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Old 05-24-2006, 02:43 PM   #401
Tevildo
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Leod:

Leod lay unmoving on the ground not more than eight feet away from where the Elves were still talking. He was careful to remain motionless and tuck his head under the blanket they had given him. Underneath that cover, he could hear every word they were saying.

Last night, he had not known how to explain why he was wandering alone in the woods in the middle of the night. Looking back, he could not help but feel that it was very foolish of him to go out so far on his own, even if his need for the herbs was great. Now all he wanted to do was to protect his friends from these strange and regale creatures who were so well armed and seemingly filled with anger and suspicion. Leod had admitted to one of the Elves, a woman who had questioned him closely, that he was a healer and had gone out at night to search for the lichens that are so good in drawing out ill humors from a wound. He totally denied that he was with anyone else even after she pressed him further. She had given him a strange look and walked away.

Now that he had heard what his fate was to be, Leod did not know whether to be happy or sad. At least they had decided not to skewer him in two. But his spirits sank down to this toes as he heard that he was to be carted off to the north and let go in the middle of nowhere, many miles from his friends and the injured men and women who so desperately needed him. He simply could not accept that.

As he listened to Nevtaliel speak, a desperate plot hatched in his mind. This woman, at least, was not his enemy. Leod did not know much about Elves, had never seen one in his life, but he did know that their healers were said to possess amazing skills, far beyond the reach of mortal men.

Gathering every bit of courage that he had, Leod leapt to his feet and turned to face the Elves. "The woman is right. I am a healer, but I am also a terrible liar. My friends are camped no more than two miles from here. They are no brigands, just common folk from several villages miles north of here. One of those villages, the one that I call my home, was burned down by a pack of roving Orcs, every person in it slain but myself and one other young girl."

"We are trying to get through to Edoras to warn the King that the Orcs have begun a rampage through the countryside, and he and his Riders must stand against them, if any of us are to survive. My own folk are gravely injured. When you found me, I was trying to search for the medicine that might save them. My supplies are gravely low. We had spent the last few days fighting Orcs and Easterlings, and many were afflicted with grievous wounds. To be honest, I was a fool to leave camp. I do not even know if these wounded men and women can survive, but without me they have absolutely no chance. Already, they are burning up with fever and half out of their minds."

"Please, sirs and madame, I am not the like of you but my folk mean much to me. I have heard that Elves have wonderful ways with a healing hand. I can take you to our camp that lies no more than a few miles upstream. Perhaps you can help those who are sick and injured. Meanwhile, as we approach the camp, you may keep your knife trained on my throat. If I have lied about any of these things, slash my throat and let me fall and die. Please, great Elves, if you have any mercy, will you come and help my friends?"

Nevtaliel stooped to pick up her bag of herbs and remedies, and glanced over towards Haekanoion. He said nothing but quickly nodded his head in assent. Within a moment, all had retrieved their horses, and were cantering briskly along the bank of the stream, with Leod sitting behind one of the riders. Despite his offer, there was no knife trained upon his throat.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 05-26-2006 at 12:06 AM.
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Old 05-25-2006, 12:37 PM   #402
Folwren
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Athwen and Dorran search for Leod

Athwen placed Vaenosa’s hand by her side and got up quickly. She looked around the camp once again, taking into mind the people there. She saw Incana walking towards them through the trees, looking half worried, half curious about what was going on. Dorran, too, was waking up. He propped himself up on his elbow, rubbed the sleep from his eyes with one hand and then looked up at Meghan and Athwen.

“What’s going on?” he asked. Athwen took a step towards him. Her hands twisted together and she struggled to keep from crying.

“Vaenosa’s dead,” she began. Dorran sat upright. “And Brand, Meghan says, is doing very badly, too.” Dorran shot a sharp, anxious glance in the direction of Brand. Meghan had gone back to him and was kneeling beside him again. “I don’t know how Sythric is,” Athwen continued. “But. . .but Leod. . .” she stopped. Dorran looked around and upon seeing no healer, he got swiftly to his feet.

“Where is Leod?” he asked.

“I-I saw him leaving last night, scarcely after everyone had gone to bed. I was on watch and he went without saying anything.”

“He didn’t come back?” Dorran’s voice sounded sharp as he put the question.

“No. I didn’t even think about it. I kept watch for an hour, and I didn’t even consider that he should be back.” Dorran said nothing. Athwen wondered if she had done something wrong, but at the same time she thought that it wasn’t that sort of silence that Dorran kept. “I thought he was just going out to find more herbs and plants. He’s been using a lot for the wounds and he’ll need more.”

“Something must have gone wrong,” Dorran said after another moment’s pause. “He should’ve been back by now. We’ve got to find him. Without his help, neither Sythric or Brand have any hope of living.” He fastened his cloak and buckled on his sword belt as he spoke.

“Can I go with you?” Athwen asked. “Meghan can stay here and watch them. Please let me go. I know a little bit about where Leod might hope to find some of the plants he needed and I might be able to help.”

Dorran looked skeptical as he glanced down at her. “You don’t have any weapons,” he said.

“Do you think that if Leod ran into any trouble, our entire group put together would be able to get him out of it by force?” Athwen demanded. “We can’t take everyone, and even if we could, it wouldn’t do any good. Our best chance of finding anything out without getting caught or killed ourselves is to go in small numbers and without being burdened with useless weapons.”

Dorran agreed after a moment, and then, after explaining what they were going to do to Osmod, Fion, Incana, and Meghan, the two of them set off in the direction that Athwen had seen Leod leave the previous evening. Neither of them knew anything about tracking, so they could only continue walking in the direction that they guessed he had gone, traveling as quietly and as carefully as they could while straining their eyes and ears for any sight or sound of the healer.

Their search had been fruitless for nearly three quarters of an hour. Athwen was about to despair when Dorran set his hand suddenly on hers in a cautious, silent warning. She looked up at him, and his finger was pressed against his mouth, bidding silence. His eyes were slowly scanning the trees and foliage and she turned to look in the same direction. In a moment, she heard what he had - the sound of horses forging their way through fallen leaves and low or fallen branches. The two looked at each other, and then with a silent nod of the head, Dorran started towards the sound. Athwen followed close behind.

In a little while of walking as quietly as possible and keeping behind as many trees as were available, the two of them soon caught sight of the group of mounted elves. Dorran and Athwen came to a halt. Athwen scarcely dared to breath as she watched them come nearer. Then she felt Dorran tug on her sleeve and she looked down to see him crouching behind a wide tree. She joined him quickly.

The elves came nearer and nearer and soon their faces were visible. Athwen bent towards Dorran and dared a low whisper. “Were they the ones who stopped him, do you think?”

He nodded slowly. “I see him riding behind one now.” She turned to look and sure enough, there was the elderly healer, riding behind the saddle of one of the elves.

“Well, let’s go, then,” she said. Athwen had always been impulsive and this appeared to be no exception. Neglecting even to look at Dorran to see if he shared her point of view, she jumped up directly to her feet and started forward at a hurried trot. “Leod! Hullo!” she called out, waving her hand to catch their attention. “Stop, please! We need help!”
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Old 05-25-2006, 01:54 PM   #403
Undómë
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Meghan barely realized that Dorran and Athwen had left camp. She turned back to Brand and slumped down beside him. Weariness overwhelmed her. Weariness and a great sadness. His hand was very cold as she picked it up and held it against her cheek.

‘You cannot die,’ she began. ‘I’m not done talking to you. There are many more stories you haven’t heard. And I’ve heard very few of yours. You cannot take my stories with you and leave me none of your own.’

She rocked back and forth a little, humming an old tune. Her fingers reached, unthinking, for her pipe, forgetting for a moment that she had thrown it on Rædwald’s pyre. ‘And if you’re bound from this world, you cannot take my songs. I've lost my pipe. I cannot lose my songs altogether. How will I sing my flock to sleep? You cannot take their comfort from them.’

Meghan lay his hand on her knee and knuckled her eyes, not that there were tears to be dealt with; just the feeling beyond all tiredness that hope had fled. The flats of her hands pressed in against her cheeks, trying to rub some warmth into them.

I wish I were on yonder hill
'Tis there I'd sit and I'd cry my fill,
And ev'ry tear would turn a mill,
And a blessing walk with you, my love


She sang softly, leaning in close to him. Her eyes scanned his pale face for any sign that he might hear her.

Shule, shule, shule aroon
Shule go succir agus, shule go kewn;
Shule go dheen durrus oggus aylig lume,
And a blessing walk with you, my love.

His hair shines gold and his eyes are blue
His arms are strong and his words are true
In my heart I’ll always be with you
And a blessing walk with you, my love.

Shule, shule, shule aroon
Shule go succir agus, shule go kewn;
Shule go dheen durrus oggus aylig lume,
And a blessing walk with you, my love.

Come, come, come O love,
Quickly come to me, softly move,
Come to the door and away we'll flee,
And safe forever may my darling be.

Shule, shule, shule aroon
Shule go succir agus, shule go kewn;
Shule go dheen durrus oggus aylig lume,
And a blessing walk with you . . . my love . . .


Meghan’s voiced trailed off . . . he lay so still . . .

‘You cannot go, Brand . . . how will I follow?’

Last edited by Undómë; 05-26-2006 at 02:51 AM.
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Old 05-25-2006, 02:40 PM   #404
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Osmod asked Fion to get some water boiling and then run to the river to refill the water-skins. The young lad asked Incana for help and the two hurried off, knowing that Leod would need water to clean the wounds and to prepare his potions. Walking then to Meghan, Osmod kneeled by her side and waited patiently as she spoke softly to Brand’s ear. Her words he could not tell, but the meaning was clear. When she finally seemed to have stopped talking, Osmod gently took Meghan’s hand in his, hoping to comfort her slightly. She turned around, looking upset –or was it his imagination? - Yet even if she was, she had recently lost a life-long friend and now Brand seemed to be loosing his fight as well. She had her reasons. Osmod felt guilty for interrupting yet he knew that if Leod was to come back and save Brand and Sythric, he’d need to have everything ready. Perhaps it would even be good for Meghan to be a busy as well.

