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Old 02-04-2005, 09:02 PM   #641
Nurumaiel
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Argeleafa heard the cry of the Elf, and she saw Ædegard's hand move to the hilt of his sword. Her heart leapt in fear, and she made a gesture as if to catch his arm... and then she stopped. He would disregard her pleas to discard his foolish oath for revenge, and merely cause distraction. And... he would not marry her. Tears rose to her eyes, and her heart ached and pounded with the volley of emotions that assailed her. He would not marry her. But why did it matter? He would die soon, seeking for his revenge. Yet she would have rathered he die as her betrothed. She could remember that they had promised to one day be wed. Now she would only recall that, a few fleeting moments before his death, he had told her he would not marry her.

He would not marry her.

How could it be? She repeated it again, and again, and yet again, but she could not understand it. Her eyes fixed upon his face. So strong, so handsome... and, at one time, so full of love for her. Did he love her still? But what did it matter? He would not marry her. She recalled the first wild thrill of her heart when she knew she loved him, and the deeper thrill when he knelt before her and asked her to one day wed him. Since then she had dreamed of such happiness, of a future spent with him, until she died, died happy as his wife.

She stood and withdrew from the circle about the fire, barely conscious that the men had grown tense and prepared for battle. Ædegard did not notice that she was no longer at his side. And if he had, no doubt he thought it was because she was retreating to a safe place with the other women. Retreat? It was her only thought. She must retreat from this nightmare, wherein Ædegard sat, ready to fulfill his oath. Not Ædegard her betrothed, but simply Ædegard.

She turned and slipped into the shadows. She did not care where she went, as long as she could run away, flee from this night that was torturing her, and ease the dull pain in her heart for just a little while.
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Old 02-05-2005, 09:04 AM   #642
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Panic rose in Bellyn’s heart, and her heart likewise jumped to her throat as much of the company stood simultaneously to answer the new threat. She almost felt as if she had missed something; she wondered why Ædegard reached for his sword, why the angry fire returned to Nethwador’s eyes. Argeleafa fled, and Bellyn thought once to follow her, but did not want to seem again the helpless, cowardly nuisance she really was.

Her mind worked swiftly as she caught the array of words between the two Elven factions. Why does the Elf come forward now? Why? Bellyn felt a fiery anger aroused, much like the distrust and chaos she had seen in Nethwador when they had first met. Perhaps Ædegard was right to give oath against the Elf called Maegeleb. Still the situation worried Bellyn – she wondered for the reasons of Maegeleb to release the red-haired man freely.

“This is not right, Liornung,” Bellyn murmured softly. “The one who killed Gwyllion would not do this freely without a devious plan in mind. The Elf that maimed Mellonin and Leafa -”

“Bella, where is Leafa?” Liornung asked. She saw the blade at his belt and did not like the thought of Liornung using it. Still Bellyn shrugged – she had seen her friend flee, but had thought little of it.

“I do not know!” Bellyn replied, upset that she might have ignored Argeleafa at the wrong time. Mellonin had not left as Argeleafa had done. She remembered all too clearly what had happened when the women were left to wait for the men – the image of the merlocks still clung close to Bellyn’s memory. Now Bellyn worried for Argeleafa, in the dark by her lonesome, or even worse, in the company of the devious Maegeleb once again. Even if Argeleafa had not meant to wander far, she would not be safe alone.

For a moment it struck Bellyn how important her comrades had become in the recent weeks. She would do anything for Nethwador, Liornung, Amroth-Mellondu and Argeleafa – even Ædegard, who had so often seemed more aloof than anything else. Bellyn realized that she would also do almost anything for the Elves, Taitheneb and Erebemlin. Even the new companions touched her heart.

She saw the boy - Aeron - run off into the night. Why does he go? Bellyn wondered. Does he fear the Elf? Surely he does not. If I search for Leafa, I may get lost…Bellyn thought, seeing nothing but black outside the sphere of light created by the fire. If I stay here, I am only a burden in battle. I cannot leave Leafa out there alone. Or Aeron, wherever he went.

Without further thought, Bellyn turned and left the sphere of firelight in the direction that Argeleafa had taken as exit. She fumbled aimlessly while her eyes adjusted to the dark.

"Leafa? Leafa!"

This is definitely not good...

Last edited by Aylwen Dreamsong; 02-05-2005 at 11:01 AM. Reason: Bella can't find Leafa yet!
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Old 02-06-2005, 01:15 PM   #643
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Silmaril Raefindan

Roy walked toward the fire and the group that had been sitting around it. The two tall Elves had risen first, arrows nocked and ready. One of the young women rose from her seat and disappeared into the darkness beyond the camp; another followed quickly after.

"I'm all right!" he said. "I haven't been harmed."

By now all the others had risen. He watched their faces to see their reactions. Wide eyes met him in one face after another. Some questioned, some rejoiced. One was fierce ... Ædegard.

"Allow me," said Erebemlin, who had Roy stand in place, and looked deeply into his eyes, at his face. Finally the Elf shrugged. "He is well," he announced to the others.

"May I then come among you?" Maegeleb queried from behind him.

Erebemlin again raised his bow and arrow. "Come slowly and with your hands held out to either side. Make any move and you will have an arrow through each eye, I promise you."

"Such vehemence does not become you, my friend," said the swamp elf, who nevertheless obeyed.

"Call us not thy friend, fiend," Erebemlin answered. "You have done us nothing but ill until now, and I wager that will not change even though you are under our eyes at all times."

"Thus am I rewarded for returning your own safely to you," said the swamp elf in wounded tones. He stood one stride in front of the Elves. Erebmlin instructed Erundil to bind the swamp elf's hands behind his back, though not over-tightly.

Roy took no more thought for his former captor, but searched out those whom he knew. Ravion offered him a welcoming smile. Mellondu looked at him mildly. Mellonin folded her arms tight across her middle, the whites of her eyes reflecting some bedevilment of her thought. For all that, her face was whole! The boy Nethwador knew him little, and showed little regard for his return, which was no other than he would expect from a stranger. Aeron looked at him gravely, which was not like him; but then he had lost Gwyllion.

"I am sorry for your loss, Aeron." The lad nodded once; no more.

Roy looked to Ædegard and saw again the fierceness in his eyes. The Rohirric man's lips moved, but Roy found it hard to believe the words that came next.

"Untie him and hand him a sword. 'Tis time for me to fulfill my oath."

"What oath?" Roy asked.

"To exact vengeance upon this swamp elf for the loss of my hand, Leafa's ear, and Gwyllion's life." He looked around him. "Leafa? Where is Leafa?"
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Old 02-06-2005, 02:02 PM   #644
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How far she had run, Leafa did not know, but she realised that she could run no longer. Her legs trembled and collapsed beneath her, and she crouched on the ground with her face in her hands. Yet no tears came. Why did they not come? They would make things easier, they would relieve the pain in her heart. But her eyes were dry and there was naught but a steady ache. It was tearing her to pieces, it was killing her. Why didn't it kill her? Oh, would that she could die and escape this living nightmare!

Ædegard did not love her. He could not love her. If he loved her would he not marry her? He said it was because of his hand, but that was all nonsense. Why should his hand matter? Why? This was not how love in the stories went. In the stories all would have come all right, despite a loss of hand or foot. Would she go to him and tell him she could not marry him because her ear was missing? It was too absurd. A faint laugh broke from her lips, but she checked herself immediately and wrenched her face from her hands.

No! She would not let her emotions conquer her so. If the unceasing ache in her heart was terrible, to succumb to laughter was horrid. She would hurt and she would cry, but she would not laugh. She must be brave, for his sake. If she could not become his wife she would at least be worthy of what she could not be.

She stood on trembling looks and looked about her. A shudder passed through her, and she realised that she did not know where she was. The darkness loomed, enfolding its cold black arms about her and murmuring terrifying secrets in her ear. It came back to her with clarity that sent a hot stab of fear to her heart. She had fled the camp, and the Elf, that evil Elf, had been in the darkness when she left. What if he found her? What if the merlocks were with him.

Leafa suddenly realised that she was alone with the dark and whatever was lurking within it. There was no rock or tree where she stood. She had nothing to put her back to, nothing to cling to. Yes, a solitary rock would be a comfort. She could crouch beside it, feel its cold touch on her skin. It would shelter her. But here she sat in a wide open space, or so it seemed. Wasn't it? She felt about in the dark. No, there was nothing there, but darkness and emptiness. She cowered down and put her hands over her head, and her heart beat wildly.

