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Old 12-29-2015, 08:15 PM   #241
littlemanpoet
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Eodwine stopped a moment to think through Saeryn's questions, then continued his work while puffing out his thoughts as they came.

"We have much to do." He dug and straightened. "This trench must be deep enough..." he tossed his load toward the growing lined heap. "... to hold all the water that floods into this lowland." He dug again and straightened. "Then we need to dig an outflow trench to take the water to the swamp so none of this area floods again."

"It will take until sundown and later, then," Saeryn replied.

"Yes. Rowenna took the children in for me. You took care of them?"

"Yes. Cerwyn watches them now."

Eodwine nodded. "Not all work is out here. I am sure much must be done in the Hall. But could you check on the Smith brothers and see if they have some new shovels for us?"
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Old 12-30-2015, 11:03 PM   #242
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“I will do it,” Saeryn replied at once. She turned and hitched her skirts up above her ankles and waded across to the smithy. The door stood open and clouds of hot, steaming air came billowing out. She peered in to see the two smiths bent over their work. Two or three other men worked in the hot, cramped space.

“Eodwine asks if you have any shovels completed yet,” she called.

“A few,” came the short response. Garreth nodded to a large bucket of water. Osmund crossed from behind him to lift out several crude but serviceable shovels and brought them to Saeryn.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Take care, lady,” he said. “The metal may still be hot.”

“Thank you,” she said. She went out into the rain and back to the trench. She found men without shovels and dispersed those she had and returned to Eodwine.

“I have given the new ones out. Garreth and Harreld are still at work. I will have supper ready and waiting, and there will be hot water to bathe in. I will bring out something hot to drink soon, too.”
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Old 01-01-2016, 02:35 PM   #243
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Once she had the line strung up and the children's clothes hanging, Rowenna considered her responsibilities in terms of the children complete. She waded through the rising waters toward trenches. She saw that the waters were rising, in part, because the pile of smelly muck being dug out and evenly spaced at Eodwine's direction, was now keeping all water except for the continuing downpour from entering the dung pit; and thus, the water rose like a sea around it. It would not be long before the floor of the Hall was awash in muddy water.

She climbed over the filthy dike, hiking her skirts high enough to keep them from getting stuck in the mire. She was mindful of a few of the men's eyes flitting toward her uncovered legs, but she did not care. There were more important things to think about.

She stalked toward Eodwine, got close enough to his ear, and said, "That Sorn was a fool, building his house and outbuildings down here. When this has passed, we should rebuild this settlement on the Scar itself!"

Others nearby pricked their ears to hear, and Rowenna realized that this would be considered very forward of her, and that she was maybe out of her depth, and even insubordinate. She did not care. Eodwine needed to hear this, and if this was not the best time, little damage.

Eodwine stopped a moment from digging. He looked at Rowenna, the fierce expression on her face, then turned and looked through the downpour at the Scar. It was full of stone and it was the highest land for miles. Why had Sorn now built there? Maybe because he was indeed a fool. Why, thought Eodwine to himself, had he not thought of it himself before today? Maybe because was himself a fool, or maybe because he had not foreseen how bad this flooding would be. Either way, it was a good idea, even if it would require a great effort.

He faced her. "It is a good thought, but it will have to wait for further thought until the needs of the moment are dealt with. Go to the Smiths and get whatever new shovels they have ready."

She nodded, satisfied that he was not ignoring the good sense of her words.

"And make sure to keep one of the shovels for yourself!" came Eodwine's words as she walked away. She smiled as she sloshed through the mess.
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Old 01-01-2016, 09:34 PM   #244
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Scyld

Scyld was not working near enough to the Eorl to hear what Rowenna said to him, but word spread quickly enough down the trench. The man on Scyld's left repeated the gist of the conversation for them; it seemed to Scyld that the man had more he wished to say concerning Rowenna's behavior but refrained, perhaps because Thornden stood so near.

"Well, Sorn was surely a fool," said Scyld, "but I've lived here nearly my whole life, and my father and grandfather before me, and I've never heard of such flooding. I don't see how Sorn, or Lord Eodwine for that matter, could have planned for this."

~*~*~*~

Leof

When the digging began, Leof had hurried back to the stables, hoping that Harreld and Garreth would have missed the one of the two shovels there, but the smiths had been thorough. With a sigh, Leof had grabbed an empty feed pail for a scoop and returned to join those already shoveling. He had not yet decided whether he would ever get it clean enough to put feed in again. Of course, he'd seen some returning with pots from the kitchen, and that thought made his stomach turn even more than the dung stench in the air.

Slowly, they seemed to be making progress, and he was heartened to look up and see Rowenna coming his way with a few of the new shovels. "Look," he said to Elfthain and Javan, who were nearby. "I think it's our turn to get some shovels."
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Old 01-06-2016, 07:36 AM   #245
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Thornden

"No," Thornden spoke up after Scyrr had finished, but not pausing in his work. "Though it may not have happened before, it is something we could have planned for." He looked up briefly and glanced around. "If we had thought about the future at all, we might have known better than to rebuild the hall here, in the low land. We should have taken our opportunity and built on the scar, but none of us even considered it. It is something we will think about when this is over."

He did not blame Eodwine at all for rebuilding the hall on top of the ruins of Sorn's house. Many other men, himself included, had been there to help and advise their eorl, and no one had considered Rowenna's thought. Not even Rowenna herself, who had been there when they made the move from Edoras to Scarburg, had thought to move the location of the hall.

Javan

Javan accepted a shovel gratefully. He had searched everywhere he could think of for some implement to use for dinner and had come up with nothing. He made an unsuccessful attempt at creating a makeshift shovel by splitting a log and trying to use the flat side of it. Having found it of almost no use at all, he grit his teeth and followed orders and used his hands. Crouching by the trench, he dug out loose sediment that the others had loosened with their pails and pots and sticks. Much of it was rough, pebbly soil, and he reflected that this task would have been nearly impossible in dry weather.

