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Old 05-23-2010, 02:01 PM   #10
Eorl of Rohan
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Seoul, South Korea
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Artamir Wainrider

The reception lounge was neat and luxuriously furnished. The wall lanterns cast flickering shadows on the walls of the reception hall, while the crimson and orange embers glowed luminescent amidst the ashes of the hearth. A warm and gentle light flooded the lounge. It also bespoke of a love of lore. Bookcases laden with ancient tomes were carelessly plastered to the walls; those versed in lore may have noticed that the scrolls spread on the mahogany writing desk to the side were written in elvish runes. An exquisite silverwood lute embossed with gold was leaning on the desk. A furry bearskin rug covered the floor, with the head stuffed with all the teeth in its half-open jaw still intact, the eyes replaced by onyx crystals. On it was placed a low chestnut coffee table, accompanied by a smattering of comfy armchairs and a luxurious sofa. Mir sank into one of the armchairs as soon as he entered, his limbs as heavy as lead.

“Merra,” Mir told the wide-eyed child as he leaned close casually, “Look on the second top shelf for freshly-baked loaves and a pot of whipped cream. Serve our guests, won’t you?”

Mir then whispered to Merra under his breath: 'Go. Take Penram with you, and hide.' It didn’t exactly take scintillating intellect to realize that Regnar wanted him dead; with sufficient bad luck, the children might be mixed up in this as well. Now if she had the presence of mind to take her brother and RUN- Merra was too young and too little, he wasn't sure whether she even comprehended the urgency of the situation or the peril that she was in. At least Penram seemed to understand. Mir had flinched when he had heard Penram shamelessly beg for mercy, but he had to admit that it was the most effective approach that could be taken towards the soft-hearted Gondorians. Sometimes pride had to be set aside in order to protect the people that really mattered.

Or you live your entire life wishing that you had done anything other than what you did, Mir thought sadly as he watched Merra scurry off.

Mir waited until the others warily settled themselves into the armchairs and the door was barred and secured, then said: “Do you even realize your predicament? You are hunted in a closed-off city, surrounded by towering and heavily fortified battlements on one side, and the wide deep sea of Rhun on the other. 'We're returning to Gondor', was it? How childish.”

Mir then went on with his somber assessment of the ways out of the City of Rhun:

1. “If desperation has not clouded your minds, surely you know as well as I that the gates are barred to all until the Harvest Festival draws to a close. That includes RhunGuards. Even if you can pass yourself off as one, which you can’t. The Easterling tan and the soldierly raiment might fool the common passersby, but anyone who has heard you speak would know you for a Gondorian from your distinct accent. Not to mention that even military personnel are not permitted to subvert the lockdown without special clearance from me or the Commander. See the scrolls over there by the writing desk to the side? That’s the clearance document. But it’s useless without my signature and my presence. Do you think you could sway me to your will so easily a second time, Gondorian?”

2. “Perhaps you were thinking, the Alchemist’s Guild of Rhun delves less into the personal affairs of those who come to them seeking sleeping draughts or poison then do the House of Healing of Gondor. I suppose you could attempt to lull the guards to sleep and slip past a side gate, but how would you convince the guards to partake of the tampered provisions without rousing suspicion?"

3. "As for the boats, none are free. If you succeed in stealing a fishing boat lying about untended, it would be perilous to venture afar on such a flimsy vessel and it would not be stocked with enough provisions. Even if you make the wise decision of stowing away in one of the more massive vessels and massacre the hapless crew afterwards, do any of you Gondorian kids know how to steer an Easterling warship? Our technology derives from the Art of the wizard Saruman Curunir who trained us in the secret lore of how to use black rocks for fuel.”

“So how do you plan to leave this place?” Mir's laughter was cold. “And that’s but the first of your problems. How will you deal with the inevitable pursuit, the treacherous swamp, or the hostile elves who assail all who pass beneath the shadows of their wood? Eryn Lasgalen you name it now, but for long has it been called Mirkwood. The mind of the elves that have never bathed in the light of Laurelin and Telperion will not be swayed as easily as the fading remnant of Noldor that Elessar have seduced to his cause, and for long they have lived in fear and distrust of us men. Even you they will shoot to kill.”

“No, you have seven days till the Harvest Festival draws to a close and my absence is noticed.” There was no smile on his countenance now as Mir spoke grimly, yet a cynical and desperate amusement still glinted in his eyes as he raised his voice. “Seven more days to live; that is my gift to you, my honored guests, seven days to make peace with your gods. That’s more than you could have hoped for when you came barging into my office in this pitiful façade, isn’t it?”

As wary as the thralls must be of his words, Mir was sure that at least some of the ragtag band had sense enough to see the truth in his assessment of their chances. He had not lied, after all. There was little chance of them escaping the City of Rhun in the height of its celebration of the Harvest Festival. Not unless he lent them his aid.

“Or do you have any other plan, Regnar?” Here Artamir’s voice sank into a dark whisper as he leaned forward, “You and your rash plans, isn’t that what earned you thralldom in the first place? How many lives would your bloodlust gorge upon until it was sated, Regnar of Gondor, how many more must need be butchered for your rashness and pride?”

It was in stealth and charisma that Mir had always excelled, not in swordplay and archery, but in tracking across the wild and in diplomacy and gentle words of encouragement. He was one on whom the mantle of command sat easy. He had always been gifted in swaying the others to his will. And this time his subject wouldn’t be too difficult to sway; Regnar already wanted him dead anyway, he could see it in his eyes, one remark that cuts deep would do it. And Mir had no wish to lend them his aid, much less be dragged along as their prisoner. Better a clean death as befits the Captain of RhunGuard.

“Each man’s life is his to gamble with as he sees fit, but not so the lives of the recruits who trust and rely on his counsel. You didn’t care whether they died or not, Regnar, blinded as you were by a chance to gain fame and fortune. No. Back then, we Easterlings posed no more threat to Gondor. Defeated and on the run, I found myself in charge of the near-impossible task of leading the injured and dejected rank-and-file back to their homeland. We were homesick and terrified. But you relentlessly pursued us over fen and woods, even when your victory was secured, forced us to make a stand and fight. You needn't have done that. They needn't have died. Do you presume to lay their deaths at our feet, fool, when it was you and your rash pride that sent them to their deaths?”

Mir’s voice was as sweet as honey and as venomous as a basilisk. “You sent them to their bloody deaths, Regnar. You say that you seek to return to Gondor, free as the air, while their bones bleach white in the ditches of Anduin without so much as a stone to mark their passing? What makes you think that you deserve life? What makes you so different from I?”
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