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Old 07-12-2006, 03:59 PM   #441
Nogrod
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After Garstan had gone with Lèoðern, Stigend was left alone to the would-be alder court. The great old tree was impressive to look at and would make a fine centerpiece of the second courtyard. But as a practical man from much more modest conditions he was a bit baffled about the plan to separate the kitchen and especially its ovens from the walls of the Mead Hall itself. What a waste... he thought to himself still watching admiringly at the great alder. Well, maybe these people can afford it? He shrugged his shoulders and took another look around. And the corridor-thing... I surely wouldn’t like to work in a kitchen with such a long corridor to pass through time and time again, everyday.

Slowly, immersed in his thoughts, he walked back inside the Hall to see that everyone else had already gathered around the table. Or not everyone. As he was taking his seat an old man came to join them. Stigend was introduced to him. Marenil, the steward. An old man with a gaze that told of experience, determination and pride. There was something similar in him as had been in his great aunt whom he had revered, although in a much grander scale.

As they had all set themselves and the rest of the breakfast was carried to them, lord Eodwine opened the discussion.

"So my friends, we must make choices for rebuilding to send our masters here to their duties." he said, nodding towards Garstan and Stigend.

“Stigend, as a new one here with fresh eyes, what do you think of the plan Garstan has showed you? Tell me your thoughts” Eodwine said, looking him straight to the eyes and ripping a piece of bread to himself.

“The idea of the alder court is fine. It’s a beautiful tree out there.” Stigend coughed a little as there was a piece of bread in his throat. “You just ask a carpenter... about old trees...”, he had to cough more intensely this time. Then he smiled to the others a bit embarrassedly and took a draught of water to clear his throat.

“Excuse me that my lord”, he said to Eodwine, nodding to the others in passing and then went on. “Yes there are some things I found a bit troubling. I haven’t ever lived in wealth so I have never seen a kitchen been built separately from the sleeping corners. The stonewalls of the ovens, if they are part of the house, keep a good part of it warm during wintertime with no additional cost as they are heated everyday anyway.” He looked at the others around the table just to make sure he was not laughed at. They looked serious and interested enough that he encouraged himself to continue. “And the corridor will be so long and having two corners in it as to be unsound for those working in the kitchen. And surely it would have to be made wide enough for two people with full trays to be able to pass each other in it, and that just sounds a bit grand if it will have no other function.” He looked at the others again, taking some water and then wiping his mouth with his palm.

Eodwine had a questioning look on his face, as if he was waiting for more. “Sorry sir, that’s all I had from what I’ve seen this morning.” Stigend felt himself a bit confused. Had he just been too open about the imminent shorcomings of the planning which he thought there were? Or was it just that he had accustomed to build for the poor and the common folk, rarely to the rich and powerful? “I’m just a plain and simple carpenter and you asked about my straight opinion, my lord.” He tried to explain his confused looks, avoiding Garstan’s eyes. He broke some more bread to himself and dipped it into the jelly.

“But do you have any idea about the alder court that you said yourself was fine? Surely a carpenter used to carpentry, as you seem to be, would have some ideas about the planning too?” Eodwine asked him firmly, not letting him fall out from the discussion just yet.

Stigend felt even more ill at ease now. He was on the eyes of all these noble people and he had already managed to criticise the plans of the only person he had actually learned to know and to whom he felt warmly towards. But Eodwine didn’t turn his questioning gaze away from him and in the end he realised that he had to answer him.

“Well... The kitchen might be built against the sleeping quarters. That way it would warm the rooms at wintertimes and the people in the kitchen would have a short and easy way to the tables inside here or outside the alder court if folk like eating there more. And at the height of the summer heat we might use an outdoor oven and a grill that could be built in the alder court itself, beside the outer wall of the kitchen...” The thought was not exactly ready yet, but he had entertained something like that in his head as he had been in the yard. “Then the third side of the alder court could be... well, if you had something to need a building for? More lodging, a workshop of sorts, an armoury? I’m sorry, but that’s all I can come up with at the moment.” He was even more confused than he had been a moment before, pouring himself more water just to have something to do and not having to look at the others around the table.

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Old 07-12-2006, 06:24 PM   #442
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Stigend had a point, of course. The hallway would be difficult to build, and would add a distance for the kitchen staff to travel while serving meals. But Garstan, while aware of this from the beginning, had his reasons for proposing the plan.

"You speak truly, Stigend," he began. "Moving the kitchen away from the hall is makes for more steps than leaving one wall against the other. The heat in winter would be lost, and there is a greater trouble for those who must bring the food from the kitchen. Yet too, there are things to be said for having the longer way. I have seen other places where the kitchen is set apart from the hall so that should the kitchen take fire, it may be stopped ere the hall too is in flames. It was against the chance of fire that the plan was made to divide the cooking place from the great hall, not for show. Surely a fire can be more easily stayed in a narrow corridor than it may when it takes to the timber of the main hall.

"But I see too that the plan is somewhat grand. It is a happy chance, indeed, that the matter has been brought up now, before much had been done towards the building. There was no chance to discuss the plans in full when they were first made, for more pressing matters came about at the hall. Perhaps there should be some change to the plan. I know not."

Garstan stopped, wondering what Eodwine's judgment would be, and wondering if Stigend had more to say.

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Old 07-12-2006, 07:07 PM   #443
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Stigend had been really nervous to hear how Garstan would react to his criticism of the plan. After all, he wouldn't have wanted to go so far this openly but Eodwine's gaze had pressured him to continue. Maybe that was his way of checking his subordinates honesty and loyalty?

As Garstan started talking he almost froze. But what he heard made him relieved word by word and strengthened his earlier conviction that he indeed had a respectable and good-hearted partner. Even though he disagreed with the overtly careful ways of the rich in principle, you just don't leave your fires burn at nights and build the wall with stone which doesn't set alight, he had to admit that Garstan had a point in his plan with the fire-safety. Fires did happen. A humble cabin was relatively easy to build again if something happened and normally there were not anything too valuable to cry after. But it was different here. Even though with his experience, all the fires started from the utmost carelessness or lousy constructions, which he just couldn't figure happening here.

He looked at Garstan in the eye and nodded to him in agreement but didn't open his mouth. He had been talking just too much for the time being. The good lord and lady and the old Marenil should have their say now.
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Old 07-13-2006, 08:25 AM   #444
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Marenil sat back, leaning back in his chair. Of kitchens he knew little, and although he supported the idea of the kitchen being a separate building, he felt it best to do so silently. Especially since he had so much to suggest. He had been disheartened, and in an odd way, excited, by the state of Eodwine's books.

They had been tidy, yes, and while the lord's heavy handwriting spoke to self-teaching, Marenil assumed the odd spelling was a result of the relative youth of the Rohirric tongue to his own. Writing was in itself a fairly new art for these people, though their oral history was rich and their memory long enough to rival any of the sea-kings of yore.

No, what Marenil disapproved of most were the figures themselves. Two columns, one for income and one for spending; it was not a complex or unusual system. Only-the one for spending contained far more and larger entries than the one for income. The entries for foodstuffs, at least, were regular, well organized, and in bulk, speaking to Frodides' firm control of her sphere, but far larger than the size of the permanent household warranted. Everything else was haphazard, with things purchased a little at a time, and things purchased that Eodwine should have been producing for himself long ago.

It's what comes of two running a large household who never have before, he thought, looking sharply at the Lord and his young Lady. The Hall hadn't been previously set up to support itself: as an Inn, it made its own income in custom, which Eodwine refused to charge. An' that's all right, Marenil admitted reluctantly, but there's a better way to do it. Eodwine was new to the whole business, and Marenil suspected that Saeryn's family holdings were smaller, and probably a farmhold, at that. Lass hadn't the least notion of what to do with a hold in a city, or how much she could get away with, and there's been no one to ask. She hadn't done that bad a job, considering what she had to work with, but Marenil did know what could be done, and intended to send Eodwine's sinking financial ship onto a new course, just as soon as he could get a firm grip on the rudder.

Of course...the challenge was that it might take a great deal of money just to get settled onto the proper course, but if Eodwine could be talked into making a loan of the King, Marenil could get it paid back in a year, maybe two, and turn a profit for his new lord at the same time.

And now, in a plan of what buildings were needed...time to make his first move.

"These men you've got here are quite knowledgeable," he said, meaning every word. He'd worked with many artisans through the years, and these seemed to take a pride and pleasure in their work that did their crafts good justice. "I think between 'em, they'll work out a good plan for the kitchen, especially if they ask Frodides, who knows all there is to know about a good kitchen, I think.