Now, with a shovel, he felt he proceeded in work much faster. In fact, as he paused for just a moment to look up and down the trench, he realized that now, with seven or eight new shovels in use, the work was progressing at almost twice the speed. His heart rose a little and he began to think of going in and cleaning off and eating something hot.

But then word trickled down the line that work would probably continue until past sundown. Javan felt his heart sink as he looked up. Who could tell when the sun sank? he wondered. There was no sight of her. They were already working in deep gloom. He guessed they meant the work would probably continue until they couldn't see the shovels in their hands anymore.

He bent drearily back to his labor. After several more shovelfuls, he straightened and turned to find Leof. "How far do you think we have to dig?"
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Old 01-06-2016, 12:23 PM   #246
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Cerwyn and the Twins

The twins remained perfectly still and stared across the table at Cerwyn, their eyes baleful and their lips tightly pressed shut. They both knew their silence was disrespectful, and Eoghan felt a little guilty for it, though Ruari had no qualms about making Cerwyn feel uncomfortable. Cerwyn looked from one to the other, and Eoghan saw her confidence slipping. He felt even worse.

"Yes," he finally said. A pause, and then, "I wouldn't have fallen in if Ruari hadn't pushed me."

Ruari's eyes narrowed. She did not look towards her brother, but her head did tilt slightly in his direction. "I would not have pushed you if you had given me a turn," she reminded him.

"It's never alright to push someone," Cerwyn chided gently. "And just because your shovel broke, it doesn't mean Eoghan must share his with you. You should have gone and found one no one was using."

Ruari looked at her, trying to express with just her eyes how much she thought Cerwyn should not have put her opinion out. Eoghan smiled at her, liking very much that she took his side of the argument.

"Well," Ruari said, putting on as much haughtiness as she knew how, "you don't know. There aren't shovels for everybody. I couldn't find another one."

Cerwyn had not known till now that such a small child could produce such an evil look and did not know whether to recoil or laugh. "That still does not give you a right to your brother's," she said. "And if there aren't shovels for everyone, what are the others who have no shovels using to dig?"

Ruari huffed and looked away.

"Actually," Eoghan said, spreading his hands in a conversational manner, "there are not very many shovels at all. Many...no," looking serious and thoughtful, "I would say most of the people don't have any yet. But Papa has told the Smiths to make more. Ruari never had a shovel. It was really some bark from a log. I had a stick, so mine was stronger."

"Was not," Ruari muttered.

"Was so."

Cerwyn wondered if there was anything these two didn't squabble about - Ruari especially seemed to enjoy it. Had she and Leof ever quarreled so much? She did not think so. The Leof of her early memories was her leader and her protector, rather than antagonist - perhaps it was only natural for a younger sibling to feel so about an older. What fun they had once had. A memory long forgotten came then unbidden to her mind, of how they would make up and enact the most outrageous stories, and she grinned.

"Well, never mind the shovels now," she said. "Why don't we play a game, hmm? I'll tell you about one Leof and I used to play. You take turns making up parts to a story. Anything can happen that you want, but the only rule is that you can't disagree with anything someone else says. This story can be about... a pony, who lives in a land far away from here where the sun always shines. Now it's your turn, Eoghan; tell us something about the pony."

Eoghan paused a moment, looking at her as he considered this sudden turn in the conversation. After a pause he seemed to accept the idea as a good one, and at length, he began. "The pony...belonged to an eorlinga," he said. "And her had to go to war," he ended with a grin and turned to Ruari.

Ruari frowned thoughtfully. "They were going to fight in a place where the moon always shone," she said. Then her face lit up excitedly. "And the sun was the leader of the pony's army, and the moon was the leader of the enemy!" Eoghan looked as though he were about to object, probably to point out that neither the sun nor the moon could lead armies, but Cerwyn continued the tale.

She said, "Well, the pony was very scared of the fight, because he did not like the dark, and the moon was the ruler over all the dark places of the world. The moon's soldiers were creatures of the night, and their faces were black and terrible."

Eoghan's and Ruari's eyes grew large and they stared at her. The story had taken an unexpected and sinister turn. They paused, breathless, waiting for her to continue. She nodded and prodded Eoghan with a gentle, "Your turn."

Eoghan drew a breath, and an apprehensive smile slowly spread over his face. He shifted on the bench, lifting himself up to sit on his knees. "They had...long snouts that pointed, and long teeth like this!" He curved his fingers by his mouth and leaned towards Ruari. She screamed and skidded away to the edge of the bench. He imitated the moon army's snarl and bared his teeth as he continued, "And when they attacked the pony's army, they were going to eat the pony!"

"No!" Ruari cried. "They can't eat the pony!"

"Your turn!" Eoghan said, his face returning to its accustomed cheerfulness.

"The pony ate the moon's army!" Ruari shrieked with laughter.

"That doesn't make sense," Eoghan said. "The pony can't eat things like that."

"Alright," Ruari agreed. "The pony's eorlinga picked up his sword and started chopping off their heads." Ruari raised her hands in fists, imitating a knight with a double-handed sword, and made several wild swings over the kitchen table.

Cerwyn laughed. "And when the pony saw how brave his eorlinga was, the pony felt braver too. He kicked and bit his enemies, and the moon's army fell back in fear of the pony and his eorlinga."

At that moment, the door opened and Saeryn entered. She pulled the shawl from her head and wiped the rain from her face with it. She walked towards the fire and draped it on a chair nearby before turning and surveying her children. "Did they behave alright, Cerwyn?" she asked.

"They were just fine," Cerwyn said, smiling at the children.
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Old 01-06-2016, 07:43 PM   #247
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Eodwine paused to take stock of their progress. He noticed Rowenna coming out of the Smithy with four more shovels. That was good. It was now time for the next step.

"Folk of Scarburg!" he called. "The trench is well nigh knee deep and wide as my finger tips to elbow. It will do. Now we must dig a spillway from the trench to the swamp."

