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Old 10-25-2006, 06:38 AM   #121
JennyHallu
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“So - do you know how to use that knife?”

Linduial looked down at the blade clutched between her fingers. "I've used one before," she said quietly. Determination and anguish warred on her face, wiping away the traces of her private little joke. "Honestly, my brothers taught me a little of how to use a dagger, and I learned well...but not since I was thirteen and needed to act the part of a lady rather than a child, and never against anything more threatening than a sack stuffed with goose-feathers."

She smiled a little at the memory, then paused as Scyld helped her scramble over a huge boulder, jutting out of the side of the mountainous terrain as though a giant had thrown it and forgotten his toy. Once past the obstacle she sighed a bit, but spoke again. There was something thrilling about speaking as to a friend, and with little regard for who might overhear, or whether her words might result in her death. If Scyld had meant to kill me, he would better have done it in the cellar.

"When I cut Sorn's man in Edoras, I think I acted more out of instinct and terror than skill, but terror is an excellent teacher." She glanced over at Scyld's face. The familiar smirk was back, and she laughed as she divined its meaning. "Don't you get all superior about it! I'm no pampered lily damsel, unable to lift a finger to help myself. With a bow, I am more than skilled. I claim the title expert without vanity! And with a bow I have killed, though never a man. Hunting with a bow falls under the realms of lady-like behavior, and I can shoot better than my lord Uncle's Master of the Hunt."

Elated by the sunshine and fresh breezes warming her body, too long chilled by her sojourn in the cellar, Linduial decided with a little smile that no one here needed to know that the Master of the Hunt in Dol Amroth was awarded the post because it would be death to tell that once-doughty warrior he was too old to serve his lord. He was still an excellent bowman, but many of the the younger men in any hunt could best him, and Linduial, especially because they had the strength to pull a longer bow.

Last edited by JennyHallu; 10-25-2006 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 10-31-2006, 12:02 PM   #122
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Thornden, still red with the embarrassment of the whole situation, led his three men back through the woods to the horses. The gathered the strayed mounts, mounted, and pulled their heads around, and started back towards the house at a slow, even canter.

Thornden spent the short ride back berating himself for his foolishness. ‘It’s all for your blasted hastiness,’ his mind told him. ‘I’m not surprised Eodwine said what he did. I hope you don’t go blundering blindly into something like that again! By heaven - ambushing your own lord!’ He felt another wave of heat rise and fall from his face at the very thought. He bent his head and urged his horse into a faster gait.

In just a couple minutes they arrived back at the front of the house. The four men reined in their horses as they came around the wall. At once they spotted a group of seven men walking an even larger group of very hot horses up and down and back again.

“It is Haleth’s men!” one of his followers exclaimed. “They must’ve just arrived! Greetings, Eorlings!” he hailed. His horse trotted forward the last several feet. Thornden followed close behind.

“Where is the captain?” he asked.

“He went inside the house, to see if he could find the lady. Has been there just a minute or two now. . .”

All the men directed their eyes towards the front door, wondering what took place within. . .

~~~~~

Deren came out from the room upstairs and walked towards the stairway. The woman passing for Lady Linduial followed behind him. At the head of the stairs, he paused and listened. He heard voices below. Wondering who had come in, he stood, listening intently. They were speaking of the man, Osfrid, who he had sent down a couple minutes before, and then his own name was mentioned. The next moment, he recognized his leader’s voice. Haleth had come at last. Deren started down the stairs quickly and ran ahead before the other two.

He came to the landing and walked swiftly down the hall towards Haleth.

“Sir! We’ve found her. She seems to be well. I saw no marks of abuse or anything like that.” He reached Haleth, a small smile on his face, and then half turned and looked back towards the stair. The young woman appeared, walking slowly and stately. Her foot reached the landing and she turned and walked towards them.
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Old 10-31-2006, 08:10 PM   #123
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Somehow she didn't quite look like Haleth had imagined, whether she was dressed to simply or something else. It struck him odd, too, that there was no mark of physical injury on her; from Torim's account, he would have expected her to be bruised and possibly bloody. And it was always possible that Sorn had not liked her wearing such fine clothes and given her a simpler dress to wear... but still, there was something about her appearance. She looked rather familiar, like someone he should recognize.

Haleth frowned. He ought to remember what Linduial looked like; had he ever seen her? Once? At a distance?

Well, of course he ought to recognize her, then, if he had seen her.

Despite his doubts, he smiled, inquiring, "Lady Linduial?"

She returned his smile and nodded. The lady's assent should be all that was needed, right? "Good work, men," he said. "Take her outside, and keep this man under heavy guard. I'd like to have a look around the rest of the house... make sure we aren't missing anything." Then he selected two men to come with him; wandering around an unfamiliar by himself with Sorn's whereabouts unknown could hardly be called prudent. "Check all the rooms, and let me know of any locked doors."

They quickly found one room just down the hall to be locked, then another closer to the kitchen. The first, he supposed, might be a library or a study of sorts - perhaps Sorn kept his money inside. As for the second, Haleth figured it almost had to be a basement or cellar of sorts; the foundation of the house had indicated that one probably existed, and they had found no other door leading downstairs, unless there was only an outside entrance. That would be worth looking into.

"See if you can get either of those doors open," he told his two companions. "I want to know what's inside. I'll be back in a few minutes; I'm going to step out back to check if there's an outside cellar door."

Last edited by Firefoot; 11-05-2006 at 01:39 PM.
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Old 11-04-2006, 05:58 PM   #124
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Sorn stared at Gurth, bewildered and swaying. He could hear the sounds of men rambling through his house, seeking out whatever was left of his wealth. And in all this chaos, the great brute had knelt and shown him some… kindness? He was too weary to tell.

“Helm…get up. We must find her.”

Sorn shook away the cloud of the drag of mead he had taken earlier and raced for the cellar. There would be no heroic ending in all of Sorn’s failed plans. He knew the penalty for his crimes was grave, and he would have himself set before his people with a message to tell. Gondor is not welcome. Sorn gripped his dagger as if in a vice, and turned the next corner from the empty yard. The back exit from the cellar swung open with ease.