A footstep sounded close by. Leafa's heart stopped at the touch of fear's finger... an icy finger, not the finger that had quickened her breath. She was stilled, and tensed. She dared not breathe... she could not breathe. The Elf was there, in the darkness. Could he see her? Did not his footsteps sound closer and closer?

Leafa sat, tense and full of dread, not daring to move. If only he did not see her... if only Ædegard were near to protect her!
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Old 02-07-2005, 09:29 PM   #645
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Sting Ædegard & Raefindan

"Young fool!" said the swamp elf Maegeleb. "I had naught to do with the loss of your hand. You blundered down the path that led to the stronghold of the merlocks. I do not go there. I would be a fool to, for there they are stronger than I. You lost your hand out of your own foolishness rather than any ill will of mine." The swamp elf turned to the Elves. "Do not unbind my hands, nor give me a sword. I would not have this welp's life on my hands, for if you put a sword in my hand, he will surely die."

Ædegard felt his breath leave and not come back. His sword fell and its tip split the ankle deep snow.

"You lie." The words came out choked and uncertain.

"Think you so? Then go back to the merlocks' lair and test their hunger without me there."

It was so. Ædegard knew it in his bones. He had been a fool, thinking he knew best how to save Leafa only to get lost and be himself the cause of his own loss. Not only did he miss a hand, but he was a fool. All the more reason to free her of him.

"Leafa," he said to the ground, "see you why I must not take you to wife?"

"She is not here!" came Liornung's voice, "nor is Bella. Where have they gone?"

"Did anyone see them leave?" Erebemlin demanded. All those that remained shook their heads. Erebemlin's eyes kindled. "Too many callow humans are among us. Better they go back to their homes and leave this quest to those whose heads rule their hearts! Ravion! Erundil! Taitheneb! Find the two women! Speed you!" They split up the circumference of the camp between them and left the ring of firelight. Erebemlin turned to the one he knew as Tharonwe. "You, sit. I do not know what ill you would breed among us, but I trust you not."

"I will not raise a hand against any among you," Maegeleb said, his face sobre.

"Be silent!" Erebemlin shouted. "I would have no oath or promise from you. Sit and be silent." He turned to Raefindan. "Tell us what passed between you and him while he held you captive."

One thing Roy was sure of, he needed to interact with these people as little as possible. The more they knew of where he came from, the more his knowledge would infect and pollute this time and place - worst of all, them. He had to keep that from happening.

"We walked south," he said, "and he learned much of me; where I'm from." And when. "He used me to speak to Mithrellas, who believes that I am Imrazor; which of course is not true; I do not know why she thinks that. Maegeleb seeks to supplant Amroth in the affections of Nimrodel."

"That much we know already," Erebemlin replied. "Is there anything else?"

Roy thought hard. At last he shook his head. "No. There is nothing else."

"Then take your rest." He handed Raefindan a leaf packet. "Eat."

Ædegard sat and watched the fire. He dared not look at any others, for surely they knew him a fool; he could not bring himself to see their knowledge in their eyes. Erebemlin was right. He should return to Edoras. Bethberry's faith in him was misplaced. The sooner he returned, the better, not least for Leafa.

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Old 02-07-2005, 11:43 PM   #646
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Tolkien

Mithrellas twined the green grass around her fingers wishing that she could see her beloved again, feel his touch again after these many years of caring for a mad woman. But she could not leave Nimrodel in her madness. She thought of what Imrazor had told her -- that another loved Nimrodel....what was the elf's name? She did not remember...

She felt herself slip into the pleasant feeing of a golden forest glade, with the warm sunlight glimmering and mingling with the green leaves...and suddenly she felt more than saw a voice whisper, "It is you lady!"

It Gwyllion! The young human girl. "It is I," Mithrellas said, smiling. "Though I grieve for you...taken from your mortal body..."

Gwyllion laughed softy, but said nothing. Mithrellas wondered if her heart was as merry as she wished Mithrellas to believe. "Why do you not follow in the paths of those who have passed before you?"

"I am bound," said Gwyllion softly. "A lock of my hair is twined around Aeron's neck. I cannot leave him..."

Mithrellas frowned, wondering why Aeron did not let the dead be. "Does this arrangement please you?"

"I think it does," said Gwyllion slowly. "I live in both the physical world and the spirit world now...I see both worlds as if they were draped in heavy mists. The sounds of the worlds come as if they cross a deep void and sometimes I hear the roar of the western sea and that always cheer me when I long for completeness..."

Mithrellas remained silent....Gwyllion's situation was not unsimilar to her own. Both bound in unhappiness to the ones they love. "I do not like that you are unhappy."

"Me? Unhappy?" Gwyllion laughed and Mithrellas could have sworn she saw a maiden of swirling mists glimmer in the sunshine of the glade before vanishing. "Only sometimes, dear lady. Aeron would be lost without me. He is already full of grief...he is like a boat tossed upon the waves, not knowing where he goes or what he thinks..."

Tears slid from Mithrellas's eyes as the vision slowly faded and she found herself once more wide awake upon the hard ground. It was not right that Gwyllion should be so bound....she was like a formless wraith.

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Old 02-11-2005, 08:20 PM   #647
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Treading slowly and clumsily through the snow, Bellyn could hardly feel her feet. She wondered if she could find Argeleafa, or if perhaps it was a lost cause and she had only created more worry for the rest of the company. Bellyn could not be certain, and she continued to fumble along in the dark.

Far along her way, when she felt as if she had been gone for ages, Bellyn could hear her footsteps being echoed. Someone was near, she could feel it; the sound of light footsteps was not her imagination. Bellyn whipped around, and her heart leaped up into her throat. Her thoughts went immediately to the Elf, Maegeleb. What if he has done something terrible again? Bellyn wondered. Her breath stilled, she waited for another sound to warn her which direction the other being moved.

Bellyn took three steps, hoping that her move would be echoed. There came no sound. Perhaps he knows my thoughts? Bellyn thought, alarmed. She tried to quell all thoughts, afraid that Maegeleb might infiltrate her mind and soul. He killed Gwyllion! Surely he would kill me as well...

Then Bellyn's eyes widened - What if he has already taken Leafa?

"Leafa?" Bellyn called. Her shout trailed off into a whimper. There was a shuffling sound. I should not have spoken! Now he knows where I stand! Bellyn realized this, and she wondered how she could act so stupidly and irrationally. The being in the dark shuffled again.

"Leafa?" blundering around with her hands outstretched, Bellyn whispered the name over and over again. "Leafa, Leafa...Leafa? Lea-"

She had no chance to finish the name. Bellyn tripped over something on the ground and rolled over onto her back and into the snow. She thought it might have been a large rock until she heard a yelp erupt from where the figure had knelt. That voice is so familiar...

"Leafa!" Bellyn realized, hope in her heart.

"Bella!" Bellyn knew the voice well. She had found Leafa. Fumbling around, the two finally found one another in the darkness.

"Leafa, I thought that you were the Elf!" Bellyn laughed, a half-hearted, anxious laugh that revealed her remaining fear that Maegeleb might still find them. "Why did you leave?"
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Old 02-16-2005, 09:52 AM   #648
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Question

She approached him slowly. Hearing her soft steps in the snow beside him made Raefindan look up.

"Mellonin."

"Raefindan. It would seem I owe you my life?"

She could not help but smile at the expression that crossed his face. She sat beside him, stealing a glance at the swamp-elf. Raefindan saw her shudder.

"It's all right, " Raefindan assured her. "You are in no danger from him now."

She hesitated, then smiled. "Very well. Of all of us, you would know. You were brave to do what you did. Thank you."

She watched him and wondered why he did not answer. Then hastily she covered his hand with hers. "It is all right, " she said. "You have been through much. It is good that you are here, and you are well. It is better than I dared to hope. I am content."

Raefindan smiled at her, a distant look in his eyes. Then he glanced around the camp. "Erebemlin sent the two rangers and an elf. Where is the wild boy in elvish dress?"

"Nethwador?" Mellonin glanced around, and then sighed. "His horse is gone. Well, since the danger is here with us, I will not fear for him."


