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Old 04-22-2004, 01:45 AM   #241
Everdawn
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Silmaril Avanill

Avanill nodded, it had been the conversation he had been dreading. It was hard to tell exactly how he felt from the outside, no one ever could tell what that boy was thinking; however, on the inside Avanill was rampant. Would he tell the truth? Would he leave some to chance? He regarded the two rangers with caution before making his final decision. After all, he did want to redeem himself, and yet he wanted to live.

He chose his words before speaking, “You don’t know who I am, you don’t know how I am connected to Naiore. You have no idea what ive been through and you have no idea what went on at Tallas place. Don’t be so quick to think you do, it is deeper than you think.” Avanill paused and watched the unsure reactions of the rangers.

“I can see form your stance that you do not want to hear an explanation” noticing the hostile stance of both rangers. “You must hear me out. I only became involved because I wanted revenge. Not only on Naiore but on Barrold as well. The elf, had dealings with my family a long time ago, she was responsible for their deaths, for that she must die. And Barrold, murdered by sister. He murdered Tallas to, I tried to stop him, but there was nothing I could do. I was waiting for the right moment to kill them both, but I saw that Naiore was planning something bigger that would not give me that chance. She wants to take over the Shire. She did terrible things, things that made me want to throttle her graceful throat on the spot if ever I could, but I had to keep my cover, I am not a stupid opportunist, if you have seen the things that I have seen this past weeks… You have no evidence that I was involved in killing Tallas, you only know I was there. You will find no blood upon my clothes and no remembrances of his home save the drugs I bought from him before Barrold went wild.”

Avanill knew he had a point. “Toby will still not know of my venture of vengeance, so well it was that I kept it. I only wanted to restore my family honour; can you blame me for that? Can you honestly take me away for trying to save my sister, that girl’s good name? Trying to save Vanwe from Naiore- and not to mention what she did to Vanwe…” He raised an eyebrow.

“I imagine that she is safe now though, thank the Valar. Don’t worry about my betrayal good sirs, I give you my word, it will not be broken, besides if I wanted to escape I would have done so by now, I come from what you fellows would call ‘good stock’. Arrest me if you will, but Eru be damned if you will lock me away and take my revenge away from me!”

Last edited by Everdawn; 04-22-2004 at 03:00 AM.
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Old 04-25-2004, 05:24 AM   #242
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Léspheria and Vanwe

Lespheria could feel the hypnotic suggestion of Benia’s words course through the mind of her patient. Along with the pain it also seemed to lessened the darkening gloom that hung so heavily over his heart, then at Benia’s silent instruction she reheated the needle and continued too carefully stitch the wound close, all the while marvelling at the effectiveness of the southern woman’s tale. Finishing off the last stitch she tied it off and cut the remaining thread free, then placing the needle on the table she took up a small vial of pungent smelling oil and gently rubbed it over and around the stitches.

“To stop any external infection and to reduce the swelling,” she whispered seeing Vanwe’s curious expression. Replacing the vial she took Vanwe’s hand and placed it gently over the wound, she watched as the younger elf’s brow creased in a mixture of fear and apprehension. It seemed somewhat strange to Vanwe that she was being asked to use her limited healing skills, when she was so used to being discouraged from such acts, usually by the vicious sting of a southron’s whip.

“Do you feel it?” Léspheria whispered putting her own hands above the rangers wound. She watched the young elf take a deep breath steeling her for the task at hand, and then Vanwe slowly closed her eyes leaning in slightly towards the injury of their patient. Her delicate face etched in deep concentration as she used what she could sense to put together a clear picture of what was happening below the surface of the flesh.

“Yes!” Vanwe answered opening her eyes with a look of concern, “He is bleeding inwardly, and there is a tear deeper than that which we have already tended.”

Léspheria nodded that this was so, “I need you to locate the memory within the tissue and repair the tear. Do you think you can do this?”

Nodding hesitantly Vanwe again searched out the wrongness but after a few seconds shook her head frustrated, I can’t focus the blood is too much and too fast!”

Léspheria also reaching out her senses to find the memory contained within the living tissue also felt the fast seeping of the escaping blood. A cold chill settled on her heart, she knew exactly what she had to do. She had to use the one part of her skill that she feared to explore, there was no choice if she did not act the ranger would surly die.

“Lespheria!” Vanwe’s gentle voice laced with concern forced her to look up.

“I can slow the blood flow,” she whispered. “This will allow you to heal the internal wound, unhindered.” Not completely understanding Vanwe nodded watching as Léspheria moved her hands to rest just above the ranger’s heart.

“His breathing will shallow a little more; do not be concerned it will not be for long.” Lespheria whispered to the other healers, who looked at her bemused. Never before had she revealed that she could do what she was now about to attempt. Closing her eyes, she reached out her senses locating the large and powerful muscle that was the ranger’s heart. The pulsating rhythm of the heart drummed in her head, loud and fast. Focusing all of her concentration, she steadily worked to slow the rhythm so that the blood flow slowed enough to allow Vanwe to heal the tear. With Dúlrain now breathing lightly, she felt Vanwe attentively begin the healing process.

Once Vanwe had manipulated the tissue into a state of repair, she slowly released her control allowing the heart to regain its regular rhythm, then moving back to Vanwe they both worked together, With Lespheria gently guiding, instructing and encouraging the younger elf when they needed to use their skill in a different way. With the internal bleeding stopped and the tissue steadily mending itself, she removed her hands nodding to Vanwe to do like wise, “He will be alright?” Vanwe asked. Léspheria smiled, nodding her head, confident that the ranger would be out of bed in the next few days.

“He still has a fever, but the apprentice will soon bring an herbal infusion that will hopefully break it,” she informed Vanwe. “Ah! Here he comes now.”

Taking the towel the apprentice offered, she wiped her hands then taking the warm cup she moved towards Benia, laying a gentle hand on the woman’s shoulder she indicated that they needed to raise his head slightly so that he could drink, Benia nodded her understanding and with Vanwe’s help they both tenderly raise the mans head. “You must try to drink this, it will break the fever and help you to rest,” she told Dúlrain and when he nodded weakly, she pressed the cup lightly to his lips and he began to drink.

As Benia and Vanwe gently lowered the rangers head and made him more comfortable, she carefully instructed the other healers what was needed for the rangers after care. Turning back, she noted that Benia still wore her damp clothes and that her forehead now glistened in the soft candle light. Making her way over to the woman who so tenderly watched over the ranger, she lightly placed her hand on her forehead causing the woman to start. She was warm, but no fever had set in. knowing the affects of remaining in cold wet clothes for so long she turned and whispered something to one of the healers, then turning back to Benia she spoke softly.

“He will be fine, his wound is mending and the infusion will help him to rest. You should change out of those wet things and try to get some rest yourself.”

Just then, the assistant returned with a warm cup of herbal tea and offered it to Benia. “The tea will keep the chill off and help to relax the tightness of your muscles from the long journey!” she told Benia as she hesitantly took the cup, her dark eyes straying back to the now sleeping ranger.

“He will be fine, someone will be with him at all times,” she soothingly assured her.
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Old 04-26-2004, 03:08 PM   #243
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Gilly

Now that the others had all been led their separate ways, one guest alone remained standing planted in the corridor, stubbornly resisting all attempts to show her to a place where she might refresh herself, or change out her cold and mud rimmed clothes. Gilly was persistent in trying to convince those who had been assigned to ministering to the newcomers that she really and truly needed to see with her own eyes, that Miss Benia had indeed made it to this outpost. And a tall graceful elf, who thus far had succeeded with much effort in drawing the hobbit only a few yards down the long winding hallway, grew perplexed, when much to her dismay her guest refused politely to go any further until she was given directions to the 'infirmary'.

"I am sorry, dreadfully sorry really," Gilly apologized, her voice echoing along the empty hall. "But I won't set at all easy until I know how Miss Nightshade is getting on. And I really wouldn't forgive myself if I were fuss with being all clean and comfortable while my friend is fretful, and Mr. Dúlrain so seriously hurt. It would not be right now, would it?"

So it went for quite some time, until at last the elf conceded, quickly taking the resolute hobbit along a series of corridors, and coming near an open doorway from which voices could be heard, gestured for Gilly to be quiet as they approached the room. Stopping short of the threshold the elf told her softly that her friends were inside and must not be troubled until the healers were done with their task. It would be better, she urged, if Gilly were spend this time making herself ready to greet them. Nodding her understanding, the hobbit took a few steps forward, and catching hold of the doorpost peered inside. There in the room were indeed Miss Benia and Mr. Dúlrain. At least it appeared to be Mr. Dúlrain, for her friend was bent low over him obscuring his face as she spoke gently into his ear, and the ranger in turn clutched her expressive hand in an ivory grip, as if she were life itself. But they were not alone. The two elves that she had met at the Forsaken Inn, Miss Vanwe and Miss Léspheria, were working diligently on Dúlrain wound, while two others stood by ready to assist them.

Gilly saw that this was no moment for her to interrupt, and the elf had been right to suggest that she leave them be until they were finished their work. But still her heart plummeted at the sight of the flurry of activity. She had been so joyful to finally reach Imladris, but now uncertainty crept back over her as she realized that even here Dúlrain was struggling.

Turning back to her guide she signaled that she was willing to go now, and soon found herself in a quite room with a basin of water and a rag, trying to scrub off the grime that had gathered, and that the river had not washed away. It seemed a long time since she had been alone, and the stillness was loud to her ears, with only the noise of the stream in the distance and her own heart beat. Soon after bathing, as she worked to smooth out her tangled hair before tying it up again, she was grateful when the lady returned bearing a child's yellow frock and petticoat for her to wear, so beautiful and fresh, smelling of lavender. Gilly thanked her profusely, feeling them too precious to wear, and asked if she might have a needle and thread to begin repairing her own clothes before returning home. Green thread she asked for, if she might have it, for she had lost her own. But taking up the hobbit's ragged garments, the elf smiled at her indulgently, explaining that she would wash them first and bring the requested items later, and then disappeared again, leaving Gilly in solitude.

It was not long before the hobbit grew restless, and left the quite repose afforded by her room behind its quietly closed door, and went off in search of some paper and pen to write the letter to her husband. And wandering the hallways looking someone to help her, she became distracted by the beautiful gardens that lay about the house. Stepping lightly down the stairs in her long gown, she thought to investigate the grounds for a little while and calm her nerves before sitting down to the matter of writing. And investigate she did, for quite some time. Enjoying the many paths and green niches she strayed exploring all she came to until at last she found small low structure with many rooms nestled among the brush, and a hobbit sitting cross-legged on the edge of the front step, a wooden bowl in his lap and a young man leaning against the wall behind him. Seeing that it was Toby, Gilly went there directly to see if he was being treated well and to ask if he knew where Kaldir might be.
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Old 04-30-2004, 11:21 AM   #244
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Amandur

Amandur listened with reservation as Avanill began to explain how swords alone would not subdue the Revennor of Mordor. He could not deny that some of what the young man said might indeed prove true and that he himself had pondered that very same question as they followed the elf’s trail, but he had faith in the Lady Léspheria’s abilities and believed that she would have or at least find the means with which to subdue her kinswoman.

“Can not the elves furnish these things also?” he said dismissively, as the images of Tallas’ mutilated body and ransacked home again bore fresh in his mind, “and at less risk to us.” He finished coldly.

He continued to listen as Avanill went on to explain that he could concoct a draft that would subdue Naiore’s mind, while still allowing her to travel the distance required to bring her to Gondor to face the judgement of their king. He peered doubtfully into the pack that Avanill held open for them to inspect. he could not help but wonder just how many of the vials and packets held within may have been procured from his old friends home and how many of them contented deadly poisons that the villain might use against them should they become lax in their guarded caution.

Slowly lifting his gaze he turned suddenly to face Rauthain barely believing what he was hearing, the older ranger was considering Avanill’s offer. Amandur had already made his feelings clear on this matter, he would see the young man left in here under the vigilant supervision of the elves, until the more pressing matter of Naiore capture had been dealt with. However, before he could protest Avanill spoke again.

“You don’t know who I am, you don’t know how I am connected to Naiore, you have no idea what I’ve been through and you have no idea what went on at Tallas’ place. Don’t be so quick to think you do, it is deeper than you think.”

Now Amandur was respected among his brethren for being of strong tolerance and for possessing a seemingly never-ending patience, but on this hunt for Naiore both had been sorely tested. Several weeks had now passed since they picked up Naiore’s trail, but they were no closer to taking her into their custody than when the first began. Instead, they had lost a highly valued and respected ally of their kin, and then night after night he had to witness the torment of the woman he loved as she suffered the assaults Vanwe was facing at the hands of her own mother and most recently the death of Maethor, all of which he had been helpless to prevent. If it had been Naiore’s intention or not to wear him down in this manner then it was working, his tolerance and patience were both stretched to their very limits and even now, Avanills accusations threatened to break them entirely. It took all the restraint that he could muster for him to hold his tongue and allow the young man to continue.

And as Avanill began to tell them his tale of vengeance, doubt began to settle in his mind. Had he really been too quick to judge this young man, but even as he began to doubt his judgement other memories resurfaced. Among them, Maethor’s recount of his assault in chetwood. Of how he found the young elf maiden fleeing from her captors, and of how Avanill and Barrold had together assailed him and retrieved their quarry. However, he could not dismiss the fact that this man had merely subdued the ranger and not killed him. But neither could he lightly put aside the fact that here the man would have had an obvious opportunity in which to rid himself of his sisters killer. He could have easily killed Barrold and placed the blame on the ranger but he had not or perhaps he could not. His eyes narrowed as he studied the young man’s demeanour for some hint or clue as to his true intent or purpose.

‘I will not give her something to use against me and neither should you!”

Léspheria’s words rang in his ears, she had been warning him that Naiore would sense his feeling for her and use them against him. Off course this is were Avanill’s story fails him for Naiore would most certainly have known if this young man bore her ill will. In their long friendship, Léspheria had never kept from him her ability to feel the emotions of those around her. It was for these very abilities that she was chosen to become an ambassador to Gondor on behalf of her people. but also was it known to him that she was not the only elf to possessed this gift, although ashamed to admit that a noble of their kind would commit such heinous acts as those Naiore was accused the elves eventually entreat the rangers to the source of Naiore’s uncanny ability to evade them at every turn. The rangers had hunted this elf for long enough for many of them to see first hand the extent of these abilities. However, before he could point out this simple flaw in Avanill’s story, the young man error’d again, reminding him that Barrold and Avanill had not been alone that fateful day…. Someone else had witnessed the brutal attack of the old man.

“Can you honestly take me away for trying to save my sister, that girl’s good name? Trying to save Vanwe from Naiore and not to mention what she did to Vanwe… I imagine that she is safe now though, thank the Valar.”

Both he and Rauthain followed Avanill’s brief gaze toward the main house of Imladris. Was he saying that Vanwe was here in Rivendell, evidently thinking the same thing the two rangers glanced at each other then turned back to Avanill? “Are you saying that you believe Vanwe is here?” Rauthain asked.

“Her mother sent her to retrieve her father and seeing this place for myself I do not think she would have succeeded.” Avanill explained and even Amandur found himself agreeing with the young man’s assessment.

“Arrest me if you will but Eru be damned if you will lock me away and take my revenge away from me!”

Amandur’s patience finally snapped and grabbing Avanill roughly by the front of his shirt he thrust him backwards into the solid trunk of a blossoming apple tree and pinning him securely in place he stared intently into the young mans deep blue eyes.

“Revenge!” he said dryly “is reserved for those the lady has honestly wronged and not by those who would shamelessly invent them to avoid facing the consequences of their actions. No, I see not the cold fire of revenge in your eyes and believe me I have seen it many times in my fellow rangers, not least in the eyes of the ranger Dulrain who even now lie’s under the care of the elves yet another victim of the ladies mischief.” The cold fire of vengeance that he spoke burned in his eyes clear for all to see.

“Amandur, my friend!” Rauthain exclaimed concern and uncertainty creeping into his voice as he place a firm hand on the arm that held Avanill firmly in place.

“I have had enough of his lies and wish only to know the truth!” he answered keeping his eyes locked with those of his prisoner.

“And what truth would you wish to hear my friend… The truth or the one you have convinced yourself is true. I too feel Tallas’ loss deeply but we do not know if this young man lies or not.” Rauthain counselled.

“No you are right my friend I do not know if he lies or not,” he said shaking his head and slowly releasing his hold on the young man. “But… there is one who I believe does and I strongly believe that she will tell us the truth that we seek.” he calmly continued watching Avanill trying to gauge a reaction.
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Old 05-04-2004, 10:45 AM   #245
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Kaldir

Left behind by the others, Kaldir followed at a distance, his pale blue eyes following the movements of both the young stranger he suspected of lying to Mrs. Banks and of the two Rangers, Rauthain and Amandur. He pretended not to notice when the two Rangers suddenly hustled the young man off the path into a rhododendron thicket, but the significance of their action was not lost on him. Obviously, his former brethren felt some of the same suspicions he did and, perhaps luckily for the young man, had decided to address their concerns forthwith, rather than leave the fellow for Kaldir to question on his own. Kaldir had noticed as the stranger passed him on the walkway that the young man's footprints matched those he had been tracking alongside Naiore's since they had left Chetwood, and, Kaldir imagined, that fact had not been lost on the Rangers either.

He paused on the walkway, fighting the temptation to listen in on the tete-a-tete taking place within the rhododendron thicket. Finally, deciding against it, he turned away and walked back in the direction of the stairs and the battlefield. Whatever they were talking about in there was Ranger business, something he had turned his back on years ago in favor of business of his own. While it might be to his advantage to know what was discussed, he still felt a peculiar sort of loyalty to his former brethren. Let them handle their affairs. After all, where Naiore was concerned, they were all basically on the same side. He could always corner the fellow later for a chat of his own. In the meantime, Kaldir felt the urge to go back to the battlefield. His head had cleared somewhat and there were things he needed to look into, namely the whereabouts of his missing sword and horse. He looked down at the bloody orc's blade in his hand. It would not do to enter Imladris carrying the sword of an orc, even a slain one.

The slash across his chest and shoulder had stopped bleeding, but continued to throb with a dull ache. He found the pain helped him to concentrate, keeping him alert, his senses on edge. Besides the matter of his missing belongings, he also wanted to see Naiore's tracks. Elven trackers had no doubt already found them and gone off in pursuit of her, but Kaldir felt a need to look at them himself, to see where she had gone once she had leapt down from the rock shelf upon which he had seen her standing. Her forces scattered and slain, anyone else but Naiore might have fled the area, but Kaldir knew her too well. She still had unfinished business. She might lie low, but she would not be far off. He knew that she would strike again, but where and how remained to be seen.

He continued on down the stairs, stepping out of the way of the elves who still worked at retrieving their dead and wounded from the field of battle. Once he reached the bottom of the stairs, it did not take him long to locate his sword where he had dropped it, half-concealed under the corpse of a stout orc. He picked it up and, giving the blade a quick wipe, slid it back into its scabbard. As for the orcish blade he had picked up when he had lost his own, he added it to the pile of orcish armor and weapons that the elves had begun to assemble near the ford. Those things would be disposed of later on the far side of the river, along with the bodies of the dead orcs, as soon as it was deemed safe enough to cross the river.

Having retrieved his sword, Kaldir walked back once more in the direction of the stair, hoping to pick up the trail of his horse, Nico. Not only was the gray stallion a very good horse, but strapped to the horse's back were most of Kaldir's worldly goods, including everything he owned that wasn't physically attached to his person. While there was nothing of any particular monetary value in Kaldir's missing pack, it did contain all of his extra clothes and traveling supplies, some items of which would be much missed and very hard to replace. Studying the ground, Kaldir criss-crossed the part of the battlefield in which he could last remember seeing his horse, but the ground had been too badly disturbed and what tracks could be seen were unclear. Shaking his head, he walked to the edge of the field. Placing two fingers in his mouth, he whistled loudly, but there was no answering whinny from Nico. He waited a short while, then tried again, but was again greeted only by silence.

"Strange," he said aloud. "He's always come before." He looked around the emptying battlefield again, but there were no dead horses or even any hints of dappled gray to be seen in the shadows. The pack pony who had carried Mrs. Banks so faithfully across the countryside could be seen wandering about a short distance downstream, but there was no sign of Kaldir's own horse. Plainly put, the animal had vanished. Puzzled, Kaldir walked over and picked up the trailing reins of the pack pony and led the sturdy little animal back toward the stairs.

Tying the pony to a tree near the foot of the stair, he left it there and moved on to the rocks where Naiore had been standing. For the second time that morning, he came away disappointed. If she had left any tracks at all, they had been all but destroyed by the chaotic flight of the orcs. With no trails to follow, Kaldir decided it was time to return to the stair and the entrance to Imladris. There was a time when he might have simply taken his sword and the supplies still strapped to the pack pony and gone on his way, but things had changed with Kaldir. There were a number of people within the Elven refuge that he needed to speak with, many issues that needed to be resolved. And there was still the matter of that young fellow Amandur and Rauthain had hauled off into the rhododendron patch. If he had been traveling with Naiore, as Kaldir strongly suspected he had, then the two of them would have quite a lot to talk about as well.

In the meantime, though, bleeding or not, he would have to attend the wound to his chest. While the wound itself was not life-threatening by any stretch, more messy and inconvenient than anything, the danger of infection was ever-present. It would have to be treated. Taking one final look around for his missing horse, Kaldir returned to the stair and for the second time began the ascent toward Imladris, this time bearing his own sword and leading the little brown pack pony behind him.
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Old 05-08-2004, 01:10 AM   #246
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Avanill

“I am not the one you want” Avanill said calmly. “You have no idea who I am, do you?” he asked looking at both Rangers. They looked form him to themselves. “I thought not.” Avanill nodded to himself. “I fear you are not ready to hear what I have to say, for if it is taken the wrong way I will be worried for my life.”

Amandur looked sceptically at the young man. “If there’s something you aren’t telling me boy you best do so now before you make this any worse for yourself.”

Avanill took a deep breath. “I am Avanill; my mother was the bandit and black market trader Atantri. You may have heard of me, and you may have known my uncles, they were rangers, Adoran and Mithsen were their names my father killed them.” He said the last words with much bitterness. “I have been in the company of Naiore, only because I had several ransoms I have to pay. Naiore promised quick payment. And I know she keeps her promises.”

“And why did she trust you boy?” Rauthain asked.

“Because she was a client of my mother.” Avanill continued “When I met up with Barrold Ferney he had already kidnapped Vanwe, or rather Naiore had promised her for him. And I can tell you now that Barrold has no idea that she is going to double cross him, I can see it in her eyes. I never touched Vanwe, I saved her from beatings, ill have you know that. Anyway, Ferney told us that we had to visit this Tallas man in order to refill my stocks. I thought he meant to buy, but later I found this to steal. Tallas came out. Barrold attacked him and then started on me; he said ‘Your father would have been ashamed of you, if he was alive’ and I lost it. I don’t know what happened, all I remember is that I was so angry.” He spat on the ground.

“The nerve to mention my father! He abandoned my mother, left her for dead. He killed my uncles and I am proud to say that I would kill him myself if my mother had not done it first.” The Young man shook his head.

“I never knew of Barrold’s intentions. It is not in my nature to kill an old man. Ive seen so many horrible things, Naiore is a monster. I abandoned them, originally because I want to remain living. But then I ran into Rauthain here by accident and decided that I need to do something about it. After all I am the best apothecary in Middle Earth.”
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Old 05-10-2004, 02:43 PM   #247
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Benia

Hesitantly, Benia accepted the warm mug of herbal tea from the hands of the Elven assistant. She murmured her thanks, but her eyes strayed worriedly toward Dúlrain. He was sleeping quietly now, but she could not erase the memory of his cries of pain from her ears.

"He will be fine," Léspheria reassured her warmly. "Someone will be with him at all times."

"Thank you," Benia said again. She dropped a deep curtsy, still clutching the warm mug in both of her hands. "While it is his life that you save, I find myself eternally in your debt and at your service." She lowered her eyes. "If he were to die, my life would no longer be of value to me." When Benia again raised her face, her eyes were brimmed with tears, but her expression was not one of despair. It was of hope and firm resolve. What she left unspoken was the knowledge that if he lived, her life would take on more depth and meaning. There had been a time, even so recently as the day before, when she had felt doubts that her feelings for the wounded Ranger would be reciprocated, but now she knew in her heart that they were. That knowledge gave her strength.

For a brief moment the gazes of the two women, one Elven, one mortal, met. Then, Léspheria's expression grew pensive. "He will not die," she said gently, a faraway look coming into her gray eyes. She touched Benia's hand. "Now, come, let my assistant show you to a room where you may change out of those wet things. It would hardly do for Dúlrain to awake only to find you have taken ill as well, now, would it?"

Benia's cheeks colored, then, sheepishly, she shook her head. "No, Lady, you are right. It wouldn't do at all." She needed to be well for him and strong, and, if at all possible, beautiful. Benia took a final sip of tea and put aside the mug. With a glance down at her torn, muddy skirts and sodden boots, she bent and collected the dress and towels she had flung aside earlier when she had rushed to Dúlrain‘s side. Gathering them in her arms, she walked to the door where a tall, young Elven lady waited to lead her to her room.

"I am Celebnariel," the Elven lady said as they started down the hall in the direction of the guests’ rooms. "If there is anything you need during your stay in the Last Homely House, please let me know. It is my duty to see that you are comfortable during your stay with us."

Again, Benia murmured her thanks. " I was wondering if you might have seen something of my friends," she added quietly. "Besides Dúlrain, I was traveling with two others in particular, a hobbit lady and a man. The hobbit lady's name is Gilly Banks. She's small and rather slim for a hobbit, and the man has the look of a Ranger. He's tall and has a badly scarred face. He goes by the name of Kaldir. Have you any word of them?"

Celebnariel listened to her attentively, then nodded. "Yes, they have both arrived in good standing. In fact, Gilly was down to see you in the Hall of Healing, but left as she did not wish to interrupt your efforts. I'm sure you will be seeing her later. I have not seen this man Kaldir myself, but a room has been prepared for him just down the hall from yours. From what I understand, he was seen on the path above the great stair, so if he has not found his room already, I'm sure he will soon. If you like, I can leave word for the two of them that you were asking after them."

