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Old 05-12-2004, 02:09 PM   #121
Nurumaiel
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Shield

An eager voice spoke up from the door to the room. "Miss Aylwen, if you would but let me go to see Hearpwine this day I would not care to work more than my share when I return." It was Mae speaking, looking lovely in the early morning light. She was clad in a gown of darkest green, and her hair fell loose over her shoulders. There was a rosy color in her cheeks and her eyes sparkled with hope. Gazing upon her in admiration Liornung could not help but think how much the girl looked like her mother... in truth they were nearly exactly alike.

"I would regret sorely depriving you of this day which will not come upon us again," said Aylwen, "but before I give any definite answer I think it would be wiser to see what work needs to be done and who we have who might do it, save yourself."

"Meanwhile I will sit in patience
and refrain from growing over-anxious
until the sun melts morning dew.
My love, I long to go with you!"


Liornung glanced up and smiled. "An old tune I learned when I was just a boy," he said. "I am indeed astonished I still remember the words! I am such a fortunate young man, nothing keeping me back from seeing Hearpwine sing for the King this day. Others have work to do, yet not I, for I am free as the birds in the sky. That is another old tune, from Gondor I believe, or perhaps not..."

"Uncle, you, as I, will never grow old. How you ramble on about absolutely nothing! It is indeed lovely to hear." Mae crossed the room, and, kissing her uncle's cheek fondly, sat on his knee. "If fate will not let me go I will not weep overmuch if you will but let me sit on your knee at your return as I did when I was but a little girl, and if you will tell me the whole tale." She glanced at Hearpwine. "Or perhaps good Hearpwine will tell the tale and we can listen, though I do not deny it would be best to go myself."
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Old 05-12-2004, 02:23 PM   #122
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Eye

"Mommy? Can we go to the Inn today.... pwease? Huhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh?" Delaynn tugged on the dangling sleeve of her just-waking mother; the girl was already dressed- not the best you do, but dressed none the less.

Reya sighed and pulled herself up, brushing a piece of slightly frizzy light brown hair from her eyes. Having a daugter was so much work! And, doing it all on her own, Reya was now facing the pressure head-on. If Selinn wouldn't have died, she would have been able to lead a better, happier life. "Alright... brush your hair and I'll put it in a bun today. Go on Delaynn, we'll get breakfast there."

The little lass smiled widely and nodded, hopping gaily out of the room. Reya laughed to herself and dressed quickly, running a brush through her hair as she entered the kitchen. Dela was alright outside, standing in the bright sunlight and beckoning for her mother. Her wild blonde waves were flying in the wind. "C'mon Mommy!" She yelled, grabbing Reya's hand and pulling her from the house. 'Forget the hair,' Reya thought to herself as they headed toward the White Horse Inn.

Five minutes later, Reya pushed open the large door and ushered Dela inside. The small girl found a table near the window to sit, and plopped into a chair. "Mommy, I'm hungry... can I have some toast?" Reya nodded and lifted her daughter's chin. "I'm going to order us some toast and juice- stay here," Dela nodded and smiled, Reya watching her as she walked off.
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Old 05-12-2004, 04:27 PM   #123
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The Eye

Strenge woke up with a start, wondering for a moment where he was. Then the memory of traveling to Rohan came back to him, and he sat in bed for a moment calming his nerves. He noticed a draft that chilled his uncovered arms, but realized that it was the window.

It was open. He froze, and his heart began to race agian, worried about intruders. Then he remembered that he had opened the window the previous night because it had been unbearably hot. He also remembered that he had probably been drunk.

Strenge peeled himself away from the bed and shut the window, thinking about what had happened the night before. He vauegly remembered something about Caraedry, but no details followed. Getting dressed slowly to combat a headache, he tried again to retrieve memories of what had happened.

Strenge had a bit of trouble with the door, but he got downstairs without much trouble. He scanned the early-morning crowd to try and find someone who might know what had happened last night.
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Old 05-12-2004, 05:27 PM   #124
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Light, very unwelcome light, shined through weakened glass panes in Osric’s room, bathing him and his cramped little bed in a searing fountain of light beams that tore his heavy eyelids open forcefully. He pulled those eyelids wide, his limpid orbs of eyes staring out and closing instantly as the blinding sunlight overflowed into his eyes and head. Shoving a wet palm, soaked with nightmare-induced sweat, in front of his eyes which closed tight, he kicked the thick, scratchy cotton blankets off of him and clamored madly out of the bed. He couldn’t remember the dream which had made his night so long and frustrating, but he was sure it had been very chaotic for him to feel so tired out this morning, though had slept little anyway.

For an old man, he was fast in his place. He had, after the war, not been able to shake the hobbit of retiring at a late hour, or sleeping with his clothes on, which he always did. All he lacked was a comfortably formal cloak, which was neatly folded on a bedside table. He pulled it on with a youthfully energetic flourish, whipping the evergreen cloth around his shoulders, and headed, yanking his stiff leg behind him, out of the room, with another smile on his face as he forget the ill humor of his nightly visit on another, dreamier plane of existence and adjusted fully to the one he was present in at the moment.

He hobbled down, managing his way carefully down a sturdy stair flight and down into the Common Room, where he’d spent so much of last night. As beams of dim light suddenly berated him, mostly candlelight and the first slivers of dawn singing the darkness welling up around him, he flinched slightly and let loose an awkward cough as dustier air filled his tired lungs. He batted the air, as if groping at an invisible opponent, and stumbled wearily over to a larger chair. He promptly stiffened further and crumbled into the seat like so much idle jelly, contorting and twisting until his slumped form fit each and every contour of his carrying vessel. He clawed clinging cottony strands from his unkempt gray beard and leaned back, oozing like fluid into the seat beneath and sighing deeply, thinking quietly of peaceful times and things.

It was then that ancient Osric saw the girl sitting across from him, looking as if she had more verve than ever Osric had had. His luminous smile strengthened weakly when he saw the energetic blonde lass, her hair overshadowing his in wildness as well, practically bouncing in her chair. He managed to lean forward, narrowly avoiding a one-way trip off the table surface as he slumped upon it, giving her a calm nod, which she acknowledged with equal ability, smiling back at the aged Rohirrim warrior.
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Old 05-12-2004, 08:12 PM   #125
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Ceryl

People were beginning to flow into the Common Room faster now; there was a tired-looking mother with a golden-haired lass, bouncing with unspent energy. The lass, that is. An old man walked slowly into the room and sank into a chair comfortably. Ceryl's stomach rumbled and she got up off her stool, walking towards Aylwen.

"Miss Aylwen, could I please have a mug of hot tea, and perhaps a biscuit? Thank you so much," she said. Aylwen came to her with the tea and biscuit, smiling, and Ceryl thanked her profusely and went back to her seat. She took a sip of tea and a bite of biscuit and sighed in contentment. The Horse's food was excellent, far better than any other Inn in Rohan (that Ceryl knew of!). She sat happily in her seat, munching the biscuit, drinking her tea and simply observing the others in the Common Room.
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Old 05-13-2004, 02:37 PM   #126
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White Tree

Reya returned to the table with hot toast and juice for breakfast for the two of them. She noticed that the Inn was filling quickly- and so early in the morning! She sat again at the table, handing a plate to her bouncing daughter; where young Delaynn got all that energy Reya would never know, but she sure wanted some of it.

"Thank ya Mommy," Dela smiled and picked up her toast, buttering it. She took a large bite and then said, "Ya have enough money to get Papa some jus' in case he comes back, right?" she flicked away a lock of gold and kept eating.

It was time. Reya had been regretting it for many years, but it had finally come time to tell her sweet daughter that Papa wasn't coming home. "Delaynn, I really need you to stop saying that. There is something I need to tell you."

"Oh, okay," Dela put down her toast and held her head in her hands, elbows propped on the table. "Whaddya wanna tell me?"
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Old 05-14-2004, 10:39 AM   #127
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Ælle leaned on the young man that helped him up. “Oh dear, thank you, sir. I am truly sorry for being such a burden.” Reaching out, he searched the empty air with his hand until it rested on his cane.

“It is my pleasure.” The young man replied as he slipped Ælle’s arm through his own. “May I help you to your destination?”

“Would you?” Ælle laughed delightedly. “I would greatly appreciate your guidance to the nearest inn, kind sir. If you would even point me in the right direction, I would be forever in debt to your kindness.”

Now it was the young man’s turn to chuckle. “I assure you there is no need for repayment. I am glad to help.”

With that the young man led his elder through the streets of Edoras and up the hill to the White Horse Inn. Ælle chatted away lightheartedly telling the young man of his travels and the people that brought him here. “Kind folk, I tell you…I shall never forget them.” Ælle missed the quiet smile expressed by the young man.

“Here you are, sir. This is the best inn in all of Edoras. Enjoy yourself, and I hope we shall meet again. Would you like help inside?”

“No, no. I will take it from here. Again, thank you for helping this old man.” Ælle held out his hand and let the young man take it in his. “Now get on with you. I would hate to think I am wasting your day away.” Silently the man slid his hand from Ælle’s and walked back down the hill and into the busy streets.

Ælle turned slowly and felt the door with his hand, letting his cane tap the frame as he opened it and stepped inside. His senses buzzed with the sounds of busy patrons and staff moving around him. He felt someone brush against his shoulder and he called out to stop them. “Would you kindly tell me where I might find the innkeeper of this fine establishment?” Ælle could feel a the person tense with uneasiness as he guessed he, or most likely she by her fragrance, studied his face.

“Yes, sir. She is across the room to your left. Would like me to help you?”

“No, thank you, Miss. I can make it.” Ælle smiled kindly in the young woman’s direction and turned to his left. He moved slowly unsure of what lie around him. His cane, which was a glorified stick a wayfarer gave him many years ago, moved quickly and surely to and fro before his feet as crossed the room. Once it hit the solid surface of the counter in front of him, he stopped. He could smell and hear the those standing around him moving back to give him access. “Excuse me, I do hope I am not interrupting, but I wish to rent a room, and I really must find the innkeeper.”
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Old 05-15-2004, 05:57 PM   #128
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Aylwen could hardly deny Mae...it was hard for the Innkeeper to deny anyone of what they truly desired. If Mae truly wished to see Hearpwine participate in the contest, Aylwen would not be the one to keep her from attending. Still, the Innkeeper sighed at the slight inconveniance, for she had already promised Aedre that the young girl could have the morning off. When Aylwen was determined to please everyone, though, inconveniances happened and Aylwen dealt with them despite.

Then the lady Ceryl requested a sort of breakfast from Aylwen, and the Innkeeper snapped from her agreements with Mae and back into the day of work. In town there would be festivities of all sorts, but Aylwen did not despair at having to be at the Inn. After fourteen years of missing this and that in town, Aylwen had become used to her duty in the Horse and resigned to her job and whatever help she needed to lend in order to fulfill said job. Providing the nice man Osric with a warm breakfast when he entered the common room and fulfilling the lady's order for her and her daughter were just a few of the tasks that Aylwen did everyday.

Soon after taking the last few orders, an elderly man wobbled into the Inn, with a cane and misty eyes to add to whatever age he actually was. Aylwen watched on as Mae pointed her out to the man, and the Innkeeper waited patiently for him to reach the desk. When he did, he wasted no time in getting to his point. “Excuse me, I do hope I am not interrupting, but I wish to rent a room, and I really must find the innkeeper.”