*****

Celegaer paced steadily through the snow. Nethwador dared not cry aloud til he was well clear of the camp, but traveled in ever-widening circles keeping the camp on his left.
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Old 02-16-2005, 01:35 PM   #649
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Leafa clung to Bella, shivering and trembling. "Oh, I thought that you were the Elf, as well," she said, attempting a laugh. "I was so frightened. But it is better now that there are two of us." She gave a half-hearted smile, and suddenly she turned away and put her face in her hands, bursting into sobs. Bella's hand fell comfortingly on her shoulder and remained there until she had ceased crying. She looked up, brushing tears from her cheeks, and her smile was more genuine this time. "Forgive me," she said, "but it was such a relief to cry."

"Has anything happened?" Bella questioned. "Of course you need not tell me if you do not wish..."

"No, no," said Leafa, "I wouldn't mind telling you, Bella. Nothing very terrible has happened. But..." She dropped her head wearily and paused for a moment before continuing. When she spoke her voice was very low, but even that could not hide the trace of tears in its tone. "Ædegard says he cannot marry me."

"Oh..." said Bella, her exclamation beginning in a gasp and ending abruptly, as if words were not enough. She looked in mute sympathy at Leafa, who glanced up with a bitter little smile. "It's not so bad as it was a few minutes ago," she said, "though it is still terrible. Weeping has helped me. And now is no time for our thoughts to rest on my sorrows. We must find our way back to the camp, though... I'm afraid to see him... I might start crying again." A tear sprang to her eye, but fiercely she brushed it away, and stood, straining her eyes in the darkness to get some sense of her bearings.

"I don't know where we are," she said at last, spreading her hands out. "I paid no heed to where I went, and the darkness prevented me from noticing anything that would assist us in finding our way back. What would you suggest, Bella? Should we try to retrace our steps and find our way back to the camp, or should we wait her and hope that they will stumble upon us... before... something worse does?"
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Old 02-18-2005, 05:35 PM   #650
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Raefindan (for LMP)

"Nethwador?" Mellonin glanced around, and then sighed. "His horse is gone. Well, since the danger is here with us, I will not fear for him."

"Nevertheless," said Roy, "too many of our number have wandered off. Incidentally, where is Jorje? I haven't seen him with anyone."

"Jorje!" Mellonin's eyes went wide. "I have not seen him either! Not since we left Marigold!"

"Marigold? Who is that?"

"She was an old woman who lived just outside the Entwash swamp. Well, she was not just an old woman. I wonder if Jorje stayed with her?"

"You stayed with this old, not old woman?" Roy asked.

Mellonin looked at Roy a long moment, then laughed quietly a moment, shaking her head, looking to the snow covered ground. "We do not know what she is. I think, did she say, mayhap, she was a Riverdaughter? I know not."

Roy stared into the fire.

"What are you thinking, Raefindan?" Mellonin asked.

"That I should go to her and Jorje and recuse myself from this quest."

"Re.... coos?" Mellonin shook her head. "To chirp like a pigeon over again? I do not understand you."

Roy allowed a small smile and faced her. "It is one of the reasons I should go to this Marigold. It means to remove myself, for my presence is unhelpful to the quest."

"Unhelpful! How can you say that?"

Roy regarded Mellonin with eyes as sad as she had ever seen from him. "I cannot tell you. If I did, it would make things so much the worse."
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Old 02-21-2005, 09:05 AM   #651
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Eye

This was madness. The company was finally on the right track…they find the lost man, capture his captor, and the incompetent mortals scatter like gnats. Erebemlin glared at the swamp elf. What evil will he work among the weak minded? He thought, keeping his mind closed to the other elf. Tharonwe had come to them too easily, too soon, and although he appeared docile, Erebemlin knew danger still lurked within the walls of his being. He wished, at this moment, that Amroth would return. His kingly wisdom was needed.

~*~*~

The darkness that lay over the plains that night were thick, and the moon’s light was hidden behind the gorging snow-filled clouds. Taitheneb stepped gracefully atop of the snow-covered ground with leaving only the slightest footprint. Straining his ears he listened for the young women, but unfortunately he heard naught but the soft voices from the camp. He wondered what would have made them leave the safety of the fire’s light, especially after all of the events of the last days. Do the human’s learn nothing? Their actions were foolish, much like Erebemlin has said in the past. Taitheneb wondered if he should have listened to the Silmaethor instead of pitying him.

As he thought this, the sound of a horse’s breath came from his right. The elf squinted into the darkness and could see the creature and his rider arcing around toward him. Taitheneb stood still, waiting silently until the horse was near.

Young brother, why do you roam so far from camp?

The horse came to a halt, and the young rider moved his head from side to side staring uncertainly into the night. Taitheneb moved so that he could be seen by the boy, and repeated his question. As he came closer, the elf caught the troubled, hurt expression on Nethwador’s face. His dark eyes glistened with moisture. What troubles you, Mellon? As the elf touched the boy’s mind, the only image that came to him was the young girl and the name…Bella.
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Old 02-21-2005, 11:34 AM   #652
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Tharonwe: "You forget the keenness of Elvish ears, Roy Edwards."
Mellonin: "He is Raefindan."
Tharonwe: "Nay, that is the name you gave him. He is called Roy Edwards."
Raefindan straighten where he sat and said, "Maegeleb, do not-"
Tharonwe: "He is from the future, dear Mellonin; he will not be born for thousands of years yet."
Raefindan: "Say no more, Elf!"
Tharonwe: "He dreams us." At this, Tharonwe's face took on an ironically amused expression. "Is that not the greatest necromancy you have ever heard? He dreams us. What think you of that, dear Mellonin?"


********** mark12_30's post*********

With a snort Mellonin tossed her head, shaking the wisps of dark hair out of her eyes. "I think you lie, Swamp-Elf. Why should I believe such tales from one so bereft of honor? Raefindan, heed him not."

She stood and studied the swamp-elf, and her lips twisted as she fought the temptation to spit. Finally she tossed her head again, and then extended her hand to Raefindan. "I want you to properly meet my brother, Mellondu. Come now."

Raefindan seeing this spark of the old Mellonin returning, smiled despite himself. Mellondu heard his name, and smiled wryly. He knew who Raefindan was, but there had been little time for courtesies, and they could not move on til the others were brought back to camp. Despite Raefindan's newfound shyness, Mellonin would not be gainsaid, and the three sat in a little circle. Raefindan need not have worried; Mellonin's chief concern was that Raefindan be pleased with her brother, and she told many tales of his goodness, kindness, loyalty, and gentleness. Mellondu and Raefindan listened, Mellondu chuckling now and then.

Mellonin resolutely kept her back to the swamp-elf. But Mellondu and Raefindan kept an eye on him, and Erebemlin noticed. The towering elf turned a cold glance on Tharonwe, and muttered, "Thankfully not all these mortals are witless fools."

Mellonin's tales continued til they were interrupted by her own yawn.

Erebemlin spoke. "Tomorrow we must ride south. More horses are needed, but til we find them, we must take turns running alongside. Sleep now while you may."

Mellondu glanced at Tharonwe, and Erebemlin nodded at him. The elf would stand watch, then.

Mellondu rolled over, and thought it strange that Erebemlin stood guard at his feet. It made him uneasy, at first, and he wished more than once that the tall elf would stand somewhere else. But weariness caught up with him now and again; he dozed fitfully.

Mellonin stretched out on Mellondu's left, and Raefindan on Mellondu's right. Nearby they heard Ædegard breathing softly, Aeron snoring, and Liornung muttered the words to some old song in his dreams. Erebemlin stood staring at Tharonwe, who smiled, and lay back to watch the stars. So the darkness passed, with little rest.

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Old 02-21-2005, 04:55 PM   #653
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Ravion

Ravion followed Erundil as he hacked through the winter's dead branches and brush with his sword, cutting a path for them. "Do you see anything?" the older Ranger asked quietly, and the chilly wind almost carried away his voice.

"I see nothing," Ravion said dully, wrapping his cloak around him. "And night is falling fast. The young women could be anywhere; would that someone had seen them leave!"

"If someone had seen them leave, we would not be here at all," Erundil replied curtly. "And if all had gone as I would have preferred, looking back on things, I probably never would have come to tell you about the blacksmith. So we cannot all have our ideal circumstances."

Ravion stopped short. "Are you blaming me?" he asked.

"What?" Erundil had not heard him over the wind, which had picked up. It bit through Ravion's cloak, but he hardly noticed.