"Yes, please do!" answered Benia. "I would be ever so grateful."

"Consider it done," answered Celebnariel. "I shall see to it myself."

"Now that I know my friends are safe," Benia continued after only a second’s hesitation. "There is one other thing that I should like to ask of you."

"Yes?" prompted the elflady with a smile.

"As soon as I am presentable again, I should like to return to Dúlrain's bedside in the Hall of Healing. Would that be possible? I must warn you that if you say "no," I shall be forced to find my way back on my own."

Celebnariel laughed merrily. "I or any of my colleagues would be delighted to show you the way back." Her fair face sobered. "I know what it is like to fear for the life of a loved one."

Hearing the gravity in the Elven lady’s voice, Benia paused. A flurry of questions rose in her mind, but before she could ask even one of them, Celebnariel stopped and opened a door on to one of the most beautiful chambers that Benia had ever laid eyes on. She almost stopped breathing when she saw that a bath had already been drawn for her and waited, steaming, before a small fire that burned merrily in the grate. Seeing Benia’s expression, Celebnariel laughed.

"You look as though you are cold to the bones! I see you have already been given some dry clothes. When you are finished bathing, you may leave your wet things here by the door. We will see to it that they are cleaned and mended."

For what felt like the hundredth time that day, Benia murmured her thanks. She waited quietly as Celebnariel fussed over a few details around the room then took her leave. Once she had gone, Benia wasted no time in slipping off her cold, wet clothes and climbing into the bath. Closing her eyes, she sank into the hot, fragrant water and, for the first time in a very long time, felt almost weightless, as though all of her problems floated away from her in the tendrils of steam that laced the air around her. The chill that had enveloped her so completely since the river crossing finally began to recede, allowing the warmth to return slowly to her limbs. For a brief moment, she felt supremely content.

But the moment passed swiftly. Almost in response to her happiness, the tortured echoes of Dúlrain’s anguish rose again in her ears. If she wanted to be there beside him when he awoke, she knew she must not allow herself to become distracted by her own desire for such creature comforts as a bath and a soft bed. Steeling herself against the temptation to indulge her whims, she finished bathing quickly. Once she was satisfied that every last trace of the river smell had been washed from her skin and hair, she toweled herself off and dressed in the green silk dress that had been provided by the Elves. It was an amazingly good fit. If she had been a vain woman, she might have twirled a few times before the mirror and admired the way the green set off the amber of her eyes, but Benia was not a vain woman. Instead, she merely smoothed the fine garment into place, then set to combing out the tangles from her long, black hair. When her thick tresses once more flowed down her back like a raven-colored veil, she finished her preparations by finding a small vial amongst her meager possessions and re-applying the line of kohl around each of her eyes. Lastly, she pulled on the lovely - and dry! - Elven boots that Celebnariel had left for her and found that, like the dress, they fitted as though they had been made for her. She was finally ready to return to the Hall of Healing.

As she opened the door to her room, Benia found Celebnariel already there and waiting to escort her back to Dúlrain’s side. Celebnariel again took her leave as Benia entered Dúlrain’s room. Léspheria and Vanwe had since gone as well, but the Healer who had been staying with Dúlrain in Benia’s absence smiled.

"He’s still sleeping peacefully," he said as Benia approached the Ranger’s bedside.

"Thank you," she answered. She bent down and tenderly smoothed a few stray strands of black hair back from Dúlrain’s face. "I had so hoped to be with him when he awoke."

"You will be," answered the healer. "I think you will find his condition much improved, but there are others who need my attention as well. With your permission, I will see to them now."

"Yes, please, you must not neglect the others," agreed Benia softly. "I will stay with him now."

As he prepared to go, the Healer showed Benia a bell cord by the door that she could pull if she needed him, Celebnariel, or, in fact, anything at all. She thanked him again and settled into the chair that had been left by the injured man's bed. Laying her hands against Dúlrain's face, she was relieved to find that his skin no longer burned so frighteningly hot to the touch. She could detect the remains of a fever, but it was only slight. She murmured a soft prayer of thanks in her mother's desert dialect. Then, looking around, she found a small basin of water and a washcloth. Dipping the washcloth just under the surface of the cool fresh water, she bathed his sleeping face and hands. She planned to stay there with him as long as he remained asleep. And, if she had anything to say about it, she would still be there when he awoke.

Nothing else mattered.

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Old 05-10-2004, 06:33 PM   #248
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Rauthain

Rauthain listening carefully to Avanill’s words, found no comfort in them, and the young man’s claim again rang false in his ears. For to the older man’s instincts, this one had yet to be appear consumed with a vengeance of any sort, let alone the passion necessary to spur him to seek out this quarry. And the ranger had not forgotten that when he had first met him, Avanill did not appear to be chasing either Barrold or Naiore, though he had recounted the same tale.

One point though, that Avanill had made was indeed true. Rauthain knew he could not yet be sure what link this man had to Naiore, nor by what motive he was at Tallas’ home, and on this he set his hope. For since they had been traveling together Avanill had never shown himself to be under the sway of the Ravennor. And though that too may be a ruse, the young man had proved to be courageous and obliging, meriting in this Rauthain’s respect both at the river and on the battlefield. But by the Valar, he was slippery, too! And not a straight word fell from his lips.

Seeing this paradox, the old ranger fell to questioning himself, not yet understanding why it was that he was inclined to take the reckless boy on the onward journey, for Amandur had spoken the truth at every point, and Avanill had done nothing more to earn their trust since reaching this place. But in searching his own heart, Rauthain grew suspicious of its aims. Had he then grown so corrupted by his own desire to see the death of Naiore that he now actively moved toward that end, seeking this boy only as an instrument to his purpose? For he realized that it was his fervent hope that what ever his motivation, Avanill might prove heavy handed or careless in his ministrations to the elf, stilling the breath within her, to claim her life as a prize. Indeed the old ranger knew in his weakness he would himself foster this idea. And there in lay his shame; for not only did Avanill present an unnecessary danger to their company, but Rauthain knew also that in this propensity, his own loyalty to the Law of the King would be held in question should he succeed in overriding his liege’s wishes in this manner. But if no harm came to his fellows, he thought bitterly, that dishonor was of little consequence. And with no one else left but the Ravennor to suffer from this shift, he was now willing to publicly embrace the ignominy that he had earned at Ravenfalls. He sought only to make amends with Kaldir, before this judgment was pronounced on him.

But setting aside his somber thoughts, he focused sharply as he heard Avanill mention the supposed safety of Vanwe. Rauthain looked to Amandur before turning back to their charge, “Are you saying that you believe Vanwe is here?” His mind swimming as he realized this young elf, stood to accuse Avanill, ensuring his imprisonment. If he had been bluffing, he then played a quite dangerous hand.

“Her mother sent her to retrieve her father, and seeing this place for myself I do not think she would have succeeded.” Avanill remarked. “Don’t worry about my betrayal, good sirs, I give you my word, it will not be broken, besides, if I wanted to escape I would have done so by now. I come from what you fellows would call ‘good stock’. Arrest me if you will, but Eru be damned if you lock me away and take my revenge away from me!”

The Dúnadan flinched at the inauspicious retort, surprised also that Avanill had betrayed such a spark, but his attention was quickly drawn to Amandur who expeditiously had confined the young man against an apple tree and looked as if he intended to assail him further. Astonished, Rauthain placed his hand firmly on the arm that held Avanill secured to the tree. “Amandur, my friend!” he said with concern, cautiously trying to calm the ranger, for he had never known him to act in such a way.

“I have had enough of his lies and wish only to know the truth!” Amandur declared unblinking. Ah if only the truth could be wrestled from him in such a way, thought the old ranger. But the greater the threat of harm, he knew, the more deeply entrenched in lies the young man was apt to become.

“And what truth would you wish to hear my friend…. The truth or the one you have convinced yourself is true. I too feel Tallas’ loss deeply, but we do not know if this young man lies or not,” he said trying to appease them both.

“No you are right my friend, I do not know if he lies or not,” Amandur said releasing his grip. “But…there is one who I believe does, and I strongly believe that she will tell us the truth that we seek,” he said as he continued to watch Avanill. Rauthain shot a quick glance at the man, before addressing Amandur again.

“Yes, I see now that we must take this up with one who would bear witness to his character, and saw how it went not only in Naiore’s camp, but at Tallas’ as well,” he murmured, strangely downcast.

“I am not the one you want,” Avanill declared calmly. “You have no idea who I am, do you?” He paused waiting expectantly for and answer, “I thought not,” he said nodding. “I fear you are not ready to hear what I have to say, for if it is taken the wrong way I will be worried for my life.”

Rauthain braced himself for yet another fanciful tale, resisting the temptation to comment on the man’s credibility, and the fact that he little of it left to lose. But at Amandur’s urging, Avanill took a deep breath and continued, declaring himself to be the son of Atantri, a black market trader, and nephew of the rangers Adoran and Mithsen, who were killed some years back by his father. He explained that he had joined in Naiore’s plans for the promise of quick payment, which he seemed to require.

If this were more deception, then at least it was more skillful, the old ranger thought, for Avanill was too young to have remembered the deaths the two brothers that he named as his uncles. But why would the Ravennor choose to bring along this boy, whom she did not know, on so serious an errand. Testing the speed of his reply, Rauthain asked him as much.

Without hesitation, the young man told them, summarizing his position, as well as what had taken place among the circle of oaks, and for the first time the old ranger was almost persuaded to believe him, though what he had said of Tallas did not sound like the man he knew. But at the same time he felt a strong wave of nausea overcome him, and walking away began to retch, as with dread he realized he was pleased to hear Avanill tell of his loss of control, though it swept up his friend in its bloody savagery.

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Old 05-16-2004, 08:31 PM   #249
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Naiore

As Naiore moved down the hidden pathway that led into Imladris from the north, she chose her steps carefully, knowing that she must leave no tracks, no sign that she had passed that way. With so many elves and Rangers about, leaving even a single footprint in a single patch of mud could lead to her undoing. Belying the fury in her heart, Naiore's fair face bore a serene expression as she slid silently through the shadows of the trees. It was a bold move, entering the grounds of the Elven refuge at the height of daylight, but it was precisely for that reason that Naiore chose to go when she did. The elves would be looking for her at night, that is, if they looked for her at all. She had been careful to make it appear as though she had fled into the west following the pell-mell retreat of the orcs, even going so far as to drop a few strands of golden hair along the trail before she turned north. A cold smile twisted on the corners of her lips. Even if they missed her carefully planted clues that were intended to send the lot of her pursuers charging off like a pack of baying hounds into the west, she knew that they would never look for her within the very grounds of Imladris. Her safety lay in the audacity of her plan.

Naiore slowed her steps as the back gardens and walls of the Last Homely House came into view through the trees. Her inky leathers, stained now with the blood of elves and orcs alike, blended into the shadows as she looked for a suitable place to hole up and wait for her daughter to deliver Menecin. Vanwe would not fail her, she thought with a flash of pride. She had wrought her will too deeply upon her daughter to fail. The pathetic whelp was too green, too raw, to resist the Ravenner's will. Vanwe would deliver Menecin to her. All she had to do was wait, like a leopard at a waterhole. They would come and she would garrote them both. Soon Vanwe and Menecin would be no more, no longer able to betray her to her enemies as they had no doubt already betrayed her in the past. Her beautiful smile broadened. The waiting would soon be over and revenge would be hers. It felt good to be on the hunt again.

Concealing her pack beneath a thick shrub at the base of one of the many tall pines, Naiore chose a nearby oak in which to conceal herself. She pulled herself up into the boughs of the tree with a graceful, catlike motion, her face once more impassive. Now was the time to wait.

In the twelve years since the fall of Mordor, Naiore had done much waiting. She was used to it. She settled in with her back against the massive trunk of the ancient tree. She had chosen a vantage point that gave her a clear view of the back walls and gardens, yet offered her near complete concealment from prying eyes. She had a clear view of the stable as well. Anyone who ventured out through the back would be seen by her. Satisfied, she flicked a golden braid back over her shoulder to join the seven others, and, letting out a long, patient breath, grew still as a figure of marble. Hidden as she was, she could wait for hours if needs be. Days. Even so, Naiore was not idle. Her mind raced with plans for revenge against all those who had conspired to thwart her over the years.

While she had never expected Imladris to fall under the assault of the orcs, the image of orcs rampaging freely through the halls and grounds of the Elven refuge would have amused her greatly, as would have the sight of Elladan's and Elrohir's heads on spikes before the front door. Sadly, it was not to be, but, as it was, the orcs had accomplished what she had required of them. They had thrown the Elven defenses into disarray long enough for her to place her snare and move into position to spring it. That having been accomplished, she was happy to be rid of the vile creatures. She worked much more efficiently alone.

With her silvery gray eyes focused on the back walls of Imladris, Naiore let her mind wander, stretching out into the grounds before her, sensing the mixture of intense emotions of the many souls who inhabited the place. She searched for Vanwe. For Menecin.

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Old 05-17-2004, 07:36 AM   #250
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Amandur

Amandur ran his good hand through his dark hair and across his neck as he considered the young man’s words. He had heard of the rangers Adoran and Mithsen and the rumours that a family member had betrayed them both, But of the black-marketer he knew little but her name and the reputation that followed her. That she was kin to the rangers would have surely been kept a guarded secret. However, it was not this that held his thoughts; it was Avanill’s recount of what occurred during his encounter with his old friend. The old man was wise beyond recount and would never do anything without good cause or reason. But what reasons would he have to anger the young man so? What purpose did it serve? But to hasten his own end… but….

Amandur abruptly stopped in his thoughts and considered the young man before him, “Could he? Would he?” he muttered to himself as he remembered the serene smile on the dead mans lips and Lespheria’s belief that the old man had been permitted to foresee his own end. Lowering his head and thoughtfully stroking his now bearded chin, he thought again of the nature and character of his old friend, then suddenly he laughed “Off course he would!” he thought aloud. If Tallas had seen even a glimpse of decency in Avanill's future, he certainly would have encouraged it, but to insult the young man so he would be forced into this very situation and given the choice to turn from his old ways would seem insane if the old man had not foreseen the outcome. Amandur shook his head in wonder and admiration.

Looking up he saw both Avanill and Rauthain regarding him as if he had finally lost his mind, ignoring their stares, he turned to address Avanill. “You may not know it boy but that old man has just saved your life and perhaps my own honour as well,” he laughed dryly, shaking his head.

“But…” Avanill began, not understanding, his sudden change in mood.

Amandur raised his hand to silence him, “I do not believe it matters any longer how or why? Just know that you have been given the opportunity to prove your worth.”

“He will come with us when we leave, his skills may prove invaluable in the days to come,” he said turning to Rauthain, “who would have guest that the Revennors own choice in companions would be her undoing , first Toby and now… well we shall see. If you don’t mind keeping our young guest company I will seek out the healers and get this damnable inconvenience seen too,” he grinned, and then winced as he motioned his broken arm.

Rauthain nodded, but he could still see a questioning look in the older mans grey eyes. “Even in death the old man casts his guiding influence,” he whispered thoughtfully. “It is not ours to question why, but to accept the help he has given; I only hope Avanill sees the opportunity afforded him. A chance to start anew, many would envy such a gift, perhaps even you or I?” he sighed, and then shaking his head he turned back to Avanill.

“You have this one chance to prove your worth boy, but know this, if you disappoint or turn on us in any way it will not be the kings justice you will have to worry about, remember that when you draw out your plans. As you have no doubt seen rangers do not tire of hunting their prey.” with that last threat given he turned and made his way to the halls of healing.

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Old 05-17-2004, 02:09 PM   #251
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Menecin

Some time after Vanwe had left, a second elf arrived, this one apparently not a healer, but bearing the harp of Maglor in it's battered case. Entering the room, he set it reverently on a small table that stood in the corner by the door, placing Menecin's ornate leather pack in a chair that sat alongside it. Nodding courteously to the bard, who was following his movements with a chilling stare, the dark haired elf quickly hurried out of the room, Menecin watching as the door was shut and the familiar sound of the bolt sliding into place deepened his sense of isolation.

Vanwe had not come back. And like a glimmer of light that he could not contain in his grasp, he did not know if she ever would return. Indeed as time wore on he began to question the validity of the morning's events in his memory, no longer certain that she had been truly real and not a trick of weary imagining. And again he was locked in a fine cage, but was no longer contented to while away the hours in safety, struggling within his mind. For this vision of his child summoned in him fierce strength of will that had lain long dormant, and with it a gnawing dread that Vanwe had gone to return obediently to Her. For was not her mother's compulsion stronger than any warning. But a vow he had made to this maiden, not to lose her. Should he then wait here like a craven, while Naiore was free to show her displeasure at his daughter's mercy? No, far better that he should die than for Vanwe to suffer this. Blind rage flared sharply within him at the poignant memory of that intrusive presence that lay bare the terrors of the heart. No, his daughter must not be defiled in such a way!

Lifting with one hand the delicately turned chair, he ignored the leather pack that slid from it. And swinging it, to catch the seat in his left hand also, he then pivoted rapidly, breaking his spiraling thoughts as he shattered the seat against the unyielding wall. Almost immediately he heard the door to the chamber open behind him and quickly shut again, the bolt thrown back in place. Menecin sighed and looking at the ground, he saw amidst the splintered wood his pack, its contents spilling onto the floor. Underneath the patterned leather, a long pouch of dark brocade lay half hidden. Stooping down, he pulled it out from under the leather bag, carefully drawing open its strings to remove something wrapped in soft cloth. It was a flute of purest mithril, a gift bestowed on him in brighter times. But it too had been through much, and seen too many dark days. Wrapping up the flute again, the elf slipped it back in its pouch and set it on the table, and turned to examine the pack. Searching it, he grew increasingly restless, and not finding what he sought threw the thing into the corner and walked to the open window. If he had been left no weapons then but his bare hands, so be it. He had used them before now, to such a purpose.

Breathing deeply he looked again from behind the window frame out upon the gardens and the tangled woods beyond, wondering where Naiore might be in this place. So close, he knew, he could almost feel her presence. Slipping quietly out of the window, his looked down over the balustrade, to the one hiding in the shadows below, to the guard granting him the protection he had once desired, but who held him now as a prisoner of his past. Climbing over the balustrade, Menecin walked with skill noiselessly along the narrow roof that extended over a colonnade before disappearing amidst the branches of a spreading tree and from there to the wilder woods.

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Old 05-18-2004, 02:18 PM   #252
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Toby Longholes

Toby sat cross-legged on the front step of the ranger’s quarters, a low structure nestled in the tranquil gardens of Rivendell, where seasoned rangers could find quiet rest bite and where novices could study and practice their skills. He had been relieved when the Rangers Rauthain and Amandur had go off with Avanill and left him behind, even Kaldir had forgotten him and carried on to the main house. They had not left him completely alone, he had the company of a young ranger. Efrin, he had introduced himself. The young man had told him that he was in Rivendell for study and reflection, ‘they wish to tame my wilder side,‘ the young man had winked roguishly as he guided him through the ranger’s complex to the room that had been set aside for him. After Toby had washed and changed into some clothes that had been left for him, they made their way to the kitchens to find something other than dried fruit and stale bread to sate his hunger, which had embarrassingly manifested itself into a loud grumbling in his stomach, something that the young ranger had found highly amusing.

‘So what brings you to Rivendell Master Periannath?’ the young ranger asked as they made their way to the front porch to enjoy the warmth of the fading afternoon. Toby slumped down on the step staring woefully into his bowl, what had brought him here? He thought wearily to himself, the rangers? No, he could not blame them it went back further than that, Bill and old man Sharky? No! Though they perhaps set him on a path, from which there was no return. His mother’s death, his father neglects? Yes that is were it began so angry and confused he had been, he had wanted, no needed answers. However, he never got them. His father fell in to despair and took little notice of anything, much less his son. So much did he crave his father’s attention that he did not care how he got it, he took to thieving small at first, apples from master chubbs orchard or carrots from farmer browns vegetable patch. Still his father paid little heed, ‘he’s justa lad, they get up to mischief don’t they’ he would reply absently to the angry hobbits, when they would call to complain. By the time his father finally died, Toby’s feet were firmly planted on the path he now travelled. A path of his own design he realised bitterly, setting aside his bowl, he was no longer hungry, instead nausea swept over him, He had done this to himself! He was here because of his own choices!

“Are you alright master Longholes, you do not look well can I…” the young ranger asked, now kneeling before him and looking him over with concern. “No, I am not and neither do I deserve to be,” Toby answered sullenly.

The ranger held his gaze for a moment “You know they have a saying here that a burden shared is a burden halved, and you’ll excuse me if I say so, but your burden looks mighty heavy for one to bear alone.” Toby’s eye instinctively narrowed with suspicion, but softened wearily as he saw nothing but compassion and sympathy in the young ranger’s dark eyes.

“I am not deserving of your compassion, Efrin, I would not make a good friend and no doubt many would try to dissuade you from my company if they knew the truth,” he sighed resignedly.

“I have done too many wrongs to ask for forgiveness and took to many wrong turns to ever find my way back!”

“There is always a way back, if you want it bad enough,” Efrin answered undeterred by Toby’s words.

“You don’t understand there is no way back, I am caught here between a rock and a hard place, trapped between rangers and the dark shadows of my past,” he snorted, then immediately apologised.

“Long ago I was taken in by the lies and promises of an old man, he did not ask much of me only to leave my home in Bree and spend sometime in the Shire and share with him the workings of the four farthings, and so for reason that are my own I agreed. Though now when I think back I do not think that even if I wanted to I could have refused the old mans request, it was like he was there but he wasn’t only his voice seemed real if that makes any sense,” he shrugged.

“It was not difficult for me to integrate into Shire life and become the old mans eyes and ears and through the lies and deceptions of the old man I grew to loath the peaceful folk of the Shire. The old mans words twisted at an old pain that already sat heavy in my heart, a resentment and sense of abandonment that I let him corrupt to his own wicked purpose. I never saw the old man after that first meeting, if I had truly seen him at all. Information was past by a southron man named Bill Ferney, who sometimes paid for my services.”

“Services? Bill Ferney? ” Efrin interrupted.

“Yes lad I am a thief and much worse I fear.” he said ruefully and without further word he continued. “So when the old man finally came himself to the Shire, he knew it was defenceless. Moreover, due to me he knew which hobbits to use to gain control. my services did not end there I was made a Sheriff and charged with weeding out any rebels, for I knew that there would be resistance from families like the Tooks and the Brandybucks and that others would secretly support them. The old man intended to break them entirely taking away all that they held dear, pipe weed, ale and so forth. I was embroiled so deeply in lies that I did not see what was happening until it was too late. I had wrapped myself in so much deceit and treachery that I had no choice but to leavein the end. So as well as being a treacherous worm I was also a coward, leaving my people to their fate.” Sighing heavily he buried his face into his hands.

“But far worse still I was fate to be forced into the self same situation, this time instead of a cunning old wizard it was a beautiful elven woman who held me prisoner to my own fears which I wore like a leash, that she yanked every time she thought I needed reminding.” he continued wearily through his hands.

“But you escaped her else you would not be here now?” Efrin pressed gently.

“Vanwe!” he whispered remembering why he had left Naiore's Company and lifting his head to face the young ranger. “We have to help her; she is why I left and how I found the rangers. Her mother did horrors to her that you could not imagine; I swore to myself that I would get her help.” He flustered rising to his feet, only to stop in horror as he saw Gilly standing in front of him. How long had she been there? Whom much had she heard?

“Help always comes when we least expect it,” Efrin whispered, “It is said that there is a new elf within the last house, perhaps this is your friend I will see what I can find out, but for now I think you must face your past if you are to carve a new and better future." The ranger nodded to both hobbits and strode confidently up the path that lead from the ranger’s complex to the last homely house.

Toby lowered his eyes unable to bring himself to look at the woman his shame burning in his cheeks, his terrible secret now exposed to one of the very people he had betrayed. Fear ripped through him, but he stayed his ground, even though the urge to flee was strong within him. He was tired of running Efrin was right he had to face his past, but he still saw no road to redemption. With a resigned sigh, he slumped down onto the step to await the woman’s expected admonishments.

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Old 05-26-2004, 04:40 AM   #253
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Gilly

As she drew closer Gilly saw Toby had now set his bowl aside and was deep in sober conversation with the young ranger who stood near him. He seemed curiously deflated, slumped, as though a great weariness had caught him unaware, or perhaps as the ranger suggested, he was sick. After that cold river crossing, and having swallowed quite a bit of it herself, Gilly could imagine that Toby might truly be suffering a genuine complaint from the rough travel. But being careful not to interrupt the discussion, she took a few steps forward through the greenery and then halted among the bushes until there should come a lull in this serious talk, at which time she thought to approach them.

Try as she might, she could not help but overhear as Toby poured out the remorse of his heart, despairing the course his life had taken. Gilly was drawn in by the Bree hobbit’s confession, listening still more closely as he spoke solemnly of the Shire and an old man’s deceptions. As she struggled to understand, she was shocked by what Toby said of his true business with the Shire folk. And wondered that he might have known of her husband Carl and their friends’ activities in those bleak days of nonsense rules and restrictions. By then it had become so bad in Bywater that one actually had to ask permission of the shirriffs to travel from town to Hobbiton or Frogmorten. Why she had even had to take their leave to go her own parent’s farm outside town, those Southron ruffians going so far as to suggest to the shirriffs that she pay for the permit! And that just after the shop had burned and she and Carl hadn’t even a hatful of potatoes to offer them.

