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Old 08-30-2008, 11:17 AM   #246
Messenger of Hope
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: In a tiny, insignificant little town in one of the many States.
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Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Saeryn and Degas

Saeryn knew where Eodwine spoke of. She turned and led Degas from the tent and away from the teaming camp. For a while, they both walked in complete silence. Saeryn walked with her arms wrapped about her middle. Since the extreme excitement earlier, her wound had seemed to hurt a little more than usual. She had thought it mostly healed, with only a rather nasty looking scab left to witness the misfortune, but clearly it was still more fragile than she thought.

When they had walked out some distance from the encampment, and she knew that no one would hear them, even if they did notice them, she began speaking, while she continued walking.

“Degas,” she said, “Fenrir had not changed, when I went back. You must have guessed that.”

Degas glanced at his sister, but was hesitant to let her see how deeply worried for her he was. The sister he remembered wanted no man's pity. How much had changed? He so desperately missed their childhood, free of so many worries.

"I have guessed as much," he responded, hoping his words would not staunch the flow of hers. He was afraid that if she stopped talking now, she would never again begin.

"Yes," Saeryn said. She was quiet for a long moment, for she didn't know how to put into words the mental agony she had gone through at home. She went back of her own will and had stayed there of her own will, for she had come to realize that so long as she was running and hiding she would never be happy. And perhaps, she had thought, if she stayed where she was supposed to stay, perhaps her brother would change for the better. But he never did. She lived under his ridged, iron rule acting the lady of the house, while Fenrir governed the land however he saw fit. What he saw fit, Saeryn abhorred.

She finally knew where to begin. "Before I had left home almost a year ago, I had only seen my own discomfort. I only realized what wrong Fenrir did towards me, you know?" Degas nodded. "So I didn't notice at all of how he handled our men and serfs. I don't know if he acted wrongly towards them at that time.

"But when I went back my eyes had been opened. I'd been with Eodwine long enough to know what was fair and what was not. I admire Eodwine - I mean, how Eodwine treated his landholders and his household members and servants. And that was, well, still is, how I think any land lord should behave.

"So I went back with this new knowledge, and when I came to Fenrir and he set me back in what he thought was my place, it was not the restrictions he set on me and how he treated me that I was troubled with, it was how he was treating our people." Then her voice changed, becoming suddenly bitter as she spat out the next words.

"I could say nothing. Whenever he came up with an unjust edict or decree, I had to stand by and watch. When I tried to speak, he told me to keep quiet (for that the is the rightful thing for a woman to do in his hall), and the one time I did not comply with his orders, he locked me in my room for three days. I was furious, but he threatened worse, so I didn't test him." It was clear that she still felt furious, for her eyes sparked angrily as she recalled being forcefully put into her chamber and hearing the key turn in the lock.

Then the fire receded and her voice became sad. “I stopped going to his false court. I did not want to see the injustice anymore. But it could not be hidden. But Maggie, a servant I had made friends with, told me of some trouble. She was worried, because Master Fenrir had sent out a decree that unless the serfs brought forward the men or boys guilty of supposedly stealing recent grain gathered into the master’s gathering houses, he would take the oldest son from every family and either hang or have them beaten as he saw fit.”

Degas stirred angrily, his fingernails biting hard into his palms. "His madness has exceeded even what I dared and feared to guess. He was not this cruel when we were young. Or perhaps he had simply not yet found outlet for his predilections. There is a sickness in his mind. Or was," he corrected himself sadly, "There was a sickness in his mind."

He grimaced, and said, "I am afraid to hear the rest, yet I must. Our people would not have borne such a decree lightly. Yet why did they not seek the aid of our overlord? For the Folde is not an island, separated from the Eastemnet entirely... Or did they go to Himræd, who rules over even Fenrir? Or was there no time?"

“They tried,” Saeryn replied. “Two men were sent as soon as Fenrir’s order had been put out, but when Fenrir heard of it, he became passionately angry. At first, I was the only one who heard him, we were at dinner then, and he began yelling and railing on about how they were all treacherous and all wanted to undermine his authority, and then how he wouldn’t have it, that he’d put a stop to it, by heaven. He got a couple men of his household and put them on his finest horses to go after the messengers, but those men never made it out very far. Some of the villagers stopped them and sent them back, tied hand and foot and riding backwards in the saddle.