"I said, are you blaming me for all of this?" Ravion kept pace with Erundil, glaring at him. Erundil stopped for a moment, then sighed and continued on.

"We can argue after we find the ladies," Erundil said wearily. Ravion opened his mouth to let out a retort, but closed it. Erundil was right: the important thing was finding their missing companions.

"Bellyn?" Ravion called. "Argeleafa?"

Erundil joined in his cry. "Bellyn! Leafa! Are you there?"

"Bell--" Ravion began, but Erundil clapped a hand over his mouth. Ravion frowned, confused, and Erundil lowered his hand, motioning for him to be quiet.

"Do you hear it?" Erundil said quietly. Ravion shook his head and squinted. "On the wind. Voices."

Ravion nodded slowly. "I hear it."

"Can you track it?"

Ravion nodded again, shrugging his pack back onto his shoulder. "Follow me." He took off at a run, Erundil following him closely.

The girls' voices were becoming more and more clear through the wind, and Ravion knew that he was going the right way. Perhaps finding Bella and Leafa would be, in some way, a balance for his earlier failures.

"Bellyn?" he called. "Leafa!"

The voices stopped, and Ravion kept coming, Erundil right behind him. "It is Ravion! Can you hear me?"

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Old 02-23-2005, 11:20 AM   #654
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Amroth

Far, far away, he heard a voice calling. He could not reply.

"My lord."

He knew the voice... did he not? His hair strayed in the current, sometimes covering his eyes. He could see, dimly, but he could not breathe, could not move his arms or legs, could not turn his head. He was cold, very cold. He lay on the bottom, buried in mud, only his face showing.

"My lord."

I can hear you. Why can I not see you?

"I am here, my lord. I will not leave your side."

Erebemlin! Friend, why do my limbs move not?

"Courage, my lord. Courage. "

If he closed his eyes, the mud only grew colder. He stared, trapped and unmoving in the sucking grip of death. He longed to give in and die indeed, but the voice of his friend stayed him, and he listened again.

Beyond Erebemlin, he heard a thin sound... a mocking laugh. The warm south wind was somehow icy cold; he was drenched to the skin. The ship surged from the storm... he was stiff and unmoving and could not respond; he fell. He looked up through the water as he sank, and saw his love on the deck, and the mocking elf-sailor standing beside her.

He sank like a stone to the muddy bottom... cold, ice-cold mud. It wrapped around his feet, his body, sucking him down til only his face felt the current. His hair moved in the water, waving to and fro over his eyes.

"Courage, my king."

His lips tightened into a hard line. His will grasped Erebemlin's presence, and did not let go.
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Old 02-27-2005, 05:47 PM   #655
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Leafa, sitting with her hands clasped in front of her knees, trying to refrain from shivering, stiffened, and stood. She put one hand in the air. "Listen!" she said, and strained her ears. She heard the wind blowing, but that was all. She sat down again and bowed her head. "I thought I heard voices," she said, "but it seems I did not."

There was a silence, and then Bella cried out: "I hear voices as well, Leafa!"

"Is it the Elf?"

The two of them stood listening, and at last Bella let loose a relieved laugh. "No, it is not. I think it is one from our company," she said. She turned her eyes to Leafa. "Would you risk it? Should we call to them?"

"I think they are calling our names," said Leafa, as if in avoidance of the question. She paused for a moment, and then she nodded. "Yes, let us call to them," she said. "If it is the Elf, he would surely find us anyway. But if it is not he, they might pass us by for our lack of reply."

And so the two began to call to the voices in the wind for aid.

+++++++++++

Liornung sat up, and folded his arms. He had slept soundly for some time, trusting that the men of Gondor would find the two lassies. But he had dreamt of them, and had become restless. He began to regret that he had not gone in search of them himself. But, of course, that was folly. He was no skilled tracker, and would be a hindrance. It was merely his love for the two girls that brought on his regret.

He stood up and wandered a little way from the group, stopping for a moment to take up the case containing his fiddle, and gazed towards the east. It would not be long, he hoped, before the sun rose. It would be an easier task to find the maids then.

He took his fiddle from its case, and looked thoughtfully at it. How old and battered it was becoming! There were scratches and dents upon it. He had owned it for many a year, and often he considered laying it aside in some safe place and taking up a new one. He could give it to his nephew in Edoras, who had a deep interest in music. And he could get himself a new instrument, clear and shining, with no marks of wear and weather.

He put the bow very gently to the strings, and played a quiet note. Then he laughed softly and shook his head. No, of course he would not give this fiddle away for a new one. No more than he would exchange Leafa or Bella for another young girl.

"You have been with me too long, dear friend," he said. "You have worked your way into my heart, though you are a creature with no life in you. Nay... no life? Sometimes I think you could play of yourself. You have wisdom that even I have not. Long after I have forgotten the tunes from distant lands, you still remember them. When my fingers set upon you they are bewitched and move at your command. Often I have heard it said that with you I cast a spell over the people to make them dance and weep, but it is you who cast the spell on them, and on me. You have been comfort in sorrowful times, and my laughter in the joyous."

He played a few more notes, very softly, conscious of the sleepers a little ways behind him. The melody that gently strained out was a strange one, not of Rohan. As his fingers moved lightly here and there, the words were recalled to his mind, and he remembered the one time he had seen the sea. The music he played now contained those sights and thoughts, those wonderings. In the tune there was the pounding of waves against rocks, the cry of the gulls overhead, the spraying foam, the salty breezes...

"Darkness steals o'er the day
and chases merry clouds away.
The gulls above do glide and fly
and o'er the sea their lonesome cry.


"A cloud of thunder rides swiftly there
and brings a chill bite to the air.
A lightning flash, and then again;
and upon the sea a drop of rain.


"The waves did rise, the gulls did flee
and left the storming speedily.
O'er the sea, from the cry
a gull gave one more rising cry.


"A battered ship leapt on the foam
and struggled on to reach the home
where children laugh and fires roar
and spinners spin a tale of lore.


"A flash of lightning comes again
and in the sky a crack does rend.
The ship moves on; its timber groans
and all the men heave frightful moans.

"'Our home, our land, we'll see no more!
and reach the much sought after shore.
Our wives, our babes, for us will weep,
for we will sink into the deep.'

"'Come up, fear not! My men, be brave!
There is still hope to beat the waves.'
The captain stood, fearless and tall,
and they gazed upon him, one and all.

"'There is still hope, though it seems gone
and the sea does sing a dismal song.
But 'tis not our last song, this I know,
'tis not a tale of lasting woe.'

"'Though to your heart the fear does creep,
and your hearts, like the waves, do leap,
your deathbed will not be the sea;
hark, my men, and list' to me.'

"And even as the captain spoke
the clouds above his head were broke
the sun came out, bright and fair;
a cool breeze ruffled through the air."


Liornung stopped his quiet song, and looked discontentedly at the sky. It was still dark, and the men of Gondor had not returned. Was it so hard to find the maids? Then how far had they wandered? Where could they be? Morning was so long in coming! If the sun would but rise, Ravion and Erundil would have their task made easier, and the maids would be brought sooner back.

But still the darkness went on.
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Old 02-28-2005, 10:44 AM   #656
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Raefindan & Ædegard

"With the three of you talking, only the dead could sleep," Ædegard growled to Roy, Mellondu, and Mellonin.

"Then plug your ears and sleep," Mellonin retorted. "Oh!" Her hand went to her mouth. "I am sorry."

The two caught a smirk on Ædegard's face in the dimming firelight. "Yes, this hamfist is a bit large for plugging an ear. I'll have to have you yank on mine ear to grow it large enough." He sat up and joined them. "Sleep stays far from you too?"

They nodded and stared at the fire.

Roy could not help himself, though he had resolved to speak as little as possible to the others so as to avoid influencing them with the future he brought with him. "Why, friend, are you so bent on leaving?"

Ædegard sighed. "I am no use to this group. I am too much the fool."

"We are all fools in our way," Roy said.

Ædegard looked at him in surprise. "You include yourself, yet you are the least foolish among us!"

Roy allowed a half smile. "It would be arrogance to withhold myself from the charge, for I know better. So foolishness is no reason to leave us."

