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Old 11-06-2006, 12:51 PM   #1
piosenniel
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Sting Treachery of Men RPG

"Yet neither by Wolf, nor by Balrog, nor by Dragon, would Morgoth have achieved his end, but for the treachery of Men."

~~~

For the first year since the Battle of Sudden Flame, it felt as if spring had repelled the pitiless touch of the north, as if the Earthqueen’s power had pervaded Beleriand after a long estrangement. The pair of riders upon iron-grey mounts forded the rivulets off the Gelion, careered through the meadows succoured by the waters beyond its banks, and cut swift, leafy paths through copses.

Only one indication of the danger that this temporary idyll still risked could be discerned – the speed which the riders maintained. It spoke of urgency and intensity. There was something insatiable about the journey of the two Elves, as if even the spans of their lives were limited after all, as if bare months of this vitality remained to be enjoyed, raced through, swigged to their dregs. And so, as it turned out, it came to pass.

But such reflections are suitable only for melancholic lays, for sad dreamers who hope that thinking of the past and lamenting it may bring it back again. Lachrandir, Knight of the Dispossessed, formerly of Thargelion, was no dreamer; and this was not a memory of the past, rather a duty of the present. He galloped on, his eyes on his path, his hands calm and inert at his side, belying the frenetic activity that gripped the messenger and the stallion that bore him. In lieu of a saddle-bag – for his was a high-blooded beast, and he did not presume to sully it with harness and reins, instead riding bareback in the usual Elven fashion – he bore a leather haversack slung across his back; its contents, carefully arranged, did not make a sound or apparently jostle at all on the journey.

The same could not quite be said of the other rider’s burden. There was a strange symmetry about the pair of mounted travellers and their steeds; for they were much of the same stamp in colouring and feature – the Elves dark haired and long-limbed, the horses pale - but one rider and his horse were younger and smaller, with a combination of impetuosity and hesitance that called to mind apprentices before their masters. A jangle of metal now rang out from this younger Elf’s bundle.

“I told you, Tathren, to be careful with the silver,” Lachrandir hectored at him. “We’re riding to a country where nine Men in ten have never seen a coin before; a country still wild and far from tamed with law. The summons we carry is of vital importance, boy; we can’t let it go astray due to some adan thug’s excitement over a glint of...”

“Sorry,” the other said, sounding a little crestfallen.

“Never mind, boy, it’s of little importance. But don’t let it happen again, Tathren.”

Lachrandir gave a short look back at his companion before resuming his watch on the road, spurring his stallion to a slightly higher pace. He has something of his uncle about him, I suppose. He’ll learn yet, he concluded to himself.

~~~

“...Forinasmuch as thou, Ulfang, called the Black, hath been accustomed to owe liege-homage, saving thy dignity amidst the tribes, to us, Caranthir, fourth son of Fëanor, rightful lord of Thargelion but for the false disseisin of the Enemy; by this and by the ties of loyalty between thy vassals and mine, thou art bidden to provide fighting men in service, to the number of seven thousand, under thine own command or under such a proxy as it pleases thee to dispatch, to meet with our own powers and those of our youngest brothers, the Lords Amrod and Amras, on the twenty-seventh day of the month of May; this army being dispatched, under the lordship of our eldest brother Maedhros, Lord of Himring, to avenge upon the Enemy the grievous and perfidious hurts that he hath inflicted. For amongst these art listed the slaying traitorly of our sire and grandsire, the ruin of our realms in the north, and the unlawful withholding of the Silmarilli, greatest work upon Arda, that our father Fëanor crafted, and that we hath sworn, on pain of the Everlasting Darkness, to regain. So it is ordained on this, the eleventh day of April. And we hath sworn, once having raised up this great Union of Maedhros, never to abandon it, and charge thee to swear likewise.”

Such was the main part of the missive of Caranthir, which Lachrandir carried.

~~~

“Lachrandir!” Tathren cried with gladness. “I see smoke rising not far off among homesteads, surrounding a great hall, hewn of oak and ash...”

“I have seen it too, pup,” Lachrandir answered, smiling. “Do not think that my sight is so greatly shadowed by age and toil. That is the rude dwelling of Ulfang, Chieftain of the Southern Easterlings. What do you think of it, lad?”

“Well...” Tathren started, his brow creasing and lips twisting as he tried to find the words. Lachrandir laughed, and his mirth, coming from such a stern visage, was surpassingly bright and clear.

