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Old 07-14-2006, 08:47 PM   #81
Taralphiel
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Sorn took an uncomfortable moment looking at Scyld, studying the lines in his face, deducing what was masked in his expression. He liked these developments less and less. Scyld was plotting something all to his advantage, and none to Sorn’s. But that was Scyld.

Sorn’s demeanour quickly changed to an odd smile, and he clapped a hand onto Scyld’s shoulder, gearing him towards the stairs.

“Well, let us see how we go reasoning with royalty! I have not conversed with the Lady in a while, I am beginning to miss that sour expression!”

Scyld looked wearily at Sorn, tired of his theatrics no doubt. But he had more to lose than he knew. Walking carefully down the steps, Scyld stopped a few paces before the cell, but Sorn stood almost pressed to the steel bars. Linduial bore a look of thorough disgust, which only served to amuse him.

“I see you do not approve of the meals provided. It seems to suit Scyld rather well to have it dripping from him, but it does also look such a waste!” Sorn unclasped the sheath of a small dagger on his belt, and watched Linduial pale slightly.

“I am afraid my Lady, that if I must eat such a breakfast, so must you. I believe in being equal, at least in that respect…” Sorn knelt down, peering through the bars at the young lady’s eye-level.

“But I feel that there are matters more pressing than your breakfast. Perhaps you wish to complain that Scyld is not a fair discussion partner? You seem to enjoy talking to length with him, or am I wrong?” Sorn continued to fiddle with the edge of the dagger, sliding the blade against the leather sheath. The young lady did not have a chance to reply, as Sorn’s voice took a louder and more menacing tone.

“Perhaps you feel wronged to be here, is that the case? You feel you should be set free to enjoy the pleasures of MY land, my people’s land, with your wonderful Queen? AH! That MUST be what you are thinking! But you are young and have much to learn, My Lady…”

The last words came out with a jutting and icy glare. By now the dagger Sorn had been thumbing was cut clean through it’s thin sheath and was pressed to Sorn’s strained thigh. The Lady watched the blood pool and spill down Sorn’s calf. Sorn seemed oblivious to it all, and kept his eyes on Linduial.

“I am not simple, much as you would like to think so. The people of this land will not bear subjugation through marriage to your lands! Pity keep the fool that thinks such a marriage be for good will between our cities!” Sorn’s register was dropping and rising in an uncomfortable way, and Scyld had begun to shift on his feet behind him. By now Sorn’s dagger had sunk almost a half fingers length into his thigh, and without a grimace he plucked it out. Standing, the blood ran over his boots. Sorn looked down and regarded the small wound a moment, before suddenly turning and moving to Scyld’s side.

“Good Scyld…a good worker. ALWAYS performing his duties, nary a word against anyone. Oh, would you enjoy me thinking that? I know you think ill of me…wish it to me. I do not blame you. You’ve been here altogether…too long…”

Sorn did not even know what he meant by those words, but his dagger was still in his hand, and his finger twitched violently. He did not know what was stopping him sinking the dagger into Scyld, cutting his life to pieces. Maybe it was the looks in the Lady Linduial’s eyes. He felt some strange emotion arise out of the look the young woman gave him. Hate, disgust, indifference were all another matter. This Lady looked at him as if he were a man with no control of his senses. A madman. Sorn put on his most charming smile, though his voice still sounded erratic.

“Do NOT talk to the Lady under any circumstances.” With a sidewards glace at Linduial, he said softly “She does not wish to be responsible for my outbursts, and wherever they leave you…”

It seemed then that Sorn took an entirely different tangent, deciding to try to frighten his own employee. Scyld did not move as Sorn then whispered in his ear.

“Remember the last one? Remember the foolish family and their brave son? Perhaps he lived, though it would be in a great deal of pain. How many limbs of his did I break? You did not seem to like his piteous cries. I saw the look of grief on your face. It is still there…”

Sorn moved away just as quickly, not even a limp from the cut in his flesh. Bounding up the stairs, he strode back into his study and produced a thick cloth. He roughly tied it around his leg to stop what little bleeding was left. Rolling his shoulder and pacing, he felt he had more ‘energy’ to exert, but few to exert it upon. This vexed him, and with a sudden growl his stuck his bloody blade deep into the wood of his desk.

Staring at the blood sinking into the veins of the wood, Sorn battled with the fact that no matter how hard he might seek it, complete control of his plans would be utterly unobtainable.

Last edited by Taralphiel; 07-21-2006 at 04:33 AM.
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Old 07-21-2006, 08:00 PM   #82
littlemanpoet
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Garmund and Léoðern in danger from the man who had taken Linduial for ransom? Fear for the children and rage at the man grew together within him, and all thought of a ghosted past or present was set aside. The moment his head had cleared from such thoughts, Eodwine felt shamed that he had been so careless of Linduial, so filled with dreams and wistings that served no use.

He paid close attention to Torim as he described the location of this Sorn. Eodwine tried to think if he knew the man, a landholder about a day's ride from Edoras; well within the confines of the Middle Emnet. I am this man's Eorl.

When Torim had finished describing the way to Sorn, Eodwine turned to Haleth. "Do not blame yourself overmuch, Haleth. Your choice may seem ill, but maybe fate will show that it was for the best that they should be free just now. Who knows but that they may not aid us e'en though it be against their will?"

Haleth cleared his throat and gave back gruff words. "My thanks, Eodwine. I'd have that choice back nonetheless." He rose. "The day is young! Let us ride within the half hour! Mayhap we can meet this Sorn and have the lady freed before night falls!"

Eodwine rose. Fresh horses would need to be borrowed along the way, more than once, but the need was great. He feared that they were already too late. The men rushed to the stables, Eodwine calling for Léof.
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Old 08-04-2006, 09:46 PM   #83
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Osfrid's cart rumbled down the old road to Sorn's home. Muriel sat curled up next to Osfrid, wrapped in a new shawl. He bought it for her at the horse fair after it struck her fancy. It's price was ridiculously expensive: the equivalent of many laborious hours' wages. But Muriel and the stall-keeper were both vigilant as hawks; Osfrid could not steal the shawl without notice. He was forced to thieve from a blind beggar. The trick was to act as though you were giving coins as you bent down, perhaps even placing one or two into the man's bowel, but once your fingers gently grazed the coins' surfaces, you would pluck out another worth twice what you gave. If people happened to be walking by you as you did this, you might fumble around in your pockets for a moment before the crime, pretending to reach for a hidden coin. But as soon as their curious eyes had disappeared around a corner, you would shamelessly commit your act of petty thievery. Osfrid did this many times to the same man, and was able to buy Muriel her shawl. Besides, those coins weren't the beggar's anyways. They belonged to the good people who donated to the poor. If he wanted money he should've earned it.

Osfrid had no qualms about stealing from the beggar; it was his nature to steal. He was a thief, a swindler, a con man. Once, while on his own many years ago, before he had ever heard of Sorn, Osfrid happened to find a pile of bricks left unattended beside a house. He simply loaded them into his cart and sold them in the next village. A man shouldn't leave a pile of bricks laying around like that. Another time he relabeled bottles of cheap wine with the labels of much more expensive bottles. He sold them for a profit ten times as great as what the original labels would've given him. All the great vineyards did that. If they could get away with it, so could Osfrid. And besides, he had done that only once. There were men, rich men, who had gained all their wealth that way. It wasn't fair to the poor man that the rich man stole from him. And so the only way to beat the rich was to play their own game.

Sorn's house appeared as the cart rolled over the last hill. It still sat imperiously among the fields of lesser estates, despite its decline over the years into a den of criminals. Osfrid drove the cart before the doorways of Sorn's home.

"Muriel," he said, stepping out of the cart, "Find one of Sorn's men. Have him take care of the cart and the luggage. I'm off to find Sorn." Muriel shrugged and daintily stepped out to find somebody, Wæveth, maybe, or a servant. Osfrid, meanwhile, bounded up the steps to the door and quietly entered the house.

Sorn was always in his study, usually brooding or plotting. Osfrid walked down a hallway and knocked on the door before entering, not wanting to interrupt Sorn if he happened to be busy. "Come in…" Osfrid heard Sorn say.

Osfrid entered. His heart leapt when he saw that a bloody knife had been stabbed deep into the desk. Sorn sat behind it with a dark and sour expression on his face. "Yes, Osfrid?" he asked. Sorn had wrapped a hand around the knife hilt and gently began to massage it between his thumb and index finger, rolling it between his fingers, worming it into the wood menacingly.

Osfrid tried not to look at the knife. He would ignore it…Sorn was in one of his moods, and…had he stabbed someone? "Um, yes, I've returned from Edoras," Osfrid said. He reached into a pocket and withdrew a tiny black notebook. "I've written down, um, what I've found out…" Osfrid inched forward, holding out his little book. He stretched his wavering arm across the desk, and Sorn grabbed the book, giving Osfrid a dirty glare. Osfrid stepped back as soon as he could.