"You have found the Innkeeper, sir," Aylwen said, a simple smile lighting on her face. She took the man's arm gently to take the weight off his cane, leading him the short way to the ledger. "You are in perfect luck, sir. Celebrations have been occurring, and we have had few rooms. There is one open on this bottom floor, if you wish a time without stairs. However, I must know your name first..." Aylwen prompted, waiting patiently once again.
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Old 05-15-2004, 07:00 PM   #129
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The first timid rays of the dawn's light poked into Bethberry's room. They did not find her sleeping, but quietly poised in thought and reminiscence as she watched a spider trace a path over the wooden ceiling brace. She looked up, out her window towards the eastern sky, streaked with red and covered with grey whisps of mist. She rose and took to her desk, as she did every morn, to write in a small, leather-bound book. What she wrote no one knew, although she had once found one of the maids running a finger over the leather binding. The woman had succumbed to the temptation to open the cover and read, but she had been interrupted by the return of the former Innkeeper and had dropped the book as if it had burnt her fingers. Since that discovery, Bethberry had kept the book well hidden whenever she was absent from her room. This morning her thoughts kept her long at writing.

Still, she had finally descended to the Mead Hall, humming to herself the aire "Speed bonnie boat" and sought out Aylwen, but not before she had observed from a distance the singer Hearpwine bound into the kitchen and help himself to some food and drink. That man takes altogether too many liberties, she thought to herself. If Aylwen does not speak to him after the contest about his forwardness, then I shall. Being high strung and nervous is no excuse for impertenance, no matter what charm he has. Yet she nodded civilly to him, as to the lone woman eating breakfast and the mother and child, who looked oddly sombre. Bethberry decided to watch them discretely, should they need another voice at hand.

Oscric was not long to remain the eldest veteran at the Horse. Bethberry watched as Aylwen conversed with another old man who had with grace, precision and some slowness entered the Inn and inquired, apparently, about the Innkeeper. There was something about how he held his head, cocking his ears for sounds and noises, and something too about how the cane he held seemed an extension of himself. Bethberry poured herself a mug of hot spiced cider, took a small seed cake, and then sat to one side to watch him. In the background she could hear Frodides working in the kitchen and her daughter flirting with the patrons. That girl was coddled too much, Bethberry thought. Yet what child has not been, since the War?
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Old 05-16-2004, 07:51 AM   #130
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Eye

Reya cleared her throat and tried to sort the thoughts zipping through her head into a farely chronological order. "Delaynn... oh," She sighed and rubbed her temples. How did you explain death to a four year old, even when you found it hard to swallow yourself?

"Delaynn, your father isn't going to come back. Do you remember when he rode of to war with Uncle Elwin and the King?" Reya took her daughter's hands and nodded to Bêthberry, who she saw walk by. The girl resonded with a low, mournful whimper. "And, do you remember when we had Eariel, our kitty? Do you remember what happened to her?"

Dela bit her bottom lip, her eyes distant as she painfully remembered the death of her beloved cat. "Yeah, she got stepped on by a horsie, an' she... died," Dela puckered her lips now, looking up again at her mother.

She knows what death is... maybe it will not be so hard now. "Well, Papa... Papa died too. With... with King Thèoden. He's gone to live with Gaffer Dom and Grandma Eliza. You won't be able to see him again for a very long time," Reya quickly blinked back a tear so that her daughter would not see that she was upset as well.

"But why did Papa have ta leave us? Did he not love us?" Dela's chest was heaving and tears were streaking down her face from her bright brown eyes.

Suddenly, Reya shook her head resolutely and lifted the small girl over the table, cradling her tightly in her arms. "No, Dela. Papa left because he did love us. He wanted to protect us from the darkness- and he did! Oh, your father loved us more than you could ever know," tears now fell down her face again, drawing in a few looks from other Inn patrons. "Papa loved us, and he's looking down on us right now," Reya huggled the girl again, burying her head in Dela's thick sandy waves.
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Old 05-16-2004, 10:33 AM   #131
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Ceryl

Ceryl sat, eating and thinking, watching the patrons of the Horse go about their daily morning rituals. Aylwen was helping an old man with a cane at her desk. As Ceryl noted how the man moved with such cautious movements, Bethberry entered the room. She nodded to Ceryl, who lifted her hand in a return gesture of greeting. Ceryl noticed the mother and her daughter talking quietly in a corner, then the mother enveloping the child in her arms. They both appeared to be crying. She began to feel uncomfortable watching the tender scene and averted her eyes.

She began to feel cooped up in the Inn, which was a strange feeling for her. She finished her meal and rose from her seat, making for the door. Stepping outside, she was embraced by the chilly morning air. Ceryl inhaled, feeling the air flow down her throat, cooling her lungs. She hummed a little tune in her head as she watched the world awaken.

She looked to the East, half expecting to see the old blackness covering the horizon like a horrible plague, but she only saw the sun poking up over the edge of the land like a bright torch. Ceryl stepped away from the door of the Inn and stood near the wall, enjoying the dewy morning.

A light breeze lifted her braid and chilled the back of her neck, causing her to shiver. There was a certain loveliness about an early morning, a beauty that you couldn't quite pin down. When the world was waking up and it was completely silent, except for a few birds twittering 'Good morning', it didn't matter where you were. It was as if you were no longer in Middle-earth but in some other world where everything was heavenly and perfect, and where there was always peace.

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Old 05-16-2004, 07:53 PM   #132
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“Oh dear, here I have gone and misplaced my manners. Please forgive me, Miss. My name is Ælle, and I must say it is a pleasure to be standing in this lively inn of yours.” Ælle leaned once more on his cane as he heard the innkeeper scribbling on a paper. “I am overjoyed to hear you have a room for me, and what of these celebrations?” A friendly and sincere smile flashed across his face as he leaned forward as far as could toward the innkeeper.

As the innkeeper told him of the day’s activities, Ælle thought how beautiful and soft her voice was. Once she finished, he caught himself. “That sounds just wonderful. Thank you, Miss…” Sweeping his hand toward her he signaled for her name.

“Aylwen. My name is Aylwen, sir.”

“Oh, what a beautiful name,” he replied with a chuckle. “Now, I do hate to be a burden, but would you mind showing me where I might have a seat and a bit of food to break this old man’s fast?”

“Certainly, sir. Right this way,” Aylwen took his arm, and he leaned slightly on her still letting his cane flow in front of his feet. Truthfully, he did not need to lean on her quite as much, but her frangrance was pleasant, and besides, Ælle had always enjoyed the company of young women. “Here you are.” The innkeeper helped lower Ælle into the seat.

“Oh, thank you, my dear Aylwen. You have been very kind to me.” Ælle felt around his chair looking for a place to prop his cane. Thinking he had found it, he let the cane go and it dropped loudly to the floor. “Oh dear, what have I done?” The old man bent forward to search for his cane, but was stopped by the hard wooden table that collided with his head. “Oh!” His wrinkled hand flew to his forehead to touch the wound. He felt the warmth of blood swelling from the cut. “Goodness, I have made a mess of things.”

Aylwen hurriedly brought him a towel and some salve to care for the wound. “Sir Ælle, I believe you are as good as new.” Ælle thanked her profusely, but she dismissed them with great modesty. Finally taking his order for breakfast, the innkeeper walked away and left the old man alone.
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Old 05-16-2004, 09:10 PM   #133
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Mae glanced at the old man, Ælle as he had introduced himself, sitting alone, for Aylwen had just left him, and continued to gaze steadily at him until their eyes met. She gave him her warmest smile before turning back to her uncle. "Dear uncle of mine, that song you sang is highly inappropriate for the occasion," she said in a mockingly rebuking tone. "I merely wish to go with Hearpwine and see him sing; I love him, of course, but I am not in love with him."

"Don't you wish to ever be married, Mae?" Liornung questioned her, winking at Hearpwine.

"Well, perhaps, if I meet someone who loves me and I am in love with him," she replied, "but I hardly know any young lads about, so busy I am working here at the Inn. And nobody's in love with me. Besides that, I don't need to get married. My parents will take care of me forever and ever."

"You are a spoiled little thing, Mae dear."

Her mischeivous smile vanished and a solemn look came to her face. Slowly she shook her head. "No, uncle," she said. "My parents did not spoil me. It was just that they didn't ignore me ever. They always loved me and cared for me and always showed it. They did not believe that to refrain from spoiling me they had to refrain from loving me and constantly showing me thus."

Liornung laughed and patted her cheek. "Dear little Mae, I'm only teasing you. I should know that my brother wouldn't spoil you. My mother and father raised me the same way, and if I had been married I would have raised my children that way."

"Oh, uncle, you're young yet. Don't worry, you'll still be married." Mae slid off her uncle's knee and skipped over to Aylwen. "Oh, Aylwen, say you'll let me go, please do! If you don't, however, I'll endure it gracefully and work just as hard, so you needn't fear refusing. It's just that I should dearly love to go."
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Old 05-16-2004, 09:49 PM   #134
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Hearpwine’s face flushed at the mention of “love” between Liornung and his niece, and he made himself busy with his plate as they talked of marriage and young men. He was not sure why the conversation should make him self-conscious…yes, he though Mae was a bonny girl, and he enjoyed having her eyes upon him when he sang…but all bards enjoyed the attention of their audience, and she was so completely and innately moved by his music that it was impossible not to respond with warmth. His mind went back to their dancing together of the night before, and a slow smile crept across his face at the memory…

He felt Liornung’s eyes upon him and he looked up at his friend, and then away quickly. He could feel his friend’s smile grow wider, and fancied even that he could hear a chuckle. He looked about for something or someone to distract the minstrel from his teasing, but at that moment Mae commanded his attention as she skipped (ever so prettily) to Aylwen asking if she could go to the Contest. Before he could stop himself, Hearpwine spoke out. “Aye, Mistress Aylwen, she should be at the Contest. It’s clear that no lass enjoys music more than Mae, and my own performance cannot help but be improved by having here there to hear me!” As soon as he had stopped speaking, he heard what he had said and flushed even more deeply than he had before. Desperate now for something to turn Liornung’s smiling eyes away from him, he called out to the blind old man at the table near theirs, still rubbing his head from the assault practised upon it by the table. “Master Ælle, is it? I hope you are not too keenly hurt?”

The old man moved his head toward Hearpwine and assured him that he was fine. “You, sir,” he said, “have a fine voice. Are you a bard?”

Hearpwine’s face broke into a huge grin at this as he cried out, “Aye, sir, that I am! That you could tell so from simply hearing my voice, though, is a wonder to me – and a great pleasure!”

The old man smiled. “Not such a wonder, young master bard,” he replied, “when you consider that you have been talking about taking part in the Contest of the Bards before the King today. You could only be a very fine singer, or a very foolish man.”

Hearpwine burst out laughing, and was delighted to see that Mae was smiling too. Inspired by this, he turned to the old man once more. “Well said Master Ælle! Well said. I am a bard indeed, and although I should save my voice for the Contest, I stand debt of a song to a lass here” and, somehow, he found the courage to look at Mae as he said this, “so you can listen to me sing and then pass your judgement if I shall win the Contest this day or not!” He turned to Liornung to ask if he could accompany him, but his friend already had his fiddle beneath his chin and was smiling from ear to ear. Hearpwine began by humming the tune, which the fiddler soon picked up and within moments had made his own.

Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
For the good times, and the bad times too,
Let it be a dance.

Let a dancing song be heard.
Play the music. Say the words.
Fill the sky with sailing birds.
Let it be a dance.

Every body turn and spin.
Let your bodies learn to bend
Like a willow in the wind,
And let it be a dance.

A child is born. We all must die.
A time for joy, a time to cry –
So, take it as it passes by,
And let it be a dance.

Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
For the good times, and the bad times too,
Let it be a dance.

The morning star comes out at night.
Without the dark, there'd be no light.
Yet, if nothing's wrong, then nothing's right.
So, let it be a dance.

Let the sun shine. Let it rain.
Share the laughter. Bear the pain.
Round and round we go again,
And let it be a dance.

Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
For the good times, and the bad times too,
Let it be a dance.


Hearpwine finished the song, as he always did, with a laugh. The singing had done much to calm his mood and regain his natural good spirits and confidence. He gazed at Mae as he finished and bowed low to the room as Liornung let the melody settle and fade.
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Old 05-16-2004, 10:29 PM   #135
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Maercwen applauded Hearpwine's song with a cheery smile, and then she turned back to Aylwen to await an answer to her request. Liornung took Hearpwine's arm and led him towards Ælle's table, murmuring softly, "You're so amusing that way you gaze at her, Hearpwine. I really hadn't noticed it until now, and I don't think she notices it yet."

Hearpwine flushed deeply. "Perhaps it would be better to save your breath for a song today," he said, and Liornung laughed loudly, saying, "Quick tongue you have still, lad. I say it only to tease you."

"And I spoke only for the same reason," replied Hearpwine with a smile. "I mind when we contested in that way when I was a boy. So much we did together though you stayed only for a short time!"

Liornung patted his back fondly before turning to address Ælle. He bowed very courtesly. "Master Ælle, would you allow us to breakfast with you? Soon we must take ourselves away to the Contest, but we would be honored to sit with you in the meantime." Ælle gestured most courtesly and they sat. A relentless light was in Liornung's eyes and he winked at Ælle as he spoke to Hearpwine once again, "Come, come now, lad... I want you to tell me honestly. Would it make a difference if it were Mae watching you at the contest, or would you do equally as well with some other village lass?"
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Old 05-16-2004, 11:23 PM   #136
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"Mae," spoke Bethberry not harshly as the girl flounced towards Aylwen, "because we desire to do things is not always the best reason for doing them. Consider Aylwen's need here at the Inn before you take advantage of her good heartedness. We will likely be busier here at The Horse today and will have need for all hands."

The girl frowned at the woman petulantly and strode off to see Aylwen. Bethberry watched her go, worrying that the girl lacked the maturity needed to balance her looks and attractiveness. To fall for a man for a song, well, that was an old story, yet a perilous one. She did not wish to see the girl hurt.

"You're a spoil sport, Mistress Bethberry," called out Hearpwine to her half-heartedly conveying a frown that would not stay put upon his face.

"Am I now? Or rather just cautious? I have mended the broken bones and bound the bloody wounds and healed the sore pain of those who chose something more than their own pleasure," she replied. "I do not deny the dance but merely remind that someone must pay the piper." She grinned at him. "An Inn that cannot feed its guests is an Inn that cannot pay its entertainers."

"Hearpwine will have no need of employment here,' Mistress Bethberry interjected Liornung. "He'll be paid by the Golden Hall 'ere this day is finished."

"Will he now," she grinned back. "Then there will be plenty of opportunity to hear him sing in the future. But enough of this." She turned to the old warrior.

"Master Ælle, before these musicians have every one dancing up a storm, I should clear the floor for them." She bent down to retrieve his cane that had fallen and which he had not been able to find when it fell to the floor.

He half rose to convey his thanks and Bethberry placed the cane in his hand, for his sightless eyes had been unable to take it from her hands himself. It cannot be said that he minded the touch of her hands or that he withdrew his too quickly.
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Old 05-18-2004, 07:06 AM   #137
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Oin

Rising before Finky, Oin stepped out into the Mead Hall, hoping to catch a bit of breakfast or meal before the day's happenings.

Seeing Hearpwine and Liornung already plying their trade, and of course, their instruments, he was instantly cheered by the vigorous song they played. Nodding his head to the rhythm, he obtained a loaf of bread and some water.

He also was an amused witness to the obvious flirtation of the minstrel with the young girl. Oh, that the Dwarvish women would fall for those who thought better of them. Ah, well. The world is as it is. He could see rather plainly the affection between them. It was well noted by all the Inn-goers, and many could not help but titter.

Then, Bethberry admonished Hearpwine for stealing the girl's heart so, and rather humorously too. Oin noticed her pick up an old man's cane and return it to him. It seemed that the old man was blind.

Walking over to him, Oin was about to say something when he saw the lingering touch of the man's hands and slight reluctance to withdraw. Doing a hurried about-face, Oin just barely kept his dignity intact. Oh, it would have been embarrasing indeed to step in right there. Rather embarrasing. Any moment shared with joy by two people is best not disturbed, as Oin knew from personal experience.

When his friend Ponto and Rosy, who was obviously in love with him, had been talking, he had once stepped up to them and asked why they were always talking together, and alone at that. No, he had not been naive, only a little clueless. Ah, yes. Rather embarrasing, that episode. He did not wish to repeat such an incident. This Inn deserved better from him.
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Old 05-18-2004, 11:12 AM   #138
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Reya rubbed Dela's curls once more and pulled away. "Here... how about a peppermint stick?" Reya reached into the pouch hanging on her belt of braided rope and pulled out a stick of red and white sticky candly.

"Thank... thank ya Mommy... but I don' think I can eat it now. I'm really sad 'bout Papa," tears dripped constantly down Dela's rosy cheeks, her eyes puffy and her bottom lip puckering. "I'm really, really sad," Dela pushed the candy back and buried her head in her mother's shirt.

Reya closed her eyes and tried to block everyone else out of her mind- she was suprised that no one had come by and asked what was the matter. "Delaynn dear, it's okay to be sad, just try not to believe that Papa is always with us and loves us now and forever," yes, she was finding it hard to believe herself, but she could not let Dela think that she wasn't strong. "Please... stop crying Dela," Reya pushed back tears as well; she really wished that there was an easier way to do this.
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Old 05-18-2004, 04:59 PM   #139
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"Mae," Aylwen began, pulling the girl away for a moment. Aylwen hated to see Mae whimper or whine, but understood Bethberry's better judgement in wanting Mae to learn. "You may go off with Hearpwine while he competes. But, the minute his last note fades, you must run back here. You will not stay to find out how he has fared, or if he has achieved his goal. That is my suggestion...to wait and work while the King deliberates. More excitement, I assure you, and working will get your mind off whether or not your friend Hearpwine has become chief bard. We can all celebrate when he comes home!" Mae nodded at this, however slowly. Aylwen turned back to face Hearpwine. "Now, off with you! You will want to get there early to practice and see your competitors. It starts mid-morning. Off with you both!"

Aylwen watched with a sigh as Hearpwine rose. Liornung did as well, leading Mae out the door. Aylwen looked to Liornung and shrugged. The Innkeeper smiled weakly at Liornung before she went to go and get Ælle's order. When she retuend with his plate she set it down gently, but even with the slight shiver he looked up from his cane and into Aylwen's eyes. The Innkeeper awed at the funny milky...misty...color for a moment before looking away so as not to be rude.

"I was never afraid of losing my sight. I was only afraid of becoming blind..." Ælle murmured, taking Aylwen aback. Such a strange thing to say... Aylwen thought.

"Is it not the same thing, Master Ælle?"

"There is every difference in the world," Ælle answered distantly. "Losing the use of my eyes taught me a different way of seeing. I could not see someone, but I could touch and see that they were real. See the life. If I were blind, I would not know the difference between believing and seeing."

"Forgive me, Master Ælle, but what brings you here to Rohan...to the White Horse?" Aylwen asked, incredibly curious.
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...Come down now, they'll say. But everything looks perfect from far away - Come down now! But we'll stay.

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Old 05-18-2004, 06:46 PM   #140
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Ælle looked kindly in Aylwen’s direction, delighted in her attention and curiosity. “Well, Miss Aylwen, I know you are busy today, so I shall keep my story short for now, but I hope I will be able to tell you many tales if you do not mind listening to an old man’s ramblings.” He could hear her softly chuckle, but she uttered no protests, so he continued. “You see, Miss Aylwen, I lived here in Edoras many, many years ago. I have since traveled here and there with whoever would have me, and after many springs passing, I have returned to my home to rest for a while.”

“Do you have family here, Master Ælle?” Aylwen inquired from across the table.

“Oh dear, no. I have outlived my family, miss.” Ælle became silent momentarily and a small smile reflected his warm memories of his young wife. “It has been many years since I walked in Edoras, and to arrive at a time of celebration!” The old man laughed and clapped his hands. “This is really quite a treat for me.”

“I am glad you are enjoying yourself, sir, and I am also pleased that you have chosen to stay in our Inn.” The innkeeper spoke with sweet kindness.

“And thank you, Miss Aylwen, for your kindness.” Ælle then smacked both of his hands on the wooden table and said in a voice rich with merriment, “Now, are the musicians still around and about? I would dearly love to hear another song.”

“I am sorry, Master Ælle, but Hearpwine and Liornung have already left for the competition.”

“What a pity,” the old man shook his head. “I shall certainly request a song upon their return.”

“I am sure we will hear their songs whether we request them or not,” the innkeeper laughed softly and touched Ælle’s arm. “I must leave you now, sir, but I am sure we will be able to speak again very soon.”

Ælle nodded and moved his hand over the table until he found his plate and utensils, and then the old man began to eat his wonderful breakfast in silence.
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Old 05-18-2004, 07:55 PM   #141
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The Inn might have begun to seem strangely empty without the two men and their songs, but 'new' arrivals were not long in coming. The door to the Common Room was opened and a young boy stepped in. Those who had been at the Inn the previous day would have recognized him as Gomen. He looked about him thoughtfully, considering everything and everyone he saw. He paused the longest on the little girl sobbing gently into her mother's gown, and after careful deliberation he made his way towards the two.

"Good morning, little girl," he said, smiling a little shyly. A tear-stained face turned towards him. He hesitated a moment before speaking again. "I'm sorry about whatever is wrong, little girl." He reached out and patted her head gently. "When you feel a bit better you can come talk with me, and you can meet my sisters." He gave her another comforting smile before moving on.

There was an old man seated at a table, eating breakfast. His eyes were dull and unseeing, but his face glowed with warmth and friendliness. Gomen moved towards him slowly, the beginnings of a smile creeping along his face. He suddenly found himself desiring to make the acquaintance of this man, but he wasn't quite sure how to do it. He would wait and see if he were noticed. Sooner or later he would surely build up enough courage.

Sitting upon the nearest table to the old man's, Gomen smiled favorably upon everyone in the room, pausing on Aylwen and Bethberry. "Good morning," he greeted them, his voice cheery. He had known Aylwen and Bethberry since he was very little and he held them very dear, though he would not say so to anyone.