It sent shivers up her spine, as while standing in the gardens of Rivendell, in her mind she heard again the horns sounding that chill autumn day. She and her father had just come into town to complain to the Shirriff there. For one of the lines of maple trees that stood in front of the farm had been hewn down overnight and a band of men where threatening to make charcoal out it, and all the rest too along the road to Waymeet. And just as she and her father had entered Bywater Road, they saw Misters Brandybuck and Took having returned with the others from the War. So stern and tall in their strange clothes they looked. And Sam Gamgee from Hobbiton and Old Tom Cotton and his sons so brave, taking matters into they’re own hands that day. But most of all she recalled Mister Baggins’ persistent call for restraint, bless his heart. He would even be merciful to Saruman, it was told after. So noble and sad it was, she thought at the time, for he had almost died from it they said, when the wizard had tried to knife him for all his care to protect the scoundrel. But never let it be said that hobbits can’t rally in a pinch and see their way out of trouble! That was one thing old Sharkey hadn’t counted on!

But now seeing Toby, bowed low, so that his head rested in his hands and he looked for all the world as though his guilt threatened to sink him, she recalled these things, and began to understand in her own way, some little of what Mister Baggins must have been driving at. And seeing his regret, she felt strangely moved to comfort her fellow hobbit in his unhappiness, walking up to him as he bemoaned this net his fear had caught him in once again.

“Vanwe,” he whispered, suddenly. And quickly Toby raised his head imploring the young ranger standing there to help him find the one who went by this name. For he had promised himself to help her in her difficulties, and when he stood up quickly to go with the ranger, he turned and found Gilly standing there looking as much taken back as he himself, startled in this awkward moment. Gilly looked apologetically toward them, as she realized the blunder of her timing. But the young man drew close to Toby, and after whispering to the hobbit, nodded to them both and took his leave.

Looking red-faced and avoiding her glance, Toby sat down upon the stair at once, blankly staring at the ground under his feet. He moved not a muscle and Gilly could see he felt uncomfortable in her presence, and so felt more than a little uncomfortable herself. “There, there Mister Longholes, don’t mind me now! I am sorry but I heard quite a bit of your story. Intentional it was, of course. But if you don’t mind my saying so, many’s them that fell under the spell of that voice you spoke of. Like honey it was, and making such crystal sense, or so I heard tell. And plenty shirriffs too followed right along in his plans! But that was their own choice, eh? Not yours. All sorts of folk feel bad even now about letting things go as far as they did. Right clever that old man was, and you were not alone in listening to him, so please don’t be trying to carry that weight all on your own now. You might be strong, but it’ll crush you in the end. Mark my words, it will!”

“So much the better for me if it would. If only it happen more quickly!” Toby said with a melancholy grin.

“Surely you don’t mean that, now. Do you?” Gilly questioned, climbing up the stairs to sit beside him.

“I suppose not,” he said shooting her a quick glance. “Leastwise until I see something better done with my life then what I’ve been up to. But that day might never come. I’ve been of no great profit to anyone, not even myself, though I reckon Old Sharkey and Bill Ferny might have gotten something from me. And now what have I to look forward too?”

“Hush!” Gilly hissed. “Don’t speak so! You’ve only been living up to a bad lot’s expectations of you, and if you don’t expect much good of yourself you won’t get very far at all in changing things. But if you give up like this, I really shall think you the laziest sort of coward!”

“You don’t know me Mrs. Banks!”

“No I don’t, not really. But if you tried, I bet that by the time you were to reach the Shire, should you decided to return there, folk will take you to be the best sort of person. For now you know for yourself were such dark roads lead, and that is more than I can say for many I know of. It’d be better for you too than Bree, with that town’s bad influences, sitting at such a crossroad and all. The Shire’s quiet with naught but hobbits around you. And you’d have all four farthings to choose from!”

“Yes, and if I fell into old habits, all four farthings would hear tell of it in no time!”

“Well, I can’t say as you are wrong, but all the more reason to keep on the right road! And if you stray too far from a proper life, I’ll just have to hire Mister Kaldir to go after you and teach you the boundaries, won’t I? But speaking of him, do you know where he has got to? I’ve lost track of him,” Gilly asked, cranking her neck to peer through the bushes.

“He was here some time ago, but only for a moment and then went off again.”

“I do hope that he is feeling alright now, and you too. Think about it though, Mister Longholes, consider going back to make a clean start in the Shire,” she urged him, smiling brightly. “Mister Kaldir has offered to show me the way, and you could easily come along with us if you would like. It would be no problem, though it might set tongues wagging for a bit!”
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Old 05-28-2004, 04:06 AM   #254
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Vanwe

Vanwe continued to help Léspheria tend the wounded of Imladris and with each new patient, she came to realise the extent of her mothers wrongness, as she came to think of it. Did she really have no regard at all for the life of others… of her own kin? A little guilt settled on her own heart as she wondered if there had been anything, she could have done to prevent this travesty. Her mother had insisted that the elves had abandoned them both, adding fuel to her own fears and doubts, but now among her kin she could not see it. The elves of Imladris showed her nothing but kindness and compassion and unlike the race of men, they had not turned her away after realising that she was not Naiore. Instead, they had welcomed her into their home and she had the strong feeling that if her mother came to reclaim her they would stand and protect her, her father and Léspheria at the forefront. Her guilt fuelled her need to undo some of her mother’s wrongs and she helped the healers as best she could, listening and following their gentle instructions.

With each new instruction, she grew in confidence with her ability, but was careful not to let it go to her head. It felt right to be using her gift to help others and no one here seemed to fear what she was doing and instead of the punishments she received at the hands of the Haradrim, she received only gentle praise and encouragement. The patients and the assistants showed her the same respect as they did the Lady Léspheria, which in truth puzzled her slightly as she was no where near as confident and self possessed, as the lady Léspheria appeared to be. There were of course those who regarded her with suspicion and looked on her with hateful eyes and she could only assume that her mothers hand was again somehow involved, but she would not press the matter and hurried past those who regarded her so.

She watched as Léspheria tended the last of the wounded elven warriors, dark lines now graced the elven woman’s soft and gentle features and the strong and confident demeanour of the woman’s frame was now marked with exhaustion and weariness. She too could feel the physical demands exacted by the use of their gift, it drained their strength and left them tired and weak, but on several occasions she had witnesses more in Léspheria, notably when they worked on the more seriously wounded. Pain etched her face as she worked, a pain that seemed to mirror that of the wound on which they worked to heal. She recalled the ranger Amandur telling her that Léspheria was sensitive to the emotions of others, back at the inn when the elf had taken a fall from her horse and she also remembered that when she had re-awakened she had told the ranger that her brother was in danger. But was this not what her mother did, sense the emotions of others and manipulated them to her own purpose? Was this not what they did when they manipulated damaged bones and flesh into repairing itself? A cold shiver ran through her as she thought that she too could one day be capable of the things her mother was accused.

“No!” she whispered, defiantly shaking her head. She was not her mother and she would not become her, She was Vanwe just Vanwe. She knew that she would never fully escape her mothers lingering shadow but at least here, she had her father and kin who seemed to accept and welcome her into their community.

However as she continued to watch Léspheria new questions entered her mind, had her first meeting with Léspheria been coincidental? Why then had the elf defended her against the bounty hunter? Her father had told her that Naiore had killed Léspheria’s mother, so was she out for revenge? Vanwe knew that these questions and many others would have to be answered if she was to find peace here among her own kind.

Vanwe purposefully walked over to were Léspheria was now washing her hands, then placing her own blood stained hands into a second bowl of warm water, she stared as the clear water turned a dirty pinkie red. “What is your part and why do you help the rangers?” she asked, reaching for the soap and purposely avoiding the other elf’s gaze.
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Old 05-30-2004, 01:28 PM   #255
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Rauthain

Rauthain and Avanill stood watching as Amandur, his dark mood now unexpectedly lifted, strode easily up the path ahead of them, the old ranger dwelling on what was said in his parting. It would indeed be a gift to have a chance to start anew, as Avanill now had with them, one that he himself had much longed for in earlier days. But pushing aside his own self-reproach, Rauthain determined to help Avanill along the way as much as he safely could. Turning to the young man he addressed him, “It looks as though we will be traveling together for many leagues then. And so long as you keep to the path laid out for us, know that I will do all I can to support and defend you. But it would bring much relief to all, and perhaps Amandur also, if you were to allow me to bear your satchel for you. You should not be tempted to test such things in our presence, until that time when they may be used against the Ravennor.”

Avanill made no move concede to this wish, but fixed Rauthain with his impassive eyes. And after a pause the old ranger stretched out his arm gesturing with two long fingers for the young man to surrender his pack. “I assure you, I will keep it safe for you,” he said, “and will not touch its contents, for I do not know what to make of them.” And seeing Avanill remained unconvinced he continued. “Surely you will trust me for so little a thing. Let us not start out in such a way. But we must work as one force if we are to accomplish our aim.”

Slowly, the young man removed the satchel from off his shoulder, as if he had decided which road to take after much careful consideration, and held it out to the ranger. “Be careful with it then, for it might as well be filled with the rich findings of a dragon’s hoard, so rare it’s elements.”

“If half of what you have told us is true, then be sure I do not wish to disrupt the things of your craft, for they will prove useful to us in the end, and it would be folly to tamper with them,” he said slinging the pack gingerly over one shoulder. But let us go now, for I still have not seen what has become of Dúlrain, and would speak with him. And perhaps the elves might see to your hurts as well, if you were to ask it of them.”

And together they left the garden, bound for the place of healing, and the chamber that held Dúlrain. When at last they found him, Rauthain saw that the southern woman was still at the wounded ranger’s side, silent and mopping his brow. But as he drew closer and saw the ranger’s face, which had been turned toward the woman, he quickly grew alarmed to see him now unconscious and with a pallor that denoted great loss of blood. Frowning he looked to Benia. “What has befallen him, dear lady, for was not he mending well when I met you last in the Lonelands? And now he is sleeping in midday, and so wan he looks?”

“Truly, it seemed he was mending, but we were hard pressed by orcs, and in helping all in our company to cross the river this has happened, his deep wound opening and a fever setting in. But he is improving,” she said looking long upon the sleeping man. “And Lady Léspheria has said that he will recover.” But Rauthain could see in the woman’s face the traces of concern and hope she had this would be the outcome, for the lovely eyes held a plaintive look and her delicate brow raised, hinting of present care.

Ah worthy woman! the older ranger thought to himself. Does she not know that this is the fate of all that would give their heart to one who would wander as a ranger? Then becoming conscious that he was staring at the scene before him, lost among his own memories, he quickly looked to Avanill. “If the Lady Léspheria has said that he will be well once again, I would not doubt it. For she is an elf maiden of many strengths and not the least of them in healing.”

“She and many here have aided him in his need, and for that I am grateful,” Benia said, drawing Rauthain’s attention once more.

“He is a good man, and deserving of much, as are many of my brethren.” Rauthain said tuning to meet her gaze. “And I should be glad if he were to be able to continue on in his duty, for Kaldir sake as well my own. But though it is in the blood of my people to be quickly restored, I do not think even the elves could work this recovery in such short a time. But of these things I know little, only that they have great skill in the art.”

“But look here, surely his color has improved, even since we arrived,” Avanill declared, carefully studying the patient’s features.

“Has it? That is happy news, is it not?” the old ranger said, brightening. “Then if you will excuse us, we shall leave you now and will come again, perhaps tomorrow, to see your charge’s progress. For there is much to be done before we can leave.” And wishing the lady well, the two returned to the corridor searching out a place to bathe and bandage Avanill’s injuries before heading again to the rangers’ dwelling and the stables. For Rauthain was eager to find a way to send Juta north again to the horse’s master, and sought fresh horses for them both.

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Old 06-01-2004, 06:20 AM   #256
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Kaldir

After leaving the battlefield, Kaldir went first to the stables where he saw to the care of the pack pony who had carried Mrs. Banks so faithfully across the countryside. Having handed the little animal over to the Elven stablemaster and his assistants, Kaldir took a quick look around the other stalls, locating both Benia Nightshade's bay mare and Dúlrain's gelding. There was still no sign of his own horse. Having exhausted every other possibility for the wherabouts of his mount, Kaldir accepted the knowledge that the stubborn beast had run off and was simply out there somewhere, that is, of course, if he had not been eaten by orcs by now, which was also an unfortunate possibility.

"Too bad, if that's the case," he murmured to himself, giving Dúlrain's horse a parting pat on the neck. Turning to go, he bumped his wounded shoulder against an open stall door and winced. He looked down and noticed for the first time that the injury had been bound with the lacy shreds of a woman's petticoat, no doubt the work of Mrs. Banks. Kaldir smiled wryly with the good side of his face. How ironic that he should owe such a debt of gratitude, perhaps even his life, to someone he had abducted and carried along with him simply because he didn't know what else to do with her. He remembered the feeling he had had soon after capturing her and Benia outside of Chetwood that the two women had something fundamental to do with him and his destiny. Now, he thought, he was beginning to see what that something was. The gentle presence of the two women was slowly but surely drawing the poisons of Mordor out of his system, Gilly with her hobbitsense and humor, and Benia with her patience and quiet courage. Both of them were fiercely loyal to each other and, he was touched to notice, to a growing degree, himself. Under their influence, he was beginning to feel like a living soul again, no longer a battered and empty shell.

Crossing the open ground between the stable and the halls of Imladris, Kaldir let his thoughts drift to Benia. While she had shown an open and marked preference for Dúlrain over the past several days, he still had hopes that he could find a way to convince her to remain at his own side when the time came to leave the shelter of Imladris. Perhaps Dúlrain, for whatever reason, would reject her affections. Kaldir could only hope. In the meantime, while he honestly wished Dúlrain a swift and complete recovery from his wounds, Kaldir still felt determined to do his best to win Benia over for himself, Dúlrain notwithstanding. If his profession as bounty hunter toubled her - and he was certain it did - he could give it up. He could change. With Benia beside him, Kaldir felt certain that he could begin his life anew... perhaps even rejoin the company of his former brethren if they would have him. He turned the thought over in his mind as he entered the Hall of Healing. There was still time. Perhaps if he could show Benia that he was serious about changing his life... maybe, perhaps, if...

"Aigh!" Kaldir groaned aloud, as he entered a small side room to await the attention of the healers. "It would be so much simpler if I could just drag her off by her hair."

"Who?" asked a voice behind him.

Kaldir turned quickly to discover that he was not alone in the room as he had originally thought. Amandur sat in a chair off to one side, also waiting for healers and cradling what looked like a broken arm. Kaldir smiled ruefully and nodded to the senior Ranger.

"Greetings, Amandur," he said casually. "My apologies. I thought I was alone."

The older Ranger nodded in response, but persisted with a smile. "My apologies as well for eavesdropping, but seeing as you have already carried off both Mrs. Banks and Miss Nightshade, I can't help but wonder what female you are thinking of abducting now."

Kaldir laughed softly. "Miss Nightshade again, if you must know," he answered. "But it would not be for a bounty, I assure you."

"No?" Amandur raised an eyebrow. "I understand that there are certain people about who would still pay very well for any remnants of the Painted Sand Tribe. Even the women."

"That's true." Kaldir nodded gravely. "But I find my interest in bounty-hunting waning of late." He paused, giving Amandur a considering look. If anyone would be able to tell him how the idea of his returning to the life of a Ranger would be received, it would be Amandur. Kaldir chose his words carefully. "I would sooner offer my sword to protect the desert lady than I would use it to bring her harm."

"That is indeed good to hear," answered Amandur. "Many people, including Lady Léspheria, were greatly troubled by the disappearance of your companions from the Forsaken Inn."

"I confess my motives were not so noble then."

"And now?"

"Now I owe them both a great deal, which I hope to repay someday if I can." Kaldir hesitated for barely a second, then added rather defensively, "When I spoke just now of dragging Miss Nightshade off by her hair, it was a joke. To myself."

Amandur nodded his understanding. "Then would I be correct in assuming that Miss Nightshade may have had something to do with your recent change in interests?"

Kaldir's pale blue eyes narrowed slightly as he considered his answer. To tell the truth and speak of his feelings for Benia to another would reveal himself in such a way that the pattern of caginess that had protected him so well for so long would be broken. On the other hand, if he was serious in his desire to leave bounty-hunting and return to the society of his traditional brethren, he could not begin by lying to his captain. For a long moment, Kaldir's two conflicting sides struggled for dominance, the old lean, wolflike instinct to survive against the new hope and optimism that had recently taken root within him. Finally, coming to a decision, he nodded.

"You would," he said quietly. "I have traveled a dark and twisted path since Raven Falls. When I stole Miss Nightshade from her bed at the Forsaken Inn, my intention was to kill her for the bounty. Something I did not understand at the time stayed my hand. Since then, I find myself increasingly unwilling to be parted from her." He gave Amandur a piercing look, trying to gauge the reaction of the older Ranger. "She brings light to a side of me that has not seen the sun in a very long time. Because of her, whether I am able to forge a life with her eventually or not, I find that I wish to be a better man again."

Falling back into his old habit of hints and innuendos, Kaldir stopped short of voicing outright his interest in returning to the company of the other Rangers. Instead, he waited quietly for Amandur's reaction, to see if the other man had heard the underlying message in his words.

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

Naiore

Naiore spent the hours of daylight that passed since she concealed herself in the tree behind the main hall of Imladris in stillness and silent observation. And in waiting. In the aftermath of the Battle at the Stairs, the place had become a beehive of activity, with a great deal of traffic moving about the grounds, and most especially back and forth between the stable and the main hall. The faintest smile traced around the corners of her lips as, at one point, she caught sight of the bounty hunter, Kaldir, who had once been at her mercy in Mordor. Fascinated by his strength of mind and his stubborn resistance to her will, she had let him live then in the hope of turning him to her purposes. She been so close, too close. But then Mordor had fallen and she had been forced to flee, leaving her work unfinished. Since then, he had become a dangerous foe. No, a worthy opponent. That was all. He thought he could destroy her, but she had wrought much change upon him during her time with him. Whether he was aware of it or not, he was still connected to her by a line of consciousness that bound him to her as if by a silken thread.

"And a mere tweak upon the thread..." she murmured, watching his tall figure move down the path toward the stable. "That fool orc said you were dead, Dunedan. I should have known better." Closing her starlit eyes, she reached out toward him with her mind, searching out his familiar aura of anger and hatred. Finding it, she arched a delicate eyebrow. There was something else within his aura now, too. Something new and very powerful.

"What is it, Dunedan?" Naiore whispered to his retreating back. "Have you fallen in love?" A chilling smile drifted across the elf's beautiful features. "Who is she?" the Ravenner asked as the bounty hunter vanished from view. "I wonder, my friend, if she is truly worthy of you."

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Old 06-11-2004, 06:38 PM   #257
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Amandur

On his way to the halls of the healers, Amandur mulled over possible plans for their continuing hunt of the revennor of Mordor. With the addition of Avanill and his potions, they now had the means with which to subdue the elf for the long journey south to Minas Tirith. Where she would finally face the judgement of the King and the council of the United Kingdoms, but first they had to catch the elusive creature. Looking down at his broken arm, he cursed silently, the longer they stayed in the comforts of the last homely house the further from their grasp she would slip. But no matter how strongly he counselled himself that they should leave, he realised that it would be folly, they were tired and in need of healing and a chance to regroup and collect their thought. Mistakes were bound to be made if they carried on the way they were and mistakes were the revennor was concerned could prove fatal, he could only hope that the mistakes would be hers, perhaps the presence of her daughter and the elf who once loved her would be enough to precipitate such a mistake, he thought wearily.

Reaching the halls, he pushed aside his thoughts and sought out Léspheria, his grey eyes searching just to catch a glimpse of her warm, caring smile or the determination in her soft grey eyes as she fought to save the life of one of her patients. He inhaled deeply as he recalled all the little things that made him love her more and more. Many had counselled him against his heart and at first he had listened. She would have to give up much to be with him and that price seemed too high for them both. so they remained friends and when his heart would not relent and he longed for more than friendship he returned north to Anor and they saw less and less of each other, separated by work, distance, fear, uncertainty… But Amandur could no longer deny his heart, he had witnessed her pain over the past fortnight and it tore at his heart, she had strength and wisdom that always seemed to astound him, but still she choose to fight alone. He longed for her to let him in, he wanted to help her, but she resisted and he felt like he was losing her, but to what he could not say.

His eyes passed from elf to elf but she was not there, so he passed on to a small side room to await the attentions of the healers. Sinking down into a chair at the far side of the room he shook his head, ‘If only she could see how much she means to me and how much I would give to see her safe’ he sighed to himself.

“Aigh!” a familiar voice groaned, causing him to look up.

“It would be so much simpler if I could just drag her off by her hair,” the voice was that of Kaldir and Amandur allowed himself a wry grin as Kaldir’s words fitted with his thoughts at present. If only it were that simple! He thought to himself.

“Who?” he asked instead. Kaldir turned a rueful smile his way, surprised that he was not alone he greeted him and quickly apologised for airing his thought aloud. Amandur nodded, but his curiosity was fixed and he pressed on jovially.

“My apologies as well for eavesdropping, but seeing as you have already carried off both Mrs Banks and Miss Nightshade, I can’t help but wonder what female you are thinking of abducting now.” Kaldir laughed softly and explained that it was again Miss Nightshade to whom he was referring and that his reasons were honourable.

“No?” Amandur grinned raising a surprised eyebrow. “I understand that there are certain people about who would still pay very well for any remnants of the painted sand tribe. Even the women.” he went on pushing the matter and then listened intently as Kaldir went on to explain his waning interest in his chosen profession.

“That is indeed good to hear,” he said, explaining the concerns of Léspheria and several others at the inn over the southern woman’s disappearance. It eased his mind when Kaldir admitted that his intentions of the time were not so noble.

“And now?” he asked, suspecting that feelings for his captive was what had stayed his hand.

“Now I owe them both a great deal, which I hope to repay some day if I can.” Amandur bit his lip and nodded as Kaldir rather defensively added that he had been joking to himself when he spoke of dragging Miss Nightshade off by the hair.

“Then I would be correct in assuming that miss Nightshade may have had something to do with your recent change in interests?” he grinned. Kaldirs eyes narrowed as he contemplated his answer, then slowly he nodded, quickly confirming what Amandur had already guessed. He continued to listen as the ex-ranger continued to explain the changes he felt.

“She brings light to a side of me that has not seen the sun in a very long time. Because of her, whether I am able to forge a life with her eventually or not, I find that I wish to be a better man again.” Amandur could not begin to imagine the extent of the darkness Kaldir spoke of, but he could guess at its source and that it stemmed from the unfortunate events of Raven falls, but for wanting to better himself for the love of a woman that he did understand and a sympathetic smile curled his lips. And even though Kaldir did not speak it, he sensed that the ex-ranger was testing the waters, trying to gauge from him how if he chooses to return to the ranks of his brethren he would be received. It would not be an easy transition; there would always be those who would view him with suspicion, unable or unwilling to forget his past indiscretions. But as he took measure of the man before him he saw that the narrow mindedness of a few stubborn rangers would be nothing to him a man who had weathered the darkest depths, emerging forever changed but strengthened by his choices and now it seemed he was again willing to find his place among his people. Amandur in that instant resolved to help the bounty hunter embrace the light and walk again the path that was set for him before the trials of raven falls.

“If truly you find your interest in bounty hunting waning, perhaps you would consider again following the path of the rangers. I for one would be glad to see your return.” he smiled cordially.

“But I would not delude you, my friend, there will be those who may not be as eager as I to have a wolf among its flock so to speak,” he continued solemnly.

“Yet my voice may carry some weight in your favour among them and I have no doubt that young Dúlrain will strongly add his voice to your cause if that is truly your want. But ultimately it will be your own actions that will determine how you are received, as it is with all that walk our path in life.” he paused for a moment considering whether or not to bring up the past, to share with Kaldir the events after Raven falls as he knew them. He debated whether dredging up old memories would only prove to push the ranger further away? He could still see something in Kaldirs eyes that troubled him. Things left unspoken old hurts and grievances that would need resolving if he was truly going to leave his past behind him and start his life a new, with that thought in mind Amandur decided to tell the troubled ranger what he knew.

Looking up at the scarred face of the younger man he motioned for him to sit, his smile now faded and replaced with a sombre seriousness that marked the depth of what needed to be shared. He could not be certain how Kaldir would receive his words, only knowing with certainty that they must be spoken if any reconcilement was to be reached.

“Dulrain did not give up hope that you were alive for a very long time, he thought very highly of you and it took a very long time for him to accept that you were gone.” He paused for a moment to let his words sink in then continued, “It was I who finally persuaded him to accept that you where dead. Do not mistake me I do not make any apologies for my decision, I saw what it was doing to him to hang on to a seemingly hopeless search.

The signs at the falls all suggested that you lost your weapons and were pressed back towards the river, were we assumed you were lost to the falls, the bloodied cloak and no sign of you emerging either side of the river suggested that you had not survived. My only apology would be that we did not consider that the orcs might have taken a prisoner; it was not usually their way. Dúlrain became consumed with guilt.” Seeing Kaldirs perplexed frown he nodded, silently agreeing that he too at first had not understood why the young ranger would feel any guilt when he was not even witness to the events.

“I do not know you as well as Dúlrain but from what the young ranger shared with me I discerned that he believed you would always be there to look out for him and it was unconceivable to him that it should be you who would get into any kind of trouble. When the apparent reality of what had happened finally sunk in and he was forced to give up his search and return to his life a dark cloud of guilt and despair hung over him. For once in your lives you needed his help and he was not there, he felt as if he had betrayed you; let you down and he has never forgiven himself. He immersed himself in his duties and tried to lead the life he thought you would have expected of him and then there was the orcs…” Amandur shivered as he recalled the first time he had witnessed his young friend hatred.

“I have no love of the vile creatures, but I pitied any of them who happened to run into Dulrain, he shows them no mercy, it was orcs who had taken from him the only family he had ever known and that he could never forgive or forget.”

“It seems Ironic that he should find you now, a bounty hunter, a hired sword, the opposite of what he has struggled to up hold in your memory. Though I believe irony was the furthest thought from his mind, to give up all hope that you were alive and then to run into you years later. It must have reopened old wounds and stirred up fresh guilt. I only wish I had recognised you when we first found you then perhaps both of you could have found some peace, but I cannot change the past. I only hope that you and he can find again the friendship you once shared, he again will need your strength and perhaps he will have his chance to save you as he seems to need to.”