Sorn took a moment, his free arm throbbing as he clenched the wood of the doorway. The girl was gone, and Scyld with her. There was no way of knowing how far they had gotten, or in which direction. Sorn had suffered the fruits of his labour of terrorising his own men.

Helm clambered towards Sorn, finding him muttering through his clenched teeth. He stood there for too many painful moments, before straightening and turning to the taller man.

“She has escaped me, Helm. Scyld will not live through this mistake. That little urchin…the both of them! They will suffer, Helm, and you will help me!”

Sorn did not have the time or the luxury to turn and retrieve his broadsword. He had lost one of his daggers, but the remaining would suffice for his task. Helm faltered as Sorn strode from the back exit to the cellar in a daze, not seeing anything around him.

“Helm! Gurth! Whatever it is I am to call you now. Follow your master!”

Sorn’s reflexes had always been strong. When he was a child, he could perceive a tutor or his father coming down the hallways to spoil all his fun. Whether it was throwing glue sodden paper at the cook, or switching around her carefully labelled pots of spices and ingredients, Sorn had always managed to pull off his nasty games and escape just as someone was coming to punish him. And as if the years had not passed, Sorn could hear a heavy boot crunching on dry leaves, and see the smallest shadow from the corner of his eye.

Sorn had loosed his dagger before he even knew it.
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Old 11-10-2006, 01:11 PM   #125
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Deren, with his three men and their prisoner, led the false lady out from the house. Up the walk, they saw Thornden and his men, and the large group of horses and men that Haleth had brought with him.

“Hollo!” Deren hailed when he was halfway to them. “I’ve found her and she seems to be quite well!” He looked at the woman by his side. A small blush had risen to her pale cheeks and a smile lingered around her lips.

Thornden turned when he heard the words. He came hurrying forward, anxious to see for himself whether the young woman was well. He stopped abruptly some yards before them. The expression on his face changed swiftly as he saw her.

“That is not Linduial,” he said, forgetting in his surprise to use ‘lady’ before the name.

“What!” cried Deren. He stepped away from the woman by his side and looked at her sharply. “You are not?”

“Confound it, man,” Thornden exclaimed. “That is not the lady, and if she told you she was before, she’s not likely to tell you the truth now! Who is that man there?” He nodded towards Osfrid.

“Someone we found inside the house. He ran off, went up the stairs and we stopped him before her room. That’s how we found her. He tried to keep us out, so we thought it was probably Linduial.”

“Did you search the entire house?” Thornden asked shortly.

Deren shook his head. “Most of it. But Captain Haleth’s men are going through the rest of it. Besides, I thought we had found the right lady, so we. . .didn’t finish.”

Thornden stood silently a moment, thinking, and biting the inside of his lip to keep from telling Deren how brainless he had been. It wasn’t actually the poor man’s fault, he considered. He shrugged and set his eyes on Deren again. “Very well. Take your prisoner and your rescued damsel to the horses. Make sure neither of them escape. Lord Eodwine will be returning soon. He will give you further orders. I am going inside to make sure the entire place is thoroughly searched.”
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Old 11-11-2006, 08:37 PM   #126
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It seemed to happen in slow motion. As Haleth stepped out the back door, he thought he heard voices and put his hand to his sword hilt. Almost immediately he saw two men emerging from the sought-for cellar door; he took a step forward, his boot crunching on some dry leaves, and began to draw his sword – and just that fast, one of the men was turning, dagger in hand, loosing it in Haleth’s direction, and though he saw it coming, he could not move quickly enough; a burning pain sliced into his left shoulder.

Haleth found himself incapable of clear thought; otherwise, he would surely have called for help. But now, with maddening pain in his shoulder and burning hatred at the sight of Linduial’s captors, he flew at them. Here, my Queen, is my chance to make up for my mistakes and do something right. I will kill these fiends.

Perhaps, if he had been closer to them, launching himself at them may have worked better; as it was, the great brute of a man had time to draw his axe and block Haleth’s onslaught. The other man appeared unarmed after loosing his dagger at Haleth, and Haleth tried to block him from getting at the dagger, but he could not do so and still keep the monster at bay.

He fought with fury, but Haleth could feel himself beginning to fade away as strength bled out his arm, which was rapidly becoming useless in handling his double-handed sword. His armor, so proudly worn, felt heavy as it never had before while the weight of impending failure loomed over his mind. He, who had been loyal all these years to the Queen, could not even complete this simple, most important service to her.

“You – will get – what – you deserve,” he grunted out as he continued to struggle…

Last edited by Firefoot; 11-12-2006 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 11-20-2006, 10:04 AM   #127
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Eodwine and Garstan made their way back to the house, hoping to meet up with Haleth and his men. At least, Eodwine hoped that they would soon arrive.

When they cleared the last building before the front courtyard, there were many men milling about. Eodwine could make out Deren with him a young woman wearing fine clothing.

"Garstan, I do believe our errand is achieved. Look!" Garstan followed his direction and grunted his satisfaction, which was about all he could manage for the pain in his shoulder. "Easy now, we'll have you properly cared for before long, my friend."

But the closer they came, the less sure Eodwine was. Deren looked miffed, and the woman looked the less like Linduial.

When they had come up to the other men, Eodwine gave Garstan into the care of the Eored's herbmaster. Quickly apprised of the situation, Eodwine made a decision.

"I'm going in there!"

"But lord!" cried Garstan, his face a mask of effort trying to hide the pain. "Who is going to save your life if I'm not there?"

Eodwine grinned. "I shall have to save my own hide then! You three Eorlingas! Come! Deren! You come too!"

Eodwine was grateful for such good men. They slowed when they came to the place where Sorn had been hiding, and cautiously moved forward toward the house.

"Lord," whispered Deren," allow me to go first."

"Then how can you watch my back? Stay where you are."

They went inside the front doorway and were confronted with the relative darkness of the corridor. They squinted until their eyes adjusted, hoping not to be surprised by enemies in the moment of their weakness. No one could be seen.