“I am sorry Meghan that I need to ask this of you right now, yet you are the one who knows best what our healer will need when he gets here. I have already sent Fion and Incana to bring us as much water as they can; now we only need to prepare Leod’s potions and unguents and pray he gets back here soon enough to use them. You know what he will need better than myself, I will stay here by Brand’s side and look over him if you wish.”

Trying his most reassuring smile, he placed his hand on Brand’s forehead to see if the man had a fever, which he clearly had. Then he busied himself on arranging the covers so that the man would not be cold. Osmod did not look up to see if Meghan was still by Brand’s side.

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

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Sythric was once again back at his little stream at Skara. His life seemed to revolve around it in many ways. He had lived in many different buildings at Skara, he had lived in Croacht for 15 years, he had travelled across the Wold, but still that little stream beside the fields of Skara held him deeply tied to it. It had been there before he was born and it would be there after he would die.

He had served the riders for a full year and been granted his first leave. Three weeks it was to be. He had spent a couple of days with his friends at Croacht just to celebrate their first year and then gotten back to Skara. He was sixteen and it was the first night at home. The big party was to be held the next day, so Sythric had been allowed to have some time by himself, at the stream as he wished. All the family knew its meaning to him.

Sythric sat on a rock by the small watermill as she came towards him. Aescwyn was the girl from the neighbouring farmstead. They had known each other from childhood, but it had been only less than two years ago that Sythric had really gotten a crash on her. He had dreamt of her nights and days, imagining what it would be like to hold her in his arms or to kiss her. But she had been promised to a certain lad called Beorthsige, an annoying son of a local trader. Good marriage that was, to be sure, but it made Sythric bitter as a lemon. And she had never answered his feelings.

But now she was there, her light dress shining in the moonlight. She stepped on to the plane beside the wheel of the watermill, and walked towards him. Then she stopped on the planks just a few yards away from him, two feet above the waterline. “Well Rico, what a surprise!” she called him, smiling kiddingly. “Or can I call you that any more now that you are a real rider of Rohan? And you are growing a beard! Well, you must be a man now...”, she added and smiled a conspirational smile. Sythric was totally at loss about what to do or say.

Up to this day Sythric hadn’t conclusively figured it out, whether what followed was actually an accident or a deliberate plan of Aescwyn. Anyhow, she staggered on the planks and fell. Before she had touched the surface of the water, Sythric was on his feet and rushing towards her. He jumped after her to the water and grabbed her into his arms, helping her up. The water was just waist-deep. He surely had known that, but as he had been acting on instinct, he hadn’t come to think about it.

There they stood in each others arms totally soaked. Sythric felt so ashamed that he tried to avoid Aescwyn’s eyes, but he didn’t let go of her either. She held tight to him as well. Then she started laughing and in a moment Sythric was laughing too. While laughing, they both took a bit firmer hold of each other. Sythric remembered how her body felt pressing tightly against his even now.

This should not be, but still this is just how it should be, he thought to himself when the laugher finally died off. They were staring at each others eyes now quite intensively, trying to read the other mind. “This should be...” Aescwyn whispered quietly, leaning carefully against Sythric’s shoulder. “I was thinking about the same thing Aescwyn”, Sythric whispered to her ear with a sad smile, fondling her hair tenderly. Aescwyn raised her head up and met his gaze. Slowly their faces drew nearer each other.

That kiss Sythric had remembered all his life. He remembered her scent, her body pressing onto his, the feeling of her lips against his, the wet fingers running at his back, the chill that run over him from tip to the toe making his feet waver...


“Vaenosa’s dead”, he heard the words through his dreams. Vaenosa’s dead? His mind was struggling to get itself conscious. “Where is Leod?” Dorran? Why are you asking for Leod, where is he, what has happened? His mind was trying to cope with the cryptical real life sentences and the all-embracing world of dreams and memories. “Something must have gone wrong”, he heard Dorran say, and then it was images again. Vaenosa was running uphill with the easterling trailing her, ready to kill her in an instant. Sythric remembered spurring Thydrë to do her best, he remembered lowering Raedwald’s lance to a charging position. Vaenosa’s dead!

“Shule, shule, shule aroon...”

The song entered Sythric’s mind, at last waking him up to full consciousness. He opened his eyes and saw Meghan singing at Brand’s side. Brand looked pale indeed. A dying man... The thought of Brand dying, the beauty of Meghan’s song and the painful expression on her face brought tears to Sythric’s eyes and cold shivers were going through his body.

He noted that Incana was tending the horses and Fion was boiling water at the fireside. Osmod was sitting by the fire too, looking grim, his hand was bandaged with a linen. Now what has happened? But he couldn't see either Dorran or Athwen? Where are they? Where is Leod? Meghan had stopped singing and the only voice loud enough to enter his consciousness were the crackles of the fire. He carefully adjusted himself, raising to sitting position and leaning towards the rock behind him. Meghan noticed him moving and looked at him with concern.

“Meghan!”, he called her. “Be brave my friend. You will accomplish the task we were sent for and save our people. We should not let him die in vain!” His gaze wandered around to meet Vaenosa’s body lying some feet left from him. “Or her...”, he half-whispered.

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Old 05-26-2006, 12:25 AM   #405
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"Whoa! Stop, good master Elf!" cried out Leod. "Tis one of my companions I spoke about, the young lass who came from the same village where I lived."

As the lead Elf drew up his horse and the others came to a halt, the older healer slipped hastily from the saddle and ran forward to embrace the young woman, so excited was he to know that camp was within a few paces. Seeing Dorran run out from the bushes, he gave him another welcoming embrace and gestured to the Elves that they should follow down the pathway, since the camp lay only a short distance away.

To Dorran and Athwen, Leod quickly explained, "I went out to gather herbs, but my foolish blundering in the middle of the night caused these good folk to question who I was. But after the confusion was straightened out, they agreed to bring me back to camp. But tell me now, how is everyone? Do Brand and Sythric still cling to life? And how fares Vaenosa and the others who are ill? I cannot tell you how worried I was to be away."

Athwen and Dorran glanced nervously at each other, and at first said nothing. It was Dorran who finally explained, "Sythric hangs on as before. But with the others...... "

"Go on lad, spit it out!"

"Vaenosa has lost her battle. The wounds took her no more than an hour ago."

"But how can this be?" countered Leod. "For I knew not that she was so ill." A horrible feeling afflicted the healer in the pit of his stomach as he wondered whether the girl might have lived if he had stayed in camp.

Out loud, he said only this: "And Brand, how does he fare? I pray that he still lives."

"Aye, he lives but barely. Leod, is there nothing you can do to help? Perhaps some new remedies to help him fight?"

Hearing that the others still lived and were in desperate need of aid, Leod pushed back his guilt over Vaenosa's death and concentrated on the immediate problem. "Dorran, there is hope, if only a tiny glimmer. For I have brought with me one whose skills as a healer surpass my own paltry efforts by a considerable amount."

Turning about to the Elves he called, "Come now. Hurry! One of my friends lies ill in desperate straits....."

Last edited by Tevildo; 05-26-2006 at 12:38 AM.
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Old 05-26-2006, 01:39 AM   #406
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Elves:

The Elves rode forward to the small encampment and quickly dismounted from their horses. Haekánoion walked over by the firepit, bowed to those about, and slowly began to speak, "I bid you welcome and beg your pardon. We have wrongly held your healer in our camp as we did not know if he might be someone sent out by a group of bandits to do us harm."

"Our only excuse for this shabby treatment is that we have faced much hardship and violence on these roads the past few week. We were visiting the shores to the south, where our folk once lived, and then went on to Minas Tirith carrying a dispatch from Master Elrond." The Elf did not mention the strange stares and hostile remarks they had encountered from Men in these places who had forgotten the goodness of the Elves.

Everywhere we went, we found enemies with sharp weapons, especially on the road to the east of Minas Tirith. We have fought bandits and men from the South and worst of all, a group of Orcs. Never have we seen so many foul vermin out on the road. It is as if the whole world is on the move, and something evil and of great import is about to happen."

With a sigh, the Elf continued, "Now we must hurry back to Rivendell and tell master Elrond what we have seen. For many of our folk feel that the time has come to depart these shores forever as a great change is at hand. And they await word from us as to what is happening in the outside world."

"My name is Haekánoion and this is my wife Nevtaliel, a healer. Here is our son Lindir, and two young companions, Nihil and Maeghith. We have come with Leod to ask your forgiveness for our mistake, and to inquire if we may be of any help. Leod mentioned that there are those in camp gravely ill and now we have heard that you have lost one of these just last night. There is too much sadness in these times. We can not work magic, but my wife is a healer of great skill. Could she see those who are injured to try and help? And perhaps my sons and his friends could help you in constructing a cairn for the one who died?

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 05-27-2006 at 09:54 AM.
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Old 05-28-2006, 11:47 AM   #407
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Sythric seemed to be the first to notice the sound. As a rider he was used to picking that one from all the others. Even as the sound was faint, there was no chance of mistake. Horses, and they are coming straight towards us, and not only one or two... “Horses coming! Quick now everyone! Get to your horses, run away! Leave me and Brand here!” He turned a bit to face the direction where the rumble of the hooves was coming from. Now they were loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Fion! Throw my bow and arrows to me. I may have strength for one or two shots. That might slow them down a bit”. Sythric tried to get up, turning around and taking a grasp from the rock he had been leaning towards. He tried to pull himself on top of it. “C’mon Fion, no time to waste!”, he shouted and forcibly pulled himself up the side of the rock.