He heard some groans and coughs. He grinned. "Fear not, thought it is to be much longer than anything else, it need not be as wide nor as deep. It needs only to be deep and wide enough to carry water away from the dungpit as well as from our home. We should be done before the sun goes to sleep! Follow me!"

Eodwine led them to where he had decided to begin, and showed them the path, more or less straight, that the spillway would take. Luckily, the land was generally flat across all of the holding, so it was not going to be such an odious task. Still, he had no doubt that not a few of the folk would be sick in the morning.
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Old 01-17-2016, 06:16 AM   #248
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The long trench to the swamp had not yet been started when, in the very middle of the dung pit, Eodwine noticed a movement. It was as if something was turning over. Could the amount of rain have made the pit unstable? The movement had been as big as one of the Mumakil. Then Eodwine's shovel became limp in his hands as he watched a long slimy tendril grow out of the pit, reaching up like a thing with a mind of its own. Scyld was the second to look away from his trench work to see it: his eyes went wide and in the nick of time he dove out of the way. The tentacle encircled the waist of his neighbor instead. The man howled as he was lifted into the air above the pit, then lowered into the waiting maw below. Then he was gone. More tentacles reached up in every direction. The folk screamed and ran. Surely they had not dug the pit too deep!

Eodwine shook his head. What a waking dream. Thankfully, the trench to the swamp had been dug, and his swooning thought was apparently in a playful mood. One by one the folk leaned their shovels against the smithy, most to be recrafted into some other useful implement. The invisible sun had long since set, but the rain poured. At least the trench was working. And the "dung pit monster" lay quiescent in its stinking home. He chuckled to himself, the last to enter the Hall.

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Old 01-18-2016, 09:38 AM   #249
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Saeryn

Saeryn worked steadily from the time she spoke with Eodwine to when everyone finally came streaming inside. She dismissed her children to go play, warning them to be good. She had intimated to Ruari that she had more to say concerning the incident at the trench, and she wondered if that kept the girl in line, for she did not hear a peep from either twin until supper time.

The trouble was preempting the time when everyone would come inside. They would be filthy and wet, and she wanted neither the wet nor the filth in the hall. Then, about half way through the trying afternoon, water began to seep in under the door. There was not much that could be done about that besides making sure all the grain and anything else that could be destroyed by water was lifted off the floor. Thankfully, before the sun had set, the water had begun to recede again. Saeryn and Cerwyn opened the doors and swept the water back out and mopped up what was left.

When they were finished, they still had the trouble of what to do when the people returned to the hall.

“We will have the women take their outer clothing off and leave it in the passageway there by the kitchen,” Saeryn said as she and Cerwyn removed another large pot of boiling water from the fire and dumped it into the tub. “They can bathe in here. The men can have the hall.”

By the time the trenches were completed, Searyn had every available pot, pan, bowl, caldron, and tub full of hot water. She had soap and towels prepared, too, and when she met them at the door, she began giving orders.

“The men will stay in the hall,” she said. “Take your clothes off here in the entry – I don’t want any of that muck inside the hall. There is water there by the fire.” She pointed. The hearth was crowded with various vessels full of steaming water. “Throw your clothes outside the door. Women, you’ll come around back to the back kitchen entryway.”

The people moved as quickly as they could through their baths, throwing out old soiled water. Cerwyn worked inside, heating more water when any container became available. Saeryn went outside and began gathering the soiled clothing and hanging them on the lines Rowenna had strung earlier.

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Old 01-19-2016, 12:47 PM   #250
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Leof had excused himself early from the digging to feed the horses - other tasks may wait but hungry horses would not, and he was met with whinneys even as slightly late as he was for their evening meal. He had stripped down and cleaned off first, though: he no more wanted that sort of filth in the stables than Saeryn wanted it in the Hall.

He finished with the horses about the same time as the Hall folk were making their procession inside, and so it was that he arrived rather cleaner than most to dinner (he smelt of horse but he scarcely considered that cause for a wash). He joined those few sitting at a table who had been first to wash and were already freshened for dinner.
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Old 01-23-2016, 01:57 PM   #251
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Supper is Served

“Can I help you?” The query came from Ledwyn as she stood wringing the water from her hair by the fire. Saeryn glanced up at her as she piled trenchers onto her tray.

“No. You sit down. Anyone who spent their day in the rain, digging in all that mud, deserves a rest. Cerwyn and I can handle supper tonight.” It was perhaps an ambitious statement, but Saeryn felt they could do it. She looked over at Cerwyn as the young woman pulled two fresh loaves of bread out of the oven. Léof’s sister had proven herself to be capable and helpful, and Saeryn was grateful that she had come that day.

They prepared everything to take out into the hall, stacking the trays high. They sliced the bread and laid it in baskets.

There was a knock at the kitchen door. Saeryn glanced around quickly. Everyone was dressed and proper. She opened the door. Cnebba stood by.

“Eodwine sent me to inform you that the hall is ready.”

“You may tell him the food will be out directly.”

The ladies all lent a hand with bearing out the utensils and food for supper. Tray after tray was carried out and laid on the tables. There was a quiet but appreciative murmur as they laid their trays down and the stew began to be ladled out. Very little conversation sprang up for several minutes as the hungry men set into their well earned supper.
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Old 01-30-2016, 08:08 PM   #252
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Rowenna was miffed that all the women were expected to serve the men first. She had been just as hard at work digging the trenches as any of the men, and harder than some of them. Yet here she was, joining the women, serving the men who expected to be served first. Yes, it was the way things were done, but it wasn't right.

She set the food down before each man, the plates hitting the board with just a little more of a thud than the others. She met their eyes if they looked up. If any of them failed to offer a thanks, she remembered.

She placed a plate in front of Harreld, who nodded glumly. The next plate went before Garreth, who looking up, gave her a foul look. She did not let go of the plate and met his eyes.

"Let go, wench."