"Voices, lord!" Deren said, "from down away!"

Eodwine nodded and led the men to a stairway.

Last edited by littlemanpoet; 11-27-2006 at 09:33 PM.
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Old 11-26-2006, 03:28 PM   #128
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"...Hunting with a bow falls under the realms of lady-like behavior, and I can shoot better than my lord Uncle's Master of the Hunt."

Scyld held his own doubts of this but did not protest it - what could he hope to prove? It meant little at this point, since neither of them had a bow to shoot, only knives. Scyld did not know whether to be reassured or disturbed at Linduial's limited skills with a knife. Of course, if she really wanted to kill him and make off towards her rescuers she would have plenty of opportunities that wouldn't require any particular skill - while he was sleeping, for example. He wasn't sure what he intended to do about that; he had to sleep, but he couldn't let her get away, either. Trust. It always came back to that. Why was it so difficult? Look at Linduial, just chatting away, so carefreely. She seemed to trust him, oddly enough.

Not even I would trust me. Such different worlds we live in, you and I.

It was uplifting, somehow.

"You had a happy childhood," he observed. Then he added with typical wryness, "And for some reason, I don't hate you for it." And such was his mood that he winked at her.

They had made a couple of switchbacks across a steep place in the terrain and had now come to a more level place where they could see out across the way they had come; Scyld realized it would be a good place to stop and eat (neither of them had eaten lunch) since they would be able to see anyone who might be following them, and he said so. He removed his pack and took out a bit of dried meat and an apple for each of them. The equal meals came unthinkingly and surprised him. Just how did he feel about her, anyway?
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Old 12-02-2006, 10:25 PM   #129
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The man charged despite the grave wound to his arm, and Sorn marvelled at his courage. He did not, however, forget he was outmatched with only two daggers hidden on his belt.

Sorn wove around the man as Gurth stepped forward with his axe. He struggled with his solid grip for a moment, and Sorn stood back with a contemplative smirk on his face. Sorn decided to make a game of him, swinging in to try to remove his dagger from his shoulder. He fought back, a desperate look as he tried to keep two assailants at bay. But it was wearing on him quickly.

"You – will get – what – you deserve," the man said through clenched teeth, before Gurth made a wide swing with his axe and winded him. Sorn put a hand on the beast’s shoulder and stood as the man stumbled back.

"What do I deserve? Should I be penalised for a crime? What do you think I have done? I am no usurper, no outsider claiming title to what is not their’s. You tell me the greater crime."

Sorn had grown tired of playing with this man’s life. In a swift step he was upon him, another dagger loosed and hitting it’s mark.

The man stumbled and fell. Sorn looked down on him with measures of disdain, pity, and rage. "Some of us really have so little understanding. Loyalty clouds the mind, perhaps?" Sorn glanced sideways at Gurth. "We have to find the girl, she has more distance between us now. We must hurry."

Gurth wobbled a moment, peering towards the thick forest curving to the south from Sorn’s estate. Sorn smiled and nodded to his companion. "My thoughts are with yours, Helm. The easiest place to hide."

Sorn, now set with a hope of correcting his mistakes, eyed the dirt carefully. The marks left were muddled by the challenge of the man that had just confronted them. But what Sorn gathered was a clear path made by two people, one clearly female by the weight of the prints in the dirt. Sorn nodded.

The prints led over a small boundary fence and up the ridge to the covering dense firs. Sorn did not wait for Gurth to catch up. Sorn did not even hear the sounds of men bounding through his hallways as he and Gurth sprinted into the undergrowth...
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Old 12-03-2006, 09:10 AM   #130
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Lin looked down across the hillside, back down to the courtyard. Her eyes widened at the drama she saw playing its course on the packed dirt below, even Gurth's massive shape appearing like a puppet in the distance. She didn't hear Scyld's kind words, and the meal he handed her fell to the mossy ground, slipping unheeded through nerveless fingers.

"Fight!" she breathed through numb lips, and Scyld joined her, watching the battle below with a grim expression on his rugged features. Lin's hands clenched into fists as she urged her nameless champion to victory, but as the giant stepped into the fray and the unknown man's movements became haggard and desperate, the end of the duel became painfully apparent.

"No!" Lin cried in desperation, watching Sorn play with his opponent as a cat urges a mouse to its own doom. "The brute! the brute!" Hot and helpless tears dropped unheeded down her face as the man fell, and she pulled herself up tall and straight, the wind on the little knoll on which they stood whipping her stained and tattered yellow dress, that she'd took such shallow pleasure in only a few fateful days before, around her ankles and out into the air like a flag. Her eyes were locked on the fallen figure in the courtyard, and she saluted him gravely, tears adding more damp stains to her unfortunate frock.

Scyld, however, kept his eyes on the man's killers, and when they plunged into the brush just at the point where he had led Lin a scant half-hour before, he gripped his companion's arm roughly, jerking her back to earth and reality. "Look there!" he ordered, giving her barely enough time to see before pulling her back into the undergrowth, scrambling up the hill as swiftly as he could, food forgotten. He cursed himself for being so gentle with her; walking at a snail's pace, making allowances for her splinted arm. He knew, though, that even now, running breakneck through the brush, that they could not outrun their pursuers, and they were in their haste leaving as clear a trail as any amateur hunter could wish. He looked back and said as much to the girl.

"Then what do we do?" she asked, panting from the headlong pace, nursing the scratches the heavy brush had inflicted on her. Her eyes were wide and frightened, but the trust in them was clear, pinning Scyld to her like accusatory needles. He cursed that he couldn't just leave her; alone he might have a chance.

"We find a place to make a stand," he growled harshly, and she nodded and made to follow him where he led.

The chase was on, the endgame in the works. They dared not hope for any outside rescue.
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Old 12-03-2006, 08:29 PM   #131
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Eodwine led his small bevy of men through the house, down the corridor, down some stairs, and into a cellar where stood a cage. Linduial's, no doubt, and now empty. There was a way out in the far wall, and they went to it. But all was now eerily quiet that way. Eodwine took the lead, sword drawn, as he slowly, crouching, took careful steps through the door. Then his hand fell and the swordpoint his the ground.