"We should also consider, though, what other buildings you'll be needing, Lord Eodwine. Your house is almost full to capacity, and more arrive daily to take their oath with you. You should have a barracks, with some private space for the captain of your guard, and room for armsmen and freemen. You have long been in need of a bower, and the women's work your Lady could direct there could do a great deal to help your house. A Healer is in training, already on oath to you. When she returns, a stillroom would be appropriate, as a place for her to work. And then some simple projects: a smoke-shed, a chicken-coop, space to keep some few livestock, for the benefit of your house, and I should like Master Stigend here to take a look with me at the attic-space, to see if we can create some living space there, so that your household can all be housed, and with the luxury of as much privacy as you can spare them, and leave most of the old Inn for high-ranking guests and your own business."
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Old 07-13-2006, 11:43 PM   #445
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Poor soul, that Trystan. The privies were a stinking pool of hot fumes and odors. Garwine had seen Kara clean them out before. They contained in their murky depths countless bucketfuls of filth, and once they were shoveled out, they had to be carried to the Ravine. And then it was back to the privies to shovel some more, and then back to the Ravine, and so on. A rigorous and messy task. It was an odd chore for Eodwine to assign to a newcomer…

The kiss…It was plain that Lord Eodwine did not approve of Trystan. He was a rather scruffy fellow…and bold. He had arrived only today, and already appeared to be courting Lady Saeryn...with Lord Eodwine playing the part of the protective father?

Garwine reminded himself it was not his place to concern himself with the personal affairs of his superiors. He had other business to care to, like showing Trystan to the privies.

He led Trystan to the dark hallway leading down to the privies, halfway down the residential wing. They stood at the entrance, Garwine not daring to face the stench if he could help it. "The privies are down there," he told Trystan, pointing. "Shovels and buckets are kept in the closet under the stairs. Usually these are stored to the right to separate them from the buckets used for other chores, even after they're washed. A matter of public health, I'm told. Anyways, to clean out the privies, you just shovel the, um, waste into the buckets and carry it down to the Ravine."

"Where is the Ravine?"

"Not very far from here. You just walk down the slope and eventually you'll come to a large ditch filled with similar waste. That's the Ravine. Everybody in Edoras throws their rubbish there. Also, remember to carry the filth out a back door. And be discreet. Here, I'll show you the shovels…"

He walked Trystan over to the closet under the stairs, and once he had a bucket in one hand and a shovel in the other, Garwine gave him a grin of encouragement and, with a firm hand, guided him to the privies' hallway, only leaving after he had seen Trystan disappear into the gloom.
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Old 07-14-2006, 06:51 PM   #446
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So absorbed was Náin in his own thoughts that he completely failed to notice that Degas had left the courtyard by a route that didn't take him past the Dwarf (though Degas was unaware that Náin was seeking him at all, at that time) until Degas was gone.

How long he had been muttering to himself in the stables, Náin wasn't quite sure. It could have been five minutes, or it could have been half an hour. Time is difficult to keep track of when your mind is endlessly revisiting the same themes over and over and over...

Cursing himself for his inattention, Náin set off back into the Mead Hall, determined to find Degas and apologize- whether the boy liked it or not.

He found him on his way out of the kitchen, eating. Whether it was second breakfast, or a first, or if he was just eating (Men in their teens, Náin reflected, had appetites to rival Hobbits) for the sake of it, Náin did not know.

"Degas!" he called the young man's name, catching his attention. Mouth still full, Degas half-turned to face the Dwarf, his face full of suspicion and altogether unfriendly.

"I would speak with you, if you would," said Náin, bracing himself. Remember, he thought: you deserve this.
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Old 07-14-2006, 07:48 PM   #447
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Eodwine noted that Marenil joined them, and offered an apology that he had not thought of calling him to their artisan meeting.

Eodwine saw Saeryn join them later yet. She spoke quietly, hardly looking at him. Now what? Something was eating her. Oh, it must have to do with that drop-jawed look she had given him when he's sent Trystan to the privies. They would talk about that later.

He listened to Stigend and Garstan trade their thoughts on how the kitchen should be rebuilt. Something was on edge in Stigend, and it made Eodwine more on edge himself, against his will. It did not help that this Trystan had come to them out of the shadows of the stables, seemingly trying to steal a horse and then cover his tracks. It had put Eodwine more on is guard than he cared to be. He would have to find something to do after this meeting to ease the edge.

Marenil took a turn to speak, and what a speech it was! Eodwine stared at his new steward in wonder. Had the man just listed off over a dozen things to better the holdings? Eodwine did think that he had. But this was getting off track. Eodwine wanted the kitchen matter dealt with first. He smiled warmly at Marenil.

"Your list of ways to better these holdings is grand, and beyond my coffers' depth, I fear, good Marenil. I would that you make a list of these betterings. Start it with the betterment that is most doable and lowest in cost, ending with the least doable and highest in cost. Also, number them in order of the most needful to least. But do so after this little meeting.

"Garstand and Stigend, I would that we have the kitchen fixed so Frodides and Kara are happy and not tripping over each other. I care not whether it hoves against the mead hall or is twenty steps away. But I want to hear the two of you air your views now, and I want you to come to an agreement before we finish our breakfasts. Say on."
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Old 07-15-2006, 05:00 PM   #448
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Stigend looked at Garstan but he nodded back for him to start. Stigend was not at all happy with that as he felt himself a newcomer around, but after the second nod he gave in. “Well, if you want us to build a kitchen Frodides and Kara will be happy with, we will not be building a corridor." he said, looking questioningly to Garstan.

"The faster they get to the Hall the easier it is for them, and the warmer people get their meals. What my friend Garstan here said, surely is an issue." he nodded towads Garstan appreciatingly. "The fire safety is a thing to be considered. But if the firewall is built carefully and wide enough, and the people who use the oven are not careless, it should not pose a real threat. And the savings in winter heating are considerable enough." he looked over the table to see how people around it reacted. Especially he tried to catch the expressions of Eodwine and Marenil. The first showed no sign of anything, but the latter seemed somewhat pleased with the idea of saving something.

"With all these things sir Marenil has stated here, it would be easiest and most flexible to start to build the kitchen adjacent to the sleeping quarters. That would leave the things open to any plans to follow. For the next summer we could have an outdoor fireplace to save the main building from any overheating.”

Stigend had clearly made more than he had thought himself capable of. He wasn’t used to make speeches like that. Normally the bosses said what they wanted and then he had just performed what was asked. But here his opinions were clearly appreciated, or at least listened to. And what came to Eodwine, he deemed to require him to tell his mind.

“The corridor surely could be made, and I can build it. That is no problem. But we would need a lot of prime quality wood there, as they would have to be both long and straight. Building a long and narrow hallway demands highest quality timber for the corridor to be stable and safe.” He nodded to Garstan who was sitting across him. He had a feeling that he had managed to speak his mind but still something was nagging him from inside, something was forgotten...

“But surely, that is only my opinion, I’m sure Garstan here has some points to give us.” Stigend nodded to Garstan and smiled to him in a friendly way “We may have our different areas of expertise, but at some agreed point they surely will come together. I’m not saying that we should do as I say, but after Garstan has made his opinion clear, you should be able to decide on the proceedings.” With that Stigend nodded to the lord Eodwine and cut a piece of sausage to fit his bread....
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Old 07-16-2006, 07:28 AM   #449
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Garstan nodded. The carpenter spoke well on the kitchen.

"A wall of stone around the place of the fire would do well to guard the timber against the flames. I can build that, and with more ease and less cost than to make the corridor.

"Yet, I say still that setting the kitchen apart makes the safety greater, for there is more time to put out a fire when the space betwixt hall and kitchen is more.

"Here is my thought. Whether we build the kitchen apart from the hall or against the sleeping quarters, we may see nearly the same to safety. A wall or hallway may serve nearly the same for a fire break. Nearly. But the small loss in keeping the kitchen with the hall is paid back in fewer steps for Frodides and Kara. Should we build the kitchen again where it stands, I would say only that we should make it larger to leave space from the wall for the fire to the wooden walls of the great hall. I will abide my lord's judgment in the matter."
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Old 07-16-2006, 01:40 PM   #450
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Both carpenter and stoneshaper looked to Eodwine, expecting a choice made. Ah well. He gave thought to the main things behind all their words. Indeed, these artisans, known usually for their closed mouths by and large, were at no loss for words when the matter touched upon their own differing views of the same point! Eodwine allowed himself a smirk - - on the inside!

He cleared his throat. "Now then, Stigend has said that food is hotter the shorter the hallway. True enough. Safety from fires is also a great matter, and the firewall must be wider than the one we have, and built with care, and next to the sleeping quarters for winter heating. To that I say I would not have windows blocked, nor would I make folk suffer in the summer heat with a hot kitchen oven the other side of their walls. Stigend is right that if a hallway we build between Mead Hall and kitchen, it must be well timbered and sturdily built.

