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Old 09-12-2003, 06:33 AM   #41
Elora
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Sting

Naiore

Eyes glittered with cold hatred as they tracked the doings at the stable. Kaldir departed with three horses. Naiore supressed a growl and considered further. He had glanced into the woods also. The damned Ranger had companions to be sure, the two extra mounts told him that.

Her attention swivelled back to the Rangers in time to see the older one point. Her teeth bared in barely contained frustration. She would have to be swift if she was to snatch Vanwe in time and already the Rangers were sniffing about like querrulous terriors. Sniff too close and they'd lose more than their noses. Her patience was rapidly coming to an end.

Naiore's gloved hand tightened around an inky hilt as the Stablemaster shot off towards the inn as though someone had set his breeches alight. She watched him disappear through the door and her grip relaxed. Mayhap he would bring her quarry out with him. When he appeared unaccompanied by Vanwe, Naiore summonsed what little tolerance she had left and remained still and silent.

Time was thin. The skirmishes would be advanced by now and she needed to be at Bree. Skaikrish had been more than eager to set out when she had struck this bargain, and here she sat in a tangled wood squandering the diversion the fool orc had thrown at her feet. As Amandur and Rauthain studied the tree line, Naiore came to a swift conclusion.

She had to be on her way to Bree by mid morning at the latest. with utmost stealth, Naiore stood and began ghosting on silent feet between the trees. The forest was dark, the sun not yet sufficiently high enough to cast all the shadows back. Naiore had long selected this vantage out. She moved to it now should the Rangers decide to venture in rather than simply stand, point and stare.

It was slow and deliberate work that she executed painstakingly. The reward for such diligence would be great... the north at her feet when all was said and done, and perhaps an answer to the question that had started it all Ages now past. With the defining riddle of fear held in the forefront of her mind, Naiore was in position and poised to act in an instant.

All she needed was for Vanwe to venture out from the inn and it would begin to draw together, this finely woven net.


Menecin

A soft tap sounded at the door shortly after dawn. They knew now that if he slept during the night, he would be awake by now. If he slept... Menecin made no reply, wrapped in his own night of sorrow, pain and betrayed rage. The door cracked open to admit one of the many who watched him.

"Menecin," came the soft question. The one who was to answer did not here it. The Elf who had asked it made out the shape of the bard by a window that overlooked the swaying fir trees. He was rocking slightly, absorbed in something he saw out that window within his mind.

"Menecin," the Elf said a little more certainly. Again no respose. With care, for the bard was unpredictably dangerous, the Elf stepped through the door and left it open judiciously should he need to make a swift escape. Elrohir's tidings had sat heavily upon his shoulders all through the night watch. He had been wrestling with this for hours now and there was no easy way to tell Menecin. Only, that he had to be told.

"Menecin, word has reached me of something that may interest you," the Elf began. There was no interruption to Menecin's rocking. Back and forth he swayed as though he were suspended from the roof. Once he had been suspended from a roof, and he had looked not upon fir trees but the beautiful face of the woman he loved - loves - loved.

"Menecin, you have kin within these lands." Again there was no response. The concept of kin had lost meaning long ago, but the Elf was not to know this for he could not look into the shattered, jagged mind of Maglor's once pupil.

"You... have a child." The rocking stopped and the halting statement seemed to resound. Menecin did not look away from the window, but he was so still as to seem to soak up all around him.

"A daughter... you have a daughter," the Elf finished, warily watching the bard with one hand on the door. Slowly Menecin's shoulders began to shake. The Elf stared, shocked at the presence of a reaction. Did he understand? He took a step forward, towards Menecin and then another.

Yes, his shoulders were shaking, but why. After a third step his watcher soon discovered why. Menecin was laughing, silently and without mirth or sanity. Black anger was stamped on his features and he laughed like he was possessed, mad. Then, with blinding speed, he twisted around and whipped his face towards the other.

His watcher instinctively recoiled away as Menecin crowed, "A daughter! A daughter! She took even that!" His laughter had dissolved now into howls of rage. The Elf scrabbled back for the door as the depth of the abyss in Menecin's soul opened before him. He slammed shut the door and locked it for good measure, breathing hard. The sound of furniture splintering leaked through it.

"A daughter!" Menecin could be heard cackling and sobbing in turns as he savaged his room. His turmoil was too great to keep locked within. The Elf stood by the door, tears bright in his eyes. Slowly, the bard subsided in his attack, as did his ruined laughter. But the sobs continued longer still. Menecin sank to the floor amid the debris of his sanctuary/cell, unfeeling beyond this latest outrage. She had taken from him even his child. A daughter...

Outside his door, his watcher looked up in profound sadness at the appearance of another drawn by the disturbance. "He knows," Elrohir said, more statement than question. With a sigh of sorrow and lament, the other nodded. Elrohir withdrew, and made his way back to his father's library.

Her own family, her kindred, all of Middle-earth and the one who had loved her resolutely through all that had passed... and now her own child. Would Vanwe, lost, prove to be as fell as her mother or ruined as her father? The echoes of this seemed to stretch into forever, through generations of Elf and Man. Or would Vanwe prove to be something else entirely and work her way free of this web of sorrow?

No sooner had Elrohir gained the library did an Elf appear with urgent tidings. Skaikrish was on the move once more. Elrohir found himself turned once more to the stuff of battle and struggle and away from matters of healing, the same conundrum of his father before him.

"Marshal a sortie of 20 warriors and set out to reinforce the Dunedain. We can spare no more." Elrohir watched the Elf depart. No more if we are to hold back something far worse than rabid orcs... but would all the warriors of the once proud Elven kingdoms be of avail when this evil comes from within our own? It was another question of late, the answer to which Elrohir had little liking for.

Collapsed on the floor of his room, Menecin drifted in living memory... a daughter! Would she look like her mother? An Elf maiden swayed and danced upon the golden sands of Belfalas. A daughter!
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Characters: Rosmarin: Lady of Cardolan; Lochared: Vagabond of Dunland; Simra: Daughter of Khand; Naiore: Lady of the Sweet Swan; Menecin: Bard of the Singing Seas; Vanwe: Lost Maiden; Ronnan: Lord of Thieves; and, Uien of the Twilight
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Old 09-12-2003, 11:15 AM   #42
Snowdog
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Tolkien

Hanasían - The early morning before dawn:

Amandur had shown up in the room a bit later after I did, and I was drawn out of the semi-dream, semi-wakened swim through thoughts and considerations. His words about all that went on in the Blues, and the seeming boldness of Skaikrish there was a sign that Naiore stood behind it. Yes, it was a hard choice to take parties too small to deal with the evil at hand out into the wild, and surely Halwain did not expect to find such evil that time. I started to think of my own father Halasían, and the fact his wherabouts or resting place reamins to this day unknown, for he disappeared without a trace after me, my sister, and my mother were safely to Rivendell, a place he would not enter. I looked about as I stirred an ember into a small flame in the small hearth, and I looked up at Amandur and said,

'Yes, Naiore is nearer than any of us originally thought. I talked with someone in Bree, not always reliable but usually when its important it holds true, that he saw one fitting that of Naiore's description cross the river west of Tharbad. My gut feeling is sehe is here now.'

"You had thoughts speaking in your eyes, Hanasían."


Amandur said after looking back out the window. I looked at my satchel and said,

'I am not sure what orders are out to you or the others, but I know what was told me when I was in Minas Tirith. King Éomer and Lord Faramir of Ithilien has convinced King Elessar that the capture of Naiore should be by any means necessary, and that the usual protocols does not apply in this case.'

Anamdur looked out the window and nodded, for we all had for the most part knew this already, and some in their search for her were employing methods that would be considered unsound. But the pain that Naiore had spread through Rohan and Ithilien were so that even the Lords seemed to agree. I bent down and slid out an oilskin wrap, with King Elessar's, King Éomer's, and Lord Faramir's seals inscribed. Inside was a scroll stating such that I had spoken, and Amandur read it and handed it back.

' It is strange...' I said as I stowed the scroll again. 'strange that some of the methods which Naiore is guilty of is that which could now be used in her capture. But surely the honor of men will prevail.'

Amandur maybe wasn't sure what I was saying, but it didn't matter. From what I had learned of my father from those that knew and served with him, it was this very same greying of the boundries that had gotten him into troubles. But I knew I had to be ever more focused.

"We will have to decide how we will track and find her."

Amandur said as he went to relax, again bringing me back from thoughts that haunted my mind. I moved my bundles and lay upon the floor, deciding to get some comfort before the dawn as we spoke of what our moves should be. I suggested I take Maethor and we sweep the north side of the road toward the north and east, checking for sign toward the Midgewater or the thick Chetwood east of Bree, returning to the end by the evening.

'If she gets into the marshland or the wooded lands, it will be most difficult finding, let alone following her. I doubt she would return south, for I know my cousin Frea and some riders from Rohan watch dilegently to Tharbad, and our bretheren Dúnedain Silgeleb and sons watch the windy southroad at Andrath. She avoided that way coming up here, besides, my gut says she will go to Bree or eastward.'

Amandur put his hand to his chin as he thought, and I to stretched out for a bit.

"More will be revealed as the light of day comes, and that is ere a couple hours away." Amandur said, "We will have words with the others in the morn."

I silently agreed, and closed my eyes as my head rested on my satchel and I lay upon my blanket. The floor was hard, but it was at least smooth and without rocks, so I did fall into broken dreams for a short time.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Morning and daylight:

The light of the blue sky grew in its intensity out the window, and I stood, leaning against the window sill watching the silver if the ground fog, having rested little. Amandur stirred and was up quickly as well. He wanted to tack his horse, and before he opened the door, I said,

'We wont have to do much tracking, for she has come to us. Here at this Inn this day, there is Vanwe, daughter of Naiore, and also nearby is Kaldir, whom Naiore had run of in the days of Mordor.'

Yes, its there before me now, and so it was this day.

'Be careful my friend.'

I warned as he left. The silence in the room held me, and the chill of the night before was there in me though I knew she was nere now. My cares for Miss Nightshade would have to wait, but I had a gut feeling that Kaldir knew where she was. I stood and gathered my bundle, and headed out.

I met Maethor at the top of the stairs, and he excitedly spoke of a missing horse from the stables. We were down the stairs quickly and Amandur was nowhere in sight. He would be investigating it already, and we headed out into the mornings chill and first rays.

'Maethor, it might be we will take a day to search well the lands going east and north of this Inn, but we should see what all took place last night. I believe she is close.. very close... so be ever alert my friend.'

Amandur had isolated the tracks in the fog-moistened dirt that was well churned. I mentioned that an Elven woman, Vanwe worked there, so I wanted to be sure of these treads. I saw another reletively fresh set of tracks going out and to the road and turning east on it.

'Three horses, one with burden went this way. But it loks legitimate.'

I spoke of them, thinking it held a clue to other things in my mind, but as the sun warmed and the fogg ran ti hide in the last shadowy places before fading in the already growing heat of the day, I looked at the trees as I whistled out the birdcall Blackveil so loved. She came within a minute, and she was looking well in her friskiness.

'Be calm girl, there is much bustle about today.'

I secured my satchel and blanket to her, and patted her to go across the road for a bit. I needed to return to the Inn to grab something to eat.

Stepping in the door, I saw the place alight with talk of the stolen horse, and I looked about for Vanwe as I made my way to the bar. I took one of the last apples and took a bite, waving off any hot food for the search is beginning. It was then I saw Vanwe turn out of tehe stairwell, and she seemed down. I stepped in front of her, and pointed down the lower hall and she turned and stepped back some.

I stood before her, gazing a hard stare in the eyes of the daughter of Naiore, and for a moment nothing was said. But quickly I held up my pouch, and reaching in I took half of the hair.

'This is your mother's, and I meant to give it to you ere nights ago. But things sometimes move quickly, as they are now.'

I knew I would not be here long, for the trail was hot, and even a hot trail of Naiore's has a way of becoming cold quickly.

'An elf-woman took a horse from the stable in the night, and stealth was their forte, for none was heard of it even though many were alert. Many think it was you, but my bretheren and I know it was not. You watch yoursteps for she is near.'

With that I turned to leave, pocketing the pouch and heading into the common room for the door of the Inn. Vanwe stood in the lower hall, looking at the lock of hair...

I knew she would use it to search out her mother, but more and more, with the disappearance of a horse and its seeming elven thief, it may be that Naiore was seeking her daughter. Maybe searching trail is not necessarily needed, but searching out the ways old and new would be. It was time for she was close....

[ September 12, 2003: Message edited by: Snowdog ]

Last edited by piosenniel; 12-28-2006 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 09-12-2003, 07:04 PM   #43
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Sting

Rauthain

Rauthain had forgotten the items that he had needed from the stables after the missing horse had come to his attention and the discussion that followed. Hurriedly picking them up he rejoined Amandur, as he was ready to leave the stables. “But why should an elven maid steal the inn’s horse unless she needed to leave quickly?” Rauthain questioned, pausing just inside the stable door. “Perhaps we should see if the inn keeper could be of help in this regard.” But looking to Amandur he could see that he was lost in his own thoughts and had not heard him. Rauthain gently lay hold of Amandur’s arm looking into his eyes as he turned around. “There is more here than is being spoken of. I can see this. Perhaps we are seeking the same ends, perhaps not. That is for you to tell. I am on furlough, but pursue the matter of Naiore Dannan, as it is of private interest to me. Having said this, I place myself at your service, Amandur, if you should have need of me. For I feel you also are seeking the Ravenor and I should be glad be of help.”


Before Amandur could answer, Dervorin bustled by, muttering to himself as he readied a pair of horses to be let out to graze. The two rangers entered the stable yard, taking up the subject of the missing horse again as the stable master led the horses past them. Looking back toward the inn, Rauthain saw that Hanasian was returning. He turned to Amandur once more. “I will be staying here through today at least.” He bowed slightly and left, just before Hanasian approached.


Alone once more, Rauthain brooded over the familiar bearing of the man he had observed earlier in the morning. Rauthain was not able to see his face, but saw only his back as he led two other horses away. Not the missing gelding, but a bay mare strangely saddled with no rider, and a smaller animal. His instincts told him to follow, but he was unsure if Hanasian, Amandur or Maethor would be there when he returned and so was of divided mind.

[ September 13, 2003: Message edited by: Hilde Bracegirdle ]
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Old 09-12-2003, 07:24 PM   #44
Imladris
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Tolkien

Maethor slowly made his way towards the stables and examined the tracks again. They were so faint...just like an elf. He leaned over and admired the light foot print of the elf woman beside the heavy tread of the horse. He smiled gently as his fingers gently trased the horse's print and he looked with admiration upon the barely perceptable print of the elf's.

Standing and brushing his long sandy hair from his eyes, he gazed about him...watching Amandur and Rauthain examining the prints and gesturing vaguely towards the grove of trees. Turning, Maethor scrutinized the grove and shook his head in puzzlement. It looked so cheerful now with the sunlight glinting from its leaves and its branches dancing sprightly in the wind. Nothing of the ominous mood seemed to hover about the trees now. Of course, one one could know what evil lurked under the fair light of the day.

Maethor noticed that Rauthain had departed from Amandur and was standing some distance away. Maethor slowly approached him and tried to remember if he had seen him before. His face was sad and full of distress. "What is it, friend Dunedain?" he asked. "What troubles you?"

Last edited by piosenniel; 12-28-2006 at 10:37 PM.
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Old 09-12-2003, 07:36 PM   #45
Elora
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Sting

Vanwe

As Vanwe had stood before Hanasian she had come to the realisation that she had been too late and had lost what little trust he may once have had of her, if any. The Ranger passed her a lock of hair, saying it was her mother's, and a grim expression had haunted his features. She took it, stunned, for it was the only thing of her mother's that she had ever beheld in her life. His words fell upon her still, and Vanwe struggled to attend them, gazing at the hair in her hands.

"Is it truly," Vanwe said in a wondrous voice as she felt the hair in her hand. There was no response. Vanwe looked up and discovered that Hanasian was already striding away. Things move fast... She had meant to give him her notes in hopes that they may be of more use to him then they had been to her. With a sigh, Vanwe glanced back down at the hair. It was so like her own in colour and texture and Vanwe had been different all of her lonely life. Her heart was drumming loudly within her as she stared at it. On a whim, she pressed it to her nose to see if it held her scent, but found that gone. Still, this had been part of her mother once and now she had it!

She could have danced for joy, but instead she spun about. Even though Hanasian was not there to hear it, Vawe spoke in a voice filled with gratitude and joy, "My thanks, Hanasian, for keeping this for me. You make my long road worthwhile now." Had he been there, Hanasian would have had to contend with an Elf who flung her arms around him.

"Hoy Vanwe!" Vanwe started from her reverie and looked up to see Devorin marching towards her. She wrapped her hand around the lock of delicate golden hair and tucked her hands behind her. It was a private thing that she did not yet wish to share.

"I've been looking for you all morning! Some scoundrel has let Déor out of his stall and the devil has bolted." The Stablemaster was bristling with anger.

"It wasn't me," Vanwe said quickly, eyes wide. She had never seen Devorin so ropable before and it was a shock to see him so now. He looked like the Men of her village, she thought. She had been careless to neglect to remember how fearsome Men can be when angry. Devorin waved her denial aside with rampaging impatience.

"I know it wasn't," he muttered direly, "I don't need a Ranger to tell me who steals horses. I need your help though," Devorin said. Vanwe scooted forwards, his hand propelling her from between her shoulderblades. As they left the inn, Vanwe hurriedly tucked the lock of hair into her pouch.

"Déor will either have stuck to the trail or taken cover in the woods," Devorin said. "I can take the trail, but I'll need your clever eyes in the woods." Vanwe paused... Watch your steps, Devorin glanced at her and saw the uncertainty in her face.

"Vanwe, I need your help. I don't trust anyone here. I don't know who set Déor loose and there's been more and more horses stolen as the days pass. Please. This is important... Déor is important." Vanwe looked into the Stablemaster's face, unsure of what to do. She'd never been asked or pleaded with to do her duty before. His concern was clearly marked in his voice and expression. Devorin, who had taken her in and given her a roof, food and safety was now asking her for her help.

Vanwe nodded her head. "Of course, Devorin, of course." He smiled gratefully and resumed his rapid stride towards the stables. There the Rangers stood examining the trail and speaking in low voices that stilled as she and Devorin neared. He paid them little mind, his concerns lying with a horse he had taken with him when he left Rohan in search of forgetfulness.

Vanwe glanced at the Rangers who in turn examined her and followed Devorin into the stables. Already the Stablemaster had saddled his horse. He checked the bit and girth straps one final time, a stream of words coming from his lips as he did so.

