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Folwren 09-13-2015 08:24 PM

With Léof’s arms around his middle, Eoghan reached out both hands and laid them against the mare’s side. Cinderfoot switched her tail about, but Eoghan barely flinched as it hit him across the face. His mouth opened into a little ‘o’ and his eyes widened as he felt the stretch and movement of the foal inside the swollen belly. He turned his head to look up at Léof and a slow, huge smile spread across his face. He looked back at the mare and kept his hands splayed on her side.

They stood thus for over a minute until Léof set Eoghan back down. The boy stood to the side while Léof finished checking her over. Although he said nothing as he watched, the child stood with a thoughtful air about him, and it was clear a thought was growing and hatching in his mind.

At length, when Léof was almost finished with his work, Eoghan finally found voice for what he had in his mind. “Do you think the baby horse could be mine?” he asked. “Papa says I am to learn soon to ride. I need a horse.”

Ruari and Saeryn

Ruari drew back and looked at the flowers in Stefnu’s hand. She tilted her head a little to one side and narrowed her eyes in consideration. She took another step back.

“I don’t like flowers,” she announced, and turned away and climbed up onto the bench.

She had scarcely returned to her original position when Saeryn re-entered the kitchen. “Are those oats about done?” she asked Ledwyn. Then, looking around and catching Stefnu’s rather displeased, even hurt, expression, she stopped in her tracks and asked, “What is the matter?”

Legate of Amon Lanc 09-14-2015 04:40 AM

Stefnu felt deep disappointment at being rejected by Ruari; she had imagined the little girl would like the flowers. But it seemed this was not the case. At least not now, who knows if it wasn't just her mood at this moment?

"What is the matter?" Lady Saeryn asked.

Stefnu looked at her, forcing herself back to smile.

"Ah well," she said, laying the flowers back on the empty shelf. "Ruari wanted to make her porridge more special, I suggested making it prettier with some flowers. I should have known it was not her thing," she finished, smiling apologetically.

littlemanpoet 09-14-2015 05:10 AM

Eodwine and Scyld
Eodwine nodded. "I will hold court today and this will be announced." His head jerked and his brow furrowed; he looked at Scyld with concern. "This could be harder for you than it might otherwise be, because of your name. I do not think that I want to share the secret of your name, everyone else calling you Nydfara. Even were you to choose to be Nydfara henceforward, I do not want to own the secret with you of your former name. If you are to be at Scarburg, you must be Scyld, and that must be explained to the folk here, and they must be told the truth. I do not see another way. What say you?"

Scyld nodded slightly; it was awkward - everything about this conversation and Eodwine's coming announcement was awkward. But he had given this matter plenty of thought himself, and wasn't it partly fear of his true name being revealed that had driven him to Linduial? Though it had not occurred to him to continue using Nydfara as his name. "It shall be as you say," Scyld answered. "I think I shall go by Scyld again, though if there are any who would prefer to still call me Nydfara, I would not mind."

Eodwine smiled with a cock of his head. "That is fair enough." I can think of one young lady among our folk who may prefer it as a term of endearment, he thought to himself since she knows him better than most by it. "But we need to work out before then what need be said and what need not. I would that you and I agree on it now."

Scyld considered a moment what he might prefer left unsaid to the Hall at large before a realization struck him. Though he doubted Eodwine meant it as a trap, Scyld could see the question as nothing else. If he asked for anything not to be shared, it would be to make himself look better by hiding something. Eodwine had made his thoughts on duplicity quite clear; Scyld did not wish to be seen as immediately falling back into his secretive ways. "To me, it seems clear that my role in both the kidnapping and rescue of Lady Linduial must be told," he said. "Beyond that, you know your folk better than I; what do you think they deserve to know?"

Eodwine smiled. "If you are willing that these things be told, then I can think of nothing that need be held back. I shall tell Thornden and the others to ready for court today."

"I am willing," Scyld said. Not entirely true, but what else could he say? He had not expected anything he told the Eorl to remain secret anyway.

"Good. I will see the thing arranged, for later today. Now I must see to affairs around Scarburg, I have been too idle of late." Eodwine rose, bid Scyld good parting, and left the Mead Hall.

Firefoot 09-14-2015 08:50 AM

Leof thought for a moment for a tactful way to answer the boy's question. He did not wish to hurt Eoghan's feelings, but it would be many years before he was experienced enough to raise and train a young, spirited horse.

"Well," said Leof, "It will be several years before Cinderfoot's foal will be old enough to ride, and training a young horse also takes a long time. Wouldn't you rather have a horse that you could start riding now?"

Galadriel55 09-14-2015 07:30 PM

Ledwyn had no time to speak to Lady Saeryn quietly about Ruari’s brash attempt. Saeryn’s manner was brisk and commanding, and Ledwyn felt herself turn away to check the oats boiling in the pot, though she sensed it would be better to speak now.

But when Stefnu spoke, Ledwyn’s anger blazed. This surprised her, for she did not oft seethe at past remarks and never flew into a rage. She put her spoon down harder than she meant to, splattering oatmeal on the table. She would wipe it later, she decided.

“The oats are still too hard, Lady Saeryn,” she said stiffly. “Your daughter was beseeching me for honey, and when I refused she turned to others.” Now Ledwyn was beginning to regret her outburst. Was she tattling on a child who did not even live to one fifth of her age? She felt like a little girl; she could not even bring herself to say Stefnu’s name. She wanted to finish this quickly and quietly. “I do not think breaking your fast needs to be more special in any way than it is every day. No matter how little a girl is,” she added to Stefnu, with the last of her bitterness.

Folwren 09-14-2015 07:41 PM

Saeryn and Ruari
Saeryn sent Ruari a warning glance. The little girl tilted her eyes downward and pretended she had not seen it. “Ruari doesn’t need her porridge more special, anyway,” Saeryn said, pointedly. “I agree with you, Ledwyn,” she said. “Perhaps Ruari has been too privileged of late.”

“The men are hungry,” Saeryn said, a little more cheerfully and dismissing for the moment Ruari’s rather too forward behavior. “Rowenna is already out there serving water. Ledwyn and I will take out the bread. Stefnu and Kara, follow with the porridge when it is done.”

