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Old 11-25-2006, 04:31 PM   #281
Durelin
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Khamir

It was like no rush Khamir had ever felt, as the trembling in his limbs matched the rumbling of hooves. He caught only glimpses of the riders before they were completely swallowed by the dust, squinting through a small gap in the cloth that protected his face. Blind, the fighters charged in, though he had to scream at Hadith to get the man’s legs working. He was not angry at the boy, nor did he think less of him. But he had to get him moving somehow. Hadith simply obeyed it like a command, and Khamir was grateful. Adnan remained at his right, and would guard the man’s armless side, if all went well. And the one-armed man would not let Adnan out of his sight, if not for that reason.

There were screams, human and not: for moments those were their only targets. But soon some came into view, in and around the collapsed tunnel were men and beasts sprawled out, still or struggling, trying to reorient themselves or simply try to stay alive. Khamir broke off to one side with the rest of those in the rear, to meet what lay in wait in the cloud of dirt. The sand stung his skin, little pinpricks of fire all over his body. He could almost feel it lashing against the arm that was not there, like an itch that would not go away. It had been years since he felt something like that...it renewed his anger. His long hunting knife was drawn, and his smaller throwing knives were at the ready.

Suddenly, as they reached the trenches, Adnan disappeared from his side. Khamir whipped around. The boy had been grabbed by the leg and pulled down. The slaver had let go of him in order to get up, but in a heartbeat Khamir was on him. He tackled the man, regardless of the pain it caused his mostly unprotected body on the armour, and struggled with him, using his legs to try and pin him just long enough... There was a flash of silver that came dangerously close to Khamir’s stomach, but it dropped with a clank as Adnan suddenly drove his knife into the Easterling’s arm that held it. With an angry growl, the slaver allowed his head to fall back as he tried to heave Khamir off, and the Southron saw his opening, sliding his blade across the man’s unprotected neck. Immediately rising to leave the body, Khamir found Adnan already on his feet again, staring down at the dead Easterling. The one-armed man thought he saw a smile in the younger man’s eyes, but he would not believe much of anything he saw in this wind.

But even in the low visibility, what he could see of the slavers and the trenches made him feel uneasy. They did not all fall to the trap. But there was no one on horseback in his line of sight. The count had been at least two-dozen. Where were they? A sudden, dreadful thought fell over him. These slavers, though proud, were not stupid. They had proved cunning enough the first night they attacked, whether or not the slaves had been an easy target. Their leader had to know that though they were technically outnumbered, they actually out-manned the slaves. And, if he had expected any sort of defense, he had to know they did not have enough to spread their forces. But he did...

“Fall back with me!” he called to those on this end of the trench and tunnel, but only three out of the six in the rear came to him, everyone’s eyes darting from left to right and back, watching each other’s backs. Khamir’s eyes darted around, but the thought of his own life or the lives of any present was quite out of his head. Now where had that boy gotten to? Something turned sour in his stomach, and his voice had lost its feeling of command. “Where is Adnan? Has anybody seen Adnan?”

“I think Tareef is gone, as well,” someone said, but Khamir did not really hear.

“I fear we have hardly won the battle. I think something is amiss, and I fear for the lives of the women and children.”

“You mean…” one of the men, Nasim, asked in a rush of air, “from behind?” Khamir nodded. “Come on!” Nasim shouted, and took off toward where he knew those who could not fight lay unprotected. The others followed him. Khamir’s heart was split in two. He trusted the other men, but he knew every man they could spare should return to the women and children. But he also did not know where Adnan was. After a moment of hesitation, he wound his way toward the tunnel, checking the ground and checking the bodies. His hopes were raised each time he saw one that was not Adnan.

Finally he found the boy, kneeling at the edge of the collapsed tunnel, near its end. He was digging. Immediately Khamir rushed towards him to grab him. The man was prepared to berate him when he noticed several gashes, one on his cheek, one on his chest, another on his wrist… When Adnan stopped digging for a moment to look at the older man, Khamir caught a glimpse of the boy’s hands, and he saw that blood mixed with the dirt on the left one. Two of his fingers were missing. The body of an Easterling behind the boy was explanation enough. Khamir could only stare, and he tore his eyes away from the boy only to find them glued to the dead body. Its throat, arms, hands, and face were all bloodied almost beyond recognition. The Southron man knew it had not been the struggle that had caused that.

Turning back to Adnan, his face grave, he found the young man digging again, and with another blink he was cognizant enough to see that he was digging up a body. A glimpse of red hair, and Khamir’s hands plunged into the dirt, as well. Vrór! What had he done? When the Dwarf was at least partially uncovered, Khamir and Adnan each grabbed one of his arms and pulled with all their might. Slowly he loosened from the earth, and from there they took their time dragging him out further.

Vrór was obviously unconscious, and once they had him almost completely out of the trench, Khamir began to fear the worst. He made sure the cloth covered the Dwarf’s face well, and tied it around his head to protect a wound to his head from even more sand and dust. Then, tearing off pieces from the ragged shirt that protected his torso from the elements, he proceeded to quickly wrap Adnan’s hand, and then roughly cover the worst of his other cuts. It was obvious the boy was in real pain, though he did not show it: he did not argue in the least as Khamir took care of him.

Last edited by Durelin; 01-15-2007 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 11-26-2006, 01:50 PM   #282
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Hadith

Hadith ran towards the slaver shouting a war cry from the bottom of his lungs. It seemed not to impress the slaver as he still grinned and just waited for him to charge. In the end Hadith just slowed down and stopped. The slaver had won the first heat by depriving him of the advantage of the momentum. Hadith was beaten before he got into the action. The slaver looked confident, standing comfortably and having his blade ready to strike. They took a couple of side steps both of them, trying to look at the possible weaknesses behind the defence of one another.

Suddenly the slaver made his first move. The hit came in just as Hadith had borrowed a second to see how Athwen was faring. At the same time they all heard the cry from a few yards away from them "I'm here. I'm coming!"

The hit forced Hadith to take a few steps back. He had time enough to put his blade between him and the swing but was too late to have any strength of his body behind it. As soon as he had balanced himself the second hit came on him. Now it was fiercer than the one before. Hadith still managed to hold his blade in front of the new one, but this time he fell down with the force of the hit.

Hadith was waiting for his death as he had tumbled down on his back. So this is it, this is the way I will die... as he noted the slaver to hesitate for a moment. He was attending to the cry they both had heard just a moment ago. That gave Hadith the precious chance to rise up and to come back to defend himself. He was badly bruised even though he had managed to parry both of the hits the slaver had swinged on him. His back was aching and his feet felt like jelly again. Still he bravely challenged the slaver again.

"Come on! I'm not dead yet and others will finish what I can't!" Hadith called his opponent. The slaver looked unsure for a second but then came towards Hadith with a kill in mind. It was no longer a cat toying with a mouse but a hungry wolf on his pray, ready already to take on the real challenger just behind his shoulder after finishing this easy kill. The slaver was after Hadith's life now, seriously.

Hadith fell into an elementary trick. The slaver seemed to invest all his powers to a strike from up-right to down-left and Hadith tried to counter it with all he could spare, bringing his whole body to take on the impact. But just before the hit the slaver suddenly swerwed his sword from under Hadith's blade and ducked his blade under Hadith's. Hadith was going forwards with full effort, his side open, as the slaver got somewhat back to his balance, from which he in fact had not been far away at any moment unlike Hadith he had tricked into jumping forwards. The slaver hewed his sword backhanded on Hadith's defenceless side, aiming for his throat.

The hit missed Hadith's neck by inches landing on his shoulder. Hadith could feel the bones splintering under the sword. Blood bursted to his face. He felt dizzy and his vision started to darken. He felt the ground as his knees hit it and then his face slammed to the dry sand.

Hadith turned his head to see what happened. The slaver was about to give him the finishing hit when he suddenly turned around. Hadith heard it too. A horse was charging straight towards the slaver! Hadith tried to lift his head to see what was happening but his vision was blurring. He felt the ground trembling from the pounding of the heavy hooves.


---------------------------------------------------------

Folwren's Post

Athwen knew at once that the advantage in this fight would be completely on the slaver's side. He was man, fully built and probably fully trained in fighting. Hadith would go down quickly with no hope of ever getting back up again. She had not a moment to loose in figuring out something to help him with, at least until Dorran reached them. But how? How was she supposed to stop a man twice her size from killing another? She looked around her, hoping to find something that she might use as a weapon.

Her eyes lit upon the slaver's horse. A plan instantly leaped into her mind. She ran forward to him and grasped his rein as he shied away from her. She spoke calming words to him, whispering reassuringly in his ear as she gathered his reins above his neck. As soon as he stood tolerably still she thrust her foot into the stirrup and launched herself upward into the saddle. Once there, her feet could not reach the stirrups, but that did not worry her. She clenched her knees tight against the hard leather of the saddle, turned his head about with one rein and urged him on with her heels in his side.

As the horse made the turn, Athwen could see the two combatants. Hadith was stumbling, his sword arm was far out in attempt to regain the balance he had lost. The slaver stepped forward and his arm swung upwards. Athwen bit back a cry and drove her heels into the horse just as the man's curved blade came slicing down.

The rushing, pounding hooves of the horse seemed to drive the emotion from Athwen's mind. She saw Hadith fall. She watched as he first collapsed to his knees and then fell onto his face in the ground before his enemy. Though the thought that he had been killed before her very eyes flashed through her mind, Athwen did not think to be sorry for him, she did not think of anything, except bearing down on this slaver.

The man looked up, hearing her approach. An expression of surprise filled his face and he stumbled back out of the horse's path. Athwen passed him, but her hand was already on the tight rein and in a moment, she and her horse were turned about again and charged once more upon the slaver.

Last edited by Nogrod; 11-27-2006 at 07:09 AM.
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Old 11-26-2006, 05:10 PM   #283
Tevildo
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Dorran felt as if his arms and legs could barely move. There had been another time when he had fallen into a pit of mud. It was just like that now. The more he struggled to hurry the slower his body went. One part of his mind calmly saw Hadith hit the ground and slump to the side, while the other was focused only on running forward as quickly as he could.

He saw his wife mount the horse and charge forward against the slaver. The latter stared at her in complete bewilderment. Neither his brain or his ego would accept the fact that he had been bested by a woman with hair the color of gold. Once more she charged and once more he barely managed to swing out of the way. This time, he recovered his wits enough to leer back at her. He dropped to one knee and quickly squatted next to Hadith. Ripping his small knife out of its sheath, he held it directly above the young man’s throat and then brought the tip down to make contact with the skin. Slowly he drew the blade forward leaving a thin trail of blood. He looked up at Athwen and growled. “You’re a feisty one. Come down off that horse and keep me company. You wouldn’t want to see this poor boy get hurt?” He waved his dagger menacingly over the young man’s chest, directly pointing at Hadith’s heart. Athwen pulled up her mount and stared in disbelief, reluctant to dismount but afraid to race forward again.

By this time, Dorran had dropped down and flattened his body against the ground, inching forward across the sand. His head was pounding dismally from the wound he had received the day before but his mind was perfectly clear. A beast like this did not deserve to live.

For the first time today luck was with the Rider of Rohan. The slaver was turned away and had no idea what lay behind his back. Hurtling his body forward with a savage will, Dorran landed on top of the man. They rolled over on the ground three times. Kicking and snarling, the two remained locked in a deadly embrace, each attempting to gain the advantage and sweep in for the kill. Finally, there was a grunt and a cry and the slaver’s body went slack as Dorran thrust his weapon deep into the man’s chest, burying it up to the hilt. .

Without waiting to inspect the man’s body more closely, Dorran immediately raced over to his wife as an avalanche of words gushed out. “Are you alright? Did he hurt you? I couldn’t clear the trench. Thank goodness Hadith was here to help. You didn’t do too badly yourself. This is the second time you’ve beaten me in a horse race. It's a good thing you did..” He turned to embrace her and spoke quickly. “You must get out of here. Hadith needs your help and others as well.” He pushed Hadith up on the horse and straddled his body over the back of Athwen's saddle. the man stirred and gave a low moan.

“Ride now to the grove where the women and children are. You will find some protection there. We will bring you the wounded as quickly as we can.”

Last edited by Tevildo; 11-30-2006 at 01:06 AM.
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Old 11-26-2006, 05:28 PM   #284
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Carl

Carl and the others in his group soon became disoriented with camp now covered in ashen dust and sand. They were rapidly separated not only by the blinding gale, but by the rumor of horses around them, which they heard and followed, but could not see. And as Carl pressed himself against the wind, searching for his fellows, out of the brown haze a figure dashed past the hobbit, all the while glancing over his shoulder. It was soon plain to Carl, that the runner was neither archer nor slaver, but the youngster Kwell. And the boy ran with such dispatch, that Carl whirled about, bow ready as he struggled to see in the murk, what ever it was the boy was running from, before it over took him.

That split second stretched interminably as Carl waited with dread. For he had already guessed what this bogy might prove to be, and had until this point, envisioned dealing with Hamin from the comfortably long distance a bow usually afforded, and preferably unseen as well. But unfortunately, all he could do at the moment was hope for the best, for the wind was blowing so hard, his arrows were all but useless. And being no match for the slaver, the best he might do was buy the lad some time.

The hobbit set his jaw. Out of the storm lumbered a huge figure, the silhouette of a curved blade discernable in his bandaged fist, as the man bolted after his prey. At the site of the slaver, a wave of adrenalin coursed through the hobbit’s veins, and he aimed his dart well in front of the pursuer. With all his strength he stretched taught the string and shot into the wind. The arrow sped to its mark, but proved too feeble, for the man slowed down, pulling the arrow easy from his shoulder. “The brute’s an Oliphant!” Carl muttered in amazement, quickly sprinting after the retreating figure, before he had the chance to become lost in the confusion.

He had not gone more that a few yards when he saw that Hamin had closed in once more on Kwell. Grabbing him by the shoulder he spun the boy around roughly, threatening him with his sword. With haste the hobbit stopped, taking aim again, this time targeting the softness of the slaver’s lower back. Creeping up as close as he dared, he let the arrow fly. But the arrow was buffeted by the wind, embedding itself in a more southerly region to cause less harm than the hobbit had hoped.

It was as if Carl had tapped the slaver on the back to announce himself, for Haman whipped around, quickly jerking Kwell in front of him to serve as a shield. And spying the puny archer before him he snarled, “The sand fleas are biting today, are they? But we know how to deal with them! Just squeeze ‘em until they crack open, eh boy?” The slaver gripped Kwell tighter in the crook of one arm, lifting him off the ground, and the boy shut his eyes against the pain, futilely pushing at the thickly muscled arm that encompassed him. Relaxing his hold a bit, Hamin laughed while Carl grimaced, his mind transposing on the slaver the sinister image of joy a cat might experience while playing with a doomed mouse.

The slaver raised his dark eyes, fastening them again on Carl, whose shuttered involuntarily. “Tell me boy, who is this hero shivering in front of me? This fairy orcling, who hasn’t the strength to spear a rabbit with his pathetic skewers!” Now the hobbit’s fear had been quickly overtaken by horror and indignation at the treatment of Kwell, but these words fanned a fury in his heart and set him simmering. He had to get Kwell out of the man’s reach, and he had to keep his head.

Feigning a lighter heart than was in him, for with his arrows spent Carl was at a loss what to do, but he was determined to do something. He dropped his bow to the ground. “I’ve met you before Hamin, and you can’t fool me. No, not for a minute!” the hobbit said with all the pluck he could muster. “For all your swaggering I know you’re good for nothing, not even to play nursemaid to a pair of starving children. See with all these men about, you pick on the smallest among them.”

The slaver’s eyes narrowed as he stepped forward as if to have a better look at Carl, the corner of his mouth twisting into a grin. “What a dangerous game this sand flea plays!” he sneered. Fast and gleaming Hamin’s sword suddenly cut through the air where the hobbit had stood. But Carl had many an older brother to hone his reflexes, and he ducked to avoid the blow, springing up again to attempt disarming the brute, as he followed the stroke through. But the hobbit was quickly shook off, and flung to the ground with ease. And just as Carl was recovering, a rag blown on the wind, hit Hamin's face, clinging stubbornly to his head and neck.

Immediately seizing the opportunity, Kwell rammed his elbow into the slaver’s injured ribs, gaining his freedom as clutching his side, Hamin bowed for a moment, his sword dropping to the ground. The slaver pulled the cloth from his face, and was about to set off again to recover the boy, when Carl launched himself, scrabbling up the slaver’s broad back, grabbing handholds in the foul cloths and hair. “Quick Kwell, run!” the hobbit managed to shout to the boy still standing there. But a second later he was hurtled up over Hamin’s head, landing flat on his back.

Carl squinted at Hamin towering over him, but could think of no more taunts to distract the man. For he found he could not breathe, but like a landed fish he lay gasping, helpless. The slaver put his boot on the hobbit stomach. “Who are you, sand flea?” he asked again, slowing applying pressure. Finally, Carl’s lungs filled, and he blurted out, “The fish that got away. I’m the fish that slipped through your fingers, yesterday in the pit!” The slaver growled, pushing down harder, and Carl clutched the heavy boot, hoping that Kwell had gotten away.

Last edited by Hilde Bracegirdle; 11-29-2006 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 11-27-2006, 09:20 AM   #285
Brinniel
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The slavers approached swiftly, with Athwen leading the way. As if the storm didn’t make visibility bad enough, the horses’ hooves picked up even more dust, making seeing nearly impossible. Shae could see, however, the shapes of the men as they neared the tunnel. Shouts arose as they discovered their mistake, and several collapsed into the trench. Shae wondered for a second what had happened to the healer—she seemed to disappear with the rest of the slavers. But she had no time to worry, for chaos was beginning to ensue all around.