"Why should I? I worked as hard as any man."

"So you say. Work the bellows or forge a sword and I'll think better of you."

She allowed a half a smile. It was an interesting challenge. "Maybe I will."

He glowered. "Don't come near my smithy. Now take your hands off my plate."

"What do I get in return?"

His frown went black. Suddenly he got up, his seat tumbling behind him. "Harreld, I'm off to the smithy where I'm free of womanish foolery. Bring some food back." He stalked out of the Hall.

Harreld sighed and looked at Rowenna. "Now why did you have to go and harass him like that, Rowenna?"

She looked down her nose at him. "Why do you men get served before us women?"

He shrugged and bent his head back over his plate.

There were still two plates in her hand. Leof and Scyld sat at the same table, watching her. "Do you both think you deserve these plates more than the women?"
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Old 01-31-2016, 05:16 PM   #253
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Eodwine

Eodwine sat at the head table, as he always did. Thornden sat a few seats away, busy with his own thoughts, which was just as well.

Eodwine felt weary. More than weary. Truth be told, he felt exhausted. He also felt that he had done as well as he could. He wondered, then, why he felt so dreadfully terrible. Was it another illness coming on? It surely was possible, considering the matter they had been dealing in all day.

But no, it was not that. Food had been brought to him first, by his wife Saeryn. When she had set his plate before him, he took hold of her hand while it still held the plate.

"Sit with me as soon as you are able, please."

He had not meant his words to sound so forlorn, but he could not keep it out of his voice, nor out of her awareness. She looked at him, concern in her eyes.

"Is something the matter?"

He shrugged and gave her a wan smile. "Just come when you can." She nodded, her lips closed in a ribbon.

He ate his food. He hardly tasted it. Were he to give attention to its flavor, he felt that it would taste no better than sawdust. It seemed a long time before she came to sit with him.
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Old 02-04-2016, 06:41 AM   #254
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As much as Léof usually kept his nose out of others’ business, it was hard not to overhear the quarrel at the next table over. Rowenna was in a foul mood, it was clear; but then, so were many others: nearly everyone in the Hall felt worn out and hungry after a thoroughly unpleasant afternoon of work.

But then she turned around and her gaze fell on him and Scyld, who for some unknown and unwelcome reason had sat down beside him.

"Do you both think you deserve these plates more than the women?"

“Of course not,” answered Léof quickly, wanting no part of the fight (and also hoping that if he answered correctly, one of the plates she was holding might be his). Rowenna’s gaze swiveled to Scyld.

“Only a foolish man would say so to the woman serving his food,” answered Scyld. Léof nodded, missing the hint of jest and forgetting briefly who it was he was agreeing with.
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Old 02-05-2016, 09:27 PM   #255
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Rowenna gave Scyld a sideways smile. "Then you are no fool."

She flicked a glance toward Leof and set a plate in front of him. Then she stepped over the bench, sat down, and placed the remaining plate halfway between herself and Scyld. She took a slice of bread and ripped off a chunk with her teeth, and chewed. She watched Scyld, whose eyes moved up and down between the plate and her face.

"You're welcome to share."
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Old 02-06-2016, 10:28 PM   #256
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Scyld's breath caught in his throat; was she truly so willing to forgive his duplicity? Beside him, Leof nearly choked on his soup.

"I'm fine, don't mind me," Leof gasped, when the coughing subsided.

Scyld nodded and turned back to the plate of food between him and Rowenna. He hesitated for the briefest moment, but after this impossibly long day he was too tired to analyze the implications. "Very well," he said, also taking a slice of bread and dipping it in the stew. "Equally deserved, equally shared."
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Old 02-06-2016, 10:48 PM   #257
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Cerwyn felt a bit self-conscious, serving up trays of soup and warm bread to the throng of unfamiliar faces. She'd looked around for Leof but hadn't seen him: she found herself rather annoyed that he hadn't thought to check in on her. After not seeing each other for five years she'd expected a bit more of a welcome.

Well. She could take care of herself. She fought back the niggling thought that if she didn't need him, she needn't have come here at all. She walked up to a table that had not been served. There were some younger men at the table, about her age she guessed. She smiled at them as she began serving out plates from her trays but did not want to interrupt the conversation.
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Old 02-08-2016, 01:21 PM   #258
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Saeryn hurried to serve the others, wondering what it was exactly that trouble Eodwine. It could be any number of things – the continuing rain and threat of new flooding, the recent toil of digging the trenches. Something tightened in her gut as she thought that maybe Eodwine was succumbing to yet another sickness – not unlikely, given his recent occupation. She tried hastily to push from her mind, but it would not leave completely.

She emptied her tray and went back to the kitchen for more. Returning, she scanned the room quickly for which tables had not yet been served. She spotted Garreth storming out the door, and she glanced about for an explanation. She saw Rowenna talking with Harreld and for a moment, she watched without moving. Rowenna stepped to where Léof and Scyld sat waiting for their meal. She spoke to them, her face glowering, and she seemed to be holding the plates hostage until they answered her questions.

“What is troubling her now?” Saeryn wondered impatiently. “Isn’t there enough to do without finding trouble?” She began to move toward them.

She did not hear any of the words that passed between them before Rowenna placed the plate before Léof, but her eyebrows went up when she saw Rowenna sit beside Scyld and put the plate between them. She was close enough to hear her offer to share.

“Very well,” Scyld said. “Equally deserved, equally shared.”

Saeryn stopped just by Rowenna. “Is everyone served, Rowenna, or are you too weary to go on without supper?” she asked.

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Old 02-08-2016, 04:04 PM   #259
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“I heard Osmund talking about flooding,” Javan was saying as Cerwyn approached with their supper. “He said if the Entwash overflows and fills up the marshland, we could be forced to leave the hall.”

“The scar will protect us,” Cnebba said, watching the plate of food as Cerwyn placed it before him. Javan glanced up at Cerwyn, momentarily distracted.

