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Old 07-25-2015, 09:18 PM   #81
Folwren
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Ruari and Saeryn

“Get mother, Ruari.”

Ruari hung back a moment, frozen in fear as she stared at Eodwine, but almost at once, her legs remembered how to move and she ran off.

She burst through the kitchen door. “Mama!” she cried, breathlessly.

Saeryn turned from the table where she had been working. Her heartbeat quickened when she saw the distress on her daughter’s face. “What is the matter, Ruari?” she asked, bending down.

Ruari rushed to her, clinging to her arms, and beginning to cry in her alarm. “Papa fell! He tried to get up to come to eat, and he fell and can’t get up, and he sent me for you, and he’s just-”

Saeryn gently, though hastily, disengaged Ruari’s hands and silently put her to the side. Without another word, she hurried from the kitchen. She ran to the door of their room and went immediately to Eodwine’s side, grasping his arm and helping him sit up with his back to the bed.

“What have you done to yourself?” she asked, her voice trembling. “What’s the matter?”

From the bed behind them, she heard Eoghan stir and begin to whimper quietly, calling her, but she did not turn from her husband.
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Old 07-26-2015, 07:38 AM   #82
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Ladavan

Leaving the stable, Ladavan found himself wondering again just what he was doing here.

He knew he wasn't the first of his people to make his way west and see how life was among their former enemies. He had even seen some persons since his arrival he thought likely were at least partly of his race.
But the encounter on the road with the stout man and the words of the other in the stable just then made him wonder if the old scars would ever be healed.

Now he was doubting the wisdom of trying to set himself as a carpenter here. Would there be any business? Would people take a look at him and decide they could find someone else? What could he do, though? He couldn't go back. There was nothing for him there, even if he managed the long road alone. What he needed was some way to prove himself, to earn trust and respect.

He had been absently walking as the thoughts passed, and when he came back to himself found he was both hungry, and very thirsty.
And there was a well, with two men standing at it, backs to him.
Ladavan made his way to it, walking close behind them. It was then that , without looking, one of the two suddenly drove his elbow at Ladavan.

"Biandur"! he said reflexively stepping back, and winced. He would have to stop speaking the old tongue in public. "I mean, watch out," he added.
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Old 07-26-2015, 08:06 AM   #83
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Folwren's post - Javan
Javan wanted to eat. He was as hungry as the next person. But he would not leave Leof out here working while he went in and broke his fast.

“I’ll finish the job with you,” he said. He turned to Elfthain. “You’ve come a long way and must be weary,” he said. “You ought to go in and rest. We will be in soon enough and I will come find you.” He offered Elfthain a quick, flashing smile, and then turned and hurried off to tend to the chores that could not wait until after dinner.

Mithalwen's post - Elfthain

It was all very well, thought Elfthain, to tell him to go in and rest but he didn't know where "in" was other than the kitchen and he wasn't that weary anyway. The journey had been dull rather than tiring and while the heavy lifting might give him aching muscles and he was sure he would sleep well that night he felt no immediate need for slumber. What he would really like would be to get out of this wretched mailshirt. ideally to wash and to change in to fresh clothes as far as possible. However all his gear was in the stables and until he knew where he would be quartered there was no point in moving it and in the meantime the easiest way to transport the cumbersome hauberk and its gambeson was to wear it.

Finding himself at the well he drew a pail of cold clear water and washed at least the dust from Saffy's coat from his hands. Bracing himself, he raised the bucket and poured some of the well water over his lowered head. He gasped at the chill of it and felt it trickle down his neck shivering his spine. Refreshed, if resigned to the knowledge that his ablutions had merely moved rather than removed the grime he decided he might as well have a look around. The yard was a deal quieter now, the stores had been unladen, the waggons moved and most of the people seemed to have disappeared too, no doubt eager to get at the hot food. He scuffed the toe of his riding boot in the dirt and pondered. The only places he knew were the stables and kitchen and both were likely to be busy, maybe he should take a look round the other side.

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Old 07-27-2015, 03:43 AM   #84
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Áforglaed

Áforglaed realised he just elbowed somebody pretty hard and the person swore, even though he could not make out the word. "I mean, watch out!" the same voice said, and Áforglaed turned around to face a thin dark-haired older man, apparently one of those who arrived with the caravan.

"Uh, sorry," he said. "Here," he turned around, handing the pail over to the stranger. "Sorry 'bout that. I'm done washing."

"He is just not looking where he's walking," Hilderinc chimed in from behind.

"No I'm not!" Áforglaed turned his head. "Or, I mean, yes, I am looking, of course, I just did not see you," he faced the stranger again.

Behind him, Hilderinc shrugged and started walking towards the hall.

"Name's Áforglaed by the way," the young soldier offered his arm, then realised the other man's hands were still dirty, so he promptly withdrew it. "Hey," he suddenly observed, "you look quite Dunnish."
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Old 07-27-2015, 04:35 PM   #85
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Eodwine and Saeryn

"I have kept my-" he swallowed and breathed "-my children alive."

Saeryn's eyes flashed as she took in his words and their meaning. Her hands, resting one on his shoulder and the other on his laboring chest, felt the bones beneath his rough, white shirt. "By starving yourself?" she demanded . She swallowed back the lump of fear in her throat, torn between grief and disbelieving anger. "What good would it do if you died and your children were left fatherless?" Eoghan's crying grew louder, but Saeryn still did not turn. "Why didn't you tell me? You should not have done this!"

His brow lowered in annoyance. "Your children are alive. The deed is done. Berate me if you must. Now help me not die."

Saeryn could not stop tears from escaping her eyes, but she forced her sob into a bitter laugh. "I ought to let you die, you silly old man," she said, choking again on a sob, but smiling. Thankfully he still had the will to live! She had feared he was resigned to dying. It would be the sort of heroic attitude he would take. "You've practically killed yourself already. But I'll see what can be done."

"There's a good girl. I married right. See to the boy first. I swear to you I will stay alive a few more moments. Will you bring me food here?"

Saeryn bent and kissed his head. "Of course." She helped him lean back against the bed, taking away the support of her body, and after sniffing and wiping her eyes, she stood up and turned to the bed.

"What is it, son?" she said softly. Eoghan did not answer. Her presence calmed him almost at once, and he lay back, staring forlornly up at her. She sniffed again, picking up the cup of water from the table at the bedside. "Drink. I will bring you food, too."
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Old 07-27-2015, 06:49 PM   #86
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Stefnu

First they came one by one, but now as the word about the porridge spread, groups of starved Scarburgians were streaming into the kitchens. There was no way, Stefnu mused, for anybody to try to make any orderly meal out of this. No: now was the time to eat, only to eat, to feel the simple part of life that had for so long been denied to them. Now people just came to get their bowl of porridge, the first proper meal in weeks, and Stefnu made the special note to sprinkle a few nuts on top of every portion. It was a mere gesture, but she felt it was right.

"This meal is nothing special," she had told Modtryth, "but at the same it is special, because-" There was no need to explain further. Of course it was special, from now on, they realised how every meal was special. "It may be humble," she had continued, "but I don't feel we should hold back on making it better!"

Most people in Stefnu's place would not think of treats at this time, but she did, and she felt that was what the people of Scarburg needed. In some way, it occupied her mind even more than her own hunger. In some way, she had been thinking about this the whole winter.

She also made a mental note to talk to lady Saeryn, later. They will have to make a proper, large, celebratory feast. Later, maybe even tomorrow. To mark the end of the terrible winter once and for all, to share their joy of coming back to life and to remember those who did not. And last but not least, they would do so to thank those who brought the caravan that saved them. She was certain the Eorl or lady Saeryn would see to it, but now there was surely no hurry. Now, there were people to feed.

