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Old 01-16-2007, 02:08 PM   #321
Tevildo
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Azhar had picked her way through the crowded grove searching for Rowenna. She had scurried from one small group to the next asking the women and children if they had seen the midwife. No one had been able to answer her. Every step brought her nearer the ring of stones that marked the entry to the small haven where the women and children had retreated. So far, none of the slavers had been able to force their way into that inner ring. Through the dust and haze, Azhar could make out the faces of several of the men who fought no more than fifteen feet in front of her; Rôg and Aiwendil, Carl and Dirand, Nasim, Gamal, and so many others were still locked in battle with about half a dozen slavers. For an instant, Azhar stood still and simply stared out, wondering how and when the bloodshed was going to end and whether the protective ring would continue to hold.

An insistent cry rose from just behind her: not a sound of battle but more like a woman caught in the throes of a tearing pain. Scrambling over to the source of that sound, Azhar ducked down and crawled through the opening of a thick hedge, an entrance almost hidden from outside view. She was surprised to find the midwife Rowenna. On the ground beside her lay another woman who was in the middle of giving birth. The woman's eyes were wild with pain, her hair matted, and her skin rimmed with sweat. The birthing was not going well, but what else could one expect in the middle of this nightmare?

Scarcely more than a girl, Azhar stumbled out of the enclosure, unable to deal with the full meaning of that scene. But before she could turn back to speak with Rowenna, there was a terrible roar and a shaking of the earth. A number of slavers still mounted on horses had broken through the border of stones and were advancing at a gallop, racing straight across the inner encampment where all the women and children lay hidden. As that realization sunk in, Azhar felt her blood run cold.

The freed slaves and members of the fellowship who were still fighting came running towards the rocks, but their feet could not match the swiftness of the horses. A single horseman halted and, glimpsing Azhar, swung his mount about and headed for the hedge. The young girl tried to spring out of the way but was tossed to the side by the impact of the horse as it raced by her; Rowenna and the woman giving birth were not so lucky. An instant later, both women lay silent amid the ruined hedge, their bodies woven in a tangled heap as blood soaked into the ground.

Azhar cried out in horror. Even her life on the plantation had not prepared her for this. She caught a quick glimpse of Aiwendil and Rôg who were running side-by-side, part of the crowd of fighters all surging forward in a vain attempt to reach the horsemen and stop them. Her eyes rivetted on the tall southerner. Words of anger and frustration poured from her mouth, "Rôg! Why don't you do something? They are too fast. Someone must stop them, or all the women and children will die."

What happened next was not what Azhar had expected. One minute Aiwendil was standing next to Rôg, and the next minute he was gone. In his place was a
shaggy wild boar , weighing at least two hundred and fifty pounds and sporting two pairs of curving tusks, one on top of the other. The boar swung his tail, pawed viciously at the soil, ground together his tusks and gave a loud snort, taking aim at the horseman who was running just ahead.

Last edited by Tevildo; 01-17-2007 at 12:57 AM.
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Old 01-16-2007, 06:13 PM   #322
Folwren
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Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Athwen worked as quickly as she possibly could under the circumstances. Azhar helped where she could, and even with the girl knowing nothing, she was still able to save Athwen a great deal of time and energy. But it wasn’t enough time nor enough energy. She felt her strength lagging and there were still so many to tend to. It was then that she asked Azhar to go fetch help. She must have help or men would die.

Azhar hurried away in obedience of Athwen’s request. Athwen heaved a sigh and brushed a stray strand of hair from her eyes. Her fingers left a streak of blood on her forehead over her right eye. She turned to the next patient.

Patient? Athwen grimaced to herself as she set to work on the wounded man. This was like no set of patients she had ever known. Never had there been one after another of cases wherein the patient was half dead. Of course, not all of these men were half dead – there were some cases of broken bones, slashed arms, or knocked heads – but there was a great deal of blood. Even Athwen, with her hardened nerves to such things, had found herself a few times that day shuddering at the sight of some twisted mess of blood, bone, and ligament.

Sometimes she could not save the victim, and she knew it. These were the most difficult to tend to. She hated to leave them in their misery, but what else could she do? To ease their pain would mean spending precious material on a hopeless cause. She didn’t know what to do with them and she longed to ask Dorran what a surgeon on the field of battle would do.

After a time, Athwen began to think that Azhar and the midwife were long in coming. She finished binding a wound and stood up to look out towards the fighting. What happened out there, she wondered? Where were all of her friends? She hoped that they were safe, and at the same time, she hoped that they were killing the slavers.

“Interesting, Athwen,” she told herself, turning with a sigh towards her work. “You, who are here to save lives, hoping that others are destroyed.” It never struck her that she should think it strange that she, being so exhausted and working, should still have time to consider her own thinking.
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Old 01-17-2007, 01:06 AM   #323
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Brinniel is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Brinniel is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Brinniel is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Shae managed to hold back the two slavers so far, but she knew it would not last for long. She was relieved when help finally came, and was especially pleased when it had come from Khamir of all people. She had not seen him since before the battle and had wondered of his whereabouts. The one-armed man had endured much and she was confident he would survive tonight...but then again, she had thought the same for Reagonn.

As Khamir took one slaver by surprise, Shae was able to throw the other off his horse. He lunged at her, but she was ready. Before he even reached the woman, he ran into her sword. The opponent collapsed on top of her, and momentarily Shae was trapped underneath the heavy man. She tore herself free and stood up, her eyes meeting Khamir's.

Was that a look of concern?

Shae observed the man standing across from her, noticing he was just as much of a mess as she was. Khamir still stared at her, almost in wonder. "You've wounded your leg," she remarked casually. His eyes shifted down to discover his new injury.

Shae eyed the man curiously. He had come to her aid alone. Even more, he had come to her away from the camp where the battle was still going. Had he actually come specifically to find her? That thought seemed impossible. Since Joren's death, it mattered to no one whether Shae lived or died. For years, she had accepted that fact. Yet, Khamir's expression just now read otherwise.

"And you have two wounds." The man's words interrupted her thoughts and the woman was brought back to attention. Staring down at her very swollen wrist, she gave a slight laugh at his obvious statement. The laugh was cut short by a sharp pain against her ribs. Shae held her breath, waiting for the pain to subside. She turned away from Khamir quickly, not wanting him to see she was hurting. He grabbed her arm gently, but she pulled away, more afraid than anything.

"He..." the man whispered suddenly, and Shae knew whom he was talking about. She also stared at the bloodied corpse of Reagonn in the distance, still feeling bitter about his death. The two stood for a moment in silence. Then she turned around, surprised to find Khamir's cheeks stained with tears.
"He was a good man," the woman consoled. "He...saved my life...as you just did." She smiled at Khamir in gratitude. The man looked back at her, this time his expression undecipherable. Khamir had always been rather mysterious to her. After eight years, she still knew very little about him and his past. It was something few ex-slaves spoke of- their lives before escape. Shae had always believed that the man's rough life had left him cold and distant...and yet...in these last few days, he had somehow changed... And now, more than ever, the woman couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking about.

The sharp pain on her left side returned, and Shae doubled over dropping to her knees. With the combination of the dried blood, the sweat, and her tired limbs, she had never felt so heavy, and she allowed her body to sink into itself.
Immediately, Khamir was at her side. "Are you all right?" he asked, his tone sincere.
Blinking back tears, the woman replied, "I'm fine," her voice gutteral, but determined.
The pain soon eased, replaced by a dull ache, and Shae struggled to stand. Her good hand was met by Khamir's, and he helped pull her to her feet. The two stared at one another, their faces inches apart. Shae closed her eyes, exhausted. Feeling Khamir's breath against her forehead, short and hot, she realized he was just as tired.

"You're not fine," the man finally said. "You should go see Athwen. She'll take care of you."
"Athwen? She's okay?" The healer had volunteered for a dangerous task, to lure the slavers in, and Shae was pleased to hear she had made it out alive. "Well...I'm sure she has plenty of patients right now who are in much worse condition. ...Don't look at me like that, Khamir. I refuse to rest until this is over."
Khamir frowned. "You just don't know when to give it up, do you? Even when it's for your own good."
"Look who's talking." The man couldn't help but laugh at her comment.

Shae shifted her eyes towards the camp, where shouting still clearly rang into the air. She wondered what other lives had been lost tonight. What had happened to the halfling Carl? And the elf Lindir? She thought about the woman she had given the knife to during a night that seemed ages ago. Had she needed to use it yet? What had become of their companion Beloan? And what of the two children that had only been rescued the previous night? There were so many Shae wondered about, yet she realized there was no time for concern. There was still a bloody battle going and certainly nothing would be accomplished by simply standing around.

Finding what remained of her strength, Shae turned back to Khamir and said to him, "C'mon....let's go find the rest of those scum."

Last edited by Brinniel; 01-17-2007 at 08:49 AM.
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Old 01-17-2007, 01:10 PM   #324
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Aiwendil

Aiwendil's talents were modest when compared with those of the other Maier who had accompanied him to Arda. His companions displayed greater depths of wisdom, understood more about the nature of men and elves, and enjoyed a mastery over natural elements or crafts that he had simply lacked. His own duties in Aman had been humbler than theirs: quietly nurturing the flowers and fruits that graced the gardens of Yavanna. But in this one area alone--the ability to take on a rainbow assortment of shapes and colors and forms--the istar had excelled beyond all others of his rank. He had once been able to take on the form of every living thing in Arda, both plants and beasts, and other fantastical shapes.

Sometimes Aiwendil wondered why and how he had been granted this singular gift. It was not due to any merit on his part. Perhaps it had been the plea of Yavanna. The Lady had always been able to look into his heart and sense that her good hearted, bumbling servant who could be so withdrawn and awkward would require a special measure of protection and grace.

Aiwendil had sometimes fallen back on these skills to escape from those he was trying to avoid. Since his sailing across the Sea, he had provided what minor shapeshifting services he could for both Gandalf and Saruman while living in the area that was then called Mirkwood. Most of the time, he had staked out his own path and tried to stand clear of the troubling times. Somewhere, amidst all that isolation and pulling back, he had managed to lose a large chunk of himself, including his memories of what Manwe had originally instructed him to do and his ability to shift shapes.

Only in recent years had some of those memories and skills returned. During his stay in Harad, he had finally regained his ability to take on the shapes of at least some natural creatures in Middle-earth as well as the will to stand up and fight. Aiwendil suspected that his friendship with Rôg had something to do with this change. He still had not figured out what the Lord of Aman wanted by having him stay on in Arda after all the other istari had departed or long ago deserted their cause. But he had instinctively known that going to Mordor had been the right thing.

Now in the midst of a fierce battle, watching as the last remnent of the slavers swept down on the grove intent on doing damage to the women and children, the istar knew he must act quickly. He needed to take on the form of some everyday creature, making sure not to break the rules about the limitations placed on an istar's actions in a world properly dominated by man. One time, he admitted, he had stretched those limits a bit. He could not promise that he would never do that again, but now was not the time or place. Still, it would have to be a creature with enough clout and size to try and stem the bloodshed that was about to fall on the heads of dozens of innocent people who had little means of defending themselves.

With the poor eyesight typical of boars, Aiwendil could barely make out one hazy figure just ahead: a man mounted on horseback who had hurried towards a rock-filled enclosure shielded by a ring of bracken and tangled bushes. He could see a young woman standing near the entrance. She looked familiar, although he could no longer remember her name. Aiwendil's attention was totally fixed on the ruffian on horseback who darted into the enclosure and, without dismounting, tossed the standing woman to one side. Reaching out and down, he ran his sword through the two figures huddled together on the ground with a single swift motion. The man pulled back on the reins, jerked his mount around, and sprinted towards another group of retreating figures, this one composed of several young boys.

Covering the rocky turf with surprising speed for such a large and stiff gaited animal, the boar ruffled his bristles so that they stood straight up like hackles and let out a series of enraged grunts and snorts to warn the offending upstart that he should back off the territory. As sheer rage flooded in, foam slobbered out of the boar's open mouth, the rivulets running down his jowels and chest. Aiwendil lowered his shoulders and head and, coming close to the the attacker, slammed his head and tusks upward directly into the horse's legs and flanks a number of times, leaving a series of bloody trails and filthy slobber. The man reached down with his outstretched sword taking aim at the boar's shoulders, but the blow met a shield of thick cartilage and slid harmlessly off.

With a heavy thud, his horse toppled to the ground, sending the slaver sprawling over to the side. The boys who had been under attack immediately fled. Noise and confusion ran wild, as women and children pushed outward from the grove, struggling to find new shelter. Aiwendil could hear horrible shrieks coming from different parts of the grove. A stong whiff of blood confirmed his uneasy instinct that the two other slavers had also found victims and were dispatching them with speed. His own attention was more limited, like that of the beast whose body he had chosen. Ignoring the cries coming from other victims, the boar focused on the man who was scrambling up from the ground, taking off on foot in an easterly direction. Aiwendil raced off after him across the camp and then out into the plain....