Ædegard shook his head. "What would you have me do then?" He looked at each of them. Raefindan seemed unready to answer of a sudden. Ædegard looked to Mellondu and Mellonin, searching them for an answer.
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Old 02-28-2005, 11:07 AM   #657
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Mellonin watched Ædegard, and a frown formed on her brow. Mellondu waited, and Mellonin shrugged.

"What shall any of us do? I sought my brother; he is found. And then I sought Raefindan; he also is found. I am content." She looked from Raefindan to Mellondu, and back to Ædegard. "And you? In the depths of your heart, what brought you so far from home? Why did a wheelwright of Rohan ride to Lorien and thence to the Entwash, and now into Gondor? I have no answer for you, son of Rohan; my own heart calls me home. " She turned and looked southward, then looked to Mellondu. "How glad mother and father shall be to see us again."

"Indeed, " he said quickly, with a smile that faded when she looked away.

Mellonin looked to Raefindan. "You will return to your labor at the Inn, will you not? " Without waiting for an answer, she clapped him on the shoulder. "And then I shall have both brothers, the younger and the older, the old and the new! And our parents will have a new son, if they so choose; for you would make any mother and father proud. But fear not, for if they do not adopt you, never the less I shall keep my bond. My brother you shall be."

Raefindan's jaw muscles worked, and she clapped him again on the shoulder, and turned to Ædegard. "Yet perhaps that is my answer to you, " she said with a shy smile. "Perhaps if there is no brother for you to adopt, perhaps-- well, perhaps, " she said with a soft laugh, "you should build a family in the more traditional way. There, now, I have spoken well beyond what is seemly! Yet you did ask." She giggled and blushed, and then talked faster still. "And you, Mellondu, no doubt you shall be eager to settle down, after this long journey. Yet you have a while to wait, before you may wed. Men must wait so long! Yet I doubt you shall lack for admirers. There, I am talking overmuch again! Hear me prate! I shall blush about this in the morning, no doubt."

And with that, she placed a finger over her lips, then drawing her knees up to her chin, she hugged them, and fell silent.
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Old 03-01-2005, 01:37 PM   #658
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Ædegard

"I shall blush about this in the morning, no doubt," Mellonin said, then fell silent, hugging her knees, closing in on herself.

Any other time Ædegard would have chuckled. You should build a family in the more traditional way. That was the very thing he could no longer do.

"You do not understand, Mellonin. I have been trained a wheelwright from my childhood; with but one hand I cannot do the work. I cannot keep a wife if I cannot do the work. Do I need to speak it any more plainly?" His voice had become sharp by the end of his words.

"Do you love Leafa?" Mellonin said into her knees, staring at the struggling flames.

"It matters not! Love does not put food on the board nor clothes on the back. Do you not see that?"

"The greatest is love," Raefindan murmured, himself staring into the fire; then he shut his mouth tight.

Mellonin looked at him with open curiosity. "Greatest?" she asked.

"I know not," Raefindan replied curtly. "It was a chance utterance. Think nothing of it."

"But it is a seemly thing to say, and think," Mellonin said. "I do think I like it. Who told it to you? Or did you make it up just now?"

Raefindan spread his hands wide and said nothing.

Ædegard looked him in the face. "Are you saying that I should take Leafa to wife no matter that I have lost a hand?"

"I say no such thing. I will say this, though. Why do you leave her no choice in the matter?"

Ædegard looked at Raefindan as if struck by a new thought for the first time.

"I know not." He turned and stared into the fire.
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Old 03-01-2005, 02:24 PM   #659
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"Liornung?" Argeleafa called out first, shaking in the cold.

"I regret not remembering the names of our new friends," Bellyn admitted when Argeleafa stopped to take a breath.

"As do I, Bella," she agreed, shifting through the snow.

"Liornung!"

"Mellonin!"

"Nethwador!"

"Ædegard!"

"Well, I suppose we shall call the right name sooner or later, Leafa," Bellyn pointed out with a laugh. Then she stopped, and listened once more to the wind. "Leafa, do you hear that now?" Her voice came scarcely above a whisper, and Argeleafa paused for a moment, letting out the breath she thought to use to shout a name.

"Hit miss..." Whatever called to the two ladies shouted something incomprehensible. "...shoo near be?"

"What?" Bellyn wondered aloud, her brows furrowed as she strained to hear the shouting. Argeleafa put a hand on Bellyn's shoulder, and both were silent once again.

"It is Ravion! Can you hear me?"

"Ah! Bella! It is Ravion!" Argeleafa squeeled with excitement, and grabbed Bellyn's hand. "Which direction?"

"This way," Bellyn smiled in the dark, sprinting as fast as she could in the direction of the voices, pulling Argeleafa along with her. They ran against the wind, following the sound. Bellyn was so happy to have been found, she took no care to slow down when the voice became louder and closer. Before too long, Bellyn bumped into something - someone - and nearly fell to the ground, and would have fallen if Argeleafa had not caught her.

"Ravion?"

"Bellyn?"

"Leafa?"

"Wait!"

Four voices spoke simultaneously. Bellyn felt warmth and happiness bubble over in her heart, and she nearly jumped for joy when she heard the slightly familiar voices.

"They have found us, Leafa!" Bellyn said, hardly containing her happiness. Bellyn fumbled through the air to find Ravion, or whoever had found her and Leafa. When she finally found someone (it might have been Argeleafa - Bellyn was not certain), she wrapped her arms around it and gave a quick, tight embrace. "You have found us! We are not lost! Are we? Do you know how to get back to camp? Thank you!"
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Old 03-03-2005, 11:43 AM   #660
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"There is the camp up ahead!" cried Bella, laughing with relief. She caught Leafa's hand and quickened her pace.

Leafa walked with her eyes cast downwards. Now that she had returned, she wished she had not. Ædegard would be waiting to greet them. Ædegard who was a member of their company... not her betrothed. And they would ask her why she had gone. She could not tell them, she would not tell them. She could not tell them that her heart had been shred to pieces.

Liornung, who was standing on the outskirts of the camp, was the first to reach them. He caught them up in his arms, and kissed the hair of each. His fiddle was under his arm, and Leafa felt a tear spring to her eye at the sight of it. No more would she dream and hope when he sang his songs of happy lovers.

"What joy to see you back again!" he said. "I shall certainly write a song in honour of the occasion. Nethwador and Ædegard will be more joyous than I, if it is possible."

At the mention of Ædegard's name, Leafa's face paled slightly, and Liornung did not miss it. He grew more sober, and took her hand gently. He smiled at her in an encouraging fashion, and then likewise took Bella's hand, and led them to the others.
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Old 03-03-2005, 02:01 PM   #661
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Shield Ædegard

Ædegard stood as Liornung led Leafa and Bella toward them. Raefindan, Mellonin, and Mellondu stood as well. Ædegard took a step forward. Leafa looked very pale; he could tell that much even in the dim light of the fire.

"Leafa!" he said.

She glanced at him once, as if startled, then returned her gaze to her feet. Her cheeks were wet with tears and the sadness of her face pierced him. He closed the space between them, but did not touch her; at this time he was sure that he had no right.

"Leafa, I ...." Ædegard had been about to say that he was wrong, but the words stuck in his throat. "... I thought that I could not earn my bread as a wheelwright, because of my hand, so...."

"...You cannot keep me," she finished.

"No, no, no. That is what I thought. But I - I gave you no say. And that was - - - that was wrong. I see that now."

She looked up at him, seeming as if perched on the threshold of hope, not daring to step further.

"Would you have a man for husband who has but one hand?"

His question hung in the air between them, and Ædegard was suddenly aware of the listening ears all around them. He wished that he had spoken his words alone with her, away from all these witnesses. He sighed, waiting for Leafa's answer.
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Old 03-04-2005, 03:04 PM   #662
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Ravion

Ravion hung a little back from the company as they celebrated the girls' return to the camp. He diverted his gaze from Ædegard and Argeleafa's bittersweet and somewhat awkward reunion, not wishing to impose. As the others welcomed the young ladies back and expressed their relief, Ravion sunk into the shadows, sitting well outside the light of the campfire.

He fiddled with the pendant around his neck as he searched for Mellonin in the chaos. He wondered how she was, what she was thinking, if she wondered where he was. Probably not. She was probably absorbed in the girls' reunion, or speaking to Raefindan or her brother. Ravion cast his green eyes down to the ground. He had no right to be jealous! Envy was an emotion unbecoming to a Ranger. He had set out to help Mellonin find her brother. He had succeeded. She had found her brother, and his mission was finished. He should be happy.