Only half of the slavers actually fell into the trench; the rest were able to stop their horses in time. The half dozen or so men were mostly attempting to calm their frightened steeds—and it seemed to Shae that this small group was in utter confusion more that anything. The timing would be perfect. Without further hesitation, the woman kicked into the mare’s sides, and charged forward, yelling. She could hear the others in the cavalry following, but she did not look back.

Her target was the first mounted slaver in visible sight. Shae took him by surprise as she thrusted her long knife into his right shoulder. Though the man yelped in pain, as she removed her blade, she realized she did not do as much damage as she hoped. Countering her attack, the slaver lifted his own sword in his left hand. As he swung, she lifted her weapon to block the attack. As the two blades collided, Shae swayed backwards, surprised at the man’s strength. Her puny blade whimpered under his powerful hold, and her hand shook as she struggled to keep her grip. The next few swings Shae was able to dodge with simple maneuvers with her horse. She lashed back in response, but every time she lifted her blade, it was met by the slaver’s. The man’s strength was overwhelming, and as she fought him, she could feel herself slowly sliding out of her saddle. Shae tightened her muscles and her left hand clenched the reins as she simply struggled to stay mounted. As she dodged another attack, Furie jolted suddenly, and with her inexperience, Shae lost all control.

She did not remember hitting the ground, but as she lay sprawled out on the dirt, she immediately realized what happened. Warm liquid flowed freely from her forehead and into her left eye. Her left wrist was contorted into an unnatural position, and Shae instantly knew it was broken. The woman blinked several times, still feeling rather woozy from the fall. She barely looked up in time to see the sword coming right at her. She rolled away just in time and grimaced as a sharp pain hit her left side. A cracked rib perhaps. Surprised to find she was still clutching her long knife in her right hand, Shae managed to stand up in time to block the second swing. She found herself face-to-face with the same slaver she had been fighting with, who stared menacingly back. He had dismounted from his stallion and seemed quite anxious to kill her. Though she was now injured, Shae found it much easier to fight on foot, and for a few minutes the two swung and parried in a circle as if it were a dance. He may have been stronger, but she was faster. But before long, exhaustion set in, and the man’s strength and his better weapon were too much. He caught her by surprise and her weapon suddenly escaped from the clutches of her fingers. Shae managed to dodge the next two blows by instinctively ducking. On the third swing, the slaver stumbled and his blade entered the earth. He quickly yanked it out and lifted his sword, prepared for one final attack, but he was not fast enough. As he lifted his weapon high in the air, the main suddenly gasped in pain. He looked down to find a throwing dagger protruding from his heart.

Khamir had always praised Shae for her swift throwing skills and her perfect aim. The woman watched as the man collapsed and died almost instantly. She removed the dagger from his chest and sheathed it. Her long knife was nowhere to be seen. Shae picked up the slaver’s sword and studied it. It was a fine blade, by far one of the highest quality she had ever seen. She removed the sheath from the man’s belt and attached it to her own, placing the sword inside it. During those few minutes of rest, Shae could feel the pain and exhaustion set in. Blood continued to pour from the gash in her head covering the entire left eye. It should’ve been a problem, as she was blind in that eye anyway, but with one eye sealed shut made it even more difficult to see out of the other one. She wiped some of the blood away with one hand, and took several deep breaths in an attempt to rejuvenate herself.

At that time, the woman took the opportunity to finally observe her surroundings. Several bodies were sprawled out in the distance, both slavers and ex-slaves. Not far away, many still fought, struggling for their lives, but Shae could not recognize who was where. As she looked around, Shae was surprised at how few slavers there were. She had seen their camp the other night, and remembered its size.
This can’t be right. I know there were more of them than this. Could they still be coming from behind?
And then a cold thought entered Shae’s mind, sending chills down her spine.
No.
But it was possible, very possible in fact. The slavers weren’t complete idiots—surely they realized that the ex-slaves would do whatever possible to protect the women and children. And if they were desperate enough (and surely they were), they could easily…

Shae gave out a low whistle, seeking out through the clouds of dust for her mare. It did not take long to find her—Furie had not traveled far. She remounted and clenched her teeth as the pain returned. Her wrist was now swollen to twice its size, and though Shae knew the smart thing would be not to use that arm, she needed both her hands. Gasping from the pain, the woman struggled to wrap her fingers around the reins and test what strength and mobility she had left in her wrist. It wasn’t much, but it would be enough. Using her other hand for support to hold onto the reins, she kicked hard into Furie’s sides. Instantly, the horse and its rider were off, heading towards the direction where the women and children were stowed away.

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Old 11-27-2006, 06:03 PM   #286
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Aiwendil:

The old man distributed the few daggers he had managed to scrape together and asked everyone to gather rocks that could be used as weapons in case the slavers attacked. Aiwendil appointed Grwell to lead the older youth if an assault occurred, while he and Rôg would try and safeguard the mothers who had young children in their care. Hopefully, the battle would be decided before any of the attackers discovered that the deserted grove of boulders was actually a haven of refuge for those who could not fight.

With the winds churning up so much sand and dirt, Aiwendil could barely make out the shadowy outlines of the women and children crouched silently behind the rocks. It was impossible to see if any slavers were approaching. The noise of battle blew in from the far perimeter of camp. The sounds that had been so discoradant and jarring to those fighting by the tunnel now melted away to a comfortable drone. The old man sat down beneath the shelter of the massive boulder to get out of the storm. With nothing to do but wait, the minutes crept by slowly. Aiwendil closed his eyes to rest; twice, his head dipped and nodded, and then he slept. One anxious roar from across the camp blasted through to where the women and children waited. As the sound tore into the darkness, the old man reluctantly opened his eyes and sighed, struggling to push back his weariness. He still felt uneasy. His cousin Olorin would have known exactly what to do. Of all the istari , Aiwendil had been the one least equipped to deal with war or the high affairs of men. "Why me?" he muttered in frustration.

For years, the wizard had occupied a good piece of his time trying to guess why he had been forced to stay on after the War of the Ring, when all his brothers had vanished or returned home. He had been left behind with no explanation other than a few gentle words from Olorin when they had said their goodbyes in the house of Tom Bombadil. Olorin had ridden on to the Havens, and Aiwendil had been left pondering his fate, something he had done quite frequently in recent years. Before leaving, Olorin had insisted that Aiwendil try and remember the instructions Manwe had given him when they met in the garden of dreams the night before he sailed. Despite Aiwendil's every effort at remembering, that scene in that garden had proven stubbornly elusive.

At least Rôg was with him now. The wizard privately acknowledged just how important the maenwaith had become to him. Plus, it had been Rôg who had pushed him gently onto a kinder path, one where he had not only learned to care for the forest creatures but sometimes also men. Someday he must thank the young man for his gift of friendship. As a second howl went up from the east that was even more urgent than the last, Aiwendil sternly reminded himself that this was not the time or place for woolgathering.

At that instant, hard words had rattled inside his old head, bringing an unwelcome message he had been hoping to avoid. Staying close to the ground as he inched over to where Rôg was waiting, the old man hastily explained, “Bad news. Only part of the group took the bait. The others have disappeared. Lindir has no idea where they are. They’ll try to send a few men through to help us. But nothing is certain. Rôg, could you tell the band of children to remain alert and stick together? I’ll speak with the mothers.” With that Aiwendil turned and disappeared.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 11-28-2006 at 01:04 AM.
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Old 11-28-2006, 03:26 AM   #287
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‘Right, then.....everyone gather round me here. And you older boys and girls, gather up the littlest ones or herd them over.’ Rôg waved his arm at the rag-tag assembly of youngsters, drawing their attention to where he was standing. They came stumbling toward him, the edges of their sleeves or of what served as their thin cloaks wrapped over their mouth and noses, and their eyes half closed against the swirling sands.

‘Let’s get you tucked in here, in the overhanging shelter of this boulder. Can you squeeze in, take a seat with your backs against it. And the older ones, please tuck the smaller ones in against you.’

He pointed to four or five of the older children, one who had brought their sharp-pointed planting sticks along. ‘You, now, let’s arrange ourselves in front of those who are sitting. Keep your sticks at the ready in case any of the slavers come near us. Poke and slash at them is you can, otherwise retreat back beneath the shelter of the boulder, with the pointed ends facing outward like a prickly hedgehog.’ Rôg gave his charges an encouraging smile.

‘It will give me what time I need just in case I have to fight them off.’

He had looked away, toward where he thought the attack might come, before he had time to see the wondering frowns which wrinkled many of the youngsters faces.

Last edited by piosenniel; 11-29-2006 at 03:18 AM.
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Old 11-28-2006, 05:46 AM   #288
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The thundering of the hooves came back again. Hadith’s mind was suddenly seeing something as last night flashed back to him with vigour. He saw the rider suddenly appearing from the darkness, charging towards him. But unlike then, now Hadith was frozen to his place, unable to avoid the oncoming spear. He waited for a hit which never came as he fell deeper into the abyss of his faltering mind.

There was a vague figure of a man bending over him, quietly calling his name with a soothing tenderness in his voice. Father? Dad? … Don’t leave me alone! Take me with you! … it hurts so much… am I dying? There was concern, a sorrow even in the man’s eyes as he tried to ease the young boy’s anguish: “Fear no more my son, all is going to be well and you’ll have peace.” Then the face disappeared just to re-emerge with a totally different tone. Now the face smiled to him confidently, almost laughingly: “Hold your head up my little, it’s just a scratch! Tomorrow you won’t even remember it. Come now, we’ll go to see mom and fix it right away.”

Hadith felt a hand grasping his left shoulder. “Fath…”, he began, now half conscious. But the word never got uttered to the end as he realised that something was totally wrong. The grip tightened and someone turned him violently around to his back. Instead of a loving face of his father he met the grim expression of he slaver bending over him but looking sternly forwards. Hadith felt the blade on his throat. The slaver said something to someone, threateningly. Hadith couldn’t make out what was said but he felt the tone well enough. Then he passed out again.

Hadith laid on his mother’s lap, his head leaning comfortably to her belly. She held him firmly but tenderly in her arms and her fingers run gently over her neck. Hadith listened to the lullaby she sang in a low, hushed voice.

“Come, come, silent night,
show forth the starry height
of the heavens above.

Come, come, gentle dreams,
show the way to starry beams
that’ll carry you my dove.

Let go my love,
let go my dove,
fly high tonight
to home of the light.”


Suddenly Hadith was brought back to the reality as two men rolled violently over him. Someone’s knee thumped heavily on his wounded shoulder. The pain filled him, it overwhelmed everything. All went black.

Hadith felt himself being heaved on to the back of a horse. He tried to look around but saw only grey shadows. The pain on his shoulder had somewhat eased as he was getting numb. He tried to ask what was going on but couldn’t open his mouth. Finally, after being thrown on horseback he managed to open the curtain and to have some grip of the reality. There was that woman, Athwen on the saddle. He remembered her name. And there was a man, the Rohanian. What’s going on? They shouldn’t waste their time on me! … Hopefully they will get me to safety from here… Hadith was confused with his contradictory thoughts as the horse started carefully forwards. He gave up even trying to think any more and let it go just feeling the horse move under his numb body.

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Old 11-28-2006, 04:22 PM   #289
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Child of the 7th Age: Post for Aiwendil

Aiwendil had spent a long time with the women, explaining how they and their little ones must stay calm and not wander off by themselves in case any of the slavers happened to be lurking nearby. Most importantly, everyone must try to keep their children quiet. The istar gave each of the mothers a few drops of a heady brew he had concocted early that morning. With just one good whiff or a tiny draught placed on the tongue, the child should fall into an immediate slumber.

Aiwendil had reassured the women that he and Rôg would be standing guard outside the grove to dissuade any would be attackers. Most of the women looked pale and wan, while the children clung fiercely to their mothers' skrts. After Aiwendil had finished speaking, one old grandmother approached leading a small flock of children : two girls and a boy. The twin girls were about seven; the boy no more than four. He squalled miserably the whole time the two of them were speaking. The old man ignored the loud caterwauls and, taking the girls by the hand, picked up the boy and headed over to where Rôg was still talking with the older children. He whispered a few words of warning in his friend's ear, and then beckoned for Azhar to join him.

"I've a favor to ask," Aiwendil confided. "There is no one to care for these little ones. Their mother is fighting on the far side of camp. The other mothers and even the grannys have their hands full and can't look after any more. I would be grateful if you could help, just till the fighting has ended. Keep a close eye on the three of them and make sure they don't wander off. "

For a long time, Azhar looked warily back, saying nothing.

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

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Not this.....anything but this. Maybe I should have gone with Kwell.

Azhar stared down at the ground, biting her tongue to keep from blurting out what she really thought of Aiwendil's suggestion. She hated children. Well,....maybe "hate" was too strong a word, but taking care of children was definitely not something that Azhar wanted to do. Unlike many of the other girls on the plantation, she had never been put to work tending the babies while the mothers went out to do their work in the fields. She had always managed to avoid such duties. Azhar wasn't about to admit it to herself, but she had so little experience with children that they almost scared her. Yet now she was to be stuck with a brood of three in the middle of a field of battle.

"Out loud, she merely mumbled to the old man, "I don't know how good I'll be at this. Maybe you could get someone else?"

"No, no, you'll be fine," he affectionately reached out to pat the girl's shoulder. "The other mothers will help you. Just don't let the little ones wander. Rôg and I will be nearby. We'll keep an eye on everything."

"But what if someone comes?" Azhar objected in a nervous voice. "Couldn't you at least loan me a dagger like the ones you gave some of the boys? Or maybe I could borrow one of the boys's slings. I know how to use that."

"If I had any more weapons, you'd have one," Aiwendil assured her. "But we're pitifully short. Stay close to the other women, Azhar, and keep those rocks you collected nearby. Some of the other women are armed with sticks and knives. If anything happens, they'll tell you what to do. And Rôg and I will be standing guard."

With a sigh, she knelt down and tried to speak with the three children. "What are your names?" she gently asked. Then she glanced back up at Aiwendil and spoke in a solemn voice, "I will do as you say. I give you my promise. I will keep these little ones safe." All the while, the little boy kept howling as if he would never stop.

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Old 11-29-2006, 10:15 AM   #290
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Athwen tumbled down from the tall horse as her husband came rushing forward. She stood back, holding one of the reins as she watched the brief fight between the slaver and Dorran. She did not see how he had killed the slaver, for Dorran instantly got up and ran to her side, blocking her sight. His mind was working faster than a horse could run, and his words proved it. “Are you alright?” She hardly had time to nod. “Did he hurt you?” She didn’t know whether to nod or shake her head, even if she did have time for it. “I couldn’t clear the trench. Thank goodness Hadith was here to help. . .”

He hurried on, but Athwen hardly listened. She was thankful that he was there, that his arm was around her shoulders, supporting her. But then his voice changed and he spoke again of what needed to be done and the business at hand.

“You must get out of here. Hadith needs your help and others as well.” Yes, of course. How could she have forgotten? She turned back to the slaver’s horse (her own had wandered off somewhere) and mounted up while Dorran pulled Hadith’s limp body towards her. With only a little difficulty, he heaved the young man up behind the saddle. As he did so, he told her where to go, and that shortly, they’d bring the rest of the wounded.

Athwen nodded and drew a deep breath before turning the horse’s head and putting him into a walk. They rode slowly and carefully around the trench. The horse was skittery and nervous in the wind, an ill-tamed brute who wanted to bolt at the slightest chance. He had worked well for charging his own master, but for this short journey with a wounded man across his haunches, the slaver’s horse was not what Athwen wanted.

Behind the line made by the tunnel and trench, Athwen could make out the images of dark groups in the blowing sand and dirt. At the place of the tunnel, a struggle was still in process, though dying down even as she rode passed it. She could see horses struggling in the narrow trench where the tunnel was, and other horses standing above them on the near side. ‘Those must be our horses,’ she said to herself, and turned to look ahead. ‘Where are the archers? I thought there were supposed to be some on this side?’ Almost as soon as she asked herself the question, she saw another dark gathering almost directly ahead. More horsemen. . .another section of the slaver’s force. They were in combat with another group of her allies, people on foot.

Athwen changed her course. She would have to go around them. She hoped that she would catch no one’s attention as she passed to the left by fifty yards. She ducked her head and with one hand drew up the sash that had been tied around her neck. There was a chance that she would pass unseen. . .

In two minutes she had completed the half circle around them. She urged the horse into a slightly faster walk, being careful that he did not break into a trot. But as she came over the next ridge on the land she pulled him up abruptly. Here the wind was just a bit sharper than below, but the air was clearer and she could see better, slightly. Down below her, far behind the place of the camp, another group of horsemen were cantering across the sand. Another part of the cursed slavers! They were not concerned with the fighting going on now, behind her in the camp. They were looking for a more easy prey. The women, children, and wounded. Athwen felt her heart sink.

The grove where the children and women were hiding was directly to her right. She could reach it with a simple dash. But not just yet. She couldn’t risk being seen and showing them the way. She turned her horse about again and went back down the incline until the slight hill hid her. Then she turned her horse towards the grove and now she risked a trot, hoping that Hadith would stay put. She turned the horse’s head back up the hill and when she reached the top, as quickly as she could she slid into an opening of rock.

Athwen dismounted the horse at once and led him hurriedly across the grove to where she knew the children and women were going to be. Some slight relief came over her as she spotted Rôg speaking with the children. She ran forward and grasped his sleeve.