“Well, exactly. I hope you weren’t expecting much in the way of hospitality...this is no Hithlum, Tathren, and it is no Hador Goldenhead who rules it. Put all you have seen and heard of the Edain from your head! This is Easterling country,” Lachrandir murmured, his smile thin now, “and it is another state of affairs altogether.”

They paused in thought for a few moments. Tathren was the first to speak.

“Stop dawdling, Uncle! Don’t you know the summons we carry is of vital importance?”

“Mind that minstrel’s glib tongue, you,” Lachrandir replied. And I’m not your uncle either; he was a better Elf than I’ll ever be, even if he did charge me with looking after you, young wastrel.

“Very well. Race me, boy,” he added, kicking his horse into a run and charging after the tiny stockade and palisade walls that beckoned in the distance. After a short while the envoy and his page bid their steeds halt in front of the gate into the settlement. As they passed, they had seen the first Ulfings of their journey, who had stared at the towering, fair-featured strangers bearing the star of Fëanor on their tunics in curiosity mixed with no little fright. The guards, too, goggled as they shuffled the gates open. Tathren quickly assumed an air of composure, though he rode tentatively, all too aware that he, an Elf far from mature, towered almost a foot over most of the Ulfings.

In such a manner the envoys reached their journey’s conclusion, passing under the wall where the two banners, Ulfang’s claw and Fëanor’s star on their black field, shifted together in the April breeze.


--- Anguirel
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Old 11-06-2006, 12:53 PM   #2
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Celuien's post

The night before the Envoy's arrival


Stars gleamed brightly in the midnight sky over the Ulfings' settlement. A warm breeze mingled with the new-budding branches, stirring them to a gentle whisper that played behind the song of the night birds. Peace reigned over all, save in one house, where even at the late hour, a light still moved in the windows.

Ulfast knew no rest. For hours he had lain awake in bed, staring ahead as though he could will his sight beyond the wooden beams to gaze beyond the ceiling of his chamber to the still darkness of the night. His spirit was troubled, though he could not say why. Time dragged by and sleep yet failed him until, at last, he lit a lamp and stirred uneasily in the room, changing his nightshirt for a brown tunic and breeches with a black cloak and boots. Perhaps a walk in the open air would settle his spirits.

Concealing a dagger on his belt, Ulfast stole out into the night. He walked in the dark, savoring the odors of loam and cut wood that filled the air, but ever alert and with one hand on the dagger handle. No enemy would catch him unaware.

A turn near the town's gate brought him to the standards of the Claw and Star. Though the symbols could not be seen under the dim moonlight, Ulfast heard the standards flapping in the breeze, and the images were clear as day in his mind. The Star of Fëanor. Not long ago, the Ulfings had been alone, allied only to themselves and a few other tribes in the east. The Dark Lord who held sway from the north was far away, a name to be feared, but not a presence in the daily lives of the people of Ulfang. But now they had thrown their lots in with the Elves. Ulfast had spoken in favor of that choice. The Dark Lord was slipping. The Elves were in open rebellion against him, and were ever seeking new allies for their cause. A new power was rising. Not today, or for a year of tomorrows, or even for long winters after that, but it was rising, and the Ulfings would rise with it to new power beyond their wildest imaginings in the old days.

Ulfast walked on, still lost in his thought, until the sun peered over the horizon. He then turned back to his house to rest before the business of the day began.

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Old 11-06-2006, 12:53 PM   #3
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Mithalwen's post


Exhilaration and apprehension had been the emotions duelling in Tathren's heart the length of their journey, for he was young and high hearted and no danger or duty could dispel the delight of youth freed from maternal supervision to ride far and fast on one of the finest horses his people possessed alongside - well at the heels of - their swiftest rider. Yet this was no essay of skill to fill a time of leisure; though he had spoken in jest to Lachrandir he had wit enough to appreciate the significance of their mission and the honour that had been accorded him.

An honour he hoped that was not entirely to the charge put on Lachrandir some fifteen years ago by his brother in arms. Tathren's mischievous form of address had masked a certain sincerity, for he admired Lachrandir as much as his late uncle and, if truth be told, liked him rather better, never having quite forgiven or forgotten.... but this was not a time for walking the paths of memory. He dispelled the recollection. as his senses were assaulted by the sights sounds and indeed smells of the Ulfing settlement.