"You should speak to her."

Ravion looked up dully at Erundil, whose brown cloak was wrapped tightly around him. The older Ranger was watching him shrewdly and knowingly. "You should not withdraw simply because you are afraid of rejection."

"I am not afraid of anything, Erundil," Ravion snapped.

"Then why do you hide? Go and speak to her. You will be glad you did." Erundil crouched by his former pupil. "Trust me. You have missed enough opportunities for safety's sake. Do you want to waste more?"

Ravion struggled for a response, then buried his face in his hands. "Leave me be," he said, his voice muffled both by his hands and by emotion. Erundil stood.

"At least come and warm yourself by the fire. You are icy," he said serenely, and left.

Ravion glared after him for a moment, then did as he said.
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Old 03-04-2005, 03:45 PM   #663
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Leafa had been only dimly aware of the others surrounding and listening when Ædegard had begun to speak, and at his last words all faded, save him. Her eyes widened; her face paled; and she began to tremble slightly. She opened her mouth to speak, but she found no words could come. He looked earnestly down into her face, hopefully...

Must she say no? Wasn't that the proper thing to do? He had drove her near crazy with grief, and now she should be angry with him. Now she should ask him if she was just a play-thing, to make joyous and sorrowful as a mood struck him. She should say she was certain that he would change his mind again, and again, and again. Isn't that what she should say?

She felt a presence at her side, and saw Liornung. The expression on his face was one of a satisfied smirk. She turned back to Ædegard, and she was smiling, with her eyes downcast. Angry at him indeed! Who said it was the proper thing to do? It was a lie, and if it wasn't... she would do the improper thing, because she loved him more than all anger and resentment. She found she still could not speak, so she did naught but step a little closer to him and slip a shy little hand into his, and raise eyes overflowing with joy to his face.
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Old 03-05-2005, 02:49 PM   #664
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Ædegard

She slipped her hand in his, and looked up into his eyes, smiling in joy. He could not hold back the tears that came to his own eyes, and spilled. Embarrassed, he hid his face, hiding in her hair. Why? Why would you want to wed a man who cannot make a living? He did not give utterance to his words, but pulled her close, thankful to her for her mute answer, thankful to Raefindan for making him see wisdom for a change. He looked to him, and Raefindan winked. Ædegard smiled, and held Leafa close. He could find no words that could speak his heart, so he said nothing.
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Old 03-07-2005, 06:26 PM   #665
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Mellonin smiled as the rider embraced the goldenhaired wayfarer girl. Meanwhile the two rangers were straggling toward the fire, Ravion looking stiff and weary as he sat.

The snow crunched under her boots as she walked up behind him. He half turned, his face pale with cold. She draped her blanket around him, and with a little smile, turned to find another. Mellondu rose and brought his own, eyeing the ranger with some suspicion. Mellonin took her brother's blanket and draped that, too, over Ravion's shoulders.

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Old 03-07-2005, 10:06 PM   #666
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Ravion

Sudden warmth brought Ravion out of his dark reverie.

"Mellonin?" he said softly, looking up at the young woman with a mixed expression of confusion and happiness and hope. The blankets were soft, warm, and heavy on his shoulders.

"You looked very cold," she replied to his unasked question. She smiled at him, and her sweet eyes smiled with her. Ravion felt his heart tighten for a brief moment.

"I was. I thank you." Ravion could see Erundil standing at a distance, a smug look on his face. The younger Ranger ignored his former tutor.

There was a bit of a silence, broken at length by Ravion. "How are you, Mellonin?" he asked suddenly.

She seemed confused. "How am I?"

"Now that your brother is back. What are you planning to do? Will you return to Gondor? You and your brother have much to catch up on, I would assume." There was a bitterness in Ravion's tone that he had not intended. He only hoped that Mellonin did not notice it.
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Old 03-08-2005, 04:14 AM   #667
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Mellonin stiffened for a moment, and then knelt beside Ravion, and spoke.

"I have been less than grateful. I am sorry. I owe you much... Yes, we will return home, home to Minas Tirith. Will you not journey with us, and receive my parents' blessing? How glad they will be to have their son safely returned! Come, and share our joy."

Hoofbeats caught her attention, and her head turned as Ravion started to answer. She stood. "The elf and the wayfarer boy! They have returned." A snort from Celegoer was followed by words from Nethwador, half joy half scolding. THe wild edge had come back to the boy's voice.

"Peace, " said Taitheneb, and slowly the boy calmed. Nethwador touched Bella's hand, and stood trembling before her. "Bella, mellon."

She nodded, and took his hand, and drew him to the fire opposite Ravion. Together they sat down, and tangled whispers passed between them, some in Sindarin, some in the wayfarer's tongue, some in the common speech. Mellonin smiled. "Does he know what you are saying?"

Bella smiled. "Perhaps not, " she replied. Nethwador's dark eyes flickered toward Mellonin, and then back toward Bella. Liornung brought them each a blanket, and they inched closer to the fire, and rejoined hands.

Mellonin stood beside Ravion, who stared for a while at the fire, and then looked up at her.

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Old 03-10-2005, 09:52 PM   #668
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Dark-Eye Tharonwe

Maegeleb had been watching the humans as they slept, himself under the watchful guard of Erebemlin and Taitheneb. He had used the time to look upon the humans' minds. The two guarding Elves knew what he did, but just as soon stop an Elf from viewing another's mind as stop a mole from digging. What could be done with these humans to ensure that he won Nimrodel instead of that other, now drowning, Elf?

Raefindan. Roy Edwards, the boy-man from the future. Who dreamed them all. It was a puzzle, really. If this Roy dreamed all of them, were they real, or just part of his dream? Maegeleb glanced at the two Elves, who looked at him askance, for they knew his thought as well, and were finding it alien, unsettling, and unbelievable. Let them think what they would.

Mellonin. She of the healed face and wounded heart. She had her brother back and refused to believe Roy dreamed her. She believed her role to be over, now that Mellondu was back. Little to be achieved there.

Mellondu? He kept the Elf safely buried, repulsed by that one's disregard for his sister. Maegeleb smiled slyly. He had not even counted on Amroth's hardness of heart and - what was that word from Roy Edwards' time - obsessiveness in regard to Nimrodel. So now Mellondu wanted the Elf to stay buried, but as long as that fëa was there, it might crop up; it was needful to banish it back to Mandos once and for all. How? He would have to give more thought to that.

Ravion. Confused ranger. Very maleable to his purposes. Get him riled.

Ædegard. One handed fool. Caught in the ways of Rohan.

Leafa. Weak, weak, weak. Easily led hither and yon.

Liornung. Dreamer.

Erundil. Dangerous. Schooled in the ways of field and fen, forest and beast, and of the human heart, by all accounts.

Bellyn. Stolid, no great help or hinderance.

Nethwador. High strung and distrustful.

Aeron. Listless and mulling over his despair.

Suddenly Maegeleb had the answer. Change nothing. The group was already beginning to pull away from each other, tending in their own directions. The only danger was that Mellondu and Ravion might come to blows over Mellonin. Let that not happen.

Morning came. Maegeleb was aware that the Elves had read much of his thought, as he had of theirs, and so he knew that Erebemlin had been trying to waken Amroth. He must lull the humans, or better yet, allow them to continue to lull themselves.

Maegeleb was satisfied.
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Old 03-11-2005, 11:26 AM   #669
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Ravion

The arrival of the elf and the boy, while an interruption of their conversation, affected Ravion little.

Come, and share our joy.

As Mellonin spoke with the others, Ravion watched her and pondered those words. Their sting confused him. Why should he feel stricken by such a gracious invitation? Mellonin was trying to be kind. Why could he not take her comment in the manner in which it was given? When he was a youth, Erundil would often tell him that one great failing in him was his inability to take a compliment. Perhaps his tutor had been right. But it did not alleviate the sting.

He raised his eyes to Mellonin's face: her eyes, glittering in the firelight; her sweet smile; her dark hair; her kind demeanor. He looked down, afraid that she would take offense at his scrutiny.

Come, and share our joy.

He felt the weight of Mellonin's gaze on the back of his head, and he turned to her. He stood and forced a smile that he hoped looked genuine. "Mellonin, I do share your joy," he said softly. "And I wish you to have much joy in the future. I will accompany you to Minas Tirith, but..."