As Kaldir digested and contemplated his words he smiled wearily and then again clapped Kaldirs good shoulder, “I do hope you choose to return to us my friend, but one more question I have to ask, What of Naiore?” he studied the Ex-rangers scarred features as he awaited an answer.
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Old 06-14-2004, 06:20 AM   #258
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Léspheria

The steady stream of wounded elves and rangers needing the healers care and attention was enough to keep Léspheria focused and busy enough for her own concerns and fears to temporary be pushed to the back of her mind. Nevertheless, each time a door opened she found herself glancing up, hoping that Amandur would walk through alive and well. She had not seen him since they parted at the stairs and she was beginning to worry, what if he had been hurt and could not return or worse if he was… she could not bring herself to finish the thought. Off course he would be all right, he had been in these types of situations numerous times before and survived, she silently reminded herself, if he were hurt, he would be here with the others? She thought trying to reassured herself.

Dipping her hands into the lukewarm water that had been provided for her, she let her thoughts return to Benia and Dulrain. The strength that the Southern woman drew from her love for the wounded ranger had astounded her. Benia’s love gave her hope and determination that Lespheria had not thought possible and she came to realise that if the woman could she would do anything to help the man she loved, she also suspected that if the roles where reversed the ranger would be of the same mind, no matter what other conflicts troubled his mind.

Again, her thoughts turned to Amandur, Wondering why if he was well she had not yet seen him, fearing that perhaps he did not wish to see her. She had been pushing him away so that he would not become a weakness that Naiore could use against her. Her stomach knotted as she realise how cold and unfeeling that decision had been, had Naiore herself not done the same thing, with both Menecin and her mother, until their persistence had become a nuisance to her and their love twisted and returned only in hatred and loathing. Léspheria paled as fear gripped her heart, would she have really thrown away his love for the pursuit of Naiore, was that what Lord Celeborn meant when he asked if she would let Naiore be her ruin. No! She thought resolutely, I love him; I could never bring myself to hate him, but what if it was too late?

“What is your part and why do you help the rangers?”

Vanwe’s question startled her out of her thoughts, taking her by surprise, even though it was not truly unexpected. Drying her hands, she turned to regard the younger elf, and pondered how and were she should begin. Did she really know herself what her part was? Did she only help the rangers at her brother’s request? Did she need to know why Naiore had turned from her kin, betraying her mother’s friendship?

“Come,” she whispered, setting down the towel and silently guiding Vanwe from the halls. They entered a small room that opened out into a sweet smelling garden, where they could speak more freely. Various books and scrolls depicting the healing and restorative properties of herbs and plants lined the far wall, small vials, drying herbs and various plants and flowers took up the other wall. A sturdy looking table sat in the centre of the room, a stone pestle and mortar, sat at its centre, with parchment and ink near at hand. Léspheria’s hand gently ran along the edge of the table as she walked towards the large glass doors that led out into the garden. It had been along time since she had entered this particular room, she could still smell the gentle fragrance of herbs and sweet scented flowers, which always reminded her of her mother.

A smile curved her lips as memories of herself and her mother working together in this room filled her thoughts, the hours spent studying the various properties of some new plant and trying to determine if it held anything they could use in their healing arts. Placing her hands on the vine engraved handles of the garden doors, she opened them outward, allowing the night air and the sweet smells of the well-tended garden enter the room.

“It’s beautiful,” Vanwe, whispered behind her, she did not need to look back to know that Vanwe referred to the breathtaking beauty of her mothers garden, which the healers of Imladris maintained in her mother memory. Small white star shaped flowers trailed up across a small stone statue of a woman at the centre of the garden, like stars in the darkness of the night air.

“This was my mother’s garden,” she smiled turning to face Vanwe, “The healers now tend it, to honour and preserve her memory.”

Vanwe’s contented smile faded and she turned from the garden to regard her with sorrow-filled eyes, “Do you seek to avenge your mother’s death?” she asked hesitantly.

Léspheria thought for a moment, and then placing a reassuring hand on Vanwe’s shoulder, she shook her head, “No, it would not have been my mothers want and I would not dishonour her memory by seeking such a course.” Vanwe frowned then not fully understanding, but Léspheria simply smiled forlornly.

“Naiore and my mother were once friends, but that is not why I am connected to you or your mother. I have something to show you.” she turned from the elf and made her way to the shelves of books and scrolls, it took her a moment to find what she was looking for, but pulling out a large scroll she unrolled in on the table and beckoned for Vanwe to come and look. A silver swan marked the top of the parchment, “This is the family tree of the house of Finarfin.” Vanwe’s eyes widened in surprise, she had discovered during her search for her mother that she was of that elven house, though at the time, she hadn’t known what that meant and a part of her still didn’t. Léspheria stepped back to allow Vanwe to study the ancient parchment, she watched the young elf’s eyes and long fingers trace the names and families.

“This is your family?” Vanwe asked, pointing to the names Valaindon and Finderon.

“Yes, those are the names of my parents. The name next to mine is that of my twin brother Lóthaniel.” she smiled.

“And this?” Vanwe frowned pointing to a blank space further along the aged parchment. It looked as though a name had been removed or forgotten.

Léspheria looked at the space and sighed, “I too once asked the very same question and was told by the lore masters that it was simply a mistake. I had no reasons then to doubt their words and thought no more on it, until recently.” she paused for a moment and then went on, “For someone to have their name remove or left out of their family line, they must have done something terrible that brought great shame on their house. It is far easier to erase the memory than to live with the shame. She said shaking her head regrettably. Carefully lifting the scroll, she held it before the light of one of the lamps, so that the faint indentation of a name could be seen.

“Naiore Dannan!” Vanwe whispered holding Léspheria‘s gaze, she already knew that it was her mothers name that had been removed, why else would Léspheria show her this document. However, had her mother not said that her kin had abandoned them, did this not prove it!

“The elves did not abandon Naiore, she abandoned them,” Léspheria said as if reading her thoughts. “Naiore used and betrayed my mother as she no doubt used and betrayed your father. My mothers friendship was so strong that she could not give up hope that her cousin was beyond help, a loyalty that in the end cost her life, as I believe your father love almost cost him his.”

Tears ran down Vanwe’s cheeks as she hugged her arms tightly about her chest, realising that Léspheria spoke the truth, had not her mother just tried to use her to betray her father! She turned away to face the moonlit sky, ashamed that she had allowed herself to be used as her mothers tool.

“My father believes that she is flawed, does that mean that I too may carry the same flaw?” she whispered uncertain that she really wanted to know the answer, but Léspheria stood before her, smiling reassurringly “No I do not believe you carry your mother’s flaws. Have you not wondered why I did not mistake you for Naiore when first we met?” Vanwe looked up nodding her head, “Yes I have wondered…,” she whispered holding the others gaze.

“I share with your mother the ability to sense the emotions of others, though we use our gifts for entirely different purposes,” she added seeing the shock in Vanwe’s jewelled eyes.

“I have never met your mother, something that my family has taken great pains up until now in ensuring, perhaps fearing that I would follow my mothers course or worse Naiores. But it was impossible for them to hid from me the legacy of Naiore, her crimes are known in other lands, especially in Rohan were she inflicted the most pain. Our kinship I did not know until you revealed it to me back at the inn then remembering the gap in my family line it all fell into place. Although you fitted the descriptions I had of Naiore, your emotions did not. They were not those of someone who had committed the crimes your mother was accused, they did not fit with her reputation, your eyes are unmistakably those of your father, who I had met. Your fear and uncertainty stopped me from revealing to you our kinship, I feared that the knowledge would cause you to flee, so I chose to befriend you, to gain your confidence so that I could help you when the time came and you learned the truth of your heritage for yourself. But it seemed that fate had different plans for you and me.” Lespheria sighed.

“I knew the rangers searched for Naiore, but I did not know that they tracked you in the hopes that you would lead them to their quarry. Not until the arrival of Amandur did I know this and I was not pleased. Until then I had not thought your life in any danger, I knew that Naiore would know the rangers searched for her, I worried what she would draw from your presence, she trusts no one and I was sure after you told me of your life in Harad that that mistrust would also extend to her daughter. However, my brother was in trouble and I had to leave, I made Amandur promise to keep an eye on you and gave you my key hoping that with the rangers and the bounty hunter about you would use it, then I left to help my brother. However, before I could even reach him he sent word for me to return to the inn and help the rangers in their search for Naiore, so I turned back to rejoin the rangers. Through the course of our journey from Bree I have sensed your mother’s presence as she has sensed mine, I know the flaw your father speaks of and it is not in you, you must believe me on this Vanwe,” she urged gently.

“It is our choices in life that make us who we are and what we become, you may always have to live with the shadow of your mothers past but your action will help others to see past your parentage. Does the sun refuse to rise simply because the clouds block her light and hid her beauty?” she smiled sympathetically.

For a long time the two elves looked out at the heavens, each lost in their own thoughts. After a time they spoke again, Léspheria listened and answered Vanwe’s questions telling her a little of the history of their kin and of the Valar. Vanwe also told her about the deaths of Tallas and Meathor, to which Léspheria informed her that Meathor had not been kill by Avanill and Barrold that day, but by orcs at the battle of the ford. They talked until exhaustion caught up on them and they both fell asleep on a bench beneath the stars in the garden of her mother, the healers did not disturb them, it was a warm night so they laid covers over them and let them sleep.

Last edited by Nerindel; 06-15-2004 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 06-16-2004, 03:53 PM   #259
Ealasaide
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Kaldir

Kaldir listened quietly as Amandur spoke long and seriously of Dúlrain, events following Raven Falls, and Amandur's own role in things. Most of it Kaldir had heard before or pieced together from earlier conversations, but the part that he hadn't heard, that touched him most deeply, was the bit about Dúlrain's feelings of guilt. He had not known that the old loyalties still ran so deeply within the younger Ranger.

"Perhaps I have been harsh," he murmured to himself, remembering how consumed he had been with his own anger. Part of that anger had been rooted in his damaged memory and the inability to recall many faces and large portions of his life prior to his release from Mordor, but the rest of it, he knew quite well was purely temper. He had been furious at being left behind, and that anger was a large part of what had kept him going, had kept him alive through his years of darkness and torment. Over those years, he had learned to use his anger as both a weapon and a shield. Now that same anger would be a difficult thing to put away from himself, a very difficult thing, but Benia Nightshade and Mrs. Banks had already helped him to begin the process. He could do it, especially if he were accepted back by the Rangers and would no longer have to rely solely upon himself.

Kaldir felt greatly enouraged in that direction by Amandur's words and demeanor, but the older Ranger was correct in that there would doubtless be certain individuals among the other Rangers who would never trust or accept him. It was unfortunate, but not a situation that Kaldir found particularly alarming. As long as those individuals did not try to interfere with him, he believed that he would be able to co-exist with them. On the other hand, if they chose to make trouble for him, they would have a wolf of their own making to contend with. He had very little patience with those who would trip him up out of nothing but prejudice or irrational malice. By the same token, if they left him alone, he was confident that he could prove his worth. He smiled cautiously as Amandur clapped his good shoulder.

"I do hope you choose to return to us, my friend," Amandur concluded with a weary smile. "But one more question I have to ask. What of Naiore?"

"Naiore," echoed Kaldir. His expression darkened visibly at the mention of the Ravenner's name. He rose from the chair he had taken at Amandur's invitation and walked to the far side of the small chamber. The image of her standing on the rock just outside the very walls of Imladris, her inky leathers stained with blood, rose up starkly in his mind. Just as abruptly as it had appeared, the image began to melt and bleed into a different one, one of Naiore in another, darker place, smiling serenely and clad in the finest of silks. He remembered gut-wrenching pain. Fire. The lash of whips. He lowered his head, fighting to push the memories away. Then, very deliberately, he reached up and struck his wounded shoulder sharply with his fist. The jolt of pain that followed cleared his head. After a moment of silence during which he waited for the real, actual pain to subside, Kaldir turned once more toward Amandur, his face pale but determined.

"Naiore must be killed," he answered bluntly. "Whether it be by my hand or that of another, I care not. I trailed her this far with the intention of doing the deed myself, the king's justice be damned." He paused, his pale blue eyes meeting Amandur's gray ones directly. "But I wonder now if I am up to the task."

When Amandur did not reply immediately, he continued gruffly. "Something happened on the battlefield to remind me that perhaps I am not the best man for the job after all. The Ravenner can smell weakness like a jackal." Without thinking, he raised a hand to touch the battered side of his face. "The damage that was done to me in Mordor was considerable. Not all of the scars are visible to the eye and, even now, not all of the wounds have healed. I found that I was more vulnerable to her presence than I would have thought."

"With that in mind, I think the wiser course would be to throw my sword in with you - if you will allow it - than to continue hunting her on my own."

Amandur nodded. "That would be acceptable to me, but I must warn you that our intention is to bring her to face trial in Gondor, not to kill her."

"The Valar help you, then," Kaldir answered calmly. "She will find a way to free herself and she will kill you in your sleep. Do not underestimate her."

"We won't," said Amandur gravely. Kaldir thought he intended to say more, but at that instant the door opened and they were joined by a pair of Elven healers. Amandur communicated to him with a glance that they would continue their discussion at a later time, then he rose to greet the healers.

Hours later, after the healers had treated his and Amandur's injuries and the two of them had parted company, Kaldir found himself back in the Hall of Healing. It was well past sundown. He had gone there to look in on Dúlrain, and perhaps have a quick word with him if he was awake, but upon finding the right room, Kaldir went no further than the doorway. Looking in, he saw Dúlrain lying asleep in the bed. His color was much better than it had been when Kaldir had parted company with him at the edge of the battle field and his breathing was good. Kaldir was relieved to note as much, but it was the sight of Benia that made him stop in his tracks. She sat in a chair beside the bed, her long, raven hair flowing loosely down her back, the candlelight shining off the silver of her jewelry. She sat perfectly motionless, her slender fingers intertwined with those of the sleeping man, her gemlike eyes never leaving his face. Watching them together, Kaldir suddenly felt like an intruder. Turning, he left as silently as he had arrived.

"She belongs with him..." he murmured, replaying the little tableau over and over in his mind. How could that be? She and Dúlrain barely knew each other. Remembering the way she looked at Dúlrain, Kaldir felt a sharp stab of jealousy. She should have been his. He had not carried her with him halfway across Middle Earth just to deliver her into the arms of another man. He scowled fiercely at the thought of doing such a thing, but, even so, he still wavered. Amandur's words of earlier in the day still haunted him.

According to Amandur, Dúlrain had never deserted him. If that was true, then all of the self-righteous anger that Kaldir had been using as a wedge to drive his childhood friend, his brother, away from him was false. If Dúlrain had never betrayed him, then what right had he, Kaldir, to try to take Benia? Aside from his own love for the desert woman, he had no right to her, no claim. In fact, by all that was right, she belonged with Dúlrain. Yet Kaldir knew he could not let go of her. Not yet.

With these thoughts weighing heavily on his mind, Kaldir returned to his room, feeling irritated and torn in his heart. Unable to find comfort in the softness of the room's feather bed, he lay instead on the floor, on the rug in front of the fire. When sleep finally came to him, it was fitful and thin.
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Old 06-16-2004, 07:57 PM   #260
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Menecin

Menecin made wide search of the area, in which he sought for some sign of Naiore or of his daughter, before circling back toward the stream, creeping silently among the trees, as was his wont from his days of soldiering in Gil-Galad forces. He had searched for Naiore once since that time, and flinched revisited by the vision of the many orcs that had bore down on him, imagining them to be at hand once again. The same single-minded desire flowing strong through his veins, the urgent sense the he must find her and free her, pervading his thoughts. Only now it was not Naiore, but her daughter that he sought. This was his duty, and a thing he again felt compelled to do.

For even in the dawn of the Third Age, when Naiore Dannan was thought a trader by many, having fought beside Sauron against the alliance, he along with a some others had sought her out, believing that it was not of her own free will that she had done what had been attributed to her. Then he had not abandoned her, as her parents had done, leaving behind their shame as they sailed westward. He would not forsake her in her bleak circumstances. Even now, though she had tried to kill him in Ithilien, he knew he must somehow try to bend her will once again or else break her, though surely either might die in the attempt, for well he knew of her murderous intent.

But there was the matter of Vanwe. In earlier days he had easily cast aside his life at court to find Naiore, but this was his daughter and he could not leave her, or have her witness that which he saw as necessary. And she should not, having only just found her parents lose them again to wander Middle-Earth alone, once again.

Thinking these thoughts, Menecin followed the water walking among the deep shadows of the trees, hidden even from the stars, until he came to a place where the current became broad and slow. And there carefully hiding himself amidst the darkness, he sat watching closely for those who might wish to ford the water, and also eyeing the steep sides of the valley for those he searched for. But none came, save two men and a horse that moved slowly through the gloom, along the bank toward him. And seeing from a short distance that the one, a ranger by the look of him, wore an orc’s sword at his side as well as one more suitable to him, Menecin stood up in the darkness to greet them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rauthain

After discussing the matter with several of the rangers staying in Imladris, Rauthain learned of a trustworthy fellow soon bound for more northerly terrain, and who was willing to pass through the Ettenmoors before making his way westward. And Rauthain had, over a lengthy supper arranged for Juta to be taken back to his rightful owner, as soon as this traveler had prepared himself to leave. That they had reckoned to be in a few days’ time. And so Rauthain in his eagerness to settle this business, thought to see to state of the horse though the hour grew late, and to determine if Juta was indeed sound enough for the journey back. For the old ranger would not have his friend think that any harm had come to the animal entrusted to his care, and the gentle beast had done his service well.

At last entering the stables, the two men passed through the corridors that held the tall and proud horses of the elves, who snorted at them and stamped in the lamp light, until at last Avanill called to Rauthain, saying that he had found Juta in a dark corner of the stables far from the other mounts that lodged there. Grabbing an oil lamp from off its stand, the ranger held it in front of him to gain a better view. “What a site you are, my friend,” Rauthain pronounced under his breath as he drew near, for the horse was heavily mud flecked, with all manner of chaff entangled in his hair. “Then again, I suppose that same might rightly be said of me, if you could but speak.” He joked, sliding open the stall’s door to pass inside.

As he patted and swept the dusty brown shoulder removing the lose dirt, Juta swung his head around to study the ranger with one large brown eye, and swiftly turned back again swishing his tail as he heard the door close and Avanill lean against it. “You know, you might stand a better chance of finding a fresh horse if you showed that you knew how to take proper care of one,” Avanill advised the ranger, amused. “The both of you look as though have been camping in Midgewater Marsh.”

Rauthain squatted down easily, checking Juta’s hooves for signs of damage. “Yes well, we have not been keeping to the roads or sleeping in comfort. Neither have I had idle time,” he said grinning as he stood up, feigning an attempt at picking out burrs in the dim light. “And my attention was not to be spared for such things, for I have had to keep one eye on my traveling companion so that he might not stray. But now it is a different matter, true?” The old ranger not waiting for a reply, squinted looking around the stall, “I could use a little more light than this dim spot affords. Perhaps you would accompany me and share your appraisal of Juta’s appearance if not your help, so that as you suggest we that we might acquire decent animals and that more quickly.”

Handing the lamp to Avanill, the old ranger drew the horse from it’s stall and once in the passage, began rapidly cleaning its mane with a well practiced hand, and the tail also he swiftly uncluttered, as Avanill held aloft the light. After finishing this, Rauthain led Juta outside, picking up a brush along the way. And Juta, no longer hemmed in by walls, held his head higher, listening attentively to the sounds of the night. Setting down the lamp by the door, Avanill followed along as the ranger headed toward the river, little more than a broad stream at this point, but very swift. Walking upstream, Rauthain looked by starlight for a calm pool in which to bathe the horse, but had to go some way before at last he saw a spot where the water flowed wide over the unyielding stone. But he sensed something amiss, and as he looked about, his hand moved to his belt, the sound of Avanill unsheathing his sword echoing nearby. The thought that the orcs might have found some other route to this place flickered quickly through his mind. And seeing movement among the trees, Rauthain brandished a sword quickly, but was unexpectedly met not by the clash of metal, but rather by a calm greeting in the ancient tongue of the Quendi.

Immediately, the ranger lowered his blade aghast to find he had drawn not his own that lay newly sharpened at his side, but the far more sinister sword of orcish make that he had taken up when he traveled alone. “I am heartily sorry,” he said apologetically, beginning to discern the shape of a tall elf among the shadows. “We have but only today come from battle, and I have not yet forgotten that orcs would threaten this sanctuary. I am Rauthain son of Hauthain, one of the King’s rangers,” he said with a short bow. “And this if you will, is Avanill, who has fought bravely in the defense of Imladris this day.” Stepping forward and sheathing his sword once again, the younger man nodded, acknowledging the elf’s presence.

“It is good that you remain on your guard, for there is more at hand than merely the orcs,” the voice deep yet rich replied. “Though I have seen no one other than yourselves the many hours I have watched this place.”

Wondering if he spoke of the Ravennor, Rauthain studied this stately one who stood motionless among the trees. Surely he was no watchman, but rather seemed of noble descent, great care softening a piercing glance. The ranger held his peace, for something in the manner of this elf troubled him, and he would not venture to speak further of his business there or of Naiore. “We have come only for a short while,” Rauthain explained, “To bathe this poor beast as best we can, and will not risk more, if you deem it unsafe here.”

“Of that I am certain,” the elf said gravely. “But here, let me relieve you of this corrupt weapon you carry,” he offered. “For I am familiar with what might be done with it, and it is not seemly for such a weapon to be present in this refuge. It bodes evil to see it here.”

Indeed Rauthain had considered casting the blade aside when upon the stair that very morning, but something had stayed his hand. At the time he reasoned that it should not find it’s way into the wrong hands by chance, and so seeing the opportunity to be rid of the thing, and knowing that the fair folk might find such weapons to be offensive, he surrendered the hilt to the dark haired elf gladly, thanking him.

“I will see to it then,” the elf said as he took hold of the sword and held it, testing its balance in his hand. “And do not tarry overlong out of doors, but find your comfort tonight in the brighter places.”

It struck Rauthain as strange that such a warning should be given a ranger, and he asked Avanill if he desired to leave. But the young man’s courage did not waver at the elf’s the ominous words. And when Rauthain turned again to the trees, he saw the elf no more, but only the straight trunks, grey in the flickering starlight.

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Old 06-17-2004, 10:45 PM   #261
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Avanill

Avanill had been dumbstruck by Amandur’s reaction. The young man was so sure that only a minute ago he was headed for an untimely meeting with the grim reaper. So-so he thought in his own mind for he did not know what to make of the actions of the last hours. He did know one thing that was embedded within his mind now; he was going to make a decent man of himself, not only pay for the deeds of Barrold Ferney but also for the ill-deeds of his mothers past.

He had not found favour however, in parting with his various poisons, but in order to gain the trust of Rauthain and Amandur it would have to suffice. Besides, he knew that they would have no reasoning to kill him now, now that he was needed when the time came to subdue Naiore. Until this moment he had never fully understood the consequences of his actions, he would have to face Naiore, he, Avanill who betrayed her. He would have to be strong, after all, he had hoped that Barrold Ferney was still too drugged up to notice the difference between his fingers and his toes.

Presently however, he and Rauthain were walking Juta to a stream. “When he is clean, I bet he is a magnificent animal. Probably a darn sight better than my horse.” Avanill confessed. “Belonged to my mother, I can’t bear to part with the evil blighter.” He was quiet again, taking in the serenity of the elven landscape.

A few minutes later Avanill had the strangest feeling that he was being watched. And reflecting to his past experience, being watched from the dark of the forest was not a good sign. He drew his sword. Rauthain had done so as well, although the watcher spoke and Rauthain lowered his blade, Avanill however did not, his experiences with elves taught him to be cautious.

Rauthain began introductions, I am Rauthain son of Hauthain, one of the King’s rangers,” he said with a short bow. “And this if you will, is Avanill, who has fought bravely in the defence of Imladris this day.” Obviously the older ranger trusted this elf, Avanill did not speak but did opt for sheathing his sword. If anything was to happen, he was comforted in his mind that he still had numerous daggers.

The elf’s presence however was unsettling to the young man, still as always it did not show upon his face. The elf took Rauthain’s sword and held it, leaving time for quick words between men. But when they were done, the elf had, well, disappeared.

Once more Avanill drew his blade. “Elf comes, says this place is dangerous, takes your weapon and leaves? No offence to the fair race my friend, but something is definitely not right to me, and I ought to know” he said searching. “You don’t think he has anything to do with her do you?”

Barrold

Meanwhile a long way away from the ranger and the young man was another man, still managing to trudge through the underbrush without making much of a racket or loosing his balance in the dark of night. He had managed to come quite a way from where Avanill had left him, he had gone back to camp only to find it empty, and angered once more went on his way. Cursing under his breath Barrold took a seat on a nearby log to catch his breath. Damn the Boy he thought to himself, I dont envy his position though, 'Her nibbs' wont be too happy though. Probably already knows... Ill kill him myself when if I have to! He did however, thank Avanill for not killing him as he knew the boy well could have, he had been handed the opportunity on a silver platter. Avanill had taken the opportunity to escape, but Barrold was not phased that easily. He knew what he wanted, Gold, and lots of it as well as an elf bride.

Shaking his head half in awe half in anger, Barrold Continued on.

After what seemed an eternity Barrold came to the edge of a river. He did not know for sure, but he had an idea that this River lead to Rivendell. And if that wasn't where Naiore was headed, his name wasn't Ferney. Rivendell not only meant Naiore, but also Elves. This would mean that Barrold would have to take precautions. And drawing his sword he receded into the line of the woods and made his way slowly towards Rivendell hoping to find the notorious elf again.

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Old 06-18-2004, 04:49 PM   #262
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Rauthain

“It may very well have to do with her,” Rauthain whispered staring at the woods where the strange elf had disappeared. “But I do not think that he would warn us if he meant us harm. As for my weapons, I have my own sword, and through the orc blade has sufficed in battle, I am more accustomed the feel of this one. But let us hope all the same that it shall not be needed, and heed this warning without question, for I do not feel it is unfounded counsel. Indeed the elf seemed of some rank and perhaps is privy to intelligence we know not of. For though Imladris is well protected, the Ravennor may have dared to boldly breach its guard.”

