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Old 09-04-2006, 05:24 PM   #161
Folwren
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Athwen

Athwen stood in the warm darkness by herself. She felt cold, though, despite the warmth of the night. She paced back and forth before the picketed horses, looking in the direction of camp. The minutes seemed to pass like hours and the silence felt overbearing, save where one of the horse’s moved, and then the motion sounded overly loud and grated on her ears.

“Waiting is agonizing,” she said aloud, stopping and turning to face fully in the direction of camp. Her hands clasped behind her tightly, clenched hard like the knot in her stomach. “I rather wish I could have gone and been part of it all.”

Before the thought had fully left her mind and mouth, Aiwendil’s light filled the sky and the blast of its thunder reported in the stone hills on all sides. Athwen blinked half blinded eyes, but she had less than a fraction of a moment to consider her own surprise when she turned towards the horses. Two horses, tied just beside each other, reared and plunged, pulling at their lines.

Athwen darted forward. “Oh, hush – hush!” she cried softly. She reached the most terrified one, carefully avoiding the taught line and his front hooves. “Quietly, now! It’s alright.” She reached up as high as her short stature allowed her, attempting with all her might to reach the horse’s head. He brought it down suddenly without her touching him, he stepped forward a step and then tried to lunge back again. Athwen’s hands caught frantically at his head and pulled it down. “No, no,” she panted, one hand cupping about his mouth. “Don’t say anything. For heaven’s sake, don’t do that.” He jerked back and the fierce neigh broke out. Athwen cringed, but figured the worse was over.

Now chaos seemed to reign the camp. She could see torches moving about, and hear men’s voices, shouting and confused, and at the same time, the sound of some other horses, loud and shrill, full of some sort of fear and terror. Athwen’s hands, held firmly about the horse’s head trembled and her throat felt dry.

The fear of the slavers’ horses could be sensed by the five horses and pony here. Athwen felt the movement more than she saw it. Some of the horses merely stood in rigid silence, their heads held high and their ears forward. But the others pranced and walked about as far as their picket lines would allow. Athwen’s heart beat strong as she looked from one dark shape to the next. If they got very frightened and attempt to bolt, they would most certainly be able to do so. She turned her attention to the horse at hand. Her small palms ran swiftly over his face and head, calming and relaxing him as she coaxed him to lower his head until his neck ran level with his body. Then she quickly left him and went to the next, more frantic horse.

As she worked on this one, she knew she could not spend this much attention to each horse – not if the tension and excitement got any more exciting or tense. Her mind raced as she spoke gently and soothed this horse to quietness, and she finally thought of the store of oats. Only to be used on special occasions for the horses, they were. Now was certainly one of those times, she thought. She ran from her last patient to one of the bags and picked it up. Quickly, she ran with it towards the horses. Their fear was slowly calming, but as she came near and offered them handfuls of the oats, their attention shifted to her.

In a short matter of time, they were busy sniffing and nuzzling the ground to the get the last of the oats. Athwen watched them with anxious eyes, hoping that nothing more would happen to startle them, at least until she had someone to help her. . .

Last edited by Folwren; 09-04-2006 at 05:34 PM.
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Old 09-05-2006, 03:10 AM   #162
piosenniel
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Had it not been for the faint skittering of pebbles to his left, Rôg would never have glance up toward the source of the sound. And the moon, of course, cooperated in its own way, a skiff of wind parting what few thin, hazy clouds there were to let the pearly light come through. He looked up, a surprised look taking hold of his features.

And just as astonished were the dark eyes that peered down at him.

He’d only a quick look. A young boy, he thought. Or a girl, perhaps . . . the tail of some bright, thin scarf flashed for a brief moment in the pale light as the figure stood to turn and as soon was gone, disappearing behind the low hillock.

Rôg held his breath, listening hard for any sounds that the figure in the dark might be creeping near to do who-knows-what sort of injury to him. He’d had enough of that, already this night . . . the hurting that is; the feathered shaft had flown too swiftly and too true. Hearing nothing, he fled quickly back toward where his companions were.

~*~

From a distance, he could see the figures of the Elf and the young man, Dorran. Their weapons were in their hands and they fought with determination against three of the slavers. Skilled as the two of them were, and what with Lindir being an Elf and all – still three mounted warriors against two on foot laid the advantage to the slavers. Rôg had no sword, and even his walking stick and knife had been left behind with his horse.

Improvise! he hissed to himself.

He bent over quickly and picked up a number of fist sized rocks. Gripping one with his first two fingers close together on one side of it and opposite where he’d placed his thumb, Rôg leaned back that side of his torso and drew back his arm, whipping it forward, then, in a quick smooth motion. His eye was on the horse nearest him, and specifically on the large target of the beast’s hindquarter. He released the jagged missile just as his hand cleared his ear; and it closed the distance quickly between him and the horse’s rear end.

As the rock hit hard against the unprotected flesh, the horse bucked and reared, sending the rider tumbling to the ground . .

Last edited by piosenniel; 09-07-2006 at 12:42 AM.
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Old 09-05-2006, 12:21 PM   #163
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Dorran and Lindir:

The noise of the explosion so unnerved the guards that they pulled back and glanced nervously at each other as if they were unsure whether to remain and fight or to ride hard towards the animal pens where loud shouts and scuffling could already be heard. Quickly deciding that they had best fend off the intruders who were undoubtedly here for no good purpse, the three men had turned almost at once to attack Lindir and Dorran.

Despite his skill as a swordsman, Lindir found himself steadily losing ground, being pressed back along the muddy bank of the river towards the mouth of the tunnel. These men, whoever they were, were exceedingly good fighters. Uncertain how long he could keep up with his two mounted attackers, the Elf was relieved to see one of the horses buck and send his rider sprawling in the mud. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the wound on the horse's rear flank that had been inflicted by the stone as well as the lanky figure of Rôg lurking quietly in the background. Grateful to the man but sensing that this opportunity must not be lost, Lindir had whirled about again and singled out one of the sentries, pressing forward with his blade extended and leading him away from the tunnel. Elf and man now stood locked in harsh combat, their swords glinting bright under the dark night sky.

As luck would have it, Dorran now found himself facing two opponents at once. He parried and thrust expertly with his sword, but could not shake off either of the men. His first thought, like that of Lindir, was to get as far away from the mouth of the tunnel as possible. This was the spot where their companions would soon be emerging, hopefully bringing the prisoners along with them. Better to lead the slavers back along the stream and keep them busy so that they would not even notice what was going on near the mouth of the tunnel. Plus, by keeping them occupied, neither of the men could go back and tell their leader about the little incursion on the other side of camp.

The one thing a rider of Rohan knows is horses. Taking advantage of his skill and youthful dexterity, Dorran grabbed a hank of the loose mare's mane in his fist and threw his body over the animal's back, righting himself in the saddle with some difficulty just as she clambered up the muddy bank. Dorran gave a loud "yahoo" and intentionally charged off towards the plain with the other riders following in close pursuit.

Lindir managed to finish off the first guard and hastily glanced around, intending to use his blade to help out his friend, but Dorran was fast disappearing in the distance, and the Elf had no way to get to him. A horse! What I would give for a horse.... But there was no horse in sight. Lindir was on foot; moreover, he knew he must stay by the stream. He owed it to Carl and Vrór and, even more importantly, to the two trapped prisoners to lend a hand when they emerged from the tunnel. The Elf frowned and shook his head. He did not like this situation. He tried to reassure himself that all would be well. Dorran was a Rider of Rohan, an excellent fighter and well armed, and he surely knew how to defend himself. Still, it was with a heavy heart that the Elf turned back to the mouth of the tunnel, hoping that Dorran would come to no ill harm on his wild ride across the ashen plain.

Last edited by Tevildo; 09-07-2006 at 02:00 AM.
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Old 09-06-2006, 11:05 PM   #164
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As the camp exploded with noise and confusion, Imak came awake with a start. Pulling on his boots and breeches, he ran out of his tent and huriied down to the section of the camp where all the commotion seemed to be centered. The simple enclosures where the horses and donkeys had been housed were now broken and empty. The makeshift fence had been knocked over and trampled upon by an endless number of stampeding hooves. There were a few animals milling about the logpile but many more could be seen racing out across the plain. Imak tried to grab onto one of the steeds milling nae his tent but the frightened creature reared back, gave the slaver a kick on the thigh, and then took off in the other direction.

Cursing with pain and frustration, Imak shrieked at his men, "Round up the horses still in camp. Then ride out on the plain and herd the others back in. The slaves will pay for what they have done! As soon as you've gotten the animals together, all mount up and meet on the western edge of camp. I'll be waiting for you. We ride out immediately and slice their throats."

Striding back towards his tent, Imak came to a sudden halt, suddenly remembering the slave children and wondering if any of them had been involved in this mischief. For the second time, he cursed and then whirled around, motioning to three of the men to accompany him as they raced over to check on the pit.

Last edited by piosenniel; 09-08-2006 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 09-07-2006, 04:25 AM   #165
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Carl looked at the bedraggled boy in front of him. Truly this was not what the hobbit had envisioned when he had set out, but for some reason he had imagined these children would be similar to those he had seen about Minas Tirith, well tended to. But these poor souls looked forgotten; left to grow up on their own, or not grow up at all, as looked the case here. Carl cleared his throat as his eyes rested on the girl. Clearly she was unwell. She hadn’t moved since he arrived, but for all the world looked a lifeless array of skin and bones tucked away in the corner of this unwholesome pit.

Not finding the words he wanted, and perceiving that the boy didn’t know quite what to make of him, Carl ran his hand through his hair as he thought, pushing his dark and dripping locks off his forehead. His eyes returned to the boy. “My name’s Carl,” he whispered, deciding he would get no where without trying to set the youth at ease. “You’ve never set eyes on a hobbit before have you? Well never mind that. We're not a bad lot, but I suppose you’ll just have to take my word for now. At anyrate, we’ve come to get you both out of here.”

The boy’s gaze narrowed, “We? Who sent you...more hobbits?” he questioned with an incredulous edge to his barely heard words. And why not? Carl thought feeling a touch indignant, but it was very short lived. He soon realized that he must not look a terribly convincing hero with his short stature, and that soaking wet, certainly not an impressive specimen to anyone taught to regard strength as the key measure of value.

“Well, not exactly,” he explained, apologetically. “We’re a mixed bag you see…a dwarf and elf, a lady and few men like yourself…very capable. We were sent to help you and the others who’d escaped, but your group had moved on before we arrived at the caves south of here. Been trailing you ever since.”

Suddenly Carl stiffened, turning his head at the nearby splash and light sputtering he could hear over the hurly burly of the camp above them. But catching sight of Vrór hidden among the shadows, his axe glinting briefly in a sudden burst of light, he relaxed. Shifting his eyes upward to the grate, the hobbit could see fireworks through its bars, and a pale beam of moonlight that fell in a dim circle to the floor. Moving noiselessly toward the relative safety of the shadows, he spoke with the dwarf, and felt his heart sink a notch as he learned that Dorran and Lindir, the guardians of the tunnel, had already been beset.

“Still, I think you are right, we’d best go back the way we came,” he agreed. “But the young Miss is a worry. She hasn’t stirred the least bit, and frankly, I don’t know if she can.”

At the dwarf's suggestion, Carl left Vrór to guard the way in, and swiftly walked toward the figure sprawled on the floor, the boy following him closely all the while. While asking their names, the hobbit knelt brushing the tangle of black curls from the girl’s face. Laying a calloused hand on her gaunt cheek, he frowned. “She’s as warm as a kettle!” he said looking first to Vrór and then to the boy, and wishing he had thought to bring another blanket to carry her in. The boy shifted his weight from foot to foot as he watched over Carl shoulder, whispering their names distractedly. “Azhar! Azhar!” the hobbit said as he tried to wake the feverish child.

“I have done that,” the boy said. “It doesn’t help. She has been that way for hours.”

And how were they to get her though the water! The thought shot through Carl 's mind. She definitely needed Athwen’s ministering, and as soon as possible. “Kwell, I think we are going to need your help getting her out of here. Do you think you are up for it?”

Last edited by piosenniel; 09-08-2006 at 08:13 PM.
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Old 09-07-2006, 05:57 PM   #166
Folwren
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Kwell

Kwell sat back and propped his hands up on his knees, looking at the hobbit, feeling still dazed at his unexpected appearance and that of the dwarf. He watched with the eyes of a hawk as Carl touched and handled Azhar, asking their names. He gave them accordingly. The hobbit called to her, but Kwell shook his head.

“I’ve done that. It doesn’t help. She’s been that way for hours.”

“Kwell,” Carl said after a short pause, turning towards him. “I think we are going to need your help getting her out of here. Do you think you are up for it?”

Kwell looked very doubtful. He scowled in the darkness and his jaw clenched as he thought of his answer. “Not the way you came, I’m not,” he finally said. “Azhar can’t go underwater so long as she’s not responding. You should know that. Maybe.” He looked doubtfully at the hobbit. “Besides, we don’t know how to swim. And what’s more, I don’t even know who you are! We’re in a bad plight of things, but I’m not so bad off that I might go throwing in my lot with strangers who might be intending to do the same thing these people are. Explain yourselves, and all the flashes and great explosion things going on before you arrived, if you can.”

He looked with a fierce glance from Carl to Vrór and back again, waiting. Why were they there and what were they trying to accomplish? No one did anything without some thought of gain, Kwell knew that from experience. Carl’s comment of coming to help had quite passed over Kwell’s ears, but he had regained some of his presence of mind by now and not only was he ready to listen, but he also had questions.
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Old 09-08-2006, 09:33 AM   #167
Tevildo
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Azhar:

Although her body lay silent and unmoving trapped within the shadowy dreamworld, Azhar had no trouble seeing and hearing what was going on. As Carl and Vrór emerged into the pit, her heart rang with gladness. This was the help the voice had promised when it had whispered in her ear. The young girl instinctively understood that the Dwarf and the Hobbit could be trusted. But where was the other one, the one who had actually touched her mind as she lay frozen and alone in the bleak depths of despair? Something inside told Azhar that it was important she see and meet the man who had come to her that night with his promise of hope and safety.