She smiled at the next person who came to fill their bowl, when she noticed Saeryn storming away, leaving clearly agitated Ruari behind. She did not see what happened, but she could make good enough picture of the situation.

"Excuse me," she said, handing the spoon to the next person. "I'll be right back, help yourself. Just a few spoonfuls, you can come back later for more!"

Quickly, she turned to pick up an empty bowl and walked to Ruari's side.

"Hello again!" she smiled encouragingly. "Is everything all right?"

"Papa fell," the girl said in a trembling voice. "Mama went after him, and-"

Stefnu forced herself not to betray any signs of distress herself. She stroked Ruari's head.

"I am sure she will take care of him," she said. "You can wait for them here with me. I am sure they will come soon and everything will be all right, you'll see. Perhaps you would like to have some porridge while you wait? See, I got you a bowl. What if you come sit over there with me, and you can also get some of the honey the nice boy - what was his name? - brought us."
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Old 07-28-2015, 05:15 PM   #87
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Ladavan

As the man turned to him and uttered what seemed to be a genuine apology, Ladavan watched the other turn and walk away.

"Name's Áforglaed by the way", the remaining one said, extending his arm in apparent greeting. Then, withdrawing it, he added "Hey, you look quite Dunnish".

You aren't the first to notice, Ladavan thought sourly. Trying not to let his feeling show, he assumed a neutral expression and replied, "Yes, I am of that people. I have made this long journey to see what I can find here." He paused. This one looked young and rather reckless, but not necessarily hostile.

"I am a stranger here, of course. No doubt it will be some time before I learn the customs and laws. But the more I can talk to people, the more I will discover." The young man had something of a soldierly feel about him, as had his departed companion. Ladavan had the (probably) foolish beginning of an idea.

"Tell me, sir: what is your living?" he asked.
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Old 07-29-2015, 04:12 AM   #88
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Áforglaed

"Me? I am a guardsman, here. There aren't many of us, now." He made a vague nod in departing Hilderinc's direction. "Not that it's needed," he grinned. "It's been quite peaceful here, after our former eorl Athanar showed the neighbouring lords their place - I was there," he remarked, straightening himself proudly. "I also heard the local folk made quite a short work of the Easterling raiders who appeared when the rest of us soldiers were fighting out beyond the River last spring."

He surveyed the man from head to toes. "Are you a soldier? I mean, a Dunnish soldier? Man, I hope your people are not fighting ours anymore. I mean, obviously you're not, now that you are here. Right?" He grinned again, this time a bit more nervously, it started dawning on him that he had been babbling. "What is your name?" he asked quickly.
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Old 08-01-2015, 06:20 PM   #89
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Saeryn

The kitchen was flocked with people who had heard the summons to supper. They stood in two lines as Modtryth and Frodides ladled porridge into their bowls from the pots. Saeryn picked up two empty bowls and walked directly to the head of one line and held them out. She thought grimly about what she might say if someone questioned her right to cut to the front, but no one did, and she strode from the kitchen with two steaming bowls of porridge.

"Here we are," she said as cheerfully as she could when she came back to the room. "It's a bit hot yet. Let us pour some water into it. It will do it no harm." She poured a bit of cool water into Eoghan's bowl, while admitting to herself that water was a poor substitute for milk.

"Here, lad, sit up for me." She helped Eoghan sit up against the wall and pulled the blankets up about him under his arms. She set the bowl in his lap and put the spoon in his hand. "Eat it slowly," she instructed, leaning towards him and speaking in a low voice, so as to gain his closest attention.

"Now for you," she said, turning to Eodwine. "Do you want water in your porridge, too, or shall you eat it hot? Let's get you up on the bed, first, so you're not freezing on the ground."
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Old 08-02-2015, 07:14 AM   #90
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Ladavan

He'd been right, Ladavan thought. He'd wondered if this man could give him the opening he sought, or at least point him in the right direction.
Now the man seemed wary and nervous, guessing he stood in the presence of a Dunland foreigner. Oddly, this brought amusement to Ladavan, and not bitterness.

"I am of Dunland, and I did fight in the war. And yes, I fought against you horse-people. I do not look proudly on it now, though at the time, I thought what I did was right. I am named Ladavan." He then plunged ahead.

"It is of soldiering I would speak, though. How does one gain entry to such service here?"
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Old 08-04-2015, 05:39 PM   #91
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Eodwine

Maybe he had been a fool to starve himself in hopes that his children might then live. Well, thanks to the king, his plan had won out. Which was lucky, not good planning. So he was a fool. Well, he thought, better a living fool than a dead one. Saeryn came back and fed their son first. He watched her, enjoying her motherly ways.

She turned to him and became less motherly and more cool and about business. Maybe he deserved her coldness, if that was what it was.

"I'll have it with water."

He lifted his arms to be helped off the ground. Once he was seated on the bed, and she had poured some water in his porridge, she handed it to him and watched. He looked up at her before he took his first spoonful. Was she afraid he still would not eat? Or that he would not be able to keep it down? She seemed all anxy and worrity, as his mum used to say.

"I am sorry. It was a foolish thing to do. You married a fool, title or no," he added lightly, grinning ruefully. "If only you had known." He ladled some porridge onto his spoon and took a cautious sip.
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Old 08-06-2015, 01:48 PM   #92
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Saeryn

“It wouldn't have made any difference,” Saeryn said with a shrug. Then she softened a little and her hands came down from her hips and she sat down next to him. “You're only a fool when it comes to taking care of yourself, you know. I shouldn't be surprised about this.” She watched him slowly take another bite. Her mouth watered and her stomach tightened longingly, but she did not get up yet. She had to wait until her husband and son were finished and she was sure they were well enough for her to leave them.

She resumed talking to distract herself. “You always push yourself harder than anybody else. There was the time you got sick and had to go to Gondor.” She paused and reflected a moment. No one really believed he would come back that time. “I may as well get used to you almost dying on me every couple of years,” she said with a smile, and then fell silent.

It would not have made any difference, even if she had known. She knew his generous, kind nature, and that was enough. She had seen him accept people whom others had cast out, and she had watched as he influenced the most unsavory characters until they became good, upstanding members of their community. She knew firsthand his patience and his forgiveness, and she loved him for it.

“Just don't go too far one day and actually go,” she said quietly, turning and looking up at him.
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Old 08-06-2015, 07:28 PM   #93
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Eodwine

What passed between the Eorl and his wife is a matter between them. Suffice it to say that they both had enough to eat, took care of the needs of their son, and eventually corralled their daughter.

Late afternoon passed into evening and the sun hid behind the western trees, what few there were in those parts.

That night, Eodwine's dreams were quiet and had not about them the rigors of leanness. He and his family slept well.
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Old 08-09-2015, 09:57 AM   #94
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Legate of Amon Lanc's post - Áforglaed

"It is of soldiering I would speak, though. How does one gain entry to such service here?"

Áforglaed surveyed the Dunlending with new interest. Was it possible this man could join them in Scarburg? It was true, Áforglaed mused, Eodwine would have to get more men to replace some of those who died during the winter. Such as poor old Raban. Sooner or later. So why not this Dunlending?

"I guess you would have to speak to the eorl about it," he said. "That's what it comes down to, anyway. When I came here, I was already in the eorl's service, the previous one, I mean. But yes, why not? Talk to Eodwine. I mean lord Eodwine. Or to Thornden, I mean commander Thornden, he is in charge of these things. Even though he will lead you to Eodwine anyway. But yes."

The prospect of having a Dunlending as a fellow guardsman gave Áforglaed a strange feeling, but it was also kind of intriguing. However, loud rumble in Áforglaed's stomach also reminded him that he wanted to go to have dinner.