They each picked up their burden and went out into the hall. Modtryth and Brith picked up stacks of bowls and wooden spoons and followed them. Ruari watched them go, her hands folded on the table in front of her. Stefnu and Kara stayed by the stove, stirring the two pots a minute or two longer, then they too went out. The door closed behind them and Ruari took a long, slow look around.

Slowly, she climbed down from the bench. She found a three legged stool in the corner and dragged it over to the shelves. She climbed up and carefully surveyed each shelf in sight. She saw what she looked for without much delay and reached for the pot of honey.

Folwren 09-14-2015 07:49 PM

Eoghan considered Léof’s words solemnly. After careful thought, he nodded his agreement. “Yes. Is there a horse here I could ride?”

Before Léof could answer, the bell in the courtyard was rung, signaling breakfast served. Eoghan turned his head and momentarily the thought of a horse was put from his mind.

“Breakfast is ready!” he cried, a little too loudly. Cinderfoot raised her head and for the briefest instant the white in her eyes showed as she stared down at Eoghan. The boy grimaced apologetically. “Sorry,” he said more quietly.

Thinlómien 09-15-2015 02:39 PM

Modtryth and Brith
Modtryth had been awake since before dawn. She and Leodthern had quickly tidied the hall for breakfast, then fed the precious new chickens, then done what they could to make their makeshift shed more waterproof and make sure the chickens were warm. The last thing anyone wanted was for the poor birds to catch a cold and die away. Stigend would have to look at the shed, as well as many other things.

Leodthern had been quiet all morning - the girl had grown more solemn after her father's death, and she had started to worry about things. There was a tiny crease on her small forehead, and Modtryth resisted the temptation to plant a little kiss on it and tell Leodthern everything would be alright. She didn't want to lie to the child, and besides, Leodthern was growing up. Modtryth could tell she didn't like her almost-mother fawning over her half as much as she had when she had been little and greedy for hugs and praise. Well, Leodthern was still a child, and sweet-tempered despite everything. The same couldn't be said for Cnebba - not to mention Garmund, Leodthern's older brother - but that was a whole another kettle of fish. Those boys really need something sensible to do, Modtryth thought.

"Ma?" Leodthern asked.
Modtryth smiled, a little sadly. She often thought of the poor child having almost no memory of her real mother. "Yes, honey?"
"I have a feeling like something is going to go wrong again," Leodthern said.
Modtryth looked up to the sky. "Well, it looks like more rain. Laundry will have to wait, but as long as we can keep ourselves, our animals and our stocks dry, we should be fine. Rain in the spring is only as it should be."
"I didn't mean the rain," Leodthern said.
Modtryth waited for a moment, but the girl did not continue. "Well, I hope you haven't become a seer then, even though Lord Eodwine might find one useful," she smiled.
Leodthern smiled back, a little uncertainly.
"Come on, Leodthern, you are useful as you are. There are more than enough hands than Frodides needs in the kitchen, so what about we..."

"Excuse me?" someone interrupted. Modtryth turned to see the Gondorian seamstress Brithiel - or Brith, as she insisted people call her - looking a little distressed.
"Yes?" Modtryth asked evenly.
"Lady Saeryn said we may start sewing clothes from the new linen today. Would you have time to join in after breakfast? And maybe Leodthern would like to learn too?"
Modtryth had to concentrate to understand what Brith said. She had travelled a lot in Riddermark and served in many households, and picked up a good amount of the common tongue on the way. Still, she wished the Gondorian would talk more slowly, or use less flowery language. Well, she was from a wealthy family, so what else could you expect from her?
"Obviously if you have too many chores, I understand, I just wanted to ask if you too would like to join, Modtryth. I thought maybe your children have outgrown heir clothes, hm?"
"Yes," Modtryth said. "They have indeed." She smiled, and decided not to brave explaining in her broken Westron how they were used to there people's hand-me-downs, and that she had not discussed with Saeryn if they should get brand new clothes of their own. It seemed like the seamstress's business anyway. "I will come, if Saeryn doesn't need me elsewhere. And Leodthern too, if she wishes."
"Excellent," Brith smiled.

Modtryth returned the smile, but she did not feel it. She had nothing against the friendly Gondorian, but she suddenly missed Ginna, and how they had sat together mending clothes in the evenings with Leodthern pestering Ginna for stories or pinning needles in Modtryth's skirt for amusement. The winter had really changed everything.


Brith left Modtryth and Leodthern by the chicken shed. She was looking forward to something to do, and the thought of having a needle in her hands made her feel more confident. She felt awkward still, and an outsider. She had learned the names of all the household women in a couple of days, and a little more of some of them, but they were still strangers to her. For the most part, they were a chatty and kind bunch, and she had done her best with the language barrier. She had kept a distance from Fréa and Caranthir - they were in service of the Meadhall now, and busy with getting acquainted with their new brothers in arms. Furthermore, they might have reminded her of the actual reason she was in Scarburg.

Three days had already passed, and Brith had done nothing to find her first fiance after her initial discussion with Saeryn. It has been raining a lot, she told herself. And she needed to show that she could earn her keep, and that she wasn't a pampered noblewoman like some in the Hall seemed to think. The day after her arrival one of the soldiers had come to talk to her, being excessively polite all the time and calling her "m'lady", until he had ventured to ask which part of Gondor did her family rule. Brith had failed to suppress a giggle, then gently explained she was not highborn and her family were merely valued craftsmen on her mother's side and distinguished soldiers on her father's side. The man at arms had seemed a little confused by this, and Brith had remembered a thing her mother had used to say - the servants of Gondorian lords have better manners than the lords of Rohan, generous as they may be. That was an ugly thing to say, though, and very untrue. Well, Brith had travelled a lot more extensively than her mother by now. Maybe it wasn't a wonder she was the one to know better.

Well, I still know very little, Brith thought. Most of all I need to learn the Eorling tongue. She wondered if Fréa and Caranthir could teach her, then rebuked herself for the thought. She had let the two men become her guardians, her uncles like she liked to think of them, but she could not hold onto them forever. They had lives of their own. Maybe she could ask little Leodthern to teach her, and teach the girl the common tongue in turn. She seemed to be of gentle nature, and even though they did not share a tongue yet, Brith didn't feel half as awkward with her than with most of the adults. She suppressed a sigh. She knew she couldn't use the girl as her shield any more than she could her uncles.