"Garstan agrees that we ought to do all we may to keep the oven fire in its place, but says that should it begin to burn out of its place, a kitchen so many paces away is safer for Hall and guest rooms than one at the back of the Hall. And Garstan agrees with Stigend that the kitchen must be bigger.

"There are many things, then, that must weigh into the matter, but some of greater moment, some less. So-"

Just then, a rather imposing presence announced itself with a most impregnable clearing of the throat. Into the Great Hall marched Frodides with stormy brow, followed by Kara who seemed as if she wished not to be seen. Frodides ceased her promenade before the table where the five were gathered.

"Am I to understand that you are discussing my new kitchen without me?"
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Old 07-16-2006, 02:34 PM   #451
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Kara returned from the Hall, bearing the empty trays she had taken the food in on. Well-schooled in the art of accidentally overhearing conversations, having been under Frodides' tutelage the past few weeks, she had meandered around the room for a while, looking busy. She had, therefore, caught much of the conversation focused on the kitchen, a subject of great interest to her it being her workplace, and one she thought Frodides would be glad to know about as well.

Disappearing through the door she quickly made her way back to the kitchens.

"It seems we are to be moved." She said, placing the trays on the side to be washed, waiting for the coming questions. She didn't have to wait long.

"Moved? Where to? And on who's authority?" The strong voice began with curiosity, but swiftly changed into a defiant tone.

Quickly filling her in on the plans that were being discussed Kara waited to see whether Frodides would rather wait for a decision and then argue it, or interfere now. She had noticed that the older cook seemed to have little fear when it came to Eodwine, and although she still treated him with the respect he was due, there was still an air of familiarity that spoke of a time when their roles weren't quite as far removed. However, whatever friendship Frodides had for the Eorl it wasn't about to stop her getting involved in discussions about what she still termed 'her' kitchen, though the odd 'our' was thrown in on occasion if Kara was in the room.

"Are you coming, girl?" Frodides' voice pulled her from her musings and she raised her eyes to see another pair fixed on her, equally demanding and questioning. Knowing she wouldn't hear the end of it if she didn't go, Kara followed Frodides out of the room, hanging back as they reached the Hall, and watched as her mentor strolled right up to the table and spoke her mind.

"Am I to understand that you are discussing my new kitchen without me?"

There was a moment of silence as the men adjusted to the new appearance, and Frodides didn't let the chance to speak go to waste.

"My Lord," She began turning to Eodwine, "as much as I respect you I think it was a great discourtesy on your part not to include those who work in your kitchens when discussing arrangements for their renewal or relocation."

Kara saw that Eodwine had the grace to look a little contrite, but was sure she saw a smile being hidden behind the hand that was raised to his mouth.

"And you, master stonemason. I understand that you wish to move my kitchens further from the Hall than they are now. Do I have that right?"

With an uneasy glance at the others Garstan nodded slowly, seemingly a little wary of admitting to this apparent sin.

"Then I offer you a deal." Frodides continued, beginning to build up a bit of steam. "If you can cook a meal where these new kitchens are to be placed and deliver it to this room as piping hot and carefully set out as it was when you set off then I won't say a word against moving. But you mark my words it won't be possible."

Without waiting for an answer from the man she whisked round to direct the same glare at Eodwine.

"That goes for you as well, my Lord. You've been in my kitchens many a time and know the work we do, we don't have time to go traipsing through corridors. Safety is important, you won't get an argument from me there after that roof collapsed on me, but good service is important too and you'll get less of that the further you move us. So my good Eorl what is it to be? There are ways to keep fires safe as I believe I heard our carpenter say, and they don't cause me to leave ovens unattended in my kitchen while I walk miles to serve food."

Finishing her little speech Frodides nodded and folded her arms across her chest, awaiting her reply. Observing the faces around her she decided to compromise a little.

"I'll say nothing against making it bigger though. The girl and I can hardly move for falling over each other as it is."
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Old 07-17-2006, 06:00 AM   #452
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Marenil nodded slowly. "Of course, Mistress Frodides, nothing would have been decided without seeking your advice."

Quickly he outlined the options that had been discussed: to build the kitchen away from the building, to build an expanded kitchen in its current location, or to build it against the sleeping quarters for warmth.

"But to be honest, I must say I have doubts about the latter option. That would make two, maybe three guest rooms with no windows. It would be black as pitch in day or night. Without a wizard to light the way as in the old tales--" he shrugged, chuckling. "I have little wish to find room in our slim budget for more lamp-oil."
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:14 AM   #453
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"I would speak with you, if you would," said Náin.

Degas looked down at the dwarf, secretly and somewhat shamefully glad that his higher stature gave him an excellent excuse and ability to look down his nose and glower.

"Aye, and would it, Master Dwarf, be in words, or in shouts?" Degas's feelings toward the dwarf had not much changed since the night before. He wished fervently that he had responded to Nain as a commoner in a tavern might; a slight to my dignity? I shall remedy it with an highly dignified punch to the face! But he reflected upon the situation with some regret; to hit a dwarf seemed so... wrong. Like hitting a very furry and gravelly child. And the dwarf was too low to get much impact behind a punch anyhow... And who kicks dwarfs?

Degas stood still, his arms crossed before him, struggling with thoughts unbecoming of one that wanted to maintain a certain image of aloofness and uncaring. He waited for Nain's response, waiting for the dwarf to reveal for what reason he had come.
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Old 07-18-2006, 02:04 PM   #454
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"I would speak to you in measured words, if I might- in contrast to last night," Náin clenched his jaw as he replied to Degas. The greater height of the man did not intimidate him (few Dwarves, wisely or foolishly were intimidated by height). But the temptation to forget the whole matter, or to blow up in shouting, or to just slap the foolish boy in the face was strong.

"In fact," he pressed on, before Degas could get another snide comment in, "it is about my behaviour last night that I wish to speak."

"Oh?" Degas didn't bother trying to hide the sarcasm. "Did Eodwine interrupt you before you were finished? Have you got more to say?"

"Would you be silent for a minute and let me get on with it!" Náin burst out, grabbing Degas by the tunic.

"I am trying to apologize to you for my behaviour last night!" he shouted at the boy. Then, realizing what he was doing, he released Degas, drew in a deep breath, and continued in more normal voice before Degas had recovered his wits.

"It was wrong of me to barge in on you, your sister, and the Lord Eodwine. It was wrong of me to raise my voice at the lot of you. And... it was wrong of me to be so brusque in apologizing. I would have your forgiveness, if you can give it."

Feeling more awkward than he had yet that morning, Náin clasped his hands behind his back and rocked slightly on his heels, awaiting an answer.
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Old 07-18-2006, 02:20 PM   #455
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Degas looked down calmly and brushed his tunic into obedience. Still quiet, he looked at the dwarf's face and responded casually, though with a touch of coldness.

"A slight to me is worth little mention. I have been called worse things in my time than a child. But you caused hurt to my sister. Lady Saeryn shed tears after your outburst. You would do better to beg her forgiveness than mine, as mine you will not receive until a smile once more lights her eyes."
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Old 07-18-2006, 02:46 PM   #456
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The Kitchen Planners

"No," Eodwine agreed, "the kitchen cannot be built aback the guest rooms; that is sure, and for that I need no 'yes you may' from our excellent cook." He grinned up at her, and she raised one brow, her arms crossed in front of her, looking most lordly as long as the topic was her domain. Eodwine chuckled inside, but kept it there.

"I do like better a kitchen at a remove from the Hall and guest rooms, maybe ten paces. I would have the alder courtyard untouched, so all the more weight bears to having the kitchen away. Frodides, one thing that Garstan has not said in his own defense (if I may borrow a word from Gondor), is that the hallway between kitchen and Great Hall would be of need built to hold in heat. So it is done in other Mead Halls.

"So I give my yes to a larger kitchen, away from the Great Hall, a bigger oven, and a hallway between that holds in the heat. What say you to that, Frodides?" The head cook opened her mouth to speak, but Eodwine interrupted before she could start; he turned to Kara who had been trying to look inconspicuous. "What think you, Kara?"

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Old 07-19-2006, 12:50 AM   #457
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From Degas' point of view, Náin's face was unreadable, emotionwise. Had he been able to peer into the Dwarf's head, he would have seen that the tense look on Náin's face sprang from having bitten his tongue- quite literally.

"It grieves me to learn I caused your sister tears," said Náin, completely honestly. "And it is my intention and desire to seek both her forgiveness, and that of the Lord Eodwine- into whose chambers I barged. But they are in council and you, Lord Degas, are not."

"Saeryn was not in council when you saw her earlier," Degas could not refrain from mentioning. "She told me you sought me."

"My reasons are my own," said Náin, jaw set slightly askew and tense. "Though it is no business of yours, the simple matter of it is that I wished to embarrass neither myself nor your sister by speaking in front of that newcomer."