But then he heard a familiar voice from under the now thundering hooves. It was Dorran calling them! Good earth!, he gasped and let his grasp loose, just leaning to the rock with his face against it. “It’s Dorran, and Athwen! ... And, could they be? They must be elves!”, he heard Fion shouting enthusiastically. Sythric was too tired from his sudden effort to either properly rise up or to set down. But he heard an elf talking, introducing himself as Haekánoion and telling about them and their fortunes. There is an elven healer here! Brand might be saved! Then he suddenly felt the pain again. His eyes went black for a while and he lost his hearing too. He saw his dearest stream once again, but just for a second. He came back to awareness of the general hassle around. Osmod was talking something to the elves. There were sounds of footsteps and a hum of voices all around...

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Old 05-28-2006, 12:01 PM   #408
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Clip…clop….clip….clop…

The sound of horses, riding towards the camp. There weren’t enough men to resist; the wounded would be easy pray for the easterlings. They could only sit back and wait, and hope that the riders moved along worried about their own business. But they did not. Thankfully, at the head of the column were Athwen and Dorran, who seemed to be leading a peculiar group of strangers. Osmod could not believe his eyes, but there was no mistaking the shine in their eyes, those raiders were elves. They unmounted and introduced themselves, apologising for the treatment they had given Leod overnight. Then they offered help, and Osmod knew that in spite of the stories he had been told of elven witches casting nets of shadows that swallowed full companies of men who happened to wander close to their territories, they were the group’s only hope.

At once the healer among them set to work on the wounded while the rest of them helped build a cairn for Vaenosa and preparing her for her last rest. Osmod wanted to help but he was awed and at the same time scared of these strange people. They were so much like him and yet so distinctly different, he felt like a beggar dragged on to the court of a mighty king. Their movements were soft and smooth while Osmod felt slow and sloppy, and their voices barely rose from a whisper and yet he could hear them clearly. For a moment, Osmod felt as if he was back on his grandmother’s house, listening to her stories by the fire. But then the moment was over and there was still work to do, elves or not they’d need his help if they were ever to move on from that awful place and to the golden halls.

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Old 05-28-2006, 10:15 PM   #409
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‘Begging your pardon, ma’am.’ Meghan stepped quietly up near to Nevtaliel’s side. She spoke in a low voice, not wanting to interrupt the talk between Haekánoion and Osmod. She reached out a hand as if to pluck at the Elven lady’s sleeve, then thought better of it. She did not wish to offend by placing her rough skinned, dirt-stained hand on the Elf-fabric.

‘My . . . friend . . . is very ill. Will you come see him first?’ Meghan motioned to where Brand lay. ‘He has a wound in his left shoulder, a deep wound from an Easterling’s blade. Leod has done as best he might with it. But still it festers and he’s run high fevers.’ She swallowed her fright that he might die, trying to give the Elvish healer a picture of how he had been and how he was now. ‘But he’s gone all cold now. And barely breathing. And where he used to open his eyes at times, now they are closed mostly.’ Her voice broke a little as she went on. ‘Sometimes they do flutter open . . . but it’s as if he stares far off to someplace I can’t see . . . someplace where I no longer am.’

‘Please . . . come see to him.’ Her hand reached out and briefly touched the Elvish woman’s arm.

‘Shall I fetch you something . . . warm water, clean rags? Whatever you might need, I can get them for you . . .’
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Old 05-28-2006, 11:37 PM   #410
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Nevtaliel looked gently at Undómë and smiled, "I will be glad to do what I can. I am no worker of magic, but perhaps I can do something to help." The Elf could not help but notice the dark rings under the woman's eyes and the strained look on her face. She obviously cared deeply for the young man whose wounds she had tended, who now lay silent and huddled on the ground.

Kneeling down beside the injured man, the Elf glanced over at the woman, "There is something you may do for me, but first you must tell me your name and the name of the young man who lies before me."

Upon hearing the response, she handed the girl a small packet of herbs, "Meghan, be very careful with this. I have but six leaves and all are precious, since this herb does not grow in these parts. It comes from Gondor and places even further distant. Since your healer now sits with the others who are injured and tends their wounds, you will need to help me with Brand and the other man who is most seriously injured."

She then went on to explain, "You must place one leaf in a small pot over the fire, grind it into tiny pieces, and stir the pieces into the water. Heat the mixture until the brew is steaming. Then, bring the pot back to me and do the same with a second leaf. I think I will need at least two for Brand, and two for your other friend so you must make four pots in all. And while you are working with the herbs, send someone else back with a bowl of warm water and clean rags. The others in camp will not need such strong remedies. We will wait till later to tend to their wounds."

"Go now, while I remove Brand's bandage and have a closer look at the wound. Hurry back as quickly as you can. I fear there is little time."

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Old 05-28-2006, 11:53 PM   #411
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Dorran

Dorran was about to join the younger Elves and a few of his own companions who were constructing a cairn for Vaenosa's body. But just as he was prepared to leave camp with the others to search for large stones, he ran into Meghan who whispered a request in his ear. Dorran ran to fetch a bowl of hot water and and secure a number of clean rags and bandages from Leod's satchel. Then he hurried back to where the Elvish healer knelt beside Brand's body, offering her the water and the cloths.

"Ma'm, begging your pardon, but I hope you will try and do what you can. He is a good and decent man. He's really been the heart of our group, and there's no way we would have made it this far without Brand." He looked curiously over at Nevtaliel and gathering all his courage asked, "Do you think that you will be able to save him?"
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Old 05-29-2006, 12:23 AM   #412
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Meghan was careful to follow the Elven woman’s instructions about the leaves. As she stirred each one carefully into their own little pots of water, she sniffed at the fingers with which she’d crushed them. There was a sharp, clean smell that lingered on her fingertips . . . a deep smell, redolent of the sort one gets when a storm is about to break over the fields and the air is heavy, pregnant with the scent of promised rain. The aroma lifted her spirit a little, giving her some small measure of hope.

She left two of the pots of leaf-brew near the fire to keep warm, instructing Incana not to let anyone touch them until the Elven healer called for them. The other two she hurried back with to Nevtaliel, careful not to spill a single precious drop.

As she neared where the Elven woman knelt down by Brand, she heard Dorran’s question. ‘Do you think that you will be able to save him?’ Meghan’s breath caught in her chest as she stopped short, fearing what the healer might say in response.
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Old 05-29-2006, 01:16 AM   #413
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Nevtaliel smiled at Dorran, now kneeling beside her, and gazed pointedly over his shoulder at Meghan, who had approached bearing pots in her hands. With a sigh the Elf conceded, "I hope it may be so, but I can not promise. We must first bathe Brand's wound in this mixture and then place the second pot close by that he may smell its goodness. Sometimes, the sweetness of the herb works immediately, and a patient will wake up, almost as though cured of the illness or wound. Other times, signs of healing come very slowly after many hours. And sometimes, I am afraid, the injury or sickness has spread too far and, no matter what we do, there is no healing, not even with the kingsfoil, at least not within the bounds of Arda."

"But do not show me such long, worried faces. These will not help your friend. This herb and my own skill are important, but they can not do the job alone. Your faith and belief in Brand are just as important. There is much in the hearts of Elves and Men we do not understand. Perhaps even as your friend lies stricken, seemingly asleep, waging a battle against the dark shadows, he can sense your support and love, and it encourages him to fight on. My people call this estel. All other hope fades away; you stand on the edge of a great chasm with no other place to turn. It seems nothing in Arda can help, yet you refuse to give in. This is the kind of hope you must nurture in your heart."

With those words, Nevtaliel turned away for a minute. Looking out into the night, she whispered a soft plea to Estë, the healer of the Valar who dresses in grey, to bring peace to the wounded and afflicted, and all those who walked within this camp. Then the Elf bathed and dressed Brand's wounds and placed the pot of sweet-smelling herbs close by that he might draw in their goodness. Finishing with her job, she stood up and instructed Meghan to keep watch over Brand, while she went over to help Leod with Sythric.

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Old 05-29-2006, 02:25 AM   #414
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For what seemed an endless space of time Brand followed after Vaenosa. Her footsteps faded beneath the long rows of leafless trees; her figure disappeared in the interwoven shadows of the branches. Someone had called to him, touched his arm as if to make him turn. He had pulled away. And when he looked back there was no one to be seen.

It was the breezes in this dark land that made him pause. They bore on their airs an enticing scent. A clean, sweet scent that made him turn, reminding him of all that was good and bright in his life; all that was graceful.

A face from the old stories his great-grandfather told loomed over him. She was tall and beautiful in form. The day’s light backlit her fair features, throwing them into soft shadows, and he could feel her hands working at his wound. Gently, firmly.

He could hear her soft-spoken words as she gave instruction to others, too, who were at his side. He thought to turn, to look at them, but the Elven woman’s presence caught and held his full attention.

Then she stood up, and just as quickly as she had come, slipped away from him. The scent she’d brought lingered about him, undiminished. Someone else slipped down beside him; other hands adjusted his covers. A familiar touch stroked the side of his face as another’s words slid into his thoughts.

‘Brand!’ he heard his name called.

His throat was quite parched and it was with some difficulty he rasped out a few words. ‘I’m here. I’m here. Just let me sleep for a while . . .’