Deman and Fierlan were entering, arguing over some little cake they had received from their mother during their stop at the kitchen. They saw Gomen but paid him no heed as they continued through the room. Their voices rose in heated anger several times, but by the time they reached the door they had their arms about each other's shoulders and were talking in a most amiable fashion. As they opened the door they were halted by Bethberry's voice. "Deman, Fierlan, where are you boys going?"

They turned to face her with cool, composed faces and spoke as one. "We're going to the stable to see our papa," they said. When Bethberry nodded her consent they went out, their faces obviously showing that another argument was brewing between them. Bethberry gestured Gomen to the window, saying, "Just make sure they do go to the stable; I wouldn't trust those lads to remember what they set out to do as soon as they see something exciting."

Gomen hurried to obey her, smiling at the old man as he did so, but he realized immediately after that that was of no use, for the old man could not see the smile. He would have to be courageous enough to speak, unless the old man noticed him without seeing. The latter would certainly be more ideal.

Deman and Fierlan made their way to the stable successfully, though they almost decided to go off in pursuit of their uncle and sister. Fierlan, however, had cast a meaningful look in the direction of the Inn and said something (most likely something concerning Bethberry and their mother), and they continued on into the stable. Gomen shook his head in a despairing fashion before returning to his chair near the old man.
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Old 05-19-2004, 04:44 PM   #142
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At last, a ray of hope shined through the sadness. Reya adjusted her daughter so that she could see her face, and then she said, "Why don't you go and talk to that young man and his sisters? I think his name is Gomen," at first, Dela was hesitant at her mother's sudden willingness of her leaving, but she shrugged it off and wiped her eyes. "M'kay. I'll be back soon."

Reya watched her Dela, who was now trying to regain her calmness, hop over to Gomen. Then it hit her- was she being overprotective? 'No, it can't be. I love Delaynn, and I don't want her to get hurt. That is all. She is all I have left! She shook the thought away and took a sip of her warm milk.

Dela found Gomen with his eyes closed, seemingly relaxed. "Mister? I feel a lil' better now!" She tapped his shoulder twice, a smile now on her face.
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Old 05-19-2004, 09:38 PM   #143
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Edoras was a sea of colour and activity as the whole city turned out to commemorate the victory of Gondor and Rohan over the forces of the Eye on that memorable day four years ago. The throngs that crowded the streets had been swelled by the hundreds of people, like Hearpwine, who had made the long trek to Edoras to help celebrate this day. At every corner and in every square and yard, it seemed there was another bard singing of that day, or a storyteller holding those about him rapt with his spell. There were puppeteers depicting the great battle for the benefit of the younger children, and many a scarred veteran doing the same for those children’s parents. All the buildings that they passed were decked with the banners and pennants of the families who held them or abode within. Some of them bore still the blood and stain of their service in the field of battle on that day, but their soiling was as a mark of greatness upon them – token of the deeds that had been performed.

Hearpwine still held Mae’s hand but he barely felt it, so engrossed was he by the sights that surrounded them and the visions that filled his mind. Already, he could see these same crowds thronging to hear his lays and clamouring for more a year from now, when, compelled by his King, he would stand forth in the great yard before the Golden Hall and sing of the deeds and death of the Rohirrim, and of the doom that came to all on the bloody fields of the Pelennor. His feet hurried past the sights and sounds and his hadn pulled all the more insistently upon Mae to follow him. Twice she gasped and begged his leave to stop so she could watch the entertainment, but the young bard was heedless as wood. Finally, Liornung, who had been scrambling to keep pace with the younger man, rushed ahead and placed a restraining hand on Hearpwine’s shoulder, crying out, “My friend, my friend! The Contest has not begun already, there is time to enjoy this day and look at what other feats are being performed in honour of it.” Hearpwine stopped his mad rush, but it was clear to the other two that he was loath to do it. He faced them and his eyes blazed with a light much like the kind of madness that sometimes comes over warriors in battle. He made to speak, but the instant his eye fell on Mae where she stood panting from their rush and rubbing her hand where Hearpwine’s overeager fingers had crushed it, his retort died on his lips and was replaced by his usual, gentler manner. “I beg your pardon, both, my friends!” he cried. “I was not thinking of you – indeed, I was not thinking of anything save the Contest. It is a fault of mine that I hope I can make up to you by the end of this glorious day. But bear in mind: I have ridden for four days and nights to reach Edoras in time to claim my place before the King, the thought of arriving late now…it is enough to drive me to distraction!”

Liornung laughed and clapped his young friend on the back. “Fear not, Hearpwine, I promise you by all the strings on my fiddle that we shall have you in Meduseld before the Contest begins. But Mae is young, and I have been long away from Edoras – we both desire to see what our people are doing this day in celebration. And you, who have never been out of your land in the westfolds, you must not deny yourself this chance to see the noblest and most courteous of our people at their best!”

“Yes,” Mae said quietly, looking at Hearpwine with the same pleading expression that had won over Aylwen, and even Bêthberry, “let us take the time to watch at least one puppet show or listen to a single story!” Her eyes roved about the crowds and saw afar off a field where the lists had been drawn for a show of horsemanship. Her eyes blazed, “Look!” she cried, “a tournament is about to begin! Come, uncle and good Hearpwine, we must attend to that at least.”

Mae would have run off to watch the horses that instant had not Hearpwine taken her gently by the arm and held her back. He smiled at her, but spoke to Liornung. “You are both quite right. I was heedless and foolish. But please, allow me first to gaze upon the Golden Hall for I have only seen it in my songs and dreams. When I arrived in Edoras yesterday morning, the sun had not yet gained its advantage of the Mountains and all was dark and grey. Please, I implore you both, allow me but once to look upon the Hall where I shall reign as bard of Rohan, and then I promise you that all the time we have before the Contest begins will be spent in whatever merriment you wish.”

Liornung smiled knowingly at the young man, but Mae was clearly disappointed at not being able to immediately rush off to see the display of horsemanship. But because of their love for this young man they agreed to his request. They moved up the hill once more, although not at the rash pace that Hearpwine had earlier set, and were soon within sight of Meduseld. They arrived just as the sun rose above the Mountains, filling the valley with her golden rays. The thatch upon the roof of the Golden Hall flamed with the light and the polished wood of her beams and gilt of her adornments flashed and glittered like gems. High above the Hall flew the pennant of the King, and in a circle about it were the standards of all the Lords of the Mark who attended upon the King this day.

Liornung looked to his friend to gauge his reaction and was surprised by what he saw upon his countenance. “My friend,” he said with incredulity, “whatever could be amiss? You look as though you have travelled far to see an old friend and found only an empty house and a cold hearth!”

Hearpwine was silent for a long moment as he gazed that the Hall. When he spoke, he did so in muted tones so that Liornung and Mae had to strain to hear him above the rising sounds of the crowds about them. “It is lovely, as lovely as I had dreamed. But now that I behold it for the first time in the waking world it seems, somehow…smaller.”
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Old 05-20-2004, 03:17 PM   #144
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Gomen opened one eye, and then, upon seeing the girl's face, let the other one open and returned her smile with great friendliness. There were still stains of tears on her face, and sadness lingered on her brow, but she seemed sociable and open to the friendship he offered. Taking his feet from off the table, he took one of her little hands in his and with his free hand dug around in his pocket, bringing forth and handful of little sweets. Placing these in her hand he said, "Here, have some candy."

She embraced the offer with another smile, and he gestured for her to sit down beside him. She did so very gracefully and sat with her little legs dangling over the edge of the tall chair. She munched slowly at the candy. It's taste was sweet but was bittered by her grief. Gomen gazed at her with sympathy yet did not question her as to what was wrong. He would not do that. If she wanted to tell him she would, and then he could express his sympathy in words. Until then he would merely comfort her with friendliness and kindness without pressing her to speak when she may not desire to.

A young girl wandered into the room, dressed in a pretty frock of blue that matched splendidly with her large eyes of the same color. She had a little cake in her hand; apparently she had made the same stop at the kitchen as the twins had. Behind her came another girl, smaller in stature but with features the same. She held two cakes. Both of them made their way slowly and thoughtfully to Gomen, studying the strange girl with no little curiosity. The younger girl's eyes lighted on the candies and she turned to Gomen. "Give me some too, Gomen."

He laughed and brought forth another handful of candy from his pocket. "Here you are, Motan," he said. He looked to the older girl. "Mereflod, do you want some?" he asked. She shook her head, gesturing that she had her cake already and that was enough. Mereflod would die before she spoke with her mouth full.

With a complete and utter lack of shyness Motan placed herself by the strange girl's side, smiling in a friendly fashion at her companion in eating candies from Gomen. "My name is Motan," she said. "What's yours?"

"I'm called Delaynn," the strange girl replied.

"Oh," Motan, who was only four years of age, said. "That is Mereflod, my sister. She is seven. And then that is Gomen, my brother, who is twelve. And my mamma is coming."

Indeed she was, and she came into the room then, her eyes gazing fondly at her children, and with fondness also at the new little girl. Frodides held the baby Drihten on her hip, and the little one gurgled with excitement when he saw Gomen. The boy smiled and eagerly took his little baby brother, touching the little gold curls fondly. Frodides took Delaynn's hand and smiled gently in her face. "Hello, lassie," she said. "Where is your mother?"

"She's over there," Delaynn replied, pointing towards her mother. Frodides nodded and, saying to Gomen, "Watch over the baby," approached the mother. Stopping in front of her, she spoke very politely. "Good morning to you. My name is Frodides, and I thought for as long as you are in the Inn I might make your acquaintance."
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Old 05-20-2004, 03:49 PM   #145
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As old and as withered of bone and form as Osric of Aldburg was, still he plunged wholeheartedly into the meal set before him on a polished platter. After the dragging length of a minute’s span had passed, he reared up like a braying steed from the plate, letting it vibrate meagerly as he slammed a satisfied fist on the table and fell back, sagging fully backward into the cradling palm of his seat. He sighed gently, scratching the clinging strands of foot from his unkempt beard with a hand wrapped loosely in a leathery, fur-cuffed glove. He extracted each of his gnarled digits from the glove and pulled it off smoothly, laying it on the table top as, with his other fidgeting hand, he lifted the quivering tin tankard from beside his empty plate and raised it to his lips. He sipped it with nobility at first, but soon began to guzzle the tasteful fluid, letting it spill into his mouth and wash away the troubles of his sore, ragged throat. His tongue burst out from the wall of his teeth to lick up every last residual dot of the morning ale that might have alighted on his beard, but found none, hearing his soft breath well up and grow in volume ominously inside the tankard before him.

New arrivals had come, which was only to be expected upon another day of regal festivities. Osric’s face puffed out into a glowing smile as strands of people began to drift like smoke through the ready and ever-full doorway of the Horse. He searched the room wistfully, his dry lips drifting apart as he was lulled into a calming stupor while looking about. He saw men, young and old, some who’d seen barely the number of cold winters to be called a young man, vivacious boys and girls frolicking through the inn and those whose playful tones, high of pitch and with a fervent melody within, could be heard seeping through the windows and door. There were aged folk as well, who’d all taken their respective places in the room. There were only a few, and one in particular, who was staring out with a blanker look, who caught the brunt of Osric’s drowsy gaze, but he shook off a remorseful look and continued in his optical business in the Horse.