Lachrandir had spoken truly; this was unlike anything he had experienced before. Though their own dwellings since the loss of Thargelion were far from the finest of the Noldor, it was in the nature of his people to make things fair even when they made for necessity. He doubted that any straits would lead them to make buildings as crudely as this. The roughly thatched huts seemed to be built of wattle and daub and were arranged haphazardly within the stockade . In such buildings we might house our beasts, thought Tathren, as indeed they seem to… but we would not dwell so close by them. The young elf was hard put not to gawp as much as the guards. He found these people quite as astonishing as they did him. To his eyes they were no more finely constructed than their dwellings - short, squat and crude. Scarce taller than dwarves, he realised having dismounted and somewhat reluctantly entrusted his colt to one of them. His face betrayed none of the wonderment he felt; he used every scrap of self control to assume the dignity he deemed essential to his role as he followed Lachrandir into the great hall. Tathren had tried to ride by his side, now he walked carefully in his shadow, his dark grey eyes watching, waiting …

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Old 11-06-2006, 12:53 PM   #4
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Folwren's post

The day was uncommon fine, and Uldor realized it. The wind felt warm on his face, unlike the usual, brisk, cold breeze that had been coming down the past month. The cape on his back was almost unnecessary. Yet, somehow, he liked the way it blew up in the wind as he paced the foot of the wall. He reached the gate and stepped out of the shadow of the wall. The guards leaped to their feet and to attention. He cast them a sharp look.

“Anything new?” he asked, merely to make one of the guards take that ridiculous grimace off his face.

“No, sir.”

Uldor grunted, cast one more critical glance at the men, and passed on. He wandered back towards the great house. He bound up the stairs onto the broad porch and pushed through the great, heavy, wood doors.

“Where’ve you been all this time?” a voice demanded at once. He turned sharply, to find his brother at his elbow. He sighed.

“My dear Ulwarth,” he said, placing his hand on his poor, half-witted brother’s shoulder. “I’ve just been out walking. Surely you did not miss me? I have not been gone long, and you don’t usually notice my absence,” he added with a sneer.

Ulwarth pushed Uldor’s hand away with surprising speed and impatience for a man supposed to be slow. “Our father has been waiting for you this past half hour. Two elven ambassadors have arrived and father wanted to wait for all of us to be there before receiving the message that they bring.”

“Elven? Elves?” Uldor repeated. His black eyes sharpened significantly and nearly flashed under his lowering brows. “Who are they? Who are they from?”

“No questions, no questions, brother, hurry, hurry. . .” Ulwarth grasped Uldor’s hand and led him forward quickly. He reached closed door and laid his hand on the handle. Uldor pulled his hand back abruptly. He cleared his throat, straightened the cape at his shoulders, ran a quick hand through his hair, laying it nicely, and nodded to Ulwarth.

Ulwarth turned, rolling his eyes as his face turned away from his brother, and opened the door. He led the way in.

The room that they entered was a considerable size. A window on the wall opposite the door allowed broad beams of sunlight to stream in. His third brother and his father sat within, as did two strangers. All of them, save his father, rose as the Uldor and Ulwarth entered. Ulfang made the introduction.

“Uldor, this is Lachrandir, of the house of Feanor, messenger from Caranthir, our overlord.”

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Old 11-06-2006, 12:53 PM   #5
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Durelin's post

Passing in front of a mirror in her temporary bedchamber, which the King Ulfang had so “graciously” presented to her for her services (services he had never received but which his son had, who might as well be seated in the old man’s throne), Thuringwethil, Women of the Secret Shadow, shuddered, she herself a mirror to her soul as a ripple of disgust passed through it. What was this horrible body?

Her bones themselves dripped with a deep hatred for the creatures called ‘Men,’ but even more so for the Children of Ilúvatar: silly children who could not even play nicely with their friends, which had made it all too easy for Morgoth to bring the little Ulfing king to his knees. Thankfully the dark powers which she served would use these beings and then dispose of them. Thuringwethil felt she might just have to hang around long enough to see that disposal, but not if it meant remaining in this body for any longer than was necessary. To think that now she, Woman of the Secret Shadow and faithful servant to Sauron, acting often as his voice itself, was now something Men low and base could admire with hungry eyes that say prey within read. She had not been the one to fail! O, but her poor master…

She had to endure one man in particular, though his simple ways could sometimes amuse her. Uldor really though he had power, that he was manipulating, that he was triumphing and would show everyone, even the Dark Lord himself, what he was made of. But Thuringwethil already knew, which her master knew even better – he was but flesh and bone and warm, thin blood. As soon as that blood went cold, he would pass into the dirt, and men to come would leave their bold footprints in him, forgetting that they too would join him sooner rather than later. For beings like her, these lives were blinked away, if they could be called ‘lives.’