Almost immediately, Kwell and the others had begun questioning how they were to somehow convey her body through the deep water to the freedom that lay beyond. Azhar was about to assure the hobbit that she was an excellent swimmer and to explain how she had often slipped away to the Sea to swim and bathe while supposedly deliverying messages for the guards. But before the girl could even open her mouth, she remembered with dismay that she was still sprwled out on the floor of the pit, and had no earthly idea how to put her spirit back into her body, and awake to the conscious world.

Azhar might have continued to lie there, doing nothing and simply relying on Kwell and the two rescuers to figure out an answer to her problem. Back on the slave plantation, this is exactly what she would have done. But a few weeks spent on her own had given her a bit more backbone. As she heard Kwell becoming stubborn, refusing to go with the rescuers or even cooperate with them, she found herself becoming increasingly angry. What a stubborn boy! Didn't he understand their situation and the fact that these two had come a long way just to help them out?

She had to get back inside her body and give him a word or two to prod him along in the right direction. Azhar had no intention of being left behind in this horrible place and she would make sure Kwell understood that. She thought for a moment and then remembered how the great cat had appeared from nowhere in her head and then without warning had changed back. She knew he had done something to make that change possible, to have tapped into some piece of himself that lay hidden within his mind. He had done it so easily. Maybe if she could tap into that same place within her own head, she could at least manage to get herself back into her body.

A moment later, and the trick was done. The body sprawled on the floor groaned and moved, tentatively at first and then with a greater show of energy. Azhar flexed one leg and then the other, twiddling her fingers and staring down at them to be sure they were there. She awoke with a splitting headache, the worst she could ever remember. But except for that and the fact that her fever still raged, she didn't really feel that bad. Abruptly sitting up, she cried out words of assurance to her friend, "Kwell, it's alright. These are the rescuers I told you about. If we don't go with them, we'll never get out of here. Don't worry about me. I can walk and swim. Just lead the way and I'll follow."

Repositioning her feet under her body, Azhar struggled to her knees and wobbily stood up. Her cheeks were white and flushed. Her hand instinctively reached out to the pit wall for support. She took one step forward, grimaced, and almost fell. Glaring over at the others, she stubbornly retorted, "I'm fine. Let's get out of here. I never want to see the inside of a pit again."

Last edited by Tevildo; 09-08-2006 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 09-08-2006, 04:17 PM   #168
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Vrór

It was not just because he was sopping wet that Vrór shivered. Shouts and screams could be heard from above them, and each time any noise became sharper, seeming closer, he felt a cold shudder run down his back, whether or not a drop of water raced down his skin. Anything closer was too close. And with the knowledge dawning on him that though the disruption in the camp had been a distraction, it would soon cause someone to turn his attention to the pit.

They had to get out of there as quick as possible, but this boy decided it was a good time for an argument. If Vrór was a little more clear-minded, he might have been able to see the situation more from the captive’s position. That a Hobbit and a Dwarf had popped out of the water and expected the boy to come with them was a bit much. But Vrór was frustrated by the boy’s stubbornness. One would have thought him to be a Dwarf being asked to leave a near collapsing mine: a stubborn fool.

But before either he or Carl had a chance to respond to the boy’s refusal, the girl stirred. Hope rose in the Dwarf’s heart, and as he watched as slowly she began to move more, he could not believe his hears when she began to speak. Truly, her words were unbelievable in and of themselves! She had told him about? She had known they were coming? Vrór felt a small twinge of fear. What kind of child was this? What kind of children did this land produce?

He could only stare in amazement as she actually stood up and came over to them. She had appeared as the dead, and now she was walking and talking, and apparently certain that she could swim! And Vrór did stare at her as if she were the living dead. Luckily it was only for a brief moment that he forgot how close they all were to being quite definitely dead.

“Why…if you’re certain, my dear…” he said hesitantly, but putting all his kindness into his voice. Coming further to his senses, he began with more assertion, “We are here to get you out, but I do not know how easy that will be. I will go first…I do not know what will be waiting on the other side. And Carl will be the last through…” he looked to the Hobbit as he whispered the final part, inquisition in his eyes, which was answered with a curt nod.

“We must move. Do not get disoriented! There is a way through, no matter how it might seem while you are in the water, so do not panic. I will try and help guide you as best I can. The glint of my axe might serve as a sign for you to follow, if need be. There should be a torch in the wall of the tunnel if nothing has happened, so swim up to the light!”

Realizing the graveness of the situation, Vrór offered a smile of reassurance to both the boy and girl, and the friendly gesture was passed on to Carl, as well. “We will get out of here,” he said, with a variety of thoughts concerning what exactly he meant by ‘here.’

Without any hesitation, the Dwarf moved himself over to kneel by the waters’ edge. He looked down at it for but one moment, and then rolled himself down into it, slowly and carefully, so as not to make any splashes. The cold water splashed over his face and slowly enveloped the rest of his body as he swam down, face first, slowing gliding, his axe gripped tightly in one hand, which he held out, and his other hand feeling his way down. He ran it along the rough rock, ignoring the scraping of his skin, feeling for where the rock ended, and he could slip underneath it. He spared only a brief thought when he realized he would not be able to turn himself around or even to look behind him properly to see if anyone was following him. His thoughts were grave and his prayers fervent as he went as slowly as his lungs would allow him now that they were starting to ache.

Soon he was forcing his head up above the water, and gasping for air, having lost a battle between caution and the need to breath. He forced his eyes to see, even though the water that trickled into them blurred his vision. His torch was still stuck in the wall where he had left it, and there was no sign of anyone, he thought, but then something caught his eye. The blanket, their makeshift colour, did not completely cover the hole. It was drawn back, and someone was looking in! Scurrying out of the water as quickly as he could, Vrór growled and raised his axe. But a blink or two revealed to him his mistake. It was a familiar face that now peered at him with a strange expression.

“Lindir!” Vrór called out to him, though in a low, grating whisper. He chuckled under his breath. “We have them, they are coming!”

With that he turned around, and grabbing the torch from upon the rocky wall, he held it over the water and peered down into it. Tossing his axe aside for the moment, he dipped his arm into the water, holding out his hand both to give the children a sense of direction, and to help them out when they reached him. He counted the seconds as hours as he waited to catch a glimpse of one of them rising to the surface.
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Old 09-08-2006, 05:24 PM   #169
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By the time Ishkur arose, the slim crescent of the moon had risen and shone down from above. He had slept late and had only woken when there was an odd thunderclap of some sort that lit up the dark night sky. Ishkur thought that rather strange since he could not hear any more thunder and there was no hint of rain on the horizon.

The other Orcs had already departed from camp and headed to the slavers' place to pillage and raid. He cursed himself for his lateness. If he did not hurry, the others would already have gotten there and skimmed away the very best of the pickings. Perhaps if he was lucky, he could pick up a sword just as fine as the glittering jeweled blade that Makdush had found. After binding his own sword to his side, Ishkur set out at a fast pace straight to the portion of camp where he knew the horses and donkeys were kept. He had a real weakness for horse flesh and could not wait to bring down another animal and fill his stomach to bulging.

As Ishkur walked quickly towards the camp, he began to wonder if they had made the right choice to stay here for another two nights. He had been the one most responsible for that. Maybe he should not have been so sure of himself and instead listened to the misgivings of his friend Gwerr who had counseled caution. It might be a risky business to raid the same people three or four times in a row. Could the slavers be so stupid that they wouldn't set up extra guards against the intruders?

It was extremely rare for Ishkur to have second thoughts about anything. Like most Orcs, his general impulse was to act first and ask questions later. Sometimes he didn't even bother to ask questions at all. But today he was feeling rather strange. He sensed that something important was going to happen and it was something that had not happened in a very long time. What bothered him most was that he wasn't sure if that "something" would be good or bad. He just knew it would be very different.

All his misgivings about the camp raid were abruptly swept away in just a few minutes. Even from a distance he could see that the entire place was in an uproar. Horses and donkeys were running everywhere. A number of them had escaped from their pens and were now taking off across the plains. Many of the slavers were running around in circles trying to catch the horses and lead them back to camp. They were not doing a very good job. Ishkur laughed to see one man kicked in the ribs by a rearing horse and another try to scramble onto a horse's back only to be thrown back down on the ground.

Iskkur was one of the rare orcs who actually had a way with horses. When he wasn't eating them, he was fairly adept at grooming and riding the beasts. He had a certain respect for the animals, although he would never have admitted that to another living Orc. Once in a while, he even thought about starting a small farm in the foothills of the mountains where he could raise horses to sell both for their flesh and as riding animals.

Ishkur laughed again as he saw one horse play cat and mouse with a man by letting him get closer and then at the very last moment running away so that the man could not touch him. These slavers did not know horses very well. They should have crept quietly through the grass to approach, grunted some soft sounds and gradually let the animal amble into a small canyon or dell from which it would be harder to escape. Ishkur even knew how to knot a rope and, tossing it through the air, make it sing and come down securely over the horse's neck. He'd learned this skill in recapturing runaway slaves and dragging them back to the plantation, but it also worked well with horses. Although he had no rope with him, he could not resist trying to track one of the animals and secure it for his own. This time he would not eat it. Instead he would use it as a riding beast. Relatively few orcs were adept at riding horseback and maybe someday he could use this animal to help start a little place of his own where he could raise a whole herd of stallions and mares. For the moment he would ignore the grumbling in his stomach.

He singled out an especially fine black stallion thatalready had a saddle on its back and a bridle with reins. He began tracking the animal across the plains. For some time he stalked the beast, approaching close but not too close and uttering soft sounds to calm the creature. The horse veered to the west and remained on the perimeter of camp until the two of them came to a stream. Ishkur had a piece of luck when the animal plodded into the water and stopped to drink. One more moment of drinking, and Ishkur actually managed to approach the horse. The beast stared out quizically at him. Generally, the horse did not like orcs, but this particular orc seemed quieter and gentler than others he had seen on the plantations. He was certainly no worse than many of the slavers. The horse raised his head, whinnied a welcome, and let Ishkur come over and mount up on his back without too much of a fuss.

Proudly mounted on the beast whom he named Thunderclap in honor of the great noise in the sky, Ishkur decided that he would not do any more raiding tonight and instead would head back to his own camp. There would be no more horseflesh for dinner, but he could be content eating some of the food that the women had given him. He was about to turn around and gallop off towards the east and south when something unexpected caught his eye. He stared and stared again. There were a three men standing by the steam. Ishkur wondered what they were doing way out here on the backside of the camp. It looked as if they were up to some kind of mischief. He stared closer at the men. One was nothing special and one was very tall but old wearing a brown robe. He could run the two of them down in a minute and briefly considered doing this for a little fun. But when he looked at the third figure, all thoughts of swordplay left his mind.

It was an Elf. It was definitely an Elf. Ishkur's skin tingled unpleasantly at the thought of being so close to an Elf. Orcs hated Elves with a passion and Ishkur was no exception. Ishkur wondered if this was the only Elf around or if there were more. He should get back and tell Gwerr about the Elf but first he wanted to take a closer look to see if there were any others in the vicinity. After dismounting the horse, he led him forward by the reins and stayed within the cover of the bushes until he was close enough to make out the Elf's face. As Ishkur's eyes fixed on the Elf, his stomach dropped down to his toes. A chill spread through his entire body. There were no other Elves in the area, but he was certain he had seen this Elf before a very, very long time ago. He did not know where or when.

There was a lot about his early life that Ishkur could not remember. The first thing he could recall was being brought up in front of Morgoth and bowing down on bended knee swearing allegiance to the Dark Shadow. That was his life. It was who he was. Whatever he was before that moment was all gone. But a little voice whispered in his head that this Elf had something to do with that earlier period he could not remember. Part of Ishkur wanted to run up and take the Elf's head off his shoulders. The other part wanted to approach the Elf and see if he might possibly recognize him. Mostly, he wanted to get away from the Elf and from that place and never see him again. Ishkur remounted and let out a fierce battle cry, kicked the horse in the flanks and took off at a gallop with no idea of where he was going.

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Old 09-09-2006, 07:44 PM   #170
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Carl

Carl became anxious as the shouts of men could be heard closer now, and still Kwell had not followed Azhar into the water, but hesitated watching her disappear gracefully under its surface, staring. The hobbit had to do something to move this boy on, but wasn’t sure just how to go about it. Kwell seemed beyond his ken, and all the ideas that sprang to the hobbit’s mind didn’t apply where there was no home, and probably no family to return to.

“Don’t give up, lad,” Carl finally said. “I know you want more in life than to be a slave, or you wouldn’t have troubled yourself to escape with the others. You’ve had the notion at least once to risk everything and see where it would take you. Do it again then, and if you find you don’t like our company, you can go off on your own after we’re out of this mess. But the truth is, I’d be much happier discussing this over a nice supper, than just now. What do you say?”

Kwell scarcely heard the hobbits voice. Inside his head, all he could hear was the slight sound Azhar had made as she slipped beneath the surface of the water. Nothing remarkable to anyone who had been around water at all in his life, but to Kwell, that deep breath she took, the slight gasp at the coldness of the water, struck him in a strange way. He would do the same thing – take that deep breath – but what if it were to be his last? What if he didn’t make it to the other side? One couldn’t breath beneath water, one couldn’t see beneath water. . .

Harsh voices overhead started Kwell out of his terror. He looked up sharply, first upward towards the grate then down at Carl. He wanted Kwell to go down. . .swim under rock. . .his mind froze again.

“What do you want with us?” Kwell asked.