“I think that’s what pushed Fenrir over the edge. He gathered the rest of what men would follow him, armed them, and sent them out to suppress the rising rebellion he believed was happening. He didn’t realize that he was starting it. Like children, if one boy strikes first, the other will strike back, and our people did. Fenrir didn’t have many who were loyal to him and they were easily killed or at least persuaded to change sides. Then they turned against us, surrounding the house, calling for Fenrir’s blood, swearing they’d burn down the house and kill us like mice trapped inside.

“Fenrir answered them mockingly, and they brought battering rams to take down the door. It didn’t take very long for them to get in, and then...” How could she explain the deepening darkness of the evening? The swirling smoke and flame of the torches they carried? The torn feelings she had endured as she stood beside her brother, prepared to defend herself and the household, even Fenrir, when she knew all along that the people were wronged and deserved justice?

“They rushed in upon us, brandishing pitchforks and shovels, and a couple had knives or short swords. They took Fenrir alive, stripping him of his weapons, and then binding him securely. He shouted horrible oaths at them, threatening them with death and torture when he got free. Degas, he was mad - insane. He must have been to say such things. The people knew it, too, and began murmuring amongst themselves what to do with him. One, a big, dark haired fellow, said he was a murderer, and that he wanted to murder more of them, and that he should be killed himself. He looked as though he were going to do it, too, and he approached Frenrir with his knife. I stepped in his way and told him not to touch Fenrir, that he had no right. He became angry and struck at me with his weapon. I tried to dodge, and almost did, but not quite, and that’s how I got hurt.

“The man standing about were angry with their companion for hurting me. They pushed him back into the crowd and two of them helped me out. As we were leaving, I heard the people back in the hall becoming loud again, a lot of angry shouting. I don’t know how they came to their final decision, or what it was.

“The two men saddled my horse for me, telling me that this wasn’t my fight, I had no business there, and they didn’t want me hurt, and so I should leave. They put me on the horse and escorted me to the edge of our land. When I looked back, I saw the red glow of a fire beginning to rise. In seconds it had leaped up like one of the huge bonfires we used to have at mid-winter day - except much larger - so I knew they must have set the hall on fire. I don’t know if they killed Fenrir first or let him be burned alive.” Here she fell silent, weighed down heavily with the thoughts of her narrative.

Degas turned to look at his sister. The grass blew around them. The day was bright, and the morning had grown late, and the breeze was insistent, but not strong; it moved the grass, and Degas's hair was pulled somewhat from his horsetail, but it would not interrupt today's games, except perhaps to tug at arrows as they flew.

He was silent for a long moment. "The messenger who found me in Gondor said to me that the hall was burnt. So he must have left when you did, or later. He said to me that you were missing. I take this to mean that he did not know where you were, or that you had already gone. He said to me that our brother was slain. I do not know that he witnessed this, or that he was told it. Saeryn," he began, "you did not witness the death of Fenrir. How is it that you know he is not alive? Do you know for certain that I have inherited the lands and responsibilities of our forefathers? Do you know for certain that he did not escape?"

Saeryn looked him straight in the face. "Those men were there to kill. If they had let him survive, he would have been taken somewhere for judgement, and then I would have been found as a witness. No one has come. So he must be dead."

Degas inhaled deeply, and exhaled slowly, watching a flock of small birds lift from the fields and take to the air, twittering happily. The ground was full of seeds at this time of year. The grass rustled near his foot and he glanced down. A small grass snake slithered past his foot, and he swore, flinching and stepping backward quickly.

"It is only a snake, Degas." said Saeryn with a bit of her old long-suffering humor.

"Yes," he said, calming himself. "Just-- Yes."

He looked around, pondering. "It seems to me that if our people were so angry and so driven as to burn the hall, they would rid themselves first of the master of it. Unless, of course, they intended mere symbolism. A point well made, to be sure: any wise man can see that a lord has no power without vassals, and it takes only one man willing to sacrifice that which is convenient to him to crumble a stronghold to the ground.

"Still," he continued, digging his booted toe into a patch of bare dirt. "I must of course return to rebuild that which is lost."