Osric at last let his eyelids droop after fixating his gaze on the Horse’s threshold and staring profusely at it for a time. His aged eyes, turning in unison, bobbed up and down as he scanned every surface in the common room, analyzing his surrounding through a blurred vision, tinted with a colorful lens set over each deep orb by the impending festivities and the decorations they entailed. Pushing himself up from his chair, his stiff leg arching uncomfortably beneath him as he dragged it over so he could stand, wobbling before he regained his stock steadiness, he began walking through the room. At last he found his needed target, the innkeeper, Alywen. He fitted towards her with as much speed as his rusty, manually maneuvered limb would allow him and waited for her to turn and see him. Despite the possible chaos of the day ahead, she seemed flawlessly serene. Osric did not know the ways on innkeepers, guessing that this calmness might be some clever façade, but he did not guess at the methods of Miss Alywen, for he thought his mind would spend too many needed hours trying to accurately decipher the matter.

“Good morning, Mistress Alywen,” he said politely, loosing a curt bow before he continued, “I trust you slept well?” She looked at him, grinning mildly with that same calm, respectable, but gentle air that she always had held when Osric spoke to her, and replied with jovial dignity while Osric looked on, wondering how she held up such a composed stature when the world around her was so hectic, “As well as can be expected on such a night, I suppose. And you?”

“The same, madam.” Osric nodded dutifully. He paused for a bare moment and then rolled back into speaking in a lazy, tired drawl manufactured by the resonating tranquility of morning as it was slowly washed away by surrounding hustle and bustle, “Alywen, I do believe I saw that lad Hearpwine here this morning, but now I see him not. Has he already headed off to ‘scope out the competition’?”

Alywen glanced at him again as she’d been about to turn away, seeing from his unattended face that he’d already eaten and did not require her service. A look appeared slowly but with delicate swiftness upon her features, which told Osric that this was not the first time the question had been posed that day. But, she bore it easily and smiled in response as she spoke. “Indeed he has, but he will return and we will all surely hear more of him, and from him as well.”

“Oh,” the aged Rohirrim nodded in understanding, “I had suspected as much.” He turned from her, having known the answer before it was spoken to his query. He admitted with some vague reluctance that he still yearned with a thundering hope to hear the songs and lays of Hearpwine and Liornung, the two bards who’d left for to seek a future. If the job was found by either of them, that would mean their continual stay in Edoras, and frequent trips to the White Horse Inn, where Osric would be sitting, perhaps a pipe cupped in his mouth and a tune on his lips to wile away the time until one of them had mustered the vocal energy to delve into the musical realm again. Thinking merrily of such things, Osric returned to his chair and set himself down carefully upon it, leaning back and taking a deep breath as his chest heaved.
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Old 05-21-2004, 02:34 PM   #146
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Reya sat the cup down on the table a turned to the newcomer, motioning that she have a seat. "Pleasure to meet you Frodides. I'm Reya; I saw that you and your children have met my daughter Dela," as Frodides sat on the bench across the table, Reya continued politely, "Your children are quiet cute," she smiled and looked over to the children, wiping a lingering tear off of her face.

Dela contently put another sweet into her mouth, looking over to Gomen. She saw the slobbering baby and caressed his hand. "Gomen, watcha brother's name?" rubbing her damp brown eyes on the sleeve of her blouse, she looked at the smiling baby boy.

"His name's Drihten," Gomen answered, fingering his golden curls.

The girl then turned to Motan and Mereflod, reaching into the pocket of her oversized apron. She pulled out a large maroon tulip and a white daisy. "I picked these this morning, out of my Pa...Pap...Papa's garden. Here, you can have them," again, she tried not to cry as she mentioned her father. She wanted the girls to have the flowers, and hoped they didn't take it the wrong way. "They're really pretty, but I's gotta lot of 'em, so it's okay if I give you two one. Oh, and you can call me Dela; my long name is Delaynn, but my Mommy calls me that."

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Old 05-21-2004, 04:12 PM   #147
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Strenge shivered as he looked around from his seat in one corner of the common room. He was wrapped tightly in a thick cloak, and had a steaming cup of tea in his hand, but that barely stymied the cold air from seeping into his skin. His headache had mostly vanished, but his eyes would swim if he looked around too quickly.

At long last, someone brough him a warm plate piled full of delicious amenities. Strenge dug in quickly, trying to soak in as much heat from the warm food as he could.

Over his spoon, he watched the customers meander about on thier early-morning chores. He would have liked to strike up converstion with one of them, but Strenge was much too shy to introduce himself.

He wondered where Careardry was again, but decided that he must still have been sleeping.

He finished his meal and leaned back with his tea, finally beginning to warm up.
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Old 05-23-2004, 06:48 PM   #148
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Frodides saw the tear but said nothing. She felt the way her children did; she would not make the woman obligated to tell the cause of her sorrow. Rather, she replied to the compliment with a face full of pride. "Indeed, aren't they lovely?" she said. "Oh, I suppose you think it is awful of me to say thus... a mother should not accept praise to her children without making some attempt at modesty, but I would rather appear proud and vain than tell a lie. I am proud of my children and I do think they're lovely. I tell them so often... but never in a fashion that would make them vain." She let her eyes wander to her children, and she gazed at them contentedly for a moment before speaking again. "Your daughter is also lovely. What is her name?"

Over in the group of children, Motan and Mereflod were delighting over the flowers and helping each other to place them in their long golden hair. When both were satisfied, Mereflod turned to Delaynn, saying, "Your Papa has a garden?" She spoke in an entirely oblivious way; she didn't know what Dela had just learned about her father. "My Papa doesn't have a garden because he works in the stable. I would like to have a garden, though."

Motan put another delicious sweet in her mouth, her round face very thoughtful. "Well, Mereflod, maybe you should ask Miss Aylwen if we can have our own garden. Maybe Delaynn will help us with it. Maybe I should ask Miss Bethberry if we're going to have lessons today." She ceased to speak her wandering thoughts full of 'maybe's', but did not cease to think them. She hoped they would have lessons that day, because she dearly loved lessons. Standing up, she put the remainder of her candy in her pocket and pattered over to Bethberry, tugging her sleeve. The woman looked down, and a kind light kindled in her eye as she surveyed the innocent little girl. "Miss Bethberry, are we to have lessons today?"

Mereflod had also slid off her chair and had gone to Aylwen, who had been speaking with that old man that had been talking with her uncle the day before. Now, however, Aylwen was not occupied and Mereflod did not have to fear of interrupting any conversation. "Aylwen," she said with complete and trusting confidence, "might Motan and I have a little garden to plant flowers in? Dela over there gave us these flowers - " she touched the flower in her hair " - and said they were out of her Papa's garden. Our Papa doesn't have a garden, but maybe we could have one. Would it be all right?"

Gomen was watching Dela with a friendly smile as the little girl tickled Drihten's toes, delighting in his hearty chuckles. He held the baby out to her. "Would you like to hold him, Dela?" he questioned.
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Old 05-23-2004, 08:43 PM   #149
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Hearpwine’s attention was wrenched from the Golden Hall of Meduseld by a sudden clamour that rose up the hill like a slow tide. Mae was already looking down from the base of the steps where they stood, her eyes bright with excitement. “Elves!” she said gaily, pointing toward the retinue of Fair Folk who came toward them, as though Hearpwine could miss them. There were about a dozen Elves, all of them mounted on the swift-footed horses of their kind. They were all of them dressed in the green and brown hues of the folk of Mirkwood – Eryn Lasgalen, as it was to be called now, Hearpwine reminded himself – and they bore upon their brows circlets of silver. They sang as they rode, and as is the way with Elvish music it seemed to whisper to the very hearts of those who heard it, wiping from before their eyes the sights of the waking world and giving rise to fair visions of green lands now long gone under the waters. Hearpwine gasped at the beauty of their singing, and he felt tears upon his face as the music cut him to his very soul.

Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western Seas!
O Light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees!

Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!
Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath!
Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee
In a far land beyond the Sea.

O stars that in the Sunless Year
With shining hand by her were sown,
In windy fields now bright and clear
We see your silver blossom blown!

O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.


Liornung could see how the music affected the younger man so he moved closer in order to lay a steadying hand on his shoulder. Hearpwine turned a face to him that was torn between joy and sorrow. Liornung smiled, knowing already what Hearpwine would say, but knowing as well that the younger man would have to say it or break his heart. “Such singing, my friend! I, who have heard the timeless voice of the Lady Galadriel, had thought that I would never be seized by such wonder again. But I was foolish to think so! Yes, this music is naught compared to the lay She sang for me beneath the moon, but it is still as the sound of running water compared to the beast-like roars of my harp!”

Liornung laughed. “Nay, do not doubt your skill my friend. You have not heard much Elvish music in your brief life. Like a man used only to water, you cannot be expected to withstand the sudden onslaught of wine!”

Hearpwine was about to respond when Mae commanded their attention once more. She was pointing into the group of Elves and crying out wildly, “Look! There’s a Dwarf! A Dwarf rides with the Elves!”

Liornung and Hearpwine stared at this strange sight, wondering what to make of it, but the rumour that passed through the crowd soon resolved their questions. “‘Tis Gimli and his companion Legolas, the Prince of Mirkwood” they heard from one quarter. “Nay,” replied a voice somewhere near at hand, “What are they doing here? I heard that they were to keep the day at Helm’s Deep.” “And that they did,” replied a third voice, “but now they are on their way to Minas Tirith to see the King and pay their respects. They are all great friends still you know…” The voices continued, but the three friends paid them no heed as they strained to catch a glimpse of the two heroes of the War. Gimli the Dwarf rode behind his friend Legolas on Arod, the horse who had borne them both through the horrors of the Paths of the Dead, and to Glory in the East. Hearpwine could, without thinking, recall at least a dozen of the songs that had been made in praise of them, and as they passed he could not help but cry out,

Swiftly the friends with oaths at their heels,
Pursued their foul foes across Rohan’s fields,
Never forsaking the friends that they loved,
They hunted the monsters who fled them like dogs!


At the sound of his clear voice rising above the cries of the crowd, the Prince Legolas turned to find the singer and smiled upon him as they passed. As the Elf’s eyes took in Hearpwine’s companions, he heard Mae sigh beside him in a way that made him feel, if he had to put a word to it, jealous.

The retinue stopped at the base of the short flight of stairs that led to the Hall, Gimli the Dwarf muttering to himself as he clambered down from Arod’s back, and they went up to the porch. There was a brief and undoubtedly very formal ceremony as they asked for admittance, but Hearpwine was too far to hear what they said. The doors swung open and they disappeared inside to be greeted by the clear ringing of trumpets and the delicate airs of harps played by skilful hands.

As the last member of the party disappeared and the door closed, the crowd that had gathered to watch the Heroes moved away to take in the other entertainment of the day. Mae was pulling on Hearpwine’s and Liornung’s hands insistently, reminding them of their promise that they should watch the contest of horsemanship. Liornung laughed and encouraged Mae to lead the way, but Hearpwine followed along behind in subdued manner. Who else from among the great would be in the Hall this day to hear his singing!
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Old 05-24-2004, 01:54 PM   #150
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Dela's mouth opened slightly. Gomen asked if I wanna hold da baby! She nodded politely and giggled as the boy put the young one in her own still-small hands. "He's so cute! I wish I had brothers an' sisters..." Gomen nodded slightly and Dela reluctantly gave the baby back after one last caress. "I gonna go see watcha sisters are doin', okay?" Without waiting an answer, she skipped over to where Mereflod was standing near Alwyn.