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 01-30-2007 at 01:04 AM.
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Old 01-18-2007, 03:56 PM   #325
Folwren
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Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
The wind storm had barely slackened at all as Kwell turned his feet back in the direction of the grove. The wind buffeted him as he pushed his way back. It was difficult to tell if he was traveling in the correct direction. Occasionally, however, the wind dropped and the sand was let down from the air long enough for him to spot the clump of rocks that marked the place. He quickened his pace and his hand grasped at the hilt of his dagger.

As he rushed forward, it seemed to his racing brain that he was traveling slowly. The minutes stretched themselves into unimaginable lengths of time. Precious seconds slipped by as he forced his feet to go faster than a walk.

When he finally reached the glade, his breath was short and he gasped for air. He drew the knife, his only weapon, when he saw ahead of him the struggling figures of the recently escaped slaves and the men who hunted them. He hurried on, his heart beating violently, and searched for someone to fight with.

Ahead of him he could see three men fighting. Two of them were ones that Kwell recognized, escaped men who the slaves that had recently run away met up with. The attacking one was a slaver. The slaver had a heavy staff in his left hand, and a sword in his right, and the two others were attacking with what makeshift weapons they had.

Kwell sprang forward, forgetting his short breath and tiring limbs. He approached the slaver from behind, but as he ran up, he realized that he could not do any good with the dagger from where he attacked. Instead, then, he sheathed the knife again and made the last few leaps forward and reached out his hand to catch the cudgel.

The slaver swung back his arm and Kwell took the chance to grasp it. One hand grabbed it long enough for his left hand to grasp it as well. He clung to it, nearly wrapping all of both his arms about it to keep it down. The man, confused and struggling for a moment with the sudden, extra weight, turned towards him. The two others took the given chance and dodged into his sword range. They tackled the man to the ground and Kwell was knocked to the side and off his feet.

He struggled up onto his knees, his hand reaching for his knife. He crawled over towards the struggling mass of the three men. He scrambled up halfway to his feet and then threw himself at the man’s head, bringing the knife towards his throat.

The slaver quit struggling abruptly. He was dead. The two men fighting him, stopped and backed up. They glanced at each other and Kwell, catching their breath briefly. Then, without a word, one jerked his head towards others fighting, and the three turned to find another man to take down.
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Old 01-18-2007, 08:25 PM   #326
Durelin
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Durelin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Durelin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Khamir

“C’mon....let’s go find the rest of those scum.”

A smile passed between them, and Shae’s face became frozen in Khamir’s mind: her brown hair in disarray, blood smeared across her tan forehead, her eyes bright green…he had seen her a thousand times before, in a million different glances, but this time was different. She smiled. He finally realized he had seen her smile. More than once? He thought so… Through his eyes, there was a glow about her. There was a power in her eyes and in her voice, and a bravery he knew he would never understand. Khamir could not stand to remember how he had treated her at times in the past. Perhaps he would have seen what he saw now in her sooner if she had more reason to smile. Or more likely he should have looked.

Shae took off immediately, and Khamir followed after a moment, catching up to her as best as he could. He could feel pain coursing through his leg, though, and it crept up to his thigh, wrapping around his calf and enveloping his knee as it spread. Looking at Shae’s wrist, and listening to her breaths, which were as ragged as his, he wondered what good they would do back by the grove. They had been extremely lucky to bring two men down, and likely was only made possible by his catching them by surprise. Now he had a more serious wound, and it was clear that Shae, though he knew she would not give up nor stop fighting with ferocity, was definitely feeling the pain in her wrist.

But his concern for Shae was perhaps too much. He began to lag behind, though he did his best to keep up. The pain was maddening, and though he fought through it as best he could, as he had fought through so much pain before, he found himself feeling weaker than ever and watched the ground beneath his feet slow in its passing. Khamir had worse wounds before, but he had never been in a battle such as this, where he had not had more than a few moments respite. He had been on the move since the beginning, so many names and faces spinning round in his head – he wanted to help them all. Now he felt he could do little to help himself.

“Shae…” he said, and she slowed as she turned her head to look at him, “I’m sorry, but…I can’t…I can’t move as fast as you right now…” he spoke amongst his heavy breathing.

The woman stopped, and after a brief moment of surprise, she asked, “Do you need help?” She glanced at his leg.

“No,” Khamir responded quickly, as if a reflex. Shae shook her head, but did not move on. She looked at him, waiting.

“I just need you to move a little slower,” the one-armed man stated as quickly as he could. He would not call it help. “Neither of us will do any good on our own,” he added.

“Maybe, but I’d say you’d do worse,” she remarked. Khamir grunted in assent, and the two took off again at a slower pace.

As they neared the grove, it appeared to them that chaos was making the situation more dangerous. The number of slaver bodies they ran into made them feel bits of relief amongst their concern for those they loved and those they barely knew, but it seemed the destruction was not over.

“We should find Lindir,” Shae said. And though Khamir agreed that Lindir, who he had learned was an Elf – an immortal! – would be able to assess the situation (and he was fairly certain in his belief that this Elf would not have been killed by mere Men of the East), the Southron could not simply tell Shae that.

“Or Beloan,” he suggested stubbornly.

Last edited by Durelin; 01-25-2007 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 01-21-2007, 02:03 PM   #327
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Johari’s concern for Hadith had largely been forgotten in her discomfort, and so she could not help but be slightly relieved when Hadith faded back into unconsciousness.

It was as if their relationship was losing objectivity and becoming more personal. And his touch – it seemed like so long since she had felt another human’s touch. For years now, she had isolated herself from others, mentally and emotionally, so that even Hadith’s friendly, desperate touch repelled her and confused her. Her hand still felt tingly.

I’m not really that nice of a person, Hadith. You’d probably be better off without me.

The cries of fighting brought her back to the present. It was much closer now; Johari realized the slavers must be attacking here, at the grove. They would be in danger now; if she wanted out of the fighting, she would have to leave now. Instead, her hand went to her knife. She might have avoided the fighting earlier, but she wouldn’t run from it now. She began to stand, then knelt back down and quickly squeezed Hadith’s hand. Then she was gone.

She moved quickly and stealthily towards the screams, her knife drawn. She did not know how to use the knife, not really; with her fists and fingernails she might be as vicious as a wildcat, but the knife felt awkward in her hand. It would be better if she could ambush a slaver, rather than exchange blows.

Through the trees she caught sight of a slaver was chasing two girls, perhaps two of those she had seen gathered around Granny Brenna the previous night. Johari broke into a swift run, aiming to intercept their path. Hatred for the man bubbled up inside her that had nothing to do with the two girls: it was entirely personal. She could easily imagine him as one of the overseers she had only ever been able to offer token resistance to. How many times had she wanted to launch herself at them, strangle them – anything that would do more damage than a smart mouth?

She forgot the knife in her hand. As she neared them, he seemed to hear her footsteps crashing towards them, but his momentum would not allow him to turn enough to meet her with his blade as she jumped on him from the side and landed heavily on top of him. She heard his right arm, his sword arm, crack beneath them. Still he grappled with her with his good arm, and soon was out from beneath her. She launched at him again, swinging her fists. One blow connected solidly with his left temple. She fought furiously, unthinkingly, like an animal. Dimly she realized that the knife in his left hand was her knife, the one she had dropped; she had grabbed his wrist and was digging in her fingernails. A sensation of needing the knife coursed through her. She clawed at his fingers without avail. A hard kick in the shin loosened his grip enough for her to knock the knife from his grip. Both lunged for it; Johari reached it first and swung the blade blindly in his direction just as he came down on top of her. The blade ran straight through his chest. He was dead.

Suddenly weak and breathing shakily, Johari crawled out from under him. The fury was gone. She could already feel aches forming all over her body, and her arm was bleeding, but she remembered receiving none of the injuries. In fact, she remembered very little of the fight at all after she jumped on him the first time. She had killed him; only that mattered. Or it ought to matter. At the moment, Johari did not feel anything, not anger or satisfaction or grief or victory. She only leaned back against a tree and closed her eyes.
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Old 01-21-2007, 02:41 PM   #328
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"Boy, come here." Ishkur barked out the words in the gruffest tone he could manage. Then he waved at Grask and indicated that the boy should come over and stand beside him.

"Here." Ishkur shoved the bag of coins close to Grask's face and explained. "Just a few coppers and a silver penny or two. Put it away and don't let the Uruks see it."

The boy seemed to be nervous. He stood completely still so Ishkur took the small pouched and placed it firmly in Grask's hand. This time, he softened his voice. "Go ahead. It's yours. You might need these someday. Just remember who gave this pouch to you. You're growing up, and someday I may need you to guard my back."

With that, Ishkur turned around and tramped back across the camp to return to the tent where his friend waited with the open cask of ale.

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Old 01-21-2007, 09:08 PM   #329
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‘Ladies! I want you to put these rocks and scrubby bushes between you and the slavers.’ Rôg reached out an arm to grab a young child who’d wriggled out from the press of legs and cloth that surrounded him. ‘You, too,’ the man said, plopping the squirming little lad into the nearest set of arms.

His ears brought him the news that the slavers had breached the entrance to the grove. There were the loud shouts of the warriors as they came pell-melling in toward their prizes, the harsh tattoo of their horses’ hooves, and the keening sounds of the increasingly frightened women as their eyes took in the murderous advance of the slavers. ‘Put the children behind you!’ he shouted to the women, his voice barely rising over the frenzied tumult. ‘And your staffs, get them ready.....your staffs!’

Rôg turned just as two of the slavers crossed the halfway point in the little clearing. From the corner of his eye, he saw the great boar chasing one of the men, now unhorsed, from the grove. He swung his own staff about as one of the slavers urged his mount toward the clutch of women and children. It was a well meant defense, but ineffective against the muscular chest of the horse. The animal swerved only slightly, and that was more at the direction of his rider whose long thick club came round in a brutal arc toward Rôg.

With a whooshing grunt, Rôg exhaled forcefully as the club connected with his midriff. Doubled over from the force of the blow, his legs nearly gave way. He tried to rally, motioning all the while for the women and children to run. The slaver turned his horse and headed back toward the stricken man. Again his club came up and swung round to catch Rôg hard at the back of the skull.

Some of the women had run forward toward the slaver, striking his horse about the head and legs with their staves. It was enough, but barely, to keep the club’s second strike from being a killing blow. Rôg’s mind went blank......dark.....He fell to the ground in a heap.

~*~

‘Over here!’ shouted the slaver to his companions. Another one had come into the clearing, and now the three of them came rushing toward the little flock of women and the children just beyond. ‘Take ‘em!!’ cried the first slaver. ‘Catch and bind them.’ He leered at the women and their meager defenses. They would bring good coin in the slave markets. With a yowl of triumph he urged his fellows toward their prizes.
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:10 PM   #330
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Brenna

Just like a scarecrow in the planting fields!

That was Brenna’s fleeting thought as she watched Rôg crumple to the ground. It was only a momentary consideration, though, as she hurried forward with several other of the other women toward the fallen man.

‘Catch and bind them!’ she heard the slaver who’d clubbed Rôg shout. ‘No!’ she heard a loud voice cry out. Her own voice, she realized as she raised her sharpened stave in her hands to fend off the approaching slavers. Gwenith and Nia darted out from behind her, scrambling forward to get close to where Rôg lay.

There were loud shouts to either side of Brenna now as others of the women yelled out their anger at the slavers. ‘You’ll never take us back, you sons of dogs!’ The women rushed forward as the two girls dragged Rôg’s limp body to what makeshift safety the scrubby bushes would afford him.

The ranks of the women swelled as the cries against the three slavers grew louder. With a bravery born of anger, the group coalesced into a wrathful army, rattling their sticks at the would-be captors. There were far more of them than the horsed trio. But number and heightened emotion could only last so long against men trained in fighting, in murder, in the hunting of others of their own kind.

Brenna was one of the oldest of the women. She struck out at the slaver with her sharpened stick, drawing blood from his thigh where the sharp point of it pierced his flesh. She fell to the slaver’s sword; his heavy, fatal blows fueled by his anger at her boldness, her temerity. Nia and Gwenith ran forward to throw themselves between her and the man’s blade. They, too, were cut down.

‘Hold!' came the cry from one of the men. ‘We need them alive if we’re to sell them. Dead, they do us no good.’ He sheathed his blade, trading it for his club and net. In like manner his two henchmen put up their bows and their own swords. Urging their mounts onward, they trampled the three fallen women and began to swing their clubs at the others that still stood clustered on the small field. The blows from the slavers’ clubs were glancing, just enough to knock the women down. Once downed, the slavers threw their nets in an effort to entangle, to capture them.