"That is your duty," Saeryn said quietly, though her tone sounded a little doubtful. Degas looked at her and Saeryn smiled awkwardly, looking down at her hands. "That's not much of an answer, is it?" She sighed and looked back up at him. "Degas," she began, and stopped. Now that she had told him so much that she had held in close silence, she felt as though she could confide completely in him, like she had used to. But this seemed like such a raw topic now. They had never discussed it openly. She had to. "Degas, if you go back, will you ask me to go?"

He looked at her in surprise, and reached out to touch her. He hesitated, but then meeting her eyes, he smoothed a stray lock of her dark red hair away from her eyes. "Saeryn..."

He fell silent. "I must speak with Linduial. I would have her live there with me after we wed, but before I bring her to our people, I must first earn their allegiance. I do not deserve it, at least not yet. I am honor-bound to them, and I hope that in time they will love me as their lord. Once they approve of me, once they see that I care for them and that I will treat them fairly, and do unto them as I would have done to me, I hope to bring her to them so they can fall in love with her as I have.

"I cannot arrive on the eve after such events with a pretty lady on my arm and tales of sailing ships and tattooed adventurers. I cannot ride into town with a beautiful woman and a song, my lute on my back, and hope for them to have faith in me.

"I must speak with her, and explain to her what has befallen. I must go quickly, before brigands and ruffians take advantage of the chaos this rebellion has left in its wake. People like to be ruled, if they are ruled fairly, as it saves them much thought, and much energy. Even a cruel ruler has loyal subjects. I barely dare think what Fenrir did about which we shall never even know.

"Saeryn... I want you to return with me. To give me advice, and to lighten my mood, and to help me win the hearts of the people. You know that they love you; they have always loved you. Far more than me, the shy little poet who could scarcely stutter a refrain amidst a crowd much less orate to the masses."

She began to speak, yet he silenced her with a soft look.

"Saeryn, I want you to return with me. But I will not ask it of you, and I will never command you.

"What I will ask of you is this: that either your return to the protection of the queen or that you stay here, with Eodwine, either as his wife or his ward, but under his care and watchful eye. I believe that you are safe here, and Eodwine is a man I hold in great regard. Whether you desire him as your husband or no, I trust him to care for you as he would his own wife, or his own daughter. I trust him to care for you as I would, without hindering you or harming you.

"So no. I will not ask you to return with me, unless you desire it. And I will not ask you to marry any man against your will. And I will not ask you to live as a handmaiden to the queen, forever comfortable, yet bored with the duties of a lady with few obligations and fewer pursuits.

"I ask only that you choose a place that is safe for you, where you will be happy, and where you will be free from harm, for much harm has befallen you while I was not here. The blade which injured you, dear sister, should have wounded me instead. Is it possible that you could ever forgive me for what you have suffered? It never should have been..."

They were standing very close to each other now, and looking directly at one another. Saeryn's head tilted slightly to the side as she heard his last words. As he spoke, relieving her of her worry that he would ask her to go back with him, the shadows from the past seemed to slip away. She had been wounded, but she was made well again. She had felt hard feelings against Degas, but here he was, asking for her forgiveness, and she knew that she had no other wish than to grant it. Her heart lightened, and a smile came to her face, as well as a mischievous light into her eye.

"Will I forgive you?" she asked. They had been serious long enough. "Only if you can catch me." She turned and darted away, laughing. Degas stood in shocked surprise a moment and then he ran after her.

He easily caught her, swooping his arm around her waist. Saeryn fell laughing into his embrace. She threw her head back, her eyes sparkling.

"Degas!" she said, catching her breath. "You have said two things which have made me more happy that you can possibly know. I will come visit you in your holding as soon as you have it established, but I do not wish to go with you. I want to stay here, and be Eodwine's wife, if he will still have me, and I am so happy that you have given your approval."

Degas laughed as well, and kept his arm around his sister, and they began to walk back to the tents, and to the sounds of laughter and shouting than swept across the land toward them. "Of course it would only be proper for him to ask me for your hand, as Father can no longer give it to him, but now, darling, you know my heart: your hand is not mine to give, only yours. If he will still have you, you know my answer, and are free to give it to him. I merely ask that I be invited to the wedding."

He crinkled his nose in mirth and she giggled, and with that they were back within the hearing of others, and Degas called loudly, "Where is Eodwine? I should like very much to embarrass myself later today by trying my very best and still losing to him in the races."
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