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Old 05-29-2006, 04:01 PM   #415
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Leod leapt up and hurried towards the Elven healer, lowering his voice to speak privately with her. "Thank goodness you are here, Nevtaliel. I am at my wits end with Sythric. At least with Brand, I understood what ailed him, even though my herbs were powerless to heal his wounds."

"For the most part, it appears that Sythric's wound is healing. Only there is still one area of redness. Let me show you. But, in truth, it is not the wound that worries me the most. Sythric has been slipping in and out of conciousness for the past two days. I have heard him mutter to himself as if wrestling with a great demon in dreams. Yet I do not understand why this should be so, since his fever is not high."

He led Nevtaliel over to where Sythric was still on his knees, leaning against a great stone and embracing it with his hands. Sythric's cheek was pressed against its jagged surface. He was breathing heavily but slowly. There was a fresh blood stain on his jerkin, although only a spot or two. What was more upsetting was that Sythric's eyes were wide open, yet he seemed oblivious to all that was going on about him.

"I don't understand," mumbled Leod. "He is conscious and awake, yet it is as if something tugs at his mind and pulls him down into dark shadows. He stares out at the camp but sees none of us. Still, in another minute or two, he will pull himself out of this state and begin to talk and act much more normally, though very tired and in considerable pain."

"I have never seen a man act like this. Can you tell me what is wrong?"
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Old 05-29-2006, 10:04 PM   #416
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Nevtaliel listened carefully to Leod's description of Sythric's behavior. It reminded her of another Elf she had cared for some years ago when she and her husband had journeyed to the East. The Elf they had encountered on the road was acting in a manner almost identical to that described by the human healer: slipping in and out of a strange dreamlike state. And, like Sythric, this Elf had fallen prey to the weapon of an Easterling, a sharp curved blade that had gashed him in the leg.

"I am not certain about your friend." the Elven healer replied. "But I do have one idea. Let me examine the man more closely." By this time Sythric had let go of the rock and settled back on the ground, his face riddled with exhaustion and pain. He did not pull back when Nevtaliel extended her hand and gently stroked his brow.

"Leod, Dorran had already mentioned to me that your group had fought for the entire day, and that you had to stitch up the wounds in evening, with very little light other than that provided by the smoldering coals in the firepit. You could barely see what you were doing."

Leod nodded mutely in agreement, a look of discomfort flitting across his face as he remembered thinking that he could not do his best work if he could not see the wounds properly.

"You did the best you could in trying circumstances," Nevtaliel added reassuringly. "No one could ask for more. And you had no idea of the devious weapons that the Easterlings employ. Now go over to the campfire and collect the two pots that Meghan has prepared and bring them back to me. While you are gone, I am going to pull out your stitches and have a look at the wound again. If my guess is right, there may still be a tiny sliver from the blade left inside. I'll try and explain then what I think has happened."

Carefully, Nevtaliel removed the stitches and peered closely at the wound. She took a pointed silver probe from her bag and cautiously searched about. It took her several minutes of close inspection. The small fragment was not easy to find, and it was no wonder that Leod had neglected to see it in the grey shadows of the campfire. She removed the piece and set it on the ground being careful not to touch it.

When Leod came back, he looked down in embarassment to see a small fragment of the blade that had broken off. Impulsively, he reached out to touch it but was immediately stopped by the Elf. "No, you mustn't. Have Dorran or one of the others dig a small pit to dispose of it at the edge of the camp. We must cover it over for it can still do great harm to whoever comes upon it."

She then went on to explain, "You see, it is the custom of some Easterlings to poison the tip of their swords and spears and even to have them constructed in such a way that a minute fragment breaks off once the weapon enters the skin. That tiny piece of metal is smeared with a deadly ungent that brings not healing but a slow and painful death. Now that this fragment is gone, I shall clean the wound with the kingsfoil mixture and put another steaming pot of the herb near Sythric so that he may take in its healing scent. Other than that, Leod, we can only wait and hope. Only time will tell if Sythric is strong enough to battle the ill effects of the poison. Even now the foul stuff is coursing through his body. There is nothing that I can do to stop that. But at least the source of the evil has been removed. He is the one who must struggle with the shadow and pull himself back to life."

"I would not be surprised to see his condition worsen tonight. By morning, the poison should have done its worst, and we will know whether or not he will return to life."

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Old 05-30-2006, 03:08 PM   #417
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The atmosphere about the little camp was subdued. Try as it might, the late autumn’s sunlight could not drive away the pall of apprehension that clung to the company. An unvoiced question added further concern to the already apprehensive group. What would happen if the two wounded men could not ride soon. Would the group break apart, with some going on to Edoras and some staying behind? Or would the whole company stay together until all could travel on?

Brand seemed to be doing better. But he had seemed so before and then worsened to a perilous level. Meghan sat by his side for the greater part of the day, and only at the urging of the Elven healer took some rest.

A close eye, too, was being kept of Sythric. His wound was well-dressed and had seemingly slowed in its tendency to bleed. But Nevtaliel had said that despite her arts, the poison from the Easterling’s weapon must run its course. And that their only hope was that he was strong enough to fight its effects.

Meghan had offered her small pouch of dried meat to Fion and Incana who were making a kettle of soup for the midday and evening meal. Others of the companions had offered up some of their own provisions and a savory broth had been made with bits of meats and some edible tubers which others of the group had been able to find. The soup grew more enticing as the day went on and more bits of meat and vegetables were added to it.

In the early evening, Meghan woke from the much needed nap she had taken. Not meaning to of course . . . she had only thought to close her eyes for a few moments. She woke with a start, the air having grown a little colder as the sun progressed in its downward arc. Sitting up, she stretched her back, trying to work the kinks from it.

Fion sat beside Brand, and nodded at her as she looked his way. He flicked his eyes toward the sleeping figure and then pointed to the empty bowl lying near him. Meghan shivered, a small sliver of excitement racing up her spine at the thought that Brand must be getting better, as he had eaten some of the soup.

She looked over to where Sythric lay. ‘How does he fare? Has he been awake at all?’ she asked one of the companions who sat near the older man.

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Old 05-31-2006, 05:01 PM   #418
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The day had been long and wearying, on both body and mind. Athwen felt exhausted as she sat beside Sythric who now slept. She could not exactly account for the weary feeling, for she had really done surprisingly little. There had been nothing for her to do, except for keep the fire going, prepare food, and sometimes lug water. That job was often given to Osmod, Fion, or Dorran, who could all carry quite a bit of water far more easily than Athwen.

Meghan had dozed off some time before supper. No one woke her. The wounds were all bandaged and looked after, nothing else had to be done, and she needed the sleep. A quiet settled over the camp. People said very little. Athwen and Dorran prepared the evening meal with silence between them. Brand woke long enough to eat some of the watery soup and then went back to sleep. Sythric did not come back to consciousness.

Athwen sat with her knees drawn up and one hand looped around them. Her other hand held a warm cup in her hand with steam rising out of it. She sat close to Sythric, watching for any change in his sleeping while at the same time, observed the sky changing colors and growing darker.

Meghan stirred nearby and then slowly sat up. She looked about her, blinking the sleep away, first glancing towards Brand and then to Sythric. Her eyes settled on Athwen. ‘How does he fare? Has he been awake at all?’ she asked.

Athwen shrugged slightly. ‘No, he hasn’t woken. I don’t know how he does. He seems to sleep peaceably enough. . .but I can not read a fellow’s health by his sleeping face.’ She looked at Sythric. Surely she would know, she thought. If his face held any trace of pain or uncomfortable sleep, she would know. ‘You slept quite a while,’ she went on, turning back to Meghan. ‘Would you like some tea? And there is soup left for you. I made sure that not all of it was eaten.’
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Old 06-01-2006, 11:47 AM   #419
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‘I would like some tea,’ Meghan said, giving a thankful smile to Athwen. ‘Soup later, I think.’ She yawned and stretched, trying to work the kinks from her back.

She watched as Athwen fetched her a cup of steaming tea and took it gratefully from the woman’s hand. The heat of it warmed her cold fingers. Her gaze was drawn to the other side of the fire where the Elves were gathered.

‘They move with such grace, don’t they?’ She put down her tea and rubbed her hands together, feeling how rough they were. The healer’s hands, Nevtaliel, had been soft and smooth when they’d touched her own in passing. ‘I suppose they’ll be leaving when the sun rises. That is,’ she looked at Sythric and then to Brand, ‘if they do not worsen.’

Meghan turned her thoughts to what would happen once they got to Edoras. It was only a three-day ride to the King’s Hall. And then what would happen, she wondered. She’d given very little thought to how she would find her family, her village.

She felt a twinge of guilt recalling that at least she had a village and a family somewhere, while Athwen had no one to find, no home to return to. ‘Athwen, what do you think you will do once we’ve reached the King and delivered our message?’ Meghan leaned forward a considering look on her face. ‘You’d be more than welcome, you know, to come live with my brother’s family and me . . . in Bregoware.’

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Old 06-02-2006, 09:49 AM   #420
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Leod and Dorran:

Leod sat down beside the fire and wearily stretched out his legs, ladelling out a generous bowl of soup. It was the first time he had eaten anything in over a day. At least things were ending slightly better than when they had first begun. There were already signs that Brand would recover, and even Sythric had managed to sleep peacefully without any of the troubling dreams that had disturbed him before.

Even with the Elves in camp, Leod had been busy most of the day, running between Brand and Sythric to check on their condition as well as rebandaging the wounds of those less seriously injured. Since Athwen and Meghan had shouldered so much of the burden, he had still managed to snatch a few hours of sleep, enough to keep him going. He needed to thank the women for their steadfast help and to say a word of appreciation to Nevtaliel and the other Elves. Without the Elven healer, both Brand and Sythric would most certainly have died.