It will get easier day by day, she told herself. Maybe I will even make friends. And at least no one hates me here.

At that moment, she could hear the bell ringing for breakfast. Don't be a coward, she told herself. Go talk with people. They can't read your thoughts, they know nothing of you and your shortcomings. Brith straightened her back, and armed with a smile, she made her way to the hall.

Mithalwen 09-16-2015 12:58 PM

“Have you been long from home, Elfthain son of Théomund? Or is this your first experience as a soldier?”

Elfthain paused and considered his response for the answers to the two parts of Thornden's question were not the same. "I have been bound esquire to Elwin Eldredsson for three years now - but he has been garrisoned at Edoras all that time, and home is only a few miles away in the Harrowdale. Though I was away with him as a page for a year long before. So , yes while I have done a lot of drill, this is the nearest I have come to active service". he continued drily. Elfthain was aware that squires to the knights of the King's Guard often garnered a poor reputation, particularly in peacetime when obtaining such placement was too often seen as a way of getting wastrel lordlings out from under their parents' feet during the most tiresome stage of their progression to adulthood, rather than preparation for life as a career soldier

The breakfast bell rang and Elfthain turned his head wistfully towards the hall. He noticed that light in Thornden's eyes again and this time he was certain it was humour.

"I think you will be very hungry if you wait until your mare is clean to break your fast. I doubt she will suffer if you leave her long enough to eat", Thornden advised. Elfthain agreed and having tied a reluctant Safran under cover once more, he walked with Thornden back to the hall.

littlemanpoet 09-17-2015 07:04 PM

Eodwine went outside. It was still a little cool. The snow was mostly gone, and the puddles grew. This was not such a good thing: Scarburg was low lying, and it would not take very many rains to put the entire burg under a couple of inches of water. Not that the folk could not slog through it, but it wore on the footwear and on the spirits as well.

Eodwine stopped in at the forge, as was his wont, and greeted the twins, Garreth and Harreld. Or, one might name them Dour and Glum. And what was the root of it? Women. For Garreth, a none too fine lady of Edoras had cheated him. For Harreld, his bride had gone missing and might be dead. Whereas he was more sympathetic to Harreld's plight, he found the man's mood altogether too dark, whereas Garreth was just bitter about women in general but in fine fettle otherwise.

And it was Garreth who reminded Eodwine of one Wilheard, whom he had seen kicking about with nothing to do and less than useful.

"Ah. I am supposed to seek him and see how he can be settled in Scarburg," Eodwine mused.

"You'll have to!" said Garreth. "Sure as my hammer, he seeks no work on his own!"

"Well, I shall go find him then. Good day to you!"

"There are no good days," Harreld growled.

"There are so, so long as you can keep women away!" Garreth grumped.

Firefoot 09-17-2015 08:54 PM

Léof shot Eoghan a look that was only half-scolding, since he had caught his own mistake so quickly. “Next time try to remember not to shout before you do it,” he said mildly. “Now let’s leave Cinderfoot in peace and go to our own breakfasts.”

As they walked out of the stable, Léof considered Eoghan’s question: Is there a horse I can ride? Most of the horses in the stables belonged to individuals and would need their owners’ consent for others to take them out. He wondered if Eodwine and Saeryn might be thinking of getting a pony or a small horse for the twins to learn on. In the meantime, Léof supposed Eoghan might try riding his own mare Æthel, a rather small middle-aged horse. She had always been good-natured and had steadied even more after mothering a couple of foals.

He nearly suggested a ride that afternoon but paused when they stepped outside and he saw the overcast sky. “Maybe when the weather clears up, I’ll let you try riding my horse,” he said instead. “I think you two might get along.”

Folwren 09-19-2015 05:56 PM

Eoghan did a few hop skips to show his excitement, and he grinned from ear to ear. They spotted Thornden with Elfthain coming out from behind the stables at the same time, and Eoghan ran across to Thornden.

“Thornden! Léof is going to let me ride his horse! Maybe when the weather clears up.”

Thornden reach his hand out to the boy, and Eoghan took it with both of his. Thornden swung him forward a stride or two and then Eoghan landed again on his feet and bounced along by his side.

“And he says maybe I can ride her and we’ll get along!”

“Well, good for him!” Thornden said, smiling. He felt rather like an uncle to Eoghan and Ruari, and he was pleased to hear that Eoghan’s riding lessons would soon begin. He was also amused by Eoghan’s carrying on, for the lad scarcely ever showed such excitement about anything.

“Good morning, Léof,” he called as their paths converged and he and Elfthain drew closer to Léof. “Have you told Eodwine yet that you’re going to teach his son the art of riding?”

Galadriel55 09-19-2015 07:02 PM

Ledwyn was glad that Lady Saeryn swept the conversation aside. She was ashamed of herself, and yet unsure if she wished to have said less or have said more.

She interrupted her musings when she saw a familiar figure come into the Great Hall. Brithiel, slender and elegant, glided through the doorway and looked around her, perhaps in search for a seat. Ledwyn was meaning to speak to the lady for the last two days, but with so many duties the chance never presented itself. She could not miss it now.

Putting aside her earlier woes as best as she could, she approached Brithiel and steeled herself for what she must say. She was preparing for this the last two days, and she should not blunder again as she did before.

"Westu hal, Lady Brithiel," she said, inclining her head. "I offer you our bread and mead. You are our honoured guest, but this is more than honour. I came to ask for your forgiveness. I pray you shall not judge the rest by my doings and misdoings. My bearing is low, but the bearing of the Hall is high. If there is a deed I can do to reclaim your respect, you must name it to me."

Legate of Amon Lanc 09-20-2015 03:06 PM

Hilderinc sat down at the table in the hall. He had not slept well. Again. Maybe the rainy weather was to blame, his right arm again hurt badly. He had woken up several times, and when it happened in the morning after the rain had finally subsided, he could hear Áforglaed waking up and rummaging around the room for long enough that it kept him awake for good.