The women were soon in disarray. Panic overtook their boldness. Panic fueled by fear. Some of the younger children, the littler ones cried and screamed as they watched their mothers struck with the clubs. They ran toward where their mothers lay and were themselves caught up like little birds in the nets.

‘Get them! Round up the rest!’ shouted the lead horseman once again.

Like frightened animals, the remainder of the women grabbed up their children, and those who were childless took up those little ones who stood crying in the flying dust. They ran, as fast as their legs would carry them from the hunters.....splitting up into small groups of twos and threes, running wildly in many different directions.

The three slavers, smug in their confidence they would prevail, split off from each other to pursue their separate quarry.

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Old 01-22-2007, 01:42 AM   #331
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Eirnar stood at the center of the chaos, his shirtsleeve torn and bloody from a cut on his shoulder. In his right hand, he clutched a knife already stained from use. Throughout the night, he had followed his fellow ex-slaves from the tunnels to the camp, defending himself in every way possible along the way. Standing now covered in sweat and blood, the man could not help but feel overwhelmed. This night seemed to be lasting forever….how long had it been since the battle first begun?

Another ex-slave nearly slammed into Eirnar as she ran by, apologizing briefly as she continued on. Eirnar turned his head in the direction the woman had come from where several slavers began to pursue their victims. The man watched in horror as the slavers slaughtered women and children before one cried out, “Hold! We need them alive if we’re to sell them. Dead, they do us no good.” The men then began to club the women, and one by one they went down. One of those who fell victim to the clubs was Aedhild. Instead of running away from the charging men, she ran towards them, shrieking furiously. One slaver swung his club, then she too went down.

Panic set in Eirnar. During the rush of the battle he had completely forgotten about the poor woman. He had been hesitant as Aedhild’s protector at first, but it was a role he had slowly accepted, and seeing her fall, the man sensed failure for the one task he was meant for.

Pandemonium was in the atmosphere as women and children ran past Eirnar, fearing for their lives. As the slavers rode their horses after them, Eirnar took this opportunity to rescue Aedhild before she fell completely in the hands of the enemy. In the confusion, the man managed to reach the older woman and pull her into the brush without being seen.

Aedhild laid unconscious, blood pouring profusely from a deep gash on the side of her head. Apparently, the slaver had gotten slightly carried away when he clubbed her. Eirnar tore extra cloth from his shirt to help staunch the bleeding, but it seemed to do very little. The woman had suffered from so much, and already she was beginning to look rather pale. Eirnar looked around frantically. Where was the healer? Aedhild needed proper care…and soon.

Eirnar flinched as a set of hooves whirled by, nearly trampling the two. Still applying pressure to her wound, the man gritted his teeth in frustration, cursing into the darkness. “Don’t you die, Aedhild, I won’t let you,” he said aloud. “You live through this and I promise…I won’t ever fail you again. If I am to be your protector, then protect you I will.”

Eirnar could not understand why he felt so attached to this pathetic woman, why he so desperately wished her to live. For so long she had been a burden to him…and yet, at the same time….she had given him something else. For the first time in years, the man had a reason to live, an actual purpose to his own pitiful existence. As Eirnar cradled Aedhild in his arms, he came to realize that he needed her just as much as she needed him. And that in itself was enough of a reason for both of them to survive the night.

The shouting was slowly dying down and there was no longer a slaver in sight. Aedhild’s wound continued to bleed, and Eirnar knew she could not wait much longer. Wrapping his arms around her, he snatched up the surprisingly light woman and took off in the direction where the injured lay, searching for the healer.

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Old 01-22-2007, 02:37 AM   #332
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Azhar's post

The noise and smell of battle threatened to overwhelm the girl as she struggled to open her eyes. With great effort, Azhar reached out and latched onto a small limb of a bramble bush that was growing nearby. Ignoring the thorns that left deep scratches along the back of her hand, she labored to pull her body into an upright position and stared out across the grove, straining to see what was happening. The sky overhead was dark and bleak. This time it was not the storm that painted the heavens a murky black, but the fact that they had been fighting so hard for so many hours. Azhar stared upward, seeking some sign of consolation, but not a single star was visible above.

The girl's head was pounding with hurt and confusion; her side ached horribly, where she had slammed against the sharp edge of a rock. Yet that pain was nothing compared with the sight that greeted her eyes. There was chaos and tumult everywhere. The bodies of three women littered the ground, and the dread horsemen had not left. They galloped from one fleeing party to the next, swords and nets in hand, attempting to round up more of their victims.

Rôg, where was Rôg? Where was the great dragon that could sweep into the heavens and chase away the riders? Azhar quickly glanced around. But Rôg had fallen, huddled in a ball of pain and blackness. She could make out his shape and form concealed by a scrub bush just a short distance away--- a tall gangly man, dressed in robes that seemed more like those of a scholar or scribe than a warrior in the midst of battle. She could not even tell if the southerner was still alive. Nor could she guess the reason why he had not taken on another form to save himself. Her stomach lurched, and she wretched on the ground.

Her first thought was to try and do something to save those who were fleeing and could not fight for themselves. But even if she had the strength or will, she had no weapon of her own. A bright image of a great bear rising up from the ground slipped inside her mind. But it was nothing more than an illusion. No matter how hard she concentrated or how much she tried to pour herself into the form, her body did not respond. She was a small human figure on a bloody battlefield, seemingly deserted by all her friends.

She quickly drew herself to her feet and started to sprint out of the grove, but a sharp pain in her ankle told her this would be impossible. It was only a simple sprain, something that would clear up with a good stiff bandage and a day or two of rest. But right now she had neither of these. Unable to run away, she nervously looked around, her eyes widening in fear and surprise as a single rider came sweeping in her direction. The slaver galloped up, slid off his horse's back, and, with one swift motion, grabbed her by the hair and forced her head back. For several minutes, Azhar struggled, screaming and kicking in a desperate attempt to get away. She managed to yank herself forward and, by violently twisting her neck to one side, positioned her head to clamp down on the man's arm, biting as hard as she could. The slaver howled in pain, then reached down and drew out a long glinting dagger, brandishing it threateningly an inch from her neck.

Helpless and defeated, Azhar let go and slumped to the ground as the man tied her wrists together and clamped on an iron bracelet with a long trailing chain . He remounted his horse and began loping forward, as she stumbled along behind him. "You'll fetch a good price on the market." he crowed, sounding entirely pleased with himself.

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Old 01-22-2007, 05:34 PM   #333
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Post for Lindir and Carl

Reaching the section of the grove where Carl and Dirand were fighting proved more difficult than Lindir had originally envisioned. The ground was so littered with battle debris that the elf found himself clambering around fallen bodies and the discarded remains of broken weapons. More than once, he stopped to ward off an assault. While the number of slavers fighting was much smaller than earlier in the day, those who remained were pushing their attack near the entrance to the grove and were pouring into the sheltered area where the women and children had hidden. Plus, the knot of combatants crammed into the small grove made it difficult for anyone to push through the crowds.

By the time Lindir reached the spot where he had first seen the two fighting, Carl and Dirand were scuttling about on foot. Two of the slavers lay dead on the ground. With a manner almost as graceful as any Elf, Carl had managed to glide up to the skittish mare and, by using a soft hand and voice, calm her enough that the pair could remount. Yet before they could gain a secure seat in the saddle, the third slaver had come galloping up with a sharp glaive tacked onto a long pole. He waved this threateningly under Carl’s nose. Dirand’s wild whacks with the sword came up short of his target, while the hobbit had to pull back abruptly on the reins to swing the animal around to avoid the slashing menace of the broad knifelike blade. With a mighty heave, the slaver aimed the glaive directly at Carl’s left shoulder. The blade glanced off, but ran down the length of the hobbit’s forearm, leaving a shallow gash marked by a thin trail of blood.

Lindir had sprinted the last stretch of ground and came within fifteen feet of the pikeman just as the latter was howling in satisfaction at having scored at least a minor victory. Ripping out his bow and putting two arrows to the string in quick succession, the elf let go of his shots one after the other. The first whizzed by within a hair’s breadth of the man’s head; the second barely grazed the horse’s flanks and caused him to whirl about in pain, changing the direction of his attack. Man and horse took off at a gallop, heading straight for the grove where the women and children were running about in panic. Lindir glanced over his shoulder at Carl and gestured with his hand to show they needed to head in that direction.

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

Post for Aiwendil

The boar had chased the slaver far out on the plain until he had lost the human scent. At that point Aiwendil stopped for a moment and gazed up at the dark night sky, half expecting to glimpse a gigantic flying beast silhouetted against the empty heavens. But the wyrm was nowhere to be seen. Nor could he sense the presence of any prey close enough to hunt or even a small patch of vegetation for a quick snack. Hungry and irritated, the istar let the boar form slip away, morphed into the familiar guise of an elderly man wearing long brown robes, and began trudging back to where he had left his friends. Even in man form, his stomach continued to complain. Moreover, Aiwendil was embarrassed at having chased the slaver for such a long time without actually catching him. He was at least five miles away from camp. The fighting would likely be over by the time he had returned to the point where he’d started.

His original path had led him several miles north and east of the battle site into a territory that was strange to him. Behind his back were the shadowy peaks of the Mountains of Shadow that curved down from the north on either side of the entrance of the Plateau of Gorgoroth. The ground was littered with rocks and debris. He walked quickly and steadily southward, as his mind replayed several of the earlier battle scenes and wondered whether they should have done things differently. Aiwendil was so engrossed in these questions that he almost failed to notice the steady, rhythmic vibration of the soil beneath his feet, as if a great distant army was on the move.

Plopping down on the ground to rest for a moment, the old man finally awoke to his danger. The earth throbbed with the tramp of heavy footsteps, regular and even and definitely heading towards him. He flattened his body behind a large boulder and waited. Closer and faster the vibrations came until they were nearly upon him.

Afraid to lift up his head too far, Aiwendil remained prone, but could make out the words that were being tossed back and forth between those who now marched only fifteen feet away. It was the Black Speech: the pure Black Speech that Sauron spoke at the height of his power. Orcs did not speak like that. They used slang and often mixed in words from Westron. The only creatures who talked in this manner were the wraiths and spirits within Sauron’s inner circle, plus a chosen few of the enemy who had been taught language and twisted lore by the Dark Lord himself. Aiwendil felt a cold chill pass through his body.

Determined to get a closer look, the istar inched his body upward and was surprised to find that this was no army. It had not been the number of marchers but their size and scale that had caused the earth to shake. There were five shadow creatures encased in hard scales with forms that were taller and heavier than any Elf or Uruk that the old man had ever seen. These giants carried battle hammers in their claw like grips. Each member of the hunting party bore two or three animal carcasses slung haphazardly over his shoulder. As the last of the party tramped by and vanished in the distance, Aiwendil saw with sickening certainty that two human bodies hung casually amid the trophies.

So discouraged was the old man that he could not even bear to utter the words of Black Speech by which these monsters were called. At the same time, he tried to convince himself that this could not be happening. Gandalf had reported that, once released from Sauron’s control, these vile and cunning creatures had scattered mindlessly, wandering off without direction. Yet the members of this party clearly knew where they were going and, from the few words of the Black Speech that the old man could make out, expected to join an even larger group of cohorts in the north. Worst of all, if these were the same creatures that had terrorized Mordor in the late Third Age, their home lay in the exact spot where the fellowship and rebels had planned to establish a settlement: the foothills of the mountains within the Plateau of Gorgoroth. Right now, exhausted and battle weary, neither he nor anyone else from their own camp would dare to give chase and challenge them. But one thing was certain: if the freed slaves and fellowship continued on to the foothills, the two groups would eventually collide. With a long sigh, Aiwendil continued his slow trudge back to the sport where his friends were fighting, wondering how and when he would break this news to Lindir.

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Old 01-24-2007, 06:17 PM   #334
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Don't let the Uruks see it… Just remember who gave this pouch to you… someday I may need you to guard my back. Grask was too young to understand the finer points of the politics within the Orc band, but after Ishkur had spoken to him, he understood one thing loud and clear: the Uruks weren’t really their allies. He shouldn’t trust them.

And he realized something else: he belonged to a group; he was important to the Orcs, or at least to Ishkur. First they had let him partake of their ale, and now he had been given some coins. Even though Ishkur had told him to put them away, Grask couldn’t help but opening the little pouch up first and seeing the coins for himself. It was just as Ishkur had told him: seven coppers and two silvers. Grask felt rich. He put them away quickly, though, stowing them in his pack. Then he wandered off, wondering just how it was that he would be able to help.
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Old 01-26-2007, 11:21 AM   #335
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Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Athwen knew at once when the slavers burst in upon the women. The shouts and screams of anger and fear alerted her. She quickly finished up bandaging the wound on which she was currently working. Then she stood, glanced about her at the forms lying stretched out on the ground or huddled in a sitting position, and went to her personal pack. Beside it lay a slender belt with a dagger and sheath attached to it. She picked it up and strapped it around her waist. What good it would do her, she didn’t know, but she did not want to be without something to use as a weapon and the dagger was all she had.