“Rôg, there’s another attachment of horsemen riding out behind us, looking, I’m sure, for this place! They’ll find us very little time at all and they’ll kill all of them! We’ve got to stop them, we’ve got to-” her voice broke off as she choked suddenly on an unexpected sob. “He’s wounded,” she went on in a voice broken at intervals by her flood of tears and indicating Hadith as she spoke, “and Dorran’s going to be bringing up more of the wounded people, and soon we’ll be assaulted ourselves, and I don’t know what to do! I can’t mend people with all this wind and sand and - and -”

Athwen couldn’t tell herself why she was crying like a child. All she knew was that she had narrowly escaped being captured by a pack of brutes, she had watched a man get cut down like a tree before her eyes, she had been hurt by the slaver’s beastly blow to her face, that she was being driven to distraction by the wind and sand, and that shortly a pack of men would be up to kill helpless women and children.
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Old 11-29-2006, 09:08 PM   #291
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Kwell

Kwell stumbled away from Hamin as the man let go of him. Kwell turned, though, as he heard Carl’s voice call after him. “Quick, Kwell, run!” Run? He would have by all means had he not been reminded that the hobbit was still in danger. But the little man’s voice brought him up sharp and he turned in a flash just to see Carl flung off of Hamin’s back onto the dirt and Hamin approach him again with cruel intent written all over his face.

Kwell’s heart leaped to his throat. The little hobbit was going to be killed! He looked frantically about him. Someone had to help! Someone! But who could? Behind Hamin, the other people who had been with Carl were in a hard struggle with the other horsemen. No one had a spare moment to help Carl. No one except Kwell.

The boy realized it in a flash. Thank the gods that the brute was taking his time about slicing Carl’s head off his shoulders. Kwell had his knife in his hand again in an instant. With it drawn, he ran forward. He didn’t consider that Hamin might see him before he struck, or that he might move and catch him and hinder him from taking his purpose to the end. No thought went through his mind except that he had to accomplish what needed to be done. There was no question, no option. He ran mutely forward. Equally silently he leaped up. Hamin looked up, but only too late. He moved his foot from his victim’s stomach, lifted his hand to block his face, but too late.

The knife plunged into his throat and sank to the hilt. Hamin twisted about without a sound, though his mouth opened and blood gushed out of the wound as a mute cry tried to escape. Kwell fell back as Hamin struck out at him with his hands. He stumbled over Carl’s prostrated figure and fell onto his back. In a moment, Hamin fell, too.

Kwell slowly pushed himself up on his elbow and then he sat up. He reached over and tugged on Carl's shirt. "You alright?" he panted. "You're not dead, are you?"
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Old 11-30-2006, 01:49 AM   #292
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Lindir:

Somewhere amid the swirling sands and raucous sounds of battle, the two groups of archers had become separated. Noticing that one of the slavers had made it over the trench and veered off towards the south to avoid capture, Lindir and two of the freed slaves headed down the same path, braving the howling gusts of wind which slowed their progress and prevented them from seeing very far ahead. The horse on which the slaver was mounted had been wounded in the flanks leaving a trail of blood to follow. From the look of the blood soaked ground, the Elf guessed that the rider would not be able to get very far before the animal’s wounds would require him to dismount and go ahead on foot. That would make it considerably easier for the archers to catch up.

Lindir’s guess had been right. Moving as quickly and quietly as they could, the three had stumbled upon the man’s horse floundering on the plain no more than two hundred paces away from the tunnel. Still, there was something that bothered Lindir. Why would this attacker continue to plunge south with such certainty? Either he was deserting the fight or expected to find something that would help him.

The answer was not long in coming. Before they’d advanced another two hundred feet, they came to a stretch of terrain littered with giant boulders. Even with the howling of the storm, Lindir could make out mannish voices coming from just ahead. The man they were pursuing had apparently found some of his companions. Using a boulder for cover, Lindir peered out and could just make out two men on horseback. The slaver who’d lost his mount had now been heaved up behind one of these and was continuing to talk.

Lindir glanced over at his two companions. The one crouching beside him was a lithe and healthy woman in her thirties, the other a young man who couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. Both had been members of the original slave band that had escaped several years before. They were swift runners and experienced hunters, but neither had any training in conventional battle techniques or actually fought in a war.

Lindir made a quick decision, “I would give a great deal to have three horses right now, or to know where our cavalry is. But wishing won’t get us far. We are the only three here, and we need to figure out a way to harass these fellows on horseback, even if we are on foot. We’re not an army, and we can’t attack them directly. But all three of us are used to stalking and hunting creatures. The wind is our friend. They dare not take off at a gallop since they cannot see and would risk falling into a chasm or have their horses pull up lame. Even on foot, we can keep up. Let’s not let them know we’re here. We’ll wing out an arrow now and again and retreat quickly. It would be better if we had the cover of trees, but we can make do with the rocks and low growing vegetation. We’ll have to be careful, quiet, and fast--just as we might be in hunting a large and dangerous animal-- since the slavers are sure to try and get back at us.”

“But I don’t understand,” Gretl objected. “Didn’t the slavers attack us at the trench? Who are these men?”

“The group split before they entered camp. There must be others scattered about as well.” A grim image of the grove where the women and children were hiding flashed across Lindir's mind. But for the moment, he could do nothing about that. He pushed away that thought and added, “I don’t where their captain is, but he’s not here. Gretl, Wulf, now is as good a time as any for our scheme. The rocks will help us. Just let your arrow loose and run like mad to get out of the way. Come now. Let’s hunt some game!” Crouching low and carefully advancing from boulder to boulder, they made their way across the plain towards the spot where the men were talking.

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Old 11-30-2006, 07:44 PM   #293
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Khamir, Adnan, and Nasim

The wind had died down to a bearable strength, and their visibility was increased for a time. The darkness was now less disorienting, and Khamir and Adnan both felt their heads clear a little. They knew they needed to get moving again as quickly as possible, if only because their help was needed elsewhere. Both their bodies ached, though Khamir knew his pains were nowhere near those of Adnan. He was only fifteen…it seemed against nature itself that he should look the way he did, covered in blood. And the man knew it would look worse in the daylight.

Vrór looked no better, but he at least had a pulse. Khamir felt hopeless, not knowing what to do for the Dwarf. He did know he had to get him out of here somehow, so he could get help, but…how were they to carry him? He was a large man, and he worse his heavy chainmail. And should they carry him? He could have any number of injuries that could only be worsened if they moved him. But they had to do something…

“Can you walk?” Khamir asked, softly, his voice full of concern.

Adnan grunted, but did not look at his companion. Khamir took it as a “yes.”

The one-armed man struggled to pull the mail hauberk off of Vrór. Adnan silently began to help him as best he could. They were both as careful as they could manage, and each stared down at the unconscious Dwarf intensely, their faces creased with worry.

“Can you help carry him?” There was another grunt as Khamir slung the chainmail over his shoulder. He stifled a small groan at the weight of it, and the thought of carrying it any lengthy distance. With many groans and heavy breaths they each took up one end of Vrór, neither thinking even for a moment of leaving a companion behind.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Nasim and the others moved as quickly as they could while trying to make as little sound as possible. There was nothing to say that they would not run into any surprise encounters, and if they were not careful, they would be dead in a heartbeat. With only the three of them, they felt exposed.

With shouts and the deep thudding of hooves, all their fears came rushing towards them. The slaves, regardless of how much they had been thinking about such an assault, were not really prepared for it. For a moment they simply froze, all thoughts bent on what the body should be doing but wasn’t. Then Nasim let fly a sharp bullet from his sling, and the others fell into action, as well. One gripped his long knife, the other his rough spear – simply a sharpened stone point, but it had served its purpose well thus far.

It took longer than it should have for their brains to process, but they observed there were only two riders, and though they had other advantages, numbers weren’t meaningless. One rider was knocked down as he approached, and Nasim felt a rush of hope that they had the upper hand, though his logic told him that they were in far over their heads. He was not a fighter! He drew his small blade, which he had never used except to skin and clean kills from the hunt.

His limbs were growing numb and his hands and face cold with sickly sweat, as all his thoughts focused on his own mortality. It was either death or back to being a slave in the hands of these men, and if he was dead, there would never be another chance of escape. Death had never been so frightening, not until he had escaped and tasted freedom. And now, in just a few months, he could not, would not let it go. He mentally cursed himself for being a coward. Did he even deserve that freedom?

Nasim’s thoughts traveled to who he knew were deserving of it, and a different sort of terror caught in his throat. Those who could not fight were in danger, and he who could fight was thinking of his own life? He thought of the mothers, the old, and especially the children, and he found a purpose to the madness other than fear.
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Old 12-01-2006, 11:41 AM   #294
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Carl

The hobbit’s eyelids flashed open, and he sat up, looking around him. There was Hamin lying on the ground, a dark pool creeping out from beneath him. And Kwell too was just beside him. Why was Kwell still there? Carl realized he must have lost consciousness. “Am I dead? “ Carl coughed behind his kerchief. “Not yet, by the look of it, though I was well on my way. Picked a fine time to get the breath knocked out of me, that’s for certain!”

“But are you alright?” Kwell asked.

Putting his hands on his stomach, Carl quickly pushed here and there to see if anything was amiss. His abdomen was quite painful and he felt overwhelmingly nauseous, but he guessed it wasn’t anything of a serious nature. Satisfied that he would be fine, he pulled his legs out from under Hamins’s knees extricating himself from the tangle, and stood up. “Someone wise once said that hobbits are tougher than they look. But I’m telling you, even though I didn’t crack, I was sure to pop if that had gone on much longer” He offered a hand to Kwell, and helped him to his feet. “But how are you? Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m alright,” the boy said looking doubtfully at the frantic shadows moving around them in the haze, as if he expected something to leap out at them. He hurried to squat beside the dead man.

“What piece of luck saved our hides anyway?” Carl asked. But as Kwell removed his knife from the slaver’s throat, Carl needed no answer. “Is that what happened! Here I had thought to tell you to return to the other children where you’d be safer. But now I’m thinking that they would be safer. They might be needing a stout hearted lad such as you, just now.”

Kwell stopped what he was doing, and looked the hobbit in the eye. “As you can see,” Carl added, “Not all the slavers decided to enter the camp by the front door. As for me, I need to find me some arrows, or a sword or something a bit bigger than my knife! You go take care of Azhar for me, will you? I have a good hunch you might be better at it than me.” With a quick wink, the hobbit picked up his bow and headed off to see if he could find the other archers.

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Old 12-01-2006, 01:29 PM   #295
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After long minutes of coaxing and prodding, Azhar had finally gotten the twins to open up. She had learned that the girls' names were "Lisel" and "Liriel". Such beautiful names for children born in the horrid confines of a Nurn planatation. Their mother must already have been thinking of the day when she would somehow get free and build a new home for her daughters.

Azhar had found it easier to talk with the girls than she had expected. Despite the mad chaos going on in the camp, she had managed to get the twins to trust her. They were cuddled up at her side listening to a whispered story about the fine palace they were all going to build as soon as they got away from this place. She had even begged some scraps of bread from one of the mothers so that the three of them could pretend to sit down and have a grand tea party. Even more importantly, there had not yet been any sign of the slavers. The grove was quiet and relatively peaceful.

But one problem had stubbornly refused to go away. The twins' little brother whose name was Tom would not settle down. He sat some distance from them in a miserable huddle and sucked his thumb as he called out for his mother and shed many tears. No matter how hard she tried, Azhar could not win the boy's confidence or trust. Even Aiwendil's magic drops didn't seem to work. After twenty minutes of balling, he'd worn himself out and fallen into a fitful sleep.

Finishing her story, Azhar excused herself from the girls and explained that she was going over to the bramblebush where Tom was sleeping. The bush was not more than twelve feet away; one of the mothers had promised to keep an eye on the boy while he slept. Azhar arrived at the bush but to her horror there was no sign of Tom. In the place where he'd been sleeping, the only evidence left was a few trampled weeds and a small scarf that he had been wearing. Azhar darted up and down the rows of mothers, anxiously asking if they'd seen Tom but no one could help her. What had happened was all too clear: the boy had decided to go off on his own.

Azhar felt tears swelling up in her eyes. How could she have been so careless? Here, she had berated Kwell for his lack of responsibility and yet her own behavior was worse than his. She had made a solemn promise to Aiwendil that she would do everything she could to keep the children safe, yet she had not even kept a close watch on Tom.

Taking the girls over to one of the other mothers, she'd asked if they could stay there and rest, explaining that she had to do something but would be back in just a little while. Then she loaded a number of the smaller rocks in her pocket and crept out of the grove softly calling Tom's name. l
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Old 12-02-2006, 09:09 AM   #296
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piosenniel's post - Rôg


By the Great Winged One! The woman was crying.....

‘.....and Dorran’s going to be bringing up more of the wounded people, and soon we’ll be assaulted ourselves, and I don’t know what to do! I can’t mend people with all this wind and sand and – and.....’

Other than his sister, and mother of course, Rôg had never had many close dealings with those of the female persuasion. And to be truthful, he’d never seen his mother cry; she was much too practical a woman for that sort of thing, or so he always thought. His sister’s bouts of tears were in her younger years. Some frustrating thing or other that had gone awry. The tears were brief, and her mood at those points was not one to invite a hug or encouraging words.

Now had Athwen been a child, Rôg would simply have swept her into his arms and made some reassurances. But she was a grown women, and a married one to boot.

He pulled one of his yellow scarves from an inner pocket of his cloak and handed it to her as he gently withdrew his sleeve from her grasp. ‘For your eyes he said.....and you can tie it about your face, to cover your nose and mouth. It will help against the sand. The wounded.....I don’t know what to say about that. Except that I know you will do the best you can until the circumstances change.’

He paused and glanced briefly toward where the old man stood. ‘Aiwendil will take good care of us. Be assured. And I will help as I can.’


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Child of the 7th Age's post - Aiwendil

"Ah! My lady, do not lose heart." Aiwendil reached out with his hand to pat the woman gently on the shoulder. "Athwen, you have done a most admirable thing, leading these fellows straight into the pit. Truly I say that from the bottom of my heart. And telling us about this band is a big help. Since you have stood this perilous course so bravely, you must not doubt that others will do the same. There is too much at stake here.....people's lives and freedom. We must not give up so easily. I promise you that if these brigands attack, we will have our defenses up. Rôg is too modest, but he has a trick or two up that sleeve of his that he is too modest to divulge. And others will come to the grove to help."

"I have set aside a few buckets of water in the grove that you may certainly use. They are hidden under a large rock and protected from the winds. Plus there are a few herbs set there from my satchel that may do your patients some good. I am no healer of Men but sometimes I work with birds and beasts. So perhaps what I use can be helpful for you. If you have time before the wounded are brought in, you might talk with the mothers and have a look at a few of their children. From what I have seen some have suffered greatly at Nurn and could use the gentle hand of a healer. They may help them as much as potions or herbs."

Aiwendil hastily guided Athwen towards one of the women and introduced them. Then he took his leave, explaining that there was much planning to do. Rushing back to Rôg, he thumped the young man on the shoulder so hard that he spun around This time the wizard did not look or sound quite so confident. "Bad news, Rôg. Very bad news! Two of the women have told me that Azhar took off some time ago. The girl went to search for Tom, a little boy I put in her care who apparently slipped away, and all the mothers think that Azhar may be looking for him somewhere outside this grove. They did not see her go, but it does not look good. I would search on my own, but I mustn't leave when these men may attack AT ANY MINUTE. If you Would go out and do a little hunting, perhaps you could find them both and bring them back."

As to the other," he plunged forward without stopping, "I must speak with Lindir and tell him to bring as many men as he can to help us. I have a bad feeling about this band of slavers Athwen saw, and I wonder how many others are going to be heading here as well. You must hurry back as soon as you can. For we may need a helping hand or wing, whatever is available, once the battle starts. I only hope you can find these children before this Imak creature does....."

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 12-04-2006 at 02:48 AM.
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Old 12-03-2006, 01:52 AM   #297
Tevildo
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Azhar:

Azhar climbed onto the flat ledge of one of the larger boulders and hugged her knees to her chest, her body curled into a tight little ball. The wind stung hard against her back. Plunging her head into the folds of her skirt, she rocked gently back and forth in an attempt to find some relief from the tangled knot of her feelings, but her mind refused to let go. Two tears welled up and slid down, leaving dirty brown streaks on her cheeks and chin.

For what seemed liked forever, Azhar had scrambled from rock to rock and peered into the tiniest crevices where a small boy might have hidden. All her efforts had been for naught. There had been no trace of the lad. Azhar had a vague sense that a young woman, unarmed and inexperienced, should not be out in the open while a band of slavers still roamed the camp. But her guilt at having failed Tom was even stronger than her fear of being caught. Aiwendil had shown his trust by giving her an important task. It was the first job she’d ever had where she actually had the choice of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Only she had not done it terribly well, and now there was a little boy lost somewhere on these bitter plains. Azhar would have given everything she had, not even stopping at life itself, to see that child safe in his mother’s arms.

The harsh swirl of the sands made it impossible to see more than a few paces away. The first warning of the approach of the men was the pounding of horses’ hooves. For one instant, the young girl thought of trying to run away. But they were almost upon her and, more than that, she had a dreadful presentiment that this trio might know something about where Tom had gone….better to know than not know, even if the truth was hard.

The one thing Azhar had not expected was to recognize one of her attackers. As the horses drew up and she cowered helplessly behind the boulder, the girl caught a glimpse of an all too familiar face. Imak, cruel as ever, slipped down from his horse and came striding over to where she was, jerked her up by the collar and glared down. Imak’s face went a deadly black as the leader of the slavers recognized the girl who had escaped from his camp two days before.