His fists clenched, and his temper set somewhat on edge, Náin made to move away.

"I have asked your forgiveness, and would have it," he said to Degas, "but my part in amending the matter is done, and I would move on to amending it with others. Have I your pardon, or no?"
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Old 07-19-2006, 07:41 AM   #458
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"Your logic does not fail, and I am grateful that you thought to spare my lady sister more upset. But my decision stands."

Degas had become impatient with Nain, though he tried to hide it. His father had never held grudges; why could he not be the same? He clenched his own fist, not of violence, but of disappointment in himself.

Father would not be proud of who I've become. Every bird comes home to nest, my boy, and every tree with reaching branches has its roots. Never forget from whence you came lest you float away like dust on the wind.

But Father, should a storm take the nest and tear it to shreds, what then? If the tree is struck by lightening, or falls in that same strom, what then? We cannot all be you, father. We cannot all be humble, and be gracious. I had to travel to learn, father, and you always said to learn. How can I help it that while I was gone, my nest was broken? How can I be you, Father, beloved by your people, by your family, and by your friend the king? I am not humble unless I am with humble people. I cannot find it in myself to be unflinchingly forgiving.

My home was taken from me, Father, when my parents were. All I have left is my sister. She is my root. How can I forgive Nain, Father, when the forgiveness has yet to come from the only one that matters? How can I forgive anyone that hurts her?

"There will be no need to ask again once Saeryn's forgiveness is sought. You will have mine as you have hers."

And with that, Degas left, appetite gone, past Nain and many others, out the door and into the street, and for some time he wandered, retracing his steps at the fair so long ago already, and he looked up to Meduseld and wondered, and he was not happy. The sun was bright already, just over the edge of the world, but it felt dark to him.
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Old 07-19-2006, 10:16 AM   #459
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Kara had been listening to the exchange with interest, but had not intended to get involved until Eodwine had called upon her for an opinion.

"What think you, Kara?" He had asked, forcing her to come toward the table so that her views might be heard.

She could see that Frodides was not entirely pleased to have suddenly been cut out of the conversation, but that she was also curious to know what Kara thought, and was not about to interrupt.

"My lord," she began, trying to organise the thoughts in her mind into some kind of order, "I understand that your main concern is for the safety of those that stay here, and if the kitchen must be moved to achieve that then I will accept it. The bigger oven and larger kitchen are a good compromise, as they will allow us to make more at a time. However, I must agree with Frodides in that the further we must travel between the buildings the more chance there is of food becoming cold, or being spilt, especially if there is only Frodides and myself to rush between them. Therefore I think that if this is to work, we may need a little help, someone whose job it is to take the food from kitchen to Hall. That way there need be no gap in preparation and delivery, and there should be no decline in quality."

Suddenly aware that she had spoken more than she had intended to Kara blushed. She could feel Frodides' eyes on her, but the woman did not seem angry, more impressed that she had thought it through.

"Yes." She said, directing a firm tone at Eodwine. "That would work right enough. The girl and I can cook and another can carry in busy times. If you agree my lord then I won't speak another word against being moved."

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Old 07-21-2006, 03:26 AM   #460
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"That is well!" Eodwine exclaimed, and turned to the two artisans. "Do both of you agree?"

Garstan nodded, and Stigend, voicing his reservations briefly one more time, also gave his nod. Eodwine asked his steward and his apprentice-lady if they agreed, and they gave their nod as well.

"Would Modtryth be willing to walk the hallway between kitchen and Hall, do you think, Stigend?"

"I think she would, but she should give her own yes."

"Right you are! I will find her and see what she says."

The meeting broke up. Garstan and Stigend spent the rest of the day pouring over pages with lines that looked more and more like what the kitchen and hallway would be as the day wore on. Saeryn went in search of Degas, and Marenil worked on his list.

Late in the afternoon, Marenil came to Eodwine, sitting with Falco Boffin under the alder tree.

"Ah, Marenil!" Eodwine said, standing and smiling, "Come join us! Shall I have Kara bring you something to drink?"

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Old 07-24-2006, 07:45 PM   #461
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Marenil grinned slowly, easing his body carefully down onto the bench. "Thanks, Lord, but I've just drank a jug of water thinking this out for you." Quickly he outlined his plans, starting with his ideas for freeguests. As expected any mention Marenil made of fees was met with a disapproving frown, and he let the issue lie--for now. Time enough for Eodwine to change his mind: eventually someone would abuse his generosity again as Osfrid had.

He quickly moved on to plans to partition attic space into homes for the household, indicating with a gesture that he'd like to get through the whole proposal before Eodwine stopped to argue with him. This idea seemed to go over better, but Marenil had expected it to. There was no denying that the old Inn was becoming decidedly full.

Next he detailed plans to purchase some livestock and build pens for them in the area planned to someday become the Mead Hall. The rebuilding of the Hall would take years, and the space might as well be used in the meantime. This seemed to be greeted with enthusiasm, but again Marenil gestured to indicate there was more. There was much to do and think about, and he wanted to get it all through with.

Briefly he mentioned that he'd like to get a trade caravan going to Gondor, then quickly hurried on.

"Just one last thing, my lord. The city of Edoras is also under your jurisdiction, and there are some taxes that I do not see are being collected. It is customary for there to be a fee owed you by any who wish to set up a market stall within the walls, and a tax on the sale of a house or business-place. Not as much money here as those fees bring in Dol Amroth or Minas Tirith, but significant just the same. The market fees at least would help the state of your purse, strained by all this construction."

He sat quiet a moment, thinking through to make sure he had covered everything. "Yes, hmm...I think that's all. Nothing else we can accomplish without more money. What do you think?"
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Old 07-25-2006, 01:55 PM   #462
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"I think, Marenil," Eodwine smiled, "that you must be terribly missed back at Dol Amroth, for your skills in stewarding seem unrivaled. I am a lucky man."

Falco interrupted, "You surely weren't born that way, so I figure it must be the fact that you've a Hobbit to keep you company."

"Ah, yes, that simply must be why, my proud Baggins of a hobbit."

"Baggins! Fishing for compliments, are you!" Falco grinned.

"Ah but not all hold the name Baggins in as high a regard as you, Master Boffin."

"More's the pity, and their loss into the bargain." Falco lapsed into silence, aware that Marenil was being quite patient with a small, amused smile.

"Now to my thinking on the many matters, Marenil, that you have laid before me. I say a 'yes' to the attic work, to livestock and pens for them, and to the collection of market booth taxes, seeing as they are owed anyway. Oh, and 'twould be wise of us to make sure with Meduseld how much of that the King expects to come his way; after all, I hold these lands in fief to him.

"One other thing: I would like you to assign Thornden to visit farmsteads that are in arrears on their payments of dues, whether in kind or coin."

A thin smile on his face, Eodwine studied Marenil. "I sense a keen mind behind those quiet eyes, my dear steward. As I said already, I am a lucky man. But keep one thing always in that keen mind of yours. An Eorlinga's word is of more worth than what his purse holds."
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Old 07-25-2006, 03:32 PM   #463
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The sun rose slowly towards her pinnacle, stretching her rays brightly as she awoke from a night’s slumber, beaming benevolently down upon every corner and creature of Middle Earth as midday approached. The day was indeed turning out to be a nice one: beautiful weather, a clear sky stretching away infinitely, and the heat rising pleasantly to a temperature that would surely have every Man in the Mark looking longingly out of his window – and sure, if there was no other urgent business to attend to, midday would surely see a fair number of men reaching for their walking staffs, the fine Ladies of Gondor and Rohan changing into their summer hats, scores of children racing out of their schoolrooms into the bright yards beyond…

Trystan glared at the sun furiously, wiping a hand over his perspiring face and, disgusted, spat to one side, trying to clear his dry mouth of any filth which may have got in. The very idea revolted him, and the boy spat again, just for good measure. Though he was without both food and drink, Trystan decided that, after several hours – how long? He was losing track of time, beginning to measure it in terms of monotonous shovelfuls of filth – now would be about as good a time as any for a lunch break. And why not: here, less than a hundred yards from the Ravine, a pit of household waste, sewage and other the gods only know what other forms of filth and waste, who would be watching him? Not Lord Eodwine, that was for sure, and probably none of his lackies, either. Trystan grinned to himself suddenly, remembering Garwine’s face as he had tactfully paused just outside the privies, safely out of stinking distance. He didn’t even come in, where I’ve spent my morning practically up to my elbows in…well. He snorted derisively at Garwine’s words: “Carry the filth out a back door. And be discreet…”

Still, he was almost done now: say one more trip, maybe two at a push, and the whole arduous task would be finished. Trystan stabbed his shovel into the ground, although his venom was now fading, as he leant back against the shade of a nearby tree, although as a gentle breeze ruffled it’s branches, even the tree seemed to recoil from the stench which pervaded the boy’s very being. He smiled at the thought, reaching into his back pocket for his pipeweed…and cursed viciously when he found the pocket empty. He must have dropped it! Somewhere between here and the privies back up at the Eorling Mead Hall – either that, or… Trystan glanced distastefully towards the peacefully steaming Ravine into which he had been slogging waste all morning. Attached as he was to his pipeweed, he sure as knives wasn’t going after anything in there.