"It's all, um, in there…names of friends, guardians. The like." He tried to look neither at the knife nor into Sorn's eyes. He shifted his gaze uncomfortably to the walls, but he considered that Sorn might find it rude that he was avoiding eye contact. He fumbled for some time, glancing from Sorn to the walls and to Sorn again.

"Thank you, Osfrid," Sorn said. Osfrid shivered at the calmness of his voice.

"Erm, yes, sir,". He exited the room quickly. He normally wouldn't have addressed Sorn as sir, but these were exceptional circumstances. Anything to appease him. Osfrid walked back down the hall, wiping sweat from his temples. He should find somebody who could tell him about the bloody knife. Did Sorn stab somebody? He wouldn't do that… would he? Maybe he had just taken a few stabs at some raw meat to release some anger. That still didn't give Osfrid much comfort…

He would find Muriel first, though. The silly girl was probably wandering through fields of barley right now.

Last edited by Alcarillo; 08-24-2006 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 08-06-2006, 07:52 PM   #84
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There was almost always a handful of men about the hall who had volunteered to help find Lady Linduial. Haleth called to them as they passed through the building and yard to the stable and as Léof came hurrying out in answer to Eodwine’s call, Haleth explained to them what was happening and what they had heard. He and Eodwine then for a moment stood speaking together and finally, Eodwine turned to Léof.

“How many horses are there?” Eodwine asked him.

“Fifteen, sir,” he replied at once.

“Good. We’ll need twelve saddled now.”

“Aye, sir,” Léof said, turning immediately and running back into the stables.

“Some of you go and help him,” Haleth ordered. Thornden and three others went into the stables after Léof.

Léof already had four horses out and tied in the aisle. None more could be brought out a present, and he was in the tack room fetching the saddles and bridles. The horses, under Léof’s good care, were all well groomed and entirely prepared for saddling and riding. No one spoke as they worked. In minutes, the four horses were saddled and led out, and in another moment, four more were led out and tied as well.

In ten minutes twelve horses stood in the hall’s courtyard. Thornden led Flíthaf to Eodwine. Thornden then mounted his own horse and glanced around. Everyone had mounted and the two extra horses’ reins were tied to two men’s saddles. They started out immediately, going two by two. Haleth and Eodwine rode in front, Garstan and Thornden rode behind them and the six others came behind.

At the gates they halted. Haleth dismounted to speak with Lystholn. When he had finished explaining, Lystholn spoke.

“So. . .you are going out after this Sorn fellow?”

“Well, I am not. I am going to the Queen, but Lord Eodwine with the men behind him now and you and Deren are.”

“I am, sir?” Haleth nodded. Lystholn paused briefly. “Very well,” he said. “That is why you have two extra horses, I suppose?”

So it was. In a moment, Deren and Lystholn were up on their horses. Eodwine and Haleth bid each other farewell, Haleth wishing Eodwine good speed. Eodwine nodded and turned his horse’s head towards the gates.

Deren fell into line at the rear of the party. Beneath him his horse pranced and tossed his head, full of spirit, energy, and excitement. That same excitement pulsed through Deren’s veins.

‘Finally,’ he thought, ‘we are on the scent. Days of waiting have finally pulled off and we’re onto something.’

The wind was fresh in their faces as they left the city walls. One of the horses whinnied. Flíthaf’s head came up and he gave a great, trumpeting answer before leaping forward and leading the way over the wide open grass land.
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Old 08-14-2006, 06:35 PM   #85
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The riders settled into a smooth galloping pace that was meant to save the horses. At first Eodwine had thought to run until the horses tired, stop at farmsteads and demand fresh horses, but he thought better of it. Best to have their own mounts beneath them. It was not as if Sorn knew they were coming.

By nightfall they had covered much land so that in the morning there would be only a few hours' ride left to go before they were at Sorn's farmstead. It gave Eodwine great relief to think that this matter might be closed by the following night. They made camp under a stand of larches and elms near one of the many streams that flowed through the plains.

They sat around a camp fire, for they had no fear of being found out, sure that none from Sorn's camp had the least notion that they were hot on his trail. Whispers went back and forth about what kind of man Sorn must be to imprisone a princess for ransom. What desperation? Or what evil? Or what madness? The words were whispered on the breeze and caused Eodwine to wonder as he settle on his sleeping mat for the night.

They had set up a watch, two hours at a time, just as a precaution, and Eodwine wanted to get in some sleep before his turn in the wee hours before dawn.
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Old 08-15-2006, 12:34 PM   #86
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Scyld

I am in danger here. This phrase pulsated through Scyld’s mind even as Sorn ascended the stairs and left the cellar. Sorn had become a madman, and he no longer trusted Scyld, if ever he had. How much did Sorn suspect? How much did he know?

He’s ready to kill me. Scyld knew Sorn had no conscience; he would hardly pause at murder. Well, Scyld had always been prepared for that; he had entertained the notion of killing Sorn numerous times in the last several years – only if the proper circumstances arose, of course. Sorn might find killing him harder than he would expect… or death might come unlooked for, from behind, or in his sleep. And because Scyld could not predict it, he could hardly plan accordingly, only watch his back constantly.

The time is coming soon to leave. Very soon. He had nothing more to gain from staying here. He had waited too long to leave. Yet, he could not now leave Linduial. He did not quite understand why, but it was true. Trying to flee with her would be foolish beyond belief. Scyld felt morally trapped, an unfamiliar and uncomfortable feeling for him. Perhaps he could ride it out. A rescue party for Linduial might arrive soon, and his problems would be ended. Maybe. If Linduial kept her promise – could he trust her? Scyld was not ready to do so.

He spent the rest of the afternoon in stony silence; even Lin’s meals were served wordlessly. Her fare was no better and no worse than it had been prior to her tantrum. Outwardly, nothing had changed – but Scyld was thinking hard, always thinking.
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Old 08-16-2006, 06:19 AM   #87
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Linduial spent her day in wrapped in silence, making no complaint at Scyld's stony expression. Sorn's performance earlier had deeply shaken her, and her already tenuous faith in her eventual rescue had shattered. There would be no rescue. Not before that madman had her killed.

She found with some surprise that she could face the near-certain threat of death with almost preternatural calm. Her mind searched, with a detached and pitiless logic, for a reason why she should protest or regret this fate. Sorn was mad, and it wasn't fair; but her discussions with Scyld over the past few days had opened her eyes to a wide and cruel world, outside her sheltered experience, and life just wasn't fair. Not a good enough reason. She was young, with a long life before her, but many died far younger than she, and she found herself setting that mental cry aside impatiently.

Why should she be spared? What regrets could a sheltered girl of her tender years have? There was Degas. Her thoughts turned to the young man, and she felt a brief twinge of the confusion she always felt in his presence. She had made no confessions of love or interest, had indeed said nothing likely to further his suit. Were she to die, that would be no error. Degas was only a little older than she, and she did not wish some memory of her self to eat away at him. And yet--she wistfully wondered what would have happened had she been more honest with him. If she had told him of her attraction, of the confusion she felt around him, what might have occured?

But that was hardly a regret, just a what-if. It spoke to no error in judgement or flaw in character. On that front, she mused, she felt she had little to fear. She'd been an obedient child, had learned her lessons without complaint and with alacrity, and--

And when she had heard a mere rumor that her father might have plans for her, duties to fulfil, she'd fled. Suddenly she saw her journey to Rohan in a new and terrible light. She'd fled. Run away. Deserted her post and her duties with a cowardice she hadn't even been honest enough to admit. And it wasn't as though she couldn't have quietly protested any plan her father made for her: he'd never made any choice which affected her without speaking with her of his reasons and hearing her own desires, at least listening to her before making his decision. But she hadn't waited. She'd panicked and deserted. Guilt and regret flooded her senses, and for a moment she could barely see, so caught up was she in the rush of emotion.

Her brothers whipped deserters. She'd heard them mention the necessity once, in a matter-of-fact, disappointed tone. She faced death. The disparity between the punishments did not occur to her, and she bowed her head in shame and remorse.

A certain indefinable tension settled across her shoulderblades, down her spine. The manor above her seemed unnaturally silent, and her entire world seemed to be poised on the brink of a cliff, unable to back away. Silently it waited for the breath of wind that would send it tumbling to oblivion.

