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Old 11-14-2006, 11:24 AM   #21
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The Hall of the Leaden Lord

Lachrandir's eyes shone with a dark fire as he watched the human groom, a thin man in the rough livery of Ulfang's suite, lead away, with the assistance of two other bow-legged, weathered fellows, the pair of white horses, among the finest of the breed of Amon Ereb. He locked the groom's glance with his own, smiling broadly but without mirth.

"Of course, sirrah, it goes without saying that you will attend to these steeds as if they belonged to Caranthir himself. Which, in a manner of speaking, " he added firmly, "they do."

Tathren's mouth was tight shut, Lachrandir observed, and he surmised it was all the lad could do to choke back a mental rebuke. So, his page thought he needed a little more delicacy? Well, he would see it done.

"Aye," the groom replied with a blunt nod, and Lachrandir nodded back as the men and the horses receded into the press of Ulfings.

It had taken no little wrench of his heart to part with the beasts; he would have ridden into the Hall of the Chieftain on the horse's back, had the beggarly height of the gates, he thought with scorn as he stared ahead, not obstructed him. He felt as if he had been forced to surrender some priceless sword, an ancestral blade of his line perhaps, to some jester of a human hall-carl. He frowned slightly and then shrugged his resentment into the part of his mind where grudges slept soundly.

"Come, boy," he said to Tathren in Quenya, a language useful for its impenetrability to the Easterlings about them. "Remember, speak precisely, if you're called on to talk, and not for long. That should serve well enough. Now, to the Hall."

The Envoy looked ahead at the Chieftain's residence. In human terms, it had a certain harshness about it that was probably mistaken for the great mass of Men for stern commandment. He was no fiddler of the Sindar, but his eyes could only mourn the fine, straightly grown ashes and pines, no doubt once forming such grand forests for the hunts of the Seven, that had been hewn and nailed into its gables. He already saw in the chamber of his inmost mind its interior, trivial gloominess lit by fume-reeking torches and dull splashes of vulgar gold.

The two Eldar stepped up the curving logs of elm that formed the stairs to the entrance, and entered the Hall of Ulfang. At their side stood six guards, a trio on either flank of the Elves, spears in their hands, crimson tasseled and raised upwards. More of their number stood in ranks, some at tables, some lining the walls, some thronging about close to the far dais of their Chieftain.

The soldiers of Ulfang's court were not, it had to be said, in the crispest of order. Many looked as if they were newly straightened up, their helmets jauntily angled on their heads, scimitars left at the floor, spear-hafts slipping in their hands. Among them flashes of gold, bars of gold, fetters of gold, revealed the circlets of the nobles and petty chieftains in attendance. They were fewer in number than Ulfang's sentries, and one might almost have thought they were imprisoned by them; knots of the guards surrounded each coroneted brow. No women were apparently in attendance.

But Lachrandir thought of the news he brought, the muster his liege commanded, and each lacklustre guard became a doughty warrior, a noted slayer of Orcs; each chieftain could be imagined with a throng of carls and vassals behind him, calling his bondsmen to battle in a surging horde. Lachrandir had travelled in these lands before and knew that his mental picture was not wholly accurate; that the guards were in place because of their ability to bully their fellow men, that many of the chieflets were poor wastrels who spent all they had, and much more, to keep their noble diadems. But his ardour transmuted them to something more...

"Hail, Ulfang," he cried, striding without pause towards the dais, "Chieftain of Men! I am Lachrandir of Amon Ereb. In momentous times have I been sent, by Caranthir, Prince of the House of FŽanor. Bright are my tidings and great is the haste of my master."

The dais was topped by a throne that, despite the poverty of its material, made the rest of the court shappy enough; a chair of lead, forged by the craftsmen of Caranthir and sent to Ulfang as a surety of goodwill. And good lordship. In the chair of lead sat a grey haired, bearded old man, his eyes glinting in the dimness of the Hall.

"Welcome to my company and my council, friend of Caranthir," came the reply. "We have, I do not doubt, much to talk of."

The two glinting eyes turned one way and then the other, to the two men seated at the dais' next step. Positioned between them, just below Ulfang, stood an empty seat of stone. Three sons, he has, Lachrandir remembered. Ulfast, Ulwarth, and...the name of the other escaped him. Is it the custom of the ancient among the Adani to lean upon their offspring? Let us see...

Last edited by Anguirel; 11-18-2006 at 12:01 PM.
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