“O glory!” Carl exclaimed, in a hoarse and impatient whisper, while looking nervously up at the grate, and the swarthy faces peering through it. “Nothing, or rather this something, I want you to follow Azhar through that hole as quick as you are able, before you are shipped back to Nurn while I end up in the bird cage of some Easterling prince!” This was in fact, precisely what the hobbit was imagining at the moment, as the sound of rattling keys was heard above them.

“But I can’t swim,” the boy said faintly.

“Neither can I!” Carl snapped, pushing Kwell toward the wall of the pit. The boy stumbled into the water. “Go! Hurry up! It’s your only chance of escape. Vrór and the girl will be waiting for you on the other side,” the hobbit added over his shoulder as he removed the spud bar from his belt. The grate swung open. “ Don’t worry, it’s not over your head on either side of the wall. Just hold your breath and push yourself along. But hurry!”

The hobbit held the spud bar ready in his hand, as a tan and well-muscled arm appeared overhead, hastily lowering a torch to light the interior of the pit. Carl ran forward immediately, and with a jump succeeded in dislodging the torch, knocking it sizzling into the water. There was an angry shout, as the arm withdrew and another torch was called for. But before Carl reached the water to escape, he heard a heavy thud, as one of the slavers dropped to the floor behind him, growling the most wicked threats.

The hobbit knew it would take a moment or two before the man’s eyes adjusted to the darkness. And without breathing he padded softly to the side of the stream, wadding in as quietly as he could. But as he crept toward the exit his foot struck a sharp stone, and in reflex he pulled it up, loosing his balance only to catch himself from falling by shooting an outstretched hand against the stonewall. Unfortunately, it was the same hand that still held the spud bar. And as the metallic clang rang loudly against the rock, Carl leapt wildly for the hole under the stream. The slaver was at his heels in no time, catching the bottom of the hobbit’s trousers along with a great hank of hair from his feet, before they had disappeared into the tunnel. Carl desperately searched around him for a good handhold, hoping to pull himself forward out of reach, but ended up locking his elbows at his side so that he could not be easily drawn out. Tears would have come to his eyes had he not been submerged, for it felt as though the tops of his feet would be torn off hair by hair as he tried to wriggle and kick himself free. But soon the slaver had moved his grip up to Carl’s ankles, and the hobbit knew his locked arms were no match for the full weight of this man pulling him back out of the tunnel, and so waiting for the next time the slaver renewed his hold, Carl twisted plunging the spud bar down as sharply as he could, and the hands were quick to release him.

Free at last and his lungs nearly bursting, the hobbit shot through the hole to the other side, gasping for air as he surfaced. Everything seemed black before his eyes as he panted, quite unable to speak. But within a few seconds he could see the torch and then the others safely on this side of the wall. Azhar and Kwell were walking toward the way out, while Vrór waited for him to recover. “The slavers,” Carl wheezed, leaning on the spud bar. “They found the hole. They’re too big...I think.”

“Let us hope so,” said Vrór, clapping the hobbit’s shoulder and quickly guiding him toward the others.

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Old 09-10-2006, 02:43 AM   #171
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The Wait by the Tunnel:

Aiwendil had been the last to return to the meeting point. He had arrived with a scowl on his face and deep pools of worry shadowing his eyes. Motioning Lindir and Rôg to his side, the wizard had hurriedly described for them what he had learned while hiding in the bushes on the far side of camp: how Imak had commanded his men to round up the horses and prepare for an assault later that night.

"May I speak bluntly?" Aiwendil continued, glancing over at Lindir. "I fear Carl and Vrór will return too late. If we gallop out of here with twenty-five slavers on our heels, we will bring death to the very people we've pledged to protect. Neither we nor they are prepared to fight a battle tonight. Perhaps one of us, either Rôg or myself, should ride ahead and at least give them some warning,"

"Aiwendil, I am not surprised by what you say. This Imak sounds like a hothead. And if we were greater in number, I would do as you suggest. But we are so few. I can not spare a single man."

"But what about Dorran?" the older man pressed. "Perhaps he could go."

"I am afraid not. He and I were fighting together on the plain when two of the slaver guards seemed ready to ride back to Imak and tell him what was happening on this side of camp. Rather than risk having that happen, Dorran taunted the guards with his presence and raced out from camp with the two men riding close behind. Dorran should have returned a while ago, but I see no sign of him."

"You are saying he was hurt or lost?"

"I do not know, though I wish I did. But I do know we can't afford to lose any more men before we get those children out of camp. As to this Imak, perhaps he will not be so quick to launch an attack. From what I have seen, his men are having no easy time with those horses. Let us hope the horses will make it hard enough that the slavers can not go anywhere tonight. I am afraid we will have to be content with that, at least for the moment."

"And Dorran?" inquired Aiwendil in a husky tone. "This news will not sit well with Athwen, nor with any in our company. Is there anything that can be done? Anything at all?"

"For now, our duty lies here. But once the children are delivered and the slavers vanquished or run off, I will leave no stone unturned to find out what has happened to him."

"Perhaps Dorran is still coming?" pressed the older man.

Lindir answered in a level voice, "We can hope, but Dorran knew how urgent the children's need was. If he could return, I believe he would have done so by now. Indeed, if only Carl and Vrór could sprout wings and fly back here at once. But wishes without action to back them up accomplish little. Meanwhile, we must all be prepared to fight. I do not think we will get out of this camp without a struggle."

Lindir stared pointedly at Rôg and then looked again at the entrance to the tunnel, wondering just how long they would need to wait until the rescuers returned with the children.

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Old 09-10-2006, 11:27 AM   #172
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Due to her poor vision, Shae was nearly on top of the bodies before she saw them. She immediately reacted, yanking on the reins and bringing her horse to a sudden halt. Carefully, she dismounted to further investigate.

There were two bodies, both dark haired and dark skinned. Examining the armour, Shae identified the dead men as slavers. Unanswered questions suddenly overwhelmed Shae. What could have possibly happened here? As she scanned the bloody ground, a shape caught her eye. Stepping closer, she could see that it was another man, but this one was not a slaver. Though Shae could not see the man's face, it was easy to tell that he was much fairer than the other two simply by looking at the colour of his hair. Glancing at the armour, Shae grew curious- it was like nothing she had ever seen. The sword that lay beside him was yet even stranger. The blade was covered in foreign symbols she could not read. Shae easily concluded that this man was the killer of the two slavers, yet she remained puzzled by his identity. She had never seen any kind like him before.

After minutes of pondering, Shae began to turn back to her horse when suddenly the strange man stirred.

He's alive.

Immediately, Shae bent over and turned the man over onto his back. Examining the body, the woman could see the wounds weren't nearly critical. A few scrapes and bruises, a gash to the head, and perhaps a cracked rib- this man could easily live. Shae cursed herself again and again for nearly abandoning someone- someone who had killed her enemy. The woman unwrapped the bandages from her hands and placed them around the man's head to help slow the bleeding. She cursed herself again for being a poor ex-slave unable to give the man better care. In the distance, Shae could hear shouting and the clashing of swords. Pickening up her pace, she brought her horse to the unconscious man. Lifting the him onto the horse was not an easy task, as he was nearly twice her size. After several long minutes, Shae managed to accomplish the arduous task.

Back on the horse, with the injured man sprawled in front of her, Shae's mind took over again. What was she supposed to do now? Turn around back to the camp? No. She was not ready to face Khamir again. Not yet. The best she could do for the man was bring him back to his people. But she did not know where that was. Hearing the sounds of fighting once again brought Shae back to attention and away from all thoughts. Instinct took over and before she knew what she was doing, she was galloping towards the noises.

It did not take long for Shae to find the source of the sounds. Careful not to get too close, the woman slowed her horse to a stop. Her eyes widened at what she saw. It was the slavers' camp, but not at all how she expected to find it. It seemed the entire camp was in chaos. But who was attacking? More of the injured man's kind? Shae squinted her good eye, hoping to better make out the small figures, but was unsuccessful. She thought about moving slightly closer to the camp, but before she could act upon it, the man in front of her began to stir again.

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Old 09-10-2006, 11:58 AM   #173
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Vrór

The Dwarf had never felt so thrilled with hope in his life as one by one he helped the girl, boy and Hobbit out of the water onto rough, coarse dirt that he appreciated now more than he had ever loved even good stone. But what the Hobbit had to say brought Vrór’s momentary happiness to an end, as he realized just how far they were from victory, or even safety. Of course it was only a matter of time before the slavers would know of their rescue, but still it caught him in his stroke of optimism unawares.

“They’re too big…I think.”

Helping Carl out, Vrór’s voice was full of deep concern, though it was steady, “Let us hope so.” He knew there was not much else they could do but hope. And move.

As Carl reoriented himself, allowing a moment for his breathing to slow at least a little – though the Dwarf’s heart was racing long after he had caught his breath – the children were already prepared to get out of the tunnel. They both seemed to have a good head on their shoulders. Likely survival was something they were accustomed to fighting for. The thought pained Vrór as he rushed now to gather up his things. He donned again his belt, picking out his hammer from it, and then his boots, glancing at the water every few seconds, expecting one of those evil men to emerge from it at any moment. He offered the hammer to Kwell, and pulled a small pick mattock, its handle only about a foot in length, from his belt to offer it to Carl.

“We don’t know who will be waiting for us out there. Perhaps the spud bar is more suited for the young lady.”

With axe and torch in hand, Vrór determined without speaking that he would lead the way out of the tunnel. They moved as quickly as they could, shuffling along, while trying not to make too much noise. The seconds were agonizing as their ears strained to hear any sign of the slavers following them, none of them daring to look back. Finally they reached the end of the tunnel, and the Dwarf breathed easy for but a heartbeat before he had to prepare himself to face whatever waited for them above ground. He had not seen Lindir since he had first reached this side of the tunnel again, and there was no telling if he or any of the others had even been able to wait any longer for their Dwarf and Hobbit companions.

Pushing aside the blanket with his axe hand in a rush, he popped out, axe and torch at the ready, to find to his relief three of, at this moment, the most beautiful faces he had ever seen: Lindir, Rôg, and Aiwendil…he and Carl had not been abandoned yet. But soon they would all be in trouble. Vrór felt a sting of guilt. He was not even sure where it was his fault lie, but their escape was not going to be easy because of what had happened in the tunnel and the pit. There was nothing to be done about it now, except to make a break for it before two-dozen armed men were chasing them down.

Peeling back the blanket once more with the head of his axe, he motioned to the others to follow him out, and held open the cover while he turned back to address the tall ones.

“They have discovered our goal,” Vrór said in as low a voice as he could manage, as fervent and nerve-wracked as he was. “They know the children are gone. They are too large for our route, but…they know it exists.”

He could not stop a shudder from running through his body, and he found himself in no condition to make any decisions, so he waited in heart rending anticipation as what the Dwarf’s report meant fell onto the two men and elf. Vrór could not shake the feeling of how narrowly he had escaped death in that tunnel, and combined with the knowledge that he was far from safe now, it was enough to make anyone sick. It did not help that his scornful ears told him that a number of the shouts in the camp were headed in this direction.
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Old 09-11-2006, 10:42 AM   #174
Tevildo
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Dorran:

With his body sprawled over the horse's withers and his head hanging down, Dorran managed to open one eye and unsuccessfully tried to get a sideways glance at the rider in the saddle. His head throbbed and, even worse, there was a sharp pain on his left side that seemed to rise and fall with every breath he took. As he managed to lift his head slightly and glimpsed the slavers' camp just a short distance ahead, he began to suspect the worst: he was being hauled off to slavery. It was a misery that Dorran had personally experienced as a child and one that he had no intention of repeating.

Unwilling to acquiesce in such a fate, the young man summoned his last ounce of strength, bellowed out at the top of his lungs in the manner of one of the Riders of Rohan, and leapt off the horse, half sliding and falling and finally landing on the ground in an ungainly heap. He struggled to rise and run away but his knees buckled under him before he could take more than a half dozen paces. The rider was on top of him in a flash, glaring down and commanding him to close his mouth, or they would both be dragged off by the inhabitants of the slavers’ camp.

A wave of embarrassment swept over Dorran. He had evidently made a large miscalculation. The woman’s tattered clothes and the brand that showed on her ankle confirmed that his rescuer was not a slaver but one of the ex-slaves. There was also the fact that his rescuer had attempted to bandage his wounds, something no slaver would ever have done.

Seeing his error, Dorran struggled to spit out a hasty explanation and apology, using his most gentle and respectful tone. “M’lady, I am sorry. Forgive me. I had two slavers on my tail. I feared you were one of these. Instead, I see you have aided me. For that I am grateful. My friends and I were here to rescue the two children from the pit. We come from lands far west to help lead the slaves of Nurn to freedom. Perhaps, lady, you are one of these?”

Dorran grimaced and held his side as another wave of pain descended. He did not even wait for the lady’s answer. The words came more slowly now as he struggled to get them out. “My friends….my friends are west of the camp by the stream bed. I…must….go now. I must help them. For they will need all the stout arms they can get to strike against the foul jailers. Go back to safety. Please....take your horse. Flee. I will make my own way to my friends.”

With that Dorran leaned back, held his head, and moaned.

Last edited by Tevildo; 09-13-2006 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 09-12-2006, 02:30 AM   #175
piosenniel
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‘Perhaps one of us, either Rôg or myself, should ride ahead and at least give them some warning...’

He half heard the suggestion Aiwendil was making and heard even less of the rest of the discussion. His left shoulder ached fiercely and along his flank ran a long furrow where he’d been injured. He’d stanched the blood along its course with his tunic, but with each movement there was a searing sort of pain that made him quite woozy.

At the end of the hurried little tactic session, Rôg glance up at Lindir, only to find the Elf looking pointedly at him. He stifled a groan, knowing that the blighted man expected him to light out toward the slave group to give warning of the slavers’ plan to attack. It would mean mounting his willful, if not indeed Shadow-spawned beast, and riding at breakneck speed. And what good would that do, he wondered . . . to have some bookish, clerkish sort of fellow come riding into the slave camp shouting out some dire warnings. They would take him, most certainly he thought, for a madman or a pawn of their enemy and most likely dispatch him with what weapons they might have. And for his part – he’d had enough of weapons and injuries for now.