Last edited by JennyHallu; 08-16-2006 at 06:38 AM.
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Old 08-16-2006, 11:27 AM   #88
Firefoot
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Haleth’s brisk and determined pace brought him quickly away from Meduseld towards the Mead Hall. His meeting with the queen had taken several times longer than it ought to have, and much of that extra time had been taken up in waiting. The queen had been overjoyed to hear that Linduial had been located, and immediately had stated her wish to go with to bring her back. Haleth had had a time of it persuading her against such action. Finally, however, they had gotten around to developing a plan, and now Haleth was restless to be on his way and eager to make up for his mistakes. His guilt at letting Sorn’s minions escape the Mead Hall without a watch weighed down on him; why had he not heeded Eodwine’s advice? What new mischief might Sorn even now be planning? And who knew what those few extra days might have done to Linduial’s state?

Soon he would know. They would ride out this very evening, maybe even within the hour, and put a couple hours riding behind them. They would meet Eodwine’s company near Sorn’s holdings before noon the next day if all went well.

But when Haleth arrived at the Mead Hall, he was not met by the forty or so men he had anticipated. Only about a dozen men were milling about – one of the three divisions that Haleth had put the rescuers into. He had thought it would be easier and more organized this way, if he had only three men to report to him. The man Haleth had set in charge of this company hurried up to him with a confused look on his face; Thurstan was his name.

“Thurstan, are not the other two companies here?” Haleth inquired, trying to ignore the queasy feeling that had sprung up in his stomach.

“No, sir,” Thurstan answered. “I had wondered if I misunderstood the message.”

“No, I had meant to ride out tonight – within the hour even,” said Haleth. He looked around for the youth he had sent out with the message, but did not find him. “Thurstan, do you remember exactly how the message you received was worded?”

Thurstan thought for a moment. “I believe so, sir. ‘The Lady Linduial’s location has been discovered; the Lord Eodwine has already been sent out after her. We will ride out after them and meet him on the morrow at the home of her captor.’”

Yes, it was precisely the message Haleth had sent out in haste before taking off for Meduseld. He thought it over, and quickly realized his error. Nowhere had he said to meet at the Hall that very night; it sounded more like they were to ride out tomorrow. “And there is no way to gather them,” Haleth said softly.

“No, sir – not before midnight, at least. Were they soldiers, it would be easy, but those two companies were made up mostly of common folk. Likely they are all at home preparing to enjoy an evening meal with their families.”

Never had Haleth felt so much a fool. To not even come up with a way of summoning the men! A scenario in which messengers could not be used had not even occurred to him. And to leave with just these men here would be to leave more than half the rescue party in the city. They would have to leave tomorrow – early tomorrow, it was to be hoped, but even so, they would lose precious hours. It would probably be mid- to late afternoon before they reached Sorn’s holdings. Had they left tonight, the horses would have had a built-in rest midway there, but not now.

He could only hope that no harm would come of yet another delay.

Last edited by Firefoot; 08-21-2006 at 10:32 AM.
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Old 08-19-2006, 07:25 PM   #89
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The dozen Eorlingas woke with the dawn, broke their fast and then camp in quick succession, and were soon heading north at a light gallop that would not strain their mounts.

In two hours they saw Sorn's land holdings come into view. The holdings were not much different from any other, a main house with a number of out buildings spread here and there, rolling fields surrounding them, planted with crops of wheat, barley, and oats. The stable was the last building to west before a large paddock on which no horse was to be seen.

The place was silent.

"If Sorn did take Linduial," said Eodwine, "he will have taken steps to be on guard at all times, so we will not go knocking on his front door; it could be a trap. One of you who has a horn, give them knowledge of our presence."

One of them produced a horn and blew a clear call that could be heard for a good mile in all directions. They waited, their mounts stirring impatiently beneath them, prancing from foot to foot.
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Old 08-20-2006, 10:05 AM   #90
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Several minutes passed, and still no reply came to the horn. Surely the sound could not have gone unnoticed, but there was no sign of life on Sorn's land.

Garstan, already on edge from a sleepless night of watch, began to grow impatient and even reckless with waiting. What secrecy the Eorlingas had held from their hurried journey was now spent. The quiet over the kidnapper's estate could not bode well for the party. Could it not be the sign of final ill deeds, done out of spite in the last moments before capture? Or might the party have arrived too late, and Sorn have fled into hiding?

There might be a trap ahead. But Sorn had not known of their journey, or could not have until the horn announced the party's arrival. Time spent waiting was time for Sorn to plan his welcome for Linduial's rescuers, if he was even present. Still, there was no reason to risk the entire dozen falling into an ambush. One or two could go before the others, at least to find the cause of the continued silence.

"I fear no answer will be given to our call," Garstan said. "There may be a trap, but Sorn now knows that we are here, and we give him time to plot against us by waiting. If not all of the party, should not one go on now? I am willing to take the chance."
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Old 08-21-2006, 05:02 PM   #91
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"Upon my honor you will not go forward alone, Garstan!" Eodwine said. "Did I not swear an oath to protect you with my life?"

"That you did, lord," Garstan murmured, apparently seeing with some amusement where this conversation was heading.

"Well then, I must go with you!"

"Aye, lord."

There was a moment of silence as Garstan eyed Eodwine and Eodwine studied the amused expression on Garstan's face.

"Well then let us be going!"

"Yes, lord." Garstan pointed. "It seems that we are going to be greeted after all."

A man had come out of the main hall and was walking toward them; he stopped just before he had gotten beyond the closest outbuilding.

"It appears that we are expected to meet him halfway," Eodwine observed.

"Yes, and right by that wall where someone might be hiding."

"That is a good thought." Eodwine place himself between Garstan and the side that the wall was on; Garstan did not fail to notice this not at all subtle move. They walked forward.
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Old 08-29-2006, 03:33 AM   #92
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The Blast is Blown For Me

The sound of the horn had long since faded. But the party did not, could not know that they had attracted attention from far off.

Human ears cannot hear the straining of a warrior's horn over leagues. Canine ears can.

At the house of Helm the Tall, bandit chief of the Eastfold, the largest of the hounds rolling among the rushes of the hall whined, and would not be placated till its master had come to attend to it.

Lesser robbers wilted aside to allow their lord to pass on his way to his favoured dog. Helm was not to be messed with, and not merely because he wore the pick of the bandits' armour and carried the chieftain's axe. He was a figure straight out of the sagas of Rohan's early history, with flowing blond hair, icy blue eyes, nigh on seven feet of muscled might...

He was also, as it happens, a runaway fool, though none of his men knew it. Yes, Gurth and Grendel had come up quite a long way in the world.

The giant had wandered, the giant had drank, he had maimed and killed, in his usual genial way. He had sunk to a nadir of existence, a ruddy meat-soaked sack, and had woken up one night to find Grendel gone. Some vestige of companionship urged Gurth to follow what he could find of the tracks. He found Grendel, at last, bound to a tree amid a bandit camp, a catch for some reaver chief. He cut the dog loose and the pair stood their ground at the tree, slaying men till no more came.

When the sun rose, six of the ragged miscreants had approached, and handed Gurth an axe of length suitable even to his height. He seized it as if it was destiny personified. So he became their captain and their king, and with one voice was hailed as Helm the Tall.

But now Grendel's whining caused a memory of a past to loom once more. Among the bandits, Gurth-or Helm-had learnt much; imperious, curt orders now came to his mouth easily; he rode upon a massive horse and wielded his axe with subtlety as well as strength. But the animal wildness remained in his mind, and when he saw the eyes of Grendel he knew the matter touched on Sorn, on the girl, on a life that he could not yet shed.

"Gone, two days maybe," he shouted gruffly into the midst of the hall. Then he took up his axe from its hanging position, called Grendel to, and went out into the chill to seek his horse...

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Old 09-10-2006, 03:02 AM   #93
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Sorn flicked through the pages of the notebook with a content smile. These notes were very precise, and just want he needed. He took a look at the rag doll and nodded as he tossed it in one hand. Taking the dagger from Linduial’s basket in the other hand, and not even flinching at his fresh wound, Sorn walked back towards to cellar.

As he was about to step through the threshold towards the stair, he heard a clatter. Scyld was walking back up with the remains of a meal. Sorn simply nodded at him, and Scyld walked silently back to the kitchen. Before Scyld could walk out of earshot, Sorn called over his shoulder to him.

“You may take your meal break. I will mind the prisoner a while.”

Sorn found the Lady sitting in the dark corner, her knees hugged up to her chest. She looked up a moment, and as she saw Sorn he perceived her expression changed a very small degree. She hid it well. A less perceptive person would not have noticed it.

“Scyld is taking his meal. I do not wish…to overwork the poor man…” Sorn said with a chuckle. He took Scyld’s chair and moved it slowly towards the cell, sitting down and resting his boots against the bars with legs crossed. He brought out the black notebook and made a show of reading it intently. He also made it obvious that the dagger and rag doll sat inches away from the girl, safely on his lap.

“She must mean a great deal to you. Such a nice child, it says here…” Sorn turned the notebook outward, so Linduial could just make out the writing. “Lèoðern…a very pretty name. She will like this gift, I am certain. You are most kind.”

