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Old 06-27-2006, 08:32 PM   #382
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Assigned to Mordor
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Celuien has just left Hobbiton.
The hour grew late. Garstan had not seen his children since their dismissal from court. Garstan had remained for a time, but his arm began to pain him as the hours passed and Eodwine, seeing the discomfort written across Garstan's brow, had given him leave to depart and rest as court drew to a close for the day. He had retired to his room, only missing the last case. He looked for the children, but though he heard their voices now and again through the window, they were nowhere to be found.

Playing out of doors, as well they should on a fine day. Good. While examining his wound, Garstan moved to the window, curious to see their game, but the children were hidden from view. Turning away from the window, Garstan carefully prodded his wound with a finger, wincing to change its dressing. It bled little now, but the gash still ached terribly. The blade had been keen.

Garstan heard the children's voices again, along with that of a strange child. He looked outside again, this time catching a glimpse of the children as they were called away by a woman – apparently mother to Garmund and Lčođern's new playmate. A deep frown crossed his face. Another Dundenling at the hall? And a child? Garstan went to investigate.

The children had been in the front inn yard. He strode outside, but found no one there. Not realizing that the group had gone into court, he went around the building to the rear garden to search for them near the kitchen garden.

Linduial and Degas stood close together. Too close together, Garstan thought, for the bounds of propriety. He coughed loudly to announce his presence before approaching.

"My lady," he said, carefully not looking at Degas. "Have you seen my children? I thought they might have passed this way."

Garstan knew that Linduial could not have seen the children. But he needed something to say.

A step and a voice behind her startled Lin out of the intense embrace, and she stepped quickly out of the bounds of Degas' arms, a heretofore quiet part of her mind crying out in reluctance. She blushed, eyes flickering between Garstan and Degas. Couldn't he have waited just a moment longer? I want to know Degas' answer...

"I am sorry, Master Garstan," she whispered at the ground, ears hot. "I have seen naught of them."

Garstan looked back and forth from Linduial's blushing face to the ground and then quickly to Degas. "No?" he said, slowly backing away from the pair. "They are not in the front yard and I heard their voices but a minute ago. They must be nearby." He spoke unnecessarily, and probably unwelcomely. He knew it. But he could think of no graceful exit. And was uncertain of the correct course of action.

Lin threw Degas an anguished, apologetic look, then walked awkwardly to Garstan. "I'll help you look for them." Degas made no move to follow her and she mentally cursed her rash request, heart sinking. As soon as she was out of earshot of the young man, she murmured intensely, brokenly to Garstan, "You won't tell anyone, will you? We weren't doing anything, just talking..."

Garstan frowned. How should he answer? Linduial seemed desperate for his silence. Garstan wasn't sure he should be involved. He was a mere stoneshaper. But what did honor – his honor, his friendship with the Eorl, who was responsible for what passed under the Mead Hall roof – demand?

"I will do nothing to bring dishonor upon any of us." He cursed himself for the word. Their was nothing in Linduial's behavior to suggest that it was needed. But he had used it, all the same. He only hoped that they would reach the safety of the Great Hall and the group still assembled there before Linduial could press the issue further. Garstan was evading her question. Intentionally. He didn't know how to respond correctly, and so he gave a non-answer.

"Dishonor?" The pair were searching through the building, making sure the children weren't simply hiding indoors, and Lin's tone, though low, was beseeching. "What does that mean? Why should there be any chance of dishonor in this meeting? You go your way, I'll go mine, none need be the wiser."

Garstan raised an eyebrow. "Surely, my lady, you must realize that there would be some question raised by your discourse. I know well that there was no dishonor involved. But others…others might be less charitable if they overheard. Rumor mongers. You have enemies. Of that, at least, you must be aware. And there are many folk at the Hall today for court." He paused, puzzling over how next to reply.

"I can promise you not to speak to those who have no need to hear of what you said. But I cannot give you my word to remain silent to all. Your brother, at least, should know what has passed. For I heard some part to your conversation, and he should be made aware."

It was done. Garstan thought his choice was just. He hoped it was.

Giggles from one of the empty rooms betrayed the whereabouts of the children, and Garstan entered to be presented with the unevenly roasted apples that had served to keep them hidden so long. Lin remained at the door, trying to think of something she could say to change his mind, but she was tired...and frankly too discouraged to continue the argument. Degas did not answer, nor did he follow. Lin, you fool! you've ruined it. And now you'll have to face Farahil as well...and he'll tell Adragil...and Papa.

"So be it," she said in a flat tone, but she doubted Garstan heard her, so intensely was he interested in the slightly burnt skin of the apple, and did she but know it, all too relieved to have an excuse to end their confrontation. It was too much, and she hastily spun around and up to her room, all appetite forgotten. Things may yet look better in the morning.

Garstan did hear Linduial's last words to him, and the rapid footsteps that carried her away. He was, in fact, relieved that their conversation had ended. But his relief was short-lived as he noted the third child with Lčođern and Garmund. He was definitely Dundendling, or partly so.

"Who is this?" he asked.

"He's Cnebba," Lčođern said between bites of apple. "He's nice. We were playing."

Garstan frowned again, uncertain. For the second time in the same day, he avoided the most important aspect of the topic at hand. "Let's find Cnebba's mother, shall we?"

Taking Lčođern's hand, he led the group to the Great Hall.

Last edited by Celuien; 06-27-2006 at 08:37 PM.
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