Although if he hadn’t dropped it around the Mead Hall, it could be anywhere between here and, well, Dol Amroth for all he knew. And going back in that direction any time soon was about as appealing a prospect as diving headfirst into the Ravine.

The youth settled back into the tree, his skinny shoulderblades digging into the trunk, loosening his shirt a button or two further, having already removed his jerkin. Yes, perspiring in the heat, doing the filthy oddjobs of some pompous Lord in what constituted to his first day of honest hard work in memory, and stinking, frankly, of everything that had passed through the bowels of the honourable denizens of the Mead Hall in gods only know how long…well, it could be worse. He could be hot, tired, stinking and being chased the authorities of Dol Amroth, not to mention a hardened thug who wanted to kill him, preferably via as much pain as possible.

Oh wait – that was the current situation.

Trystan closed his eyes wearily for just a second, but all he could see imprinted on his eyelids was that house, dark, gloomy, the dust motes still spinning in the air where the old woman’s scream had disturbed it. Her scream and her fall…

He started up, his eyes wide. No. No, he wouldn’t – couldn’t – dwell on those thoughts for any longer. Groaning softly, he fell forward to his knees, then struggled up to his feet, grabbing the shovel and buckets and started the long trudge back up to the Mead Hall. Trystan would never be the lacky or minion of anyone who judged themselves superior, but currently, he could do with a little protection – and with not making any more enemies…

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Old 07-26-2006, 12:41 AM   #464
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The council, or meeting, or whatever it was, that Eodwine had been holding with regards to the expansion had broken up, and the various members gone seperate ways. Having come to terms, if not quite forgiveness, with Degas, Náin decided there was no time quite like the present, and that he ought to go seek out Saeryn, and apologize to her. He was aware that he was leaving Eodwine, who had been most rude to and who he was consequently dreading the most, to last. He found, however, that he was well able to explain it away to himself. And he'd apologize to Eodwine come the end of the day, one way or another.

As he sought up and down the Mead Hall for Saeryn, unaware of wither she had gone, Náin thought to himself about his "apology" to Degas. Forgiveness had rather been unforthcoming, but Náin wasn't so much concerned about forgiveness as about his own apology. To have done the right thing to try and rectify the situation on his part, that was the important thing. If Degas harboured a grudge, that was his affair. His affair- and it meant that Náin didn't feel particularly bad about the fact that he didn't care too much for the young noble.

Before his rambling mind could finish it's trail of though, Náin crossed the partially-reconstructed Great Hall for the third time, just in time to catch sight of Saeryn exiting by the opposite door. He sprinted the length of the hall, soon catching her up. Saeryn appeared to be on a errand, or mission, or something with a purpose anyway, to judge by the covered basket in her hands. She seemed to notice Náin behind her, and sped up her walk a trifle, so as to avoid the Dwarf.

"Lady Saeryn!" Náin called out. "I would have a word with you, if you would find it in your heart to listen."
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Old 07-26-2006, 06:21 AM   #465
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Saeryn stopped, sighing, and turned around. She had been unable to find Degas and cared for little more just then than to do so. He wasn't at the Hall. Still. She knew she ought to have brought a companion, more specifically a male companion, as the afternoon was getting later and this was no quick trip to market, but she had not dared to ask. She knew that none of the menfolk of the Hall would, or even really could, decline her request for accompaniment, but she also knew that few in the Hall truly liked Degas, and that they all had their own business to which to attend. She had hoped to slip away unnoticed.

"My good fellow," she murmered with nothing but politeness. "'tis not my heart that listens, but my ears. If you speak loudly enough, I have no choice in the matter, as we both know. I am sorry... that was unkind and helped nobody. But as you would have it, Nain, I will listen freely, if you will make haste, as I must find my brother. Or, if you would, you may speak and we will seek him together, giving you more time to relate your errand even as I complete mine."
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Old 07-26-2006, 11:33 AM   #466
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"You are unaccompanied?" Náin did not need an answer, for it was plain. Saeryn was quite alone. This was rather improper, he considered. At least for a human woman. Among Dwarves, such an issue would not be worried about, but among humans, propriety was a good deal more serious- if only because human females were more likely to fall prey to their male counterparts than Dwarven females would.

"It would be shameful of me to refuse," he said slowly, a bit uncomfortable about acting as an escort, and even more uncomfortable with the idea of searching for Degas.

"Good," said Saeryn, and she started moving again. Náin hastened to keep up, muttering under his breath about humans and their long legs.

"What I was meaning to speak to you about," Náin said as he caught up, "was about my behaviour last night. There was no excuse for my actions, and I would have your forgiveness for my insult and intrusion."
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Old 07-28-2006, 10:11 AM   #467
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"An Eorlinga's word is of more worth than what his purse holds."

Marenil snorted, unable to help himself, raising himself up in preparation for searching for some luncheon. "Forgive me, lord," he said, using his Eorl's shoulder as a prop for a moment, "but you strike me as a very idealistic man for one of your years. Remember, young man: an Eorl's word carries no more value than any other man's. Think of Sorn!" Marenil was a bit snappish, and he saw the insult on the younger man's face before he really thought about his words. He fell silent for a moment, and when he spoke again his words were calmer and more careful, if no less harsh.

"Lord, a man of your fief will, if he has sense, lay less trust in your word than in any other. If any other man betrays him, his case can be brought before you for justice. Not so if you betray him. I said before, look at Sorn. Not to compare yourself with him, but you must recognize that there are terrible men in positions of power. Horrible men. And they get away with it, sometimes for years, sometimes for life if they're canny enough not to try anything big enough it cannot be ignored, as Sorn did in his insanity. Your word, begging your pardon, my lord, means nothing. Only your actions bear any weight.

"And thus to gain respect and trust, you must build a household that is self-sufficient, that produces enough and to spare. You need to be wealthy, but not ostentatiously so. Because if it is clear to your people that you are not avaricious, but are successful enough by your own work to have little need of theirs, then they can begin to trust your interests lie truly with your own.

"I refuse to operate your household at a loss, and as soon as I get things in order, I shall refuse to make use of the taxes you receive for the upkeep of your house.

"But for now, there's more than enough to keep me busy, and I won't lecture you again for a while."

With a chuckle, Marenil walked toward the kitchen, intent on finding Frodides, with what kindred spirit he had struck up an immediate friendship. She'd find him something to munch on, and they could sit and commiserate about the quirks of their employer.
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Old 07-31-2006, 08:40 PM   #468
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Eodwine looked to Falco with raised eyebrows as Marenil walked away, and Falco returned the expression.

"You had better teach this overweening steward a lesson but quick, my friend," said the hobbit.

"It would seem you are right."

Eodwine got up and followed Marenil into the kitchen. The man was already speaking to Frodides.

"Marenil," Eodwine called. The man turned. "Once you've grabbed a bite, come back to the alder tree. I want to finish our conversation. I was not finished."

Marenil nodded once. Eodwine turned and slowly walked back to the bench, and waited.

After a few moments, Marenil came back outside. Eodwine met him halfway.

"Marenil, I have made you steward, not my school master. Your task is to see after the affairs of my Hall, not the education of its Eorl. And if you truly believe that my word means nothing, then you must believe the same of your own. Thus there is no point in exacting an oath from you that you will steward this Hall as I see fit rather than as you do."

The old man opened his mouth to protest, but Eodwine continued.

"I am sure that you are a most able steward, but our two minds are as unlike as can be. I did not know this before today. You would try to make me unlearn what I hold most dear to my heart. It shall never be."

Marenil again opened his mouth to protest, but Eodwine continued again.

"So as of this moment you are no longer my steward. You may, of course, remain my guest, if it pleases you; or if you prefer the hospitality of the Queen, your ward's cousin, that can be arranged. What would you?"

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Old 08-02-2006, 05:33 PM   #469
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May 22, Fourth Age Year 15

Nogrod's post

Stigend had been busy the days that followed. The first days passed at the planning board; one of the tables of the Hall had to serve as one. Stigend and Garstan drew and redrew, discussed and sat in silence. They talked with Frodides and Kara several times a day and every now and then they consulted Eodwine, and Saeryn.