Sorn looked down at Linduial through his dark hair, waiting for her to react to his taunting…
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Old 09-18-2006, 07:50 AM   #94
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Startled out of peacefulness, Lin flashed her dark eyes at Sorn, fighting off a sudden, futile fury. "Lèoðern is out of your reach," she snapped, her anger preventing her from wondering how he knew the name. She straightened her posture, standing straightbacked in an attempt to deny his mastery over her fate. She knew it meant nothing.

"What errand are you on, that you come down here to taunt me?" Her tone was proud, high-handed and echoed the strength and defiance of her forebears, but it betrayed her on the rise of the question, trembling before she wrested control of her mind back, pushing her fear away. "Why do you tease and delay? You must know what you wish to do with me: the longer you wait the sooner they'll find you, and spill your blood on your own hearth for the insult you have done to me." Lin was not entirely sure from what source came her haughty words, the implicit challenge. A detached voice reminded her she could only hurt her position by angering him, but it didn't seem to matter much. He was manic, his leggings still stained with his own blood, spilt by his hands. If her were angry enough, perhaps her life would end quickly, before he could let his sadism loose on her, vulnerable as she was.

And so she stood, helpless and weak behind the bars of her cage, but her gaze was strong and defiant, her shoulders set and pretty mouth twisted in a sneer. The detached voice wondered if Scyld still stood at the stairs, if he saw her defiance, and whether he would think her brave or foolish...or both. She dared not break her gaze to look for his approval.
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Old 09-19-2006, 05:10 AM   #95
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Sorn heard the Lady’s voice turn cutting as steel as she bit at him.

"Why do you tease and delay? You must know what you wish to do with me: the longer you wait the sooner they'll find you, and spill your blood on your own hearth for the insult you have done to me."

Sorn closed the book and stood. He took Linduial’s dagger and tapped it against the bars she stood behind.

“You are correct, at least on some of your guesses. I do know what I wish to do with you. But the time is yet ripe. While you may be so sure of your rescue, they are not at my door just yet…”

He gripped the dagger and grinned.

“Will he be riding out to save you? The person this dagger is intended for? Perhaps a brother, or one whom you cherish the most?” Sorn’s sneer matched Linduial’s.

“Nothing is out of my reach, Lady Linduial. You say you have been dealt an insult, yet it is my family and the pride of my people that are dealt the greater blow.”

Sorn tucked the dagger away and hissed at Linduial.

“Your people do not belong in this land. We are no longer in debt to your kind, no longer thralls to your kingdom. That is a past long gone. We wish our nobility and pride not be tainted by your haughty men of high mountains and shores!” He was now pressed against the cold bars, within inches of Linduial. He stared at her, eyeing whatever emotion was building in her eyes. His tone changed; it was soft, almost pitying. But his eyes were dark, and his face set in veiled rage.

“You are far from your home. Did you come here to find something, or were you running? Maybe you can understand freedom. Perhaps you understand better than I can fathom?”
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Old 09-19-2006, 06:05 AM   #96
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As Sorn brandished the dagger she'd purchased that fateful morning (how long ago had it been? Weeks, surely...) Lin's thoughts turned to Degas. What would she give to see him riding in here, cutting down those in his path, pulling her up onto his dark horse...

“You are far from your home. Did you come here to find something, or were you running? Maybe you can understand freedom. Perhaps you understand better than I can fathom?” Sorn's question came as a surprise to her, startling her out of her protective fury. She looked up, eyes suddenly soft, a fleeting thought wondering what horrible things had happened to mold this tall man into such a twisted form.

"When I came here," she said softly, "I think that I understood nothing. Now I understand far too much."

The room was silent for a moment, as Lin wrapped her pride around her once again, and Sorn leered at her through the bars. Her bravado cloaked a terrible fear, they both knew it, and yet, in some unfathomable kindness made stranger by the man's mad cruelty, he did not question it, did not challenge it. Perhaps he too, in his madness, understood more than men should, and in his twisted way took pity on her.

"I came to Rohan as a friend," she said, the icy chill coming back to aid her. "I have been treated as an enemy. I have never challenged the sovereignty of this land, nor have any of my people. My uncle loved this land and her people well enough to give her his greatest treasure. If you truly believe we harbour some deep desire to rule you, then you delude yourself, sir." The title, as she said it, was not one of respect. She sneered down her nose at the man, for once grateful for the height of the men of old. She stood nearly at a level with Sorn.

"It is not too late, you know." She paused, the corner of her mouth twitching in what might have been amusement. "You could claim you found me in some cave or vale, held by bandits. You could return me to Eomer with a hero's honors, be granted a place at his table, rather than the dog's death you deserve."
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Old 09-20-2006, 04:16 AM   #97
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Sorn seethed as the maiden stood almost to his height, turning up her nose at him and brandishing the high airs of her noble upbringing.

"It is not too late, you know." Sorn's eyes twitched with rage at her tone. "You could claim you found me in some cave or vale, held by bandits. You could return me to Eomer with a hero's honors, be granted a place at his table, rather than the dog's death you deserve."

Sorn's hand suddenly slammed down on the bars, sending a thud though the room. His voice, unknown to him, now carried through the entire house as he bellowed at the young girl.

"I DESERVE! What does a simpering, spoilt, sugar-mouthed CHILD know of what fate should afford me? Do you know of what it feels like to lose all your family? All the honour of your house? Do you know of the struggle to rebuild EVERYTHING you have lost? Nay, you have no mind to understand what I deserve!"

Sorn did not even notice his hand moving of it's own accord, nor it clenching into a tight fist and ramming against the bars, grazing and shearing at his skin. His body went limp a moment, his figure shrinking to much lower to that of the tall woman of Dol Amroth.

"Your attempts to bargain for your freedom without coin are pathetic. You will not be set free without ransom. Do you think me a fool? To walk into the Hall of the Eorl and his haughty Queen and claim to be your rescuer? Is this the best attempt you have to convince me? I am disappointed..."

Sorn straightened, and smiled at Linduial, knowing now that while he mocked her, her words still held a deep bite.


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Linduial opened her mouth to speak, only to find herself interrupted by the harsh call of a horn. She closed her lips as Sorn sneered at her a final time and sprinted out of the cellar, but the mingled scorn and pity in her grey eyes followed him up the stairs, vengeful ghosts that waited not for Lin's death to haunt his footfalls.



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Sorn let out a tortured shriek as he heard the horn sound. He knew what it meant. He grew only more incensed as the young Lady did not shout for joy, but simply sat, smirking at him. Sorn raced up the steps, heading for his locked room. Thrusting open the door, he threw down Linduial’s belongings and took his dagger from the table, and a small shirt of mail. Turning to a chest on the right, he produced another set of daggers and its finely crafted sheath, and belted it over the mail. A broadsword lay in the open chest, and Sorn eyed it before locking the door behind him. He slipped the key on the chain over his neck. He would not need it yet.

Around him, he saw his House in disarray. His cook, gathering her best pans in a cloth, was trying to make out the back escape as fast as her portly stature could muster. Scyld was nowhere to be seen, and that sent Sorn’s anger even higher, though it did not surprise him.

Sorn made his way to the front of the house, to see Osfrid crouching at a window, a blank look of dread on his face. Sorn did not worry about pleasantries, but heaved the man to his feet.

“You shall be my representative. Do not say a word of the girl! And do not even begin to think of fleeing. Tell them they have no business being on my land! I shall watch you. If you are loyal, I will keep you safe.”

~*~

Osfrid stood and called to the group, his walk having distracted them as Sorn slinked out of the side entrance. Crouched behind the thick growth and trees by the side bounds of the house, he crept along to take a better look at the group addressing the man. Osfrid had picked the spot well, being next to a boundary wall of his house. Sorn watched carefully.

All were tall men of Rohan, stern and armed as he would expect. Two took a step forward, and Sorn did not need them to speak to know who the first was. Lord Eodwine. Sorn clenched his teeth as he listened to the man address Osfrid.

"I am Eodwine, Eorl of the Middle Emnet, and thus your lord's lord. I charge you to tell him that I want to speak with him. There is a report that he has done wrong, and I would hear from his own mouth otherwise."

Sorn dug his free hand into the dirt, his other hand seemed to have a mind of its own. He had one dagger ready, and his grey eyes did not move from the strong face of Eodwine.

Osfrid spoke well, but this did not calm Sorn’s rage. He stood slowly from his crouch, and no one in the party noticed him. Osfrid gave his simple answer.

"I would still hear the words from your lord himself."

The second man noticed Sorn’s arm swing high, but Sorn was no longer in control of his own action. The dagger flew, but missed its mark. It landed in the other man’s shoulder. Sorn hissed, and crawled away. The party was too concerned with the attack to notice him. Sorn forgot completely about his man left in the open.