Leod glanced up to see Dorran approaching. The young man squatted down next to him, offering a mug of tea. "They'll make it?," Dorran immediately queried.

"With luck, yes. At least they have a much better chance now."

"Leod, do you know what herb Nevtaliel used? The one that smelled so pleasant.... I saw her bathe the wounds with it and also place a steaming bowl beside both Sythric and Brand."

"Ah, that. Yes, you could smell it through the whole camp. It carried such a sweet odor, like a bank of newborn flowers in spring or a strand of pine trees after the rain. Sorry son, but I don't know the name of it. And I believe Elves like to guard some secrets carefully so I will not press them. But I have heard tales of a potent herb brought from across the sea in ages long ago. And I suspect that may have something to do with it. It is said that the healers of Gondor once knew the secret as well. I am only glad that the Elves came when they did. My own skills were too meager to help." Leod's voice sounded almost wistful.

Dorran reached out and affectionately pummelled the older healer on the shoulder. "Your skills are fine. Any of the Rohan villages would be lucky to get you. Do you plan to settle in Edoras? Or is there any chance we could lure you back to Wulfham, once things settle down?"

"I am not sure yet. Perhaps I'll have a talk with some of the Riders I used to serve and see where the need is greatest. But it is kind of you to say that, and I will definitely keep it in mind."

"Look here now," added Leod, pointing over towards the six Elves who had just remounted their horses. "It looks as if our guests plan to leave tonight." Leod pointed towards Nevtaliel and beckoned her to come over. "But stay till the morning. Surely you don't want to travel in the darkness?"

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Old 06-03-2006, 07:10 PM   #421
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"But that is often our way, kind sir," responded Nevtaliel, "to go abroad by moonlight that we may travel undisturbed. Our party must leave. Our job here is ended. The cairn has been built, and I have done what I could to aid your friends. The rest lies within their own will and in the skilled nursing they will receive from you and the women who assist you. My husband and I hurry back to Rivendell where Lord Elrond awaits us. For we have much to say and show that can only be done face to face."

"But do not look so sad, Leod. You are a good healer. There is no reason to hang your head in shame. If your hand had not been here before mine, there would have been no patients who needed care. And, just like you, there are countless times when I must admit defeat and watch someone slip from life, unable to do more than console and grieve. Such is the lot of a healer."

"But you and your friends have also given us a gift. We travelled long on the road and, everywhere we went, met with much suspicion and odd looks from those who are our younger kin. But the men and women in this camp made me remember that we are all children of the One. I thank you for that reminder, especially since we first treated you harshly."

Then, she offered Leod a large packet, explaining to him what was inside, "I have stocked this with all the herbs you will need for the remainder of the trip and beyond, for my own satchel is filled to overflowing. And, beyond that, I have given you two precious leaves of the type I used on Sythric and Brand. They are dried and will last some time. Guard them well! Someday, when you find yourself in a grievous situation, you may wish to try them. Part of the cure lies in the hands and heart of the healer so I can not promise you what will happen, but perhaps they may be of some help. Memorize the shape and pattern of the leaf. Some say herbs like these still grow in certain places on middle-earth where the sons of Numenor touched their feet to the ground."

There were final goodbyes all around, and Leod bowed in thanks at the rich gift he had received from the Elven woman. Then the six Elves filed out of camp, heading north, and had soon disappeared from view.

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Old 06-03-2006, 09:37 PM   #422
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Meghan made the same offer that Dorran had. Athwen was inclined to smile, but she didn’t. They were all so kind and wanting to give help. But she didn’t know how to answer. She couldn’t answer. She didn’t think there was any way to without knowing what lay ahead. Then, before she could think of someway to say this, the elves began making their farewells. The two girls rose and said goodbye with bows and they all watched the elves silently leave the camp.

When they had disappeared into the gathering gloom, Meghan and Athwen sat down again. Athwen drew her legs up and once more wrapped her arms about her knees. She looked at Meghan, laying her cheek against her knees.

“I do not know what I am going to do when I reach Edoras,” she said. “Life is so different for me now. I really don’t know what choices I have left. You offer me a home with your people, but you don’t know if they’ll be there. We don’t know if anyone that you all knew will be there. Besides, there’s war now, and I don’t think that any of us will really be able to decide anything until it’s over and you can return to your normal lives. I can really only decide what to really do then. . . when all this is over.”

She stopped and turned her head, resting her chin now on her knees and staring at the fire. “It’s hard to look ahead when everything is so uncertain, Meghan,” she said quietly. “You, at least, have something to live for and hope for. Your family may still be alive, and all your friends. You rode to save them. You have a future before you, and don’t have to start completely anew. I don’t know what I’m going to do. That is why I can not accept immediately your invitation.” She turned her head again and looked at Meghan. “I hope you understand. I don’t know how to explain why I cannot accept. I don’t want to say anything until I know at least something of what might happen, and right now, there is a thick veil over everything past the next moment.”

She stopped abruptly and turned her face away suddenly. There was a long pause before she spoke again. “Dorran’s said nearly the same thing, too, you know,” she said, her voice rather thick. “You all want to help and I love you for it. I feel, though, that I’ve been a burden since I was found. I wonder if they hadn’t found me and taken time to gather my dead family and friends and gone on instead if they wouldn’t have been attacked. Perhaps Vaenosa wouldn’t have died, and maybe Brand and Sythric would be in no danger of following her. And. . .and even Raedwald. . .” Her voice broke completely and she came to a stop, unable to go any further. She knew for a fact now that Meghan wouldn’t know what to think, and she wondered why she had even gone on so long.

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Old 06-04-2006, 02:38 AM   #423
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‘It’s admirable,’ Meghan began, ‘that you think you must feel some sense of responsibility in the happenings that have brought us to this pass. Admirable . . . but wrong, I think.’ She shifted her position about so she could look full on at Athwen. ‘It wasn’t you who burnt your village and made us stop to see how we might help. It was Orcs and most likely Easterlings, too, who did that.’ She took a sip from her tea, savoring the warmth of it.

‘You and Leod were made a part of our company. And not grudgingly . . . we welcomed you in.’ Meghan furrowed her brow, thinking on what next to say. ‘It feels as if you dishonor the camaraderie that was offered freely . . . the fellowship that those of the Mark might offer, should offer, one another. It diminishes the deaths of Rædwald and Vaenosa in a way, and lessens the sacrifice that Sythric and Brand and really all of us have made to get to the King.’ She looked at Athwen, again.

‘We would expect the same of you, you know. That you would fight for us if needed and perhaps even die if the need were that extreme.’

Meghan shook her head, her expression puzzled. ‘I cannot understand why you would want to set yourself apart from us.’ She sat her empty mug down next to her. ‘Anyway, it was but an offer, and one that you can take up any time. It will stand open for you if you find you should need it later.’

She looked toward Brand, where he lay sleeping. ‘The future is uncertain, too, for me. I hope my village still stands, and that my family still lives. But I’ve seen now, with my own eyes, what those servants of the Dark Lord in the East can do . . . and all my hopes can come to nothing if they have set their minds on Bregoware and her people. Brand, too . . . he will deliver Wulfham’s request to the King . . . but what if there is no Wulfham to benefit from the King’s grace?’ Meghan rose up to adjust the blankets on both Sythric and on Brand.

‘I wish you well in whatever road you choose, Athwen. Perhaps now we should set aside these heavy thoughts and think about sleep. I doubt we will leave tomorrow. Even Elven healing cannot work so quickly.’ She stepped toward where the kettle of tea sat keeping warm near the fire. ‘One last cup of tea before bed?’

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Old 06-07-2006, 05:36 PM   #424
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It was nearly a fortnight before the two wounded men were able to travel. And if truth be told, it would have served them better had they had yet another week of rest. Their wounds had been deep ones and weakened them much. But still they felt the weight of their task upon them and as soon as they could sit their horses the companions moved westward.

As the Orcs and Easterlings had once been set against them, now the weather conspired to make hard their journey. Rain turned to icy sleet and then to light snow as they drew nearer the great mountain range. It was Osmod who led them as they made this final leg of the journey.

The Entwash was crossed in less than a day; the group seeking shelter in the little woods that marked where the Snowbourne River emptied its icy waters into the larger Stream. It was not a difficult day’s journey, yet the wounded men were tired by the long ride’s exertions. And there was talk the next morning of staying yet another day to rest. But Osmod rallied his little band of riders and urged them on recalling to them that the goal was now in sight - it was but a two day ride to Edoras.

As chilly as the weather was that heralded their way into Edoras, colder still was the reception the little band received from the sentries which stood at the entrance to the King’s Hall. With lances crossed before the high wooden doors, they barred the way in, saying the King was busy with matters of more importance and would have no time for a raggle-taggle group from the outlands.

When Brand and Osmod pressed for admittance, the King’s own advisor, a shrunken figure of a man, with a pale, knowing face, and heavy lidded eyes, spoke to them. His voice was at once softly insinuating and hard as an iron gate. And like a gate, he barred their way again.

‘....Why indeed should we welcome you?’ Grima Wormtongue asked. ‘Ragged crows! Beggars at the gate! You bring naught but ill news with your tales of Orcs and their attacks. Ill news is an ill guest they say. The King is busy with other, more important matters.’ He withdrew his pale hands into the sleeves of his gown, refusing to take even the pleas the village leaders had written to the King. Grima slid his eyes over Athwen. They glittered for a moment in their dark. oily depths, then just as quickly he dismissed her and Leod, too. It was as if they had no status now . . . their village and all in it were gone . . .

Hope fled the little band and they turned away from the Hall, seeking some place to think through what had happened and what they might do. Osmod led them to a small public house where there was at least shelter and the promise of drink and food.