Just as Mereflod finished asking her question, Dela approached. "Good Mornin' Miss Alwyn," all sadness had left the little girl for at least a little while. Deciding that she didn't want to be left out of the conversation, Dela stood as straight as possible, flattened the creased hem of her skirt, and said in an airy tone, "My Daddy's garden is tended real nice- I go out ever'day and water all his pretty flowers for him," Dela paused for a moment and tears welled once more in her eyes. "'cause he can't do it no more."

She lowered her head and kicked her feet around. A tear dropped onto the dusty floor. Can't let'm think I'm a cry-baby! I'm a big girl! An' Daddy's here right now, anyways. He's not really gone. Straightening up again, Dela looked at Alwyn, and then at Mereflod, as if nothing was wrong. Maybe they would not catch what she said... or maybe they could help her not hurt inside anymore.
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Old 05-25-2004, 04:31 PM   #151
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Aylwen looked down to Mereflod and little Dela, a smile lighting her face as she thought about the wonderful things the children could plant and grow. Bethberry would not mind, and even if she did Aylwen had already decided on a good spot for the children to plant their flowers.

"Of course you can have your own garden!" Mereflod and Dela cheered at Aylwen's decision, jumping up and down together. They stopped when they saw Aylwen's face, seeing that she had more to say. "There are a few conditions though. You must take care of your plants, and not make the responsibility become someone else's. Though, Dela has said that she waters her father's plants every day. Anyway, if you do let the plants die and do not take care of them, this fall or next spring you will have to dig up any weeds and clean up the plot I give you. Promise?"

"Yes, yes!" the two chorused, and Aylwen led them outside. Turning a corner, Aylwen showed the two children a little plot of slightly dried dirt on the east side of the Inn. Just across from it were the stables, though the plot was far enough away to prevent any horse-trampling.

"It is not very big, but if you prove you will take care of your current plants, soon you may have more dirt to plant in!" Aylwen said, smiling as the Mereflod and Dela examined the plot.
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Old 05-25-2004, 07:45 PM   #152
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"Oh, Miss Aylwen, thank you so much!" Mereflod cried, gazing in rapture at the little plot of ground. And then an odd look came to her face and she shook her head sadly. "But I'm afraid I have no seeds to plant," she said.

Dela giggled a little. "I have some seeds back at home," she said. "When my Mamma and I go home today I'll get them and bring them back tomorrow, if she takes me here again." Mereflod's face glowed with delight and she thanked Dela, as well as Aylwen again, and then she turned back to the Inn, saying that she was going to fetch Motan and Gomen.

Inside the Inn Motan was still questioning Bethberry about lessons, and Gomen was sitting at the same table holding the baby. He expressed delight when he heard about their little plot of dirt for their garden, but politely denied their offer to go see it, telling them he had someone he had to meet. He gave them both a handful of candy and begged them to go out to the stables and make sure the twins were causing their papa no trouble.

"The twins are my brothers," Mereflod explained to Dela. "They're very wild and get into a lot of trouble. Ask your mamma if you can go out to the stables with me to see what they're doing. You can meet my papa, too, and my sister's horse called Mihtig."

Gomen eased himself closer to the old man called Ælle, gazing wistfully at him and wishing the man could see back. He had hoped the noise of the children talking would have drawn his attention, but Ælle had not seemed to pay any attention. He was finishing his breakfast now, obviously enjoying it by the look on his face. There was the other old man, Osric, but Gomen had already met him. He would talk to him later. Now he wanted to meet Ælle.
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Old 05-26-2004, 08:16 PM   #153
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Enter...

“I can make it seem bigger and better, if you wish it, lad,” A woman in a booth nearby called for the young man’s attention. With him was a young lady, and beside her was a man that didn’t look too much older than the boy that had spoken. The three companions looked to where the voice came from, and their brows furrowed when they saw who had spoken.

The woman looked far older than she had sounded, with bags beneath her black eyes and grey streaks flowing through her waves of black, curly hair. A colorful cloth pulled back the long black and grey locks, showing more of her golden-brown skin and keeping hair out of her mysterious black eyes. Several golden hoops hung from each ear, and jewels lit up her calloused hands and thin wrists. Her hunched, small body was covered with a red dress made of some strange fabric that could make cotton feel hard to the touch.

“I do not know what you mean,” the younger man spoke, his voice never quavering. The woman laughed.

“What is your name, boy?” she asked, her dark lips lifting into a smile.

“Hearpwine,” he replied, gaze stony and unwelcoming. “And yours, miss?”

“Jesia, I am called. Hearpwine, I can see in your eyes that there is much that you desire,” Jesia looked around the market and then back to Hearpwine and the girl. “What are your companion’s names?”

“This is Mae,” He motioned to the girl. “This is Liornung.”

“I see…” Jesia mused. She took Hearpwine’s hand, fiddling with his calloused fingers. Hearpwine tugged away at one point, but Jesia kept a firm grip on the young man’s hand. “Now, why are you wandering around Edoras, when you have a performance for the King to get to?”

“How did you know that I am performing for the King?” Hearpwine asked warily, and Liornung furrowed his brows. They looked ready to desert the old woman. Jesia smiled, letting Hearpwine have his hand free of her grasp.

“There are some things that your eyes cannot hide, and your nervousness is easily detected by one that knows what to look for.” Jesia explained. She continued quickly so as not to lose their attention. “Now, I might have something that could help you for your performance. Something for your throat and voice.”

“I do not think I know you well enough to trust you to give me something for my throat. I do not know you well enough to be certain that you will not give me poison or something that will make me croak like a toad before the King,” Hearpwine explained flatly.

“Well, then a good luck charm could not hurt!” Jesia growled, pulling something from behind her booth. When Jesia reached over her booth this time, though, she took Mae’s hand in her own, placing the object she had withdrawn in the palm of her hand and closing the girl’s fingers over the object. In Mae’s hand was a small silver circlet, meant for a wrist. Scribed into the innards of the bracelet was a blessing in a language unknown to young Hearpwine or Mae, but Jesia could not say whether Liornung could read it or not.

“Thank you, we better be going,” Hearpwine murmured, turning away from the booth and leading Mae and Liornung away. Jesia chuckled.

“Enjoy your competition…” Jesia whispered, watching as they left and then turning around in her small booth. On the other side of the booth stood a young boy, not yet ten and seven years of age. His skin glowed a dark bronze color, and his unruly black curls blew in the breeze as he tried to sell trinkets to other customers. When the boy was finished selling, Jesia called the boy.

“Asad, you should warm up and prepare for your song. You have some decent competition for the spot as bard. I could see it in his eyes…” Jesia warned the boy, who nodded respectively to his grandmother and left the booth to find a place to prepare.

Exeunt...
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Old 05-27-2004, 08:18 AM   #154
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The contest of horsemanship seemed to drag on forever, but Hearpwine had promised Mae that they would use the little time they had before the competition to watch. His mind turned back again and again to the strange woman and her oddly prescient words. Now that he reflected upon it, his demeanour – not to mention the harp slung at his back – would have been ample evidence of where he was headed this day, but he remained on edge still. Something in her manner had nudged his confidence. Until this moment it had not occurred to him that he might fail before the King. He was not so foolish as to believe that only he could win the contest, but he had been confident that his performance, whether it won him the garland or not, would be one that all of Edoras would remember for many a year. His vision of the King’s eye as he wept, and the feel of the King’s hand as he clasped Hearpwine’s shoulder by way of recognition, had always been before him as a palpable certainty, as sure as the next sunrise even to a small child. But the woman’s words had brought home to him for the first time how common, how hopelessly ordinary, his desire might be. How many other bards were about Meduseld this day, all of them with the same certain idea of how this morning’s contest would end? And how many of them were older, more accomplished and wiser bards than he? Hearpwine stole a sidelong glance at Liornung and felt immediately ashamed of the tinge of resentment that had accompanied that look. Fool! he cursed himself inwardly, Now you are jealous of your friend? Fearful that he might take the floor himself? Blush, blush indeed at your shameful thoughts! They do not become you.

His attention was called back to the ring by an outcry from the crowd as the horsemaster who stood in the stirrups at a full gallop, shot two arrows faster than they eye could follow through a small target more than fifty paces from where he rode. He dropped down to his seat once more and with a quiet command stilled his horse to perfect immobility. Hearpwine joined in the general clamour, the blood of the Rohirrim that flowed in his veins stirred to quickening by the sight. Beside him, Mae clapped and cried out for joy, and even Liornung, who had seemed to love the fiddle more than all else, cheered the master. The next rider entered the ring but Hearpwine could wait no longer. “Come,” he said to his friends, “I must be at the Hall!” He had expected Mae to beg for a few minutes more at the ring, or at the very least to cast a last longing glance backwards as they walked away, but she turned eagerly and followed Hearpwine up the hill. The silver bracelet glittered on her wrist as they went. Seeing that the young bard was lost in his own thoughts, she turned to her uncle. “Do you think this will work?” she asked him, touching the bracelet lightly.

Liornung smiled and shrugged. “I do not know. My head tells me not to trust in the bangles of wandering peddlers, but there are more strange things in this world than most realise. Do not place your faith in it…but do not cast it away either!”

They soon reached the great door of Meduseld where there way was ceremoniously barred by two guards. They were dressed in the full armour and cloaks of the King’s Guard and armed with long spears. One of them stepped forward and demanded, “Who seeks entrance to the Hall of King Éomer?”

Hearpwine enjoyed such pomp and ceremony. Indeed, the dramatic nature of the performance that he was expected to act before the doors of the King thrilled him like a fine tune. “I am Hearpwine,” he replied, “son of Æthelstan of the Western Marches. I come to play for the King in earnest of his request that all who would be his bard appear before him this day and prove their worth! My companions are the wandering bard Liornung and his niece Mearcwen. Liornung does not seek the contest this day, much to the relief of those who do!” He looked sideways at his friend and winked at him.

The guard looked Hearpwine up and down before replying. This time, his tone was more friendly and conversational. “You are very young, Master Hearpwine. There are already many bards in the hall of greater renown who vie for the garland this day. I have heard rumour of you this morning from those who heard you sing at the White Horse last night, but do you think you can best those gathered within?”

Hearpwine smiled broadly and replied, “There is only one way that we will find out, my friend, and that is for you to allow me to pass! When I have done this day’s work I will return and tell you how I have fared!”

The man smiled and indicated that the door be opened. Hearpwine bowed low and asked the guard his name. “I am Wulfstan, son of Beortnyth,” he replied. “I look forward to seeing you again master bard!”

The three friends entered the Golden Hall and were instantly taken aback by its glory this day. The large Hall was filled almost to capacity with a press of gaily dressed and noble people, whose very talking set the hanging pennants and banners waving above their heads. A low fire was burning in the middle of the hall and along both walls all the braziers and torches were lit, filling the Hall with light. At the end of the Hall sat the King and his Queen. At his left were Legolas and Gimli, looking very fine, and upon his right hand sat a noble lord of Gondor and his lady. The lord talked quietly with the King, but the lady’s eyes were fixed upon the door to see the new arrivals. The Contest was about to begin, and she was eager to see the bard. Her hair was like gold, and her face, though beautiful and merry upon this day, was noble and stern. Her memories of this day, like all of theirs, were of glory and victory, but there was also a deep and brooding darkness upon this anniversary for her, and while it could not overshadow the joy of the day, it lay upon her like the shadows under a field of white flowers. And thus it was that the three friends beheld the Lady Eowyn in the Hall of Meduseld.