War was coming, and she shook with excitement because of it. She would be the one to secure the victory, and Morgoth would not be able to forget it. When Sauron rose again she would undoubtedly be allowed to join her Lord again, and she would have the strength to be rid of this body forever. Then she could take on forms that were more pleasing to her master as well as to her. Maybe she would be rid of this mocking body that locked her in a fleshy prison before the battle began, and she would finally be able to feel the blood of those Elves – those pitiful fools who mourned the loss of that harlot, Luthien, who would bind herself to a being of an even lower race – on a skin she chose.

But alas, she knew her work would not be done until well into the bloodshed, for the treachery ran deep, and the Woman of the Secret Shadow would not dream of abandoning her work. Once the lies had seeped in, and as long as the boy who played with being puppet master danced to her tune, the Dark One’s victory was secure. Doubtless Uldor would see it her way without too much trouble: planting ideas in a mind so malleable in tainted hands was too simple.

Who Thuringwethil had to step more lightly around, though, were the men not mired in a sickness of the mind like their leaders were, and that was many of the Ulfing people, so clueless and innocent. If they ever did catch some sort of clue, they could be a risk. Such things as war and alliances were beyond those simple folk, left for the hearts of lords and kings, predisposed to disease and corruption. Rumours, even whispers, spreading fear and doubt were pleasing to her as long as they did not involve her. Remaining in the shadows was the way it had to be done, and it was the way in which she was accustomed to working.

She knew how the minds of men worked – deceit was not something done in the light of day: it was done in the dark when the eyes could not see what the hands were doing. That was the beauty of it, and what made it the sweetest perfection of a business for Thuringwethil to use to her liking. There was no way she could fail: the treachery of men was on her side.

Last edited by piosenniel; 11-11-2006 at 06:50 PM.
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Old 11-06-2006, 12:53 PM   #6
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Noinkling's post


‘Kata! Kata, are you there?’ Dulaan stood blinking in the dimmer light of Kata’s house. She stepped further in, letting thick wool blankets which covered the entry way to fall back into place behind her. The old women thumped her walking stick a few times on the rug covered floor of the dwelling, a muffled sound at best. ‘I let the goats and sheep out into the side pasture. Is there something hot to drink, something to warm an old woman’s bones?’

The room was coming more into view as her rheumy eyes adjusted to the small light of the fire and the shadows which it threw about the homey interior. She tapped her stick lightly against one of the carved wood benches and smiled down at the child who sat there.

‘Slide over, won’t you sweeting? Let Granny rest a bit by the fire.’

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Old 04-10-2007, 02:25 PM   #7
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The afternoon fled from beneath Uldor’s feet and hands. He worked to prepare a proper banquet for the elves. It was not a job he enjoyed, but he believed in doing anything that he had to do well. Why make a shoddy job of it?

Servants were sent out every five minutes to run to the market and fetch something that Uldor had forgotten to tell the previous servant to get. He meant well, but he was no a housewife, and a list of what he needed never entered his mind.

He left strict orders with the cooks to make the best of their dishes and do their work as well as they possibly could. The great hall in which meals were taken was prepared, hung with greenery, great strips of bright colored cloth, and with many lights and lamps put up on the walls and ceiling and tables.

People to invite...He frowned at the thought as he himself hurried through a hall on his way to make sure that all went well in the kitchens. The nobles and lords that hung around the place all day, he guessed. Had better give them proper invitations. Not written.

He came out from the hot kitchen five minutes later, satisfied that the supper was well underway and would be as excellent as the men there knew how to prepare. It would not be long now. Two hours would be ample time, he thought.

Where were the elves? He had not seen them since he had left the room of meeting. He stopped a passing servant.

“Have you seen the elven ambassadors?”

“No, sir,” the man replied. “Not since they left the hall some while ago.”

Uldor nodded and passed on. He would need to have someone find them and bring them back. They could be anywhere! He scowled and mentally cursed his bad luck of having to prepare anything for such unwelcome guests. Guests that slipped away without notice.

Passing another servant, he stopped him as well. “Find Broda, and tell him that I want him. I will be in my private chambers.” He went there immediately and shutting the door behind him, went once more to the window.

The sun was sinking, sending a red light out over the Ulfing city. Uldor could nearly feel the darkness that would follow quickly upon the red light’s footsteps. The early evening of a young spring would quickly descend.