“What a pleasant surprise!” Imak sarcastically intoned. Then he announced to the other men, “This one is mine. She’s one of the two from the pit. The cause of half our troubles!” He took Azhar’s arm and pinned it against her back while snarling, “By the time I’m through, you’ll wish you were dead.”

In desperation, Azhar peered around hoping to see someone who could help but she was alone in this wasteland. Taking in the other riders, she glimpsed something that made her heart pound: a tiny body sprawled across one of the saddles. Whether the child was dead or alive, she could not see. But it was definitely Tom. The reality slowly hit her. No man would carry along a body of an enemy in the midst of battle. Spurred on by the knowledge that Tom was probably alive, she struggled with all her might to wrench free, kicking and flailing as she struggled towards the boy and called out his name. Azhar hardly knew what she was doing or why. She only knew she had to get over to Tom.

“So you know this one?” sneered Imak, taking hold again on Azhar’s collar and yanking her back.

“No, no, I’ve never seen him.” The girl protested. By now she was shaking with fear.

“That’s funny. I could have sworn I heard you call out a name.” Imak sauntered over to the unconscious child and removed his dagger from his belt, grinning at the girl. “Well, no friend of yours is a friend of mine.” With one rapid movement, he flashed his arm up intending to plunge the blade into the boy’s body.

Everything happened so fast that Azhar, even years later, could never explain how or why the change took place. It was almost like a dream. One moment Azhar was a girl standing there helpless while Tom was about to be killed and the next moment there was a quiet flash of understanding. Yes, mother, that’s how I do it. Faster than Imak’s arm could descend the little girl was gone and instead a gigantic brown bear roared up on his hind legs. Turning towards Imak, the bear reached out with a single swift paw and smacked the man on his side, sending him sprawling on the ground. The bear gave a triumphant growl and turned towards the other men, preparing to charge.

But the bear stopped dead in her tracks, shook her great lumbering head as if she was dazed, and then collapsed on the ground in a tangled heap. One moment the men were staring at a bear, scrambling to get away, and the next instant the little girl had come back.

Imak struggled to sit up, the pain pounding through his side, and then called out to one of his men. “Kill her Urgl. She’s a witch.”

The man turned his horse around and then dismounted, drawing out his sword as he strode over to where the girl lay.

Last edited by Tevildo; 12-05-2006 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 12-03-2006, 03:44 AM   #298
piosenniel
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Azhar and little Tom are rescued.....

By the time he found her, it was too late to finesse some way out of the deadly situation. From a short distance he’d watched her as she collapsed, resuming her young girl’s form. And now one of the men, his blade raised to strike, advanced rapidly on her still form.

There was simply no time to put a plan in place. In less than a few breaths Azhar would be dead.

Rôg did not relish the thought of killing the man.....the form he took, his clan form, had no such reservations.

The sword melted in the heat of the fiery blast. The flesh on the slaver’s arm caught flame and he screamed, turning as if to outrun the fire’s grip. Reaching out, the great wyrm’s foreleg crushed the man into the sand as if he were no more than a flea.

His great tail flicked round catching the other slaver, still ahorse, as the man turned his mount to escape. Rôg caught the man by the arm and yanked him from his saddle flipping him in a long high arc toward the hard, jagged edges of a rocky outcropping. The slaver’s screams grew distant as he flew through the air; stopping altogether as his heavy form met the earth.

All of the horses had now panicked and fled. The wyrm turned his yellowed eye on the last man, Imak. The slaver was struggling to rise to his feet, though it was clear he was still in some pain from the bear’s attack. Rôg dipped down his great head, clamping his razor sharp teeth on the man’s left arm.

It was a cry from Azhar that stopped him from snapping off Imak’s limb altogether. As it was, his maw slipped down to the end of the arm and with one small but satisfying crunch, he snipped off the man’s hand.

The girl had raised up weakly and was pointing to a small form on the ground where the little boy had slipped off the horse. Despite the fall, he did not seem harmed by his tumble. Only scared.....or perhaps angry, as he had begun to bawl quite loudly.

Flicking the slaver to the side with a brush of his forearm, Rôg started toward the small form.....

~*~

Straightening his robe about him, Rôg gathered up the wailing boy in his arms. His cloak found its way about Azhar’s shoulders to keep the chill from her thin form.

‘Come along, little one,’ he said as she leaned against him. One hand found its way to her shoulder, encouraging her to walk along with him. His other arm held the little boy, still fussing, against his chest. ‘You did a brave thing, Azhar, trying to protect him. A very brave thing.’

‘Later, when there is time, I’ll show you how to hold your form.’ He picked up his pace as he headed them toward where the women and children were gathered. ‘Come now, we must get back to where the others are waiting. I need you to watch him and his little sisters.....until the last of the slavers have been taken care of.....’

Last edited by piosenniel; 12-08-2006 at 10:25 AM.
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Old 12-03-2006, 10:20 AM   #299
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The battle beside the tunnel

The first thing Beloan noticed after he had crossed the trench was a fast approaching figure of a man on his right. Beloan turned quickly to face the man and raised his sword ready. The man seemed to have noticed it and altered his course slightly to meet Beloan from his backhandside. He was now swinging his sword around in the air as he approached. And he was coming in fast. Beloan tried to regain the earlier angle to meet him face to face and took some fast steps backwards, turning slightly right as he suddenly recognised the man coming towards him just a few yards away.

“Erlech! No! It’s me, Beloan!” he shouted against the wind and waved his left hand. “Stop, Erlech!”

Erlech heard him at the last moment and managed to pull off his swing towards Beloan. He stopped just some feet from Beloan and stood still a while, breathing heavily.

“Something’s wrong here”, Beloan noted as his pulse had settled enough for him to speak. The men were staring each other, panting. “Where are all the slavers?”

Erlech straightened his back and tried to look around but the sudden gust of wind throwing whirls of sand everywhere had reduced the visibility to just a yard or two. The howling of the wind filled their ears. “Qat and Fewerth were fighting one down there behind!” Erlech shouted over the wind pointing backwards. “I’ve met no one!”

The wind slowed down for a moment. They both heard the sounds of a fight a little further away from them. “It must be Joshwan! C’mon!” Beloan cried and ran towards the noise. Erlech followed and soon passed Beloan. He was the younger and stronger of the two.

Joshwan was fighting two slavers at the same time. His spear laid splintered on the ground and another one of the slavers was bleeding heavily from his shoulder. The slavers were bombarding him with heavy blows from both sides and Joshwan was only parrying right and left as he tried to back away.

“Hang on Joshwan! We’re coming!” Erlech yelled as he and Beloan leapt forwards as fast as they could. A lot of things happened in the following seconds.

The unscratched slaver who was about to land his hit on Joshwan in turn noticed the two coming in and halted his attack for a second to judge the new situation. Joshwan noticed it and decided immediately to go for a surprise. So all of a sudden he reversed his retreat to an attack. In stead of parrying to his right he turned back to his left and towards the wounded slaver who had just hit him. He was just raising his sword for the next blow when Joshwan’s blade went through his chest. He had no time to realise what was happening. His eyes turned around in their sockets.

But the other one had only halted for a second and was quickly back in the tracks of what was happening. Before Joshwan had time to pull his sword back from the chest of the one, the other swang a mighty blow to his now open back. The pierced slaver fell backwards and Joshwan tumbled over him crying from pain.

Erlech charged the still standing slaver with his spear roaring with rage, just to realise that the slaver was not only stunningly fast to recover a defending posture but that he also had a shield! How could he have missed it? But it was too late. The slaver parried the baffled Erlech’s spear easily and managed to duck away from the onrushing man himself. By quickly shifting his place he was able to unbalance Erlech even more, so that with a slight bunch of the shield and a well placed leg Erlech went stumbling towards the ground head on in full speed. And still, after all this, Beloan who had been only a few steps behind Erlech was now facing a slaver perfectly ready for a duel.

The swords hit one another once, two times. On third encounter the blades clinged together, both men meeting the other from eye to eye on close range trying to yield another’s blade down and gain the upper hand. The slaver’s eyes were burning with spirit. “You scum! Take your place, slave!” the slaver hissed from between his teeth. Beloan didn’t answer but just tried to press harder while remaining calm on his face.

Then, from the corner of his eye Beloan saw Erlech rising up behind them. His eyes betrayd him and the slaver managed to back off from the situation. But before the slaver or Beloan had time to take advantage of the new situation they were both distracted by the sound of fast approaching thunder of hooves. Beloan saw the figure emerging from the sandstorm first. It was coming from behind of Erlech and it was coming in fast. And there it was, a spear lowered ready to hit. “Erlech! Behind you!” Beloan managed to cry out before the slaver was up on him again, now even more confident than earlier. He was attacking and hacking with fervour and Beloan had to back away just defending himself.

Erlech who had just risen up from the ground had only time enough to turn his head before the spear went through him.

Happily for Beloan, the wildly charging rider went on straight between him and the slaver he was backing away from thus giving him the valuable chance of pulling himself together and to draw some breath.

In the instance there was yet new movement to Beloan’s right. “I’ll take the rider! Go help Beloan!” thundered the deep voice of the giant man Qat, the bearded escapee, as he ran to pick up Erlech’s spear from the ground. Fewerth, although slightly wounded, was rushing to help Beloan shouting a battle cry as he came on.

The slaver who had been fighting Beloan took a few steps back to re-evaluate the situation and glanced around to locate his riding fellow. Beloan now had his two seconds of thought and yelled at Fewerth: “Fewerth! Get behind him and stay behind him!” Then he charged the slaver straight ahead.

The rider had been able to stop his mount and turned to face the fight again. He had heard bellowing from behind him and saw that something had changed. There was another man rushing towards his comrade. He charged immediately forward, aiming at the newcomer as he was nearer to his tracks. But before he managed to get into the striking distance a flying spear came out from the swirling dust and hit him on his left side. He fell down from the saddle and stumbled to the ground. The spear on his side twisted under the weight of his body but at the same time it swerwed even deeper inside, bringing unbearable pain to him.

The horse had no time to react and trampled Fewerth under it’s hooves as it tried to get out of this madness.

The next thing the unmounted slaver realised was a stern face bending over him. “Here’s for Erlech!” it shouted. The sword went through his throat and then it was over. Black. Nothing. A relief from pain.

After that Qat joined Beloan to fight the last slaver. The slaver had no chance. Beloan was attacking him from the front and Qat from behind. And even as he quite skilfully tried to back out to have his attackers on his sides, the two went on countering his moves. After a few rounds of blows Beloan managed to get behind the slaver as he was engaged with Qat and ran his sword through his back. The slaver fell to the ground face down.

“That was a real fighter...” Beloan whispered between panting. Qat nodded silently, trying to come even with his breath too.

“Erlech is dead, Joshwan is too, I’m afraid. How about Fewerth? We’ll have to check them. And check them fast! If they are alive, every moment counts! Come my fellow, check Fewerth, I’ll go for Joshwan!” Beloan said to Qat and forced himself on the move even though his whole body cried for rest. Qat forced himself to follow Beloan.

Joshwan was dead as Beloan reached him.

“He’s alive! Badly bruised but alive!” Qat called from beside Fewerth’s unconscious body. “What do we do now?”

Last edited by Nogrod; 12-03-2006 at 04:58 PM.
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Old 12-04-2006, 08:18 PM   #300
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Athwen regained her senses and her dignity quickly as Rôg struggled to say a few kindly words. He gently disentangled his sleeve from her clutching hand and she stepped back, suddenly self-conscious. “The wounded.....I don’t know what to say about that. Except that I know you will do the best you can until the circumstances change.”

“Yes,” she gasped quietly, taking the scarf he so kindly offered. “Yes, of course I will. Thank you.”

Aiwendil must have heard the exchange of words, and tears, for he suddenly appeared at her side. His touch and old, kind voice brought new courage to her as he led her quickly away. “If you have time before the wounded are brought in, you might talk with the mothers and have a look at a few of their children. From what I have seen some have suffered greatly at Nurn and could use the gentle hand of a healer. That may help them as much as potions or herbs.” She was introduced to one of these mothers and before she could turn back to Aiwendil to explain that there already was a man who there who needed her help with a wound, he had left. She turned back to the woman.

“Gwyn?” she said, repeating the name that Aiwendil had told her. The woman nodded. “I have a wounded man with me…I think his name is Hadith. Can you show me where the buckets of water have been kept? I have a horse with Hadith on him, can we get the horse there?”

“Yes, I think we can. Go and get him. I’ll wait for you.”

Athwen hurried away to fetch the horse and lead him back. As she went, she folded Rôg’s scarf into a triangle and tied it around her nose and mouth. When her hands were empty again, she had reached the horse, and she reached up to take the reins near the bit. He tossed his head a little at first but, after a reluctant first step, he followed her meekly as she led him towards Gwyn.

“Wait a moment,” Athwen said as she reached her. “I need to get my pack. Hold him.” She handed the horse to Gwyn and then ran lightly away to where she had stored away her things earlier. She came back with the pack of healing herbs and other necessary things.

Gwyn waited for her and when Athwen reached her, she silently handed back the reins and turned to show the way. The women, with their little children pressed close about their skirts, made as much way as possible as Athwen and the horse passed through them. At the very back of the gathering of women and children they came to the rocks that formed the shelter. Gwyn led Athwen directly to a large stone that was slightly hollowed out towards the bottom, forming a slightly convex shape beneath which the air was still. Four buckets of water sat there. Clothes covered them to keep out any stray sand or dirt that might happen to reach them.

Athwen’s eyes lighted up a little when she saw such a place, blocked from the wind and calm on account of it. She brought the horse forward as far as he would come and then she ran about to his side. “Here, Gwyn, help me lift him down, please.”

Gwyn came about and together, the two women pulled Hadith down from his place and to the best of their ability, slowed his downward movement to set him gently on the ground beneath the curved rock. A quite groan forced its way through Hadith’s mouth, proving that he wasn’t quite senseless. An exclamation of surprise broke from Gwyn’s lips when she saw the blood that soaked Hadith’s whole left side and the wound in his arm. She shivered and shrank back.

Athwen, without looking up from her patient, laid her hand gently on Gwyn’s arm. “Easy, Gwyn. Unless you think you can stay and help me, take the horse back out from here.” She paused for a moment. Her mind was not only thinking about what to do with the horse, but also trying to make up its mind if she should be happy about Hadith being almost half conscious or unhappy. If he were still partially awake, that meant that he hadn’t lost as much blood as it had first appeared. On the other hand, if he were out cold, he wouldn’t make anything difficult by struggling against the pain. She blinked and made up her mind about the horse.

“Ask Rôg where you can put him…or, no, Rôg is busy.” She looked up at the horse and then at Gwyn. “Take him out from among you. I don’t know how steady he will be with the winds and when the fighting comes. Tie him someplace to a bush.”

“I will,” Gwyn said, hurriedly getting to her feet and backing away towards the horse. She stopped as she bumped lightly into his shoulder. “Will he – will he be alright?”

“I don’t know,” Athwen said honestly, looking up to meet Gwyn’s eyes. She nodded towards the horse. “Take him along now, before he does something.” Gwyn nodded, her eyes very large and round in her face, and she turned swiftly and taking the reins, led the horse quickly away and through the women and children again.

Athwen sighed and turned back towards Hadith. She wasted no time at all to roll her sleeves up to her elbows and carefully pull one of the buckets of water towards herself. Then she gently set to work clearing away the torn and ragged cloth of his shirt from the bloody mess of his shoulder. A sort of shudder passed through Hadith’s body as she worked and whenever her hand touched the bleeding limb. She pursed her lips at the mangled and savagely wounded arm. As she finished pulling the last, rough bit of material from the wound, she shook her head in wonder.

“My dear fellow,” she muttered between her teeth, “you were one lucky man today.” She reached out for her pack and set to work staunching the blood and examining what sort of damage was actually done.

The sword of the slaver had cut just beneath the collar bone. It sliced deep within the flesh there, cut beneath the bone of the shoulder and Athwen, as she sponged away the blood, could see the white bone of his arm. She knew she did not have long to work before fighting in the grove would break her short time of piece, or before more wounded people were brought in. She grasped for her pack again and drew out a long, sharp needle and thread.

The work was quick and precise. Hadith tried to move and he often uttered a weak moan. Athwen kept on, knowing she could do nothing for the pain at present. She had the wound stitched and bandaged quickly, though, and when it was over, he could rest much more comfortably.

When she had finished, she quietly rearranged her bag and moved it back towards the water. She replaced the bucket and then walked back out towards the open and the wind.

----------------------------------

Tevildo's post

Tom had fallen asleep in Rôg's arms, his head nestled securely within the shapechanger's cloak. The girl trotted alongside her rescuer as the little party of three hurried back towards the grove where the women and children were waiting. Azhar's heart pulsed with a strange excitement. So much had happened since the morning that she barely knew how to make sense of it all. Even now, she was having trouble getting her bearings. In all the tumult and shock, she'd forgotten about the war, her fear of losing Tom, her inability to hold her shape, and even her repulsion at seeing the slavers' bodies lying dead and mangled on the ground. Her head was filled with jumbled images of great bears and flashing dragons, creatures of incredible might who could lash out and in a single instant command the attention of all around them.

The girl's entire life had been mired in fear. She had feared the whips of the orc overlords and the sneering grins of the Easterlings. For the first time since leaving the plantation, Azhar sensed the enticing possibility of leaving that experience behind her. If she could learn to control these abilities, if she could take on the bear form whenever it suited her, then she would be as strong as any Orc chieftain....even stronger. Part of her wished that she had come into her powers many years ago. She imagined swooping down on a band of slaveholders and taking them out with a single blow. The other part wanted to change into bear form and clamber up onto a pile of rocks so everyone could see and admire her mighty muscles and claws.