“I still do not like the look of it,” Avanill said softly. “If this elf were important, why would he be wandering about alone with her abroad?”

“This I do not know,” Rauthain admitted, taking up Juta’s reigns. “But I do know that this topic would be better taken up inside the confines of our lodging. Come let us leave this lonely place and keep to the shadows until our return. For whether orc or their mistress be here about, we should not become a mark for them.”

“Aye, we should take care that we might accomplish what we set after, and once in the guest house we can ask who this elf might be.”

“True, perhaps they know of him, though I would not count on it. But let us not talk further until by the light of a hearth.” Rauthain suggested. And Avanill nodding his agreement set out toward the light of the Homely House, sword at ready with the ranger following behind him. And so they walked in silence among the shadows, hiding themselves also from the stars of Varda, in hopes that they might not be discovered and they might not be struck down. And the ranger felt again the weight of his burden crowding in upon him with each step.


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Naiore

As the day stretched on and activity decreased steadily in the vicinity of the back gardens, Naiore let herself sleep, awaking once at a hint of motion over by the corner of one of the buildings. Casting her senses in that direction, she thought she caught the impression of anger... a disturbed mind. Elven?

"Menecin!" she hissed, her back straightening against the rough bark of the tree trunk. "Has my Vanwe delivered you to me at last?" She leveled a piercing gaze in the direction of the perceived motion, but saw nothing further, only the pale green of leaves swaying in the afternoon breeze. The slender figure of Vanwe, leading her dark-haired and tragic father to his doom never appeared. After what seemed to be an eternity of waiting, Naiore felt a flush of rage and disappointment. Realizing that Vanwe was not yet fulfilling her purpose, the Ravenner pushed the flood of emotions away and settled back into waiting. Awake now, she reached out again in search of Vanwe and Menecin. Though she still felt the vague presence of the Bard's consciousness, his madness, she found she could not determine from whence it came. Her clear grey eyes studied the trees, the shadows, the corners of every wall.

Her vigilance continued through the afternoon and into the night as daylight waned and faded into darkness. She waited until the moon rose and, then, with the shadows gathered around her like a shroud, Naiore unwound her long legs and slid down from her hiding place. A restlessness had taken hold of her that was rooted in the continuous feeling she had that Menecin was somewhere nearby. Almost unconsciously, she listened for the sound of his singing, the melliflous tones of his flute. Only silence found her. And then the sound of voices. Two men approached, leading a dirty and illkempt-looking horse along the path that led from the stable to the stream. Instantly, she recognized one of the men as Avanill, the other as a ranger from the Forsaken Inn. Moving like a shadow herself, Naiore trailed them to the stream, taking a few seconds along the way to retrieve her bow and a small clutch of arrows from where she had hidden them earlier, selecting only orcish arrows from amongst the Elven ones. The elves must think her deed the work of a stray orc.

Unaware that she watched them, the two men chatted amiably as the ranger gave his horse a bath in the moonlit stream. Naiore knocked an arrow to the string and raised her bow. The traitorous Avanill, obviously not a prisoner but a willing co-conspirator of her pursuers, would have to die. Though she would have preferred to look into his arrogant eyes and squeeze the life out of him with her silken garrotte, an arrow would do the job. She smiled serenely as she sighted along the shaft of the arrow to his heart. The ranger would have to die, too, his presence an inconvenience, but not an unhappy one. It always pleased her to release a ranger from his mortal condition. Besides, it would not do to have him running about, raising an alarm. Left in the woods, it could be days before the bodies were found. By then, she would be long departed into the west or the south, her objectives accomplished.

But the arrow never left Naiore's bow. Someone else had joined the two men at the stream. Unable to see the newcomer, Naiore froze, straining her ears into the darkness, but the rush of the stream concealed the words. Though she could not make out what was said, the voice sounded Elven. Lowering her bow, Naiore crept closer, reaching out with her senses. Suddenly she stopped short as her mind came into contact with a familiar consciousness. A rush of jumbled emotions - anger, love, and madness - collided with her thoughts. Forgetting Avanill, she melted back into the shadows, her inky leathers blending with the surrounding darkness. Menecin!

She was unable to see him, but she knew with a cold certainty that the newcomer was Menecin. A smile again touched her lips. Perhaps she could achieve her goal without the help of Vanwe. She would wait for the Bard to emerge from the trees with his companions, then she would strike him down and be on her way. Pity it would have to be an orcish arrow to fell her former lover and the father of her child, but she had not the time to retrieve an arrow of Elven make. That he would be destroyed would have to be enough for her.

Patiently, Naiore waited, but when Avanill and the ranger finally finished their business at the stream and departed back toward the safety of the buildings, the Bard was not with them. Her attention now focused on the unseen elf, Naiore let them go and reached out again into the darkness with her mind, but the presence she had sensed earlier was gone. He had slipped away amongst the trees. Naiore hesitated, debating with herself whether to pursue him now or to wait. Cautiously, she glided in the direction in which she had heard his voice. Getting there, she found nothing, only the careless tracks of the men and their horse. Frustrated, she followed the stream bank for a short distance before turning back. Menecin had been a warrior at one time and, at that time, had been possessed of strong skills of woodcraft and concealment. Tracking him by moonlight when he did not wish to be found would be an exercise in futility, even for her. Perhaps she would wait for Vanwe to fulfill her task after all. Perhaps the time for Naiore to wreak her revenge had not yet come.

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Old 07-01-2004, 04:05 AM   #263
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Dúlrain

Dúlrain slowly opened his eyes, it took a few minutes for them to adjust to the brightness of the morning light filtering through the open arched windows and for a moment, he felt slightly disorientated wondering where he was and how he had got there. but as he stared at the ivory ceiling and the ornately carved beams he knew that he could only be in the home of the elves for only they had such skill at woodcraft, then it all came back to him, Naiore, the orcs, the river, his injury, the flight to Rivendell. Benia! He thought instantly, but turning his head, he saw her, in a chair next to him her dark head resting on the edge of his bed, had she been here all night? He bite back a wince his wound still a little tender as he propped himself up, careful not to wake the peaceful slumber of this beautiful woman. He watched the rise and fall of her chest as she slept, a peaceful calm emanating from her, infusing him entirely as her exotic beauty once more captivated him. He drew closer, his dry cracked lips almost brushing the silky softness of her skin.

The round metal handle of the door turned and he gently pulled back without feeling the warmth of her lips. A tall elven woman entered silently closing the door behind her, a jug and wash basin sat in one hand and a fresh towel in the other. She smiled as she saw that he was awake. “Ah! Master Ranger, it is good to see that you have decided to remain among the living, you gave us all quite a scare,” she grinned, her musical voice the merest of whispers, so as not to disturb the rest of the young southern woman.

“It will take more than the blade of an orc and the chill of a river to drag me from these lands,” he laughed quietly, his gaze turning again to sleeping form of Miss Nightshade as he remembered again the conflict of his heart.

“She has barely left your side,” The elven woman whispered following his gaze.

Dulrain looked up surprised. “How long have I been asleep!” he asked.

“Since yester morn,” the elven woman replied, setting down the jug and basin on a table at the far side of the room, “You are a very luckily man to have found the love of such a kind and caring young woman, many would envy you,” she continued as she poured water from the jug into the basin.

“Love” Dúlrain whispered looking back at Benia’s peaceful face, he had not considered her feelings not fully believing that she would ever return the yearnings of his heart, believing that her heart already belonged to Kaldir.

“I will leave you now, there have been a few others who have inquired as to your condition and they will be most anxious to hear that you are awake and well, but still you must rest. I will have breakfast brought for you and your lady and Lady Léspheria will look in on you later to check on your bindings.” the elven woman smiled, then turning she left the room as silently as she had come.

Alone again Dúlrain looked down again at the sleeping form of the southern woman, did she really love him a warm feeling spread over his body as he gently moved a stray strand of her dark hair from her face, she stirred and he drew his hand away.

“Good morning,” he smiled as she slowly opened her eyes.

Last edited by Nerindel; 07-01-2004 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 07-02-2004, 11:36 AM   #264
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Benia

Benia awoke to the lightest touch of a hand, the gentle smoothing of a stray hair away from her face. Opening her eyes, she looked immediately to Dúlrain to make sure that he was still breathing, to see if his color had improved. She was startled to find him not only awake, but propped up on one elbow. And smiling. Her heart rejoiced at the sight of his clear gray eyes, lucid again at last.

"Good morning," he said softly.

Afraid that she might be dreaming, Benia reached out and laid one hand gently against the side of his face. "You're awake," she murmured. "Please, by all that is true, tell me that I am not dreaming."

Dúlrain reached up and enfolded her delicate hand in his. "You are not dreaming, fair lady. I have indeed lasted the night and awake feeling much better."

"The Valar be praised." A radiant smile broke across Benia's face. She bent forward to kiss his forehead, but the Ranger bent forward as well, intercepting her and touching her lips with a tender kiss of his own. Closing her eyes, Benia kissed him back, letting all of the love she felt for him flow through her lips to his. Nearly overcome with the intense mixture of joy and longing she felt for him, she wished that that single kiss could last forever.

Letting her lips linger against his, she whispered, "I was so frightened for you."

"Be frightened no more, my love," he whispered in return. "I shall not leave you."

"My love," echoed Benia, and they kissed again. When she finally drew back from him, her amber eyes sparkled through tears of happiness, as her slender fingers intertwined with his. Then, suddenly, she laughed.

"Good morning," she said, the realization striking her that she had never answered his greeting.


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Nerindel's Post - Vanwe

Not to far away another was rousing to the harmonious sound of birds singing, slowly opening her eyes Vanwe realised that she must have fallen asleep while speaking with Léspheria in the garden. A light mist clung stubbornly to the ground and dew clung to her hair and the blanket someone must have put over her while she slept. She felt refreshed and well rested, no nightmares or thoughts of her mother had plagued her dreams that night. She gasped in wonderment as the suns first rays spread out over the eastern horizon washing the valley in its golden light, chasing away the predawn mist. Pulling her blanket tighter, she sat for a moment just gazing idly at the beauty around her, listening as the birds of the valley greeted the new day. And in that moment of peace and tranquility Vanwe felt free and unburdened the woes of her life swept carefully aside so that she could enjoy the simple pleasure of watching the sun rise.

However, the trails of her life could not be so easily swept aside and even as she looked out over the valley she could not help but wonder if her mother was out there somewhere waiting for her to deliver her father. How long would she wait and what would she do when she realised that her daughter was not returning. Vanwe worried that by not returning she would bring more trouble on the elves, but she could not betray her father. The healer in her still wanted to believe that her mother suffered from some illness, a sickness that infected her mother like some evil poison making her do the terrible things that she was accused of doing, something she could heal. But the part of her that remembered the treatment she had received at the hands of her mother, the part that remembered her mother had abandoned her to the harshness of the hardrim desert, already knew that her mother was beyond any help or redemption. Closing her eyes she sighed wearily then turning away from the beauty of the new dawn she walked back toward the house.

As she drew close she could hear two voices, one she recognised as Lespheria's and another she did not know. "I have just left master Dúlrain's room and it will please you to know that his fever has finally broken and he is awake," the unkown voice was telling Léspheria.

"Indeed that is wonderful news, Celebnariel, and Miss Nightshade, she too must be relieved by this news?" Léspheria replied.

"Indeed I believe she will be when she awakes to find her young man awake before her," the unknown voice replied lightly. Vanwe too found herself pleased that the ranger was well after their efforts to save him and that Miss Nightshade was still with him and not with the bounty hunter, Léspheria had explained to her the previous night how the southern woman had come to end up in Rivendell though the fact that Kaldir was also nearby made her more than a little uncomfortable.

As she reached the open glass doors, she saw that two baths had been drawn, two large metal tubs sat in the middle of the room, the delicate aroma of lavender and rose hip rising in the steam coming off the hot bubbly water. Lespheria sat in a robe combing down her long dark hair, wet from the bath that the elf had obviously just taken. another elf the bearer of the unknown voice poured another jug of hot water in the second tub to keep it warm, but at her approach both women stopped what they were doing and turned to smile at her.

"Good morning," both women greeted pleasantly, "Did you manage to sleep well?" Léspheria asked.

"Yes, I did sleep well, thank you," she replied honestly.

"Vanwe, This is Celebnariel and she looks after the guests of Rivendell and some of the rest of us too" Lespheria laughed introducing the tall elven woman.

"I thought that you may be indeed of a warm bath and some fresh clothes after your journey," the other elf smiled warmly, indicating both the bath and a fresh set of clothes that sat on a nearby chair.

Vanwe looked down at herself realising that she still wore the fine mint silks of her mother’s gown, now smeared with the blood of those her mother saught to destroy but that she had helped to save, an irony was not lost on Vanwe as she slipped out of the fine garment and handed it to Celebnariel.

"I will see that it is washed and returned to you," the elf smiled taking the delicate gown. Vanwelooked at the dress for a moment wondering if she ever wanted to see it again, but nodded her thanks all the same. Slipping into the warm water she closed her eyes for a moment as her tense muscles relaxed.

"If you should require anything further myself or any of the other attendants of the house will be more than willing to help," the elven attendant said as she moved towards the door, Vanwe nodded her thanks, then Celebnariel turned to Léspheria, "I will have breakfast brought to you presently my lady," then a slight smile of amusement crossed her lips as she told Léspheria that the ranger Amandur had asked after her several times and as vanwe looked at Léspheria she was sure she saw the confident elf's pale cheeks colour ever so slightly as she replied.

"You may inform him that I am well and will speak with him shortly, after I have checked on my patients." with an amused grin Celebnariel nodded and silently left pulling the door behind her.

As Vanwe washed Lespheria told her the news that Celebnariel had brought with her, the news that Dúlrain was awake and that his fever had broken, She also informed her that the hobbit Toby longholes was in Rivendell and seemed to be favouring the company of Mrs Banks. "They say he came in with Kaldir and the ranger Rauthain."

Vanwe nodded relieved that the hobbit had managed to escape her mother, or at least she hoped he had escaped. There came a knock at the door and Léspheria rose to answer it, returning shortly with a tray laden with breasfast. After drying and slipping on the pale green elven dress that had been left for her she joined Lespheria and together they sat down to eat.

As they ate Léspheria delicately brooched the subject of her mother again, telling her that she could teach her how to resist her mothers intrusions. Vanwe accepted Léspheria's offer and they began at once, it was more difficult than Vanwe had first imagined, but with Léspheria's gently instruction she slowly began to build up a mental barrier. It was weak at first, but Léspheria assured her it would get stronger with practice.

By mid-morning Lespheria stopped the lesson telling Vanwe that she must check on her patients, Vanwe nodded her understanding. She was eager to go find her father and speak some more with him, tell him of the things she had learned. The two women left together and as Léspheria entered the halls of the healers Vanwe carried on towards the stairs that lead to her room, but as she approached she heard a familiar voice, one she had not been expecting. In fear she pressed herself against a pillar so she could not be seen, as the debonair form of Avanill walked across the hall, he was speaking with two elves and she strained to hear what they were saying.

"The young elf, Vanwe is well, and is she is currently in the company of the Lady Léspheria," one of the elves was telling the young man.

Vanwe did not wait to hear any more she slipped away back down the hall, she did not know why he was here, but if her mother had sent him, she would not lead him straight to her father, instead she decided to explore the halls of the elven house until Léspheria was again free and she could share her concerns with her.

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Old 07-05-2004, 10:23 AM   #265
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Kaldir

Kaldir awoke late with a throbbing headache. The pain seemed to start in the damaged side of his face and spike upward like a stiletto behind his eye, almost as though a splinter of bone had come loose in the night and worked its way around to stab into the flesh. It gave his cheek muscle a slight twitch and caused his eye to tear, but at least his head was clear of the nightmares that had beset him all night. That was a bonus, anyway, perhaps a benefit of his surroundings, the influence of the Eldar.

He changed into the fresh shirt that the elves had provided and, in doing so, was pleased to see that the wound to his shoulder had improved greatly and no longer hampered his movement. In fact, the headache gave him worse pain than the shoulder. That was good. He would need his full strength. He had a feeling that Naiore was still nearby, though he had no tangible proof of it... only the nightmares and the headaches. The word he had heard late the evening before, upon the return of an Elven scouting party, was that Naiore had fled into the west on heels of her retreating orcs. Tracks had been found. And a single strand of golden hair. Even so, Kaldir had his doubts. Naiore would never be so careless as to leave such an obvious trail. If so, she would have been captured years ago. Having tracked her for years himself, he knew full well of her ability to disappear into a poisonous nothingness. If a hair had been found, it had been planted. He was sure of it.

The hobbit, Toby Longholes, had said that she hunted Menecin, her former lover and the father of her child. Her orc assault on the stairs had been an attempt to get at Menecin. Would she give up so easily? Kaldir thought not. And now Vanwe was in Imladris as well. All the more reason for Naiore to linger. But where? He had seen her on the rocks below the stair. She must have crossed the river again in order to plant the tracks and the hair, but where had she gone after that? Kaldir had a strong suspicion that it wasn't far, else why the persistent throb in his face? Else why the nightmares? Naiore Dannan could not have gone far.

With his nerves feeling jangled and raw from both the pain behind his eye and the restless night, Kaldir went down to the great hall for breakfast. He was disappointed to find neither Benia nor Mrs. Banks in attendence, Benia having remained with Dúlrain in the Hall of Healing and the hobbit lady having already put in an appearance and gone. He then spent a quiet hour or so eating and speaking with the elves of the scouting party, who had come down to breakfast as well. He was interested to discover that many of them shared his doubts, though they were equally as non-plussed as to where Sauron's Ravenner actually had gone, if not into the west. The Elves had gathered up some stray orcs as prisoners but, upon trying to interrogate them, found them patently unhelpful, more prone to growling and spitting than saying anything of value. In the end, the prisoners had been executed and burned, their weapons and armor buried. With all leads exhausted, the Elves had found themselves with no other choice but to return to Imladris. Kaldir listened to their words with interest, but upon taking leave of them found himself no wiser than he had been before.

With his face still throbbing and having nothing pressing to do, Kaldir went outside to catch a breath of fresh air and to think. The Elves of the scouting party had hinted that Elladan and Elrohir planned to call a counsel for that evening, but, until then, Kaldir found himself at loose ends. He found a large stone in the clearing behind the main hall and sat down upon it, turning his face up to the sun in the hope that a touch of sunshine might draw some of the pain out of his face. He was sitting like that, pondering the questions of both Benia and Naiore, not to mention what had become of his horse and other belongings, when he heard the approach of a firm footstep on the path. Turning, Kaldir saw Rauthain. He nodded to the old Ranger.

"Good morning," he said purely out of an obligation to say something. He still regarded Rauthain with distrust and, admittedly, some dislike, but the fierce resentment that he had once felt toward his former brother-in-arms had faded somewhat of late. With that in mind, Kaldir felt that he could spare him a little courtesy.

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Old 07-05-2004, 12:53 PM   #266
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Gilly

Gilly found that when she awoke the second time, it was getting rather late in the morning. The sun was already up, though it had not yet crept over the edge of the deep valley, and had the bed been not quite so soft, she would had thought that she was at home again, snug and safe in her nest. But the politely insistent rapping on the door she eventually realized was not the small fist of her youngest son. Springing up and padding across the floor, she answered the knocking, not a little embarrassed to be caught sleeping so late in the day, but she had been tired and sore, and not knowing what to do with so much time on her hands had returned to sleep after a most satisfactory breakfast. But upon opening the door she found it was the same elf that had so kindly attended to her the day before who now appeared at the threshold, and much to Gilly’s delight she bore her old clothes carefully folded.

“Oh, how splendid!” the hobbit exclaimed. “It will be so wonderful to get back into familiar clothes again! I will start to work on them straight away. Were you able to find any green thread?” Then realizing that she hadn’t been thinking, and not wishing the elf to surmise that she didn’t approve of the elfin garments lent her, she quickly added, “I mean no disrespect of course, but I’m not used to such fine clothes as elves make.”

“No offense taken, Mistress Banks. I doubt that I would feel at home in the raiment of the Periannath as well, but I hope that you do not mind a little elfin handiwork among your clothes,” she said flicking the folded dress open to lay it fluttering down like a banner across the rumpled bed. There Gilly saw that all was mended, and the torn border of her coarse dress had been replaced with a new one, not nearly so mean, but having woven into it a subtle pattern of trailing vines.

“Oh, by the blessed Hill of Ilmarin, what’s been done to my poor dress, it is beautiful!” Gilly exclaimed. And when the elf opened the stack of the hobbit’s colored cotton petticoats, she saw that they were nearly remade with matching ruffles sewn on to the bottom edge. At a loss for words and brimming with emotion Gilly turned around and gave the elf a hug, quite surprising of the woman of the Eldar. But quickly recovering, the attendant pointed to the neck of the dress explaining that she did not understand the knots that dangled there and so had not addressed their condition. “Then you did all this? And so quickly!” Gilly said in amazement. “Never mind that ragged mess of knots. It’s just my habit for tatting that put them there in the first place. It doesn’t look like much now, does it?” she said smiling, “But once it was a bit like lace. Easy enough to fix given this idle time, and I will show you how, if you would like. But I have lost my shuttle,” she said remembering that the river had claimed the treasure of her pockets. “You wouldn’t happen to have a pin and thread on you that I could borrow?”

The slender elf produced the green thread Gilly had asked for, handing it to her. “Unfortunately, I have not a spare moment to sit and learn your craft, but I will look forward to seeing what you make, for I have not heard of tatting before now. But I will bring you a pin if you require it, for that is easily found, and anything else you need.”

“I would appreciate that very much,” the hobbit said. “And sorry to be of such trouble.”

“It is no trouble at all. If you need me I am Novfuinien,” the elf said excusing herself.

“Two questions before you go,” Gilly said hurriedly retrieving a letter from off the table. “I have a message that I need to get to Bywater. In Westfarthing.” But noticing Novfuinien’s puzzled look she began again, “It is to go to the Shire along the East Road. Do you know of anyone headed that way?”

“Ah, I see. I do not know of any traveling there myself, but will ask those I meet. Do not worry, we will find a way for it to go, so that it will arrive there safely” she said as Gilly handed the letter to her. “What is your second question?”

“I was wondering if you might have seen Miss Nightshade yet this morning? I thought earlier to catch her at breakfast, but did not find her there. ”

“No, her bed has not been slept in, and they say she still waits beside Dúlrain. That is all I know. But a word of caution before I go Mistress Banks, do be careful not to wander too far in the gardens as I heard you did yesterday. For even though the orcs were routed I would not recommend it, at least for a time.”

“Not to worry Miss Novfuinien, I’ve had enough excitement to last a lifetime, and am in no hurry to meet with any more. But if you think the way to the great hall and back safe enough I’d be very much content to wander that path and few others, save maybe to visit Dúlrain and Miss Benia, and though the gardens are quite lovely, I will limit myself to staying close by.”

“I do think the great hall would be safe, but now I must go. I will return shortly with the pin,” the elf said pulling the door to as she disappeared behind it.

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Old 07-09-2004, 04:53 AM   #267
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Rauthain

The dawn that had at first arrived cool and misty, but now was beginning to show the promising signs of becoming a fine, clear day, did little to cheer Rauthain. And remembering his task and elf’s strange warning, he found once again he could not revel the in the cool stillness of the morning as did the birds of that place. Waking before first light, he had wrestled in the bleakness before daybreak with the overwhelming sense of futility that had haunted his thoughts. Knowing he would not accomplish anything by succumbing to the taunts of his imagination, yet unable to quiet the corrosive chatter of his mind, he arose to see if any others might be found awake. But fortunate his sleepless became, for at last in searching out conversation, he had found another as restless as himself laying the halls of healing. It was after checking once more on the sleeping Dúlrain, the southern woman still at his side that he came across one trying to get up from his cot. And helping him into a chair, the two sat together for some time wiling away the quiet hours of the morning.

In the course of their talk Rauthain found this newly made friend willing to spare his horse so that it may keep fit while he nursed his crushed limb, but providence granted not only this, he had also heard tell of another animal, its elfin rider fallen in battle the day before. Hoping to secure this horse also, now that the hour had grown later, it was on that errand Rauthain now went, so that Avanill and he might be prepared once the others declared themselves ready. Avanill wisely chose to stay with the other rangers saying that he dare not accompany Rauthain in his negotiations, lest his reputation jeopardize the delicate transaction, and though the old man would have liked to placed full trust in him, he was sure to carry Avanill’s bag with him as he left.

The warm sunlight had chased away the chill of the evening as the grizzled man walked with purpose through dew-laden grass. And with the brightening day the man’s spirits began to lift, though it rankled him to delay thus in Rivendell. They should have been off long ago. One could as easily draw out the details of their plans along the way as in the airy halls of Imladris. And Dúlrain could follow when he was sufficiently improved, surely he would understand their haste. But the ranger’s brow furrowed as he caught himself. Had he really changed so little over the years?

Putting the troubling thought aside to concentrate once again on obtaining the horse, the ranger quickly rounded the corner, and looking up from the rock-strewn path his step was arrested by a sudden pang, for there was Kaldir a stumbling block before him. Fully unprepared for this chance meeting, Rauthain was acutely aware that it might be his only opportunity to speak with Kaldir alone before they were bound together by their hunt, a prospect he did not relish, though he should be glad of Kaldir's skill on the journey. For Rauthain had not quite forgotten his treatment at the bounty hunter’s hands the last time he had brought up that volatile issue which had separated them. And as he sunned himself upon the rock, Kaldir’s aspect struck the ranger as but a little less welcoming than that of serpent. Expecting the worst, Rauthain approached. “Good morning,” the bounty hunter said indifferently, observing him with one pale eye.

“Yes, it is a good morning,” the ranger replied sullenly, looking about him as if he hadn’t noticed the fine weather. “A good day for riding, surely… or tracking… but truly not suited for idle waiting.” He grinned trying to make light of his anxious desire to be moving once again.

“Then you must practice patience,” Kaldir responded opening his other eye, and lowering his chin to look at him squarely. Rauthain could see that this eye wept, the muscle lightly twitching beneath it. Feeling a vague sense of responsibility for those deformities, his smile quickly faded.