"I'll check the road to Bree as well as Great East Road. I need you to check the surrounding woods. Déor won't go far into Chetwood or the Marshes, so stay close in case he comes back. You'll need to be quick to catch him and he may very well try to give you the slip."

Vanwe nodded all the while. Devorin paused and smiled. "Canny creature... he loves carrots. There's a sack of them in the back of the stables."

Devorin led his mount out of the stalls and swung up into the saddle. From that height he looked down at Vanwe's upturned face.

"Thankyou Vanwe." She smiled up at him and then stood back. Devorin raced out of the stables and curved towards the road leading to Bree in a cloud of dust. Vanwe turned and located the sack of carrots, extracted a few and decided to take the back door out of the stables. Hanasian had said the others thought she was the horse thief and she didn't wish to disappoint Devorin by having her search for Déor delayed by their questions.

She shut the back door quietly and slipped into the woods on light feet. Eyes bent to the ground for sign of a horse, she soon found some clue further in the trees. Pulling an old orange carrot from her pouch, she found it had become tangled with her mother's hair. Vanwe paused, tieing the lock together with the length of braided leather she also kept and dropped it back into her pouch.

Sighting the trail, Déor's hoof print clear on the springy soil still moist with dew, Vanwe proceeded on with the caution that had helped her slip through unnoticed in all sorts of dangerous predicaments. A hobbit would be impressed with her stealth. Head bent to her trail, Vanwe followed the weaving trail through the morning light and shadows.

Back in the kitchen, Cook was muttering dire imprecations upon Devorin's head and Vanwe's. "Look at these eggs! Spoiled for a runaway horse!"


Naiore

Naiore started in surprise when she saw Hanasian depart from the inn and then return. His face was familiar, although she had never seen it in daylight. Another reunion, she thought. What was better was that Vanwe soon materialised in the company of the stablemaster. Her daughter was wearing new garb, paid for with coin she had earnt by betraying her mother to the Dunedain.

Still, the reckoning could begin now and not before time. Devorin raced past the Rangers on horse back and Vanwe slipped out the back door shortly thereafter. To Naiore's delight, her daughter walked straight into the forest, as yet umarked by the Rangers at the front of the stables.

She watched her wary daughter cast about, as though she were looking for something. Steadily, Naiore worked her way closer. Her daughter paused, hands busy in her pouch and head bent. A knowing smile curved Naiore's lips. This would be so simple. She had waited for good reason afterall.

Vanwe's fingers were busy lacing the pouch shut whilst still holding a carrot as Naiore moved closer still. Her daughter did not have the opportunity to see an arm encased in midnight leathers reach for her from the shadows. A cold hand wrapped around Vanwe's mouth before she could make a sound in the watching forest. Naiore pulled Vanwe back against her with certain force. Her voice whispered in Vanwe's ear in an almost hypnotic cadence, so like Vanwe's own and so very different.

“But a sound, Vanwe, and it will be your last. Understand?” Naiore waited until Vanwe nodded. Swiftly, Naiore searched her daughter for weaponry. Aside from the paltry belt knife at her hip, there was nothing. The worn leather of the belt snapped with the forceful search, Vanwe held in an iron grip and surprisingly passive. Then, with her mouth still muffled, Vanwe found herself dragged in another direction.

Woods crowded close around them and still Naiore moved. The Ravenor was all but flowing, strength and power rolling from her with every move as she negotiated the misty woods. It was some distance hence that they stopped. Naiore released Vanwe and her hands moved at her hip. Vanwe crouched low to the ground, staring up at the woman she had striven to find all her life, one way or the other. Her mother was hard to make out, black as she was from head to toe. Hanasian had been right. She was here. It was like looking into a mirror, and not.

“Mother,” Vanwe said uncertainly in the early morning hush. No sooner had she spoken did she find a dagger at her neck and Naiore bent over her. Grey eyes, intense, Vanwe noted absently, fear trembling through her.

“Value your life,” Naiore inquired with a pur. Vanwe nodded, large and wide sapphire eyes darting around the small clearing she found herself in. “Then never make me repeat myself again. I ordered you to be silent.” Swiftly, Naiore pulled away the brush and pulled Vanwe through the opening. Catsing her stunned daughter on the ground by the stolen gelding, Naiore soon had more satisfactory arrangements in place.

From her pack she withdrew bindings. Vanwe's feet Naiore left untied, but her hands she bound and added a gag to her mouth. Hauling her pack over one shoulder, Naiore wrestled Vanwe onto the gelding and mounted behind her. With a bootheel to Deor's flanks, they rode out of the small hidden place and continued on through the trees.

"You will learn to heed me, daughter, for I did not come all this way and wait through the lonely hours of the night for your rebellion to bring capture upon our heads."
They were Naiore's last words for some time, a cold and silent presence at Vanwe's back. Shock sat over Vanwe at the sudden and fearsome meeting with her mother. Dully, she watched the trees thicken still more as they gained Chetwood, pondering the few words.

A realisation dawned to her. Her mother had come for her, and waited for her. She feared the Rangers also! Unable to study her mother's face for any hint, Vanwe contemplated her bound hands and the reality of her mother's presence. Stubbonly she clung to the thought that her mother had come to fetch her at last, after all these years. She felt a little warmer the longer she thought on that.

Naiore's mind too was busy. She contemplated how much of a lead she had and how much ground they had to cover to circle around Archet and come to Bree from the western entrance. But that was not all. In front of her arose a sense of... affection? Vanwe had been complacent whilst shocked, but Naiore knew that would wear off. The emergence of this warmth surprised her, but also offered a great deal of possibility. The Ravenor wore a cold smile of triumph as she rode on.

[ September 13, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]

Last edited by piosenniel; 12-28-2006 at 10:37 PM.
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Old 09-13-2003, 08:22 PM   #46
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Sting

Rauthain

Maethor slowly approached saying “What is it, friend Dunedain? What troubles you?” Indeed what was troubling him? He had never spoken of it before. Staring down the road leading away from the inn, he searched for words before speaking.


“A lesson hard learned perhaps…an unwitting betrayal of a brother, resulting in great unhappiness…..”


Maethor looked questioningly at the old ranger, “Betrayal? If unwitting, is it then betrayal? Surely the term is too harsh.”


Looking then into the eyes of the younger man Rauthain said, “ I think you know me not Maethor, though I have seen you in Rivendell. Your instructors spoke highly of you there, a promising student of lore and fine arts as well of the skills of a ranger. You have truly won their affection. But that was many years ago and you have changed greatly in appearance as so, I deem, have I.” Rauthain grinned, stroking his grey mustache. Your memory does not fail you. We were not introduced, and for many years now I have been keeping watch in the fringes of the north. But look, there is Hanasian going back to the inn. Perhaps we should all breakfast, for it may prove an eventful day with little time to eat.”


As Maethor turned to join Hanasian, Rauthain explained that he had some things to attend to before joining them. He meant to see to horse in his charge, but instead circled round searching the ground for any overlooked marks, and upon reaching the back of the stables he found Amandur similarly occupied.
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Old 09-14-2003, 06:12 AM   #47
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Sting

Amandur

I watched Rauthain's back as he left thinking on his offer of assistance, It hadn't occurred to me that he may not there on orders as was I and Hanasían. My gaze then fell on Maethor as he went to join the older ranger, 'Is he here also by circumstance?' I thought to himself, 'It is of no matter, both will be needed if we are to finally put a stop to this lingering shadow!'

"She is ready and may even now be planning to make her move!" I told Hanasían, my eyes showing that I spoke of Vanwe, Halfiríen nodded his agreement and I saw that he to was ready to leave and take up the hunt, for that is how I saw it, Naiore had lived two ages and avoided capture by many, she would not make this an easy task, we would have to be vigialent.

"Searching the ways old and new maybe our best option!" Hanasían suggested, I nodded my agreement, but I was curious to see where the geldings prints would lead. But I paused in my thoughts as Vanwe passed with the stablemaster, Deverion I think was his name. They seem in great haste, as would any stablemaster who learnt that a horse in his keeping had gone missing, I was relieved when only the stablemaster galloped out of the stables, I had feared that Vanwe would have joined him in the search, making Naiore's intent all the easier.

"We leave on the hour then?" I said to Hanasían "I will take Rauthain and search out the old ways towards Bree and the Chetwood," Hanasían then told me that he would take Maethor and search the ways north and east.We nodded to each other, our eyes convaying warnings of caution, then Hanasían turn and made his way to the others.

I returned to the stable to finish staddling Kalloruvi, the charger stamped it's foot impatiently! "We will be leaving soon, my friend," I whispered, Checking all the straps one last time. Securing my saddlebags and bed roll, I lead Kalloruvi from the stable to wait across the road with Blackveil. Then my cauriousity getting the better of me and time to spare, I went back to the rear of the stables to follow the tracks into the grove, but on reaching the trail I noted anothers prints, Vanwe's I realised and they followed the geldings.

As I looked up I saw Rauthain approach, "I wish to follow this trail, It looks like our young elven stable assistant has followed the geldings tracks into the grove and your assistance would be much appreciated, my old friend," Rauthain nodded his assent and we followed the trail into the trees that flanked the rear of the inn..

As we tracked, keeping my voice low I told Rauthain, what I had learned from Halfiríen the previous night, I also told him of the goings on's in the blue mountains and our belief that Naiore was behind the orc chiefs sudden boldness, I paused and regarded the older man as I told him of Captain Halwain's Disappearance, then going on I told him what I knew of Vanwe and her relationship to the Revennor of Mordor.

I crouched to the ground as the trail became embrioled with the light imprint of another more delicate elven print, "Naiore!" Rauthain surmised, looking to me for conformation. I nodded as I traced the drag lines made by Vanwe being dragged away, but I noted also that there had been no struggle, they had stood for a minute or two before Naiore dragged Vanwe away, I surmised from the disturbance of the earth.

"We can no longer afford to wait!" I told Rauthain as I rose.My foot brushed something in the mossy grass, I bent down and picked up the belt I recognised as the mannish one that Vanwe wore, "She now has what she came for and will be on her way, we must make haste before the trail turns cold!" I said showing him the belt, Rauthain agreed and with all haste we returned to the inn. Giving Hanasían Vanwe's belt we told him and Maethor of our find.

Once all was told Myself and Rauthain mounted our horses and took up the trail from where we had left it and headed more or less Northwest towards the Chetwood.

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Old 09-14-2003, 06:15 AM   #48
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Naiore & Vanwe

The trail had been clear of any sign of pursuit for some time before Naiore dared halt. A clean snatch, she dared hope. As she had riden behind her daughter, Naiore's mind had been swiftly turning. Vanwe was a curious puzzle of emotions: confusion, alarm, an undercurrent of fear and something utterly unexpected - hope. It was this hope, bright and strong, that opened up a host of possibilities. Naiore had not the chance to examine them now, not on open trail. But she certainly would do all she could to keep these possibilities alive until she reached the relative saftey of Bree.

She swung down from the gelding and urged Vanwe to dismount after her. Her daughter complied, the fear surging as she attempted to read her mother's blank, serene face. Above her gag, large blue eyes were open windows. Naiore barely needed her abilities to read Vanwe's emotional state.

"Stand silent and still," Naiore commanded. Vanwe nodded, uncertainty causing her to glance about. Hanasian had warned her to watch her steps but what danger was she in? According to the tales, she was as good as dead. But Vanwe was not convinced the tales were true. Afterall, her mother had said that she had come and waited in great danger especially for her. Besides, if the tales were not true, then her father also was alive!

Naiore slung her pack from her shoulders and delved into it. Vanwe studied her mother in the better light. She looked fearsome indeed, inky leathers and finely wrought black mail. For Vanwe who had grown up surrounded by fierce warriors, she could see that her mother wore expensive gear. The worksmanship was exquisite. Naiore did not look like a bloody handed, mad murdering demon.

She was heavily armed. Indeed, Vanwe had never seen a woman so armed with swords and daggers. But then, how many times had Vanwe wished for the protection of weapons on her road... Naiore soon straightened with a vial in her hand. It was a small bottle, firmly stoppered and sealed with wax. Naiore tucked it behind her baldric and turned back to where Vanwe stood like a frozen rabbit.

Naiore's expression changed as she walked towards Vanwe, becoming intent and focused. Vanwe shivered as her mother's grey eyes came to life and seemed to peer through her. Her hair swayed in its thick braids, the same pure colour of the hair that Hanasian had given her. That lock of hair lay in her pouch, dropped in the woods near the inn.

"Not a sound," Naiore said as she reached for her daughter. She reached behind Vanwe's head to untie the gag. Vanwe nearly broke that order when her mother's gloved hand sank hard on her shoulder as she turned her fierce gaze onto the trees around them. Vanwe had heard nothing, but Naiore listened intently. Then she turned back to her daughter and took out the vial.

Breaking the seal and unstoppering it, Naiore pressed it to her daughter's lips. “Drink,” she said. To her mild surprise, Vanwe did so. Naiore watched Vanwe relax as the stimulant took effect.

Her eyes glazed a little, Menecin’s eyes. Naiore waited just long enough to be certain and then undid the bonds around Vanwe’s wrists. “There now, isn’t that more comfortable daughter?”

Vanwe nodded, brow furrowing as her senses started to weave about. Vanwe smiled at the solicitous tone of voice from her mother. “Yes, mother,” she replied in a disconnected voice.

“We have a long way to go today. Let’s get started, Vanwe.” Obedient, Vanwe nodded once more. A desire to obey and please emerged. Naiore smiled in triumph. “Quickly now, mount” she said turning to collect her pack and sling it back over her shoulder once more. When she turned, she found Vanwe sitting upon the horse. Naiore’s smile was bright as they moved off on the trail again.

With nothing but bedraggled ruffians half starved, on the run from Elessar’s “justice” to contend with, this was proving easier than she had expected. Vanwe’s inexplicable emotional state, combined with the mind numbing, body strengthening infusion only made it smoother sailing. As they travelled, Naiore gave thought to the potential Vanwe had.

Provided she remained ammenable, Vanwe could be used to achieve much. Vanwe could get her into the Shire, and bring her Kaldir. If she strengthed this maternal bond she would not need to continually dose her with the expensive infusion. Mordor’s downfall had made most useful elixirs all but impossible to get at reasonable prices. Naiore had only a small store with her, depleted by the necessity of use in order to get this far. With an ally blinded by the strongest love of all, that of a child for its mother, who had both their bodies and their minds at their disposal, Naiore’s opportunities expanded with each passing moment.

That she would not have to expend precious coin on purchasing more of that infusion was the cincher. From time to time, Naiore spoke to Vanwe. She fed her daughter what Vanwe wanted so badly to hear. It would lodge in her hazed mind and strengthen that bond. Others she had served with upon a time would have laughed long and hard at the sight of the Ravenor in full gear feeding her daughter sacchrine words of endearment and care. But there was a good reason why Naiore lived still and they consigned to mouldering defeat and ignominious graves.

"Often I have thought of you, Vanwe and never did I think I would ever find you again," Naiore said. Vanwe murmured something indistinct. It was not untrue. Naiore had often given thought to her daughter's whereabouts and possible threat, which is why she had left Vanwe lost in the South. She had not anticipated that her daughter would slip free, but now that she had, perhaps there was yet a gain to be made of her daughter's incipient treachery.

Vanwe's head sagged forward, long fair hair falling like a curtain around her face. But her body remained upright. Naiore would have to ration the elixir so that it would last until she reached Bree.

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Old 09-14-2003, 08:32 PM   #49
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Léspheria

Léspheria's hair whipped behind her as Losseserme sped her back towards the inn. During the ride Léspheria's thoughts had been on Naiore, Her last visit to Gondor had been about this Elf, both King Eomer of Rohan and Lord Faramir of Ithilien had impressed upon the King the need to use what ever means necessary to capture this criminal, When asked what decision the Council of Elves in Rivendell had come to, Léspheria informed them that the council had agreed, but she pressed upon them that if it could be helped there would be no kinslaying, and Elassar learned in their ways and histories, had noted and understood their concern.

Léspheria had agreed with the Elven Council that Naiore had to be stopped, but Disagreed when they spoke of sending out elven trackers to find her and bring her to Rivendell to stand trail before her own people, she had spoke out against this, she knew there was some among them, especially of the houses Finarfin and Malgor who would take matters in to their own hands and Menecin what of him, who could tell what he would do if they met again! She had reminded the Council of the price they had paid the last time the blood of their own had been spilled, but the Council angered by the young ambassadors sore reminder of their past argued that Naiore was the problem of the elves and should be dealt with accordingly, but just as she was about to give up trying to dissuade the council of their folly the Elven Twin's Elrohir and Elladan came to her aid.

They too believed that as most of Naiore crimes where committed against the race of men, her Fate should be left up to them. As they spoke Léspheria sensed that the twins like her, also did not wish to have the blood of one of their own on their hands. But they did press upon her that if Naiore was to come to Imladris they would be forced to protect those within.

As she got nearer the Greenway her thoughts turned to Vanwe, she was concerned for the young elf's safety, even though she knew that several Rangers, Amandur among them where at the inn, but something in her subconscious seem to tell her that the presence of a few rangers would not stop Naiore from retrieving that which was hers. She also recounted what Vanwe had told her regarding her life in the harsh lands of the Haradwaith, It saddened her to think that one as gifted as Vanwe should be treated so ill and abandoned by her own mother.

The emotions that she sensed from Vanwe where often ones of longing, like those of a lost child, waiting to be found. This now worried her slightly, would Vanwe see passed her own preconceived notions of her mother to see who she really was, the Revennor of Mordor! But she too had at first found it hard to believe that one of her kind would be capable of such heinous acts, as those that Naiore was accused of. But now that she knew that Naiore had been her mothers tormentor, she did not find it at all hard to believe.

It was mid afternoon by the time they reached the Greenway again and Léspheria Decided that she would make for Chetwood to call on an old friend. Tallas was an old man who made his home in the southern reaches of the Chetwood, he is difficult to find by those who do not know of him. But He studies apothecary, and some how manages to stock every herb and tincuture imageable, he is also knowledgeable and know's much of all the lands of Arda. It is said that he was once a ranger and Léspheria having traded with him on several occasions believes this to be true, for never is it known for Tallas to trade with less than honourable folk.

Léspheria feeling that she would need to replenish her supplies before aiding the rangers on their hunt, turned Losseserme more to the north and they sped toward the southern reaches of the Chetwood.