The wind had dropping dramatically between the time she had first started working on the wounded and now. But by this time, it was difficult to see not because of the blowing sand, but because of the darkness of night. It was not altogether black. Athwen could make out the forms of people running hither and thither and she also spotted the few men on horseback that still rode confidently among the women and children.

Where were the men? And where were her friends – the members of the fellowship? Where was Dorran? In the dimness, she could not see anything that could answer any of these questions, unless the people she wanted to find were those bodies crumpled on the ground.

But one of those bodies was moving. It rose slowly, grasping a scraggly plant for support. Athwen, walking forward, recognized Azhar. The girl seemed dazed and hurt as she looked about her. When she tried to walk, Athwen noted a severe limp.

Before Azhar saw Athwen and before the woman could catch the girl’s attention, a tall rider seemed to materialize out from the darkness. He leaped down just beside Azhar and Athwen was forced to witness the mostly one-sided struggle. She ran forward, threading her way through rocks and bushes as best she could. In the darkness, she could see no path and no way through, and it took her too much time to reach the slaver and Azhar.

As she ran, doing her best to reach them, she watched with frantic eyes Azhar’s hands were bound. The man remounted his horse, leaving the girl on the ground, and turned the animal’s head, starting away. Azhar stumbled behind him, limping painfully on a week or hurt foot.

Athwen cleared the last bushes. She ran forward, unsure of what she would do when she reached them. Stop the horse first, she imagined. The horse was only walking quickly, he wasn’t even trotting yet. Athwen quickened her speed. She darted about the rider’s knees before he realized she was there, and she grabbed the nearest rein and brought his head about.

“What?” the slaver cried, looking down at her. He swore violently and his hand reached for his curved sword at his belt. He drew it in a flash and swung towards Athwen. She dodged beneath the horse’s neck and onto the other side. As she went, her hand reached for her own blade. The dagger flashed out and as she passed the rider’s other leg, she slashed out with it. He turned half way about, swinging his sword up again, regardless of her blow.

Athwen dodged away again, but the slaver had his horse’s head again and he was turning him about. Athwen cried aloud for fear of Azhar, still bound to the animal.

But before she could think of anything to do or where to go, another figure on horseback dashed up. She looked up and a great throb burst in her chest. She recognized the proud and handsome profile of her husband as he raised his sword and met the slaver’s blade.

Athwen turned and ran towards Azhar. The girl was sitting on the ground, her head down and her hands held gently against her ankle. Speaking gently to her, Athwen made quick work of cutting the ropes around the girl’s wrists, but the iron bracelets made her stop. She looked down at the trailing chain and picked it up. The slaver must have dropped the end while he drew his sword. She was glad of that. Azhar was at least free to go.

She turned towards the girl and knelt beside her. “Azhar, are you alright?” she asked. Azhar shook her head and lifted her face towards Athwen. Tears shown on her face and her voice sounded a little choked as she answered.

“My ankle hurts! I can hardly walk.”

“Let me help you then. Come on.” Trying hard not to sound as worried and shaken as she felt, Athwen continued, “We’ve got to get away from those two before we’re trampled on.” She helped Azhar up, slipped an arm under Azhar’s arms to give her support, and then slowly led her away.

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Old 01-30-2007, 09:56 PM   #336
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Dorran breathed a sigh of relief as he glimpsed his wife and Azhar slowly pick their way amid the wreckage of the battlefield and return to the corner of the grove where the slavers had not yet managed to break through. The sick and the injured still lay safe within that protected circle. With luck, they would be able to beat back the last of the attackers and keep them from doing much more damage. The toll of lives had already been heavy, and he had no wish to see it grow.

All this flashed through his mind in the space of no more than a few seconds. The rest of his attention was rivetted on the man who now slashed and fought opposite him. An experienced Rider of Rohan, Dorran would normally have been able to take out a fighter such as this one without too much difficulty. The man was bold and brash and wielded a great broadsword, but he lacked the discipline and patience that was the hallmark of a truly effective warrior. The two leaned out and exchanged a series of volleys on horseback, with Dorran gaining ground stroke by stroke and forcing the slaver and his horse to retreat a few feet at a time. He had maneuvered the man and his horse over to the ring of boulders that stood at the edge of the grove and was almost at the point of finishing him off when a chance blow caught him on the side of his temple.

Fire and pain rang through Dorran's head. The blow was in the exact spot where he had been wounded the day before when he and Shae had first ridden out on the plains. Struggling to keep a grip on the reins, Dorran saw a thousand stars flash before his eyes. A grey curtain descended as his body slumped to one side and he slipped from his horse, falling to the ground with a thud.
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Old 01-31-2007, 07:18 AM   #337
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Lindir:

Lindir's eyes widened in alarm as he turned to the side and caught a glimpse of Dorran toppling to the ground. He dashed forward across the grove as only an elf can do, intent on reaching the fallen man before the slaver could react. By the time Lindir made it to the boulders, the slaver had already whipped out a large net and taken aim for Dorran. Once the snare had tightened, he eagerly reached out and prepared to drag his captive onto the front of this saddle. One good heave and he had accomplished his goal, whipped his horse around, and begun to gallop off with his prize.

Lindir again pulled an arrow from his quiver and took aim at the man. Being careful to avoid Dorran's body, which was still encased in the net and hanging lengthwise across the horse's withers, he put the nock to the string and let the arrow loose. An instant later and the slaver had keeled to the ground, the shaft protruding from his back. For the second time that day, Dorran fell with a thud, tumbling off the horse onto the rocky ground.

Lindir sprinted over to where Dorran lay and cradled the Rider's body in his arms, heading towards the back of the grove where the injured had been taken. All around him noise and confusion reigned. At least two more slavers, the final ones still standing upright on the battlefield, had joined their original three companions in trying to assault the inner grove. But slowly and gradually, the freed slaves and members of the fellowship were beating back the attack.

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Old 01-31-2007, 11:36 AM   #338
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Carl and Dirand rode off in the direction Lindir indicated, following the slaver’s horse toward the grove. And as he renewed his grip on the reins, Carl’s forearm burned mightily, but he kept his eyes fixed on the black horse in front of him as it reappeared between a large stone and the scrub brush, arching its way through the chaotic landscape. In pursuit, the borrowed mount amazed its ungainly riders, closing the distance with sure footed agility, so that the hobbit fancied the beast’s own heart were set on defeating the slavers. But in truth the horse was accustomed to hunting men, and had been trained to it, becoming well-versed in what was required to follow such wily prey.

Unfortunately, neither the old man Dirand, nor Carl had the benefit of such training themselves, and poor slavers they would have made. For when the horse in front of him suddenly leapt into the air in order to clear the rambling bushes, Carl was horrified to see a knot of cowering children directly in front of him, held captive there in a heavily tangled net. He closed his eyes and pushed his heels down, leaning forward to take hold of the blowing mane, as his own horse jumped over them. At the same instant he felt Dirand slide off the horse behind him, followed by a chorus of shrill cries. Then there was a sharp jolt as the horse found the ground again, and the hobbit too, fell from the saddle.

Bruised, but in one piece, Carl stood up to find that he had fallen next to the body of an older woman. ”Brenna,” he exclaimed in disbelief, “Aw mercy ...not Gwennith too!” he said, feeling it as a blow to his heart. And as his focus widened, he saw that the small grove was strewn with bodies, and the fighting continued. Carl quickly knelt beside Brenna and her two companions, hoping to find some sign of life in them, but they were already blanched white, and it was rapidly apparent that he should tend to the living.

Getting up once more, Carl ran to the other side of the brush where Dirand was trying to free the children from the net with one hand. He wore a grimace on his face as he hacked away at the plant with his sword, his other arm dangling limply at his side. “Careful with that sword there man!” Carl said. “Are you all right?”

“I've done something to my arm, Carl, and it hurts like nothing I've known. Can you get these youngsters out for me? I can't manage it,” Dirand pleaded, handing the hobbit his sword. Carl took the took it from him, but quickly set it aside, asking to see the old man's arm. He could clearly see that it had been pushed out of joint at the shoulder, and so taking it he pulled, twisting it carefully until he heard it pop back in it's place.

“Your sure to be sore after that one, but a lucky man you are that you didn't break it!” the hobbit said taking his belt and quickly tying Dirand's arm to his chest. Together then, they both finished cutting the net free, releasing the children, who looked to them for direction. But Carl didn't know what to tell them.

“Go lay on the ground near the stones, and play like you are dead. Don't move and don't speak,” Dirand instructed them. “Not until the fighting is done. And watch out for the horses!” the old man added, as an after thought. Carl realized grimly that if he and all of his companions were dead or captured, these poor children would inevitably be discovered by the slavers. But neither could they fend for themselves in this rough land, so fleeing was as good as a slow death, and Dirand's advice was sound. But how many might already be scattered out on the plain?

The wide-eyed children did as they were told, and the hobbit and the old man ran to enter the grove again, were the fighting was thick. Five slavers and the riderless horses were milling about the small space as old and young alike sought to rout them.

Carl was dismayed to see that Dorran was down. But Lindir, who had made it back safely had reached him, and was carrying him away. And spotting a particular fight quickly going sour, as a strong young man was expertly drawn away from the others and cornered with his back to a rock, Dirand and Carl quickly joined the fray, plaguing the rider's horse, so when it reached around trying to bite them, the man was able to extricate himself. Together the three of them followed that horse, as the slaver turned to join the others, and where the slaver that Carl and Dirand had chased, was now yelling something roughly to the others, in a language Carl could not understand.

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Old 02-03-2007, 07:38 PM   #339
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Victory of a Free People

The dead bodies Shae and Khamir came across as they entered the grove were frightening, and they began to think the worst. He saw a woman and a child, and he knew that the slavers really had attacked those most helpless. With what strength they had, the two former slaves headed toward the sounds of battle, though the sensible parts of their minds tried to instruct them otherwise. As the screams and shouts grew louder, the two saw two other figures ahead of them, obviously slavers, heading in the same direction. Khamir marveled at how deep into the grove the Easterlings had managed to get, and he felt sick not only because of his wounds and exhaustion.

“Let’s try to be quiet,” the Southron whispered to Shae, “If we can sneak up on those guys, we’ll have a chance.”

Shae nodded in response, and they crept farther into the grove, in the footsteps of the golden-clad men. When the two slavers suddenly lurched forward, weapons raised, Khamir and Shae raced forward, as well. The one-armed man screamed in pain as he leapt off of both his good and bad leg, but he managed to propel himself onto one of the enemies, plunging his knife down as he did, forcing the blade into the back of the Easterling’s neck.

As the man fell before him, Khamir stumbled forward himself, and he found his eyes watching the ground, the dying body, and the other end of his dagger come at him, knowing that his reaction would be too slow to stop himself from…

Something suddenly crossed into his line of vision and he felt himself hit something soft, and felt a strong grip on his arm. He was righted, and found himself staring into the eyes of Beloan. Khamir could only smile in gratitude, and his friend smiled back. Then they both turned to Shae, to see her sheathing her own knife, the other Easterling dead at her feet with stab wounds from both Beloan and the woman, from forward and behind. Khamir smirked: his two friends were already on the move again, and he was left to slump to the ground next to his latest kill.

There came a shout retreat from one of the slavers who still persisted in battle: “Retreat, these dogs can bite!” The Easterling raged in his own tongue as he broke away from confrontation and took off out of the grove, almost stumbling over dead bodies as he went. The others followed as best they could. Some of the former slaves who still had fervor in them chased after their enemies or fired at them with their bows. But it was clear that even all of the energy these fighters had left wasn’t put into this effort. Khamir smiled. They were not like those Easterlings, they were better, and they had won…

A groan shook the form he had thought forever-still in front of him. His heart leapt, and as if by reflex he reached for a throwing dagger. The blade was drawn, but Khamir did not move into action, even as he watched the slaver wrench the knife out of himself and struggle slowly to his feet. The Southron had worried there was not enough force behind his blade, and he had not gotten to finish the job…but he did not regret it.

The Easterling gripped Khamir’s knife as he turned around to face the one-armed man. The enemies’ eyes met, but neither attacked. The slaver threw the blade onto the ground and took off after his companions. Khamir watched him go, and did nothing. He looked up, and saw Shae looking at him, her face startlingly blank.

“We are free!” Beloan roared, his voice louder and stronger than his friend had ever heard it. The response was loud and heart-felt, if a little ragged.

Shae and Beloan did their best to help Khamir to Athwen and the wounded, as his leg began to refuse to support his weight at all, but each helped support the other just to keep them standing, all three exhausted and hurt. The one-armed man was relieved to see so many of his companions alive, if not all very well. Lindir was carrying Dorran, but reported he was still alive. Vrór was still unconscious, but his breathing was slowly returning to normal. Carl was wounded, but still on his feet, and Athwen was still fine. Rôg had only recently awakened, but it seemed he was recovering nicely. Khamir could momentarily forget the dead.