A brief smile slipped over Azhar's face. Kwell had said that women couldn't fight. She would have loved to see his face when she casually changed her form and slipped up behind him with a loud and menacing growl.

Azhar glanced nervously over at Rôg and wondered. The man was enormously kind; he seemed so mild mannered and unassuming. He meekly acceded to the requests of Lindir and even the elderly Aiwendil, yet he was clearly a better fighter than either of them! If Azhar had been Rôg, she would have slipped into dragon form and glided out over the open plain in full daylight, attacking and decimating the band of slavers before they ever even reached the camp. Why, she wondered, didn't he do that? Then they wouldn't have had to go through this terrible battle. At the very least, she would have made sure that all her companions knew and understood exactly who she was. But it seemed as if Rôg was very quiet about these things, keeping everything to himself.

Azhar would have loved to ply Rôg with a whole string of questions. At the same time, she wondered whether she would have the chance to see the dragon again should the slavers attack their little grove. Unfortunately, this did not seem to be the right time or place to be asking Rôg such hard questions. And she had better keep her own mind on what was going on around her or she would end up dead before she ever had the time to learn how to hold and manage her other shape.

With a sigh, Azhar said her hasty goodbyes to Rôg, thanking him for all his help and promising to look out after the children. She and Tom went back to where the women were waiting, only this time two of the mothers whisked the little boy and his sisters away and reassured her that they could manage to care for the three children. Too nervous to stay hidden in one place, Azhar wandered back to where the older children were waiting. She looked around for Kwell but he still was not back. Then she stared out and saw where Athwen was caring for the sick and wounded. The woman seemed to be having quite a time of it. Darting from boulder to boulder, she came up to the healer and asked, "Do you need any help?"

Last edited by Folwren; 12-12-2006 at 12:34 PM.
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Old 12-05-2006, 07:44 PM   #301
Durelin
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Not quite helpless...

It was a struggle for them to try and move the Dwarf, Khamir with only one hand and Adnan with only one that was very usable. They more often all but dragged him than carried him, and though they winced each time the dropped him down to the ground, they knew that it was no good to leave him on the battlefield, even for the time being. They did not fully understand what kind of injuries he might have, and so they were rushing him toward someone that hopefully would. From time to time Khamir would have Adnan stop and they'd check Vrór’s pulse and listen to his breathing for a moment, and after each time the number of minutes between each check would grow smaller.

Khamir thought his breathing was shallow, and that worried him deeply. His heart felt torn to pieces, as he looked from the Dwarf to the boy and then thought of Shae and Hadith and... He had never cared for so many people in his life, and never so deeply even for any one. It made him feel so helpless, so without control. He did not even know where Shae was. He had not seen her for hours. He had not seen Hadith since the beginning of the battle. Adnan had disappeared on him in a matter of moments, and when he found the young man again, he was covered in blood and missing his two middle fingers. And now Vrór, who he had barely known of for more than a day, lay unconscious before him.

“Khamir?” the voice sounded rougher than he remembered it, but it still certainly belonged to Adnan. It was the first time the boy had spoken in some time, and it startled the one-armed man so that he almost dropped the hold his left hand had on Dwarf’s wrists. His shoulder ached, and the slight disruption was enough to cause the arms to slowly slide out of his grip, no matter how he tried to hold them up.

“Drop him!” he said in a strained voice. Adnan obeyed, and they rest Vrór on the ground together. Sliding the chainmail from his left shoulder with a groan, Khamir asked, “What is it, Adnan?” a little more sharply than he meant to. The boy did not seem affected, though. It was strange. Likely he would have at least faltered at such a tone just a day earlier, perhaps even simply an hour ago.

“What are we doing? If we’re worried about the slavers getting to the women and children, what is the point of bringing the Dwarf to where they are?”

Khamir knew he had a good point, but he felt anger rise in him, and the ache of his body clouded his mind. His senses were not around to protect him from himself, and he snapped at the boy. “Do you value his life so little? Do you not have any idea what he has done for us?”

Adnan snapped back at him immediately. He had changed. “No, I don’t have any idea. And you think you do? He just showed up last night!”

“I do know that he had much more to sacrifice than any of us have ever had,” the older man spat, and both of them grew silent.

Khamir growled from frustration directed at practically everything around him. “What are we doing?” is a better question to ask now, he thought bitterly. But he did not know the answer, regardless of when or how it was asked. He did not know what to do. He had always been the one with ideas, people had looked to him to follow him…and he had hated that they did. When he lost that, he hated that it was gone.

Now he was completely lost.

“We just have to get there. For Vrór, and for the others. They’ll need all the help they can get.”

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Nasim was cradling a younger man named Zaki in his arms when Khamir and Adnan found him. Gamal, a man who appeared older than Khamir stood beside him. Blood covered his shirt, but he appeared fine. Nasim had received a gash on his leg, but he paid it no mind as he looked down into the lifeless face of Zaki. His tears mingled with the blood on the dead man’s forehead. They had found freedom together, but they had not seen a new beginning together.

They pulled Nasim away from his friend, and the going was easier with the help of two more men to carry Vrór. No one spoke as they moved, but each of their minds were filled with the same fears. As they carried the Dwarf as a precious cargo toward the rocks, they carried a comrade, not a stranger from a strange land, and repeatedly glanced at his still form with bated breath.

Last edited by Durelin; 12-05-2006 at 08:01 PM.
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Old 12-05-2006, 09:23 PM   #302
Firefoot
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Whether she liked it or not, whether she wanted to be there or not, a battle was going on and she was in the middle of it. Johari wished she knew what was happening. Were they winning? Had their plans worked? The sounds of fighting seemed to call to her: the ringing of swords and knives, impassioned shouts, cries of pain.

The question kept coming back to her: why had she decided to sit around uselessly as one of those who could not or had no means to fight? She had been given a knife, after all, and she felt guilty every time she recalled this. It was true she had not wanted to get involved, but it was too late for that. Somehow she had become intrinsically caught up in the affairs of all these people about whom she did not really care. She did not want to fight for them… but as it was, she was letting people fight for her. That rankled.

The battle must be practically over, though! What good in joining now? Perhaps there would be something.

Feeling disoriented and rather absurd (what was she doing, anyway?) she began walking off towards the fighting, or where she thought there was fighting. It was so hard to see in this cursed sandstorm!

She nearly passed right by him. Indeed, for a few moments she thought he was dead from the blood on his clothes and her breath caught in her throat. But her better sense took over and she noticed the bandaging that covered his shoulder; he had been injured, not killed, and already tended. And he had just been left lying here against the rocks; plenty of women and children were around, but no one was paying any attention to him anymore.

“Hadith?”

Did his head turn slightly towards her? Was that quiet moan in response or just from pain? Forgetting her recent resolve to join the battle after all, Johari knelt down beside him. What had happened to him? And would he be all right? Seeing him so helpless like this seemed to evoke another memory just at the edge of consciousness, but she didn’t know which, and she was pretty sure she didn’t want to remember. The thought was quickly driven from her mind.

“You had better not die, Hadith,” she told him, though he didn’t look that near death. She didn’t even know if he could hear her. "You'd better not." I won't let you.

Last edited by Firefoot; 12-08-2006 at 09:23 PM.
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Old 12-11-2006, 06:12 PM   #303
Durelin
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Underestimated

Khamir noticed Adnan’s steps were becoming heavier and clumsier by the minute, and redoubled his efforts to try and lighten the boy’s load even more. With the four of them to carry the Dwarf, it was not difficult going, but the young man was in horrible shape. Adnan refused to speak a word about his pains, and Khamir respected his wish to push on with them and to try to hide them. He breathed a sigh of relief when they neared where those who could not fight were hidden among the rocks. As they came, women smiled at them, children gazed at them with wonder in their eyes, and the old men nodded approvingly to them. Everyone gave a concerned look to Vrór and then to Adnan.

Nasim and Khamir’s eyes were searching for Athwen, with hopes that she was not too busy with other wounded. They had no idea what sort of devestation had befallen their own ranks, and they were afraid to find out. And they both were uncertain regarding Vrór’s fate. The Dwarf had not moved – not even twitched an eye – and his breathing came and went in the same, slow, shallow rhythm.

When they found the woman, they called out to her almost simultaneously.

“Mistress Athwen,” Khamir called her as she caught sight of them and began to approach them; he remembered such titles from his brief education as a young man destined to follow in his father’s footsteps in a very successful trade. They kept moving, as well. They all silently agreed not to stop carrying Vrór until he could be placed safely before her. The woman was already giving orders, though, and soon at least a couple blankets were thrown down on which the Dwarf’s body could be rested.

“The tunnel collapsed on him,” Khamir said, “I do not know what is wrong, but he has not moved at all. He is breathing, but not so well…”

Athwen nodded curtly, her focus all on the Dwarf, her face furrowed with worry. Khamir glanced at Adnan, who still managed to stand on his own two feet, though he seemed to sway a little. Vrór first, he thought, though he must sit down. He placed the fifteen-year-old down on the ground where he could lean against a rock, and was surprised at how easy it was to put the boy down, regardless of how bad he had thought his condition was.

Khamir joined the other worried faces all around him, standing near Athwen as she tilted the Dwarf’s head back slightly. He had a feeling she was as unsure as he was what to do for Vrór, though she likely had a better understanding as to why things were so uncertain for him.

~>~<~>~<~>~<~>~<~

Perhaps Imak and his men had underestimated the slaves – and they certainly had not expected to find strange people from the West among them – but the Easterlings were soldiers of a sort, if not the same as those found in Gondor or Rohan. They were in particular accustomed to trapping men like rats and burning them out of their holes, and though most did not put up such a fight, they hardly felt set back. The slaves had focused their attention on one avenue of attack, and though they had successfully led practically half the force into their traps, they had allowed their victory to rest on such an uncertainty.

With both their men and their tricks focused in one direction, the slaves’ rear was left wide open, and Imak knew there were a number of women, children, and elders that would not be able to fight. And where would they find them? Behind their brave defenders, hiding away, just waiting for Imak and his men to pry them out from under their rock. The Easterlings nearly felt prepared to slaughter them all rather than bother with rounding them up alive. They were furious due to their losses, though more for the loss of pride than the loss of lives.

The slaves, mostly women, children, the old, and the wounded, lay in hiding among the rocks, some shaking with fear with the new knowledge that the slavers might indeed be on their way toward them, which had trickled through them all quickly from what one heard for the old man. Some felt themselves begin to grow resigned to the idea of slavery again, but most would cling to their so far short-lived freedom till the end. Aiwendil seemed of little help when they looked at him, but he inspired strength in them, simply from his goodness and his strength of mind and character. He bustled about, and his busyness was somehow reassuring.

They tried to console themselves and each other, saying that the fighters would stop them. Word had reached them that the traps had worked since wounded had begun to arrive, and they felt more secure in the idea that most of the enemy had already been taken out. They knew it likely was not true, and with every wounded person brought in they felt their hopes die a little, but they kept themselves from panic only through lying to themselves, and watching Aiwendil and his friend, a Southern man – which had surprised the slaves – on the move while they sat in dread.

Few warriors arrived other than some wounded, and some of the women and old men began looking for what they could use to defend themselves and their children.

Then they came, with the crashing of hooves seemingly from nowhere transforming into fear on horseback, shining golden like the sun. Most found themselves unable to move, others were prepared to stand their ground, and a few scattered, running for their lives and forgetting about their freedom.

Khamir leapt immediately into action. He had not sat down for more than a second since he and the others had brought Vrór to Athwen, and adrenaline still coursed through him, leftover from earlier battle. He glanced at Adnan, and, not to his surprise, saw the boy trying to get up. “You should not!” the one-armed man said roughly to him, but turned away from him almost immediately. It was the boy’s decision to make, and he was not the only one Khamir had to protect.

Last edited by Durelin; 02-07-2007 at 03:28 PM.
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Old 12-11-2006, 06:27 PM   #304
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Only a few minutes after Athwen had finished bandaged Hadith, she was called back to her duty. She spotted Khamir and his two companions drawing near, carrying between all three of them the figure of the Dwarf. Athwen’s eyes widened with a sudden feeling of fear and she started forward even before the one armed man called out to her.

She ran quickly before them and prepared a place for the Vrór to be laid. As the three of them set him down, Khamir explained, to the best of this ability, what was wrong. “The tunnel collapsed on him. I do not know what is wrong, but he has not moved at all. He is breathing but not so well...”

Athwen’s mind was already racing. She could only spare Khamir a nod and that was even given without looking up at him. Then her attention fell only to the dwarf. The dear old fellow, usually so vibrant and full of life, usually merry. She couldn’t help but remember their journey together even as she searched for some way to help him.

She didn’t know how to tend someone buried alive. She knew only a little of saving someone half drowned. Remembering that knowledge, she tipped his head back a little. His mouth opened slightly. Her fingers sought for a pulse in his neck, pressing against the vein by his throat. She felt the blood pass slowly once, and again, and consistently, though slowly, his heart still beat. With a slight sigh of relief, she dropped his hand and tended to the gash in his head. In a few minutes, she had done what she could.

“He still breaths and lives,” she said, looking up. “I do not know what else to do for him!” It was both an apology and despair mixed with hope. “I will try to help him more later,” she added, looking back down. “There are others that are in more danger and who I will be able to help.” For in the few breif minutes that she had spent checking Vrór, others had been helped back to her.

Her eyes went first to Adnan who had sat silently a little to her right. He had been one of those who carried Vrór in. She gave him as encouraging a smile as she could muster. “You aren’t in any condition to have carried in Vrór,” she said as she moved over towards him. He made no reply, but moved his eyes towards her. Athwen lifted her hand and turned his face slightly to look at the bloody cheek, and then her eyes dropped towards his chest where blood had seeped through his shirt.

“Let me get water. Can you take off your shirt?” She half turned to get a bucket, but stopped abruptly as Adnan silently lifted his hands to try to undo the buttons. “Good heavens, boy!” she exclaimed as here eyes spotted the mangled hand. “Stop it!” She reached out and gently took the clumsily bandaged hand. Adnan did not struggle as Athwen undid the bandage from his fingers and his wrist. “Sit still,” Athwen commanded when she had seen the damage. “Don’t do anything.”

She turned away and went to move some water and her pack to Adnan. Her hand reached out to take the pack when someone came and stopped by her side.

“Can I help?”

Athwen looked up. It was Azhar, standing with her hands clasped behind her back and her large eyes looking solemnly into Athwen’s face. Athwen smiled a little and as she straightened up, put her hand on the girl’s arm.

“Maybe. We’ll find out and see. How are you doing yourself? Do you still feel badly?” She looked at Azhar’s face and touched her forehead. The flush of fever had gone from her cheeks, her eyes were clear, and no heat came from her face to Athwen’s hands.

“I am well,” Azhar said. “I would like to help you.”

“Very well, then. Come with me.”

She turned and led the way back to Adnan, but before she could say anything at all to either of them, cries broke out, and the sound of pounding hooves faintly reached their ears. Khamir started up to his feet and even Adnan struggled to rise.

“You should not,” Khamir said to him, turning only long enough to say that. Then he went out, leaving Adnan with Athwen and Azhar, as well as all the others who had been brought in. Adnan continued to rise, but Athwen grabbed his unharmed wrist and tugged at him.

“No! What do you think you can do out there, except finish getting yourself killed? Sit down and let me fix you up. Please!”

Last edited by Folwren; 12-13-2006 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 12-11-2006, 08:08 PM   #305
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Hilde Bracegirdle has just left Hobbiton.
Carl

Before Carl had gone more than a dozen paces, Kwell called out to him. And turning around the hobbit saw that the boy’s outstretched hands held Hamin’s sword by the hilt. “Take it,” Kwell shouted, his voice muted by the wind. “It’s too awkward for me, but someone else will trade you for it.” Carl knew that the thing would be cumbersome to carry, but responding to the young man’s attempt to better equip him, he jogged back. Taking the weapon with thanks, he paused a moment, suddenly thinking himself cruel to send him off alone. But it was a short lived notion, for in a flash he had dismissed the thought as sentimental. No, Kwell would be better off without him. If the lad wanted company, let him station himself with Lindir or one of the bigger folk who had a chance at defending him.

Parting ways, Carl retraced his steps hunting for arrows. The precious few he found he picked up, trying not to think of their uselessness in the gale. Working his way toward the earthworks, he hoped to find them more readily. But rather than coming across a bountiful crop of arrows, the hobbit found a riderless horse near the collapsed tunnel’s edge, and cautiously crept toward the beast. By all it trappings, it was a slaver’s mount, with quite outlandish gear. And Carl thought that if by chance he could manage to win the horse’s confidence, it would serve to provide a bit of cover for him out on the plain.

Carl looked about him, for a sign of the horse’s master. And the wind, which had been growing more erratic, lulled a moment. In a glance Carl saw that the horse was alone on the littered field, quite the picture of patient misery. Speaking soothingly and confidently to the creature, who tossed his head at the approaching hobbit, Carl pulled off his handkerchief, and wiping the dust from the horse’s face, took the reins loosely, quickly discovering that the horse was surprisingly good tempered. It did not take much coaxing for him to be led along the rim of tunnel.

As the wind shifted Carl saw the crumbled heaps of fallen men before him. Noting that they were slavers, he gave them wide berth and had almost passed them by, when a flash of light lit their clothing bright orange, and a pained wailing carried by the wind soon followed. A chill ran down Carl’s spine, and the horse suddenly reared up. And as the hobbit struggled to calm the animal, whose body and sharp hooves rose over him, he spied an archer half hidden behind one of the corpses, taking aim at him from the other side. “Whoa, Whoa there Dirand!” He shouted at the top of his voice. “Take care, over there! It’s just Carl you’re looking to drop!”