He sidled over to stand near Aiwendil, positioning himself on the far side of the old man, away from Lindir. ‘If there’s to be any hieing off to alert the escaped slaves, I hope that you will consider playing the messenger.’ He stepped back a pace and eyed the wizard. ‘You look more the part, you know. Commanding presence - what with your staff and long beard and snapping eyes and all. And really you’re much better at that authoritative sort of delivery.’ He scratched the back of his neck and smiled wanly at his companion. ‘And besides, I need some time to lick my wounds, so to speak . . . that bowman had a keen eye for his target.’ He shrugged, wincing as he did so. ‘Though, if you really want some company, I’ll come with you.’

Rôg peeked around Aiwendil to where Lindir stood. ‘What ever you want to do is fine with me. But looking at those two wet and bedraggled children, I think we should mount up right away, and get as far from those vile creatures as pass for men as we can.’

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Old 09-12-2006, 09:27 AM   #176
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"My friends and I were here to rescue the two children from the pit. We come from lands far west to help lead the slaves of Nurn to freedom."

The hairs on the back of Shae's neck tingled at these words. She had long ago let Khamir convince her that help would never come. Yet....could it be? Before the woman could respond, the man spoke up again.

“My friends….my friends are west of the camp by the stream bed. I…must….go now. I must help them. For they will need all the stout arms they can get to strike against the foul jailers. Go back to safety. Please....take your horse. Flee. I will make my own way to my friends.”

He had barely stood up when Shae pulled him back down.
"Wait...I can't just let you go. You are in no condition to fight."
The man glared back at her furiously. He opened his mouth, ready to argue, yet realizing he didn't have the energy to even bother, he closed his mouth and started to stand up a second time.

Shae watched the man attempt to find his feet, ready to again protest his foolish actions.

What am I doing?

This thought came abruptly, causing her to hesitate. She had left the camp in rebellion, furious at Khamir. How dare he attempt to order her around when she had spent her entire life struggling to be free of commands? Yet, here she was ordering this man- a total stranger- against his will.

The man had barely made it to his feet, clutching his side, yet his face was filled with determination to return to his friends. Before he could take his first step, Shae stood up and grabbed his arm.

"Wait..." Shae waited for the man to turn around before continuing. "I could be back at my camp, sitting safely with the other ex-slaves and waiting; but instead I am here. I left with the purpose to rescue the two children, and though your company may have beat me to it, it would be foolish to return empty-handed. I won't stop you, if you ride with me to your friends. Deal?"
The man hesitated, then slowly nodded.
"Good. Then let's go."

Shae helped the injured man mount the horse, then took her place in front of him.
"What's your name?" the man asked.
"Shae," she replied. "...And yours?"
"I'm Dorran....of Rohan."
"Rohan?" Her mind instantly when back to her childhood, remembering stories of the Rohirrim. "I have never met anyone from Rohan before."
Between his grimaces, Dorran gave her a smile.
Shae took hold of the reins. "So," she said, staring into the darkness. "In what direction are your friends?"

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Old 09-12-2006, 12:27 PM   #177
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Ungolt

The three female orcs had not moved from their hiding place in the slagheap. Zagra still held Mazhg in her arms and was trying to comfort her. Both sisters looked upset. Ungolt scrambled up and announced, "I have no more heart to raid. That cat made me afriad. The lights burned my eyes. I am going back to camp." With that she began tramping across the dark plain.

When Ungholt reached camp, she grabbed a handful of turnips to eat and sat down beside the pile of reeds she had gathered earlier that evening. She began to work on weaving a new basket. But all her hard work could not chase Mazhg's words from her head or erase the cat's wild face. Mazhg had seen the cat fade into the shadows and a moment later a man stood in nearly the same place. He had looked at Mazhg strangely. Then the skies had broken open so that all three women plugged their ears and covered their eyes.

Ungolt trembled when she remembered the words that Mazhg used to describe what had happened: it was as if the Dark Lord's wizards had taken control of the night. Ungolt was afraid of meeting a wizard who was master of wild cats and fire and thunder. Could he master her too? She wanted to be free to have a small place of her own but maybe she had made a mistake coming here.

Ungolt began thinking very carefully about what Mazhg had said. The breeding farm owners had said that the Dark Lord had been killed at the end of the last great war. That was why the Orcs no longer had a leader and why the women on the breeding farms had been allowed to go away. If the Dark Lord was dead, Ungolt reasoned, then his wizards must be dead too. But soemone had made the fire.

When Ungolt was young, the others had told her about terrible creatures who hated and killed Orcs, especially young Orcs and women. Ungolt was afraid of regular men, but these monstors were worse. They were orc slayers and powerful wizards who were usually called "Elves". Elves had ugly pointed ears, ate food that tasted like wood, and made sappy music no orc could bear to listen to. By the time Ungolt finished weaving her basket, she had decided the monstor who commanded the cat and the sky fire must be an Elf.

She walked over to the edge of camp to do some personal business and happened to notice that Makdush had thrown out his rusted back-up sword into the bushes. Since makdush had a gleeming new blade, he no longer needed this one. She stared at it and stooped down. Glancing around to make sure that no one was looking, she scooped it into her heavy leather bag. She would need something to defend herself and her friends against the powerful Elf wizards.

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Old 09-12-2006, 03:22 PM   #178
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Gwerr (and Ishkur)

Gwerr had slept most of the day quite peacefully, only waking up to the occasional burst of small birds flying low enough over the orc-camp or sudden calls from the slavers encampment. As the evening crept along he finally awakened and immediately saw that most of the others had gone searching for loot into the Slaver-camp, even though Ishkur had especially said that they should wait and stay easy for one night, to await for the night the slavers would be gone. Oh you blasted fools! You maggots and orphaned mummies! You just walk there in the middle of the camp that is already buzzing like a nest of bees because of the last night! Thanks to Makdush and his brain-dead Uruk-fellows...

“Have you gone berserk? Alarm then tonight and farewell to our next night of easy pillage. You get all killed and hunted. Mousebrains you are.” He cursed with a low tone, relieving a bit of his anger with it. There seemed to be a couple of orcs still sleeping in pits and hollows on the ground. The Uruk seemed all to be fast asleep in peace. Gwerr acknowledged the fact with reluctance. These Uruks seem to have more brains than most of us others...

It would serve those vermins just right to get caught tonight and get a nasty death! Fools you are, impatient children of the men you are! Gwerr was again loosing his temper. But what about our dream then? He stopped immediately with the thought. I can’t do it alone. There is no dream without the others...

Gwerr had already started towards the slaver-camp as the last thoughts were passing his mind. He was increasing his speed, going through the thicket quiet and fast as a shadow passes the ground at dusk.

Soon, just before coming to the perimeter of the camp, he heard the horse whine and the clatter it’s rider made. “Ishkur! What the heck?” He ran to Ishkur and took hold of the reins of the horse that were hanging loose. The giant beast clearly didn’t approve of either orcs presence, but Gwerr had handled too many horses during the couple of thousand years of life-span he had as not to give the animal a chance. He tightened the reins and and took a stiff grasp on its muzzle-rein, pulling it’s head down a bit to show who was the master here.

“What are you doing my old friend? You said yourself we should lay low tonight! And here you are, like an Easterling chieftain leading an army of dim-witted morons and playing the fool of everyone!” But as Gwerr was venting his anger and disappointment towards Ishkur, he suddenly saw his face.

“What is it now? It looks like you’ve seen the Dark Lord himself, or an elf-King?”

Last edited by Nogrod; 09-12-2006 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 09-13-2006, 03:27 AM   #179
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‘Who is it?’ Mazhg whispered to her sister. She could hear voices, men’s voices just beyond the great trunk of the tree they stood behind.

‘It’s that one we gave food to,’ Zagra whispered back. ‘Talking to that one with the black fur on. You seen him; he’s got the metal over his one eye hole.’ She pressed her fingers to her lips, urging Mazhg to keep silent.

What is it now? It looks like you’ve seen the Dark Lord himself, or an elf-King?

Mazhg peeked around the tree at the two men, then darted back quickly. ‘Elf-King?’ She narrowed her eyes considering the fact that that unfamiliar word was paired with ‘Dark Lord’. Did it have anything to do with the wizard, the cat, she’d seen? She turned the word Elf over in her mind.

‘Zagra!’ she whispered, pulling her sister down into a crouch near the base of the tree. ‘Do you remember hearing any stories about these Elfs? Zagra shook her head ‘no’. ‘Let’s just listen in,’ Mazhg went on. ‘Maybe that on will say more about these Elfs.

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Old 09-13-2006, 08:42 AM   #180
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Ishkur:

At first Ishkur grunted and stared at the ground to avoid looking Gwerr in the eyes. What had been said made sense, but Ishkur refused to admit he might have been wrong by urging the orcs to stay and continue to raid. He was surprised that Gwerr's final question had been so close to the truth It was so close that Ishkur began to wonder how his friend had managed to crawl inside his head and discover what was hiding there.

Still, Ishkur did not want to risk an argument with Gwerr when they were inside the enemy's camp. The orc dismounted from his horse and good naturedly clapped the other orc on the back as he barked out a reasonably cheerful answer. "And you say I don't know what I'm doing? While you were sleeping and probably oogling women in camp, I was out here spying and doing an orc's job. Look around, Gwerr! It's the perfect time not to be seen." Ishkur wagged his finger towards the general chaos that was still going on around them.

"And I found out a lot. Really a lot!" Ishkur pulled himself up to his full height and grinned proudly at Gwerr. "Some men have attacked the camp. A few robbers pillaging things down by the stream. Probably slaves who've decided to get even. And yes! You're right, Gwerr. Somehow they've made an agreement with one of the Elf-kings. I saw it with my own eyes. There were men and an Elf working together. If you don't believe me, I'll take you over and show you. Or maybe you're afraid of Elves and wouldn't want to come?" Here Ishkur grinned slyly so that Gwerr would understand he was only poking fun. "Anyways it's all good news for us. These slavers are going to be hopping mad. They'll want to have some slave heads on a stick. For sure, they'll ride out tomorrow. Maybe even tonight. All we do is stick around till they're gone. Then the place is all ours. I already have a fine battle horse. Maybe I'll pick up some gold or jewels. And those flasks of ale look plenty inviting."

"Of course, I want you at my side to share in the loot. I wouldn't want Makdush to get any more treasure. It belongs in good orc hands. But I can't stop you from leaving if that's what you want. For my part, I'm staying here, but I won't tell you to go or stay." Ishkur's voice turned serious. "When I left that plantation, I was sick of being ordered around by the Uruks. I'm not going to start ordering other orcs around, not unless it's a matter of a warrior's honor."

"So how about it, Gwerr, want to get a look at a real Elf king? There's great honor to be had in taking down an Elf."

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Old 09-13-2006, 12:06 PM   #181
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Lindir and Aiwendil:

There was something in Rog's voice and demeanor that stopped Aiwendil from responding in his familiar cranky way. For the first time since returning from the far side of camp, the wizard took a hard look at his friend. He was concerned by what he saw. All worries about the rescue and the children's arrival were temporarily pushed to one side. Rôg was hurting badly despite the mask of cheerfulness he was still struggling to hold in place. Aiwendil chided himself for having been so unaware of his friend's problem. The young man was not the type to complain and preferred to keep problems to himself, which made his reference to "licking wounds" even more surprising. Aiwendil suspected that Rôg's consition was considerably worse than he was admitting.

The wizard spoke in a firm, gentle voice that left little room for contradiction, "You're right. We do need to help these poor wretches escape. But you are in no shape to race ahead to the slave camp. I should not have suggested that. Take care of yourself, my friend. Return to the knoll and let Athwen dress those wounds before we ride out." Not bothering to wait for an answer, Aiwendil explained to the others, "Rôg is hurt. I'm not sure how badly but he is no condition to fight."

Lindir looked up at the two young slaves and then glanced back at Rôg. Despite Azhar's brave demeanor in the tunnel, it was clear to the Elf that she was not well. Both the girl and Rôg needed to be led from the camp as quickly as possible. Neither were strong enough to defend against an attack. The Elf weighed his choices and then resolved, "Aiwendil, you and Rôg and the girl must leave immediately. What I would give for two horses! But we will have to do without them. I don't think the slavers will approach from the west. If anything, they will be at our backs. Carl and Vrór and I will follow a little ways behind. If a problem develops, we will stand our ground and hold off the slavers long enough for your party to cross over to where Athwen and the horses wait. Aiwendil, if anything should happen....if any of the slavers should get through, you must defend Rôg and the girl by using whatever means you can. I will leave that to you. And if our party does not make it back to the knoll within a few minutes of your own arrival, you must all mount up and take off for the slave camp together."

Aiwendil nodded as Lindir replied, "May Varda protect us all until we meet again at the grassy knoll or the lands beyond.."

The slave boy was last to speak to the Elf, "But what am I to do?"

"You are not a child. Neither you or the girl. I was wrong to think of you that way. You are free to choose. Go with Aiwendil or stay with us to fight if that is needed. Either way, you will need a weapon."

From inside his belt, the Elf drew out a dagger, a stout silver blade whose hilt was emblazoned with an intricate pattern of leaves and vines. "I crafted this blade when I was your age. Take it. It's yours. You've earned this weapon by your bravery and endurance." Then he walked over to where Carl and Vrór stood. "We'll let the others get a head start and follow a short distance behind: not too far, but enough that the slavers will take us as the bait and not be tempted to look too far ahead."

*************

Just before they left, Aiwendil yanked a limb from one of the bushes beside the stream and handed it to Rôg to lend him some support. Then he offered his arm to Azhar who quietly took it. Finally, he beckoned his group to start walking as quickly as they could. The others remained near the stream bank, crouching in the bushes.