Sorn strode around the back edge of his property, his lips in a tight line. He had many choices, all of which would leave him sadly without that which he had planned all of this for – money. He knew now what objective he had to fall back to.

He removed another dagger. This was not meant for a man, but for the fair Lady of Dol Amroth. He would not have her as a liability. And he would not give the Eorl of Middle Emnet his wonderful victory.

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Old 10-03-2006, 04:53 PM   #98
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The man gave out his name as Osfrid, liege man of Sorn, and asked Eodwine and Garstan their business and what they would be doing with such a great number of men.

"I am Eodwine, Eorl of the Middle Emnet, and thus your lord's lord. I charge you to tell him that I want to speak with him. There is a report that he has done wrong, and I would hear from his own mouth otherwise."

Osfrid smiled and said that such a thing could not be true of his lord. Eodwine thought that he heard something behind the wall that stood head-high to his right, but assumed that it must be an animal or some such.

"I would still hear the words from your lord himself."

Suddenly Garstan was diving across him and fell to the ground at his feet. The one called Osfrid took one look and darted back toward the main hall. Eodwine did not know what to make of the quick actions of the others, until he saw a knife stuck in his man's shoulder.

"Garstan!"
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Old 10-04-2006, 11:47 AM   #99
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Thornden watched closely as Eodwine and Garstan walked away - alone, their weapons still sheathed - to meet with someone without honor or any sense of it. Doubt and a worrying fear slowly crept into his mind. Eodwine and Garstan stopped to exchange words with the man sent out. From his saddle, Thornden could not see the man, standing before the carpenter and eorl.

Brief moments of silence passed. A horse stamped and swished his tail at a fly. But then Thornden tensed suddenly as something moved behind the wall by which Eodwine stood. He saw Garstan fall abruptly and Deren rushed passed him, spurring his horse instantly into a canter.

Thornden followed in an instant, as did everyone else in the group, except the two men who held Garstan’s and Eodwine’s horses. Thornden brought his horse to a stop by Eodwine and leaped down to the ground before he stopped entirely. Deren and Eodwine were already kneeling on the ground by Garstan, supporting the man and talking to him. Thornden bent to look.

Blood was already beginning to seep through the garment at Garstan’s shoulder. The knife hadn’t been withdrawn yet. Garstan was struggling to sit up and Thornden couldn’t tell if Eodwine was trying to keep him lying down or trying to help him. His eyes and attention left the wounded man briefly as he looked up and watched as the man who had met him, fled up the walk to the main hall. He disappeared inside the tall, oaken door, shutting it behind him.

“Lie back, be still, man!” Deren said sharply, bringing Thornden back to the trouble at hand. “Lie still until we’re ready for you to get up. Don’t touch the dagger, my lord,” he said quickly. “Don’t draw it out until we have something to stop the blood with.”
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Old 10-04-2006, 02:34 PM   #100
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Scyld had, in fact, been listening in on most of Sorn and Linduial’s conversation, although not in so obvious a place as at the door. No, he had gone upstairs, out the back door, and around to the little-used cellar door where he could listen in and hear most everything – especially since Sorn apparently found it necessary to speak often at the top of his voice.

But then the horn call had come. A horn could only mean one thing: Linduial’s rescuers. He peeked around the side of the hall to be sure, and saw a small company of armed riders, leaving no doubt in Scyld’s mind. They had come after all, but come too soon, too soon. Scyld was not ready for a choice, whether to trust Linduial or… or what? What other choices did he have? He could not side with Sorn. Run off? He would be tracked down, and Sorn would likely kill Linduial before letting her be rescued. This brought him back to his earlier conclusion: run, and take Linduial with him. Foolish! But he would not be trying to kidnap her once more, only save her from Sorn’s wrath and postpone his own decision.

He, at any rate, had to leave, even if he would be tracked down; perhaps they would not care, or maybe Linduial would speak for him – assuming she lived. Whether he would take Linduial with him or not remained to be decided, but he knew he would if it became apparent beyond reasonable doubt that Sorn would kill her before she was rescued – and he supposed he already knew the true answer to this.

He left his place at the cellar door and hurried back inside; he had to act in haste. He gathered his scant few possessions and then went to Sorn’s study. He knew from seeing Sorn rush outside that he would not come back till his business with the rescuers was complete, however long that would take. The study was locked, but this did not concern Scyld. He deftly picked it using a bit of wire he had fashioned long ago in a fit of boredom when Sorn was elsewhere. Never before had he taken anything, so as not to alert Sorn to this skill, but that was about to change.

He knew where Sorn always kept a bit of money and took first a few silver coins as payment. Spotting Linduial’s possessions in the corner, he took the knife and doll but left the basket. If Sorn was not paying attention, he might not notice the change. Within minutes of entering, Scyld was leaving again, checking the door to make sure it locked again.

Then he was hastening down the cellar stairs with the growing bundle of things under one arm. He ought to be able to find some dried meat and perhaps some dried vegetables down there; he dared not ask the cook in the kitchen for food.

“Well,” he told Linduial in a bitterly ironic whisper, “your rescuers have arrived, but they are few. Sorn will kill you before he lets them inside the house, unless they have brought money, which I doubt.” He had begun storing some meat, and if it weren’t already obvious to Linduial what he was planning, he clarified, “I’m leaving.” He did not say anything about taking her with him, for he had thought of something in the meanwhile. She would not readily come with him if he forced her, for she would struggle to get to her rescuers. So he could knock her out – or he could get her to want to come. He might have to knock her out anyway, but it would be easier if he didn’t. He felt confident that she would argue with him, appeal to his honor; it was in her nature.

This is a tenuous game you are playing, Scyld, he told himself, like dancing on the edge of a knife.

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Old 10-04-2006, 02:40 PM   #101
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The Return of Helm

The great horse reared up, again and again, into the chill air, and threw its foaming frame down again, its hooves slicing through grass and mud, leaving the land pitted and wound in its wake. The resounding smashing of its front legs was echoed by the vehement spurrings of its rider.

"On," the gruff voice intoned, "on, on, to Sorn and the girl."

Responding to the tones it recognised came a long whine from the exhausted hound who struggled valiantly to keep pace with the horse it shadowed. Its sides were lean and taut, and it bled from the effort of running. But Helm, once called Gurth, Gurth, once called Helm, spared it no glance and no slackening of speed. The horn's long cry still rang about his head.

They saw familiar sights now; the rotting fences and ill-kept fields of Sorn's tenantry; but Gurth still did not slow or deviate in his road. "On, on, on..."

A plume of smoke in the dawn sky, beyond a sparse copse, showed him what he sought. "Sorn," he murmured. "Sorn house...and...girl."

A yard back, Grendel collapsed, too winded to move further. Gurth jumped from his mount, picked the wolf-mastiff up and held it beneath one brawny arm, and dragged his horse's bridle with his other hand. He was not long content with walking, and soon, mounted or not, the three great beasts were proceeding as fast as ever.

The Fool of the Hall was coming back. And he had a large axe.

"Scyld," Gurth spat with disdain. "Sorn," he muttered thoughtfully. And, decisively, "the girl."

But there were others here, unfamiliar scents and sights. He would find out what had happened in his absence, and he would act upon it.

It was then that the horn truly sounded; and the premonition of the dog was confirmed by the hand of man.

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Old 10-05-2006, 04:00 PM   #102
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The man's face was not unknown to Garstan. Osfrid. Is that your true name, or is it Bertwald? Or have you other names to share with us? It had been hard not to throw that lie back to him. And now to hear him speaking to Eodwine as though his deception had never taken place was an insult.

Garstan knew well that he should not speak his anger. No good would come of it. If Linduial was truly here, they would need to treat with her captors for her safety, as hard as that might be. Garstan turned his thoughts away from Osfrid, trying instead to pay mind to the land, thinking of how the party should move on next.

A sound like a footstep from behind the wall at Eodwine's shoulder drew Garstan's attention. Garstan cast a quick glance at Eodwine and saw a man appear over the wall. A fell look was in the man's face, and steel flashed in his hand as it dropped toward Eodwine's chest.

In the same instant as the dagger dropped, Garstan went to the right to seize the dagger. Not quickly enough, for the blade met his shoulder, cleaving flesh until Garstan felt it strike bone. The man let out a sharp sound of air against teeth and darted into the trees behind the wall while Garstan lost his footing and landed hard on the ground.

Confusion claimed the next moments. The Eorlingas galloped to meet Eodwine and Garstan, who was struggling to rise. Thornden stood by Eodwine and Deren knelt by Garstan's wounded shoulder.

All of Garstan's thought was on the man, already disappearing into the trees, who had attacked Eodwine. It could have been no other than Sorn; Garstan could think of no other who would bear such ill will toward them. He cried out, "Sorn flees. We must be after him!" He twisted toward the wall but was held back.