Grim and graying, the fellow slowly stood up muttering. “Whoa yourself! What were you thinking? You ought not hide behind the enemy’s horse if you’re not one of them!” He stalked over, quickly catching the horse’s bridle.

"Well, at least your hearing is sound!" Carl returned. "But what was that flash? Did you see it?"

"Aye, a burst of fire, from over that way," Durand said, nodding toward the back of the camp.

“It weren’t no firecracker, I’ll be bound. Must mean trouble,” Carl said.

Just then yet another archer appeared climbing over the rim of the collapsed tunnel, for he also had emptied his quiver and had sought to replenish his stock from the spend arrows lying around the trench and tunnel. After the two men exchanged a few words in a foreign tongue, the old man seemed reluctant to look back at the hobbit. And Carl was suddenly filled with foreboding as he saw the other archer weighing something in his mind. A hand came to rest on the hobbit’s shoulder. “I’m afraid I’ve bad news for you,” the younger of the two told him softly, so that the hobbit could barely hear him. “We saw your friend with the orange bearded one, carried off by Khamir and Adnan a little while ago. He was in poor shape by the look of things.”

“Not dead though, I’ll wager,” Dirand quickly added, seeing Carl’s stunned expression. “I don’t think they’d bother to move him if he were.”

But the hobbit’s mind had gone numb as the news sank in. “Where did go with him?” he asked. But before he had his answer the three heard the thunder of hooves break out at the back of the camp.

“I think they were taking him toward the shelter over there,” Dirand said frowning, for all three realized that this lay nearby the location now under attack. And the younger of the two archers, not hesitating, immediately sprinted off toward the fray leaving the two others by the side of the tunnel.

Carl handed the old man Hamin’s sword, which until now had been trailing in the dust behind him. Turning his attention back to the horse, he rapidly shortened the stirrup beside him. “What do you want me to do with this?” the man said.

“Use it well,” Carl said. “We are going to ride this horse and fight like we never fought before. Have you ever used a sword?”

“Wait… no! And I volunteered for archery not horses. I don’t know anything about horses… or swords!”

“Don’t worry about the horse,” Carl said moving to the other stirrup. “I’ll do the steering; you just swing that sword with all your strength.”

“But it’s a slaver’s horse!”

“It’s not his fault, you know. And that’s a slaver’s sword as well.”

“You missed my point…”

But Carl had already scrabbled up onto the horse’s back. “Are you coming or not?” he asked as the horse shuffled sideways under him.


“Aye, I’ll come, I’ll come,” the old man said, “Though I think it foolhardy.”

As soon as Dirand, had found his way onto the horse, it lurched forward, and the grizzled man grabbed Carl to keep from falling off. Together they rode into the wind.

Last edited by Hilde Bracegirdle; 12-14-2006 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 12-11-2006, 08:30 PM   #306
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Shae kept at a steady pace, her teeth gritted against the pain. Would she make it in time? One could only hope. But then, how much damage could she really do? She was only one woman—an injured one at that. Where was everyone else from the tunnel? Didn’t they realize the slavers’ plans as well? Such thoughts rattled through her brain until they were interrupted by the sound of hoofbeats following her own.
Slavers.
Coming from behind, they clearly had the advantage. Shae was not prepared to fight this way and if she were to save herself, she would have to avoid it. Kicking hard, she picked up her pace hoping they would not catch up to her. And then, against the whistling wind came a voice clearly calling her name. Shae slowed, feeling rather confused. Then the shout came again.
“Shae! Wait up!” Slowing to a near stop, she turned her head, surprised to find Reagonn and another ex-slave named Syth on top of their horses. Other than a few cuts and bruises, both remained unscathed. “What are you doing?” the former asked. “This isn’t a race you know.”
“Sorry… I thought you were slavers,” she muttered apologetically. “…Were you following me?”
Reagonn hesitated, then nodded. “What happened back at the tunnel was complete chaos. Everything fell apart so quickly. Among the mess I saw you take off suddenly. You seemed to know where you were going, so Syth and I followed.”
“You were worried for me,” the woman stated plainly.
The man gave a slight smile and shrugged. “You should know it’s never smart to go off on your own like that. Especially in the middle of a battle. We fight together.”
Shae rolled her eyes. “I don’t understand why you men worry so much about me. You all treat me like I’m helpless, or something. You know, the last time I wandered off, I brought back the Fellowship. I’m completely capable of….” She trailed off, thinking for a moment before changing the subject. “Wait a minute…where’s the rest of the cavalry? What ever happened to Ayce and Darren? …Korden?”
There was a pause. “They fell behind.” The response came from Syth, who spoke with a quiet and solemn tone. The look on his face reflected the devastation the ex-slaves had already experienced in tonight’s battle. He continued, “Then we just took off…after you. We left them all behind.” The young man stared accusingly at the woman.
“Only because we had to,” was Shae’s reply. “We’ve wasted enough time…we ought to keep moving.”
“And where are we going, Shae?” Reagonn asked.
Shae could feel frustration taking over. There was no time to explain, and yet she had to. “Do you not understand?” she retorted. “We only fought half the slavers at the tunnel. Where do you think the rest are headed? Our women and children are in danger. I abandoned the tunnel to help them!”
“Of course,” Reagonn nodded, his eyebrow creased with understanding. “If help is what they need, then I am ready. How about you, Syth?”
The other ex-slave nodded as well.
“Alright then.” The woman took hold of her reins and repositioned herself on the saddle, slightly too quickly. A sharp pain hit her left side again, and she folded over despite all attempts to hide the pain.
A concerned Reagonn approached Shae on his horse until they were only a few feet away from each other. In the darkness, his grey eyes wandered from the blood on her forehead to the swollen wrist. “You’re hurt,” he stated simply.
“Well yes, that’s what happens when one fights in a battle.”
“You’re in no condition to fight.”
His comment angered Shae. Who was he to tell her what to do? “Of course I am,” she replied. “Surely you don’t think I’d let a few minor injuries stop me.”
The man would not let off so easily. “Minor injuries you may think, but keep fighting with a wrist like that, and you’ll do permanent damage.”
Shae smiled and held up her injured arm in front of Reagonn’s face. “Are you telling me you know how to fix broken bones now? If so, feel free to set it…”
Reagonn shook his head, slightly smiling. “Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll leave you alone. We’ll just make sure to have Athwen look at it once the battle is over.”
“If she’s still alive, that is.” Both frowned at the thought, but they knew it was possible—no one had seen the healer since she misled the slavers into the trench.
The sound of a loud tear startled the two. Looking up, Shae found Syth, holding out a strip of cloth. “Take it,” he mumbled to her. “It will at least stabilize your wrist for now.”
Surprised at his kindness, the woman thanked him and wrapped the cloth tightly around the swollen limb. When she was done, all three ex-slaves looked at each other. Nodding in unison, they continued on together.

***

Though the storm was clearly not over, the wind began to slow, if only slightly. Squinting into the distance, Shae could see the outline of where the women and children were hiding. They were close. But as they continued on, she heard the sounds of shouting and her heart sank. She had hoped to outrun the slavers, but already a battle had begun. With a yelp, the woman raced on even faster, with her companions following close behind. What she was not prepared for, was what happened next.

There was a flash of something whizzing by, then a loud gasp. Shae snapped her head around to find a spear skewered into Syth’s chest. The man stared at her for a split second, then dropped from his horse, and the animal continued to race into the distance. The remaining two ex-slaves instantly halted and dismounted. It was Reagonn who made it to Syth first.
After checking the pulse, he glanced up. “He’s dead,” Reagonn said, his voice hollow.
Shae nodded, but she was paying little attention. The owner of the spear was approaching quickly. He came at such ferocity, the ex-slaves’ horses began to spook and back away. The slaver shielded himself well, and from the angle they were standing, the woman knew there was no way to hit him with a weapon of their own. Unsheathing a throwing dagger, Shae waited until he was only feet away. With a flick of the wrist, the dagger left her hand and slid into the stallion’s throat. The horse died instantly, tumbling to the ground, taking the slaver with him. There was silence.

The wind began pick up again and much visibility was lost.
“You think he’s dead?” Reagonn asked.
Shae didn’t respond as the two glanced from the heap of the horse back to each other. A movement caught the corner of her eye and she shook her head. Reagonn turned around and approached the dead animal cautiously. “Watch out,” she warned him. Reacting to her sudden comment, Reagonn turned his head at the woman, a mistake that would cost him.

Instantly, the slaver was up. His body was slightly bloody and bruised from the hard fall, but otherwise it seemed little harm was done. Reagonn had no time to react, and in a flash of steel, the heavy blade entered his stomach. Shae yelled in horror as she watched the man she had known for years crumble to the ground. The slaver turned around and rose up his bloody blade as he gave the woman a hideous smile. He strutted toward her, sword still in hand ready to finish the job. Shae released her own newly prized sword from its sheath and used it just in time to block the attack. The two clashed swords and the woman found herself in a better situation this time using a stronger weapon. She used her swift speed to an advantage and this time it was she who knocked the weapon from her opponent’s hand. The slaver stared at his bloody hand in horror—two fingers were gone. Shae looked back at him in surprise, almost laughing at how easy it was to fight this supposed highly skilled man. Then her old injuries took hold and she doubled over as the pain once again hit her entire left side.

Shae’s opponent saw her vulnerable state and immediately charged at her. Before she knew what was happening, Shae was on the ground, her sword gone from her hand. The slaver pressed his bloody hand into her throat, and the woman gasped for air. She kicked and clawed at him, but the man on top of her was too large and too heavy. He raised his uninjured fist and plummeted it into her left cheek. She struggled, but he continued to hit her again and again. Shae was ready to give up, when suddenly the slaver froze in his movements. She glanced up, only to see the end of a blade protruding from his chest. Behind him kneeled Reagonn, growling with both anger and pain, as he grasped tightly onto the bloody hilt. The slaver took several short gasps, then collapsed right next to the woman.

Shae stood up slowly, still shaking from her attack.
I’m a complete mess.
She couldn’t help but think this as she wiped her nose and spit the blood from her mouth. Her face felt sticky from both her blood as well as the enemy’s. A soft groan brought her attention back to Reagonn. He sat clutching his stomach, grimacing from the pain. Immediately, she was at his side.
“Let me see,” she instructed. Reagonn stared back, reluctant to remove his hands. “Please Reagonn,” the woman pleaded. “I only want to help you.”
The man lifted his hands and Shae’s heart grew heavy at watch she saw. The slaver’s sword had thrusted deep into Reagonn’s stomach, obviously penetrating several organs.
“You can’t help me,” he whispered, and Shae knew he spoke the truth. It was impossible for anyone to survive such damage. Yet, the woman found herself unable to face the facts, and instead chose denial.
“Of course I can,” she spoke confidently. “We just need to stop the bleeding.” Shae took off one of his two layers of shirts and tied it around his stomach. “I will take you to where the women and children are—surely the slavers haven’t completely breeched the camp yet. You’ll be taken care of there. There’s no need to worry. You’ll be fine—I’m sure of it.” She stood up and looked about. Her stomach lurched as she was unable to find what she was searching for. “Where are the horses,” she asked, frantic.
“They... probably frightened off…during the fight,” Reagonn spoke softly.
Shae cursed in frustration. “Very well then, I’ll just have to take you there myself.” She grabbed at Reagonn in an attempt to pick him up. But the man was heavier than she, and with only one usable arm, carrying him was impossible. Yet, she could not let herself give up, so she tried again.
“Shae…Shae!” Reagonn struggled to call her name as blood spewed from his mouth. “Shae, please stop already.” She finally listened, and let go of the man. “You cannot save me…You know that.”
“No!” the woman yelled through both tears and anger. “Don’t you say that!” A hand reached up to Shae’s, and Reagonn pulled her down near him.
“It’s okay,” he whispered to her. “I’m ready to go.” Shae’s hot tears splashed onto his cheek. Reagonn coughed. “There’s still a battle out there,” he continued. “They still need you. Don’t….don’t waste all you energy on me.” He gave a small smile. “All these years, I killed in the name of my friend Bornir, seeking vengeance for his death. But no matter how many men I killed…it was never enough…” Reagonn coughed again and gasped several times for air. Then his eyes fixed and he went still.

Shae closed Reagonn’s eyes and whispered a short prayer for safe passage. Standing up, she found her sword buried in sand and re-sheathed it. Staring at her companions’ corpses, she struggled to hold back more tears. Once again, the woman was alone. There was nothing more she could do except continue to her destination where the battle carried on. And hearing the cries in the distance, she knew it was time to go.

With the horses missing, Shae had no choice to walk. Despite her exhaustion, she managed to keep a fairly quick pace, her bare feet trudging through the sand. Not once did she take her eyes off her destination. Sounds became clearer and shapes took form. The battle was ongoing and all those involved fought intensely. Still too far away to identify enemy from friend, Shae continued her steps to bring whatever aid was needed. Suddenly, a sound coming from behind caused her to freeze in her tracks. She whipped around only to find two slavers on horseback coming her way. Glancing around, Shae began to panic. She may be close, but she had not quite reached the women and children’s camp. The only ex-slaves in sight were occupied with their own battles. There was no one to help her.

Shae could feel the sense of dread creep through her insides. Without a horse, she could not turn and run. And her duels with one slaver had been difficult enough—battling two of them at once would be impossible to survive. Injured and alone, she was already dead. Where was help when she needed it? The slaver continued towards her, weapons in hand, and still no sign of help came. Shae had no choice—she would have to face this battle alone. Giving a deep sigh, the woman unsheathed her weapon, praying that her luck would soon change.

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Old 12-13-2006, 12:39 AM   #307
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Lindir

For the past hour, Lindir and the young archers had played a game of tag with the three men heading south on horseback. What had seemed like an easy shot just a short while before was actually proving extremely difficult. Lindir would dart out from behind a boulder and try to slip up close enough to let his arrow fly straight and true. Although the winds had subsided to a bearable roar, they were still blowing stiffly. The Elf still could not shoot with any accuracy. Gretl and Wulf were having similar bad luck. Whatever element of surprise they'd had in the beginning was now completely lost. If the ground had been flat and open, the horsemen would have likely run them down, but the great clumps of scattered boulders offered them a handy refuge that the riders could not easily penetrate.

From the plains to the north and east, an urgent note from a rams horn swelled to a crescendo and then fell silent. The slavers stopped for an instant. glanced at each other, and immediately took off in the direction from which they had heard the horn. At the same instant, words of warning came tumbling into Lindir's head. Turning to his companions, he hastily explained, "Imak gathers his men for one final attack. They go to the grove where the women and children wait. Already, they being their attack." Gesturing with his arm to the others, the three took off at breakneck speed sprinting over the plain in the same direction as the slavers, hoping that they could get there before it was too late.
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Old 12-15-2006, 08:18 AM   #308
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Kwell watched Carl go until with wind whipped sand hid him from sight. Then he sighed and bent his head towards the wind and headed back the way he had come. He could hear nothing besides the rush of wind, but in his inner ear, he heard Carl’s voice. ‘They might be needing a stout hearted lad such as you, just now. . .You go take care of Azhar for me. I’ve a good hunch you might be better at it than me.’

Then came Azhar’s voice, shouting at him. He had ignored her. ‘Kwell, you louse. I am no child!...A real soldier wouldn’t disobey his captain’s instructions, and he wouldn’t desert his post!’ Would desert his post! Kwell urged his feet onward. Lindir had told him to stay back, but Kwell had thought that he had been told to stay behind so as to keep him out of danger. Could it really have been so that he could fight, when the time came?

He felt something sink in side of him. What if they were attacked? What if people were killed? What if he could have been there to help them? What if . . . what if . . .

But even as his feet hurried onward, his mind began to race to defend himself. They hadn’t told him that there might be danger. Lindir had not said that the women and children might be attacked. They had hidden them so that they would be safe. It was not his fault if they were found and some of them killed.

The excuses ran on in his head, but he could not dismiss the guilty feeling that lay in his stomach like a large stone. He knew he should not have left. He knew he had disobeyed and had done so intentionally.

Something interrupted his thoughts. He looked up and squinted into the wind. He’d gone too far to the right. His shoulders drooped farther, his feet worked faster, and he started again towards the left.

“I have to make it back,” he panted in the wind. “I’ve got to help. I must, I must, I must do something or I’ll never be able to face Lindir or any one else again. No one must die. No one!”

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Old 12-29-2006, 01:32 PM   #309
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Zagra & Mazhg


‘Look here,’ Mazhg whispered, lifting up the wadded woolen cloak which served it seemed as the absent slaver’s pillow. ‘Wonder who he killed to get this.’ She picked up the long sharp knife and drew it from its leather scabbard. ‘I doubt he had enough gold to have it made for himself,’ she went on, looking about at the poorer furnishings in the small tent.

Zagra took the weapon gingerly from her sister and inspected it in a hesitant manner. And more quickly slid it back into its case. ‘Here,’ she said with a shiver. ‘You take it.’ She watched as Mazhg tied the scabbard about her waist.

‘You know, Ungolt will like this I think,’ Mazhg said, patting the smooth, dark leather that hung down to her mid thigh. ‘She can use it with her sword,’ Mazhg went on, starting to look through the slaver’s leather sack tucked in at the foot of his rude bed. ‘I’ve seen the men back at the plantation...practice fighting.’ She snorted, remembering the all too bloody matches fueled by brave words and much strong drink. ‘Practice! Huhhhh!! Remember how many dead fellows they dragged off from the practice rings? Those men – they don’t care who they kill, long as there’s someone to mangle and bleed.’