Stigend had made an inventory on the building materials on the second day, making himself familiar with the Mead Hall’s supplies and tools at the same time. There was enough timber to start building, but a lot more was needed. The saws seemed well enough, but the chip axes and framework-drills were rusty and dull. Stigend had his own with him and could start by himself, and the tools of the Hall could be made usable with some care. On the third day they ordered timber and other things needed.

Within a week they had started the actual work, beginning with the kitchen oven and the fireplace. Garstan had designed the oven and the fireplace with the help of Frodides and Kara, and Stigend had designed a firewall to surround them; and came up with a solution of how it should be attached to the wooden wall. Somewhat familiar with masonry and bricklayer’s work, Stigend needed a little guidance from Garstan every now and then.

It was during these days that he became familiar with Náin. He hadn’t met a dwarf in his life before. It was a place of personal reflection and discovery that greatly humiliated Stigend. From the beginning he had been prejudiced towards the dwarf, going over in his mind with all the generalisations people had about dwarves and trying to see them in Náin. It took one visit of a travelling stranger that had given Modtryth a bad look, complaining about the Dunlending rabble around him in a decent Hall, to make Stigend realise his own prejudices.

He had been so happy with this new place whose dwellers had taken Modtryth and Cnebba as themselves, that he had had no need to keep an eye on how others thought of his family. But that way he had also forgotten to keep an eye on his own mind. Now he realised he had begun to think like the people he had despised all his life. Stigend was ashamed. Luckily he hadn’t made any nasty remarks or behaved badly towards Náin. But they had been only fellows at work. There had been nothing else.

After the incident he started looking at the dwarf with open eyes and was astonished with what he saw when he was not bringing all his prejudices along. Náin seemed flexible and friendly enough, but his skills with stone were just incredible. Even though this seemed not to be his real trade – he had heard he was more of an artist – he helped them every now and then and proved to be a real help indeed, able to do many of the things Garstan did. And the grace of the things he had touched! Náin seemed to be able to shape stone into any form he willed, like it was clay.

After the first week they started to have conversations during the work and at the pauses when Náin was around. Stigend appreciated the dwarf and he seemed not to think bad about him either. Even Stigend’s mediocre skills in masonry started to get better day by day.

On the third week the timber arrived and Stigend had to change his focus. Garstan would still have work to do with the fireplace now that the oven and firewall were finished, but the hewing of the logs, and especially preparing the framework, required an experienced hand; so he stuck to the logs by himself. As he had helped Garstan with the easier tasks, Garstan could help him when the time came. And anyhow, as they would start to hoist the logs to their places they would need lots of strong arms to help them.

That was a happy time. There was work that gave him satisfaction and he had been getting on very well with Garstan whom he considered now his friend. And his family was accepted! Stigend and Modtryth were enjoying their new appointments to the fullest. And what warmed Stigend the most was to see Cnebba’s shining eyes every evening when he made minute descriptions of the games and plays he had had with Lèoðern and Garmund.

And Cnebba kept speaking about Lèoðern all the time. Stigend had thought of it a couple of times. Indeed he had noticed a little uncomfortableness in Garmund’s expressions one or two times when he had seen all the three together, but he was too busy with his work to mind much.

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

Thinlómien's post

Modtryth was helping the cooks with unloading the newly bought random household goods - such as butter, salt, syrup, honey and herbs, carrying them to the kitchen and putting them to their right places. From the corner of her eye she could see her son running around the yard with his friends.

He looked very happy. He’s probably happier here than any place we’ve been in after Field Marshal Laudwine’s house, Modtryth thought, and that was many years ago. She knew the happiness wouldn’t last for ever – nothing ever did – but she hoped that it wouldn’t end too soon. Cnebba turned and saw his mother. This time, she saw, he was even smiling at her. And so was life.

Modtryth was having a job she liked. She had some kind of a place of trust – achieved only after a short discussion. Furthermore she was doing well in it, at least in her own opinion. And because the Lady Saeryn had never criticised her (except the one shameful time when she bought wrong sort of flour) and sometimes she had praised her for a work well done, she thought that she couldn’t be doing very badly in her eyes either.

Frodides and Kara discussed the evening meal as they worked. Nowadays they were so used to Modtryth that they didn’t mind her being present while they planned, and knew she wouldn’t mind them talking about their own business. Modtryth actually thought it was quite nice to listen their homely everyday talk about the ingredients of the stew.

Sometimes Frodides irritated Modtryth. She had basically interrogated Modtryth about the tiniest details of her life until she had let her be and accepted her as a part of the household. Older women were like that everywhere, and Frodides had a good heart, so Modtryth didn’t have problems with getting along with her. Kara, she thought, was a nice girl, friendly and good company. It would have been difficult not to like her.

“I’ll go and find the children. I know my Cnebba well enough to know that if he doesn’t have food before the meal, he’ll get impossible. I wouldn’t be surpised if that was so with Lèoðern and Garmund as well”, Modtryth said after they were done with all the organising.

"Strange that they haven't yet come looking for food, they must be so caught up in their games they've clear forgotten about eating."

Modtryth smiled. “I’ll go and get them then.” Even before she had stepped out of the kitchen, she heard the two cooks start discussing about the stew again.

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Old 08-02-2006, 10:15 PM   #470
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Saeryn sat down in the courtyard, taking a short break from her errands, and she let herself relax enough to enjoy the warm sun and the mouth-watering scent of baking bread. She needed still to speak with Modtryth, but it was a matter of no hurry. Trystan had gained a little weight, Saeryn liked to hope, in his stay, but he was still in need of new clothing; Saeryn hoped that, with Modtryth's tactful and easy-going help, she could nudge the young man into the direction of looking more upstanding and less like a rapscallion. She'd grown used to his presence and his roguish chivalry, and she smiled to see it, and frowned to see Eodwine's obvious distaste for the theatrics. She thought of Degas now, whenever she thought of Eodwine.

She closed her eyes, tilting her face toward the sun, a daisy sprouting, seeking the light. She wanted Degas to come back. She'd been unable to find him that day with Nain, a month ago already. He'd slipped into her room late that night and awoken her.

"Saera, I'm going to leave."

"What?"

"Saer," he repeated, pushing her hair away from her eyes, sitting next to her on her bed. "Saer, I cannot stay here."

"Of course you can, Degas." She sat up, scooting back, wrapping her arms around her knees and smoothing her nightdress. She was sleepy; he wasn't making sense. Why did he always choose the middle of the night? It was the same when they were children; always so late. "You are my guest. You are my brother. Of course you can stay here."

"Saera, what do I do? I do not earn my keep here, and Eodwine will not accept a coin in recompense for my stay because I am your brother. Even if he would, I have very little to give to him. The days grow long, Saer, when there is no work to fill them."

She sighed and looked at him, breathing out through her nose. "You told her you would wait."

He swallowed hard. "I know."

"Where will you go?"

"Home. Our childhood home." he clarified. "Fenrir and I have words to exchange... our last visit was less than friendly, if you remember the break in my nose."

Saeryn ran a finger along the bridge of it, noting where Bethberry had tended to the disconcerting shift of flesh. "Why return?"

"Because it is my home. Because what do I have, if I have no roots? I study in Minas Tirith and I play for every man woman and child between the cold streets and King Elessar's courts, and I live as a guest in his halls. Because I am a guest. I stay in Eodwine's Hall as a guest as well, with no work to qualify me. What do I have here, Saeri?"

"You have me." He took her hand.

"You have Eodwine."

"He has the memory of his wife. You have Linduial."

"She has her duty. She has her life. You have the young scapegrace Trystan to brush your hand with his lips as you giggle."

"Degas..."

"Do you think I did not see it? Do you hold Eodwine's past against him? No answer... Saeri, he is a man. He did not spring into existence the day that you met him in Bethberry's Inn. Did it hurt to remember it?"

"Degas... yes. Yes, brother, it hurt. I'd denied myself thoughts, but still I'd wondered at what it would be. He is my friend, Degas, but I began to wonder if it could be more, and what would happen if there was more, and whose nod would I seek should he care to look my way, and I let myself wonder as I worked, because what else had I to think of except the place I once called home, the place that I can't return to, or the dreams of our parents?"

"You dream of them?"

"Every night, Degas. They call me. And Caeli too, since I learned... There are paths and it is dusk, and the grass is trampled and there are birds crying intrusion, and their voices say to follow, and I wake in a sweat and I want to cry. Degas, since I learned, I have not wept for our family. I cannot find the tears. I would rather not dwell on the past... so I let myself wonder lazily about the future."

"And the past found you."

"Yes."

"My past is my future. Yours is as well, though you do not want it to be. I have to go home, Saeryn. What am I in this world? A younger son of a lesser known house. Our parents were loved by all. Saeryn, King Eomer knew our father, and loved him. Without Mother and Father, though, Saer, what do I have? I have that which I claim from Fenrir. But to claim my birthright, whatever it might be, I cannot run away. I cannot spend my days lazily writing, locked in my room, or flirting with tavern wenches."