Hilderinc took a sip of water from the cup as he saw the women entering from the kitchens. The smell of porridge that came to him from across the room made his mouth water. He realised he was quite hungry. Then he heard squelching noises and turning his head to the right, he saw Áforglaed trotting towards him from the entrance, dragging mud with him all over the Hall. Hilderinc wondered where had he been; his boots looked as if he had spent the morning by walking in a swamp.

"Morning, Hilderinc," the younger soldier greeted him, so cheerfully that Hilderinc wondered whether Áforglaed had actually woken up early to play in the mud like a five-year old. He could see the image very vividly in his mind, and shook his head at it. Áforglaed interpreted that motion in his own way.

"What, don't be such a sourface," he said, sitting down. "It is a nice morning. Maybe it will finally stop raining today. Oh no," he added, probably for the first time noticing the state of his boots and the substance that was still dripping from them. "The women are not going to thank me."

"No, they certainly are not," Hilderinc confirmed, eyes focused on Ledwyn and lady Saeryn, who were going around offering bread. Each of the soldiers took a piece when the bread came their way and started munching immediately. Then the kitchen door opened once again and Kara with Stefnu appeared with the porridge.

Hilderinc noticed that Áforglaed promptly hid his muddy boots further under the table as Stefnu approached. She did not seem to notice. Smiling at Hilderinc, she put two big spoonfuls of porridge into his bowl. Áforglaed jumped to hold his own bowl in front of her, watching eagerly as she dumped one spoonful in it. Grinning, Áforglaed looked up at her again, expecting more. But Stefnu only smiled. Hilderinc had to hide his expression behind his own bowl, as Áforglaed's previously radiant face changed from utter disbelief into obvious terror. Only then Stefnu casually topped Áforglaed's bowl with another spoonful, considerably larger than the previous one.

"Thank you," Hilderinc said for them both, as Áforglaed sat down, appartently confused and unable to piece together what had just happened. Still smiling, Stefnu nodded at them and drifted away towards the other tables.

Firefoot 09-20-2015 04:24 PM

“Not yet,” Léof admitted, “but it’s only one ride. I wouldn’t want to overstep if Eodwine would rather teach Eoghan himself.”

He hoped he had not offered the boy more than he should have, but how could he resist the boy’s obvious desire to ride? It was one he understood well. One of his earliest memories was riding along on one of his father’s farm horses as his father worked the field. Not long after, Léof began to sneak out and ride those horses in the paddock, bareback and rein-less. He realized now, of course, that it hadn’t been the safest way to learn how to ride, and he would be less than pleased if any of the youngsters in the Hall were to try such antics now. He also wouldn’t want Eoghan to feel as though he needed to sneak around in order to get the chance to ride.

“Thornden is right, though,” Léof said to Eoghan. “We do need to check with your father before I take you out riding.”

Firefoot 09-20-2015 08:34 PM

Having finished his interview with Eodwine (Scyld tried not to think of it as escaping), he found himself wishing to be alone to collect his thoughts. He collected a few items from among his belongings, put on a light cloak, and left the Hall. He headed for the Scar, crossing the fields and climbing the path that was engraved into his memory, even after so many years. The trail was muddy, making the way up both slicker and more treacherous than he remembered.

The view was worth it. With all of Scarburg and the surrounding area spread out before him, he felt like he had the distance he needed to breathe freely again. Dark clouds blew visibly from the west across the sky as the wind picked up. The plains below were illuminated by a diffuse, oddly colored light where some of the sun’s rays shone dimly from the eastern sky.

Rain would come, but not yet. He sat down and drew out the small, nearly finished pouch he had filled with a handful of tools and brought from the Hall. The pouch was usable as it was: the edges were precisely stitched, the flap fastened closed with a simple button, and a pair of loops in the back allowed it to be attached to a belt or strung through with a leather thong or string for wearing over a shoulder or around the neck. It only lacked for decoration.

Scyld was pleased with his work so far, and though he did not have a particular purpose yet in mind for it, he wanted something special for the design and had so far been uninspired. It might now also be one of the first pieces of work he would have to show at Scarburg, and he wanted to make a favorable impression.

He thought for a moment, his mind somewhere between his work and his turbulent thoughts: the relief after his conversation with Eodwine, the stress of his upcoming announcement to the rest of the Hall, Rowenna’s confusing behavior. He looked out again at the land, so luminous in the face of the upcoming storm. Something clicked, and he began lightly to outline his pattern. A confusing tangle it seemed at first: a vine, continuously interwoven with itself, sprouting leaves at irregular intervals to accent the twists and loops of the stem. Slowly a sense emerged from the tangle as the design took shape.

He was so absorbed in his work that he was caught off guard by the first drop of rain. He looked up and found that it had slowly grown steadily darker without his realizing it. He hastily stowed his tools and the pouch beneath his cloak and his shirt, held against his body to keep them dry, and hurried back down the way he came, hoping to make it back to the Hall before the worst of the storm came.

littlemanpoet 09-21-2015 06:41 PM

She wiped at the mugs, rehearsing what she had heard from Nydfara. A farmer he had long known asked questions of the wrong sort? And Nydfara could not hide forever because someone sooner or later was bound to find out. I left shortly after, to find Lady Linduial and ask her to write that letter for me.

Find out what? What was in the letter, no doubt. What was in the letter?

"Rowenna, if you keep wiping at that mug you'll turn it into dust!" That was an off hand comment from Saeryn.

"Oh. Sorry."

There was a long silence. What kind of skill? What did that have to do with a farmer? Who was hiding?

He'd said he wanted to leave his misdeeds behind so he could live without fear and something about a charge, then Nothing more ... what? So he came back to Scarburg and thought to stay for about three and a half years and do leatherworking and he offered his services.

"Rowenna," said Saeryn, "you have a black cloud hanging over your head. What is the matter?"

"Oh, nothing." Nothing that I can talk about.

Stay for about three and a half years. And then leave again with all his mystery and her none the wiser? What was wrong with him? Couldn't he see how cruel that was? She threw it down. And it cracked and broke. The mug she had been wiping. She stared at it. She had not meant to throw it, but she had been lost in her thought and anger at that miserable... Saeryn hurried over and knelt in front of her, picking up the pieces.

"You need a break. Go! With the state you're in."