‘Must be big farms where they breed all those ugly monsters,’ Zagra said, stifling a giggle. She shuddered at the thought. And in a brief moment of empathy, she felt some sort of sympathy go out to those women who must have served such beasts and borne their offspring. ‘Poor mamas!’ she spoke, almost to herself.

Mazhg looked fondly at her sister, the dim light inside the tent hiding her quick show affection. Such a tender heart! She shook her head. Sweet little fool...heart of my own heart... ‘Come Zagra,’ she called, taking her sister’s hand. ‘I don’t think we’ll find much more here. Let’s see what treasures another tent might hold.’

Like quick little shadows, the sisters moved quiet and low along the outskirts of the camp.....

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Old 01-02-2007, 05:50 PM   #310
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Ishkur and Gwerr spent the hour sorting through their treasure of gold coins and tying them into smaller packets that they tucked inside their clothing and under the saddlebag of Ishkur's horse. They made sure everything was hidden and that no one could hear any jingling noises. All the while, Ishkur dreamed of how he would spend his share of the loot. In his head was a picture of a sturdy wooden hunting lodge with a large herd of horses grazing outside and several orc brats running around in circles in the yard, brandishing small swords. Where those Orc brats had come from, Ishkur wasn't sure but he kind of liked them being there.

On the walls of his lodge hung stuffed heads of boar and bear that he had brought down in the hunt. There were several females living in small, neat huts along the edge of his land. Now and then, he got up and ordered them around. Best of all, there were no bosses to tell him what to do. He could hunt and sleep as long as he wanted and spend the night carousing, and no one would yell or complain.

When the job of sorting was done, Ishkur turned back to Gwerr and grinned, "Well, my friend, a lowly maggot face you may be, but your idea was good. We should have no trouble getting back to camp and the Uruk-Hai will be none the wiser." Ishkur clapped Gwerr on the back. Still, there are two things I still want to do. Let's have at that ale. Those idiots won't be back for hours. I want some hot brew in my stomach to keep me warm in this storm. We can stay inside this tent since it's the sturdiest. It's blowing worse to the west so those fools will be tied up for a while."

"The second thing,....." At this point, Ishkur glanced away. His face was going red. He was having a hard time finding words to say. In fact, he could not remember when he'd said anything like this before. "Well, this probably doesn't make sense. But those females helped me when I was hungry. There's three of them. I'd like to give them a few of these coins--Zagra, her sister, and the one from the breeding camp who sometimes tags along with them." Ishkur could not even say the last one's name. "Yeah, that one," he nodded in reply to Gwerr's raised eyebrows. "She's the one who wants to learn how to use a sword." All the while, he privately thought how useful it would be to have a partner who could actually fight. Seeing the look on Gwerr's face, he quickly added, "Don't worry, Gwerr. I won't take money out of your share. And nothing very big. Just a coin or two. The silver ones that don't bring so much on the market. But when we finally get north, we may need some help setting up things. These women may even know a thing or two that we don't....." Ishkur thought deeply about this possibility for a minute and then muttered. "Probably not, since they're only women, but you never know...." This time Ishkur had a pleasant vision of female orcs complacently doing his laundry, sharpening his weapons, gutting the rabbits, and massaging his feet.

Ishkur turned and grabbed his large bag and started sorting out nine silver coins into three little piles and then tied them up with smaller rags. Then he poked his head out of the tent and looked around. Even with the storm roaring, he could see that there were many in camp. He stepped back inside and reported, "Well, Gwerr, the slavers' fine camp is now overun by our fellow Orcs. The whole band is here. I can see Makdush and his gang, and the women, and lots of others. Why don't you drag that ale barrel back inside the tent so we get our fair share?" Ishkur mumbled one more sentence, more to himself than Gwerr. "After that I'll go and give this money to the females and tell them to keep their traps shut." Ishkur had been talking so fast that Gwerr had not yet had a chance to say anything.

On a last minute impulse, Ishkur turned aside for a minute, untied the large bag and dug out one more silver coin, the smallest that he had. He stuffed it inside his pocket. This one was for that young Orc brat, the one they called Grask. He had no idea why he was doing this. He said nothing to Gwerr because he didn't think his friend would exactly approve....

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Old 01-02-2007, 06:21 PM   #311
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Grask lifted his waterskin to his mouth for another swig of the fiery liquid from Iskur and Gwerr's keg only to find that it was empty. He felt vaguely discontented at this. He had drunk ale only once or twice in his short life, and never a whole skin's worth: only a small swallow snitched from the older Orcs, and typically on a dare. Now his senses seemed heightened and Grask was feeling remarkably carefree and bold, though light-headed. Life was good. He was possibly better supplied than he had ever been in his life; his pack was full and there weren't any other young orclings around to challenge him for it. And even if he were to want for something, an entire empty man camp was spread out before him, ripe for the picking.

He considered poking around the camp to find more ale to fill his waterskin - it couldn't be all that hard to find, as drinking seemed to be at least one thing men had in common with orcs - but decided against it. Gwerr and Iskur would undoubtedly find some more, and Grask could fill up then, if he wanted to and they still felt inclined to let him. And then there was the sandstorm that pricked at his skin and irritated his eyes and nose and mouth. Finding shelter would be preferable to finding ale.

Without making a conscious decision, Grask found himself again near the pit where the man children had been held captive. It ought to serve well; the wind would not reach him there. Grask slowly lowered himself down into the pit, though as he neared the bottom he somehow slipped and found himself sprawled on the ground. He blinked a few times in confusion and tried to clear his head. What had just happened? He shrugged it off.

He was disappointed to find that one of the meat packages he had thrown down to the man children was untouched. Surely they would have been hungry? Didn't they eat the same sorts of food? And that had been a nice chunk of meat. His initial disappointment wore off quickly, though, as he realized that he was rather hungry. He ate the meat himself, savoring the raw, juicy bites. After eating, he decided to explore the pit and quickly found the stream. It passed under the pit's walls and seemed fairly deep. Grask did not swim; he recoiled in disgust from the cool water. But he knew that some orcs could... and he supposed that men might, too. Why not? Could those men children swim? Had they escaped, rather than being put to death as he had previously assumed? So where would they be now? Might he see them again?

But he was not about to attempt a swim, and he contented himself with thinking over these questions while he waited out the sandstorm in the bottom of the pit.
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:33 PM   #312
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The attack:

Urlok’s post

Urlok swung his horse about on the rocky ledge and brought her to a halt, staring down on the grove where the slavers had begun their charge. The older man had no idea where his Captain was. A few minutes before, six of the band, almost half of those left who were capable of fighting, had come galloping up to him with garbled accounts of what they had seen. Speaking in fearful voices, the men described a gigantic flying creature that had charged down on the plain not far from where they were standing. One of the men had claimed to hear the shrieks and roars of three comrades obviously under desperate attack, and that one of those despairing voices had belonged to Imak.

Urlok did not know what to make of this. He was a stolid man, experienced and battle hardened, little given to imagination or flights of fancy. In all the years he had fought, he had never seen or heard of any such gigantic flying beast, other than those in the faerie stories that were told to children around winter fireplaces. Even glimpsing this great creature from a distance, his men had been terrified and shaking, fearful that the creature would descend on their heads and strike again. Urlok had roared back at his fellow slavers, telling them to stiffen their backbones and to keep their minds on what they were doing, promising that, if he heard any more about flying beasts, he would personally separate their shoulders from their heads. He had said this in such a way that his men had backed off and begun to regroup for the battle charge.

Urlok knew nothing of dragons or myths, but he did know about fighting, possibly more than Imak. With the Captain nowhere in sight, he had stepped to the front and barked out orders to the men who were returning to the grove in twos and threes. Within a short time, he had managed to organize them, so they were now charging forward into the grove. Despite heavy losses among the slavers, Urlok felt that his band had a decent change of prevailing and dragging off any number of women and children back to Nurn in exchange for gold and silver. He still had twelve stout fighters, all experienced in battle. Although relatively few of the defenders of the camp had been slaughtered, great numbers of them were wounded and totally unfit to fight. Moreover, there were many women and children who, while whole bodied, had no knowledge of fighting. Altogether, Urlok guessed that the slaves possessed no more than fifteen to eighteen fighters who could put up a fierce resistance. Moreover, most of the enemy were on foot, while most of his own band still had their horses. The odds, then, were not bad. With that consoling thought in mind, Urlok kicked at his horse’s flanks and urged him down the rocky slope, his sword draw from its scabbard.

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

Save: Lindir describes the action

Lindir, Gretl, and Wulf raced into the grove a few moments after the slavers' attack had begun in earnest. Aiwendil bustled over to the elf's side and hurried him off to the sheltered cove where Athwen was attempting to care for the injured. It was the one place that was still well protected and they could talk in relative peace.

Aiwendil blurted out a quick report, trying to give Lindir an accounting of what had happened in the course of battle. "It has been hard...very hard. The freed slaves report many losses. Reagonn, Syth, Zaki, Erlech, and Joshwen have all fallen. Others too....more than I can name. And there are others we have not seen, a number of those who were on horseback.....Darren, Korden, amd Ayce. Whether they live or die, we do not know. Many too are wounded. Too many for Athwen to tend easily. Hadith has been brought in with injuries, and Adnan too. Athwen has gotten some of the women to help her."

Lindir glanced over and saw Johari kneeling beside the wounded Hadith. He could also make out Azhar and two other young women helping to care for those who lay wounded, "Azhar is safe then? I'd heard a garbled account that she had fallen to the enemy."

Aiwendil shook his head, "No, she was brought back safe here, but not before a serious scuffle. She went out searching for the lost child Tom. She managed to find him alive but in the hands of several slavers. Rôg rescued them both and did us a service. He took out two of the slavers on his own and injured Imak severely. The man has lost his hand and should not bother us again today."

Lindir raised one eyebrow but said nothing. Glancing up, he saw Dorran dismount from his horse, carrying Fewerth in his arms. The Rider lay the injured man in front of Athwen, explaining that he had been trampled by a horse, and then went off to collect another man who had been wounded. Aiwendil's eyes met Lindir's and , despite the hard surroundings, saw a look of relief. "They both made it back then. I feared for their safety."

"Yes, Athwen told me that Dorran's head wound is bleeding again and, like so many, he can not ride out to fight. But he insists on helping with the injured and bringing those in who need attention. And if this part of the grove is breached, he will fight, wound or not."

Lindir nodded and glanced around. He could see Khamir and Nasim fighting doggedly in the thick of battle. Beloan had also joined them. But others, too many, were missing.

Lindir prodded, "Where is Shae and Kwell?" I do not see either of them. Indeed, I thought Kwell was to be placed in charge of the older children in the grove, but I only see Grwell, standing there beside Rôg. Kwell was at the trench, I know, although he was supposed to be here. But since then I have not seen him. And the woman? Where is she?"

Aiwendil shook his head and hastily replied, "I have no news of Kwell or Shae. I have seen neither since the battle began. But there is one more thing I must show you."

Aiwendil walked gently over to the Dwarf and knelt down on the ground. "Vrór." he said simply.

Lindir slipped to his knees and put his hand on the dwarf's chest. The breaths came slow and halting.

Lindir shook his head and spoke, "This is the hardest, the hardest of all." At that moment he glimpsed one more friend trying to stay alive in dangerous surroundings. A large horse was prancing and snorting on the outskirts of the grove with two fighters precariously mounted on his back. Carl was in the front and was having some difficulty guiding the animal while Dirrand was hacking wildly in all directions with a large sword. They were faced by three slavers, the first tall and heavy wielding a battle axe and the second a much smaller fellow who darted in and out with a small slashing knife. In the distance, just approaching them, was a man whom Lindir knew to be one of Imak's most trusted henchmen. He had riden down the hill and was charging straight for the beleaguered pair.....

Hastily, Lindir stood up, "I must go. Carl needs my help and I can do nothing for my good friend here. We will have to leave that to Athwen and to the ancestors of the Dwarfs whom they say look after their own. Aiwendil, hold the grove. So far the women and children are safe. We must keep that so." Then Lindir turned and sprinted down to where Carl and Dirnan were fighting.

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Old 01-06-2007, 04:34 PM   #313
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For the past half hour, Azhar had tried to do what Athwen told her: running to fetch water jugs, collecting strips of cloth from the ladies in camp to use as makeshift bandages and helping to clean the wounds of a few whose injuries had been minor. The center of the grove, the area where the hospital had been set up, still held fast against the attackers. Several of the freed slaves had formed a ring around that part of the encampment, and up to this point none of the slavers had managed to break through.

On the outskirts, however, the two sides battled fiercely. The area of conflict was clearly widening. Already, one or two slavers had ridden within a stone's throw of those women and children who had hidden in a tangle of boulders set further north, close to the entrance of the grove.

As the fighting crept closer to Azhar, the noise and stench of battle was almost more than she could bear. But seeing Athwen's calm and quiet demeanor steadied the girl and helped her keep her fears in check. All thoughts of changing into a wild creature and challenging the enemy single handed were gone. Azhar instinctively understood that she had no real control over the animal shape and that to try to shift over in the middle of this chaos could only lead to disaster. Plus, as she watched Athwen work her quiet miracles on those who had been injured, the girl sensed that what was going on in this little corner of the camp was just as important as actual fighting. Even Dorran did not complain too much when his wife suggested he use his horse to help bring in the wounded rather than engaging directly in the fighting with the cut in his head reopened and bleeding.

Azhar filled a gourd with water and brought it over to Azhar who had knelt down beside Vror to look at him more closely. After accepting it, the older woman explained, "We need another to help. There are too many wounded for the two of us and my husband is likely to bring in more. A few moments ago, Aiwendil spoke of an older woman who is a midwife skilled in the use of herbs. Her name is Rowenna. Run up by the entrance to the grove and see if she can come back here. But be careful! There is fighting not far from there."

With that, Azhar nodded curtly and sprinted off in the direction that Athwen had indicated.

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Old 01-09-2007, 03:12 PM   #314
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Gwerr

Ishkur asked Gwerr to get the ale barrell inside for them. That sounded fair and reasonable enough. But then all this talk about giving some of the coins to the females, even trusting them to just hold their tongues about it made Gwerr really nervous. He took the few steps needed to get to the doorway but from curiosity glanced back to the tent as he went out just to see Ishkur untying one of his bags and stuffing one more coin to his pocket. Man, you’re losing your grip... Why do you have to go jelly-brained at the moment when we should be our smartest?

The rising wind threw dust on his face as he stepped out of the tent and made him cough. As he was able to open his eyes after a while he noticed the general hassle in the camp. What he could judge from the flickering shades and noises coming from different directions, it seemed that all the others were present, looting whatever they could. The wind was furious, gaining speed every now and then and making nearly all perception impossible.

After a while as Gwerr tried to locate the barrel he suddenly noticed Ishkur’s newly acquired horse stepping to and fro looking very nervous. Oh Morgoth! Well, good I was the one coming out...

“C’mon you!” Gwerr called the horse as he approached it and took the reins commandingly into his hands. He pulled gently but demandingly and the horse followed him, calming down a bit. Slowly Gwerr took the horse to the opening of the tent and then gripped it from the mane, pulling it’s head firmly downwards. “Now you’re coming with me my four-legged treasure-carrier, you come nicely to the inside... You’ll like it more there and we’ll like it so much more to see you and your carriage all the time”. Simultaneously he half pulled, half pushed the animal inside the tent, pulling it’s head downwards so that it fitted in without felling the tent down. Ishkur seemed a bit perplexed with the entry of the two.

“I may have my reasons to believe your overall sanity going bye-bye, but leaving our treasure out there for the Uruk-scum to grasp is just outstanding! What if Makdush and his slimy friends would have noticed this one while we were in here nicely sipping ale and getting our well deserved drinks? What then, Ishkur, What then?” He showed his contempt with an orcish gesture and went back outside. He thought for a second why he had been so angered about the horse being left outside before he realised that it was probably because he himself was to blame as well. Neither had he thought of getting the horse with the loads of coins safely inside in the first place. But Ishkur saw it earlier that the others were around and about... he tried to reason to himself but failed to make himself confident with that.

When he came back in dragging the barrell he could sense the tension in the air. Ishkur was looking at him sternly. Gwerr said nothing, but after laying the barrell in the middle of the tent he took his axe and hewed the top open. The splinters of wood spread all around and considerable amounts of ale splushed over to the mat. As he reached out for a goblet that was lying on the table near him he finally smiled to Ishkur. “Okay mate, you may be becoming a nimcompoop, but whatever. You’re my mate anyhow. Let’s drink!” He filled the goblet from the barrell and handed it towards Ishkur.

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Old 01-10-2007, 06:39 PM   #315
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Adnan

“No! What do you think you can do out there, except finish getting yourself killed? Sit down and let me fix you up. Please!”

Finish… The word bounced through Adnan’s head roughly, and in his dizziness he could do nothing but obey Athwen’s command. His vision moving in and out of focus, he looked down at his wounded hand for the first time. Even though it was wrapped in makeshift bandages, he could feel his stomach curdle. The cloth was soaked thick with blood. He stared at it, thinking that it should hurt more, even willing it to hurt. The numbness was worse than pain. At least pain let him know that something was still there. But he knew…he knew parts of it were missing. Parts of him.

Adnan could not say a word, and Athwen wasn’t about to encourage him to. There would be no arguing now. The young man watched Khamir walk away, and then suddenly the tears came. He tried to hide them, and hold them in, but it was no use. The water silently flowed from his eyes, but he watched Athwen start unwrapping the bandages around his hand steadily. His nausea lessened, and his vision seemed to be correcting itself better. The cloud around his head no longer seemed so foreboding.