"Haleth!"

Eodwine rushed toward the broken man, whose blue eyes were staring up at nothing. Deep wounds still bled deep crimson from shoulder and throat. Eodwine looked up and about.

"Search the grounds for any sign of the killers!"

Deren and the others began looking carefully the ground near them. Eodwine hoped they might find something, anything. He looked out and saw the rise of land beyond the fence. In the distance he saw two men, one very large and tall, and the other of average height. They had stopped on a small knoll and the smaller of the men was looking at something on the ground. Then the two of them started running higher up into the hills.

"There! After them!" Eodwine cried. "Deren! Gather the others and ride to us!"
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Old 12-05-2006, 03:19 PM   #132
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“There!” Eodwine cried out, his voice sharp. All the men with him looked up. “After them! Deren! Gather the others and ride to us!”

“Aye, sir!” Deren replied, already running. He darted back through the cellar door and bounded up the stairs to the hall, two steps at a time. “Come, come!” He called out at the top of his voice to anyone who was still searching the house. “The Eorl calls! Follow him, we have spotted the villainous rogue!”

And without a pause he plunged back out into the daylight and ran up the walk to the rest of the men and the gathering of horses. Behind him, the last few stragglers who had been in the house came out, running forward as well.

Deren gave no explanation, except that lord Eodwine had bidden them ride after him. The horses were gathered together, the riders mounted, Eodwine’s horse and the horses that belonged to the men following him were led with them. Together, the large company rode out across Sorn’s property, cantering over the grass in the direction that Eodwine had taken.

The overtook Eodwine and the others just a little within the woods. The extra horses were brought up and the men mounted. Then, with Eodwine at their head, they plunged ahead. The horses ran on at a varying speeds as they dodged trees and leaped small rivulets. Onward, up the incline, and always in their minds eye, the picture of Sorn catching the young Linduial before they could reach her and protect her.
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Old 12-05-2006, 04:10 PM   #133
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The herbmaster was skilled in his art. Garstan had been taken into a small outbuilding claimed by the Eored and given a drink, hot and bitter to taste, but soothing to the pain in his shoulder, even when the herbmaster had unwrapped and prodded the wound, covering it with fragrant leaves against the coming of sickness and covering it again with fresh linen.

"You are lucky, master Garstan," he said. "Had the blade fallen but a little to the side you would have bled beyond my skill to aid. It will mend. Some aching in the cool nights will come, maybe, but it will mend with time."

Garstan sank into a chair. "I fear my lord Eodwine will not be pleased. I was to begin work carving the stones for a new kitchen on our return, but I cannot work with one arm."

"Lord Eodwine is a good man," the herbmaster returned in a stern voice. "He would not fault you."

"I know it well. I fault myself." Garstan frowned. "I would be with him now. I would not see him meet with worse than I have."

"Peace, Garstan! The Eorl is well guarded. You should rest."

Shouts rang from nearby. Garstan heard Eodwine calling in the midst of the cries. "There! After them! Deren! Gather the others and ride to us!"

"I must go. Lord Eodwine calls." Garstan rose unsteadily and moved to the door. The herbmaster was across the room in two steps to block the way.

"Are you mad? You can be of no good to the party with your arm as it is. If anything, you will hinder them. They cannot attend to you and fight at the same time. Sit down."

The herbmaster pushed Garstan back to his chair. He sat unwillingly and burst out, "Am I always to be left behind under the care of the healers while others do their duty in battle?"

"Always?"

Garstan left a silent moment, then said in a softer tone, "It is nothing. Forget that I said it." He stared blankly at a small window, his thoughts away with the rescue party as they set off on the chase.

"Garstan. You have done well on this day. But you can do no more."

Last edited by Celuien; 12-06-2006 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 12-05-2006, 05:06 PM   #134
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Scyld's time for initial regrets and cursing himself for being so foolish and having to bring Linduial along had passed. Now as they tore through the woods a multitude of calculations was running through his mind. Fifteen minutes, maybe twenty, before Sorn and Gurth reached the high place where they had briefly stopped. Scyld glanced back at Linduial to make sure she was keeping up. She could not sustain this reckless pace for long. He scanned the woods around him; all he needed was a natural ridge where he could have the high ground in a fight. If he had that, maybe there would be hope. Maybe they could both survive.

He doubted it. He might survive, if Linduial died before he did and the chance for escape came. But if he died, Linduial surely would as well. Scyld had always intended that should the time ever come for him to kill Sorn, he would have a clear shot at his back. Hand-to-hand fighting was to be avoided at all costs, and Gurth being there to back Sorn up (or fight for him) only slimmed Scyld's odds - and if he stood little chance, what did that say for Linduial?

Gurth would have to be gotten rid of first. If Scyld could take them by surprise and loose a fatal knife in Gurth's direction, he would have a chance against Sorn alone. He dared not think of otherwise.

As Scyld had hoped, a natural ridge formed up and Scyld led Linduial along the bottom of it for many strides. He stopped at a rocky place where the ground looked firm so that they might easily climb upwards a way. He offered Linduial a hand and helped her to scramble up with him. Alone he would have been able to walk upright, but with holding Linduial's hand he bent further forward and used his other hand for support and balance. After climbing about fifteen feet he decided they were high enough and led Linduial across the ridge in the same direction they had come. At the very least, Sorn would not see their path upwards written across the face of the mountain as plainly as the sun shone in the sky.

"You stay here," Scyld said as they came upon a large rock jutting up from the land that would provide both ample cover and a natural seat for Linduial. "Make yourself small and invisible to those below. Now, we wait."

"How long?" Linduial asked quietly.