"Listen," he said, "I am pretty hungry and the food is being served, but if I see Thornden or Eodwine, I mean lord Eodwine, I can tall them. Uh okay, probably not Eodwine, he might have too many important things. But Thornden. Or you can find me or any of the other soldiers, they can tell you who Thornden is."

There was a sound of metal pots clanging from somewhere in the kitchen. "I have to go," Áforglaed said. "But see you around, Lamedon!" And he rushed away from the well, without looking back.

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

Folwren's Post - Saeryn

Morning After the Arrival of the Caravan

Saeryn had noticed the woman that came with the caravan the first night she arrived, though she had no chance to speak with her. The ordering of the new supplies and seeing that everyone was fed, and tending to her sick husband and child, had filled Saeryn's time. It was not until the second day that she was able to approach the woman.

She left the women washing up dishes in the kitchen and went out to the hall. The stranger had been given no task and stood rather awkwardly by the fire. Saeryn smiled.

"I am truly sorry I have not greeted you before now, lady," she said. She spoke respectfully, for it seemed to her that the woman came from a respectable family. "I was remiss yesterday not to have seen to your bed myself. Forgive me." The woman's head dipped slightly, and she looked at a loss for words. Saeryn did not pause long. She motioned towards a table and as they sat down, she said, "What is your errand here, and how may I assist you?"

Brith smiled, and a little belatedly, dropped in a curtsey. "My lady Saeryn," she replied in Rohirric, as she had been addressed. "If it please you..." she hesitated, switching to Westron. "I am ashamed to say I know very little of your beautiful language." She smiled.

Saeryn, too, smiled. "I can speak Westron if you like. I was asking your errand, and if you might require assistance of any kind."

"My lady, I would hate to ask anything, seeing how things stand here," Brith said quickly, then realized that her words could be interpreted the wrong way. Especially since she hadn't really been doing anything useful all morning, but she had been discouraged by a local woman who had shrugged off her question if she could help with any of the household chores. She didn't want to seem too proud or condescending. "My name is Brithiel, and I am of Lamedon. More recently, from Arnor." Idly, she wondered if she was rambling.

"I am a seamstress by profession. I have come to Scarburg on a... personal quest." Again she paused. She had nothing against telling this grave and friendly young lady her story, but her father had always told her to keep it short when she was explaining something. Saeryn gave her an encouraging nod and she continued.

"I am hoping to stay for a few weeks, or maybe a few moons, while I take care of my business. I understand you already have many mouths to feed, and I do not desire to be a burden. I will help you as I may. Sewing is my trade, and I also know weaving and spinning." She paused and smiled again. "I am more than glad to help you with anything that has to be done around the household, too. I spent the last couple of years doing laundry and shearing sheep, among other things."

"One willing to work hard is always welcome here," Saeryn said kindly. "We have fallen on hard times, but winter is passed, and the roads are opened to Edoras. I do not think I am wrong to say that you will not be a burden and we have plenty of supplies now. May I ask what this personal quest is and why you have chosen our humble, and rather worn, home to finish your business in?"

"Oh my lady, but Scarburg is lovely!" Brith insisted. "The scar is a marvel, and you can see the hall has been constructed with love. It only saddens me to see how you have suffered in the winter."

Saeryn smiled and murmured something about Brith being too generous with her praise, and then waited patiently for her to continue.

"But I did not choose to come here because of your beautiful home, I'm afraid. I am looking for a man by the name of Belecthor, son of Handir. We were betrothed to be married many years ago." Brith cast down her glance. "He... we didn't marry, and I heard he's now in Rohan and has a family here. In Edoras I heard stories that his wife is the niece of a landholder in Mid-Emnet named Tancred. I understand this Tancred lives not far from Scarburg."

Brith looked back up at Saeryn. She realized for the first time that her errand may seem inappropriate for an unmarried woman traveling alone, if not even scandalous. She tried a faint smile.

Saeryn returned the smile, though it was no stronger than Brith's. She had met Tancred only once, and she had not been well impressed by him.

"You may stay as long as you have need," she said after the briefest pause. "We will do what we can to help you in your search."

"Thank you, my lady," Brith replied. "You are too kind." She hesitated. She had offered her services in exchange for a roof over her head and something to eat, that was just and fair. To come as a wealthy foreigner and offer money could be seen as rude. Still, she felt like she had been presuming and given a bad impression of herself. "If I may, would you, Lady Saeryn, accept a small gift as thanks for your hospitality?" She produced a small pouch and opened it on the table. "These are freshwater pearls from Lake Evendim. They are abundant there, worn by commoners too on festive occasions, but here in the south we seldom see them. If you know a good jeweler, these could be made into a lovely little brooch or bracelet for your beautiful daughter - or perhaps I could help you to sew them in one of your own gowns, in the Gondorian fashion?"

Saeryn's lips parted with surprise. She smiled, pleased by the gentle luster of the pearls, and she touched one with the tip of her finger.

"This is no small gift," she said, glancing up at Brith. The young lady looked nervous, scared that she had offended Saeryn, and Saeryn smiled again. "I will accept them."

"I will still work, as we agreed," Brith hurried to say.

Saeryn smiled kindly. "Let us go to the kitchen and I will introduce you to all the ladies."

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Old 08-26-2015, 06:22 PM   #95
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Dawn, two days later (third day after arrival of convoy)

Elfthain woke early and yawned lengthily, stretched and sat up. It was close after dawn and weak light lit his room and the impressive amount of chaos he had managed to create in so short a time with so few posessions. He had been astonished to be given a room of his own rather than just enough space to unroll his blankets as he had expected. His muddle of discarded armour and saddlebags made it seem less obvious that this was someone's room rather than just a spare room and there was, most likely a very simple reason why it was vacant. He supposed he should tidy it out of deference to his host but away from military or even maternal supervision he had granted himself furlough from the discipline of having his kit ready for inspection at any time. Wilheard had ignored him on the rare occasions their paths had crossed. Elfthain had discarded his armour in favour of a simple shirt and tunic at the earliest opportunity and he wasn't even sure the young knight recognised him out of uniform. Elfthain had told no lies yet he had not told the whole truth either, not even to the curious ladies in the kitchens who had an uncanny ability to winkle out information. He had confided little more than the basic facts and he had elided some of those...he had admitted to being Elwin's squire but omitted that he was also his nephew, that his aunt was from Gondor but not that she had attended the queen, and so forth. He told himself he wasn't lying. He just wasn't showing off.

After two full days at Scarburg he was beginning to get the hang of the place. The first day had been occupied largely in moving the supplies to their proper locations from where they had been stowed temporarily after their hasty unloading, yesterday it had rained solidly and he had cleaned Safran's tack. The rest of the time he had spent exploring, with Javan as his guide and companion when he was free. There was enough affinity in age and temperament between the two for a friendship to have been easily forged. And his labours had caused him to renew his acquaintanceship with the ladies in the kitchen and Ruairi the Eorl's enchanting little daughter who had made him think that it would be fun if Poppy were still at Upbourn when he returned and that it would be nice to have a little sister again even after so long a time.

Of the Eorl himself he had seen virtually nothing. He had been ill even before the Winter demanded its dreadful ransome and much of the running of the household had devolved upon the Lady Saeryn and his Steward who Elfthain had been amazed to learn was Javan's elder brother. It was the disparity in age and height that had misled him; Javan was a little older and an inch or so shorter than Elfthain but his brother, Thornden, was about a handspan taller and wider and far closer to Elfthain's mother in age than he was to the boys. When you knew and looked properly a family likeness could be discerned but it hadn't been obvious, to Elfthain at least, without this prior knowledge. He wondered idly to himself, if Javan would grow anymore and if the siblings between ranged down in height as well as age.