"Lie back, be still, man!" Deren said. He called for bandages to stop the blood, and one of the riders dismounted to bring a strip of cloth.

"Now hold still." Deren pulled the dagger free and pressed the cloth against the wound. Garstan winced and reached with his other hand to hold pressure over the bandage while Eodwine and Deren tied his arm in a sling.

"My lords," said Garstan. "We cannot linger here."

Last edited by Celuien; 10-07-2006 at 07:05 PM.
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Old 10-07-2006, 06:32 AM   #103
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Linduial nodded at Scyld's words. She had of course seen her things in his arms with his other necessities, but she refused to let hope deceive her. It made sense for him to take the dagger, if he had access to it. It was fine work, richly crafted. It was probably worth a great deal of money. The doll made less sense, so she pushed it from her mind.

"It is the only thing you can do," she stated flatly. He was looking at her expectantly, but she was closed off, quiet. Too much was happening too quickly, and she didn't know how to react. "Where will you go?"

He didn't answer, which she had suspected. She showed no surprise, but her fear began to eat at her a little. "If you open this door," she asked desperately, "could I make it to those who came for me? I can't ask you to--" she felt the onset of panic, felt it bubbling up inside her, threatening to overtake her in a torrent of meaningless words, and pushed it back, only her eyes betraying anything of her emotion.
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Old 10-08-2006, 06:52 AM   #104
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Scyld had expected anger, but Linduial was showing fear and desperation. Well, perhaps that made sense; he would be condemning her to death; he had just grown more accustomed to her spirit in the past couple days. He did not yet know whether this would make his plan easier or harder. “I can’t do that,” he said bluntly. “For one thing, I think Sorn is still lurking around outside and may even be speaking with the rescue party as we speak. I don’t know. And whether you made it to them or he caught up with you first, Sorn would hunt me down and kill me. He’s mad, but he’s not stupid; he won’t wait around here once you’re dead.” Of course, Sorn would probably hunt him down anyway, but maybe, if he was lucky, by the time Sorn realized Scyld and Linduial were gone, the rescuers would have gotten organized and figured a better way to keep watch over the hall; they might even kill Sorn for him. Scyld felt a stab of disappointment at that thought; he had always entertained fantasies of killing Sorn himself, but dead was dead and it might even be better that way, from a legal standpoint. As if Scyld wasn’t already in enough potential trouble with the law.

At Scyld’s unfeeling words, Linduial’s composure seemed to be crumbling fast. “But – but you have to do something –”

Scyld held up a hand to silence her. “Oh, yes, I do,” answered Scyld mockingly. It was a tone he adopted almost unconsciously, even though he really meant it. “I could not leave you here alone to be killed, of course.” Swiftly, his tone changed; he was deadly serious. “You’re coming with me.”

Confusion reigned in Linduial’s features. Clearly she had not expected this and did not now know how to respond, so Scyld continued. “Perhaps you can see my predicament? I cannot leave you here – apparently not even I am so morally corrupt as that – and I cannot let you go.” Scyld wondered if she picked up on his unspoken reasoning: he did not trust her. He wanted to; for the first time since he had come here as a boy, effectively having been sold into slavery, he wanted to trust someone, but he could not. “You have two choices: to come willingly or by force.”
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Old 10-08-2006, 09:45 AM   #105
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Something coalesced in the girl's eyes, some flash of hope that had temporarily deserted her. "Willingly, Scyld," she said softly, than again with more firmness. She stood and waited impatiently by the door to her cage. Even if I die, it will not be in here, she thought, with no small satisfaction. "But one thing. Will you hand me my knife? It may yet be that I will need it, before we are safe."

She thought, suddenly, of the man whom she had stabbed, of the startled shock of pain that had come upon his face when her knife had caught his rib. Sorn had of course told her that she hadn't killed him, but she'd thought that she had, or might have, and the thought had not haunted her over much. I did not know this about myself, that I could kill a man. But I could, if I had to. I could do whatever I had to, and still go on, and not think overmuch about it. Not right away anyway.
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Old 10-08-2006, 03:31 PM   #106
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"My lords," said Garstan. "We cannot linger here."

"Well spoken!" Eodwine cried. "Thornden, Deren, take these men with you and hunt down Sorn and this Osfrid! I will stay with Garstan."

"But lord-" Thornden started.

Eodwine rose. "You are an Eorlinga! Do the deed! Deren, you lead!"

"Aye, lord!" cried Deren. "Come, men!" He directed Thornden and three men to follow Sorn while he led three others into the House after Osfrid.

Eodwine turned and motioned to the two men who had stayed back with Garstan's and his mounts. They came forward and helped Eodwine get Garstan on his horse. Then Eodwine directed the two men, Eofryth and Grimbold, to circle the perimeter of Sorn's land, starting toward the west, while Eodwine and Garstan and Eodwine circled starting east.

Once they were started at a measured canter over the rolling pasture, Eodwine turned to Garstan. He looked pale but grim and determined.

"Garstan, you trickster, I was supposed to save your life, not the other way about." Garstan tried to grin but managed only a grimace.

"How do you fare? Tell me if you need to stop. We can find a hidden place of safety hereabouts."
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Old 10-08-2006, 03:47 PM   #107
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The ringing out of the horn, the horn Gurth had ridden for and striven for, actually threw him, for some moments, into a paralysis equal to that of his winded and luckless animal.

When his eyes finally broke out of their fixed passage, activity came at the price of purpose. It was perhaps the effect of seeing Sorn's farmstead, where he had been treated so kindly, and so...vilely, where he had existed as an admired idiot and dwelt in comfort, that destroyed Gurth's faculty for decision. He began to walk, and to look about him, almost at random, threading an unsteady, lone way behind the ramshackle building.

And then he saw a man ahead.

Kill it. It is a man. It threatens the girl. It threatens the master.

It is the master. Gurth saw neither a stranger of the wild, intentions mysterious but to be thwarted, nor any of the lackeys who had mocked him. No Osfrid, no Scyld.

Something higher and lower. The tall - but to Gurth, to Helm, so small, so thin, so vulnerable! - figure of one who had been, in his way, a great man despite the pettiness of his wealth. One whose mind had dreamed grandly, whose hand had acted squalidly.

But one who carried a spark inside him that called out to Gurth, that viscerally implored him to throw himself down and acknowledge mastery.

"Sorn," Gurth said quietly.

The Lord of the Manor looked dreadful. He had been drinking, Gurth could see, of late; he could perceive wounds left by mead that had formerly stricken him low. He had not drunk in all his time among the outlaws, had distanced himself, and now regarded victims of intemperance with a surprisingly lofty pity.

Sorn's profile was sharper and thinner, more lined. His eyes were large and seemed verging on raw red, the red of a chicken that has been cooked, but only a very little. The red of Grendel's lolling, spasm-ridden, dying tongue.

"Sorn," Gurth repeated. "My name is Helm, now."

His former master seemed not yet to have taken in his presence. He was in a semi-trance, like that which had fallen upon Gurth moments before; but the giant could not speculate whether such a vacant stare was brought on by stagnant memory, by the indifference of despair, or by helplessness. Brightness absent everywhere else shone in the man's long hands, and Gurth perceived that he was armed, gripping two knives like the arms of comforters, of parents.

But Sorn was on his own land. He had been Master, and there was something in him that yet mastered.

Gurth scarcely knew what he did as he lurched down and knelt before Sorn, his axe rolling from his hands and sliding away.

Somewhere not so far away, Grendel died.

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Old 10-09-2006, 09:08 PM   #108
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A simple agreement: could it really be so easy as that? Was there some catch? Would she try to bolt as soon as he did not have her under direct control? She wanted her knife; did she want to kill him, then make a run for it?

Her answer had come too quickly and easily for that. Linduial was not accustomed to lying, or so it seemed to Scyld. She had not hesitated; she seemed glad to go with him. Why, though? Rescue was at her very fingertips, and she would let him take her away! Why?

Surely she would be no match for him in knives anyway. He would simply keep his own loose in their sheaths and his eye on her at all times. So after those moments of indecision, he decided to trust her just this far. “Here,” he said and passed the knife to her through the bars.

She smiled slightly. “Thank you.” Scyld nodded curtly as he then unlocked the cage and let her out. For the first time, she stood free before him. Well, free from Sorn and her cage.

Not a minute too soon, but perhaps a few too late. Upstairs, he heard someone enter the house: Sorn or Osfrid, likely. Scyld could not risk anyone coming downstairs now, nor could he take Linduial upstairs. So she at least would have to leave through the back cellar door, yet that would be dangerous. If they left that way, it would be heading out blindly as they had no way of knowing who was on the other side of the door. It could be no one or rescuers or Sorn. The best way would be for Scyld to go around and let her out, but he would have to trust her in the cellar. Well, that should not be a problem; she could open the door and walk straight into Sorn. Fear would keep her inside until Scyld let her out; he was sure of it.