But the tears still came. He closed his eyes to try and force them back in, but in his mind’s eye he was faced with the bloody image of the man he… Adnan snapped his eyes back open, only to look down upon his naked hand caked in a sickly mix of wet and dry blood, and see and count only one…two…three fingers…

Then all went dark.

~>~<~>~<~>~<~>~<~

Khamir

Neither the slaves nor the slavers fought by any rules, and both were equally as ruthless. For the slaves, this battle was about survival, and they would do whatever they had to in order to maintain their existence as now free men: that they had an abundance of hatred for their enemy truly meant they would do anything and everything in their means to stop them. For the slavers, it was all about money, about power, about pride. The hatred was thick on both sides, but the slaves still outnumbered the slavers, even if only barely.

Khamir, Nasim, and Gamal fought together, Khamir and Nasim taking on a slaver together while Nasim guarded their rear. Nasim, clearly to Khamir’s eye the sharpest shot of the three, at least, wielded a simple sling, but did a great deal of damage with it. An Easterling on horseback could not land a strike on him or the two slaves he fought with, as he launched dense, rough edged stones at the slaver, pinpointing vulnerable locations, and stinging the horse’s skin when he needed to, causing it to rear up and dance quickly away from Nasim and the others, its eyes wild with fear.

Khamir waited for a moment’s breath simply to aim adequately as Gamal did his best to keep the horseman the two faced busy with his spear. The man was tall and had a long reach, and he had crafted his spear himself of thick wood. He had spent weeks looking for the proper piece of wood, and had spent just as many weeks shaping the weapon. The stone shard that served as a spearhead, though primitive, served well enough. Having taken as long as he could risk, Khamir launched one of his two remaining throwing daggers at the slaver. The man went down, and Gamal was quick to jump on him, thrusting his spear down with all the force of his body behind it. Khamir was just as quick to attack, bring his foot down firmly on the man’s head. Gamal’s weapon ran true, and impaled the man in the throat, sneaking in between the metal plates that were supposed to protect him.

As Khamir pulled his dagger out of the man’s right shoulder, he found himself with a moment to scan the battlefield. He saw familiar faces, but not as many as he would have liked. And not the one he was looking for. He did not have time to think of Shae further, as Gamal had wrenched his spear free of the slaver corpse, and the two then raced over to help Nasim with another gold-plated enemy. But the one armed man fought with more fervor to bring down this man quickly, as the feeling that he was racing against time increased in him.
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Old 01-11-2007, 11:46 AM   #316
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Carl

As they rode with caution toward the back of the camp, Dirand recited a morbid tally, identifying those dead or wounded they passed, and in doing so quickly spied a dark shadow slipping steadily around those engaged in battle, though he could not tell for certain who it was. The old man lifted his sword, silently pointing the figure out to the sharp eyed hobbit who sat in front of him, and who squinted down the length of the blade raised so close to his cheek, before extending his view past it and through the haze. Carl soon saw that a man, with boots and rather more substantial clothing than that of his companion, was headed straight for the cluster of boulders where the hobbit knew so many of the vulnerable in his group lay hidden. His gait was a swagger that was altogether unfamiliar.

Pulling hard on the left rein, Carl succeeded in changing the horse’s direction, and headed now for the stealthy figure, hoping to run him off. But the slaver, who sensed their approach, and who turned to face them, seemed not in the least bothered by this new development, but firmly stood his ground, as the horse bore down on him. “What are you doing?” the old man whispered urgently, and the hobbit explained that the shadow was in fact, the enemy. “Well I'll be confounded, if that slaver doesn't think we are one of his own!” Dirand exclaimed. This came as a painful revelation to Carl, who realized in a flash that the slaver wouldn't be alarmed by their approach, and that they might actually get very close. Dropping the reins, Carl quickly ducked his head as he unslung the bow from his shoulder.

The hobbit had had no practice shooting from horseback, and struggled to fit arrow to string while being jostled about like a sheep carried to market. Finally ready he raised the bow, but before he could shoot he heard the man in front of him bark something. The horse evidently heard it too, for his ears pricked forward listening as he slowed considerably. “Oh, this is not going to be good, not by a fair margin,” Carl groaned. Dirand too, steeled himself. And letting go his iron grip on the back of the saddle, the grizzled man hunkered down clutching his curved sword with both hands.

At some point the slaver must have grown leery, for he would not be still long enough to let Carl get him clearly in his sites. And he repeatedly called to the horse keeping himself directly in front of it, so that Carl dare not let an arrow loose. When they were but a yard or two away, the horse stopped, and kick as he would, the hobbit could not budge him. Looking up Carl saw the slaver poised with a long knife in his hand, first appearing on this side of the horse's head and then on the other. He quickly took a shot, but missed, and before he could grasp another arrow the slaver sprang at him. Carl tipped his bow down, ramming it unto the slaver's shoulder. The man paused, letting his glance flickered away from the hobbit briefly, but Carl dare not follow his gaze, lest he spring on them again.

As the hobbit pulled back his bow, he heard the ringing of steel behind him. Quickly gathering the reins in one hand, he managed to cause the horse to turn, forcing the slaver and this new attacker onto the same side of them. Carl who had no time to unsheath his knife or even to think, kept busy worrying the men with the end of his bow, while Dirand slashed at them with his sword, catching them with the flat of it more often than not as the horse shifted nervously beneath them. It was only a matter of time before Carl bow was caught, and the little farmer was dragged from his high perch. But letting go of it he rolled between the horse's legs to the other side, and as he turned to stand up, he saw another stout fighter descending on them. Wheeling around, he slapped the horse's flank as hard as he could, thinking to send both the horse and the old man off toward the boulders. But instead the horse reared, pawing the air before coming down with a sickening thud as he landed squarely on the man who had caught hold of his reins, the lesser of the two slavers. Dirand, who had fallen, scuttled away drawing the attention of the second slaver, who followed him. The old man was bravely brandishing his sword as the slaver closed in for the kill. In a twinkling Carl had drawn his knife and attacked. Throwing himself at the slaver's legs, he slit the man's hamstrings, and was still clinging to them as the slaver collapsed to the ground. Dirand scrambled to his feet, quickly driving his sword home.

"There is one more," Carl panted breathlessly. Springing up, he looked around. "A very big fellow too.... Should have reach us by now. Now where has he got to, Dirand? I've grown to dislike surprises!" Suddenly, the horse tossed his head, shuffling sideways. And Carl looked at Dirand, putting his finger up to his lips as he crept silently toward the beast.

Last edited by Hilde Bracegirdle; 01-13-2007 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 01-11-2007, 03:07 PM   #317
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Hadith and Johari

Hadith had taken the pain bravely enough when Athwen had examined and cleaned his wound but the stiching was too much for him to bear. He fell into a numb darkness.

Next thing he became aware of was a familiar voice talking to him.
“You had better not die, Hadith,” it told him, "You'd better not."

In the depths of his faint consciousness there formed a thought. Johari?

Slowly Hadith opened his eyes. The pain that had been gone came back at the instant he realised being alive again. It was Johari. Hadith recognised her immediately. He tried to smile but the pain twisted his face to an awkward grin.

His jaws were sore and his lips were so dry that it was hard to utter anything, but finally he managed to mumble quietly “I’m allright”.

For a fleeting moment Hadith thought seeing something like relief in Johari’s eyes but that was gone in a wink of an eye. He was confused but tried to pull himself together nevertheless. He was so happy to see Johari alive but at the same time he wasn’t sure if he should say it or how she would react if he would say it. Somehow just her presence felt comforting and he wouldn’t wish to lose that comfort by saying anything stupid.

The silence grew thicker and neither of them was actually looking at each other in the eye. Hadith laid on his back and Johari was on her knees right next to him.

“Good to see you safe and sound, Johari”, Hadith said at last, immediately realising how stupid that sentence sounded in the circumstances. Johari leaned back away from him.

“Don’t go, Johari!” Hadith called her trying to rise up and taking a firm grip of her hand. “Please don’t go...” It was hard for him to find the words. It was hard for him even to understand what he was meaning or thinking in the first place. “I mean, ... I mean, I was worried about you. You aren’t hurt or anything?” At the same time his grip loosened and Johari pulled her hand away as Hadith fell back on his back again the few inches he had managed to rise up by hanging on Johari’s hand.

“No, I’m fine”, she replied tightly.

“Good”, Hadith managed to say biting his lips. He was feeling the pain again. The tumult of the battle echoed from somewhere. Hadith fought against the tears. I should be fighting with my fellows, I should not act this stupidly, I should be braver, I should be... Then his mind got lost again.
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Old 01-15-2007, 01:32 AM   #318
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Ishkur had meant to go immediately and find the three women so that he could give them the small bags of coins. But the smell of ale was so inviting that he preferred not to leave until he'd had a drink or two. He spent the next hour with his arm draped around Gwerr's shoulders. The two of them let loose with loud choruses from a bawdy ballad and made toasts to each other and their good fortune in discovering the chest.

Perhaps Ishkur was a little skittish about searching for Ungolt and her two companions to present them with his gifts. He had never given anyone a gift in his whole life, except for some bribes to an orc commander, and he didn't think that those really counted. He wasn't sure what he would say to the women. The wind had died down outside and the sky was getting darker when Ishkur stood up, scooped up the leather pouches, and without saying anything more to Gwerr stomped out of the tent. As he trudged quickly through the camp, he could see small groups of orcs scattered around and drinking. Some were going through the slavers' bedrolls and stripping out whatever they could find. Others had already drunk too much and were passed out on the ground.

If Ishkur's head had been clear, he would have tried to kick these orcs in the behind or take them by the collar and shake them. It wasn't a good idea for orcs to be lying half dead in the middle of the slavers' camp, even if the fighters were unlikely to return for many hours. But Ishkur was thinking about his gift to the women and his head was already buzzing from too much ale so he just kept walking.

Although he saw no sign of Zagra or Mazhg, he still kept looking. Finally, near the mouth of the pit where the slave prisoners had been kept earlier, he found the young Ungolt sorting through a pile of what looked like junk. She looked up at him warily clutching something in her hand.

"What's that?" he barked.

"Nothing," she replied, slipping her hands behind her back.

"It looks like something to me." He went over to have a look and poked his nose closer.

Reluctantly, Ungolt held out her treasure. "A bow.....it's a bow. Someone must have forgotten about it. The string is broken but the rest of it is fine. And there are even two arrows."

Ishkur ran his fingers over the curved wood and picked up one of the arrows. "They're yours," he grunted, depositing the things back in the woman's lap. "I won't take it. In fact, I'll show you how to make a new string and some more arrows. But you'll have to wait till we get some place with more game and more wood."

"Anyways, that'd not why I came. This is for you....you and your friends Zagra and Mazhg." He dumped three small pouches in Ungolt's lap. She bent down and felt the bulky outline of one of the bags.

"Coins? This is for me?" Ungolt sounded as if she didn't believe what she was saying.

Ishkur grunted in response, "Yah, and for those other two..... your friends. It should help you get started."

Ungolt opened her mouth and then closed it. She wasn't used to getting presents. The only gifts she'd ever gotten from men were in exchange for things she'd done or promises she'd made. But she had made no promises to Ishkur, and she was truly puzzled why he was doing this. She was afraid to accept the gift but she didn't want to say no. So instead she replied, "Some day I will pay you back. Maybe not with money. I am not very good at getting money, but by backing you up or getting you out of trouble." She took the pouches, grabbed the bow, and went off searching for Zagra and Mazhg.

Ishkur couldn't help laughing as he tramped off. He could not imagine a situation where he would ever need the help of a woman in getting out of trouble. He was about to walk away when he suddenly heard a noise coming from the bottom of the pit......

Last edited by Regin Hardhammer; 01-15-2007 at 02:00 AM.
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Old 01-15-2007, 08:09 AM   #319
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It did not take long for Grask to grow bored at the bottom of the pit. He scratched idly in the dirt with his fingernails, but other than that there was little else to do than think. For the first time since they had broken away from the large camp, he wondered where they were going and what they would do there – what he would do there. He was, of course, the youngest of the group, and that made him something of an outcast without companionship or use to the rest of the group. It was rather lonely, really. So why was he here?

The questions disturbed him, and though he tried not to think about them, they kept coming back bearing no new answers.

As it started to grow darker outside, the wind howled less and the sand seemed to be settling. Grask slung his pack back over his shoulder and happily began to climb out of the pit, using the rope that the Men had left, but even with that, the climb up was considerably more difficult than it had been to go down and he wished he had thought of it before deciding to wait the storm out down there.

With a grunt and a last surge of effort, Grask hauled himself over the edge of the pit. A glance around showed a few other Orcs milling about the camp, but closest to him was Ishkur. Grask felt blessed enough by the Orc leaders' earlier good will; no use pushing his luck, and he began to walk in the opposite direction until Ishkur's call stopped him short: "Wait, Grask."

What did he want now? Grask knew he hadn't done anything wrong... they hadn't decided he had taken too much ale earlier? Ishkur didn't sound angry though - the opposite, even. So Grask turned around and stepped forward to meet Ishkur who had walked after him. Grask's curious gaze was drawn first to Ishkur's face, then to his hand inside his pocket, then back to his face. He had never been sought out like this before and wondered what to expect.

Last edited by Firefoot; 01-15-2007 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 01-15-2007, 12:08 PM   #320
Durelin
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Khamir

Once he, Nasim, and Gamal had finished off their second Easterling, Khamir found his mind torn, and for a moment he faltered. The others were prepared immediately to go help Beloan, but though Beloan was Khamir’s friend, the one-armed man found himself more concerned with another. He had not seen Shae since well before the battle, and he could not stand the pain and the fear of more pain any longer.

“Go help Beloan, I must help someone else,” he said quickly, and took off away from the grove and back toward the trench and tunnel, the first place. That woman always did some of the craziest things, as if she had something to prove, and yet she had always come back alive...so far. He wished she would stop risking her life, at least as he saw it, needlessly. There were plenty of able-bodied men, and getting herself killed wouldn’t accomplish anything. She had nothing to prove, she did not have to remind everyone of her bravery...

Maybe it was the Gondorian in her: the self-righteousness that required she prove to others over and over that she had a courageous heart. And apparently that made her feel like sacrificing her life, dying in battle, defending a cause, was worth it, regardless of whether or not her death could be avoided. He would not have this…he could not…he would…

He heard a woman’s enraged scream and the crash of metal just before he saw Shae surrounded by two slavers. She was alive and kicking. All of Khamir’s worries and fears suddenly turned into guilt as he realized that there had been nor reason for him to assume the worst, and certainly not belittle her abilities as a warrior. He still wanted to be furious at her for the heroics that likely got her into this mess, but he found it difficult.

Before Shae had even seen him coming, he launched his still bloodied throwing knife to land firmly one of the rider’s thighs. The horse was startled, and Khamir leapt forward to slice small but stinging cuts across both the horse’s thighs on the side facing him. The horse, frightened and in pain, did its best to drop its rider, who was too busy trying to get the knife out of his leg to hold on very well. He dropped to the ground.

Shae had pulled the other slaver down, and was wrestling with him on the ground. Khamir began feeling a need for urgency again, which grew with every second. His concerns elsewhere, his instincts did not fail him, and he thrust his hunting knife into the Easterling’s exposed throat before the man could recover from his fall. Then the one-armed man whirled around and leapt forward to help Shae; it appeared to him that she couldn’t tear away from the slaver’s grip…the man would run her through in a moment if Khamir didn’t…

But the Southron stopped in his tracks. The slaver was not moving.

The woman yanked her shirtsleeve from where it had been caught in the golden armour, tearing a small piece of it in the process. She looked a bit flustered, and she was wounded, but she stood steadily. She gave Khamir an incredulous look, as the man could only stare in wonder at her for a moment.

“You’ve wounded your leg,” she remarked, bringing his thoughts back to earth. She did not appear concerned, except for something in her eyes. The Southron looked down to see a gash across his right lower leg, and could not remember if he already had that wound before he had come to find Shae or not.

He frowned as his eyes scoured her body. “And you have two wounds.”

Shae laughed, though weakly, and shook her head. They were both trying to catch their breath. She did not bother telling him he had two cuts on his cheek. Suddenly she began walking away from him. Khamir stood for a moment in confusion, and then ran several paces to catch up with her and grab her by the arm. She looked up at him with frustration, and pulled away. He tried to settle himself, but found his mind wondering how much pain she was in, if she had been afraid she might die… Then he followed her stare down to a body just a few paces ahead of her.

Reagonn…

“He…” Khamir breathed. Images of Adnan and Vrór flashed through his head, and of Hadith who he still had not seen, and looked at Shae, remembering what it felt like to think her dead…and then he stared at Reagonn’s still body, and froze the picture in his mind. So many he…loved. He felt tears come to his eyes, and one fell as he turned his blurry eyes to see Syth, another comrade, fallen. It seemed Shae wanted to cry, but she was too exhausted. Khamir was so exhausted that he could not stop himself.

You child of Mordor…

How could there be so much love in this place?

It had been easier when he was alone, when his number one and only care was himself, his survival. Or it would have been easier, if he had not hated it.

And that was what Shae was prepared to die for, wasn’t it? Protecting, defending what and who she loved. She would die before she was alone. He would have been alone before he died, and died alone…

Khamir stared at Shae as his eyes cleared, but looked away as soon as their gazes met. No, he did not want to be alone.

Last edited by Durelin; 01-16-2007 at 03:42 PM.
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