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Old 07-29-2008, 08:52 PM   #189
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NŠin's prompt met with a responce. The one who was clearly Rohirric answered.

"Oh, I'm sorry. My name is Erbrand, I have heard the kitchen ladies talk of you, Nain."

From the way Erbrand glanced at his companion, and from what NŠin had heard walking up, this seemed to be a theme of the morning. NŠin resolved to ask Kara what this was about, if he saw her--and if he could think of a comfortable way to bring it up, though the prospects of that were unlikely. Though he knew Kara was aware he was fond of her, his Dwarven heritage and his own awkwardness were such that he had no intention of stating this outright. As NŠin thought this out, he almost failed to notice what Erbrand said next.

"Your skills will be of much use here, Nain. I've heard the Dwarves are amazing craftsmen when it comes to building things."

Indeed, NŠin paused just long enough, trying to process what Erbrand had said, that the other man spoke next, obviously taking his silence for modesty or else for not seeing a need to respond to the obvious.

"You hail from Erebor, Master Dwarf? Indeed? Then we may have met before, for I am from Dale - though I have not been there in many years," said the other, now glancing at Erbrand in his turn. Erbrand gave him no reply though, and he looked back at NŠin.

The Dwarf was nodding. He had thought the other man sounded more northern.

"Nain, in the town of Dale, there is - or was - a cooper, an old man with black hair and the disposition of a firecracker. His name is Crabannald. Do you know him?"

Nain was not sure. He had not travelled into Dale often, though in his fifty-three years, he had become familiar with the Mannish town. He thought back, trying to recall if he had ever met or heard of a cooper. Nothing was surfacing.

"Or have you at least heard any news of him?"

Alas, thought NŠin, if I cannot remember him, how can I have news of him? Crabannald... Crabannald...

"If you'll exuse me sirs, I have business to attend to before the day begins, rabbits and all that stuff. Good morning Crabannan, and it's good to have you with us, Nain." Erbrand gave a brief, becoming smile, and then departed. NŠin, who had not caught Crabannan's name previously, seized on it to cover his inability to recall this cooper that seemed to matter to the Man before him.

"I take it from your names, that you and Crabannald the cooper are close kin?" he asked politely.

"Yes, very close," said Crabannan and something about his half-smile triggered NŠin's memory. The details stubbornly refused to return to his mind, and NŠin was quite sure he had never known Crabannan's name before, but he had seen the Man before, in a tavern in Dale.

NŠin had forgotten why he had been in Dale. Probably, he had been working on one of several reconstruction projects that had followed, and still followed, in the wake of the War of the Ring, and he had often stayed in the town rather than returning to the mountain. Having been to many taverns, NŠin could not recall the particulars, but he did recall what the proprietor had told him in a low voice when he had caught him glowering at the newcomers arrival.

"That one's trouble," he had said. "Gets into half a dozen brawls a week. Doesn't buy enough either to cover the bad business. Just likes trouble, I guess."

NŠin's eyes narrowed for a moment, as this memory blinked across his mind in the moment after Crabannan had replied, and the Dwarf found himself immediately suspicious of the man in front of him, and he remembered the Man's words to Erbrand that had sent the Eorling spluttering as he had approached. "How is Kara?" Perhaps Crabannan had not acquired the same reputation in Rohan he had held with the tavern master in Dale, but NŠin was suspicious and Dwarven loyalty overcame Dwarven reticence.

"Perhaps you could answer a question of mine, Master Crabannan," he said. "I could not help but hear you mention Kara as I approached, speaking to Master Erbrand, and I am curious what you meant. I was well acquainted with Kara when I stayed at the Mead Hall in Edoras, and would be pleased to hear of her good fortune--or to commiserate over her ill."

Although his words were fair enough, NŠin's hand clasped itself tightly around the shaft of his heavy mason's hammer, just below its ponderous head, and his muscles, hardened as they were by decades of physical labour, clenched tight. If this troublemaker were sullying Kara's name in any way, NŠin had no intention of seeing him continue.
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