He closed his eyes briefly, steeling himself, then opened them again. "But I am afraid that there, we must part ways. I do not wish to intrude upon your family's reunion. It is not my place."

He hoped that she would understand. He hoped that she would, in some part of her, realize that it was for her sake. He could not control his feelings, but he could control his actions. He was too volatile, too moody, too changeable for her. He had done his duty; he had found her brother. Now there was only one thing left to do--let her move on--and it seemed that this would be the hardest.

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Old 03-11-2005, 11:49 AM   #670
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Mellonin watched him, her smile beginning to fade. She nodded reluctantly, and then took a deep breath.

"And then... from Minas Tirith, where will you go? What will you do? Some business or duty demands your time, of course, and I am being selfish." She laughed guiltily. "Yet that duty, too, you will finish, and then you will return? Surely, you will come visit, whenever you may. Do, Ravion. You must. Say you will." Her grey eyes sparkled with mischief, and a touch of guile.

"Indeed, Ravion, you must, " echoed Aeron, with a hint of his old smirk. "Deign not to deny She Who Must Be Obeyed."

Mellonin stiffened, and said nothing, but turned on her heel, and walked away out of the firelight. Erebemlin spoke. "Stay, woman, you have walked far enough. We grow weary of herding such aimless sheep."

Aeron smirked again, and turned to see Mellonin's reaction; but she took a deep breath, and walked back to the fire, standing and staring into it with crossed arms. Mellondu, seeing her fury, sighed, raised an eyebrow, and lay back down. He would be glad to be back home-- at peace.
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Old 03-15-2005, 03:30 PM   #671
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Shield Morning in the camp

Ædegard

Ædegard woke with the sun. He would have mended the fire, but that was proving unnecessary these days, with the Elves never sleeping. How could they get by that way? He walked away from the camp to relieve himself. Oh, to be an Elf. Nay! He would have none of it. He was happy to be Rohirrim, happy to have troth with a Rohirric lass as beautiful and sweet-hearted as Leafa. Ar-ge-leafa. The name was slightly odd, perhaps archaic. Ar meant honor or worth; ge usually meant action in the past; leaf was clear enough; and a was feminine. Best as he could make it out in his own rough way, her name seemed to mean something like Leafed honor, or Worthily leafed; silly; he shook his head in frustration, then thought once more: lass of the best leaves. Yes! He liked that one. It fit her.

When he returned to camp, Leafa was sitting near the fire, warming and chafing her hands. He sat down by her right side.

"Good morning, lass of the best leaves. How did you sleep?"

A smile grew on her lips. "I slept well, though not as long as I would have wished." She turned to him. "My Da called me that."

"Then I was right! 'Tis the meaning of your name, I think."

"And yours? What does Ædegard mean?"

"Lucked spear, or lucked warrior."

"Oh!" Leafa looked somewhat discomfited.

"Fear not, dear Leafa," Ædegard said in humbled tones, "I am no warrior, and fool to think I could have been. I am a one handed wainwright." Leafa relaxed. He brightened. "But with you by my side, I could become a three handed wainwright! I could teach you the craft. Why did I never think of it?" Leafa was looking even more discomfited than at first. "But I should ask you. Do you think you would like to learn something of the craft?"

"I - I do not know. I know nothing of such things. I fear I would be a burden to you."

"You, a burden to me? Never. Not ever. You are the warmth of my heart."

Leafa smiled at him gratefully, and lay her head on his shoulder. He put his arm around her, which did not work as well as he would have liked, since it was handless. Leafa did not seem to mind that; and Ædegard was grateful in his turn.

At length he said, "I have been thinking, Leafa, that my part in this quest may be finished. I do not know for sure. What think you?"

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Old 03-15-2005, 06:48 PM   #672
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Leafa looked here and there, and seeing that no one else was very close by to them, turned her face back to Ædegard with a rather puzzled frown. She did not answer immediately, but continued to look up into his face, and after a moment her frown changed to a little smile and she dropped her eyes. How blissful it was to have his arm about her, and his eyes gazing down at her so fondly! Perhaps she had merely dreamed that he had said he could not marry her. It seemed so distant and vague now.

"I do not know," she said, straightening her face and recalling her mind to the matter at hand. "I am not one who loves wandering, such as Liornung, and while I am very fond of the company, I feel uncertain at times. Not of their loyalty, but... I feel uncertain especially when I am near the Elves. I fear I am nothing but a burden to them. I feel that they disapprove of all my clumsy ways."

She paused and blushed, glancing in the direction of the Elves, and hoping they had not heard what she said, though she had said nothing unkind. She had never felt very strongly that they disapproved of her before, but after she had fled from the camp and caused the men to ride out to find her, she had cringed whenever she noticed the Elves looking at her. No doubt they wouldn't have done what she did, even if their hearts had been broken. She had caused so much trouble, and...

"You found me amidst the wayfarer people," she continued. "Liornung was very good to me and took me away from them so eventually I could return to a life in a home, rather than wander about. My father loves to wander, and he also has a great love for the winds, the grass, and the trees. The wilderness, he says, always calls to him. He tells me the first song he really heard and thrilled to was the song of the winds playing against the harp boughs of the trees, and the gentle rustlings of the leafs. That, he says, is one of the reasons he named me for leafs.

"My mother and I are of a different sort. She followed him when he left with the wayfarers because she loved him; I because he was my father and I too loved him, and because I had nowhere else to go. I know no one back at my home, and certainly no one at Edoras."

She raised her eyes to his face. "The matter stands here," she said. "I feel I cannot marry you without my father's permission, which means we should have to wait some time until he decided it was best for his family to return home. And so if we returned to Edoras, or wherever it is you live, we would have to wait some time to be wed. Meanwhile I should have nowhere to stay, for I know no one. The only one I know who can take care of me until I enter your home as your wife is Liornung, and I do not think he will be returning until this quest is over.

"I do not say," she added earnestly, "that I cannot return now. I merely say that there are some obstacles to hinder us. But I will do what you deem advisable."

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Old 03-16-2005, 06:18 PM   #673
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She knew that the Elves scorned them for leaving the camp. It had been written in their eyes when she and Argeleafa returned. Bellyn could read it in their faces - their distaste and annoyance. What had Bellyn done but followed her heart to help find Argeleafa? What had Argeleafa done but acted on her feelings? Did not the Elves feel sorrow, or loss, or anger? Bellyn fumed inwardly at the hypocrisy of the Elves. Their loyalty to Amroth went deep...Bellyn knew it well. Was it not the same thing to be loyal to a king as to be held loyal to a friend? Bellyn knew the Elves would have done the same if Amroth had left the company.

Her anger was calmed as she sat by the fire.

They held hands.

Bellyn wondered at how quickly things had changed. Had not it only been weeks since the group had found Nethwador as a savage, beastly creature? Now he sat calmly, and closer to Bellyn than she had ever been to anyone, except her mother many long years earlier. She had never felt more comfortable with anyone. Bellyn felt nothing but kindness and security from Nethwador. She liked being near him, but it was an unexplainable feeling. Her hands were cold, though she felt warm and content, under her blanket and next to Nethwador.

"And what shall we do, dear Mellon, when this journey is over?" She said to him in a whisper, looking at all the members of their rag-tag company. What a mission, to bring forth so many people of different backgrounds. Bellyn had not thought too often on where she would go when the journey ended. Now she wondered, for the evil Elf had made it clear that the journey could be halted at any moment. How long could they travel, hoping against hope to find Amroth's lost lover? "Where shall we go?"

Still, Bellyn remaind calm. Their hands remained interlaced.

Soon the company would need to continue. Bellyn had no doubt that they would find Nimrodel...eventually.
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Old 03-17-2005, 03:20 PM   #674
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Shield Ædegard speaks with Argeleafa

Leafa raised her eyes to his face. "The matter stands here. I feel I cannot marry you without my father's permission, which means we should have to wait some time until he decided it was best for his family to return home. And so if we returned to Edoras, or wherever it is you live, we would have to wait some time to be wed. Meanwhile I should have nowhere to stay, for I know no one. The only one I know who can take care of me until I enter your home as your wife is Liornung, and I do not think he will be returning until this quest is over. I do not say that I cannot return now. I merely say that there are some obstacles to hinder us. But I will do what you deem advisable."