She tossed her apron aside and stomped out. She would seek forgiveness later. She blew by all those seated at table with nary a look and reached the door before it could close. Who had just gone out? She had not seen anyone. Ah. There was little Ruari, holding something close to her chest.

"Hi, little Ruari. What secret treasure have you there?"

Firefoot 09-21-2015 07:38 PM

Despite her misery, Cerwyn was not quite ready to admit the foolhardiness of her plan. The trip to Edoras had been pleasant: the sun was shining warmly for the first time since last fall; they rode in the cart, which saved them from the worst of the mud; and Cerwyn had found herself enjoying the company of Everild and her son.

But she had set out from Edoras to Scarburg alone and on foot, and the rains came when she had been on the road less than a day. Mud clung to her clothes and she felt as though she would never be dry or clean again. She was also exhausted, having slept poorly the last couple nights. Still, she ought to reach Scarburg sometime today, if her information was correct. She had started travelling early that morning, finally giving up on sleep. The sooner she reached Scarburg, the sooner she could wash, eat a warm meal, and sleep in a real bed – she felt fairly certain that even if she did not find Léof, she would be offered at least that much.

Trudging along the road, she paid little attention to her surroundings, but looked up when she felt the first drop of rain on the back of her neck. It hardly mattered; more rain only meant her clothes would go back from damp to soaking – unless the lightning started. Then she would have to find cover somewhere, and she begrudged the delay. She was eager to arrive and weary of the road.

She’d thought over and over what she might say to Léof, if she found him, and imagined a hundred ways she might meet him, as well as several where she arrived at Scarburg and not found him.

She had better find him. She’d crossed half the country for him.

Folwren 09-22-2015 06:32 AM

Ruari stood on the stool, gazing at the pot of honey with a pleased, self-congratulatory smile on her little face. Then carefully, she bent down to put it on a lower shelf and climbed down from the stool. She reached up and took the honey down and, holding it tightly against her chest, she moved towards the outer door. She opened it a crack and looked out. There were still several people in the courtyard outside, but they were moving towards the great hall. Eoghan was there, with Thornden and Leof and Elfthain, and though she would not have minded sharing the honey with Elfthain, she did not want her brother to have any. She waited until they disappeared into the hall, and then she slipped out.

Just as she closed the door behind her, she saw someone exiting the great hall. Ruari turned her back hastily and began to hurry down the edge of the kitchen, hunched over her treasure. It was too late! Rowenna already had seen. Ruari grimaced a little, thinking bitterly that Rowenna always saw everything.

“Hi, Little Ruari. What secret treasure have you there?”

Ruari froze in her tracks. Her head lowered a little and a guilty smile pulled at her lips. She turned to face Rowenna and slightly proffered the pot of honey.

“What do you have there?” Rowenna asked again, finally drawing near.

Ruari answered evasively. “Elfthain brought it for us,” she said, quietly and sounding as innocently sweet as she possibly could.

Folwren 09-22-2015 06:55 AM

Eoghan did not look discouraged by Léof's words and continued to skip towards breakfast. Thornden grinned after him. “I think that Eodwine will be happy of your offer, Léof,” he said.

They came to the door of the hall. Eoghan was hauling on the handles for all he was worth, but he couldn't budge the heavy door. Thornden reached over his head and opened the door and stepped back to allow the others through before him.

He entered last and nearly collided with Rowenna as she walked to the door. He gave way before her and would have opened the door again for her, but she was too quick.

“Come sit with us, Elfthain,” he said. “We'll find Javan and sit near him.” The three of them soon found Javan who had arrived just a moment before them. Áforglaed and Hilderinc were sitting nearby and Thornden bid them good morning.

Eoghan left the men and head directly towards his father's chair. He ran across the hall and around the table, but Eodwine was not there. He paused, taken aback slightly, and looked around. He saw his mother approaching, still carrying a tray of bread.

"There you are, Eoghan. Go and sit down and get some breakfast."

"Where's Papa?" the lad asked, turning and beginning to walk obediently to a place to sit.

"I am not certain," Saeryn said, with a glance around the room.

Eoghan looked mildly disappointed, but he shook it off and ran back the way he had come.

Mithalwen 09-22-2015 02:43 PM

Elfthain was only too happy to accept Thornden's invitation and slipped into the free place by Javan, and even happier that the subject had turned away from his history, he picked up the threads "I'd wager you will have two pupils rather than one, Léof. My sister was furious when I got my first pony even though she was so much younger and far too little to ride on her own. Miss Ruairi doesn't seem one to be left out".

Firefoot 09-22-2015 08:04 PM

Léof chuckled as he sat down across the table from Elfthain. “You seem to have figured Ruari out quickly,” he said. “No doubt she will also wish to ride, but I think she might be less keen for the extra chores that come with caring for a horse. She’s never shown as much interest as Eoghan has. We will see – but I would be happy to teach her as well, if she behaves.”

As he finished speaking, Saeryn came up to them with a basket of fresh bread. Léof thanked her and eagerly bit into a thick slice. It still seemed a novelty, fresh bread made with pure wheat, unmixed with sawdust. “Mmm, still warm,” he said approvingly.

Mithalwen 09-23-2015 07:32 AM

Elfthain taking a piece for himself, nodded in agreement, grateful at last for his mother's insistence that he carry the cumbersome jar of leavening with him. He also agreed with Léof about the responsibilities that riding incurred.

"Aye, my dad took my saddle off me when I left it uncleaned once too often. I had to ride bareback 'til he was sure I had learnt my lesson.. taught me to stick on though: you had better not let Ruairi see Saffy unless you want her put off stablework for life... she is a determined little thing, from what I have seen, so if she decides she wants to ride, I guess she will find a way."

Elfthain cocked his head straining to hear over the general background noise of the hall. "Is that rain again?" he queried "I shall have a wet ride on a grumpy horse then... lovely"

Folwren 09-25-2015 02:10 PM

It took Eoghan a minute or two, walking between the tables and looking for Thornden and Léof. He went relatively unnoticed by the men seated at the tables. A few greeted him, and one or two reached out to rumple his hair as he passed, but he ignored most of them. He found Leof and the others at last and crawled up by Thornden. Javan, seated next to his brother, shifted to make room for Eoghan.