Almost as soon as they had taken their places in the crowds, the King stood and called to all those gathered. He began with a rather lengthy speech noting all the lords and great people who had come this day, and welcoming the contestants. “Today,” he said, “we are here to decide who will become the Bard of the Golden Hall. We have called upon you from all corners of our kingdom to play for us so that we might decide who will do the Hall honour for years to come. Most of you I know already, and you are all mighty singers. Some of you are known to me only by reputation, and some,” and here he looked openly at Hearpwine, but his expression was one of openness and kindness, “are strangers to me. Only one can win the laurel this day, but all shall reap glory!” The King sat and his chamberlain came forth with a large basket, filled with many scarves of different colours. He bid all those who wished to sing before the King to come forward and take a scarf. Hearpwine’s heart fell when he saw how many men, and even a woman or two, stepped forth. As he took his scarf from the basket he saw from the corner of his eye a familiar face – it took him a moment to remember where he had seen it, but soon it came to him. It was the same youth who had been at Jesia’s booth. He smiled inwardly as he realised what her interest in the Contest had been.

When all the scarves had been claimed, the Chamberlain went to the Lady Eowyn and bowed before her. In his hands he bore a cup which he held to her. She took from it one of the many coloured chips of wood that it contained and handed it to the Chamberlain. He examined it and turned to the assembly, calling out, “He that bears the crimson scarf: stand forth!” Hearpwine looked down at the blood red scarf in his hand and his heart skipped a beat. His feet reacted more quickly than his mind, and before he could even realise what was going on, he was bowing before the throne. He rose and the King met his gaze. “What is your name, master bard?” the King asked.

So flummoxed was he by the sudden attention of the great crowd that the young man forgot his courtesy and answered rather too simply. “Hearpwine, my King.”

King Éomer smiled and urged the young man on with, “And where are you from Master Hearpwine? And what lay shall you sing for us to celebrate this great day?”

Hearpwine flushed at his own clumsiness and sought to recover his composure. “I an son of Æthelstan, my King, of the Western Marches, and this day I shall sing a lay that I have composed myself of King Theoden’s death.” A rumour of surprise ran through the crowd. It was rare for a bard to sing something of his own composition, and it was bold to sing of such a subject before the people who were gathered in the Hall this day, who had seen Theoden's fall with their own eyes. The King’s eyes widened slightly in surprise and his eyebrows lifted. “Well then, Master Hearpwine of the Western Marches. You do this Hall an honour. Let us hope, that you do it credit with your music as well. Begin!”

Hearpwine touched his harp, nervously at first, but as he ran through the familiar tune his fingers found their accustomed grace and his mind ceased its whirling. He closed his eyes and allowed the music to flow over and through him, willing himself to lose himself in the melody. Without thinking of it, the song began, almost as though it were singing itself, using his voice.

So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the Pelennor;
Until the King’s eored, man by man,
Had fall'n in shadow about their lord,
King Theoden. Then, because his wound was deep,
The bold Lord Eomer uplifted him,
And bore him to a green hill nigh the field.

Then spake King Theoden to Eomer:
"The sequel of to-day unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep--the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Edoras, as in the days that were.
I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm
That without help I cannot last till morn.
My end draws nigh; 'tis time that I were gone.
Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight,
And bear me to the margin; yet I fear
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die."

So saying, from the battlefield he half rose,
Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm,
And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes
As in a picture. Him Lord Eomer
Remorsefully regarded thro' his tears,
And would have spoken, but he found not words;
Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee,
O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands,
And rising bore him thro' the place of death.

But, as he walk'd, King Theoden panted hard,
Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed
When all the house is mute. So sigh'd the King,
Muttering and murmuring at his ear, "Quick, quick!
I fear it is too late, and I shall die."
Then saw they how there hove a dusky bier,
Dark as a funeral scarf from end to end,
Beneath them; and descending they were ware
That all the field was dense with stately forms,
Golden-haired and golden-clothed, like a dream
Lady Galadriel: and from her rose
A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars,
And, as it were one voice, an agony
Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills
All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
Or hath come, since the making of the world.

Then murmur'd Theoden, "Place me in the bier."
So to the bier they came. There Galadriel
Put forth her hands, and took the King, and wept.
And she laid his head upon her lap,
And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands,
And call'd him by his name, complaining loud,
And dropping bitter tears against a brow
Striped with dark blood: for all his face was white
And colourless, and like the wither'd moon
Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east;
So like a shatter'd column lay the King;
Not like that Theoden who, with lance in rest,
From spur to plume a star of tournament,
Shot thro' the lists at Edoras, and charged
Before the eyes of ladies and of kings.

Then loudly cried the bold Lord Eomer:
"Ah! my Lord Theoden, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.”

And slowly answer'd Theoden from the bier:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May those who follow me make pure!
But now farewell. I am going a long way
To the land of my great ancestors;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."

So said he, and Eomer groan'd, “The King is gone.
He passes to be King among the dead.”
Then from the dawn it seem'd there came, but faint
As from beyond the limit of the world,
Like the last echo born of a great cry,
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Around a king returning from his wars.
And the new sun rose bringing the new year.


The last low note of the tune hung about the Hall and then fell into a silence that was so complete, that Hearpwine fancied he could hear the slight heartbeat of Maercwen behind him.

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Old 05-27-2004, 12:55 PM   #155
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Liornung's brow was dark and his eyes troubled as he took Maercwen's arm and began to lead her away. "Come, little Mae, 'tis time for you to return as Miss Aylwen requested," he said gently. "I will escort you there; I do not think it safe for a young woman to wander these streets alone." He murmured a few words of explanation in Hearpwine's ear and the young man nodded with a bit of regret. Liornung and Maercwen, after proper courtesies to the King and all in the hall, began to make their return to the Inn.

As soon as they were outside Liornung paused his niece and took her wrist, fingering the silver bracelet. Then slowly his hand dropped and he sighed deeply. "Take it off, Mae," he said.

Her eyes widened and she looked up into his face with surprise. "But, uncle, you told me not to cast it away!"

"I have changed my mind," he said, "and there is nothing more to say about it." Maercwen looked doubtful but nevertheless took the bracelet off her hand and gave it to her uncle. He took it, gazed thoughtfully at it for a moment, and then pressed it into her hand, bidding her to put it in her pocket but not put it back upon her wrist. She grew more startled. "You avoid the thing as if it bore a curse!" she cried. "Can you read the inscription? Is this thing evil?"

"I cannot read it," he said, "and I do not know if it is evil, but I would not have you wear it now. The boast that a mere circlet of silver could change one's fortune does not seem a true thought." He smiled in an odd way, as if there were thoughts of sadness inside him. "I do not believe in luck, nor any charm that is said to bring it." He began to lead her away again, but she was not content with what he had said. She saw he was deep in thought and was not paying very much attention to her. The way he had ordered her to give him the bracelet was odd, for he had encouraged her to keep it not long ago. She did not understand her uncle at times, but there was nothing that could be done about it. She did, however, desire to know more about the bracelet.

"Uncle, I desire to know what the inscription says. If it would not displease you, perhaps I might take it back to the old woman and beg her to tell me how it reads."

He pulled himself away from distant thoughts and looked at her in some confusion. He had not clearly heard what she had said. "What is this you ask, Mae?"

"To go back...?"

"Ah yes, of course. I see no harm in it. Stay there, however, until I come fetch you. I'm going to go back to the Inn for a brief moment. I recall I left my fiddle in the Common Room and I don't desire anyone bungling into it and breaking it." He patted her head gently and moved off into the crowd.

Odd that he should consent so willingly, but he surely knew what he was doing. She looked about her, trying to gather where she was and which direction the old woman was... Jesia she had been called. As the walked lightly in that direction, gazing about her with deep interest, she puzzled more over her uncle's doubt about the bracelet. When she thought back to the meeting with the old woman she could not see anything dark in it. Such folk as Jesia were always about in marketplaces, selling little trinkets they claimed to be enchanted yet were mere nothings. The woman had also been polite.

"Ah, I do see it is you again," croaked a voice from somewhere behind the girl. She started and turned, and then relaxed with a smile when she saw Jesia. "Your name was Mae, was it not?"

"Maercwen," the girl said, "but most call me simply Mae." She hesitated a brief moment, and then, putting her hand into her pocket, brought forth the circlet. "Miss Jesia, my uncle gave me permission to return to you and bid you tell me what these words say. If you would?" She held forth the bracelet.

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

Liornung stepped into the Inn, smiling at the delighted cries of his nephew and nieces, and the little excited gurglings of the baby. He kissed each in turn, bestowing a friendly smile upon the girl they were sitting with, and moved to his fiddle, taking it down from the chair it was upon and sending Mereflod off to put it in a safe place. He smiled as he sat beside Gomen. "I was quite afraid someone might have injured it seeing as it was there all alone," he said. "I hastened back as fast as I might."

"Where is Maercwen?" Aylwen questioned.

"She asked permission to go back and watch the feats of the horsemaster," he replied. Then the careless expression on his face turned into one of distress. "I do apologize, Miss Aylwen," he stammered. "I had quite forgotten that you desired her to return immediately after Hearpwine's song." He stood to his feet and made for the door. "I'll go and bring her back now. Again, my apologies."

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

Liornung looked about him in confusion, his eyes not even glancing towards the tricks of the horsemasters as they brought forth cries of delight from the spectators. He had moved through the crowd many times, calling Maercwen's name, but he had not found her. It was impossible to believe, but Mae was not there watching. A frown flickered over his face. He could not imagine the girl being so disobedient, but it seemed there was nowhere else for her to go except back to the Contest. He would go see.
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Old 05-27-2004, 01:51 PM   #156
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The mood was somber, the hall was silent. Too silent. No one dared clapped, but silent nods and smiles of approval spread all around for Hearpwine. Perhaps the young man thought that the lack of cheers meant ill of his performance, but Asad knew that the audience had been captivated by his song. In truth, Asad had little doubt in Hearpwine's song winning him the spot as Bard. Asad had been the memory master of his family, reciting and recalling all familial songs and tales since he was young. It was tedious work, to say the least, and Jesia thought that Asad ought to try his luck...

...but Asad had little confidence in singing after Hearpwine. After all, the young bard had taken the crimson scarf. Asad knew what Jesia would say about him having the crimson scarf. In his heart Asad hoped that he was chosen far enough along that folk forgot how wondrous Hearpwine's performance had been. Then Asad knew that Hearpwine's song would never be forgotten. Never. Asad snapped from his thoughts as Hearpwine bowed away and the Lady chose a new chip of wood.

"The minstrel that holds the royal blue scarf, come forward!"

Asad cringed as he looked at the scarf clutched in his hand. It was a doubly ill omen - having a blue so deep in color and being chosen second to Hearpwine. But Asad stood forward, for it was his time.