“I’m Javan,” he said. “We haven’t properly met. You’re Léof’s sister, aren’t you?”
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:29 PM   #260
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Rowenna knew what Saeryn meant. Which meant that she was part of the problem. She straightened and looked directly in Saeryn's eyes.

"I did not see you out in the trenches, digging. Your protective husband excused you from such dirty and wearying work so we'd have food and drink. Well and good for you and us. Meanwhile, I worked as hard as any man and I deserve to eat and not serve."

The Eorl''s lady's eyes went wide and outraged and all afire. All the better. Rowenna allowed a menacing smile on her own face.

"Or are you upset about something other than your words suggest?"
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:52 PM   #261
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Saeryn didn’t know what she meant by her last words, but her previous ones were enough to answer.

“You know well, and as you said just now yourself, that had I gone out, there would be no supper for anyone – man or woman. You also know that Eodwine would ask of no woman what he would not ask of me.” She paused and drew breath. Something hard and painful lodged in her stomach, and she was not as hungry as she had been before. She was angry – angrier than was right for the situation. Her eyes snapped sparks as she glared down at Rowenna, but she did not speak the words that rose immediately to her mind – that an ungrateful shrew had no place here at the hall, and that perhaps she had better find another place where men would treat a discarded, used jade like her as well as they did here.

“People must be fed,” she said, at last. “And if you are too tired to do so, you should just have said so. I have plenty of helpers.” She reached across to a plate on her tray and set it down before Scyld. Then with the same hand, she pushed the plate they had been sharing to Rowenna’s place.

“Eat,” she said, her voice short and clipped. “Enjoy your supper.”

She turned away, trembling with constrained fury.
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Old 02-09-2016, 12:31 PM   #262
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"Yes, I'm Cerwyn," she said. There was a flurry of introductions at the table and she thought she'd be lucky to remember a quarter of the names.

She set a bowl of soup down in front of Javan. "Are we very close to the Entwash here?" she asked, hoping he didn't think her rude for overhearing the last part of their conversation. "Where would we go if it flooded? The road is already terrible."
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Old 02-09-2016, 04:41 PM   #263
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Javan picked up the slice of bread with one hand and his spoon with another, but he answered Cerwyn’s question before diving in.

“I’m not sure. There’s higher ground south, but we couldn’t go far that way before we’d run into flooding from Snowbourne.”

“There’s lots of land between us and the Snowbourne,” Cnebba interjected.

Javan shrugged. “Maybe.” Truly, he did not know where they would go, but to save himself the uncomfortable business of admitting this, he took a bite and for a while forgot about Cerwyn’s question altogether. By the time he had looked up again, she was moving away to serve the next table. He leaned back to see past his neighbor and called after her.

“When you finish, we’ll save you a seat here, if you like,” he said.
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:13 PM   #264
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Rowenna turned to Scyld. "Did you hear her try to make it as if this is about me being tired?"

He raised a brow, but said nothing ... which was what he was supposed to do. She gave him a half smile then sat up straight and called after the fleeing Lady Saeryn.

"Have your husband make the men serve the women!"
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Old 02-10-2016, 06:03 PM   #265
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Frankly, Scyld supposed that Rowenna had a point, even if he disagreed with how she was expressing it. What really irritated him, though, was Saeryn’s giving him his own plate. Certainly, he was hungry enough for his own meal; one plate’s worth would not have satisfied both of them. Nevertheless, the way she had done it had left him feeling scolded like a naughty child, and he resented it. What was it to Saeryn whether they shared a meal?

He would say none of this, of course. Long experience taught him how to keep his thoughts and emotions to himself, and nothing would convince him to get in the middle of a fight between the Lady of the Hall and the only person for miles around who actually liked him.
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Old 02-10-2016, 06:13 PM   #266
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Cerwyn smiled brightly at Javan. “Thank you, I would like that,” she said.

It was quick work to finish serving the men, though there seemed to be some to-do across the Hall: Lady Saeryn looked furious. Cerwyn reluctantly decided it was none of her business, no matter how curious she might be, and when the last few tables had received their suppers she fetched herself a plate and made her way back to Javan’s table.

They made space for her and she settled herself in front of her stew. After smelling it for hours in the kitchen, she was eager to taste it. “So have you lived here long?” she asked Javan.
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:36 PM   #267
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Saeryn stopped dead in her tracks. She stared straight ahead, and her hands gripped the edges of her tray so tight the contents of it rattled. Rowenna should not have said that. She should not. After everything Eodwine had done…!

She turned on her heel and strode toward the table, her anger flowing before her like an invisible thunder cloud. She leaned across the bench between Scyld and Rowenna and set the tray down, firmly and loudly. She set her palms against the edge of the table, leaning low to see Rowenna face to face, and also breaking immediate contact with Scyld, her accomplice and instigator.

“Eodwine has done more for you than you can possibly expect of any man, Rowenna of the Brigands. When you came to him, you were worth nothing in most men’s eyes – and Eodwine took you in. You act like the men here treat you poorly, when, really, it is quite the opposite! No one dare disrespect you, for you know, and they know, Eodwine would never allow it. I’d show some respect if I were you.”
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:49 PM   #268
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“About six, seven years,” Javan said with a shrug.

“He was something of a rogue when he arrived,” Garmund said from across the table.

Javan raised his head and looked at him with a sort of pleading expression. Garmund just laughed. “I remember – the first year he was here, he borrowed Falco’s pipe – Falco was a hobbit friend of Eodwine’s staying at the time – and Javan ended up burning the stables down!”

“It’s not funny,” Javan said, going terribly red in the face. He rarely referred to that day, and his friends could not guess the deep sense of shame that he still carried when he thought about it. Garmund had been just a child at the time, and he likely did not recall the exact circumstances that followed, or the long indenture Javan had served afterward. He probably did not even know about the horses Léof had lost in the fire, or how long it took for Javan to repair the breech in Léof’s trust…or anyone’s trust, for that matter.