But the Southron had left Adnan conscious, so when he saw the young man lying still on the ground, he broke away from his friends and stumbled towards him. And though he found the boy was breathing, he sat down beside him and would not leave.

The battle was over, but as he looked around him at Vrór and Adnan and others lying bandaged and suffering, he knew the fight was not over, and remembered that their journey was far from it.

Now he knew they could do it, though – and they would make it. They could be free people, together.

Last edited by Durelin; 02-04-2007 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 02-04-2007, 03:43 PM   #340
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Khamir and Adnan

The movement and sounds around him, from shouts of joy to grieving sobbing, blurred as Khamir felt his mind drifting and his eyelids willing themselves shut. Shae was alive, Adnan was alive, Beloan, Hadith, Johari… It was over, and he could rest now…sleep now…

“Where’d they go?” a hoarse voice asked beside him. His eyes snapped open to meet Adnan’s. Khamir smiled, glad to see the boy awake. He snorted a laugh as he watched Adnan try to sit up, shaking his head.

“They’re gone. We’ve won. So there will be no more heroics for you,” he grinned, but the young man didn’t smile back, and looked away.

“I did nothing heroic,” Adnan murmured bitterly, obviously finding it difficult to allow the words out of his mouth. “The…the way…what I did…” he turned his eyes back to Khamir, “It was wrong.”

Khamir sighed and frowned with concern. The way the boy had…slaughtered that slaver had scared him, he knew. Perhaps the blood he saw cover Adnan, who had put childhood behind him by only a few years, had made him stay his hand in the end, because he had grown so sick of it.

“But that’s what makes you different from people like them,” Khamir told the young man with quiet severity and sincerity, “from those slavers – you know it was wrong.”

Adnan was silent for a moment. When he spoke again his voice was strangely hollow, the obvious emotion missing from its tone. “He used to beat me and laugh. He was an Easterling. I hate them. All of them.”

The younger man’s confession made his actions suddenly clear to Khamir, and tore at his heart. “And how does vengeance feel?” the one-armed man asked. More silence followed, while Khamir listened to both his and the boy’s ragged breaths.

“Terrible.”

Last edited by Durelin; 02-18-2007 at 11:13 AM.
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Old 02-10-2007, 12:06 PM   #341
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Gwerr (and Ishkur)

Gwerr had gone through Imak's tent just to be secure there wasn't something worthy of plundering left. But there wasn't. Then he went to Thunderclap and patted it slightly deep in his thoughts. Ooh, what a name... Please Ishkur!

Gwerr wasn't basically a friendly fellow. The millenia's he had lived had learned him not to be. But horses were his weak spot or at least as weak as anything could get with him. They were powerful and independent but still manageable creatures. Once a horse had saved his life... or he had saved his life with the help of a horse. It was how you looked at it, back then in Dagor Bragollach... Those were times... he sighed quietly to himself and took hold of Thunderclap's reins.

"Fine creature you are for someone who's not an orc", he whispered to it's ear. He worked with the horse easily enough so that it didn't fear him anymore but was settling down from all the excitement it had had earlier.

"Cool boy... cool boy, just relax mate. You're our treasureholder now and we wish you to stay calm... easy and calm..."

Suddenly there were noises outside the tent and soon Ishkur was back in looking curiously at Gwerr tending the horse.

"So Gwerr the cold, loving the beast or the gold now are you?" he smiled as he walked to the ale-barrell.

"Oh, shut up you sunshine!" Gwerr replied tightly and left the horse. "So mr. good-will, have you already spread all of your gold in a whim of human generosity?", he added as he came to the barrell as well.

The two looked at each other deep into each other's eyes, measuring their feelings and relative positions yet again.

"Just leave it Gwerr!" Ishkur said at last, taking a long draught from his goblet, after which he belched loudly and then laughed. "We're cool now. Don't you worry my friend. Take some more ale!" With that Ishkur sat down, looking satisfied.

Gwerr emptied his goblet and filled it again from the barrell. He studied Ishkur for a while while still standing but then settled down to sit beside him. He played with the goblet in his hands for a moment, took a sip and then addressed Ishkur in a more serious manner. He had been thinking about this for a time now.

"Now tell me my troubled mate, when are the slavers coming back? And is this Elven-king coming back as well?"

"How the blazes I would know that?" he replied from instinct but immediately thought better of it: Gwerr looked concerned and Ishkur had now noticed it.

"You're right, most of the males are drunk as Mordor. Zuhut and Griwzan have more or less passed out already and a couple of the Uruk-brutes were on their way to it... Colagar was half to his senses, I guess."

The two orcs looked at each other. The situation was not a good one and they both realised it.

Last edited by Nogrod; 02-13-2007 at 03:40 PM.
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Old 02-11-2007, 09:56 PM   #342
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Makdush:

"Have you fools lost your minds?" Makdush glared at Illak and Kurrak, picked up one of the empty ale flagons that someone had tossed to the ground, and sent it hurtling in Illak's direction. The cup nicked the Uruk on the side of the temple and elicited an immediate response. Roaring in discontent, Illak drew out a sword and stumbled forward towards Makdush, waving his weapon wildly. The taller Uruk pushed the blade harmlessly to one side, toppling Illak to the ground and sneering at him, "You're drunk. both of you, drunk and worthless. What happens if the slavers return or those who fight them? You're just asking to have your skulls cracked open. Gah, you make me sick."

Makdush stepped back from the firepit where they had been sitting and stamped off through the camp, looking for any orcs who had managed to keep their heads clear and their wits about them. His search was singularly unsuccessful. The women and younger orcs had seemingly disappeared, but every one of the warriors were deep in their cups and unable to stand upright, let alone attempt to fight. It was only when he got to the largest tent in the middle of the campsite, the place where he had stolen the sword that belonged to the slavers' leader, that he heard coherent voices coming from within.

Pushing back the flap of the tent, Makdush stuck his head inside and saw two familiar figures: Ishkur and Gwerr. Scowling and cursing, the Uruk pushed his way in and immediately turned on Ishkur: "This is your fault. You brought us here. Have you seen what is happening? They are all roaring drunk....Uruk and orc warriors alike. And the women? They must have taken to their heels and run. They're nowhere in camp. So what do you propose to do if the slavers return? Or what if the slaves are victorious and they come for their spoils?" Makdush glared straight at Ishkur all the while cursing himself for having taken up with such a worthless band of ill disciplined and empty headed fools.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 02-12-2007 at 03:20 AM.
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Old 02-12-2007, 09:02 AM   #343
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For the second time in less than two days, Dorran found himself lying flat on his back, struggling to make sense of the tumult and confusion that assaulted his senses on every side. The grove was a muddled mass of people running back and forth; their buzzing noise only exacerbated the throbbing sensation inside his head. Dorran's fingers inched upward to his temple where he discovered the edge of a dressing that someone had bound neatly about his temples.

Considerable numbers of the injured lay stretched out on the ground waiting for someone to come and care for their wounds. Dorran pushed against the foggy haze that threatened to send him reeling back into darkness. He could remember the last frantic minutes of his struggle with the slaver and how Athwen had managed to untie Azhar and lead her away. Slowly and with some pain, he scanned the grove looking for a familiar face. He immediately noted that all the slavers had been killed or driven away. Despite his discomfort, the Rider reacted with the quick instincts of an experienced fighter. He wanted to learn how their own group had fared and, just as importantly, what their next step would be. Where was Vrór, Carl, Rôg or Lindir? Had Azhar and Shae and Kwell made it through the battle? And, most important of all, exactly where was his wife? Dorran groggily sat up and called out with an unsteady voice, trying to get someone's attention.

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Old 02-14-2007, 08:51 AM   #344
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Athwen let Azhar slip quietly to the ground with her back against a rock as soon as they came to the place where the wounded were gathered. As she straightened slowly, Athwen passed a quick hand over Azhar’s forehead, checking once more to see if any remnant of a fever had returned with the girl’s recent excursion. Besides the heat of movement, there was no unnatural, feverishness there. Azhar winced and drew her leg back so that she could wrap her hand around it. Athwen nodded in approval. Pressure would help the pain.

“Azhar,” she said. “You stay here and wait for me. I must see to the more pressing wounds over here. You can wait, can’t you?”

Azhar looked beyond Athwen at the figures of wounded men, some sitting in a hunched position, other lying flat on their backs, and still others lying in twisted forms in their attempts to relieve pain of wounds. She nodded, understanding, and Athwen turned away.

She walked forward to resume her work once more, but her footsteps halted suddenly as she saw Lindir walking slowly into sight, encumbered with the body of Dorran held tightly and carefully in his arms. She dashed forward with beating heart and reached them just as Lindir was lowering Dorran to the ground.

“What’s wrong? What happened? Is he killed?”

It was really her job to find out, but she had forgotten that for an instant. But as Lindir spoke as assuringly as he could that Dorran was not killed and that he thought Dorran was only knocked out, Athwen’s wits came back to her at once. Quick observation told her more than Lindir could - Dorran was still breathing quite steadily and his blood still pumped.

“Silly man,” she murmured, as her fingers gently explored the new bash on his head. “You would go and bump your head again.” She skipped up to her feet, took a few steps away to reach her bag and came back immediately. She drew a strip of bandage from it and quickly and gently bound it about Dorran’s bleeding head. Lindir was still standing nearby when she had finished. Athwen stood and turned to him. “Lindir, what else needs to be done? Is the fighting over?”

“I believe it is,” Lindir replied, turning and looking out. “The last of them have been repulsed and have ridden away. We must gather the scattered women and children and then decide what is next to be done.”

“If there are still some of us who are not wounded and not scattered, can they not help me?” Athwen asked. “I have run out of water. And if there are any more wounded out there, they need to be brought back.” Her eyes strayed passed Lindir to watch Khamir as he was helped, limping, back to the grove. “If there is anyone who knows a single thing about such work as this, or anyone who is smart enough to learn, I’d want them, too,” she said, looking back at Lindir.

“Well,” the elf began doubtfully, “I’ll see what can be done.”

“Thank you,” Athwen replied, smiling slightly, and then she turned back to work and Lindir went out. Athwen walked forward, checking on each of the people there, taking stock of what she had done and what she had yet to do.

Beside Adnan, who had lost consciousness (Athwen was more likely to believe it was from loss of blood than from faintness of heart) while she had not yet finished tending to him, Khamir now sat, leaning heavily against the wall of rock. His eyes were shut and his face seemed almost relaxed. Athwen knew that his leg was hurt - he had limped badly as he came - but she did not know to what extent it was wounded.

Near those two, Vrôr lay. He had not moved at all since he had been first brought on. Last Athwen had checked, his breathing had evened out. She thought he would soon be coming to himself.

Then there was Hadith, the first one she had dealt with. He, too, had not really come back to a real waking. Her eyes continued to sweep the small enclosement. Two she did not know were sitting in miserable silence, enduring as mutely as they could their wounds. One had had an arrow through his calf, rendering him almost useless in any attempt to chase anyone and fight. He had made it back to the grove slowly and painfully, helped part of the way by a companion who he said had been killed. The other had been knocked down by a horse and then trampled upon by another one. Athwen suspected at least one broken rib as well has a broken collar bone and arm. She shook her head and her eyes passed on as she thought, ‘You are actually rather lucky...’

There were three who had died of their wounds - the blades that had cut them or the arrows that had pierced them had either caused so much blood to flow before she could stop it that they died slowly, or had struck upon those important portals of blood that carried the human life and they had died quickly and surely. Her eyes lingered on one of those. He lay with a look of peace on his face now. It had been a long struggle that had ended only a few minutes earlier. She had tried to fight for him, to help him, but to no avail. He had died with her hands still struggling to preserve his life.

There were still others that she had not yet fully tended to. Their wounds were painful, but once she had seen to it that the bleeding would stop, they were not so dangerous as to be rushed to immediately. Now she had time, but no water.

Her eye suddenly caught a movement. She looked across the short space sharply and saw Dorran moving. His hand lifted to his head and he touched the new bandage. He lay there a moment, seemingly trying to see about him. Then, to Athwen’s astonishment and disapproval, he sat up. One hand was pressed against his head, but his eyes were open and he was calling.

Athwen thread her way carefully through the bodies between her and Dorran and then ran forward and knelt before him on one knee. Her hands pressed against his shoulders, urging him to lay back down.

“What do you think you’re doing, dearest?” she asked, with only the slightest sound reproval in her voice. “Stay down. You’re trembling like a leaf already with the attempt of sitting up.” It was only a slight tremor, true, but enough for her to make an excuse to keep him down. “Dorran, it’s not good that you got hit again.”

“I can’t say it was my idea,” Dorran answered with a grimace.

