taking it up in one mouthful, allowing her to move a few more strands of its mane. “I know not if you can understand me, but we need you to stay back here. See?” Bardhwyn pointed to Eriador’s shadowy form in the open loft window above them, “See the lad there? He’s counting on you to help him keep the watch.” The horse blew softly. “Do not worry for me, I’ll be safe with the Rider.” She added. She then heaved a deep sigh, aware that she was losing her fear of him, of this mysterious black creature that had such a strong mind of its own. Yes, she realized yet again, they were both very much alike.

The horse then moved away and walked towards a pine whose branches hung in such a way to offer some shelter from the rain. Bardhwyn did not expect the horse to come inside the barn. It was not his way.

She trotted back inside the barn and before scaling the broken ladder, did her best to shed the rain from Bryttar’s cloak and ring the water from her hair.

As she pulled herself up into view of Bryttar, the Rider smiled warmly. “The ladder held - that’s good. And you succeeded.” He said, pointing to the rear pasture. “Eriador tells me the horse stayed after you left.”
“Did he?” Bardhwyn asked. “Good.” She walked back to the right hand side of the loft door and sat knees to chest, pulling Bryttar’s damp cloak around her. “Now all we need is for this rain to stop so we can set off again. I prefer moving to staying still.” She said, shuddering slightly in the cold breeze that blew in as she spoke.

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Postby Spirit_of_the_Willow » Fri Dec 08, 2006 8:19 pm

Still smiling from the pleasant conversation they had had over dinner and afterwards, Tasar followed Ven out to the barn. The typical musty aroma assailed the carpenter’s senses as the farmer opened the door, the lamp he carried casting a golden glow over the rustic structure. A sleepy cow looked up to see what the disturbance was, then went back to sleepily chewing its cud.

“We’ll settle you in over here,” Ven said, crossing to the towering pile of hay. The one side sloped down gradually, where they had already began using it. Together Tasar and the farmer spread a patch of the straw more evenly, and spread a thick woolen blanket over it.

“I apologize again that we haven’t anything more to offer you,” he said, a bit embarrassed that they could not provide better hospitality.

“Nonsense,” Tasar said good-humoredly, “It’s much better than sleeping on the ground or in my cart, as I’ve had to do these several nights past. I’m much indebted to you. You must let me help you with some repairs or something tomorrow.”

“Well, and that’s tomorrow,” the groaning of the wind caused Ven to look worriedly out the barn door. “I’m thinking we might want to get you another extra blanket. It’s getting colder than I thought. We’re going to get some rain soon, if not tonight, then tomorrow.”

“Oh dear,” Tasar also turned her eyes towards the door. Would the weather interfere with her intent to make her way to town on the morrow? With a sigh she shook her head. It mattered little at this point. If the weather did worsen, there was nothing she could do about it. Then she thought of something. “If the weather is going to get bad, do you really want to leave your other horse out there?”

“There’s a copse of trees in the paddock. It’ll be enough shelter for the likes of him,” Ven said gruffly.

Tasar wanted to ask if he was certain, feeling guilty for putting him out like this, but she did not want to offend her host, so she let her protests subside. Ven bid her goodnight, and returned to the house. The straw was soft compared to the ground which had been her bed more often than not, and the blankets warm, sending Tasar swiftly into deep slumber.

Golden light broke through between the wooden slats of the barn, heralding the morning and casting a warm glow upon the hay which formed Tasar’s bed. Her dark lashes fluttered, and her eyes opened, a smile curving her lips at the homely beauty of the light filtering through the wood. It had long since become habit to greet the morning with a smile, even when times were a little difficult, because she had promised Gwaddyn upon his death-bed that she would do so. It made even difficulties seem easier.

With a long stretch to ease the cramps caused by the slightly less than comfortable bed, Tasar rose and, shaking traces of straw from her skirts, went outside, pulling her cloak tight against the chilly morning air. In the light of morning, she was able to see what a lovely little homestead this was. Ven and Mari had made a cozy home in the years since they had left Gondor.

For a moment, Tasar let herself wonder what it would have been like if she had accepted Sircyn’s offer all those years ago. It seemed almost a lifetime away. She could not imagine herself in Mari’s role however. Not with Sircyn. Wandering towards the sound of a nearby stream, Tasar pondered the path she had chosen. It was lonely sometimes, but she had always been lonely, and she had managed to make some friends, even if eventually either she or they had to leave.

Her ruminations were interrupted by the trumpeted greeting from what she immediately recognized to be Ven’s rogue stallion. He trotted back and forth along the fence-line, constantly keeping Tasar in his view. Tasar could now see why Ven had acquired so wild an animal. Zephyr was quite beautiful, and obviously very strong. If he could be tamed, he’d be a very hard worker . . . though it was a shame that so magnificent a creature be tied to farm work.

She could not help but approach the fence, a smile of deep appreciation on her face as the wind pulled at his rich dark mane and tail. Bree was not known for its horses, and she had spent little time watching the horses when they were running free in their paddock. She was struck by the awesome beauty of the powerful beast. Before she left, she must be certain to sketch him. The image of a running horse would make a lovely inlay on a chest or bedstead, especially if she eventually went into Rohan. That would make a nice eventual destination, once she had replenished her supply of coin.

When the horse made no threatening moves in her direction, she came even closer, and rested her arms on the fence, taking in the beautiful scene before her. It reminded her of a song, a pastoral melody she had heard at one of the Festivals. She didn’t have her flute on her, so instead she began to hum. Zephyr stopped his trotting around the paddock, and came a few steps slowly towards her, his ears swiveling forward in a curious attitude. Tasar stopped her humming in surprise, and immediately the stallion nickered. Delight lit her eyes, and she began humming again, a little louder this time. Zephyr turned a little circle, then came again closer. If she stretched out, Tasar could have stroked him, but she did not want to startle him. Slowly she straightened, and, still humming, held her hand just beyond the fence, that he might approach her if he so wished. But it seemed he was not so inclined, he stretched out his nose, and sniffed her hand, but did not touch her. Still she waited, humming continually. At last he pushed against her hand, snuffling, as though searching for a treat.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she murmured, “I don’t have anything for you.”

At the sound of her spoken voice, he snorted, and trotted a small circle, ending again away from her. She did not hum for him again, but only grinned at him, as he again began his trotting tour of the fence-line. “Well well, it seems that the beast has a soft-spot for music,” she said, laughing cheerfully.

The wind which made his mane and tail flow around him tugged at Tasar’s cloak, and she looked up to see clouds approaching, dark and threatening. “Oh no!” she muttered, her smile changing to a wry grimace. “Maybe I’ll not be making it to town today.”
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