But for now, he could enjoy the light that mixed itself with the golden air. The beautiful effect of the sunset brought again to his mind the beautiful face of Jord. He had forgotten her in the business of the afternoon. He shouldn’t have forgotten. He would not let her know that he forgot. When Broda arrived, he decided, he would not only have him go find the elves, but he would also send him to ask Jord if she would come to the banquet.

Uldor turned away from the window and went to a table against the wall. He pulled forth paper and an inkwell with a quill pen and a blotting page. He needed to write a proper invitation to the elves.

For some reason, he truly wished she would come.
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Old 04-10-2007, 03:58 PM   #8
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Only a few minutes had passed since Brodda left the confines of Jord’s rather plain abode when he was accosted by a servant dispatched by Uldor. It had not allowed him much time to dwell on those few moments he had spent with that most mysterious woman.

“Lord Uldor demands your presence immediately, sir.”

Nodding to the lowly servant, he handed the man a few coins that were jingling loosely in one of his pockets. It was not that Brodda cared much for anyone else; rather it was just good policy to keep his master’s other servants from trying to knock him from the next-lowest step on the ladder. That sort of monetary exchange had become second nature for Uldor’s chief servant, and thoughts of what he was actually doing rarely crossed his mind.

This time was no exception, and he hurried off without a second thought to receive Uldor’s message. This, much like his use of coin, was not something new to him. His master usually demanded his presence for some reason or another, but it was always to handle the more delicate situations.

~*~

Arriving at the door of Uldor’s personal quarters, he knocked lightly and pushed his way in without waiting for a response. Brodda was not keen on announcing his presence when in the company of more “noble” men. Upon entering, Brodda found a visibly rattled Uldor waiting for him.

“You’re late,” his master spat. “I have important business to take care of, and you have been out of reach.”

Brodda bowed his head somewhat, acknowledging his failure in duty to Uldor. “I was gathering valuable informa…”

“I do not care what your reasoning is,” Uldor interjected angrily. “I have a task for you, and you will do it.” Brodda nodded in acceptance. “I want you to find the Elven envoy, quickly, and deliver this invitation to the feast I am hosting.” Uldor slipped the letter to the envoy to his servant.

Brodda turned on his heel, and made his way to the door. As he pushed open the door, Uldor interrupted the quick exit. “Oh, and I want you to personally invite the Lady Jord to the banquet. Make sure she comes.” His servant made no sound, and quietly slipped out into the Ulfing town.
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Old 04-15-2007, 05:24 AM   #9
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Lachrandir had been finding the meal among the Borrim a surprisingly convivial affair after the initial frostiness of the tribesmen's welcome. Used to revelling in a hard and ascetic existence, where the saddle was more familiar to him than the pillow, he ate and drank the Atani fare with a certain enjoyment that seemed almost unElven, lightly discussing the excellence of the cheese with his host sitting opposite.

When Khandr turned to the worries of local politics, then, Lachrandir applied himself with a little regret and impatience visible in his face. He did not answer himself, letting the Man's speech run on, taking in the sense accurately, but not all of the particulars. When it seemed that words were expected of him, he acted instead, with a pronounced shrug more vocal than many speeches.

"You must understand, Khandr my dear fellow, that any friction between your clans is not our concern, nor can it be by right. You have been granted lands by Maedhros, the Ulfings by Caranthir, and something more than lands too - the power and the duty to observe your own customs and sort out your own problems. We will not and cannot interfere unless - Illuvatar forbid it! - you actually come to blows. But you ask for news, for yourself and your followers. That, friend, I can provide..."

Lachrandir paused, looking thoughful, and took a slug of the Borrim mead. There was little of the famous Elven elegance about his movements, but a wealth of barely-suppressed strength. Only his beardlessness and his unfathomable gaze separated him from a burly, brusque and intractable Man.

"I said before I would talk to you alone, Khandr, and many of your people are now looking on. But they will hear the news soon enough anyway. It is not surprising for any who have had ears to listen. Maedhros has decided to fight Morgoth, and he is forming the greatest league of Elves and Men known. I have come to summon the Ulfing levies. As for you..."

Lachrandir looked hard at Khandr with pity, mixed with the patronage and pride the Elf found himself unable to drop among Men.

"Forget about arranging marriages, my friend. You should all be girding on your weapons; your families in the North will already be called out, I expect. It is hardly worth rushing ahead to join them, for the time is short; you can leave this settlement with the Ulfing detachment."

In the midst of his words, the Elf caught the anxious eyes of Briga, moving about refilling jugs behind her husband.

"Hard news, lady, I am afraid. I assure you that the women of our folk, those many who are not fighting themselves, share your grief."