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Old 09-14-2006, 07:48 AM   #182
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‘You are not a child. . .You are free to choose.’

The tall elf had said that. Facing a dripping, cold, frightened and stubborn boy, the elf had said that. Kwell couldn’t help the shiver that passed from his head to foot as Lindir handed him the dagger.

“I crafted this blade when I was your age. Take it. It’s yours. You’ve earned this weapon by your bravery and endurance.” Kwell looked at the dagger for a moment, saying nothing. That wasn’t true. There had been no real bravery and endurance. Azhar had been the one who was brave. Kwell had simply endured because he had to, not because he was brave. He looked up, tempted to say so, but Lindir had gone.

Kwell watched silently as Rôg limped away, leaning on a stick for support, and Aiwendil followed with Azhar. He felt weary and cold. The pit had been warm, the slight night breeze on his wet skin made the open air feel chill. He was bruised and sore, but Kwell decided to stay behind. What were all these discomforts and momentary pains compared to the ability of being free to choose, and then to fight for that freedom? Never before had he been able to make any choice of his own. At the plantation, all the slaves were treated worse than animals, and with the escaped slaves, he had been considered a child.

He squared his shoulders and clenched his jaw shut to keep his teeth from knocking together. He walked forward to stand by Lindir’s side.

“I’ll stay with you and the. . .hobbits,” he said, a little hesitantly as he darted a look towards Carl and Vrór. He drew a deep breath and looked down. He studied the dagger in his hand, working up the courage to say something he’d never uttered in his life. “Thanks,” he finally managed, and felt his face grow hot.

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Old 09-14-2006, 02:29 PM   #183
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Hadith

Hadith sensed that Adnan was about to leave. From the corner of his eye he saw his movement.

“I thank you for your words of my father... I never got to know him. I remember just bits and pieces from my early childhood. But I believe you are right about him.” Hadith raised his eyes to meet Adnan’s. His eyes were gleaming faintly from the tears he had wept and from those which tried to force their way out from inside him. He bit his lip and then sighed somewhat resignedly: “But you are clearly misinformed about me. I’m not a wise man... I’m just a guy who’s lost and doesn’t know what to do, trying his best, which might not be enough.”

Suddenly Hadith was overwhelmed with sympathy towards Adnan, the lad he had scorned up to the very last minutes. He actually realised, that they were both just young boys searching for what they were and trying to cope with a totally different world that had been thrown to them; baffled, insecure, afraid. This freedom... it’s been lot more troublesome I ever imagined.

“Please Adnan, if you have nothing more urgent to do, sit by me for a while.” Hadith said, attempting a casual tone. No one would have said he managed it. Before Adnan said anything, Hadith continued: “We’re both loners, aren’t we? Lost in this free world. I have Khala and Cuáran, in away. They have looked after me every now and then since my father died. They were friends of my mother...” With that his voice broke and he started to weep quietly again. The memory of her mother and her death came vividly to his mind.

Hadith tried to recollect himself but it wasn’t easy. In the end he managed to half whisper his words to Adnan who hadn’t dared to move anywhere while Hadith had been crying. “Do you have anyone?”
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Old 09-14-2006, 06:12 PM   #184
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Adnan

Adnan could not have been more shocked when Hadith actually asked him to stay. No one had voiced any desire for the fifteen-year-old’s company before, and he did not know quite how to react. His body worked in autopilot as he obeyed what was not even a command and sat back down. He had spent so long following orders… He was rather lost these days, now that he felt he actually was going somewhere. Hadith’s remarks that followed matched Adnan’s thoughts all too well, and sent a chill through his body, which forced him to shudder. He hoped the other young man hadn’t noticed. It seemed not, since the he was lost in his own thoughts.

The boy could not help but feel even more awkward now that Hadith was being so open with him, even though it made him feel warmer inside than he had felt in a long time, even though he felt honored. The slightly fairer skinned man would never know how much he was giving to Adnan just by telling him about his parents, those who cared for him, and how much it hurt that they were gone. The emotion – pain the sharpest – in his voice gave the younger man the deepest sense of what it meant to have someone love you, which was something Adnan had never been able to even begin to understand.

The awkwardness reached a new peak for the boy as Hadith burst into tears once again. Adnan felt some kind of pain close to his heart, but it did not pierce it: it was too strange to the boy, empathy, much less sympathy, was something he had learned to avoid. He was prepared to say something to break the silence and anguished sobs, but then Hadith broke out of his tears for a moment, though his voice shook violently.

“Do you have anyone?”

Adnan was caught with his mouth halfway open, and it remained that way, as he slowly and painfully realized that he did not know how to answer the question. He forced his mind to think. Did he have…“someone?” But what kind of someone? Someone like Hadith’s parents, like Khala and Cuáran? No one like them. He hadn’t really thought about what “having” someone was like. No one had ever been free enough for him to have…

“I guess not,” he said, more drearily than he really felt. He quickly spoke up again after a short pause, disliking the idea that Hadith might think of him as lonely or pathetic, pitiable. “I mean…not anymore… I mean, I had my mother, for a while, I guess…but there were my sisters and brother… I was older than them. Mostly I took care of them when my mother couldn’t. I never really felt like I “had” someone…in that way, at least…at least no one in particular…” he trailed off as he tried to put into words the deeper memories of his childhood. It had been only three, maybe four years, but he had already forgotten so much. It was astounding how quickly time could erase anything.

Yet again he felt he had successfully played off his loneliness as something of no matter, and he felt both filled with regret and stubborn determination. He would never ask for the help of others, he would never ask for another’s company… And yet he felt Hadith was undoubtedly the better man for being able to do so.

Suddenly there was a loud shout of someone calling for the camp’s attention, and both Adnan and Hadith’s heads shot up too look over in the direction it came from: only a few yards away where Khamir and Beloan stood. Adnan felt a sudden rush of fear. Were those golden monsters back for them already?
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Old 09-14-2006, 06:13 PM   #185
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Khamir

“Free Peoples!” Khamir shouted a term he had heard some of the westerners use to address the former slaves. The sound of it was proud, and it asserted the very fact that they were now free, which was something he dearly wished to remind them of.

“Anyone who wishes to head after the Easterlings, the bounty hunters, and free again the children…our children…may prepare to leave as soon before dawn as possible.”

A murmur rose up all around the camp, everyone wondering all at once about this sudden decision. Khamir could only imagine their thoughts and their words: finally a decision, trying to make up for his cowardice, pretending to be leader, playing games of heroes… He was careful not to allow his ears to hone in on any of the voices.

“All of those who remain must be prepared to guard the camp, particularly if anything should go wrong.”

The one-armed man ran a hand through his hair, and looked a great deal like his former self: a weary plantation slave.

“I would never claim to be a hero. I would never claim that I have done anything right. I only tell you now what I know…and what I plan to do. No one must come with me. We are free to do as we will. And I will not sit here any longer… I-“ he paused, and reached down to collect the two knives he had been sharpening and placed them in his bag. As soon as he rose up again, he finished his sentence, with no less assurance, “am sorry.”

Knowing not what else to say, and not at all certain about what he had said, Khamir shouldered his bag, and was followed by Beloan a few yards away from the camp. This would require careful planning, and the Southron man felt a slight thrill of excitement. It was just like the raids of old, only with more precious spoils than ever before…
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Old 09-15-2006, 12:42 AM   #186
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Dorran and Shae:

"There...over there....at least that's where they were when I led the guards away from camp."

After Dorran and Shae trotted up to the edge of the stream bed, both dismounted to have a closer look. There was no sign of anyone, although the ground was trampled, and Dorran could see an assortment of muddy footprints leading up and down the bank.

Dorran shook his head and scowled, "Maybe they've left?" His face went pale as a new wave of pain caused him to stop and grab his side. The gash on his head was no more than an annoyance, but the searing pain coming from his ribs was definitely getting worse. He was privately wondering if something had gone wrong. Perhaps his friends had failed in their task and been kidnapped by slavers or something even worse had happened. Dorran refused to give in to his fear. Moreover, he could see no evidence of fighting, no splashes of blood or tattered scraps of clothing fallen on the ground; more likely, his friends had finished the rescue and taken off for the meeting spot.

"Shae, I do think my friends have already ridden out, but let's check the area before we follow them. I'll go this way." Dorran pointed towards the plain and added. "Work your way back along the bank but not too far. Keep your weapon close at hand. We'll meet here in a few minutes." Dorran drew his sword and Shae followed suit as the two slowly proceeded in different directions along the stream bed, searching for anything that would give them a clue to what had happened. Dorran was on foot but Shae had remounted her horse.

Dorran could find nothing suspicious to the west of camp and had decided to turn back when he heard Shae's angry cry. Despite the unrelenting pain in his side, he forced himself to run back along the stream bed. There, at the entry to the tunnel where Carl and Vrór had gone down to do their work, stood a tall figure with slightly pointed ears who was holding a dagger to Shae's bare neck.

"Lindir, no!" Dorran sprang forward to explain and placed his own hand on top of the Elve's arm. "She's my friend, one of the slaves."

Lindir's sword dropped immediately to his side. Then he stepped back and extended his hand in greeting. "My pardon, lady. A hundred pardons. When I saw someone on a horse, I mistook you for one of the slavers. We are here to help you and your people and this is no way to start off."

Shae eyed Lindir suspiciously. She had never in her life seen an Elf. But for some reason she could not understand Shae extended her own hand out and touched Lindir's for an instant. Dorran gave a private sigh of relief.

Then Lindir turned to Dorran, "I am so glad to see you alive. You had me worried. But Rôg's been hurt, and one of the slaves we rescued. Aiwendil left with them for the meeting point not more than five minutes before you came. I'm waiting here with Carl and Vrór and the young boy Kwell. We know the slavers have discovered us. The tunnel seemed a good a place as any if we're going to surprise them and hold them back to let the others get a good ways out."

Dorran was leaning back against the horse's flank and clutching his side in obvious pain. "I'll stay with you to fight," he added through gritted teeth.

"And I too," added Shae, her eyes showing no hint of fear but only the chance to strike back against the people who had hurt her for so long

Lindir shook his head, "No, Dorran. I don't know what happened. Explanations can wait. But I would no more send you out to battle than you would send one of your own men to war who had already been injured. Don't argue. The slavers will be here any second. Ride due west and catch up with Aiwendil. They could use your sword, and most of all the horse. I don't know if the girl is well enough to walk that far on her own feet."

For one instant, Dorran considered objecting, but realized that Lindir was right in ordering him to go with the other group. He stammered out a quick explanation, "This horse belongs to Shae. I can't just take it for myself."

"Yes. you can," the girl added. "I will stay and fight and you will take care of my horse until I come back and take it from you. And, by the way," she added, "my name is Shae."

Lindir nodded, "Well, then, Shae, your heart is as unselfish as it is bold. Come down into the tunnel and meet the others."

With that, Dorran mounted up, turned his horse, and began cantering towards the west.

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Old 09-16-2006, 01:56 PM   #187
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Carl

Carl emptied his damp shirt of round pebbles he had collected from the streambed, making a pile of them behind the bushes where they were to hide, and lecturing Kwell in the vast differences between hobbits and dwarves, all the while struggling to maintain a straight face. Of course he concentrated on the more obvious differences giving a wide berth to the touchy subjects of politics and general outlook on life. Vrór fortunately, had been too preoccupied with watching the camp as well as the tunnel entrance, to have overheard Kwell’s comment. But Carl had overheard it, and every time it came to mind, his body shook with suppressed mirth until at last a wheezy laugh erupted from him. To think anyone should mistake Vrór for a hobbit! Even the boy had made the connection rather warily, as if reluctant to group the two together. And though the hobbit suspected he himself was quite responsible for the confusion, for he had neglected all proper introductions in the press of events, he couldn’t help but find the humor of it irresistible.

Lindir shot him a sobering albeit not unkindly glance, and Carl tried hard to compose himself. Clearing his throat self-consciously, he apologized to the elf and the boy, and was recovering, when he saw that Vrór pointing wordlessly away from the stream, slightly west of it, looking back at the others to make sure they too saw what he had spied. Squinting, the hobbit could just make out two figures on horseback moving slowly some distance off. Once again Carl reached for the spud bar, but soon realized that the head of the spade that he carried, was gone and must have fallen somewhere in the tunnel. With its highly stylized Gondorian head, he became alarmed that it might prove a calling card to the slavers, alerting them of the efforts of Gondor on the behalf of Mordor’s slaves. Sharing these fears with the others, Lindir quickly proposed to him that Vrór and Kwell accompany him back to the passage underground, quickly looking for it before the riders reached them. He cautioned also that the slavers might have found that they could pass under the rock in the tunnel themselves, and be searching underground even now. He meanwhile, would remain to keep watch on the riders and to warn them of any untoward happenings.

And so the three clambered back inside the passage, and stood listening for a moment to see if they were alone in that catacomb, before they hurried along toward the camp, scanning the floor of the tunnel as they went. They had not gone more than a dozen yards when Kwell found the spade in the water. And bending to pick it up, he returned it to Carl observing that among the other things perhaps hobbits were more fortunate than other’s as well. And the farmer had to admit that it did certainly seem true, at least today, for who else had such friends that would risk running the gauntlet just to remedy such carelessness.

But just as they turned back to rejoin Lindir, they heard a signal from the elf. And gathering together at the mouth of the tunnel, they waited in silence, ready spring to his aid if needed. All was eerily still, until they recognized a voice. Dorran had returned, and was calling out to Lindir. But who was the second rider? Carl wondered. And after a moment or two he heard the horse galloping away. The curtain was quickly removed, and Lindir bid them to come out as he folded the rough blanket neatly. But instead of Dorran, an armed woman faced them, slight and attractive. Swathed as she was in ragged clothes, and wearing the frown of a hard life, Carl knew without being told that she was no slaver, but had been one of those to suffer their cruelty.

She said that she was Shae, and she had come looking for Azhar and Kwell.