----------

It was there that that the man found them. He had heard of their villages’ plight and of their own hard journey to seek help from the King. He was tall and fair and in his face shown kindness and concern. Others in the little stopping-house drew back as he made his way to where the companions sat, and there were whisperings that followed in his wake. He was a warrior of some note the companions thought and he took the letters the village heads had written and read them carefully. With a grim look, both for what he had read and how the messengers had been received, he then offered what help he might, what Riders he could, to see to their kinsmen’s safety.

‘If it is possible, they will come to Hengistham in the West Emnet. It is the hill fortress which old Sighebert commands.’ Théodred looked up from his discussion with the companions, his eyes narrowing as if taking counsel for a moment with his own thoughts. ‘Sighebert is still loyal to Rohan,’ he murmured. ‘Yes, that is where your families and villagers will be found, if we can shepherd them to safety.’

----------

It was a few more days before the remaining companions were ready to travel on. Sythric was the only one who knew the location of Hengistham and so led the way from Edoras. One of Théodred’s men bade them a brief farewell, bringing word from him that they would most likely reach Sighebert’s lands before their villagers did. And that they were to give the lord of Hengistham the note Theodred had written requesting that Sighebert take them in; give them shelter until those of Wulfham and Bregoware were brought to safety.....

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Old 06-11-2006, 11:41 AM   #425
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Even though they had been told that messengers were already sent to search for their villages and to guide them safely to Hengistham, Sythric just couldn’t stand back and wait. The Elven medicine had won in the end and got better of the poison in him. He was ready to ride, and after been ”towed” for too many days – as he referred to his sledge-ride, he was more than anxious to mount Thydrë again. But there was one reason to his impatience above all the others. His children, Hunlaf and Cwen whom he had left behind. He had to see them. He had to see them alive and well, as soon as possible.

So he took his leave on the morning and went off with Eostre and Fion who were also very eager to see their families. They met the ragged Bregowarins on the second day of their ride, as they were pulling slowly towards Hengistham. There were mutual cries of joy as both the riders and the villagers recognized each other from afar. Sythric saw the Skara people from the distance and left Eostre and Fion to find their own people. He spurred Thydrë to full gallop towards the Bregowarian marchline. As he passed by the Bregowarins in front of the line he started to shout his children’s names: ”Hunlaf! Cwen! We’re safe!”. The jubilant cheers of the Bregowarians died down as he went on crying his childrens names. The joy changed into a hollow silence. Sythric sensed the sudden change in the athmosphere. It felt like a cold hand had taken a hard grip of his heart. ”Hunlaf! Cwen!”, he shouted once more reaching the Skarans, his voice already shaking. When he reached near enough to see the painful expressions on his brother’s and wife’s faces, not seeing his children anywhere, the painful truth was hammered in.

He didn’t exactly unmount Thydrë but kind of fell off her. He tumbled down to the ground, still half hoping to catch his children among the kinsfolk gathering around him. But they were not there. There were just the grim and sobby faces of his kinsfolk staring at him. The tears started to fill his eyes and his chin was starting to tremble. ”Why? Where are they? Hunlaf! Cwen!”, he cried aloud, his voice already breking to a burst of anguish tearing him apart from the inside. Sythric fell flat on his face to the ground. Swithulf and his younger son Waerferth ran to him, helping the crying and shaking man to his feet. His wife Ceolflaed and the young Winflaed came to him too. They embraced him in between them, all feeling the same terror and pain, sharing it together by holding each other tightly. Slowly all the rest of the Skarans came forwards and joined the embracing. Many of their neighbours had come too. It was a massive expression of anguish in the middle of the plains. But it was also an act of defiance to show all the world, how cruel the world decided to be, that men would stick together and share their pains and misfortunes.

The Bregowarians had had a tough journey. On top of all the other hardships they had been ambushed at the ferrysite by a small band of orcs. The orcs had waited for a host of able-bodied men to cross the river to get the raft to the east side before they attacked. They used a ”hit and run” tactics, going for the children, the women and the elderly. Easiest targest with the maximal terror effect. The Skara people were among those who beared the brunt of it. Hunlaf had grasped his little sister to his arms trying to get her away from the sudden attack, just as his father had told him to do. But an orc ran them through with a huge spear, both of them with one thrust. Swithulf’s older son, Waermund had ran to face the orc enraged and roaring just to be caught by an arrow to his chest. He was still fighting for his life at their wagon. Swithulf’s wife was dead too, almost beheaded by an orc who then met its end from Swithulf’s hand. So it had been just a nightmare for the Skarans: of the eleven dead Bregowarians, three had been of their kin.

The Bregowarians hadn’t dared to make any burials on the eastside of the river for fear of more attacks and so they lit the pyre only after reaching safely to the west bank of the Great River. As Sythric gained an understanding of all this in the middle of the mass-embrace, he insisted on seeing his childrens funeral pyre immediately. ”No one can prevent me from seeing my children!”, he bellowed, trying to wrestle himself free from the grip of his kinsmen. But there were people enough to force him down. Sythric was clearly going mad, yelling his childrens names, his voice already trailing off as he fought to free himself. In the end they had to tie him down and carry him to the wagon where young Waermund was lying in his pain. That was the brilliant idea of Sythric’s wife, Ceolflaed. As soon as Sythric noticed the wounded Waermund, he calmed down and started to ask about his condition. The rest of the journey to Hengistham he cared for Waermund, tending him like he would have been his own son, or daughter. Partly because of Sythric’s efforts Waermund made it to Hengistham and to the hands of a skilled healer. But to others Sythric made no contact whatsoever, not to his brother or his wife, not to anyone, even if they all tried. The stories of the riding party were told to Bregowarians by Eostre and Fion. And the nights at the fireplace went swiftly with those accounts of bravery and daring, very nicely coloured by the two.

In Hengistham Sythric continued keeping to himself. He went to see Waermund every now and then, slowly coming to talks with his younger brother Waerferth too. As Waermund got better, all three used to take long walks or rides in the surrounding countryside. They didn’t talk much on their rides, but they felt belonging together and that was the most important thing. Swithulf kept on assuring everyone that Sythric would be back any day. He should just had to be left in peace and take his time.

And he really took his time. It was almost a year after their coming to Hengistham when Swithulf finally managed to sit with Sythric for a night and talk with him in earnest. They went through all their shared life from early childhood to that day. On the next day Sythric reported himself in front of the Lord Sighebert and asked for any task or duty where he might be of use. He then became a trainer for the young people wishing to become riders, those they would need if a war would actually come. He took the job with content and tried his best in it. But still there was something that nagged him from inside. He hadn’t seen his wife but a couple of times. Clearly they were too old to have new children any more, but just the bitterness of that being discussed between them held Sythric away from her. Perhaps even more importantly, he didn't dare to meet her eye to eye for fear of falling back to that madness that had overtaken him when he heard the news about his children. She would remind him of Hunlaf and Cwen too concretely for him to bear it. He just feared meeting his wife, although she could have been the comfort he needed. So he put himself wholeheartedly in to the education of the wannabe riders, teaching them how to ride, how to duck on saddle, how to throw a spear, how to use the sword...

Then came the general call to arms. The King himself was riding to aid Minas Tirith and was calling all the riders of Rohan to join him. It was time for the Rohanians to go to aid the Gondorians against the dark forces! That was something that Sythric didn’t have to think for a second. He would be riding too! Alone he had no chance to revenge the death of his children, but with an army like this one would be, he surely would do all to help cleaning the world from this darkness and evil.

As they were riding towards Dunharrow where the riders would gather, Sythric had come to some further thoughts. He rode beside lord Sighebert and asked him for a short audience there and then. Granted it he started,
”My lord, it has been an honour to have served you the last year and to ride under your flag. But I have to express my desire to ask for leave.”
Lord Sighebert turned to him with an ashtonised look, ”What is it now master Sythric? You have been a good man and I have trusted you. Is there something wrong?”, he asked.
”No my lord.”, Sythric answered and held a short pause before continuing. ”I would just like to draw my sword with my friends under the flag of Croacht. To fight with my old companions and to honour the memory of my friend Raedwald.”
Lord Sighebert thought about it for a moment but answered eventually, ”I will grant your wish and appreciate it. I would like to have had you under my flag to give the youngsters the example in the real situation as you have given them during the last year in your rehersals. But as I said, I’ll set you free to do your choice.”
Sythric was taken by the Lord Sighebert’s words and said humbly ”Surely sir, you have lots of exemplary riders under your flag and I’m not among them anyhow. I may be a good tutor, but in a fight I tend to be slower than I used to be. Anyhow, I will bid the youngsters farewell and give them my last encouraging counsel”, with a smile he nodded to Lord Sighebert and fell back in the line of riders.

At Dunharrow Sythric found the flag of Croacht easily. There were several of his old comrades there. The reunification of them was at the same time joyful and sad. So many of them had died, Raedwald was the latest lost from their ranks, and so many were too old to follow the King’s campaign. But with familiar men around, they all felt a little more secure and firm about their position. They could count on each other on the battlefield, they knew how all of them would react to sudden changes in situations, how to be effective, when to help and when just to count on one to make by himself. With a word, they knew each other.

Sythric died at the Pelennor field as one among many. He was not a spectacular hero of the battle but not the worst either. The old warhorses of Croacht fought well and made their part among the younger ones, encouraging the others when the things were going rough and trying to hold them back when everything seemed to be going too well. After the battle was over only two of the initial seven Croacht oldtimers were alive. Swithulf’s sons Waermund and Waerferth took part in the battle too under the flag of Hengistham. They both came out of it alive, although Waermund was seriously wounded again.