[ September 14, 2003: Message edited by: Nerindel ]

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Old 09-15-2003, 01:11 AM   #50
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Late night had passed into late morning, and Avanill had spent the whole time at the inn in the corner with his books about him writing endless passages of orders.

It had not surprised him that one of the horses had been stolen. He highly doubted that it was his. That horse is the most horrible creature one oculd ever meet. he though to himself smiling as people talked about the incident. That stableman probably forgot to tie it up and blamed it on a thief.

Then Avanill came across some information he did not expect. Whispers of a female elf who had stolen the unfortunate animal. He was growning increasingly nervous from all the talk of Naiore. Many poeple had wandered through his path these days speaking of the elf who had come north. Avanill did not know what to believe, he was the kind of man who would believ when he saw, and what he had seen was enough to set his blood chill, that elf was a little to familliar than his liking.

Slipping quietly out of the inn, Avanill recovered his horse, Amathalay from the stable who snorted a greeting. "Yes, good day to you!" he cried and saddled him.

I would have liked someone to just try and steal you... would have woken the entire inn eh? That would have been a sight to see. And without delay Avanill rode off on the road.

A day from Bree and i am not late. Business calls, infact i may have to kill a man or two this very evening.he thought to himself. Bree was one of the most notorious parts of the north for being in his debt. And Avanill did not take kindly to those who did not pay.

Though young, Avanill was no stranger to these crimes. His mother had let him kill three in her debt in Minhiriath, he was fifteen. Avanill's memory still was stained with the last words of the last man.

"Mercy Atantri, let us live! We gets it to ya!"
"Mercy, i know not the meaning of the word, i fear you forget who I am Mr Orgilan. Do you not know that i am mean and i have no mercy. Let me introduce you to my son, Avanill." His mother had said throwing the man at his feet and laughed.

"A fine boy Atantri."
"Aye, a fine boy, he does his mother's bidding. He does not like it when his mother is harshly done by, as you have now. Kill him son, do me proud." and that was it, Avanill slit his throat there. The rest of the bandits had cheered him on.

"Ashes to ashes" Avanill sighed as he rode, a slight smile crept across his face. It was only a manner of hours until he reached his destination.

[ September 15, 2003: Message edited by: Everdawn ]

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Old 09-15-2003, 03:31 PM   #51
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Rauthatin

Amandur and Rauthain’s course was slower than they had hoped, losing the trail and having to double round to pick it up again. Rauthain’s mind ran to the words that Amandur had spoken, as he studied ground and branch. He wondered how long Naiore had held sway with the orcs of the Misty Mountains. Surely since before the war. This would explain the repeated detailed reports from captured orcs of Kaldir’s grisly death in the heart of the mountains, when it appeared now that he had indeed been transferred south to become a trophy and plaything of Naiore’s. They may have had an interest in keeping the truth from emerging or perhaps like him, the foul creatures believed this to be true, for few were they who returned from such a journey. He struggled to push the thought of Kaldir’s arduous march to Mordor out of mind, and hoped that a similar fate would not befall Halwain.


The bright morning was waxing humid and hot under the trees, the insects droning loudly among them when Amandur halted. Reining in his horse, Rauthain dismounted. “See, they have stopped here,” Amandur said motioning to the other. There in front of them were two sets of footprints lightly impressed upon the ground.


“No sign of a struggle’” Rauthain commented, looking over his shoulder as if he expected someone to appear out of the dense undergrowth. It was encouraging to see the young elf maid’s boot print there clearly marked. She was yet on her own feet. But time was ever important and the ground was growing hard in the heat of the day, but was not dusty enough to hold information.

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Old 09-15-2003, 11:15 PM   #52
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Benia

Benia and Gilly had been traveling northwest across the open countryside for the better part of an hour and a half. The going was difficult, but the shadows of Chetwood loomed close ahead of them. Even though she could feel her sprained ankle beginning to swell again within the confines of her boot, Benia quickened her steps. If they had any hope at all of eluding the bounty hunter, she and Gilly needed to reach the forest. Once there, Benia had hopes they could loose Kaldir amongst the intertwining deer trails. Having spent a large part of her childhood in Bree, she knew Chetwood well. It was their only hope.

Pausing, she glanced back over her shoulder in the direction of the road. What she saw, caused her to suck in her breath sharply. There were figures approaching at a fast pace, and, from the look of them, it was one man and three horses. The man was on foot, leading the three horses on a tether. He moved at an easy jog...and he was following their trail. It was the bounty hunter. Benia turned back in the direction of the forest and saw that Gilly had not noticed her stop and was still making steady progress toward the trees. Benia decided they had no choice but to try to run for it. Gritting her teeth against the pain in her ankle, Benia picked up her skirts and threw herself into a run.

“He’s right behind us!” she called, catching up to Gilly. “Run for the trees!”

Benia saw Gilly’s mouth drop open for an instant, then the middle-aged hobbit lady began to run as well. For Benia, every step brought her a sharp stab of pain, but she ran for all she was worth. Then, she heard the sound she dreaded most, the thud of galloping hooves. She threw another quick glance over her shoulder and saw that Kaldir had mounted his gray horse and was gaining on them at an alarming rate. She knew there was no way she was going to make it to the trees before being overtaken. When her ankle abruptly gave way, nearly causing her to fall, she decided she had to stop running. After all, he didn’t want Gilly. If she could just slow him down long enough to allow Gilly to reach the shelter of Chetwood, maybe Gilly could get away.

“Run!” she yelled again at Gilly’s back. Then, turning to face the bounty hunter, Benia drew her father’s sword from the sheath on her back.

Kaldir closed the distance between them in a matter of seconds. Stopping some feet away, he reined the horses in and dismounted from his stallion. Benia backed away from him slightly, holding her sword at the ready.

Almost casually, he flipped his cloak back over his shoulders and drew his sword.

“Are you sure you want to cross swords with me, lady?” he asked.

Benia said nothing, but continued to hold her ground, her sword at the ready.

Kaldir stepped forward and touched his blade to hers. “En garde, then, my lady.”

“Please keep running!” Benia silently willed Gilly, not daring to take her eyes off the bounty hunter for a second. “Keep going when you get to the trees and don‘t look back!”

Kaldir’s pale blue eyes locked with Benia’s amber ones as the two of them circled each other. Every once in a while, Kaldir’s sword gave Benia’s a light slap, which Benia parried, then returned to the ready.

Noticing the hint of a smile in his eyes, Benia felt suddenly angry. He was toying with her. For what purpose, she was sure she didn’t know, but if it bought time for Gilly, she would play along. Steeling herself against the jolt of pain that would soon come screaming up from her ankle, Benia moved forward and aimed a solid slash at Kaldir’s legs. He parried the blow easily and let her come back to the ready.

She was in so much agony from her ankle now that she balanced precariously on one foot, unable to place any weight on the injured foot at all. Biting her lip against the pain, she watched as Kaldir’s blade again brushed hers. When he made his move, it came so quickly that she barely had time to raise her sword to parry the powerful slash as it fell toward her shoulder. She blocked it, but the counterblow he landed immediately afterward knocked the sword out of her hands. It landed with a clank amongst a cairn of stones some feet away. Stepping back, her ankle gave way and she fell in a heap on the ground. The next thing she felt was the tip of his sword against her throat. Benia looked up at him defiantly, her eyes blazing with an amber fire.

“Kill me, if you’re going to,” she said quietly. She dared not look away from him, but, all the while, she couldn’t get the thought of Gilly out of her mind. She hoped that if she got the opportunity to steal a peek over her shoulder toward the forest, she would see nothing but empty meadow grasses with the shadow of trees in the distance.
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Old 09-17-2003, 06:55 PM   #53
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I rode out from the Forsaken Inn thinking that Amandur and Rauthatin could handle the tracking. I tried to convince Maethor to ride ahead and join them, for I had another idea. I will ride directly to Bree, and there I will wait and see if that who I sought would come. I set out heading west on the road, and as I rode out of sight from the Forsaken, I heaved a sigh.

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Old 09-17-2003, 10:34 PM   #54
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"Maethor," said Hanasian, "you must join the other rangers, Amandur and Rauthain, and aide them in your search. I must go to Bree."

"Let me accompany you," said Maethor. "The road to Bree is a long to journey alone."

"You will aide us better with Amandur and Rauthain," Hanasian urged, swinging astride his horse. He nodded slightly at Maethor.

Maethor furrowed his brow and said, "Namarie, Dunedain." Hanasian took the road west quickly and soon disappeared from Maehtor's sight. The young ranger heaved a sigh: he would miss Hanasian. A sad smile appeared on his tanned face and, brushing a stray strand of brownish black hair, he looked about for Rauthain and Amandur. They had followed the gelding's tracks, he suddenly remembered as he quickly strode to the grove. They had found the fair leather belt of Vanwe.

A print of elven boots was upon the ground, and Maethor leaned over them and saw the heavy boot of Vanwe being dragged to another set of horseprints. Frowning, he saw that the horse would have to bear two riders instead of one. His blood chilled as he envisioned the fair Vanwe in the cold and cruel hands of Naiore. Of course, he mused, if Naiore really was her mother, surely she would be kind to her own daughter. She could not be that cold and hearless. A great sadness fell upon his heart as Maethor crouched over the prints, his eyes glazed as he tried to imagine why Naiore could have alligned herself with the Shadow.

He quickly pushed the thought from his mind and began to follow the gelding's prints and smiled with pleasure when he also caught sight of the imprint of the two rangers. Sprinting lightly over the green grass, he quickly caught up to them and said, "What news, friends?"

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Old 09-18-2003, 05:03 AM   #55
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Gilly

Gilly had been quietly trying to compose a walking song, occupying herself in such a way with the hope of not becoming overly distraught or anxious. Rather a hard thing to do, for as time progressed Benia was favoring her leg more and Gilly was becoming single minded in her determination to reach the Chetwood, as her friend referred to it. The open country they were now forced to traverse was no place for them to be when trying to remain hidden from view, and Benia was forced to pause frequently.

So the hobbit’s song reflected this, being not so much about the mice and rabbits and birds of prey that she wove into her rhymes, but about the uncomfortable urgency of being hunted by something altogether unpleasant. Benia was the rabbit, of course, stopping to look around and listen, quick and alert. Gilly, was the field mouse, small, not stopping to look left or right. She had long since given up stopping each time with Benia, knowing that her friend would be beside her again in no time at all, and by so doing she found she could maintain a relatively steady pace and meter.

But as the forest grew closer, Gilly’s thoughts began to construct themselves as verses of victory and homecoming, relief and reprieve for the hapless creatures populating her song. And it was at this very moment that Gilly’s hopes were dashed as she heard the fast moving rustle of Benia’s skirts and her proclaim the arrival of the hunter. Gilly turned around wide eyed in time to see Benia, face flooded with pain running full tilt toward her shouting “Run for the trees!”

Squinting with open mouth, and peering into the distance, the hobbit could make out the form of the bounty hunter as he swung himself onto his horse. Wasting no time, Gilly hitched up her layers of petticoats and bolted for the forest. If she were caught, she reasoned, she would no doubts be killed or worse, as she would bring no price for him, but rather would be a burden. If she were to escape though, she felt he would scarcely bother to risk Benia’s departure by looking for a small hobbit that was on foot.

“Run!” she heard Benia voice again further behind her.

Benia on the other hand did bring in revenue and apparently needed to be delivered alive to Harad, for Kaldir had already had ample time to dispose of her if that was what was called for, Gilly reasoned. So he would have to make the long trip south with her if that was the case. Plenty of time to organize a proper rescue. Perhaps she could make her way to Archet on her own and get help there, or turn back to the Forsaken to see if the ranger Hanasían could be of help.

Upon reaching the cover of the underbrush at last, Gilly allowed herself to turn around. As she did she saw the bright glint of raised swords in the distance, and after a moment the slighter of the two figures fell to the ground. Immediately the woods and grassland seemed to have grown strange and oppressive as the hobbit stared in disbelief. She felt so terribly alone; unable to aid her friend who, the hobbit assumed, was grievously wounded with only her murderer beside her as she lay dying. The helplessness of the situation bore home to Gilly. Overcome with grief, hunger and exhaustion she threw herself down sobbing into her bundled skirts.

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Old 09-18-2003, 04:46 PM   #56
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Amandur

As I crouched to the ground examining the trail, I took thought as to where she would heading, Naiore's trail was not an easy one, it twisted and crossed and even went back on itself several times, It seemed to suggest that she was heading north-east towards Archet or maybe even Combe, but what interest would these small villages be to the Revennor of Mordor, No! I thought darkly, she is leading us on a merry dance and will enter Bree with the cover of darkness and from the north side I wouldn't wonder.

"She's heading for Bree!" I said raising from the ground, Rauthain cocked an eyebrow and I could see that he too had seen that the trail was heading north-east, but before I could explain the thud of hoofs on the fast drying ground could be heard away behind us.

"Hanasían, Maethor!" Rauthain asked dubiously, as we both turned to face the direction of the ensuing thud of hoofs approaching fast. My hand went instinctively to the hilt of my sword, but I did not draw. There was but one horse and not two, as should be if Hanasían and Maethor approached. But to my surprise it was Maethor and without Hanasían.

"What news, friends?" he asked as I released the grip of my hilt, "And I was going to ask the same of you!" I replied gesturing at Maethor's lack of riding companion.

"He has gone on to Bree" the young ranger sighed. "Hmm good!" I said to Maethor's surprise but before he could speak I went on, "As I was telling Rauthain, I believe Naiore and Vanwe are heading for Bree!"

"You where also going to tell me how come you to this conclusion, when the trail clearly heads in the opposite direction!" Rauthain laughed and I could see in his eyes that he had already come to the same conclusions.

"Will someone please tell me what is going on!" Maethor asked a little frustrated.

"sorry friend," I said patting his shoulder in a brotherly manner "It seems like Naiore thinks to lead us a merry dance, making us believe she is heading towards Combe or Archet, but I believe she will make for Bree, she can't hope to out ride us on the gelding she stole from the Forsaken inn, especially as it bears two."

"But can't horses can be acquired in both these villages!" Maethor questioned,

"Yes, But the people that the Revennor of Mordor would associate with are more likely to be in Bree, but you are right! That is why I think you and Rauthain should continue following her trail and I will ride back and enter Bree by the south gate, With luck I should get there before she even draws near." I replied evenly, Both Rangers nodded their agreement and I mounted Kalloruvi.

"Be careful, friend!" Rauthain warned, holding to my reigns, "Like wise," I nodded to both rangers, then with all haste I headed back towards the south gate.

As I rode I thought of Hanasían, what did he think he was up to going off on his own! then it occurred to me that he may be thinking to quiz a few of our rather untrustworthy friends. I pulled a rather tattered looking parchment from the pocket of my breeches, and scanned the list of suspected criminals that the rangers kept an eye on. 'Barrold Ferney!" I grinned, he would sell his own mother for a price if she was still alive! Yes! he would but worth a visit and a few others besides, I thought returning the list to my pocket.

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Léspheria

After several hours hard riding Léspheria reached the eaves of Chetwood on the northern side of the east road. She dismounted and lead the white mare into the woods, curling ferns brushed her boots as she walked lightly across the mossy ground and small gold and white flowers seemed to hug the roots of ancient trees. The sweet smell of herb's and wild flowers reached her nose as she deeply inhaled the forest air. An old grey squirrel shrilled loudly as she passed by the tree in which it had made it's home and the scurrying of unseen feet could be heard from within the brush, even the insects that buzzed about did not seem to take away from the tranquillity of this place.

Léspheria confidently lead Losseserme among the many crossing paths and when wisps of grey smoke could be seen away north-west she turned left and continued until she came to a small clearing. A small silver stream ran through it and it seem like the trees parted to let it pass, even with the sun low in the sky the glades beauty seemed to shine. Letting go of Losseserme's reigns she gentle patted the mares flank, whinnying lightly the mare wandered over to the stream to quench her thirst from the days ride. Taking an apple and one of Ms Boffins Honeycakes from her pack she sat against an old brown oak and ate, smiling as she thought of the middle aged hobbit woman who was forever scolding herself and Vanwe for not eating enough. Once finished she took a short draw from her small leather water skin and listened the melodies of the birds in the trees as she walked down to the stream to retrieve her horse.

"It is long since any of the fair folk have wandered these woods." a softly almost woody voice spoke from beside the oak she had just left. She stopped and smiled as she recognised her old friends voice, "Nae saian luume' Hodoer!" She gently replied as she turned to face him. He was a lot older now than when they had first met, but he looked no different from how he had on their last meeting, His greying hair sat about his seemingly frail frame and his grey beard was tucked in the old worn belt that sat about his shabby woollen robes, he supported himself with a knarled dark wooden staff, But despite his appearance his gentle grey eyes which held the wisdom of his age, also burned with an unexplainable youthfulness.

"Come!" he smiled, gesturing for her to follow, not waiting he turned and began walking back woods. Léspheria whistled softly and Losseserme followed her as she hurried after the old man.

"A shadow remains!" the old man whispered and a shiver ran down Léspheria's back as the leaves of the trees shook as if in answer to his words, she had not even realised that she had stopped until she felt a frail hand on her arm, As his gently grey eyes looked into her she sighed and nodded her head, "That is why I am here, I need your help my old friend." The old man nodded sympathetically and they continued on in silence.

"Well, we are here!" he said gesturing to a small ring of majestic oaks. Hidden within sat a small wooden house, which even her elven eyes had not perceived until he pointed it out.

"Stay close!" She whispered to the white mare as she followed Tallas through the green and brown wooden door. A small copper kettle whistled over the fire in the dimly lit room and the musty smell of the dried herb's that hung from the rafters reach her nose. On a small oak table by the south facing window sat two earthen ware mugs and a platter of fresh bread and cheese.

"Are you expecting someone?" she said indicating the set table.

"No, not anymore" he grinned leaning his staff against the fire place and using a near by cloth to pick up the hot kettle and carefully set it on the table.

"well! do you plan to stand there all day or will you join me for tea" he laughed indicating the vacant chair across from him. Removing her bow and sitting Léspheria's eyes fell on the shelves that lined the length and breadth of the north wall, various vials, jars and bottles sat neatly upon the shelves.

"So how can this old ranger, help the Lady Léspheria of Rivendell?" he asked sipping at his tea.

"I need to replenish my supplies, " she replied looking up to the herb's that hung from the rafters. Tallas did not follow her gaze, instead he studied her troubled eyes.

"A shadow of darkness entered these woods this day !". Léspheria's eyes widened as she slowly lower head to regard him.

"When!" she sighed knowing full well of whom he spoke.