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Old 04-15-2007, 11:40 AM   #10
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Until this point, Briga had paid little attention to the conversation at the table but had dutifully carried the flask of mead from one guest to the next. Now, upon hearing the ominous words of the elven messenger, she set down the pitcher and summoned her courage to speak, "It is as we feared then. We are to be caught in the dreadful throes of war." She glanced over at her husband and sighed, shaking her head in regret. "Is there no choice in this thing? None at all?"

Her wistful words were directed not at Lachrandir but towards her beloved spouse. Khandr stood up and walked over to his wife, lacing his fingers tightly about hers and gently lifting them up. He bent over slightly and placed the slighest hint of a kiss upon her cheek, while ruefuly shaking his own head. "No, my beloved. We knew it would come to this one day. We have no choice. Not that I would want one. It is our duty to serve. Maedhros is wise and must feel it is the time to strike. Perhaps this will be the day when we finally overcome Morgoth and his servants and free these lands of their terrible blight."

Once more, Khandr turned about to face the Elf, "Tell those who sent you that this party of Borrim will remain faithful to their oath. We will gladly set aside small rivalries or any other thing that gets in the way. Still, part of me fears that these tensions at court are more than simple bickering between blood brothers. We shall continue to be alert and, should we see or hear anything that causes us concern, will try to get news back to you or your kin."

"There is one other matter. I had thought to sponsor a great hunt to celebrate our friendship in honor of both your own people and our hosts in this village. Now, with this battle soon to be upon us, I do not know. But still I am thinking a day given to the hunt would not go amiss. We must have friendship and trust between our peoples to fight together in the field, to say nothing of the practical need to stock up on supplies for the women and children we leave behind. Perhaps a day spent in such a pursuit would push aside our differences and help us understand each other. And if, by chance, we should hear any rumors or half whispered tales that strike fear in the heart, we will pass along such news and let those who stand over us judge their merit and worth." Khandr nodded in the direction of the Elves.

"But now, before we part, I would ask my men once again: do any of you have questions for the Elves or perhaps wish to share with them any news you have picked up in the village. For sometime the chance word or sight can have great importance." Khandr glanced about the table to see who intended to speak.

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Old 04-16-2007, 07:09 AM   #11
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A war it is then… the war it will be. The words of the elf were echoing in Fastarr’s mind and taking ever new forms as they strayed around in his consciousness. Soon he got somewhat derailed from the initial thought. And we will be riding to it with these Ulfings... but what if we cancel the hunting? Could we reach our kinsmen in time then? Unfortunately the way Khandr had put his words sounded like he was still determined to go on with it. Fastarr glanced quickly at Hunta and Bergr. From their stern faces Fastarr thought he could read the very same questions going through their minds as well.

Suddenly Khandr addressed the three asking whether they had any information to share with the elven ambassadours or questions to ask from them. There surely were questions in Fastarr’s troubled mind at the moment but he was a bit unsure which of them he could actually have courage to ask or which of them would be wise to ask in the first place.

Gathering his spirits Fastarr straightened his back and nodded shortly to Khandr before he turned slightly in his chair to face the older elf. “My name is Fastarr, son of Fernlann. I am the good lord Khandr’s retainer like my uncle Balff was for his father. And I do have a question to you most venerable ambassadors of the good prince.” Fastarr had never been good at speaking formally and was uncomfortably aware of it as he looked at the two elves who were now concentrating their attention to him.

“If a war it is to be, to the war the Borrim will go. You say that the time is short for us to join our kinsmen but is there any possibility for it? It’s not only that we would wish to fight with our kinsmen but it’s also that...” Fastarr was thinking nervously how to formulate the thing he was trying to say. “... that, I don’t think we can fight alongside these Ulfings.” he blurted out in the end.

Fastarr was embarrassed as he realised what he had said. He also realised that he had to explain himself somehow but at the same time he was afraid that he might manage to speak himself even deeper into trouble. Nervously he glanced at Khandr who looked at him questioningly and not too approvingly. He bit his lip and continued.

“A smile without malice, a warm welcome or appreciation of a fellow man are rare treats in this town... Like an evening at the inn without a fight or two.” Fastarr was about to continue making more examples but luckily thought the better of it. “What I mean is, like my uncle Balff told me when I was a young boy, that the minds of the lords are mirrored in the actions of their subjects. I never quite understood what he meant by it but now I think I can see it. These people take sides, they argue continuously, they cheat, they stab each other in the back... It’s like a spell or poison that has spread all over the town. I’ve never seen anything like this. It feels like this whole town is a drawn string of a bow that can’t be held drawn for a long time anymore. There is something wrong with this place.” Fastarr was even more nervous than before and had to take a sip of the mead to bring back his courage.