“Sure it was not. But it was yours to try to sit up. Now, will you promise to lie still until I’ve had a chance to assess the damage done to your skull?”....

Last edited by Folwren; 02-14-2007 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:19 PM   #345
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One part of Lindir’s mind was filled with relief. Despite the slaves’ lack of battle experience and their assortment of ragtag weapons, they had actually managed to prevail on the field. They had killed or driven off the last of the slavers who had threatened to wrench away their freedom. For the moment, they could rejoice in their success.

Yet the hours immediately following a battle are never easy, and this time was no exception. Three companions of Lindir--Vrór, Rôg, and Dorran--lay among the injured, while Aiwendil was nowhere to be seen. Aiwendil’s disappearance did not surprise the elf. His earlier dealings with Gandalf had taught him that wizards have a way of vanishing at the most unexpected times. He supposed that the old man would soon reappear but where or when that would be he could not guess. Still, it was a bad time for Aiwendil to be missing. Carl was a tough fighter and had suffered only a minor scrape, but he had even less experience in the conduct and aftermath of war than either Aiwendil or Rôg. The temporary loss of Vrór and Dorran was even harder to take. Lindir missed both their counsel and friendship. .

Lindir had spent the past hour doggedly trying to organize the camp. He had done the practical things that were necessary: securing helpers for Athwen, bringing in the wounded from the field, and beginning the difficult job of collecting the bodies of those who had died. But the latter had proven to be an overwhelming task for the solitary elf. Gathering up the bodies of the two children who had been killed, he had carried them over to the makeshift byre, placing them gently amid the tangled boughs. They were too young, even by the standards of a mannish lifespan. Born into slavery, these little ones had come so close to winning a real life, but had been denied at the last moment. Could he have done something differently to stop this terrible thing from happening? Lindir’s mind circled feverishly as he asked himself this question.

Gloomily he reflected that there would be no grave or memorial for any who had fallen in today’s battle. The best that could be offered was a pile of cold ashes in a distant land. Lindir felt old shadows return: ghosts of memories from bitter wars fought in the First and Second Age that refused to slip away. In those hard times, there had been young victims too. He remembered one in particular: a young friend wrenched away from his mother’s arms and carried off or slain by one of Morgoth’s raiding parties. Sometimes it seemed as if the cycle would never end.
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Old 02-15-2007, 11:08 AM   #346
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Kwell

Kwell felt drained of all strength by the time the last living slaver took to his heels. The world was dim, but not as dark as it had been when night first fell. The clouds that had covered the stars were slowly being torn apart and were sliding quietly away in tatters and shreds. The wind below had dropped and the sand and dirt stayed in its rightful place - on the ground. Kwell drew a deep breath - the first in seemed since that morning - and slumped down on a rock.

He was not allowed to sit thus for long. Someone passing soon urged him to his feet and he was given a bucket to go fetch water for the healer. He was kept busy for a while, with other random and small tasks. Soon, the only duties left to be done were gathering the dead, helping with the wounded, or searching and bringing back whatever wood or brush they could find. Kwell set out with some others and began to search for dead bracken, bushes, or trees.

During this simple bit of work, though his hands were busy with the wood, his mind was free to roam. The territory it walked over was not kind to him. His thoughts were darkened with guilt and self-loathing. He could not help but think that at least some of the deaths among the women and children might have been prevented if he had been there.

He came back to the place of the battle and as he laid his load of fuel, he looked at the dead that had already been gathered near. Lindir was there now, setting the limp body of a child down. Kwell looked at the little boy’s face and then slowly lifted his eyes to the elf’s. Lindir was not looking at him. Kwell thought he might not even be aware of his presence. The two of them were fairly alone - the others worked at a small distance. Kwell wanted to speak to him. He had to approach him, he had to apologize, and above all, he must know what Lindir thought now. Kwell was more ashamed now than he ever had been before. Ashamed and not a little apprehensive of what the elf might do when addressed. But Kwell must speak, he must.

He slowly came about the pile of wood. His feet moved slowly and uncertainly, his heart thumping loudly in his chest. Lindir did not turn or make a movement or sign of being aware of him until Kwell was just a few feet away. Then he turned his head and looked down at the boy.

Kwell stopped his feet abruptly, shut his half open lips and looked back at the elf’s eyes. “Sir,” he finally managed to bring himself to say. “I am. . .I am sorry for leaving the glade. You told me to stay and. . .” he looked down towards the ground as he felt his heart sinking. “I didn’t stay. I went down to try to meet the battle down at the camp.” He was too miserable to try to say anything else and he shut his mouth and waited with his head bowed.
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Old 02-15-2007, 02:09 PM   #347
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Lindir and Kwell:

"Kwell? That is your name, I think." The boy's sense of guilt and shame was written clearly on his face. "At first I wondered where you'd gotten to. Then I saw you fighting beside the trench but it was not the time to speak. Ah. lad.....how do I put this?" Lindir stopped for a moment and turned away from the boy, staring at the great byre on which the bodies were laid. He continued staring at the byre as he talked, "You are a lad caught up in things that should not be: things that are hard even for a full grown man or Elf to deal with. No, you should not have left without speaking to me or at least to Aiwendil, who was in charge of defending the grove. If you had explained what you wanted to do, I would have thought hard on your words and very likely agreed. That way, I would have known where you'd gotten to. A man fights best where his heart lies but it is also important that those in charge know where their people are."

He turned from the byre and gazed down at the boy. "The important thing is that you are alive and well and did everything possible you could. No one could fault your conduct in battle. Others have mentioned to me that they were amazed anyone so young could fight like a grown man. Next time, just ask. I wish I could tell you there would be no "next time" but I can not.

"We all regret some of our decisions....things we wish we could change. When I look at what happened in this grove, I wonder if we should have told the women and children to march out last night from this place so they would have been far away when the fighting occurred. Or we might have sent more men out on the plain for a surprise attack on the slavers before they ever got to the camp. Questions like those are eating away at me. If anyone bears responsibility for what happened here, it is not you, Kwell, but those in charge."

Lindir put his hand on Kwell's shoulder before going on, "You will never forget what happened here. No man or elf forgets his first battle. But when you think on these things, also remember this. No battle is completely "good", even with victory. Victory can not bring back those who died. Their loss pulls at the heart no matter whether you are the one in charge or not. I too wonder if I should have done some things differently. But I am only an elf, not one of the powers on high who understands the music. So the only thing left for us to do is go on and live our lives in a way that brings some meaning to their loss. I do not know if you or I could have prevented deaths by doing anything differently. But I am very sure this battle was worth fighting, even if the price was high."

"Kwell, you are young. Decide differently next time. But do not let your grieving stop you from doing something even more important.....learning how to live with your mistakes, if mistakes they be, and going on from there. I am afraid both of us have spent too much time dwelling on things set in stone and not enough time thinking about what we can and must do next. What say you, boy? Will you help me out? Run through the camp and deliver a message to each of those who can make it to the spot where the central campfire burned last night. We must decide what to do next if we are to keep this group safe and go forward to the north. Looking on the ruins of battle can only tear at a man's heart. We must begin thinking about tomorrow....."

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

Folwren's post for Kwell


The elf was gentle in his reply. Kwell had expected anything – anything except this response. The elf seemed to understand, and where he could not understand, he forgave. At first, even Lindir’s gentle words could not clear away the shame and regret Kwell felt. But as he went on, Kwell’s head began to lift a little more, and he felt he could look Lindir in the face.

Kwell promised himself that next time (for Lindir thought there must be another time), he would do better. He must do better, for he felt he had to deserve this elf’s trust and his forgiveness. He didn’t deserve them now. He had never done anything to deserve any such kindness, and the thought made his head droop again.
" If anyone bears responsibility for what happened here, it is not you, Kwell, but those in charge." It was not the deaths Kwell mourned, though. He knew so few people. It was own guilt. Yet, maybe Lindir knew that. Kwell felt Lindir’s hand rest on his shoulder. "You will never forget what happened here."

It was then that the tears first entered Kwell’s eyes. He swallowed, but for some reason, he did not feel the usual anger at crying like a maid. There were reasons to cry now. Forget what happened? The images of his companions who had died, and even of the men he had killed, rose before his mind’s eye, even his physical eyes were blurred beyond vision. He listened in silence to the rest of what Lindir said.

“I am afraid both of us have spent too much time dwelling on the thing set in stone and not enough time thinking about what we can and must do next. What say you boy? Will you help me?” Kwell’s head began to come up once more. “Run through camp and deliver a message to each of those who can make it to the spot where the central campfire burned last night. We must decide what to do next if we are going to keep this group safe and go forward to the north. Looking on the ruins of battle can only tear at a man’s heart. We must begin thinking about tomorrow.”

Kwell reached forward impulsively and grasped the elf’s hands. “Yes. Yes, I will, sir! Thank you, thank you so much!” He could say no more. His voice choked, and he let go of Lindir’s hand as he turned to rush away and take his message to every able man and woman.

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Old 02-15-2007, 02:47 PM   #348
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Carl

Once the immediate threat of the slavers' was dispersed, the heavy cost of the battle made itself keenly felt, and Carl walked about the camp stunned by what he saw, as all were trying to recover a sense of equanimity. He searched for his friends only to find them missing, or injured. So few were unscathed. But most distressing it was to learn that Vŕor had spent the initial assault buried in the tunnel, while he himself had stood just a few yards away, absorbed as he was in leading his handful of archers. Oh how his mind fixed on the fact, as so many regrets rose to his mind while his thoughts drifted.

But when Lindir spied the hobbit's aimless meandering, for Dirand had by now left him to look after his own friends, the elf had quickly set Carl to work with the others who could still heave and carry. Together they gathered all the dead, along with the shields and weapons they found strewn about the camp. And a morbid debate quickly broke out over whether they should distribute the such items as the dead slavers' boots or tunics. The hobbit shuttered, shying away from speaking his thoughts on the matter. And he quickly left, seeing the young man in whose care he had left his pony Stumps. But the dark haired fellow could not look the hobbit in the eye, for he had lost track of the animal through no fault of his own. And the sad tale soon spilled from him. Very early on in the battle, the confusion proved too much for the docile natured beast, and he had been so nervous that the man admitted, he could not afford to ride him, and so had dismounted. Terrified Stumps, once free of his burden had fled toward the east.

Carl closed his eyes and hung his head for a moment, before lifting them again to meet the young man's apologies. Quickly dismissing the former slave's acceptance of responsibility, the hobbit declared it his own fault. He should have reckoned on the old farm horse not taking well to battle. Frankly, he felt as if Stumps was not the only representative of the Shire to be of that disposition today. Walking slowly back to were the pyres now blazed in the dim light of dawn, he stood watching the flames, as he fingered the stone in his pocket. He should never have assumed any of them would have been safe. Taking out his replica of the old woman's stone, he looked at it, his heart brimming with bitter sorrow. Just then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“What are you doing with one of Brenna's stones?” Dirand asked gently.

“I don't know anything anymore” Carl answered. And moving forward he laid the stone that he had made when sitting beside a cheerier blaze, in the embers at the base of the pyre before turning to his new friend again. “I had hoped that I could have learned about her and why she made such a stones. Any chance that you know why she did?”

“No, not really,” the old man mused, shaking his head. “Perhaps out of some sadness?”

Carl nodded mutely, and after a moment he spoke again, “You were good Dirand, to try to help those children even when the bones of your arm had gone so awry.”

“Nay Carl. I'm not so good. And is any one of us, when it comes down to it? After all who as else is there to look after me in my old age, but those self same children.” And as the hobbit stared up at him in disbelief, Dirand's sober expression bloomed into a mischievous smile, and he winked at the farmer.

Carl smiled weakly. “I think you are a far site kinder than you pretend to be, Dirand. And you'd make someone a good gaffer some day, though I have my suspicions you'd act all unwilling at the start! You're as soft as a downy chick, you are!”

"Well, you can think what you like about me, today. But don't say I haven't be straight forward with you. And if you think that I'm all that soft, then I think you the most simple soul I have met in a long while. No offence, mind. It is a good thing, by all acounts."

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Old 02-17-2007, 05:47 PM   #349
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"Yes, I've seen it. I have eyes in my head. But how is this my fault? Am I the one who is making them act like fools? I told them to come up to the camp for a drop of brew, not to drink themselves into the ground. I've had my share of ale but I know when to stop. As for the women, how should I know where they are? What do you expect me to be.....a nursemaid?"

Ishkur glowered at Makdush but neither orc nor Uruk drew out their weapon. There was silence in the tent. Finally, Ishkur grunted and spoke, "Makdush, I don't know what you are going to do. But Gwerr and I were leaving. Neither of us wants to be here after the men return." Ishkur threw a warning glance at Gwerr hoping that he wouldn't open his mouth and blab that they had never even talked about that. "Now, if you'll get out of the way, Uruk, I have to mount my horse."