"Mid-afternoon and she was not alone." Léspheria's heart sunk as Tallas described Vanwe.

"I almost thought I was seeing double, both alike but not!" he continued raising a questioning eyebrow. But when she did not reply he answered himself "The Bard?" She shivered slightly recalling her last encounter with the tormented elf, but she nodded all the same.

Tallas slowly rose from his chair and pulled out a small bundle that had sat upon one of the numerous shelves and handed it to her, "I think you will find all that you require!" he said placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder, nodding she put the package into her pack and finished her tea.

She was not surprised by the old mans foresight for she had sensed long ago that he possessed it and knew not to ask questions regarding future events, for the future was ever changing. But she now sensed that something troubled him. "What is it by old friend?" she asked her brow creasing with concern.

"Ah!" he grinned "there are no secrets to be kept from the lady Léspheria, I knew your mother, infact I had occasion to aid her as I do you now!"

"Yes I know that my mother also pursued ..... she sighed placing her head in her hands as a fresh flash of memories filled her mind. Tallas placed a concerned hand on her shoulder, "It will pass" she whispered weakly

"Your mother believed that Naiore had been taken over by Sauron!" he went on as Léspheria raised her head, "But she was wrong!" Léspheria exclaimed sadly. Tallas sighed and nodded, but secretly he was glad that Léspheria saw this.

After a few moments of silence Tallas spoke frankly "What will you do when you find her?"
"bring her to King Elessar for judgement!" she replied frowning slightly. Tallas nodded to himself, a warm smile formed on his ageing features as he regarded the elf woman before him.

After finishing the bread an cheese Tallas offered her, she thanked him for his help and hospitality and she rose to leave, he walked her to her horse.

"Go carefully, your foe is a dangerous one! but your gift gives you an even footing, do not be afraid to use it!" He counselled her as she mounted Losseserme. she gave a reassuring nod and Losseserme sped her off to where Tallas had told her he had spotted Naiore and Vanwe.

[ September 18, 2003: Message edited by: Nerindel ]
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Old 09-20-2003, 03:15 AM   #57
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Avanill had rode into Bree a lot sooner than he had intended, the lack of trading along the road had made for swift riding. He slowed his horse to a walk an entered the township.

The people of this town had a large amount of respect for him, and he knew it. Anything he felt he needed in Bree, Avanill knew he could get.

Avanill had thought it a little strange that he had not been stopped on the road. He travelled the well used one, avoiding all the twisting, secrative routs the other bootleggers usually used. Travelling on the open road usually made him immune form any questions by law abiding folk. The seldom came near to him.

Avanill liked the thought that he scared people. It was true he looked older than he was, but his horse added to the effect. Slowly he dismounded his horse. The creature tried to pull away from him. "Behave!" Avanill spoke in a harsh tone, Amathalay snorted.

" Stable, stable, stable, ah! here we go!"he said to himself and paid Amathalay's bed for the night. Standing outside the driery surroundings he sighed to himself and looked across the street. Now that is a place run by a deamon. he laughed. Barrold Ferney, thinks he can dabble in my trade, i give him a run for his money.
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Old 09-21-2003, 02:44 PM   #58
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Rauthain

As Amandur rode off through the tall trees and the muffled sound of his horse’s hooves grew faint, Rauthain was ill comforted at Amandur’s departure. It brought with it chill memories. But this day they were in pursuit of a single highborn elf and her apparent captive, not the retreating orcs of the mountains. Amandur will arrive in Bree, the ranger told himself though his heart harbored doubt. And as Maethor and he rejoined their horses, turning once again to the task at hand, he considered that they might also overtake Naiore before she reached Bree. Two rangers against the Ravennor of Mordor, it was fewer than he should have liked.

Long shafts of sunlight pierced the leafy canopy over their heads, falling on rock and the green creepers that grew round about. This place seemed still, bereft of anyone but themselves. Only the threading trail spoke differently. If Naiore hadn’t the gelding it would have been difficult indeed to follow this trail let alone find her. She had retained her freedom through no mere chance, but rather skill and deception.

“It is many miles yet to the villages, and heavily wooded ,” Maethor said swinging up onto his horse. “This elf has chosen an ideal path, for after reaching the edge of the wood she might confuse her tracks more easily by blending them with the townsfolk and travelers to Bree.”

Rauthain knew the younger ranger was right. Naiore would have to leave the Chetwood at some point no matter what direction she wished to travel and that is when she would be most vulnerable to a sighting. Archet or Coombe were the most natural places for her to attempt this, though he doubted that these fair and strange folk would go unnoticed in the rustic villages, unaccompanied as they were. He was sorely tempted to leave the trail and ride on, waiting for them to arrive. Yet he did not want to risk that she might be headed instead to the caves south of Fornost or over The Greenway north of Bree and to the Barrow Downs, and thus miss her entirely.

“You speak rightly, Maethor. I too feel she may have the villages in mind, but in the meanwhile we must be the wolves following behind at a distance and dancing the ‘merry dance’ that Amandur spoke of.” Rauthain suddenly broke into a broad smile as he spoke and winking added. “But we are both fine dancers, are we not? And persistent too in our attentions!”

After another mile or so, the trail lead into a small stream and did not emerge again on the other side. The two rangers entered the water and following upstream each examined one of the banks as they went. It proved a long while before Maethor called out that the gelding’s tracks had appeared again and the rangers followed them as they headed to the southeast. Coming to a place of tangled undergrowth, Rauthain swung down from his horse, crouching low to see the signs more closely. “We are not far behind now, Maethor! See, they have dismounted here. And what is this?” he said picking up a small crescent of pale wax and handling it to the younger man. “It seems our quarry has use of some physic!”

“If we only knew its purpose,” Maethor said handing the wax back to Rauthain. “But we had better not delay if we are drawing near. It would be better to overtake them before they get to a village.”

Rauthain nodded, but feared for the young man and tarried a bit longer than needed.

[ September 21, 2003: Message edited by: Hilde Bracegirdle ]
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Old 09-21-2003, 07:13 PM   #59
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Kaldir

"Kill me, if you are going to," said Benia, gazing fearlessly up at Kaldir from where she had fallen when her injured ankle gave way. Her dark amber eyes burned. The bright morning sunlight sparkled off the silver spangled chain that ran from her earring across her cheekbone to the stud in her left nostril. Looking down the blade of his sword to her face, Kaldir noticed absently that the kohl around her eyes had smeared and begun to come off. She looked so much younger without it. Smiling slightly, he stepped back and sheathed his sword.

"I have no intention of killing you," he said almost pleasantly. "I told you as much in the cellar last night." Leaving her on the ground where she lay, he walked over to where her sword had landed when he had forced it from her grip. Retrieving it from the cairn of stones, he gave a quick glance down the blade before laying it in the grass a goodly distance from where Benia could reach it. It was an excellent quality weapon, nicely weighted, with a sharp and carefully maintained blade. It shouldn't have surprised him that a Painted Sand woman would have such a sword or that she could handle it as well as she did despite her bad ankle. After all, the Painted Sand people were a warrior tribe. Nonetheless, he found himself amused by it and even a little bit disappointed that she was injured. He would have enjoyed truly testing her skills.

Some other time. For the moment, there were too many other things to worry about. For one thing Naiore was probably already on the move.His guess was that they were making for Bree, where Naiore undoubtedly had some underworld contacts. It would be better to catch her before she reached Bree, but if he missed her, he could wait. He had been waiting twelve long years for a chance at revenge. A few more days or weeks wouldn't hurt.

And then there was the matter of Mrs. Banks. After Benia had stopped and drawn her sword, he had seen the hobbit still running for the shelter of the forest. Kaldir turned and squinted toward the trees. Knowing what he did about her loyalty to the desert woman, he figured she wouldn't have gone far. Rather than constantly having to keep one eye open for her, he decided it would be far easier just to catch her, too. After all, he had a mount for her already in the little pack pony, who was just hobbit sized. He could redistribute the supplies later to make room for her when they made camp. As it was, dealing with the two of them was a little too much like trying to keep two kittens in a basket. As soon as one was accounted for, he'd find the other one creeping around underfoot.

"Let her go." Sitting up now, Benia had followed his gaze in the direction of the forest and guessed at his thoughts. "She is of no value to you," she said urgently. " Please let her go."

Ignoring her pleas, Kaldir walked over to where she sat. "Give me your backpack and the sheath for your sword."

Benia complied, but continued to plead for Gilly's safety as Kaldir sheathed her sword and examined the contents of her pack. "Let Gilly go back to her family. She means you no harm. She only meant to help me."

Kaldir gave her a skeptical glance from under his eyebrows. Finding no weapons in the rucksack, only food and clothing belonging to Benia, he walked back over and dropped it on the grass beside her. "Empty your pockets. Turn them out so that I can see they are empty."

Again, Benia did as she was told. She could see her own dagger in its silver and lapis inlaid sheath tucked already in the side of the bounty hunter's belt. Regrettably, she handed over Gilly's little knife as well. She had forgotten to give it back when the two of them had fled the old blacksmith's building. Now it, too ,was the property of the bounty hunter. Kaldir gave it scarcely a glance before sliding it into a pouch on his belt. Carrying Benia's sword, Kaldir walked over to where the little pack pony grazed and strapped the sword to the pony's back. Then, he took something out of the pack and came back in Benia's direction. When she saw what he carried, her heart sank. It was a set of iron wrist shackles and a very solid-looking padlock. Kaldir slid the shackles on to Benia's slender wrists and clicked the padlock shut. She wouldn't be sawing out of those, nor would she be getting up to run away. The pain in her ankle would immobilize her nicely for the brief time he was away. With that thought in mind, Kaldir left the horses to graze freely on the meadow grasses as he turned and strode toward the edge of the Chetwood Forest. He had already located Gilly's fresh footprints among the grasses and moved confidently along her trail.

"Gilly!" Benia called out behind him. "He's coming! Beware!"

[ September 24, 2003: Message edited by: Ealasaide ]
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Old 09-21-2003, 08:13 PM   #60
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Benia

Benia watched in horror as Kaldir turned and began walking along Gilly's trail through the tall meadow grasses toward the wood.

"Gilly!" She called out. "He's coming! Beware!"

Careful to keep her injured ankle from bumping the ground and giving her a fresh jolt of pain, Benia rose up on her knees and watched the bounty hunter's back vanish into the shadows of the trees. She looked around wildly for a weapon or any way she might go to her friend's assistance, even in a small way. The only thing to catch her eye was the hilt of her father's sword, tied in its scabbard to the back of the little pack pony who grazed with the other two horses some twenty to thirty feet away. Quickly gathering a handful of clover and fresh green grasses, she began to crawl toward the animals. The going was awkward and difficult as the ground under her was littered with small, sharp stones that dug into her knees and threatened to tear her skirt. Before going very far she stopped and held the handful of grass and clover out in the direction of the horses.

She clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth and called out to them softly.

All three horses raised their heads and looked at her curiously, then the gray stallion snorted authoritatively and stamped his hoof. He snorted a second time, then went back to his grazing, followed by the bay mare. The pack pony continued to stare at Benia with long-lashed brown eyes.

Benia glanced over her shoulder toward the woods, and, seeing and hearing nothing, went back to trying to draw the pony over to her. "Hi, Pumpkin!" she called out in her happiest tone of voice. "Come here, sweetie! Come taste this wonderful clover!" She held out the handful of clover. The pony took a few steps in her direction, then stopped and extended his shaggy head trying to determine what she had in her hand. Apparently seeing that it was just clover, which was already plentiful in the spot where he stood, the pony lost interest immediately and went back to grazing. Benia dropped the clover. If she was to have any hope of helping Gilly, she would have to think of something else. Looking around again, her eyes fell on her pack. Eagerly she crawled back to where Kaldir had dropped it once he was satisfied that it contained no weapons. It did contain something she could use...apples.

Reaching into her pack with her shackled hands, Benia pulled out the reddest apple of the three that remained uneaten and held it out toward the pony. "Pony!" she cooed. "Look what I have for you! Would you like an apple?"

The pony raised his head again and, seeing the apple, trotted eagerly over. Feeding him the apple, Benia grabbed the strap to the pony's pack saddle and pulled herself up to balance carefully on her uninjured foot. She closed her hands around the hilt of her sword, intending to draw it from the scabbard, then stopped. What exactly did she plan to do next? It wasn't as though she could go charging into the trees, sword drawn, to Gilly's aid, when she could scarcely even walk. Instead, she untied the rope that tethered the pony to the bay mare and pulled herself up atop the pack on the pony's back. Then she drew the sword from its scabbard and, clucking softly to the little animal, began to ride slowly toward the woods. There were still no sounds from Gilly or the bounty hunter.

The longer the silence continued, the deeper Benia's fears grew that something awful had indeed befallen her friend. She hoped that the silence meant only that Gilly had managed either to flee or hide successfully from the bounty hunter, but the fact that the bounty hunter had not yet returned bothered her. She hoped that it meant he was still searching for Gilly, but the hope was all she had.
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Old 09-21-2003, 09:23 PM   #61
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It was something people told me my father would do, going off suddenly in directions unplanned and unsuspected. But surely since the trail of Naiore was seen going towards and through the Chetwood, then surely there was only one reason, to gain Bree in an unsuspecting manner. So I would be there before her, and will have eyes out for her arrival in the villes about Bree.

But surely more worked on my conscience than Naiore, and if Vanwe was with her, then who is to say it was forced? She wanted afterall to find her mother... I felt the pouch and belt, and as I took a rest hidden beside the road I examined the contents. a few coppers, and the note with the bits Vanwe had written. I dropped a few silvers in the pouch, and a note of my own, that maybe she would get. And if so... yeah, it was a longshot.

The sound of a rider making fair time toward Bree was heard, and I lay low in the scrub north of the road. It was not too far from where I slept a couple days earlier on my way to Bree for Lady Nightshade. Well hidden I was, and Blackveil stood in the shadows of the trees silently as the rider passed. It was the trader from the Forsaken. He would pedddle his wares at Barlimans I presume, but I would remain concerned about that.

It was what happened next that had my mind taken. I could see afar to the south of the road a rider moving at speed over the open grasslands that were southeast of Bree. I mounted Blackveil and made straight across the road to meet them. I was approximatly 1000 yards beyond the road when he noticed me, and his hand raised as did mine. It was Dúlrain, one of the bretheren who was watching the South Down for sign of Naiore. We slowed and met in a draw between grassy ridges, now out of sight to any but one who rode or walked down through it.

I dismounted silently, and he did likewise, with an expression I had not seen in a long time. I was first to speak,

'What news do you carry so swift?'

He looked at me as his hand went to my shoulder,

"I saw one moving slow, toward the lone lands. He was old, but still fit for one so, and as I approached he seemed to disappear. I searched long and found nothing, but when I decided to depart, I saw him in the setting sun. He gave the wave of friendship, but as soon as I started for him, he again vanished, and I could not follow his sign in the darkening skies. But I can say that he appeared much like you, though aged and grey, and I left there then. I could not chase another day one who appeared as a shadow in the day and a siloette at night, but for the glimpse I had at sunset."

I settled him and offered him drink of some water, and he took it thankfully. He then looked at me and said,

"I am sure it was your father Hanasían, the age would be right, though no good description is known well among us since its been so long any has seen him."

'Yes, he has been presumed dead for many long years, since before the war. But I have to find out if what you saw was he.'


I looked southeast, and I knoew it would be a hard ride. I would be abandoning the search for Naiore, that which I had done for so many long years. After much thought and silence but for the grass in the hot breeze, I spoke.

'You will have to go to Bree. There you will be instructed as to the current status of the pursuit of Naiore. She is close, and Amandur, Maethor, and Rauthain are fast upon the fresh sign of her track. I was to go to Bree and set watch for her, for surely all sign said she would go there. You must do this for me. Take this and ride with speed to Bree, and there at the Prancing Pony will you meet in due time the others. I will ride to the Lone Lands, and in days ahead, with the favor of the vala, we all will meet again.'

He looked at the belt and pouch and without question he stowed it in his cloak.

'It belongs to a fair elfmaiden named Vanwe, daughter of Naiore.'

With that and all I could tell of the search, I mounted and headed straightaway to the southeast. I made for the east end of the South Downs where there was a sighting of one who may be my father. Dúlrain quickly mounted and with a wave he was to the road and making speed toward Bree...
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Old 09-22-2003, 07:37 PM   #62
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Maethor closely examined the piece of wax that Rauthain had handed to him and sniffed. There was but a faint fragrance that was slightly intoxicating, but the ranger could not distinguish any particular herbs. “If we only knew its purpose,” Maethor said handing the wax back to Rauthain. “But we had better not delay if we are drawing near. It would be better to overtake them before they get to a village.”

The older ranger remained silent and studied the tracks intently, his eyes fixed upon the ground and Maethor peered into the sky, watching wisps of clouds flutter upon the breath of the slight wind. He breathed deeply and whispered to Nair in Elvish explaining what they had found. He took a hunk of bread from his saddle bags, broke it in half, and tossed a part to Rauthain, who caught it with ease. “When I was young I lived in Imladris,” Maethor said quietly as the two rangers mounted and continued the hunt, “and the elves taught me much. I heard of Naiore but only recently…I suppose that she was not mentioned because of…of…what she did,” Maethor said evasively, trying not to let the horror of her deeds register in his face. “Why did she do what she did?”

“She wished to know where fear spawned. That is the question she asked her victims before she ended their misery and slew them.” Rauthain said as he dismounted and made sure of the trail. “She was always fascinated with emotions, and particularly fear. Pain intrigued her as well.”

Maethor remained silent and thought of his days in Gondor after the defeat of the Shadow. He wandered among the noble city of Gondor, the city which had withstood the might of the enemy. Some of the architect was in ruins, but that was only a dim and vague memory in his mind. The recollections of the suffering in the Houses of Healing is what haunted his mind when his thoughts turned to them. In them, he had seen the sufferings of the innocent, of the men of Gondor. The grief that had been in their eyes, their mourning for loved ones who were laid to rest in eternal slumber, the strong men who moaned in pain from their many wounds. Maethor wondered who could take pleasure in such horror, in such wretchedness. The elves were a healing race, they did not purposely inflict pain. “I wonder how Kaldir withstood it,” he said quietly. “I had not realized he had endured so much torment.”

Rauthain nodded silently and said, “It has left him scarred forever, in more ways than one.”