Elfthain yawned again and forced himself out of bed. There was a chance they might be leaving soon - dissention had broken out between the waggon drivers and their soldier escorts. The soldiers' horses were less tired but the drivers were more worried about the road conditions. The rain and meltwater combined threatened to make the roads treacherous and a ridden horse could pick its way through much more easily than one drawing even an unladen cart. Arguments about whether it was better to push tired horses on or wait and risk a deterioration in the weather had broken out and some of the soldiers had even speculated if the empty carts needed their protection at all knowing that they could do the journey in half the time alone. Elfthain had kept out of it. He could read the weather in the Harrowdale well enough but here on the open wold it was different. And to his surprise he realised he wasn't in quite such a hurry to get back as he expected.

He doubted that it would happen today. He hoped not.. if the weather held they hoped that Javan would have time and use of a horse so they could ride out and he could see more of the area but either way he would have to groom Saffy. The previous evening, much to the little mare's disgust her master who apart from checks on her welfare had left her to her mud larking til then, had found space for her to be tied up undercover. She would rather be outside and free.. Saffy was too good-natured to misbehave but when her master arrived (having dressed hastily in his least clean clothes and not bothered to wash knowing he would only have to repeat the exercise once Saffy was clean) she sulked a little and was only really pleased to see a full haynet. "Sorry old girl but I had to make sure you would be dry for this morning... and you really are filthy. There seemed hardly an inch of the creature that was not covered in mud and it was hard to tell what colour she was let alone that she had a white sock.

The rain was holding off so he took his horse outside where the breeze would carry off at least some of the dust rolled his sleeves up and set to work. He would be there some time.

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Old 08-27-2015, 05:50 PM   #96
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The top rim of the sun was barely visible on the eastern horizon, but the hall was already stirring. Javan woke no later than the others and made his way directly to the kitchen. He was turned away before he had barely entered: they did not even give him a chance to steal a crust of the bread baked the previous night. He went away with his hands as empty as his stomach, but he smiled, for at least there was sure promise of food in an hour or two when the chores were done.

He began the daily task of bringing water to each of the stalled horses before tossing them their ration of hay.

“Turn out the two at the end, will you?” Léof asked as Javan passed him in the aisle.

“Aye,” Javan answered briefly. He finished his task before going to turn the two horses out into the yard. He released the first one, but paused before returning for the second.

“You’re out here already?” he said, spotting Elfthain at work grooming his own mare. Javan went over to them. He clapped his hand amiably on Saff’s off shoulder. The mud was so caked on her stiffened coat that his hand did not even raise a cloud of dust. He grimaced “This’ll take a while,” he observed.

Elfthain laughed dryly, but there was not much to say in response to that, and he kept brushing methodically.

“Have you heard if you’re staying or going yet?” Javan asked after a pause. “It seemed uncertain last I heard.”
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Old 08-27-2015, 07:13 PM   #97
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Eodwine

Eodwine yawned and stretched. The sun was peeking through the window, just after dawn. He was hungry, but not starving. It was a good feeling. He looked at his wife, still asleep. The worry lines on her forehead had disappeared in the night. That was a good thing. The two little ones were curled in their crib like a pair of puppies, draped over each other. He smiled, and he felt like his heart would burst with how it made him feel to see them all, so peaceful, not starving.

Ah. He'd said it in his head. Not starving. That was the especially good thing. He wanted some grub. He threw on his clothes, went to the kitchens to splash water on his face, and nosed about for some food. He found a loaf of bread and took it in his hand like a haunch of meat, and walked to the door to see what it looked like outside.
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Old 08-27-2015, 09:10 PM   #98
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Scyld

Scyld rose early that morning – at least, early for him. He had never been naturally inclined to waken early, though neither was he a sluggard. Long years of discipline under Sorn’s ruthless hand kept him from staying abed too late in the morning, though now without such a taskmaster Scyld had become accustomed to taking a little bit of extra time in the morning to rouse himself.

Not this morning. In truth, he had hardly slept, wracked with anxiety now that he was finally faced with the reality of handing over Linduial’s letter. He had put it off for a few days, letting the commotion over the caravan’s arrival die down. Additionally, word of Eodwine’s collapse on the day of the caravan’s arrival had spread quickly after his young daughter had effectively announced it to the whole kitchen, and Scyld had told himself that he ought to make sure that the Eorl was properly healthy before approaching him. The abundance of proper food seemed to serve its purpose though: everyone in the Hall, not just the Eorl, was already looking healthier.

Now many of those in the caravan were discussing making the trip back to Edoras, and Scyld knew he had to choose: to stay and carry out his original plan, or to leave, fearing too much the consequences of admitting his guilt. The option tempted him sorely: once, it was the choice he easily would have made.

He could hear when the Hall began to wake up: women heading to the kitchen, others up to attend to early morning chores. He despaired of sleeping any longer and rose himself. He did not have any particular tasks of his own to tend to and was unsure of what to do at such an early hour. Then he thought: a walk. Perhaps a walk before breakfast up into the Scar would clear his head. He dressed quickly, tucking Linduial’s letter into a pocket. He had fallen out of the habit while at his brother’s, where he had merely kept it hidden among his personal affects, but now the information was too valuable to him for him to feel comfortable with it out of his sight.

When he stepped outside the Hall though, he felt a jolt in his gut to discover Eodwine standing there alone. Now he thought. Now is your chance, with no distractions, no one else around. Before he could talk himself out of it he stepped towards the Eorl. “Lord Eodwine,” he began. A convincing show of deference had once been an essential survival skill, when he lived with Sorn, and Scyld used it well now, though it was not so feigned as it had once been. “There is a matter I have been meaning to bring to you.” He reached into his pocket to bring out the letter. After keeping it so close for so long it felt wrong to hand it over, but he held it out. “This letter will explain much, but if there is more you would ask of me after you read it, I shall try to answer.”

Last edited by Firefoot; 08-29-2015 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 08-28-2015, 04:04 AM   #99
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“Have you heard if you’re staying or going yet?” Javan asked after a pause. “It seemed uncertain last I heard.”

"No, not yet... I don't know if it has even been decided. Trouble is that the soldiers want to get back but the hauliers are worried about the roads after the rain... of course it is harder going for them even with empty waggons. And no one is really in charge since Wilheard is staying here" ..Elfthain paused while he broke up a particularly stubborn clump of mud with his fingers and exchanged knowing looks with Javan - the pair had found common ground in their opinion of Lord Athanar's heir , ".... not that he was much help on the way over ... neither use nor ornament as my grannie would have said... but he was there and knew the way and his dad is too important for anyone to cross him, miserable git though he be... any way I reckon that if there isn't news in the next hour we are good for another day - the one thing they are all agreed on is that there should be as few overnight stops as possible which means an early start". He sighed surveying the state of Safran's coat. So much effort to uncover such a small amount of horse. Saffy made a soft whickering sound and Elfthain half thought she was laughing at him.

"I am in no hurry to go.. at this rate it will take me half the day to get Saff clean.. and I don't want her getting girth galls even if she is an orc-horse". Safran turned her head and regarded her master balefully through a filthy forlock. "None of the others are half as bad, quarter even but Saffy really, really loves rolling in mud, just usually she doesn't have so much to play with, do you my sweet?" He patted the exposed coat affectionately. "Anyway don't let me hold you up now.. I won't be going anywhere for a while" he grimaced and banged out the dirt from the dandy brush.

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Old 08-30-2015, 06:34 PM   #100
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Eodwine

Eodwine took the letter from Nydfara, looking him in the eye. The man seemed ill at ease, to say the least. Anxious. He opened the letter and read it.