Scyld shrugged. "As long as it takes. I'd guess ten, fifteen minutes." He watched her for a few moments more. He had cursed himself for bringing her, but he knew then that he did not mean it. The feeling was as alien to him as color to a blind man, but he thought that maybe this was friendship - and maybe a friend was someone worth dying for. Just maybe. He had no words to explain this, but impulsively he reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder. She had turned to watch the trail below, but at his touch she turned her head. Scyld did not say anything, only squeezed gently, and then he walked away. For his own hiding place, he stood behind a tall and wide tree, appealing in that it was indistinctive from others around him. He removed a knife from the sheath inside his left boot and began to listen for Sorn and Gurth. It would not be long now. Not long to wait, and perhaps not long to live.
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Old 12-09-2006, 10:35 PM   #135
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Feet passed quickly over pebble and branch, as the sounds of a pursuing party finally reached Sorn’s ears. He cursed through gritted teeth. Barking out to Gurth, he said, "Up there. Be on your guard!" The first rise began to smooth out, and Sorn slowed. His eyes darted about, careful for any movement. They could not have gotten much farther, judging by the tracks Sorn had followed along the way. He did not need to guess who the second pair of footprints belonged to. This made him all the more cautious.

The trees became denser as Sorn made his path following the prints. Scyld had clearly seen him and tried to flee. Surely he must have known that with the Lady with him he could not outrun him? As if the land sensed his intentions, large crags of rocks jutted out from amongst the trees, reaching high towards the covering boughs. Sorn seethed, squinting at the sunlight that shot from the sudden breaks in the canopy. There was no clear path from here, and no more prints to follow.

As Sorn began to manouver up the rocks, Gurth approached from behind. He hissed as he lost his footing on some rocks and stumbled back some paces. This was the perfect place to hide, and the worst place to search. Sorn slowed all the more, not wanting to sacrifice his senses. A small tumble of pebbles caught his hearing. He turned to Gurth and spat, "Take more care! We must not be heard, and should hear everything!"

The world seemed to wish to spite him, as his ears picked up the low thudding of hooves on pounded dirt. Horses must have been riding toward his House.

'I am not done yet!' he whispered to himself.

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Old 12-10-2006, 03:26 PM   #136
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The waiting was the worst. How many times now had Scyld thought he heard a footstep or a whispered word? How many times had his muscles tensed as he gripped the first knife a little tighter? How many times had he tentatively peeked around the tree?

This time he was certain, though. Someone had stumbled on the rocks below. He knew that every glance he took would be a risk, but he needed to know their position. Moving slowly so that a sudden motion would not attract their sight, he peered out at them. He saw Sorn turn and say something to Gurth but could scarcely even hear the sound of Sorn's voice, much less make out the words. They were moving slowly in his and Linduial's direction, clearly taking care not to be heard. Scyld ducked his head back behind the tree.

The seconds slowly passed. Scyld had to continue resisting the temptation to look and see how much closer they had come. Only when he heard a footstep almost directly even with him did he take another look. He hefted the knife but still hesitated. They were still farther away than was optimal and he doubted he could kill either of them. He should still hit, and Gurth was a large enough target, but once he threw the first knife his position would be given away. Still, he probably would not have another opportunity this good with the same vantage point.

He threw the knife straight for Gurth.
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Old 12-11-2006, 03:25 PM   #137
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From her hiding place Lin could barely see Scyld behind his tree, but she noticed when he threw the knife. She stifled a terrified whimper and plastered herself deeper into the rock hollow, the dagger held in front of her. Her terror in this moment was so great that even had Degas himself stepped in front of her she would have tried to kill him.


Only a few more seconds and their pursuers would be upon them. Lin knew she could not stay hidden, not for long,but for now she froze. If she could only buy enough time, somehow, for Scyld to rescue her. Surely he knew just what to do.

She picked up a largish stone that lay near her foot and carefully threw it away to her right, away from Scyld. It crashed into a pile of bracken with a noise that seemed deafening after the silence of their wait, but maybe it would confuse their pursuers, long enough for Scyld to come up with a plan. He was going to come up with a plan, Lin was sure.

She peered cautiously toward Scyld's tree, making sure he was all right, hoping for some mark of approval of her action.
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Old 12-12-2006, 03:47 AM   #138
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The giant had followed Sorn with increasing reluctance and confusion. If they ran into the wild now, they were abandoning the farmstead to the intruders. Gurth had wished to stay and to defend the house of the plunderers, the strangers like the golden-headed captain the Master had just killed. But gradually he understood. Somehow, someone had taken the girl. She alone could propell them out into the country like this, through hedgerow, thicket and plain.

He looked about the wood through which they crawled, treading more stealthily, for in sobriety he could stalk well enough, if hampered by hugeness, in response to his Master's order.

Often he looked aside for the wolf-mastiff Grendel, and choked back hunting-calls to it, and at last his memories swung to the beast dying in the dirt, and hot, bitter tears mingled with the blue of his eyes and the red of his flesh, making them damp and vulnerable, relecting the rays of lights that penetrated down to the two woodsmen.

A woodsman; such was the life he had become used to among the throng of bandits. He must now introduce Sorn to it, and they would live amid the trees inviolate from the law of any, and perhaps the girl, too, would dwell in the forests and the harshness of the seasons. Not far off lay the woods of Druadan, and Gurth thought of life amid the strange Woses of rumour. His mind and recall was developing fast after his liberation from the mead's yoke, and he remembered stories of Pukel-men with comparative ease.

But now was the time for hunting, not thinking, and that was the message which the blade's bite brought bloodily back. The dagger's hilt was embedded, lower than the heart, in the flesh of his side, hampered somewhat by his mail. He bit the howl he would have naturally emitted, mauling his tongue, and through the smell of his own blood he caught a familiar scent.

Not the girl's, as yet, but that of the other lackey. The sly one, the bearer of mead.

"Wound from Scyld," he muttered in Sorn's ear. "Smell man. Slay? Smell near ahead..."
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Old 12-14-2006, 02:58 AM   #139
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Sorn looked down quickly and inspected Gurth’s wound. So it was Scyld, then. Sorn said evenly, and in a low tone "He will tell us where she is" Sorn knew that he didn’t need to tell Gurth more than that.