He explained the plan to her: “I’ll go upstairs and out through the main house. Lock the cellar door behind me so that Osfrid at least can’t get down here. I’ll let you out through that cellar door over there.” He pointed to it. “I’ll knock once, then twice more, when it’s clear." Scyld hesitated a moment. Could he trust her with the pack? It would be entirely suspicious if Sorn or anyone else saw him with it and he would have difficulty explaining it. "I'm leaving the pack here with you, too, and I'll get that when I let you out. After that…” He shrugged. “It’s all touch and go.”
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Old 10-10-2006, 08:06 AM   #109
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Lin held the dagger firmly in her good hand, reassured by its weight in her hands. She paused before leaving the cage that had held her these recent days, scolding herself for being silly, but somehow unable to take that final step out. Freedom...what did that mean? Scyld made an impatient noise, and she walked through the door quickly, nodding agreement to his plan. He moved quickly up the stairs to the cellar door, and she followed him, revelling in the feeling of taking long strides. He slipped out the door and she threw the bolt behind him. I'm finally free of my cage, she thought with a wry grin, and I lock myself in. Quickly she moved back to the outer door.

Now all she could do was wait. Wait, and wonder whether she were making the right decision. Her rescuers were outside the gates of the House: but Sorn was inside. You're doing the right thing, Lin. You have no other choice. He'll kill you in an instant, especially if someone is here to rescue you. Minutes passed. She could hear noises outside the door, but had no way to identify any of them. Please, Scyld, hurry...
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Old 10-10-2006, 09:03 PM   #110
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"I fare as well as need be, my lord." Garstan tried not to notice the tearing pain in his shoulder, or that he could not lift his arm far above the elbow, or that fresh blood still spread its red stain over the back of his shirt and sleeve. He counted his secret oath fulfilled. Eodwine had not been forgotten when aid was needed.

"That is no answer, Garstan. Are you well enough to go on?" Eodwine's glance was keener than Garstan had known it to be for many days. Neither the fact that Garstan's face was pale nor that he drooped forward slightly on his horse went with notice.

"We must not stop now. I fear for what would happen if..."

Garstan could not finish his answer. His sight grew dim for a moment and he swayed to the side. Only Eodwine's arm stayed him from a fall. They stopped and Garstan slowly stepped down to the ground.

"This is madness. Come and rest."

Eodwine was right. Garstan knew that he could do little good at the edges of his strength, yet it galled him to stop. There was little choice. He followed Eodwine into a thicket. They tied their horses and went deeper into the trees to a spot where branches covered them.

Garstan leant wearily against a tree. His head slowly dropped to the ground and he fell into a dreamless sleep.
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Old 10-11-2006, 02:43 PM   #111
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Deren with his three men ran up the lane to the front entrance of the house. He greatly feared that the door would be locked and as he laid his hand on the latch, he whispered a sort of prayer under his breath that it might be unlocked still.

“It is!” he muttered, excitement leaping back into his face and he threw the door open. They rushed in. Deren strode forward, giving orders. “Check every room. Stop anyone you see.” He hurried forward, half running, glancing into the open doorways just briefly. The man who had met Eodwine and Garstand at the wall had come into the house. Deren wanted to find him before he got back out of it. He came to a stairwell and bounded up the steps, two stairs at a time. His hand clutched the sword hilt at his side to keep it from swinging out. At the top landing he stopped. A straight corridor stretched out before him, and the near the end, the man he pursued stood at a door, holding it half open and talking to someone inside.

“Yes, now you’ve got to stay in here! You’ll get hurt, do y’hear? They’re not friends.”

Deren turned half about and shouted down the stair again. “Up here, men! Up the stairs, quick now!” He looked back up. The man hadn’t been aware of his presence until he called. Now he slammed the door shut and stood irresolutely before it. Deren eyed him coldly. “Who’s in the room?”

“Nobody,” the man answered. “Nobody concerning you, anyway.”

Footsteps on the stairs. In a moment, Deren was joined by all three of the others. He nodded towards Osfrid and started forward. The man held his ground doggedly as they approached. “It’s not her, I tell you!”

“Be quiet,” Deren warned fiercely. “Step out of the way,” he jerked his head to one side with the indication to move. Osfrid didn’t budge and Deren reached out to shove him away.

In the blink of an eye, Osfrid made a swing with his arm and his fist shot out. Deren stumbled back under the force of the blow and before he had recovered, his three companions had leaped forward onto the infidel. A fierce struggle ensued. Osfrid fought for all he was worth, but to no avail. They soon overcame him and while two held him and his arms back, the third tied his wrists. Deren stood back, watching them, his eyes burning as he felt a trickle of blood fall from his lip to his chin. He wiped it impatiently away and then drew his sword. He stepped forward and laid the edge against Osfrid’s color bone. The struggling instantly ceased.

“Listen to me,” Deren said, his voice hard as steel. “You are not going to cause any more trouble for us, you understand. Hamolm, you and Grewith take him outside. Milon and I will get the lady and be after you in a moment.”

Hamolm and Grewith took their charge immediately and marched him away. Deren and Milon turned towards the door and entered. Standing with her back to them and her face towards the brightly lit window stood a tall, slender woman dressed simply, but not unattractively, in a dark dress. Her long hair fell loose down her back, well brushed, and black as a midnight sky.

“Lady Linduial,” Deren said, walking forward a couple paces into the room. The woman turned quickly, as though surprised. Deren paused a moment. She was unlike any Rohanian woman he had seen - dark, large eyes set in a pale face, slightly flushed with red, in turn framed in that ebony colored hair. It was a strange, new sort of beauty. He took a few more paces forward and dropped to one knee. She was royalty, was she not? The Queens niece. The lady half extended a hand and Deren took it without thinking. He rose after a short pause. “You will come with us?” he said. “Lord Eodwine is waiting outside and we will have you back in safety in little time at all.”

Muriel drew her hand back, a look of alarm filling her dark eyes. “Oh, no!” she cried. “You can’t do that! This is - this is. . .” she stopped, unsure. She had been mistaken for a lady of royal blood! If she spoke now they’d figure out who she really was and there would be no fun or glory in that. But if she went, she’d leave Osfrid, leave everyone she knew.

As the indecision showed clearly on her face, Deren relief at finding her disappeared as he felt a surge of impatience rise. Was this how all Gondorians acted? Did she like being in a rogue’s home -kidnaped and forcibly taken from where she belonged? He reached forward and took her hand, gently but firmly, and began to lead her from the room.

Muriel decided to play along, at least a little while longer. She’d tell them their mistake sometime. Perhaps by then, Osfrid’s precious boss would figure something out to do with the real lady. There would be good luck and generous feelings all around the house, and Osfrid may be paid something, and then he could buy her something. Or, better yet, perhaps Sorn would reward her for tricking the rescuers. . .
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Old 10-11-2006, 05:24 PM   #112
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“Check every room. Stop anyone you see.”

Scyld nearly swore out loud. Why hadn’t Osfrid locked the door? Now, to hide, or to make for the back door? He heard footsteps coming his way and quickly ducked into the kitchen, near which he was standing. The cook, unsurprisingly, was nowhere to be seen. Scyld glanced around frenziedly. The pantry. A horrible hiding spot, but better than naught. He had just barely closed the door behind him when he heard one of the soldiers entering the kitchen. Scyld silently slid one of his knives out of his sleeve. He didn’t want to kill the man, but if he had no other choice…

The man stepped closer, closer, clearly making sure there were no other hiding places in the kitchen. Really, the pantry was the only place to go. Scyld tensed. Any moment now, the door might open…

“Up here, men! Up the stairs, quick now!” Then the man was gone, rushing to his commander’s aid. Scyld let out a deep sigh of relief and let himself out of his hiding place, checking the hall before hurrying back through the house, away from the stairs. What had they found up the stairs? Osfrid… and Muriel? Scyld mentally shrugged. So long as it was not him or Linduial, he cared little; hopefully they wouldn’t talk. He needed time and widespread confusion; it would be so easy for him and Linduial to be detected now.

He slipped out of the house and looked around. As far as he could tell, they were all clear, but who knew when that might change? A wide, open space stretched between the back of the house and the woods that covered the back of Sorn’s property, and only a couple small buildings stood in that space, providing only minimal cover that would require dashes in between.

It seemed clear to him that back into the woods was the only way they could go; now that the rescuers had arrived, the roads would be watched, and he could not go to Edoras or Minas Tirith, at any rate, not until he trusted Linduial enough not to betray him, if it ever came to that. Into the mountains was the only practical choice then, and would also help in that horses would not be required. Men on foot could go as fast as horses in the mountains.