Sythric’s body was burned among the other fallen on the Pelennor fields.
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Old 06-14-2006, 03:27 AM   #426
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-- Late April, 3019 --

Word had come of the War’s end to the people of Hengistham when Lord Sighebert’s herald rode into the city crying that the Lord’s hall be made ready. There were cries of ‘Tell us! Tell us Sighebert rides before his men and Rohan is victorious!’ The herald had paused his mount before the lord’s mead hall and spoke loud so that all might hear the tidings he brought to the household.

‘Lord Sighebert returns, as do his sons!’ A cheer rose up, though beneath it ran the low murmurings of how the other families had fared. ‘And Rohan is victorious! The foe of the free peoples is o’erthrown by the spears and blades of the Riders of the Mark!’ Hands reached up to touch the messenger of such good tidings, as if to take some sort of luck away upon themselves. He waved them back, though, his face taking on a tired look as if some heavy burden weighed in his eyes now.

‘Lord Sighebert will tell you more of this when he arrives, but he bade me give you this news. King Théoden has fallen in battle.’ A pall of silence fell over those gathered about him. And then the whisperings. ‘Who is King now.....now that Théodred has also gone?’ The herald raised his hand so that he might be heard. ‘Éomer Éadig, he who was Third Marshal of Riddermark, sits in the Golden Hall!’

There were cries of approval that such a worthy man would now be King.’


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-- August, 3019--

In the early weeks of this last-of-summer month, Lord Sighebert had ridden out with his sons and a small retinue of his riders to Edoras. The old King must be laid to rest, and the new made formal welcome and allegiance. Those of the refugees from Wulfham and Bregoware had waited until Sighebert returned to tell him of their wishes.

Meghan’s family had decided to stay in Hengistham, on the small homestead they had farmed and raised their livestock on for the past two years. It felt safer here to them, near to the King. Meghan’s mother is now an added consideration in their choosing to stay; she is too old to be traveling back to the site of the old village. Rædwald’s little herd of goats has been added to theirs and they and their owners are thriving in this new place.

Brand’s family has grown fond of Meghan, and she of them. And it was with great sadness that she rode out with them to the edges of Hengistham’s eastern boundaries as they prepared to journey back to Wulfham.....



‘You’ll come of course in a year or two, won’t you Meghan?’ Winifred rode to her left, and Brand’s other sister, Hilde, to her right. ‘If the Orcs and Easterlings bypassed our little village, it shouldn’t take long for us to get the farm back into shape and the sheep fattened up in the pastures.’

Hilde clucked at her sister reminding her that it might all depend on Meghan’s mother’s health. ‘She can’t very well go haring off on some trip not knowing how her mother will fare while she’s gone, now can she?’

In the near distance where Brand rode with his mother and father, Meghan could see the three of them deep in conversation. She would miss them sorely, and already her heart was grieved at the thought they would be so far away.

The miles passed easily enough, the three women sharing little stories of their time together and hopes and dreams of what might come. At the mid-day mark, she stopped and bade them farewell, saying she would send letters as she could with the errand riders.

Meghan sat stock still on her horse, watching as the group grew small in the distance.....until at last the tall brown grasses of the plain swallowed them up as their figures dropped behind the gentle curve of a hill. With a heavy heart she turned round her mare and headed back toward her new home.....

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It was later that evening; the sky darkening just enough for the first of the stars to shine through. Meghan sat wrapped in her thick cloak, near the small fire she’d made. She’d taken her goats to the last of the summer’s pastures, northeast of the hill fortress.....soon the snows would come and there would be little freedom for her charges.

They were a pleasant company for her as the sun began to set. Their voices were soft, and oft times one or another would crowd near her, curious to see what she was doing. She pulled out her wooden flute, the one her brother had made for her when he’d learned how she’d lost her other. The flickering flames and the late autumn setting brought back memories of that journey two years earlier......sad memories, though tempered by time so as to be now bearable. She put the flute to her lips recalling an old tune she had played on a chilly night in that time ago.

The music wove softly into the night air.....

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‘Quiet now,’ the figure beneath the shadows of the trees said softly to his mount. The woman’s back was to him, her seated figure wrapped in a cloak. Backlit by flame she seemed another shadow herself as her head dipped and rose with the effort of the music, her nimble fingers playing up and down the length of her flute.

The dog who sat patiently near the horse and rider whined low, his brushy tail thumping wildly in the dirt. ‘Go on, then,’ the man said to him, smiling. Freed from his restraint the dog barked a loud greeting as he ran toward the woman. The force of his greeting nearly knocked her off her feet as she attempted to stand. Her flute flew from her grasp and went skittering across the grass and dirt.

‘I remember that melody,’ Brand said, stepping into the circle of light. Lady nudged past him to find what last clumps of grass the goats might have left for her.

Retrieving the errant flute from the ground, he made his way to Meghan, grinning widely at her. ‘I believe that was when you began your devious campaign to show the merits of goats over sheep. Never mind that I was wounded and unable to defend myself against your insinuating arguments or your spell-winding music.’ He drew her into the circle of his arms, resting his chin on the top of her head. She turned so that they both faced the fire and leaned back against him. They made a comfortable pair as they watched the flames crackle along the logs.

‘Father left us a third of the flock,’ Brand murmured, breaking the easy silence between them. ‘Your brother has them in one of his pens for now. Until we can build one of our own.’ He spread a blanket on the ground and bade her sit down with him.

‘My sisters both told me you promised them a visit would be happening in a year or so.’ He picked up a broken twig and cast it into the fire. ‘You know there will be letters as oft as they can find riders to bring them.....and they’ll try their hardest to get us to stay once we’re there, don’t you?’ Meghan shrugged her shoulders and smiled up at him. ‘Ah, well, little bird, we’ll cross that bridge when it’s come to.’

Brand reached for the flute he’d placed on the blanket beside him. ‘Play a song, won’t you?’ he said. ‘The one you were playing when I rode up. Little Rædi is safe in his blankets, tucked in with his cousin, I’m sure. There’s no need to get back soon.....’

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Old 06-14-2006, 01:12 PM   #427
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There was the sound of horns in the distance and a frantic galloping. It seemed that he would never make it in time, yet Osmod and his men still rode as fast as they dared to push their horses. Even if they were too tired to fight once they got there, their place was by their brothers in arms, gathered under the banner of Theoden King.

A few stray orcs appeared on their way, doubtlessly the first of the soon to be routed armies of Mordor, and they were dispatched quickly and efficiently. It would seem that the men, both young and not so young anymore, had been fighting together for years, yet it was not so. When the call to arms reached Hengistham, Osmod and a few others readied themselves for battle. The young man had honed his fighting skills and had done so well enough to earn the honour of leading the reduced company. They were no more than twenty, some still too young to fight, some already past their prime, but they were brave and they were furious. No rabble of orcs would stop them.

The sight of the battlefield was unlike anything that Osmod had ever seen. The bodies of the dead lay where they had fallen, men on top of orcs on top of horses. There was no time to tend the wounded or carry the dead away as there had been after the few skirmishes Osmod had fought before. Not so far ahead a proud banner stood, Theoden’s own, surrounded by riders of The Mark cutting through the lines of the enemy. Even closer and right ahead of them, a small company of orcs was wheeling and trying to flank one of the eoreds of Rohan. Osmod and his men fell on those foul beasts like a hammer and the riders at the other side stopped them like an anvil. There was no time for explanations, nor the rohirrim asked any questions. They were reinforcements, albeit few, when none were expected and that was good enough.

Osmod and his horse were near exhaustion and yet they fought on, wrath fuelling their limbs. These monsters had burned Athwen’s village to the ground. These foul creatures had attacked his people as they fled to safety. They were guilty for the death of Ræwald and many others. They would pay. Yet when it seemed that the orcs had learned their lesson and were fleeing from their presence, a dark cloud covered the sun and drew away all light. A piercing scream was heard high above them and the foulest of creatures swooped down from the skies. Many of the men cowered and fled, even Osmod felt a sudden urge of dropping his weapon and riding back to Rohan as fast as he had ridden to battle. It was in that moment of struggle that a treacherous orc that had pretended to be dead, rose behind Osmod. All the man felt was a sharp pain on his temple before darkness engulphed him.

Osmod woke up, but he did not find himself on the healing house. Nor he felt any pain, other than what old age had brought to his joints. That dream seemed to haunt him every other night. He had earned honour on the fields of Pelennor and the nightmares were a small price to pay compared to what some of his friends had lost. The lucky among them had lost a limb, many had never returned. The dark lord had been defeated, by a Halfling they said, and his armies had been routed by the combined forces of Gondor and Rohan. After what the loremasters had called The War of the Ring there had been a period of peace, but there was still a place for men of honour and brave hearts. There were still many places in which the light and wisdom of the new King of Gondor, what an admirable man he was, had not reached and soon Rohan found herself at war again. Yet it was a different kind of war, not a war for survival anymore but for an ideal. Osmod wondered in days like this if so many deaths, so much pain, was not too much of a steep price to pay for that elusive ideal. In any case, it was not his place to make such choice, King Eomer knew what was best for his people and men like Osmod had dedicated his lives to the King’s service. Many had given their lives for him.

Now that he was too old to fight, or so they said, he had a place as a teacher of young warriors. The lion pups, as he liked to call them, looked up at him as if he was one of those legends the songs told about. He fought in King Theoden’s army they said. He once routed a whole company of orcs by himself they exaggerated (yet Osmod did not exactly corrected them, although he did not encourage the story either). He told them his stories, true ones that is, and they listened. It was probably a sign of old age, he admitted, that he enjoyed so much sitting by the fire and telling stories rather than setting out and living them. But, he reckoned, he had lived his fair share of stories and had earned the privilege of telling them.