Quote:
Greetings, Eorl Eodwine

I hope this missive finds you well.

It is with mixed feelings that I write this, for I do not relish the memory of my kidnapping. However, I remember with fondness the hospitality afforded me at your warm, if plain, Mead Hall. I also remember with gratitude he whom you know as Nydfara, whose real name is Scyld, for it is through his kindness and skill that I am alive today.

I was imprisoned by the dastard Sorn for ransom, and Scyld was at first my jailor. However, he did not like Sorn nor relish the evil man's ways, and helped me to escape, and protected me from murder at the hand of Sorn.

By the time you arrived at Scarburg, with the assistance of Scyld I had accomplished my freedom. I offered, at that time, to defend his innocence and honor, but in his natural humility he requested that I not do so.

I invited Scyld to stay on at Dol Amroth, and would happily have placed him in a good situation. However, he was determined to return to Scarburg, though why he would wish to live in such a backwater, I have no idea. I mean no disrespect to you for living there Eodwine, as you have been assigned to the place and would no doubt prefer a better.

Since Scyld is indeed determined to return to you, with full pleasure, I take it upon myself to do as I offered then, and swear to his uprightness, faithfulness, decency, honor, good heart, and above all, innocence. I hope that you will accept this letter in its intent, and declare Scyld to be not guilty of any crime, but instead a hero and a man of honor.

sincerely, Princess Linduial of Dol Amroth
Eodwine looked over the letter at the man, eyes narrowed. "Scyld. That is your name?"

"Aye, Eorl."

"Of what crime are you accused? Being Sorn's jailor?"
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Old 08-31-2015, 07:12 PM   #101
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As unendurably suspenseful as it should have been to stand there as Eodwine read Linduial’s letter, Scyld found himself oddly at ease. He had borne the burden of that letter for so long, carrying it across the long leagues of Gondor and the Mark both, considering its contents, contemplating its delivery. The decision was made; the consequences largely out of his hands.

He was also grateful for the moment to collect himself before being addressed. He had been caught by surprise, not expecting to find the Eorl here, and had been less composed that he might have liked. By the time Eodwine had finished reading and turned his attention back to Scyld, Scyld met his gaze calmly.

"Scyld. That is your name?"

"Aye, Eorl."

"Of what crime are you accused? Being Sorn's jailor?"

“No one has accused me of any crime,” Scyld answered carefully, “though I have long feared it. Rather, I freely confess to you that I was Sorn’s jailor, in hope that my later deeds might earn my pardon, with Lady Linduial as my witness.”
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:42 PM   #102
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Eodwine

Eodwine's eyes narrowed further a moment, then he relaxed his face.

"Come inside, Scyld, and let us break our fast."

Eodwine's thoughts sped like a stream coming out of the White Mountains, crashing and splashing over rocks and around sharp curves. For months, this Scyld had claimed to be someone he was not, and now he came clean with a letter from someone of high repute ... whom Eodwine did not particularly like, which should not really matter, and didn't so much; Scyld could not help that his captive was an overbearing, arrogant princess whose personal business seemed to extend well beyond her realm. But Scyld. He had been lying to them all. Duplicity. Deceit. Eodwine hated it. And now.

He gestured for Scyld to sit opposite him, and raised looked around to see who might serve them. Rowenna happened to be just inside the kitchen. He called her name and waved her over.

"Good morning Rowenna, please fetch Sc - Nydfara and me some food and drink."

The serving woman raised a brow and then a furrow appeared between her
brows, then she nodded, and glanced at Scyld before hurrying off to get them food.

"Why did you wait, Scyld?"
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Old 09-04-2015, 05:13 PM   #103
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Scyld

It was difficult for Scyld to discern the Eorl’s thoughts. His tone, so far, had been measured and thoughtful, though Scyld would have expected little else. Scyld could not tell what lay underneath that though, whether his admission was being received well or poorly.

When Eodwine called Rowenna over to serve them breakfast, Scyld felt his anxiety rising again, and began to second-guess his decision to say nothing to her. She would be angry at him, he felt suddenly. But why should she be? He still had not been able to figure out what that first conversation they had exchanged at his arrival meant, and since then he had not spoken to her much. Maybe he overestimated her regard for him, and she would not care at all, save to be glad to finally have discovered his secret. Who could tell?

He knew that she did not miss Eodwine’s near slip of calling him by his right name, though she said nothing. Again, what was there for her to comment on, though? She was only here now to serve them breakfast.

He was jerked back from his trailing thoughts by Eodwine’s question. Why had he waited? The question seemed almost absurd at first, to him who had for so long not even considered saying anything at all. But sensing the seriousness of the question, he did not smile as he might have had someone with less authority asked.

He thought, I could have stayed Nydfara forever if I never had to fear being caught. But he did not think that saying so would endear the Eorl to him; nor was he sure if it was true.

Instead he said, “The only master I had ever known was Sorn, who was neither kind nor just, and the other lords nearby are cut from much the same cloth. I did not believe Lady Linduial when she said she would support me, and I did not believe her descriptions of you and your people. I believed myself a hunted man, and I feared what would happen if I stepped forward nearly as much as I feared being found out.” He might have stopped there, not naturally being prone to long speeches and still feeling reticent to speak honestly about himself after hiding for so long. He suspected, though, that his answer so far would not satisfy the Eorl. “In truth, I was not waiting to confess, because in the beginning I never meant to make myself known. Curiosity brought me back to Scarburg when you moved in, and I stayed longer than I ever thought I would. It was only when I ran into a farmer whom I have long known and he started asking questions – to my mind, the wrong sort of questions – that I knew I could not hide here forever. Eventually someone would figure it out. I left shortly after, to find Lady Linduial and ask her to write that letter for me.”

He was partly relieved to see Rowenna approaching with their breakfasts, for it put an end to what felt like rambling to him. It was all so complicated; maybe it had been foolish to think he could make Eodwine understand, but it was too late for second-guessing now.
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Old 09-06-2015, 07:20 AM   #104
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Eodwine

Eodwine thanked Rowenna for their breakfast served.

"Let us eat for a bit while I think over what you have said." Eodwine began to eat and gestured for Scyld to do likewise.

So Scyld had not so much been waiting, as had changed his mind. He had tried to control his circumstances by means of a false persona as he tested his experience of Scarburg against what he had heard of it, and apparently his fears of the worst had abated. Or, not quite so. Rather, his fears of being found out a liar had become stronger than his original fears of being mishandled by unjust rulers.

And so he had come back, with a letter of good report, which would be of little value with an unjust ruler. And this spoke volumes about Scyld's opinion of himself, thought Eodwine, and of Scyld's hope.

Well, he thought, I shall be just. And I do lean toward mercy, all here know that. There is no reason why it should be any different now, with this man, just because his crime is duplicity rather than some other wrong like fighting or drunkenness so such.

He swallowed, looked up at Scyld, holding his hands over his plate, and allowed a not unfriendly smile. "What do you hope for, Scyld?"
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Old 09-06-2015, 09:39 AM   #105
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Ledwyn

Ledwyn was the first one in the kitchen. This was odd; Frodides or Saeryn were oft the first to arrive and take charge of the work. But the rough winter and the sudden, though long-awaited, gift of food have upset the regular duties, and the people of Scarburg were just beginning to return to their former lives. Ledwyn started the fire and laid out the supplies. Soon, Rowenna joined her and took charge until Frodides came with the others.