But before she could explain further, both her and Lindir’s attention became fixed on dark shapes that were intermittently passing before the glowing fires of the slavers’ camp. Two shapes were rapidly growing larger. And they were heading directly for the gully.

Jumping across to move further down stream, back to the heavy brush, Carl gave Kwell his knife as they organized themselves on the bank opposite the tunnel entrance, so that they had a clear view of both the hole and the camp that lay beyond it. Kwell and Shae crouched waiting, off to Lindir’s right, and Vrór and the hobbit were hidden among the bushes on his left as the two slavers approached the gully in the moonlight.

Slinking about, the two men hopped down to the stream, noiselessly following it toward the place were the others were concealed. As they neared the tunnel’s entrance they slowed, examining it and the ground before moving on. After a short distance they stopped. “They are gone,” one finally said, straightening his back. “It must have been a slave child with a horse that snuck in and carried those brats off. See the hooves marks and small footprints here? Came from the west... one of their cronies no doubt... from that group of slaves. No chance of catching them and teaching them a lesson now.”

“I know...I know.... I suppose we will have to tell Imak then, though he’s in rare form tonight. I don’t relish giving him the bad news. We have waited too long.”

“Don’t worry, he’ll know we can catch them again at their camp. And besides Imak won’t want too many babies now that we know they can fit through that crack. We’ll have to keep them chained together out in the sun, to keep an eye on them. Better to have found out now then after the big raid, eh?”

“You can break it to him then, if you think its a such good thing, and tell him about Hamin too while your at it,” the other slaver said as he pulled himself up out of the gully. “The brute might be able to ride a horse yet, but it will be a while before he can wield a sword or lance as well as he could! If he finds those two, they better watch out, he’s bound to have something in store for them.”

“He was none too happy,” the first laughed following behind the other, as they walked back toward the camp.

“You’d be wild too, if some young whelp nearly took your hand off.”

And as the two men grew smaller, hurrying back to their camp, Carl sat behind the bushes feeling very, very alone and very miserable, hoping that this Hamin might never see Azhar or Kwell ever again.

Last edited by Hilde Bracegirdle; 09-18-2006 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 09-16-2006, 02:21 PM   #188
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Pio's post -- Rôg

‘May Varda protect us all until we meet again at the grassy knoll or the lands beyond…’ Rôg rolled Lindir’s parting words about in his head as the trio headed away from the slavers’ camp.

. . . "the lands beyond!” It sounded so final. Why must Elves always be so pessimistic? And what possibility was there that I might make it to those “land’s beyond”? he wondered. It sounded like a particularly Elvish sort of thing. Though he thought that perhaps Aiwendil might be the sort to have visited there at one time or another. The old fellow had been many places in his long life it seemed.

He walked on, a little behind Aiwendil and the girl. His side hurt with each step, but it had at least stopped bleeding. It was more as if a line of fire burned now along the shallow gash the arrow had left on his right side. That and the dried blood had glued the inury to his tunic, causing irritation as the material moved back and forth across his skin. He tried to be careful that he did not pull at the material too much and reopen the wound. He flexed his left shoulder just a little. It ached, too, but if he held it close to his body and kept it still, against him, then he found it to be a manageable sort of pain.

His thoughts trailed back to Lindir’s words, back to that one the Elf had named. His thinking fell into rhythm with his slow steps . . . And another thing . . . by the great Winged One, shouldn’t this Varda that the Elves looked up to so much be kind enough to protect them to the end of the task?

He’d heard somewhat about Varda, from other Elves in whose company he’d found himself in his travels with Aiwendil. He’d pieced together what he could about her; listened closely when she was mentioned. He’d asked no questions, not wanting to seem crude and uneducated in the presence of the First Born. At one time he’d heard that she and her spouse lived high on a mountain far, far to the west. And that west, he’d heard had somehow moved beyond the ends of the world.

Rôg smiled and nodded his head. Well there you go, ninny! he thought to himself, as if a spark of light had suddenly flared in a dark cave. That’s the “lands beyond” now, isn’t it?

Thinking about that far away mountain cheered him a bit as he stumped along leaning on the branch Aiwendil had given him to use as a cane. The Old Ones of his tribe lived in the mountains. Though they were not as far removed as those the Elves spoke of. Better that way, or so Rôg thought. That the Elders should be close to those who need their help.

He looked up from the ground as he walked along, noting in the distance that he could see the horses and the familiar figure of Athwen standing near them. Aiwendil and the girl had drawn farther ahead of him. ‘Wait up!’ he called out to them, picking up his pace.

‘Just woolgathering . . . my thoughts it seems travel faster than my feet.’ He caught up to the pair as they drew near to the thicket where Athwen waited.

‘Azhar,’ he said, coming alongside the girl. He’d not spoken to her since she left the underground pit where the slavers had held her and the boy. ‘I’m Rôg,’ he said. ‘I haven’t had a chance to tell you how glad I am we were able to find where you and Kwell were being held and get you out. With any luck and a little patience, we’ll be able to find the others of your folk and get you back to them.’

She looked carefully at him as he spoke, a puzzled look on her face....his voice, for some reason, sounding familiar to her....


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Tevildo's post - Azhar

When Azhar tried to remember where she had heard Rôg's voice, she could only dredge up stray images of flashing lights and roaring animals. Since these made no sense, she tried to push all thoughts aside except the need to place one foot in front of the other and push on as quickly as possible to the chosen meeting point. Struggling for a while to match Rôg's longer stride, she couldn't help but think how out of place the man seemed heading across the plains of Mordor. Rôg's face and demeanor were gentle. He did not wear a sword or long-bladed dagger around his waist. The elder who now led their group at least carried a hefty wooden staff that could double as a weapon. But for some reason that Azhar could only guess, Rôg preferred to do without. No freeman of Mordor, scoundrel or honest man, would set out on a long journey without picking out a sturdy sword and battle knife. Azhar remembered how the freed slaves, almost all the men and many of the women, had fought over the privilege of carrying a sword. Then how could she explain Rôg?

This was not the only question troubling Azhar. Despite the pounding of her head and the hot flush spreading across her cheeks, the girl was struggling to understand the actions of her rescuers. Why had Rôg and his other companions come all this way to risk their lives for the sake of slaves they didn't even know? There was nothing in Azhar's past to help her understand this. Over the years, she had tried her best to manipulate the guards, wrangling or negotiating small treats and special favors. The thought of doing something for someone purely out of a caring heart was foreign to her. Perhaps the closest she had come to it was her sympathy for Kwell in the pit.

The girl glanced over at Rôg, wondering if there would be time to ask her questions. But before Azhar could speak, she glimpsed a grassy knoll just ahead and a woman beckoning them all forward. Reluctantly, Azhar slipped away from Rôg. Her questions would need to wait. It was probably a good thing. The fever was dragging her down both in body and spirit. Unsteadily, she grabbed onto Aiwendil's arm for support, shivering slightly.

Last edited by piosenniel; 09-19-2006 at 01:14 AM.
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Old 09-17-2006, 02:35 PM   #189
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Eirnar

I’m not his puppy, Eirnar thought angrily. He wanted to run after Khamir, beat some sense into him and finally cut his throat if he dared come with any suggestions again. It wasn’t fair, nor right; not even half of the remaining ex-slaves had weapons, and those who had, could hardly fight. Either they were youngsters, too hot-headed and eager to be beneficial in a fight, but most importantly too inexperienced - or they were men like him, too tired to fight, even for freedom.

He shook his head violently, stomping around in circles. "Guard the camp," he mimicked. Did Khamir not feel slightly responsible for dragging them out here into nowhere and nothingness in the first place, and now, all of a sudden, he was leaving them? How could he demand anything of them, he who was getting cold feet and running away, before whoever had attacked them came back? If they came, no one could save them. He was escaping from a responsibility they all shared, taking care of the old, Aedhild and those too weak to do much, but for an instant of a moment, Eirnar thought rightfully so; when the others eventually would open their eye, awake from their reverie and see what really was going on, Khamir would be ripped into pieces and stomped into dust.

He wanted to shout. Not even at the plantation, staring up at the giggling Orcs as he lay on the hard, cold floor, hands and feet tied, waiting for that final blow that would knock him senseless had he felt more imprisoned. Never had he even considered comparing the two lives, slavery and freedom, but at that moment he could hardly distinguish between the two. Trapped between staying, what was right, and leaving to pursue ones ego, he did not even attempt to hide his frustration.

“Let him go, that fool of a Southron” Aedhild shot in, on the verge of tears. “Do you think he will… bring them..t-t-o us?”

Slightly surprised by what seemed like logic reasoning for once, he stared at her, unable to utter a word. He too had considered it; given Khamir’s background, Eirnar was being rightfully suspicious, but he dared not second her suspicions at this point, not even when seeing Khamir about to wander off.

“Will he come back?” she asked silently, almost whispering, as if afraid someone else would hear here.

“Who knows whether the cursed Southron will come back… For his sake, I hope not,” pausing, he cast a glance at the curled up figure of the woman, hugging her knees tightly, rocking back and forth. “And who knows what will become of us,” he muttered.
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Old 09-18-2006, 02:09 AM   #190
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Imak:

Imak pounded his fist on the table in frustration as he listened to the men who were standing inside his tent. Things were even worse than he had anticipated: two men killed while chasing the miscreants onto the plains, several others injured after trying to stop the escape of the prisoners or in rounding up their horses. While a number of the animals had been herded back into camp, more than ten were still missing and would have to be chased down and retrieved by light of day.

Out of everything that had happened since nightfall, Imak could find just one reason to be hopeful. The man sent to spy on the slave camp earlier that evening had returned with good news. From the look of things, the slaves would not be moving on the next morning. They had packed northing for their outward journey. Such a large group could not vacate their camp without some advance preparation. The scout had seen the men holding a meeting but could not get close enough to hear what they were saying. Still, it was clear that the slaves were not heading north anytime soon.

On hearing this single piece of good news, Imak assured the men, "We have time then---time to prepare and sweep down on them tomorrow night. Go to bed. Leave the rest for the morning. Let the fools rejoice in the return of their prisoners. After nightfall we attack the camp. Perhaps we'll drag a few of the strongest off in chains and slay the rest -- every last one of them. They will be sorry they ever tangled with me."

"But Imak....there are profits to be made."

"Profits? Heh! I have had my fill of these fools. They are more trouble than they are worth. As much as I love the jingle of gold, it cannot match my desire to see their heads stacked up in a pile. Go then. Tomorrow we repay the slaves for their little visit."

As the men turned to leave, Imak kicked off his boots and lay down to rest.

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Old 09-18-2006, 08:09 AM   #191
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Athwen walked quietly from one horse to the next as the long silence continued, only broken by the distant noises of the slavers’ disrupted camp. No new excitement had startled them and they remained calm and quiet. Athwen felt grateful for that.

After a while, she went and checked her stores of herbs and bandages and other such things for the hundredth time, it seemed. Would they never come? Her hands flitted aimlessly over the contents of the two bags while in her mind she named everything there.

Her mental list was interrupted by the sound of approaching feet. She stood up quickly and ran forward a few steps before stopping. Out of the darkness, three figures could be seen drawing closer. The old, bent figure of Aiwendil with a girl beside him, and several yards back, Rôg followed. Before they reached her, Rôg hurried forward and caught up with the first two and said something quietly in the girl’s ear. She stopped and turned towards him. Aiwendil turned his head, but after a moment, he left them and came forward to Athwen.

“There was only one child?” Athwen asked. Her face showed concern as she looked up at Aiwendil. He shook his head, to her relief and turned to lead her to Rôg and the girl.

“No. There is a boy, but he stayed back with Lindir and the others. This girl is not well, that is why we brought her back. Her name is Azhar,” he added, quietly. Athwen nodded as they stopped near Rôg and Azhar.

Athwen reached out her hand and took Azhar’s hand gently. The girl turned to look at her. Athwen flashed her a very brief smile, while at the same time, her face became far more serious with concern.

“Azhar,” she said, as her second hand lifted to feel her forehead and cheek, “I’m Athwen. You’ve probably been told, but we’ve come to help you.” The hand slipped down to her throat below the jaw and she quietly felt Azhar’s pulse for a moment. “Can you walk a little way farther?” she asked, looking Azhar directly in the eye again. The girl nodded and Athwen smiled once more. She straightened and passed a protective and supporting arm around Azhar’s shoulders and began to lead her towards the horses and the packs and stores.

“Aiwendil,” she said, turning to her left where the old man walked by her side. “She’s got a bad fever. How long until the others get back? Can we leave quickly? I can give her very little now, but once we stop, if we can, we should make a fire to prepare tea and some sort of soup, if we possibly can.

“I hope that they are not too long in coming, but it depends on what the slavers do.”

Athwen nodded her head and turned back to Azhar. “Sit down here.” Azhar obeyed without question and sank wearily to the ground. Athwen undid the clasp of her cloak and she pulled it off and put it around Azhar’s shoulders. Then she quickly reached over for one of the flasks of water and handed it to the girl. “Drink as much as you can,” she ordered gently. With one hand holding the cloak and the other holding the flask up to her mouth, Azhar complied.

As Azhar took small sips of the water, Athwen saw from the corner of her eye a rider come into camp, leading two horses behind him. She glanced up briefly and as Aiwendil walked forward to meet him, recognized Dorran. She smiled to herself with a new sense relief and turned her attention back to Azhar.

The girl had finished and when Athwen looked back to her, she held out the water, having drunk as much as she could. Athwen took it, and noticed the girl’s hand trembling as she relieved it of its burden.

“Lie down, now Azhar, and try to sleep,” Athwen said in a soft, low voice.

“Aren’t we going to be leaving?” Azhar asked, in a whisper, as she began to lie down slowly. Athwen nodded as she tried to make Azhar comfortable.