"When?"

"Tomorrow."

"But..."

"I know, Saer."

"It has been four years."

He cupped her cheek. "You do not want me here. I would lessen the spirit of the day. It does not need me."

"But I do..."

"Our birthday remains ours, even if we are apart."

"We haven't celebrated our birthday together--"

"Not since before I left."

"You cannot leave after? Or come back more quickly than you will?"

He hung his head and did not answer.

"Lady Saeryn?" She startled a little, her attention removed from that night, and sought for the voice in the yard. It was Modtryth.

"Yes, Modtryth?"

"Have you seen the children? The time is nearing for lunch and they are sure to be hungry."

"I cannot say that I have, though I meant to speak with you. May I have a word as we look? I would ask a favor, if you would entertain me the question. What think you of our Trystan?"

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Old 08-04-2006, 08:34 PM   #471
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A new day and a new start, Thornden thought. Good luck, anyway. He held a letter limply in his hand as he stood at the window, half dressed for the day. His face had an odd expression on it and had anyone been there to see it, they would probably have asked him what the trouble was.

He watched a bird distractedly as it flew about at almost eye level with him, chasing a bug. It darted about, turning at sharp, startling angles, and suddenly it made a snatch with its beak and flew off.

Thornden blinked and sighed and looked down at the paper in his hand.

My Dear Thornden, it read, You quite astonish me, brother. I’ve not seen or heard anything of your for months on end, even though two months ago I’m sure you got my letter I wrote about your nephew. I’m quite astonished, though I don’t see why I should be.

I did receive your short letter telling me about your employment at the new Eorl’s Hall there in Edoras, however, and you may be happy, though surprised, to hear that I didn’t write only to tell you how shocked and disapointed I am in you, but also to tell you that I am coming to do it in person. Expect me on the 22nd, hopefully a few hours before noon.

I will be coming with someone accompanying me, but I may need an escort on my return journey. You will be good enough to arrange something?

Yours, etc. . .


The letter had arrived two days ago and Thornden had nearly leaped out of his chair. Medreth – here? It wasn’t so much that Medreth would be a bad person to introduce. . .just not one who he hadn’t visited in months when he should have weeks and weeks ago. . .how was he going to receive her and what was she going to say?

Thanks goodness the Lady Linduial has left! he thought as he picked up his shirt. Still. . .Medreth might go so far as to ask about Saeryn or Kara. He winced visibly and scowled as he picked up a comb. Women and their infernal opinion that everyone should be married instantly upon their twentieth year! All the same, he must face it like a man, he decided, and looked at the bright side of things. He would see his nephew and maybe his youngest brother. That would be enjoyable. And it had been a long time since he’d seen Medreth. Perhaps she wouldn’t ask him too many questions and maybe, just maybe, she would accept his excuse of being far too busy to slip away earlier and visit her. . .

He tugged on his last boot with a decided jerk and went out.

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Old 08-05-2006, 03:02 PM   #472
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Dawn had hardly broken before Garmund, Lèoðern, and Cnebba ran out of the Inn to play. Since their meeting, the children had spent most of their free time together. All three were now friends. Though to Garmund, it seemed that there was something not quite right. Before Cnebba came, Garmund and his sister had each been the best and only friend to the other. Things were different now. When Garmund was called to learn his father's stonecraft, Cnebba was often free, and Lèoðern had often gone to play with the carpenter's son, leaving Garmund to catch up on their games only as they neared their ending. And then, in their room in the evening, she spoke often about Cnebba. In his own thought, Garmund found himself in envy of the attention the new boy had from his sister. His sister. If Lèoðern played with anyone, it should be her brother.

But in the early morning, all three were together, and those thoughts did not come to Garmund. They huddled in a corner of the yard where Cnebba had drawn a circle on the ground. Each of the children had made a set of clay balls the day before, and now played at knocking one ball against the other, trying to push the others' out of the circle.

It was Lèoðern's turn. Cnebba suddenly whispered something in her ear. She giggled and sent one of her balls flying towards one of Garmund's, his last in the circle. Garmund's rolled outside the circle's border, and Lèoðern laughed again, clapping her hands.

"Poor Garmund. You're out."

Garmund clenched his jaw. He was out, yet again. The unsettled envy returned.

"I am. But I have work to do anyway. I should go." He stood and started to leave, and then in a hasty moment, turned to give a parting jab, knowing well that he was acting wrongly.

"Unlike some others."

Almost instantly, Garmund was ashamed, but he kept walking, angry at Cnebba for taking so much of Lèoðern's attention, angry at Lèoðern for not siding with him, and, most of all, angry with himself for making matters worse.
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Old 08-05-2006, 03:27 PM   #473
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Eodwine had been up since the crack of dawn, going over his books. Shortly after having returned Marenil to his status as guest, Eodwine had ordered Thornden up to Meduseld to see to the issue of taxation of the market shops; and his almbudsman had returned with the information that Eodwine had expected: the King expected a tithe of the market taxes, as he expected a tithe of all other fees Eodwine collected. This seemed overly generous to Eodwine, since Eomer had been receiving all the fees and taxes himself until he had made Eodwine the Eorl of the new Middle Emnet. What possible benefit could come to the king at giving up so much revenue? The only answer Eodwine could discern was that the king was freed from the headaches of daily management. But could that possibly make up for the loss of revenue?

Such questions as these had created the need for Eodwine to go to Meduseld. He rose, returned the small tray of breakfast he had been given by Kara, and stopped in at Saeryn's room. He knocked and waited, and momentarily she came to the door. He greeted her good morning, which she returned; he marked that her smile did not reach her eyes, but it was early morning and one should not expect too much.

"I am going up to Meduseld today, as I told you yesterday. I leave you in charge of the Hall until I return. I expect to be back before dark, but it depends upon how long my meetings with the King's wítan lasts; so I may not return until tomorrow."

Saeryn nodded.

"One final thing. Trystan needs more than odd jobs. He needs training. Put him in Garwine's charge. Have Garwine turn the boy into a guard and maybe a soldier. He needs some ordering about, that one."

Saeryn frowned, apparently no relishing the task he'd handed her. Eodwine winked. "I like him, Saeryn, but I also know that his trustworthiness must be strengthened. I'll not have a Hall full of rogues, but Eorlingas, even if I have to make the one out of the other.

"Have you any words for me before I leave?"

She shook her head. "No. I will do what you wish, but I do not think such a life is in Trystan."

"We shall see. Good-bye, love." He winked again as her brow rose and her mouth opened in her startelment at his word, and then he closed the door before she could say or do any more, then walked quickly away to the stables so that she could not stop him to make sure she had heard him aright.

After bidding Léof a good morning and quick thanks for having Flíthaf ready as requested the previous night, Eodwine was off and away for the rest of the day.

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Old 08-08-2006, 09:51 AM   #474
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“Of course you may ask, my lady”, Modtryth answered automatically and made a little pause after continuing. The question had come as a surprise. What indeed did she think of this young man that had appeared to the hall right after her little family?

“May I put it bluntly, my lady?” she asked the younger woman as they walked in the yard.
Lady Saeryn winced. She hadn’t maybe expected this. “Yes, of course, go on.”

“He’s a young rascal, but not one of irremediable sort. I wish my Cnebba doesn’t grow to be a man like that”, Modtryth said, softening her words with a smile. “Trystan’ll hopefully grow out of it. I don’t know him well, but there’s something strange in him or in his past.”

Saeryn nodded, but kept looking at Modtryth, as if urging her to continue. She did: “I guess he has to be let to forget it and to have a clean start, just like you and the Eorl have done, my lady.” She hoped she didn’t sound too arrogant.

Secretely, she congratulated herself for giving a nonsense answer. She would have liked to point out that the boy clearly needed a proper job, and soon. That would help him to settle down. Modtryth however kept her opinion to herself and looked humbly at the lady. She did not wish to step over the boundaries of her own position here where she had been so warmly welcomed, even when she was evidently asked advice. She did not wish to admonishthe lady and the lord.

“May I ask what are your thoughts on the matter, my lady?” she returned the question instead.

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Old 08-08-2006, 11:53 AM   #475
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"You may. I am to put him in Garwine's charge, for the time at least."

Saeryn considered Trystan, running other duties through her head. Eodwine had asked her to put Trystan under Garwine's watch, and that was what she would do; and she would not give him other duties besides without consulting Eodwine; it was not her place to do so. Still... if there were other duties better suited to him? Trystan was no soldier. Not every spirited young man should be molded. Would it not be better to find a place for him that he came already fit for?