“It never has been my strong point,” he remarked looking away from Kaldir to sit on a stone across from the bounty hunter. “But you have lately taught me not to offer excuses, nor ask pardon for my shortcomings; and I have learned also not to crave forgiveness from one as unyielding as yourself. Rest easy, I will not plague with you the matters of my conscience,” He replied, his bitterness spilling into his words.

“Are you my father, that you should feel the need to rebuke me for being forthright?” Kaldir said with sarcasm.

“No, no, Naldir was a far better man than I! And though this trait of yours wears hard on me, it has stood you in good stead, to be sure,” Rauthain conceded pushing a stray gray lock away from his broad face, and wishing intently for his pipe.

The bounty hunter closed his eyes again. “So you have met my father,” he mused.

“Yes, when I brought him the news of your death. In time we had a great deal in common, and soon grew to be friends.” Rauthain saw the muscles of Kaldir’s jaw ripple as the bounty hunter grit his teeth. “But then he was a forgiving man, even when I spoke of what lay at the foundation of my contrition, though he grieved sorely for you until his death, saying always, he was to blame.”

“We had not parted amicably. But do not fool yourself Rauthain, you have little in common with him.”

“You are right. No more than you perhaps, for Naldir was not so strong-willed that he would not allow himself regret trying to impose that will upon you.”

“I see that he spoke freely.”

“What else would two childless widowers do, other than lament their loss? For both you and my own son tasted death far too early.”

“I can think of many other more useful things to ponder,” Kaldir said sharply. “But what madness you speak, I was never dead, though I was taken from my kin!”

“No you are wrong, you have died. And it is fortunate that your father did not live to hear of the trade you now practice. For though he might understand how you have fallen into it, I think it would pain him to know you have persisted in it.”

“Many of my decisions have pained him.”

“But you do not need to cling to them.” Then remembering Dúlrain’s words that had stung him so sharply outside of Bree, they now seemed fitting. “You had made your choice to turn your back on him, never hoping in your own survival. And everyday since, you have made that choice. You chose death, rather than life. You chose to isolate yourself, when you could find healing and simple comfort in the small things of life. When you could chose some worthy woman like Miss Nightshade to be your companion, someone who could understand your hardship. Live with hope Kaldir, you have survived and through you Naldir. Take heart.”

“But we have not yet finished what we set out to do.” Kaldir said under his breath, looking more like the man Rauthain once knew, like the man Rauthain had once thought so highly of.

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Old 07-11-2004, 07:37 PM   #268
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Kaldir

“But we have not yet finished what we set out to do,” Kaldir said under his breath. Across from him, Rauthain nodded and the two men fell into silence, each absorbed in his own thoughts. Kaldir closed his eyes again, letting the sunshine caress his upturned face. The pain and latent chill in the scarred muscle of his cheek were finally beginning to subside under the sun’s warmth, which put him into a slightly better frame of mind than he had been in only a few moments earlier. He let out a long breath as the faces of two women, each the polar opposite of the other, floated before his closed eyes, each of them pulling at his soul with equal force and in opposite directions: one of them elven, one mortal; one fair, one dark; one hated, one beloved, both of them with hands on his destiny. He opened his eyes and cast a sideways glance at Rauthain.

“Are you suggesting, then, that I marry?” he asked dryly. “I believe that is what my father and I quarreled about, though the memory is hazy. So many of them are.”

Rauthain shrugged. “It might do you good to embrace life for a change.”

Kaldir laughed softly. “And what makes you think me capable of such a thing, I wonder, if I am indeed a dead man walking.” He said it with sarcasm, but as he did so, he remembered his own words to Dúlrain on that deserted side street back in Bree, when Dúlrain had offered to return him his grandfather’s sword. Do not offer such a thing to a ghost, he had said. At that same moment in Bree, even as he rebuffed the hand of friendship offered to him by Dúlrain, Kaldir remembered noticing the bright spark of pleasure it had given him to claim Benia Nightshade as his wife, even as false as the claim had been. Maybe it really was time he embraced life again. His thoughts had most certainly been moving in that direction of late. “And what makes you think Miss Nightshade would have me?” he added abruptly.

The older ranger shrugged. “And what makes you think that she wouldn’t?” he countered the question with another question. “Anyone with eyes can see that you care for her. She seems fond of you.”

“Fond but not enamored,” mused Kaldir, thinking of the way Benia looked at Dúlrain. “But then, who would be enamored of me?" He ruefully smiled his one-sided smile. "I am not a handsome man, though I might have been considered reasonably attractive at one time.”

“I’m sure you have other qualities to recommend you,” suggested Rauthain. “Miss Nightshade, though she is from the south, seems to have good head on her shoulders. I’m sure she can see your better aspects.”

“Like forthrightness and the inability to forgive?”

“Like forthrightness, patience,” rejoined Rauthain with a smile. “And a masterful command of sarcasm.”

Kaldir laughed. “Yes, that would come in handy when one is courting a woman.”

Rauthain’s smile widened to a grin as the two fell into silence once again, but this time it was a more companionable silence. Finally Kaldir rose to his feet and flexed his stiff shoulder.

“Well, my friend,” he said to the older Ranger. “I hear that a counsel will be called tonight for all those who pursue Naiore. I’m assuming that you will be there.”

“Of course.”

“Then I will see you tonight. In the meantime, I need to get busy and secure myself a horse and some supplies for the upcoming journey. My charger seems to have gone missing, though I do have a mare in the stables I could use in a pinch. Miss Nightshade will be staying behind and will not have a need of a horse, I hope, until I return.”

“Till the evening then,” said Rauthain, rising from the stone he had taken a seat upon and beginning to move again down the path toward the stable.

Kaldir watched his retreating back for a moment, then called after him, “Thank you for being a friend to my father in his last years. I had no idea. I will think about your advice.” With that, he turned and walked back toward the main hall, feeling markedly better both in his head and his heart. He would give Rauthain’s words some thought. Serious thought.
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Old 07-15-2004, 08:24 AM   #269
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Nerindel's Post - Dúlrain

Dúlrain joined Benia's gentle laughter as she belatedly returned his greeting, he too only realising that she had not returned one. He gazed lovingly into her deep amber eyes, losing himself in the warmth of her smile. Knowing that his heart was now hers forever and always, he no longer struggled against it. Letting the warmth of his love returned infuse him with such joy and happiness that it cast aside any fears or doubts that he may still have been carrying. They loved each other and no matter what trails they may face in their life's that one truth would always remain strong and unyielding. This he knew with undying certainty as that held each other’s hands their love intertwined like the very fingers they clasped so tenderly together.

The door to the room opened again causing the two lovers to turn, breaking the spell that had been holding them so raptly under each other’s loving gaze. Swinging wide the open door admitted another elf, this one slightly shorter than the other, but with the same free flowing dark hair and the same cheerful glint to her grey eyes. The elf dipped a short curtsy, and then crossed the room to deposit the large silver tray she was carrying.

"Mistress Celebnariel thought that you might like some breakfast," she smiled again turning to them. "She also advises that master Dúlrain try to eat something and if you excuse me I tend to agree, Lady Lespheria is a wonderful healer, quite gifted, but her tonics for loss of appetite are ... shall we say far from pleasant." Then as though to emphasis the point the young elf's delicate features screwed up in disgust and Dulrain rather thought that she was indeed remembering the foul some taste. He looked at Benia and then with a smile of suppressed laughter he nodded saying that he would most defiantly try. The young elf content with his reply simple nodded then departed to attain other chores of the morning.

Slowly letting go of his hand Benia crossed the room to examine the contents of the tray. She lifted the lid of a tall silver teapot and the aroma of a sweet smelling herbal tea wafted across the room. "Hmm, that smells wonderful," He grinned inhaling deeply of the strong refreshing smell.

"There is enough here to satisfy even a hobbits veritable appetite," Benia laughed lightly lifting another lid. But even as she tried to hide it he caught the briefest glance to the open window and he knew she though of her hobbit friend.

"You think of Gilly, is she not here? He gently enquired.

"Oh, yes. She is here and well by all accounts, " she assured him. "But I have not spoken with her since our arrival and fear that I have failed in my duty as friend, I could not bring myself to leave you until I knew you were will." she added slightly abashed as she returned to his side.

"Well, you can see that I am well and I would not wish to keep you from your other duties," he smiled raising her hands to his lips and kissing them gently.

"I would not want Mrs Banks to think that I was holding you here to myself, she just might have a few things to say about that, " he winked jovially.

"I daresay she would," Benia laughed. "But if you are not so eager to be rid of me I will stay awhile longer at least to share in this delicious feast the elves have kindly prepared for us."

"Only a fool would be eager to rid himself of such radiant beauty," he answered pleased that she would not be leaving so soon.

After washing the pair shared breakfast and pleasant conversation, there was no mention of Naiore, Kaldir or even the journey that brought them to their present location. Instead they shared what fond memories they had to share. Dúlrain described to Benia the beauty of the sun rising over the sleepy hills of Evendim with it’s golden rays touching the calm waters of lake Nenuial in the lands north of the Shire that when he was not wandering he called home. Benia smiled warmly at his description delicately closing her eye as if recalling some distant memory. When she again opened them she described to him the shifting sands of her desert home, and how the moonlight glinted a silvery blue hue against the majestic peaks of the grey mountains to the west of Harad’s great desert. They continued to share these small intimate details about themselves and their lives until the door to the room again opened admitting the elven lady Léspheria. Benia remained and he felt her hand gentle squeeze his assuringly as the elven healer bade him good morning, then carefully removed his dressing. They both gasped with surprise the wound was all but fully closed scar tissue and extensive bruising the only clues that any real damage had been done.

“B...But I don’t understand it still feels like I have been hit by a mountain?” Dúlrain muttered shaking his head in confusion.

“That is to be expected,” Léspheria grinned. “There was some external damage that shall need a little longer to heal. While I can manipulated the bodies own restorative powers nature still demands that we keep a little bit of pain to remind us that we are not indestructible, but I can give you something to help lessen natures toll if you require it.”

“No that will not be necessary, but thank you. It will do me no harm to be reminded of my limits,” he laughed wryly.

“Perhaps,” Léspheria smiled “But you should rest, allow the healing to transpire.” She stressed with a gentle firmness. This news distressed him but Léspheria assured him it would not be for long and with Benia’s concerned gaze he relented. The Lady then left to attend the others of her halls leaving them again alone. The day was drawing on and short while later Benia also excused herself, “I too must leave, she is right you should rest. I Promise I will return as soon as I have seen that Gilly is well and we have spoken a little.”

“I will hold you to that promise,” he smiled. “But I would ask one favour,”

“Anything!” she grinned.

“I would know what has become of the others of my company, Kaldir, Amandur, Rauthain and even master Longholes.” He asked staring out of the window, wondering if they had already continued on without him.

“I will see what I can find out,” She smiled drawing him back from his thoughts, still holding her hand he pulled her gently forwards and kissed her tenderly, a long lingering kiss before letting her go. Alone again with nothing to do but stare at the ceiling he carefully replayed the events of the past few weeks in his head until sleep again took him.

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Ealasaide's Post - Benia

As soon as Benia left Dúlrain’s side and entered the hallway, she noticed the absence of rangers about. The halls were remarkably quiet, with very few elves making their ways quietly down the wide hallways, speaking in hushed tones amongst themselves, although the hour was not yet late.

“There must be something happening...” she whispered to herself, but even as she did so, she raised one hand to her lips, remembering the tenderness of Dúlrain’s kisses. She was too happy to want to trouble herself with the graver matters at hand. For just a short while, anyway, she wanted to revel in her happiness at both Dúlrain’s recovery and their newly acknowledged love for one another. She did not want to think about Naiore or any of the other unfortunate circumstances that had surrounded their arrival in Imladris. She just wanted to be in love.

But the world would not wait. She had promised Dúlrain that she would find out what she could for him about what had happened with the others and what was happening now, whether they had gone on without him or remained there in Imladris. Seeing the near empty hallways, Benia wondered if the others had indeed already left. She decided to go in the direction of the Great Hall to see what she could discover. After that, she would seek out Gilly.

She had not gone far when she was intercepted by Celebnariel, the elven lady who had been left in charge of caring for the needs of Imladris’ guests. The elven lady broke away from a group of other elves and came to meet Benia as she rounded a corner.

“Greetings, Miss Nightshade,” Celebnariel said softly. “Is there something you need? I do apologize if I have been remiss in some way.”

Smiling, Benia shook her head. “Oh, no, Lady Elf, you have been most kind. Since Dúlrain is so much improved, I thought I might see what I could learn of the others of our party... Kaldir, Rauthain... Toby Longholes. I have not laid eyes on any of the lot of them since getting here and was wondering after their welfare.”

Celebnariel’s fair features grew serious. “I can assure you that they are fine, but I am afraid you must wait a little while longer before seeing them with your own eyes. Elladan and Elrohir have called a counsel that meets as we speak. Your friends are all in attendance there.”

“And my friend, Mrs. Banks, as well?” asked Benia, her amber eyes turning grave.

Celebnariel smiled gently. “No, the counsel is only for those who actively pursue the Ravenner, whose name I shall not speak in these halls. They are deciding what course of action they will take next. As for your hobbit friend, I believe she may be found in her room, engaged in something she calls...tatting?”

Benia laughed softly at the elven woman’s confusion. “Yes, that is something she does. It’s a form of lacemaking.”

“I see.” Celebnariel nodded. “Would you like me to take you to her?”

Gratefully, Benia accepted the elven woman’s kind offer. Momentarily, she found herself outside Gilly’s door. Benia knocked gently at the beautifully carved door and, receiving no answer, knocked again. Still receiving no reply, she pushed the door open only to find Gilly sound asleep in an easy chair before the fire, a newly started bit of tatting on her lap. Benia sat down in the chair opposite her friend.

“Gilly!” she called softly. “Wake up! I’ve so much to tell you.”

“Miss Benia!” Gilly exclaimed, blinking owlishly. “There you are at last! So is Dúlrain feeling better now?”

“So much better!” A wide smile broke across Benia’s face. “Lady Lèspheria has indeed worked wonders. The wound is completely closed and he...” she paused, reaching across to take hold of Gilly’s hand. “Gilly, he loves me.”

Gilly smiled and squeezed Benia’s hand in return. “That’s wonderful, Benia. You have no idea how happy it makes me to see you so happy. I take it you share the same feelings for him?”

“With all my heart.” Benia sat back in her chair, a dreamy smile playing around the corners of her lips. “I fell in love with him the moment he lifted my veil on that dusty little backstreet in Bree. Do you believe it possible merely to look upon someone once and know that you love him? I never believed it could happen to me. Or that someone of his... his stature could ever care for me. Any minute now I am afraid I will wake up and find myself back on that cold riverbank, dripping wet, with Dúlrain at death’s door and Kaldir barking orders at us...”

“Yes, that was an awful time, wasn’t it?” agreed Gilly. “But it really is over now. So much has changed since then, hasn't it? We are all warm and safe and dry and, I, for one, hope to be headed back to The Shire soon. Would you believe that Kaldir has offered to take me back himself?"

"Has he!" exclaimed Benia. "Well, that would only be right. If it weren't for him neither of us would be here in Imladris, anyway. I suppose, in an odd way, I cannot hold fault with him as I owe him my current happiness. But you, it would only be right for him to see you home again."

Gilly sighed. "Yes, I am anxious to see Carl and the boys as soon as possible. It's only been a few weeks since I left them, but it really does feel like a lifetime. What about you? Do you know what you will do next?”

Benia hesitated. “I-I don’t know. I suppose it depends on Dúlrain. Before all of this happened I had planned to join some of my mother’s people on a journey back to Harad, but I am afraid I have long missed them now. And, I confess, I am rather hoping to spend a bit of time with Dúlrain if I can, before his duty calls him away.”

“Yes, I guess they do still have the matter of that evil elf out there to deal with.”

“Yes,” rejoined Benia. “I hear that Kaldir and Rauthain and the rest of them are in counsel as we speak devising a plan.”

Gilly nodded, acknowledging that she had heard the same thing. The two of them talked a bit longer, discussing what they knew of their companions’ activities since arriving in Imladris and so on. Finally, Benia bid her friend a good night and returned to the Hall of Healing and Dúlrain. While she would not be able to tell him what had happened at the counsel, she would be able to assure Dúlrain that all of his companions were in good health and they had not left him behind.

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Amandur

Restless Amandur had risen early leaving both his charges to seemingly wander free. However Amandur was neither reckless or naïve, he had many friends among the elves of Rivendell who when need be would act as his eyes and ears. Neither Avanill nor Toby would even be aware that they were being watched until they tried to do something stupid like leave without him knowing. His frustrations at not yet capturing the treacherous Naiore Dannan weighed heavy on him, but as he paced the empty halls he knew that she was not his only concern, though ultimately the elf and her ties had become the main cause of his unrest. No matter how much he tried he could not ignore the fact that this elf he hunted in the name of the king; a woman that had brought so much pain and suffering to the free peoples of middle earth was cousin to the elven woman he loved. A kind and gentle spirit whose sole purpose in life was to see peace established and maintained throughout the lands. So opposite were they that it was almost inconceivable that they were of the same race let alone of the same blood, but there it was that one small tie that wormed a little fear and uncertainty into his mind.

From the beginning it had always crossed his mind that Naiore would not be one to come willingly to face the Kings judgement and even now with Avanill’s promise of a miraculous potion he was not entirely sure she would allow herself to be taken alive. He already felt Léspheria slowly slipping away from him as she closed her mind, hiding her emotions from the prying intrusiveness of her cousin. Distancing herself from the others, him more so of late so it seemed. That she saw their feelings for one another as a weakness pained him deeply, could she not see that without her his life had no meaning; no purpose, his time in Ammunias had shown him that. He had found no contentment in his position without her there to share it with him. Something had been missing and it had taken this journey to show him what it was and now he was to forget that and bury his feelings so Naiore could not use them against him. Already she was a wedge between them, weather she knew it or not. If he killed her he would loss Léspheria and if he did not he feared he would still loss her, at least the kind and emotional elven woman he fell in love with.

With a heavy sigh he looked up, only to realise that his restless wanderings had brought him to the halls of the healers. Looking around his gaze finally met a familiar face, not a healer but Celebnriel an attendant of the house and a confidant of the lady Léspheria, she gave him a almost knowing smile as she asked him if she could be of assistance.

“Good morning mistress Celebnriel,” he grinned back. “I would speak with Lady Léspheria if she is available.”

“Alas Master Amandur you call at such an early an hour, the lady and her guest still lay in silent slumber and should not be disturbed.” The elven attendant smiled sympathetically.

“Then I shall return later at a more respectable hour,” Amandur replied with a short nod of understanding.

“I shall inform the lady that you called, she will be most pleased to hear that you are well my Lord,” Celebnriel smiled playfully giving him the honouree title he refused to accept, then turned to resume her morning duties.

“My Lady I would ask one more question of you if you can spare me a moment,” he called after her. She stopped and slowly turning she bent her head in acquiescence to his request.

“I would hear of another guest of these halls, a ranger and friend, Master Dúlrain?” Amandur asked his brow furrowed in genuine concern for his comrade. “When last I saw him he was in a bad way, I would hear if his condition has improved.”

Casting a brief glimpse at the door she had just left the elven woman smiled warmly, “Then be at ease Master Ranger your friend is well and even now is awake. His fever broke in the night, he is still a little tended but he will live.”

“Ai, that is good news indeed,” he smiled his troubled brow relaxing slightly. “I would speak with him if the healers deem him well enough to do so?”

“Ah, alas my friend I must again be the one to refuse your request, as the young ranger is not alone. The healers have deemed that he not be troubled by to many guests at once, he still must rest.” She smiled regretfully, “But I shall inform him that you have called and to expect you later in the day.”

“Thank you Celebnriel,” he replied wistfully

“I am sorry I could be of no better help to you,” she smiled shaking her head.
“Not at all Mistress, That I know the lady Léspheria and Master Dulrain are well is service enough and I thank you.” He said returning her smile. Giving a short incline of her head in gratitude she turned and went back to her daily chores of attending the needs of Rivendell’s guests.

As he made his way to the feasting halls he pondered who the guests where that Celebnriel had mentioned but not named, he guessed that Léspheria’s guest had to be Vanwe, it only seemed logical that they would be together and that they would have had much to discuss. As to Dulrian’s guest that could be either Rauthain or Kaldir, he assumed that latter after the conversation they had shared the previous night.

He just reached the halls when he was approached by an elven messenger, “Master Amandur?” the elven lad asked catching his breath and slightly unsure if he was addressing the right man.

“I am he,” Amandur replied,

“My Lords Elohir and Elladan ask that you join them for breakfast.” The elf said having now caught his breath.

Nodding his assent Amandur followed the young elf through the long corridors to a fair sized study, within sat at an oval oak table were the Lords Elladan and Elohir. They were not alone to Elohir’s right sat Belegar the proud and stolid captain of Rivendell’s guard, then opposite him sat two tall and extremely lean fair headed elves, their garb and the delicately carved long bows that sat at their sides marked them as elves of the Galadrim. At the window looking out over the silent beauty of the valley and lost in thoughtfully recompense was Lord Celeborn.

“Come join us Amandur,” Elladan gestured indicating an empty seat next to Belegar, the table was laden with an assortment of fresh fruit, breads meats and refreshments. As he took his place Elohir introduced him to the others at the table.

“Captain Belegar you know,” the elven Lord said pausing to allowing the two men a moment to nod their greetings. “Across from you are the brothers Hallaer and Voronwer, along with our Lord Celeborn they are the last of the Galadrim left in Middle earth,” Elohir smiled with a slight look of regret and sadness crossing his grey eyes as he introduce each in turn.

“Now that introductions are out of the way we will begin!” Celeborn announced turning from the window and taking his place at the head of the table. “Belegar if you please,” he nodded to the elven captain.

“Yes my Lord, The orcs have retreated and no trace of them now remain from here to the forest of Rhudaur, we have burned the bodies and set guards at every entrance to the valley as a precaution, should the orcs think to be so bold again.” Belegar reported.

“And Naiore?” Celeborn asked as he filled his goblet, with the clear crystal waters of the mirrormere.

“We followed her trail through Rhudaur and nor-east toward Hithaeglir, but lost her at the edge of the wilds. It seems to us that defeated she fled with her orc ramble back to their dark holes in the mountains,” Voronwer reported, sneering at his own implication of the elven traitors association with their most foul-some enemies.

However Amandur remained unconvinced, he had discovered from Avanill that Naiore had sent Vanwe into Rivendell to retrieve Menecin and as far as he was aware she had not yet achieved this end, no she would not give up so easily, he thought shaking his head. “ She has not yet retrieved that, which she came for,” he spoke aloud seeing the perplexed stares of the others. “If I have learned anything of our quarry it is that she does not give up so easily, many years have the rangers hunted the Revennor of Mordor and many times she has given us the slip, but not before accomplishing her objective.”

“I assure you Master ranger that she shall not slip into this valley without us knowing it!” Captain Belegar announced defensively.

“Forgive me Captain I meant no offence, merely to point out the ladies determination. I have recently learned that Naiore’s goal was not to enter these halls but to have her daughter lure Lord Menecin from the safety of his protectors.” He added apologetically.

“So the orc were a diversion?” Hallaer cut in frowning with disdain at Naiore’s cunning.

“But she did not count on Vanwe strength to resist her compulsions and on meeting her father and seeing her mothers lies her daughter has forsaken her mothers request and Naiore has lost and will be forced to move on or risk being found!” Elladan announced with a satisfied grin. But Amandur again shook his head.

“No Grandson,” Celeborn said, turning to study Amandur’s troubled grey eyes” I do not believe she will move on until the last remnants of her elven past are completely erased. The elf we once knew is gone and only the shadow remains, twisted with hatred that she would stop at no ends to achieve her goal, this is what you believe is it not Captain Amandur?”

Amandur nodded that this was so, “But my Lord, if she mounts a second attack I do not know that we will be able to hold, we lost many a good elf in the first assault, that our numbers are to few too resist!” Captain Belegar frowned.

“No the orcs failed her once I do not think she will use them again,” Elohir put in his eyes narrowing in silent contemplation, “no if what Amandur says is true she will come herself.”

“This can not be allowed!” Celeborn announced fixing Amandur with his steady gaze, “Elven blood must not be allowed to be spilled in these hallowed grounds, it that was for this very reason that we agreed to allow King Elessar decide what was to be done with Naiore.” Amandur nodded understanding fully what was being asked of him.

“I will have the guards fall back a little to tighten the net that she may not slip through unnoticed,” Belegar said raising to his feet. He then looked uncomfortably between Amandur and his Elven Lords, as if unsure that he should speak of his other concern in front of the ranger.

“We are all friends here,” Elladan prompted.

“What of the bard?” Belegar whispered, “I do not have the elves to spare to search for him.”

Amandur started at this new revelation, “Menecin is missing, Naiore may already be here!” he exclaimed ready to jump from his seat and check that Lespheria and Vanwe where indeed still safe in their room as Celebnriel had informed him.

“At ease master ranger,” Celeborn said resting a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “As far as we know Naiore has not the bard, rather he has chosen to part our company and as yet I know not if this is for better or worse.” He sighed forlornly.

“We will use what skills we possess to locate the bard and try to convince him to return!” Hallaer and Voronwer offered together, as they rose from the table.

“Very well, but tread carefully, we know not to what end Menecin’s madness will drive him.” Celeborn warned.

“I will go with you!” Amandur said rising to his feet, the two elves looked at each other then smiled sympathetically understanding his need to act. “We thank you for your offer, but we will be quicker alone. We mean no offence but if we are force into a confrontation, what use will you be.” They said indicating his bound sword arm. Remembering his injury he nodded his understanding and sat back down as the elven brothers followed by the captain of the Guards left the room.

“You should have Léspheria look at that if you are to continue with your task,” Elladan said lifting a green apple from one of the bowls and rubbing it on his tunic. “You do intend to continue,” he asked stopping the apple inches from his mouth and turning to regard him.