Maethor nodded and gazed about him, at the trees that stood in solemn nobility, the birds that flitted freely in the air, the lush scent of crushed flowers and herbs under the heavy hooves of the horses. The bright sunlight streamed from the firmament above oblivious to the lurking shadow of darkness that journeyed before them.
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Old 09-23-2003, 01:10 PM   #63
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Sting

Kaldir

Once Kaldir had entered the shadows of Chetwood, he had only to hear the muffled sounds of weeping to know that Gilly had not gone far. He followed the sound only a short distance along a deer trail before finding her collapsed in a thicket and sobbing into her apron. Crossing his arms across his chest, Kaldir leaned one shoulder against a tree and watched her for a moment, waiting for her to notice his presence. After all, he had heard Benia shouting warnings from behind him to her friend up ahead. Surely, Gilly had heard them.

Apparently not, he decided after another moment had passed. Totally absorbed in her grief, Gilly didn't seem to have heard anything. Finally, Kaldir sighed.

"Come, come, Mrs. Banks," he said with just a trace of impatience. "Your friend has come to no harm."

Gilly stopped crying and raised a tear-stained face to look at him in alarm.

Kaldir pushed himself away from the tree trunk he had been leaning against and took a step toward Gilly, who seemed to have turned to stone. The only indication that she hadn't was the occasional soft sniffle.

"Let's go," ordered Kaldir, gesturing toward the deer trail and the meadow, but Gilly didn't move. Instead, she continued to stare at him with wide, red-rimmed eyes. Kaldir walked over behind her and picked the hobbit up by her elbows, setting her on her feet.

"Gilly?" It was Benia's voice. To Kaldir's surprise, it sounded remarkably close by. Startled, he looked back down the deer trail, and there she stood, balanced precariously on one foot and holding her sword tightly in her shackled hands. Just beyond her, he could see the non-descript brown coat of the pack pony. That explained it. She had somehow managed to get ahold of the pack pony.

At the sound of Benia's voice, Gilly came back to life. She would have bolted back down the deer trail to where Benia stood except that Kaldir caught her firmly by the back of her dress, right between the shoulder blades. Gilly struggled mightily, nearly ripping the back clean out of her dress, until Kaldir hooked his free arm around her waist and lifted her completely off the ground.

"ENOUGH!" he roared.

Startled, Gilly stopped struggling. Kaldir turned his attention to Benia. "Drop the sword," he ordered. When she didn't comply immediately, he released his hold on the back of Gilly's dress and drew his dagger. Seeing the steel of his blade so close to Gilly's ribcage, Benia dropped the sword and took a careful hop backward.

"Good." Kaldir nodded. He set Gilly back on her feet. Leaning over, he growled in her ear, "If you give me any more trouble, I'll gut you right here. Do you understand me?"

When she nodded, he pointed back down the trail toward Benia. "Walk." Gilly did as she was told and scurried back down the trail toward Benia with Kaldir close behind her. When she reached her friend, the two hugged each other like children, watching as Kaldir, again, picked up Benia's sword. He was angry, both at himself for taking so much trouble over these two, and at the two of them for being so stubbornly determined to elude him. Even so, he found that the more they fought him, the more determined he was not to let them go. It was beginning to be a matter of pride.

He stalked over to the pack pony and pushed Benia's sword back into its sheath, then whistled for Nico, the gray stallion, who trotted over immediately followed by the bay mare, who was still attached to the gray by a rope tether. It was time they stopped fooling around and found Naiore's trail before it went cold. The elfwoman was capable of moving like a dark phantom through the landscape. If he hoped to pick up her trail, it would have to be done before nightfall. Otherwise, all the traces would vanish and she would become like a ghost again. He had a feeling she was on a roundabout route that would take her to Bree. If he was correct, then all he would have to do is continue north along the edge of Chetwood until his path intersected hers. Recognizing her trail when he found it would be the hard part, but he was confident that he could do it. There was an oddity to the stolen gelding's footprint that he had noticed back in the dust of the Forsaken's stable, where one side of one of the horseshoes was malformed. If he could find a clear print of it, identification would take no more than a glance.

Turning his attention back to his current prisoners, Kaldir brought the bay mare around and, with a gesture, instructed Benia to mount her. Once Benia was firmly in the saddle, he turned toward Gilly, who was watching him with a look of dread on her face.

"You ride with me," he said, pointing her in the direction of the gray horse.

Gilly shook her head. "Oh, no, begging your pardon, Mr. Kaldir," she stammered. "I couldn't possibly... he's so big..." But her objections trailed off abruptly as she caught sight of the black anger rising in his face. "Well, I'll need a leg up," she finished meekly.

Kaldir ended the discussion by picking her up and depositing her into the saddle like a sack of meal. Nervous as a cat, Gilly grabbed the saddlehorn with a white-knuckled grip and held on. She and Benia exchanged curious glances as Kaldir tied the pack pony back on to the tether with the other two horses. Then he tied Benia's pack to the back of the pack pony and, taking hold of the tether, began to lead all three animals north along the edge of the forest. He jogged along on foot, his pale eyes criss-crossing the ground, searching for the place where Naiore might have entered the wood. They had traveled for quite some distance this way when Kaldir abruptly stopped.

The prints of a number of horses, probably three or four of them, led into the forest there. Dropping the tether, he walked slowly back and forth along the side of the new trail, studying the confusion of prints for one with a malformed shape. After a moment, he hesitated and bent down for a closer look. There in the rich dirt of the forest floor just to the right of the trail was a clear copy of the hoofprint he had first noticed in the stable. He had found Naiore's trail. Having satisfied himself that it was the hoofprint of the stolen gelding, he turned his attention to the other prints on the trail. Three large horses, from the look of it, all iron-shod, and a fourth with the delicate unshod hooves of an elven horse. Two of the shod horses continued on into the forest after Naiore, while the third turned south. Kaldir was surprised that he had encountered no one riding southward that morning. Whoever it was must have made a wide loop to the east and returned to the road. The unshod elven horse seemed to have arrived later than the others, as its prints overlapped all of the others. The faint and dainty shapes made by an elf's boots were also present, skirting the path, as Kaldir himself had done, their owner no doubt studying the tracks as he was now. The prints were very fresh.

"No doubt Amandur and his lot," grumbled Kaldir. He had wasted barely a half an hour playing chase with the desert woman and her friend, but it had been enough to put him at a serious disadvantage. If he remained behind the Rangers in the pursuit of Naiore, he knew he would be wasting his time, and his role in the unfolding events would be relegated to little better than spectator. Finding Naiore in Bree would be a challenge, especially what with Benia and Gilly to contend with, but, provided the Rangers had not closed in on Naiore already, it would be his only opportunity to regain the advantage he had lost that morning. Otherwise, he might as well pack it in and head for Harad with Benia.

Returning to the horses and his two prisoners, Kaldir swung himself up easily into the saddle behind Gilly. Since there was obviously no more need for stealth or careful tracking, they could move more quickly now. The trail the others had taken was open and wide. They rode for Bree at a gallop.

[ September 24, 2003: Message edited by: Ealasaide ]
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Old 09-23-2003, 05:35 PM   #64
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Sting

Barrold Ferney

“I’ll have no more trouble from you tonight, Barrold Ferney!”

Barrold waved off Butterbur and his stern warning with an obscene gesture, stumbling for the door before he was tossed out of it. He pushed out into the cooler air of night muttering about stale beer and stupid innkeepers who didn’t know any better than to cross the paths of the likes of him. The streets of Bree were quiet and dark. A group of boys ran by, steering a wide berth around Barrold. They were already late home. No sense incurring more trouble by inadvertently jostling the town miscreant.

Barrold’s conversation with himself shifted to the matter of another who had crossed him. She had kept him dangling in Bree upon the promise of more work for some years now. More to the point, she had promised to return two nights ago. Barrold didn’t wait on noone, didn't take anyone's orders, or so he told himself.

Still, it was only around 10pm and there he was weaving his way home far earlier than his habitual time of vacating the inn, assuming he had not been tossed out prior to 2am or so. If his feet picked up speed as he gauged how late it had gotten, for fear of her arriving and finding him out drinking again, Barrold ignored it.

“Maybe thish time I’ll sell ‘er to 'em Rangersh,” he slurred as he lurched through the dilapidated door of the ruin he had claimed as his very own palace. It was a farm house, the occupants long since dispatched to early graves towards the end of the War of the Ring. Barrold had told the people who asked after the original inhabitants that they had left seeking peace and safety in some distant place. Since that time, he had taken up residence and it was a house of ill-repute. If a horse was stolen, the Shiriffs came looking for it in his ramshackle, lopsided shed. If someone had their house burgled, they searched Barrold’s appropriated house for the missing goods. If someone went missing, they thought about whether Barrold had been observed doing any midnight gardening of late. One glance at the tangled overrun gardens suggested that he was about to be planting geraniums by moonlight.

For all that, Barrold tumbled through his doorway and into the dark grimy kitchen blithely. On account of his latest client, Barrold had not been stealing horses, household goods nor planting things that had had the life snuffed out of them by moonlight for far too long. He’d been good, for Barrold Ferney that is to say. In his own castle, Barrold was king. He had nothing to fear. Noone had been sniffing around him and noone would be waiting for him with tricky questions that required careful dodging and side stepping. He was the master of this domain.

The kitchen was without light. The windows were too dirty for starlight or moonlight to make any purchase against the murk. When he found that his kitchen answered his statement of mostly false bravado, Barrold nearly fell backwards, weaving in the dark with his arms windmilling in a search for balance. He found it with a sudden thump as his rump located the grimy kitchen floor.

“You had best hope the Rangersh,” the kitchen cooly mocked, “Have improved in their craft then. For otherwise, I would return find you Barrold Ferney.” Barrold, who had a curse shaken from him as he took an impromptu seat on the floor, sullenly scowled about at the dark kitchen.

“They’re here, y’know,” he said with a surly voice that was sour with too much ale. “I do know, and so am I. Ware, mortal, so that you remain so also, upon my departure.” Barrold knew the threat in the velvety voice was not idle. He’d seen but a glimpse of what could be unleashed by the owner of the voice. His belligerence remained but he decided to give over on the current argument and switch to something where his ground was firmer, and not quite so perilous.

“You’re late,” he said to Naiore Dannan. Drunk as he was, Barrold was not so far gone as to be incapable of recognising the voice of the Ravennor of Mordor.

Naiore

In thinking that pursuing any argument with Naiore Dannan, Barrold revealed his foolish and reckless nature. The day had been long and tiresome, Vanwe becoming more and more incapable of supporting her weight as the elixir tooks its terrible toll on her strength. For the moment, though, Naiore brushed it aside. Fool that he was, Barrold Ferney had his uses yet and so Naiore indulged the man.

“The Rangers,” she repeated with chagrin, hoisting the unresisting weight Vanwe’s limp form. “They’ve tracked me all through the Wilds.” Barrold chuckled at her displeasure. “I wonder how amusing it will be when they come acalling upon you,” she snapped. Barrold’s laughter dried up. Naiore could make out the outline of the man as he sat on the floor. “I thought I told you to remain out of sight.”

“I got thirsty,” Barrold replied. “A man’s gotta drink.” Naiore left it at that outwardly. Not if he is dead, she thought as she adjusted Vanwe’s weight again. Barrold’s eyes had been slowly adjusting to the dark for some time now, and he was able to make out where she stood. With the small comfort of that knowledge, that the Ravennor was not a sorceress who had mastered the art of invisibility, he clambered to his feet.

“Who’s that,” he asked suspiciously, peering at Vanwe now that his sight was improving.

“The Queen of the Reunited Kingdom,” Naiore replied impatiently. “She needs to be kept securely until I leave.” Barrold peered closer still, unsure of whether it really was who Naiore had said it was. He knew enough to know that Naiore nurtured a contempt for all associated with the Heirs of Elendil and that she was capable of the most astounding acts. It was not impossible that Arwen Evenstar was indeed propped by her.

"What's wrong with 'er," he asked. Arwen's head lolled on and angle and it looked as though she was dead. Naiore couldn't possibly pay well enough for him to harbour the murderer of the Queen as well as her lifeless corpse. Alarm flared within him that Naiore found amusing and tiresome as well. The man was a fool, a dangerous fool.

Rather than explain how the exlir robbed strength to give fleeting endurance and compliance to Barrold, Naiore dismissed his question with the barest of answers. "She's tired is all. I think you should be able to manage her like this."

Barrold sidled closer, Naiore sensing easily the spark of prideful anger.

"i'll manage 'er alright," he boasted. "I'll watch 'er for ya." He tucked his thumbs behind his belt and puffed out his chest. Before he could name an additional fee for the service for his close attentions to her daughter, Naiore intervened. She had other ideas for Vanwe just yet before she resorted to that.

“I have other things for you, Ferney. For now, find a room for her and make sure she’ll stay in it.” With that, Naiore passed her daughter to the man and let him make his way up the creaking stairs. “Never met no queen before,” Barrold said with Vanwe’s form draped over his shoulder.

In the kitchen, Naiore suppressed a shudder of revulsion for the filthy state of Barrold’s house. She unslung her pack but not her weapons, dusted off a seat, and folded her weary frame into it to await Barrold’s return. Her head bowed, Naiore’s senses were far from idle. They were trained on Barrold, who was a tinder box mix of dangerous, malleable instincts. Violence, hatred, greed and lust blended together in this man.

When the time came, Naiore would enjoy pulling him apart piece by piece, sundering his illusions of control so that he finally understood how pitifully small he really was in comparison to the true masters of darkness. For now, though, she had to watch him carefully. One false step and he could bring it all unstuck. Barrold was a liability that Naiore would deal with once she had wrung all use from him.

That was why she trained her senses over him as he secured her senseless daughter, another liability that she would see to when the moment came. She needed both Vanwe and Barrold intact for the time being. Satisfied that Barrold would not become innovative with his instructions, Naiore turned her mind to other matters.

She needed to dispose of the gelding, acquire new mounts. Vanwe would need time to recover, and she would use that to further gull the foolish child. She needed supplies in order to push into the Shire and information. Barrold could be used for all that. He knew who to contact for what supplies, horses. foodstuffs and other more exotic things. Also, he made it his business to know who was sniffing about after whom.

Then there was the matter of finalising her strategy for the Shire. Vanwe could make all the difference in penetrating that defensive ring. But once Naiore was in, she needed to be able to act swiftly. Perhaps Barrold could aid her there... he would not be adverse to some bully and terror campaigns. Saruman had found him useful in the past for that. Perhaps Barrold could find her more men too...

She needed Barrold more than she cared to admit. But how to win his loyalty beyond gold. What were his other vices. In that dark kitchen, Naiore smiled, becoming coldly beautiful as only a Noldorin noblewoman could. She would offer him Vanwe. Women were Barrold's weakness, his demon other than greed. Never mind both would be dead before she had to deliver on what she promised either one: Barrold his desires and Vanwe the love of a mother.

That made it all the sweeter. Naiore's hands had wandered to the silken cord she carried with her always, her only companion through the long years aside from her need for that single answer. The garrotte looped and sinuously snaked between her hands as she waited for Barrold to finish his task and return for further instructions.

Again her senses wandered over the man's twisted emotional presence. Yes, Vanwe and more gold would suit Barrold nicely enough indeed.
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Characters: Rosmarin: Lady of Cardolan; Lochared: Vagabond of Dunland; Simra: Daughter of Khand; Naiore: Lady of the Sweet Swan; Menecin: Bard of the Singing Seas; Vanwe: Lost Maiden; Ronnan: Lord of Thieves; and, Uien of the Twilight
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Old 09-23-2003, 07:37 PM   #65
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Sting

Léspheria

As Léspheria reached the spot that Tallas had told her about she searched the ground and found the heavy boot prints of three rangers, two following the elf tracks and the other she recognised as Amandur's headed south-west towards Bree, She grinned as she came to the same conclusion he had. Mounting Losseserme she made to followed Amandur's trail, the tracks were fresh a few hours at most she guessed, she would catch up to him in Bree.

The sound of horses disturbed her thoughts, quickly she dismounted and gently slapped Losseserme's flank sending her into the forest ahead, she would return when called. Lespheria pulled up the hood of her cloak and melted into the trees. The three horses where not going fast so it would be several minutes before she sighted them, closing her eyes she pushed out her senses to feel out the mind of the riders, two women one most definitely hobbit but both afraid for each other, there was a third! she could sense a man, but it was as if a mental wall stood in her way, she guessed immediately who it was and pulled her senses away, this wall was not stable and she did not what to be in his mind when it fell, back at the Forsaken inn she had felt some of what was trapped behind that wall and it was not pleasant.

She opened her eyes as Kaldir came into view leading the horses that bore his prisoners and their gear. She watched as Kaldir stopped and swooped to the ground examining the tracks as she had done. She held her breath as his head came up and looked in her direction, but when he returned to his prisoners, she silently thanked the weavers of Lothlorien who had made the cloak she wore. With a heavy heart she slipped away, she was loathed to leave the southern woman and her hobbit friend in the clutches of the bounty hunter, but she was not yet ready to face Kaldir, after all he had survived Naiore and not many could make that claim.
A lump began to form in her throat as the thoughts of her mother returned, but she swallowed hard forcing it down. He was on Naiore's trail they would meet again and she would see that his captors were freed, she thought as she ran lightly through the woods.

After about twenty minutes she gave the soft coo of the native wood pigeon and within minutes Losseserme returned to her, she mounted and kicked hard, the elven mare snorted then swiftly bore Léspheria towards Bree. It was dark when she reached the south gate of Bree, "Who's ere ?" a gruff voice called behind the tall wooden gates, "A traveller seeking rest and some what to eat" she answered airily. "Tis a Lady! open the gate!" she heard the muffled mumbling behind the gate, "My deepest apologies, mam" A red faced young man said as the gate slowly opened. "No apology needed," she smiled, as she rode passed him.

Slowly she made her way toward the Prancing pony, but as she passed the stone farm buildings she sensed again the presence she had felt briefly in the woods surrounding the Forsaken inn, she stopped and looked towards the farm houses, using her senses to try to locate the darkness she felt. She felt sure she was close to locating its source when suddenly she sensed that which she was seeking could feel her intrusion and was fighting her, "It's her!" she muttered breaking the connection and going with all speed towards the inn, she had failed to locate her but at least she know she was near. This was no comfort to Léspheria, as this was another encounter that she was unsure she was ready to face, but at least she could let Amandur know that she was here!