Ishkur turned to his friend. "Gwerr, if you like, we can ride double. Let's head back to camp. As to you," Ishkur glared at Makdush. "Do what you want. Stay or leave. Just stay clear." Ishkur flashed a look over at Makdush that was halfway between a grin and a grimace "And don't forget. Right now there's two of us and just one of you!"

With that, Makdush backed out of the tent.
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Old 02-18-2007, 11:13 AM   #350
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Vrór

It was tugging at him. Something was tugging at him, pulling him back toward the surface. He crashed through another layer of thin glass, sending ripples throughout his body, jolting reminders of living, breathing, and bleeding. Breaking through the next layer brought awareness of extreme pain, and he found himself trying to claw his way down to no avail. Luckily a veil of numbness fell with the next layer, and then the rest of the senses began falling into place. The ground was gritty. He could hear again, and he heard so much painful groaning that he was almost afraid to open his eyes, when a million blurs slowly began to focus. Colours poured in until there was a starry sky above him, and greens and browns flooded the peripheral.

Vrór realized that his mouth was open, and the groans were his. He quickly shut his lips, and ground his teeth together to keep himself silent as he adjusted his mind to this rediscovered awareness of his body, and all the aches and pains that went with it. His breath huffed and puffed out of him, and next he tried to regulate it. But his heart was beating, blood was pumping, air moved in and out of him, so his mind could move on to the more complex parts of his consciousness.

Why in Middle-earth does my head hurt so bloody badly? he wondered.

Khamir and Adnan

When the young boy Kwell delivered the message that Lindir called for the able-bodied men, to bring them together for planning, Adnan immediately began to rise. Khamir laughed, and reached out to place a hand on the boy’s chest, pushing him softly back down. It still did not take much force; the younger man was clearly still quite weak.

“You may be all patched up as best as you can be,” the one-armed man told his young friend, “but you’ve lost a lot of blood. Moving around is going to push your recovery back even further.”

Adnan let out a frustrated growl, and Khamir grinned at him. “With that spirit, as long as you resist any foolishness, you’ll be back to fighting the baddies again in no time.” The older Southron was still a little surprised at how optimistic he could be, and how playful, but it had become clear to him that Adnan was bringing out a lot of qualities in him that he stubbornly admitted he liked.

‘Taking care’ of the young man was good for him, and kept his mind off of his own pain, physical and otherwise. The boy was living and breathing, and regardless of how he appeared, fairly happy. Others were not so…lucky? Was it really just that Reagonn and Zaki and Tareef and so many others were unlucky? They were sacrifices, he decided. It sounded cold, but it meant much to him.

Sacrificing for others was something he was never good at. It had always been most important to him that he live. It was his life, and it was all he had, and…it was his. But now he realized that because it was his it was also his to give. Perhaps Reagonn and the others had not planned or wanted to give their lives, but they had all chosen to risk them. That was sacrifice. Not anything glamorous or extravagant, not even a deep emotional decision to make.

Maybe it was just…for a moment you forgot – it was a moment of insanity.

Khamir had not thought of his life only because he did not have time to, with all the other faces that filled his head and his heart with concern. And looking at Adnan, battered but alive, he could smile, he could even feel proud. They had accomplished much this night. And it was not quite over. Khamir slowly rose, keeping his teeth clenched to not let a sound out.

“What about you?” Adnan demanded angrily.

The one-armed Southron placed his hand on the boy’s head and ruffled his hair. Adnan sneered. “I’m bigger than you still,” he said teasingly, “I have more blood.” With teeth clenched he limped over toward Lindir where the others were beginning to gather. It made little sense to Adnan, but he was for once not in the mood to argue much. He about pounded at the ground with his fist, but luckily stopped himself before using his…partial hand, as he thought of it. He looked down at the bandaged mass, and marveled at how he could not feel that anything was missing. Of course, he could not feel much of anything at all.

When he heard some very low, gruff grunts and groans from nearby, Adnan pushed himself up further as best he could to look around. He noticed a large object moving beneath a blanket, and soon recognized from the greying orange hair that it was the very short…man, or whatever he was, named Vrór, who he had helped carry to safety. Was he awake? Did that mean he was going to be alright? His heart jumped as his eyes darted around. Had anyone else noticed? What if the small man needed help, needed water, or…

“Athwen!” he called, “Miss Athwen! Somebody! It’s Vrór!” Hopefully the healer had time to see him, at least, to make sure he did not need anything immediately, whatever that anything might be.
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Old 02-27-2007, 08:02 AM   #351
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Aiwendil:

A small brown thrush, a bird rarely seen in Mordor, angled his way across the heavens, heading back towards the camp where his journey had begun. Aiwendil was so intent on rejoining his companions that he almost missed the handful of riders approaching from the west. They had been riding hard but were now stopped for a moment of rest. Curious about the men, the thrush flew in that direction and flitted down to perch on a nearby crag of tumbled boulders. The cliffs rose straight up from the plains and totally encircled the land, making a kind of small canyon where travelers could take shelter from the wind and weather. Aiwendil was close enough to hear the men and see what they were doing. He immediately recognized them as the last bedraggled remnant of the once proud band that had attacked their camp earlier that day. The istar let out a sigh. If these were the final men left alive, as they appeared to be, then his companions had prevailed, and the people were safe.

The riders were arguing among themselves; one stood up and drew out a dagger waving it menacingly in the other’s face. They had decided to go back and retrieve their belongings but there was more than that at stake. Aiwendil caught snatches of heated conversation about a chest stored in the captain’s tent reputed to contain many gold and silver coins. Even in these outlying parts, gold had real value, and a stash of money would make a wonderful resource to help fund the settlement on the Plains of Gorgoroth.

Aiwendil considered what to do. He did not want these men to continue on and remove the chest before Lindir made it over with the scouts. Yet the istar was bone weary. He had risen at dawn and spent the past seven hours in the midst of battle and giving chase over the plain. Home in Valinor, Aiwendil could switch from thrush to lion and even to giant eagle in the merest flash of an eye. But here, inside the bounds of Middle-earth, things were not so easy. His incarnate shape, that of an older man, was subject to the same pains and weariness as any other mortal. In order to chase off the slavers, he would have to appear as a large and threatening animal, something he could not presently do. It was not a lack of will or knowledge. He simply did not have the energy required for such a task.

He tilted his head to one side and tried to think, but, whether it was the limitations of the small thrush brain or the simple weariness from which the istar suffered, no good ideas came to mind. He was almost ready to admit defeat when he felt the vibrations throb beneath the rocks. He listened and caught the same ominous noise that he had heard before when the great hunters had passed him by. This time, however, the sound was amplified a hundredfold, as if an army of a thousand men was on the move and heading in their direction.

From that point on everything happened very quickly. The small bird fluttered his wings and flew as high as he could go. A band of trolls was approaching the spot where the men were now deep in conversation. This was no small hunting party but an organized army that was racing forward in tight formation. Finally awake to their danger, the slavers scattered in panic and tried to scramble on their horses, but were not quick enough to escape the stone soldiers who rushed forward with pikes and axes. The slaughter took only a few moments and was far more devastating in its ferocity than anything Aiwendil had witnessed earlier in the grove.

As the last ounce of his strength receded, the small bird plummeted back to earth and landed in a soft heap of feathers. One moment there was a thrush, the next an old man rubbing his eyes, struggling to rise. Aiwendil was trapped inside his body. Too weary to take on any other form, he ran and hid beneath the overhang of the rock cliffs. The army of trolls ground to a halt while the leader barked out orders in the black tongue. Aiwendil peered warily from behind his enclosure. To his dismay and puzzlement, the group was setting up camp. He wondered why they did not travel at night as was customary for their kind. Then he remembered. These were no ordinary trolls but olog-hai, completely immune to the hot rays of the sun. Apparently, they had decided to sleep through the night and continue on the next morning. With a groan, the old man buried his head in his hands. He was trapped within the canyon with no way to get out until the brutes resumed their journey. He sank down defeated on the ground.

_______________

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Old 03-05-2007, 03:06 PM   #352
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As darkness descended over the plain, all those who could manage to walk made their way to the central firepit to discuss what should be done. Lindir already had several large kettles of soup simmering so that those in attendance could help themselves and carry provisions back to the others in buckets and pots after the meeting was ended.

Although the slavers had been defeated, victory had come at a price. There was protracted discussion in hushed tones about brave friends who had been lost and the many who now lay injured. The latter would require some time to heal before the group could resume its journey northward.

It was Lindir who first suggested that a party of scouts be dispatched to the slavers' camp to retrieve usable supplies: "We would need ten or twelve to ride over," he noted, "They would leave in the morning and get a look at whatever was left behind. Last time we were there I had Aiwendil check. The camp was fairly well provisioned. He turned up stockpiles of food, barrels of ale, and basic items like blankets and tools. All that could be helpful for the journey and even to establish the settlement."

"But how will a small party carry back so much?" Beloan queried. "Plus, there is the danger of running into those who were not killed but ran away from the battle."

Lindir nodded in response. "It is a danger. We'll must travel armed. Still, only a handful of slavers lived to run off, and I don't expect they'll be looking for a fight. But we will need to keep our guard up and also leave some able bodied fighters here to keep an eye on things, just in case. As far as getting things back here, we are in luck. Aiwendil found one large wagon that the slavers had that could be used to transport the supplies. And once those items have been distributed to families or placed in sacks and tied onto the backs of horses, we could use the wagon to help carry anyone who is still gravely injured once we start our northward trek."

Beloan reflected for a moment and added, "We'll need animals then, as many as we can muster. I thought so. There are a number of horses still loose on the plains. I've already had several of my men out searching for them. Those same men will rise early and round up the last of the strays for the use of the scouts. But they won't be coming with us. They will be staying behind to help guard the camp."

"Good planning. Dorran and Athwen also are staying here. Neither of them will be fighting or guarding but, should any problems arise, your men can get with them, to make decisions. Have your men set up a rotating watch on the perimeter just to make sure we get no surprises. As to when the scouts leave, there is no rush. We can take our time getting off. But I don't want to leave that camp sitting unguarded any longer than one night. I'll be riding with the scouting party and you too I hope." Lindir glanced over at Beloan who indicated his agreement. Then the elf looked around the circle and added, "What I need now are volunteers, preferably those who could manage on the back of a horse. Anyone who is gravely wounded must remain behind in camp." Lindir smiled wryly. "Indeed, if Athwen finds out that some of you have dragged yourselves over to this circle, I expect to see her here any minute demanding that you retreat back to your pallets for rest, and frankly she will be right. Before the meeting started, I managed to draft five strong, able bodied fighters who will act as our guard on the trail should any problems arise....Gall, Tomba, Grell, Drindl, and Bor." He nodded in their direction and then added, "But I will need others. I know there are a few of you who would like to come with the scouting party, despite the fact that you bear minor injuries. I will not say no. Right now very few in this camp are totally sound, aside from a handful of women and children who did not fight and managed to avoid the attack in the grove. If you do want to come along, just make sure you have enough strength for the ride. Who then should I add to the list?"

A babble of voiced was quickly raised by those sitting around the circle, some men and women posing questions and others asking to be included among the scouts. Within a short span of time, Lindir has accumulated his list of volunteers, "This looks to be it." he noted, calling out the names of those who had agreed to go, "Azhar, Shae, Johari, Kwell, Qat, along with Beloan and myself, and the five that I already mentioned. That makes twelve in all, which should be enough if things get tight. We'll set the funeral pyre ablaze later tonight and say our goodbyes to our friends. After that, those of you who are going should get a good night's sleep and meet back here by mid-morning when we'll parcel out the horses. The rest of you will have plenty to do while we are gone, helping to tend the sick and prepare things for the road."

Lindir stood up to leave but then hesitated a moment and turned back with one final comment. "Everyone in this camp has much to be proud of. You fought as though you'd been doing it your entire life. As tough as things are now, let's not forget that we've come a long way. If the winds of chance blow fair, we will be moving north and reaching the new settlement in the space of only a few weeks. There is a life waiting ahead, a life you can be proud of, if we can just pull together on the journey."

The elf turned and walked away from the circle, when Azhar ran up to him and tugged on his sleeve, "Lindir, what's happened to Aiwendil? I have not seen him at all since the battle in the grove."

"I am not sure. I wish I knew. But Aiwendil has a way of disappearing and then turning up again, so let's hope that he will do so soon." What Lindir did not tell the young girl was that he could not even sense the istar's expected presence in his mind no matter how hard he searched, a fact that was both puzzling and troublesome.

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Old 03-06-2007, 09:32 AM   #353
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Athwen and Dorran were still speaking quietly together when Athwen heard a call from one of her patients. “Athwen! Mistress Athwen! Somebody! It’s Vrór!”