“Off Course!” Amandur frowned defensively.

“But you still doubt yourself and your ability to lead,” Celeborn whispered.

“I have already lost one ranger and nearly a second,” he sighed heavily raising from his seat and turning towards the window, clasping his hands behind his back.

“Death has always been a part of the rangers way of life you know this, as did Maethor?” Elohir reminded him.

“It still does not make it any easier to bare, what if I cannot protect her?” he whispered betraying the truth of his fears. The three lords looked at each other then smiling Elladan and Elohir approached him.

“Do you forget the ambush of the pass my friend, when first we fought together?” Elladan grinned.

“No,” he answered not fully understanding.

“Then you will remember who it was that saved our hides.” Elohir said suppressing a wry grin.

Looking out over the valley Amandur remembered that they along with Lespheria’s brother, Lothaniel had been dispatch on an errand into Mirkwood when they had been ambushed by Goblins in the pass. They had managed to surround them and their prospects were looking grim, when Léspheria sensing her brothers danger had come to their aid, dispatching several orcs with her bow before they could make her position and in the confusion he and the elven lords had managed to take the offensive. He grinned despite himself as he remembered this.

“I understand what you are telling me my friends, but I can no longer control my feelings for her and fear that they cloud my judgement. For her safety I would have you command her to remain and pursue Naiore no more.” He sighed.

“But this is not your choice to make, Amandur. Léspheria also has her reasons for searching for Naiore, this you know!” Celeborn gently counselled him.

“Even if it means we loss her completely?” Amandur answered turning to face them.

“Yes, if it is to be so,” Celeborn whispered. Amandur could feel the sadness in the room as they each contemplated this possibility. The elves had done everything possible to prevent the encounter that was to come, but still it would find her it seemed the fates had deemed it so and no matter what they did it was inevitable that the two were meant to eventually meet.


“You should go to her and explain to her how you are feeling I am sure she will understand, if she does not already know, “ Elohir smiled encouragingly.

“We will call counsel tonight and decide what is to be done about Naiore, for now you need to get that arm mended and talk to Léspheria,” Elladan added.

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Amandur and Léspheria

It was late afternoon by the time he found the courage to return to the halls of the healers, he stopped by Dulrain’s room hoping to find the ranger awake but it was not to be and the healers quickly ushered him away saying that the ranger needed his rest. He was directed to a small office that opened out to an enclosed garden. There he found Léspheria sitting on a bench reading from the small journal they had discovered at the home of Tallas. He started as he realised that silver tears trickled from her delicate almond shape eyes, so intent was she in what she was reading she sensed not his approach. Reaching into the pocket of his tunic with his good hand he pulled out a clean handkerchief and gently offered it to her. Looking up she smiled, taking the kerchief and wiping the tears from her eyes.

“Are you alright?” Amandur asked, sitting beside her.

“I will be,” she smiled. “I was just reading my mother’s journal,” she told him holding the book up for him to see. “I think I now understand, they where childhood friends, my mother and Naiore. They grew and learned together, forming a bond that was hard to break. Like any loyal friend she could not believe that Naiore was lost to the shadow, but she was wrong and Naiore betrayed her tricking her into giving secrets that she relied to our enemies in Dul Guldor. After that my mother realised that the only way to save her cousin was to set her spirit free, so she pursued Naiore back to Mordor were too late she discovered that the flaw was Naiore’s alone, a flaw created in her thirst for knowledge.”

“And you, what do you believe?” Amandur asked cautiously taking her free hand in his. She was surprised by his question and for a moment lost for words, “I do not believe that there is anything left to save if that is what you mean, though I wish there was for Vanwe's sake,” she frowned.

“Forgive me I had to ask, you do know that it may be…” he began, but raising a delicate finger to his lips she silenced him.

“I do know,” she nodded. “I just ask that it be the last resort, if all else fails.”

Looking deep into her eyes he nodded, even if he did not understand her reasons he trusted her. Realising that he was staring he let go of her hand and looked away embarrassed that he had been so bold, when she had already request that he bury his feelings.

“I am sorry I can not do it, I can no more hide how I feel than I can prevent the sun from rising,” he sighed.

“No, my love it is I who should be apologising,” she exclaimed taking his hands. “I was wrong together we are stronger, I see that now.” She smiled hopefully.

“My love!” Amandur echoed “Are you sure?” he asked knowing what she would have to give up to bind herself to him.

“I am, I always have been, only I have been to blind to see it, can you forgive me.” She replied sadly.

Overcome with joy he pulled her gently into his arms, not even feeling the pain shooting up his arm as he held her tight, their lips met and he kissed her passionately with the longing of a thousand ages. There they remained in each other’s embrace until Léspheria remembered his injury.

“You should let me fix this,” she smiled affectionately. He nodded allowing her to remove his dressing and as she worked they discuss what they had both discovered since arriving in Rivendell, though for the moment he did not tell Léspheria of Menecin’s disappearance not wishing to worry her further.

As the first stars began to twinkle in the evening sky a bell rang to summon them to counsel, “What ever course you decide I will follow, but please I beg you do not ask me to remain,” Léspheria whispered taking his now fully healed arm.

“I promise you I will not,” he whispered nodding his head, then together they made there way to the council chambers of the Lords of Rivendell.

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The Counsel of Rivendell

Once all were assembled the Lords of Rivendell rose and silence settled on the room, “Welcome friends, we are gathered here this evening to discuss a matter of grave concern!” Elladan Announced.

“For too long has the lady of the swan been allowed to roam free in our lands, her crimes against the free peoples of middle earth left unpunished?” Elohir added taking in the steady gaze of all those gathered.

“But no longer, you are gathered here this evening all connected in one way or another to the ladies crimes, together you possess the knowledge and skill to put an end to the ladies reign of terror!” Elladan concluded gesturing for Amandur to speak.

“It is the decree of King Elessar that this criminal is brought to Minas Tirith to face the Justice of Gondor and their Allies,” Amandur informed the counsel pulling a worn parchment from his vest and passing it about for all to see.

“And just how do you propose we do that?” Kaldir asked dryly looking over the kings orders.

“That is what we are here to discuss!” Amandur answered patiently.

“Even if you do manage to capture her, how long do you think you can keep her?” Kaldir hmpf’d shaking is head. “Even in bonds she will find ways to manipulate and toy with our minds setting us against each other for her own twisted pleasure!” he hissed through grated teeth.

“That eventuality has been brought to our attention already and my young friend here thinks he has a solution!” Rauthain put in, gesturing for Avanill to rise and submit his idea.

“I have some skill in appocrathy and have concocted a potion that will subdue the mind of its victim without ardently affecting the victim’s motor functions!” Avanill grinned, confident in his work.

“And just how do you intend to administer this potion, you just can not walk up to the Revennor of Mordor and demand that she drink!” Kaldir demanded sceptically, his pale eyes narrowing in distrust.

“Darts!” Avanill replied his gaze coldly meeting Kaldir distrust. “It is the only way!”

“There is a surer way!” Kaldir retorted, his hand patting the hilt of his sword.

“No!” Lespheria interceded rising to her feet, drawing the looks of the others. “What I mean is that it should be our last resort and only if all else fails,” she explained.

“Bringing the Revennor to Minas Tirith will serve to strengthen Gondors alliances and aid in securing peace with the south lands,” She informed the gathering.

“So your interest is merely political!” Kaldir growled, Amandur made to rise in Léspheria’s defence but she patiently raised a hand to stopped him.

“No, Master Kaldir, that is but one reason for pursuing the lady, like you I too have every reason to pursue the lady and demand vengeance, but that is not the way! I will keep no secrets from you Naiore killed my mother and that they were cousins was of no consequence to her as it is not to me! She stated firmly.

“We need not become like her to beat her!” Léspheria said her voice softening to a gentle whisper. Kaldir stared for a moment then reluctantly nodded his understanding.

As Léspheria again took her seat Amandur rose, “Then it is set we will track our criminal dispatching any resistance she may set against us, Avanill will administer his drug then we will return to Gondor our prisoner in tow,” he refreshed. “Kaldir you and Rauthain shall take point, Lespheria and Avanill will be with me, when the lady is within sight we will regroup and pen her in that Avanill can take his shot!” He concluded.

The others nodded their agreement, while Kaldir lowered his head contemplating his own recently perceived weakness. “Is there a problem Kaldir?” Amandur asked seeing the ranger’s pensive look.

“Down by the river…” Kaldir began reluctantly, still struggling with sharing this weakness, but realising that if he was to be again accepted by his brethren he would have to gain their trust. “I caught a brief glimpse of Naiore, but this is not what vexes me,” he continued looking directly at Amandur, carefully avoiding the gaze of Rauthain and the others. “I had her in my sight but I froze unable to move as the memories of my previous encounter with the lady assaulted my mind, If it had not been for the courage of Mrs Banks I would not be here now!” he admitted grudgingly.

“My Cousin has that affect on all who have had the unhappy misfortune to have survived her encounter and some who have not!” Léspheria sadly admitted, drawing the gaze of the tortured ranger. “But I can help, I can teach you how to gather up these memories and lock them away behind a wall that even my cousin with her formidable skills can not penetrate!” she smiled sympathetically, “I have been teaching this skill to Vanwe and can teach it to you if you are willing to learn.”

Kaldir looked at her sceptically his eyes narrowing as he contemplated her offer. Reading his doubt Léspheria continued, “I too like my cousin can read the emotions of others, but unlike her I do not toy with or manipulate these emotion but as a healer I have learned how to use positive emotions to lock up those that others would use against us to hurt us or change us! I can teach you how to defend yourself from Naiore’s invasiveness! ”

Kaldir stared for a moment in silent disbelief, then nodded, “I thank you my Lady and will be grateful for any assistance you can offer in this matter.” he courteously replied.

“Then it is settled, we will leave tomorrow under the cover of darkness!” Amandur announced.

“But what of the others, Benia, Mrs Banks, Vanwe and Master Longholes,” Rauthain asked

“It will be too dangerous for them to continue on with us, they would be safer here if my lords will permit it?” Amandur stated, turning to Elladan and Elohir for their consent.

“Indeed the ladies and master Longholes are welcome to remain our guests until your return,” Elohir graciously assented.

“We believe it best if Lady Vanwe remains here with us, there is much she does not know and more that she yet must learn. It is now clear to us that if given the chance Naiore would harm both Lord Menecin and her daughter and any other of her house who would get in the way!” Elladan added his concerned gaze falling pointedly on Léspheria, who nodded, fully understanding his warning.

“Then it looks like you are decided, we wish you all…”Elohir began, but was cut short by a cry from the stairs.

“No Wait!” They all turned to see Vanwe breathlessly enter the room from the stairs, she started at the sight of both Kaldir and Avanill, the bounty hunter she thought was sent to return her to her desert prison and the insidious mercenary hired by her mother to aid in her villainous plans. However, she quickly composed herself and spoke.

“You must let me come with you, I would know what is to become of my Mother!” she announced flatly, her gaze turning to Léspheria for support.

“It would be safer for you to remain here where we can protect you and your father,” Elohir gently pressed.

“I thank you my Lords for you kindness and your protection, but she is my mother and no matter her crimes that will not change!” she replied turning to address the lords of Rivendell.

“I don’t Condone the things she is accused of doing nor do I believe she should go unpunished," she continued turning to face the rangers.

“But I must be permitted to come with you, if for no other reason than to see this nightmare to its end!” she ended again facing Léspheria her eyes pleading, hoping that she at least would understand.

Léspheria turned to her lords expectantly, the same pleading in her eyes, she did understand Vanwes need, she too harboured the same need if not for the same reason.

Reluctantly the Lords of Rivendell conceded stressing that Vanwe was now Léspheria’s responsibility, the elven healer nodded her understanding gesturing for Vanwe to take a seat beside her while they waited for the decision of the rangers after all the capture of Naiore was their task! But moved by her determination and strength of words the rangers eventually agreed to her inclusion.

“Then all is set,” Elohir began anew smiling in Vanwes direction, “We wish you success and pray that the Valar keep you safe and guide you in this arduous task,” His brother finish, marking the end of the counsel of Rivendell.

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Last edited by piosenniel; 08-26-2004 at 01:40 AM.
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Old 07-16-2004, 10:48 PM   #270
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White Tree

Once again after the longest of times, Avanill found himself alone again. Rauthain and the other rangers had gone on their separate ways to do their business. Avanill stood for a time in the middle of the path just below the ranger’s quarters which had been provided for them. He was taken aback by the beauty of Rivendell and he had seen no sight as spectacular as it in all his travels. He wandered why the elves would leave such a place.“This world is too big for me” he sighed, shaking his head as he sat down on a near by stone bench.

There he put his head in his hands and rubbed the dark circles which had formed under his eyes. At this rate, the young man thought, he would be looking old well before his time. He quickly pushed this thought from his mind as he realised once again that he was alone . Avanill could not deny that the temptation to slip away was of colossal proportions. He sat back on the bench and looked around and for a few seconds his breathing became laboured before he shook himself. “No” he said to himself “Your smart Avanill but you can’t go now, they will need you if they get their hands on her . He grinned, the thought of Naiore in chains, and Avanill was sure that he could be the only one who could subdue her.

Suddenly he had a thought, one which he had failed to notice before this minute. Would the rangers kill Naiore? Avanill, being form the ‘underworld’ knew that this was the only conceivable option for a villain as Naiore who had been caught, but somehow Avanill thought that things may not work that way under Elessar. Could there be a possibility that she may escape and come after him? After all it’s only what he would do. Frightened by this thought he stood up and shook himself again and walked away at a steady pace.

Last edited by Everdawn; 07-19-2004 at 01:50 AM.
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Old 07-17-2004, 11:04 PM   #271
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Rauthain

After many hours spent in planning, the room had become hot and close. Elladan and Elrohir were among the first to leave. Throwing wide the doors, Elrond’s sons spoke to encourage them once more, before turning so that all might follow them, ascending the steps into the stillness of the evening. It was a great relief when the cool night air spilled down the stairway washing over them, slowly rousing them from their sober thoughts of what lay ahead.

As the room emptied, only Kaldir and Rauthain remained behind, watching the others leave. And standing up after a few moments, Kaldir nodded to the old ranger and wordlessly moved toward the threshold. “Tarry yet awhile,” Rauthain requested. Turning slowly, Kaldir silently fixed him with his pale eyes. “I have marked what concerns you,” the ranger explained. “And it has troubled me also. Since I first learned that you followed the Ravennor I wondered what hold she might yet exert over you.”

"She has no power over me or my actions." Kaldir assured him. "I worry less what she might attempt, for what can she do but kill me? Of greater weight is what I might do to fail my companions or myself. She has left many scars upon my mind that have yet to heal fully. It is that weakness that concerns me. No other."

“Do not be unduly troubled by this, for you will not ride alone. And Dúlrain has your well being at heart as well as your interests.”

“And he lays injured as you have seen, attended to by Miss Nightshade. I do not think that he will be up to such a task,” Kaldir pronounce dryly.

“Ah Miss Nightshade! I suppose there are worse things than being wounded in body. If only one could be sure to receive her tender ministrations,” Rauthain sighed.

Kaldir allowed a faint smile at these words; “She has proven her merit, has she? Yet she is not quite as docile as you seem to believe.”

“No matter. One can easily overlook such things.”

“Are you so determined to carry on my father’s work to see me wed, that again you bring it up?” Kaldir’s said, his voice edging toward impatience.

Seeing this, Rauthain joked, “Married? You? No, I know better than to place my hope on that. I only thought to ask her to keep house for me in my advancing age, so that I might protect her from men who would toy with her affections, such as you and Dúlrain. Though you may visit, of course.”

“If it is a housekeeper you want, I would suggest Mrs. Banks,” Kaldir countered, visibly relaxing. “She has skill enough to make even your poor rations palatable!” he quipped, turning to climb the steps.

Rauthain laughed, “I see you do remember small things! But stay a little while longer, for I have not spoken yet of what is forefront in my mind.” Obliging, Kaldir paused on the stairway. “It was only a short time ago when my focus lay solely on capturing Naiore, to vindicate myself as well to avenge who you once were. But now I see that such things must be secondary, and that my past continually threatens to overshadow my usefulness. Dúlrain will not be the only one to keeping watch over you. You have my word.”

Kaldir smiled grimly, his eyes meeting Rauthain's evenly. "While I appreciate your offers of vigilance, I assure you that I am in no need of a nursemaid. As for the past, perhaps I am as much at fault as you ever were in that I believed myself stronger than I was. I do not plan to make that mistake again. This time, I shall bear my limitations in mind. As for yourself, you would be better served by concentrating on the matter at hand than by worrying yourself with me."

“I will remember your words, but humor me, for I too am determined not to make the same mistakes again,” Rauthain said getting up to join Kaldir. And together they climbed the steps, leaving the stagnant air of the counsel hall behind them.
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Old 07-19-2004, 07:21 PM   #272
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Naiore

As the daylight failed and nighttime once more overtook the woods behind the Last Homely House, Naiore Dannan again uncurled her long legs and slid out of her place of concealment in the tree. Glad to be able to move about again, she stretched once, gracefully, before tossing her long braids back over her shoulder and taking up her bow. She had dozed off and on throughout the day, watching and listening when there was something to be learned, sleeping when there was not. So far, though, there had been no sign of Vanwe nor any further sign of Menecin, since she had heard his voice the evening before. Still, she waited, believing in the effectiveness of her works, in the power of her maternal hold over Vanwe. The little whelp would not fail her. She would bring Menecin.

In the meantime, Naiore had learned very little that could be of use to her. She had not seen either of the traitors Avanill or Toby Longholes, nor had she seen Léspheria, though she could sense the healer’s presence. Her cousin. A cold smile touched the corners of Naiore’s fair lips. “If only, dear cousin,” she murmured. “You would come for a walk in the woods...”

The only one who actually had come for a walk in the woods, or close to it, had been the bounty hunter. He had stopped within easy hearing distance for a little talk with the old Ranger Naiore had seen first at the Forsaken Inn. They had had a rather dull chat about old times and the bounty hunter’s late father, whether or not the bounty hunter should take a wife and so on. The only thing that she considered of even mild interest was the fact that the bounty hunter’s ladylove was indeed present in Imladris, a southern woman from the sound of it. Naiore wondered if it was the same southern woman she had seen hanging around at the Forsaken Inn, the same woman she had seen mounting the stairs during the battle two nights earlier. She was fairly certain that it was, and filed the knowledge away in the back of her mind. Perhaps it would come in handy, perhaps not.

Of more interest to Naiore at the moment, though, was the information that Kaldir had misplaced his horse. She had seen the great gray horse on a number of occasions and been impressed by the strength and speed of the beast. If she could find the stallion before his master did, it could be of great advantage to her. She would be in need of a swift steed to make her escape, once she had dealt with Menecin and Vanwe to her satisfaction. Kaldir’s stallion would fit her needs beautifully.

Moving like the shadow of a shadow, Naiore retrieved her pack from where she had hidden it beneath a stand of bushes and slung it easily across her shoulders. She would leave the elven refuge and make a quick reconnaissance of the surrounding area. Since she planned to be on her way again shortly, as soon as her business had been concluded, she needed to decide on the best way out of the area. If she found the bounty hunter’s stray horse in the process, then so much the better.

Choosing her steps carefully, so as to leave no tracks, Naiore left the valley by the same hidden pathway by which she had arrived. As the moon rose higher, she followed the steep path northward into the foothills of the Misty Mountains, planning to circle around to the south of Imladris and ford the river upstream of the Stone Bridge.

Gaining the high ground of the plateau above Imladris, Naiore paused at the tree line, her slender figure still hidden amongst the last fringe of trees. Her starlit eyes scanned the open ground. She must be very, very certain that no one watched before she stepped out of the shadows. Finally satisfied that the way was clear, she broke cover and fairly flew across the open ground, taking shelter again in the shadow of tall, standing stone. She was just preparing to pass the side of the stone and move on when she heard the sound of a voice coming from the far side. A very familiar voice.

“By Garn! Bite me again and I’ll gut ya, ya worthless nag...” the voice trailed off for a moment, before starting up again with a litany of mixed grumbles and curses.

Reaching out with her mind, Naiore’s thoughts touched a familiar entity. Smiling a smile that held no hint of warmth, she confidently rounded the side of the tall stone, her silken garrote held loosely between her fingers. Avanill and Longholes had turned traitor. If Barrold Ferny had, as well, then it would certainly be the worse for him. Perhaps she could take a few minutes to explore what Barrold Ferny knew about fear, then she would leave his carcass on the rocky ground for the crows. Perhaps with an orc’s arrow protruding from his chest? She must be sure to conceal her tracks.

He was hunched over in a small clearing bordered by the large stone and a few scrubby bushes, trying to start a fire with a flint and striker. The twigs he had chosen for tinder, however, were too green and smoldered stubbornly, refusing to light. Ferny’s swearing grew increasingly louder. Beyond him, Naiore was pleased to see the silhouette of a large horse. A large gray horse. The smile on her lips widened ever so slightly.

“I see you have found me a horse,” she said smoothly, stepping into the clearing. “Very good.”

“Hguh!” grunted Ferny with a start. He stumbled backward, his eyes fixed first on the black leather of her boots, then flying upward to her face. “Wot! You’re back then...” he grumbled. “Not even an ’ello, Barrold, or nothing. ’Ere I’ve been waiting for you, got you a good horse n’ everything...”

A dangerous glint came into Naiore’s beautiful eyes as she looked down at him. “Do you find fault with me, Barrold?” she asked. “Do not forget to whom you speak.”

Ferny’s eyes narrowed slightly, then he smiled. “Naw, no fault with you, ma’am.” Looking past her into the darkness, he pushed himself to his feet. “Where’s yer daughter? Isn’t she coming with us?”

“Coming with us?” questioned Naiore. “Of course. I promised her to you, didn’t I? But we are not going anywhere yet. Our work here is not yet done.”

Ferny groaned and spat noisily at the ground. “Not yet done... the place is crawling with elves and orcs and I ’ad a ‘elluva time getting this ’ere ’orse up ’ere, biting and kicking the whole way. Whaddya mean we aren’t leaving?”

“We leave when I say we leave and not a moment before,” answered Naiore, her voice velvety and soft, but firm. “I know where you are now and here you will stay until I return. I have business still in the elven refuge and will return with Vanwe when we are finished. You and the horse will be ready and waiting.”

Ferny muttered something unintelligible and nodded grudgingly.

Naiore gave him a long stare, but something in his demeanor made her pause, turning her silken garrote between her pale fingers.

“If you leave,” she added coolly. “If you fail me, I will find you. Your worst nightmares cannot prepare you for the horror you will endure upon our next meeting.”

“Garn! I’ll be here...” Ferny muttered sullenly.

"Good," purred Naiore. "I expected nothing less. Your loyalty will be greatly rewarded. All that had been promised to the others will go to you now. And you shall have Vanwe for your bride."

A greedy grin flitted across Ferny's rough features. "Yeah. I been loyal, not like them traitors... poisoning me and running off like cowards to the Rangers..."

"Yes, cowards and traitors," echoed Naiore. "And they shall pay with their lives."

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Old 07-28-2004, 10:16 AM   #273
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Menecin

The shadows of the wood retreated as the sun rose in the east, bathing the deep valley in the light of a cloudless morning. Seeking the cool water of some rivulet that ran to meet the elven stream flowing past Imladris, Menecin abandoned his concealed outpost. With weariness, he made his way toward a rill. No rest had he allowed himself, and no food had passed his lips since he had begun this vigil. Now murmuring to Ulmo, he sought only to slake his thirst before resuming his watch over the valley.

Naiore was here. He could feel it instinctively; though he had not gained sight of her since he had left the protection the son’s of Elrond had provided him. He had in the night however, overheard a brief conversation between two guardians of the valley that the path of a golden haired woman had been found leading away from this place. And though it could well have been Hers, he knew it would be deception. She would not allow her movements to be traced unless it where to her advantage. No she had some design in this. But then it could be Vanwe’s trail, for she had no cause to conceal her passage and perhaps wished to be followed now that she had learned the truth. His hand moved to feel the cool steel of the sword he had taken from the ranger, his dark ruminations playing out behind staring eyes as his anger increased. He would not so easily fall into this trap.

At last a trickle he heard above his own thoughts, and there he found before him a small glimmering thread running down from the mountains through overhanging trees. Studying the woods for a time, Menecin could see no trace of movement in this isolated spot, and so knelt beside the stream. Scooping up its icy waters he drank deeply, clearing his head and satisfying his thirst. And with wet hands wiped his face before moving on to find this trail he had heard tell of.

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Old 07-30-2004, 09:47 AM   #274
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Naiore

Naiore re-entered the vale of Imladris from the north, following the same hidden pathway that she had made use of before. She moved quickly along the narrow path, her figure a mere shadow flitting between the gray tree trucks as she made her way back toward her place of concealment. She had tarried too long in the night, taking too much time over the serendipitous reunion with Barrold Ferny, which, in turn, had made her late in returning from her scouting run across the river. Now, as dawn’s first pale fingers of light traced across the valley, she raced to reach her vantage point in the trees before the elves of Imladris awoke and began to stir about in any true numbers.

Today. A soft smile of anticipation touched the corners of the Ravenner’s shapely lips. Something deep within her told her that today would be the day that she exacted her revenge. This gentle dawn that made the morning dew shimmer silver against the pale greens and deep browns of the forest floor, would end in a dark cast of red. She touched the hilt of her Noldorin dagger. Today, Vanwe would bring her Menecin. The waiting would be at an end.

Smiling to herself, she skirted the edge of a thick patch of undergrowth. She had only to cross the narrow rill that lay ahead. Beyond that, only a hundred more paces or so would deliver her to the vantage point she had occupied since her arrival. She would be there in no time, but she must hurry. As she broke from the cover of the underbrush, she stopped abruptly. An elven male knelt before her on the path, barring her way, his dark head bent toward the ground studying the faint mark of a single footprint. Hers? Naiore’s clear eyes narrowed, her hand closing around the hilt of her dagger. He must not be allowed to live and raise the alarm.