Saeryn had not yet spent more than a few minutes at a time with Trystan. They'd not yet spoken at length, and she did not know him well. She would need to remedy it. She had an idea, but it was not one it was prudent to speak freely about. She would let it develop and then have a word with Eodwine.

"Trystan is a rascal, you are not mistaken about that, but I do not distrust him. There are none in this house I would not trust with my own life or the lives of others close to me. I've found that the best way to foster trust is to give it. Still, I see your meaning.

"We will give him a home and work for as long as he needs it, as that is Eodwine's way. And he must be outfitted for the work. That is why I came to you; to be put to work under Garwine requires clothing for the work; sturdy, functional, and fit for the duties that Garwine gives to him. Also, though, I believe that Trystan might be better viewed in terms of standing if he is dressed as less a ragamuffin." Saeryn smiled, wishing Trystan's freedom to dress as he would was her own; she'd worn breeches perhaps once since the court day, dressing for her role as lady. She knew that she could still wear men's garb, but with so many visitors, noble and common alike, and all of them eying her, and not all eyes as friendly as others, she kept to gowns that showed her standing, but not exhorbitantly. She knew that a woman's bearing and appearance could do much for her, but she still missed the comfort of bare feet and leggings.

"We can outfit him as a soldier with no eyebrows raised, not even his own, but I would like to see Trystan dressed as an upstanding young man even off duty. Would you help me to clothe him in such a way that we are not merely approaching him with words that we disapprove of his poverty?"
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Old 08-09-2006, 07:24 PM   #476
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Thornden wandered quietly through the great hall after having breakfast. His eyes traced the wall and roof, the great fireplace in the center, and the new doorway in the wall leading into the corridor coming from the kitchen. Having made a complete round of the room, he went towards the place of construction.

Stigend and Garstan were beginning their day’s work and for a while, Thornden watched them in silence. Their work fascinated him in almost every stage. He knew next to nothing of the art of building or anything like and found it very interesting.

He had stood there nearly five minutes without moving so much as an inch when he heard a soft step near him. He drew in his breath and his eyes left Stigend’s work with the wood to shift to the person near him. It was Garstan’s son, Garmund.

“Good morning, Garmund!” Thornden said, smiling and taking a step towards him. The boy glanced up briefly.

“Good morning, sir,” he answered without stopping or slowing his walk.

Thornden bent his head a little to look more squarely into Garmund’s face. An expression of carefully contained anger or vexation dwelt on his face. Thornden laid his hand on Garmund’s shoulder. “Wait, lad,” he said softly, kneeling with one knee on the ground to bring himself more to the boy’s level. “Is anything the matter?”
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Old 08-10-2006, 08:22 AM   #477
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If any of the small village in the Folde had cared to look toward the morning sun, they could have seen the wilted outline of Degas lit by it. They could, perhaps, have made out the broken harp in his hands; the glow of the strings flashing like infinitely small whips of fire might have given it away. He'd dropped it by accident in a fit of annoyance and watched in horror as a crack split the fine frame and snapped several strings, fraying many others. He walked, a ghost, out the front doors of his family home, his hands curled around it, staring blankly.

Everything is broken in my life.

He pushed the thought away. He did not want it. To admit to problems made it so much harder to qualify doing nothing about them.

"She's to return."

Degas glared at his brother. Fenrir was two inches taller than him, was heavily built; most chose not to pick fights with him... they'd lose if only to his temper.

"What's it to do with me?"

"You know where she is."

"So do you. If you want her back so much, go get her." He felt like he was betraying Saeryn. He should have known... Fenrir did not live far from Edoras. Perhaps a day's ride. If he had not heard before then, he'd learned for certain through the city gossip that his youngest sister was the lady of a man she had not wed.

"You will bring her back."

"I'll do no such thing." Fenrir took a step forward.

"Go ahead, brother, do it. You know you want to. I know you want to. What stops you, brother? That the village can see us? Be a man and pick fights where the world can see. Punish me all you like. I will not be your slave or your messenger. If you want Saeryn back, go and grovel."

"I do not grovel."

"Then you do not deserve her." None of us do. She is the only worthy one of us.

"You will cleave to my will or you will be removed from that of our parents."

"You'd never dare." His words were acid. Careless. What had he to lose? Father would never approve of a rivalry of his children's wills. Father was gone. Mother; she would take them aside in private and share her displeasure with a look of disappointment. Fenrir would wilt. Degas would have already apologized. Mother was gone. Their displeasure meant little. Only the here and now. Here and now, Degas stood alone with his brother in the morning sun, and he had no Linduial to take for evening walks, to write music for, to treat like his very own queen. He had no parents to disapprove. He had no Saeryn to take his hand and calm him, to make him think sense. When had she become the calming force in his life? She'd had the temper as a child. He'd been pushed into watering troughs often enough to know it. When had she changed? Why hadn't he been there for her?

"I can do it without question. You left home with little warning and no regard for the state of your lands or your people. You left their well-being to another while you frolicked in foreign lands living upon the purse of another. Is that the responsibility to hold lands? You allow your youngest sister to live in the house of a man not her husband, to be his lady out of wedlock. You allow rumors to garner about her, cutting her hard earned reputation to ribbons, and what do you do of it? You care nothing for your land or your family. Your inheritance is undeserved."

"You dare!" Degas stepped forward, his harp still in his hands.

"You will bring Saeryn home or the matter will be taken before the king and he will learn more even than the little I've said."

"You have nothing."

"I have everything."
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Old 08-10-2006, 12:26 PM   #478
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Náin woke for the first time in a very long time rather later than usual. And grumpier. He hadn't been this grumpy since...

Oh, right.

Not since the day after Eodwine's first court day, when he had faced the unpleasant task of apologizing to Degas, Saeryn, and Eodwine. What a mess that had been! Degas had done nothing to endear himself to Náin, and had told him that if Saeryn forgave him, then he would. Saeryn had been nicer about it than Degas, but had not given Náin a formal statement of accepting his apology, but had told him that if Eodwine would forgive him, then she would as well.

What with having been in the middle of Edoras at the time, away from the Mead Hall, and escorting Saeryn in search of -of all people- her brother Degas, Náin had not had the opportunity to seek out Eodwine until evening, when Eodwine had again sought his chambers- the same place Náin had blown up and gotten himself into such a mess in the first place.

What had passed between Náin and Eodwine that night, nobody knew. They seemed to have come to terms, anyway, and the consensus being that Eodwine was a just and kind man, the general feeling was that Náin had gotten the forgiveness he'd been looking for, and all was well.

Whatever the case may have been, that was a good month ago. Since then the statue of Falco had been given a proper unveiling, and Náin had busied himself with several smaller projects around the Mead Hall, including the chimney and fireplace for the new kitchen with Garstan and Stigend. Working with the two practical labourers, Náin decided that, as far as most things were concerned, he much preferred to spend his time with commoners than with nobles. Among other things, they tended to have a greater appreciation for Dwarven practicality.

Which brought Náin back to why he was in a foul mood. The sandstone block that had taken him three weeks to have hauled in from Dunharrow's quarries, and which was supposed to have been the basis for his next statue, a smaller-than-life statue of the late King Théoden mounted for battle, to be a gift from King Éomer to his sister Lady Éowyn, had arrived cracked right down the middle. Just about any way Náin looked at the thing, it was not going to be possible to turn out the statue he was intending from it. He needed to get another block from Dunharrow- something that Éomer's treasurer would be displeased about, and he needed to find a use in the meantime for his flawed block.

Tired and grumpy from a night dreaming about the cracked sandstone, Náin dressed and went in search of breakfast.
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Old 08-10-2006, 04:22 PM   #479
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Kara was happily kneading dough when Náin entered, searching for food. With all the renovations going on at the moment she and Frodides were often unsure where exactly they could work at any one time, which was not always conducive to good relations. It was for this reason that the Hall had been swamped with large amounts of bread in recent days, as the making of it calmed frayed nerves and nasty tempers as well as any fight or rant did.

The Dwarf didn't look entirely happy, giving Kara a rather surly sounding greeting as he took a plate and began to fill it. He hadn't been in a good mood since his latest project had been scuppered, and Kara doubted things would improve until he had something worthy of his talents to work on. Still, there was nothing to lose by trying to offer friendship. Opening the oven door she removed the tray of just finished rolls, and called to the Dwarf before he could leave the room.

"Náin? Would you like a fresh roll to go with that? Still warm from the oven."
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Old 08-10-2006, 06:11 PM   #480
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"Is anything the matter?"

Garmund felt Thornden's glance searching his face and looked to the ground. Anything the matter? Of course there was something the matter. Everything, in fact. His sister liked a new, strange boy more than she liked her own brother - a brother who had been her best friend and playmate for her whole life. Until now.

Frustration and annoyance burst out in a single question.

"Do you have a sister?"
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