“Every reasonable man is afraid when he goes to war. But going to war with these people... I don’t know which I would fear more, the enemy or these people around me.” With that he took a firm hold of the cup in front of him and drank a good draught from it. He didn’t dare to look at anyone around him so he just stared at the way the candlelight danced on the rim of the cup when he turned it around and around between his fingers.

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Old 09-13-2007, 12:01 PM   #12
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Thorn had turned south by southwest, keeping the Blue Mountains always to his left. He had already passed through one of the Ulfing outlyer settlements when a horseman came into sight, leading a second, riderless horse by its reins. The trail was narrow and the bracken climbed high on either side. Thorn did not move out of the way. The horse and rider came on.

"Get out of the way, fool, or I'll run you down!"

Thorn placed his staff at arm's length before him, doffed his hood, and assumed a wide stance, and he stared into the eyes of the rider, who did not slow his pace. Thorn stood his ground. At the last moment the rider pulled back hard on the reins.

"Old man, I ought to have you flogged! I'm on Lord Uldor's business!"

"Not Lord Ulfang's? Is Ulfang dead, then?"

"Er, no." Incensed at being questioned, the horseman frowned. "What of it?"

"If Ulfang is not dead, why are you not on Ulfang's business?"

"The son commands in the name of his father."

"One hopes so," Thorn murmured loud enough to be heard. "Your orders are to summon all able bodied Ulfings to war in alliance with Caranthir the Elf Lord, against Morgoth Bauglir."

The horseman's mouth worked in surprise as almost all his news had been told him and more besides. Finally he found his tongue.

"No messengers have outraced me. Who told you this?"

"The gods. Their Song sings it to me."

The horseman looked confused. "I have heard of no such song. Such things are not known among the Ulfings."

"A pity. But now lend me your second horse. I am in need of haste. The settlement ahead of you is mustered for I gave them your news. It is the last Ulfing settlement on this road, so your task is done."

"I'll not give a stranger and raving vagabond my horse, even if my task-"

"You shall, for you do not know until this moment that Uldor will betray Caranthir and commit all the Ulfings to the overlordship of Morgoth unless he is stopped."

"This is a dire accusation," growled the horseman, "and base slander if false."

"My words are true."

"How do you know? From this song you talk of?"

"The Song you jibe is true."

"How do I know that?"

"Your heart knows it, for you know Uldor-" Thorn lowered his brow and allowed his next words to be laced with menace to any such ally of the Enemy. "-unless you yourself are a minion of Morgoth."

The horseman straightened in his saddle. "I am no minion of the Enemy!"

"Then prove it and lend me your horse."

Thorn waited. The horseman hesitated, his face screwed up in a look of doubt.

"Do not stand in my way," said Thorn, "unless you would betray your people."

The horseman bridled. "I am no traitor, and no servant of Morgoth!" Then he seemed to settle. "And I do know Uldor well enough. Well enough not to trust him. I will give you my horse. What's more, I will ride back with you. I am called Fleet. What may I call you?" Thorn told him his name. Fleet grinned. "I ride back to the Ulfings with a thorn at my side."

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Old 09-23-2007, 06:22 AM   #13
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The seven days between the feast and the hunt passed quickly for some and slowly for others. For those eager for the hunt, time passed slowly. For those dreading the coming war, time passed all too quickly. For many, however, the needs of each day's tasks drew enough of their thought away from either the hunt or the muster, and the days passed as all of them did.

Khandr's household was busy with the preparations and time sped quickly by, except for Embla who cared not for hunts or household business. All her interest had now gone to the woman, Jord, whose grandeur hid something she craved.

The house of Ulfang was busy with the muster, the hunt being a mere afterthought for which the three sons left the preparations to servants. Their time was occupied with currying what favor it was still worthwhile to be had from Ulfang, and their own positions as opposed to each other in the eyes of all the Ulfings. In this battle Uldor had the upper hand. Ulfast and Ulwarth chafed at Ulfang's favor to their elder brother, and they plotted with their friends how to use either the hunt or the muster, or the upcoming battle, to advance their causes.