“It’s true,” he said, after his friends had had their laugh at his expense. “I was rather bad. I think I’ve improved.”

“Well, you haven’t committed any crimes worth speaking of recently, anyway,” Cnebba said. He and Garmund laughed again.
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:22 AM   #269
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Cerwyn didn't see what was so funny about the stables burning down - she could only imagine how devastated Léof must have been.

"Don't worry," said Cerwyn. "I shan't judge you for something that happened years and years ago. I wouldn't be here, after all, if I didn't think people could change. When my father threw Léof out of the house it was one of the worst days of my life. I'm hoping maybe they can finally forgive each other."
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Old 02-11-2016, 08:35 PM   #270
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Javan would have been glad of any excuse to turn the topic away from his past crime, but it was with genuine wonder that he and the other boys turned their attention to Cerwyn. For a moment, the young lady did not seem to notice their surprise as she took another bite of stew, but soon she couldn't help but notice it - the silence was pretty complete at their end of the table for several seconds.

Javan at last cleared his throat and spoke for all of them. "What do you mean, your father threw Léof out?" he asked. "I thought he left because...well, he because he was tired of the way your father treated him."
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Old 02-12-2016, 07:05 PM   #271
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Cerwyn flushed. Léof seemed so well-known, so well-respected, here at the Hall that it had not occurred to her that his story would not be common knowledge. Maybe, if he had spent more than ten minutes talking to her since she’d gotten here, he would have told her that there were things he was keeping secret. So much for all his fine words about this being his home now! He didn’t even trust the people who lived here enough to tell them the truth about where he came from.

Maybe, if she were less tired, if she were thinking clearly, she would have gone right away to find Léof and talk with him.

Instead, she said, “Is that what he told you?” she asked. She laughed shortly, feeling slightly hysterical. “Well - Léof was certainly tired of how our Father was treating both of us. Up till that night, he just took it, we both did. But one night, Father came in – drunk, of course – and they started fighting. I wasn’t paying attention to what over, but I looked up just as Father took a swing at Léof. Instead of just ducking or backing away or just taking it, Léof hit back. I don’t think it hurt him much, but I’ve never seen my Father so angry. He told Léof to get out, and by the next morning he’d taken his horse and gone.” She laughed again. “Honestly I think my Father was more upset over him taking Æthel than over his leaving, but going after the horse would have meant going after Léof, and he’s too stubborn to chase after someone he’d just told to go.”
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Old 02-13-2016, 05:43 PM   #272
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The young men at the table mulled over Cerwyn’s story for a few moments.

“But I thought…” Javan began, and stopped. He tried to think of what Léof had told them. He shook his head. “Honestly, there has been so much that has happened that we have not spoken of past times. Léof may well have told us something of what you said, and we just did not remember. It seems to me that if I was treated so, I would wish to leave, whether or not I was kicked out.”

There was a brief lull in the conversation. Then Javan looked at Cerwyn again. “So, why did you leave? Your father tell you to go, too?”
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Old 02-13-2016, 08:50 PM   #273
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A quarrel in the hall

Rowenna listened to Saeryn's diatribe with a smirk on her face, chewing and swallowing a piece of bread. She considered interrupting her, just to make the pot boil hotter, but decided to let her finish. She tipped her head quizzically and sardonically.

"It's nice to see you show up. I was not sure you had it in you. You might just have lasted more than a day with my brigands." She lowered her brow and allowed her smirk to slip to a menacing frown, and she leaned forward.

"It matters not that you don't make any sense. You're not used to being this hot headed, so I'll let it pass. But maybe you might explain just what has got you so hopping mad?"

Somewhere inside, Saeryn felt a prick of satisfaction that she had actually gotten under Rowenna's skin, despite Rowenna's cool front.

"It's you," she said. "You - stepping out of your place - and disrespecting your betters." She lifted one hand and reached to the tray, still holding several servings. "You've effectively driven Garreth out. I want you to take this to him." She held it toward Rowenna and met her eye, daring her to disobey. "Now," she said, quietly.

Now Rowenna was angry. "No-one is my better. You may hold a place of power and right by law, but that does not make you better than me. Take it to him yourself."

Saeryn shook her head, growing calmer as she felt she gained the upper hand. "I wasn't talking about myself," she said. "You drove him out. You'll amend it."

She set the bowl down by Rowenna's, retrieved her tray with a huff, and stood up.

"The plate will sit there until he comes for it or someone brings it to him. Did you see me with a whip and chair to drive him out? He left by his own will. He owns his deeds, not me. Go find some child to scold. And next time, make sure you know what really happened before you start your scolding."

"Some would count your tongue as a lash, Rowenna," Saeryn said, feeling the sting of it at that moment. "I need hardly stretch my mind to guess what passed between the two of you." She paused, waiting. Rowenna made no move. "So you will not take it to him, then?" Saeryn asked. "We shall see what is to be done." She turned and moved away.

That was a threat. Rowenna did not take it kindly. "So you would rather not know the truth, you just want your way, is that it?"

"Fine," Saeryn said, swinging back. "Tell me." And inwardly she added, 'It had better be worth all this trouble, or I swear, I'll make you pay.'

Rowenna stood. She looked at Harreld, and called him by name. He looked at her askance. "Please tell Lady Saeryn what passed between your brother and me."

Harreld stood up and cleared his throat. “Rowenna handed a plate to my brother but did not let go. He demanded that she let go, and she asked what she would get in return. He did not answer but walked out. I asked her why she harassed him and she asked why we men are served before the women. I had no answer.”

Saeryn turned from Harreld to Rowenna. She could not believe the stubbornness she had to deal with. “Why did you harass him?” she asked.

Truth be told, it was because Garreth had been the one who was foul to her in the first place. She had chosen not to be difficult with Harreld or any other man; instead she had allowed her rage to find an appropriate target, as it were; but she would lose face if she said that to Saeryn. “I harassed no-one! I worked as hard as any man today! I’ll not be treated like trash!” She stepped over the bench, leaving the bowl sitting where it lay, turned her back on Saeryn, and stormed out the door and into the downpour.