She drew her dagger and, moving soundlessly, slid toward him. With luck, she could cut his throat before he even became aware of her presence. She must be silent and sure.

Naiore was almost upon him when suddenly he looked up, his piercing blue eyes meeting hers. Naiore froze. For a fleeting instant, she was paralyzed by a rush of conflicting emotion... shock, disbelief... triumph. She should have known him at once. A single glance should have confirmed the line of his shoulders, the long-fingered hands, even the wave of his hair. She knew him that well, as she was sure he knew her. Deftly concealing her drawn dagger, Naiore held her ground. A falsely loving smile played across her face.

“Menecin!” she purred. “at last I have found you...” Vanwe had not failed her.
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Old 07-30-2004, 05:09 PM   #275
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Vanwe

For what seemed the hundredth time Vanwe nervously smoothed the silken folds of the elven dress that had been fitted her. She stood before the door of her fathers chambers, staring intently at the grain of the wood trying to draw courage. She had come to tell him of her intention to leave with the rangers and Léspheria when they continued their search for Naiore. She was unsure just how the bard would take the news, he had already all but warned her not to pursue her mother, but she knew in her heart that if she could not heal her mother she must at least help to see that she could bring no harm or suffering to others. She hoped her father would understand this.

Taking a deep steadying breath, she finally knocked on the door, when no answer came she knocked again. It was then that she noticed that the guards that watched the door the previous day were not present. “Father!” she called, knocking again with a little more urgency. “Where are they?” She panicked, “why does he not answer?” She turned her head looking up and down the hallway, hoping to find someone who might answer her concerns but the passage remained silent and still, the occupants of the house still in restful slumber. Thoughts of her mother raced though her mind, her eagerness to have her return with her father, the compulsions so strong that she had almost succumbed to her mothers will. In blind panic, she hammered on the door calling out her father name praying that he was but asleep and had not heard her earlier call.

But still no reply came, giving no thought as to what she may find Vanwe threw open the door and rushed inside, the room twin to her own was empty and looked as if it had not been occupied at all, there was no sign of a struggle as she had feared, but now her fear was replaced with confusion. “Were could he be?” she mused. Footsteps outside the door suddenly drew her attention and she darted forwards hoping to find the bard returning to his room, but only succeeded in startling a young elf that had come to air the room and change the linen.

“My apologies,” She sighed disappointedly, “I meant not to startle you, I had hoped you were my father,” she explained turning back towards the empty room dis-heartedly.

The young chambermaid frowned in confusion, “You don’t know… I mean no one has told you?”

“Told me what?” Vanwe asked turning back to the elf her eyes shining with fear and concern.

“Lord Menecin, Miss Vanwe, is no longer here; he took his leave of the house sometime yesterday and has not been seen since. It is said that he seeks the one responsible for the attack at the river, an elf miss they say, can you believe it!” the elf answered.

“I’m afraid I can,” Vanwe replied regretfully, a mixture of fear, anger and concern sweeping over her. How could he go after her when warning her not to do just that! Could he not see that this is what she would want! What if she had found him and killed him already! Panic filled her and her eyes widened in fear, “I must find him!” she cried as she turned and raced down the hallway to find the one person she was sure would help her, leaving the bemused elven chamber maid to stare after her in confusion.

Reaching her destination, she pounded heavily on the door. “Come,” came a sleepy voice from within and Vanwe entered to see Léspheria standing by her bed blinking the last vestiges of sleep from her eyes.

“Vanwe, what’s wrong?” She asked seeing Vanwe’s distraught features.

“He’s gone he’s gone!” is all she could manage as fat wet tears finally rolled down her cheeks. Léspheria came to her, “Who’s gone?” she asked wrapping her arms around the younger elf in an effort to comfort her.

“My father,” she sniffed. “He has been missing since yesterday. Oh, Léspheria he is looking for Naiore, I fear the worst, we must find him. What have I done for her to hate me so, first she hides me away in the desert , leaving me to suffer at the hands of the Haradrim, then she snatches me from the inn just as I find comfort and friendship and now she would take him and any kinship I may have, it‘s not fair!”

Pulling her to arms length Léspheria steadily held her gaze, “Listen to me Vanwe you have done nothing but want what should have been your from birth, family and kinship! No matter what she cannot take that from you, you have family and kin that will always be here for you. Your father too bears not fault, only that he loved your mother and for that, he has already paid a great deal. No Vanwe do not fault yourself, the fault is with Naiore and she alone must live with this.”

Stunned by the sudden strength in Léspheria’s words Vanwe wiped away her tears and nodded.

“Now come we must look for your father,” Léspheria smiled reassuringly. Vanwe waited as Léspheria threw on a forest green dress and strapped her sword to her waist, then lifting a small bundle from her dresser she handed it to Vanwe.

“I believe this is yours.” Vanwe blinked as she recognised her own pouch that she had lost when her mother had snatched her from the inn. She nodded her thanks and tied it to her belt, leaving the contents unchecked for now. Then together they left in search of the missing bard.

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Old 07-30-2004, 05:25 PM   #276
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Avanill had, that night found himself a place where he could see the stars shining brightly in the sky. For a while he pushed the worries from his mind and began naming the various constellations. Avanill smiled to himself in the dark, he knew where he was and that he could see, which was more important to him still were the stars that guided his way home. He thought of his home, and his mother who inhabited the lands nearby.

The young man understood why he had decided to join Naiore in the first place, and there had been no questions asked on the elf’s part fro he came highly recommended, by Atantri. The thing Avanill could not understand however was why his mother in the first place had become her prime black-market dealer. Had she been tempted by money? He found this unlikely because Atantri had already been wealthy. In his heart of hearts however, Avanill knew that his mother like him was tempted by what many men could not-can not refuse; greed.

Avanill turned his attentions to the ground and kicked at the dirt, he was caught mid-swing by the appearance of a Linhurin Plant. He used it often in many of his poisons- his body froze. Rauthain still had his satchel. Avanill could stand being without it for a few hours, yes but when he missed it this long he felt exposed. He tapped at his side, checking that his sword was still there in case he had to defend himself. Unlikely the young man thought but not out of the question.

He had found another bench to pass the night, deciding against going to the ranger’s quarters. He was still a little weary of them, he was after all a criminal himself, and not only for the murder of Tallas either. Besides, he had spent so much time out in the wilderness he scarcely felt at home anywhere else.

Avanill was woken in the early hours of the morning by the strange feeling that he was being watched. Once he knew of this he jumped up with a cry only to see a stoic looking male elf staring back at him, his hands clasped in front of him.
“You are Avanill?” he asked in a slow voice.

“Yes.”

“I thought as much.” Replied the elf

Avanill was still weary but had relaxed himself slightly. “And?... You are?”

“That is not important” said the elf. “As I will never be here again, I am sailing over the sea. The others sent me to find you; they were concerned that you may have left us.”

Avanill frowned. “No I haven’t left, as a matter of fact I was going to find them now, well that is as soon as I woke up.”

“Then if you may go on your way now I have established your whereabouts.” Replied the elf who then walked away.

Avanill in turn went in the opposite direction. Being woken up by an elf in the early hours of the morning was not one of his favourite things to do.

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Old 08-05-2004, 07:31 AM   #277
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Amandur

The morning sounds of woodland critters stirring echoed in Amandur’s ears as he silently searched the woods to the rear of the last house, with dawns light he had risen and sought to help look for the elusive bard, now that his arm was healed. still the bard had not been found and fear was mounting that perhaps he had found what he had been looking for! But what that actually was Amandur remained uncertain, yes he looked for Naiore but to the ranger it seemed that the old elf longed of something else entirely a release perhaps. Shaking his head wearily, he crouched again to examine the earth at his feet, but once again, he found nothing but animal tracks and woodland debris.

Looking about he decided that with the time that had passed he might be better searching the higher ground, he was just turning when a sudden snap of dried twigs caught his ear, reaching for his sword he silently crept in the direction of the sound, it had come from behind him back the way he had just come. Footsteps drew closer how many he could not tell, pressing himself behind a large pine he held his breath and waited sword ready for who ever approached.

He let out a relieved sigh and instantly lowered his sword as he saw Léspheria and Vanwe enter the clearing, Lespheria had bent in almost the same spot he had to examine the ground. “Nothing but animal tracks and the usual flora and fauna debris!” he grinned wryly slipping his sword back into his sheath and slipping out of his concealment. The two women looked up with a start, but relaxed as they realised it was him.

“I believe he may have taken to higher ground by now,” he continued pointing towards the northern ridges of the valley.

“He most certainly will have needed to stop for water some where,” Léspheria nodded wiping the soil from her hands.

“Do you think we are too late?” Vanwe asked nervously.

“I do not know, as yet I have found no trace of either elf, but they do say no news is good news?” Amandur shrugged sympathetically.

“Then we should make haste, there is a rivulet ahead, perhaps it will reveal some clue?” Lespheria urged.

“We can but hope,” Vanwe sighed and then all three silently set off in the direction Léspheria indicated the rivulet ran.

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Old 08-05-2004, 10:59 AM   #278
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Menecin

Looking up Menecin's mind reeled, his pulse quickening, shocked by sudden appearance of this proud and willowy elf who had pervaded his thoughts for so many years, her fragile and perfect beauty unchanged by the passage of time. The large silvery eyes, which sparkled in the morning light as she smiled looking down on him, bore no trace recognition of the cares that had lain so heavy on him. She seemed untouched by the horror that had issued from her, unbent under the weight of her crimes against him. "Menecin," she purred. "At last I have found you…."

As he stood up he let his gaze fall, feeling a twinge of longing that chilled him as he traced the fullness of her cheek and gentle curve neck, resting on the rhythmic flicker of light and shadow that shown there, betraying her tenuous life. So close. She had chosen her phrase well, echoing the words he had spoken to her in Ithilien, and filling him immediately with the impulse to protect her…. " Naiore," he whispered, his deep voice barely audible. For now in the new day she seemed deceptively pure once more, only her armor hinting at the darkness it protected.

He reached out to caress her cheek gently, to feel the soft warmth of her skin, allowing himself the pleasure of her feigned affection for the last time, but he stopped short. Her attempt to kill him had been all too real, and the scars too deep to be forgotten. It was no nightmare that had driven him to this precipice, but the hopelessness of an insurmountable grief that gripped him. What malignancy coursed though under that exquisite exterior to feed her cursed ambition? How had they reached this moment? He wondered. And how was he possibly to find the strength to do what was necessary? Steeling himself he looked deeply into her eyes - those eyes that seemed to carry for him the glory of Elbereth's efforts - searching for an answer. Then he, remembering the weapon he carried and his intent, despaired anew. For if he, who loved her even now, could not find it in himself to set her aright, what hope was left them? And what future could there be for his daughter, other than to follow in her mother's ways? Retreating into himself once more, he struggled with his predilection, smothering the rebellion that consumed his heart. He had one thing only to ask of her before raising a hand against her.

"Where is Vanwe?" he demanded, his voice grown suddenly hard.

"Vanwe!" echoed Naiore, the false smile on her face fading into a look of maternal concern. "Surely the child is with you. Did she not come to you?" Naiore moved a step closer toward him.

Menecin’s mind swam. It was the first time he had ever heard her speak of Vanwe to him, the child of his devotion, and his eyes narrowed as he stepped back a pace. "Why did you not tell me before of our daughter?"

"How could I tell you?" she asked, her voice still soft and soothing. "By the time I learned that I carried your child, we had long parted ways. For all I knew, you were dead. Had I known that you lived, I still could not have gotten a message through. Not from where I was." She paused, the serene smile returning to her lips. "It simply could not be done. But, you see, I have sent our daughter to you now, that she might know her father before it is too late."

He smiled wryly. "And learn what I have become? Something that I am sure you know well, for you are the architect of this prison, also laying its very foundation."

"None but the architect of a prison would know better the way out."

"I am beyond your reach," he said as she advanced once more, closing his eyes against the assault of his senses, her familiar scent plunging him into the past once more. "I can no longer grasp you, for my love is naught but illusion."

"Love is always an illusion, dear Menecin," murmured Naiore, reaching out a slender hand to touch his face. She let her fingers trail gently down his cheek to his shoulder, his arm. "That is where we have always parted ways, but touch me now. You were once the lover of my body, siring a child. See me now. I am very real." She closed her hand around his right arm, just above the elbow, pulling him into her embrace. His eyes flicked open at her tightening grip in time to see the icy coldness that had risen in her eyes and turned all of her soft words to lies. Breaking away, he took a few steps back, stumbling across the rill. Quickly brandishing the orc's sword he realized that Naiore's hand held a naked dagger, but found himself unable to attack.

Naiore took a step in pursuit of him, but stopped short, her clear gray eyes looking past him into the forest beyond, the faint murmur of approaching voices suddenly audible in the dawn silence. "She comes!" hissed Naiore. "And she brings others." She let her gaze return to Menecin, her eyes meeting his at last with undisguised contempt. "Come, my lover," she purred, turning her dagger so that the finely honed blade shimmered in the soft morning light. "Let me release you from your prison..."

Menecin froze, unable to strike at her, yet not willing to let her dispatch him either, for Vanwe's sake. Suddenly, he heard the soft rustle of leaves someway off and again the muted echo of voices. Naiore hesitated, her eyes narrowing. Menecin turned partway to discover who it was that approached, but could discern neither his daughter nor anyone else. Fearing some trick, he wheeled round to face Naiore again, only to find her gone. She had melted away into the undergrowth once more.

Staring unseeing at the scarred hands that had failed him, Menecin let drop his sword, falling to his knees to cradle his head in his hands.

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Old 08-10-2004, 07:25 PM   #279
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Benia

For the second night in a row, Benia decided to forego the lovely bed in the room that the elves had prepared for her in the guest wing of the Last Homely House in favor of a cot in Dúlrain’s room in the Hall of Healing. She slept lightly, her slumber regulated by the deep, even sound of his breathing. This night, unlike the night before, she managed to sleep without waking almost to dawn, when suddenly she was awakened by the sound of him crying out sharply in his sleep. Fearing a relapse, she rose and went to his side, only to discover that he had been dreaming. His color remained good and, at a touch of her hand, the dream seemed to subside, returning him to a peaceful quiet. Smiling gently, she kissed his forehead and turned to go back to her cot when she realized that the water pitcher on the table beside his bed was empty. Picking it up, she went to find Celebnariel or one of the elven healers to get the pitcher refilled.

Carrying the pitcher loosely in one hand, Benia walked into the corridor. Through the high, arched windows facing the east, she could see the first hints of light beginning to paint the sky. It looked to be a fine day dawning.

"Good morning, Miss Nightshade," said a deep voice behind her. She turned quickly and was surprised to find that Kaldir had appeared behind her in the otherwise empty corridor. He nodded toward Dúlrain’s door. "How is he?"

"Good." She smiled. She was surprised to find Kaldir stirring about so early, but then, she remembered, he had never slept much during the time she had spent traveling with him. He had always been up before dawn. She looked back in the direction of Dúlrain‘s room. "Actually, he is remarkably well. I would never have believed such a speedy recovery possible had I not seen it with my own eyes."

"That is a relief to hear," answered Kaldir with a smile of his own. "He was in rather desperate straits when I last saw him. I came by several times yesterday to look in on him, but each time found him either sleeping or otherwise indisposed -"

"Yes," Benia cut him off, a slight flush rising in her cheeks. "I’m sorry to have occupied him so, but I am glad to see you now. I had been hoping to speak to you about... how I behaved at the river. It was reprehensible."

"Reprehensible?" echoed Kaldir, an amused smile widening on the good side of his face. "How so?"

"Why, I fairly accused you of trying to kill him when all you were trying to do was save us all. It really was inexcusable. It’s just that I was so frightened... "

"Think no more of it, fair lady," said Kaldir, a soft light coming into his pale eyes. "I have not given it a second thought."

"It is very kind of you to say so," answered Benia. She looked down in surprise as Kaldir suddenly reached out and closed one of her hands in his, drawing her after him into a small room that the healers used to treat patients with minor injuries. "What - " she started to ask, but stopped herself as Kaldir closed the door behind them. He still had not let go of her hand. She looked at him curiously.

"I, too, had hoped to catch you alone for a moment," he explained, taking the pitcher from her other hand and setting it to the side. "I wished to speak with you about something of great importance.

"To me," he added, taking up her other hand. Benia waited as he turned her hands over between his to look at the tattoos on her palms. Not quite sure what he was up to, she watched as his finger traced down one of the fine lines of pigment. Whatever it was that he wanted to speak to her about, she thought, he certainly seemed to be taking his time to work into it, which was rather unlike him. Usually, he was so curt.

"Your tribe has an odd custom," he commented at last, "this business of tattooing their women. It marks you for easy capture and death. Why do you do it?"

Benia shrugged, still wondering where he was heading with this. "Tradition," she answered honestly. "Pride. My mother's hands were tattooed before mine. Her mother's before hers, and so on for hundreds of years, as long as our people have been in existence. We are who we are."

"I nearly killed you in order to take these hands as trophies,” Kaldir rejoined bluntly. “For which I would have been very well paid.” He gave her a sideways look. “Do you know what stopped me?"

"No." Benia shook her head. "Though I have often wondered."

"Loyalty."

At a questioning look from her, he continued, "Your loyalty to Mrs. Banks. That night in the Forsaken Inn, you made a conscious choice to allow me to carry you off to near certain death rather than to cry out and endanger your friend. Very few people would make that same choice."

Benia withdrew her hands from his and moved a few paces away. "Gilly is my dearest friend in the world. I would sooner die than see any harm come to her."

"As would I now, too, rather than see any harm come to either of you," Kaldir said quietly. "But I must ask - how do you feel about me?"

"About you?" asked Benia, her amber eyes studying his scarred face. "I-I don't know. When I first met you, you terrified me. I knew that you meant me harm and I thought more than once of how I might destroy you in order to save myself. But now..." she trailed off thoughtfully. "Now I can see that you are a man of honor, in your own way. A man of courage. And of loyalty, if one can be so lucky as to earn it from you. Dúlrain thinks very highly of you."

"Dúlrain," repeated Kaldir darkly. "Has he yet spoken for your hand?"

Startled, Benia hesitated. "No," she answered finally, barely loudly enough for Kaldir to hear her. "He has expressed some affection for me but... but he has not spoken of marriage."

"Then let me speak of it."

"You?" she exclaimed, her dark eyebrows knit in confusion. The idea that Kaldir might feel some attachment to her had never occurred to Benia. She had been so caught up in worry and fear and concern for herself and Gilly, and, more recently Dúlrain, that she had been blind to what had apparently been obvious to everyone else. Thinking back, she remembered certain comments that Gilly had made and, suddenly, Dúlrain's incoherent ramblings made sense to her, he loves her, never be mine! Disbelieving, she shook her head. She should have seen it, she thought, remembering, too, the time that Kaldir had handed her the strand of wild morning glories as he walked beside her horse the day before they had entered the Lonelands. She should have seen it.

"Yes, me," responded Kaldir, leaning back against the closed door. "Is it such a horrible thought?"

Benia blushed hotly. "No, no, not at all!" she stammered. "It's just that you surprise me. I had no idea that you cared for me. Even a little bit."

"I care for you a great deal," he answered. He pushed himself away from the door and came to stand in front of her, one hand gently grasping her elbow. The other hand touched the fine silver chain that ran across her cheekbone. "Before I met you, Benia, I knew only anger and hatred. While I thought that I was doing well for myself, I was actually drowning in it. I believed that the anger was all I had left and I nurtured it carefully. But then I met you." His rough hand cupped her cheek. "As I spent time with you, I began to believe that perhaps there was more left in the world for me than anger. I began to wish for more. Because of you, I began to wish to be a better man again."

Benia looked up at him as his pale blue eyes searched hers for some kind of response to his words. Sensing her hesitation, he continued. "With you beside me, I believe I am capable of it."

"What would you have me do at your side? Aid you in hunting down my kinsmen?"

"No." Kaldir laughed and shook his head. "I knew the bounty-hunting would trouble you. I have already spoken with Amandur about returning to the ranks of my former brethren, and leaving bounty hunting behind. He seemed amenable."

"You would do that for me?"

"I would." He looked deeply into her eyes. "And, having once practiced the trade of bounty hunter, who could better protect you from the pursuit of others who would kill you for a price? I offer you not only my love, but my protection, as well."

"And if I turn down your kind offer?"

He shrugged. "Then I see Mrs. Banks back to her home in The Shire and I will trouble you no more."

"Will you still give up bounty hunting?"

He gave his head an enigmatic tilt, then shrugged again. "Perhaps. Perhaps not." His blue eyes narrowed slightly, giving her a piercing gaze. "I suppose it depends on how things go with me when you are gone." He stepped away from her, turning his back. Benia stared at his broad shoulders.

"I don't know how much you know about me, or how much Dúlrain or others may have told you," he continued after a long pause, speaking with his back still turned to her. "I spent several years as a prisoner of Mordor during the war. Horrible things were done to me that I would not begin to describe for you. You see the scars on my face and my body, but there are other scars that you can't see, that may never heal completely. When I am with you, the pain of those scars goes away. I feel a kind of peace and calm that has been unknown to me for a very long time.

"You give me hope for the future."

Uncertain of what to say or do, Benia crossed her arms in front of herself, hugging her elbows, but still said nothing.

"I need you, Benia," he finished at last and turned to face her again. "Will you become my wife?"

Benia opened her mouth to answer, but closed it again, still speechless. So many questions whirled through her mind, not the least of which involved Dúlrain. She loved Dúlrain with all of her heart, it was true, but it was also true that Dúlrain had as yet made no offers or promises for the future. But there had been so little time. And Dúlrain knew of Kaldir's feelings for her. Would he really take it upon himself to step aside for his friend, who so obviously needed her with him? She remembered Dúlrain's words on the stairs... never be mine. Was it just delirium? Confused, Benia shook her head and reached out for the pitcher that Kaldir had taken from her and left on a side table.

"I don't know," she whispered.

Kaldir moved toward her again. "Then, you will think about it?"

"I will," answered Benia. Gravely, she looked up into his face and saw the trace of hope in his eyes. She knew then that he had meant every word that he had spoken, that he would be the best husband to her that he knew how to be. That he loved her. But what about Dúlrain? Kaldir needed her, she argued against herself. But she loved Dúlrain. Did Dúlrain really want her? And if she chose Dúlrain, what would become of Kaldir? Would he fall away again into the life that he now talked so readily of casting aside in pursuit of a better existence? The questions made her head spin. Finally, hugging the empty pitcher to her breast, she turned to go.

"I will think about your offer," she repeated awkwardly. She gave Kaldir a last troubled smile and, turning, fled the room.
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Old 08-11-2004, 05:00 AM   #280
Nerindel
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Vanwe

Vanwe could only but watch as Léspheria and Amandur methodically search the way for signs of her father’s passage, she felt useless in the presence of such skilled woods folk. Her mother and father where out there somewhere, each struck by an illness that she was powerless to cure or prevent. Her hand strayed to the knife in her belt each time a twig snapped or the leaves rustled, she glanced uneasily in every direction half expecting her mother to suddenly appear before her and the nightmare to begin anew.

“Here, look!” Amandur called, pointing to a fresh print in the damp earth of the bank. “He can’t be far ahead,” the ranger assured her as she and Léspheria came forwards for a closer look.

“He is alone, that is a good sign!” Léspheria smiled comfortingly, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Vanwe nodded, but still her hand remained wrapped around the hilt of her knife and her vigilant gaze continued to watch the trees nervously as they moved on.

“There ahead!” Amandur whispered, “I thought I saw something moving upon the rill!”

Vanwe did not hear both Amandur calling for her to wait, she had seen the movement too, it was her father she knew it! She ran headlong unheeding of the possible dangers towards him. Breaking through the trees, she found him on his knees cradling his head in his hands, a rusted sword lying inches from his feet.

“Father, are you alright?” She implored kneeling beside him, then checking him over for any sign of injury when he did not reply. Lowering his hands she looked deeply into the crystal blueness of his sapphire eyes, she could see his anguish and her own eyes now filled with a mixture of relief and genuine concern, “What were you thinking coming out here alone, what if she had found you?” Tears rolled down her cheeks as she contemplated what might have happened. “Please, I could not bear to loss you too!” she whispered lowering her gaze to the ground.

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

Léspheria

“There ahead!” Amandur whispered, “I thought I saw something moving on the rill!”

A sudden flash of anger, hatred and intense loathing hit Léspheria’s senses, “No wait!” she called throwing her hands out to stop the young elf, but it was to late Vanwe was running as fast as she could towards the rill and out of the safety of the woods. Both she and Amandur instinctively ran after her their weapons drawn. Finding the young elf bent over the hunkering form of her father she and Amandur took up defensive positions either side of the two elves allowing Vanwe to tend her father in safety. Léspheria’s grey eyes swept the undergrowth, her mind reeling, whose torrent of emotions had she sensed? She cast a sidelong glance towards the bard, his emotions where turbulent at all times and it was possible that the emotions she had sensed were but another erratic outburst from the tormented bard, but… she paused turning her gaze back toward the heavy brush. But, she sensed nothing; if Naiore had been there, she had left post haste.

“All clear,” Amandur announced coming up beside her, but she did not hear him, still staring at the morning shadows of the thick brush.

“What is it?” Amandur whispered his head inches from hers as he followed her gaze.

His words gently waking her from her doubtful contemplation, she turned to look at him, studying his thoughtful gaze. “No, nothing” she sighed shaking her head, I thought I sensed something, but it was just him,” she whispered nodding in the direction of the bard.

Amandur turned again towards the direction of the brush not entirely convinced, “do you think we should move our plans ahead?” he whispered still scanning the area ahead.

“Perhaps it would be wise!” she replied her attention now fixed on the two elves kneeling on the damp ground. “On our return I shall advise the others to make ready to leave.” Amandur whispered following her gaze towards the bard and his daughter, "You still intend to allow them to come?" he questioned.

Léspheria nodded, "Yes, they need an end if they are to find any semblance of normality, they need closure Amandur, we all do!" she sighed wearily looking into his eyes and then turning back to the two elves they waited silently.

Last edited by Nerindel; 08-12-2004 at 06:51 AM.
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