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Old 05-02-2010, 12:52 PM   #1
piosenniel
Desultory Dwimmerlaik
 
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White Tree Homeward Bound RPG

How did the things come to this pass? Mir wondered, looking up from where he sprawled on the floor, his lethargic and heavy-lidded eyes locked in a grapple with the icy stare of the escaped thrall. He had been too immersed in his paperwork to pay much attention to the sound of the ruckus outside, until a few moments ago, when the thrall burst into his office and tackled him to the floor. He was completely taken by surprise, and while he had instinctively put up a fight, it had been brief; he was no match against his young and desperate assailant, and in the initial confusion did not even have the presence of mind to give the alarm. So here he was, sprawled on the floor, with the escaped thrall on top of him, having torn his own blade Naegling from his grasp and holding it to his neck with a snarl.

“Regnár,” Artamir said slowly, recognition stirring in his eyes as he lowered them to the metallic sheen of the blade at his throat.

It was a traditional festival play, this Hunting of the Thralls. They released the useless slaves into the streets of Rhun every Harvest Festival, when the festivals in the streets reached their peak, without gear or weapons. Then the civilians and soldiers hunted these slaves down and spilled their lifeblood on the pavements of the streets as offerings to the gods in return for a bountiful harvest. They say that the more blood spilled, the better pleased the gods would be… As Mir did not believe in the gods, he distanced himself from the Harvest Festival, staying in his office to finish his paperwork while other officers and guards were all out on the streets with blade or bow hunting down the slaves. To think that a slave, instead of wandering witless in the streets, would make his way straight into his office in the heart of the guard barracks! It was insane, unbelievable… or would have been, if his assailant wasn’t Regnár.

“How pleasant that you remember me. Nice office, and what’s with that new livery, were you promoted in my absence?” A cool and icy smile lit Regnár’s countenance as he pressed the blade deeper into Mir’s neck. A thin line of blood trickled down and pooled on the floor.

Of course Mir remembered. He had been a junior officer back then, one of the many nameless rank-and-file soldier who flocked to the banner of Sauron. After the campaign ended disastrously with the destruction of the One Ring, he had taken it upon himself to shepherd the scattering rank-and-file and strike out for Rhun with the Gondorian patrols hot in pursuit. He had waited until crossing the Anduin, then deliberately made slow progress so as to let the more overzealous and overconfident vanguard overtake them. Then he struck in an ambush, killed most of the soldiers, and took about half a dozen, including the leader of the vanguard, back to Rhun as war slaves. He was promoted to the senior officer for this feat. And as for the leader of the Gondorian vanguard, the young man with fire and ice in his spirit and an unyielding pride that made him a difficult prisoner to control, he had not seen him after he handed the prisoners over to the higher ups and received his promotion… until now. Apparently, the five years of slavery had done little to quench Regnár’s spirit or his fighting skills.

“Did you really think that this was a good idea, coming after me? At least, in the streets, there is some chance of hiding out until the festival is over and then slipping out unnoticed. Here? Even if you kill me, how do you presume to escape from the barracks?” Artamir tried to smile back in return, trying to maintain his pride, even though he was sure that death was just around the corner.

By the corner of his eyes, he could see the two children – half Easterling, but with enough of the Gondorian blood in them to give them distinctively Gondorian features, especially the boy who was fair of face and hair – cowering in the corner of the office. He had purchased them in the open slave market the day he came back from the war, the girl as little as six back then, on what could only be assumed to be a sudden whim. He had no wife or relatives, and his deserted home needed dusting, and he needed someone to lit a crackling fire in the fireplace or cook for him. He would have done better to buy a mature woman slave instead, since the children were near useless in housework and spent most of the time playing, and he ended up doing most of the housework anyway, but it didn’t matter. He never meant to indulge them, but he had never raised a hand against them either, perhaps because he just didn’t care. They reminded… No. Better not to think about it.

“We’d never be free of this cursed place alone. But with your help…” The smile again, and this time even icier.

“We’re returning to Gondor,” another voice rang from behind the door. Then there was the sound of the door opening, and more gaunt-looking slaves milled into the office, most of them whom he did not recognize, except for one soldier who had also been a member of the pursuit squad. What the… Did that Regnár bring them? Mir suddenly remembered with a flash how he gathered up the scattering Easterlings and returned to their homeland against overwhelming odds. How ironic. He hoped for a moment to hear the pound of the guards and the alarm bell, but no, there was no one who could help him. Outside the street the ruckus still went on, but the hallway outside the office was deserted and without a sound. Of course. All the guards are out on the streets hunting as well. The guard barracks was actually the safest place to be in the moment.

“You’re more foolish than I had thought, if you believed that I could procure a ship for you or open the barred gates of Rhun.” Mir said quietly, pushing away the blade that still pressed into his throat. “Kill me for vengeance if you wish, but you’ll never get out of this city alive. Once released, you’re offerings to appease the wrath of the gods; even the king himself would not be allowed to snatch you to safety, even if he wanted to. And the guards will be returning any moment. Good luck with your afterlife, kid, I’ll meet you on the road to hell.”

“You’ll cooperate if you don’t want to be flayed alive, as much pleasure as I would derive from doing so, Easterling. For starters, find us some inconspicuous clothing, and let’s move camp to somewhere less dangerous; preferably your home. And if...” It was a low and soft purring, but there was a steely ring to it that left no doubt as to its sincerity.

Mir almost laughed outright. You’ll kill me anyway when I am of no more use to you, he was going to say. And he wasn’t afraid of death; not now, not when she… No, not this again. His eyes flickered for a moment to the children cowering in the corner, then to the gaunt slaves, and then back to the cool stare of Regnár. His mouth twisted in what might be a grimace or a bitter smile. Perhaps he deserved this, after so many years of doing the exact same thing to other people. And he had killed them, too, or sold them as slaves- Life was such a strange thing. One of the Haradrim mercenaries that he used to work with wouldn’t shut up about a concept called ‘karma’, and while he had paid little attention then, he couldn’t stop thinking about it now. Perhaps this karma was catching up to him, after all.

“Throw on the guard livery in the closet,” Mir said bitterly. “And get that knife off my throat, unless you want to chop it in two, in which case you’ll be a porcupine of arrows before the night is set. I’ll take you to my home.”

~ Eorl of Rohan

Last edited by piosenniel; 05-23-2010 at 07:33 AM.
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