“Vror,” Athwen whispered, looking up. She glanced down at Dorran. “I’ll be back when I can. I’ve been hoping he’d wake up.” Dorran nodded and Athwen quickly got up and moved towards the dwarf and Adnan, who sat near him. The young man looked up at her as she came, looking anxious and excited.

“I heard him groaning or something and he moved,” Adnan said.

Athwen gave him a smile and met his eyes briefly before kneeling beside Vrór. “Vrór?” The dwarf was silent, but there was a pinched and contained look on his face. He just might be half conscience... “Vrór?” she said again.
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Old 03-06-2007, 06:05 PM   #354
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Carl

When Carl walked up to him, Lindir appeared as though he was looking past him, so lost in thought he was. And honestly Carl marveled at how the elf was able to keep his mind clear, getting everyone organized despite all that had befallen them. Those eyes must have seen a good deal of this before, if what he'd heard about elves was true, Yet Carl smiled to think that they overlooked the hobbit in front of them. Clearing his throat, he shifted his weight.

“Ah, Carl,” Lindir said without looking at him. It took only a moment for the hobbit's weary brain to realize it had been ridiculous of him to think Lindir hadn't noticed. To be sure he noticed. He was an elf after all, even though he really didn't seem the same sort of elf Sam had gone on about. He didn't seem the sort to sing. But just as Carl's mind was beginning to ramble off into those curious corners it frequented when he was most tired, Lindir brought him round again. “How is that arm of yours doing?”

The hobbit looked down at the dried blood that streaked his arm, and grasped it lightly with the other. “It stings a bit, not too bad though, but that is what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“About your arm?” Lindir asked.

“No, not really. I'm not hurt bad you know? Like a lot of these folk here are. And I'm no good at sitting around fussing with bandages, mopping foreheads and what not, when there are provisions out there to be got that might make them feel easier.” The elf nodded as he listened to Carl. “What I mean is,” the hobbit began again, trying to be more direct, “I'd like to go with you to the slaver's camp. I can heft a stack of corn as good as the next man, and this scratch won't keep me from it.”

“Yes, but it seems you have lost your pony. Would you be willing to ride the slaver's horse into the camp when it is quite likely slavers might greet us there?” the elf ventured.

“I'd much rather have Stumps and that's the truth, and I hope the poor beast is found, for Mordor's a foul place to wander off. But until then, I must ride the slaver's horse, for good or bad.”

“Ah right then, we'll have one more to ride out with us!”

“Thank you, Sir! I just want to keep busy, if you know what I mean. Thinking too much, just sitting here like this.”

“Yes, I do,” Lindir replied, “though we might require you to think as well. But in the mean time, we need more hands to help carry food to those who can't get it for themselves.”

“Aye Sir, I'll see to it,” Carl said, relieved that he was to set out again soon.

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Old 03-06-2007, 07:21 PM   #355
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Vrór

His mind was prepared to slip back into the empty darkness when one sound broke through a myriad of noises, muddled together and distant, and emerged clear and focused in his ears. Vrór recognized it as a voice, and though he did not really hear what it actually said, he associated himself with the sound. Something was calling to him, and his vision slid back into focus.

Awareness came crashing down on him, and he blinked. He knew that voice… Vrór… She was calling his name…Athwen.

“Athwen,” he tried the name on his lips, but it came out a muddled “Ah-win.”

“He is awake,” came another voice, male, but young. Vrór could not place that one, not yet. Maybe with time…with time…now he had to rest….

“Vrór.”

The Dwarf’s tired and ragged body and mind wanted him to fall back into a long sleep, but as he was snapped back and reminded of the pain in his body that came along with the rest of his awareness, his mind was forced to cling to reality. He groaned. Reality hurt.

Why did it hurt so bad; why did he hurt so bad? His memory flashed back to the tunnel, and soon he found it difficult to focus. There was not much there to remember. He had been checking it, to make sure it would work, make final adjustments, because it could not fail…

“Did it work?” Vrór asked, with considerable urgency, particularly for how weak his breath and voice still was, naturally expecting fully that Athwen would know exactly what he was talking about.

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Old 03-07-2007, 08:37 PM   #356
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Vrór’s head moved slightly and Athwen saw his eyelids flutter. His lips opened, and weakly, a sound came out. “Ah-wen.” She smiled a little and pressed her hand against his hot forehead.

“He is awake!” Adnan cried from behind her. The smile slowly left her face, though. Now that he was awake, the dwarf was clearly in pain. His whole body seemed rigid and his face didn’t relax, nor did the tightness in his jaw. He strained to open his eyes - Athwen saw the grey of his irises - but then shut them again quickly.

“Did it work?” he asked suddenly. Athwen’s hands paused in the air. Her eyebrows drew slightly together. Then they relaxed and her lips twitched a little at the corners.

“Yes,” she said quietly. “Yes, it worked perfectly, Vrór,” with the utmost gentleness. Perhaps it hadn’t stopped all of the slavers, but it had done its job as best it could. “You did a good job. What were you doing under there? Never mind,” she added quickly. “Vrór, are you in pain? What can I do to help?”
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Old 03-07-2007, 10:14 PM   #357
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Vrór

“Yes, it worked perfectly, Vrór…”

Vrór was so pleased to hear those words that he almost forgot his pain for a moment, and the corners of his lips twitched up slightly into a semblance of a smile. It had worked, and they had won, as he knew they would. He had known it… He tried to focus on the rest of Athwen’s words, though he found himself imagining the rumbling in his ears that he remembered as one of the last sounds before…

“Vrór, are you in pain? What can I do to help?”

Pain, yes…the real aching came mostly from his left arm, though most of his body felt sore. It felt like he had been beaten, though he knew that was not right. He tried moving his left arm, but found himself wincing in pain when he attempted to pull it up at all. His upper arm, maybe his shoulder, was on fire. Vrór then tried to move his other arm, and with a little more force than he knew typically necessary, it rose from the ground an inch or two without much difficulty.

“My arm…left one…it’s probably broken somewhere,” he muttered, “the upper part and shoulder really hurts.” He sounded very curt, as for some reason talking just did not feel good, and he was unsure why. He felt disoriented, staring up at the dark sky. But the stars…oh, the stars…they were so beautiful…the stars even in Mordor were so beautiful…

Vrór found it a little difficult to focus again, like when he was imagining the rumbling in his ears that he remembered as one of the last sounds before…the tunnel had caved in. The tunnel had worked, hadn’t it! The tunnel trap had worked, right?

“Did the tunnel work?” he asked Athwen fervently.
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Old 03-09-2007, 08:52 PM   #358
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He asked again if the tunnel worked. Perhaps he thought she hadn’t understood. A shadow crossed Athwen’s face. Her hands had immediately flown to his tunic to see if she could get to the left arm, but her fingers froze as her eyes darted again to Vrór’s face.

“Yes, Vrór, yes. The tunnel worked just fine. I told you just now, you know.” She couldn’t get the tunic loose enough, so she reached for her knife and carefully went at the shoulder seem. “The slavers on their horses followed me right up to it and when I stopped my horse, they went right on and down they went, plunging right into it.” She opened the seam and realized that she had another difficulty. His mail hauberk lay between her and the damaged arm.

“Vrór. Do you think you can get up and let me help you take this off?”
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Old 03-10-2007, 07:28 PM   #359
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Vrór

“Yes, Vrór, yes. The tunnel worked just fine.”

The Dwarf smiled. Just fine. All his work had indeed paid off, and the battle had…well, it must have gone well if he was alive, Athwen alive, and… Who else? The smile disappeared. He had not even thought of everyone’s safety yet! Where was his mind? Only on himself? Well, on his work, anyway… Vrór opened his mouth, trying to form a question on his lips, to voice his concern and affirm his hope, but Athwen continued.

“I told you just now, you know.”

Vrór’s lips remained parted for a moment, and his brow furrowed in both confusion and worry. He wanted to ask if she was sure, but he knew that made no sense. The Dwarf was a very practical person; it was foolish to think for a moment that a young woman wouldn’t know whether or not she said something.

But…he hadn’t known…he hadn’t heard, or…something. She was not more than a couple feet from him! How could he not have heard? Vrór tried to remember what she had said just before he asked about the tunnel, but he just felt like he was getting more and more lost in a fog.

“Do you think you can get up and let me help you take this off?”

Still wondering about this “fog,” the Dwarf did not take this as a question but rather a command, and started to try and rise before he even considered whether or not he could. Using the arm he could move, he planted his hand on the ground, and began pushing himself up, his arm trembling as he did so. He felt Athwen’s strong helping hands on him. The firmness of her touch allowed him to look at her with clearer eyes.

“Thank you, Athwen,” he said, “A hundred, thousand times thanks.”

With the woman’s help, Vrór very quickly was sitting up, though some of his dizziness returned so that he desired to fall back again and shut his eyes. Something caught the Dwarf’s eye, even through the haze, and suddenly a young man, one of the slaves – or former slaves, rather – was beside him.

“Do you mind, sir,” the boy began a little hesitantly, “if I help you stay up? I mean…you’ve got to need it after that…” he trailed off.

“Thank you,” Vrór said, sounding a little breathless. It was much harder work than it should have been to keep his torso up. He definitely needed the young man’s support from behind, and could hardly argue with any help he was given, from anyone.

Soon his mail hauberk was removed, and he felt considerably more freedom of movement. He winced and had to grind his teeth together to keep from crying out, as it had been impossible to remove the garment without jostling and moving his bad arm a bit.

When the hard work, at least for Vrór, was over, he glanced around, and seeing some familiar faces he tried to remember what it was he wanted to ask Athwen. Then he was lowered back down, and he really felt the memory escape him. The young man sat next to him again, and the Dwarf searched his face looking for some sort of reminder. Soon he returned to his confusion surrounding his question about the tunnel, though he did not know what it had to do with the boy, and he frowned.

“Athwen,” he began quietly – subdued, “Did I ask you about the tunnel before, too?”
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Old 03-11-2007, 04:27 PM   #360
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Gwerr (and Ishkur)

Ishkur flashed a look over at Makdush that was halfway between a grin and a grimace "And don't forget. Right now there's two of us and just one of you!"

With that, Makdush backed out of the tent.

Gwerr remained silent until he was certain that Makdush was far enough. "Okay you sparrow-brain! I hope you were not actually thinking what you just said about leaving."

"We had to get him out from sneakin' around somehow, you know that well enough!" Ishkur snapped back. But it seemed Gwerr was not listening.

"I know that my fool. But did your tiny little brain just tell you that we'd leave? What if the slavers come back? We can't leave our bloody mates, how witless or drunk they are. Listen to me now! If we two are the only survivors from this we will just become renegades with some money... But the dream we had! We need those others to build a settlement even they'd be lunatics and idiots... maybe we can raise more intelligent folks from their children when the time comes? But now we need them and can't leave them! So come up with solutions better than running away!" Gwerr looked at his mate seriously, challenging him to answer.

"It's one bloody disaster if the slavers come back soon, however concerned you choose to be about it", Ishkur replied sharply to his friend's outburst.

Gwerr let off the reins he had picked while Ishkur had been challenging the Uruk and lowered his head shooking it slowly.

"You're right my friend", he mumbled and then lifted his head to meet the gaze of his mate yet again. Suddenly a grin flashed on his face. "Think about it, Colagar fighting anyone right now..." He laughed and Ishkur laughed too. But it was a tense laughter to ward off the ghosts from their troubled minds.

Gwerr took hold of Ishkur's shoulder and started towards the ale-barrell dragging the not so reluctant Ishkur with him. "Fate stuff...", he said as they reached the barrell. "If they come, they come. And there's nothing we can do about it. You're right. So let's just hope the slavers won't come back until the sun has awaken those idiots and forced them to get back to the shadows." Gwerr picked Ishkur's goblet from the floor and filled it from the barrell. "I think this is a better place to wait for our fortunes than getting out anyhow". With that he handed the goblet to Ishkur and reached for his own.

"You ever been in a weak flank of an army?" Ishkur asked thoughtfully as he had taken a sip from the beer. Gwerr was filling his goblet but froze with the question. He nodded slowly. The memories were running through his mind forcing him back to that day of blood, sweat and tears.

But Gwerr recollected himself for a moment. "Yeah, the same feeling it is. If the enemy general has decided in advance that he will go for a breach on your side and then the cavalry attacks that weak flank... Well, there's nothing else to do than trying to stay alive then... It kind of redeals the future for you... But you can always hope beforehand that it doesn't happen."

Gwerr was still immobilised, stuck in those painful memories filling his mind. After a while Ishkur broke the silence. "So you were there then? At that grievous day? On the right flank?" Gwerr nodded lightly but remained silent, his head bowed down.

Now it was Ishkur's turn to grab his mate from the shoulder. "You're alive still my friend... I was in the center falangs that day but I heard about what happened and it made me feel sick and pained." Gwerr trembled a little but yet pulled himself together. He filled his goblet and turned towards his friend. "It was horrible... we were plain butchered there."
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