The houses of Dag and Káta were full of daily need and fear for the future. Dag and Gunna had Mem's fears to deal with as well. She had been forced to sing before the entire company, and her simple voice weaving the spell of the old song of their folk had stilled the entire audience. But Ulfasts's unwelcome attentions afterward had left Mem shaken. Lord's sons were wont to cast their glances where they liked, and common folk might be as protective as they liked, and still not be able to wholly protect their loved ones. So Dag and Gunna tried to calm Mem's fears, well knowing that what Ulfast wanted, Ulfast could have. Mem's face was drawn and pale, her eyes dry and her fingers shaking at their weaving. The days dragged.

For Lachrandir the Elf and his servant Tathren, the cares of Men were of little concern, and the days and nights passed as they always did. Tathren gathered what news he could, and reported it to Lachrandir.

So when Thorn arrived, with Fleet, in the main hold of the Ulfings, few noticed. This was well enough, for it afforded Thorn a chance to learn what he could before he spoke word of what he knew.

And then the morning of the hunt arrived.

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Old 09-26-2007, 10:53 AM   #14
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Those in the household of Ulfang stirred and rose before dawn on that morning. The place was busy as a bee hive, dealing with the last preparations for the hunt. Those taking part in the hunt dressed themselves. As the grey light of dawn was creeping above the horizon, the three brothers with other lords of the court met in the courtyard. Their horses were saddled and stood pawing the ground and champing their bits waiting with impatience. The men mounted up and their spears were handed to them.

Uldor grasped the shaft of his spear and rested the butt of it on his stirrup. He glanced around. To his left his two brothers were mounted and on his right, the elven ambassadors sat bareback upon their tall and beautiful steeds. Seeing that all the others were ready, Uldor turned his mount’s head and led the way from the courtyard.

The Borrim encampment was on the edge of the Ulfang settlement. It took them less than half of an hour to reach them. The place was busier there than it had been back at the hall.

Uldor and his brothers with their followers halted on the edge of the encampment and waited. In a moment, Uldor spotted Khandr approaching them. He dismounted, handing his spear to his servant and walked forward to meet the Borrim leader.

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Old 02-17-2008, 01:46 PM   #15
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Lachrandir

These two were almost incoherent with fear, Lachrandir thought. It was almost difficult to make out what in Middle Earth they were trying to say. One thing was certain: they were in earnest, especially to speak ill of the Ulfings before the Ulfing lords themselves. He could see the pleading in their eyes. Lachrandir gave thought to their words but found them confused and full of vague implication.

It was generally beneath him, but Lachrandir decided that there might be something to their words, so he reached out wordlessly and touched the edges of their minds, something which they would not even be aware of unless they were given to such mental activity already. The woman had dreamed a true dream, as far as he could tell. He probed more deeply, and came upon new words.

The fetters will burst, and the wolf run free;
Much do I know, and more can see
I saw there wading through rivers wild
Treacherous men and murderers too,
And workers of ill with the wives of men;
There the vampire sucked the blood of the slain,
And the wolf tore men; would you know yet more?


These words were charged with omen. Humans could be surprising now and then. Lachrandir had not thought such rabble capable of divining soothly, but this one had. Treacherous men. Who? A wolf. What wolf? A vampire. But had not that evil been overthrown, or at least hindered of late? But the man had spoken of Bauglir; that One could be behind all of it.

But that was always so. Perhaps the Bauglir had sent these two unknowing to spring a trap unawares, other than what they thought. It would be like him to do so. It would be best to hear more of what they had to say, so that he could discern truth from lie.

"Tathren, remain with the Ulfings."

"Aye, Lord."

Lachrandir turned to the two Borrim. "Come with me, both of you, you will sup with us."

Lachrandir turned and left the clearing. If these two had any sense they would walk away from the Ulfings and follow them.

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Old 02-29-2008, 09:51 AM   #16
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Thorn

Thorn made his deliberate way from Khandr's abode to the hunting grounds. The Song led him, singing to him strange tidings: Fastarr and a woman whom he did not know were before the Elven ambassador of the Fëanorians, speaking garbled words of doom. Their words were not unlike those he had been given to utter to the Elf lord. Odd. Yet not surprising; this would not be the first time the Song had been sung and heard by more than one set of ears, and found a pliable mind and will.

Just then Thorn heard the beat of heavy wings. He looked up, expecting to see a giant vulture, but he saw nothing. Then he saw the flitting figure of a bat disappearing before him in the distance, winging far more straightly than a bat would do. What food did it seek? Why had it beat with heavy wings upon his Song-listening ears, then appear as a small bat?

He pondered as he walked.
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