Ædegard marveled at her good sense, for she had thought of things that he had not even begun to consider. "You amaze me."

She blushed deeply, but did not look away, and smiled. "I do not know what you mean."

"Everything you have said to me rings with wisdom and rightness. Of course I will ask your father for your hand-" he paused, frowning. "-in marriage. If he will have me."

Ædegard looked wistfully into the distance, biting his lip, his brow suddenly furrowed.

"What is it, Ædegard? What is the matter?"

He turned to her. "Do you really think your father would let you marry a one handed man?"
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Old 03-17-2005, 04:56 PM   #675
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Leafa looked at his worried face and flung back her head to laugh. He turned to her in some surprise, and she slid her hand through his arm, the arm that was missing a hand.

"If it were any other father, I should have to gaze up at you tearfully and say we could never be wed," she said. "But it is my father, and I haven't any fears. If he is the kind of man who will forget everything at home to tramp along with a few wayfarers for a few days, I have no doubt that he will also let his daughter marry a one-handed man, thinking it quite a novelty."

She laughed again, and then her eyes grew softer and her voice milder.

"Besides, he is like me... he does not care if a man has one hand or not... he loves the noble heart best of all."

She looked up at him with shining eyes for a few moments, and then straightened her face and spoke in a more serious tone.

"Now, what do you think would be best... should we return, or should we continue on? I will abide by your decision, for I trust you."
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:25 PM   #676
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Shield Ædegard

Ædegard was surprised by Leafa. He liked it. She had not been so free with him as she was this morning, and he liked what he was learning of her. It was not lost on him that the moment he had treated her like someone whose thought he valued, she had blossomed before him like a sun-drenched rose.

But she had asked him for his decision on the matter, and he was not at all sure what to choose.

Go to her father! The thought was strong and demanding. Yes, he wanted to take her and rush off to the eaves of Fangorn to track down her father and get his permission to marry her. Why not? The quest was complete, was it not? Or was there some other thing that had yet to be done? He did not know, could not think of what it might be.

Heed his words, Ædegard. More is afoot here than simple fever. There is a doom playing out in this. Bêthberry's words! He had forgotten them, and now they had come back so clearly. There was a reason why Mellondu had come to Edoras on that particular snowy winter day, a reason he had become sick at the White Horse, a reason the ghost of Amroth had found its way from the halls of the dead into Mellondu's body. What that reason was, Ædegard had no idea.

What doom other than a crazed ghost? Leave well enough alone. After all, what difference could a young one-handed Rohirrim make that these Elves could not do better? Besides, Mellondu seemed to be himself now. Perhaps the ghost of Amroth had strayed back to the halls of the dead. Maybe not.

Be his friend, Ædegard. He will need a sturdy friend where he is going. She had said that too, and he had promised to be his friend.

He faced Leafa, who had waited patiently, watching his face as he mulled.

"It depends upon Mellondu. I took up this quest for his sake. If he deems that it is done, then we can go. If not, then I owe it to him to see this through. Does that sound right to you?"
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Old 03-20-2005, 12:06 PM   #677
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Erebemlin peered over the smooth back of his tan mount as he packed his bags. Tharonwe sat on the other side of the fire breaking his fast with waybread. As he felt the other’s eyes upon him, he lowered the bread, looking up. Erebemlin’s gaze was as steel…sharp and penetrating. At first Tharonwe did not respond, instead he just stared back without affect, but then a mocking smile spread across his pale face. Surely, you do not think you can really finish this so-called quest of yours, do you?

You will not poison my thoughts as easily as the mortals, fool.

Oh, come now. I do not seek to poison…you know I speak the truth.

Erebemlin shut his mind to the swamp elf, refusing to heed his words. He finally pulled his eyes from Tharonwe’s and instinctively glanced toward Mellondu before tying the strap securely on the bag. Tharonwe did not miss the momentary look, and he took advantage of pressing the issue with the Lorien elf. “He will not return. It is foolish to hope.”

“Be silent, snake.” Erebemlin’s voice was sharp and reflected his growing annoyance.

Tharonwe continued…his voice was smooth and melodic. “Desist, young one. She has already rejected his affections.”

Erebemlin grimaced at being called ‘young one’, and he swallowed hard before responding. “Do you truly think she would turn from him to love someone as wretched as you?” The elf saw his words sting Tharonwe, and he continued. “You try too hard to end this quest…and that only confirms that you are crammed with doubt.” The Lorien elf turned his back on the swamp elf, without giving him time to reply, and called to the other travelers that it was time to depart. They would continue south…to Nimrodel.

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Old 03-22-2005, 09:46 PM   #678
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Mellonin heard Erebemlin's firm command, and smiled as she turned to Mellondu. "What shall I do?"

"Ride with me. Echo will bear us both, " he replied.

She smiled. Her devoted little brother was back, and she felt safe again, as she had not felt since he had disappeared. She followed him to where Echo stood, and watched him put on the saddle and bridle. He mounted and she clambered up behind him, awkwardly shifting her pack.

Echo swung southward, and Mellondu knew that he responded to Erebemlin... or perhaps Taitheneb. Beside them the other lanky chestnut bore Nethwador and Bella.

"Perhaps, " said Mellondu hesitantly, "The Lady Bella could be moved to sing for us?"

Mellonin's eyebrows went up; she had always been Mellondu's favorite singer. But then she turned and gave Bella a sweet smile, and said, "Please do."
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Old 03-24-2005, 11:56 AM   #679
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She could hardly think of anything new to sing. Surely Liornung or one of their new companions would have a better song – a happy song. The only song she could think of was the one from her dream. It was hardly a cheerful song, and it had haunted her since the woman of her dream had sung it to her in a beautiful, melancholy voice. What would the new companions think of her?

“I fear I have nothing happy to sing,” Bellyn murmured softly to her friends. She looked over her shoulder to Liornung. “And I fear that I could not write a song like Liornung could.”

“That is well, Bella,” Argeleafa replied, a slight smile tugging at the corner of her lips. “We shall let Liornung sing us a song next.”

Bellyn smiled at Argeleafa, though she had hoped to shift the attention to someone else.

“All right,” Bellyn agreed, nodding. “I warned you, though. I have naught but sad songs left to sing!”

Agony,
Can you cleanse this misery?
For never again will I breathe,
The air of home…


Bellyn’s voice came softly, slowly, as she tried to recall exactly the way the song had been sung in her dream.

‘…From this sandy edge,
The rolling sea breaks my revenge.
With each whisper – a thousand waves
I hear roar.
I am coming home…


She let the last word die on her lips, to be carried away by the careless wind. She felt better, releasing the tune and melody from her heart and mind. The song had been stuck in her head since she had dreamed of the fair-haired lady singing it to her.

“I feel, then, that it is Liornung’s turn to cheer us with a happier song,” Bellyn said, reaching for Nethwador’s hand and grasping it.
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Old 03-25-2005, 09:02 PM   #680
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Somehow, thought Mellondu, that wasn't quite what I had hoped for. Far from cheerful or uplifting, Bella's song had been .... depressing. Mellondu sighed, and looked around. Liornung seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, and showed little inclination to sing or play. No cheerful tunes were coming to Mellondu's mind, either. He felt glum.

Mellonin tipped her head, pondering. "There's more than sorrow... perhaps not in the words, but ... I don't know. It's sadder than the words express."

Erundil's face went carefully blank. The girl's excitable, changable nature made him leery. Resisting the urge to shrug his shoulders, he stared ahead at the city.

"Still, " Mellonin continued, "it starts with despair, but then the poet says, she is coming home. So perhaps it holds hope. Or..."

Mellondu looked southward to the city, letting his mind wander. Would his forgemates be glad to see him?

"Perhaps, " said Mellonin, "the poet does not know whether to hope or to despair."

"Bingo, by Jorje, " said Raefindan.

Mellonin giggled, and then laughed gaily, and Mellondu heaved a sigh of relief. He let Mellonin's laugh trickle into his heart, and soon he chuckled with her. Raefindan chuckled too. Aeron snorted and muttered; the two rangers exchanged glances; Mellonin laughed and laughed. When her laughter finally subsided, she was silent for a while, and then said, "I miss Jorje."

"So do I, " replied Raefindan, but said no more.

The horses jogged steadly south, and the miles, like the hours, passed in bright whiteness.

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