Saeryn stared after her. She almost followed her, but when she saw the pouring rain through the opening and closing door as Rowenna went out, she decided against it. She turned back to the table and looked down at Rowenna’s uneaten portion of food and the bowl meant for Garreth beside it.

Harreld was still standing, watching Saeryn. “Lady, I will take the food to my brother. He asked it of me.”

She looked at him and did not immediately respond, for her mind was still full of Rowenna’s words. At last she seemed to hear him. She shook her head. “No. Thank you, Harreld. I will take it to him myself.”

“Are you sure, Lady, that you want to do that?” Harreld looked uncomfortable. “My brother is - a - difficult man when he is angered, and you -” he paused and shifted his weight from foot to foot. “Please let me take it to him.”

Saeryn turned her head slightly and stared hard at him. “And I am what?” she demanded.

“You are - er -” he paused again, and reddened as he realized how many faces were looking up at him around the hall. He braced himself. “You are a woman, Lady, your pardon.”

Saeryn cracked a smile. “So I am,” she agreed. She took a quick glance around. Cerwyn had seen to the last of the serving. She set her tray down and picked up Garreth’s serving. “You have worked hard and are tired. Sit and enjoy your supper and stay warm and dry.”

“Lady, I have lost my appetite and I am going back to the smithy anyway. Please let me take it.”

“Harreld,” Saeryn said, firmly, but not unkindly. “I am not afraid of your brother. You will not let my good supper go to waste. I know men better than to think a woman’s quarrel will put them off their meat.” She smiled at him again and went back toward the kitchen to find a cover for the bowl before taking it out into the rain.
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Old 02-14-2016, 09:03 PM   #274
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Cerwyn

Cerwyn’s mood was not assuaged by Javan’s reassurances. They had all been too startled by her original revelation for Léof to have mentioned it at some point, and her anger at her brother continued to simmer, though she let herself be momentarily distracted by Javan’s question.

“No. He’ll be quite mad when he finds I’ve gone, if he hasn’t already heard,” she said. “So maybe you’ve not got the corner on roguishness at this table.” She attempted a grin, but even to her own ears the humor seemed flat. “As I said before, I’m hoping Léof and Father might finally forgive each other. Father’s better than he used to be, I think. But I also thought Léof would want to come home, if I gave him the chance, and I seem to have gotten that terribly wrong.”

~*~*~*~*~

Léof

With the fight between Rowenna and Saeryn over (or at least suspended), Léof finally felt safe to move again. He’d finished his soup, having been very keenly focused on it for the last several minutes, and he had no wish to linger at the table. It was past time for him to catch up with Cerwyn, anyway. Taking a piece of bread in hand, he stood up and scanned the Hall for his sister. He spotted her at the other end of the room, sitting with Javan, Garmund, and Cnebba, and headed in their direction.
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Old 02-16-2016, 05:24 AM   #275
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Rowenna

Rowenna walked through the downpour. She had taken off her cloak inside and forgotten to put it back on. It was cold. She was drenched in seconds. She did not care. Right now she hated Saeryn. She knew it wouldn't last, but this was now. She was enraged at herself for having retreated from the fight, but she had seen that it was going badly for her, and the only way to win would have been to openly test Saeryn's word that Eodwine would favor her instead of his own wife. She would not do that. If Eodwine favored Saeryn, then it would go badly for Rowenna; if Eodwine favored Rowenna, Scarburg could become a very bad place to be.

It already was a bad place for her to be.

She sent the water spraying with each footstep, for the puddles were growing; even with the new trench. She reached the scar and began to climb. Soon, the light from the settlement ended and she was feeling her way, scrabbling in the mud and sliding stone and sand of the scar.

It was already a bad place to be because there would be no end of fighting with Saeryn, and the advantage belonged squarely with Saeryn. Rowenna liked her, she was an honest and well meaning lady, wife, and mother, but that did not lessen that she was impossible.

Rowenna reached the highest point of the scar and looked out. The darkness was complete: she could see nothing. All she could hear was the rains striking the ground or puddles.

Scyld had just watched the whole thing. That was his way. If they were a couple, a real couple, he might have come to her defense. But they were not a couple, and there was no use teasing herself about it. She knew that if she did not get back inside soon, she would most likely sicken and maybe worse, but she could not bring herself to do it. Instead, half realizing it, her feet were taking her down the last of the hillocks of the scar, and out onto the open plain. Her fingers were numb and she could barely feel her feet. Her arms shook and her teeth chattered, but she kept moving forward, away from the scar, into the night, her thoughts a mess of spinning threads.

Eodwine

Eodwine watched the whole thing pass. He found it hard to swallow his food for the distaste of what was happening before his eyes. He would not interfere with his wife's actions; it would not be good for the folk to see them at odds, but this would have to be dealt with. He also realized that his displeasure was not, for the most, in how Saeryn dealt with Rowenna. No, it was something else, something he did not know quite how to say. He realized that he was simply in a foul mood. They came on him rarely, but when they did, there was no helping it. Maybe it had been brought on by the difficulties of the dung pit and the trench, but if so then only in part. The best thing he could do was lay low until it passed. It was what he should do. He finished his food and thought to get up and go in. But he stayed sitting where he was, waiting for his wife to finish with her many tasks.

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Old 02-17-2016, 05:50 AM   #276
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Saeryn hurried through the soggy courtyard toward the smithy, ducking her head against the rain, and seeing little except the ground just before her feet. When she reached the eaves of the smithy, she raised her head and shook the loose rain drops from her hair. She gave an involuntary shiver before entering the smithy.

It was warmer inside, and dry. She saw Garreth working by the furnace.

"I have brought you your supper," she said. "If you like, you can come back in and eat it. Or stay out here, as you wish."