As he climbed up and settled on the bench, he heard Elfthain regretfully announcing that it was raining again. Eoghan imitated his expression of listening and after a moment he, too, heard the gentle patter of rain. He made a face and looked at Léof.

“Maybe the weather will be better tomorrow,” he said sadly. “I was going to ask Papa about learning to ride, but I don't know where he is.”

Thornden overhead him and glanced about the hall. Eodwine was nowhere in sight.

“The horses will wait,” he said, comfortingly

Kara came up behind them and served Eoghan a bowl of porridge. As the child tucked in, Thornden continued the conversation with the men around him.

“If it is raining hard today, there is not much for anyone to do out of doors. Elfthain's story has made me think that perhaps it would not be a foolish idea to use this day in cleaning the leather. We can bring them in. Perhaps today will not be another entire waste of time.”

littlemanpoet 09-26-2015 07:43 AM

Rowenna with Ruari
“Elfthain brought it for us," Ruari said with big eyes and sweet smile, holding the honey jar up as if to offer it to Rowenna.

The little trickster. Rowenna couldn't help a half grin. "You made off with it, didn't you."

It was not a question, and was not meant to be. Rowenna knelt down and stuck her finger into the honey, came up with a dollop on her finger and licked it clean, winking at the girl, whose eyes widened and mouth parted in surprise and a sudden grin.

"Your turn," she said, licking her lips. "Here, hand the jar to me and I'll hold it for you."

Folwren 09-26-2015 02:07 PM

Ruari handed the jar to Rowenna, but she hesitated a second before trying the tempting nectar. She knew that what she was doing was wrong. Hadn't she been told this was special stuff, to be shared with others? Hadn't her mother essentially told her that she was to have none of it for breakfast? Why was Rowenna offering it to her? Was she trying to trap her?

Rowenna wouldn't do that. No one, not even Ruari herself, would be that mean and tricky.

Ruari dipped her finger in up to the first joint and and stuck it in her mouth. She stared solemnly up at Rowenna as she savored the thick, sweet taste.

Firefoot 09-27-2015 06:31 PM

“Yes, and it will be a good chance to check everything over and see if anything needs mending,” Léof agreed. He took a bite of his porridge before adding, “Also, if we have the supplies on hand, it might be useful to make a batch of leather soap. If the weather keeps up like this, we’ll be using plenty of it.”

The sounds of spoons scraping bowls and chewing dominated for a few minutes. Léof considered the newcomer across the table. He had spoken to Elfthain only briefly since meeting him a couple days ago, but his first impression was favorable: polite and conscientious in his care for his horse, who was herself a good-tempered mare. "Elfthain, do you think you'll be staying for long?" he asked.

Mithalwen 09-28-2015 02:48 PM

"I am expected to return with the waggons, Léof", replied Elfthain. "but I have not heard when they are to depart - I made an early start on Saffy's grooming in case it was today - but this rain makes that unlikely. The drivers aren't keen with the going so heavy". He paused to take a mouthful of porridge. "But if we wait for it to dry out we could be here for ages".

He didn't mind delaying the journey too much for himself - camping, in deep mud was not his idea of fun. And if the weather was as bad at home he wouldn't have able to do much work with his new horse anyway. It was going to be enough to exercise the steady and surefooted Safran in current conditions.

Folwren 10-01-2015 04:08 PM

Javan ate his breakfast in silence, listening rather glumly to the plans for the day. It was not that he disliked cleaning the tack and leather so much, it was more that another day within doors seemed unbearable. And then Léof questioned Elfthain about if he was to go soon, and Elfthain responded, and Javan's spirits plunged even lower.

What was the point of even forming new friendships if they were going to be broken so soon? He had felt better since Elfthain had come. The winter had been hard for everyone, and he had no more to complain of than others - less, in fact - but since Garmund's father had died, Garmund had behaved differently. Cnebba, too, had grown distant, and Javan had found himself rather lonely. Léof was there, that was certain, but Javan and Léof had never been very close. Javan often thought Thornden got on more with Léof than he did himself, although he and Léof were closer in age. Elfthain, then, had been a welcome newcomer.

If only he could stay.

Javan looked up. The gloomy look cleared from above his eyebrows.

"I say, Thornden, couldn't Elfthain stay behind and live here?" he asked impulsively. "He could join the men at arms, couldn't he? He's a soldier in training, after all!"

Thornden glanced over towards Javan and smiled at the idea. "That would be a question more fit for Eodwine. I would be pleased to take him, so I could put in a good word." He turned and looked at Elfthain. "Shall I?"

Mithalwen 10-02-2015 11:35 AM

Elfthain startled dropped his porridge spoon into his bowl with a clatter and stared at Javan and Thornden astonished, while thoughts tumbled over themselves in his mind like a torrent of meltwater down a mountain side crashing into rocks and carrying smaller pebbles in the flow.

It had never crossed his mind that he wouldn't go back. He was only there because he was effectively being punished, not that he would admit that to his new acquaintances, and his future had been planned out for him so far in advance that it hadn't occurred to him that he might change it. And he was content to know the farm was waiting for him when he came of age and in the mean time he marked time, training for battles he hoped he never would have to fight. There was no doubt that staying would be harder work. He would not be able to slip off back to Upbourn when he was off duty, and however much he might resent other squires' suggestions of nepotism he had to admit that his uncle probably was more indulgent of his failings than a lord who was not a kinsman would be.

Yet he had enjoyed these past few days and liked the people who he had met. And maybe it would be worth the harder work and harsher conditions to be judged on his own merits... it might be the only chance he ever got for that.

"I would like to stay longer.... but I can't not just go back.. I am indentured...though since they thought it would do me good to come with the convoy it must mean staying longer would improve me more" he said with a grin "so maybe Elwin would grant permission if Lord Eodwine were amenable". be Elfthain paused and frowned remembering two stumbling blocks"If I did stay would I be under Wilheard's command? And would you have space for another horse?"

littlemanpoet 10-03-2015 06:32 AM

Eodwine meandered around the Burg, looking for Wilheard. The young man had not been at breakfast when he had left there, so he chose to look elsewhere. He was not in the smokehouse. He was not at the latrine. Eodwine passed by the stables and saw the ostler Léof busy at his work, and a few others among the horses with him, but not Wilheard. He thought of going out to the top of the first hills of the scar, but shook his head. He did not think that Wilheard would go there first in the morning. He made his way out to the road, checked the wagon, no Wilheard.