“Yes, but not yet. When we go, we’ll take you with us. You need to rest as much as possible.” She smiled as encouragingly as she could as she brushed the black hair away from Azhar’s face before she stood up and turned away. “Now, you, Rôg,” she said, walking forward to the man who stood waiting her attention. “You were hurt?”

Rôg told Athwen what had happened and how the arrow had hit him. Athwen laid her hand on the materiel of his tunic. She could see where the blood had seeped through and feeling the half hardness of it, could guess what had happened. She looked up at Rôg. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to pull this away and it’s going to hurt.” He nodded and Athwen saw his jaw clench tightly before she looked back down. “We’ll get some water on it, first, and perhaps soften it back up,” she said, changing her mind suddenly.

Quietly, then, she worked with Rôg’s wound. She softened it, and pulled the tunic away. Rôg removed the entire tunic for her and she cleaned and dressed the cut. She left it unbandaged while she looked at his shoulder. Having verified that nothing was broken there, she told him that it was badly bruised, but would heal on its own, and advised him not to use it.

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Old 09-18-2006, 10:15 AM   #192
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Dorran:

Dorran had intended to ride hard and join up with Aiwendil before the group managed to cross the plain. To his disappointment, the sharp pain in his side made it difficult to go any faster than a rambling walk. He inched slowly westward, stopping just once to collect two horses quietly grazing on a patch of nettles and chicory that had grown up beside a small grey pool. One was his own mount "Orc Slayer", whom he was heartily relieved to see, while the other had belonged to the second dead slaver. He glimpsed three mares still running free on the plain. A half mile further and he could make out the outline of the grassy knoll where they had agreed to meet.

Though still trying to mask his pain, Dorran felt bone weary; every breath came with difficulty and was accompanied by a racking pain in his side. Wading through to the other side of the scrub brush, he awkwardly slid off Shae's horse and handed the three pair of reins to Aiwendil. He gave the older man a hint of a smile and briefly described what had happened to him and his pursuers. Coming to the end of the story, he added, "I was rescued by Shae who's one of the slaves. You'll be hard pressed to find a braver woman. If they are all like that, our job will be easy. She insisted on staying with Lindir to fight, but lent me her horse, I'd be grateful if you could give him a rub down and let him feed as I need to get off my feet for a while. And, yes, one other encouraging piece of news. In addition to these two, I saw several others on the loose. You and Rôg did a better job than you know. We have them running in circles all night. They may send out a small band to follow us, but they'll have to wait for morning to get the rest of their mounts back. For tonight, at least, I don't see how they could attack as a group."

"Good new indeed!" responded Aiwendil. Then, the two spoke quietly for some time until the wizard urged Dorran to go and have his side and gash attended. "I'm fine. It can wait," the young man insisted. "Others are hurting worse than I. That's why I waited. I wanted to let Athwen do her work. But I'll go now and say a word to my wife so she shouldn't be worrying where I am."

Continuing to the far side of the knoll, he could see Athwen speaking to a young girl, while Rôg waited patiently in the background. With some difficulty Dorran lowered his body and sat cross legged on the ground. He would wait quietly here until his wife finished with her other patients.

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Old 09-18-2006, 06:16 PM   #193
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Ishkur and Gwerr:

"So do you want to see an Elf, or not? I don't think you believe me. If we run into any trouble, we can both mount up on my horse and get out of here fast." There was a teasing note in Ishkur's voice, although he did not sound unfriendly.

"I should know better than this! But go ahead. Lead the way. If you're telling me a story, you will be sorry for it." Gwerr added, "I don't know whether to believe you or not. What's an Elf doing in Mordor?"

Ishkur shrugged his shoulders since he also had no idea what the Elf was doing in the slavers' camp. "I don't know. Maybe he's a friend of the slaves. That's what I thought."

Iskkur waved his hand at Gwerr to indicate that he should follow. Both orcs went on foot along the far western edge of camp and kept their distance away from any of the men. Ishkur led his horse behind him.

"We'd better not get too close," Ishkur warned his friend. There's a few of them down there, not elves but others. Probably all from the slaves' camp. The last thing we want to do is to draw attention to ourselves."

They found a pile of rocks where they could hide and sat down on the ground not too far from the stream bank. Gwerr peered out from behind the boulder straining his eyes to see. "There's nothing there, Ishkur. Nothing at all."

"Wait. Just wait. They were there a little while before, and I don't think they've left."

Gwerr leaned out even further and suddenly noticed several people who had just climbed up to the top of the stream bank. Several of them were short, but in the middle stood a tall distinctive figure. Gwerr stared and stared again and then whistled under his breath. "You're right, Ishkur. The tall one, he's an elf." Gwerr's fingers instinctively tightened around the hilt of his sword. The elf was so close they could even see his eyes.

"Tempting, isn't he? A nice clean target." Ishkur chuckled. Then he added, "It's been a long time."

"A long time for what?" Gwerr demanded.

"Oh, nothing. I guess it's been a long time since I've hunted elf." Ishkur growled, "This one gives me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. He's just like all the rest. Thinks they rule the world. Theyjust stare down their noses at everyone. Bah! What do the likes of you and me have to do with an Elf? But we can't risk attacking him. The whole camp will be on our necks. And I want to be around tomorrow night when the slavers clear out . There's two kegs of beer, I hear, and even one of honey mead."

"Alright, Ishkur. You've had your fun. Let's get out of here and back to camp. Then we can talk about tomorrow's raid. I'm all in if the slavers really do clear out."

"They will. For sure they will."

With that the two orcs turned south and headed back to the relative safety of the orc camp.

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Old 09-18-2006, 09:18 PM   #194
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Grask

The lights and bangs had long since subsided, but Grask had not yet moved from his spot. Men had still been running around all over the place, trying to round up their runaway beasts, no doubt, or find the cause of the commotion. But now even they seemed to have settled down, and Grask was ready to venture closer to their camp once more.

He went as quietly as he could, but even that measure seemed largely unnecessary as he encountered no men until he was within sight of the camp. Crouched in the tussocks, he observed the camp; his eyes were irresistibly drawn towards the pit that held the man-children. To his shock, no guards stood near it, and the grate over the top had been removed. That must mean that they were no longer held captive there; had they been moved? Killed? He remembered the children speaking of rescue, but to Grask this still seemed as inconceivable as it had then. Only escape would be a more impossible option.

So what had happened to them, then? Grask did not see any place in the camp that seemed to have especial guard except for near the horses, and the man-children would surely not be held there. Could they really be dead, then?

Grask felt a tickling of sorrow at this, a feeling as frightening as it was unfamiliar. Orcs did not feel grief like that! Well, the women might, but Grask wasn’t a woman, and, at least in his own eyes, he wasn’t a child anymore, either, not with his two fine knives belted at his waist. Nevertheless, the peculiar sorrow remained, and Grask did not know what to do with it. Ignore it, he supposed; what had the children been to him, anyway? An insight into the strangeness of Men? He had no real link to them; they should be as nothing to him.

Why then did Grask feel so hollow like this, as if he had suddenly missed a newfound feeling of kinship?

Last edited by Firefoot; 09-23-2006 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 09-20-2006, 10:30 AM   #195
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When Athwen finished with Rog and checked Azhar to see if she had fallen asleep yet, she quietly walked to Dorran. He sat cross legged, with his head down and his arms folded at his waist. Athwen knelt in front of him and touched his face gently. He looked up, half startled.

“How did you fair, my brave man?” she asked in a soft, tender voice. Her fingers trailed his cheek and jaw line and she tilted his chin a little more so that his face looked straight into hers. A shadow of concern fell over her face. “Are you hurt?”

Dorran pulled away and stared at the ground attempting to avoid his wife’s eyes. He had thought of saying nothing about what had happened. Athwen would have greater problems to deal with once they had gotten to the slave camp. The last thing he wanted was for her to waste precious time and energy worrying about his injuries or dwelling on the attackers. Almost as quickly, he changed his mind. Too often, he reflected, those things you don’t know carry more fear than the simple, unvarnished truth. The best thing he could do was to spell out what had happened. He was too experienced a Rider, and Athwen had seen too much to pretend anything else.

He spoke without hesitation. “I’ll live. A couple of bumps and bruises, a gash on the head. Those aren’t bad. Unfortunately, I broke my rib. Every time I breathe, there’s pain in my side.” This time he met Athwen’s eyes, a hint of a smile playing on his face, “I know, I know. I couldn’t have done it at a better time! Tomorrow we’ll need every able bodied man to fight, and here I sit.”

Athwen frowned a little and quietly ordered him to remove his belt and his weapons so that she could get to it. He obeyed slowly and stiffly. “Never mind,” she murmured and finished it for him. She pulled away the sword belt and laid it to the side. Her hand felt his side to see if she could detect this broken rib.

“Yes, my sweet, I can already here what you're going to say next,” Dorran commented, nodding. “No fighting or strenuous labor till we’re sure the bone is healing. I’m enough of a soldier to realize I can’t wriggle out of a healer’s orders. . .especially when that healer is my wife.”

He paused before responding to her other question, the one she had not yet spoken out loud. “I was fortunate. Fortunate, indeed. Three of the slavers approached Lindir and I on horseback, ready to give hue and cry to rouse the entire camp. I led two of them on a merry chase. As luck would have it, one was thrown when his horse stepped in a rabbit hole.”

Athwen stood up and offered her hand. “Stand up, I can’t bandage it with you sitting there.” He stood up slowly, putting as little pressure as he could afford on Athwen as he did so, but all the same, she took a stumbling step forward as he heaved upwards. Athwen gently helped him remove the shirt. “Then what happened?” she asked, knowing it was better to keep a patient talking.

“I dealt with the other one,” he went on. “And there I lay like a sack of turnips in our cellar till one of the slaves came riding by and brought me back. Now you know the truth. Rather than helping slaves escape, I am already in their debt. But that’s not important. The others did their job, and the children have been rescued. And even if I can not fight tomorrow, I can still think and plan. That has to be worth something.”

He picked up her hand, cradling it gently in his. “I fear this will get worse before it gets better. Who knows what lies out there?” His gaze strayed reluctantly to the north. “I know this can’t be easy for you. But I wouldn’t have come alone, not at this point in our lives. Still, I feel this is something I'm meant to do. I don’t know how to say this, but thank you for agreeing to come, for being here and tending to me and to so many others. I only hope that someday we can look back on this and laugh. Now, if you have any magic tricks in that bag of yours, which will take away some of this pain, I would be much obliged.”

Athwen smiled and stepped close to him. She put her arms about his neck, lifting her face upwards as high as she could. “I can find something, but try this first.” He bent his head to let his lips meet hers and they kissed. Athwen backed away and let go. “I’m glad you made it out alive, Dorran,” she said. “You were lucky, as you said. I’ll see what I can do. There’s not much that can be done for a broken rib, though. I wish you’d been more careful. I can’t give you anything for the pain until we can make some tea. I need to make some for Azhar, so you’re in luck, but we can’t make any until we have a fire, and we can’t make a fire until we get out of here.”

She led him over to the healing packs as she spoke and set to work binding up his ribs. When that was finished, she cleaned the slight cut in his scalp.

“There, you’re done. Now, understand, there’s to be no fighting or strenuous work until that bone’s well on it’s way to being healed.”

Dorran began to chuckle, but the effort was cut short, ending in a short gasp. Athwen shook her head as she wound up the remaining bandage and put it away.

“No laughing, either.”

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Old 09-21-2006, 02:16 PM   #196
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‘She has gentle hands, doesn’t she?’ Rôg nodded toward Athwen, as he watched the healer speaking with her husband. Easing himself down to the ground where the girl was resting, Rôg gave Azhar a quick smile.

‘Feeling any better, little one?’ he asked reaching out to place his palm against her brow. The girl looked flushed and exhausted, barely able to keep her eyes open, but too uneasy in these unfamiliar surroundings to let herself fall asleep.

‘Still a little hot, but Athwen, I’m sure, will soon have that under control.’ He crossed his legs beneath him and adjusted his cloak about his slight form. ‘You were very brave, you know, to hold out until we could come to see you and your friend to safety.’ He reached out to adjust the cloak covering the girl’s form. ‘You are safe, here, now, you know.’ He pointed to where Aiwendil stood. ‘See that old fellow there? He’s a good hand with that walking stick of his. Has a lot of tricks up those big old sleeves of his. Gotten himself . . . and me . . . out of a lot of jams.’ He rolled up the sleeve of his tunic and flexed his modest bicep. ‘And then, of course, there’s me,’ he said, grinning. ‘But seriously, you are safe for the while, at least enough, to sleep a little as Athwen advised.

Rôg unclasped his cloak and rolled it into a loose bundle. Motioning for Azhar to raise her head a little, he placed it where she could use it as a pillow. ‘You know, my father used to sit by my bed when I couldn’t sleep and tell me stories, mostly about things he’d done as a boy or sometimes stories his own papi had told him.’ He inched a little closer and spoke in a low voice.

‘This is a real story, told to me by a man I met a few years ago, down south. It was a journey I took with the old man there.’ He lifted his chin to where Aiwendil was. ‘An interesting journey with interesting folk.’ He chuckled at the memory. ‘There was an Elf and her husband, a ship’s captain. A young woman, her name was Ráma. And a little girl who came to be my friend. Her name was Miri . . . And there were, of course, some very, very bad people . . .’ Rôg shook his head. ‘But here I am already getting off track.’ He glanced down to where Azhar lay, her eyes, half closing already, fixed on his face.

‘This is the story the man Baran told to me; the one of why he’d come south from his home by the Great River that runs by the Misty Mountains in the far north. He was looking for someone, an old friend from his childhood. An orphaned girl who’d come to live with his people . . . he’d met her when he was only a child and she was already grown.’ He paused for a moment and gave a soft sigh.

‘Oh, but I forget myself again. You’ll want to know her name, of course. A pretty name, and one that fit her perfectly. She was called “Bird” . . .’