Stefnu was singing softly as she worked. Her voice was beautiful, but her manner too assuming. Work is a time for work, Ledwyn thought, not for song and dance. And the woman’s cooing over Ruari made Ledwyn scowl. Ruari was a bright lass, wild and lively, as fiery as her locks, but her quiet serious brother deserved no less than her. Stefnu seemed completely charmed by the girl, while Eoghan went unnoticed. And even so, these children have a mother. She may be the Lady of the Hall, with little time to spare, but she is not dead or gone. Leodhern needed a mother, and so did Garmund, yet Stefnu chose to occupy the place of a living woman. Ledwyn held her displeasure in hand; it was not her place either to pronounce judgment on Stefnu. During the winter, when living was the purpose of each day, much was forgiven, and much more was not noticed. Now, if Saeryn finds fault with aught, she will be the one to upbraid.

Lord Eodwine called to break his fast, and Ledwyn followed Rowenna out as she brought out the first tray. Rowenna went to serve the eorl, while Ledwyn took hers to the first men to arrive.
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Old 09-08-2015, 06:05 AM   #106
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Hope: it was a word Scyld had scarcely dared to think in many years. He had been so unhappy for so long that for a long time he had not even known what he wanted anymore, had not known what it would take for him to be happy. He would have responded to such a question as Eodwine’s with scathing cynicism (if he was honest) or a dishonest platitude (if he wished to not offend, or to manipulate the conversation in some way).

He still did not fully understand what he was looking for, but it was something that his family members had, and something he had seen among many of the Scarburg folk as well: a fullness, a satisfaction in their lives, and an optimism for the future: hope, he supposed it was hope. He did not know how to find those things for himself, but maybe he could have a chance to try.

He could not quite bring himself to say the word, though. “I want to put my misdeeds behind me,” he answered, “and to live without fear of anyone laying charge against me.” He paused a moment, then supposed he might as well bring up the rest of it as well, while he had Eodwine’s attention. “Nothing more would I ask, though I came back to Scarburg with the thought that I might stay. I have spent the last three and a half years learning leatherworking. I would offer my services.”
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Old 09-08-2015, 08:13 PM   #107
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Rowenna

"Good morning Rowenna, please fetch Sc - Nydfara and me some food and drink."

Eodwine and Nydfara were breaking fast together? They did not look relaxed together, not like friends. What business could this be? Walking away, she kept her attention on their conversation, hoping to catch something of what they said. The Eorl was speaking quietly, but she caught the word, 'skilled'. Was he asking Nydfara in what ways was he skilled? She had to go into the kitchen and their voices were out of earshot. She quickly gathered what was needed for their morning meals so she could return and catch what she could. She thought she heard Nydfara's voice, but she could not make out the words. At last, she had the food ready and returned to them.

"... a farmer ... long known ... questions ... wrong sort ... not hide ... forever ... someone ... out. I left shortly after, to find Lady Linduial and ask her to write that letter for me.”

A letter? Written by a Lady for him? Shown to Eodwine? Rowenna set down their platters and cups, and moved away. This time she would stay just on the other side of the door, listening carefully.

"Let us eat for a bit while I think over what you have said."

There was a long silence. What kind of skill? What did that have to do with a farmer? Who was hiding?

"What do you hope for, skilled?"

It was an odd question. Had Nydfara not been skilled before? What skill? Rowenna held her breath. It was a while before she heard the answer, but Nydfara spoke quietly. It was hard to pick out every word.

“... misdeeds behind ... live without fear ... charge ...” There was a moment's pause. “Nothing more ... came back ... Scarburg ... thought ... stay... three ... half years ... leatherworking... offer ... services.”

His skill was leatherworkering? He wanted to stay for three more years? Then where would he be off to? Insufferable. She went and grabbed the water jug and walked out to their table.

"Water?" She couldn't help glancing at Nydfara crossly.

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Old 09-09-2015, 06:46 PM   #108
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Scyld

Waiting for Eodwine’s reply more tensely than he had wished to let on, Scyld could not quite control a jerk of surprise when Rowenna came up from behind him.

“Water?” she asked, and at first he thought she had only come at a bad moment; he nearly smiled weakly at her when she shot him a cross look.

He recovered quickly. “Please, my cup is nearly empty,” he said blandly to hide both his confusion and his irritation. He did not understand why he deserved that look. He supposed she must have overheard something, intentionally or not, that displeased her. Had she heard Eodwine’s use of his right name? He could think of nothing else. And why would she try to make an issue of it now, in front of Eodwine? Surely she could see that this was a serious conversation; why was she trying to insert her opinions into it? Her quarrel with him must be personal. Let her glare; he would not let her jeopardize his chance for pardon.
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Old 09-11-2015, 08:40 PM   #109
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Thornden

Thornden roused himself when the others of the guardroom bestirred themselves. It was well after the women of the hall and the few other early risers had been awake, but no one, besides the children, were up long after sunrise.

Breakfast was not quite ready when they woke. Most of the men saw to whatever work they had to attend – some brought in wood, some drew water, others stirred the fires and brought the embers to life – others who had no work before breakfast to attend sat together and talked in quiet conversation.

Thornden made his way outside. The morning air still had a frigid bite to it, as though winter had stolen back during the night. The cold woke him thoroughly, and he took a deep breath of it. He headed towards the stables, for he had an idea that he would take his horse out that day and see if he would have any luck hunting. He had little hope of being successful – any game he found would be thin and meatless after the hard winter – but he had not ridden in a long time, and he did not know when his next opportunity would be, for soon the work of spring would begin and every man would be hard at work breaking the ground to plant crops, and building back the parts of the hall that had been torn down during the winter.

He bid good morning to Léof and Javan when he passed them on his way through the stables towards the outside paddocks. As he exited the stables, he spotted a young man hard at work grooming a horse. Thornden paused as he passed and turned his head to look. The horse’s coat was caked with mud and Thornden did not envy the lad his job. He turned his feet towards him and approached.

“Good morning!” he said as he approached. “You have quite a task ahead of you.” He smiled sympathetically as he surveyed the horse and then looked at the young man. “You are Elfthain, are you not?” he said. “We have not met. I am Thornden.”
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Old 09-11-2015, 09:22 PM   #110
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Ruari and Eoghan

The twins made their presence known before they had been awake for five minutes. They had barely tumbled out of bed before they were quarreling. Ruari came out of the room screaming, with Eoghan hot on her heels, silent and intent on his prey. They made a direct path towards the kitchen, and Ruari had almost reached it and the protection she knew she would find within when Eoghan caught her. He tackled her to the floor (the momentum of their run was mostly the culprit in his violent act) and began to wrestle her for the wooden sword she held clutched in her hands.

Their loud disturbance brought their mother out from the kitchen. She picked Eoghan off Ruari with a practiced hand and set him down on one side of her before helping Ruari to her feet on the other side.

“What are you about, making all this noise this early in the morning?” she asked, frowning down at the two of them.

“She took the sword Elfthain made me yesterday!” Eoghan cried, still too riled to moderate his voice, even while speaking to Saeryn.

“You broked mine!” Ruari shouted passionately.

“I did not!” Eoghan retorted.

“Give him the sword back,” Saeryn commanded, knowing such an argument could continue indefinitely if allowed. “Go outside, Eoghan. Ruari, come into the kitchen.”

“But I don’t have a sword now!” Ruari cried, holding it back. Eoghan made a snatch for it, and Saeryn held him back.

“Now, Ruari,” she said. Ruari reluctantly handed the sword over and Eoghan took it hastily. “Go outside,” Saeryn said. The boy ran off, and Saeryn turned back to the kitchen, Ruari close behind her, sulking. “Sit there,” Saeryn said, pointing to the bench by the table. “You’ll have your breakfast soon.”