She rode Losseserme through the archway to the courtyard of the Prancing Pony and swung off, handing the reigns to the hobbit Stable hand who held his hand out to take them, then she made her way to the common room to find Amandur, if he was there!
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Old 09-24-2003, 03:38 PM   #66
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Sting

Rauthain

As night fell, Rauthain became restless and seeking conversation to ease his burdened mind, again spoke of their quarry. “It is no wonder that the elves have not spoken of Naiore. I expect it is as much caused by who she is, as what she has done, twisting life upon her stony will. Highborn and heartless she is, an aberration, dark and unfathomable as a pathless cavern, loving, nay reveling in the dissonant themes that started before the awakening of time. Perhaps this to is why she allowed herself Menecin, for he could express his pain as fully and eloquently as no other, and she could examine the sinister beauty of his suffering like exquisite tracery, fine running tendrils through his life, eroding his strength. For her passion lay not with him, but in the crushing of his spirit for her cruel interests.”

The two rangers lapsed into a long silence, before Rauthain began.

“But where does fear take root in the fearless, Maethor? This is what I have wondered. Kaldir was dauntless and through this very trait fell victim to the Ravennor. We knew him, Hanasían, myself and a handful of others, for we were there the day he was lost.” Rauthain stopped as he realized how true this was. For though he now knew Kaldir to be alive, the ranger he had set out with many years before had never returned.

“That day, as we were making our way along the Mitheithel, we fell among an ambush near its headwaters, at Raven Falls. It went badly for us and we lost one of our number early on. But this had served to enrage our band the more, and we fought fiercely. Before long we had pushed the orcs back into the crevices and folds of the mountains. Kaldir was in full pursuit and followed the enemy further than I dared go. So I turned back to look for the others. Two were unaccounted for in the end. Kaldir and Hanasían. Hanasían we found dazed and near drowned by the falls when we returned.” Rauthain paused.

“I had watched as Elendir, our captain, stood at the base of the falls taking in the situation and planning what course to follow, but he was greatly agitated, knowing the full weight of our mission, and was reluctant to delay further. So we buried our dead and pushed forward expecting Kaldir to catch us up, for he was an estimable ranger, wary and full of stealth, not reckless in his decisions, and I had just seen him with no more than a scratch upon him.”

“One day and then two passed with no sign of him. After finally reaching the battlefield and fighting along side our beleaguered brethren in the north, we repeatedly had word from our captured enemy that Kaldir had perished. In the end, I chose to believe them.”

Rauthain breathed deeply, adjusting his cloak and baldric as he rode with Maethor along side. “So now I search for the one who has a greater share in Kaldir’s outcome. Orcs alone could not have bent his mind so, but the training of the Dark Lord and the knowledge of one they call the Ravennor who was brought to bear against him.”

“But I have spoken too much and you grow weary listening to an old man's regrets.”

“It is a large burden you bear, Rauthain” Maethor acknowledged. “But the decision to leave Raven Falls was not yours to make. Your captain would have accounted for Kaldir’s skill before ordering you onward.”

Rauthain did not answer, but was lost in his own thoughts, he was at the Mitheithel once again watching Kaldir disappear from sight, and than speaking with Elendir at Falls in the grey dusk. 'He will find us again,' he heard himself say. 'He will be alright, on his own, for no harm has come to him in the fray.'

Rauthain remembered how after the third day Kaldir’s name was never spoken. And how Elendir assumed full responsibility for the outcome. It was never brought up between the two of them again.

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Old 09-25-2003, 06:52 PM   #67
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Sting

Benia

They made camp after nightfall against the west face of Bree Hill, about a half of a mile north of the North Gate into Bree. Looking around, Benia knew the spot well. Her father's family had used the spot for years. Located in a crevice in the side of the hill, the campsite was protected on the east and south by Bree Hill. On the north and west, an overgrown wall of bushes and long-thorn brambles concealed it from the view of casual passers-by. A well-used fire circle occupied the north end of the clearing, while a hollow against the side of the hill offered shelter for the horses. She watched from the back of the bay mare as the bounty hunter dismounted and led the horses through the hidden entrance into the clearing.

Once the horses had been secured in the rear of the campsite, Kaldir lifted Gilly from the back of the gray horse and set her safely on the ground. Benia thought she saw Gilly's shoulders relax visibly as soon as her feet touched the earth. Then Kaldir turned his attention to Benia. Holding the horse by the halter to keep her steady, he held his free hand out to Benia to help her dismount. Benia glanced down first at the shackles on her wrists, then at his outstretched hand. Then she dismounted without his help, landing rather heavily on her injured foot. She bit back a gasp of pain and turned her face away so that Kaldir would not see how badly her defiance had hurt her.

Gilly, having heard Benia's sharp intake of breath, stepped up and grasped Benia's hand. "You can lean on me," she whispered as Kaldir withdrew his proffered hand. Benia nodded and gave her friend's hand a squeeze.

The two of them stood side by side near the horses and watched as Kaldir went about the business of setting up camp. Noticing that he paid them scarcely any mind, Benia relaxed slightly and took the opportunity to look around. She couldn't see much in the darkness, but remembered that there was an old log around somewhere about the size and shape of a small bench. She needed to sit down. Pulling Gilly with her, she hobbled in the direction in which she thought she would find it, and, after only a few steps, she saw its dull shape rise out of the gloom. Sighing, she sat down heavily. Stomach rumbling loudly, Gilly plopped down beside her. They both glanced nervously at the bounty hunter, who was occupied at the moment with building a small fire in the fire circle.

"You don't suppose he will let us eat anything, do you?" asked Gilly under her breath.

Benia shrugged. "I hope so," she whispered back. "I'm famished."

"Where do you suppose he's taking us?"

"I imagine he's taking me to Harad," answered Benia softly, a deep sadness creeping into her voice. For a moment, her mind travelled back to the blowing sands of the desert, its harshness and its beauty. She not been there in a few years. Ironically, she had been just preparing to return there on business of her own when the bounty hunter had intervened. Now, she would still be making the journey south, but not to bring aid to her mother's people. Now, she would be going there to die.

“There are still those who would pay well for the capture of one of my tribe," she continued, a faraway look in her eyes. She remembered the tales her mother had told her as a child so clearly that at times she almost felt that she had been there. The stories of her tribal history were not merely history lessons. They were memories, passed down in her blood from mother to daughter.

Sitting there in the flickering light of the new campfire, Benia could almost hear the sound of her mother's voice. In the years before you were born, her mother's voice said in its soft desert dialect. Sauron sent emissaries to recruit new followers to his standard. Our tribe and one other refused. We fought the Eye. Our chieftain and many others were slain. After that, our new chieftain, Ahmad, openly defied the forces of the Eye. He rode against them at every opportunity until finally our numbers had so dwindled that we were forced into hiding in order to survive.”

Remembering, Benia smiled sadly. She had met her chieftain on only a few occasions. He was a tough, battle-scarred man, approaching sixty now, but wise and canny as an old lion. Now she feared she would never see him again. Or his kind wife.

She looked at Gilly, then nodded in the direction of the bounty hunter. “I imagine this man is taking me back to those who would have all of my tribe destroyed. Sauron may be gone, but this man is still doing his work for him," she finished bitterly.

"But what he plans to do with you," she added after a moment. "I seriously can’t imagine.”

Gilly nodded philosophically and pressed one hand to her midsection in a vain attempt to stifle the loud growling of her empty stomach. “I guess I will find out soon enough,” she sighed. “If I don’t starve to death first.”

Benia nodded. “Perhaps he means to let you off in Bree,” she suggested hopefully. “We are barely a half mile north of the north gate.” She stopped abruptly as Kaldir approached them from across the clearing. Behind him a pot already bubbled on the fire, giving forth a pleasant herbal smell. This time, rather than offering Benia his hand, he merely bent over and scooped her up in his arms, carrying her over to the fire where he set her down rather unceremoniously on a blanket. Not knowing what else to do, Gilly trailed behind them. Made bold by her hunger, Gilly leaned over to look into the pot and was most disappointed to see only a few long leaves simmering in water.

“Kingsfoil,” she murmured, in spite of herself. Weeds. The man really was out of his mind.

“Athelas leaves,” countered Kaldir gruffly. “Give me your foot.” The last sentence was addressed to Benia, who, for lack of any alternatives, cautiously extended her foot. With surprisingly gentle hands, the bounty hunter pulled Benia’s boot off and unwound the bindings the elves had put on two days earlier. The leg was still badly swollen around the area of her ankle bone, but the bruises had taken on a yellowish tint, which meant that healing had begun. Benia studied his scarred face as Kaldir removed the pot from the fire and bathed her ankle in the warm, pleasant-smelling water. The pain began to subside almost instantly.

Kaldir glanced up at Gilly, who still stood over him, watching closely as he dressed Benia's ankle. “Well, make yourself useful,” he said curtly. “There’s bread, cheese, and some other things on the pack pony. Bring enough for the three of us.”

“Watch out for the gray horse,” he added as Gilly began to move away. “He kicks.”

“And bites,” muttered Gilly, remembering well the bite the bounty hunter’s gray horse had delivered to her backside not even two days ago. She was sure the teeth marks were still there in a circle of little black bruises. She gave the gray horse a wide berth.

As Gilly moved away and Kaldir began to put the bindings back on Benia’s ankle, Benia decided to try pleading again for Gilly’s freedom. After all, if the bounty hunter cared enough about Gilly's well-being to warn her about the horse, perhaps he could be convinced to show the hobbit some larger form of mercy. At least, she had to try. She leaned forward and caught the bounty hunter’s hand between her own shackled, tattooed hands.

“Leave her here in Bree,” she whispered so that Gilly wouldn’t hear. “Please. I won’t give you any more trouble. I promise. Just let her go.”

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

Kaldir

For a fleeting instant, Kaldir glanced down at their intertwined hands, then disengaged himself from her grip. If he did as Benia asked and released Gilly she would no sooner be out of his sight than she would be putting together a rescue team and taking off into the wilds after him. He had always thought of Mrs. Banks as the determined type and, now that she had proven him right, she would have to live with the consequences. She would have to come along for awhile, anyway, at least until he could find a suitable place to leave her where she would not cause him any more trouble, but not come to any harm either. After all, her only sin had been loyalty. He stood and moved away from Benia without even bothering to answer her, which he could see by her face was answer enough. Her expression which had been so open and hopeful a moment before closed like a flower under a cold wind. Her hands dropped limply into her lap.

Turning away from her, Kaldir looked over toward Mrs. Banks, who seemed to be having an argument with the pack pony. Her arms loaded with bread, cheese, and apples, she was trying to refasten the drawstring of the pack, while at the same time trying to fend off the pony’s attempts to bend his long neck around and steal an apple. Leaving her to it, he walked back to the opening in the bramble hedge that led out of the hidden campsite into the open. He needed to go into Bree. He had contacts there that the Rangers wouldn’t have, the kind of men who would know if someone like Naiore was about. They were the kind of men who stole horses and trafficked in poisons, who knew better than to cross him, but whose loyalties lay only to themselves and their own greed... the kind who would be easy prey to a manipulative creature like Naiore. But he would have to go alone. Turning again toward the campfire, he saw that Mrs. Banks had finished her tussle with the pack pony and was back at the fire with Benia, her haul of food laid out on the blanket beside her.

“Eat,” he said, gesturing to the food. “I have to leave for awhile.” Taking a coil of rope from the back of his belt, he bound Gilly tightly around the ankles. Benia, he bound around her legs, just below the knees, sparing her the additional pressure against her injured ankle. He needed her mobile as soon as possible. “But I won’t be far,” he added. giving each of them a stern look. “If I have to waste my time chasing you again, things will go ill for you. I’ve been patient so far, but no more.”

Once both women had nodded their acquiescence, he turned and walked away from the campsite. It would be quicker to go by horseback, but he did not intend to enter Bree by the gate.

[ September 26, 2003: Message edited by: Ealasaide ]
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Old 09-26-2003, 06:42 PM   #68
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Barrold


Barrold slung the alleged Queen over his shoulder with a wide grin. He’d take care of her. She did not even move nor murmur on the way through the lower floor of the farm house and out the side door, no matter how roughly he treated her. Barrold gave over his exploration once he came to the cellar doors. The hinges were surprisingly well tended, oiled to keep them from screaming alert every time he opened them.

Beneath was a dusty space that Barrold had used for similar purposes in the past, his business in ransoming one of his more entrepreneurial and successful operations, Barrold turned into it. It had no window, being a cellar still. The holding room was roughly 9 feet by 6 feet in size, and contained a mat, a bowl, and rope.

Having already picked up a spluttering candle from a table by the kitchen door, he set it down carefully in one corner. It’s uncertain flame danced over the earth walls and the thick beams that supported the earth roof. Onto the mat and far less carefully he tossed down the Queen. She was Elf, alright, but that was where Barrold’s expectations ended. She had fair hair and bore a striking resemblance to Naiore. Barrold squatted by her motionless form for a closer look.

This was no Queen! Strider’s wench had dark hair, or so those they spoke to had said. With a grunt of disappointment, he set to work on her hands and feet. Soon both were well bound with the roughly twisted rope. Her eyelids did not so much as flutter during this, and Barrold was by no means gentle. His handling become worse as he contemplated how he had fallen for Naiore’s trick. Queen! He’d have to pull her into line, but not before she paid him in full.

He bent close to check that the Elf breathed still. Then Barrold collected the candle, climbed the stairs and closed the cellar doors after him, plunging the narrow, stuffy place into unbroken darkness. Air only came in around the door, which whilst did not neatly fit the frame, was sturdy nonetheless.

He stumped back through the house, candle in his hand, ready to take up Naiore’s trick with her. “She’s no queen,” he charged as he entered the kitchen. Naiore had her head bowed, in her hands. “She’s one of yours,” he added. Naiore’s head snapped back and she levelled a gaze upon Barrold that froze the tongue to the roof of his mouth.

“In that alone she is queen to the likes of you, mortal, beggar though she is.” Barrold’s reply was nothing more than a stutter. Naiore let him twist in her gaze a moment longer, terror beating within his heart as the moment stretched. Then, as sudden as Naiore had seized him she looked aside, at a dirty window.

“Is she secure?”
“Yes m'Lady,” Barrold replied, shaken by the savagery he had seen in Naiore and recalling all he had seen and heard about the woman who sat at his table. “Tied her neat as a hog. Are you planning on ransoming her,” Barrold asked, trying to ingratiate himself with her. Naiore sighed heavily.

“She is my daughter,” she replied as if reluctant to give him even that morsel. Barrold made a sound of admiration.

“I never thought of ransoming my own family,” he said with growing appreciation dripping from his voice. “Just knocking them off,” he added with a moment’s thought. Naiore shot a glittering gaze at him.

“In your stables is a stolen horse. Dispose of it. Then return for further instructions. There are matters for us to discuss, work and payment for your services.” The discussion apparently over, Barrold took his cue, knuckled his forehead and saw to it.

He left Naiore to consider the brush of another's mind, a mind that was familiar and yet not. Barrold had gold, reward and profit on his mind. Added to those heady thoughts were grandiose plans of finally bring Naiore Dannan off her high horse. It was about time, as he reckoned it, and there was no Mordor, no Sauron not even Saruman to stop him.
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Old 09-27-2003, 11:14 AM   #69
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Gilly

Gilly was ravenous. Encouraging her friend, they both began to eat the foodstuffs that Kaldir had the foresight to provide. Grateful for anything to calm her raucous stomach, it was only the second meal for the hobbit in as many days and accordingly she was feeling quite weak. Though a hot supper would have done much to soothe her nerves after riding half the day on a beastly horse with a beastly man - who had recently threatened to disembowel her - poised directly behind her back. All day she had been thinking of Benia’s knife resting in his belt, wondering one minute whether she could reach around and grab it and the other whether it would mean her death. The hobbit had been painfully aware that the man - so close she could feel his breath on her neck - could end her life on a whim, and her children would go motherless. So she had been good, though the tears kept rising to her eyes at the thought of her family.

“Do you suppose Benia, that he might have meant the third portion for us?’ Gilly now questioned. “No never mind, it wouldn’t do to have the man angry with us now would it? But I could use a bit of real food, and you could too, by the look of you. I don’t suppose now, that I could induce that horse there to bite through these ropes?”

“What do you have in mind Gilly? I don’t think it would be wise to strike out again though we do have the horses now,” Benia added glancing at the long faces just beyond the circle of firelight. “And if we were to do so, we would do well to wait until the ranger’s guard is relaxed and my ankle well mended.”

“Don’t worry Miss Benia. I heard the man. I aim for us both to stay alive, if that is what you’re worried of.” Then speaking in lower tones, “If I were to find a way out of these ropes, do you think you could help me back on with them, later maybe?”

“I don’t know, I am lacking somewhat in hand movement,” she answered holding up the iron shackles that encircled her wrists, “but I surely would try my best. What have you in mind?” she asked again.

“A little nourishment that is all. He can’t be dragging around a half starved hobbit now can he, nor her half starved friend neither!”

This surprised Benia, for she felt the food had been more than ample and was contented with it. “Don’t risk it friend. Kaldir is likely close by and I don’t relish the thought of seeing my good friend killed before my very eyes!”

Becoming quite serious, Gilly looked Benia in the eyes. “Don’t worry Miss Benia. As I told you, I do aim to keep us alive, that includes me too, you know!” With that Gilly hopped to her feet and awkwardly went repositioning herself near the fire. Drawing out a stick she carefully began to burn through the ropes about her wrists. “Is there any water to be found around this place?” She questioned Benia who watched her as she worked.

“There is a small brook quite close, on the other side of the fire.” Benia said gesturing north. “It is fed by a nearby spring and the water there is good.”

Gilly eyed the brambles. “Very well.” She commented under her breath, breaking the last strand of charred rope. “That is the first order of business then.”

Peering into the vessel that Kaldir had removed from the fire, she fished out the long leaves from it, laying them carefully out on a rock in the fire circle. Then emptying it of the remains of the infusion, Gilly went off in search of fresh water. When she returned, she had found the stream and her apron’s pocket was bulging with all manner of vegetation that she had picked by the moonlight.

Stirring up the fire, she placed a few thick sticks on it before placing the water in it’s midst. Once more Gilly raided the saddlebag, giving wide berth to the grey stallion, and pulled out some salt cured meat from the ranger’s stores, and from Benia’s bag a potato and ladle. The hobbit tore the thin strips of meat into bits before putting them in the pot, but having no knife (and Benia’s sword was gone too) she put the potato in whole. Then settling by the fire she examined the contents of her pocket to see them in better light. There were ramps and all sorts of herbs she had learned to eat during the war, quite a fine haul considering the campsite appeared well used. If only she had more salt and her knife. Tearing them up as best she could she cooked them down into a fine hot meal. Only the potato was left half cooked as Gilly scooped some of the rest into a cup for Benia and took it over to her.