As the story wove on, Rôg’s voice dropped to an even softer pitch. His words rolled out in a sing-songy way, the pitch of his voice rising and falling like little stream does flowing softly over its rocky bed. The lids of Azhar’s eyes surrendered, her lashes fluttering quietly down. He spoke on, watching as her breathing slowed; resting his hand lightly on her thin shoulder, he noted her muscles were relaxed. Beneath her lids, her eyes moved, as if seeing things in dreams.

‘. . . And so that is how Baran met her at last. And me, too. Met Bird, that is.’ He lifted his hand off her shoulder, and let his thumb rub along the edge of his jaw. ‘Of, course, I didn’t get to the part where we barely escaped the Elders . . . Bird and I . . . they wanted us to be wed.’

He laughed quietly. ‘Bird, of course, had other ideas . . .’

A soft snore issued from the girl's still form.'Well, I guess I must be as good a story teller as my father . . . at least in putting my listeners to sleep,' he murmured to himself.

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Old 09-21-2006, 02:36 PM   #197
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Vrór

It was a rush of events after Vrór and Carl emerged from the tunnel with the two children, and it seemed that things were falling nicely into place as Dorran was found again, alive, and they all discovered that they already had some sort of contact with one of the slaves. They had pulled it off! The plan had worked! And all were breathing. But then two forms in the shadows appeared a ways off, and Dwarf, Elf, Hobbit, woman, and boy were all forced to hide as quick as they could. Luckily these men were not too thorough in their search, underestimating whoever came to the children’s rescue.

Their words revealed just how little they knew. Children…children?! For one of the first times in his life, Vrór felt he really wanted to use his axe. Those two fools. Black-hearted and yellow-bellied, treating children like animals, and calling Dwarves and Hobbits children! Their ignorance came as a real shock for the Dwarf. Would Mordor ever really be a part of Middle-earth? Its inhabitants knew nothing of the world outside it, and seemed to have no desire for the outside world to be brought into it.

The slavers’ ignorance was in a small way, and a more immediate way, relieving, but it was also frightening. To think that this ‘Imak,’ apparently their leader, would be told that it was the slaves who had raided the camp for the rescue. If the slaves were all in the shape of the two children and the woman he had seen, they would be hard-pressed to defend against these ruthless bounty hunters. He shuddered as the two finally disappeared.

“We had best get a move on, then?” he whispered to the others. “The slaves will need our help.”

Vrór could see Lindir nodding, but it was the woman – Shae was her name, he thought he had heard – who spoke up.

“And what do you think four of you can do, with one wounded?” Of course she was offended by the idea that she and the others would need help. The Dwarf suddenly felt very embarrassed that he had spoken without thinking, forgetting that she was there. Perhaps he should not have referred to them as ‘slaves?’

“Well, ma’am,” Vrór began, glad that no one would be able to tell that his face had reddened in the darkness, and with his beard covering almost half of it, “there are three others waiting for us not too far from here… But, regardless of numbers, any bit can help. And that’s what we’re here to do,” he finished matter-of-factly.

Taking as wide a route as possible around the rest of the slavers’ camp, they wound their way as quickly as possible back to the meeting place, where Athwen had bravely waited with the horses, and where Rôg, Aiwendil, Azhar, and Dorran had likely already arrived. Vrór walked carefully and slowly, almost in a crouch, but also with a heavy weight on his shoulders. What could they do? Shae’s reminder of the wounded secured his doubts in place, and he found himself unable to truly think that the Fellowship of the Fourth Age had managed even a small victory.
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Old 09-21-2006, 02:53 PM   #198
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Hadith

Hadith was totally baffled of what had happened. He couldn’t understand Khamir’s decision at all, but even less could he believe his ears about some of the reactions to Khamir’s speech. He glanced at Adnan just to find another pair of confused eyes. Before he had time to actually realise what he was doing, he had already drawn his sword and raised it over his head.

“Fellows, listen!” he shouted from the bottom of his lungs. Hadith was no public speaker. His voice was far from the bellowing of an army general or the soothing tenderness of a rhetorician’s stream of words, but he sounded loud, honest and intense enough to catch the ears of everyone else around.

“Before now, I have not thought why I’m here. I have just followed you others to where you go. Maybe we could be some elsewhere, but I haven’t questioned our path even once... and neither have I heard anyone else to complain about our direction in public!” Hadith’s voice was clearly raising in pitch towards the end of the sentence. But slowly and surely he was getting a hang of what he was thinking about the situation: he started realising it.

“We should act like free men, responsible of our own actions! But that also means we can’t blame anyone else of our decisions. If I follow someone as a free man, it’s my choise and it is I who takes the consequences then...” Hadith draw breath, just not knowing how his words would be received.

“But now, I’m beginning to use my freedom!” he shouted, in a more confident tone. “I will make my choice as a free man not to join the suicidal party of Khamir! You go if you wish, that’s your free choice, but we need people to help the wounded and the elderly... to help us all!” With that Hadith felt he had used all his resources but the silence was demanding him to go still forwards.

“Let us not act as slaves anymore! We are used to do as we are told, being all so ready to blame others if something goes wrong. Let Khamir do as he wishes, but let us others come up with a defence for the rest of us. We maybe forced to fight tonight! I intend to be ready for that... we need a plan...”

Hadith left his beautiful Easterling sword to fell down. He was empty.

For a moment there was no sound around.

Last edited by Nogrod; 09-22-2006 at 06:29 PM.
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Old 09-21-2006, 11:40 PM   #199
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Shae felt her face turn red with anger, highly offended by the dwarf's reference to the word "slaves."

Slaves?! Is that how these people will always consider us? As helpless slaves? If that were true, then why are we still alive and free?

Shae was quick to make a comment in defense, yet she realized that the dwarf was right. It wouldn't be long before the slavers headed towards her camp, and this time they would not simply be after two children. Without any further argument, the woman followed the others away from the slavers' camp.

Looking around at this strange new company, Shae couldn't help but to feel relieved. Not only had the two children been rescued, but she discovered she had been right all along. The Fellowship had come for them after all. Grinning privately to herself, she couldn't wait to see the look on Khamir's face when she would return to the camp with the children and the Fellowship in tow.

Joren, you would be proud of me.

Her brother had always encouraged her to stand up for what she believed in. He used to always speak his mind and help other slaves in trouble, no matter the consequence. Though he never said it, Shae knew Joren wished for her to have the courage to stand up for herself. But as the quiet sibling, she lacked the bravery to do so. So instead, Joren would fight her battles for her. Such actions was what ultimately led to his death. Shae hated herself for this- making her brother think he needed to always protect her. She knew that secretly Joren had longed for them to escape and find their family, but her timid behavior held him back.

He didn't think I was strong enough.

And perhaps this was true. After all, it took her brother's death to find the courage and will to escape on her own. If only that weren't so. Sometimes, Shae imagined her life as a free woman with Joren still alive. He would be the leader, not Khamir. And he would use his high spirits to keep up the morale of the others, always thinking about them before making decisions. That's how it should be for the ex-slaves. And yet, consumed by depression and stilling lacking in courage, Shae had refused to assume any sort of leadership position. After all these years, it took until tonight for Shae to stand up for what she believed in. If only Joren had seen her tonight- if he could see what she was capable of- she knew he would be proud. Seeking comfort from the memory of her brother, her hand reached for her chest, searching for the familar metal....

Shae stopped suddenly in her tracks, her face hot and stricken. Her hands grasped at her bare neck, search for something that was no longer there. Her heart skipped a beat and everything seemed to freeze.

Where is it?

Noticing the woman had stopped, the others halted as well.
"What's the matter?" the boy inquired.
It took several blinks and a hard swallow before Shae could respond. "I...I have to go back."
"Why?" This time it was Lindir who spoke up.
The woman had trouble finding the right words. "It...it's gone...my necklace....I...I can't....I have to go back....find it...."

Trailing off, Shae didn't even wait for the others to respond. Instantly, she was off in a sprint, heading towards the slavers' camp. Within seconds, the elf tackled her, pulling her backwards. The woman resisted his firm grip, kicking and hitting at his arms- anything to pull away. She yelled at him, cursing incoherent words. Immediately the elf's hand went to her mouth, attempting to muffle the cries and prevent drawing unwanted attention. After what seemed like several minutes, Shae slowly gave up on resisting Lindir, realizing he was too strong for her.

Tears streaming down her cheeks and short of breath, Shae struggled to put out a few last words of resistance.
"Please," she cried. "I have to go. It...it's imporant to me."
As the woman lay limp in his arms, the elf softened his grip. "I'm sorry," he spoke softly, "I know what you have lost must have been important, but it is not worth your life. If you go back, the slavers will see you and you will put yourself as well as the rest of us in jepoardy. I cannot let you go back there."
Shae nodded slowly, knowing his words were true. Lindir let go of the woman and she turned towards him, wiping away her tears. She stared into his eyes and spoke confidently. "Very well. Then let us keep going."
Lindir placed one hand on Shae's shoulder- a sign of condolence- before turning around and walking away. Shae and the others followed.

Shae continued with her head hung low, feeling rather sick to her stomach.
"What was it of....your necklace?" The woman looked down to her right only to find the halfling staring up at her.
Shae shot her head forward again, hesistating before finding a response. "It...it was an emblem...of the White Tree," she answered softly. "But that's not what made it important. It belonged to my brother. It's really the last evidence I had of him."
"I'm sorry." Shae could tell by his tone that the halfling was trying to be as understanding as possible. "Maybe...maybe you lost it before you reached the slavers' camp. We could look for it, you know, on our way back to your camp." He glanced up at her hopefully.
"Maybe," the woman responded. "But I doubt we'll find it."

Shae appreciated the halfling's kind words, but nothing could comfort her. Just as she thought life was worth living again, she lost her most prized possession. It felt as if she had lost Joren all over again. Shae refused to cry. She had already embarassed herself once- crying a second time would only show these strangers how weak and vulnerable she was. Instead, she dug her fingernails into her palms, deep into her old wounds. Instantly, the blood began to flow, echoing the pain Shae felt inside.
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Old 09-22-2006, 06:11 PM   #200
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Brenna


Brenna worked at combing out the girl’s hair. Gwenith, and she was aptly named as her long light blond hair was just the color of ripened wheat stalks about to be harvested, scrunched her shoulders and tried not to cry out when the teeth of the comb snagged a tangle.

‘Hold still, Gwenni!’ Brenna said in a firm voice. ‘I’ve just about got the last of the rats’ nests undone. I’ll put it in a braid for you, then, and that should keep it neat and pretty, even when you sleep on it.’ Though who knew if their would be sleep for any of them this night the old woman thought.

‘Alright!’ the girl hissed through clenched teeth. She hunkered down, prepared to be brave until the battle of the tangles was done.

‘Have you heard what the men are discussing, Granny Brenna?’ Nia asked quietly, coming to sit down near where Brenna was working. Brenna shook her head ‘no’, knowing that Nia was a clever young woman who never seemed to miss what changes were brought on the breezes of camp gossip. ‘That Khamir has the idea to take a number of men and go after the ones who stole the children. But that one called Hadith has stood up and says we should prepare to fight here. He’s sure those slavers will come back to take more of us. And we should be ready for them. Not only that, but there should be enough men here to protect those not able to defend themselves.’ She looked expectantly at Brenna.

‘So, what do you think, Granny?’ another of the women asked, raising up from her bed on the ground to rest her head on her hand. ‘Are we supposed to bunch together behind the men or hide away if we can until it’s all over?’

Brenna braided the last of Gwenith’s hair and bound it securely with a strip of old cloth. ‘I don’t think we can do that, dearies,’ she answered, patting the girl on the shoulder as she did so for a job well done. ‘They’ll mow the men down like hay and take us anyway.’ She cackled a little, a grim note to it. ‘’Cept for me, of course. I’m too old. But they’ll be wanting all of you. And you know that, don’t you?’

The women drew nearer, nodding their heads with the cruel knowledge. ‘So what shall we do?’ Nia shivered, dreading the answer she already knew. ‘The sticks…the ones you had us gather as we traveled along; the ones we sharpened. You said they’d be good for planting sticks when we get to our new home.’

‘Yes, those sticks,’ Brenna said, looking thoughtfully at the ground. ‘And they will be good for planting our seeds. But,’ and this time she looked round the small circle of women, ‘first we’ll plant them deep as we can into those slavers’ horses and the men as ride them too. Blood the wood and kill the ones who want to drag us back to the plantations and the old life. Who will do this with me? And live to see our own crops grow in our own soil?’

There were murmurs of assent that swirled about the little group. And those who were fearful were made stronger with the promise that they would not stand alone, but that one or two of their companions would stand alongside them.

Gwenni stood up and raised her voice in a plaintive manner. She was a slight little wisp of a thing, just turned eleven summers this last spring, or so she thought as far as she could reckon. ‘What about us, Granny Brenna . . . us girls? Our planting sticks are way too short. Those slaver-men have longer arms than us . . . and . . .’

Brenna tugged on the girl’s braid and smiled up at her. ‘You got them sharp stones don’t you? The black ones from along the glassy-bedded stream.’ Gwenni nodded her head, her face lighting up as her hand dipped into the tattered pocket of her breeches. She fetched out the cloth bag she’d fashioned from the sleeve of some old tunic. And with a smile drew out the well-used leather sling she used for hunting little animals and lizards. Others of the younger girls had gathered near Gwenni, their soft voices excited with the discovery that they, too, could lend their hands against the bad men.

‘Keep your sticks and slings handy, my friends,’ Brenna told the small group. ‘And why don’t we all just get what rest we can. We’ll sleep together here.’ She looked about the group. ‘And one of us should keep watch for a while, then wake me and I’ll take over for the next bit. Nia, can you do that? Sun’s rise can’t be that far away.’

She motioned for the women and girls to lay out their cloaks or blankets, their sticks and slings close beside them. Nia moved to a small rocky outcropping and hunkered down on the stony surface to take up the watch.

Last edited by Undómë; 09-23-2006 at 11:56 PM.
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