With this rough sketch of a plan in mind, he stole along the back of the house to the cellar door and knocked once, then twice, just as he had said he would. The door opened, and out came Linduial with Scyld’s pack, which he shouldered, urgently murmuring, “Let’s go."
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Old 10-12-2006, 06:28 AM   #113
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Linduial followed hurriedly after him, wide, frightened eyes flickering back to the chaos in the Hall. Perhaps if she'd stayed she'd have been rescued right away. Maybe Sorn would never have reached her in time to kill her.

Maybe Father's sheep fly around the farm when no one's watching.

A histerical giggle escaped her lips at this mental image as she ran with Scyld across the yard, ducking, weaving. It struck her as faintly ridiculous: the yard seemed deserted, all the tumult and confusion had moved indoors, yet here they were, hiding from no one. This is the sort of time when the wings sprout. No one to see them. Except for us. She giggled again and Scyld gave her an inquisitive look as they crouched behind a horse-trough at the very back of the yard. "Flying sheep," she whispered. "Flying sheep and hiding from no one."

He gave her a concerned look for a moment, then lifted her bodily over the fence at the back of the yard. "Go up into the trees," he directed harshly, reinforcing the order with a little shove. Linduial turned and glanced over the house where she'd spent these last terrifying days. It was almost disappointing, small and dingy and ill-kept. But she was free of it, and that left her giddy. She turned and climbed up the steep hill into the treeline, thick stands of pines almost immediately swallowing her slim figure. We'll go back when it's safe, she told herself as the estate disappeared entirely from view.
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Old 10-21-2006, 08:33 PM   #114
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Thornden had little time at all to consider Eodwine’s rebuke. He fell instinctively under the orders of Deren and as soon as being told what to do, he turned and set off, beckoning to the men appointed to follow him. They set off, behind the wall, searching for any sign or trace at all of where the man had gone.

Where would he go? As Thornden went, his mind raced to think of where he would have gone. Back to the house? Why would he? Surely he would have known that in an instant the place would be searched. He saw no other outbuildings near enough for the man to have fled to so quickly. However, ahead, the wall that he followed entered a thick, young wood. A narrow path entered into it, just under the wall. Without looking back to see if his men followed, Thornden plunged into the wood.

The wall did not continue more than twenty paces. It crumbled away into nothing and they were surrounded by the young, green leaves, and smooth, tender gray bark of the trees. The path went on and they continued to follow it, in as much silence as possible.

Thornden came to an abrupt halt. He held his hand up in silent warning and instantly, his three men became rigidly still. They listened intensely for a moment. Somewhere near, voices were quietly speaking. Thornden jerked his head to the side and they set off into the wood.

It was long, tedious, and nerve-wracking work, trying to walk in the wood with no noise. The leaves beneath their feet threatened to crackle with every step. Finally, however, they had drawn near to where the voices were. A particular thick foliage blocked their way, but they were near, very near. Thornden drew his breath slowly, glanced at each of his men and slowly drew his sword.

“Follow me,” he whispered hoarsely, and led the way, pushing and leaping through the brush and young trees.

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Old 10-22-2006, 08:10 PM   #115
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Haleth could feel his horse laboring beneath him, working to maintain even an easy gallop. The company had managed to be roused before dawn and had been riding hard since then. His logic told him that a couple of extra hours on the road for the horses’ sake would probably not matter much, but he felt a nagging instinct that told him that all was not well and that they were needed, now and before now. He knew that the horses needed a break, but he also knew that any time now they should ride within sight of Sorn’s estate. Then the horses could rest.

They topped a low rise and finally beheld Sorn’s holdings, the home of the man who had kidnapped Linduial, and for the first time in a while, Haleth allowed himself a small smile. I will not let you down now, my Queen; I will find and rescue Linduial.

He slowed his mount to a walk to take in the scene. At first glance, all was peaceful… but strangely still. There was no bustle of workmen in the surrounding fields nor were there horses in the paddock. Eodwine and his men were nowhere to be seen, although four horses stood ground-tied in front of the house. Closer inspection showed that the door of the main house was swinging open.

Then from the eastern side of the house, Haleth heard faintly the ring of steel. “Thurstan,” he commanded, “take your men and fifteen more and ride out that way to find what is happening and if the Lord Eodwine needs help. The rest of us will remain here and search the house. Go now.” With that, two-thirds of Haleth’s company was peeling off after the sound. Haleth desired fervently to go with them, but he knew that he must remain here in case of news in this uncertain situation; he must be accessible. He turned to the remaining men. “Half of you come with me into the house. The other half, hold their horses and walk them out – but remain watchful, with your swords at the ready. I do not trust this place.” With that, Haleth dismounted and handed his own horse to one of the men. With seven men at his back, he strode up to the house, wondering what he might find.
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Old 10-23-2006, 07:37 PM   #116
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Eodwine heard sounds of someone approaching. Not just one.

"Shhh!" he whispered to Garstan, and drew his sword as quietly as he could. He stood over Garstan and waited.

Someone burst into the clearing.

"Halt or die!" Eodwine said as menacingly as he could.

The someone lifted his sword and took a stance of readiness. One more came into the clearing, distracting Eodwine for a moment.

"Lord!"

Lord? Eodwine took a closer look at his opponent. It was Thornden. His sword was now hanging in his hand so that the tip was in the grass. Two others now joined Thornden and the first one.

"Thornden! What is the meaning of this, attacking your own lord and wounded fellow?" Eodwine forgot to lower his sword.
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Old 10-24-2006, 11:49 AM   #117
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Thornden stepped back, back away from Eodwine and the sword, still held in readiness, as though for an enemy. What a mistake to make! Was there actually an explanation for it? An acceptable one? He stood mute, like a schoolboy struck to silence by a difficult problem, all the while trying to meet Eodwine’s furious gaze.

“My lord,” he finally stammered. “I...I did not know it was you and master Garstan.” What did Eodwine think? That he would intentionally ambush his own lord? Confusion and a new rising feeling of anger battled inside his head. Common sense kept him from saying anything in his anger. He retreated another step and lowered his head. “You will forgive me. I had thought that you were possibly Sorn. I was in search of him.”
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Old 10-24-2006, 03:12 PM   #118
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Once the immediate fright and consternation had passed, Eodwine took the time to study Thornden. He kept a stern visage but chuckled a bit inside. The erstwhile Eorlinga was having his share of mishaps this day. But Sorn? Surely!

"You thought me Sorn? Have I begun to throw daggers at my liegemen?" Thornden's followers tried to hide smirks at their leader's expense.

"No, lord," Thornden mumbled, but Eodwine caught a flash of indignation in his eyes.

Eodwine smiled. "'Tis an accident and forgiven." He turned to Garstan. "We would back to the horses with you. Are you well enough to walk a bit?"
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Old 10-24-2006, 03:42 PM   #119
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As Scyld climbed over the fence himself and followed Linduial up the ridge, he watched her as one might watch a young, unpredictable and unbroken stallion. What was he supposed to do with her recent fits of giggles? Had she lost all sanity? So help me if she has. Crazy woman with a knife that she probably doesn’t know how to use, unless nobles of Gondor are in the habit of teaching their daughters weaponry – not likely.

He caught up to her as she entered the trees and set a brisk pace through the undergrowth, which thankfully was not terribly thick. For all his other talents, Scyld could hardly be counted a skilled woodsman and did not much fancy struggling through tangled tussocks and thorny plants every step he took.

After they had been walking for several minutes, he finally began to breathe easier. Anyone who had seen them escaping, whether one of Sorn’s people or a rescuer, would have immediately sounded an alarm and come after them. It would probably take hours now at least for anyone to figure out where they had gone – and the rescuers, not finding Linduial, would not know for sure if she had even been there; as for Scyld, they did not know of his existence at all.

He glanced over at Linduial and saw that she still had traces of amusement on her face. He wished he knew what was so funny.

“So - do you know how to use that knife?”
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Old 10-24-2006, 04:42 PM   #120
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"Aye, lord. I am well." Garstan cautiously shifted his injured arm as he rose, wincing slightly with the motion. "And, in truth, I would that we moved on sooner rather than later." He grinned at Thornden and added, "It would not do to stay hidden and be taken for a villain by every passing Eorlinga."

Thornden looked at him under crossed eyebrows, and Garstan grew silent.

"Forgive me. I spoke in jest."

Eodwine laughed again, "Come! All has ended well, and no harm taken. Let us have an end of the matter."

Thornden's face cleared slightly, though a slight frown still clouded his face. Turning back to Eodwine, he said, "My lord. We left our horses outside the wood and should return to them."

"So you should. And so must we! Garstan and I will go on to the house. Meet us there."

Thornden nodded, and they parted. Eodwine and Garstan soon came back to their horses and set off at a gentle gallop towards the main house.

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