"What is your name, young one? Where do you hail from, and what song do you play for us today?" The King asked mildly, and Asad wondered if his mind still lingered on Hearpwine's melody.

"I am called Asad, from right here in Edoras, my King," Asad replied calmly, glad for his good composure even if he had no chance of beating Hearpwine. "I was too young to go to war, and had to sit and wait for my family and my King to return from the war. This song is of anxiety and hope for a new future in waiting for my King to come home."

The King nodded, and Asad bowed before playing a quick tune on his pipe. When this was done, Asad started his song.

"Let rogues and cheats prognosticate
Concerning king's or kingdom's fate
I think myself to be as wise
As he that gazeth on the skies
My sight goes beyond
The depth of a pond
Or rivers in the greatest rain
Whereby I can tell
That all will be well
When the King enjoys his own again

Yes, this I can tell
That all will be well
When the King enjoys his own again

There's neither Swallow, Dove, or Dade
Can soar more high or deeper wade
Nor show a reason from the stars
What causeth peace or many wars
But all's to no end,
For the times will not mend
Till the King enjoys his own again

Yes, this I can tell
That all will be well
When the King enjoys his own again

For many years this royal crown
Hath been his father's and his own
And is there anyone but he
That in the same should sharer be?
For better may
The scepter sway
Than he that hath such right to reign?
Then let's hope for a peace,
For the wars will not cease
Till the king enjoys his own again

Yes, this I can tell
That all will be well
When the King enjoys his own again

Though for a time we see his hall
With cobwebs hanging on the wall
Instead of gold and silver brave
Which formerly was wont to have
With rich perfume
In every room,
Delightful to that princely train
Yet the old again shall be
When the time you see
That the King enjoys his own again

Yes, this I can tell
That all will be well
When the King enjoys his own again

Then fears avaunt, upon the hill
My hope shall cast her anchor still
Until I see some peaceful dove
Bring home the branch I dearly love
Then will I wait
Till the waters abate
Which now disturb my troubled brain
Then for ever rejoice,
When I've heard the voice
That the King enjoys his own again

Yes, this I can tell
That all will be well
When the King enjoys his own again..."

Asad finished, piping the same tune from the beginning before trailing off and bowing to his King. When he finished, he turned away and stood next to Hearpwine in the crowd. His voice was soft as he spoke to Hearpwine.

"Sir, the Kings words rang true when he said that you honor this hall this day. I was honored to hear your song," Asad complimented, serious in his words and tone.

---

"Miss Jesia, my uncle gave me permission to return to you and bid you tell me what these words say. If you would?"

Jesia laughed. It came out as a deep, low chuckle. Jesia had known that Mae would come back. That is why I gave it to her, and not Hearpwine. Jesia mused, feeling clever for just a moment, though sometimes in her aging years Jesia thought that cleverness would never be found. Mae was still young enough to be enchanted and captured by an intriguing mytery. Though Jesia did not know Mae, in her heart the old woman hoped that Mae kept this trait.

"Well, my dear, it says something in my tongue," Jesia began to explain, as Mae handed her the circlet for a moment and Jesia examined it again in her old weathered fingers. "To some it brings hope, and to others it brings confusion or dismay...The inside reads thusly:

He who sings scares away his woes..." Jesia read, before returning the bracelet to Mae.

Mae smiled. "Why did you give this to me for Hearpwine?"

"His confidence was faltering; I could see doubt in his eyes. But I could feel his strength and the refuge he found in his music..." Jesia explained. "Mae, I would appreciate it if you told Hearpwine this meaning."
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Old 05-27-2004, 02:54 PM   #157
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Maercwen studied Jesia carefully. No, she could see no evil in the old woman's eyes. What concerned her uncle so? "I will tell Hearpwine thus," Mae said, taking the bracelet back and looking at it with some interest. "I still do not understand what this circlet is, though. I would beseech you to put it more clearly."

Jesia shook her head. "If you have a mind to think, use it," she said. "I have explained it clearly enough, but you have not given yourself time to muse over what I might mean." Maercwen nodded doubtfully and slipped the bracelet back into her pocket. Jesia's eyebrows raised slightly when she saw this. "Why do you not wear it, Mae?"

The girl blushed slightly. It seemed very foolish, what her uncle had said, but she did not want to disobey him. "My uncle bid me not wear it." She blushed more at Jesia's chuckle. "He was doubtful about it... I do not believe he thinks it holds some curse, but he does not like it." She would have said no more, but an urging to question further fell upon her. "Do you have any idea of why he does not like it?"

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

Asad's song ended, and Liornung nodded approval as he stepped into the Hall once again. He saw Hearpwine standing by the young man who had just sung, but he did not let his stare linger there long. His eyes moved over the Hall, seeking Maercwen... and not finding her. He grew worried. Perhaps she had been at the horse events but he had not seen her? Impossible. His eyes were too good to miss her, and he had searched the crowd many times. Where else could she be if she were not here? Could she have gone back to the Inn? No, he would have seen her in that case.

He moved skillfully through the crowd in the Hall, hoping not to attract the attentions of anyone but Hearpwine. He touched the young man's shoulder softly, but hesitated when their eyes met. Was it wise to tell him now when he was so concerned with the Contest? "Good Hearpwine, I beg you not to fret yourself," he said, "but I cannot find Maercwen. I do not call upon any action from you, but I thought it unjust to refrain from telling you."
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Old 05-27-2004, 03:31 PM   #158
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Hearpwine’s attention was immediately seized from the kind words of Asad by Liornung’s news. Knowing already that Mae was not in the Hall, Hearpwine could not help but look about him for the sight of her face. Asad noted his distraction and quietly asked what was amiss. The next contestant was taking the floor and tuning her harp, and the people about Hearpwine and his companions looked at them with stares clearly meant to quiet them. Not a few of the faces he saw were openly shocked that the two men who were causing the disruption where those who had just finished singing! To avoid their stares, Hearpwine moved to the back of the Hall to speak with Liornung privately. Much to his surprise, the young man Asad joined them.

Hearpwine was abrupt. “When did you last see her? Did she get lost in the crowd?”

“I parted from her in the crowds about the fairgrounds.”

“And you did not go with her?” Hearpwine tried not to let the note of panic overtake his voice.

Liornung shook his head and cast his eyes to the floor, saying only, “My mind was on other matters. When I returned to the Inn I remembered that Mae was supposed to return to Aylwen, but when I went looking for her, I could not find her in the crowds."

Hearpwine's brow furrowed. "Why did she want to go about alone like that? Did she wish to see more of the horsemasters?"

Liornung's face lit up with sudden remembrance. "The bracelet!" he said. "She was curious about the bracelet the old woman gave her. Perhaps she went back to speak with her of it!"

Asad’s face creased with a slight frown. “If the lady did speak with my grandmother she will be sure to know what’s happened with her. Let us go and ask her where Mistress Maercwen has gone.”

Hearpwine and Liornung protested that they did not want to drag Asad away from the contest, particularly after he had sung so very well, but he was insistent. As their disputation was beginning once more to earn them some pointed looks they made for the door and slipped out as quietly as they could. As they stepped into the sunshine a wisp of the woman’s song came to Hearpwine like the scent of a fine flower on the morning breeze, and his heart longed to turn his feet about. But the duty he felt he owed his friends, and the worry that he felt for Mae in his own heart, drove him onward. They paused to speak quickly with the Guard Wolfstan. They asked if he had seen Mae and described her quite closely. “Nay,” he replied, “I have not seen her since she left the Contest with Master Liornung. You should return to the Hall and wait there, she is bound to turn up.”

“No,” Hearpwine said, “we are quite worried for her. We will look about Edoras for her. Should she come here, though, will you tell her to wait with you until we return?” Wolfstan nodded, a slight smile playing about his mouth. At this reassurance, Liornung, Asad and Hearpwine ran down the steps of the patio and moved into the crowds.

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Old 05-27-2004, 04:12 PM   #159
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"Well, dearie," Jesia contemplated what answer to give young Mae. "Perhaps he fears what he does not know..."

"My uncle fears nothing," Mae interrupted, with a slightly stubborn tone in her voice. Jesia smiled at Mae's protection of her uncle. She was a smart girl.

"Well, then he is a smart man. For nothing in life is to be feared, only to be understood. Maybe this is why your uncle dislikes the idea of my bracelet. Perhaps he does not understand it. If he wanted to understand it, he could, but methinks your uncle is gathering bundles of sticks to build a bridge that he will never cross. Now, Mae, where is your accompanament? I do not think it is a safe thing for a young lady like yourself to be out alone."

"You sound like my uncle," Mae scoffed, but she hid the sudden worry in her eyes well. Jesia wondered if she'd forgotten to get back to her uncle or back to Hearpwine.

"I said he was a smart man, and so I am glad to be likened to him."

---

As the three men worked their way through the crowds, Asad grinned back towards Hearpwine. "I hate to draw you away from your victory, friend!" Asad called back, then furrowed his brows as he turned back to the crowded path before him. Friend? Asad wondered at the words that had come from his lips. I hardly know him! Then Asad thought about these musings for a moment. Perhaps it is just a strange connection...

"Do not be too upset, I do not think I will miss much," Hearpwine replied tersly. While Asad could see the gratitude in his eyes at the compliment, Asad could also see the worry and upset nature that had overcome him since leaving the Hall. Do not doubt yourself, good Hearpwine! Asad cried inwardly. My grandmother saw something inside you, and I can see the passion and determination in your eyes!

The group quickly reached the booth where Jesia worked day in and day out. Asad hopped the flimsy wooden gate and tapped on his grandmother's shoulder, for she was turned to the opposite street and lane of crowded traffic. When she turned around from her customer, she grinned at her grandson and put her hands in a firm grip on his shoulders.

"Asad! How did you do?"

"Grandmama! Where is the girl?" Asad asked, and gestured to Liornung and Hearpwine. Jesia bowed to the worried men, and stepped out of the way to reveal Mae on the other side of the booth. Her eyes were locked on the bracelet still, until she looked up and saw her uncle and Hearpwine.
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Old 05-27-2004, 06:59 PM   #160
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Liornung sprang forward with a cry of joy, delighting that Maercwen had been found. She put out her hand and gave the bracelet to him. "Here, uncle," she said, and nothing more. He took it and fingered it carefully before looking up at her. "Why did you return here without seeking my permission first?" he demanded.

"I did, uncle, and you gave it." She stared up at him in bewilderment and he passed a hand over his brow, saying, "There has been some confusion here, I think. Never mind. We will clear it later."

"Uncle... Jesia says you fear this bracelet because you do not understand it. Is this so?"

Liornung gazed thoughtfully at the bracelet, running his finger over it. "I told you already, Mae," he said. "I do not understand it. I do not fear it, either. I merely do not like it. I told you... I do not believe that a mere trinket can change man's fate. Besides, your parents would not approve of such enchantments. Let us leave it at that for now. Did you learn what it said?"

"Yes, and Jesia has bid me tell Hearpwine as well." Mae turned her eyes to the young man. "'He who sings scares away his woes.' That is what the inscription says."

"And very true, Mae. Nevertheless I do not like a niece of mine dealing in enchantments."

"I see." Maercwen touched it and frowned slightly. Then, sighing, she took it from her uncle and held it out to Jesia. "Will you take it then?" she asked. "I would not disobey my uncle."
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