Ruari climbed up on the bench and knelt on it, her elbow on the table top. She sat glowering straight ahead, pretending to ignore all the women working around her. Out of the corner of her eye, though, she watched her mother, and as soon as she left, she turned her head to take proper stock of her surroundings. She slid off her bench and padded across the floor to Ledwyn. She tugged her skirt.

“Put honey in my porridge,” she said, her eyes bright with eagerness. “What Elfthain broughted.”

--

While Ruari attempted to swindle the sweets out of the ladies in the kitchen, Eoghan made his way to the stables. It was too cold outside to play in the courtyard, and he enjoyed going out and finding Léof or Javan and watching them work. Eoghan, like most boys his age in the Mark, had already grown to love horses. He was not yet allowed to be in the stalls or yard with any horse alone, but he had been promised that very soon he would begin to learn to ride alone. Many times he had sat astride Flithaf, his father’s now old war horse, usually with Eodwine behind him, but he looked forward someday to having a smaller horse more to his size and ability.

Until that day came, he assuaged his eagerness by visiting the stables often and asking Léof and Javan whatever questions he could think of. Sometimes they let him help groom some of the gentler horses. There were days he spent most of his hours in the stable, and Saeryn had long since learned that if she ever lost him, she could usually find him there.

This morning he entered the stables and walked quietly down the aisle, peeking under each stall door in search of Léof or Javan. After a time, he found Léof inside one. Bending down with his hands on his knees and his head nearly upside down, he peered within and hailed the stable master.

“Hi, Léof!”

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Old 09-12-2015, 09:02 AM   #111
littlemanpoet
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Eodwine

Eodwine had been about to dismiss Rowenna with a thanks for the water when a pair of high pitched screams and two small bodies hurtled out of his own rooms, across the hall, into the kitchen. He could not help watching ... and grinning. Saeryn quickly took matters in hand. Eodwine couldn't help chuckling as Eoghan left the hall and Ruari sat glowering. Oh, that one would make a fine head mistress someday in some eorl's hall. No doubt. Unless she chose to be a shield maiden instead. He pulled a mildly horrified face then returned his attention to Scyld.

But Rowenna had not left. "Did I hear you say that you have become skilled in leatherworking, Nydfara?" she asked, wiping absently with her apron at a small spill on the table.

Nydfara's brow furrowed a moment as he turned to answer, but Eodwine raised a hand. "Yes, it is as you must have overheard, Rowenna," he interrupted. "Please leave us. Nydfara and I have something to speak about and I want us to be left alone. If we want more of anything I will call for it."

Her lips pursed but she nodded and left.

"Scyld," he said, but paused a moment, gathering his thoughts, "though I do not like Linduial, her word was never in question, only her pride. That is a point to the good. You, however, withheld the truth from me and mine while you were with us; a point to the ill. Perhaps those two points even out, perhaps not.

"I will tell you the truth. When I first read this letter, I thought to call my men to us and put you under guard. That tells you how much I dislike falsehood. Yet what you have been telling me now rings true. I see a man who has been bred to mistrust and caution, who has here learned that he can place trust, while still being cautious. That tells me that you have a sharp mind.

"I wish to be just and I wish to be merciful. Here is what I have a mind to do. I will take you on as a leatherworker for a year and a day. If, when the time has come, and you have done well in your work and in your deeds toward all in Scarburg, then I would speak with you at length ... about how Scarburg could benefit from that good mind of yours. What say you?"
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Old 09-12-2015, 10:31 AM   #112
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Leof's mind was wandering as he mucked out the stall, and did not mind in the least when Eoghan's cheerful voice interrupted him.

"Hello there, Eoghan," he said, smiling at the boy. Leof was quite fond of Eoghan and glad to see him looking more like his old self. With the natural resiliency of youth, he seemed to be recovering well from the hard winter.

He also had all the makings of a good horseman, Leof thought, and he was pleased to share his knowledge with the boy. Privately Leof thought it was time for him to begin learning to ride in earnest, and decided to try and take the boy out with him more that summer (with Eodwine and Saeryn's consent of course; he did not mean to undermine them).

"I'm almost finished here," said Leof. "Then I'm going to check on Cinderfoot. She's going to have her foal soon. Would you like to come with me?"
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Old 09-12-2015, 01:46 PM   #113
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Ledwyn frowned at the girl.

“Your mother told you to sit by the table, young lady,” she said sternly. “And you should say brought, not broughted.” Ledwyn watched as the girl pouted, but then brightened up again as thoughts started sparkling in her mind. At times like this, it seemed to Ledwyn that the reason the girl’s hair was so red was because sometimes these sparks flew out and set it on fire.

Her face serious and meek, but her eyes shining with mischief, Ruari tried to plead. “Stefnu gived me honey before!”

“We do not say gived,” Ledwyn said patiently, while she thought of how to best answer the lass, “we say gave.”

“So I can have the honey. I will remember to say gave.” Ruari jumped on Ledwyn’s hesitation.

“No you cannot,” Ledwyn retorted. She saw Stefnu come in with an empty tray in one arm. She wished the woman would not meddle now. “Honey is rare,” she tried reasoning, “and it is a treat. If you would eat honey with every porridge, you would empty Elfthain’s flask in less than a fortnight, and you will not have any honey left for special days. Besides, you are not the only one who wants to try the honey. Your brother still did not have any, and I do not see him wheedling it out of the kitchen wenches.”

“But Stefnu gave me honey because I was good that day! I was good after that too!”

“You were not very good this morning, child, or else your mother would not bring you here to sit and cool down your temper.” And Stefnu should not have given you that honey. Ledwyn saw that the woman was listening, and tried to finish her task quickly. “Now go Ruari, sit where your mother told you, and stay there until she comes back.”
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Old 09-12-2015, 03:48 PM   #114
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Scyld was a little shaken to discover how close Eodwine had been to disregarding his plea. What surprised him the most was that Eodwine seemed more bothered by his deception than by his original crime. He would have to remember that, if he was to live under the lordship of a man to whom honor and integrity were so important.

By the time Eodwine reached the end of his proposal, Scyld found himself nodding slightly. It was a good offer, a test of both his character and his skills. Had Scyld been in the Eorl's position, he would not have shown himself even as much trust as Eodwine was giving him, and it actually increased his respect for Eodwine to see that his mercy was not wholly blind.

At any rate, he had nothing left to hide and felt reasonably confident that a year would be sufficient time to win over the Eorl, as well as to determine for himself whether he would like to make this his permanent dwelling, to see whether he might find what he was looking for here. "Your offer is more than fair," he said, "and I would gladly accept."
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Old 09-12-2015, 04:04 PM   #115
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Eoghan

“I’m almost finished here,” Léof said. “Then I’m going to check on Cinderfoot. She’s going to have her foal soon. Would you like to come with me?”

“Yes,” Eoghan said simply, and stood upright. He seized a ring in the wall and used it for leverage to pull himself up until he could reach the top of the stall wall, and so clambered up to sit astride it. The horse inside the stall with Léof lifted its head high and stared at Eoghan a moment. After careful consideration, the horse began to chew its breakfast again and dropped its head back to the manger.

Eoghan sat in silence, watching Léof work methodically, raking the hay and throwing the soiled bedding out over the stall door and into the aisle. Neither of them spoke. Eoghan saw no purpose in speaking, and Léof had grown accustomed to his often silent companionship.

Before long, Léof’s job was done. He came out and Eoghan scrambled down from the wall. Together they walked to the foaling stall. This was a larger stall than the others and was build just by Léof’s room so that he could keep an easy eye on any expectant mare they had there. At present it contained a towering dappled grey mare. Her mane and tail were black, as were all four of her legs. That was how she had gotten her name, Eoghan had been told, for cinders are black, and as she grew, it became evident she would keep her black legs and feet even while the rest of her body became whiter and whiter. She paced the stall restlessly and when Léof opened the stall door she turned her head towards him and nickered softly. Léof entered, Eoghan coming close behind him.