He turned forward, and after a moment, rushed for where the dagger had sprung from with a yell. A dagger of his own was already in one hand, a curled fist his only other weapon. He inwardly cursed leaving his broadsword behind. The plans he had laid out were now unravelled. He would now be a hunted man. His wealth would never be as it was, as he had hoped. His family would fade and be little more than a small scratch in a ledger, dusty and forgotten. His rage rose higher at the thought of the King’s men wandering his estate, surveying his property.

Fuelled by that repugnant thought, he swung around the stone obstructing his view and swung a wide arc with his thin, long blade…

Below Sorn the sounds of horses and their men grew louder.
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Old 12-19-2006, 08:41 PM   #140
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Scyld had seen Linduial throw the stone to try and distract Sorn and Gurth, and had given her a tiny nod of approval, but he was not even sure that they had heard it. Now Sorn was coming after him. He hadn’t been seen yet, but they knew where he was. He had no use for hiding now.

As Sorn began to charge up the slope, Scyld stepped out from behind the tree, a knife already in his hand. He would have to be careful, now; he only had so many knives. Thankfully Sorn did not seem to have any better weapons than a long knife. A fight between the two of them would be equal, and Gurth had peculiarly not yet made a commitment to fighting, not even taking his axe in his hands.

Even though he had a poor angle, Scyld threw the knife at Sorn anyway because of the benefit in fighting an already wounded opponent – and he missed, coming mere inches from his target. Scyld drew out a third knife. He would not be so quick to throw this one away.

He could have moved his body so that he was between Sorn and Linduial at that point – but then he realized that that was probably exactly what Sorn was hoping he would do. He could not betray Linduial’s position, not even with a flicker of a glance.

And then Sorn was upon him. He did not wait to test Scyld’s strengths but immediately attacked. Scyld was more intent on staying out of range until he had an opportunity than putting up an offense. As the fight began, Scyld could not resist a little gloating. “I hope you know how long I have conspired against you… how many years I’ve had a lock pick to your study and intimate knowledge of your records and funds… how long I’ve waited for this day.”

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Old 12-23-2006, 01:13 AM   #141
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Hazed vision was something Sorn was familiar with. Mugs of ale were usually the cause, but this blurry surge through his body could only be the cause of extreme fatigue. And as Scyld taunted him, he supposed his rage was also playing a part.

"I hope you know how long I have conspired against you... how many years I’ve had a lock pick to your study and intimate knowledge of your records and funds… how long I’ve waited for this day."

Scyld jumped and curved out of Sorn's range, the smile on his face making him throb with the urge to strangle him. Sorn was hardly coherent, but he would not take such quips go without answer. Sorn was fatigued, but not silly enough to let Scyld’s dagger slice him, as he dodged quickly.

"Then I take it you know why I never gave you a task worth doing. Save for cleaning up after those with more bravery! You could never take a life, Scyld. Only stand by and watch while someone with the...stomach...did it for you. I would have left you to clean basins had I not cared for them to be done properly!"

As Sorn put most of his attention to this struggle, his eyes darted about for Gurth. The beast had obviously been distracted by something. Was it the approaching horses? Sorn did not let his thought on that stray too far.
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Old 01-04-2007, 10:48 AM   #142
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Farahil passed a thick rope wordlessly into the hands of an able crewman, walking carefully on the wet deck. The ship pressed into the water in the wind and the salt breeze tasted slightly metallic; the harbor might be safe, but an afternoon storm was coming and the fleet needed attention. He stepped comfortably on the jolting boards, climbing to the crow's nest for just long enough to see far into the water. Adragil's ship had yet to return. The wind pulled a leather tie from Farahil's black hair and it blew into his eyes as he looked around him, watching seagulls cry insults at the tossing breezes. He smiled with his eyes and slid back to the deck on a rope, rather than climbing. Adragil was well able. If he could not outsail the storm, he could weather it.

He took the rope once more from the young man and tied it tight, disembarking to see to another ship. The harbor was busy and the street urchins were attentive. Between one ship and the next, Farahil removed a young man's hand silently from another's belt purse. The young man spun fast, reaching for a daggar. He eyed Farahil and knew him immediately for the Lord's nephew, the younger of Farlen's sons, and he remembered stories told in dockside pubs on late nights. He walked away and Farahil saw to crews and ships, offering aid where necessary, keeping an eye to incoming vessels.

Every moment, the sky grew blacker, and, teasing, the occasional heavy raindrop fell, was caught by the wind, and made contact with a wet slap against chilled skin. Farahil simply tended to matters until a small hand caught his sleeve.

He turned his head to meet the eyes of the young messenger. "My Lord..." the lad was breathless. Farahil handed him his waterskin and waited, turning to face him. "News..." he gasped. "News from Rohan. Your lord father bids you return home."

Farahil tipped him a silver coin, bade him eat something hot soon, and left the first mate of his favored ship in charge of the docks.

"But Captain," The man eyed the storm clouds and the ships, brushed his hand toward the cries of sailors hard at work.

"My friend, the storm will break with or without me. Our sailors are not untried lads out for play in calm waters. They know to prepare, and they have, and they are, and they will. And with your leadership, all will go as well as if I were to remain." He spoke no word of the message. A runner brought his mount to him. The horse was a strongly built gelding, sheer black. It pranced against the stone road, but quieted as Farahil took its reins. He eyed the shifting water once more. "When Adragil arrives, send him after me."

---

Some hours later, Farahil brushed water from his mount's coat, shedding soaked clothing until he stood in the horse's stall in breeches, boots, and a loose, untucked, white shirt. It clung to him and his hair needed combing against the wind and rain, but it would come.

With his mount tended and fed, he dried and changed into a near exact match of his wet clothing: black breeches, white shirt. A daggar hung from an otherwise naked belt. He shed his boots for bare feet and held tea in one steady hand as he walked silently toward the room in which Degas and Feo waited almost calmly.

---

The fire haired young man stood, and motioned for the boy to stand, when Farahil entered. Degas stood a hand shorter than Farahil, but he stood confidently, his most pressing errand passed. He had given word to Lin's father. His errand from Rohan was done. Now it was only his own. There was still time to walk away. But Lin's brother stood silently for only a moment, and motioned for them to take a seat as he sat attentively, elbows braced on his knees, with the steam of his tea warming him from inside. His eyes showed none of the warmth.