Garreth looked up from his work and regarded her sullenly. "I asked Harreld to bring me my food, no-one else. Is he suddenly too ill to do the job himself?"

Saeryn was not going to get into another argument with a hard-headed contestant. She set the food down on a workbench. "Harreld has worked hard today. I saw little reason to send him out again into the rain. Here is your supper. Have a goodnight."

She turned to go.

Garreth was not about to let a woman have the last word, at least not without one retort. "And here I thought it was the lord of the hall that made such decisions, rather than his wife." He allowed a goodly amount of sneer into the last word he spoke.

Saeryn paused by the door and reflected on his words. She made an effort not to let them affect her. She looked back at him. "Goodnight, Garreth," she said, and went out into the rain.

"Women, confound them," she heard Garreth mutter behind her.

She almost walked right into Harreld. She jumped with a surprised gasp. When she looked up at him, she saw he looked worried. "What did he say to you?" he asked.

"Not much," she said, backing up under the eave of the smithy again. "I think he indicated that I was running the roost instead of Eodwine." She sighed.

"I am sorry. I would have spared you his temper. He trusts no woman since - since his time in Edoras. Good night." Harreld let her go by and went inside the smithy.
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Old 02-18-2016, 07:13 PM   #277
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Well, it would be a most tragic thing to have done, walking out into the open plains, in the cold rain, with not enough clothing, but it would be a fool thing to do, and Scyld was not about to come rescue her. Rowenna was still standing on the last escarpment of the scar, watching the tragedy play out in her mind's eye. Well, it was not to be. She huffed a sigh, turned around, and went back the way she had come.

She saw Saeryn walking from the smithy back to the hall. Could it be that she had taken Garreth's dinner to him? It would not be surprising. She followed the lady back toward the hall, watched her go in, and maybe half a minute later passed inside herself.

Saeryn was seeing to the needs of various of the folk as she made her way toward the front where Eodwine sat waiting and watching his wife. Scyld had not moved. Something inside hardened at the man's inaction. She bristled.

Rowenna closed the distance between them half way, and stopped.

"Lady Saeryn!"

She turned and faced her; her smile faded and her face became tense. Rowenna raised her chin and looked down her nose at the woman who ruled with her husband.

"Lady," she said archly, "your serving wench asks your forgiveness for her rash words and deeds. What does the lady require of her serving wench?"
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Old 02-18-2016, 07:42 PM   #278
Firefoot
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The fight over, Scyld rapidly found himself alone at the end of the table. Once, he would have found the whole scuffle entertaining: the way Lady Saeryn still seemed to feel threatened by Rowenna (why else so blatantly assert her authority?), Rowenna's rare loss of composure, Léof’s obvious discomfort.

He stirred his soup absently. He was still aware of these things, but his primary emotion now was not amusement. He felt the detachment that he’d cultivated for years slipping away, and he wasn’t sure he liked – or trusted – the way that felt. Glancing over at Rowenna’s still-full soup bowl, he considered trying to take it to her – wasn’t that what she wanted, a man to serve her meal? A smirk twitched at his lips at the thought, but he rejected it. He did not know where she had gone, and he was not going to chase after her. Besides, he had no wish to go back out into the cold and wet now that he was warm and dry.

He played over the fight in his mind as he ate. He was keenly reminded of an earlier thought: that Rowenna still felt she had something to prove. And why should that be? Saeryn was right – no one would dare disrespect Rowenna. But perhaps because of Eodwine’s protection, she never felt that she had earned that respect in her own right? Or maybe, was there something about herself that she simply found un-respectable?

He’d been drawn to her for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest was that they were much alike. For the first time, he wondered if that was a good thing. He frowned. Once, long ago, Rowenna had claimed to have found a home here, but clearly there was still tension. If she had not managed in five years to lay that to rest, what hope did he have? Why had he come back?

He shook his head; it seemed that everyone was in a dark mood tonight.

Just as he was starting to think that Rowenna had been gone overlong, he saw her come inside. He was surprised to see her approach Saeryn directly, though he was too far away to hear what was said. Well. Maybe she would come back for her soup. Despite all his doubts, he rather hoped she would.
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Old 02-18-2016, 09:06 PM   #279
Folwren
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As Saeryn passed from the cold rain into the warm, comforting atmosphere of the hall, she drew a slow breath. She felt suddenly tired and very hungry. Garreth’s grumblings had become so commonplace she scarcely remembered them, and the dash through the rain had released the built tension of her quarrel with Rowenna. She resolved to find Rowenna and make it right…later. Now, she was ready to go and sit by Eodwine. It seemed more than just a few hours since they last spoke quietly and uninterrupted together.

She made her way forward, pausing once or twice along the way. Suddenly, her name was called from behind, loudly. She turned and faced Rowenna.

“Lady, your serving wench asks your forgiveness for her rash words and deeds. What does the lady require of her serving wench?”

Her words struck Saeryn like a physical blow. She blinked and caught her breath sharply. For a moment, she had no response.

“You are not my serving wench, Rowenna. In all I said, I never meant that. Please,” she said, her shoulder’s drooping a little, “go sit down and finish your supper. I have fed the rest of the people. There is nothing left to be done for the time being. Or,” she added realizing Rowenna’s condition, “get into something dry first.”

Hoping it was enough for the time being to quiet Rowenna, she turned away and approached the head table.
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Old 02-19-2016, 11:16 AM   #280
littlemanpoet
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So Saeryn was going to run Scarburg with her feelings rather than by her will. So be it. Rowenna had already laid it out for herself that she would treat every whim of the lady as her iron will, no matter how inconsistent. She wondered if Saeryn had noticed that Rowenna had looked over her head rather in the eye during the whole exchange. She shrugged.

"I shall of course choose from the choices the lady of Scarburg has given me," Rowenna said to Saeryn's back.

She walked out of the room into the women's quarters, with not so much as a glance for Scyld.
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