After the war Osmod had returned to Bregoware and found it mostly re-built. He had met a young woman, married her and had two children. Cynuise had married and had children of her own to care about, which meant that Osmod had grand children to spoil. Even little Aldhelm had now followed his father’s footsteps and was a Rider of Rohan. His kids were not young anymore, nor was Osmod. As he laid in bed in the middle of the night, he looked back and reflected on his life. He had achieved glory and lived to enjoy it, he had earned money and lived to share it with those whom he loved and also those who needed it more than him. He had taken lives and saved many more, and he had taught his morals to future generations of Riders. Most importantly, he had started a family and a legacy that would survive him. Even after his soul departed to the halls of his fathers, there would be many who would remember him. It was then that he realized his life was finally complete, like a book that only needed a proper ending. Kissing his sleeping wife goodbye, he closed his eyes again and smiled for one last time. Then, Osmod son of Osric was no more.

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Old 06-18-2006, 09:55 AM   #428
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War. . .it killed friends and family, brought some back, alive and well, took others away, and sometimes let them return. . . Athwen had thought she had seen her share of war and its toll. She assumed that when they reached the safety of Hengistham, the companions she had been with for the last month would be able to stay, to rest, to remain safe. She wanted that, above anything else. But it could not be so.

When the company first arrived at Hengistham, Sythric, Eostre, and Fion left almost at once. Leod protested – Sythric shouldn’t go! He was still recovering! But the old healer was not heeded and the trio rode off together, seeking their kinsfolk. Within a week of their leaving they returned again, the people of their village with them. Athwen noticed a marked difference in Sythric after he returned. He was older, sadder than before.

Athwen didn’t have long to wonder about this. Among the Bregowares were wounds from some fight. Leod was hard put, even with the help of the healer from Hengistham. Athwen, having nothing better to do, stepped up to his side and helped him. In a few days, they had done all that they could, and once again, Athwen was left with nothing to do.

She took to wandering out alone, away from the safety of the walls. The wind blew fierce and cold over the plains there. For hours, she walked alone under the clear, pale blue sky, and sometimes in the night, with cold stars twinkling over head.

One night, when she had slipped off after a late supper, she came back, two hours later, to find the place in no little excitement. She allowed the shawl she had worn to slip back away from her hair as she looked about in curiosity. There were many new faces about, flushed with cold and excitement, and relief showed in every one. Slowly she wandered through them, wondering where her friends would be among the newcomers. Suddenly, someone caught her arm. Even before she turned to see who it was, she felt her heart leap, for there was excitement and joy in the hand that grasped her. But it was only Dorran.

"Athwen, they've come!" he said. "This is my sister. Criede, this is Athwen, the young woman I told you about." Athwen blinked to clear her mind of surprise and the hope she had felt and then she turned and found herself face to face with an attractive girl, both young and old at the same time. Their eyes met briefly and then both bowed their heads and gave a curtsey. When they looked up again, Criede smiled, and Athwen returned it, and from that moment forth, the two girls were friends.

Months passed - a year - more. Athwen lived happily. Criede and Dorran with the other Wulfhamers settled down and lived near Hengistham, some living within the walls. Criede worked within the household of Sigheberrt, Dorran found his place in the stables and horses. Athwen was happy for them both, but did not follow them to that great household. She went to Leod and asked him to teach her the arts of a healer.

"If I learn to heal, perhaps I will save lives, and that, above all else, I think, would be worth living for."

"You may find a husband yet, lass," the old man told her, a sad light in his eye. Athwen shook her head.

"Not now, Leod," she said quietly. "I don't know if I will ever marry. Teach me to heal others, and I will be happy, for I think it will also heal me."

So he taught her. She worked constantly by his side. Whenever he had a patient, she went with him to learn and to do. When he did not, they stayed at home and he taught her the different herbs, and how to pick and dry them, and store them so that they would last. She learned eagerly and with his teaching and constant guidance over her, Criede's sister like friendship, and Dorran’s calm, steadfast friendship, Athwen once more saw light come back to her world

And then the men of the Mark were called to take arms. Leod could not go, but Dorran did. Athwen was surprised, and a little dismayed. She had thought that after their adventures, none of the group of people she had come with would have to leave. Criede begged him not to go, and Athwen would have had she been his sister, too, but she did not. She stood by and said nothing. Cride was with him to the last and the brother and sister bid farewell at the gate. As he finally rode out, Athwen stood in the shadow of the gate watching him go.

Many of the men, and even boys who were almost men, rode off for war. Sythric, Fion and Brand went, too. The women and children and older people stayed behind and lived their lives as well as they could. Time passed and only rumors of how the war went on passed now and again to Edoras and Hengistham. They couldn't hear much. Once, the armies came through Edoras from Helm's Deep on their way towards Gondor to fight there. After that, all was dark and spirits and hopes were low. Weeks passed, and no word came. The first news they had was that King Theoden had died in battle, then more time elapsed, and there was nothing. Nothing - until they learned that the Dark Lord Sauron was overthrown and defeated.

But there was no more for some time. More waiting followed. . .agonizing waiting. No one knew who had died or who had lived. Athwen and Criede, who saw each other often, spoke little to each other, and little to the anyone else. Silently, they drew comfort from each other's company, but few words were spoken. Athwen was afraid to bring Dorran's name up for fear of hurting Criede.

Then, one day, he returned - strong and well, and far more a man than they had ever seen him before. He had grown, and was changed in every aspect. Criede and Athwen met him at the gate among others who had returned. Dorran spotted them and darted out of line, running towards them. He swept Criede up and they embraced, laughing and crying both at once. Athwen stood back, smiling amid tears of joy. Then Dorran, putting Criede down, turned to Athwen. He looked at her silently a moment, and then reached out his hand. She took it and he stepped a little closer.

“Hello, Athwen,” he said.
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Old 06-18-2006, 11:13 AM   #429
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Epilog - 6th year, Fourth Age - Athwen, Dorran, Leod

"The ring, Leod? I can't find it. I know I put it down somewhere, and now it's lost." Dorran groped frantically through an assortment of items strewn out over the tabletop. He could hear snatches of conversation floating in through the open window from the large crowd that had gathered in the courtyard to witness the ceremony.

"Settle down lad," the older man reassured him while puffing on his pipe. "It's in my pocket. Remember, you gave it to me to hold till the morning."

Dorran flashed back a nervous grin. "Can you believe this? I am a Rider of the Mark. I survived the battles at Helm's Deep and Pelennor Fields and stood before the Black Gate without fainting or turning tail. Yet now my knees are buckling."

"Humph! None of that! It's about time you got around to marrying Athwen. You've had feelings for her as long as I can remember. And no wonder! She's an extraordinary woman, brave and good hearted and the very best of my students."

The younger man nodded and grinned even more broadly. "You are right. Even when we first rode towards Edoras, I felt she was special. It just took a while to summon the courage to take the next step."

"A while?" chuckled the healer. "I'd say ten years is more than a while."

This time Dorran's voice sounded far more serious. "Perhaps. But Athwen needed that time. She has been through so much. It's hard to think about marriage or a family when your mind is laden with grief."

"Well, lad, if any young man can understand loss and find a soft spot in his heart, that would be you.... you and your sister. It's no wonder such a fine girl became close friends with Criede and even agreed to marry the likes of you."

Dorran said nothing. No further explanation was required between the two men. Over time, Dorran had shared with Leod many harrowing tales about the years he and Criede had endured as slaves on one of Mordor's largest planations and how their parents had been murdered by marauding Orcs.

"Still, things turned out well, especially when you consider how bleak everything appeared in the beginning."

"Aye, we've both done better than expected," responded Dorran. "You have given so many fine young men and women the skills and knowlege they need to be healers. Sythric was there to teach me the ways of the Riders, and, with a little luck, I survived the war and the skirmishes to clean out Orc strongholds in Rohan and Gondor. I certainly can not complain."

"And now," added Leod, "at last you have your prize: a house, a bride, and a promised position at Eomer's court."

"Tis' true, yet I can't help thinking of all those who didn't make it through. There were too many of those, Leod… too many."

"But today is not for grieving..."

"Grieving, no. Just remembering. The worst thing we could do would be to forget."

Before either man could add anything to this observation, there was an eager knock, and the door pushed open. Athwen stood in the doorway dressed in an ivory gown embroidered with threads of silver and gold, her eyes bright and shining, her long golden hair twisted and crowned with a circlet of dark red roses. Leod reached out and gave his former student an affectionate hug, offering congratulations on this happy day. Then he hurried out into the corridor, making his way down to the courtyard, leaving the lovers to a few moments of quiet.

"You look beautiful, Athwen. Really beautiful. Your hair, your face..." The words tumbled out without any effort. "I am so lucky to have found you, so lucky for your patience and caring."

Athwen walked towards Dorran, her hands held out to him, and a smile of perfect happiness lighting her face. “It’s me who’s lucky that I was found,” she said. “All those years when you were gone fighting. . .I never thought you remembered us at home. I never really believed I would ever find love and a family again. It seemed so far away, so impossible to reach. But today, we start anew, not forgetting the sadness that came before but making it a part of who we are, accepting the past, but going on.”

She lifted her face to him as she finished speaking and Dorran, instead of answering, drew her close, and the two kissed - a small gesture but one that signified a lifelong commitment. Taking her small hand in his, they walked together down the steps and out into the courtyard. The sun shone bright on the assemblage as the couple stepped forward to exchange their vows.
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Old 06-18-2006, 12:55 PM   #430
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Old 06-19-2006, 03:21 PM   #431
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