"You are Degas of the Folde?"

"I am, Lord Farahil." Feo fidgeted, eying the tea with contempt. He quieted under Farahil's look.

"You lost Linduial?"

Degas closed his eyes, reacting wordlessly. He opened them, met Farahil's, and nodded once.

"And you want to marry her when you find her?" No hint of opinion could be detected. A mere statement of fact.

"Yes. If she will have me."

The door opened and a voice boomed. "And why should she choose you, Firetop?"

All rose and Farahil met the mountain in the doorway with an embrace. Adragil stood dropping, his razed head the only dry part of him. His skin was burned dark golden in the lamplight. The furious sounds of the storm entered through the walls, and Adragil was shirtless, black tattoos adorning his arms and shoulders. Degas looked up at him, met his eyes, and refused to look as intimidated as he felt. Feo whistled silently through his teeth. The man was huge. His voice seemed to echo.

"Lord Adragil." Degas greeted him properly, and they remained standing. Farahil sank into shadows. Feo watched with wide eyes, and Degas saw his attention shoot to the golden loops pierced through Adragil's ears.

"That is no answer to my question, man of Rohan. You lost my sister. I want her found. You are not finding her, you are a messenger boy. You would seek to court a lady with the blood of Mithrellas running through her veins, the niece of our lord, the cousin of your queen," His eyes nearly softened their coal daggar stare at the mention of Lotheriel. Nearly, but not. "You would ask permission of her family, and with what to back you? A claim to nobility? A younger son. A livelihood? Young poet, I have heard you sing." Degas said nothing, though wondered secretly, suddenly, when and where. "And you have a good voice, as far as such things go, and I don't hate the touch of your fingers to strings, but it is nothing of a dowry to write a father pretty songs to please a court."

---

What Degas said, none heard, save Feo and the brothers, yet when he finished speaking, the room was hushed.

"I will travel to Rohan with you, Degas of the Folde," said Farahil quietly, "and we shall see what my lady sister says of it."

And so it was that Degas brought the news of the North to the South, and met the family of his heart's desire, and found a home for Feo in the gruff and noble household of Adragil, for the boy had hero worshipped the man on sight, and Adragil had taken a liking to him later, remembering him when he found him playing Pirates and Chasers with his own sons.
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Old 01-07-2007, 11:31 AM   #143
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Never could take a life, or never needed to? Cowardly… or just intelligent? Scyld responded internally. He knew that Sorn would never accept reason, though, so he did not bother to dignify Sorn’s accusations with a response. Sorn was finally revealed for what he was: a petty and pathetic, but desperate, nobleman who had never deserved half of what he got and still wanted more. Scyld did not bother to hide the scorn he felt for Sorn. He felt as if their former positions were reversed: now he, standing on higher ground, was looking down upon Sorn as the worthless and contemptible one.

For just an instant, Scyld caught Sorn’s focus shift down to Gurth and away from the fight, and he took quick advantage of it. He darted in with his knife and gashed Sorn’s upper arm, then danced nimbly away before Sorn could react.

The expression on Sorn’s face was not so much pain as fury and his onslaught redoubled. Scyld blocked some of his wild swings and dodged others, but one time he ducked too slowly and Sorn’s knife nicked him across the temple. The salt in his sweat tingled uncomfortably in the cut.

Slowly Sorn was pushing Scyld farther up the slope; soon Linduial would be in plain view and her hiding place revealed. Within a few seconds, Scyld had to make a decision: stay between Sorn and Linduial, or try to keep Sorn’s back to her hoping he would not see her. He chose the latter. If Sorn tried to turn and run for her, then, he could put a knife through his back…

Then out of his peripheral vision Scyld thought he saw Gurth begin to charge up the slope, and he figured it was over, now. Either Gurth had seen Linduial, or he had decided to help Sorn finish him off – either way, Scyld figured death would not be long coming. Now, Linduial, if you have any other plans… or if not, run. You won’t have another chance…

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Old 02-13-2007, 05:14 AM   #144
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Sorn felt panic rise as his reactions became dulled by fatigue. His strength was ebbing, maintained only by the force his rage exerted on his body’s will. And his knowledge that to lose would mean his death, and his complete failure.

A man’s pride is his greatest asset. Sorn had always felt a swell in his chest at that statement.

When his former servant blanched a moment, Sorn thrust forward and left a sizeable tear in Scyld’s tunic. He grunted, as the wound he left was no more serious than the one Scyld had dealt him. He was still too slow. Gurth bellowed, and Sorn’s grin stretched wide over his sharp teeth.

There was a wisp, a sudden movement as another figure sprang into his view. The young woman barred the way between Scyld and Sorn. Sorn did not gloat at this turn of events. The Lady Linduial had not fled, but tried to rescue his old, deceitful servant? Why would she make such an impulsive, foolish movement for someone so inferior?

Sorn almost felt the situation laughable, had his poor foresight not brought him here. Determined to right his mistakes, Sorn drew another dagger. He could not possibly miss.

A man’s pride is everything, and no single deed can be counted unworthy in the pursuit of keeping it.

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Old 02-20-2007, 02:56 PM   #145
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The Hammerhand

Helm, formerly Gurth, was more disorientated by the nagging ache of his dagger-wound from Scyld than his ox-like pride would allow him to concede. It slowed his motions, his responses, and it hurt remarkably, just as a cut from a pen-knife torments more than the blow of a scythe.

But this combined the pain of the former with the banefulness of the latter. The giant's blood was seeping out at his side, sapping at his reserves of energy. The difference this could make in a fight, Helm knew, might yet leave him in the same state as his hound.

Most of all, he wanted to kill the punesome wretch Scyld who had hurt him like this, to smash him and rend him and leave his brains smashed around the roots of the woods. But this course of action was curtailed by the movements of the man for whom Helm felt much pity, but little duty - his former keeper, Sorn.