Eodwine was more puzzled than frustrated. Maybe he was finally at his meal. But no, he was not in the hall, breaking his fast. Nor in the kitchens, making a nuisance of himself among the cooks and serving women. That left only one place.

Eodwine mad his way to the men's sleeping quarters. Sure enough, there was one body at rest. Eodwine got a slanted grin on his face. He stood at the door and put his hands to his mouth.

"Everybody, up and at it! Time for work!"

A groan came from the one occupied bed. Hands reached for the pillow and thrust it over the head.

"Wilheard! It's time to get up!"

"Leave me be! I'm tired!"

Eodwine's smile now had about it a bit of the fatherly disciplinarian. He walked over to the soldier's bed, pulled the covers off, yanked the pillow away and chucked it over to the side, bent down, got within two feet of the shirker's ears and yelled.

"Wilheard! Up and at it! If you don't, Eorl Eodwine will hear about it first thing!"

Folwren 10-03-2015 12:47 PM

Thornden's expression sobered. It would be more difficult than he had originally imagined. He did not know the lad was indentured. Still, there could be no harm in asking.

The question about if Wilheard would be his superior made his smile disappear even more. Any reminder that Wilheard was not leaving was enough to make Thornden not feel very pleased at all.

"Léof will have to answer for the horse," he said, glancing at Léof, "but I can at least say that you will not have to be directly under Wilheard, if that is your desire. I am not sure what his position here will be, but he will not be over men." Not, anyway, he added to himself, if I have any say in it.

"Who is the man you are indentured to?"

Galadriel55 10-03-2015 03:34 PM

But the irises did not bloom for long, for by the time their petals opened, the ancient river has dried. Their blossoms withered, and their leaves lay flat, and their roots turned to dust. Too late their proud stems have bowed to the riverbank, this time to rest there and not rise. Thus went the river, and the irises, leaving no trace that they once ruled this land, and only the earth remained, for only earth is eternal.

The day was tired. It tried halfheartedly to hide it, but gave up the feeble attempt before midmorning. The sun’s beams were too weak to pierce the clouds. The clouds were too pale to cast darkness. The ground was covered with yesteryear’s grass, a sickly yellow hue. The day was weary and drained of colour, its eyes hazy with mist. It barely dragged its feet across the earth, hoping that night would come early to relieve him of that task. But night comes only at its own time. So the weary day must trudge on, its seconds counted by the rhythmic chomping of the ground at travelers’ feet.

For only the earth is eternal. Yes, that would be a good way to end that tale. And end without an end, as all tales should be. Balan liked his new story. He put it in a pocket of his mind, to pull it out when the right time will come.

As the mist ahead of him cleared, he saw a small figure in the distance: a man, making his way north. He must have been going since sunrise, for Balan was walking faster, and he did not see this man at the village where he spent the night. Last night this man must have still been behind him, but set out earlier this morning. One wayfarer is company to another, especially when both are going the same way. Balan quickened his pace.

As he approached, he noticed that the man was slender and short of stature for a man of the Mark. Looking closely, Balan thought that this was a young man, and he appeared weary or cold. Balan reached behind him into his rucksack, assuring himself of his provisions. He had enough food for two, and he would be able to get more food when he reached the next village, or possibly the Mead Hall, which he remembered to be nearby.

“Hoy there, lad! You have walked far this morning,” Balan called out.

Mithalwen 10-03-2015 03:48 PM

"Elwin son of Eldred, Captain in the King's Guard. He was my father's best friend" Elfthain felt himself colour as he omitted and my mother's brother, "He has other squires I am sure he can manage without me for a while if I write and tell him I could be useful here. I hope I could be useful here... especially if I wasn't under Wilheard's control... " he grinned at Thornden, "Though he spoke barely a handful of words to me all the journey through. There might be advantages to such a master" he added mischievously.

"It isn't the end of the world about the horse. Only I have a half-broken colt at home on the farm and I was schooling him myself...." he wasn't sure his mother would have resist the temptation to finish the job herself. It wasn't that she would do a bad job rather that she might do it almost too well and he dreaded the mirth it might provoke if his "pony" were replaced by a palfrey.

Firefoot 10-03-2015 06:06 PM

Cerwyn heard the footsteps of someone coming up behind her; the sucking, squelching mud made a stealthy approach difficult. She pulled the hood of her cloak further over her face and moved to the side of the road to let the traveler pass. So far on her journey this had worked well. Travelers on horseback had rode past with little more than a wave and a greeting, as had those coming from the opposite direction. This was the first person on foot to come up behind her, and she stiffened when he called out a greeting. Surely it was too soon for someone travelling on foot to catch up with her, if they had been sent out after her from Edoras? One on horseback might have made such good time, but surely not on foot – unless she missed her guess, she’d had nearly a full day’s head start before she would have been missed. She couldn’t be too careful, though. She reached up to make sure her hair was tucked away. Hopefully he would quickly pass her by, none the wiser.

“Hoy there, lad! You have walked far this morning,” the man said. She slowly turned, and saw that he was nearly upon her. He was older than her – none of the boys her age could grow a full beard like that yet. He had a kind face, she thought, and a nice smile.

“I have,” she said, trying to keep her voice even and low but wondering how he knew that. Had he been following her? Was she already found out? “The quicker I can finish my journey on this road, the better.”

Thinlómien 10-04-2015 05:53 AM

Someone was shouting his name. Loud. And near. His blanket was gone. He was cold, so cold. He wondered if they'd made him sleep outside, like Father had once done. Or maybe he'd fallen off his horse and fallen asleep in the snow on the Scar. Had they come looking for him then?

"Eorl Eodwine will hear about it first thing!"

"Eorl Eodwine be damned!" Wilheard said. His voice sounded very weak to his own ears. He wondered what was wrong with him. "Bring me..." he croaked. "Please bring me my brother."

Wulfric could fix this. Wulfric had always fixed everything. He'd know what had happened, too.

"Wulf, why am I so cold?" Wilheard muttered, groping for the blanket that was not there.