“Here you go Miss. It takes more than cheese and cram to keep a person going! Just sorry there’s not more salt to it. But it should help and will heal your leg faster then that there fancy water, I should think.”

Benia took the stew with thanks, and smiling at her friend’s homely ways, watched as Gilly tottled back to take up the ladle and help herself. The hobbit didn’t eat much and left the whole potato to finish cooking in the pot.

After they had both eaten their warm peppery tasting supper, Gilly took the cup and ladle down to the stream and having washed, returned them to their proper place. The vessel containing the rest of the stew and now cooked potato she placed in a cooler part of the fire, throwing on more wood.

With the charred remains of the rope in hand, she went over and sat on the blanket tying her ankles close, but not so tightly this time. “That is better!” she sighed. “Now I feel as though I have eaten…I hope our host enjoys it as well as I have. And if he thinks we are trying to poison him, perhaps he will induce us to have a second helping. Either way is alright, so don’t fret about it, but let’s see if we can get me done up again!” This was a task easier said than accomplished, and in the end the rope was sliding off the hobbit’s wrists if she did not clutch the ends with her thumbs. “Oh bother!” Was all she had said before sliding off to sleep, and Benia sat alone, alert in the moonlight with the softly snoring hobbit beside her.

[ October 06, 2003: Message edited by: Hilde Bracegirdle ]

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Old 09-27-2003, 04:50 PM   #70
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Rauthain and Maethor rode in silence, Maethor musing upon the account that Rauthain had told him. He glanced at Rauthain and saw him staring at his horse’s mane as he wandered the paths of memory. “It was no fault of yours he was lost,” he said softly. “None could have known he was yet alive. Do not blame yourself.”

Rauthain said nothing and his head remained bowed. Maethor remained silent for a moment and then said, hesitantly, “Fear, to me, is not spawned, it does not come to the braveless and dauntless such as Kaldir. It is a part of us, woven into our soul, integrated into our nature.” Maethor frowned as he pondered. “Where there is evil, there is fear. I wonder if fear is a form of the revulsion of evil.” It was an intriguing question, Maethor thought.

Maethor could feel the power of his stallion as Rauthain and he trotted along the faint trail Naiore had left behind. He rode bareback, as he loved to feel the rolling muscles and the hidden power of Nair, the power and energy that could instantly be erupted into fierce fury, or released in colt-like playfulness. Maethor did not truly ride in the elven way, however, for Nair wore a soft leather bridle. The braided reigns passed through silver rings, engraved with elven runes, and rested lightly and easily in Maethor’s hand. Maethor wished he could have rode Nair in truly elven fashion, with neither saddle nor bridle, but after he had suffered a few tumbles, courtesy of Nair’s fiery and flighty temper, and the gay laughter of the elves, he had reluctantly conceded to the necessity of a bridle.

Dropping the reigns, Maethor reached into his saddle bag and withdrew his small whetstone that nestled naturally in the soft hollow of his palm. He leaned over and withdrew a simple knife from his leather boots. It was relatively plain, and without adornment save for an etching of the white tree of Gondor upon the blade. Gently he passed the stone across the blade in a small circular motion, cringing at the rasping sound of the knife being sharpened. Peering at the blade, he rolled his dark green sleeve up to his elbow, spat on the exposed arm, and swept the knife smoothly and swiftly barely above the skin: a smile of satisfaction crossed his face as he saw that the finely toned edge had easily shaved the hairs upon his arm. Returning the blade to its hiding place, he did the same to his other knife that was in his other boot and to the dagger that hung at his belt.

“Look, Maethor,” Rauthain said, pointing. “It is Bree.”

Maethor looked at the pleasant village, its cluster of houses, the merry lights that laughed in the enveloping arms of the serene darkness. Silver stars glistened in the light of the moon, crickets sang their songs, fire flies flitted elusively in the night. Maethor’s hand snatched at one of the flickering lights and, carefully uncurling his fingers, a luminous green light was seen crouching upon his palm. He smile and murmured a word or two in elvish as he released the fly and watched it dance away into the shadows of a nearby tree.
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Old 09-27-2003, 10:30 PM   #71
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Avanill had collected several debts that night without a single limb being lost, his money bag now was heavy with gold. Maybe now my mother will let me buy another bloody horse!Avanill thought amusingly

One that can get me places faster... Ah! no, it would upset her. I suppose the animal isnt that bad, after all it served her well enough... It was true, everytime he thought ill of that animal it made him feel guilty. He looked up at the moon high in the night sky and stood for a minute in the middle of the road. An old man was watching him from the shaddows of his verandah.

"You allright mate?" he asked, his words slured by the absence of several teeth. Avanill turned his tall frame to see who the voice was. "Yes sir" he replied. The old man stepped out of the dark and into the moonlight. "Marcello!" exclaimed Avanill now seeing the old man. "Avanill? Oh my! You are a big lad now arent you! How long has it been?"

"Four years old friend, i am almost twenty one now." He said proudly. The old man nodded and held onto Avanill. "Last time I saw your mother was when she ran into trouble with those Gondorians, must have been eight or so years ago now. Tell me lad, what are you doing in Bree?"

Avanill frowned. "Business, surely you have heard of the most successful blackmarket trader in Middle Earth then?" The old man laughed, "Aye, now i think about it, i have. Come i have something then that will intrest you."

The old man beckoned him inside his hut where the old man took from the cupboard a bottle holding what looked like water. "This is water from the Enchanted River in Mirkwood, it is a powerful sleeping potion." Avanill laughed. "Aye, and who went to the elven realm to collect it?" Avanill smiled. The old man laughed. "Twas an elf lad, You can have it for thirty pieces of gold, sell it for one hundred on the market." Avanill lay the gold on the Marcello's table and after parting ways he was out in the street again.

Im a pushover arent i? he laughed ot himself and put the bottle inot his bag. Now for a drink.He walked several blocks before he saw the familliar sign of the Prancing Pony. He doubted that he would find trouble there that night.
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Old 09-28-2003, 05:54 PM   #72
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Barrold stiffled a curse as the gelding yanked his arm back and nearly our its socket. He was still too close to earshot just yet. Still he favoured the wretched, stubborn gelding with a fierce snarl. The gelding's temper did not improve nor did his disobedience diminish.

"May that dammed woman rot in hell," Barrold muttered as he yanked Naiore's stolen gelding on. It was late, the moon sailing high now and almost at it's zenith. He was tracing a quiet path towards the Barrow Downs at Naiore's urging and had decided to lead the gelding rather than ride it. It would be quieter, or that was what Naiore had told him.

The gelding, however, was not cooperating. Barrold was used to horses behaving badly around him. He rarely got along with the stupid animals. Plain and simple, horses hated Barrold and he returned the favour fivefold. As a result, he had been sawing and tugging at the reins for nearly over an hour now as he attemped to sneak around Bree to the fringes of the Barrow Downs.

More than once, Barrold had thought to simply tuck the horse into someone else's stables. What would Naiore know of it if he did? If the gelding bit him one more time, he'd gut it. That much Barrold knew. The only thing that kept him to his word was greed.

Naiore had laid out a princely reward for his assistance. Gold, of course, but even more. A fiefdom over the Shire. He'd drain that coddled, soft land dry. Wine and pipeweed, fresh food, hobbits to see to his every whim. And then there was her daughter. Only the highest of mortal men were permitted an Elf of his own and Naiore would give him her daughter. She was no queen, but the connection would increase his stature immensely nonetheless. It wasn't as if he'd have to marry her either. As a Fief, he could do whatever he pleased and Barrold knew quite well what pleased him.

So, he'd tug at reins and dodge the hellion's teeth and send it off to be eaten in the evil lands of the Barrow Downs. He'd run about the following morning, seeking the supplies Naiore had listed. He'd accompany them too, when they left. It would be too hot in Bree to remain. Perhaps he'd have a chance to roll the Prancing Pony before he left.

Barrold's face split into a greasy grin as he thought of Barliman's takings added to his own coffers. During this time, Barrold had crossed the final distance from Bree to the Downs. Beneath the moonlight, the treeless expanse rolled away, eerie and still. A queasy ball of fear knotted in his stomach. With a sense of malevolent justice, Barrold tugged the gelding's bridle free.

"Now who will 'ave the last laugh then, eh?" With a mighty slap on the gelding's rear, he sent the horse skipping away. It did not miss the chance to attempt to catch his shins with it's back hooves. Barrold aimed a kick at the gelding and the horse wasted no more time on the pathetic man. With an angry whinny, it was off. The Barrowdowns was better than Barrold Ferney, night or day.

Barrold watched the horse flee, bridle slung over his shoulder. He'd ditch that in a midden heap somewhere. Let the Rangers dig around in that filth if they want to find it, or venture into the Downs themselves. Barrold fancied the sight of Rangers up to their elbows in muck or nervously walking between the haunted Barrows. He chuckled roundly to himself and tucked his thumbs into the waist of his trews.

The gelding now seen to, Barrold was not keen to head straight back to Naiore. For all that she promised, he little liked her company. There was something distinctly unsettling about a woman who was as much death as Elf in close quarters. Barrold didn't much care to admit it, but she scared him, she knew it and she enjoyed it immensely. He spat, expelling the sour taste in his mouth and sighed.

"Who does she think she is now anyway? Sauron ain't here to protect her. Noone has to bow to Naiore Dannan nomore. She lost with the rest of 'em." He rubbed a hand over his bristly chin and glared resentfully at the Downs as he muttered to himself.

"Could go find me some more ale and celebrate my good fortune, and there'd be nothing she could do to stop it. Roll a few shops too. They've gotten fat since she tucked me away." The thing was, Barrold knew there was plenty Naiore could do to stop him. He'd like none of it, that was sure. He kicked at the ground and spat again.

So he wouldn't go to the inn nor rob the shops that had been accruing their income without his pilfering for a month or so now. But he would linger out here instead of obediently running home like a whipped cur. Barrold decided it was time he gave thought to his first edict as a Fief and now was as good a time as any to do that.
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Old 09-30-2003, 11:12 AM   #73
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Rauthain

All conversation ceased as the two rangers drew closer to the village, and though the night was bright, they had struggled to find the gelding’s track among the foot traffic along the road. The way was well used by persons and livestock and it soon became a hopeless business, the nearer they came to the surrounding fields and houses.

Stopping by the gate, Maethor and Rauthain talked quietly among themselves in the empty road. Only the watchman and another sitting by the gate observed the quiet exchange. Rauthain, handing his reins over to the younger man, pulled out his pipe and tamping in a generous helping of aromatic Southlinch, strode up to this watchman to ask for a straw to light it. The grey haired ranger stood talking with the keeper and his companion while Maethor lead the horses in through the gate and waited for him just inside of it. The hour was getting late, but the street beyond was not quite as deserted as it had been outside of the village. A few people walked here and there, infrequently choosing to break the hush of the evening.

When Rauthain rejoined Maethor, he wore a troubled expression. “She apparently has not entered by this gate,” he remarked, sweeping the avenue with his glance.

“There is naught we can do until daybreak,” Maethor lamented. “Perhaps she was missed in the press of farmer’s wives returning from selling their goods at market. A man’s eye is known to wander at such times
and the need for a gate keeper to be alert has waned greatly over the years.”

“Yes? So much so that the Ravennor of Mordor could past though Bree without notice?” Rauthain muttered in irritation. “It would be shameful to us all to grow lax in our guard against such evil. We should all be vigilant from Ithilien to Harlindon to the Iron Hills and even the Shire. From the Elessar himself to the smallest child we should remain watchful! For though the head is gone it’s members still corrupt, abasing that which should have not cause for worry.”

Maethor could see the frustration behind the old ranger words, and did not argue. He himself shared deeply in it, but did not lose hope of finding Naiore or of claiming a better future for his people.

“We should make our way to the inn then, to see if the others have arrived. By chance they might have some tidings to cheer us.”

“I would surely welcome good news!” the older man said, his gloomy expression quickly melting at the thought. “But you go on before me. I would check the other gates before the night grows too old, and will meet you there before we set off again, if no sooner.”

Maethor nodded getting up on his horse. “Do not tarry overlong or I shall think you have found what you are looking for!” Rauthain smiled at this.

“A favor though, I would ask Maethor, before you take leave of me. Would you take my mount with you to the inn? Juta is his name, and I would that he should get some rest even though I do not.”

“With pleasure,” Maethor replied taking the reins again from the old ranger’s hand. “Until then.”

Rauthain stood watching as Maethor turned making his way toward the Prancing Pony.
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Old 09-30-2003, 01:13 PM   #74
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Sting

Amandur

I stopped about two hundred yards from Bree and dismounted, I wished my passing to go unnoticed, so I removed anything that would mark me as one of the kings men, tunic, bracers, even the brooch that clasped my cloak I replaced with another more common place one, I then took a dried piece of rabbit pelt and wrapped it about the grip of my sword and secured it with leather thong as to disguise its make and Numanorean long swords where not common place and only now wielded by those of the Dunedain. My elvish dagger I slipped into the rear of my belt and my bow I slipped into my bedroll, hanging my quiver securely to Kalloruvi's saddle. The charger to was a give away to my heritage he too would have to remain hidden, but I knew that my loyal friend preferred to be free than cooped up in a stable and he would wait for my return, so I gently patted his flank and he made his way back into the cover of the woods to wait my return.

Not Taking the road I entered Bree using secret ways known only to the rangers, it was dusk and the streets were fairly empty, the lawful traders had all shut up shop long ago and the unlawful ones would soon be about, my first port of call would be the pony, A fountain of information if you knew were and how to ask! I smiled as the familiar welcoming sight of the Prancing Pony came into view, many a time had the inn served as a place for him to rest and recover and a valuable source of information, pulling my hood over my head so as not to be recognised I climbed the steps to the inn and entered the busy smoke filled common room, narrowly avoiding a collision with the short, fat, bold headed innkeeper, I grinned as I watched him Bustle about with trays laden with mugs of ale, as he passed I picked one up and made my way over to the shady corner to the left of the blazing fire, where sat someone I was familiar with, Toby Longholes, a pick pocket and petty thief, at my approach the slender (well as slender as a hobbits can get!) hobbit tried to leave, but with a firm hand on his shoulder I convinced him to stay!

"I haven't done anything!" he exclaimed as I sat beside him, "I never said that you had?" I replied eyeing him suspiciously. "Then what do you want with me!" he snapped irritably, "Where is Ferny?" I asked calmly, taking a draw of my ale, "How should I know, I thought your lot killed 'im!" the dark haired pointed faced hobbit answered pretending that he thought I was asking for old Bill Ferny.

"Do not take me for a fool, you know exactly who I speak of!" I said prodding the hobbit thief with the point of my knife under the table, Toby flinched as he felt the knife at his gut, "You have just missed him I swear! Butterbur kicked 'im out!" I knew that if Butterbur had kicked him out then he would not return to the inn this night and I did not know which of the hundred or so stone houses was his, " hmm but maybe you do" I thought aloud turning back to Toby Longholes, the hobbit gulped. "which is Ferny house?" I asked, "I don't know, no-one does!" he panicked, sweat dripping off his brow. I relaxed my knife and took another draw of my ale, it was evident that what he spoke was true or at least part true! "You will tell me at once if you hear of Barrold trying to acquire anything unusual!" I whispered threateningly, but the hobbits greed got the better of him, "And what is in it for me!" the hobbit retorted. scowling I answered "5 gold and I will not run you in to the sherriffs!", "10 an' we have a deal" Toby chanced putting out his hand, I did not take his hand but reluctantly nodded my head in agreement. "Well, on you go!" I exclaimed as Toby made to finish his ale, the Hobbit quickly rose and scurried out of the inn.

After a few moments I too made to leave, but as I reached the door I was pulled to one side, "Hail! old friend" the voice whispered and I turned to see Dúlrain, he gestured for me to sit. "I know who you seek and I am here to help if I can." I was glad to see him but a sad look in his eyes told me he had more to say, "I rode here to deliver news to Hanasían of his father and now I must inform you that he will not be continuing this hunt with you, but he wishing you all success and sends me in his stead, I hope I will not disappoint!"

"Never my friend!" I said, patting his shoulder, "Though Hanasíans parting is a sad loss, I believe that finding his father is something that he must do and your services will be much needed in the days to come."

"So, you don't think she will come quietly!" Dúlrain asked sarcastically, I laughed at his dry wit "No! I think not." "I see you had words with young master Longholes, does he have news and how much did he charge for it?" Dúlrain continued casually, "ten" I laughed, "You must have given him quite a scare!" he laughed in reply. We laughed some more and shared some ale, before Dúlrain took out his pipe and offering me some of his weed he said "Come friend it is time to share what news we have of our quarry and the young elf maid that Hanasían spoke of," at the reference to Vanwe he laid the belt and pouch Hanasían had given him on the table and lighting our pipes, adding more smoke to the already hazy common room we shared what news we had, it seemed that Dúlrain had travelled some what with Hanasían and the rangers of Ithilien as they pursued Naiore and he knew the crimes she had committed, although like myself he had not been personally affected by this woman he had seen those who had and sought justice on their behalf.

With our tankards emptied and our pipes burnt out we decided that we should call on some of the other less desirable inhabitants of Bree, to see what new we could coax from them, but as a lifted the belt and pouch I became curious as to what the daughter of Naiore carried within. Slowly I opened the pouch and emptied the contents on to the table, there was little within 3 brass coppers, a piece of leather tong, a few scribbled notes and tangled within all was strands of blonde hair.

"Naiore's" a soft elven voice answered for us, I recognised it right away and swung round in my chair, "Léspheria...what....why...but I...." I couldn't think where to began but she answered for me, "A messenger turned me back this morning, things go ill in the mountains and reinforcement have been sent for, I believe also that Lords Elladan and Elohir will send archers when they receive word, if they have not already, but as for me I have been sent to aid you in your pursuit if I can," I was suddenly struck dumb, things must be ill if Lothaniel's only option was to send Léspheria after her mothers killer, he had been adamant at their last meeting that this should never happen, for what reasons I was not entirely sure, but he had been set!

It was Dúlrain who broke the silence that followed, "Amandur! are you not going to introduce me to your mysterious friend?" "oh! of course" I laughed shaken out of my thoughts, "Dúlrain this is the Lady Léspheria of Rivendell, Léspheria this is Dúlrain of the Dunedain" As Léspheria lowered her hood, Dúlrain took her hand and kissed it lightly it is a pleasure to meet you at last Amandur has spoke oft of you and your work in the courts, but never of your immense beauty, She felt Amandurs surprise and knew the latter was not true, grinning politely she nodded her head in thanks and they sat back down examining the contains of Vanwe's pouch and I explained to Léspheria the events since we parted.