He gazed up admiringly at the horse. Under normal circumstances, Cinderfoot would be considered a large horse, but at present, with her belly swollen to remarkable proportions, she appeared in the little boy’s eyes a giantess in the horse world.

He stood at a respectful distance while Léof approached her.

“Will it come soon?” Eoghan asked after Léof had had a moment to exam her.
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Old 09-12-2015, 04:10 PM   #116
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Ruari

Thwarted in her attempts, Ruari turned from Ledwyn with a new scowl etched in her face. She walked towards the bench, but did not sit down. She saw Stefnu and narrowed her eyes at her, considering. Her face brightened and she ran to her. She threw her arms about her leg in an impulsive hug, staring up eagerly into her face. She was entirely aware of how winning her beaming smile was, especially to older adults, and she used it to her advantage whenever possible.

“Good morning!” she cried. “I want honey in my porridge today!”

She knew Stefnu liked to give her what she wanted. She did not care what Ledwyn said about the honey being for others and for special occasions. Stefnu would do as she asked.
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Old 09-13-2015, 06:42 AM   #117
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"Not too soon," said Leof. "I'd guess a couple more weeks." This would be his third year of delivering foals, and though he was getting better at recognizing the signs of upcoming labor, he still found it difficult to predict, especially since all mares seemed to be just a bit different, and the length of their pregnancies could be highly variable - about 11 months, but give or take as much as three weeks. Cinderfoot had been bred last June - theoretically the foal could come a week from now or six. It was her first pregnancy, too, so he had nothing to compare to. He hoped it would be several more weeks, though - although the horses had had able quantity of feed during the long winter, Leof had eventually run out of everything but regular hay. He knew that horses couldn't live off hay alone anymore than a person could eat nothing but potatoes and still be properly nourished. Since the caravan had come, he'd been reintroducing other grasses and grains to the horses' diet, and he figured the longer the mare could eat well while still pregnant, the better.

"Come see," Leof said to Eoghan, beckoning him closer. Cinderfoot was a steady horse and, though mares often became moody and restless before delivering, she seemed calm this morning. Eoghan stepped closer and Leof showed him what he was looking at.

"See how her udder is getting bigger?" Leof asked. "It's getting ready to make milk for the foal. When the milk comes, it means she's almost ready. And see how wide her sides are? When the foal is ready to come out, Cinderfoot will actually get narrower, but her belly will hang down much lower." He could see Eoghan taking in the information and filing it all away. "Would you like to feel the foal kicking?" he asked. He was relieved every time he came in and felt the foal still moving - that was how he'd first known something was wrong with the mare who'd lost her foal that winter.

"Yes," said Eoghan again simply. So Leof lifted up the boy's thin body and placed his hand against the mare's side where he'd seen and felt the movement before.

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Old 09-13-2015, 10:34 AM   #118
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"Westu Thornden hál!" responded Elfthain looking up across Safran's broad back at the greeting. Had the tall man been merely Javan's brother he might have been less formal, but he did not forget that as well as being a lot older he was also the Eorl's steward and erred on the side of caution, despite the genial greeting he had received.

"Aye sir, Elfthain Théodmund's son am I, at your service. Javan has spoken of you". The boy (and very boyish and awkward he felt in comparison to the Steward) paused in his grooming, bowed and then allowed himself to relax a little adding "only good things, of course!", then nodding towards his horse "T'is a small mercy at least, she is not a grey". He grinned ruefully. "And it must be done for she needs to be exercised even if we are not leaving today - maybe then she will have less energy for rolling in mud".

As he spoke he mentally assessed the man before him; tall as his uncle Elwin and as broad, though much younger, and darker in colouring, but not as dark as Javan. There was a confidence in his manner and a spark of something in his eyes, but what? Humour? Fiery spirit? Ambition? he wondered. Whichever it was, Elfthain concluded that looking up to this man might be more than a physical necessity.

"I don't suppose you know sir, when we are leaving that is?".

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Old 09-13-2015, 12:59 PM   #119
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Stefnu looked down at Ruari. The little girl was beaming, her large eyes pleading.

"Good morning," Stefnu smiled back. She stroked Ruari's head. Stefnu felt a deep affection for the girl, not only because she was so cute, but there was perhaps something else. She had spent large part of her life raising two boys; the sight of a little girl especially as lively as Ruari moved her in a way she wasn't accustomed to.

Stefnu hadn't seen the exchange between Ledwyn and Ruari earlier, being occupied with morning preparations. She also had not been there at the moment Saeryn brought the girl in. She had been just fetching some more water from the outside, when she had bumped into Áforglaed. The young soldier had greeted her happily, explaining that he was up early. He had seemed to be unusually full of energy.

"I think it stopped raining just before the dawn, and that woke me up," he explained cheerfully. He sounded so silly that Stefnu had to smile to herself. Áforglaed then briefly explained that he had taken a little exercise of running around the fields, "as long as it hasn't started raining again". His unbelievably muddy boots (and trousers) bore witness to that.

"But look what I also found," he said finally, and pulled a tangle of some plants out of his belt pouch. Not plants, Stefnu corrected her observation, flowers: pale yellow blossoms, some almost white, now half-closed and laying somewhat limp and damp in Áforglaed's palm.

"Primroses," Stefnu recognized them. "Where did you find them?" She touched one of the flowers and leaned to look at it closer.

Áforglaed gestured to the fields. "Somewhere out there." He straightened himself. "Would you like to, er, have them? They are pretty, you could, er, wear them in your hair or something," he finished.

Stefnu laughed. "I think they are a little too damp and limp for that. But never mind that," she added, seeing Áforglaed's apparent disappointment. "They are still pretty. I can take them." That seemed to make the soldier happier. "Thank you," she said, picking them up from his hand. "But now I had to get back inside."

She had put the flowers aside and gone back to her work until Ruari's interruption. Now the little girl was there, looking up at her. Stefnu would happily give Ruari whatever she wanted, however, she also felt it was not necessarily for the best to give her honey every morning just because she asked for it. The first time, it had been a different case; also she was not entirely certain how lady Saeryn would feel about it. Nonetheless, she did not want to leave Ruari disappointed.

"You know what," she said, smiling at the girl. "Honey is good, but it is not always good to eat too much of it in the morning. But I have a better idea! What if we made your porridge a little more special instead? I know how we can make it more pretty!"

Ruari seemed to be first surprised by that proposition, so Stefnu quickly used the moment and picked up the bundle of flowers from the shelf. "Look," she said. "These are primroses. Aren't they pretty? We can lay them around on top of your bowl - like this - and your porridge can be much more special then."
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Old 09-13-2015, 07:54 PM   #120
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Thornden

Thornden considered Elfthain with a slightly keener glance after the young man’s greeting, and his eyebrows went up a little in surprise. Until then he had merely looked on the lad as a new friend for Javan, but now he thought perhaps this Elfthain son of Théomund may be more than just another soldier in training. He clearly had a more gentile upbringing than Thornden and Javan had ever had; indeed more than any of the men-at-arms that currently worked in the hall.

As Elfthain bowed and proceeded to speak, Thornden reflected that perhaps this young man would be a good asset to the hall.

“I don’t suppose you know, sir, when we are leaving, that is,” Elfthain said.

“No,” Thornden said. He smiled briefly, his eyes twinkling a little. He liked Elfthain, he decided. He liked him a lot. “Have you been long from home, Elfthain son of Théomund? Or is this your first experience as a soldier?”
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