Thinlómien 10-04-2015 11:55 AM

The great hall was always so full with breakfast time! And it was the same struggle every morning, too. The fist morning she had sat with Fréa and Caranthir, the second she had been kindly accepted to sit with Modtryth and Leodthern and they had later been joined by other household women. Now she was again wondering who could she sit next to.

"Westu hal, Lady Brithiel."

Brith turned her head quickly to see she had been approached by Ledwyn. She nodded, and smiled.

Ledwyn went on in Rohirric: "I something you our bread and mead. You are our something something, but this is more than something. I something to ask for your something. I something you something not something the rest by my doings and something. My something is something, but the something of the Hall is something. If there is a something I can do to something your something, you must name it to me."

Oh dear, Brith thought, keeping the smile on her face. What can I say? It didn't help that Ledwyn looked dead serious, and Brith sensed that whatever the other woman had just said had a great importance to her.

"No, no," she said a little uncertainly, in Rohirric. "Everything is good. Thank you, Ledwyn."

She swallowed uneasily and smiled. She hoped she hadn't just made an even bigger mess, and even more she hoped it was all settled now. If not, someone who spoke Westron had better rescue her soon.

littlemanpoet 10-04-2015 07:07 PM

Eodwine was not too keen on the free cuss coming out of Wilheard, but it was his own fault for playing at not being himself. And the poor - er - cuss looked unwell, now that he had a good look at him.

Ah, he had mentioned Wulfric. Eodwine lost his grin and shook his head sadly. The brother who had been killed in battle. Eodwine remembered him, the one on whom his brother and father had depended.

"You are unwell, Wilheard," Eodwine said kindly. "Feverish, by the looks of it. I will see that you are cared for." He reached for the blanket and covered the shivering man, then bent over and fetched his pillow. "Here. Take this."

Wilheard opened a bleary eye and took the pillow, holding it as if it were a toddler's doll.

"We shall talk when you are well." He left the room and found Saeryn. "Wilheard has a fever."

littlemanpoet 10-04-2015 08:03 PM

A Questionable Partnership
"There, that's enough," Rowenna said quietly. "We know where this came from, and that it should go back where you found it."

Ruari did not argue. She felt herself fortunate so far and did not think she should press her luck. She leaned forward a little. "Will you put some on my porridge first?" she whispered.

Rowenna allowed herself half a grin. She remembered herself when she was this age. She had been the little ruler of the house, herself. And then everything had changed. Her smile disappeared. She had had to learn late and through great anguish how to survive. It should not be so for Ruari. She would not be harsh with the girl, but she had to know that she would have to work at getting what she wanted instead of just thinking it would come to her.

"No. I already gave you your treat. This needs to go back and must not have too much less in it than before."

Ruari shrugged a shoulder and lowered her head, a slight pout coming across her face. She considered how effective a show of temper would be, and decided a full blown protest would not be well accepted. She settled for stomping her feet unnecessarily in the mud - after Rowenna had turned her back and begun leading the way back to the kitchen.

Rowenna had good ears and heard the stomping. She couldn't help smiling. The little cut up was a little version of herself. This could be fun. She stopped with a pleasant smile and held out her hand. "Take my hand, Ruari. Let's go back inside. It looks like rain."

Ruari crossed her arms and became quite still in the mud. Her pout deepened until her eyebrows were lowered crossly.

"I won't go in until you promise to give me some," she said.

Rowenna turned around and looked at the girl, tilting her head, her eyes narrowed. A dangerous smile came to her face. "Do not pick a fight with me, little girl, you will not win. So what will it be?"

Ruari almost backed down. She probably would have, if Rowenna hadn't been smiling, even if it was the wrong kind. Briefly, she weighed the possibilities. She decided to try her luck.

"If you don't give me some in my oatmeal, I will tell Mama that you stole some, too."

Rowenna's brow rose. This girl had spunk. Rowenna bent down and got eye level with her, holding the jar of honey close to her chest, to put it out of reach but within range of her eyes so as to be a useful bait. Rowenna stared into her eyes, her own eyes hard as stone and her own smile as threatening as cut crystal.

Ruari withdrew the tiniest fraction, though she did not step back. She flinched as Rowenna continued to stare, and she began to question the wisdom of holding her will against this woman. Then she squared her shoulders, remembering that Rowenna was not her mother, and could not do anything to her.

"You're a spunky little thing, aren't you." Rowenna reminded herself that she was choosing not to be harsh with this girl. "You are like I was when I was your age. If you were to tattle, you would make a foe of me, and I do not think you want to do that. It would not serve you well, for I have much I could teach you, that no-one else here knows. Do you understand me, Ruari, Saeryn's Daughter?"

Ruari didn't understand, but her curiosity was piqued. "What kinds of things?" she asked.

"I can teach you to make others want to do what you want them to do."

This was still a little above Ruari's understanding, but it sounded like it would be useful. She nodded her head slightly. "Alright," she said. "I won't tell Mama, then."

"Very well. You must trust me to teach you when the time is right. In the meantime, we can be friends. Take my hand."

Ruari took it and together they went back into the kitchen. By now they were quite wet, and while Rowenna put the pot of honey back on the shelf, Ruari stood by the fire. She watched Rowenna and inwardly promised herself that later, when the time was better, she would get the honey, and even Rowenna wouldn't know about it.

Firefoot 10-04-2015 09:37 PM

“Don’t worry over your colt,” Léof assured Elfthain. For a while, when Athanar had still been Scarburg’s lord, the stable had been full – overfull, even. There had been talk for a while of expanding the stables and building more stalls. Since Athanar had left, however, there had always been some empty stalls. “Once the caravan leaves, a lot of space will open up.” He smiled. “I’d also be curious to see how you’re handling your colt. I’m thinking about bringing along my yearling filly rather than sell her.”

It was the first time he’d said it out loud to anyone, but the thought had been growing on his mind for several months now. He liked the idea of having a second mare to continue breeding when Æthel grew too old, and he was steadily growing more attached to Æthel’s daughter, whom he had called Wren after the small birds who had hatched in their nest under the stable eaves the week the filly had been born. If a more promising filly were to come along, he could always sell Wren later, but it was certainly possible that the rest of Æthel’s foals would be all colts.

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