"So she believes her father is dead, sad though that is in my heart, I believe that at the moment this is a good thing, I do not think Naiore would have any reservations at striking at the heart of her own people to get to Menecin" Léspheria sighed heavily, already I could see that this task weighed heavy on her mind, but as she looked up I smiled, even though I knew she sensed that I felt different.

"So, who or where is the Revennor of Mordor's latest target?" Dúlrain asked grimly, "All the signs point to Annuminas!" I replied thinking of the troubles in the mountains, but something did not sit well in my mind. "No" Léspheria interrupted "I believe that the orcs are a diversion and Naiore plans to strike at the very people who caused her fall from power!" "The Shire!" myself and Dúlrain gasped at Naiore's audacity.

"And Vanwe?" I asked, "I think Vanwe's preconceived notions of her mother are interfering with the truth of who her mother truly is, but Naiore I believe will not be able to keep up the appearance of the loving mother Vanwe wishes her to be for long, she will let her true self show sooner or later!" Léspheria told us, but as she finished I saw her gaze wander to the door.

"What is it" I asked. "She is here, somewhere in the village, I sensed a dark presence as I passed the Farm houses to the south of here" she answered distractedly. I paused think what to do next, but if Naiore was here Rauthain and Maethor would not be to far behind, "The rangers Rauthain and Maethor will be here shortly, I think we should await their arrival then decide what next to do!" and when both Dúlrain and Léspheria nodded their agreement, I rose and acquired food and refreshment for us and the others who I believed would follow shortly.

[ October 08, 2003: Message edited by: Nerindel ]
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Old 09-30-2003, 06:26 PM   #75
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Vanwe

The scent of damp earth filled her nose. Only distantly, faintly did she heed it. So tired that she ached, Vanwe drifted in a dark far more oppressive than that of the cellar she lay in. Her wrists and ankles were cruelly bound, but she knew only that she was tired... and somewhere deep within her very, very afraid.

The elixir she had taken at her mother's bidding was an unwholesome thing. It had stripped her of strength so much so that by mid afternoon she had been unable to even hold her head up or keep her saddle. She recalled her mother's hissed imprecations and warnings of what would come if she fell, but she could barely move a muscle to heed her.

She remembered also the honeyed words that followed closely on the heels of the threats. Words were a tangled mess that spun dizzily around as she drifted. She was cold and she shivered, wrists and ankles chaffing against the rope. Nothing made any sense, not her recollection or mind, nor what her body screamed at her in protest.

Yet, Vanwe had not survived harrowing years in the Haradwaithe without some measure of resilience. Perhaps an hour passed, or even five, yet she did manage to struggle back to the cusp of awareness and she clung to it as she had done so before, after beatings. The effort to open her eyes brought a soft sigh of profound exhaustion from her to hang in the empty cellar air.

It was all dark, not so much as a sliver of light. She was trapped! Trapped! This was worse than the cells of Gondor and Rohan! Terror welled up from deep within her soul. Hanasian's words bubbled up with them, warning her in the dark. Then her strength crumbled, having wrung all she had to come even to that point, and she fell back into the nothingness with Hanasian's words, Lespheria's voice and her mother all circling around and around and around until she knew no more.

Vanwe had not managed to even move an inch. Had she known that she would not be able to so much as lift a finger for another 12 hours, perhaps she would have found a way for one scream. Likely it would not have been able to make it's way through the cellar doors. In the dark, Vanwe sank to the bottom of an abyss so deep, created and waiting for only her by the foul elixir made first in Mordor by her own mother.

In the house, Naiore raised a brow, for she had felt the mad surge of terror and confusion of her daughter as keenly as she had felt the brush of the other's mind. She steepled her fingers before her and thought. Vanwe would need a great deal of convincing, yet the seeds were well planted now and could bear enough fruit to be of use. Another thing occured to Naiore. Vanwe was strong indeed to have been capable of even that. She should have lain in the smothering embrace of deep shadow for many hours further before being able to even open her eyes. Lastly, Naiore had to wonder who else had sensed her daughter in that brief, blazing moment.

Barrold had best return soon. They could not remain long now. Naiore drew out a dagger and needlessly began to tend it's wicked edge as she contemplated how to best use events at Annuminas to her advantage. Between Barrold in the south and the orcs of the north, she could be well on her way to establishing a new dominion, the kind she had never had whilst in Sauron's service.

But it all hung by a thread. She held the weapon they would use to stop her, and she was quite a weapon. Barrold had to deliver in order for Naiore turn Vanwe against them and Barrold was overdue. If she had to go out and pull him out of a store he was raiding, she'd extract her due from him in another way.
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Old 10-01-2003, 03:37 PM   #76
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Maethor quickly vanished into the gloomy shadows of darkness, eyes fixed on the ground starying at the numerous prints that were trampled on each other. It was like a tangible riddle with neither ending nor beginning and prints were hopelessly lost in the confusion. "Much like life," Maethor thought as he followed, seeking for a sign of the gelding or the faint print of an elvish maid -- fiend, he corrected himself dully. He knew that Vanwe wore the boots of a man and did not wear the fine clothing of an elf.

He skulked amongst the shadows, looking for a horse that carried two riders, or any sign that an elf was near. A crash of glass jerked his head to the side and he saw a drunken man reel from a room and collapse in the gutter. Maethor sighed in some annoyance and, carefully and cautiously making his way towards the man, saw that the liquor had knocked him out cold. Maethor uncorked his deerskin flask and emptied the warm, stale water onto the face and quicly disappeared into the shadows as the man gasped and looked about him, muttering jibberish in his confusion. "Better a shock than lying in the gutter like a swine," Maethor muttered as he saw that the inn was actually the Prancing Pony.

Quickly he entered and waited as his eyes adjusted to the merrily lit room. Amandur should be here, as well as Hanasian...a smile crossed his face. Maethor was fond of the old ranger and -- there they were. Amandur and another. He eased his way through the crowd and listened sorrowfully as he heard of Hanasian's departure. And then another elf lady slipped up to the pair and whispered of Naiore.

"The rangers Rauthain and Maethor will be here shortly, I think we should await their arrival then decide what next to do!" Amandur said.

"Then you have not long to wait," said Maethor with a smile. "Rauthain is busy checking the other gates to see if our serpent has appeared elsewhere since she was not seen in the eastern gate. I have glanced about the streets, looking for suspicious activity and, alas, I have seen nothing." Maehtor's smile faded as he drew a chair to the table and flopped into it, his dagger making a slight clinking sound. He ran his fingers through his hair and said, "Well met, Dulrain. I am Maethor and a I plead your forgiveness for not introducing myself sooner."

[ October 01, 2003: Message edited by: Imladris ]
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Old 10-02-2003, 04:21 AM   #77
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Rauthain

When Rauthain entered the Prancing Pony he found Amandur and Maethor sitting with an elven maiden and another ranger who Rauthain had not met before. The ranger noticed Amandur had changed his garb and the group sat in the half shadows behind the brightly lit hearth of the common room. Rauthain bowed slightly to the lady before taking a chair from an adjacent table and drawing it near.

“Rauthain, we have been joined by two others of like interest. Lady Léspheria of Rivendell and Dúlrain, also of our brethren.” Maethor greeted him. “Now that our numbers are filled we can decide upon our course!”

“What of Hanasian?” Rauthain ventured. “Has he arrived also?”

“Hanasian has bid me to take his place in this company, for he has had to depart hastily upon receiving word of his father. I know that he did not give up this matter easily, but could not have decided otherwise. I am Dúlrain, and I will do all in my power to assist in his place.

“I for one am obliged to you,” Rauthain said. “For we can use all the help we can get. We track a wily creature to be sure, and tracing her steps has proved difficult indeed. I am Rauthain,” he said bowing slightly to him before taking his seat.

“So what have you found at the gates?” Maethor inquired. “You seem a good deal better, as if your mind has been eased somewhat.”

“Please excuse me Maethor, we had come so close in our chase, the possibility of losing the trail altogether due to the carelessness of a watchman overwhelmed my sense of propriety.” The ranger’s eyes glittered as he smiled at Léspheria. “But what is more interesting is that our lady no longer has possession of the gelding. I have traveled as far as The Greenway and found it’s distinctive mark on the far side of the road leading toward The Old Forest. It appeared to be unburdened and had a large and roughly shod boot running along side it. I say running, for it looked as though horse and companion were not overly fond of each other. No other sign have I had in north or south.”

“So our friend has had dealings already in Bree,” Amandur murmured.

“And is in likely need of a horse if she would travel on from here,” Rauthain added.

“Bree is not a large place, but it has it’s holes and hiding places and persons of dubious character, who would be willing to harbor such a one at a price,” Dúlrain commented.

“And chances are she will choose a local contact if she would arrange on onward journey, for how can one bargain for provisions while holding another captive? Surely the merchants would see something amiss.”

“But we don’t know Vanwe’s mind at this juncture,” Rauthain stated. At this Lespheria remained silent, listening to the stream of ideas passing before her.

Rauthain, remembering the circlet of wax that they had found in the Chetwood wondered to himself if Naiore might indeed have an ailment requiring medicament. Perhaps he should investigate the local herbalists. If only they knew what tincture she had made use of. “There used to be a shiftless relative of Bill Ferny still in these parts. What of him? Perhaps he could be persuaded to name some of his associates.”

“Barrold,” Amandur interjected. “Barrold Ferny. And it seems that we have missed him as this is apparently a haunt of his, but he was not worth the trouble for his money this evening and Butterbur has sent the staggering fellow out early.”

“Do we know where he stays now?” Rauthain questioned.

“Somewhere on the eastern fringes of town, I recall.”

“Then we had best head there as well, for I know no better time to interview a man than when he is staggering, though it try our patience!”

“We must find the place first, And I don’t believe it common knowledge.”

The conversation lapsed for a time as the rangers pondered their next move. But for now Rauthain contented himself with the fact that Naiore was close by and had not been successful in eluding them this day at least.

Getting up he walked over to the fire and relit the remnants of pipeweed that had gone out earlier that evening. Settling back down again he was prepared for an evening discussing their stategy and tactics should they find Naiore's whereabouts more nearly.

[ October 02, 2003: Message edited by: Hilde Bracegirdle ]

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Old 10-03-2003, 06:20 PM   #78
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Sting

Léspheria

Léspheria listened thoughtfully as the Ranger named Rauthain told of his findings, she continued to listen to the stream of ideas passing before her by the four rangers and as Rauthain rose to go light his pipe Lespheria noticed she had been fingered the small carving of the swan that had been in Vanwe's pouch and now as she looked at it she saw the love and care that had gone into the intricate piece, as she traced the finely carved lines her thoughts drifted back to Naiore and the farm houses, she had not sensed Vanwe and this bothered her somewhat, but she was not yet willing to believe that Naiore had disposed of her daughter so soon, she would break the young elf's spirit before killing her, it was her way... Menecin, her Mother and perhaps even Kaldir were proof of this.

Her hand went to the length of braided leather, which was tangled with Naiores soft golden hair, Léspheria recalled the night that Vanwe had opened up to her and disclosed that she ran away from a people who feared and hated her, she had told her a little about the hardship she had faced, forced to live with people who reviled her, in the harsh Haradian waste. looking at the leather the full extent of Vanwe's hardship came to her, how ironic it now seemed that Naiore's hair should be bound to Vanwe's own reminder of that hardship, one placed on her by her own mother!

Carefully she put the swan and the braided leather back into the pouch, replacing also the small belt knife, the carrot and the 3 copper coins, she carefully closed it. As she tied it to her own belt she used her senses to see if she could locate Vanwe, she pushed tentively not wishing to brush Naiore's mind,she felt sudden frustration at not being able to locate the young elf, but as she was about to give up she suddenly sensed a weak, confused and fearful mind, she pushed a little harder to be sure. "Vanwe is still alive, but is confused and frightened!" she said raising her head to look at the others, "I have sensed her, it was brief , but she is still in Bree."

Léspheria was suddenly conscious of the patrons of the inn staring at her, and her sharp elven hearing caught some of their words... "Tis an elf I tells ye" "What does it want here, thought all their kind left these lands?" she heard two men by the bar whisper, "Aye they have adventures, an' fight great battles, they say!" "Aye! but they all left after the war,why do you suppose she's 'ere and with those rangers an all!" a table of hobbits whispered.

She had made a mistake in lowering her hood,not many elves entered bree, if any at all and now all would know that an elf had passed through the inn this night, she silently cursed herself for her lack of cautiousness.

"We should search the farm houses and soon!" she whispered to Amandur, eager to get away from the staring eyes.

[ October 04, 2003: Message edited by: Nerindel ]
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Old 10-05-2003, 05:46 PM   #79
Elora
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Naiore

Naiore bent to shift the stones by the kitchen door of Barrold's dilapidated house. She would dally no longer in his kitchen. With Rangers surely about and Barrold's notorious greed, lingering would only lead to an easy collar. They would be coming, of that Naiore was sure. Insticts honed over ages told her that. The presence of a familiar mind and then Vanwe's surge only confirmed it. Barrold had his instructions and there was no need to sit idle any longer. Naiore had never liked Bree.

Now unburdened by haste or the weight of another, Naiore made use of all her Elven stealth as she left the farmhouse behind her. Let the Rangers attempt to track her. They would not find so much as a bent blade of grass. Light footed and with the woodcraft of her kin and thousands of years of experience, Naiore moved beneath the moon and stars to the safer refuge of the many nooks of Bree Hill.

She had a number of bolt holes, each selected for their vantage and defensibility. The one she chose now was remote. The entrance and surrounds were stony. Noone could approach, especially Men, without her hearing them. It was high, offering a view through the tangle of low shrubs that concealed the entrance. But best of all was the fact that should any manage to track her, the stones would offer no trace of her passing. She had retained Elvish dress customs for more than simply their aesthetic qualities.

Naiore smiled as she stood in the entrance of the shallow hole in the hill. Just over the way, Hobbits nestled comfortably in their holes. Imagine if they knew who shared the hill with them. Lights of Bree's houses below winkled in the night. Then, she turned her back and entered the hole. Content and at home in the night, Naiore settled down to await dawn, Barrold and her daughter.
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Characters: Rosmarin: Lady of Cardolan; Lochared: Vagabond of Dunland; Simra: Daughter of Khand; Naiore: Lady of the Sweet Swan; Menecin: Bard of the Singing Seas; Vanwe: Lost Maiden; Ronnan: Lord of Thieves; and, Uien of the Twilight
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Old 10-05-2003, 10:26 PM   #80
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Sting

Kaldir

Kaldir entered Bree from the north. He passed like smoke through a little known hole in the great hedge and moved silently through the sleeping town, keeping to the shadows and watching closely any who still walked the streets. The most activity, of course, was in the vicinity of the Prancing Pony, but Kaldir did not choose to enter the inn. He was more interested in the traffic outside the boundaries of the inn yard. For a brief time, he watched the outside of the inn as the usual assortment of travelers, drunks, and tradesmen made their comings and goings, but seeing nothing there that interested him or spoke to him of Naiore's presence, he moved on.

He had not gone more than a block away from the inn in the direction of the eastern gate when he heard the approach of two men coming up behind him. Noting that they were as yet unaware of his presence, Kaldir melted away into the shadows and listened. The voices of the two men were familiar: one he recognized as belonging to smalltime thief and pickpocket, the other as belonging to one of the town bullies. Both men's names escaped him for the moment, but Kaldir was not interested in them. What interested him was the topic of their conversation. Someone called Ferney. Both men were quite drunk and leaned heavily on each other for balance.

"I'd still like to know where that Ferney's got off to," muttered the pickpocket with a drunken slur. "'He got tossed from the Pony afore we could get there. I was a-countin' on him, y'know, to get us a bit o' action."

"He's cut us out," answered the bully. "I know he has. He's had somethin' major coming on for days. I could see it in his eye. He's cut us out."

"Bob down at the pub said he saw him leading a horse outta town. Gelding. No saddle or nothing."

"He's cut us out," growled the bully again, but Kaldir had heard enough. He waited until the two men had stumbled away down a side street, arguing amiably about the best way to get their revenge on Ferney for ditching them, then he stepped into the street. Using the light of the moon and the few streetlamps that still burned, his practiced eye scanned the confusion of footprints approaching the eastern gate for any indication that the gelding with the malformed shoe had passed that way. Unseen by the gatekeeper, Kaldir slipped over the gate and out into the darkness beyond, his eyes still scanning the earth. He traveled a fair distance toward the southwest, in the direction of the Barrow Downs, but the dim light did nothing to aid in his search for Ferney's trail. Finding nothing, he was just about to turn back toward Bree, when he heard the heavy crunch of a man's footsteps approaching out of the gloom, angry muttering accompanying each step. Concealing himself in the shadow of a large boulder, Kaldir waited and listened.

"Who does she think she is now, anyway?" grumbled the voice. Kaldir recognized it instantly. Barrold Ferney. He had had some business dealings with Ferney in the past, mostly having to do with information that could be bought for a price, or fugitives whose locations could be given up for an even bigger price.

"...ain't here to protect her... bow to Naiore...lost with the rest of 'em." Kaldir watched as he rubbed his chin and glared back over his shoulder to the west. "Could go find me find me some ale..."

The grumbling went on as Barrold made his way past Kaldir back in the direction of Bree, kicking the earth and spitting generously as he went. Kaldir trailed him for awhile, hoping for another mention of Naiore, but there was none. Finally, Kaldir decided to make his presence known to Ferney. He would be far more likely to learn something he could use in conversation with the man than by trailing behind him and listening to the stream of disgruntled rubbish Ferney spewed on his own. Kaldir left the trail that Ferney had been following and, cutting across the open ground, emerged a few yards ahead of him on the trail.

"Greetings, fellow traveler," Kaldir said pleasantly, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. One could never be too cautious when approaching vipers like Ferney in a dark and lonely place.

With a surprised grunt, Ferney halted instantly. "What? Who's that? By garn, you should know better than creeping about in the dark like that. Good way to get yourself killed." He started walking again, toward Kaldir still, but Kaldir could see that Ferney's hand had gone to the hilt of his dagger.

"Come now, Ferney," answered Kaldir. "Is that any way to greet an old associate? You've given me some excellent information in the past. I'd hate to see our association end badly out here in the middle of nowhere."

Ferney hesitated again. The moon had earlier gone behind a cloud, but now it sailed forth and bathed the two men in a silvery light. Ferney's eyes narrowed as he recognized the Ranger's scarred features. Then, he smiled a rather oily smile.
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