As Sorn raised a throwing knife, the same weapon, the same treasonous, hurled, cowardly tool that had dealt Helm such harm, upon her...who was she? Why did she matter? It was not so much her femininity, her vulnerability, as the fact that she had eaten meat from the giant's hand. She was an animal under his protection.

Not thinking seriously to kill his erstwhile benefactor, merely to stop him, Helm clenched his fist, raised his vast arm, and dealt Sorn a crushing blow to the side of his head, preempting the dodge his startled companion attempted. The knife dropped in the dirt. Satisfied that the worst was averted for now, Helm Hammerhanded hefted his axe and ran in the direction of Scyld.

He was ignorant of an important fact. A blow delivered at full strength, at the height of Helm's rage, to an unprotected human head, would have caved in the skull of any normal man. Sorn was tall and fiery, and rather more than ordinary; and the blow had been more in the way of a firm rebuke than a berserk lashing. But it had still reduced Sorn, effectively, to an idiot, rather less capable of reason than his attacker. The lord of the farmstead was still on fighting form, but no human instinct now restrained him, and it was the impulse of a beast that drove him at his one-time fool's departing back...

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Old 04-04-2007, 04:56 PM   #146
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The dagger sank in and tore. The sickening smell and warmth of Helm’s fluid on his hands was all lost on Sorn. It was just the act, and the simple instinct. Helm bellowed, and the sound rose and rent the hillside as Sorn withdrew and plunged the blade again and again.

Scyld and the girl disappeared, as all the things that had once mattered were sifted in with the dirt under his feet. Helm’s blood mixed with his. He could feel the pain growing on his senses; the great weight of the blow to his skull. Sorn faltered, his arms going slack at his sides. He fell, a great weight to the dirt.

He mingled with the dust. He mingled with everything that did not matter. Sorn wished to laugh, at the great ruin he had made of himself, but his throat was too tight. His body lost all composure, and he could not lift his head from the dirt.

He heard shouting, and panicked cries all around him. He heard running, and the steady ringing thump of hooves growing louder. He saw Helm stagger, and begin to fall.

That was the last thing Sorn of Rohan saw. All was lost to him. All that was left of him was his crime, and the smear of shame that ended his house and line.

~*~*~

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Just like that, it was over. Sorn was dead, Gurth was dead, each slain by the other. Scyld’s head throbbed and his chest burned, but it was a smaller price than he had hoped to pay. His old life was gone. Already, a great tension was beginning to seep from his body. He knelt and wiped his knife on the ground, then sheathed it gently. He was… free, almost. Free from everything except Linduial and the law.

He stood up beside her. “That was a foolish thing you did, getting between Sorn and me,” he told Linduial, breaking the silence of the battle’s aftermath. “You should have run away.”

“And gotten how far?” she retorted.

Scyld just shook his head. “It was still foolish,” he said, but he was not condemning her. “But you are safe now.” In the distance, he could hear the sounds of voices and hoofbeats. He did not have much time. “You can go home to Dol Amroth, or to Edoras, or wherever you want.” Yes, that was how it would go. She would go home, little the worse for wear, and concern herself once more in her high and mighty politics. Eventually, she would forget about him, and this whole kidnapping would become as a dimly recalled nightmare. Scyld was surprised at how bitter he felt at the thought.

“Thank you,” she said. Then she faltered. “But… you say nothing of yourself.”

“I’m leaving. I do not know where I will go, but I am not going with you.”

“You still don’t trust me… after all this, you still don’t trust me,” she stated. He could not tell whether her tone was accusatory, or hurt, or just sad.

“I can’t.” He wondered if she knew how much he wanted to trust her. He wished he could. “It’s all I can do to let you go to them.”

“But you are hurt; your wounds must be cared for.” It was her last plea.

He shook his head again. “Both are shallow. I will be able to tend them myself.” He could tell that she was unconvinced.

The sounds were growing louder, closer, and her gaze drifted in that direction.

“Linduial, look at me.” The intensity of his voice drew her attention. “You must promise me that you will not try to find me, or send them after me.” It would be easy for them to catch him now; he was in no shape to fight, and he would go slowly because of his injuries. She started to nod, but this was not sufficient. He took her by the shoulders. “Promise me!”

“I promise, Scyld.” Once again, that unreadable mix of emotions crossed her face.

His grip, which had been tighter than he had realized, melted from her. “Thank you,” he said, and he meant it. Before the scene could grow any more awkward, he stated abruptly, “I must go now.” Without another word, he turned and began to labor the rest of the way up the slope. Her response was so soft that he almost did not hear it: “Farewell, Scyld.” He turned and nodded curtly. Farewell, Linduial… and thank you. Then the ground leveled out, and he disappeared from her sight.

And just when it seemed that he might really be free, Scyld knew that he wasn’t… and that, maybe, he didn’t want to be.

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Old 04-11-2007, 01:49 PM   #147
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Eodwine stopped his horse and dismounted just shy of the steep slope, and climbed on foot as hurriedly as he could. Deren was close behind and many others as well.

Eodwine came to the top of the rise and stopped, stunned. There stood Linduial, knife in hand, and just a few yards in front of her lay on his face a giant of a man, sprawled over Sorn; both were dead.

Surely she hadn't done this. Had they killed each other? Had she helped somehow? Eodwine scratched his head. She did not look much the worse for wear, considering her the likely nature of her harrowing experience.

"Linduial! I am glad to see you sound!" He looked at the two corpses again, and then again at her. "Tell us what happened here!"

She explained that she had escaped from the dungeon by the loan of a key, and had run away out here but had been seen by Sorn and the giant, who had been one of his henchmen. But when Sorn was set on killing her, the giant would not let him. They fought and killed each other instead.

"You had aid then! Who loaned you the key, that we may reward him?"

"A henchman. He escaped when your men arrived," she answered. "I know not where he went."

"Well then. Can you walk?"

She could, and was given to ride one of the mounts. They made their way back to the homestead of Sorn.
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Old 05-08-2007, 12:16 PM   #148
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